Denial by everyone

Link here. The article is a careful analysis of the new narrative by the press and the conservative establishment in which the presidential campaign is now coming down to a competition between Rubio vs Cruz, while apparently ignoring the fact that Trump and Carson have been dominating the polls for months.

All of which is to say that, yes, a battle royale between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz would make for absolutely fascinating political theater, in the best sense of the term. But on what grounds should this possible outcome, for which some in elite conservative circles are evidently yearning, be considered somewhat inevitable, or even all that likely? Donald Trump and Ben Carson have occupied first place in every major national poll since the beginning of July. Since early August, their combined support has hovered around 50 percent, with the other dozen candidates divvying up the scraps. This is not indicative of fleeting, flash-in-the-pan appeal. We’ve now gone months with virtually unchanged fundamentals, as the various spikes and swoons of lower-tier candidates have had little impact on the dominant top two. [emphasis in original]

What I struck me about this however is that it isn’t just the press and the conservative elites who are in denial. As the article also notes, Trump and Carson are clearly “two political novices with strange political instincts and undeniable knowledge blindspots.” The voters seem as much in denial about those blindspots as the elites are about Trump and Carson’s lead.

The voters are justifiably angry. They don’t trust the elites and professional politicians from either party who have lied to them repeatedly. These passions have apparently gotten so strong that the public is now ready to ignore some obvious candidate weaknesses that in the past would have made these same candidates unelectable. Instead, they are ready to put these flawed outsiders in power.

Then again, not one voter has yet voted. When it comes time to actually pull the lever, it could be that the pundits are right and the support for these outsiders will suddenly vanish. To me, this narrative appears increasingly unlikely, but we shall see.

Mysterious piece of space junk burns up over Indian Ocean

Though scientists have not yet identified it, the piece of space junk discovered last month in an unusual orbit with a predictable moment of decay has burned up over the Indian Ocean,

Estimated to measure 1–2 metres across, WT1190F had circled the Earth–Moon system since at least 2009, says independent astronomy-software developer Bill Gray, who has been working with NASA to track the debris. It most likely came off a recent lunar spacecraft, but it is not out of the question that it could have dated to the Apollo era.

In at least one case, scientists were able to image the object as it burned up. The data from this will allow them to determine its chemical composition, which in turn might help them identify it.

Astronomers measure 5,400 mph winds on exoplanet

Category 5! Astronomers have for the first time measured wind speeds on an exoplanet and they are a doozy!

Discovered on the exoplanet HD 189733b, the Warwick researchers measured the velocities on the two sides of HD 189733b and found a strong wind moving at over 5400 mph blowing from its dayside to its night side. Mr Louden explains: “HD 189733b’s velocity was measured using high resolution spectroscopy of the sodium absorption featured in its atmosphere. As parts of HD 189733b’s atmosphere move towards or away from the Earth the Doppler effect changes the wavelength of this feature, which allows the velocity to be measured.”.

This exoplanet was one of the first discovered by Kepler, which means its orbit transits its sun. In this case it does so every 2.2 days, and astronomers have taken advantage of these frequent transits to study the planet’s atmosphere as the star’s light travels through it. The result is that HD 187733b is probably one of the most studied exoplanets.

Next Blue Origin test flight before end of year

The competition heats up: Blue Origin not only intends to launch another test flight of its suborbital New Shepard rocket/capsule before the end of 2015, they hope to begin commercial unmanned flights by the second quarter of 2016.

Manned flights will follow, though they don’t say when. Based on this schedule, however, it appears that Blue Origin, which had hardly been on anyone’s radar for most of the last decade, is going to beat Virgin Galactic and XCOR in flying their first commercial flight.

Copenhagen Phil – Ravel’s Bolero

An evening pause: You really can’t pick a better classical piece for a flash mob performance than Bolero. It builds bit by bit, allowing the performers to slowly gather as if by accident. I also noticed that they seemed to be really enjoying the casual dress nature of this performance, which occurred at Coperhagen Central Station on May 2, 2011..

Hat tip Danae.

Annual Sept 11 event banned at University of Minnesota

More insanity: The student government at the University of Minnesota has rejected doing an annual moment of silence in memory of Sept 11 because it might make Islamic students feel “unsafe.”

At-large MSA representative and Director of Diversity and Inclusion David Algadi voiced severe criticism of the resolution. He also made sure to emphasize 9/11’s status as a national tragedy in his response. “The passing of this resolution might make a space that is unsafe for students on campus even more unsafe,” said Algadi, “Islamophobia and racism fueled through that are alive and well.” Algadi added that holding a moment of recognition over a tragedy committed by non-white perpetrators could increase racist attitudes on campus, asking, “When will we start having moments of silence for all of the times white folks have done something terrible?”

I suspect Algadi would have no problem with any event that made whites or Europeans uncomfortable. In fact, by his very comments it appears he would celebrate it. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he would celebrate the destruction of two skyscrapers and the killing the 3,000 innocents, merely because the act was committed by brown people against white perpetrators.

EPA rewards Gold King contractor with more contracts

Shut them down! The EPA has given an additional $2.7 million to the contractor who caused the Gold King Mine spill in Colorado.

That’s in addition to a $1 million bonus awarded the day before the spill itself.

The level of corruption here is astounding. Read the whole article at the link, as it outlines a number of other examples of corrupt actions by the EPA, both in wasting taxpayer dollars for their own personal benefit as well as routinely working with environmentalists to shut down businesses, without any objective review.

Florida school district threatens homeschool parents with arrest

Fascists: A Florida school district is threatening to arrest and prosecute homeschooling parents if they do not register their children for public or private school immediately.

This threat was issued despite the fact that state law does not require such registration. The home-schoolers plan to attend the next school board meeting on November 17. That should be another interesting school board meeting.

Decline to solar minimum continues

It’s that time again buckos! On Monday NOAA posted its monthly update of the solar cycle, showing the Sun’s sunspot activity in October. As I have done every month since 2010, I am posting it here, with annotations to give it context.

The decline in sunspot continue steadily, matching the red prediction curve except that, as it has for this entire solar maximum, the number of sunspots continues to be less than expected. Not only did the ramp up start later and not quite reach the levels predicted, the ramp down started early. Overall, this now ending solar maximum is the weakest in a century. The big question remains: Is the Sun about to head into its first Grand Minimum since the 1600s, or is this weak maximum a one-time event to be followed by stronger activity in later cycles.

No matter what anyone tells you, no one knows.

October 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.

Vizio smart televisions watch YOU

If you are going to buy a smart television, don’t buy one by Vizio, as they by default track your viewing and provide the information to advertisers.

The feature, “Smart Interactivity,” is already turned on as a default setting for millions of people who have purchased the device. Viewers are able to turn off the setting, that is, if they know it even exists. “Non-personal identifiable information may be shared with select partners… to permit these companies to make, for example, better-informed decisions regarding content production, programming and advertising,” Vizio said in a statement.

Vizio seems to be taking a new approach by tracking viewers by default, while competitors like San Jose-based Samsung or LG Electronics leave it to customers to turn the setting on. Vizio’s sharing with advertisers also reportedly lets them target devices like your phone, which other companies do not.

Somehow this seems to be a direct violation of privacy, which also might be quite illegal.

Student reporter files complaint against teacher

Pushback: The student reporter who was pushed and threatened with violence by a professor at the University of Missouri has now filed a police complaint.

The student, Mark Schierbecker, had been videotaping students and teachers as they acted to eject an ESPN photographer from a so-called “free-speech zone” on the campus. The teacher, Melissa Click, then tried to grab Schierbecker’s camera and threatened him with violence if he didn’t leave also. You can watch the video below the fold, with the confrontation in question beginning at 7:00 minutes. Click appears to be in charge of the mob in its effort to eject all reporters from the area. Near the end of the video she circles the area, yelling “Don’t let those reporters in!”

Though Click has resigned from one position at the school, she remains a professor of communications. That she does not really regret what she did is illustrated by this quote:

Schierbecker said he met with Click at her office on Tuesday, but that he found her apology “lacking.” He said that he’s made further attempts to contact Click to speak to her about his grievances with her, but she has refused to engage him. “I am just left with the feeling that she doesn’t care,” Schierbecker told USA TODAY.

More people have to file complaints like this when they are attacked by the leftist fascists on campus. Maybe then we might be able stop these bullies from running things and regain some civility in our schools.
» Read more

More mob college protests, now in New York

The mob moves on: Fascist bigots at Ithaca State College are protesting and demanding the resignation of the school’s president because he doesn’t favor blacks.

The protest, which began around 1:30 p.m. and attracted at least 750 people, was in response to what organizers said were a series of incidents that demonstrated cultural insensitivity and exclusion of certain groups. Nigel Cyril, a junior at Ithaca College who is studying emerging media and Italian, said he’s never had a black professor. He and other called on college president Tom Rochon to resign. “I’ve never had a black professor,” said junior Nigel Cyril, who was holding a sign asking the students to vote no confidence in the president. “I do feel the racial tensions in this college. I’ve been pretty quiet so far, but it’s time for (the president) to do something.” [emphasis mine]

Other than the fact that this idiot student has never had a black teacher, the article does not provide any other examples of black oppression. However, it does provide us plenty of examples of blacks who are outright bigoted against whites, or in fact any other race except blacks.

Based on the article, I also expect this college president to cave, and possibly resign.

Bibles banned from school libraries in Tennessee

Fascists: Because of a complaint, a Tennessee school administrator has banned Gideon Bibles from providing free bibles to the school’s libraries.

Superintendent Jennifer Terry would not elaborate on the complaints made. In a statement to Channel 3 News, she said the school system will no longer allow any religious group or material to be distributed. “Bledsoe County Schools do not allow the distribution of religious materials from any religious groups. The distribution of religious materials in a public school is in violation of constitutional provisions and well established federal and state laws and precedence,” Jennifer Terry, Director of Schools in Bledsoe County

This is insane. The government is not establishing a state religion by accepting free bibles from private American citizens for its libraries. It is a library, where books are made available to read. If the school can get some of those books free they should take them. To suggest that a government-run library can’t contain any religious books is the height of stupidity.

The article suggests that the community plans to protest this at the next school board meeting. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Dubai to use jetpacks to fight fires

Buck Rogers lives! In order to better fight fires among its many high skyscrapers, Dubai officials have purchased 20 jetpacks for use by its firefighters.

Martin Jetpacks have been developed with first responder use in mind. They can be flown by a pilot or via remote control, take off and land vertically, operate in confined spaces (such as close to or between buildings or near trees) and carry commercial payloads of up to 120 kg (265 lb). This functionality means the Jetpacks can provide a variety of first response services. For example, they can be used for surveillance or observation (such as to determine the focus of a fire), transporting equipment to where it is required, rescuing individuals or deploying specialist teams.

Though it sounds cool, remotely controlled drones would make more sense for most of these tasks. The jetpacks might be useful for getting crews in and out of difficult high locations, as well as possibly rescuing trapped victims, but to make this practical will require significant training, something that I don’t see as realistic.

Failed GPS satellites to test Einstein’s theory

Making lemonade from lemons: Scientists are going to repurpose two GPS satellites — launched into wrong orbits and thus useless for GPS — to conduct a test of Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

The satellites, operated by the European Space Agency (ESA), were mislaunched last year by a Russian Soyuz rocket that put them into elliptical, rather than circular, orbits. This left them unfit for their intended use as part of a European global-navigation system called Galileo.

But the two crafts still have atomic clocks on board. According to general relativity, the clocks’ ‘ticking’ should slow down as the satellites move closer to Earth in their wonky orbits, because the heavy planet’s gravity bends the fabric of space-time. The clocks should then speed up as the crafts recede.

On 9 November, ESA announced that teams at Germany’s Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) in Bremen and the department of Time–Space Reference Systems at the Paris Observatory will now track this rise and fall. By comparing the speed of the clocks’ ticking with the crafts’ known altitudes — pinpointed within a few centimetres by monitoring stations on the ground, which bounce lasers off the satellites — the teams can test the accuracy of Einstein’s theory.

There actually is little uncertainty here. No one expects this experiment to disprove Einstein’s theory, but the failed spacecraft provide a great opportunity to measure things at an accuracy never previously attempted, which in turn will help improve future GPS design.

Planning the coming end of Rosetta

The scientists and engineers operating Rosetta have begun planning the mission’s spectacular finale, when they will spend several months orbiting within six miles of Comet 67P/C-G’s surface before very gently crashing the spacecraft on the surface.

Because of many factors, Rosetta is not expected to survive the impact, no matter how gently it lands. However, the data it will send back in its final months as it makes tighter and tighter orbits should be well worthwhile.

In related news, the science team has released an animation, posted below the fold, of their re-creation of the flight and crash landing of Philae on the comet.
» Read more

Ground-breaking for the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile

Even as construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) in Hawaii remains stalled because of protesters, ground has now been broken in Chile for the construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT).

The unique design of the telescope combines seven of the largest mirrors that can be manufactured, each 8.4 meters (27 feet) across, to create a single telescope effectively 25 meters or 85 feet in diameter. The giant mirrors are being developed at the University of Arizona’s Richard F. Caris Mirror Laboratory. Each mirror must be polished to an accuracy of 25 nanometers or one millionth of an inch.

One giant mirror has been polished to meet its exacting specifications. Three others are being processed, and production of the additional mirrors will be started at the rate of one per year. The telescope will begin early operations with these first mirrors in 2021, and the telescope is expected to reach full operational capacity within the next decade.

Assuming TMT ever gets built, it will, unlike GMT, be made up of many small segments.

Earth-sized exoplanet found only 39 light years away

Worlds without end: Astronomers have discovered an exoplanet only slightly bigger then the Earth, and it’s only 39 light years away.

Berta-Thompson and the others estimate that GJ 1132b has a diameter of about 9,200 miles, slightly bigger than Earth. Its mass, however, is thought to be 60 percent greater than Earth’s. Its home star — GJ 1132 — is a red dwarf one-fifth the size of our sun. The planet circles every 1.6 days from just 1.4 million miles out, thus the heat wave. A slight dip in the starlight every 1.6 days was the giveaway for the observing team. “Our ultimate goal is to find a twin Earth,” said astronomer David Charbonneau of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, one of the authors, “but along the way we’ve found a twin Venus.”

Stars in the Milky Way so old they predate it

Astronomers have discovered stars inside the Milky Way that are thought to be so old that they were formed prior to the existence of the galaxy, and that the Milky Way formed around them.

The stars, found near the centre of the Milky Way, are surprisingly pure but contain material from an even earlier star, which died in an enormous explosion called a hypernova. “These pristine stars are among the oldest surviving stars in the Universe, and certainly the oldest stars we have ever seen,” said Louise Howes, lead author of the study published in the latest issue of Nature. “These stars formed before the Milky Way, and the galaxy formed around them,” said Ms Howes, a PhD student at the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Not surprisingly, the discovery challenges theories that describe the early universe.

SpaceX successfully tests its Dragon capsule abort rocket thrusters

The competition heats up: SpaceX has successfully tested its abort rocket thrusters that will be used to speed a Dragon capsule away from any rocket during a failed launch.

Named SuperDracos, the engines are arranged in four pairs – SpaceX calls them ‘jetpacks’ – integrated around the outside of the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Firing all at once, the eight engines produce 120,000 pounds of thrust – enough power to accelerate a Crew Dragon from zero to 100 mph in 1.2 seconds. In the unlikely event of an emergency, that power means the ability to lift the crew a safe distance off the launch pad or far away from a booster failing on the way to orbit. That capability was demonstrated earlier this year in a pad abort test that confirmed the SuperDraco design in a flight-like condition.

A normal launch of the Crew Dragon atop a Falcon 9 rocket would not offer the SuperDracos anything to do during the mission since their only responsibility is to fire in an emergency to rescue the crew onboard. Eventually, SpaceX plans to use the SuperDracos in the place of a parachute during landing.

Congress revises law governing commercial space

The competition heats up? Congress this week passed a revision to the Commercial Space Act that they claimed will help encourage the growth of the new industry.

According to the Senate press release, the bill does the following:

  • Extend the liability waiver for private space launches until 2023
  • Extend ISS operations until 2024
  • Establishes a legal right for U.S. companies to mine resources in space
  • Demands a new more streamlined framework for the government’s regulation of the industry

The last item is probably mostly blather, since a close look at the bill itself [pdf] reveals that most of these demands are merely requirements that the executive branch write a report. The odious rules that will allow the federal government to regulate and restrict the industry all remain. And even though the bill makes a big deal about establishing these regulations in concert with the industry itself, that only means that today’s players can use the government to make it difficult for new players to get started.

The claim that the bill also establishes “a legal right to resources a U.S. citizen may recover in space consistent with current law and international obligations of the United States,” as noted in the Senate press release, is a very big overstatement. The bill’s wording does nothing to get the U.S. out of the UN’s Outer Space Treaty, which forbids any person or nation from claiming ownership of territory in space. All the bill does is express the desire that American citizens should have the right to own what they mine, while at the same time stating that these resources will be “obtained in accordance with applicable law, including the international obligations of the United States.’’ In other words, the Outer Space Treaty still applies, and you can’t own it.

For what it’s worth, the bill also renames the FAA’s space regulatory agency from “The Office of Space Commercialization” to “The Office of Space Commerce.”

All in all, the bill’s most important overall accomplishment is that it strongly emphasizes and encourages the development of a private space industry, and tries to focus the government’s regulatory efforts in that direction. This ain’t perfect, but it could be considered a step in the right direction.

One more thing to note: Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) appears to have been a major player in getting this bill written and passed.

Another new American rocket engine tested successfully

The competition heats up: Sierra Nevada has successfully tested a new rocket engine, dubbed Vortex, specifically designed to fulfill a wide range of uses. From the press release:

These tests demonstrate the ability to transition use of different propellant combinations in the same core rocket engine design with slight changes to accommodate a specific combination of fuel and oxidizer, including propane and kerosene fuels with nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and liquid oxygen oxidizers. This latest development offers customers a suite of engines scalable to higher thrust levels and customer-selected fuel combinations from a single core rocket engine design. ORBITEC’s patented vortex rocket engines utilize a unique swirling propellant flow to naturally cool the engine walls, allowing for the development and manufacture of simpler, low-cost, light-weight and more robust rocket engine systems.

What strikes me about this is that, until SpaceX built its Merlin engine in the mid-2000s, it had been decades since the American aerospace industry had developed a new rocket engine. After the development of the shuttle’s main engines in the late 1970s nothing new was created for the rest of the 20th century. Since Merlin, however, we have seen a string of new engines from several different companies, suggesting that the new renaissance I wrote about back in 2005 is on-going and accelerating.

Comments restored

The software problem with nested comments forced me to disable nested comments last week. Unfortunately, it appears that act made it impossible for many to comment at all. Shane Rollin of Amixa has looked into it and adjusted things so that comments should once again be possible, though nested comments remain disabled.

So, if you wanted to comment earlier you can now. Go for it!

Time to shut the universities down?

Link here. The article first provides a nice summary of the insanity occurring at the University of Missouri, where students and teachers teamed up to force the resignation of two administrators, including the school’s president. Why did they do this?

Wolfe was targeted, as one protest group put it, because he was “‘not completely’ aware of systemic racism, sexism, and patriarchy on campus.” I love the “not completely.” It reminds me of the old rule about totalitarian revolutions: first, you go after the counter-revolutionaries, then you go after the insufficiently enthusiastic. So Wolfe had to be removed for failing to show immediate and total compliance toward their political agenda.

This reaction makes sense only as a raw power play, as student agitators demonstrating that they can get rid of anybody they want to, that they run this place.

The article then summarizes the same madness occurring at Yale, where students are demanding other administrators to resign because they had the nerve to defend the concept of free speech. The author then notes:

This is higher ed’s time for choosing. If this is the new purpose of the universities—to nurture a crop of activists trained at whipping up angry mobs, and a generation of college graduates conditioned to submit to those mobs—then there is no longer any purpose served by these institutions. There is certainly no justification for the outrageous claim they are making on the economic resources of the average family, who sends their kids to schools whose tuition has been inflated by decades of government subsidies.

The universities have done this to themselves. They created the whole phenomenon of modern identity politics and Politically Correct rules to limit speech. They have fostered a totalitarian microculture in which conformity to those rules is considered natural and expected. Now that system is starting to eat them alive, from elite universities like Yale, all the way down to, er, less-than-elite ones like Mizzou.

Mob rule cannot be tolerated by any democracy. If that is all tyhe universities are only going to teach, we then have to clean house.

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