Monthly Archives: August 2011

Endeavour Crater at last!

The science team for the rover Opportunity have released their first image taken from the rim of Endeavour Crater.

Since this picture looks south from Spirit Point less than a football field’s distance from the rim, it appears to look into the crater, the mountains on the right being the crater’s rim. What looks like a debris field running across the center of the image looks to me to be a combination of exposed patches of bedrock and boulders on the plateau above the rim. For the scientists, those boulders will be the prime research targets, as they are possibly ejecta produced at crater impact and could therefore be material thrown out from deep within the Martian crust.

a view of Endeavour Crater

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Federal payments required by Obamacare understate the cost by as much as $50 billion

Finding out what’s in it: Federal payments required by Obamacare actually understate the cost by as much as $50 billion, according to a new study.

In May a congressional committee set the accounting rules that determine who will qualify for federal health care subsidies under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. When the committee handed down the rules to the Congressional Budget Office, its formula excluded the health care costs of millions of workers’ spouses and children. The result was a final estimate for 2010 that hides those costs.

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Treasury Adds Another $20 Billion In Debt Overnight, Just $160 Billion Below Revised Ceiling

Get ready for another battle in Congress: The U.S. Treasury added another $20 billion in debt last night, putting it just $160 billion below the newly passed debt ceiling.

The total US treasury balance (subject to the ceiling) is $14.54 trillion (and $14.58 trillion for total), an increase of $20 billion overnight, the Treasury will hit its latest ceiling no later than the end of September. . . . The debt ceiling now is $14.694 trillion: a number which Tim Geithner will hit in about a month.

According to the bill that raised the debt ceiling, the ceiling is only raised in stages. The next stage of $500 billion requires Obama to request it and Congress to okay it.

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A Department of Innovation logo that can’t work

Department of Innovation logo

You can’t make this stuff up: Michelle Malkin points out that the logo created by Smithsonian’s Department of Innovation shows a gear arrangement that simply can’t function in the real world.

Check out the logo. 3 interlocking gears arranged in this fashion will not move in any direction. They are essentially locked in place. Which when you think about it, is a perfect analogy of today’s government!

The comments on the Department of Innovation’s own webpage are hilarious as well:

Perhaps this should be the new logo for Congress….since no motion could come from this arrangement.

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Life after the downgrade

Life after the downgrade.

An excellent summary of the consequences of a lower credit rating for the U.S. government.

There is a lot of anger at the moment in the US over the embarrassment of the downgrade, as well as shock. I’m most amused by the shock, to tell the truth. S&P didn’t say anything yesterday that was not common knowledge and common sense. If you had to rate a potential investment that had an income of, say, $22,000 a year but had costs of $37,000 per year, a standing debt of $143,000, and contracted future debt that exceeded $1 million, would you give that investment a gold-plated AAA rating and buy their bonds at the lowest interest rate possible, or at all? Of course not, but that’s exactly the fiscal situation of the US, at a 100,000,000:1 scale.

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Nebraska rare earth mineral discovery to challenge China’s monopoly

A discovery in Nebraska of rare earth minerals appears set to challenge China’s monopoly.

To me these were the key quotes from this article:

The U.S. used to produce rare earths through the Mountain Pass Mine in California, but it was shut down in 2002, primarily because of environmental concerns, including the spillage of hundreds of thousands of gallons of water carrying radioactive waste into a nearby lake.

and

Although studies have shown the U.S. has 13 million metric tons of rare-earth minerals, National Mining Association spokeswoman Carol Raulston said it does not mine any of it – partly as a result of the difficulty of obtaining permits. “One of the key problems that investors tell us about is that the permitting regime in this country is so complicated and time-consuming that it has hurt investments here in the United States,” Ms. Raulston said.

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Cosmonaut Titov becomes the first man to fly in space more than 24 hours

An evening pause: Fifty years ago today Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Titov became the second Russian to fly in space, and the first to stay in orbit more than one day. During his seventeen orbit flight he also was the first human to experience space sickness and to sleep in space.

The newsreel below is somewhat comical, as the Soviets were not very forthcoming with information. To provide visuals the newsreel used film footage showing a V2 rocket from World War II, as well as a very unrealistic globe with an equally unrealistic spacecraft to “demonstrate the course of an orbit around the earth.”

Nonetheless, because the newsreel is of that time, it illustrates well the fear the west had of the Soviet’s success in space. For a communist nation to be so far ahead of the U.S., which so far had only flown two suborbital flights, was a challenge to the free world that could not stand.

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TSA Confiscates Pregnant Woman’s Insulin, Ice Packs

Don’t you feel safer now? The TSA screener in Denver decided a pregnant woman’s insulin and ice packs were a threat and confiscated them.

She asked 7NEWS not to use her name for fear of retaliation for speaking out. “I got a bottle of nail polish. I got hair spray bottles. I got needles that are syringes. But yet I can’t take through my actual insulin?” she asked. [emphasis mine]

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Stand by for space weather

Stand by for space weather: three coronal mass ejections were released by the sun in the past few days and are aimed directly at the earth. The first hit tonight, without doing much damage.

Though it is important to prepare for these solar storms, don’t expect them to do much harm. Power companies use the warnings to protect their grids. What you can expect is an increased chance of seeing the aurora at lower latitudes.

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A Bell for Adano

An evening pause: This lovely and poignant scene from the 1945 film, A Bell for Adano, showcases the superb acting of Gene Tierney and John Hodiak. He is an American commander of Italian descent put in charge of an Italian village now under U.S. rule near the end of World War II. She is a local Italian girl longing to find her sweetheart who went off to fight for Italy and is now missing.

The movie was based on a short but profound book by John Hersey. And what I remember most from that book is this speech by the Hodiak character in trying to explain to the Italians the right way for government officials to act:
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