Author Archives: Robert Zimmerman

Killing bats to save them!

In a wonderful example of government stupidity, environmental officials in Wisconsin want to try to “exclude” bats from caves in order to prevent the spread of white nose syndrome.

Some quick background: White nose syndrome appeared in upstate New York about four years ago, killing about 90 percent of the bats affected. It has since spread down the east coast following bat migration patterns as they travel during the summer months. (While human activity might spread the syndrome as well, the evidence all points to the bats as the primary vector.) A newly discovered fungus that is seen on all affected bats, for which the syndrome is named, is the prime suspect for killing them, as it disturbs them during hibernation, causing them to wake more frequently, burn up their reserves,and thus starve to death.

Wisconsin officials, in their infinte wisdom, have decide that the way they will save the bats of their state will be to declare the fungus an invasive specie. They will then be empowered to do anything they can to prevent its spread. And how will they do this? By preventing bats from entering caves and bringing the fungus with them.

Let me say that again: Wisconsin environment officials want to “exclude bats from caves” in order to save them. The result of course will be a biological genocide, since without access to caves during the cold hibernation period the bats will surely die.

If you don’t believe me, see this press release. To quote:

The third proposed rule adds provisions to NR 40.04 and 40.07 relating to early detection and prevention of the spread of the disease due to human activities, including the decontamination of clothes and equipment that have been used in mines or caves, and limited access of bats or people to caves or mines. [emphasis mine]

If you still don’t believe me, read the state’s actual proposed management plan [pdf]. To quote page 5:

Under the proposed rules, the department may ask any person who owns, controls, or manages property here a cave or mine may be present to install and properly maintain physical barriers to limit access to the cave or mine by either individuals or bats, in accordance with a plan approved by the department. The department is seeking funding to assist with the installation of barriers, and therefore cost to those parties who install such barriers should be negligible. Additionally, commercial caves will have the option to exclude bats from their cave(s) with the help of the department, allowing them to remain open for tourism, and resulting in no loss of tourism dollars. [emphasis mine]

Moreover, this plan will give these officials the power to enter private property without the landowners’ permission.

Cavers have been trying to explain to the Wisconsin officials that this entire approach is madness. So far, these pleas have had very little effect. You can see their efforts here.

This whole story might be one of the best examples of why it is always bad idea to concentrate a lot of power in the hands of government. Better to spread the power around among a lot of private landowners, as then you also spread the stupidity around as well, and reduce the chances that the only approach taken is the worse approach.

A billion people will lose their homes due to climate change

From the “We’re all gonna die!” department: A billion people will lose their homes due to climate change, according to a global warming advocacy group.

And for those who don’t notice the sarcasm above, let me state unequivocally that I consider this report to be total twaddle, propaganda timed for release just before the start of the Cancun summit on climate.

Driving vs flying

After a twelve hour drive from Chicago, I am finally home. It might seem silly to make this trip by car when the plane is faster, but since Sept 11 I have found it actually makes more sense to drive when the trip is 12 hours or less. First, a door to door plane flight will take about 6 hours, so you don’t save that much time. Second, by driving I have access to a car in Chicago, and don’t need to rent something. Three, the total cost is significantly less, especially since we save two airfares.

And finally, neither I nor my wife Diane have to submit ourselves to TSA abuse. I consider myself a free American, and don’t take kindly to government officials abusing their power unconstitutionally. If the airlines haven’t yet realized that this security madness is losing them business, it ain’t my problem.

Animal rights terrorists make death threats against scientist

Thugs! Animal rights terrorists have repeatedly threatened a scientist with death, including blowing up his car . Key quote:

The researcher, who experiments on monkeys, opened a letter left in his mailbox to discover razor blades and a death threat. “We follow you on campus,” Jentsch recalled the note reading. “One day, when you’re walking by, we’ll come up behind you, and cut your throat.”

What pilots think of the TSA

What pilots think of the TSA. I like this one:

THEY THINK THE AVERAGE TSA WORKER IS AN IDIOT.

If there is one theme that emerges clearly time and again in pilots’ online discussions, it’s disdain for the TSA checkpoint worker. They are “the government equivalent of being a Wendy’s burger flipper,” according to one typical comment from AirlinePilotForums.com. “Barney Fife is more suited for their job,” writes another. Anecdotes frequently portray TSA workers as mindlessly hewing to procedures at the expense of exercising the judgment needed to sniff out the evildoers.

Why NASA recently pulled the X-34 out of storage

Why NASA recently pulled the X-34 out of storage. Key quote:

The idea to ship the X-34s to Mojave and inspect them originated with a Dryden-based NASA engineer, Brown said. “When he found out this thing still existed … he decided people should take a look to see if it could be refurbished and made flightworthy.” That’s when the contractors came to retrieve the two neglected spacecraft, pictured above en route to the Mojave.

But that doesn’t mean NASA has formal plans to operate the X-34s under its own auspices, now or ever, Brown stressed. Provided they’re in flyable shape, it’s far more likely the space agency will make the X-34s available to private industry. “There are a number of firms interested in these things, developing communications and other technologies,” Brown said. “It would be helpful if they had a vehicle.”

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Saturn moon has thin oxygen and carbon dioxide atmosphere

Saturn moon has a thin oxygen and carbon dioxide atmosphere. Key quote:

“The major implication of this finding at Rhea is that oxygen atmospheres at icy moons, until now only detected at Europa and Ganymede, may in fact be commonplace around those irradiated icy moons throughout the universe with sufficient mass to hold an atmosphere,” said study leader Ben Teolis of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

Climate change will destroy Thanksgiving

Better stop using that SUV! Global warming will not only destroy the Earth, a food scientist now claims that it will also destroy your Thanksgiving dinner!

Pasty, dry turkey meat along with expensive fruits, vegetables and potatoes could be on the horizon if more variable extremes in regional weather patterns continue as a likely result of climate change, indicates author Neville Gregory.

Lockheed plans test flight of Orion capsule

The space war continues. Lockheed is now planning a test flight of Orion capsule in 2013. The flight would occur, not on an Ares rocket, but on a Delta IV Heavy. More here.

Specifics of the proposed test flight haven’t been reported before. But those plans may run into flak as Republican lawmakers take control of House committees and subcommittees that oversee NASA, according to industry officials, including competitors, critical of Lockheed Martin’s efforts.

At least some of the incoming Republican panel chairmen and other senior GOP lawmakers, these officials said, may view the proposed test flight as circumventing congressional language to quickly develop a new heavy-lift NASA rocket able to transport astronauts past low-earth orbit. Congress has adopted language strongly favoring space-shuttle derived rockets for this purpose, rather than a version of the Delta IV. The Delta IV is operated by a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing Co.

Discovery’s launch delayed until December 17 at the earliest

Discovery’s launch delayed until December 17 at the earliest. Key quote:

Shannon said that one of the concerns was that another major crack might liberate a piece of insulating foam large enough to damage Discovery, as happened during the January 2003 liftoff of Columbia. A suitcase-sized chunk of foam punched a hole in Columbia’s wing, dooming the ship and her crew of seven astronauts when they reentered the atmosphere.

Shannon said that teams were also examining the possibility that the tanks have been flying with undetected cracks for years.

Cracks became more common after the 1998 debut of “super-lightweight” tanks built with a more brittle aluminum-lithium alloy. Since then, 29 cracks in stringers making up the ribbed “intertank” section that separates liquid hydrogen and oxygen tanks have been found and repaired in 18 tanks, including Discovery’s and a tank scheduled for use by the shuttle Atlantis next summer.

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