Monthly Archives: August 2011

Archeologists may have found King Arthur’s round table in Scotland

Archeologists may have found King Arthur’s round table in Scotland.

The new survey — funded by Historic Scotland and Stirling City Heritage Trust — used the latest scientific techniques to showing lost structures and features up to a metre below the ground. It also revealed a series of ditches south of the main mound, as well as remains of buildings, and more recent structures, including modern drains which appear at the northern end of the gardens.

Mr Harrison, who has studied the King’s Knot for 20 years, said: “It is a mystery which the documents cannot solve, but geophysics has given us new insights. “Of course, we cannot say that King Arthur was there, but the feature which surrounds the core of the Knot could explain the stories and beliefs that people held.”

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Sponge in space

Hyperion

On August 25 Cassini did a close fly-by of the small Saturn moon Hyperion, getting as close as 15,500 miles. The mission has just released images from that fly-by.

Looks like a sponge, doesn’t it? This moon is small, only 168 miles across, which makes it about half the size of the asteroid Vesta that Dawn is presently orbiting. Why it is so peppered with craters is of course the big science question. I would guess this has something to do with the environment around Saturn, with its rings and the innumerable particles that come from it. Yet, other moons of Saturn are not as crater-filled, so there is obviously more to this than meets the eye.

This fly-by was the second closest of Hyperion that Cassini has done, the first passing over the the moon’s surface by only 310 miles. Because the irregularly-shaped moon’s rotation is more like a chaotic tumble, scientists could not predict what part of the surface they would see. To their luck the new images captured new territory.

Another fly-by is scheduled in only three weeks, on September 16, 2011. This time, however, the spacecraft won’t get as close, passing at a distance of about 36,000 miles.

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Russia plans two unmanned test launches of Soyuz rockets before using them to deliver crews to the ISS

Because of this week’s Progress freighter launch failure, Russia plans two unmanned test launches of its Soyuz rockets before flying crews on them to ISS.

One of these test launches will carry a new Progress freighter, with supplies for ISS.

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The rebellion by the states against Obamacare

The rebellion by the states against Obamacare.

This article suggests strongly that the opposition to Obamacare remains strong, angry, and determined. It also tells me that the law as it presently stands will not survive the next election cycle. And hopefully, that means full repeal.

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The closest supernovae in almost 25 years

Astronomers have spotted the closest supernovae in almost 25 years, only 21 million light years away.

The supernova, dubbed PTF 11kly, occurred in the Pinwheel Galaxy, located in the “Big Dipper,” otherwise known as the Ursa Major constellation. It was discovered by the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) survey, which is designed to observe and uncover astronomical events as they happen. “We caught this supernova very soon after explosion. PTF 11kly is getting brighter by the minute. It’s already 20 times brighter than it was yesterday,” said Peter Nugent, the senior scientist at Berkeley Lab who first spotted the supernova. Nugent is also an adjunct professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley. “Observing PTF 11kly unfold should be a wild ride. It is an instant cosmic classic.”

Astronomers expect the supernova to continue to brighten over the next two weeks, when it should be visible to anyone using binoculars.

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When dust, pebbles, rocks, and boulders act like liquid

The science team of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter released an intriguing picture yesterday of what scientists call a granular flow down the side of a five mile wide crater on the far side of the moon. Looking at the image, one would swear that the darker material flowing down the slope of the crater rim is a lava flow frozen in place.

lunar granular flow

However, according to the scientists, that is not what it is. Instead, this is merely debris left behind from an avalanche.
» Read more

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The immediate consequences of the Progress freighter failure

The immediate consequences of the Progress freighter failure:

The longer term consequences? Congress will anguish over the lack of a shuttle. Some will demand more money for the program-formerly-called-Constellation, while others will demand more money for the new commercial companies. In either case, they will ignore the reality of a bankrupt federal government that simply can’t afford either at the moment.

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Many businesses are considering dropping healthcare when Obamacare goes into effect in 2014

Depending on the survey, from 9 to 30 percent of all businesses are considering dropping their employer-sponsored healthcare plans when Obamacare goes into effect in 2014.

In other words, Obama was lying when he said you could keep your plan under Obamacare.

Note too that poll numbers continue to show a solid majority of the public wants Obamacare repealed.

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Capturing an asteroid into Earth orbit

orbital path after asteroid capture

Want to mine an asteroid? Rather than travel to it with all their mining equipment, three Chinese scientists have proposed a better way. In a paper published today on the Los Alamos astro-ph preprint website, they have calculated the energy required to shift the orbits of the six thousand near-Earth asteroids and place them in Earth orbit for later mining. Of these, they found 46 asteroids that had the potential for such an operation, and two likely candidates for a space mission. One 30-foot-wide asteroid, 2008EA9, will actually be in the right place for this technique in 2049. As they write,

It can be seen that the velocity increment of the 2008EA9 is relatively small (-1.00km/s) and it will very close approach [approximately 645,000 miles] to the Earth in [February] 2049. Moreover the size of the NEO 2008EA9 is very small so that the capturing of it is relatively easy.

The real problem, of course, is adding that small “velocity increment” to the asteroid.
» Read more

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The Alarming Significance of Culture

The alarming significance of culture.

During a recent conversation with a close Jewish friend I asked him what he thought separated Jews from most other ethnic groups. I was expecting him to talk about how a shared history of oppression had strengthened Jews and brought them closer together. But his answer was both surprising and controversial. “Unlike gentiles, especially Christians,” he said, “Jews do not believe in an after life as such. There is no God up there dictating your lot in life. We don’t believe the meek shall inherit the earth. We truly believe in the power of an individual’s free will, guided of course by right principles.” [emphasis mine]

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Cops confiscate cameras at Ohio Republican congressman’s town hall

Freedom of speech alert: Cops confiscate cameras at Ohio Republican congressman’s town hall. With video.

According to the cop on the video, he was following instructions from the Congressman. Either way, the cop should be fired for violating these citizen’s rights.

And it doesn’t matter if a Democrat or Republican does this. It is wrong, it is disgusting, and it is inexcusable. Such politicians should be kicked out of office immediately.

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Progress freighter launch fails

The launch of a Progress freighter to ISS today has failed, with the freighter ending up crashing into Siberia.

This is very bad news for the station. Everyone in the space industry knows that with the shuttle gone, it will be a challenge to maintain supplies to the station’s the six-person crew. Losing just one supply ship will strain the station’s supplies, if not now in the long run for sure.

Worse, this is the first launch failure of the Soyuz rocket that puts both Progress and manned Soyuz capsule into orbit in more than eleven years. The next manned crew is scheduled for launch on September 21. Whether this failure will delay that launch remains unknown.

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