Monthly Archives: November 2011

A preview of the new Mars unmanned rover Curiousity, set for launch on Saturday

A preview of the new Mars unmanned rover Curiousity, set for launch on Saturday. This is the part of its mission that scares me the most:

The final stages of the entry, descent and landing sequence will be especially tense as the rover, dubbed Curiosity in a student naming contest, is gently lowered to the surface on cables suspended from a rocket-powered “sky crane” making its debut flight. Too large to use airbags like those that cushioned NASA’s Pathfinder, Spirit and Opportunity rovers, Curiosity will rely instead on landing rockets positioned above the rover, avoiding the challenge of coming up with a reliable way to get a one-ton vehicle off of an elevated, possibly tilted lander. Instead, Curiosity will be set down on its six 20-inch-wide wheels, ready to roll.

If it works.


Gingrich’s presidential campaign has gotten him no endorsements from Republican lawmakers

Gingrich’s presidential campaign has gotten him no endorsements from Republican lawmakers.

Considering how incompetent these Republicans have been in getting the federal budget under control, and considering that the last time the budget was balanced was during Gingrich’s reign as speaker in the 1990s, I would consider their lack of support as the best endorsement Gingrich could get. We need real change in DC. The status quo has left us on the verge of economic collapse and bankruptcy.


Evidence from a cave in Australia suggests that humans were doing deep sea fishing more than 40,000 years ago

New evidence from a cave in Australia suggests that humans were doing deep sea fishing — with the sophisticated maritime skills such ocean-going requires — far earlier than previously believed, as much as 42,000 years ago.


An update on the efforts to save Phobos-Grunt

An update on the efforts to save Phobos-Grunt.

“The first pass was successful in that the spacecraft’s radio downlink was commanded to switch on and telemetry was received,” said Wolfgang Hell, ESA’s Service Manager for Phobos–Grunt. Telemetry typically includes information on the status and health of a spacecraft’s systems. “The signals received from Phobos–Grunt were much stronger than those initially received on 22 November, in part due to having better knowledge of the spacecraft’s orbital position.”

The second pass was short, and so was used only to uplink commands – no receipt of signal was expected. However, the following three passes in the early morning of 24 November proved to be more difficult: no signal was received from Phobos–Grunt.


Four times a year 80 Chinese children walk to school by scaling 1000 ft cliffs and fording swollen rivers

Who says it was tougher in the old days? Four times a year eighty Chinese children walk two days to school by traversing 1000 ft cliffs and fording swollen rivers.

The most dangerous part of the route is a path, which narrows to just a few inches wide, that has been cut into a cliff face some 1,000ft above the valley beneath. Without safety harnesses, the teachers gingerly shepherd their charges along. Further along, there are four freezing rivers to wade across, a 600ft-long zip-line to slide down, and bridges that are just a single plank wide. Teachers often carry the younger children on their backs, but some have fallen in the rivers in the past, without serious injury.


ESA antenna contacts Phobos-Grunt again, this time downloading telemetry data

An ESA tracking station has once again contacted Phobos-Grunt, this time downloading telemetry data.

“We have again established contact with the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, we obtained telemetry reports, they are being analyzed by our colleagues from the Lavochkin Research and Production Association,” ESA spokesman Rene Pischel said.


Violence and oppression from the left

Two stories today clearly illustrate the oppressive nature of the left. They don’t wish to debate and persuade. They want to impose their will on the rest of us, by force if necessary.

First there’s this: Occupy Wall Street has paid the bail for the OWS demonstrator who threatened to burn down New York and throw Molotov cocktails into the windows at Macy’s.

A week ago he wanted to toss Molotov cocktails at Macy’s, but Tuesday he was back at it, mixing it up in Zuccotti Park. The Daily News snapped photos of Occupy Wall Street nut case Nkrumah Tinsley, 29, prancing around after the movement coughed up $7,500 for his bail, his lawyer, Pierre Sussman said.

One of their demonstrators publicly admits he wants to destroy property and commit violence, and the OWS movement backs him to the hilt.

Then there’s this story:
» Read more


India pushes for a sharing of intellectual property rights at Durban climate talks

India pushes for a sharing of intellectual property rights at Durban climate talks.

If you ever had any doubts about the political goals behind the global warming movement, this headline and story should put those forever to rest. The advocates of climate change really don’t care about climate change. What they really want is to get their hands on other people’s success. Failing to get a deal that would limit the activities of the developed countries so that the developing countries would have an advantage in the free market, the effort is now aimed at attacking and even eliminating the property rights of private technology companies. What this has to do with climate change is beyond me.

That India is leading the way here is puzzling, however, as that country’s economic success in the past decade is solely due to its abandonment of communist ideals in favor of capitalism and the free market. You would think, with that experience, that India’s government would thus understand the importance of protecting property rights, not violating them.


Training space tourists for their suborbital flight

Training space tourists for their suborbital flight.

In the NASTAR Center’s Observation Lounge, trainees can watch the centrifuge through a large window, as well as see a live video feed of its rider. Meanwhile, Henwood iterates the importance of the correct timing of breaths. “If you’re going to need it, you’re going to want to do it right.” Failing to begin the manoeuvre before the onset of the g’s can result in loss of consciousness.

“You’ll tell me when to breathe?” the first flier of the course says over the intercom to Greg Kennedy, NASTAR Center’s director of educational services and the monitor of participants’ in-flight safety.

“Yes,” Kennedy says. “Are you ready for your flight?”


The Kennedy assassination

An evening pause: On this date, forty-eight years ago, I was ten years old, home sick with a cold instead of at school. As I watched a silly afternoon rerun of a 1950s comedy sitcom (I don’t even remember what show it was) and sipped chicken soup (of course), the show was interrupted with the news of Kennedy’s assassination.

For each generation, there is often a single moment that defines their future. For the baby boomer generation, it probably was this moment more than any other.


Space Show 2011 fundraising campaign

David Livingston of the Space Show has begun his 2011 fundraising campaign. As someone who has both listened to his show for much needed information about the state of space exploration as well as appeared on the show numerous times since 2003, I can say it is one of the best sources of information about the aerospace industry. If you can spare some money, please spare it for David.

And while I am on a fundraising kick, I might mention that if you like what I do here on Behind the Black, you might also consider giving us a tip as well. There is a donation link on the bottom of the right column, just below the search feature. You can donate what you want, or even agree to regular donations. And let me thank you in advance, for anything anyone wants to give.

May everyone have a wonderful Thanksgiving this week.


An especially dark and pessimistic interpretation of Obama

An especially dark and pessimistic interpretation of Obama.

This dark reality that confronts us is prefigured in our Declaration of Independence which alludes to the causes of the first American Revolution when it notes, in passing, “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design.”

To break this down I note that the recent abuses of power and the usurpations of governing traditions must now be seen as a “long train.” Surely in the last two years we have seen many such abuses and usurpations from the appointment of czars and the subsequent stacking of the employee decks at all government departments, the endless acts of stealth reparations, the budgeting and legislation that continually increases indebtedness and hence the bonded servitude of present and future generations of productive citizens, the twisted department of selective justice that is wholly devoted to the protection and enhancement of the rights of the “government-driven classes” at the expense of a color-blind enforcement of the law. All of these, and many others, can be seen to pursue “invariably the same Object;” the wholesale destruction of the United States to such a degree that a few more years of the same will make a recovery exceedingly difficult even as it it opens the country to further attacks from within and without. Taken all in all, it amounts to something that, arising not from an “administration” but from the ego of one man, “evinces a design.”

The recent adventure into Libya, or shall I say ‘above Libya,’ is the first time in living memory we’ve seen the will of one man, even an American president, order and carry out an American military mission without even bothering to ask the American congress if it minds his messing about in a foreign country. In essence, one man in one day set in motion the power of the American military without any of the barest of rituals that normally come before. For conservatives to say that he is unfit to be Commander-in-Chief is to miss the point that he is much more a commander now than he was a week ago.

And though I pray this is wrong, honesty requires that we consider it possible. Read the whole thing.


‘Perfect black’ coating can render a 3D object flat, raises intriguing dark veil possibility in astronomy

A newly developed “perfect black” coating can render a 3D object flat, which raises an intriguing dark veil possibility in astronomy.

“The carbon nanotube forest can absorb very wide range of electromagnetic wave from ultraviolet up to terahertz,” Guo said, “and in principle it can be applied to an arbitrary sized object.” Just how large an object? Guo suggested an intriguing possibility—perhaps entire planets or even stars. “Since deep space itself is a perfect dark background, if a planet or star were surrounded by a thick, sooty atmosphere of light-absorbing carbon nanomaterial gases, it would become invisible due to the same principle,” Guo said. “It would become totally dark to our instruments that rely on the detection of electromagnetic waves.”


Climategate 2

Having failed to clean up its act after the release of the climategate emails two years ago, the field of climate science is about to turned upside down all over again. Today there was another release of hacked emails, written by the same collection of global warming scientists. Once again, these emails show that these scientists are anything but scientists. Instead, they seem far more interested in campaigning for a certain result, regardless of the science. A few quotes:
» Read more


A new batch of hacked climategate emails have been released

A new batch of hacked climategate emails have been released. More info, including some examples from the emails, can be found here and here.

Update: A quick scan by me of these, hardly finished, reveals this one email from Phil Jones, demonstrating beyond doubt how much fraud is involved in climate science:

Basic problem is that all models are wrong – not got enough middle and low level clouds.

Stay tuned for more bombshells.


You see, they aren’t really cuts; they are a slowdown in the budget increases.

The truth about the “automatic budget cuts” that are going to be imposed by the failure of the supercommittee: “They aren’t really cuts; they are a slowdown in the budget increases.”

And journalists should therefore stop calling them “budget cuts.”


Supercommittee gives up

The day of reckoning looms: The Congressional supercommittee has given up. The perspective of one member of the committee can be read here. Key quote:

The Congressional Budget Office, the Medicare trustees, and the Government Accountability Office have each repeatedly said that our health-care entitlements are unsustainable. Committee Democrats offered modest adjustments to these programs, but they were far from sufficient to meet the challenge. And even their modest changes were made contingent upon a minimum of $1 trillion in higher taxes—a move sure to stifle job creation during the worst economy in recent memory.

Even if Republicans agreed to every tax increase desired by the president, our national debt would continue to grow uncontrollably. Controlling spending is therefore a crucial challenge. The other is economic growth and job creation, which would produce the necessary revenue to fund our priorities. [emphasis mine]

This needs repeating: regardless of whether you think we should raise taxes in this situation, no tax increase can eliminate the deficit. The problem is out-of-control spending that needs to be seriously curbed.

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