Monthly Archives: November 2011

NASA confiscates stolen rocket engine that had been put up for sale on ebay

NASA has confiscated a stolen rocket engine from a man who put up for sale on ebay.

Rocket engines are supposed to be under particularly tight control at NASA: the US is keen to avoid its rocket technology winding up in the hands of countries with which it has a tense relationship, such as China. “Security at NASA is not adequate in my opinion,” says Joseph Gutheinz, a former investigator for OIG.

You think, eh?

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Uncovering China’s vast network of nuclear weapon tunnels

Students at Georgetown University have uncovered details about China’s vast network of nuclear weapon tunnels.

According to a report by state-run CCTV, China had more than 3,000 miles of tunnels — roughly the distance between Boston and San Francisco — including deep underground bases that could withstand multiple nuclear attacks.

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The first observations of a star, just prior to going supernova

Astronomers have for the first time observed the changes that took place in a binary star system in the years before one star in the system erupted as a supernova.

In the first survey of its kind, the researchers have been scanning 25 nearby galaxies for stars that brighten and dim in unusual ways, in order to catch a few that are about to meet their end. In the three years since the study began, this particular unnamed binary system in the Whirlpool Galaxy was the first among the stars they’ve cataloged to produce a supernova.

The astronomers were trying to find out if there are patterns of brightening or dimming that herald the end of a star’s life. Instead, they saw one star in this binary system dim noticeably before the other one exploded in a supernova during the summer of 2011.

Key quote: “Our underlying goal is to look for any kind of signature behavior that will enable us to identify stars before they explode,”

The supernova in question, 2011dh, was the closest supernova in decades, occurring in June 2011 in the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51). See my previous posts here and here.

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A new Rasmussen national poll: Gingrich 45% Obama 43%

A new Rasmussen national poll: Gingrich 45% Obama 43%.

Last week, Gingrich trailed the president by six. Two weeks ago, he was down by twelve. Earlier in the year, both Rick Perry and Herman Cain followed a similar path to take a slight lead over the president. However, in both cases, their time as frontrunners quickly came to an end. Neither man led the president more than a single time in a Rasmussen Reports poll. It remains to be seen whether Gingrich follows that path or is able to retain his status as the leading alternative to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Note that every candidate has polled ahead of Obama at one time or another, suggesting to me that the public wants Obama out, and is fishing for the candidate to do it.

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Weather, not climate

From Walter Russell Mead: Weather, not climate.

Those Via Meadia readers old enough to remember Hurricane Katrina can no doubt remember the many moralizing predictions of smug and condescending green climate hacktivists that followed: global warming was going to mean more hurricanes and bigger ones. Our coasts were toast; it was baked in the cake. The rising sea level combined with the inexorably rising number of major hurricanes were going to knock the climate skeptics out of the park.

Well, no. Andrew Revkin has called attention to this post from Roger Pielke’s blog which shows that as of today it has been 2,226 days since the last major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) hit the US mainland. Unless a big hurricane hits this winter, it means we are on track to break a 100 year record for the longest gap between major hurricanes hitting the coast. (The last Big Calm was between 1900 and 1906.) [emphasis mine]

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Canada has joined the United States in raising objections to a planned $100-billion a year climate fund

The gravy train is ending: Canada has joined the United States in raising objections to a planned $100-billion a year climate fund.

I like this quote describing the U.S.’s objections:

Heading into the United Nations climate conference in Durban this week, the United States has made it clear it will not support the current proposals for the climate fund over concerns about how the money would be raised, lack of verification of how it is spent, and an unwillingness of major emerging countries to commit to legally binding emissions reduction. [emphasis mine]

Other than these minor points, everything about the fund is above board and legitimate.

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Despite earmark ban, some lawmakers continue to try to give money to hundreds of pet projects

The battle over earmarks.

The efforts to resurrect spending on pet projects reveal the tenuous nature of current reform efforts. Two senators have publicly called out their colleagues and will introduce legislation Wednesday that would ban earmarking with the force of law. “I have heard too many appropriators say informally that they are very hopeful that we can get back to earmarking in the future with few restrictions,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who is co-authoring the bill with Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.). “That has come out of the mouths of Democrats and Republicans.”

What I glean from this article is that a good number of legislators are still trying to sneak in their earmarks, but that they are finding it increasingly difficult. Unfortunately, it also appears that too many of them are still succeeding.

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Nanosail-D has sailed home, burning up in the atmosphere on September 17

The solar sail Nanosail-D has sailed home, burning up in the atmosphere on September 17.

The flight phase of the mission successfully demonstrated a deorbit capability that could potentially be used to bring down decommissioned satellites and space debris by re-entering and totally burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere. The team continues to analyze the orbital data to determine how future satellites can use this new technology.

The concept being tested appears to use a solar sail as a navigating tool for guiding defunct satellites back into the atmosphere.

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Senate passes bill allowing military to hold US citizens indefinitely, even within the US borders

Fools and tyrants: The Senate today passed a bill allowing the military to hold US citizens indefinitely, both inside and outside the US borders. The vote was 61-37, with 44 Republicans and 16 Democrats voting in favor.

To me, this is more proof that we need to throw out as many Senate incumbents as possible, with Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) being the first to go. These bastards don’t give a hoot about freedom. What good does it do us to defeat Al Queda if we destroy the very rights and freedoms that makes the United States different from Al Queda?

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The 1960s space race: The US orbits its first living animal, Enos the chimpanzee

An evening pause: Fifty years ago today the United States succeeded for the first time in placing a living animal in orbit, four years after the Soviet’s launched the dog Laika into space. On November 29, 1961 NASA orbited a chimpanzee named Enos as a dress rehearsal for John Glenn’s orbital flight, then scheduled for early in 1962. See this article for some details about Enos difficult flight.

Since the flights of Gagarin, Titov, Shepard, and Grissom earlier in 1961, the 1960s space race had seemed in abeyance as NASA geared up for its first orbital manned mission, while the Soviets were typically silent about their plans. Yet, for those like myself who were alive at that time, the suspense never abated. What would happen next? Could the U.S. beat the Russians to the Moon? Only time would tell.

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Lame-duck Barney Frank joins effort to repeal Obamacare “death panels”

A bit late, ain’t he? Lame-duck Barney Frank joins the effort to repeal Obamacare’s “death panels.”

Note also that Frank has now essentially admitted that Sarah Palin was right about these panels (though he of course hasn’t come out and said it). Rather than be partisan back when she first brought this issue up, why couldn’t Frank have acted more responsibly and voted against the bill in the first place?

Update: I reworded the above paragraph because the original language gave the impression that Frank had actually said he now agreed with Palin, something he has not done.

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American Airlines files for bankruptcy

American Airlines files for bankruptcy. Note this as well:

American was the only major U.S. airline that didn’t file for bankruptcy protection in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks that triggered a deep slump in the airline industry. The last major airline to file for bankruptcy protection was Delta in 2005.

This list of bankrupt airlines does not include Southwest, however, which has seen its business boom in the past decade. I wonder, could these other airlines be driving customers away with their high baggage fees, complex ticket rules that end up costing customers money or convenience, and their willingness to go along with the abuses of the TSA?

Whenever I can, I fly Southwest, because they don’t charge for baggage and allow me to change or cancel flights without penalty. However, I also fly as little as possible these days, mostly to avoid being treated like a criminal by the TSA. And I know I am not alone in this.

Thus, all airlines have lost business due to TSA abuse. You’d think they’d wake up and start to fight this government intrusion into their operations.

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The New York Times and the BBC: Global warming activists

Two stories today from the Climategate 2 archives:

The first describes how Andrew Revkin, the Times’ primary environmental reporter, was entirely in the global warming camp, and worked with these corrupt scientists to push their agenda. It also quotes, from the climategate emails, Revkin’s contempt for anyone who expressed skepticism about the IPCC process and global warming.

The second describes how the BBC teamed up with these same corrupt scientists to keep any skepticism of global warming from being aired at any time.
» Read more

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