April 22, 2013 at 12:29 PM
Yesterday, Orbital Sciences successfully completed the first test launch of its Antares rocket, developed, designed, and built in less than five years under a commercial contract with NASA to provide cargo to the International Space Station. The launch went like clockwork, perfectly, with no hitches at all, something that is quite remarkable for a new rocket on its first launch. Kudos to the engineers at Orbital Sciences for a job well done!
Besides demonstrating the skill of Orbital Science’s engineers, however, this successful launch illustrated in stark reality a fundamental fact about the culture of the United States that continues to allow it to stand out from the rest of the world, even as a large percentage of the present generation of Americans are doing their darndest to try to destroy that culture. Moreover, that fundamental cultural fact is basic to human nature, not just the United States, and if we recognize it, it will provide us all the right framework for what to do and not to do in trying to maintain human societies, both here on Earth as well as in the future in space.
In order to understand the true significance of Orbital Sciences’s success yesterday with Antares, however, we must first review the capabilities of the world’s launch industry. I am not going to list all the rockets capable of putting payloads into orbit, only those that are successfully competing for business in the open commercial market.
April 11, 2013 at 10:06 AM
This week there were three stories describing new research proving that global warming is going to cause an increase in the number and violence of extreme weather events. Each was published in one of the world’s three most important scientific journals.
Sounds gloomy, doesn’t it? Not only will extreme heatwaves, cold waves, and droughts tear apart the very fabric of society, you will not be able to drink your soda in peace on your next airplane ride!
However, one little detail, buried in one of these stories as a single sentence, literally makes hogwash out of everything else said in these three articles.
April 8, 2013 at 10:27 AM
Late last night NOAA released its monthly update of the Sun’s sunspot cycle, covering the period of March 2013. As I have done every month for the past three years, I am posting this latest graph, with annotations to give it context, below the fold.
While the Sun’s output of sunspots increased in March, it did not do so with much vigor, with the numbers still far below all predictions while also showing an overall decline since a single strong peak in October 2011.
March 28, 2013 at 11:00 AM
On March 21, the House accepted the continuing resolution proposed by the Senate for the year 2013. This continuing resolution will fund everything in the federal government though September of this year, and includes the cuts imposed on March 1 by sequestration.
As it always does, the journal Science did a specific analysis of the science portion of this budget bill. As usual, they looked only at the trees, not the forest, comparing the budget changes up or down for the 2012 and 2013 years only, noting how those changes will impact each agency’s programs. As usual, Science also took the side for more federal spending, assuming that in each case any cut was sure to cause significant harm to the nation’s ability to do cutting edge science.
I like to take a wider and deeper view. Below is a chart showing how the budgets for these agencies have changed since 2008. They give a much clearer perspective of the consequences of sequestration and the cuts, if any, imposed by Congress on these science agencies.
March 24, 2013 at 11:16 PM
Getting to the Window in the Santa Catalinas is a challenge, mostly because of the 4000 foot elevation gain. In the past two years Diane and I have made three previous attempts, all of which were aborted because we simply either ran out of time or energy.
Today, we left very early in the morning, and because we are right now in very good shape, made it with little trouble, completing the entire hike in just under eleven hours. Some pictures below the fold.
March 18, 2013 at 3:17 PM
Steve McIntyre, the man who had demonstrated that Michael Mann’s hockey stick graph was a fraud, has now demonstrated that the work of a group of climate scientists attempting to resurrect it is even more fraudulent. It seems that in order to recreate the illusion of warming in the past four hundred years, the scientists, led by geologist Shaun Marcott, changed the dates on a series of ocean cores in order to get the results they wanted.
McIntyre found that Marcott and his colleagues used previously published ocean core data, but have altered the dates represented by the cores, in some cases by as much as 1,000 years.
Most significantly, the scientists made no explanation for changing these dates. It is as if they wanted to hide this decline, y’know?
The chart on the right, by McIntyre, illustrates the fraud. The black line shows the temperature numbers of the ocean cores used by Marcott. The red line shows the temperature numbers, as originally published in the scientific literature, for these ocean cores.
The discrepancy here is so egregious that it screams at you. More important, as John Hinderaker says,
March 15, 2013 at 10:04 AM
A fuel line for the Titan missile.
Last week my oldest friend Lloyd and his wife Denise came to visit Diane and I here in Tucson. One of Lloyd’s requests was to visit the Tucson Missile Museum. This museum is built at the site of one of the now disabled missile silos built in the 1960s as a means for launching nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union. Fifty-four silos total had been built and operated, with eighteen of those silos scattered around the Tucson, Arizona area. When the U.S. signed a nuclear arms treaty with the Soviet Union in the 1980s these silos were then shut down and sold. Some became private residences. Others remain buried and abandoned.
One silo, however, was kept as intact as allowed by treaty and made into a museum in order to preserve this artifact of history. Because Diane and I happen to know Chuck Penson, the archivist at the museum, we were able to arrange an augmented tour of the facility. Below are some of my pictures as Chuck took us down into the deepest bowels of the silo.
March 12, 2013 at 10:49 AM
Two stories today highlight not only the budget problems at NASA, but also illustrate the apparent unwillingness of both Congress and Americans to face the terrible budget difficulties of the federal government. In both cases, the focus is instead on trying to fund NASA at levels comparable to 2012, before the Obama administration or sequestration had imposed any budget cuts on the agency.
It is as if we live in a fantasy world, where a $16 trillion dollar debt does not exist, and where money grows on trees and we can spend as much as we want on anything we want.
March 4, 2013 at 3:37 PM
It is that time again! Today, March 4, NOAA released its monthly update of the Sun’s sunspot cycle, covering the period of February 2013. As I do every month, I am posting this latest graph, with annotations to give it context, below the fold.
Once again, the Sun has shown a complete inability to produce sunspots, at the very moment it had been predicted to be rising towards its maximum in the sunspot cycle. The numbers in February plunged from the tepid rise we saw in January to below the crash we saw in December. Right now, when the Sun is supposed to peaking, it is instead producing sunspots in numbers as low as seen in 2011, at the very end of the last solar minimum.
February 14, 2013 at 11:36 AM
One of the plaques inside the Peace Forest
Just after the 1967 war, a strip of land in Jerusalem that had been part of no man’s land after the city was divided following the 1948 war was turned into a Peace Forest to symbolize “the hope for peace and serenity between all Jerusalem’s residents.” Located on a hillside that overlooks the city, the Jewish National Fund sponsored a campaign to have the site landscaped elegantly, with a promenade and a series of architectural observation points, each designed differently as if their architects were competing with each other for the most creative structure.
In 2003 my oldest nephew was married from the highest point on this hillside, just above the Peace Forest, with the entire city of Jerusalem as the backdrop. At the time there was a catering hall at this location, and it seemed to them to be a perfect place to tie the knot.
February 12, 2013 at 1:08 PM
It is often claimed by those who oppose Israel that it is an apartheid state that imprisons its Arab population, both in Israel itself as well as in the West Bank and Gaza.
Like much that is said about Israel, however, this claim has little to do with reality, and in fact, as I said yesterday, turns reality on its head.
Inside Israel, Arabs have the option (though some have decided not to take it) of becoming full citizens. Thus, not only are Israeli Arabs among the most prosperous Arabs in the Middle East, they have more rights under the Israeli democratic government than most Arabs in every other Arab country. They can vote, and have even served as elected members of Parliament.
Compare that with the way Arabs treat their religious minorities. Jews are of course forbidden. Christians meanwhile are fleeing the Islamic Middle East because of its persecution of non-Muslims.
February 11, 2013 at 3:59 PM
What is a West Bank settlement? If you read the press, it is a place where Israeli Jews have moved in and stolen the land of Arabs in order to occupy their land unfairly. It is a place where Arabs are forbidden, where apartheid has been established against the indigenous population.
Not only are these statements false, they actually turn reality on its head.
In my two visits to Israel I have stayed or visited four different West Bank settlements, and in each place my first impression was that I was visiting a typical American gated community, a suburban community run by a home-owner-association (HOA). You enter by driving through a gate where an attendant waves at you as you go by. He doesn’t stop you, because he either knows you or he has profiled you and sees no reason to ask you any questions. Once inside the roads wind about, passing individual homes or apartments. At the center of the community is a recreation center, often with a pool and library, where events are held and people go for entertainment.
The gated community of Alon Shvut, south of Jerusalem in the West Bank.
February 8, 2013 at 3:30 PM
On February 4, NOAA released its monthly update of the Sun’s sunspot cycle, covering the period of January 2013. As I do every month, I have posted the latest graph, with annotation, below the fold.
Not surprisingly, the sunspot numbers in January showed a recovery and rise from the steep plunge in December. What is surprising, however, is that the rise is not very much, barely bringing the sunspot number for the month back to the weak numbers we’ve seen for most of 2012.
February 8, 2013 at 9:47 AM
In my visit to Israel this past week, I spent almost all my time in the West Bank. In all, I have now either stayed in or visited a total of four West Bank settlements. In addition, while there I also did some sightseeing in Jerusalem and elsewhere. From this short experience I have gleaned some very fascinating facts, many of which are very surprising, though they shouldn’t be as they are facts that in many cases are fundamental to understanding the long-running and seemingly unsolvable Middle East conflict.
In the next few days I will post a series of short essays describing my experience and thoughts, with this essay being the first.
First and foremost, the assumption everyone makes about the West Bank and Israel is that it is a very dangerous place, especially for Jews. This assumption is entirely false. It is so false it is downright laughable.
February 7, 2013 at 8:42 PM
After a long flight beginning yesterday I am finally back in Tucson. I have a lot of clean up work to do, but I will be posting a series of short essays about what I saw and learned while visiting Israel, beginning either later tonight (if I can stay awake) or tomorrow.
I would have posted some of these essays during my visit, but my old laptop finally died on me early in the trip. Time to buy a new one.
February 2, 2013 at 3:06 PM
This is my second visit to Israel and the second time I have stayed in a residence in the West Bank. Both times the experience has been quite different than what anyone who reads the modern press would expect. It is nothing like what you think.
Also, I have been delving into the background of both settlements, from this visit as well as my last visit back in 2003. Not surprisingly, the facts have little to do with what the press generally reports. And even when they do report honestly, they simply do not provide the important information that would provide some proper context. I myself have been astonished today with some of what I learned, as it was completely unexpected. For example, do you know that many of the land records for here in the West Bank are still kept in Istanbul, Turkey?
As I mentioned previously, however, it is difficult to post here in Israel. Though the internet service is fine, my laptop is beginning to show its age and to function too slowly for this work. Also, I want to include pictures, and I won’t be able to add them easily probably until I get home.
So stay tuned. It will be worthwhile reading.
February 1, 2013 at 7:27 AM
After a plane journey that took far longer than it should, I have finally arrived at my brother and sister-in-law’s place in Israel. It is rainy, windy, and colder than normal. Yuch.
The Sabbath begins shortly, so I will be off line until tomorrow. On Sunday I will be doing some sightseeing with family. Posting will be difficult here, but if I have the chance I will. If not, I will write up something when I get home.
January 31, 2013 at 3:21 AM
First of all, thank you to all who have donated money to Behind the Black. You cannot imagine how much this is appreciated.
Second, I am stuck in Atlanta due to bad weather, including a tornado, plus the typical lies of airport employees. Had the Delta airline agents told me the truth about the bad weather in Atlanta when I was still in Phoenix, I would have grabbed a different flight to get to New York and make my flight to Israel. Instead, they lied — a typical behavior I have found from too many airline customer service agents — and told me I would have no trouble meeting my New York connection. I didn’t. They lied. GRRR.
Anyway, as I am here I have decided to try to take advantage of the delay to begin the tedious process of adjusting to Israeli time, getting up at 3 am, which is 10 am in Israel. Hopefully this will make the transition in Israel much easier.
January 30, 2013 at 6:00 AM
For the next week my posting might be lighter than usual. Today I am heading to Israel to visit family and do a bit of sightseeing. Whether I have sufficient access to the internet to keep up with events as well as continue to post will not be clear until I get there and get settled in.
In the meantime, I will also be celebrating my sixtieth birthday while in Israel. If you have been a regular reader of Behind the Black and would like to help me celebrate this milestone with a donation to the website, I would be most grateful. The tip jar is located at the bottom of the right column, just below the search box.
January 17, 2013 at 9:52 AM
The European Space Agency and NASA have confirmed that the Europeans will be building the service module for Orion.
January 10, 2013 at 10:39 AM
An Interior Department official has been accused of trying to disband a fish research division specifically because its research is politically incorrect.
The research division, the Fisheries Resources Branch, had repeatedly found good evidence that the salmon of the Klamath River in the northwest were not suffering significantly from the presence of the dams on that river, contradicting the accepted wisdom that the dams had to be removed in order for these species to survive. The Interior official, Jason Phillips, along with the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), did not like these results, and decided that scientific work that “proved others wrong” was unacceptable and had to be squelched. From the actual complaint [pdf]:
January 8, 2013 at 1:13 AM
Bigelow and NASA have signed a contract for doing preliminary work on the construction of a Bigelow module for ISS.
This is a significant story, with important ramifications:
January 7, 2013 at 10:27 AM
NOAA today released its newest monthly update of the Sun’s sunspot cycle and, as I do every month, I have posted the latest graph, with annotation, below the fold.
The sunspot numbers for December were not only startlingly low, they actually plunged to levels not seen since May 2011, at a time when the Sun is supposed to be approaching sunspot maximum and the number of sunspots is supposed to be increasing.
December 22, 2012 at 3:18 PM
Many of the posts here at Behind the Black are not much more than me providing my readers a link to what I consider to be an important story, what I categorize as a point of information. Ever so often, however, one of these posts will touch a nerve and generate a great deal of comments and discussion, most of which is generally well written and thoughtful.
In December two posts in particular resulted in a lot of debate. Because these comments were part of a point of information, however, they ended up being lost amid the many similar posts. I have decided to highlight both threads here on the front page because I think it worthwhile for others to read what was written.
December 14, 2012 at 9:49 AM
Here we go again. Yesterday an aerospace organization, Aerospace Industries Association, released a sixteen page report [pdf] claiming that NASA will lose 20,500 jobs and NOAA 2,500 if the federal government goes over the “fiscal cliff” and sequestration happens.
Immediately, a slew of news articles xeroxed this report to pound home this point, noting the job loses for the specific cities of each newspaper and how disaster awaits the country if sequestration is allowed to take place and we go over that blessed “fiscal cliff”:
The trouble is, this is all hogwash and bad journalism.
December 11, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Today, with little fanfare, the solar scientists at the Marshall Space Flight Center adjusted slightly downward their prediction for the upcoming solar maximum, from a sunspot number of 73 down to 72. This was the fourth month in a row that they have revised their prediction.
The Marshall scientists do not archive their predictions, which I suspect is a convenient way of preventing people from noticing how much they change them. I however like to archive these revisions. Below is a full list of their changes during the past two years:
December 6, 2012 at 12:54 PM
A new National Research Council report released yesterday says that NASA lacks focus nor can it complete the missions it has with the resources available.
December 3, 2012 at 10:46 PM
The big news is out. Today the eagerly awaited press conference at the American Geophysical Society meeting in San Francisco on the recent results from the Mars rover Curiosity was finally held. The announced results had been hyped like crazy when rumors began to spread a few weeks ago that Curiosity had discovered something truly spectacular.
Well, here are some of the headlines heralding the results.
December 3, 2012 at 9:45 AM
NOAA’S latest monthly update of the Sun’s ongoing ramp up to solar maximum has just been published and, as I do every month, I have posted the latest graph, with annotation, below the fold.
As the Sun had been somewhat active in November, I had expected the graph line to rise. It has, but not by very much.