Monthly Archives: March 2015

Airline passengers subdue man screaming “Jihad!” on airplane

A United Airlines flight had to turn back when passengers on board were forced to subdue an unruly passenger who was yelling “Jihad!” as he charged the cockpit.

This is another example of why the TSA is a complete waste of money while doing terrible harm to our culture’s concept of freedom. No matter what the TSA does, it can never prevent bad guys from getting on a plane. In the end, it will always be the job of the passengers and crew to resist a terrorist. We should just give that responsibility back to them, as free Americans, and get rid of the TSA. It might increase the risk, but I promise you, if every flight had armed Americans aboard, randomly placed, terrorists would go elsewhere to try to do their dirty work.

Most Americans think my opinion here is crazy, but it is the way our country did things for its first two centuries, and things were actually no more dangerous but we all had much greater freedom.

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Virgin Galactic says LauncherOne will make its first flight in 2016

The competition heats up: The CEO of Virgin Galactic, George Whitesides, revealed at a satellite conference that they are on schedule for LauncherOne to make its first flight before the end of 2016.

The company recently started hot-fire tests of an engine called Newton 3 developed by Virgin Galactic for the first stage of LauncherOne, Whitesides said. That engine, capable of generating 265,000 to 335,000 newtons of thrust, uses liquid oxygen and kerosene propellants. “We’re now to the point where we’re very confident that we can build a very affordable rocket,” Whitesides said. After his speech, he said the company was on schedule to begin flights by the end of 2016, with even initial test flights likely carrying some satellites.

That it is Whitesides and not Richard Branson saying this makes me more confident that it is true, though I remain very skeptical of any promise made by anyone these days at Virgin Galactic. However, the impression from this article confirms an earlier impression I have had, that the company is beginning to shift its resources away from suborbital tourism with SpaceShipTwo and towards orbital launch services with LauncherOne. Branson had announced LauncherOne as a concept in 2012, but only recently have we begin to hear of any actual work on it.

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A Mars One finalist accuses the company of fraud

One of the finalists in the one-way-to-Mars competition by the company Mars One has now accused the company of fraud.

Most egregiously, many media outlets continue to report that Mars One received applications from 200,000 people who would be happy to die on another planet — when the number it actually received was 2,761.

As [finalist Joseph] Roche observed the process from an insider’s perspective, his concerns increased. Chief among them: that some leading contenders for the mission had bought their way into that position, and are being encouraged to “donate” any appearance fees back to Mars One — which seemed to him very strange for an outfit that needs billions of dollars to complete its objective. “When you join the ‘Mars One Community,’ which happens automatically if you applied as a candidate, they start giving you points,” Roche explained to me in an email. “You get points for getting through each round of the selection process (but just an arbitrary number of points, not anything to do with ranking), and then the only way to get more points is to buy merchandise from Mars One or to donate money to them.”

There’s more at the link. Essentially, the whole operation has apparently devolved into a petty scam to milk money from the finalists themselves.

None of this surprises me. From the beginning I considered the whole proposal unrealistic, which thus almost forced the people in charge to commit fraud.

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New results from Messenger at Mercury

Hollows on Mercury

As Messenger nears the end of its lifespan orbiting Mercury, the project scientists have put together a slate of talks on what they have learned, presented today at the 46th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston.

The images that go with these presentations can be found here.

The image on the right is a close-up of the mysterious and unexpected hollows that Messenger found scattered everywhere on Mercury’s surface. According to today’s presentation, scientists now believe they are very recent features, formed when material with a lower boiling point evaporated away because of Mercury’s harsh and very hot environment. Imagine for example a vein of dry ice in a rock crack. The temperature rises above freezing and the dry ice evaporates. And like the convection bubbles in tomato sauce as it simmers, some of that evaporation pushes its way up by popping out a bubble and leaving behind a hollow.

In the case of Mercury the material is likely not dry ice, though scientists as yet are unsure what it is.

They are also presenting talks on magnesium on Mercury, the planet’s many scarps, and detailed observations of the permanently shadowed polar craters that might have water-ice in them.

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Wait times at the VA remain months long, not 4 days as claimed

The federal government marches on! The wait times to get medical appointments at the VA continue to be months long, not 4 days as the claimed by agency officials in congressional hearings.

Records show on January 15, more than 1,600 veterans who were new patients were waiting 60 to 90 days for appointments. Another 400 veterans have waited up to six months, and 64 veterans had been waiting six months to a year for their appointments. The documents provided to CNN show the lengthy wait times are still happening, within the last several months, and sources say the backlog is happening even now.

And yet last month, the VA’s acting director for the Western region overseeing the Los Angeles VA told Congress that veterans who are new patients there only have to wait a few days for appointments. “The average wait time for a new patient right now is about four days,” Dr. Skye McDougall, the acting director of the Desert Pacific Healthcare Network, Veterans Health Administration, testified before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Who ya gonna believe, the actual facts or what an important government official claims? Obviously, the official is right and any skepticism by anyone makes them a denier who should just shut up. It makes people uncomfortable!

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Muslim university students campaign to shut down free speech

Fascists: Muslim students at the University of Missouri want to prevent the screening of the film American Sniper because they don’t agree with it.

At the heart of the controversy is a Muslim student activist who declared showing the film on campus would make her feel “unsafe” and demanded an “apology and explanation” as to how and why the movie was even selected for Mizzou audiences.

The uproar was taken quite seriously, and prompted the student government to conduct a meeting to determine whether the flick should be shown. “This film is blatant racist, colonialist propaganda that should not be shown under any circumstances and especially not endorsed by a branch of student government that purports to represent me and have my best interests in mind,” student Farah El-Jayyousi had stated. [emphasis mine]

I haven’t seen the movie, and I am sure neither has Farah El-Jayyousi above. I however wouldn’t dream of censoring it. El-Jayyousi would love to, along with any other person who dares to criticize Islam and the culture of violence and hate that now dominates it.

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New areas of Comet 67P/C-G come out of the shadows

Comet 67P/C-G's smaller lobe

Rosetta has snapped a new image of Comet 67P/C-G’s smaller lobe that not only shows the increased activity around the nucleus but captures areas of the comet that had formally been in darkness. The image also includes the region where engineers think Philae landed, which I think is the area just below the brightest flat area in the center of the lobe. That this area is now in daylight is why engineers are hopeful that Philae might soon wake up.

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Sloppy biosafety procedures found at federal disease center

Does this make you feel safer? An investigation of a federal center for studying dangerous diseases in primates has found serious biosafety procedure violations.

Concerns arose at the center in Covington, Louisiana, after two rhesus macaques became ill in late November with melioidosis, a disease caused by the tropical bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei. In January, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Agriculture investigators traced the strain infecting the primates to a vaccine research lab working with mice. Last month, as the investigation continued, CDC suspended the primate center’s 10 or so research projects involving B. pseudomallei and other select agents (a list of dangerous bacteria, viruses, and toxins that are tightly regulated). Meanwhile, a report in USA Today suggested the bacterium might have contaminated the center’s soil or water.

…In addition, workers “frequently entered the select agent lab without appropriate protective clothing,” the release says. No center staff has shown signs of illness. On 12 March, however, Tulane announced that blood tests have found that one worker has low levels of antibodies to the bacterium, suggesting possible exposure at the center, according to ABC News.

Is there any area of government expertise that isn’t screwing up royally these days? As far as I can tell, the answer is no. The sooner we as a people can cut back on the government’s resources so that they won’t have the ability to do us harm, the better off we will be.

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Whistling now forbidden

Fascists: After several black employees in a television newsroom were horrified when they heard a photographer casually whistling the folk tune “Dixie”, the station management immediately clamped down and promised such evil will never be allowed to happen again!

On Thursday, two meetings were held with staffers and WBTV general manager Nick Simonette and news director Dennis Milligan. “We wanted the staff to know that we don’t tolerate things in the workplace that make people uncomfortable,” Milligan said. “We encourage people to come forward. I think it was handled in an appropriate way.”

I’m so glad. Now those black employees know that if anyone says anything at all that they disagree with — making them “uncomfortable” — all they have to do is complain and they can shut them up. Modern American freedom!

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Curiosity moves on

After six months and a short pause in work while engineers analyzed a short circuit, Curiosity has finally left the Pahrump Hills are on the slopes of Mount Sharp.

The rover has begun driving away from the Pahrump Hills outcrop where it had spent the last six months. On Thursday, March 12, it drove about 33 feet (about 10 meters) southwestward. The rover team plans on taking Curiosity through a valley called “Artist’s Drive” to reach higher geological layers of Mount Sharp. Curiosity is currently heading towards a rock outcrop known as “Garden City.”

The link has a nice image showing Curiosity’s recent travels as well as its future route.

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Arkansas SWAT team kidnaps a family’s seven kids

Theft by government: The Arkansas SWAT team kidnapping of seven children from their parents continues, with the hearing that was supposed to settle the issue and get the children home postponed for six weeks for no reason.

It will be at least “6 more weeks of kidnapping” for the 7 homeschooled, homebirthed Stanley children, according to their father. Hal and Michelle Stanley were given no warning that their court hearing scheduled for February 12 would be abruptly postponed until March 23. They say they were not given any explanation as to why the hearing was postponed.

They had been under the impression that their children would be coming home after the hearing, and had held onto the hope that the crazy situation would be resolved, and their family would be reunited. The pain in their voices was palpable as they expressed their disappointment and grief over the postponement.

The father explains to Health Impact News that they are only allowed to visit with their children a few hours a week, under strict supervision. There has to be two observers, and if they talk about things they are not supposed to discuss with their children, the visit is cut short. As a condition to these supervised visits, Hal and Michelle must attend “parenting classes,” even though they have homeschooled their children for many years. Hal Stanley is also a 73 year old ordained Southern Baptist Minister.

As said back in January when I first reported this horrifying story, read it all, it will terrify you. The parents have been charged with no crime and there is no evidence at all of them abusing their children. The whole issue was supposedly prompted because the Stanleys used a legal water purifier for their garden that the has not been approved by the FDA.

Yet, the state now claims the power to steal this family’s children, with no legal justification.

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Another American expresses his anger

The rage builds: “So I’d like to ask the Fed, is it that you just hate the working class here in America and thus like to torment them or are you truly that stuck up your own asses that you just cannot see the light?”

Read it all. I don’t agree with his perspective entirely, but I do agree that the elite of this country are increasingly ignoring the wishes of the general public, for their own gain and to the detriment of everyone else. If they don’t stop this behavior soon, they are going to find this rage coming back to bite them, and that bite is going to hurt everyone very badly.

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Russia abandons super-rocket designed to compete with SLS

The competition heats up: Russia has decided to abandon an expensive attempt to build an SLS-like super-rocket and will instead focus on incremental development of its smaller but less costly Angara rocket.

Facing significant budgetary pressures, the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has indefinitely postponed its ambitious effort to develop a super-heavy rocket to rival NASA’s next-generation Space Launch System, SLS. Instead, Russia will focus on radical upgrades of its brand-new but smaller Angara-5 rocket which had its inaugural flight in Dec. 2014, the agency’s Scientific and Technical Council, NTS, decided on Thursday, Mar. 12.

For Russia’s space industry, it appears that these budgetary pressures have been a blessing in disguise. Rather than waste billions on an inefficient rocket for which there is no commercial demand — as NASA is doing with SLS (under orders from a wasteful Congress) — they will instead work on further upgrades of Angara, much like SpaceX has done with its Falcon family of rockets. This will cost far less, is very efficient, and provides them a better chance to compete for commercial launches that can help pay for it all. And best of all, it offers them the least costly path to future interplanetary missions, which means they might actually be able to make those missions happen. To quote the article again:

By switching upper stages of the existing Angara from kerosene to the more potent hydrogen fuel, engineers might be able to boost the rocket’s payload from current 25 tons to 35 tons for missions to the low Earth orbit. According to Roscosmos, Angara-A5V could be used for piloted missions to the vicinity of the Moon and to its surface.

In a sense, the race is now on between Angara-A5V and Falcon Heavy. It shall be quite exciting to watch this competition unfold between big government and private enterprise over the next few decades.

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Magnetic field science satellites launched

An Atlas 5 rocket successfully launched four NASA research satellites Thursday night designed to study the behavior of the Earth and Sun’s magnetic fields at high resolution.

The quartet of observatories is being placed into an oblong orbit stretching tens of thousands of miles into the magnetosphere — nearly halfway to the moon at one point. They will fly in pyramid formation, between 6 miles and 250 miles apart, to provide 3-D views of magnetic reconnection on the smallest of scales.

Magnetic reconnection is what happens when magnetic fields like those around Earth and the sun come together, break apart, then come together again, releasing vast energy. This repeated process drives the aurora, as well as solar storms that can disrupt communications and power on Earth. Data from this two-year mission should help scientists better understand so-called space weather.

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The neck of Comet 67P/C-G in color

The neck of Comet 67P/C-G

Rosetta’s high resolution camera has taken a color image of Comet 67P/C-G’s narrow neck, the area where the most plume activity has taken place.

When seen with the human eye, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is grey – all over. With its color filters Rosetta’s scientific imaging system OSIRIS, however, can discern tiny differences in reflectivity. To this effect, scientists from the OSIRIS team image the same region on the comet’s surface using different color filters. If, for example, the region appears especially bright in one of these images, it reflects light of this wavelength especially well.

“Even though the color variations on 67P’s surface are minute, they can give us important clues”, says OSIRIS Principal Investigator Holger Sierks from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany. In a recent analysis performed by the OSIRIS team, the Hapi region clearly stands out from the rest of the comet: while most parts of 67P display a slightly reddish reflectivity spectrum as is common for cometary nuclei and other primitive bodies, the reflection of red light is somewhat lower in this region.

They as yet do not know exactly why the smooth area at the neck has a very slight blueish tinge, though they suspect it is because of the presence of a higher percentage of frozen water.

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Yutu reveals a complex lunar geology

The uncertainty of science: The Chinese lunar rover Yutu has uncovered a much more complicated geology history than previously predicted at its landing site on the moon.

Those data paint a detailed portrait of the Chang’e 3 landing site, which sits just 165 feet (50 m) away from a 1,475-foot-wide (450 m) crater known as C1. C1 was gouged out by a cosmic impact that occurred sometime between 80 million and 27 million years ago, the study authors said.

Yutu studied the ground it rolled over, characterized the craters it cruised past and investigated an oddly coarse-textured rock dubbed Loong, which measures about 13 feet long by 5 feet high (4 by 1.5 m). Overall, the rover’s observations suggest that the composition of its landing site is quite different from that of the places visited by NASA’s Apollo missions and the Soviet Union’s Luna program.

The rover found 9 distinct layers, suggesting numerous and different past events that layered the surface.

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Privately built module for ISS unveiled today

The competition heats up: Bigelow Aerospace today unveiled the inflatable habitable module it is building for ISS that will launch in September.

The total cost for this module was $17 million, compared to the billion that NASA routinely spent to build its own modules.

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Obama learns of existence of mysterious ‘‘Hillary Clinton’’ from news!

Heh.

President Obama was reportedly shocked and stunned to learn from simply watching the news on Wednesday of the existence of this formally unknown yet very important “Hillary Clinton” person whom not only had been his Democratic primary opponent in 2007 and 2008, but had also been his Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013.

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Ganymede’s underground salt water ocean

By measuring the interaction of Jupiter and Ganymede’s magnetic fields, scientists have been able to estimate the size of the salt water ocean in Ganymede’s interior.

A team of scientists led by Joachim Saur of the University of Cologne in Germany came up with the idea of using Hubble to learn more about the inside of the moon. “I was always brainstorming how we could use a telescope in other ways,” said Saur. “Is there a way you could use a telescope to look inside a planetary body? Then I thought, the aurorae! Because aurorae are controlled by the magnetic field, if you observe the aurorae in an appropriate way, you learn something about the magnetic field. If you know the magnetic field, then you know something about the moon’s interior.”

If a saltwater ocean were present, Jupiter’s magnetic field would create a secondary magnetic field in the ocean that would counter Jupiter’s field. This “magnetic friction” would suppress the rocking of the aurorae. This ocean fights Jupiter’s magnetic field so strongly that it reduces the rocking of the aurorae to 2 degrees, instead of 6 degrees if the ocean were not present. Scientists estimate the ocean is 60 miles (100 kilometers) thick — 10 times deeper than Earth’s oceans — and is buried under a 95-mile (150-kilometer) crust of mostly ice.

That’s more water than contained in all of Earth’s oceans.

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Family flees home due to death threats

Modern American freedom: The parents of one of the Oklahoma fraternity students caught on video making a racist chant have fled their home due to death threats.

As vile as the racist chanting was, it was not threatening anyone with death. Moreover, we have something called the first amendment, which protects all speech, even the vile kind. Threatening the parents of someone who says something you don’t like is hardly standing up for righteous principles.

In related news, Christians at George Washington University in the District of Columbia face punishment because they refuse to participate in gay sensitivity training sessions.

A conservative student group at The George Washington University faces punishment, including the loss of its funding, for refusing to engage in LGBT sensitivity training on campus. The students are now being condemned and attacked on campus by those who claim they’re committing an “act of violence” for standing up for their members’ individual rights and Judeo-Christian values. The Young America’s Foundation chapter at the Washington, D.C.-based academic institute has refused to participate in LGBT sensitivity training recently made as a requirement.

Amanda Robbins, vice president of GW YAF, told The Christian Post that their objection to the training “stems not only from many of our members’ Judeo-Christian values, but also from our organization’s commitment to defending the individual rights of every student on campus. We firmly believe that there should be no such preconditions for any student organization to be able to operate freely on campus,” said Robbins.

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