Arab world shaken by power of Twitter and Facebook

The truimph of freedom: The Arab world, shaken by the power of the internet. Key quote:

On Dec. 17, in Sidi Bouzid, deep in the interior, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself aflame in front of a government building, in protest after police confiscated his produce stand. Horrible images of his act circulated lightning-fast on the Internet. Protests followed.

“Thanks to Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, images of those first protests went around the world instantly, and everyone knew about it,” says Tlili. “Even 20 years ago, you could have had those uprisings in the interior and few would have known.”

A Fizzy Ocean on Enceladus

A fizzy ocean on Enceladus? Key quote:

[Scientists believe] that gasses dissolved in water deep below the surface [of Enceladus] form bubbles. Since the density of the resulting “sparkling water” is less than that of the ice, the liquid ascends quickly up through the ice to the surface. “Most of the water spreads out sideways and ‘warms’ a thin surface ice lid, which is about 300 feet thick,” explains Matson. “But some of it collects in subsurface chambers, builds up pressure, and then blasts out through small holes in the ground, like soda spewing out of that can you opened.”

New research finds that the Himalayan glaciers are not melting

New research finds that the Himalayan glaciers are not melting. Key quote:

The new study by scientists at the Universities of California and Potsdam has found that half of the glaciers in the Karakoram range, in the northwestern Himlaya, are in fact advancing and that global warming is not the deciding factor in whether a glacier survives or melts.

The last part of the above quote, on global warming, is almost certainly an overstatement of what we do or don’t know. Warming will cause glaciers to melt, but how much and when are factors that are still not understood. Moreover, we are still not sure how much warming has even occurred.

I’m back

As you can see, I am finally back at the computer.

I want to thank everyone who made encouraging comments or sent me private emails. The situation was a simple one: For a variety of reasons, we needed to move my 93-year-old mother to a new residence. I therefore spent the last five days packing and unpacking boxes, and guiding the movers as they transported her stuff either to her new home or storage.

Moving for anyone is always a pain in the neck. Doing it for someone else can be harder, as you have to make decisions about someone else’s possessions, about what can go and what must be discarded. Fortunately, everything worked out far better than I could have expected and she is now safely settled in a far better place.

So, back we go to space, history, science, and politics!

Congressional Budget office says Social Security Now Officially Broke

And you still think NASA (or any other federal program) is going to get a lot of money? The Congressional Budget office (CBO) admitted today that Social Security is now officially broke. Key quote:

The CBO’s revenue/expenditure estimates now place the program in permanent deficit. There had been some hope that payroll taxes would recover sufficiently post-recession to put the program back into the black (the theoretical black) for at least a few more years, putting off the day of reckoning for an election cycle or more. No more: The new CBO estimates put Social Security in the red for as far as the eye can see. [emphasis mine]

Japan’s IKAROS Solar Sail Mission Extended for a Year

More solar sail news: Japan’s solar sail mission, IKAROS, has been extended for a year. Key quote:

With the extended lease on life, the team will try new navigational tricks, such as varying the sail’s angle toward the sun and changing the craft’s trajectory. Mori called these “risky” maneuvers because they are not sure if the sail will remain fully extended. They intend to model the sail’s behavior and the craft’s response to plan future solar sail missions.

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