House will vote on Senate NASA plan

The space war appears to be over. Based on several news reports, the House will vote this week on the Senate plan for NASA, not on the House plan.

Despite this agreement in Congress, the future of NASA remains murky, at best. As written, this plan forces NASA to continue construction of some form of heavy lift rocket similar to the Ares I and Ares V it was building under Constellation, but gives the agency less money and time to do it. It also hands out a lot of money to commercial companies for so-called launch services, but outlines few details about how that money should be spent.

A November wipe-out

This article suggests that the Republican victory in November is going to be far greater than any polls have indicated. Key quote:

Only about 160 of the Democrats’ 239 Congressional Districts are even remotely considered to be in play. But that playbook is badly out of date. The Republican message has raced far ahead of the GOP campaign and put a lot of new seats in play. We just have to work these districts to win them.

In fact, there are no polls to analyze in most of these 160 districts. Nobody considered them in play enough to poll them. We just don’t know how vulnerable these extra incumbents are. But, given the surprising vulnerability of the first eighty seats, we believe that a substantial number of these formerly invincible Congressmen can be ousted. [emphasis mine]

I strongly suspect that my home district, the 5th Congressional district of Maryland, is one of these 160 unknown districts. My congressman, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, is running against Republican Charles Lollar. For years this district has been considered safe for Steny. No more.

Lollar, a black conservative with Tea Party connections, has run an aggressive campaign, raised lots of money, and has been unafraid of taking the race into the hardcore Democratic areas near Washington. His signs are up everyone, only a week after clinching the nomination in the primary.

Come November 2, I think that the results from this district will be a stunning upset. I also think these results will only be one example among many others.

Full disclosure notice: In all my life, I had never given money to any political candidate. I considered such contributions a waste of my money. This year, however, I broke that string. Soon after the healthcare bill passed Congress (under Steny Hoyer’s leadership), I contributed $200 to Charles Lollar’s campaign. Not only do I believe this contribution will not be a waste of money, I think the fact that I did it is another indication that the results of this coming election will be very surprising.

Dangerous asteroid discovered by new telescope

A new survey telescope, designed to scan the entire available sky approximately three times every month, has discovered its first potentially hazardous asteroid (PHO) , 150 feet in diameter and set to speed past the Earth at a distance of 4 million miles in mid-October. Key quote:

Most of the largest PHOs have already been catalogued, but scientists suspect that there are many more under a mile across that have not yet been discovered. These could cause devastation on a regional scale if they ever hit our planet. Such impacts are estimated to occur once every few thousand years.

The crumbling cliffs of Mars

Among the new images posted last week by the HiRise camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is a picture showing the layered and looping ridgelines within Galle Crater. A close-up of these ridgelines revealed the precarious nature of those crumbling cliff tops.

Below is a low resolution version of the image, with a high resolution cropped inset below that, showing a close-up of the most interesting looking area. In the inset you can see that the top of the cliff has separated away. It almost looks as if several large pieces are about to break off. You can also see that the top of the cliff to the north is made up of hanging rocks that appear to almost float in the air. They too look as if they are about to break off.

What makes this even more intriguing is that there are no boulder piles at the bottom of any cliff. All we can see on the valley floor is a pattern of polygonal fractures, possibly “due to ground ice, or regional tectonic stresses.” If large pieces of these ridge lines are breaking off periodically, as they surely appear to be doing, where has the debris gone?

Martian cliffs

crumbling cliffs

Venezuela Election

In yesterday’s elections in Venezuela, things went both good and bad, with the opposition to power-hungry Hugo Chavez winning a majority of votes but barely capturing a third of the seats (62 out of 165) in the new Congress. Key quote:

The government was always likely to get a higher percentage of seats than votes due to changes in electoral districts and voting rules.

Whether these results will slow Chavez’s efforts to make himself dictator remains unclear.

A scientist’s ten commandments

Published today on the astro-ph website, this preprint by Ignacio Ferrín of the Center for Fundamental Physics at the University of the Andes, Merida, Venezuala, is probably the shortest paper I have ever seen. I think that Dr. Ferrin will forgive me if I reprint it here in its entirety:

1. Go to your laboratory or your instrument without any pre-conceived ideas. Just register what you saw faithfully.

2. Report promptly and scientifically. Check your numbers twice before submitting.

3. Forget about predictions. They are maybe wrong.

4. Do not try to conform or find agreement with others. You may be the first to be observing a new phenomenon and you may risk missing credit for the discovery.

5. Criticism must be scientific, respectful, constructive, positive, and unbiased. Otherwise it must be done privately.

6. If you want to be respected, respect others first. Do not use insulting or humiliating words when referring to others. It is not in accord with scientific ethics.

7. Do not cheat. Cheating in science is silly. When others repeat your experiment or observation, they will find that you were wrong.

8. If you do not know or have made a mistake, admit it immediately. You may say, “I do not know but I will find out.” or “I will correct it immediately.” No scientist knows the answer to everything. By admitting it you are being honest about your knowledge and your abilities.

9. Do not appropriate or ignore other people’s work or results. Always give credit to others, however small their contribution may have been. Do not do unto others what you would not like to be done unto you.

10. Do not stray from scientific ethics.

It seems that some scientists in the climate field (Phil Jones of East Anglia University and Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University are two that come to mind immediately) would benefit by reading and following these rules.

Now it’s “global cooling”!

So now that the “global warming” narrative is beginning to fall flat (sorry John Holdren, but I refuse to play your game and call it “global climate disruption”), what do the elite apparachiks worldwide decide to do? They get together in a private meeting in Spain in June to discuss the future threat from global cooling.

What was that? Did I hear you right? Did you say “global cooling?”

Yup. Key quote from the meeting announcement:

The 58th Bilderberg Meeting will be held in Sitges, Spain 3 – 6 June 2010. The Conference will deal mainly with Financial Reform, Security, Cyber Technology, Energy, Pakistan, Afghanistan, World Food Problem, Global Cooling, Social Networking, Medical Science, EU-US relations. Approximately 130 participants will attend of whom about two-thirds come from Europe and the balance from North America. About one-third is from government and politics, and two-thirds are from finance, industry, labor, education, and communications. The meeting is private in order to encourage frank and open discussion. [emphasis mine]

If it’s not one thing, it’s another. The goal has never been to save the Earth, but to grab power. Now that the public is questioning the reality of the global warming meme, these blowhards have to come up with some other crisis they can use to maintain their positions of power and control. And if it isn’t getting hotter, maybe it’s getting cooler? Never mind the facts or the science, which remains confused and complex. All they want is some justification, no matter how unjustified, for telling everyone else how to live their lives.

One more thought: How much do you want to bet that a good majority of the participants (the full list) flew in on private jets?

James Delingpole of the Telegraph uncovered this little tidbit, and has some blunt but very true words to say about it.

UN to appoint astrophysicist to negotiate with aliens

The United Nations in charge! They have decided that — should extra-terrestrials ever arrive on Earth — an obscure Malaysian astrophysicist/UN bureaucrat must be in charge of negotiations. In her words:

“We should have in place a co-ordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject. The UN is a ready-made mechanism for such co-ordination.”

Birthplace of the Sun?

In a preprint [pdf] posted today on the astro-ph website, astronomers outline the discovery of a star more like a twin of the Sun than any previously discovered. The star is located in the galactic star cluster M67, 3000 light years away. The similarity is so close that the scientists even speculate that the Sun itself might have formed in this same cluster, 4.5 billion years ago. Key quote from paper:

The similarity of the age and overall composition of the Sun with the corresponding data of M67, and in particular the agreement of the detailed chemical composition of the Sun with that of M67-1194, could suggest that the Sun has formed in this very cluster. According to the numerical simulations by Hurley et al. (2005) the cluster has lost more than 80% of its stars by tidal interaction with the Galaxy, in particular when passing the Galactic plane, and the Sun might be one of those. We note that the orbit of the cluster encloses, within its apocentre and pericentre, the solar orbit. However, the cluster has an orbit extending to much higher Galactic latitudes, presently it is close to its vertical apex at z = 0.41 kpc (Davenport & Sandquist 2010), while the Sun does not reach beyond z = 80 pc (Innanen, Patrick & Duley 1978). Thus, in order for this hypothesis of an M67 origin of the Sun to be valid, it must have been dispersed from the cluster into an orbit precisely in the plane of the Galactic disk, which seems improbable.

The last sentences above refer to the different orbital inclinations of the galactic orbits of both the Sun and M67. M67’s orbital inclination is far steeper. While M67 is presently about 1350 light years (410 parsecs) above the galactic plane, the Sun’s orbit never takes it more than 261 light years above the plane.

One more point of interest: M67 is a well known object to amateur astronomers, located in the constellation Cancer.

Soyuz undocking at ISS delayed

The scheduled return of three astronauts on a Soyuz spacecraft has been delayed tonight because of a malfunction in the docking port.

Update: The return to Earth has definitely been canceled for tonight. The problem was caused when latches on the Soyuz, designed to secure it safely to ISS, refused to release on command. As of 12:43 am the plan was to recycle and try to land on Friday evening.

The double vortex at Venus’s south pole is gone

Using data accumulated over the past four years by Venus Express, scientists have shown that the giant double vortex storm at Venus’s south pole was only a temporary phenomenon. You can download the actual paper here [pdf]. Key quote from the paper:

The polar region of Venus shows a dynamics regime quite different than the rest of the planet, with a separation region delimited by the cold collar zone. Average wind speeds presents an almost solid body rotation, while instantaneous view highlights the complex dynamic structure with air flowing almost toward all directions. The so called dipole shape is not a stable feature and the morphology of the vortex is significantly variable on both short and long timescales.

The “cold collar” is an atmospheric ring of colder temperatures that encircles the planet’s poles.

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