Monthly Archives: January 2012

Data issued last week without fanfare by both the UK’s Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit has confirmed that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997.

Data issued last week without fanfare by both the UK’s Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit has confirmed that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997.

The article also discusses at great length the additional influence the sun and its sunspot cycle might have on the climate, something I have discussed here at great length. However, the above factoid is the article’s most important data point.

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Romney puts forth his space plans at a rally in Florida

In a campaign rally Friday in Florida, Mitt Romney put forth his perspective on the state of the American space program, and what he plans to do about it.

The speech is about 16 minutes long. It is worth listening to it in its entirety.

In it, Romney outlined the reasons he thinks a robust space program is important: defense, innovation, exploration, and the ability to respond to potential natural threats from space. Having done so, however, he then refused to outline any specific actions he would take to address these issues, saying instead that once in office he will bring together the right kinds of space experts who will then advice him on the right kind of plan to achieve all these important goals.

I appreciate his refusal to pander. At the same time, his vagueness does not make me enthusiastic. Moreover, he is only offering us the same thing we have seen numerous times before, another blue ribbon panel study outlining a plan. It would make me far happier if he already understood better the problems of the space program, and could articulate the actions he wishes to take, as Gingrich did.
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“This re-entry capsule now cannot be used for manned spaceflight.”

“This re-entry capsule now cannot be used for manned spaceflight.”

This postponement of the next two Russian manned missions to ISS looks like a serious problem. For cracks to form in a finished capsule when tested under pressure suggests significant production failures that had gone unnoticed during assembly. In fact, this problem is far more serious than the launch failure that occurred last year. The Russians have to not only find a capsule they can trust to use on the next flight, they have to track down the errors that allowed a capsule to be built that is so obviously flawed it cracked when put in use.

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Persecution for the sake of global warming

Persecution for the sake of global warming.

Although the number of publicly dissenting scientists is growing, many young scientists furtively say that while they also have serious doubts about the global-warming message, they are afraid to speak up for fear of not being promoted—or worse. They have good reason to worry. In 2003, Dr. Chris de Freitas, the editor of the journal Climate Research, dared to publish a peer-reviewed article with the politically incorrect (but factually correct) conclusion that the recent warming is not unusual in the context of climate changes over the past thousand years. The international warming establishment quickly mounted a determined campaign to have Dr. de Freitas removed from his editorial job and fired from his university position. Fortunately, Dr. de Freitas was able to keep his university job.

The quote is part of an op-ed signed by sixteen prominent scientists describing why there is no need to panic over global warming.

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DNA research suggests that “Native Americans” actually came from a tiny mountain region in Siberia.

DNA research suggests that “Native Americans” actually came from a tiny mountain region in Siberia.

I added the quotes above. It is really hilarious to see the headline’s use of the politically correct term “Native Americans” while simultaneously describing proof that the American Indians were as much immigrants to the New World as everyone else.

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The Soviet Union’s gigantic nuclear equipped Ekranoplane

The Soviet Union’s gigantic nuclear equipped Ekranoplane, rusting on the shores of the Caspian Sea. With pictures.

Equipped with nuclear warheads and able to blast across the sea at 340 mph, the Lun-class Ekranoplane; part plane, part boat, and part hovercraft — is a Ground Effect Vehicle (GEV). A GEV takes advantage of an aeronautical effect that allows it to lift off with an immense amount of weight, but limits its flight to 16 feet above the waves. Its altitude can never be greater than the length of the wings.

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Because of technical problems with the Soyuz spacecraft it appears the Russians are going to postpone the next two manned launches to ISS.

Because of technical problems with the Soyuz spacecraft it appears the Russians are going to postpone the next two manned launches to ISS.

So, in one breath Americans whine about how we are dependent on the Russians to get into space, while in the next breath they lambast the only Presidential candidate (Gingrich) willing to aggressively do something about it without spending billions of dollars. You would think they’d at least be interested in what he had to say.

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The full Gingrich speech on space

As noted by one commenter, the full Gingrich speech on space is available here on C-SPAN.

I have now listened to the whole speech, and can say without hesitation that everything I wrote in my previous post was correct. Gingrich is knowledgeable about space, science, and history. He is basing his proposals on past successful models where the U.S. government did nothing but buy the product developed by private individuals or companies. These proposals actually continue as well as accelerate the Obama administration’s efforts. And he is not proposing a giant pork program.

His proposal to have a moon base by 2020 is unquestionably campaign talk that won’t happen. Nonetheless, this proposal is aimed at energizing the American aerospace industry by focusing the government’s goals, which will then need to be purchased by the government from private companies. He also made it very clear he wants to shrink the NASA bureaucracy, reducing its budget while devoting ten percent of that savings (equal to billions of dollars) for prizes. The example of a $10 billion tax-free prize for the first to get to Mars was only for illustration. As he said,

The model I want us to build is largely is the model of the ’20s and ’30s, when the government was actively encouraging development but the government wasn’t doing anything. The government was paying rewards, it was subsidizing the mail. … We had enormous breakthroughs in aviation in the ’20s and ’30s at very little cost to the government because lots of smart people [outside the government] did it.

I beg everyone to listen to this speech, in its entirety. It illustrates a thoughtful man who understands history. Gingrich might not be a perfect man, and he certainly is not the perfect candidate for President, but don’t tell me what you think of him if you refuse to listen to him. For two decades too many people have eagerly expressed opinions about him without really listening to what he has actually said or done. And what he says here is reasonable, intelligent, and certainly worthy of consideration.

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“The implication that Mr. Cunningham may have engaged in criminal conduct with respect to Fast and Furious is a major escalation of the Department’s culpability.”

“The implication that Mr. Cunningham may have engaged in criminal conduct with respect to Fast and Furious is a major escalation of the Department’s culpability.”

Mr. Cunningham is a Department of Justice lawyer. The “Department” is the Department of Justice itself. And “Fast and Furious” was the Obama administration’s project to allow about 2000 guns to be smuggled illegally into Mexico, for reasons that remain inexplicable.

Though Cunningham has the right to take the fifth, it should immediately disqualify him from his job, and the Obama administration should fire him. That they don’t tells us a lot about their own culpability in the Fast and Furious gun smuggling scandal. As Issa wrote in his letter to Eric Holder on Tuesday,

Mr. Cunningham’s broad assertion of his Fifth Amendment privilege raises the specter that the Department has allowed him to continue in his position as Chief of the Criminal Division knowing that he might have criminal culpability himself.

You can read Darrell Issa’s (R-California) full letter to Eric Holder here. [pdf]

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Another green company, backed with federal grants from both the Bush and Obama administrations, has gone bankrupt.

Another green company, backed with federal grants from both the Bush and Obama administrations, has gone bankrupt.

A dollar here, a dollar there, who cares? It’s the thought that counts!

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The Kepler team today announced the discovery of eleven new solar systems holding twenty-six planets.

Planets galore! The Kepler team today announced the discovery of eleven new solar systems holding twenty-six planets.

The planets orbit close to their host stars and range in size from 1.5 times the radius of Earth to larger than Jupiter. Fifteen of them are between Earth and Neptune in size, and further observations will be required to determine which are rocky like Earth and which have thick gaseous atmospheres like Neptune. The planets orbit their host star once every six to 143 days. All are closer to their host star than Venus is to our sun.

No Earths in the habitable zone quite yet, but we are circling in on our prey.

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Gingrich’s speech on space

In the days ahead there is going to be a lot of talk about Newt Gingrich’s proposals for space exploration. I think it important that people actually see and listen to the entire speech before discussing it. Here is the longest clip I can find on youtube, covering the first seven and a half minutes. I think it is complete, but unfortunately, I can’t be sure. It doesn’t appear to include his remarks about awarding space prizes, and when it ends Gingrich does not appear to be finished. When I find a longer clip I will post it.

Several points immediately come to mind:
» Read more

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Gingrich pledges a moon base by his second term

Bumped with Update 2: I will be on the radio in Houston tomorrow morning with Scott Braddock for twenty minutes to discuss Gingrich’s proposals. See the “Recent and Upcoming Appearances” list in the right column for details.
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In a speech today Newt Gingrich pledged a moon base would be operating by his second term.

I’m not sure I trust the reporting here. However, this story fits with many other things that Gingrich has said over the years. And though I like his desire to think big, I dislike the feeling I get that he wants to once again make this a big government-run effort.

There will certainly be more details about Gingrich’s proposals in the coming days.

Update. More details here.

It seems to me that Gingrich’s promise of a moonbase by 2020 is campaign fodder, designed to inspire voters not only to dream big but to vote for Gingrich. However, his proposal that the U.S. offer big prizes for private achievement in space is right on the money, literally identical to ideas I proposed more than eight years ago.

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Romney advisor: Come on, ObamaCare won’t ever be repealed in its entirety

Romney adviser former Senator Norm Coleman this week suggested in an interview that ObamaCare won’t ever be repealed in its entirety.

And people wonder why Romney hasn’t gotten traction among Republicans.

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A wiretap could exonerate the six seismologists on trial for manslaughter in Italy for not properly warning the public of an earthquake.

Scientists on trial: A wiretap conversation might exonerate the six seismologists on trial for manslaughter in Italy for not properly warning the public of an earthquake.

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“My message is simple.” Rating the reading grade level of all State of the Union speeches.

“My message is simple.” Rating the reading grade level of the State of the Union speeches.

The Flesch-Kincaid test is designed to assess the readability level of written text, with a formula that translates the score to a U.S. grade level. Longer sentences and sentences utilizing words with more syllables produce higher scores. Shorter sentences and sentences incorporating more monosyllabic words yield lower scores.

Smart Politics ran the Flesch-Kincaid test on each of the last 70 State of the Union Addresses that were delivered orally by presidents before a Joint Session of Congress since Franklin Roosevelt. Excluded from analysis were five written addresses (by Truman in 1946 and 1953, Eisenhower in 1961, Nixon in 1973, and Carter in 1981) and two addresses that were delivered orally, but not by the President himself (Roosevelt in 1945 and Eisenhower in 1956). The vast majority of State of the Union speeches were delivered in writing prior to FDR.

While you might not be surprised by the results, a close look at the list illustrates both the influence of television and the decline in political thought in the past half century.

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Scouring the Aegean Sea for the world’s oldest shipwrecks.

Scouring the Aegean Sea for the world’s oldest shipwrecks.

A Bronze Age wreck called Ulu Burun shows how the remains of a single ship can transform archaeologists’ understanding of an era. Discovered in 1982, it lies about 9 kilometres southeast of Kaş in southern Turkey, and dates from around 1300 BC, a century or two after the Minoans disappeared.

Christos Agourides, secretary-general of the Hellenic Institute of Marine Archaeology in Athens, describes it as “the dream of every marine archaeologist”. It took ten years to excavate, and researchers are still studying the nearly 17 tonnes of treasures recovered. The vast cargo includes ebony, ivory, ostrich eggs, resin, spices, weapons, jewellery and textiles as well as ingots of copper, tin and glass.

But what really stunned archaeologists was that the artefacts on this one vessel came from at least 11 different cultures1 — from a gold scarab bearing the name of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti to copper from Cyprus and tin from central Asia.

The wreck provided tangible evidence of an astonishing array of contacts and trade between the different cultures of the Mediterranean and Near East in the late Bronze Age. The Ulu Burun ship sailed at around the time that Tutankhamun ruled Egypt, and “it is far more important than Tutankhamun’s tomb as a contribution to our understanding of the period”, according to Wachsmann. “This goes to the nitty gritty of the world. It’s Wall Street in a ship.”

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A Japanese whistleblower is using the web and YouTube to document scientific fraud by a prominent Japanese researcher.

A Japanese whistleblower is using the web and YouTube to document scientific fraud by a prominent Japanese researcher.

Jigen has created separate Web sites for half a dozen cases in Japan in which he alleges scientific misconduct has occurred, and last week he posted details of what he believes is a case of image manipulation by researchers at a U.S. institution. The sites often include information about major grants and significant awards won by the scientist in question and any press releases from the institutions involved. The allegations against Kato are the first time Jigen has produced a video. He had previously used slide shows to make his point.

You can see his website here.

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