Senate moves towards House NASA plan

In a blunt rejection of the Obama proposals for NASA, the Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee today reworked the NASA plan — handed to them last week by the committee that authorizes NASA’s budget — so that it more closely matched the House version. These changes cut in half the money for private commercial space while adding $3 billion to continue the development of the Orion capsule and the heavy lift version of the Ares rocket.

An update on the Dept of Energy’s hold on monies to East Anglia

This story about the Department of Energy’s decision in May to suspend payments to the University of East Anglia because of the climategate scandal might very well be a Potemkin village. The story notes that they are placing a hold on $200k. However, Anthony Watts notes that DOE has probably provided East Anglia significantly more funds, in the millions. The suspension in funds then is only about one specific and not very large contract, with nothing said about the other funding. Note also that the hold was placed in May, pending the results of East Anglia’s own investigation. Since that investigation was a whitewash, I expect DOE to release these funds in near future.

Journolist, part 2

Freedom of speech alert. And the danger comes not from the government but from reporters of all things! Leaked emails from a now closed leftwing listserv for journalists reveal an incredible and almost frightening hatred for the right as well as an astonishing willingness by these journalists to use the government to silence opposing opinions. Key quote:

Jonathan Zasloff, a law professor at UCLA, suggested that the federal government simply yank Fox off the air. “I hate to open this can of worms,” he wrote, “but is there any reason why the FCC couldn’t simply pull their broadcasting permit once it expires?”

The article is astonishing. Read the whole thing.

very big stars

Using the Very Large Telescope in Chile, astronomers have identifed a number of stars with masses thought to range from 150 to as much as 300 times the mass of our Sun. Fun quote from the press release:

Within [star cluster] R136, only four stars weighed more than 150 solar masses at birth, yet they account for nearly half of the wind and radiation power of the entire cluster, comprising approximately 100 000 stars in total.

Stars this gigantic are believed to end their life in an explosion so intense it destroys the star entirely, leaving nothing behind but an expanding debris cloud, from which other stars and planets (and even life) can form.

Footage of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon

An evening pause: Since it is the anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, let’s watch it as it happened on July 20, 1969. This footage, in a single continuous shot, shows the view out of the lunar module window, beginning when the spacecraft was approximately 40,000 feet above the lunar surface. The key quote as they drop to less than 100 feet off the surface is a voice that first says “60 seconds,” than later “30 seconds.” This is astronaut Charlie Duke, the capsule communicator (capcom) in mission control, telling Neil Armstrong exactly how much time he has left before running out of fuel. Despite these warnings, Armstrong took a careful, almost deliberate look at the surface, realized they were heading for a crater and decided he needed to reposition the landing site. As a result he used almost all the fuel in his tanks, which had people in mission control going nuts as they watched.

Journolist evidence, part 1

More evidence has been uncovered showing that many journalists cared less about reporting the news during the 2008 Presidential campaign than helping Barak Obama get elected. Worse, these reporters were willing to smear their opponents in the worst possible manner, without evidence. Key quote:

In one instance, Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with [Reverend] Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”

The space war heats up

It appears the space war is heating up again. This analysis of the NASA authorization legislation issued by the House yesterday notes that it has serious differences with the Senate bill. The article notes that the House bill does not fund an additional shuttle mission while insisting that the government continue the construction of some variation of the Orion capsule and Ares rockets. See also this article from the Orlando Sentinel.

Elite bigotry in college admissions

This analysis of college admissions practices reveals that colleges discriminate badly against students from rural communities, merely because they are from those communities. Key quote:

Participation in such Red State activities as high school ROTC, 4-H clubs, or the Future Farmers of America was found to reduce very substantially a student’s chances of gaining admission to the competitive private colleges in the NSCE database on an all-other-things-considered basis. The admissions disadvantage was greatest for those in leadership positions in these activities or those winning honors and awards. “Being an officer or winning awards” for such career-oriented activities as junior ROTC, 4-H, or Future Farmers of America, say Espenshade and Radford, “has a significantly negative association with admission outcomes at highly selective institutions.” Excelling in these activities “is associated with 60 or 65 percent lower odds of admission.” [emphasis mine]

Amazing isn’t it? If you grow up in a rural American community in flyover country, do well as a teenager by participating responsibly as a leader in the kinds of after-school activities popular in rural communities, elite American colleges are going to hold that against you.

The article also describes bigotry against whites and asians (for racial reasons) as well as individuals with a military background. It is worthwhile reading the whole article.

Life as it should be

An evening pause: Tomorrow will be the 41st anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon. So, let’s start the week with a clip from the 1972 film version of Man of La Mancha to show why some impossible dreams are certainly possible. In this short scene, Peter O’Toole, as Cervantes, explains why he does not like to look at life, “as it is.”

Modern media journalism at its worst

This story is a few months old, but I think it is important enough to post again, now. Go and watch the two videos at this website. The first is a report by Contessa Brewer of MSNBC about a tea party rally where, according to Brewer, there were “white people showing up with guns.” The second video shows you an uncropped image of these same gun-toting “white people.” Then I dare you to tell me that any of the news reporting by Brewer and MSNBC is trustworthy, especially considering they have done nothing to correct her patently false story in the months since.

Metals in the inner galaxy

A preprint paper, published today on the astro-ph website but also accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, has confirmed what scientists have suspected about the dust and gas between the stars: As you travel closer to the center of the Milky Way galaxy this interstellar medium gets increasingly enriched with heavy elements. The scientists believe this is because the higher rate of supernovae in the inner galaxy sprays space with more of these atoms.

Since the field of extrasolar planets has also found that the more heavy elements a star contains, the more chance it will have planets, the new results above suggest that we will find more planets as we look inward towards the galactic center.

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