Category Archives: Points of Information

Caving July 10, 2010

I was out in West Virginia this weekend for the monthly gathering of the Germany Valley Karst Survey. This project has discovered and mapped more than 37 miles of virgin cave passage in West Virginia in the past eight years. For the last two years I, along with about a dozen other project members, have been focused on a dig in a small cave that has the potential to break out into a lot of virgin passage. Below are two pictures taken by fellow caver Daniel Martinez, the first showing me at the cave entrance and the second showing my feet as crawl in.

At the entrance

entering the cave

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A dark and stormy night

The 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest has been awarded, given to the writer who comes up with the worst opening sentence for an imaginary novel. This year’s winner, Molly Ringle, achieved the honor with this gem:

For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity’s affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss — a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity’s mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world’s thirstiest gerbil.

Go here to see the runners-up, all of which are worth it.

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More questions about climategate inquiry

More questions are being raised about the various climategate investigations, this time in the UK Parliament. Key quote:

Climategate may finally be living up to its name. If you recall, it wasn’t the burglary or use of funding that led to the impeachment of Nixon, but the cover-up. Now, ominously, three inquiries into affair have raised more questions than there were before.

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Water found around carbon star; Bok globule

Water vapor detected in deep space, first near the carbon star V Cygni and second in two dark starless cores. The second detection is a first time water has been seen in these black clouds. Fun quote from the abstract of the first paper notes how the detection “raises the intriguing possibility that the observed water is produced by the vapourisation of orbiting comets or dwarf planets.”

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Senate deal on NASA budget

Bad link fixed. Sorry.

The Senate committee that authorizes NASA’s program is nearing a deal that would “reverse large swaths” of President Obama’s budget proposal. The proposal would add one more shuttle flight, restore the full scale Orion capsule, and add funds to immediately build a heavy lift rocket to replace the shuttle. More to come, I’m sure.

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Orbital’s COTS capsule taking shape

The Cygnus capsule is taking shape. Orbital Sciences signed a COTS contract with NASA in 2008 (as did SpaceX with its Falcon 9 rocket) to provide cargo ferrying services to ISS, and they are making real progress toward their first demonstration flight in the spring of 2011. That they have subcontracted most of the work to foreign companies, however, limits how much their work can help the American aerospace industry.

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Another climategate whitewash

Updated. Also, bad link fixed. Sorry.

Another climategate whitewash. Phil Jones, at the center of the scandal, has been reinstated by the University of East Anglia. Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit has an excellent analysis of the some of the absurd rationalizations the investigation adopted to clear Jones.

This Daily Mail article on the investigation gives a somewhat balanced description.

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First photos from inside Hayabusa capsule

Update and bumped: More details have been released about what was inside the Hayabusa capsule. In total, two 0.01 millimeter particles have been found in the inner capsule, and about 10 large particles in the outer capsule.

The first photo from inside the Hayabusa capsule has been released, showing the presence of a tiny 0.01 millimeter particle. It is still unknown whether this is an asteroid particle or something captured on the return to Earth.

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Another climategate whitewash?

Another climategate whitewash? The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency has reviewed the 2007 UN IPCC report and decided that, though the report did have some really embarrassing errors (including some new ones uncovered by the review), the IPCC’s conclusion — that global warming is happening and that it is caused by humans — must still be correct.

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Government and the impending shortage of helium

The law of unintended consequences strikes again! We are going to run out of our supply of helium, and it is all because the government first tried to manage and control the resource in the early 20th century, and then decided in the 1990s to extricate itself from that management. For those of us following the continuing space war over NASA’s future, this story is most instructive in illustrating how difficult it is to get the government out of our lives, once we have let it in.

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