New studies: Plexiglass does nothing; masks carry diseases; lockdowns destroyed 40% of all small businesses

Modern science!
How modern politicians apply science!

Three new studies have once again confirmed what common sense and a hundred-plus years of medical research has consistently shown, that the measures mandated by foolish governments and health officials last year to supposedly “stop” or “slow” the spread of COVID-19 did nothing of the sort, and instead likely accomplished the exact opposite.

The studies specifically looked at three of the most popular and imposing actions mandated by either governments or corporations, the installation of plexiglass everywhere, the mandating of mask use, and the draconian lockdowns that shut down whole states for almost a year. In all three cases, the studies found them worse than useless.

First, the plexiglass barriers: Not only has there never been any research documenting the usefulness of the plexiglass barriers that restaurants, convenience stores, and almost all businesses have installed to isolate their workers and customers from each other and thus supposedly prevent the spread of COVID-19, a new study from Boston found that the plexiglass barriers likely increased the risk of infection, because it hampered the flow of air circulation.
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The Mountains of Mars

The mountains of Mars
Click for full resolution.

Even as the rover Perseverance is beginning its first science campaign on the floor of Jezero Crater, the rover Curiosity about 3,000 miles to the east has begun its climb into the mountains of Mars that surround the central peak of Gale Crater, Mount Sharp.

The mosaic above, made from two images taken by the rover’s right navigation camera (here and here), shows what Curiosity sees ahead. Since my last update on June 4th describing Curiosity’s future travels, the rover’s science team has pushed forward directly uphill towards the entrance to the canyon Gediz Vallis, visible as the gap between the mountains to the right and left in the above mosaic.

The overview map below shows the rover’s approximate present position, with the yellow lines indicating what the above photo is looking at.
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More evidence the COVID-19 panic was just that: an unwarranted panic

The Scream by Edvard Munch
The Scream by Edvard Munch, the absolute wrong response
to any emergency, and sadly the very response Americans adopted
against COVID-19.

Three more stories in the past few weeks have proven once again what I and many others saw unequivocally more than a year ago: The panicky response to COVID was unwarranted and not based on the actual facts on the ground but on manipulated and unproven assumptions.

Those assumptions were touted for purely political reasons. Worse, too many Americans meekly accepted those assumptions without any of the kind of mature skepticism that is required of adult citizens in a democratic republic. The result: Our rights were violated and false and corrupt politicians gained power, power they eagerly abused.

First, officials in Alameda County in California revealed on June 4th that they have reduced the number of COVID deaths in that county for the past year by about 25%, from 1,634 to 1,223.

“There are definitely people who died from reasons that were clearly not caused by COVID,”said Neetu Balram, a spokesperson for the Alameda County Public Health Department. Balram couldn’t give specifics about the true cause of death for the 411 people removed from the COVID-19 data, but she said the cases were identified after reviewing codes entered by county coroners into CalREDIE, the state’s database for disease reporting and surveillance.

None of this is a surprise to anyone who was open-minded enough to pay attention. The federal government provided hospitals and doctors a bonus for claiming as many deaths as possible as caused by COVID. They thus inflated the numbers grossly. Moreover, encouraging a panic in 2020 over the Wuhan flu served the political ends of the Democratic Party (to which almost all health officials belong) because it then justified the illegal easing of election laws so that Democrats could commit election fraud in November with ease.

Thus, doctors had both financial and political incentives to inflate the COVID numbers, which apparently they did with glee.

Two research papers published in mid-May added further weight to these conclusions:
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Today’s blacklisted American: Doctors fired and blackballed for calling for race-neutral policies in medicine

Lysenko with Stalin
Trofim Lysenko preaching to Stalin. His policies destroyed
Soviet plant research, persecuted anyone who disagreed
with him, and caused famines that killed millions. And they are
all policies now being adopted by the American medical field.

Persecution is now cool! Last year, the University of Pittsburgh fired cardiologist Norman Wang because he wrote and published a peer-reviewed paper calling for race-neutral policies in medicine.

In addition, he was publicly denounced by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the journal retracted his paper, even though no one could cite any errors in his work.

As the criticism mounted, Wang was removed from his position as the director of a fellowship program in clinical cardiac electrophysiology at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and was prohibited from making any contact with students. His boss reportedly told him that his classroom was “inherently unsafe” due to the views he expressed.

Unsafe, eh? Can’t have those students hear any opinions or facts that might contradict the modern “woke” narrative!

Wang is suing both the AHA and the University of Pittsburgh for defamation and violating his first amendment rights. Whether he wins or not remains quite unknown, especially considering the increasingly intolerant nature of today’s society.

The article at the link however goes far beyond simply telling Wang’s story. First, it describes the cases of two other doctors who were forced to resign for similar reasons: they questioned the modern obsession with race and suggested that things would be far better if “race was taken out of the conversation.” The mob immediately rose up against both, and their medical organization, the American Medical Association (AMA), then moved to get them fired or removed.

The article then however goes even farther, outlining how this evil oppressive blacklisting culture is beginning to have a much wider and very negative impact on the practice of medicine and the treatment of patients.
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Curiosity’s dramatic path forward

Curiosity's future travels
Click for full image.

Cool image time! In the coming weeks and months the view from Curiosity is going to give us the most spectacular views of another world since the Apollo astronauts walked on the Moon.

In today’s download of new images from the Mars rover Curiosity was the photo above, reduced to post here. Taken by rover’s right navigation camera, it looks west directly in line with Curiosity’s future travels, and shows that it is now finally entering mountain country.

The overview map below provides the context.
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New investment capital pours into commercial space

Launcher's E2 engine
Launcher’s 3D printed E2 engine, claimed by the company
to be the highest performance engine for small rockets.

Capitalism in space: Three stories today underlined superbly the robust and steadily growing state of the commercial space industry. Moreover, these stories suggest that this growth will be permanent with almost no limit to its possibilities.

To begin, we have the public appearance of another startup smallsat rocket company, dubbed Launcher.

Small launch vehicle developer Launcher has raised $11.7 million in a Series A funding round, which the company says puts it on a path to reaching orbit with a fraction of the total investment of other launch startups. Launcher said June 2 that the Series A round was co-led by Boost.VC and the company’s founder, Max Haot, both of whom earlier provided seed funding to the startup. Haot invested $5 million using proceeds of a camera company, Mevo.com, that he sold earlier this year to Logitech. Other existing and new investors also participated in the round, which Haot told SpaceNews was oversubscribed.

…Launcher is working on a small launch vehicle called Launcher Light, intended to be similar in performance to Rocket Lab’s Electron, which can place up to 300 kilograms into low Earth orbit. Launcher Light is a smaller version of Rocket-1, the company’s original vehicle, which Haot said in March should speed up development since it will require fewer engines.

The company hopes to launch by ’24, and is also planning another fund-raising round next year to raise an additional $40 million.

Considering the large number of new rocket companies raising capital, who knows if this company will make it. Certainly some will grab market share and survive, but more likely in the coming decade there will be a shake-out where many will either consolidate or disappear, similar to what happened in the early days of the automobile industry.

That so many similar new rocket companies are attracting so many investors however shows that people with money are now convinced that space is the place, and the future there is very bright for profit. And what lends weight to this sentiment are the other two stories today, both of which involve new space startups that are not rocket companies but the kind of ground facilities required by the satellites those rockets launch.
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SpaceX barrelling like a juggernaut toward first Starship/Superheavy orbital flight this year

Starship #15 about to land
Starship prototype #15 about to land, May 5, 2021

A series of articles at Teslarati in the past two days suggest strongly that the next Starship flight will be on top of a Superheavy first stage, and will likely be the first near orbital flight from Texas around the globe to splashdown softly in the Pacific Ocean northeast of Hawaii.

And it will likely happen this year!

First there was the report from locals in the McGregor, Texas, area indicating that SpaceX has completed a full duration launch burn of a Raptor engine.

A local resident and unofficial SpaceX observer has reported hearing a test of one of Starship’s Raptor engines that lasted more than five minutes at the company’s McGregor, Texas development facilities.

If accurate, it could be the longest static fire of a Starship engine that SpaceX has ever completed in the two years since full-scale Raptor testing first began. Whether it was successful or not, a five or six-minute static fire would also confirm that SpaceX is well into the process of qualifying Raptor for Starship’s first orbital launch attempts.

This burn is somewhat longer than the engine burns during the Starship test hops, and approaches the burn time required for Superheavy during a launch.

Next there was the report describing the newest known engine configurations SpaceX is planning for Superheavy itself, with the first version possibly having 29 engines and a future more powerful version sporting 32.
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Flash! SpaceX to use a NEW Falcon 9 1st stage!

Both side boosters landing during the 1st Falcon Heavy launch
Both side boosters landing during
the 1st Falcon Heavy launch

Capitalism in space: For the first time in since September 2020, SpaceX has delivered a new Falcon 9 1st stage to its Florida launch site in preparation for launch.

This new stage will be used on the June 3rd launch of a cargo Dragon freighter to ISS.

What is remarkable about this story is that it is news that SpaceX is using a new first stage. Not only have all of their fifteen launches in 2021 lifted off with used boosters, since November 2020 they have completed nineteen launches using only used boosters.

That’s 19 launches in only six months, all with previously flown boosters!

During that time the company’s Falcon rocket division has apparently dedicated its time in upgrading and building new Falcon Heavy 1st stage boosters, in preparation for the first Falcon Heavy launches since June 2019, set for July and October later this year. I suspect the focus has been an effort to upgrade the core booster so that it will be successfully recovered this time, something that did not occur on two of the first three Falcon Heavy launches in 2018 and 2019..
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Today’s blacklisted American: You are supporting the blacklisting of someone, no matter what you do

Rick, stating the truth in Casablanca
Click for video.

Today’s column on blacklisting won’t point out any particular person or group being blacklisted. Instead, I want to make it clear to my readers how completely dominate the intolerant culture of blackballing and censorship has become in America.

This intolerance has been well documented for years in the political, academic, and artistic communities. If you dare to be an outspoken conservative or Republican you will quickly find yourself an outcast, your job threatened and your future squashed. I know. I have been both a filmmaker and a film teacher, and am now a journalist writing often about political matters, and have had to face blacklisting myself more than a few times.

It is only in the last year that it has become evident that the the business community wishes to join in.

To fight this, many open-minded and tolerant Americans try to avoid companies that oppress people for their political views or ethnicity, in the hope that the loss of income will force these companies to change their behavior. In fact, there is now even a webpage, Cancel This Company, that tries to provide a complete list of the worst and most oppressive companies, while also carefully documenting that bad behavior so you know your decision is based on fact.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well it ain’t that easy.
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Starship #15 launches AND lands successfully

Starship #15 about to land

Starship #15 after landing

Capitalism in space: On the 60th anniversary of Alan Shepard’s suborbital flight, making him the first American to fly in space, SpaceX has successfully launched and landed its fifteenth Starship prototype.

The flight appeared remarkably smooth, except for the cameras on board which dropped out for much of the flight. The first image shows the rocket coming down just before touch down. At this moment it was dropping very smoothly, and landed very gently on the landing pad.

The second image was taken about thirty seconds after landing. There was a fire at the rocket’s base being extinguished by the water fire control system. Other than that, the rocket appears whole and undamaged.

As I write this, it is about ten minutes after landing, the fires at the rocket’s base have been put out, and all seems under control. I expect that SpaceX engineers will finally have a fully intact prototype that they can inspect for future design revisions. For example, the skin of this prototype has many thermal tiles attached. They can now see if their attachment system works.

I have embedded the 16 minute live stream of the flight below the fold. Enjoy!
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Today’s blacklisted American: Any conservative on Twitter

Twitter's idea of debate
Show trials: Debate as Twitter sees it.

Blacklists are back and Twitter’s got ’em: Rather than write today about a single specific individual being blacklisted and destroyed by today’s intolerant left, let’s take a look at one of that left’s most intolerant and oppressive blacklister, Twitter.

Like all the big tech social media companies such as Google and Facebook, Twitter is essentially run like a leftwing fiefdom. Though it allows conservative writers to post there, it makes it very clear that they are always under a probation that can be withdrawn immediately if someone in company’s workforce finds itself offended or disagreeing with something that conservative posted.

For example, in January religious radio host Michael Brown got banned from Twitter for twelve hours for simply posting a tweet where he asked this simple question: “Will I get punished by Twitter for saying that, in God’s sight, ‘Rachel’ Levine (nominated by Biden to be his assistant secretary for HHS) is a man?”
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The devastating epidemic that simply wasn’t devastating

It is now more than a year since the arrival of the coronavirus in the United States and the panicky wave of fear it brought to our governments and many of our citizens, shutting down whole states, bankrupting millions of businesses, and shuttering schools for practically a whole year. In the process our governments have demanded we change how we live in fundamental ways, from no longer gathering together in any social setting to wearing masks wherever we go, inside or out.

Was that reaction correct? Readers of my website know that I never believed it rational, and that it was an entirely out-of-proportion response to what was really nothing more than a new variation of the flu.

Well, we now have some data that reveals the actual scale of the COVID-19 epidemic, as shown by the CDC graph below:
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NASA’s choice of Starship proves government now fully embraces capitalism in space

Five years ago, before Donald Trump had even announced he was running for president, before Elon Musk had proposed his Starship/Superheavy rocket, and even before SpaceX had successfully begun to dominate the launch market, Jerry Hendricks at the Center for for New American Security (CNAS) asked me to write a policy paper on the state of the American launch industry, providing some background and more importantly, some recommendations that policy makers in Washington, dependent on that launch industry, could use as guidance in the coming years.

CNAS is a Washington, D.C., think tank that was founded in the middle-2000s by two political Washington insiders, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, with a focus on foreign policy and defense issues and the central goal of encouraging bi-partisan discussion. Hendricks’ area of focus was defense and aerospace matters, and at the time he thought the changes being wrought by SpaceX’s with its partly reusable Falcon 9 rocket required in-depth analysis. He had heard my many reports on this subject on the John Batchelor Show, and thought I could provide him that analysis.

The result was my 2017 policy paper, Capitalism in Space: Private Enterprise and Competition Reshape the Global Aerospace Launch Industry. In it I reviewed and compared what NASA had been getting from its parallel rocket programs, the government-designed and owned Space Launch System (SLS) rocket versus the privately-designed commercial rockets of SpaceX and Orbital ATK (now part of Northrop Grumman). That review produced this very simple but starkly revealing table:

SLS vs Commercial space

From this data, combined with my extensive knowledge as a historian of American history and culture, resulted in the following fundamental recommendations:
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Mask madness even as scientists confirm once again their uselessness

Even as a just published new study has shown once again the utter uselessness of masks to limit the spread of respiratory diseases like COVID-19, the control freaks of our now largely oppressive society are clamping down with new totalitarian rules requiring masks to be worn at all times, no matter what.

First let ‘s look at the study, which was published by the National Center for Biotechnological Information government website, a branch of the National Institute for Health. From the paper:

The physical properties of medical and non-medical facemasks suggest that facemasks are ineffective to block viral particles due to their difference in scales. According to the current knowledge, the virus SARS-CoV-2 has a diameter of 60 nm to 140 nm [nanometers (billionth of a meter)], while medical and non-medical facemasks’ thread diameter ranges from 55 µm to 440 µm [micrometers (one millionth of a meter), which is more than 1000 times larger. Due to the difference in sizes between SARS-CoV-2 diameter and facemasks thread diameter (the virus is 1000 times smaller), SARS-CoV-2 can easily pass through any facemask. In addition, the efficiency filtration rate of facemasks is poor, ranging from 0.7% in non-surgical, cotton-gauze woven mask to 26% in cotton sweeter material. With respect to surgical and N95 medical facemasks, the efficiency filtration rate falls to 15% and 58%, respectively when even small gap between the mask and the face exists.

Clinical scientific evidence challenges further the efficacy of facemasks to block human-to-human transmission or infectivity. A randomized controlled trial (RCT) of 246 participants [123 (50%) symptomatic)] who were allocated to either wearing or not wearing surgical facemask, assessing viruses transmission including coronavirus. The results of this study showed that among symptomatic individuals (those with fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose etc…) there was no difference between wearing and not wearing facemask for coronavirus droplets transmission of particles of >5 µm. Among asymptomatic individuals, there was no droplets or aerosols coronavirus detected from any participant with or without the mask, suggesting that asymptomatic individuals do not transmit or infect other people. This was further supported by a study on infectivity where 445 asymptomatic individuals were exposed to asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 carrier (been positive for SARS-CoV-2) using close contact (shared quarantine space) for a median of 4 to 5 days. The study found that none of the 445 individuals was infected with SARS-CoV-2 confirmed by real-time reverse transcription polymerase.

There is a lot more in the study. Read it all. It shows, based on extensive research, that even when worn properly masks are relatively useless in stopping viral diseases. And since as mandated no one ever uses them properly, they end up becoming likely collectors of pathogens instead, at the very spot where people breath, thus contributing to the spread of infection.

The study also documented the numerous physiological and psychological costs caused by the forced continuous use of masks, from restricting oxygen to causing people to become socially isolated.

The paper’s conclusion:
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SpaceX wins competition to build Artemis manned lunar lander, using Starship

Starship prototype #8 on first flight test
Starship prototype #8 on its first flight test,
December 2020

Capitalism in space: NASA has just announced that it has chosen SpaceX to build the Artemis manned lunar lander, using Starship.

The award, a $2.9 billion fixed price contract, also requires SpaceX to complete an unmanned demo lunar landing with Starship that also returns to Earth, before it lands NASA astronauts on the Moon. The contract also still retains the goal to get this to happen by 2024, though NASA official emphasized that they will only launch when ready.

After these flights the agency says it will open bidding again to the entire industry, which means that others are now being challenged to come up with something that can beat SpaceX in the future.

Nonetheless, the contract award was a surprise, as NASA originally intended to pick two teams to provide redundancy and encourage competition. Instead, the agency completely bypassed lunar landers proposed by Dynetics and a team led by Blue Origin that included Lockheed Martin and Draper.

Even more significantly, though NASA explained in the telecon that they still plan to use SLS and Orion to bring astronauts to Gateway, who will then be picked up by Starship for the landing, this decision is a major rejection of the Space Launch System (SLS), since Starship will not use it to get to the Moon, while the other two landers required it.

In fact, this decision practically makes SLS unnecessary in the Artemis program, as NASA has also awarded SpaceX the contract for supplying cargo to the Lunar Gateway station as well as launching its first two modules, using Dragon capsules and Falcon Heavy. SLS is still slated to launch Orion to Gateway, but Starship can replace Orion as well, since Starship is being designed to carry people from Earth to the Moon. This makes SLS and Orion essentially unneeded, easily abandoned once Starship starts flying.

NASA’s decision also means the Biden administration is willing to use its clout to push for Starship over SLS in Congress, which has favored SLS for years because of the pork it brings to their states and congressional districts. They apparently think that Congress is now ready to risk the end of SLS if it comes with a new program that actually accomplishes something. These developments firmly confirm my sense from February that the political winds are bending away from SLS.

This decision is also a major blow to Blue Origin and the older big space companies that Jeff Bezos’ company partnered with. Their dependence on the very costly and cumbersome SLS rocket meant that their ability to launch on a schedule and cost desired by NASA was severely limited. NASA looked at the numbers, and decided the time was right to go with a more radical system. As was noted by one NASA official during the press teleconference, “NASA is now more open to innovation.”

Based on the details announced during the announcement, NASA was especially drawn to Starship’s payload capability to bring a large payload to the Moon, at the same time it brings humans there as well. It also appears SpaceX’s recent track record of success also added weight to their bid.

Today’s blacklisted American: Whites at Cornell University

The Civil Rights Act of 1964: repealed by Cornell
The Civil Rights Act of 1964: repealed by Cornell

Continuing my weeklong series documenting the modern bigotry of our culture, today’s bigot is Cornell University, who recently offered a segregated rock-climbing course that whites were forbidden to attend. From the course’s original description:

This class is for people who identify as Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, or other people of color.

Moreover, that original course description made it very clear that the course was limited to such students only.

The original description gave no indication that BIPOC [Black, Indigenous People, Others of Color] students were the “special focus” of the course, instead of the only eligible category for enrollment. While [that original version] said students “will also talk about BIPOC individuals and groups in rock climbing,” that sentence was immediately followed by the restriction to “people who identify as” BIPOC.

Such a class would be illegal under both federal and New York state law.
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Today’s blacklisted Americans: Coca-Cola’s racist policies that discriminate against whites

Coca-Cola's bigoted company policy
Examples of the bigoted educational material
being pushed by Coca-Cola

This week is going to be racism week for my daily posts on blacklisting in today’s fascist culture. Each day I will highlight another example of modern racism by companies and governments against innocent people simply because they were born with the wrong skin color. And that skin color will be white, which is now the one kind of racism that the left now honors and demands, from everyone.

Our first bigot this week is the multi-national soda company Coca-Cola. Most of the news this past week or so has been focused on this company’s mindless decision to condemn Georgia’s new election law, based on Democratic Party lies and a refusal to even read the law.

However, let’s take a closer look at Coke’s bigoted policies, which are expressly designed to create a hostile work environment for anyone who happens to be white, solely based not on their performance but their skin color. The image above shows screen captures of just four slides from a Coke-Cola critical race theory training class, provided by a whistle-blower but later confirmed by the company as accurate.
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Sunspot update: Higher than predicted activity continues

The uncertainty of science: Time for our monthly update of the Sun’s on-going sunspot cycle. Below is NOAA’s April 1, 2021 monthly graph, showing the Sun’s sunspot activity through the end of March 2021. I have annotated it as always to show the previous solar cycle predictions.

The higher than expected sunspot activity that has been occurring almost from the moment the ramp up to solar maximum began in 2020 continued in March. The numbers weren’t as high as they were in December and January, but they were still higher than the predicted sunspot number.

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A data-based broad look at the entire COVID epidemic, one year later

The Scream by Edvard Munch
The Scream by Edvard Munch

One year ago I posted an essay entitled COVID-19: the unwarranted panic. At that time we had just begun a “15-day-lockdown” to slow the spread of the virus, a lockdown that has ended up lasting a year with literally no signs of ending, even though vaccines for the coronavirus are now available and are being administrated widely to millions.

In that essay I reviewed four early science studies that provided some solid initial data about the coronavirus, all of which strongly suggested that it was not the plague many government healthy officials at that time were proclaiming it to be. Instead, these studies showed that it was only a threat to the elderly sick, that it was relatively harmless to a young population, and that the death rate was low, likely well below 1% and possibly very comparable to the flu.

These data strongly suggested to me that lockdowns, social distancing, masks, and restrictions on the freedom of the healthy and young were all a bad idea. Better to follow the traditional response to past such epidemics in which you quarantine the sick, protect the vulnerable (the elderly), and allow everyone else to go about their lives as normal.

We did not do this, however. Instead, as a society we chose in the past year to do the exact oppose, imposing strict lockdowns, mandating social distancing and mask use everywhere, while quarantining the healthy. We did this based on the worst scenarios and models put forth by health officials, who firmly believed COVID-19 was far worse than any past epidemic, and required a new, radical, and much harsher response.

I now want to ask, one year later: Whose conclusions about the seriousness of COVID-19 were more accurate? Was it just another type of flu, though maybe somewhat worse, as I posited, or was it the deadly pestilence predicted by the world’s health authorities?
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SpaceX narrows Mars landing site for Starship to four prime locations

The prime and secondary Martian landing sites for Starship

Capitalism in space: During this week’s 52nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, one poster [pdf] caught my eye as something significant. It was titled “SpaceX Starship Landing Sites on Mars.” The map to the right is figure 1 from that poster, annotated slightly by me based my earlier stories about SpaceX’s use of the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) to research potential Martian landing sites for its Starship spacecraft. The stars indicate MRO images, most of which were described and linked to in my last major post about this SpaceX effort in November 2019.

The red spots covering some stars are the big story: SpaceX has narrowed its choice for its Starship landing site to four prime locations (indicated by the bright red spots) and three backup locations (indicated by the dark red spots). The images under the red spots numbered 2, 4, and 6 were linked to in my November 2019 post. The images under red spots marked by a “D” are earlier images taken by MRO when SpaceX was researching a potential Dragon landing site. The images under red spots labeled 1P and MRO are subsequent images taken by MRO since November 2019, with the 1P image previously linked to in a post in April 2020 entitled “The icy Phlegra Mountains: Mars’ future second city.”

The poster outlined why the prime candidate sites — PM1, EM16, AP1, and AP9 — were favored. For example, PM-1 in the Phlegra Mountains “…has the lowest latitude and elevation of the group, a clear association with LDAs [lobate debris aprons that resemble glacial features], well developed polygons, and has the highest SWIM [Subsurface Water Ice Mapping] score for geomorphic indicators of ice.”

EM 16 “…has a clear association with an LDA with nearby brain terrain and the strongest radar return for shallow ice and the highest combined SWIM score.”

AP1 “…appears to be the safest site and has a moderate combined SWIM score for ice.”

AP9 “…has the thickest ice from radar returns and geomorphology indicating shallow ice. It has the highest combined SWIM score for ice, but appears slightly rocky and rough.”

Below the fold are images, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, of the four primary landing sites, as well as links to the full images of all four plus the three back-up sites (AP8, EM15, and PM7).
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Today’s blacklisted great literature: Shakespeare, Dr. Seuss, and Western Civilization itself

They’re coming for you next: In the past few days there has been a big uproar concerning the decision by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the publisher of all of Dr. Seuss’s books, to cease publication of six of Seuss’s books — “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street”, “If I Ran the Zoo”, “McElligot’s Pool”, “On Beyond Zebra!”, “Scrambled Eggs Super!”, and “The Cat’s Quizzer” — because of imagined “racist and insensitive imagery.”

On its face this decision is ridiculous, especially because Dr. Suess, whose real name was Theodor Geisel, was an ardent defender of liberty who aggressively fought against bigots and Nazis and fascists his entire life.. As recently as a year ago the company that now manages his writing would have been laughed at and shamed so loudly and completely for this decision that it would have very quickly backed down.

No more. Rather than defy stupidity the world now embraces it, as indicated by Ebay’s decision only two days later to ban the sale of any used copies of these books on its auction website.

Nor is this attack on great literature the only example. There are others that are not getting the same coverage that are as bad if not more egregious.
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Mars: Planet of many glaciers

Moraines on Mars
Click for full image.

Today’s cool image more than simply cool, it reveals a wider picture of Mars that should be quite exciting to future colonists. The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on January 30, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). What drew my attention to it was the title given to this uncaptioned photo: “Moraine-Like Ridges in Nereidum Montes.”

Moraines are the debris pile pushed ahead of any glacier. The picture shows what appear to be a series of moraines, likely caused by different periods of glacier activity when the glacier was growing. It also suggests that past active periods were more active than later ones, as with each active period the moraine did not get pushed out quite as far.

The location, Nereidum Montes, intrigued me, as I am not that familiar with it. I emailed the scientist who requested the image, Dan Berman, senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona, and asked him for more information. He suggested I read a very recent paper he co-wrote entitled “Ice-rich landforms of the southern mid-latitudes of Mars: A case study in Nereidum Montes.” From that paper I was able to produce the map of Mars below that shows the regions on the planet where scientists now think hold the greatest concentrations of glaciers.
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February Birthday fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black: THANK YOU

Readers!

My annual February birthday month fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black is now over. It was the best February campaign ever, and the second best of all of my month-long fund-raising campaigns.

There were too many people who contributed to thank you all personally. If I did so I would not have time for the next day or so to actually do any further posts, and I suspect my supporters would prefer me posting on space and culture over getting individual thank you notes.

Let this public thank suffice. I say this often, but I must tell you all that you cannot imagine how much your support means to me. I’ve spent my life fighting a culture hostile to my perspective, a hostility that has often served to squelch my success. Your donations have now allowed me to bypass that hostility to reach a large audience.

Even though the February campaign is over, if you still wish to donate or subscribe you still can do so, by either clicking on the tip jar at the top of the column to the right (on desktops) or near the bottom of the page (on mobile phones), or mailing a check to the address shown in that tip jar.

This thank you post will remain at the top of the page for the next few days.

Yours sincerely,
Robert Zimmerman

Scroll down for new updates.

Rover update: Panorama from Curiosity; Perseverance unwinds

Summary: Curiosity has crept to the foot of Mt Sharp at last, while Perseverance checks out its equipment.

Curiosity

Curiosity panorama Sol 3049
Click for full resolution.

Overview map

This rover update will be short but very sweet. While the press and public has been oo’ing and ah’ing over the first panorama from Perseverance, Curiosity yesterday produced its own panorama above showing the looming cliffs of Mt. Sharp, now only a short distance away. The original images can be found here, here, here, and here.

The overview map to the right, from the “Where is Curiosity?” webpage, shows the rover’s location, with the yellow lines roughly indicating the view afforded by the panorama above. If you compare this panorama with the one I posted in my previous rover update on February 12, 2021, you can get a sense of how far the rover has traveled in just the past two weeks. It now sits near the end of the red dotted line pointing at the mountain, right next to what had been a distant cliff and now is only a short distance to the rover’s right.

Somewhere on the mountain slopes ahead scientists have spotted in orbiter images recurring slope lineae, seasonal streaks on slopes that appear in the spring and fade as they year passes. As Curiosity arrives at the next geological layer a short distance ahead at the base of these cliffs (dubbed the sulfate unit), it will spend probably several months studying both that sulfate unit as well as those lineae. Expect the rover to drill a few holes for samples as it watches to see any changes that might occur on that lineae.

Now, on to Perseverance!
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After a year there is zero evidence government edicts slowed the spread of COVID-19

It never was about the virus: After a year of job-destroying lockdowns and the inhuman muzzling of every citizen in a panicked effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, a careful review of the data continues to show what was obvious as early as September 2020: Those authoritarian government edicts did nothing to stop or even slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The article at the link first compares Florida (where the government edicts were few) and California (which was turned into a fascist state by the edicts of its Democratic Party governor) and found that after a year, Florida was actually impacted less by the virus.

In light of everything our officials have taught us about how this virus spreads, it defies reality that Florida, a fully open and popular travel destination with one of the oldest populations in the country, currently has lower hospitalizations and deaths per million than California, a state with much heavier restrictions and one of the youngest populations in the country. While it is true that, overall, California does slightly better than Florida in deaths per million, simply accounting for California’s much younger population tips the scales in Florida’s favor.

Florida has zero restrictions on bars, breweries, indoor dining, gyms, places of worship, gathering sizes, and almost all schools are offering in-person instruction. California, on the other hand, retains heavy restrictions in each of these areas. At the very least, Florida’s hospitalizations and deaths per million should be substantially worse than California’s. Those who predicted death and destruction as a consequence of Florida’s September reopening simply cannot see these results as anything other than utterly remarkable. Even White House covid advisor Andy Slavitt, much to the establishment’s embarrassment, had no explanation for Florida’s success relative to California. Slavitt was reduced to parroting establishment talking points after admitting that Florida’s surprisingly great numbers were “just a little beyond our explanation.”

The article then goes on to look at national trends, and finds similar results. Overall there is absolute no correlation between harsh restrictions and fewer COVID deaths or hospitalizations. Instead, the biggest factor appears to be local climate.
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The COVID epidemic really IS ending

CDC infection detections of COVID
CDC graph

Though we all know that our fear-driven society and its power-hungry leaders will refuse to recognize this reality in order to permit life to return to a sane normality, the evidence now shows that the ’20-’21 winter season of COVID is now ending.

The big news is that there has been a drastic decline in reported infections since the beginning of the year.

According to the CDC COVID Data Tracker, there were 283,640 new cases on January 2, 2021. As of February 17, there were 69,165 cases. That represents a drop of 75.05 percent in six weeks — for all you fact-checkers out there.

First, we must recognize that the high numbers this season that seem to dwarf last year are caused largely by the increased effort to test everyone. The numbers also do not indicate COVID cases (where someone is sick from the disease) but include everyone who was tested and found positive, even if they were not sick at all. To call all positive detections as COVID cases is dishonest, and would have never been done in the past. Sadly, the idea of honest reporting has long disappeared.

Second, we must remember that these numbers are likely also inflated because it is financially advantageous for medical officials to report a coronavirus detection, even if it has not been clearly established. There has also been an effort to distort the numbers to make them seem worse than they are.

Finally, most news sources have been combining the statistics from last year’s COVID season with this year’s in order to inflate the numbers. This is bad reporting. The proper thing to do is to report them as separate seasons. If you did this you find that the numbers make the coronavirus not much different than the Hong Kong flu, when adjusted for population. It might be worse, but not unduly so.

For COVID, separating its annual seasons has been made more little difficult because the lockdowns and the insistence that everyone wear masks (almost all of which were worn improperly) I think caused a second unprecedented COVID summer season. That summer rise would likely not have happened if we had allowed people to behave normally in the summer weather, when such respiratory illnesses fade. Instead, everyone wore unsanitary masks that they touched constantly (increasing the changes they were exposed to the pathogen) while confining them indoors where such viruses prosper.

Regardless, the data strongly suggests this year’s coronavirus season is waning, as always happens with such respiratory diseases with the coming of spring. And certainly the arrival of vaccines against COVID is contributing to this decline as well.

All good news. Are you ready to cheer, or will you find ways to see only the half-filled part of the glass?

Nor is this news all. Two more stories in the past few weeks now give us a far better and hopeful sense of the disease’s scope and future.
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A historian’s memorial to Rush Limbaugh

I originally posted the essay below a year ago when we first learned that Rush Limbaugh was seriously ill with lung cancer. With his passing today, I think it needs to be reread, with an addendum at the end.

A historian’s memorial to Rush Limbaugh (February 4, 2020)

It was very strange to me to hear yesterday’s sad announcement by Rush Limbaugh that he had been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. In the last six months or so my mind had actually been contemplating the fact that Limbaugh had been doing his show for more than three decades, was in his late sixties, and was not immortal. I had been trying to imagine what it would be like when he was no longer a fixture in the daily news reporting cycle, and I had been failing. I couldn’t imagine it.

Now it appears we might all be finally facing it. As they say, reality bites.

For those who have listened to him regularly these past three decades, the loss will be immeasurable. Without question Rush Limbaugh has been the best political analyst, from a conservative perspective, for the past half century. You might disagree with his opinions, but no one has been as correct and as pertinent and as thoughtful, consistently getting to the heart of every political battle, and doing it in an amazingly entertaining manner.

I first heard Rush Limbaugh back in 1988, when I lived in New York and was starving for a different and refreshing perpective on the news.
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An update on coronavirus from an Arizona doctor

My personal GP doctor in Arizona, Robert Lending, has for the last year sent out weekly detailed updates to his patients on the on-going COVID-19 epidemic. I thought I provide my readers his carefully researched doctor’s perspective, with his permission of course.

First he updates us on the state of the epidemic in Arizona:

The surge in AZ and in Pima County is over; with dramatic decreases in Cases, Case Fatality Rates (CFR), and Case Hospitalization Rates (CHR). The hospitalization utilizations including beds and ventilators, etc. are markedly decreased. {{{Tucson Medical Center is down to 10.5% Inpatient Covid-19, and they will resume elective surgeries.}}} The initial reductions began before vaccinations, but now may have been helped by the vaccinations. On the other hand, the virus acts as it will; independent of most of society’s attempts to control or modify it, no matter what the politicians and health department officials state. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted text matches what I have been saying for the past year, that the panicky effort to “stop the spread of COVID-19” was foolish, counterproductive, and entirely useless. And the evidence now a year later supports that conclusion. Nothing done by any government anywhere in the world has stopped the virus from spreading, whether it be lockdowns, masks, or quarantines. In the U.S. and Europe especially places that imposed fewer restrictions on their citizens seemed to fare about the same as places where the government stamped down hard. And those former places also had less negative consequences for their economies and for the freedoms of their citizens.

Meanwhile, the evidence is that the epidemic in Arizona is fading. And as far as I can see, during its height it affected almost no one in the general population. Like the flu it impacted the elderly sick the most, but everyone else either didn’t see it at all, or if they got sick they almost always recovered.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter that the epidemic is fading and that a vaccine is now available. The unreasonable rules imposed during the panic remain in force, and likely will never go away. And I speak from experience. For example, in trying to schedule an appointment with another doctor, I was told by his office that even if I had tested negative for COVID, received the vaccine, and quarantined myself between its receipt and my appearance at the office, I would still be required to wear a mask.

Think about that. I would be totally healthy and have no symptoms and could in no way transmit the virus, and yet the mask would still be required. We are now a society that irrationally sees all other humans as a threat to be avoided, at all times.

As for the flu, Lending noted some very intriguing data.
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Rover update: The rovers are coming! The rovers are coming!

With the imminent landing on Mars of both the American rover Perseverance only days away on February 18th followed by China’s rover in April, I think it time for a new rover update, not only providing my readers a review of the new landing sites but a look at the most recent travels of Curiosity on Mars and Yutu-2 on the Moon.

Curiosity

Curiosity's view of the base of Mount Sharp, February 12, 2021
Click for full resolution image.

Overview map of Curiosity's most recent and future travels

The panorama above, made from four images taken by Curiosity’s right navigation camera on February 12, 2021 (found here, here, here, and here), looks south to the base of Mount Sharp, now only a short distance away. The yellow lines on the overview map to the right show the area this panorama covers. The white line indicates Curiosity’s previous travels. The dotted red line in both images shows Curiosity’s planned route.

The two white dots on the overview map are the locations of the two recurring slope lineae along Curiosity’s route, with the plan to get reasonable close to the first and spend some time there studying it. These lineae are one of Mars’ most intriguing phenomenon, seasonal dark streaks that appear on slopes in the spring and fade by the fall. There are several theories attempting to explain their formation, most proposing the seepage of a brine from below ground, but none has been accepted yet with any enthusiasm.
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The coming death of NASA’s Space Launch System

SLS about to be cancelled?

In the past week there have been a slew of stories that all suggest strongly that the political support for the NASA-built rocket dubbed the Space Launch System (SLS) is fading very quickly, and might soon be weak enough that the political class in Washington might finally have the courage to cancel it.

First, a group of eleven Democratic Party senators on February 3rd wrote a letter [pdf] to the Biden administration, begging it to continue the manned lunar program dubbed Artemis that the Trump administration had instigated.

What made that letter remarkable was that it made no mention of SLS at all. Instead, its focus was to encourage Biden to not abandon construction of the Artemis manned lunar lander, what NASA dubs the Human Landing System (HLS).

Until that moment it had always been assumed in political circles that if you continue Artemis it means you continue SLS. Artemis itself was conceived as a program to give that heavy-lift rocket a purpose. SLS had been mandated by Congress a decade ago when Obama cancelled Bush’s Ares heavy-lift rocket. The problem was that Congress had not proposed any mission for SLS, and thus Artemis was born to give it that mission.

That these Democrats were pushing Artemis but not SLS was politically significant. It meant that they no longer considered Artemis synonymous with SLS. The former could exist without the latter.
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