Monthly Archives: December 2011

Underground exploring today

No posting today, as I am leaving home at 6:30 am with several cavers for a day trip to a cave in the Chiricahua Mountains in southeast Arizona. The drive one way is about three and a half hours, so doing this as a day trip will likely break what I like to call Zimmerman’s law: “The cave time must exceed the drive time.”

However, when I first visited Tucson last winter and mentioned I might move here, the local cavers asked if I’d be interested in being the cartographer of this particular cave and help them get a project started to survey it. Three previous attempts to survey it were never completed, so no good map exists. And since I have recently completed two significant cave maps of two important West Virginia caves (see monographs 3 and 4 on this page) and am without a map project at the moment, how could I say no? Tomorrow’s trip is my first visit to the cave in preparation for getting the survey project off the ground in January.

Anyway, I will be back late, and will return to the computer on Saturday. For everyone, have a Merry Christmas weekend!


A career employee in the Voting Section of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has confessed to committing perjury.

A career employee in the Voting Section of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has confessed to committing perjury. The response of the Obama Justice Department? Nothing to see here, please move along.

Amazingly, despite Ms. Gyamfi’s admission of committing perjury not once, but three times, she so far has been neither terminated nor disciplined by the Justice Department. In fact, her boss, Voting Section Chief Chris Herren, continues to assign her to the most politically sensitive of matters, including the Department’s review of Texas’s congressional redistricting plan. More disturbing, according to my sources, is that Ms. Gyamfi is now being treated as a hero by some of her Voting Section colleagues. Many of them are gratified at her efforts — illegitimate or not — to make the Bush administration look bad in its preclearance of Texas’s earlier redistricting submission. [emphasis in originial]


The NASA shuttle simulator for training astronauts is going to at Texas A&M

The NASA shuttle simulator for training astronauts is going to Texas A&M.

Valasek said it won’t be a static display for viewing but a functional flight simulator. Visitors will be able to sit in the seats and cockpit and manually fly a simulated re-entry as the shuttle astronauts did. “When operational again, the SMS will be the centerpiece of many educational, outreach, and research activities for a long time to come,” Valasek said. “And it will be accessible. Until now, 355 astronauts have trained on the Shuttle Motion Simulator and flown on a space shuttle mission. Now the rest of us can experience at least a part of the excitement of space exploration, just the way the astronauts trained for it.”

The simulator will be used in aerospace engineering courses and accessible to all Texas A&M students, staff, and faculty. Spaceflight enthusiasts and fans of technology, whether affiliated with the university or not, will also be able to enjoy it.

Now, this is what an engineering school should be focused on, rather than the skin color of its students.


Bigotry on campus

The newly named “associate dean for equity and inclusion” at the College of Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, is promising “disruptive progress” in his effort to increase minorities at the school.

The plan [pdf] includes more money for staffing and facilities for the “equity and inclusion” department, plus more money and power for student organizations. Sadly, this is money and facilities that will no longer be available for actual education or research.
» Read more


Focusing in on the theft of customer funds at MF Global

Focusing in on the theft of customer funds at MF Global.

Not surprisingly, this article from the liberal New York Times plays the game of “Name that party!”, conveniently forgetting to mention anywhere that Jon Corzine and all his associates just happen to big-time Democratic Party players. To remind them, and everyone else, here’s a little video illustrating how closely linked the Democrats and Jon Corzine are:


Obamacare abominations

Obamacare abominations.

You would think a piece of legislation more than a thousand pages long would at least be clear about the specifics. But a lot of those pages say: “The secretary will determine …” That means the secretary of health and human services will announce the rules sometime in the future. How can a business make plans in such a fog?

Repeal this abomination already before it destroys the country.


A Sun-like Star with Three Sub-Neptune Exoplanets and Two Earth-size Candidates

Want to read the actual paper, “A Sun-like star with three sub-Neptune exoplanets and two Earth-size candidates,” describing the discovery announced yesterday of two Earth-sized planet? You can download it here.

The paper’s closing paragraph sums the discovery up nicely:

A striking feature of the Kepler-20 planetary system is the presence of Earth-size rocky planet candidates interspersed between volatile-rich sub-Neptunes at smaller and larger orbital semi-major axes, as also seen in Kepler candidate multi-planet systems. Assuming that both [Kepler-20e] and [Kepler-20f] are planets, the distribution of the Kepler-20 planets in orbital order is as follows: Kepler-20b (3.7 days, 1.9 Earth radii), [Kepler-20e] (6.1 days, 0.9 Earth radii), Kepler-20c (10.9 days, 3.1 Earth radii), [Kepler-20f] (19.6 days, 1.0 Earth radii), and Kepler-20d (77.6 days, 2.8 Earth radii). Given the radii and irradiation fluxes of the two Earth-size planet candidates, they would not retain gas envelopes. The first, second, and fourth planets have high densities indicative of solid planets, while the other two planets have low densities requiring significant volatile content. The volatile-rich third planet, Kepler-20c dominates the inner part of the Kepler-20 system, by holding much more mass than the other three inner planets put together. In the Solar System, the terrestrial planets, gas-giants, and ice giants are neatly segregated in regions with increasing distance from the sun. Planet formation theories were developed to retrodict these Solar System composition trends. In the Kepler-20 system, the locations of the low-density sub-Neptunes that are rich in water and/or gas, and the Earth-size planet candidates does not exhibit a clean ordering with orbital period, challenging the conventional planet formation paradigm. In situ assembly may form multi-planet systems with close-in hot-Neptunes and super-Earths, provided the initial protoplanetary disk contained massive amounts of solids (∼ 50–100 Earth masses) within 1AU of the star.


Global warming is good for you!

Here are two stories that illustrate why we shouldn’t be in a panic over climate change. Though it is important to study the climate and to learn as much as we can about it, it is at this time inappropriate to impose draconian regulations on the world’s populations so that whole economies are destroyed out of fear of climate change. We just don’t know enough about the consequences of climate change. Global warming might even be beneficial!

First, from Nature this story: Global warming wilts malaria. It appears that the assumption that warmer climates would increase malaria epidemics is completely wrong. Instead, warmer temperatures act to hinder the survival of the malaria parasite in mosquitoes.
» Read more

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