Monthly Archives: December 2012

The federal government has reached its debt limit today.

The day of reckoning looms: The federal government has reached its debt limit today.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner told Congress that the U.S. hit its statutory debt limit, necessitating emergency steps announced last week as a way to keep funding the government and avoid default. Geithner said he had issued a “debt issuance suspension period” for the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund, effective today and to last until Feb. 28, 2013. The letter said the Treasury was taking similar action for the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund.

This is only a temporary solution that solves nothing. And the fake negotiations over the fake “fiscal cliff” are doing even less than nothing to deal with the debt situation. We are bankrupt and worse, we are continuing to refuse to face that reality.

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Is the recently discovered Imperial tomb in China too dangerous to enter?

Is the recently discovered Imperial tomb in China too dangerous to enter?

After discovering a secret palace hidden in China’s first emperor massive burial complex, Chinese technicians are nervous. Not because Qin Shi Huang’s tomb is the most important archeological discovery since Tutankhamun, but because they believe his burial place is full of deadly traps that will kill any trespassers. Not to talk about deadly quantities of mercury.

The secret courtyard-style palace tomb is a mind-numbing discovery. Situated in the heart of the Emperor’s 22-square-mile (56-square-kilometer) mortuary compound guarded by more than 6,000 (and counting) full-size statues of warriors, musicians and acrobats, the buried palace is 2,263 by 820 feet (690 by 250 meters). It includes 18 courtyard houses overlooked by one main building, where the emperor is supposed to be. The palace—which has already been partially mapped in 3D using volumetric scanners—occupied a space of 6,003,490 cubic feet (170,000 cubic meters). That’s one fourth the size of the Forbidden City in Beijing—for just one tomb.

Experts believe that the 249-foot-high (76-meter) structure covered with soil and kept dry thanks to a complex draining system, hides the body of the emperor and his courtiers. Nobody knows what’s the state of their bodies, but one of the leading archeologists believes that they are most likely destroyed by now.

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“2012 was the worst year for fabrication and plagiarism since I began collecting data in 2005.”

The sad state of modern journalism: “2012 was the worst year for fabrication and plagiarism since I began collecting data in 2005.”

Silverman runs the website Regret the Error, cataloging journalistic errors and misconduct. This is his summary of this past year, and it ain’t pretty. The worst part is that there were a number of journalists on this list — CNN host and Time magazine editor Fareed Zakaria being the most prominent — who were caught either faking their stories or plagiarizing the work of others who were let off with a mere slap on the wrist. Consider that the next time you listen to Zakaria on CNN.

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Thank You, David Gregory

“Thank you, David Gregory.”

Then there’s this: Laws are for little people.

To Howard Kurtz & Co., it’s “obvious” that Gregory didn’t intend to commit a crime. But, in a land choked with laws, “obviousness” is one of the first casualties — and “obviously” innocent citizens have their “obviously” well-intentioned actions criminalized every minute of the day. Not far away from David Gregory, across the Virginia border, eleven-year-old Skylar Capo made the mistake of rescuing a woodpecker from the jaws of a cat and nursing him back to health for a couple of days. For her pains, a federal Fish & Wildlife gauleiter accompanied by state troopers descended on her house, charged her with illegal transportation of a protected species, issued her a $535 fine, and made her cry. Why is it so “obvious” that David Gregory deserves to be treated more leniently than a sixth grader? Because he’s got a TV show and she hasn’t?

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Orbital Sciences will do a hot fire launchpad test of its Antares rocket in January, followed by a test launch to orbit in February, and a first flight of the Cygnus capsule in April.

Schedule update: Orbital Sciences will do a hot fire launchpad test of its Antares rocket in January, followed by a test launch to orbit in February, and a first flight of the Cygnus capsule in April.

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An ion test engine has set a new record for continuous operation.

An ion test engine has set a new record for continuous operation.

The NEXT ion thruster is one of NASA’s latest generation of engines. With a power output of seven kilowatts, it’s over twice as powerful as the ones used aboard the unmanned Dawn space probe. Yet it is simpler in design, lighter and more efficient, and is also designed for very high endurance. Its current record of 43,000 hours is the equivalent of nearly five years of continuous operation while consuming only 770 kg (1697.5 lbs) of xenon propellant.

This engine will make the unmanned exploration of the asteroid belt extremely easy and practical.

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Hobby Lobby appears willing to face fines rather than bow to the Obamacare contraceptive mandate.

Hobby Lobby has decided to face millions in fines rather than bow to the Obamacare contraceptive mandate.

They will continue to provide their employees healthcare, but will refuse to include any payments for contraceptives as now required by Obamacare. For standing by their beliefs and doing this, it is very possible this company could end up going bankrupt, thereby putting 13,000 employees out of work. Not only will they lose the healthcare plans that Obama promised they could keep, they won’t even have jobs!

Thank you Obama for giving us Obamacare. And thank you the American voters who have decided to allow this disaster of a law to go forward. Sadly, the worst is yet to come.

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It appears that SpaceX and Orbcomm have finalized their launch agreement.

The competition heats up: It appears that SpaceX and Orbcomm have finalized their launch agreement.

On December 21, 2012, ORBCOMM Inc. (Nasdaq: ORBC) and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) entered into a Launch Services Agreement pursuant to which SpaceX will provide launch services for the carriage into low-Earth-orbit of up to 18 ORBCOMM second-generation commercial communications satellites currently being constructed by Sierra Nevada Corporation.

The agreement schedules the launches for sometime between the second quarter of 2013 and the second quarter of 2014, subject to normal scheduling changes.

This is a strong endorsement by Orbcomm of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, despite the engine problem which prevented an Orbcomm prototype satellite from reaching its correct orbit on the last Falcon 9 launch. Also, note that Sierra Nevada is building the satellites, thereby giving that company a firm foundations while it also builds its Dream Chaser manned spacecraft.

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Why history professor Erik Loomis should be fired.

Why history professor Erik Loomis should be fired.

The man is a perfect example of leftwing civility, eagerly encouraging violence and imprisonment against anyone who simply disagrees with him about gun control. He also illustrates typical leftwing hypocrisy, as only two years ago he self-righteously accused the right of somehow causing the Tucson shooting because of what he called its “violent right-wing rhetoric” (while failing to cite even one example).

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Russia has announced a commitment to spend $70 billion over the next seven years on their aerospace industry.

Russia has announced a commitment to spend $70 billion over the next seven years on their aerospace industry.

Russia will spend 2.1 trillion rubles (about $70 billion) under a state program for the development of the national space industry in 2013-2020, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday. “The total volume of funding is quite significant: 2.1 trillion rubles, including extrabudgetary sources,” he said. The program is designed to ensure the country retains its position as a leading global space power, while also supporting its defense capability, and boosting economic and social development, Medvedev said.

Though this commitment of significant funds will certainly help revitalize their aerospace industry, I wonder whether it will instead encourage that industry to be less efficient. If done right government subsidies can jumpstart an industry, as seen with NASA’s new commercial space program. If done wrong, however, subsidies can result in an expensive operation that can’t make a profit, as in the case of ESA, Arianespace, and its Ariane 5 rocket.

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A United Kingdom effort to drill down almost two miles to reach buired Lake Ellsworth in Antarctica has been abandoned.

A United Kingdom effort to drill down almost two miles to reach buired Lake Ellsworth in Antarctica has been abandoned.

The article doesn’t mention the failure of a boiler two weeks ago, which from their website apparently delayed drilling until this week.

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The federal government will hit the debt ceiling on December 31.

The day of reckoning looms: The federal government will hit the debt ceiling on December 31.

The treasury will do things to stall the inevitable crash, but in the end, our elected leaders – backed by the voters — are doing nothing to solve this debt problem. (On this note, consider the absolute refusal of this Democrat to consider any spending cuts in negotiations with the Republicans.) The crash is coming.

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Half the facts you know are wrong.

The uncertainty of science: Half the facts you know are wrong.

Facts are being manufactured all of the time, and, as Arbesman shows, many of them turn out to be wrong. Checking each one is how the scientific process is supposed to work; experimental results need to be replicated by other researchers. So how many of the findings in 845,175 articles published in 2009 and recorded in PubMed, the free online medical database, were actually replicated? Not all that many. In 2011, a disquieting study in Nature reported that a team of researchers over 10 years was able to reproduce the results of only six out of 53 landmark papers in preclinical cancer research.

In 2005, the physician and statistician John Ioannides published “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False” in the journal PLoS Medicine. Ioannides cataloged the flaws of much biomedical research, pointing out that reported studies are less likely to be true when they are small, the postulated effect is likely to be weak, research designs and endpoints are flexible, financial and nonfinancial conflicts of interest are common, and competition in the field is fierce. Ioannides concluded that “for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias.”

Or in other words, anyone who claims the “science is settled” on any major scientific issue that other scientists are hotly debating is lying to you.

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Complaints about compliance with Freedom of Information requests jumped 28 percent during the Obama adminstration’s first term.

Transparency: Complaints about compliance with Freedom of Information requests jumped 28 percent during the Obama adminstration’s first term.

This is not to say that the Bush administration was transparent. They were not, as they, like all governments, didn’t want the public to poke into their operations. The issue here is the absurd claim by Obama that his administration would be different. Poppycock. If anything, the Obama administration has been more abusive, draping itself in a veil of purity that they do not deserve in order to hide their illegal behavior.

Sadly, their partisan Democratic supporters — including the press — have blindly accepted these claims of purity and allowed the illegal behavior to be ignored.

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The investigation into the failure of the Proton rocket’s Briz-M upper stage on December 8 has pinpointed the failure to a turbopump.

The investigation into the failure of the Proton rocket’s Briz-M upper stage on December 8 has pinpointed the failure to a turbopump.

While it is a good thing that they have found the cause of the failure, this is not the same component that failed previously. Moreover, after the previous failure the Russians had said they would dismantle and inspect all Briz-M stages under production. It is obvious that they did not find this turbopump problem then.

All told, these issues do not recommend the Briz-M upper stage or the Proton rocket that depends on it. What else might be wrong with this upper stage that they might be missing? Until they can reassure potential customers that this question has been answered, the Russians are going to have a serious problem competing in the increasingly competitive launch market.

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SpaceX’s Grasshopper rocket successfully did a vertical take off and landing to a height of 130 feet last week.

SpaceX’s Grasshopper rocket successfully did a vertical take off and landing to a height of 130 feet last week. With video.

This is very cool engineering, but I remain skeptical any first stage rocket could carry enough fuel to both return to Earth vertically and also provide its payload enough thrust to get into orbit.

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