Monthly Archives: May 2015

Hubble films of movie of a jet firing from a black hole

Cool image time! Using images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope over the past two decades astronomers have assembled a movie of the motion of blobs, ejected by a jet from a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy.

The jet from NGC 3862 has a string-of-pearls structure of glowing knots of material. Taking advantage of Hubble’s sharp resolution and long-term optical stability, Eileen Meyer of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, matched archival Hubble images with a new, deep image taken in 2014 to better understand jet motions. Meyer was surprised to see a fast knot with an apparent speed of seven times the speed of light catch up with the end of a slower moving, but still superluminal, knot along the string. The resulting “shock collision” caused the merging blobs to brighten significantly.

The movie is below the fold.
» Read more

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Secret Service tries to steal $115K from a business couple

Theft by government: The Secret Service seized a business couple’s bank account with no warning merely because they had withdrawn just under $10,000 several times.

After months of litigation against the United States government, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen West moved to dismiss the case earlier this month, meaning the Bednars will get their money back. However, the government refused to cover the Bednar’s $25,000 in legal fees, which the couple is entitled to under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act. Though the fight to get their $115,000 back is now over, the family is continuing to push to have their expenses covered. [emphasis mine]

First the government tries to steal their money. Now, it is trying to ignore the law by not paying their legal fees, even though the law requires it to.

But hey, we all know the best solution to all our problems is the government!

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Obamacare overhead eats 22% of all health care costs

Finding out what’s in it: A whopping $270 billion, 22% of all health costs, is being spent on administration and bureaucracy under Obamacare.

The experts at the link who have revealed these numbers are hostile to private industry and are instead advocates for nationalizing healthcare. They claim it is private industry that causes these high costs. I say it is the complexity and Kafkaesque regulations that Obamacare imposes that make healthcare difficult to administer. I say the solution would be simplify things by repealing Obamacare entirely.

Instead, the Democrats want to expand Obamacare. The Republican leadership in Congress meanwhile suggests chipping at it piecemeal, which will only increase its complexity and make things more difficult to administer.

With leaders like this we are certainly doomed.

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Criminal charges against Russian workers who caused Proton failure

The three Russian technicians and their supervisor whose sloppy work caused the spectacular 2013 crash of a Proton rocket immediately after launch have now been indicted on criminal charges and will face trial.

According to investigators, Grishin, Nikolayev and Gudkova in 2011 were tasked with installing the angular rate sensors on the Proton rocket that are responsible for yaw control. “As a result of their violation of technical discipline envisaged by engineering and technological documentation, these sensors were installed incorrectly / at 180 degrees from their correct position/,” Markin said.

The installation error accounted for the vehicle’s wild trajectory, causing its crash and destruction. During the investigation, Grishin and Nikolayev partly admitted their guilt in committing the crime, he said.

In his turn, Nasibulin guided by the fact that over a long time no violations had been found during the installation process and also amid the job cuts withdrew the control operation from a respective list. He did not monitor the process and the sensors were installed without the due control.

Note that they didn’t sabotage anything intentionally. They only did bad work. In the U.S. such incompetence would certainly get them fired, but no one would dream of prosecuting them under these circumstances. It appears that Putin’s government has decided to make them scapegoats and an example to everyone else: Do your work right or else!

Along these lines, Russian government officials have also indicated they are considering imposing fines on manufacturers for any future failures or delays.

Both the criminal indictments and the fines would surely work to prevent further disasters. They will also work very effectively in preventing any risk-taking or innovation from anyone. Who wants to build something new and untested if there is a strong possibility its failure will get you in prison?

Do not expect much creativity from the Russian aerospace industry in the coming years.

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Hawaii’s governor imposes new deal for Mauna Kea

In his effort to appease the protesters hostile to building the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s Democratic governor has thrown out the decades-old agreement that had guided telescope construction there and has instead imposed a new deal, which will allow for TMT but will force astronomers to remove one quarter of the other telescopes on the mountain.

Astronomers have always honored the original agreement, allowing the construction of no more than 13 telescopes on the mountain. For example, to build TMT the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory was to be removed this year. Now they will have to remove some additional telescopes that had been built with the understanding that they could remain there, based on the original agreement.

The governor’s plan will also limit access to the mountain by non-natives, and require visitors to receive “cultural training”, likely a session explaining the sacredness of the native religion and how it must be obeyed at all times.

To my mind this new deal is another indication of the slow retreat of western civilization in the U.S. Once again our ability to push the unknown will be limited in favor of fostering the superiority of one ethnic group over another.

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ISS module rearrangement a success

Astronauts and ground controllers today successfully used the space station’s robot arm to relocate one of the station’s modules to a different port in order to facilitate the future arrival of two American cargo freighters and two American manned ferries.

The link provides a very detailed explanation of what was done and why.

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Solar sail experiment stymied by software crash

The Planetary Society’s LightSail solar sail test mission, launched as a secondary payload on last week’s Atlas 5 X-37B launch, has fallen silent because of a software problem.

The communications problem occurred before the mission could achieve its main engineering goal of testing the deployment of the solar sail. They still hope to regain communications, but time is limited as the cubesat is in a low orbit that will decade relatively quickly.

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Air Force finally certifies SpaceX

The competition heats up: The Air Force on Tuesday certified SpaceX to permit it to bid and launch military payloads.

This puts big pressure on ULA, which no longer has a monopoly on all military launches. In order to gain contracts they are going to have to compete, lowering their prices to match SpaceX’s.

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NOAA caught tampering with temperature data again

A close look at NOAA’s temperature data for Maine has revealed that sometime between 2013 and 2015 the data was drastically adjusted to cool the past and warm the present.

No explanations for these changes has been offered. For some years they cooled the past as much as 4 degrees Fahrenheit, an adjustment that cannot be justified under any scientific method. As asked at the link, “Would someone please try to explain why this isn’t the biggest scandal in the history of science?”

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Democrats propose more Obamacare to solve problems caused by Obamacare

Link here. Read it all, but here is a good quote to get you started:

The problem is that the deductibles on many Americans’ health insurance policies have shot up so high that as a practical matter they can’t afford care. If a couple had a deductible of, say, $500 in the past, and it’s now $3,000, that couple has to spend a lot of money out-of-pocket before reaping the benefits of coverage. And the higher the deductible, the more likely a person is going to skip some sort of needed treatment or medicine because he or she can’t afford the up-front costs. “About a quarter of all non-elderly Americans with private insurance coverage do not have sufficient liquid assets to pay even a mid-range deductible, which at today’s rates would be $1,200 for single coverage and $2,400 for family coverage,” the Wall Street Journal reported in March.

So now, many of the same groups that agitated for Obamacare are agitating for new government spending or tighter controls on the insurance industry and businesses to “solve” the problem. But perhaps the first question to ask is: How did those deductibles get so high in the first place?

The answer is Obamacare.

Bluntly, almost all the high costs and deductibles we see now in health insurance and healthcare that have appeared in the last five years have occurred because they were specifically mandated by Obamacare. So of course, according to the warped logic under which the modern Democratic Party operates, we should immediately expand Obamacare even more! Meanwhile, the Republican leadership is scrambling to prop up Obamacare due to their terror that everyone will blame them for its problems, even though they opposed Obamacare from the beginning, never wrote one word of the law, and contributed not a single vote in favor.

You can’t make this stuff up.

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Appeals court rules against Obama immigration executive order

The law is such an inconvenient thing: A federal appeals court has sustained a lower court injunction halting the Obama administration’s effort to make up law and issue amnesty to illegal immigrants.

Three significant take-aways from this:

  • 1. The case will now proceed quickly to the Supreme Court.
  • 2. The courts appear to be united against Obama’s illegal action, a fact that to me is a relief considering the number of Democratically-appointed judges in recent years who have allowed their partisan leanings to influence their decisions.
  • 3. This will strengthen the hand of the lower court judge whose injunction was defied by the Obama administration, making it easier for him to impose serious contempt charges against Obama officials and Department of Justice lawyers.

Overall, this and other recent court rulings against the Obama administration give me hope that we are still a nation of laws, not men, and that we will weather this bad period and come out of it intact as a free nation.

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Senate Republican leaders ready to cave to save Obamacare

In the mistaken belief that a court ruling against Obamacare subsidies would damage Republicans, Senate Republican leaders have written a bill that would nullify the court ruling and save Obamacare.

With several Senate Republicans facing tough reelections, and control of the chamber up for grabs, 31 senators have signed on to a bill written by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) that would restore the subsidies for current Obamacare enrollees through September 2017. But the administration would have to pay a heavy price — the bill would also repeal Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates and insurance coverage requirements. …

But even if Johnson could somehow persuade Obama and Senate Democrats to accept his plan — a herculean task — the bigger problem will be his Republican colleagues in the House. The growing divide between the two chambers leaves the GOP in an awkward spot. The court could gut Obamacare in June, handing Republicans a long-sought victory they couldn’t achieve legislatively. But without a backup plan that the whole party supports, the GOP has no way to blunt the political damage if millions of Americans lose the ability to pay for their health insurance.

The madness here is in somehow assigning any blame to the Republicans. They didn’t write this law. They aren’t at fault if it goes down. The only political damage that will occur if the Supreme Court rules against subsidies will be against the Democrats. To think the Republicans will be hurt by this is plain stupidity, which isn’t surprising coming from a Senate leadership run by Mitch McConnell with the help of John McCain.

The Republicans should be arguing that, following a court ruling against Obamacare, the best solution would be to repeal the law outright and start over. Period. That is what the public wants, and has wanted, in poll after poll now for seven years, beginning two years before the law was even passed and continuing even as the law has increasingly gone into effect.

If the Democrats refuse to agree to a repeal than they will be the ones once again causing the problem. The Republicans shouldn’t be afraid to make this clear.

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New world record for longest hoverboard flight

The inventor of a hoverboard designed to be flown by an individual standing on the board has set a new world record, flying more than 900 feet.

Canadian inventor Catalin Alexandru Duru traveled a distance of 275.9 m (905.2 ft) on a propeller-based hoverboard he created himself. The machine was reportedly designed and built over the course of 12 months. “I wanted to showcase that a stable flight can be achieved on a hoverboard and a human could stand and control with their feet,” Duru is quoted as saying to Guinness World Records, which has recognized the feat.

Video of the flight is below the fold. It appears he essentially scaled up a drone to carry human weight.
» Read more

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The Russian investigation into Progress failure stalled?

Internal disagreements appear to be hampering the investigation into the Progress launch failure in late April.

The investigation had been leaning to pinning the failure on the disintegration of the Soyuz third stage oxygen tank. Others, however, are now claiming that the disintegration itself was caused by an improper separation of Progress from the rocket. The result is that the investigation has delayed the release of its findings.

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UAE establishes space agency

The competition heats up: The United Arab Emirates (UAE), in conjunction with its goal to send an unmanned probe to Mars, has announced the formation of its own NASA-like space agency.

Reading the long official press announcement at the link above will make you realize that a lot of this is public relations fluff being pushed by the UAE’s sheiks. Stripping that away, what I find left is mostly a program to educate students.

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Berlin July 1945 in color

An evening pause: For Memorial Day, on which we not only honor the war dead but we are supposed to refresh our memories about why we fought in the first place. This color footage of occupied Berlin shortly after surrender shows the devastation after World War II. Though it is tragic to see, I will be honest and admit that I feel little sorrow. The Germans brought this upon themselves by plunging the world into two world wars, and in the second used it as an excuse to commit unspeakable genocide. In order to make sure they would never do it again, and would instead become a part of the civilized world, it was necessary to hit them as hard as these images show. Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin all understood this. So did the entire populations of all three allies.

If only we had the courage today to do the same to the petty dictators and Islamic fanatics in the Middle East. They are as brutal, as violent, and as bigoted as the Nazis were, and will soon have atomic weapons at their disposal to use as they wish. To really bring them to heel they need to be given the same harsh lessons we gave the Germans.

I fear however we will not have the courage to do so until after they drop some nuclear bombs on a few cities.

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The state of the Republican presidential campaign

This political report on the annual Southern Republican Leadership Conference and its response to the speeches of a large number of the Republican presidential candidates provides a very good overview of the state of the campaign, and who is really in front.

Not surprising to me, Walker is considered the front runner, with Cruz and Paul in the second tier (best indicated by how often both were attacked by the other candidates).

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Corruption in the Russian space industry

A slew of stories in the Russian press today illustrate again the deeply ingrained problems that country has, both in corruption and in its ability to produce a quality product.

The last story describes the overall scale of the corruption, which is not confined just to the space sector, but can be found in many industries. The aerospace industry just happens to be the most visible outside Russia, and thus the most embarrassing. Yet,
» Read more

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“If they are white kill ‘em all.”

Feel the leftwing love: The student who organized a demonstration last month where people were encouraged to stomp on the American flag has written a 4,700-word essay in which he enthusiastically calls for the murder of all whites.

Quoting former Nation of Islam leader and New Black Panther Party chairman, Kallid Abdul Muhammad, Sheppard wrote of whites, “we give them 24 hours to get out of town by sundown.”

“I say, if they don’t get out of town, we kill the white men, we kill the white women, we kill the white children, we kill the white babies, we kill the blind whites, we kill the crippled whites, we kill the crazy whites, we kill the faggots, we kill the lesbians, I say god dammit we kill ’em all,” Sheppard continued. “If they are white kill ‘em all.”

Some might say that this guy is merely a fanatic and that I am wrong to associate him with the left. I would simply note that his racist opinions come right out of the gender and ethnic politics the left has been pushing for the past two decades. If he isn’t leftwing, he is at least a child of that movement.

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Patriot Act renewal fails in Senate

A victory for freedom: Due largely to the effort of Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), the Senate failed on Friday to pass even a one day extension of the Patriot Act.

The failure was a major defeat for Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who had pushed for a full renewal that kept in place all of the government’s spying programs created under the law.

I would not be hopeful, however, that we have seen the end of this unconstitutional law. I fully expect the Senate to agree on Monday to the House bill, which puts restrictions on the spying but still keeps many of the Patriot Act’s intrusive features.

More on this political battle here.

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XCOR gets funding from Chinese venture capital firm

The competition heats up: The suborbital space tourism company XCOR has received an influx of capital from a Chinese venture capital firm.

The amount was not disclosed, but the infusion of cash can only help the company move forward on its effort to build a suborbital reusable space plane for carrying tourists.

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Japan to upgrade its ISS cargo freighter

The competition heats up: Japan has decided to upgrade its HTV cargo freighter to ISS by cutting its weight by 30% and reducing the cost to build it by half.

Without doubt the success of the U.S. in quickly building two private and relatively inexpensive freighters, Dragon and Cygnus, has influenced this decision. The managers in Japan have realized that the HTV is not efficient and could be streamlined, and they are trying now to do it.

Isn’t competition a wonderful thing?

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Russian executive acknowledges SpaceX is beating them

The competition heats up: The chief executive of one of Russia’s largest aerospace centers admitted during a television appearance on Friday that their country is losing market share to SpaceX.

“The commercial launch market has changed over the past few years. New players have emerged, for example the American company SpaceX. Few people believed that a commercial project would be able to break into the market and create a competitive product, create a carrier [rocket] that’s competitive in terms of price and quality. But this has happened and we have to reckon with it,” he said. “It’s true that we have reduced our presence in the commercial launch market in recent years.

The irony here is that all of the decisions by Putin and the Russian government since SpaceX’s arrival — most especially the decision to consolidate the entire aerospace industry into a single corporation controlled by the government — have actually worked to limit Russia’s ability to compete.

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PBS news anchor admits she is a Democratic stooge

Even as PBS provided no coverage of the George Stephanopolis scandal, PBS news anchor Judy Woodruff admitted on air last Friday that she had contributed $250 to the Clinton Foundation, supposedly to provide charitable aid to Haiti.

It is unconscionable for any legitimate journalist to give any money to any organization run by a politician. If she wanted to help Haiti, there were many better charities, especially since the Clinton Foundation only gives 6% of its donations to charity, keeping the rest for Bill and Hillary. She did it to let them know whose side she was on.

Meanwhile, PBS’s reasons for not covering Stephanopolis’s own payoffs to the Clintons are downright absurd:

I asked the NewsHour’s executive producer, Sara Just, for the reasoning behind not covering the Stephanopoulos story on the air. She said: “We had an online piece but for broadcast we didn’t think it met the bar as a story for our limited on-air news hole that day.”

In other words, we can’t cover this because it exposes a fellow journalist as a Democratic Party shill, and we can’t allow the public to know that. We have to help ABC and Stephanopolis make believe they are objective journalists so that they, like us, can help Democrats get elected.

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Drastic changes in Mars South Pole icecap

Mars South Pole 2007
Mars South Pole 2015

Cool image time! Summer images taken by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter 8 years apart of a specific area of the Martian south pole icecap show significant and surprising changes.

The top image on the right was taken August 28, 2007. The bottom image was taken March 23, 2015, four Martian years later. As noted by the science team, the bright flat-topped mesas have shrunk by about half, while the dark rough low areas have grown, eating into the mesa walls.

Closeup study of this area would provide a wealth of knowledge. It will also be very challenging, as the environment is harsh, hostile, and unstable. Imagine doing research in the Himalayas but with an unbreathable atmosphere and temperatures always far far below freezing.

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Health insurance premiums continue to skyrocket under Obamacare

Finding out what’s in it: As happened last year, the premiums health insurance companies charge will go up as much as 51%, as declared in the twelve states where next year’s premiums have been proposed.

Obviously this is all the fault of the Republicans for not supporting Obamacare. The Democrats and Obama were helpless because of this opposition, forced to write the law all by themselves and then shove it down our throats.

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