Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Beer has Landed: Astronauts4Hire Completes Space Beer Microgravity Test

The beer has landed: The first test of space beer in weightlessness has been completed. Key quote:

Astronauts4Hire Flight Member Todd Romberger was selected to perform the flight research. Todd sampled the beer during 12 microgravity parabolas, each reproducing the weightless conditions of space for 30 seconds at a time, and recorded qualitative data on beverage taste and drinkability as well as biometric data to gain a first look at alcohol effects the body.

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The caves of Copernicus
and the Ocean of Storms

The discovery of new caves on the Moon keep coming. Today I have two new stories. The first is a discovery by professional scientists of a giant lava tube cave in the Oceanus Procellarum or Ocean of Storms. The second is the detection of a plethora of caves and sinks on the floor of the crater Copernicus, found by a NASA engineer who likes to explore the gobs of data being accumulated by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and made available to all on the web.

The image below of the Moon’s near side, taken by India’s Cartosat-2A satellite and taken from the science paper, shows the location of lava tube in Oceanus Procellarum (indicated by the red dot) and the crater Copernicus.

The Moon's near side, annotated

First the professional discovery. Yesterday, the Times of India reported the discovery of lava tube more than a mile long on the Moon. I did not post a link to the article because I didn’t think the news story provided enough information to make it worth passing along. Today however, fellow caver Mark Minton emailed me the link where the actual research paper could be downloaded [pdf]. This I find definitely worth describing.
» Read more

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Two High-priority Climate Missions Dropped from NASA’s Budget Plans

Two high-priority climate missions dropped from NASA’s budget by the White House. And what’s most amazing: No one’s squealing!

“Removal of these missions was not what we desired and not what the administration desired, but it was a clear recognition and acknowledgement of the budget issues we face as a nation,” [said Steve Volz, associate director for flight programs at NASA’s Earth Science Division]. “It’s cleaner to be allowed to delete the scope that goes along with the dollars than to have to figure out how to do more with less.”

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Detector Array Deterioration Poses New Problem for JWST

More problems for the James Webb Space Telescope: The detector arrays for several instruments are deteriorating, even as they sit on the shelf. And remember, the 2014 launch date is probably going to be delayed until 2016. Key quote:

“As you get further and further out with [the launch date], it really raises questions about how far down the [integration and test] process you go for the instruments … and how long you have to store all that before you actually launch,” [Webb program director Rick Howard] told the NASA Advisory Council’s astrophysics subcommittee during a Feb. 16 public meeting here. “And that just makes everybody even more nervous about this problem than anything else.”

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A round-up of state efforts to balance their overdrawn budgets

I have mostly focused on the federal budget battles. However, Wisconsin highlights how the same battle is going on at the state level. Here is a round-up of the state budget efforts under several Republican administrations, put forth by a California newspaper (located in a Democrat-run state with its own budget problems).

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Senate Democrats express support for the most recent House Republican proposal

Have the Democrats blinked? Senate Democrats have expressed support for the most recent House Republican proposal, a short-term continuing resolution that cuts $4 billion for its two week span and terminates 8 programs outright. A lot more details here, including a program-by-program breakdown of the cuts. Key quote:

Republicans have made abundantly clear that they wish to avoid a government shutdown, as have Democrats to a degree, though for the most part they [the Democrats] have spent the last few weeks preemptively blaming Republicans for a shutdown, while at the same time failing to produce a single piece of legislation that would prevent one.

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Another climategate whitewash

The inspector general of the Department of Commerce has just issued a review of NOAA’s response to the climategate emails and has essentially given the agency a clean bill of health. You can download the full report here [pdf].

It’s. just. another. whitewash. Let me quote just one part of the report’s summary, referring to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to NOAA in June 2007 in which the agency responded by saying they had no such documents:
» Read more

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Man who advocated jury nullification indicted for doing so

Freedom of speech alert! A man who would stand on the steps of a courthouse and hand out pamphlets advocating jury nullification has been indicted for doing so. Key quote:

Since 2009, Mr. Heicklen has stood there and at courthouse entrances elsewhere and handed out pamphlets encouraging jurors to ignore the law if they disagree with it, and to render verdicts based on conscience. That concept, called jury nullification, is highly controversial, and courts are hostile to it. But federal prosecutors have now taken the unusual step of having Mr. Heicklen indicted on a charge that his distributing of such pamphlets at the courthouse entrance violates the law against jury tampering. He was arraigned on Friday in a somewhat contentious hearing before Judge Kimba M. Wood, who entered a not guilty plea on his behalf when he refused to say how he would plead. During the proceeding, he railed at the judge and the government, and called the indictment “a tissue of lies.”

Mr. Heicklen insists that he never tries to influence specific jurors or cases, and instead gives his brochures to passers-by, hoping that jurors are among them.

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Researchers have uncovered the oldest cremated human remains ever discovered in northern North America at a site in central Alaska

Scientists have uncovered the oldest cremated human remains ever discovered in northern North America at a dig site in central Alaska. Key quote:

Archaeologists discovered the remains last spring in a fire pit in an abandoned living area from 13,200 years ago and dated the child’s death to about 11,500 years ago.

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The squealing of a former Bush science administrator

The cries and squeals are now coming from all sides: A former undersecretary for Science in the Energy Department during the Bush administration, Raymond L. Orbach, has joined the chorus of scientists whining about the House’s proposed cuts. [His full editorial, available here as a pdf, can only be downloaded if you subscribe to Science.]

Like all the other squealers, he admits that “the budget deficit is serious.” Nonetheless, the idea of cutting his pet science programs remains unacceptable.

It is when I read stuff like this that feel the situation is most hopeless. Is there no one willing to accept the reality that if we don’t start gaining some control over the federal budget the country will go bankrupt and we will not be able to afford anything?

Instead, all I hear are cries of “Cut! Cut! But don’t cut my program!”

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To be called a violent teabagger while you’re being assaulted

More civility on the left: Five-foot, one-inch female assaulted by union protester because she was videotaping him. Video at the link. Key quote:

“It’s one thing to be called a violent teabagger. It’s another to be called a violent teabagger while you’re being assaulted.”

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