Category Archives: Points of Information

Republican tax plan unveiled

As expected, the Republican leadership has unveiled a new tax proposal that would consolidate the number of tax brackets while increasing the rate of the lowest bracket and increasing the standard deduction.

I admit that I have grown very cynical about these proposals. They never end up simplifying anything. Instead, each time Congress has done this in the past three decades they have only made the tax code more complicated. I see no evidence so far that this Congress and this Republican leadership will do anything different.

Moreover, Congress and Trump continue to make little effort to rein in spending, so I expect the result here will also be a significant increase in the crushing federal debt.

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Leftist protester who set fires sentenced to five years prison

Good news: A leftist protester who set fires during riots in Portland on May 1st, including throwing flares into stores and into a police car, has been sentenced to five years in prison.

Unfortunately, the video at the link shows a lot of other leftist protesters doing the same, and getting away with it.

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Gravitational waves from black hole collision detected

Three Earth gravitational wave observatories have detected the waves coming from the same collision of two black holes.

The collision was observed Aug. 14 at 10:30:43 a.m. Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) using the two National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, and the Virgo detector, funded by CNRS and INFN and located near Pisa, Italy.

The detection by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) and the Virgo collaboration is the first confirmed gravitational wave signal recorded by the Virgo detector.

Based on the data obtained, they estimate that the two black holes 25 and 31 times the mass of the Sun and are about 1.8 billion light years away.

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Parts 2 and 3 of “A Niche in Time”

The second and third parts of Doug Messier’s series on the history of aviation and space are now available:

Part 2 describes how the Hindenberg crash ended the lighter-than-air airship industry, while Part 3 describes how the Columbia accident led to the end of the space shuttle. He then compares them both, noting their similarities.

Not surprising to me, the main common thread that sustained both of these failed concepts was the desire of a government to build and fly them, regardless of their cost and practicality. Messier’s comparison between airships and airplanes highlights this well. Airplanes were cost effective and could easily be made profitable. Airships were neither. They existed because Hitler wanted them.

The same can be said for the space shuttles, and for Constellation and SLS/Orion today.

Anyway, read both articles above. They are nicely written, very informative, and provide important lessons about history that we would be wise to educate ourselves about before we attempt to make our own history in the future.

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UN announces proposed Dream Chaser international mission

Capitalism in space: The Outer Space office of the United Nations has announced an opportunity for member nations to express their interest in doing a science mission using Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser reusable spaceship.

The UN announcement states that

The purpose of this Call for Interest (CFI) is to provide a summary of the proposed mission and to solicit information from Member States interested in providing experiments, payloads, or satellites that could be flown on this mission. The CFI also has the objective of gathering information on the interested countries so that UNOOSA may better understand the demand for this type of mission.

The actual call [pdf] roughly describes a mission lasting 2 to 3 weeks and carrying about 20 experiments. This call is designed to give them a better idea of what those experiments might be, what nations wish to participate, and where the funding for the mission might come from. The actual announcement to submit experiment proposals won’t come until March 2018.

Being a UN mission, it is not surprising that it wants to focus on a variety of leftwing “Sustainable Development Goals”:
» Read more

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Dark energy might not exist

The uncertainty of science: A new model for the universe that omits dark energy produces a better fit to what is know than previous theories that included it.

The new theory, dubbed timescape cosmology, includes the known lumpiness of the universe, while the older traditional models that require dark energy do not.

Timescape cosmology has no dark energy. Instead, it includes variations in the effects of gravity caused by the lumpiness in the structure in the universe. Clocks carried by observers in galaxies differ from the clock that best describes average expansion once variations within the universe (known as “inhomogeneity” in the trade) becomes significant. Whether or not one infers accelerating expansion then depends crucially on the clock used. “Timescape cosmology gives a slightly better fit to the largest supernova data catalogue than Lambda Cold Dark Matter cosmology,” says Wiltshire.

He admits the statistical evidence is not yet strong enough to definitively rule in favour of one model over the other, and adds that future missions such as the European Space Agency’s Euclid spacecraft will have the power to distinguish between differing cosmology models.

Both models rely on a very weak data set, based on assumptions about Type 1a supernovae that are likely wrong. It is thus likely that neither explains anything, as neither really has a good picture of the actual universe.

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First meeting of National Space Council announced

A Potemkin Village: The White House has announced the date of the first public meeting of the National Space Council, set for October 5 at the Air & Space Museum.

Today, Vice President Mike Pence announced the first meeting of the National Space Council is scheduled for October 5, 2017 at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. The meeting, titled “Leading the Next Frontier: An Event with the National Space Council,” will include testimonials from expert witnesses who represent the sectors of the space industry: Civil Space, Commercial Space, and National Security Space.

What this announcement tells me is that this council isn’t there to discuss and set space policy, but to sell that policy to the public. And right now, I am expecting that sales job will be trying to convince us that we must use SLS/Orion mission to build a new space station orbiting the Moon by 2023. They will use the council to pitch the idea, and then Trump will make the traditional Kennedy-like speech, with lots of astronauts standing behind him, committing this nation to putting a space station around the Moon by such-and-such a date. Whoopie!

Forgive me if I sound a bit cynical. I’ve seen this show many times before. For some reason, the opening act is great, but then it fades always away into nothingness before the second act begins.

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Rocket Lab preps for 2nd flight of Electron

Capitalism in space: Smallsat rocket company Rocket Lab is preparing for the second test flight of its rocket Electron, now set for October.

The test flight will also carry four commercial nanosats.

Both Planet and Spire — two companies that operate small satellites in orbit — will have payloads on the Electron’s second test flight, dubbed “Still Testing.” The rocket will carry two of Planet’s Dove satellites, designed to image Earth, as well as two of Spire’s Lemur-2 satellites that track weather and ship traffic.

The company also states that if this second flight is successful, they might forego a third test flight and move directly to commercial operations.

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Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) will not seek reelection

Good riddance! Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), a major player among the Republican leadership and the man who engineered the acceptance of the Iran deal, announced today that he would not seek reelection.

I had expected Corker to make his decision after the results of today’s election in Georgia. That he announced before those results suggests the polls there made it clear to him that a RINO like him was in big trouble and would have faced a tough primary election.

These events indicate to me once again that, except for the bankrupt big urban areas and the coasts, the country continues to shift to the right. Corker was going to face a strong conservative primary challenger, running against Corker’s moderate “let’s work with the leftist Democrats” stance. His decision today indicates that he did not think such a position was a winnable one any longer.

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Long March 5 failure to delay Chinese lunar probes and space station

The July launch failure of China’s largest rocket, Long March 5, is going to cause delays to both its lunar and space station programs.

They have not yet finished their investigation into the failure, and are now admitting that the launch of Chang’e-5, a lunar sample return mission, will not occur this year as planned, and that the launch of their space station core module will be delayed into 2019.

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Republican leaders to introduce tax increase

Failure theater: The Republican leadership in Congress is about to introduce tax increase, increasing the tax rate for the lowest bracket from 10% to 12%, while making believe that it really is a tax cut.

The plan will also increase the tax deduction, which they will then claim means that the tax increase really doesn’t matter.

They really have an utter contempt for the people who voted for them, not unlike the utter contempt being shown right now by the NFL to its customer base. Well, if you spit on your supporters don’t expect them to support you much longer.

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Blue Origin inks deal with satellite company to use New Glenn

Capitalism in space: Blue Origin has signed a deal with the satellite company mu Space to use its as yet unbuilt New Glenn rocket to launch a satellite sometime in the next decade.

This isn’t really a contract, since I am sure that mu Space will have the option to switch to a different rocket. Nonetheless, it signals faith in Blue Origin. It also indicates that, though no price was mentioned, Blue Origin is probably providing the satellite company with a significant price break to encourage them to make the deal, thus demonstrating the growing competitiveness of today’s launch industry. This is also the third contract deal for New Glenn.

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UC-Berkeley’s chancellor orders removal of posters, starts investigation

Fascist Berkeley: Following the cancellation of “Free Speech Week” at the University of Berkeley, the university’s chancellor ordered the removal of posters detailing the terrorist connections of certain students and teachers, calling them “hate speech” and starting an investigation into the conservative organization that posted them.

The posters in question name Kumars Salehi, Judith Butler, and Hatem Bazian and nine other individuals as supporters of terrorism on the consciousness-raising posters that UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ ordered torn down.

According to the Canary Mission website, Salehi is a graduate student in German literature and culture at Berkeley. Salehi supports the dissolution of the State of Israel and is a member of the terrorist front group Students for Justice in Palestine and the BDS movement. He agrees with the absurd claim of Columbia University professor Joseph Massad that “Zionism and white nationalist anti-Semitism have historically been allies.”

Butler is the Maxine Elliott Professor of Comparative Literature at Berkeley, a BDS movement leader, and a member of the anti-Israel Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) advisory committee. Butler has charactered Muslim terrorist groups as legitimate political players, saying she sees “Hamas [and] Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left [that are] very important.”

Bazian co-founded Students for Justice in Palestine to wage a campus war against Israel on behalf of Hamas. Bazian is chairman of the board of the Hamas organization “American Muslims for Palestine,” and is on record calling for the destruction of the Jewish state and its Jews in so many words. The founding charter of Hamas, by the way, speaks of “the Nazism of the Jews” and asserts that “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” It claims that peace initiatives “are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement”; that “there is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad”; and that “war for the sake of Allah” is a noble enterprise that requires the faithful to “assault and kill” on a massive scale. [emphasis mine]

You can’t support freedom of speech if you tear down posters and investigate the people who post them. Such actions are that of tyrants, and we now know that Chancellor Christ’s claims that she supported free speech were lies.

Note that the posters were put up as part of the “Free Speech Week” event that Milo Yiannopoulos attempt to put on there, which ended up getting cancelled. Note also that they were written and posted by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a conservative organization focused on supporting freedom and opposing oppression.

Update: Leftist protesters at Berkeley this week also acted to block reporters from reporting on their protest.

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Mangalyaan passes three years in Mars orbit

India’s Mangalyaan orbiter has passed its third anniversary operating in Mars orbit.

The spacecraft could last as long as five more years before running out of fuel. Though it has five instruments and has taken more than 700 images, its importance so far is not in the science it has done but in what it has taught Indian engineers for running future more sophisticated missions.

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Sputnik for sale!

Capitalism in space: Sputnik’s engineering test replica is going up for auction, and you can buy it!

Like the Sputnik-1 that flew into orbit on October 4, 1957, the test replica is a polished aluminum sphere 23 in (58 cm) in diameter with four spring-mounted external whip antennas. It consists of an outer shell to protect the satellite against heat and an inner pressurized shell to protect the pre-solid state electronics made up of a simple radio transmitter and a 12-V battery. The replica includes a 57-in (1,448 mm) manganese brass stand and an anti-static o-ring. All together, satellite and stand weigh about 100 lb (45 kg) and stand 78 in (1,981 mm) tall.

The Sputnik was previously part of the collection of Heinz Miller of Austria and was originally built for electromagnetic compatibility and electromagnetic interference testing. Only three of the original Sputniks remain in private hands. Of the other two, one is outside Moscow at the Energia Corporate Museum, while the other is at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

The asking price for the Sputnik is US$100,000 to US$150,000.

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The kittens of Saturn’s rings

The scientists who used Cassini to identify about 60 transient clumps in Saturn’s rings have dubbed them “kittens” and have been naming them appropriately.

Saturn’s kittens are a group of small clumps and baby moons, or moonlets, that occupy the planet’s F ring. Like the rest of Saturn’s rings, this thin outer ring is made up of countless particles that range in size. When enough of those particles bump into one another and stick together, they aggregate into larger clumps — and become eligible for a kitten name.

So far, the list of Saturn’s kitten names includes several classics, like Fluffy, Garfield, Socks and Whiskers. These are unofficial nicknames for more-complicated (and less adorable) official titles like “Alpha Leonis Rev 9” (aka, Mittens). The technical names for these features come from events called stellar occultations, during which Cassini was able to detect the little clumps. In a stellar occultation, a star passes behind Saturn’s rings from Cassini’s point of view.

Most of these clumps will likely never be found again, so their unofficial kitten names are essentially just for fun.

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Behemoths of the Sky

Link here. This article by Doug Messier, about the German attempt to create an industry around rigid lighter-than-air airships, is the first of a five part history series that he will use to illustrate some fundamentals about new industries.

Despite the differences in time periods and technologies, there are some fundamental things that are required for all major advances in flight regardless of when they are made: imagination, daring, physical courage and financial backing. And luck. No small amount of luck.

Today, Parabolic Arc begins a five-part series looking at three different periods in powered human flight. We will compare and contrast them to see what essential lessons can be drawn from them. If the first two installments appear to have little to do with spaceflight, please be patient. All will be revealed.

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Australia to create its own space agency

The new colonial movement: The Australian government has announced that it plans to create a space agency.

Despite persistent calls for a national space agency, the current government took no steps until last July, when Arthur Sinodinos, the federal minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, set up an expert review group to study the country’s space industry capabilities. To date, the group has received nearly 200 written submissions and held meetings across the country.

Facing calls for action last week from the participants at the Adelaide meeting, Acting Industry Minister Michaelia Cash announced that the working group will develop a charter for the space agency that will be included in a wider space industry strategy.

Australian space policy as mirrored Great Britain’s for the past half century, in that both countries refused to spend any government money for space. However, creating a new government agency is not the same as creating a thriving private space industry. It will be the strategy here that will matter. In Great Britain the strategy initially for its new space agency was for the government to run everything. Soon however it shifted instead to encouraging private competition. We shall see what Australia does.

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ULA successfully launches surveillance satellite

Capitalism in space: It appears that ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket has successfully launched a National Reconnaissance Office surveillance satellite into orbit.

The reason I am qualifying the success of the launch at this moment is that, because of the national security nature of the payload, they will only release details about the success of the final orbital maneuvers long after they have been completed. Right now these details are blacked out. Update: the launch was successful.

ULA has another launch of an NRO satellite scheduled for October, a date not yet determined. Right now, the U.S. has had 20 launches in 2017, far more than any other nation, with SpaceX’s 13 launches comprising the bulk.

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UC-Berkeley student group backs out of free speech event

Academic fascism: The student group at the University of California-Berkeley that was sponsoring the “Free Speech Week” event that was scheduled to begin this coming week has withdrawn their sponsorship.

The student organizers of the “Free Speech Week” at the University of California, Berkeley have announced that they will no longer be hosting the event due to pressure from school administrators. Milo Yiannopoulos, however, insisted during a Saturday press conference that the event would begin as planned on Sunday, though he said Ann Coulter and Steve Bannon would have to be rescheduled.

It is presently unclear exactly what happened. The university denies that it was pressuring the student group to cancel the event, and is instead claiming that they were doing all that they could to make the event happen. Meanwhile, this story paints a bad picture of Milo Yiannopoulos’s methods for organizing the event.

My inclination now is to believe the student organizers, based on Berkeley’s recent track record supporting censorship and violence against conservatives. However, it is also possible the organizers were not very organized, as suggested by the university and the last link above. Either way, the real source of the problem here is the fascist intolerant culture of Berkeley itself, which encourages violence against conservatives or anyone else who happens to dissent from leftwing orthodoxy. That thuggish culture has made it very difficult to schedule any conservative speaker, since everyone knows that these speakers will require a fortune in security to protect them.

Yiannopoulos meanwhile says he still plans on speaking there, regardless. We shall see.

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First manned SLS/Orion flight officially delayed to 2022

Government in action! The first manned flight of SLS/Orion has now been officially delayed one year until 2022, and that date remains questionable.

In addition, the first unmanned test flight of SLS/Orion has now also been delayed until December 2019, something that had been under consideration but is now official. Even with this delay, there are doubts whether that flight can take place then, which is why the 2022 launch of the first manned flight is questionable.

The article outlines in detail the Byzantine scheduling issues that NASA must fulfill to meet these launch dates, including a long timeline of deliveries that seems absurd when compared to how private companies operate.

Assuming that these new dates occur as announced (something I sincerely doubt), the first unmanned launch of SLS/Orion will occur almost 16 years after President Bush first proposed it, with the first manned flight occurring more than 18 years after his proposal. In that time NASA will have spent about $43 billion for this one manned mission. Let me repeat: $43 billion and almost two decades to fly one manned mission. Quite absurd.

The article also details NASA’s proposal for a third SLS/Orion mission, the second manned, to occur in 2023, which would begin assembly of a space station in lunar orbit. I suspect that this mission is going to be announced in what will be President Trump’s version of the typical Kennedy-like speech that Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2, and Obama have all given, announcing big plans in space by such-and-such deadline.

Whether Congress funds it remains to me an open question. Right now I would predict they would, since they love the pork that SLS/Orion provides. In two years, when Falcon Heavy has flown several times and is likely becoming operational, and New Glenn is getting close to its first test launch, I am not so sure. Both will be flying before SLS’s first flight and both will have been developed for a tenth the cost with equal if not greater capabilities. And both will be able to fly more frequently for practically nothing, when compared to SLS.

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Enrollment at University of Missouri continues to drop

This is good news: The enrollment at the University of Missouri continues to fall since the violent demonstrations in 2015 instigated by race hustlers and leftwing radicals that shut the campus.

Now, The Dothan Eagle reports that the university is facing the lowest levels of enrollment since 2008, with official numbers showing that enrollment is down 12.9 percent. Additionally, the Eagle notes that, with the exception of the senior class, every incoming class is smaller than last year’s, and even international enrollment fell by 12.1 percent.

Meanwhile, the madness at Evergreen State College continues.

Until there is a significant change in administrations and facility at both these institutions, they deserve nothing better than bankruptcy.

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Aerospike engine ready for ground tests

Capitalism in space: A demonstrator aerospike rocket engine being developed by ARCA Space is now ready [pdf] for ground tests.

The system will perform a series of ground tests that will ultimately qualify the engine for flight. After the ground tests, the same engine will be integrated into the Demonstrator 3 rocket that will perform a suborbital space flight up to an altitude of 120 km above the New Mexico desert. It will be the first ever flight of a linear aerospike engine and the first ever space flight of an aerospike engine.

Based on the results from these tests the company then intends to build a single-stage-to-orbit small rocket that they hope to fly by 2018.

Go to the company’s news website here to see some good images of the engine and the aerospike nozzle. It does not look like any typical rocket engine. If this effort is successful it will as significant a technological improvement to rocketry as SpaceX’s recovery and reuse of its Falcon 9 first stage.

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Private company makes first phonecall using smartphone and nanosats

Capitalism in space: The private smallsat company Sky and Space Global has successfully used its three test nanosats to transmit a phonecall and text messages sent to these satellites using an ordinary smart phone.

During the testing, Sky and Space Global engineers also sent text messages, images and voice recordings via the company’s three nanosatellites, dubbed the 3 Diamonds. The satellites, launched on June 23, circle the Earth in a sun-synchronous orbit at the altitude of 500 kilometers (310 miles).

Eventually, Sky and Space Global envisions building a constellation of 200 nanosatellites that would provide seamless communication services to people living in tropical regions where no communication capabilities currently exist.

They also plan to test the streaming of data through these nanosats from an airplane’s black box. If all goes well, their satellite constellation will be operational by 2020.

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Scientists finally image SMART-1 lunar impact site

SMART-1 impact site

Eleven years after the European SMART-1 probe was sent crashing onto the Moon’s surface, scientists have finally identified in a Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter image that crash site.

The image is shown on the right, reduced and cropped to post here.

The images show a linear gouge in the surface, about four metres wide and 20 metres long, cutting across a small pre-existing crater. At the far end, a faint fan of ejecta sprays out to the south. Foing said: “The high resolution LRO images show white ejecta, about seven metres across, from the first contact. A north-south channel has then been carved out by the SMART-1 spacecraft body, before its bouncing ricochet. We can make out three faint but distinct ejecta streams from the impact, about 40 metres long and separated by 20-degree angles.”

Stooke said: “Orbit tracking and the impact flash gave a good estimate of the impact location, and very close to that point was a very unusual small feature. It now seems that impacts of orbiting spacecraft, seen here from SMART-1, and also in the cases from GRAIL and LADEE, will form elongated craters, most of whose rather faint ejecta extends downrange”.

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Mob at Howard University attempts to silence Comey lecture

The new fascists: A group of about twenty students screamed and yelled and prevented former FBI director James Comey from speaking during a lecture at Howard University.

It doesn’t matter whether you think Comey is corrupt, this new college tradition of students shouting down every speaker is the antithesis of civilization and freedom of speech. The trouble is that it appears that no one in authority, at either the college or the local governments, seems willing to do the things necessary (expulsion, arrests) to stop it.

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