Category Archives: Points of Information

Apple makes the conservative internet vanish

The state religion will not be challenged! Apple`s new news service considers leftwing news outlets the only outlets worth listing.

Their unwillingness to consider almost any conservative sites for listing not only illustrates their biased leftwing perspective, it also shows us their deep-seated close-mindedness. They believe in liberalism/socialism/big government so much they make it a point to refuse to even read opposing sites, no less deny access to them.

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Islamic attack in France

Peace in our time: Even as a jihadist attacked military recruiting offices in Tennessee this week, there was also a major terrorist attack in France, with all evidence pointing at Islamic terrorists as the attackers.

The attack, three separate explosions at a petrochemical plant, has interestingly not been reported in detail by a single mainstream news source in the U.S. I wonder why. Could it be that these events put the lie to President Obama’s Iran deal, that agreeing to this deal will only make our lives more dangerous and will empower the radical and violent Islamic movement, which is as virulent in Iran as it is in the Islamic State?

Nah. It’s all in my imagination. President Obama couldn’t be wrong. He wouldn’t lie to us.

More Pluto news!

Sputnik Planum on Pluto

At a press conference today Alan Stern led off by dubbing Pluto-Charon as a “double planet system”. Some new results:

  • Tombaugh Regio (the heart) has been identified as a region of carbon monoxide.
  • The atmosphere extends out to about 600 miles. It is comprised of hydrocarbosn, methane, and nitrogen, with nitrogen the main component. It is naturally escaping from the planet, ionized by the solar wind. The consequence is that a substantial amount of Pluto has evaporated away over time. The numbers are not yet quantified, but will be as more data arrives.
  • The images once again suggest significant activity over time, both of erosion and tectonic processes. One flat plain, dubbed Sputnik Planum, is what one scientist described as “difficult to explain terrain.” The image is to the right. Some of its features resemble icecap glaciers, which are formed by processes that do not exist on Pluto. There also appear to be wind streaks on this planum!
  • They have named a mile high mountain has been dubbed Norgay Montes after the man who accompanied Edmund Hillary to the summit of Mt. Everest.

As the scientists warned today, every conclusion right now is very speculative, and should be taken with a very big grain of salt.

Russia considers building heavy-lift rocket like SLS

The competition heats up: Sources in Roscosmos, Russia’s government agency in charge of their entire aerospace industry, today revealed that the agency is considering building a heavy-lift rocket, as powerful as NASA’s SLS rocket but more similar to Energia, the heavy-lift rocket built by the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

The cost would be $12.2 billion, or 1 trillion rubles, and would take 7-8 years to complete. If approved, the work would also not begin until after 2025 so that the development of Angara’s full family of rockets is completed first.

Meanwhile, a GAO audit today noted that NASA has little margin for completing SLS on time and on budget.

Big, inefficient, and costly rockets: This is what governments do. Their goal? To provide jobs and pork. Even if the rocket never flies it matters not, as long as that pork keeps flowing.

India engine test a success

The competition heats up: India has successfully completed a full duration engine test of its most powerful home-built rocket engine.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully conducted the much-awaited ‘full endurance test’ of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III’s indigenous cryogenic CE-20 engine at ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC) in Mahendragiri in the district on Thursday. The CE-20 was ignited and tested for 800 seconds from 5 p.m. to study the performance of the engine though the actual required duration was only 635 seconds.

This success puts them ever closer to creating their own rocket comparable to the Falcon 9 and capable of competing for commercial business in the international launch market.

Wisconsin Supreme Court declares illegal Democratic SWAT team raids on conservatives

Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that the Democratic Party investigations and SWAT team raids on conservatives were illegal and “unsupported in either reason or law.”

As the court noted,

The special prosecutor has disregarded the vital principle that in our nation and our state political speech is a fundamental right and is afforded the highest level of protection. The special prosecutor’s theories, rather than ‘assur[ing] [the] unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people’ . . . instead would assure that such political speech will be investigated with paramilitary-style home invasions conducted in the pre-dawn hours and then prosecuted and punished.

In other words, the Democrats in Wisconsin, disliking the fact that Republicans and Scott Walker had legally won elections and were publicly criticizing them, tried to shut their opponents up by using the power of the government to literally destroy them. It is important to repeat exactly what they did:

On October 3, 2013, multiple Wisconsin conservatives were awakened by a persistent pounding on the door, their houses were illuminated by floodlights, and police — sometimes with guns drawn — poured into their homes. Once inside, the investigators turned the private residences of these innocent conservative citizens “upside down,” seeking an extraordinarily broad range of documents and information. These raids were supplemented by subpoenas that secured for investigators massive amounts of electronic information.

This is the behavior of storm-troopers and tyrants. Thankfully, the court in Wisconsin has now forcibly agreed, and declared these actions fundamentally wrong.

This ruling means that the lawsuits against the Democratic prosecutor and everyone who was involved in these abusive investigations and raids will go forward with great vigor.

Weird geology on Charon

Charon's mountain in a moat

As they await the arrival of more data from New Horizons, the science team have highlighted this interesting and entirely puzzling feature revealed in their first global image from Charon, shown in the image on the right, a mountain inside a depression. Note also the nearby rill-like depressions running from one crater to the next.

My first thought is that the mountain, which in this relatively low resolution image looks almost like a really gigantic boulder, is made of material denser than the ground in which it sits, and some heating event caused the ground to soften and collapse, dropping the mountain-sized boulder down into the sinkhole.

I am guessing of course. What we have here is a very alien environment, with geological processes in temperatures and densities and gravities to which we are wholly unfamiliar. What we would normally expect to happen is not something we should expect to normally happen on either Charon or Pluto.

A Canadian man faces jail time for merely disagreeing with two feminists on Twitter.

Fascism: A Canadian man is now threatened with six months in jail because he dared to post on Twitter his disagreement with two feminist activists.

Read the article. These feminists fit the description of fascists so closely we could put their pictures in the dictionary next to the word.

Note also that this is in Canada, which does not have a first amendment comparable to what we have here in the U.S. Then again, the first amendment here in the U.S. is increasingly being ignored by those in power, so I’m not sure what advantage it gives us at the moment.

Growing and eating lettuce on ISS

Astronauts are about to eat a crop of romaine lettuce that they have grown entirely from seed on ISS.

The story is important as it indicates that the engineering to grow plants in space is continuing to improve. The article however is very wrong when it says that this will be the first salad grown and eaten in space. Russian astronauts have been working on this problem on their space stations since the 1970s, and in at least one case — which was captured on video almost a decade ago — have eaten space-grown lettuce. (I wrote about this event for Air & Space back in 2003.)

Astronomers find exoplanet twin of Jupiter

Worlds without end: Astronomers have discovered an exoplanet with the same mass as Jupiter orbiting its star in a very similar orbit.

Not only that, but:

The planet’s host, the solar twin HIP 11915, is not only similar in mass to the Sun, but is also about the same age. To further strengthen the similarities, the composition of the star is similar to the Sun’s. The chemical signature of our Sun may be partly marked by the presence of rocky planets in the Solar System, hinting at the possibility of rocky planets also around HIP 11915.

I immediately wonder if this star also has rocky inner planets.

Obamacare gives money to fake applicants

Finding out what’s in it: In a test of the Obamacare website, the GAO enrolled 11 fake applicants last year, five of whom were then automatically reinrolled this year, with several getting their health insurance subsidies raised.

HealthCare.gov does not appear to be set up to detect fraud, GAO audits and investigations chief Seto Bagdoyan said in prepared testimony for a Senate Finance Committee hearing Thursday. A copy was provided to The Associated Press. HealthCare.gov’s document-processing contractor “is not required to seek to detect fraud,” said Bagdoyan. “The contractor personnel involved in the document-verification process are not trained as fraud experts and do not perform antifraud duties.”

The Obama adminstration’s response? To paraphrase: Well, we don’t think a lot of fraud is going on, so we are not worried. Sounds like the negligent response of OPM officials when warned that they needed to improve their security system or their files would be hacked.

Then there is this, predicted by conservatives who warned us that creating Obamacare would be the equivalent of putting the DMV in charge of our healthcare:

GAO’s investigation also uncovered a problem that bedevils millions of real people dealing with the program’s new bureaucracy: confusing and inaccurate communication.

Investigators said their bogus enrollees received unclear correspondence that failed to identify the problems with their applications. “Rather than stating a message directly, correspondence instead was conditional or nonspecific, stating the applicant may be affected by something, and then leaving it to the applicant to parse through details to see if they were indeed affected,” said Bagdoyan.

The fake enrollees also got some perplexing instructions from HealthCare.gov. Eight of the 11 were asked to submit additional documentation to prove their citizenship and identity. But the list of suitable paperwork detailed documents for verifying income instead.

Obviously, this is proof we should vote for Democrats again, who imposed this law upon us. Then again, until we get different people running the Republican Party, it is unlikely it will make a difference.

Democratic fake skepticism, and Republican failure theater

Link here. Essentially, the writer is disgusted both by the fake skepticism of the Democrats, who are going to eventually back Obama’s cave-in deal to Iran, and the Republican’s failure theater, which abdicated their power to prevent that deal from being approved.

The vote is not in fact to be had; the vote of course already was had, two months ago, when Bob Corker [Republican] proposed the “compromise” that said that deal would become law automatically, subject to a negative vote by Congress, but Obama gets to veto that, meaning Obama only needs one third support in both bodies to carry the day.

This is an inversion of the usual scheme wherein it requires a two thirds positive vote to carry the day in his favor; a mere one third minority could have blocked him.

No more. A one-third minority now wins the day for him.

So the actual vote, the actual History, the important deed, passed by two months ago when few of us were paying attention.

The coming vote will be the performance of Failure Theater, debuting to a world hungry for some dramatic political entertainment; but plays are of course scripted, and thus, their conclusions are foreordained, and this particular bit of stagecraft was written and finalized months ago by Bob Corker, with every single Republican voting in favor of it, save one — Tom Cotton — who objected, and save another, Ted Cruz, who made himself absent.

I for one agree. Isn’t it interesting how the public, in the 2014 election, made it very clear that they wanted Obama’s agenda stopped, and in response most of these bastards in Congress, from both parties, have conspired to foil the will of the people.

First New Horizons fly-by images released

Ice mountains on Pluto

Many cool images! I will only post one, on the right, of the ice mountains seen at the southernmost edge of Tombauh Regio. More can be seen here.

Some quick facts revealed during today’s the press conference:

  • They have gotten good data on Pluto’s atmosphere. Earlier data just before fly-by suggested that there are specific regions on the surface that have a lot of methane, but with different properties depending on location.
  • They have found that the surface of Charon is active. It also looks like a weird Moon, cratered, with a dark mare region they have dubbed Mordor. Its cause however is not the same as the Moon. There are also a large sequence of troughs and cliffs that are unlike other planets. Some areas are very smooth, as they they have been repaved after cratering. And there is a canyon that is very very deep, 3 miles deep, that makes it relatively deeper than any other canyon in the solar system.
  • Pluto’s moon Hydra is not spherical, and in fact looks like an asteroid.
  • The white heart is now been named Tombaugh Regio after one of Pluto’s discoverers. In its southern extent there are mountains and strange pits. And this area has no impact craters, meaning this is a very young surface, less than 100 million years old. The mountains have to made of ice, which is essentially the only thing that can be bedrock at Pluto’s temperatures, based on what they think Pluto is composed of.
  • The data shows repeatedly that a tiny planet can still have geological activity after billions of years, even without a giant gas giant nearby to produce tidal heating.
  • They have named the giant whale-shaped dark region at the equator Cthulu Regio.

The data and images will be coming back from New Horizons for the next year, so the show is certainly not over.

Why the Jews are the canary in the coal mine

Link here.

This is a long article, but deeply thoughtful and well researched. Take the time to read it. It documents why the Jewish people have always been the target of tyrants. The reason is not what you think, ethnic hatred.

The Jews are like the canary in the coal mine, not because the Jews, like the canary, succumb to the poison before everyone else. It is because the enemies of liberty know that all humanism, all doctrines of liberty and sanctity of human life in Western Civilization come from the Jews; from Jewish sources and from Jewish thinkers. In order to put those ideas to rest, they have to eliminate the Jewish roots, the Jewish frames of reference and the Jews, whose very presence is a reminder that people have the God-given right to live in freedom and equality. The goal of Jew-bashing is the destruction of everyone’s freedom, and that is why everyone should take warning.

The author correctly documents this conclusion. And anyone who has spent any time reading the Old Testament of the Bible will also know that he is correct.

The wine-sipping butchers of Planned Parenthood

The title above is the headline for the article. It is also disgustingly accurate. When I watched the video yesterday I found it incredible to see Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Senior Director of Medical Services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, munch salad and sip wine as she nonchalantly discusses cutting up babies for body parts.

Worse, the effort of Planned Parenthood, the press, and Democratic politicians to excuse this or make believe it didn’t happen is appalling.

The video is below the fold. Watch it. It depicts the result of the slow corruption of American intellectual culture, which has been willing to make excuses for small evils so often in the past few decades that it no longer recognizes the worst form of evil when it stares them in the face.
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“We are in lock with telemetry with the spacecraft!”

The quote above was a confirmation from mission control that New Horizons survived the fly-by and is functioning perfectly.

They are still confirming if everything is A-Okay, but so far everything appears to exactly that. People are very jubilant at mission control.

They got the signal early, at the very beginning of their window.

They have now confirmed that they have a healthy spacecraft, and that “They are outbound from Pluto.”

Pluto and Charon in false color

Pluto and Charon in false color

While waiting for word about how New Horizons has fared during its close fly-by of Pluto, the science team today released the false color images on the right of both Pluto and Charon to illustrate the complicated surface geology of both planetary bodies.

The new color images reveal that the “heart” of Pluto actually consists of two remarkably different-colored regions. In the false-color image, the heart consists of a western lobe shaped like an ice cream cone that appears peach color in this image. A mottled area on the right (east) side looks bluish. A mid-latitude band appears in shades ranging from pale blue through red. Even within the northern polar cap, in the upper part of the image, various shades of yellow-orange indicate subtle compositional differences. This image was obtained using three of the color filters of the Ralph instrument on July 13 at 3:38 am EDT and received on the ground on at 12:25 pm.

The surface of Charon is viewed using the same exaggerated color. The red on the dark northern polar cap of Charon is attributed to hydrocarbon and other molecules, a class of chemical compounds called tholins. The mottled colors at lower latitudes point to the diversity of terrains on Charon. This image was obtained using three of the color filters of the Ralph instrument on July 13 at 3:38 am EDT and received on the ground on at 12:25 pm.

Word on the spacecraft’s status will arrive at around 9 pm (eastern) tonight. Images and data will then follow, assuming all is well.

Court rules Obamacare requires nuns to buy contraceptives

You must comply! A federal appeals court has ruled that Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic chartable organization run entirely by celibate nuns, must provide contraceptives, under the Obamacare mandate, to their employees or face IRS fines.

The court’s ruling ends the temporary injunction that prevented the Little Sisters from being fined while awaiting a final court decision. They either must get that injunction reinstate by a higher court or abandon their work. As they stated today,

As Little Sisters of the Poor, we offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as family and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to Himself.  We have done this for over 175 years because of our faith in God and our vocation as Little Sisters of the Poor.

But now the government demands we choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith.  We cannot do that and we should not have to.  It is a choice that violates our nation’s historic commitment to ensure that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God’s calling in their lives. But the government forces us to either violate our conscience or take millions of dollars that we raise by begging for the care of the elderly poor and instead pay fines to the IRS.

We are not seeking special privileges.  The government exempts huge corporations, small businesses, and other religious ministries from what they are imposing on us–we are simply asking to carry on our mission to serve the elderly poor as we have always done for 175 years.

Once again, the Obama administration, through its use of Obamacare, demonstrates its totalitarian nature. You must do as they demand, regardless of your religious beliefs.

Rather than abandon their work, the Little Sisters should continue doing it while also defying the law and the courts. Let the Obama administration and the IRS put some nuns in prison while bankrupting their organization. Only by doing that will there be any chance of continuing their work by getting this monstrous law changed, or repealed.

Peace in our time!

President Obama today announced a nuclear deal with Iran.

For a good summary of the deal go here. The response from many has generally been very hostile, with both Israel and most other Middle Eastern Arab countries in agreement that they think the deal stinks. Others note that it will likely start an arms race in the Middle East, as the deal really does nothing but slow Iran’s effort to develop the bomb.

Sadly, the Republican leadership in Congress pushed through a law earlier this year that makes it harder for them to block this deal. The Constitution requires two-thirds of the Senate to approve any treaty. This law lowered that standard significantly, allowing the deal to go through if only one-third of Congress approves it.

Some speculations from scientists about Pluto data

Using the images and data so far received from New Horizons, planetary scientists outline some of their tentative conclusions as well as speculate about what it means.

[Alan Stern, New Horizons’ principal investigator] says Pluto’s surface appears to be much less heavily cratered than its large moon, Charon—which implies that the surface has been paved over in some way. That smoothing process could come from internal heat that keeps rock and ice soft, or by the frosts that snow down and blanket the surface in fresh ice. “Either [Pluto’s] internal engine continues to run, and there are active processes that are taking place,” Stern says, “or those atmospheric processes are themselves covering up the geology, and covering up the craters.”

Jonathan Lunine, a planetary scientist at Cornell University, not on the New Horizons team, favors the latter explanation. His initial impression is that Pluto is far more cratered than Triton, the moon of Neptune that is about the same size as Pluto and is thought to be a captured Kuiper belt object. Triton has a famous “cantaloupe” terrain, thought to have formed as heat, driven by Saturn’s tidal pull, allowed molten blobs of ice to rise and overturn. Parts of Pluto’s rugged surface seem to be far more carved and cratered, Lunine says. “It’s telling me that [Pluto’s] crust was not heated and modified to the extent that it was on Triton.”

Above all, however, I like Lunine’s comment at the end of the article:

Lunine says the emerging diversity on Pluto—of both active atmospheric and geological processes—makes him disagree with the decision of International Astronomical Union to call Pluto a dwarf. “This really is a planet,” he says. He notes that electrons have a double definition as a particle and a wave. “Why can’t we call Pluto a planet and a Kuiper belt object?” he asks. “I think we have to think of it as both.”

Road to Mauna Kea opened, with restrictions

The University of Hawaii has reopened the road to the summit of Mauna Kea, subject to the emergency restrictions imposed by Hawaii’s Board of Land and Natural Resources.

The visitors center remains closed, and access by the public is much more limited. However, with the road open to employees it means astronomy can resume on the mountain as well as construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

I fully expect some of the protesters to defy these restrictions and get arrested. Based on their behavior these past four months, they don’t have much respect either for the law, or for the sacredness of the mountain.

Pluto just before close encounter

Pluto just before close encounter

Today’s cool image, on the right, is the last one New Horizons sent back to Earth before its July 14th close encounter. Be sure you click here to see the full resolution version. It is quite spectacular. It was taken from about 476,000 miles, about twice the distance to the Moon.

The quality of this image strongly suggests that all will go well with the encounter today. However,

Per the plan, the spacecraft currently is in data-gathering mode and not in contact with flight controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physical Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. Scientists are waiting to find out whether New Horizons “phones home,” transmitting to Earth a series of status updates that indicate the spacecraft survived the flyby and is in good health. The “call” is expected shortly after 9 p.m. tonight.

So, at 9 pm (Eastern) we will hear from New Horizons on its status. Images and data from the encounter itself however will arrive over time, beginning tonight and continuing throughout the coming months.

The size of Pluto pinned down

Data from New Horizons has allowed scientists to more firmly determine, for the first time, Pluto’s precise size.

Mission scientists have found Pluto to be 1,473 miles (2,370 kilometers) in diameter, somewhat larger than many prior estimates. Images acquired with the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were used to make this determination. This result confirms what was already suspected: Pluto is larger than all other known solar system objects beyond the orbit of Neptune. “The size of Pluto has been debated since its discovery in 1930. We are excited to finally lay this question to rest,” said mission scientist Bill McKinnon, Washington University, St. Louis.

Pluto’s newly estimated size means that its density is slightly lower than previously thought, and the fraction of ice in its interior is slightly higher. Also, the lowest layer of Pluto’s atmosphere, called the troposphere, is shallower than previously believed.

This means that Pluto is at this moment the largest Kuiper Belt object so far known, bigger than Eris, the Kuiper Belt planet discovered in 2005 that had been thought to be bigger than Pluto and whose existence was used by some to demote Pluto’s status as a planet.

I say, they are both planets, because they are both heavy enough for gravity to have forced them to become spherical.

On the radio

A minor note of interest: Coast to Coast has decided to name me their official science adviser. This means they will be giving me more air time to talk about space, astronomy, and other issues relating to science. Should be lots of fun.

And I must say it, for every minute I am on the air talking about the really exciting discoveries in real science, it will be one less minute they can waste talking about silly stuff like UFOs and ancient civilizations on the far side of the Moon. Without doubt this can only be a gain, for them, their audience, and society in general.

The approaching perihelion of Comet 67P/C-G

The Rosetta science team has prepared a FAQ outlining what we should expect next month as Comet 67P/C-G reaches and passes its closest point to the Sun, with Rosetta (and hopefully Philae) there to watch.

The most interesting detail they note is this:

Will the comet break apart during perihelion?

The comet has not broken apart during its many previous orbits, so it is not expected to do so this time, but it cannot be ruled out. Scientists are keen to watch the possible evolution of a 500 m-long fracture that runs along the surface of the neck on the comet during the peak activity.

You can see an image from Rosetta that shows this fracture here. As I wrote then,

The biggest fracture line appears to be a meandering line that is traveling from the image’s top center to its mid-right. There also appear to be parallel lines below it. As we are looking at the nucleus’s neck, these lines suggest that the connection between the two large lobes is somewhat strained, and that it is not unlikely that these two sections will break apart at some time in the future. Though there is no way to predict at this time when that will happen, it will be truly exciting if it happens when Rosetta is in the neighborhood.

Pluto on July 11

Pluto on July 11

Another cool image for Monday morning: As the spacecraft zooms towards its Tuesday fly-by, it continues to take images of Pluto, even as the planet rotates. For example, compare today’s image on the right with the one I posted yesterday. You can see some of the same features (the donut-like, crater-like feature is the most obvious), but their positions are different because of the planet’s six-day rotation.

Note also that the row of black spots along the equator show more details. Not unexpectedly, they are not as simple as the early fuzzy images suggested. Unfortunately, we will not get to see even more details, as these features will not be in view during the fly-by.

Update: See this link for a new image of Charon.

More and more to come!

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