Points of Information Archive
March 10, 2014 at 11:47 AM
Pushback: Connecticut police are now threatening to refuse to enforce that state’s new oppressive gun control law.
250 law enforcement officers in Connecticut have signed an open letter stating that they will not enforce the new anti-gun and magazine laws, which they consider to be a violation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
March 10, 2014 at 11:37 AM
The comet that the European probe Rosetta will visit in August has awakened.
Already 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is approximately 50 percent brighter than in the last images from October 2013. While the comet has moved another 50 million kilometers closer to Earth in this time (and 80 million kilometers closer to the Sun), the increase in brightness cannot be explained by the smaller distance alone. “The new image suggests that 67P is beginning to emit gas and dust at a relatively large distance from the Sun”, says Colin Snodgrass from the MPS. This confirms a study presented by Snodgrass and his colleagues last year in which they had compared the comet’s brightness as recorded during its previous orbits around the Sun. The calculations showed that already in March 2014 its activity would be measurable from Earth.
Update: A preprint paper published today on the astro-ph website predicts that Rosetta will see an unusual topographical feature on the comet’s surface when it arrives in August:
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The Secular Light Curve (SLC) of this comet exhibits a photometric anomaly in magnitude that is present in 1982, 1996, 2002 and 2009. Thus it must be real. We interpret this anomaly as a topographic feature on the surface of the nucleus that may be a field of debris, a region made only of dust or an area of solid stones but in any case it is depleted in volatiles. We predict that images taken by spacecraft Rosseta will show a region morphologically different to the rest of the nucleus, at the pole pointing to the Sun near perihelion.
March 9, 2014 at 11:12 AM
A scientist describes the skeptic’s view of global warming.
And since good science should be founded of skepticism, he ends up describing the actual state of climate research, outlining all the uncertainties with great clarity and intelligence.
March 9, 2014 at 8:42 AM
On Saturday SpaceX successfully conducted a dress rehearsal countdown and static fire engine test of the Falcon 9 rocket that will loft a Dragon capsule to ISS next week.
The results of the test itself have not been released, but that it was completed suggests all is well for the upcoming launch.
March 9, 2014 at 8:39 AM
Standing on the wrong side of history: Neil deGrasse Tyson poo-poos private space.
Tyson described space travel as “a long-term investment”: “It’s an investment that private enterprise cannot lead.” He recalled the excitement around SpaceX’s delivery of cargo the International Space Station, which sparked discussion about whether private companies would replace government as the main engine behind space travel. Tyson’s response? “They brought cargo to the space station! NASA’s been doing that for 30 years!”
Tyson, who also said that government is the only one willing to do exploration and that private space only comes after, will probably push this agenda on his new Cosmos television series.
On this subject, Tyson has the outdated opinions of today’s leftwing academic community. And he is wrong. The only reasons private space didn’t lead in the past fifty years is because our federal government was against it. It wanted the turf all to itself and the private companies who could have done it were willing to acquiesce. Now that this monopoly is crumbling, stand by to see private enterprise dominate the show.
March 8, 2014 at 7:18 PM
Finding out what’s in it: A major union charges in a new report that Obamacare will reduce wages, cut hours, and limit access to health insurance for the lower middle class.
Union head Donald “D.” Taylor, in a note also being sent to Congress, demands changes and admits to being reluctant to bash a president his union supported. “Believe me; I enter this entire debate about the consequences of the ACA with a deep reluctance,” he wrote. “Unite Here was the first union to endorse then-Senator Obama. We support the addition of health care to millions of Americans. Yet facts are facts, and Obamacare will cost our members the equivalent of a significant pay cut to keep their hard-won benefits.”
In other words, he is a blind partisan fool. His partisanship is so strong that even now he is reluctant to attack the President or the Democrats for creating and forcing Obamacare on us. He also is so partisan that when they were writing the bill he accepted blindly what they were telling him and thus didn’t bother to read the law himself. Then again, he really didn’t have to read it, all he really had to do was listen to just a handful of conservative thinkers who were saying then that Obamacare would “reduce wages, cut hours, and limit access to health insurance.”
The most shameful part of this whole thing is that come the next election, this union chief and his union will almost certainly still back the Democrats blindly.
March 8, 2014 at 6:35 AM
Finding out what’s not in it: Connecticut seniors are in an uproar because their AARP health insurance plan was forced to sever ties with their hospital and doctors because of Obamacare.
AARP was a big supporter of Obamacare. A majority of these blue-state seniors probably voted for Obama as well.I wonder if they will now wake up and change their support now, or remain blind followers of a disastrous policy.
March 8, 2014 at 5:32 AM
Taking a close look at the engineering and history of SpaceX’s new Raptor engine, presently under development.
Quite fascinating and absolutely worth a read.
March 8, 2014 at 5:23 AM
A static fire engine test of the Falcon 9 scheduled to lift Dragon to ISS next week has been delayed one day.
The article gives no explanation for the delay.
March 8, 2014 at 5:19 AM
According to the company’s CEO, Virgin Galactic is close to getting its FAA launch license.
The CEO also said that they hope to fly their first suborbital flight this summer after several lower altitude powered flights.
At this point I will believe this when I see it. Virgin Galactic has made promises like this repeatedly for the past three years, none of which have come true. The time has come for them to put up, or shut up, or finally tell us the truth.
March 8, 2014 at 5:13 AM
Most Mars meteorites found on Earth may have been blasted here from a single impact on Mars around 3 million years ago.
This is a great scientific detective story. It has a lot of uncertainties, should definitely be taken with a grain of salt, but is nonetheless very convincing.
March 7, 2014 at 12:55 PM
WISE’s survey of the sky in infrared has now shown that there is no large planet X orbiting beyond Pluto.
This recent study, which involved an examination of WISE data covering the entire sky in infrared light, found no object the size of Saturn or larger exists out to a distance of 10,000 astronomical units (au), and no object larger than Jupiter exists out to 26,000 au. One astronomical unit equals 93 million miles. Earth is 1 au, and Pluto about 40 au, from the sun. “The outer solar system probably does not contain a large gas giant planet, or a small, companion star,” said Kevin Luhman of the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State University, University Park, Pa., author of a paper in the Astrophysical Journal describing the results.
The theory, popular among planetary scientists and journalists, is that this theorized distant planet would periodically disturb the orbits of comets in the Oort Cloud, sending them raining down on Earth and thus cause the periodic extinction events found in the paleontological record. It was a cute theory, but based on little data. Now we have the data, and no such planet exists.
The data has found a lot of previously unknown nearby stars and brown dwarfs, which is significant in that they are close and can be studied more easily.
March 7, 2014 at 8:22 AM
From a Nobel Prize winner: “I think peer review is hindering science. In fact, I think it has become a completely corrupt system.”
Read the whole interview. The scientist outlines problems not only with peer review journals but with the whole structure of modern academic science, which to his mind would have prevented him from doing his Nobel Prize winning research had this system existed then.
March 7, 2014 at 5:47 AM
How Washington journalists conspire to not report accurately the President’s yearly budget proposal.
The article focuses on the bad reporting in connection with the Obama administration’s most recent budget proposal, but the criticism applies to every budget announcement since the 1970s.. Each year, the President’s budget proposal in the January/February/March time frame increases the amount the federal government will spend from year to year, as far as the eye can see. Washington journalists however report that the proposal cuts the budget instead. How can this be? As the writer notes,
In the 1970s, Congress tortured the English language by requiring that if federal spending grows less than expected, it should officially be called a spending cut. Outside of the beltway bubble, nobody talks like that. Reporters are letting the public down by accepting the word games of politicians and not reporting the real numbers in the language of ordinary Americans.
I have been fighting this dishonest reporting for decades. It is not the business of reporters to help the federal government get more money. They should report the budget, as it is.
March 7, 2014 at 5:25 AM
Finding out what’s in it: According to two surveys a large majority of the previously uninsured are uninterested in signing up for Obamacare.
You can read one of the surveys here.
The main reason they are rejecting Obamacare is cost or “affordability challenges,” as the report so euphemistically call it. (See page 5 on the second link above). The simple fact is that the reason most of these people didn’t have health insurance before is because it didn’t make economic sense for them to buy it. Most are probably young and don’t need to visit a doctor very often. Why pay for insurance in that case? And since Obamacare has significantly raised the cost of insurance, these people have even less economic reason now to sign up.
March 6, 2014 at 4:52 PM
In reporting on climate change, ABC and CBS have excluded all commentary from any skeptical scientists for literally years.
Neither CBS nor ABC have included a skeptical scientists in their news shows within the past 1,300 days, but both networks included alarmists within the past 160 days — CBS as recently as 22 days ago. When the networks did include other viewpoints, the experts were dismissed as “out of the scientific mainstream” or backed by “oil and coal companies.”
It is almost like these news organizations are closing their eyes and sticking their fingers in their ears and chanting, “La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la…” Not the kind of behavior you’d expect from a legitimate news organization.
March 6, 2014 at 4:12 PM
Finding out what’s in it: Thousands of union workers in Las Vegas might go on strike because of the increased costs of healthcare, imposed on them by Obamacare.
On Feb. 20, thousands of housekeepers, porters, cooks, cocktail servers, and others represented by Nevada’s largest union, the Culinary Union Local 226, voted to end a contract extension the workers agreed to last summer. The union wants to maintain its current benefits — including health care coverage at no cost to workers, pensions, and guaranteed 40-hour workweeks.
Rising health care costs due to provisions in the Affordable Care Act could put those benefits in jeopardy, the union says.
I bet that most of these workers voted for Obama and Harry Reid. I also bet that most of them will continue to do so, despite the obvious policy failures imposed on them by these Democratic politicians.
March 6, 2014 at 4:07 PM
Chicken Little report: Another rock will fly past the Earth today, killing no one.
The 33-foot-wide (10 meters) near-Earth asteroid 2014 EC will come within 34,550 miles (55,600 kilometers) of Earth’s surface this evening (March 6) — just 14 percent of the distance between our planet and the moon, which is about 239,000 miles (385,000 km) on average.
The key quote, however, is this:
Such back-to-back flybys are pretty special, though they can’t exactly be called rare events, [JPL scientist Don] Yeomans said. “For small asteroids, one would expect a flyby of the Earth, to within the moon’s distance, about every two weeks,” he said.
In other words, these flybys happen a lot, with no consequences.
March 6, 2014 at 8:36 AM
Hubble photographs the break-up of an asteroid.
The ongoing discovery of more fragments makes it unlikely that the asteroid is disintegrating due to a collision with another asteroid, which would be instantaneous and violent in comparison to what has been observed. Some of the debris from such a high-velocity smash-up would also be expected to travel much faster than has been observed.
It is also unlikely that the asteroid is breaking apart due to the pressure of interior ices warming and vaporising. The object is too cold for ices to significantly sublimate, and it has presumably maintained its nearly 480-million-kilometre distance from the Sun for much of the age of the Solar System.
This leaves a scenario in which the asteroid is disintegrating due to a subtle effect of sunlight that causes the rotation rate to slowly increase over time. Eventually, its component pieces gently pull apart due to centrifugal force. The possibility of disruption by this phenomenon — known as the YORP effect — has been discussed by scientists for several years but, so far, never reliably observed.
March 6, 2014 at 8:04 AM
Trouble at Mojave? The Chief Financial Officer of the spaceport there suddenly resigned without explanation, just as a financial audit was starting.
The audit is still on-going, but it appears that the reports the CFO had submitted to the spaceport were at a minimum “inaccurate.”
March 6, 2014 at 7:49 AM
The competition heats up: In testimony to Congress Wednesday, Elon Musk described how allowing SpaceX to compete as a military launch provider would significantly lower costs.
[Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama)] said the Air Force EELV contracts require compliance with complex oversight and accounting practices that add costs to the program. As a result, he suggested comparing the cost of a SpaceX Falcon 9 and a ULA Atlas or Delta was comparing apples and oranges.
Musk agreed “there is additional cost for U.S. government missions due to the mission assurance process.” And he said SpaceX’s costs for launching a military mission would be 50 percent higher than for a purely commercial launch. Even so, he said, SpaceX could provide a Falcon 9 rocket for around $90 million as opposed to nearly $400 million for a ULA launcher. “Even when you add the Air Force overhead, there’s still a huge difference,” he said. [emphasis mine]
The only reason that Congress is against eliminating the military launch monopoly given to ULA and allowing SpaceX to compete is because the monopoly feeds a lot of pork to the districts of certain but powerful legislators like Shelby.
ULA and Shelby are losing the argument however. The cost differences are too high, and SpaceX has proven that it can do the job efficiently and effectively. Eventually the monopoly will die, and the sooner the better.
March 5, 2014 at 3:23 PM
Finding out what’s in it: According to the IRS, when Obamacare goes into full effect in 2016 the cost for its cheapest plan will average $20,000 per year per family.
March 5, 2014 at 10:12 AM
Why I would never send my kids to public school: A 10-year-old is suspended for pointing “a level 2 lookalike firearm,” which happened to be his finger.
I don’t know which is stupider, suspending him for going “bang-bang” with his hand, or the school calling his hand “a level 2 lookalike firearm.”
March 5, 2014 at 9:54 AM
A look at the President’s overall budget for science, which finds spending levels remain flat.
What makes this story significant is that the budget is really flat. Some agencies will get more money, others less, with the total spent about the same as the year before. They are not discussing, as had been typical in the past, the rate of increase in spending, where a reduction in that rate would be reported falsely as a “cut.”
March 5, 2014 at 9:35 AM
Chicken Little report: A 100-foot diameter newly discovered asteroid will zip past the Earth inside the Moon’s orbit today at 4:07 pm Eastern.
The asteroid, dubbed 2014 DX 110, is about 100 feet in diameter and is set to come within 216,000 miles of Earth — a close shave by astronomical standards, considering our Moon orbits the Earth at a distance of about 238,900 miles.
While an object that size may not seem imposing, if it were to strike the Earth, it would release a devastating amount of energy greater than a nuclear weapon. The infamous asteroid that exploded over Tunguska, Siberia, on June 30, 1908, has been estimated to be about 30 meters to 60 meters — 100 feet to 200 feet — in diameter.
While it is true that the impact would be significant, this news report does the typical fear-mongering to make the story seem interesting. The problem, however, is that the detection of these fly-bys is becoming more frequent. The number of asteroids isn’t changing, but our ability to spot them is, and with more frequent discoveries comes more frequent news stories like this. I fear that such stories — fueled by press releases from various astronomy organizations — are going to begin to sound like a kid “crying wolf” to the general public. The threat from an asteroid impact is real, even if most asteroids miss us. Desensitizing the public to the threat is not a good thing.
March 5, 2014 at 9:23 AM
Amateur astronomers can help a commercial space start-up by taking pictures of its cubesat SkyCube in orbit.
The cubesate was launched from ISS last week, but has not operated as expected and they want to know why. Images would help.
March 4, 2014 at 10:17 PM
The guacamole at the fast food chain of Chipotle is going to be stricken from the menu because of “global warming.”
The Mexican fast food chain announced in recent Securities and Exchange Commission filings it could temporarily suspend sales of guacamole and some salsas due to an increase in food costs. Those increases are being caused by global warming, the Denver-based chain said. “Increasing weather volatility or other long-term changes in global weather patterns, including any changes associated with global climate change, could have a significant impact on the price or availability of some of our ingredients,” Chipotle officials said. Avocados and other items used to make Chipotle’s guacamole are the ingredients on the chopping block. [emphasis mine]
Is there nothing global warming can’t do?
Considering that there is presently zero evidence of any increase in “weather volatality”, nor is there any evidence that global warming can even cause this increased “weather volatility,” this announcement is garbage. The company wants to save money, and it is using the bugaboo of global warming to justify it.
March 4, 2014 at 10:00 PM
The Obama administration released its 2015 proposed federal budget today, including its budget proposal for NASA.
The spending plan supports the Obama administration’s decision to extend U.S. operations of the International Space Station to 2024 with about $3 billion, funds NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion crew capsule with nearly $2.8 billion, and requests $848 million for development of commercial spacecraft to transport astronauts to and from low Earth orbit and end U.S. reliance on Russian Soyuz vehicles.
The budget proposal of $17.5 billion is essential flat, with a 1 percent cut from last year. It also includes proposals for several Earth science missions as well as a mission to Europa. In addition, it grounds the SOFIA airborne telescope, which has turned out to be as expensive to operate as Hubble while being far less productive.
The $848 for the commercial program is approximately the same number the Obama administration has requested every year. Congress has routinely cut this number, but has cut it less each year as time has passed. I suspect that they will cut even less this year, considering the tensions with Russia right now over the Ukraine. We need our own vehicles to ferry astronauts into space, and commercial space is right now the only way it is going to get done.