Monthly Archives: April 2015

The hidden glaciers of Mars

The glaciers belts of Mars

Scientists, using computer models and radar data obtained in orbit, have detected large belts of glaciers in Mars’ upper middle latitudes, buried beneath a layer of dust.

Several satellites orbit Mars and on satellite images, researchers have been able to observe the shape of glaciers just below the surface. For a long time scientists did not know if the ice was made of frozen water (H2O) or of carbon dioxide (CO2) or whether it was mud.

Using radar measurements from the NASA satellite, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, researchers have been able to determine that is water ice. But how thick was the ice and do they resemble glaciers on Earth? A group of researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute have now calculated this using radar observations combined with ice flow modelling.

The press release has one typo that is important. The belts appear to be located between 30-50 degrees latitude, not 300-500 (the degree sign became a 0 by mistake).

It is important to recognize the uncertainty of this discovery. Orbital images have seen features that suggest glaciers. The evidence that it is water-ice and that the water-ice is still largely present comes from the computer models. Computer models are notorious for seeing things that end up not being there.

Nonetheless, this result is important. It is further strong evidence that Mars still contains a lot of water locked in its immediate subsurface, where future colonists can mine it and use it to survive and build their homes.

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3D printed items made in space come back to Earth

NASA today released a video of engineers unpacking a box of 3D parts that had been printed on ISS and then returned to Earth for testing.

Some more details here.

The goal, Bean continued, is for NASA to develop a database of mechanical properties to see if there’s any difference in mechanical strength between identical items made in space and on Earth. During the interview last month, Bean said that while NASA didn’t yet have any hard data, there had been initial indications from videos made on the space station, that the plastics used in the 3D printing there had “adhered differently” than those in the terrestrial test. “The astronauts trying to get the parts off the plate,” Bean said, found that the plastic “seemed to be a little more stuck than on the ground.” He said that while it was too early to tell if that was actually true, his guess was that if so, “it may be due to a lack of convection in zero-gravity.”

Understanding the engineering issues of 3D printing in space will make it possible for crews to carry far less cargo on long interplanetary journeys. Instead, they would carry a much smaller amount of raw material, which they could use to manufacture items as needed, then recycled.

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Congress moves to require NOAA to use private weather satellites

The competition heats up: The House Science Committee has approved a bill that would require NOAA to begin using private satellites to gather weather data.

NOAA officials, most recently at a Feb. 12 hearing of the House Science environment subcommittee, have long said the agency is open to buying space-based weather data from aspiring commercial providers, so long as the companies can certify their data are up to NOAA standards. Currently this is impossible because NOAA has published no standards.

That would change if the Weather Research and Forecast Innovation Act of 2015 (H.R. 1561) becomes law. The measure sets a legal timetable for NOAA to publish the standards and competitively select at least one provider to sell the agency data to determine whether it can be easily folded into the National Weather Service’s forecasting models.

Watch what they do, not what they say. NOAA might claim it would use private providers, but without providing those standards it has given itself an easy way to reject everyone, which is exactly what they have done for years. This bill would force the issue.

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Blue Origin to begin flight tests of new rocket engine

The competition heats up: The rocket engine that Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin company has been building is now ready for suborbital flight tests.

Blue Origin says the BE-3 is the first new hydrogen-fueled engine to be developed in the United States in more than a decade. It can be continuously throttled between 20,000 and 110,000 pounds of thrust. “Liquid hydrogen is challenging, deep throttling is challenging, and reusability is challenging,” Bezos said. “This engine has all three. The rewards are highest performance, vertical landing even with a single-engine vehicle, and low cost. And as a future upper-stage engine, hydrogen greatly increases payload capabilities.”

They hope to begin flight tests by the end of the year. Even as they develop this suborbital hydrogen engine, they are also developing an bigger engine for orbital flights in ULA’S next generation rocket that will replace the Atlas 5 and Delta.

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The sunspot crash continues

On Sunday NOAA posted its monthly update of the solar cycle, showing the Sun’s sunspot activity in March. I am posting it here, with annotations to give it context, as I have done since 2010.

March 2015 Solar Cycle graph

The graph above has been modified to show the predictions of the solar science community. The green curves show the community’s two original predictions from April 2007, with half the scientists predicting a very strong maximum and half predicting a weak one. The red curve is their revised May 2009 prediction.

In February the Sun’s sunspot activity plunged, dropping way below the prediction of the solar science community. In March that plunge continued. Even though activity had seemed to track that prediction through most of 2014, the overall levels were always less than the prediction. The sunspot numbers for the past two months have simply made this fact obvious once again, dropping to levels almost as low as those last seen in 2011, before the onset of the solar maximum.

That the ramp down at this time is so precipitous is especially intriguing, as historically the ramp down from previous solar maximums has been slow and steady. It is once again evidence that the Sun is doing things that solar scientists have never yet had the opportunity to observe.

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Another global warming advocate demands the arrest of skeptics

Fascist: Continuing in what is becoming a pattern for the left, another global warming advocate has called for the arrest of anyone who dares question the existence of human-caused global warming.

You can read his entire rant here. This quote is especially telling:

Those denialists should face jail. They should face fines. They should face lawsuits from the classes of people whose lives and livelihoods are most threatened by denialist tactics.

Let’s make a clear distinction here: I’m not talking about the man on the street who thinks Rush Limbaugh is right, and climate change is a socialist United Nations conspiracy foisted by a Muslim U.S. president on an unwitting public to erode its civil liberties.

You all know that man. That man is an idiot. He is too stupid to do anything other than choke the earth’s atmosphere a little more with his Mr. Pibb burps and his F-150’s gassy exhaust. Few of us believers in climate change can do much more—or less—than he can.

This is why, at this time especially, I refuse to cede any further power to government and its allies. A significant percentage of our population is in favor of using that power to oppress their opponents. Give them any more power and they will do it.

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Rising sales of US Constitution put Homeland Security on alert!

Heh.

A surge of book sales that pushed the US Constitution into the top ten best seller list of the Conservative Book Club has caused federal officials to put the Department of Homeland Security on “full alert.”

“This is just the type of abnormal behavior that should trigger a high state of vigilance,” Secretary Jeh Johnson declared. “We expect a few loud-mouthed right-wing politicians to repeatedly harp on whether some action taken by the government is constitutional. But we can’t afford to overlook tens of thousands of ordinary citizens reading such seditious literature.”

The site calls itself “Semi-News/Semi-Satire”. It is tragic how accurate that title is.

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Brontosaurus returns!

The uncertainty of science: The popular but unofficial and rejected dinosaur name “Brontosaurus” has been resurrected by paleontologists.

A new study has found that the bones that had been assigned to Apatosaurus, the term that paleontologists in the 1970s chose over the more popular term Brontosaurus, actually appear to come from two distinct but different species, and they have chosen the more popular term for one of these species.

Brontosaurus was always easy to pronounce, which has probably contributed to its popularity as a general term for dinosaurs. When it was officially rejected in the 1970s there were a lot of unhappy fans of paleontology. I suspect the modern generation of scientists, children in the 1970s, had a warm spot in their heart for the term and have thus found a way to bring it back.

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ALMA captures the rotation of the large asteroid Juno

The large ground-based telescope ALMA has captured a series of images of the large asteroid Juno, allowing scientists to estimate its rotation and overall shape.

Linked together into a brief animation, these high-resolution images show the asteroid rotating through space as it shines in millimeter-wavelength light. “In contrast to optical telescopes, which capture the reflected light from the Sun, the new ALMA images show the actual millimeter-wavelength light emitted by the asteroid,” said Todd Hunter, an astronomer with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Charlottesville, Va.

…The complete ALMA observation, which includes 10 separate images, documents about 60 percent of one rotation of the asteroid. It was conducted over the course of four hours on 19 October 2014 when Juno was approximately 295 million kilometers from Earth. In these images, the asteroid’s axis of rotation is tilted away from the Earth, revealing its southern hemisphere most prominently.

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Obama lets stand Iran’s goal of destroying Israel

Whose side is Obama on? During an NPR interview, President Obama said that it would be a “fundamental misjudgment” to require that Iran recognize the Jewish state of Israel as part of the nuclear deal.

Israel meanwhile is required to make deals, give up land, restrict its military strengths, and do nothing when attacked. Iran, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Hezbollah, and a host of other Islamic terrorist organizations can have the goal of killing all the Jews so that we can make nice with them.

Madness. It is all madness, and it is the same kind of naive madness that put us into a bloody world war in the 1930s that killed millions.

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Jordan and Israel agree on Dead Sea water project partnership

On February 26 Israel and Jordan signed an partnership agreement to build a pipeline to bring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea as well as build a desalination plant in the Gulf of Aqaba.

Proves once again that it is all lies when the Palestinians and Islamic radicals claim that Israel’s existence causes the violence in the Middle East. Work with the Israelis, and your lives will improve. Hate them, and everyone’s lives gets worse. Apparently Jordan’s leadership understands this.

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$10 billion wasted on military projects

Government marches on! In the past decade the Pentagon’s Missile Defence Agency has wasted $10 billion on defense projects that were either impractical and impossible.

I can’t provide any single quote about the absurd stupidity of these projects because the article is filled with so many. Read it all and weep. However, here is one quote which indicates who we should blame:

President George W. Bush, in 2002, ordered an urgent effort to field a homeland missile defense system within two years. In their rush to make that deadline, Missile Defense Agency officials latched onto exotic, unproven concepts without doing a rigorous analysis of their cost and feasibility. Members of Congress whose states and districts benefited from the spending tenaciously defended the programs, even after their deficiencies became evident.

You are probably thinking the fault lies with Bush and Congress for proposing foolish programs and then funding them even after they were revealed to be obviously foolish, because they provided pork for congressional districts. You are wrong. Though Congress and Bush certainly share the guilt, the really guilty party is the American public, which has been voting in favor of pork for decades.

We get the government we deserve. Until we stop electing candidates (from either party) who promise pork, we will continue to get pork, and waste, and a society that is steadily going bankrupt.

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Build a satellite of your own for less than $30K

The competition heats up: An industry of new cubesat builders can now build satellites for anyone for any reason for very little money.

The miniaturisation of technology allows people to do more with less hardware, said Chad Anderson, the managing director of Space Angels Network, an investment house specialising in the space industry. That industry, he said, was worth $300bn (£200bn) last year. Constellations of smaller satellites, like those suggested as tracking devices for planes over oceans, are now a possibility. “The launch costs are coming down and people leveraging today’s technology are able to do more with less and launch less mass to orbit. The price point has come down to where start-ups and entrepreneurs can really make an impact on the scene for the first time,” he said.

When the first tiny satellite launch companies arrive, expect this industry to blossom at an astonishing rate.

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Vostochny strike ended

The heat of competition: Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin has ended the strike at Voctochny, getting the pay to workers while firing the construction head who hadn’t paid them.

Though it appears that the Russian government is serious about completing Vostochny, the amount of corruption that appears rampant here speaks badly for future Russian space operations.

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Colorado: Discrimination by gays good! Discrimination by Christians bad!

The state religion rules! In Colorado, the same civil rights office that punished a bakery for refusing to participate in a homosexual wedding ruled this week that a gay bakery can refuse to bake cakes with anti-homosexual messages on them.

This is more proof that the discrimination claims of the pro-homosexual movement are a lie, that the real goal is to persecute religious Christians.

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Kansas Republicans forbid welfare recipients from buying luxury items

We’re here to help you! In order to prevent welfare recipients in Kansas from using their welfare checks improperly, state Republicans have placed a $25 per day limit on benefits, and forbid the use of that money to buy anything in liquor stores, or from fortune tellers, swimming pools and cruise ships.

This is why you don’t depend on government, or ask them for help, or give them any power over you. As soon as you do, they stick their hands into your business and tell you how to live your life. It might be stupid for a poor welfare recipient to buy a ticket on a cruise ship, but damn it, it’s their life, they should be free to live it as they wish.

There is one benefit of this policy however. It might convince some recipients who can to get off welfare and go to work.

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Unpaid Russian workers at Vostochny go on hunger strike

Because they haven’t been paid in months, 26 workers at Russia’s new spaceport in Vostochny have started a hunger strike.

This sure indicates that Russia isn’t going to get this spaceport ready for its first launch this year. And even if that launch does go off as planned, it does indicate some deeper problems that are going to haunt Russia’s space efforts in future years.

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Americans rally to support persecuted Christians

In less than two days, an independent fund was set up and raised almost $850,000 for the owners of the Christian pizza parlor in Indiana that was forced to close because of death threats from the left wing community.

Friends of the Washington state florist whose entire life savings might be confiscated by the state for refusing to participate in a homosexual wedding have also now created another site to raise money to help her. They have already raised over $50,000.

Both funds are important for many reasons, the most important of which is each fund makes it clear that Christians of good conscience are not alone, that they can stand for their beliefs and not be abandoned and destroyed. There are thousands of people who will rally to help you.

Let me add, as a Jew, this thought on this first night of Passover. Each year on Passover, Jews gather for their Passover Seder to retell the story of their enslavement in Egypt and their escape to freedom. In doing so, you are supposed to imagine yourself as a slave who is freed. As the Haggadah, the book that outlines the Seder ceremony, states, “In every single generation, each individual is obligated to think of himself as one of those who came out of Egypt.”

The Jewish faith also emphasizes that we must thank God each time for bringing us to freedom. I say that God only helps those who help themselves. It appears that in America today, in the 21st century, we are obliged to do the same again.

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Sierra Hull – River Of Jordan

An evening pause: On this Good Friday evening, which is also the beginning of Passover when Jews worldwide sit down to retell the story of their exodus from slavery and the giving of the law, I think this lovely American bluegrass gospel song captures that same sentiment, from another time and place.

If you can’t watch the embedded video below, go here instead.

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The establishment of a state religion called progressive liberalism

The battle over forcing businesses to participate in same-sex marriages is actually an attempt by the left to establish a state religion called progressive liberalism.

It is important to note that Madison was making this case [in arguing for the first amendment in the Bill of Rights] not in the context of arguing for permitting the free exercise of religion but rather in the context of arguing against the establishment of any religion by law. His point was that no one ought to be compelled to affirm as true a religious tenet he took to be false and that no one should be compelled to participate in a religious rite that violated his own understanding of his religious obligations. [emphasis mine]

The author goes on to point out how the effort by the left to require businesses to participate in same-sex weddings is exactly the same as what Madison feared, the creation and imposition of a state religion, except in this case the state religion calls itself secular and has few if any links with God.

Read it all. When I read it my mind went “Bingo! He has hit the nail right on the head.”

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ESA and Airbus Safran in budget dispute over Ariane 6

The competition heats up: The deal between ESA and Airbus Safran to build Europe’s next generation rocket, Ariane 6, to compete with SpaceX for the launch market is now threatened because Europe wants the company to pay more for development than the company expected.

[ESA launch director Gaele] Winters acknowledged that Airbus Safran Launchers has not agreed with ESA’s assessment that industry’s share of the development cost is around 400 million euros. “They told us they have not signed off on the 400 million [euros], and this is correct,” Winters said. “It is an assumption we made, which we will look at next during the full Program Implementation review scheduled for mid-2016. Industry is prepared to invest in the program, and one important condition is that we need to be sure they have a fair rate of return on their investment.”

Winters said ESA is sensitive to the fact that additional costs borne by industry will find their way into the Ariane 6 pricing structure, which would undermine the vehicle’s competitiveness on the international commercial market.

If Airbus Safran wants to own the rocket, they must be willing to pay for some of its development, as have SpaceX and the other new American commercial space companies. This is the price for having the right to make money from the rocket outside of its European government customers. It seems, however, that Airbus Safran is balking at that reality. They are used to having everything covered by ESA, and are now unhappy they might have to lay out some bucks themselves.

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Liberals are the New McCarthyites—and they’re proud of it

Link here.

Some of the hallmarks of the original McCarthyism are popping up in today’s variant. Media companies were pressured in the 1950s not to hire people suspected of Communist ties. Today, pressure is being applied to isolate or sideline scholars who disagree with climate-change policies. In the 1950s, people accused of heretical views were sometimes unfairly attacked or threatened. Today, people who oppose gay marriage sometimes see their jobs or businesses put at risk. Ask Brendan Eich, who was forced to step down last year as CEO of Mozilla for making a six-year-old donation to a measure opposing same-sex marriage. Or the owners of the Indiana pizza parlor who had to close their doors after threats mounted when they said they would serve any customers in their restaurant but wouldn’t cater a gay wedding.

Read it all. It has become increasingly obvious in recent years that the left is no longer interested in civil debate. Disagree with them, and their answer is to try to destroy you.

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Judge demands that IRS hand over list of targeted conservative groups

A federal judge this week ordered the IRS to reveal its list of almost 300 tea party groups it targeted for harassment in 2012.

A federal judge ordered the IRS this week to turn over the list of 298 groups it targeted for intrusive scrutiny as the agency defends against a potential class-action lawsuit by tea party groups who claim their constitutional rights were violated. The IRS had argued it shouldn’t have to release the names because doing do would violate privacy laws, but Judge Susan J. Dlott, who sits in the Southern District of Ohio, rejected that claim and ordered the tax agency to turn over any lists or spreadsheets detailing the groups that were targeted and when they filed their applications.

From the article, it is very clear that the Obama administration and the IRS has been stonewalling this scandal and that it also appears to be succeeding in that stonewalling. The reason? Our so-called independent mainstream press is working for the Democratic Party, and has been helping the IRS build that stonewall. By not following up aggressively on these stories, they have allowed the story to die politically.

Then again, the 2014 elections suggest the issue has not died with the educated public that votes during mid-terms. It is the uneducated public that votes during presidential elections from whom the leftwing press has tried to bury the scandal. We will find out if they have succeeded come 2016.

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Death threats from homosexual activists put family in hiding

Fascists: A family in Indiana is now in hiding having received numerous death threats after the daughter, owner of a pizzeria, said they would not cater a homosexual wedding.

If a homosexual couple wants to get married, that’s their business. It is not their business to force others to participate in the wedding. To then gang up like a mob to try to destroy anyone who disagrees with them is to behave like a NAZI storm-trooper throwing bricks through the windows of Jewish shops during Krystalnacht.

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Ben-Hur – John Wilson Orchestra

An evening pause: From the 1959 classic movie Ben-Hur, written by Miklós Rózsa. Watch the musicians as they aggressively play this very driving piece of music. Shows that classical orchestra music is far from staid and boring.

Hat tip to Phil Berardelli, author of Phil’s Favorite 500: Loves of a Moviegoing Lifetime.

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New Jersey pardons mother of concealed carry charges

The single black mom who faced prison because she had a Pennsylvania concealed carry license and happened to drive into New Jersey and innocently told this fact to a cop has now been pardoned of all criminal charges by Governor Chris Christie.

As I wrote earlier, everyone should simply avoid any contact with fascist states like New Jersey, at least until they change their laws about guns.

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