Author Archives: Robert Zimmerman

Update on Mount Merapi eruption

More on the continuing eruption of Mount Merapi in Indonesia. Key quote:

The Volcano Mitigation and Geological Disaster Agency warned of worse in store as magma pushed towards the surface from depths of 6-8km, compared with a maximum 2km deep when the mountain previously erupted in 2006. “This is the scenario I dislike the most, because the deepest magma is pushing up now,” said the agency’s chief, Surono. “The eruptions haven’t stopped, the tremors are getting stronger and one big explosion could be the result. I’ve never seen it act like this. We don’t know what to expect.”

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Bankruptcy of U.S. government “mathematical certainty” says banker

The former CEO of one of the nation’s largest banks says that unless the federal government gets its budget under control, bankruptcy is a “mathematical certainty.” I especially like this quote from the CEO, John Allison, in describing the past history of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mack:

“I was on a committee, a Financial Services Roundtable, for nine years trying to do something about Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae,” said Allison. “You couldn’t help but see it coming,” he said. “You ran the numbers, particularly the last several years, and it was mathematically certain Freddie and Fannie were going bankrupt.”

“We met with Congress. We met with [House Financial Services Chairman] Barney Frank and [Senate Banking Chairman] Chris Dodd and they absolutely wouldn’t see it,” said Allison.

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Showing how the country is polarized . . . with a t-shirt

Want to find out how polarized our county is? Then wear this shirt (which can be purchased here) and watch the reaction.

Reagan is right t-shirt

How do I know this? Well, yesterday on my flight home from California after giving a lecture to the Orange County section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, I tried it. Nor was this the first time I’ve worn this shirt and seen the reactions. People always seem to notice it, often doing a doubletake because at first they think it is the Obama image with the word “Hope” underneath. Then they realize what it really is, and either laugh in amusement or frown in annoyance.

Yesterday was no different. As I stepped out of the elevator and into the lobby of my California hotel, I passed a woman whose eyes immediately widened when she saw the shirt, and then scowled as she walked past. Then, I went into a local Subway to pick up something to eat during the long flight home. The woman who made my sub as well as the clerk who took my cash both looked at my shirt and glowered. Though they did nothing outright rude, I really think they would have preferred to tell me to leave and not sell me my sub.

At the airport things were interestingly different. Two guys in front of me on line to check bags immediately wanted to know where they could buy the shirt. Then, on the airplane, a steward as well as the passenger sitting next to me asked me the same question. When I said I’d forward them the webpage if they’d give me their email addresses, they all complied eagerly. The steward then went out of his way for the rest of the flight to make sure I was happy, to which I remain grateful.

Though I do find these reactions both amusing and intriguing, I also find them disturbing. How can a free nation survive if people get so emotional over something so silly as a t-shirt?

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The first images of Deep Impact’s flyby of Comet Hartley 2

Here are the first images of Deep Impact’s flyby of Comet Hartley 2. The first is a montage, the sequence in time going clockwise. The second is a close-up of the second image.

montage of Hartley 2

close-up

The feature that I find most intriguing is the narrow smooth waist of the comet’s dogbone shape. The whole thing looks almost like a piece of taffy that’s being pulled apart.

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AARP raises employee premiums because of Obamacare

You can’t put lipstick on this pig! AARP, which backed healthcare reform because it thought it would lower costs, has announced that due to healthcare reform it will raise the premiums its employee pay by 8 to 13 percent. Meanwhile, privacy advocates are raising alarms about the federal health database being set up under the healthcare bill.

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An Early Warning System for Asteroid Impact

In a paper posted tonight on the Los Alamos astro-ph website, an astronomer is proposing an early warning system for asteroid impact. Key quote from the abstract:

This system, dubbed “Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System” (ATLAS), comprises two observatories separated by about 100km that simultaneously scan the visible sky twice a night, and can be implemented immediately for relatively low cost. The sensitivity of ATLAS permits detection of 140m asteroids (100 Mton impact energy) three weeks before impact, and 50m asteroids a week before arrival. An ATLAS alarm, augmented by other observations, should result in a determination of impact location and time that is accurate to a few kilometers and a few seconds.

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Watching the Deep Impact flyby of Hartley 2

Watch the Deep Impact flyby of Hartley 2 this instant (11:06 AM eastern)! The images are incredible. Update: The fly-by is over, but the live stream is still available (as of 11:30 am Eastern), showing some of the images taken. The comet itself is a peanut-shaped object about two miles long, with a jet of water coming out one end.

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Space and the election results

Yesterday’s elections will clearly force changes again to NASA’s future. Below are a few links from some other space experts expressing their thoughts on the matter. I will follow with my own essay sometime next week, after the election results have some time to shake out.

From SpacePolicyOnline, an overview of the results in relation to space policy.

From Rand Simberg: Great election news for space.

From Space Politics: Brooks wins, Giffords with a narrow lead.

See also this Space.com article: Election Brings New Leadership to NASA Oversight Committees.

Overall, the defeat of Congressmen like Oberstar and Grayson, both of whom loved to regulate, can only be good for the future of private space.

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The updated monthly sunspot graph, as of November 2, 2010

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center today published its monthly update of the Sun’s developing sunspot cycle, showing the slow rise in sunspots in comparison with the consensis prediction made by the solar science community in May 2009.

November 2, 2010 sunspot graph

Unlike October graph, which showed a clear jump in sunspot activity, this November update shows that the rise in sunspot numbers has once again slowed down. As I’ve noted repeatedly, these numbers suggest that we are heading for the weakest solar maximum in two hundred years, far below predictions. And when that last happened, around 1810, it was called the Dalton minimum and the Earth experienced one of its coldest periods in many many decades.

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