Category Archives: Behind The Black

Scientists baffled by unknown source of CFCs

The uncertainty of science: Scientists have found that, despite their complete ban since 2007, ozone-depleting CFCs are still being pumped into the atmosphere from some unknown source.

Carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), which was once used in applications such as dry cleaning and as a fire-extinguishing agent, was regulated in 1987 under the Montreal Protocol along with other chlorofluorocarbons that destroy ozone and contribute to the ozone hole over Antarctica. Parties to the Montreal Protocol reported zero new CCl4 emissions between 2007-2012.

However, the new research shows worldwide emissions of CCl4 average 39 kilotons (about 43,000 U.S. tons) per year, approximately 30 percent of peak emissions prior to the international treaty going into effect. “We are not supposed to be seeing this at all,” said Qing Liang, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and lead author of the study published online in the Aug. 18 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. “It is now apparent there are either unidentified industrial leakages, large emissions from contaminated sites, or unknown CCl4 sources.”

Note: CCI4s were previously referred to as CFCs, which is to the public the more familiar acronym.

That there seems to be an unknown source of CFCs suggests strongly that the entire theory of CFCs destroying the ozone layer is faulty. If CFCs were being produced naturally in the past then the ozone layer should not exist based on this theory. That it does exist says the CFCs are not harmful to it and were banned unnecessarily.


German journalists arrested by police in Ferguson

Modern American free speech: Two German journalists were arrested by police in Ferguson for wanting to take photographs of a burned out gas station.

The comments of one of the journalists was especially shameful:

This was a very new experience. I’ve been in several conflict zones: I was in the civil war regions in Georgia, the Gaza strip, illegally visited the Kaliningrad region when travel to the Soviet Union was still strictly prohibited for westerners, I’ve been in Iraq, Vietnam and in China, I’ve met Cuba dissidents. But to be arrested and yelled at and be rudely treated by police? For that I had to travel to Ferguson and St. Louis in the United States of America.

Except for the arrests of journalists there, I have not posted much about the situation in Ferguson, mostly because no one at present really knows what happened and the subsequent behavior of everyone has been exceedingly disgusting and uncivilized, undeserving to my mind of much attention.

Sierra Nevada abandons its own hybrid engine for Dream Chaser

The competition heats up: Sierra Nevada has decided not to use its own hybrid engine on its Dream Chaser manned shuttle.

With the apparent decision by Virgin Galactic to also abandon this engine, it would appear that hybrid rocket technology is not yet ready for prime time, if ever.

Posted from Spokane, Washington, where Diane and I will be visiting my oldest friend Lloyd and his family for the rest of the week.

Orbital plans upgrade to Antares

The competition heats up: On its next cargo mission to ISS Orbital Sciences plans on launching an upgraded Antares rocket.

For its third paid cargo mission to station, slated to launch Oct. 21, Orbital will replace the ATK Castor 30B Antares used for its latest launch with an ATK Castor 30XL. The upgrade will allow Cygnus to carry about 2,290 kilograms of cargo to station — an increase of nearly 40 percent by mass, compared with the second mission, according to Orbital’s Aug. 18 press release.

The Castor 30XL is the latest in the Castor 30 series ATK developed specifically as an Antares upper stage. A pair of Antares demonstration launches in 2013, which did not count toward fulfilling the company’s delivery-and-disposal contract with NASA, used the Castor 30A. ATK has lengthened subsequent versions of the motor, squeezing more power out of it by packing it full of more solid fuel.

Like SpaceX, Orbital Sciences is demonstrating the ability here to do operational missions simultaneously with developmental missions.

“For the Israelis, this time is different.”

“Hamas has exacted a high price from Israel these past weeks. But it has also awakened a sleeping giant. The question now is whether the Palestinian cause is furthered, or dramatically weakened, by the fear this war has created.”

Read the whole thing. Combine this new Israeli resolve with the public relations disaster this war has been for Hamas and it seems obvious that there will be no easy concessions from the Israelis in any negotiations for years. And that I consider a good thing: The Israelis, as well as a good part of the civilized world, have finally realized that there is no point negotiating with someone who wants to kill you. Only when the Palestinians and the Arabs finally honestly and sincerely accept the presence of Israel will there be any chance for a negotiated settlement. And I don’t expect this anytime soon.

Curiosity retreats from Hidden Valley

Finding its sandy floor slipperier than expected, engineers have backed Curiosity out of Hidden Valley to drill some holes while they reassess the rover’s route.

The rover’s wheels slipped more in Hidden Valley’s sand than the team had expected based on experience with one of the mission’s test rovers driven on sand dunes in California. The valley is about the length of a football field and does not offer any navigable exits other than at the northeastern and southwestern ends. “We need to gain a better understanding of the interaction between the wheels and Martian sand ripples, and Hidden Valley is not a good location for experimenting,” said Curiosity Project Manager Jim Erickson of JPL. …

Curiosity reversed course and drove out of Hidden Valley northeastward. On the way toward gaining a good viewpoint to assess a possible alternative route north of the valley, it passed over the pale paving stones on the ramp again. Where a rover wheel cracked one of the rocks, it exposed bright interior material, possibly from mineral veins.

More and more, the journey to Mount Sharp appears to be increasingly adventurous for the rover.

Competition with SpaceX forced ULA CEO out

A news story today in Defense News speculates that the competitive pressure from SpaceX is what forced ULA’s CEO to step down.

Changes at the CEO level are usually accompanied by a change in how business is done, said Byron Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha Partners. “Generally, when you see abrupt leadership changes, there’s an abrupt change of strategic or tactical course needed,” Callan said. “You don’t make those changes unless you see something that needs fast corrective action.”

Caceres said he expects to see layoffs and a streamlining of ULA to find all possible cost savings. “My sense is you’re going to see at ULA a restructuring of some sort, because ultimately they’re going to have to find a way to be a lot more competitive on price,” he said.

This restructuring is entirely the result of the new competition from SpaceX, as repeatedly noted by the article.

Branson insists he will fly this year

In an interview for USA Today Richard Branson once again repeated his expectation that he will fly in space on SpaceShipTwo before the end of the year.

It sounds like they plan three test flights with their new engine, followed by Branson’s public relations stunt. Even if this plan happens, however, I do not see them ready to fly paying passengers, as they will probably need more test flights to make sure the ship and its engine are truly trustworthy.

What private manned spaceship will NASA pick?

Speculation grows on the upcoming down-select decision by NASA of its manned commercial space program.

Next up is the announcement of the transition to the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts, to be announced later this month, or early in September, depending on political direction. Although the source selection process is obviously an internal debate, with its results embargoed until the time of the NASA announcement, it is hoped that two of the commercial crew providers will move forward with additional funding.

At the ASAP meeting, Ms. Lueders expressed “NASA’s desire to continue the partnerships even after the announcement, including with companies not selected.” That continued association may be in the form of unfunded Space Act Agreements (SAA), not unlike that which Blue Origin is currently working under, as it develops a crew capsule outside of the trio working with CCiCAP funding. “People are recognizing the value of competition and have an appreciation for shared knowledge,” added Ms. Lueders. “NASA has learned from the companies and the companies have learned from NASA. It would be a big plus to continue the relationships.”

As to which companies are likely to win through to the CCtCap phase, that is a tightly kept secret. However, over recent months, sources have noted NASA’s strong affection toward the multi-capable Dream Chaser, while SpaceX has a growing track record with its Falcon 9 and cargo-Dragon combinations via its Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) missions. [emphasis mine]

My sense in the last few months has also leaned heavily in favor of Dragon and Dream Chaser, both of whom appear to be moving forward with construction at a fast pace. Boeing meanwhile has instead made it seem that it wishes to invest as little capital in its project as possible, unless it wins the competition. While the first two companies have unveiled real hardware, Boeing continues to show us mostly mock-ups.

What’s next in Gaza if Hamas rejects peace

If Hamas continues to reject a proposed peace plan negotiated by Egypt, Israel is likely to return to Gaza with a much broader offensive.

A broader ground offensive can take multiple forms, and its scope can vary as well. On one end of the spectrum is a smaller operation that can last a few weeks, in which ground forces seize Gaza, deliver a powerful blow to Hamas’s military assets, and withdraw.

On the other end of the spectrum is an operation that would last at least about a year, in which ground units would spread out and go after all of Hamas’s guerrilla cells. Several intermediate options exist, too. Targets would include the remainder of Hamas’s weapons storage facilities, command and control sites, regional battalions, and its junior and senior leaders from its armed wing.

I hope Israel goes for the broadest most aggressive plan. The most humanitarian thing that could be done for the people in Gaza would be to remove Hamas and free them from its tyrannical, insane, and vicious rule.

The background to the Rick Perry indictment

A look at the historical background behind the absurd indictment this weekend.of Texas governor Rick Perry.

This indictment appears to be an example of the new Democratic Party modus operandi: Make up criminal charges against your opponents when you can’t beat them at the ballot box. They tried it in Alaska against Sarah Palin, they tried it in Wisconsin against Scott Walker and as many tea party activists there as possible, they tried it in Texas against Tom Delay, and back in the nineties they tried it against Newt Gingrich. In every case the charges were absurd and were eventually dropped or dismissed.

Now they are trying it against Rick Perry. If this is the best they can do it is no wonder no Democrat has won a state-wide election in Texas in years.

IRS tech claims Lerner’s hard drive wasn’t damaged.

Cover-up: An IRS computer technician has contradicted the sworn testimony of IRS officials, stating that Lois Lerner’s hard drive was not damaged prior to its destruction.

Aaron Signor, an IRS technician that looked at Lerner’s hard drive in June 2011, said in IRS court filings that he saw no damage to the drive before sending it off to another IRS technician, leading some in the media to suggest that the lost emails scandal is basically over. But Signor’s statement, issued in response to the Judicial Watch lawsuit, does not jibe with sworn congressional testimony.

This testimony is one of the reasons Judge Emmet Sullivan has ordered an independent inquiry into the IRS’s lost emails.

Only some in the Muslim world condemn ISIS

The Islamic world’s reaction to the ISIS persecution of non-Muslims is decidedly mixed.

This sentence from the link sums the situation up nicely:

At the same time that Islamic religious leaders are mostly silent on the genocide, Islamic political leaders have spoken out.

It appears that Islamic political leaders have generally been forthright in condemning ISIS’s actions, something that we should take heart from. Islam’s religious leaders however have taken a more partisan stand, worrying that ISIS’s actions might harm Islam and thus condemning it for that reason. That Christians and other non-Muslims might be murdered however does not seem to be a concern for these Islamic religious leaders.

“A real Nobel Laureate takes pity on a fake Nobel Laureate.”

Mark Steyn takes a look a one of Michael Mann’s many false claims and tears it to shreds, while also making Paul Krugman look somewhat foolish at the same time.

Michael Mann, a bad scientist who created the discredited hockey stick graph that supposedly proved global warming, is suing Steyn and others for daring to criticize him. In the process Steyn and others are finding ample material for making a great deal of fun of Mann while also finding more examples of his dishonesty and fraudulent behavior.

Maliki steps down in Iraq

Good news: Iraqi prime minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has agreed to step down as per the legal demands of the country’s government.

Maliki was a poor and weak ruler who even tried to engineer a coup when the government decided to legally remove him. He has found that the army wants to support the rule of law (something we might have taught them) and would not back him in his coup attempt. He is now gone, and maybe the new leadership in Iraq, chosen legally, can unify the country in its battle against the Islamic fascists that are attacking them from Syria.

Did Stardust capture stardust?

Scientists now believe that the spacecraft Stardust captured seven particles from interstellar space during its seven year journey.

Inside the canister, a tennis racket-like sample collector tray captured the particles in silica aerogel as the spacecraft flew within 149 miles (about 240 kilometers) of a comet in January 2004. An opposite side of the tray holds interstellar dust particles captured by the spacecraft during its seven-year, three-billion-mile journey.

Scientists caution that additional tests must be done before they can say definitively that these are pieces of debris from interstellar space. But if they are, the particles could help explain the origin and evolution of interstellar dust. The particles are much more diverse in terms of chemical composition and structure than scientists expected. The smaller particles differ greatly from the larger ones and appear to have varying histories. Many of the larger particles have been described as having a fluffy structure, similar to a snowflake. [emphasis mine]

It appears that for these seven particles, the scientists conclude they are likely interstellar particles because of the speed in which they were traveling when captured as well as their make-up. Both suggest an origin outside the solar system.

However, we should be cautious about this. The data still remains tenuous and preliminary. More work obviously needs to be done to pin this down definitively. More information here.

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