Category Archives: Points of Information

compromise approved by Senate panel

Keith Cowing at NASAWatch reports in detail about the unanimous approval of the amended Senate budget for NASA. The final budget appears to have raised the funding for commercial space development to match the Obama request, while adding one more flight to the shuttle schedule and mandating an immediate start of work on some sort of heavy-lift rocket.

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Why I don’t watch television news

This story illustrates nicely why no one should trust the reliablity of any news reporting they see on television or cable. Key quote:

Back in late-1989, I contended that the U.S. economy was in or headed into a deep recession. CNBC had me in to discuss my views along with a senior economist for a large New York bank, who was looking for continued economic growth. Before the show, the bank economist and I shared our views in the Green Room. I outlined my case for a major recession, and, to my shock, his response was, “I think that pretty much is the consensus.” We got on the air, I gave my recession pitch, and he proclaimed a booming economy for the year ahead. He was a good economist and knew what was happening, but he had to put out the story mandated by his employer, or he would not have had a job.

More recently, following an interview on a major cable news network (not CNBC), I was advised off-air by the producer that they were operating under a corporate mandate to give the economic news a positive spin, irrespective of how bad it was.” And now you know that watching stations like CNBC for anything more than just comedic value is hazardous to your health and wealth.

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Greenland icecap is not melting

Steve Goddard has posted on Anthony Watt’s webpage a very detailed update on the state of the icecap covering Greenland. Surprise! There are no signs of it disappearing anytime soon. (Note that you might have to scroll to the right to see the text of Goddard’s post, as on some computers Watts’s webpage is unfortunately far too wide for the screen.)

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Boulder tracks on Mars

Here’s a nice picture from the HiRISE camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, released July 7, showing the boulder tracks left by rocks bouncing down the escarpment of Kasei Valles in the low gravity of Mars. Fun quote:

Some of these blocks traveled downhill several hundred meters (yards) as they rolled and bounced, leaving behind a trail of indentations or poke marks in the surface’s fine-grained, light-toned soils. The raised borders in some of these poke marks indicate they are relatively recent features, unaffected by wind erosion, or that this soil has cohesive properties, such as if it was cemented.

Boulder tracks on Mars

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Jeff Foust analysis of the New Space business

Jeff Foust of the Space Review has written an excellent analysis today explaining why some new space companies have succeeded (SpaceX) and some have failed (Rocketplane). Key quote:

If your business plan requires hundreds of millions of dollars of investment, and your founders don’t have that money available themselves, it may be wise to reconsider that plan in favor of an effort that can bootstrap itself with much less funding.

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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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