Monthly Archives: November 2012

The overall debt from student loans now exceeds $1 trillion, with defaults skyrocking. The solution from one Democratic Congressman: a $1 trillion bailout.

The day of reckoning looms: The overall debt from student loans now exceeds $1 trillion, with defaults skyrocketing. The solution from one Democratic Congressman: a $1 trillion bailout. More here.

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A North Carolina elementary school removed the word “God” from a poem written by one its students because one student’s parents complained.

Goodbye freedom: A North Carolina elementary school removed the word “God” from a poem written by one its students because another student’s parents complained.

After fully examining the issue during the BOE meeting, President and Chief Executive Officer Ken Paulson stated the school did in fact have the right to remove the word “God” from the child’s poem. “Courts have consistently held up the rights for students to express themselves unless their speech is disruptive to the school,” stated Patulson according to McDowell News. “When the little girl wrote the poem and included a reference to God she had every right to do that. The First Amendment protects all Americans. She had every right to mention God, (but) that dynamic changed when they asked her to read it at an assembly.” Paulson said that because the students were a captive audience – they were at a mandatory assembly with no place else to go if they didn’t want to attend – administrators had the right to remove the word “God.”

Hey, I thought being “edgy” and offensive was the way to go for truly creative people? Or does being “edgy” and offensive only apply when offending Christians and Jews?

Seriously, if the logic of this school official was taken to its natural limit, it would mean that you could silence any speech you disagreed with by merely complaining that you didn’t want to hear it. Under that logic, there is no such thing as freedom of speech.

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“1,200 days and $5 trillion in new debt since Senate Democrats passed a budget.”

“1,200 days and $5 trillion in new debt since Senate Democrats passed a budget.”

An annual budget is required by law. Harry Reid’s answer: “It would be foolish for us to do a budget at this stage.” And what do the American people do? They reward the Democrats, providing proof positive that we are in very bad shape and heading for disaster.

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Messenger has found new and “compelling” evidence that there is water ice locked in the permanently shadowed craters of Mercury.

Messenger has found new and “compelling” evidence that there is water ice locked in the permanently shadowed craters of Mercury.

On Monday I had spoken to one of the project scientists for this discovery, David Lawrence, in connection with an article I am doing for Astronomy on the evidence of water on the Moon. I knew the Mercury announcement was coming, and asked him for some details. Based on what he told me, it struck me that the evidence for water on Mercury is actually more conclusive than the evidence for the Moon. (In fact, inconclusive nature of the lunar data is the point of my Astronomy article, based on previous posts here and here on Behind The Black.

The more intriguing aspect of this discovery on Mercury, however, is the unknown dark material that covers and protects some of this water ice. That some scientists believe it might even be organic material deposited there by comets and asteroids is most interesting.

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The sad state of modern science

Two stories today illustrate the levels of corruption that now percolate through many fields of science, helped by a willing and sometimes ignorant press.

First, a final report has been issued in the investigation into the fraudulent research of social psychologist Diederik Stapel. Sadly, it appears the report condemns the entire field:
» Read more

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The biggest black hole yet found, 17 billion times the mass of our sun.

The biggest black hole yet found, 17 billion times the mass of our sun.

The unusual black hole makes up 14 percent of its galaxy’s mass, rather than the usual 0.1 percent. … NGC 1277 [the galaxy] lies 220 million light-years away in the constellation Perseus. The galaxy is only ten percent the size and mass of our own Milky Way. Despite NGC 1277’s diminutive size, the black hole at its heart is more than 11 times as wide as Neptune’s orbit around the Sun.

Based on these measurements, it appears that this black hole is literally eating this galaxy whole.

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52 Nobel Peace Prize winners have called for the boycott of Israel for its recent attacks in Gaza.

Intellectual bankruptcy: 52 Nobel Peace Prize winners, artists, and activists have called for the boycott of Israel for its recent attacks in Gaza.

And where were these so-called intellectuals when Hamas was lobbing rockets into Israel? For them, I guess it is all right to kill Jews. And God forbid the Jews decide to defend themselves.

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Space tourism — in a balloon.

Space tourism — in a balloon.

A newly successful test of a balloon could allow paying human customers to enjoy stunning Earth views and the weightless astronaut experience by 2014. The test balloon carried a humanoid robot up to an altitude of almost 20 miles (32 kilometers) on Nov. 12 — just a few miles shy of where skydiver Felix Baumgartner leaped from during his “space dive” in October. Startup Zero 2 Infinity wants to eventually offer hours of flight time for space tourists to do whatever they want in a near-space environment.

Ticket prices are $143K. And they have a list of customers who have already plunked down deposits.

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Photo Op meets red tape. Red tape wins.

Photo Op meets red tape. Red tape wins.

I find quite disturbing how people still have faith in the empty promises made by politicians at a disaster scene. The politician is there for only one reason: to look good for the cameras. Rarely if ever does that appearance mean a damn thing. If anything, it will only hinder relief efforts, as local authorities have to scramble to deal with the politician’s entourage rather than deal with disaster victims and their problems.

I actually have far more respect for politicians who stay away during these times of crisis, rare as they are. They show common sense and good judgment.

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SpaceX and Stratolaunch have parted ways.

SpaceX and Stratolaunch have parted ways.

In the original plan, Stratolaunch would build the first stage, the biggest airplane every built, which would lift the second stage, SpaceX’s Falcon 9, into the air. It appears, however, that the modifications required to make the Falcon 9 work in this configuration were not in SpaceX’s interest, so the company backed out and Stratolaunch has instead made a deal with Orbital Sciences to provide the second stage rocket.

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NASA is soliciting ideas on how to use the two Cold War era telescopes given to the space agency by the military.

NASA is soliciting ideas on how to use the two Cold War era telescopes given to the space agency by the military.

Both telescopes are comparable in size to the Hubble Space Telescope.

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Why state regulation is better than federal regulation

In response to my condemnation of the insane requirement by Obamacare that restaurants and take-out pizza delivery services publicly post on their menus the calorie count for every item, including a calorie count for each of the literally thousands of topping variations for pizzas, regular reader Patrick Ritchie asked me, “What level of super market labeling would you support?”

I replied, “I think the federal government has no business requiring any labeling at all. This is a state matter, pure and simple, both for practical and Constitutional reasons.”

He responded, “Which practical reasons? I’m genuinely curious. What makes a state regulation inherently better than a federal one?”

My response to this last question was quite long, and after reading it Patrick suggested I elevate the comment into a full headlined post. I have decided to do so. Here is what I wrote, edited slightly for clarity:
» Read more

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Impressive radar images of near-Earth asteroid 2007 PA8 were taken during its recent fly-by of Earth.

Impressive radar images of near-Earth asteroid 2007 PA8 were taken during its recent fly-by of Earth.

The images … reveal possible craters, boulders, an irregular, asymmetric shape, and very slow rotation. The asteroid measures approximately one mile wide (about 1.6 kilometers).

The asteroid poses no threat to Earth. The resolution of the images, however, is astonishing, especially considering it was done by radar.

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