Study: Asymptomatic and secondary infected individuals do not infect others

A new study published in the journal Nature has found that people who are either asymptomatic or undergoing a secondary illness of COVID-19 are simply not infectious, and don’t give the virus to others.

In other words, it appears that the only time people can infect others is when they have the virus for the first time, and only when they are symptomatic. Lock downs and the use of masks by the healthy accomplish nothing. All you need to do is quarantine the symptomatic patient, as human societies have been doing for centuries and centuries.

To once again emphasize this point, wearing masks if you are healthy and not sick protects no one. Social distancing if you are not sick protects no one. Shutting down businesses, such as reducing capacities at restaurants so they can’t make a profit, protects no one. Curfews protect no one.

When you see someone on a hiking trail, it is not necessary to run ten feet off the trail, put a mask on, and bow your head away in fear and terror of that other person. That they are on the trail guarantees they are not sick. They can’t infect you. And that you are there also means you can’t infect them.

Burn the mask. Smile. Live like a human again. And most of all, stop being afraid all the time.

This very long quote from the study’s discussion section, with the important points highlighted, makes these conclusions very clear:
» Read more

SpaceX launches oceanography satellite

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched an oceanography satellite using its Falcon 9 rocket from the company’s California launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base..

The first stage, making its first flight, successfully landed back on land near the launch site.

This was also SpaceX’s 21st successful launch in 2020, tying their record from 2018 for the most launches in a single year by a private company, ever. That record should be broken tomorrow, with their next Starlink launch.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

30 China
21 SpaceX
12 Russia
5 Rocket Lab

The U.S. now leads China 34 to 30 in the national rankings.

Eva Vergilova – Free Bird

An evening pause: Another guitar piece, but of a very different kind from yesterday’s.

Hat tip Mike Nelson. Note also that this pause was taken from Rumble, an alternative to Youtube. I encourage those who wish to suggest evening pauses to always see if they can find something there first. Reliance solely on Youtube is not healthy, and the competition will do everyone good.

“I’d rather die from COVID than loneliness.”

The toll on the elderly caused by the COVID-19 panic rises, and not because they have caught COVID-19.

According to an Associated Press story this week, an estimated 40,000 nursing home residents have died prematurely since March, resulting in a 15 percent increase in “excess deaths” at those facilities. “Nursing home watchdogs are being flooded with reports of residents kept in soiled diapers so long their skin peeled off, left with bedsores that cut to the bone, and allowed to wither away in starvation or thirst,” the AP reported. Adult children are shocked to find their once-healthy, active parents near death and in excruciating pain due to neglect.

One Tennessee woman recounted her heartbreak at seeing her mother for the first time in months: “The 79-year-old had dropped about 20 pounds, her eyes sunken and her legs looking more like forearms. Doctors at the hospital said she was malnourished and wasting muscle. There were bedsores on her backside and a gash on her forehead from a fall at the home. Her vocabulary had shrunk to nearly nothing and she’d taken to pulling the blankets over her head.”

Tens of thousands of similar accounts flood social media; a group of senior citizens staged a protest last month outside their Colorado nursing home, begging for permission to see their loved ones. One sign read, “I’d rather die from COVID than loneliness.”

I am sorry, but I am of same mind. When I am very old I would want to be able to see my loved ones, even at the risk of getting sick. But then, that has always been the case. The elderly are very vulnerable to any contagious disease. Yet, until this madness, we recognized that life must go on, and that the family must come first.

Not seeing relatives and keeping these helpless old people in the equivalent of solitary confinement is not kind, and in fact is downright cruel. And apparently it has led to a reduced level of care in many institutions, because no one from the family has been present to make sure that care is proper. (From experience with both our parents, if you don’t make your presence felt with the long-term care facility, your parents will not get proper care. They will get ignored.)

But no, we need to cancel Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and all family gathering. And we need to now close restaurants early, at 10 pm, because it is in that specific hour that COVID-19 becomes truly contagious and dangerous.

Curiosity data suggests the occurrence of mega floods in Gale Crater

The uncertainty of science: Using Curiosity data a team of scientists are now suggesting that some of the features the rover has seen were created during mega flood within Gale Crater, and this data also requires a rethinking of the present theories of the crater’s geological history.

This case includes the occurrence of giant wave-shaped features in sedimentary layers of Gale crater, often called “megaripples” or antidunes that are about 30-feet high and spaced about 450 feet apart, according to lead author Ezat Heydari, a professor of physics at Jackson State University.

The antidunes are indicative of flowing megafloods at the bottom of Mars’ Gale Crater about 4 billion years ago, which are identical to the features formed by melting ice on Earth about 2 million years ago, Heydari said.

The most likely cause of the Mars flooding was the melting of ice from heat generated by a large impact, which released carbon dioxide and methane from the planet’s frozen reservoirs. The water vapor and release of gases combined to produce a short period of warm and wet conditions on the red planet.

The press release above focuses on the catastrophic floods, but the research paper itself is really much more focused on the need to rethink present hypotheses for explaining the observed geology in Gale Crater. This report notes that they are finding patches of material that could not have been laid down as seen, based on those past theories, and proposes the catastrophic flood event as a possible solution.

In reading the paper however it is evident that even this new hypothesis is based on a limited amount of data, and thus can have holes punched in it as well. This is not to say that the paper is invalid, only that it must be taken with some skepticism. The data being obtained at Gale Crater simply incomplete. Curiosity is following only one path, and has not even left the foothills of Mount Sharp. In order to gain a wider and fuller understanding geologists need to study the entire crater floor, as well as the geology on the mountain.

The left is now reaping what it sowed

A Democrat literally responds to Trump's 2016 victory
This is an actual Democrat’s
respond to Trump’s 2016 victory

For four years, since his election, Donald Trump has been met with a never-ending wave of hatred, hostility, and downright total opposition by the Democratic Party and its many very partisan supporters in the mainstream press, the academic community, and in the general public.

If you are conservative, I am sure you’ve all seen it. Not only has it been impossible these past four years to have a reasonable conversation with Democrats about Donald Trump, your opinions and thoughts are routinely treated with insulting contempt and scorn when you tried. Trump was a racist and evil, despite there being no credible evidence to that effect, and if you tried to find out what the evidence was for such a slander you were immediately slandered and called the same.

Trump himself has faced this same level of irrational hate continuously since his election. And it is irrelevant that he often descends to the same tactics. In the climate created by the left since the Obama administration legitimized the use of slander in political discourse, what other choice did he have if he wished to survive?

Lies in fact has too often comprised the only tactic used by the Democratic Party and the left since Trump’s arrival. » Read more

India’s first mission to Venus delayed a year

The new colonial movement: During a NASA planetary science conference on November 10th, an official of India’s space agency ISRO revealed that they have been forced to delay their first mission to Venus, dubbed Shukrayaan, till 2024.

T. Maria Antonita of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) detailed the status of the mission to scientists drafting a new 10-year plan for NASA’s planetary science program. Shukrayaan will be India’s first mission to Venus and will study the planet for more than four years.

ISRO was aiming for a mid-2023 launch when it released its call for instruments in 2018, but Antonita told members of the National Academies’ decadal survey planning committee last week that pandemic-related delays have pushed Shukrayaan’s target launch date to December 2024 with a mid-2026 backup date (optimal launch windows for reaching Venus occur roughly 19 months apart).

It appears they are using this extra time to consider a larger launch rocket, which would allow them to increase the orbiter’s capabilities.

Despite permanent repair of crack, air still leaking from Zvezda

According to a Russian news report yesterday, air is still leaking from the Zvezda module of ISS, despite the permanent repair of the crack earlier this week.

Earlier, the crew locked the hatches into the intermediate chamber. The Mission Control asked whether the crew had measured the pressure before the hatch into that chamber was opened. The crew reported that the pressure went down considerably in the smaller part of the compartment while it remained isolated from the rest of the station by an airtight hatch. “The pressure in the intermediate chamber went down from 723 mm of the mercury column to 685 millimeters,” Ryzhikov said.

The report is poorly written, and is unclear on the exact date this air test was done. It is therefore possible the test was done prior to the permanent repair.

If however the air is still leaking, this suggests there might be more than one leak point in that part of Zvezda. According to this same story, the two Russian astronauts during their spacewalk on November 18th took pictures of the exterior area of Zvezda where the leak is located, and noted no exterior damage.

All these facts point to a very serious problem. If there was no exterior damage, it means the leak was probably not caused by a micrometeorite hit (though closer more extensive observations as well as a review of the photos might still conclude otherwise). The fact that the leak is continuing after the permanent repair suggests there is another leak, in the same part of Zvezda. That section is also a docking port, and would have experienced the most stress during the several dozen dockings that have occurred since Zvezda was launched in 2000.

These facts therefore suggest stress damage and aging as the cause, which means the problem will only get worse no matter what method is used to seal any future leaks.

One quick solution that would work, at least for awhile, would be to close the hatch on this intermediate chamber, and do no more dockings to it. This at least would seal the station from atmosphere loss, and reduce the stress on this section of Zvezda. Whether Progress freighters, which use this port, can use another port, or will have a more limited ability to dock, is not clear, however.

Successful Rocket Lab launch and descent of 1st stage

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab today successfully used its Electron rocket to 30 smallsats into orbit from its launchpad in New Zealand.

They also did their first launch test of their planned method for recovering the first stage for reuse. In their case the first stage will use parachutes to slow its descent, and will then be grabbed by a helicopter to be brought back to land. On this launch they were only testing the parachute portion of this plan, and allowed the stage to land in the water, where they then recovered it.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

30 China
20 SpaceX
12 Russia
5 Rocket Lab

The U.S. now leads China 33 to 30 in the national rankings.

Arizona gov says he will not certify results until all lawsuits are settled

Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey today announced that he will not certify the results of the state’s presidential election until all the lawsuits involving issues in the count are settled.

In Arizona specifically, the Trump campaign and state GOP filed lawsuits in Maricopa County in a bid to block officials from certifying the election results due to alleged voter irregularities and improprieties.

“There are legal claims that are being challenged in court and everybody on the ballot has certain access rights and remedies and if they want to push that they are able. Once those are adjudicated and the process plays out, I will accept the results of the election,” the Republican governor said in a news conference on Wednesday.

Based on Ducey’s generally spineless leadership, I have no confidence in his announcement. I think he is playing us. He has done less than nothing to really make sure the vote is accurate, even though it is in his power to do so. For example, he could call the legislature back in session so that its Republican majority could get involved. He has refused to do this, keeping them out of the game. Moreover, his administration apparently chose the questionable Dominion election software used to count the vote, despite questions raised about it from many sources for years.

What I think he is doing is making it seem he cares. Then, when he folds like a house of cards to an untrustworthy recount, he can claim he was there for us. All hogwash.

The only saving grace to his announcement is that if no certification occurs before December 14th, the lack of Arizona’s electoral votes might force the decision into the House of Representatives, where the Republicans will have the votes to keep Trump president. If the Democrats wish to avoid this, they should be moving heaven and Earth to clear up any issues and thus settle the lawsuits.

Not surprisingly, I do not see the Democrats doing this. Instead, they are working to block any audits or proper recounts. Makes one wonder what they might be trying to hide.

Frost on a Martian hillside

Frost on Martian hillside
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The image to the right, cropped to post here, was taken on August 27, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows a flat-topped mesa in an enclosed canyon dubbed Sisyphi Cavi in the high southern latitudes of Mars during the spring.

Notice the white spots in the gullies on the southern-facing slopes? From what I can gather from a bit of research, these indicate the presence of carbon dioxide frost. It was spring at this location when the photo was taken. At that time, the thin seasonal mantle of dry ice that covers Mars’ the polar regions south to 60 degrees latitude in the winter is sublimating away. This would explain why the frost is only present in the south-facing slopes. Since this is in the southern hemisphere, the south-facing slopes get much less sunlight, and would sublimate away later.

The photo was taken as part of a monitoring program to study this sublimation process. According to this abstract:

Superposition of channel features over and/or through the defrosting CO2 snowpack shows that the channels are active at the present day and probably have fluid flows every spring during the annual defrosting. In itself, this is a significant observation as active fluid flows of any nature have not yet been proven on Mars. However, the ambient temperature at the time of gully activity appears to require a role for CO2 in the formation of the channels, rather than water.

In other words, the coming and going of this dry ice frost each Martian year, in conjunction with the underground water ice also found here, appears to be causing erosion that then creates of the gullies themselves. More details from the abstract in this paper:
» Read more

Trump lawyers detail extensive election fraud

The lawyers for the Trump campaign today held a press conference outlining in extensive detail the evidence they have gathered pointing to election fraud in multiple states, all designed to manufacture fake votes for Joe Biden or to disenfranchise Trump voters.

Yes, I know, it is a press conference. And yes I know, it is run by only one side. To simply dismiss what that side said however is to put one’s head in the sand. Two allegations struck me as particularly damning:

Giuliani offered evidence to show that 15,000 voters in Pittsburgh alone were disenfranchised of their vote, and forced to vote via provisional ballot when they arrived at their polling place. These voters allegedly were told that they had already voted by mail.

Giuliani alleged as well that ballots were trucked into Detroit at 4:30 am on election night to be counted after poll workers believed that Republican observers to the count had left. He claimed that workers said that these were Biden ballots, improperly packaged, and without votes for any of the additional races. He said that the votes were counted three times.

In the first case the allegations apparently came from the voters themselves. If based on actual legal affidavits, the allegations have real merit, and suggest massive fraud in Pittsburgh alone.

In the second case, more details are found here.

Guiliani went on to cite testimony from witnesses to bolster his case, ripped the media for falsely reporting there is “no evidence” of fraud and argued proper oversight was not executed while mail-in ballots were counted.

“Do you know how many affidavits were have in the Michigan case? Two hundred and twenty affidavits,” he said. “What they swear to is that at 4:30 in the morning, a truck pulled up to the Detroit center where they were counting ballots. The people thought it was food so they all ran to the truck. It wasn’t food, it was thousands and thousands of ballots and the ballots were in garbage cans, they were in paper bags, they were cardboard boxes and they were taken into the center. They were put on a number of tables. At that time they thought all of the Republican inspectors had left, all but two had.”

“Here’s what they jointly swear to: that every ballot that they could see, everything that they Ould hear, these were ballots for Biden. When they saw a ballot, these were ballots only for Biden, nothing down ticket,” Guiliani continued. “Many of them were triple counted.”

“Why would you not allow inspections of those ballots? Because you knew you were going to use those ballots to catch Biden up,” Guiliani said, adding that the recount in Georgia will be worthless due to a lack of signature [emphasis mine]

The highlighted text puts the lie to the claim that no evidence of election fraud exists. An affidavit is a legal document that carries I think penalties if found to be a lie. Moreover, when you begin to get a lot of them, all confirming each other, their reliability is strongly reinforced.

The election count in the disputed states needs to be completely reviewed, carefully, by going back to the actual ballots. The computer data is untrustworthy and must be put aside.

If that review finds Joe Biden won, so be it. It would mean the country favored the Republicans overall, but preferred a change in president.

If that review instead shows Trump did win, and that a large amount of voter fraud occurred, then major investigations are in order to find the perpetrators. It must also be the number one priority of Republicans in every one of these states (all controlled at the legislative level by Republicans) to overhaul the election system to prevent such fraud from reoccurring. Better to go back to simple paper ballots that are counted by hand, than the unreliable computer systems we have now.

Republicans in Wayne County rescind their votes certifying Detroit results

In a dramatic turn, the two Republicans on the Wayne County election board (which covers Detroit) last night rescinded their votes yesterday certifying the Detroit results, claiming in legal affidavits that these votes were obtained through coercion and false promises.

Their pronouncements come just 24 hours after a chaotic meeting in which the county’s election board initially failed to certify the Nov. 3 election results during a 2-2 deadlocked vote when both Palmer and Hartmann voted against certification. But after hours of contentious public comment and criticism — including Democratic allegations of racism and threats against their safety — the two GOP members struck a deal to certify the elections in return for a promise of a thorough audit.

Palmer and Hartmann said Wednesday they learned that state officials had reneged or would not honor the audit, leaving them no recourse but to oppose certification until more investigation could be performed.

It is now presently unclear what happens next, including which of their votes will be considered legal.

Note however how the Democrats appear totally opposed to even addressing the vote count concerns expressed by these two election board members. No, rather than in good will trying to show the concerns are unmerited, Democrats have instead threatened, slandered, and doxed the Republicans, while apparently reneging on an agreement that would have looked into the issues.

As I have written, if the problems with this election are not resolved, or the Democrats refuse to cooperate in fixing them, then it will strongly imply that a Biden victory is tainted and was stolen. The consequences to the country then will be quite bad.

The best course must be an aggressive effort by both parties to address and fix the concerns, with both parties accepting the results no matter what. It does not appear the Democrats desire this.

Stratolaunch begins construction of hypersonic plane

Capitalism in space: Stratolaunch, continuing its shift from an orbital launch company to one providing a flying hypersonic testbed, has begun construction of its first hypersonic plane, dubbed Talon-A.

Talon-A will be air-launched from the bottom of Roc, the world’s biggest airplane, that the company initially built to serve as a launch platform for an orbital rocket.

It appears they have the financing to build Talon-A, and it also appears there is ample interest in both the military, NASA, and the aviation industry for this capability. If it works it will make testing hypersonic technology far easier and more affordable, issues that have acted to slow its development.

Relativity raising $500 million in new search for investment capital

Capitalism in space: The new rocket company Relativity Space is in the process of raising another $500 million in new investment capital.

The new fundraise, expected to close in the coming days, would jump Relativity’s valuation to $2.3 billion, those people said. In addition to Tiger Global, Fidelity is also joining the round as a new Relativity investor. Existing investors in Relativity are also expected to be contributing — those include Social Capital, Playground Global, Y Combinator, Bond Capital, Tribe Capital, Jared Leto and Mark Cuban.

Tiger Global, the investment firm founded by Chase Coleman, has more than $43 billion in assets under management.

This new funding will supplement the almost $200 million Relativity raised previously.

The company has successfully completed engine tests, and plans its first orbital test launch of its Terran-1 rocket next year.

NASA fixes SLS issue, prepares for full hot fire engine test of core stage

My heart be still! NASA engineers have successfully fixed a valve on the inside of the core stage of the agency’s SLS rocket, making it possible for the continuation of the ongoing test program leading up to its first and only full static fire test on December 21st of the rocket’s core stage, prior to the rocket’s first launch.

Over the weekend, engineers at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, successfully repaired a valve inside the core stage of the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The team designed an innovative tool to remove and replace the valve’s faulty clutch while the core stage remained in the B-2 test stand, and without removing the entire valve. Subsequent testing of the repaired valve confirmed that the system is operating as intended.

If that static fire test fails for any reason, it will likely delay the first Artemis launch by at least a year, if not longer. Right now there is a slim chance that SpaceX’s Starship will complete its first orbital launch before SLS (which NASA has been developing for only seventeen years). Further delays would almost guarantee it.

Such an event will make the entire SLS program appear kind of stupid, irrelevant, and an utter waste of money. But then, SLS is exactly that, a wasteful boondoggle designed not to get American astronauts into space but to spend money in Congressional districts and states. These corrupt legislators actually like the delay and failure, because it extends the contracts and funnels more money to their constituents over a longer period of time. Who cares if anything ever really gets accomplished, or the interests of the U.S. are advanced? What really matters is making sure Congressmen get photo ops, and their big space backers get contracts so they can continue to make campaign contributions.

The SpaceX fleet of Dragons

The first manned Dragon capsule on the launchpad
The first manned Dragon capsule, on the launchpad

Capitalism in space: During the post-launch press briefing after launch of its second manned Dragon mission on November 15, SpaceX CEO Gwynne Shotwell revealed the company’s plans to build and fly a fleet of Dragon cargo and crew capsules, and reuse them repeatedly over the coming years..

Specifically, Shotwell revealed that SpaceX intends to build three reusable Cargo Dragon 2 capsules, one of which is already completed and in Florida preparing for its December 2nd CRS-21 launch debut. On the crew side of things, SpaceX will build “three more” Crew Dragon capsules on top of the flight-proven Demo-2 and currently orbital Crew-1 capsules. It’s unclear if this means that the new Crew Dragon capsule flown on SpaceX’s January 2020 In-Flight Abort (IFA) test will be refurbished for additional flights.

Excluding IFA Crew Dragon capsule C205, SpaceX thus intends to operate a fleet of at least three Cargo Dragon 2 and five Crew Dragon capsules, representing eight reusable spacecraft each capable of at least five orbital missions.

She also hinted that the company has plans to fly its own missions, using these spacecraft, in addition to its contracted flights for NASA and the private company Axiom.

This private capability, which far exceeds anything ever built by NASA or any government worldwide, is entirely because Elon Musk had the freedom and the will to push for his particular vision. He had a bold idea, and with courage he pursued it.
» Read more

Russian astronauts complete spacewalk to prepare ISS for Nauka

Two Russian astronauts yesterday successfully completed an almost seven-hour spacewalk removing and repositioning equipment to prepare ISS for the arrival of Nauka next year, Russia’s next module for ISS.

The Pirs module will be removed and junked next year to make room for the research lab Nauka — Russian for “science.” Several Russian-directed spacewalks will be required to deal with all this. The plan calls for attaching a cargo ship to Pirs in order to guide it to a fiery reentry.

The new 22-ton lab — stretching 43 feet (13 meters) long — is so big that it will be launched from Kazakhstan by a powerful Proton rocket. Once at the orbiting outpost, it will double as an air lock and docking port.

Earlier it had been announced that they would also do an inspection of the area on Zvezda where they had also discovered a small crack, the cause of the longstanding leak on the station. It appears they did not do this. probably because astronauts inside the station had placed a new permanent patch on the leak, and the work they were doing during the spacewalk carried a higher priority.

Expect that inspection to eventually occur, but for now the cause of that crack remains unknown.

Arecibo Observatory to be shut down permanently

The arriving dark age: Due to the extent of its recent cable failures and the risks they pose to works, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has decided to shuttered and dismantle it permanently.

Ralph Gaume, director of NSF’s astronomy division, said at the briefing the agency wants to preserve other instruments at the site, as well as the visitor and outreach center. But they are under threat if the telescope structure collapses. That would bring the 900-ton instrument platform, suspended 137 meters above the 305-meter wide dish, crashing down. Flailing cables could damage other buildings on the site, as could the three support towers if they fell, too. “There is a serious risk of an unexpected and uncontrolled collapse,” Gaume said. “A controlled decommissioning gives us the opportunity to preserve valuable assets that the observatory has.”

Over the next few weeks, engineering firms will develop a plan for a controlled dismantling. It may involve releasing the platform from its cables explosively and letting it fall.

The radio telescope was built in the early 1960s, and for many years was the world’s largest single dish radio telescope. It has struggled however in recent years with both financial and infrastructure problems, the latter initially caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

ESA completes new parachute test for its 2022 Mars rover

On November 9, 2020 the European Space Agency finally conducted the high altitude parachute test of the landing system for its 2022 Mars rover Rosalind Franklin that had been planned for March but had been delayed due to the Wuhan flu panic.

The timeline of the latest test, including extraction and deceleration, went exactly to plan. However, four tears in the canopy of the first main parachute and one in the second main parachute were found after recovery. The damage seemed to happen at the onset of the inflation, with the descent otherwise occurring nominally.

The team are now analysing the test data to determine further improvements for the next tests. Planning is underway for future tests in the first half of next year, to ‘qualify’ the complete parachute system ready for launch in September 2022.

Overall they consider the test a success, though the damage issues must be solved before the ’22 launch. Based on this test it also appears that the ESA made a very wise choice delaying the mission from launch this year, as its parachute system was clearly not ready.

Study: Children are so immune to COVID-19 that even after extensive exposure they test negative

A new study has now confirmed what the very early research had suggested, finding that even when children are repeatedly exposed to the COVID-19 virus, they not only develop no symptoms, they also test negative to the virus.

The research, led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) and published in Nature Communications, showed that despite close contact with symptomatic infected parents, including one child sharing the parents’ bed, the children repeatedly tested negative for COVID-19 and displayed no or minor symptoms.

MCRI’s Dr Shidan Tosif said compared to adults, children with COVID-19 usually have very mild or asymptomatic infection, but the underlying differences between children’s and adults’ immune responses to the virus remained unclear.

In other words, children are completely immune from COVID-19. Moreover, they don’t even get infected, which means they can’t even give anyone else the disease. There is absolutely no reason not to reopen all schools immediately, allowing children to return to normal activity, without masks.

Granted this study only observed a single family, but its data must not be ignored. Note too that both parents also completely recovered, which is not surprising as this virus doesn’t appear to kill anyone unless they also have other very serious chronic illnesses. Just like the flu.

Sierra Nevada delays first Dream Chaser launch to ’22

Sierra Nevada officials revealed yesterday that they are delaying the first test flight of their Dream Chaser reusable cargo mini-shuttle from late 2021 to some unspecified time in 2022.

‘’COVID has definitely played a role” in that delay, said Steve Lindsey, senior vice president for strategy at SNC Space Systems. One example he gave involved structural testing of the spacecraft’s cargo module at a contractor’s facility in San Diego. COVID-related restrictions prevented SNC engineers from being on site at that facility to oversee the tests. SNC developed a workaround by using a mission control center it developed for Dream Chaser in Colorado so those engineers could remotely oversee those tests. “That worked great. Unfortunately, it took probably three or four times as long as it should have,” he said.

A related problem, he said, involves suppliers who have had to suspend operations because of COVID-19 outbreaks at their facilities. There have also been technical challenges with Dream Chaser, although he did not go into details about specific issues. [emphasis mine]

I underline the unspecified technical issues, because I suspect they might be the real issue. SpaceX has not been slowed in any significant way due to the Wuhan panic, even though it deals with NASA also. I would therefore not be surprised if they are using COVID-19 as a cover for other issues.

It is a new craft, and problems are expected. I’d just rather they didn’t hide it. It contributes to doubts about the company, which by the way has been much slower in its development than one should expect. NASA awarded this contract in January of 2016, with the first launch then planned for as early as October 2019. It is now 2020, and the launch is still now two years away.

Study: Cloth masks provide “statistically insignificant” protection

The certainty of the COVID-19 panic: A large Danish study involving about 6,000 people has found that cloth masks provide “statistically insignificant” protection from infection.

From the paper’s conclusion:

The recommendation to wear surgical masks to supplement other public health measures did not reduce the SARS-CoV-2 infection rate among wearers by more than 50% in a community with modest infection rates, some degree of social distancing, and uncommon general mask use. The data were compatible with lesser degrees of self-protection. [emphasis mine]

I highlight the last sentence to nip in the bud the claims I expect from the Chicken Little crowd that will point to that “50%” number as proof that masks work. The last sentence points out that a 50% reduction in infection rate is what you also get by washing your hands and avoiding already infected individuals. The masks themselves make no difference.

The study found that 42 people in the in the mask group got infected, compared to 53 in the non-mask group. Since both groups contained 3,000 people, the percentage infected for both groups was about 2%, with the mask group having slightly less infections.

It is important to note the real scale of the virus as demonstrated by this study. Out of 6,000 participants, all older than 18 with no current or prior symptoms, very few people got infected. No one apparently died.

The study notes that it did not look at the effectiveness of masks worn by sick people. It is possible that in that circumstance the mask could prevent the infected person from transmitting the virus to others, but that requires more study. However, having people wear masks in the presence of a sick person had been the practice where masks were used for decades. And it certainly makes more sense than making millions of totally healthy people mask themselves wherever they go, twenty-four hours a day.

Either way, this study illustrates again that the mask mandates being imposed by edict by political leaders have no basis in science. The mandates do not require proper use, and even if they did it is unrealistic to expect that proper use. And even if the use was proper globally, this study shows that the mask would accomplish nothing.

But hey, it is important to make feel-good gestures, even if those feel-good gestures are pointless and cause our focus to shift away from more important tasks, such as immunizing children from measles. So what children will die unnecessarily from the measles and rubella! We will feel safe.

New model suggests ringed nebula caused by star merger

The Blue Ring Nebula
Click for full image.

Based on a new theoretical model, astronomers now believe that the Blue Ring Nebula, a planetary nebula discovered in 2004 by the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX), was the result of the merger of two stars that only occurred a few thousand years earlier.

The image to the right, cropped, reduced, and annotated to post here, shows the original GALEX image on top, with a model to illustrate the geometry. The nebula is shaped like an hour-glass, with the rings the wide parts at the top and bottom. We just happen to be looking at it along its axis.

A new study published online on Nov. 18 in the journal Nature may have cracked the case. By applying cutting-edge theoretical models to the slew of data that has been collected on this object, the authors posit the nebula – a cloud of gas in space – is likely composed of debris from two stars that collided and merged into a single star.

While merged star systems are thought to be fairly common, they are nearly impossible to study immediately after they form because they’re obscured by debris the collision kicks up. Once the debris has cleared – at least hundreds of thousands of years later – they’re challenging to identify because they resemble non-merged stars. The Blue Ring Nebula appears to be the missing link: Astronomers are seeing the star system only a few thousand years after the merger, when evidence of the union is still plentiful. It appears to be the first known example of a merged star system at this stage.

When the merger happened it caused the bi-polar jets that formed the hourglass shape.

Venus results suggesting life downgraded

Surprise! Surprise! Further research and review of the recent results that said phosphine existed in Venus’s atmosphere — which for some immediately suggested the presence of life — has found that the phosphine probably doesn’t exist.

[A]lmost immediately, other astronomers began to criticize the results, with four independent studies pointing out questionable methods or failing to reproduce the results.

Now, after reanalyzing their data, the original proponents are downgrading their claims. Even the most favorable interpretation of their data now suggests phosphine levels are at least seven times lower than first reported, making it a much more tentative finding, the authors reported in a preprint posted on 17 November to arXiv.

Also, observations in other wavelengths detected no phosphine, even though it should have been there if the first study was correct. Furthermore, other scientists have noted that the spectrum features detected might not be caused by phosphine. The sulphur dioxide in Venus’s atmosphere could instead be their source.

Even if phosphine is eventually confirmed, that is not the discovery of life on Venus, as so many in the mainstream press claimed. As I noted when this result was first announced, phosphine isn’t life, it is merely a specific inanimate molecule. That on Earth it only exists in connection with life-processes means nothing. Venus is a very alien place, and there could be any number of inanimate chemical processes that we have no experience with or knowledge of that could produce it there. To claim its discovery suggests the existence of life, or even the possibility of life, is simply junk science.

Scientists: Major measles outbreaks likely because of COVID-19 lockdowns

According to a paper published in the peer review journal Lancet, there is a very high likelihood of major measles outbreaks among children worldwide in 2021 — resulting in many unnecessary deaths — due to the shut downs imposed because of the panic over COVID-19.

Lead author Professor Kim Mulholland, from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Chair of the World Health Organization’s SAGE Working Group on measles and rubella vaccines, said that many children have missed out on measles vaccination this year, making future measles outbreaks inevitable. …”The coming months are likely to see increasing numbers of unimmunised children who are susceptible to measles. Many live in poor, remote communities where health systems are less resilient, and malnutrition and vitamin A deficiency are already increasing.”

Professor Mulholland said the COVID-19 pandemic had also had a profound effect on the control of vaccine preventable diseases, with vaccination campaigns paused in the early months of 2020 and routine immunisation services greatly disrupted in many countries.

The WHO estimates that by the end of October, 2020, delayed vaccination campaigns in 26 countries have led to 94 million children missing scheduled measles vaccine doses. [emphasis mine]

Think about it. Because we and our governments panicked and shut down society to protect children from a virus that is not only not contagious among children, it also is practically harmless to them, many children will now die from diseases we know are highly contagious and we know can kill them.

And people accuse me of being heartless because I say the lock downs are senseless, irrational, and a bad idea.

Arianespace: Cause of Vega launch failure “human error”

According to Arianespace officials, today’s failure of their Vega rocket likely occurred because of “human error” in the installation of cables.

Engineers concluded that cables leading to thrust vector control actuators on the upper stage were inverted, apparently a mistake from the assembly of the upper stage engine, according to Roland Lagier, Arianespace’s chief technical officer. The thrust vector control system pivots the upper stage engine nozzle to direct thrust, allowing the rocket to control its orientation and steering.

The cabling problem caused the engine to move its nozzle in the wrong direction in response to commands from the rocket’s guidance system. That resulted in the rocket losing control and tumbling just after ignition of the upper stage engine around eight minutes after launch.

Lagier characterized the inverted cables as a “human error,” and not a design problem.

The next obvious question is the source of the error. The answer was not revealed, I think partly because of the number of contractors involved in building that upper stage:

The AVUM upper stage’s structure is produced by Airbus, and the Ukrainian rocket contractors Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash supply the AVUM stage’s main engine, which consumes hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants. Avio, the Vega rocket’s Italian prime contractor, oversees final integration of the AVUM upper stage.

The goal of the investigation that will now follow will be to point that source among these contracts, and how their interaction might have contributed to it.

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