Tag Archives: history

First Man: Trivializing the lunar landing

First Man movie flightsuits, without American flag

This past weekend movie-goers finally got to see the world premiere of First Man, a movie based on the biography with the same title telling the life story of Neil Armstrong, the first man to step onto the surface of another word.

Prior to the movie’s release there was some controversy when Ryan Gosling, the actor playing Armstrong, said that they had left out the scene on the Moon when the astronauts planted the American Flag because their goal was to highlight Armstrong’s personal story as well as the global nature of the achievement.

Star Ryan Gosling, who plays Armstrong, defended director Damien Chazelle’s decision to omit the star-spangled moment when asked about it in Venice. “I think this was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement [and] that’s how we chose to view it, ” Gosling said per the Telegraph. “I also think Neil was extremely humble, as were many of these astronauts, and time and time again he deferred the focus from himself to the 400,000 people who made the mission possible.”

The Canadian actor added that based on his own interviews with Armstrong’s family and friends, he doesn’t believe the pioneering astronaut considered himself an American hero. “I don’t think that Neil viewed himself as an American hero,” Gosling said. From my interviews with his family and people that knew him, it was quite the opposite. And we wanted the film to reflect Neil.” [emphasis mine]

Many on the right including myself, strongly criticized this statement. The movies director, Damien Chazelle, immediately responded, saying he was not trying to devalue the importance of the American achievement but to focus instead on telling Neil Armstrong’s personal story. “My goal with this movie was to share with audiences the unseen, unknown aspects of America’s mission to the moon — particularly Neil Armstrong’s personal saga and what he may have been thinking and feeling during those famous few hours.”

I decided I had been unfair to criticize the film without seeing it, and decided I would make a rare trip to a movie theater as soon as it was released to see it and then review it.
» Read more

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Why Modern Music Is Awful

An evening pause: I find it interesting that almost all of the pop stars mentioned in this video have never been posted here as an evening pause. I want and like variety, and the main take-away from this video is the increasing sameness of modern music. Blah.

In sense, this video is an instruction manual for everyone who wants to send me a suggestion for an evening pause. It tells you the kind of music I will likely not be interested in, should you suggest it to me. To put it simply, if it sounds like everything else produced today, then it won’t get cast in the audition.

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Betty Grissom, widow of Mercury astronaut Gus Grissom, passes away

R.I.P. Betty Grissom, the widow of Mercury astronaut Gus Grissom, who died in the Apollo 1 launchpad fire in 1967, passed away today at 91 after a sudden illness.

The article makes a big deal about her successful lawsuit against North American Rockwell, the manufacturer of the Apollo capsule. I think we should instead emphasize her own courage, allowing her to agree and support her husband as he risked and lost all to help the United States win the race to the Moon.

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Honoring the Apollo 8 astronauts

Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, Bill Anders, Jim Lovell

They are still here. Fifty years after becoming the first humans to leave Earth orbit and travel to another world, a mission that NASA believed only had a 50-50 chance of success, the three Apollo 8 astronauts are still with us, hale and hearty despite the passing of many years.

On October 6 the Museum of Science and Technology honored all three men with a magnificent event. The picture on the right was taken during that event, shortly after the three men, Frank Borman, Bill Anders, and Jim Lovell (from left to right) had posed for a typical group shot. It far better reveals their personalities, with Borman looking outward, Anders thoughtful, and Lovell laughing.

Borman and Lovell are ninety years old, while Anders is about to turn eight-five on October 17. Yet, all three remain as sharp as they were in 1968, when they circled the Moon. Only the wear and tear of age and time is slowing them down. It was an honor to see them again and shake their hands. It was also sad, as it was clear that time stops for no one, no matter how deserving. Flying to the Moon on a mission that many thought incredibly risky couldn’t stop them. Time unfortunately will.

We are blessed to still have them. Once again during the dinner presentation they talked of their mission, kidding each other repeatedly about what had happened, and talking about why they went and what they thought the future might hold. Borman was pessimistic about the future of space, but then he remains fixated on the concept of a government program for space. Anders meanwhile was in touch with the rise of private commercial space, and advocated that it is where the future lies.

Lovell was Lovell, as always a space cadet, enthused for the future exploration of space, no matter how we do it.

This event is likely only the beginning. Over the next year there are going to many similar events, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary the 1960s Apollo triumph, right through to the landing in July. To me, however, it will always be Apollo 8 that had the most historical impact. Everything that happened afterward merely reinforced what that flight taught us.

Below the fold are two more pictures from the event.
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The central peaks of Copernicus crater

Central peaks of Copernicus Crater

Cool image time! Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter science team has released a new image of the central peaks of Copernicus Crater, shown on the right cropped and reduced in resolution.

Copernicus (9.62°N, 339.92°E), which is easily seen with a moderately powerful backyard telescope, is one of the best-known craters on the Moon. Despite its age (around 860 million years), it is well preserved with over 4000 meters of relief from floor to rim, and the tallest of its central peaks rises approximately 1300 meters above the crater floor. This image, centered on the central peaks, was captured just after dawn (86° incidence angle) as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter slewed west to a 67°angle.

The image is similar to one taken back in 2012, but has a higher resolution because it was shot from 50 miles elevation instead of 75.

This crater was also the subject of one of the first breath-taking images ever taken of the Moon from lunar orbit, by Lunar Orbiter in November 1966.

The wider view taken by LRO gives some context for the image above. The peaks shown in closeup here are part of the lower right grouping. If you go to the first link above you can zoom in and explore all parts of the full image, and see some quite amazing details, including the large boulders scatter throughout the hollows between the peaks.

Copernicus Crater

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IAU names two craters in honor of 50th anniversary Apollo 8 mission

Earthrise

The International Astronautical Union has named two craters “8 Homeward” and “Anders’ Earthrise,” both visible in astronaut Bill Anders iconic Earthrise image, in honor of the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission to the Moon.

The Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union has today officially approved the naming of two craters on the Moon to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission. The names are Anders’ Earthrise and 8 Homeward.

The newly named craters are visible in the foreground of the iconic Earthrise colour photograph taken by astronaut William Anders. It depicts the moment that our shiny blue Earth came back into view as the spacecraft emerged out of the dark from behind the grey and barren Moon. This is arguably the most famous picture taken by Apollo 8. It became iconic and has been credited with starting the environmental movement.

The image is to the right, with the two craters indicated. I have rotated the image so that the horizon is on the right, since is how Anders took it. As I noted in Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8 (now available as both an ebook and audiobook),

Bill Anders’ photograph of earthrise, taken on December 24, 1968, possibly one of the most reprinted photographs ever taken. The way it is usually reproduced, however, with the Moon’s horizon at the bottom, is not how Bill Anders took it.

Instead, the way it is shown on the cover of Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8 is the way he framed it, with the Moon’s horizon on the right. This is also how it is framed at Bill Anders’s home, which also was the first time I had ever seen it oriented that way. When I asked Anders why it was framed that way, he answered, “That’s how I took it.”

To Anders, floating in zero gravity, the earth wasn’t rising from behind an horizon line (which is how a human living on a planet’s surface would perceive it). Instead, floating in a space capsule seventy miles above the moon, Anders saw himself circling the moon’s equator. The lunar horizon therefore appeared vertical to him, and the earth moved right to left as it came out from behind the moon.

In 1968 the IAU had refused to accept some of the astronauts’ naming choices. This honor now somewhat corrects that injustice.

UPDATE: One more historical note: On Saturday there will be a 50th Reunion Dinner for the Apollo 8 astronauts at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. I will be attending, so today is a travel day.

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Celebrate Earthrise Day!

In only a little less than three months we will be celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the December 1968 flight of Apollo 8 — first manned mission to another world. During that mission three humans spent 20 hours in orbit around the Moon, during which they read the first twelve verses of the Old Testament on Christmas Eve and became the first humans to witness an Earthrise and to photograph it.

To celebrate that achievement, a new website has been created, dubbed Celebrate Earthrise Day.

The website provides some great background material. You can listen to the astronaut’s Christmas telecast as well as see a recreation of the moment when the astronauts saw that Earthrise and Bill Anders took his famous color photo. The site also includes many photos from before, during, and after the mission, with many pictures coming from the personal family pictures of the astronauts. There is also audio of an 1988 Bill Anders’ interview, as well as a video of a fascinating presentation made by Bill and Valerie Anders, describing their life journey leading up to Apollo 8 and afterward.

Finally, and I think of most interest to my readers here, the site includes the audio of my introduction from the new audio edition of my book, Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8.

The site also includes the audio of one of the best radio interviews I have ever done, broadcast in 1998, on the subject of Apollo 8, our American culture, and the importance of each person choosing their path in life wisely. You can find that audio at the bottom of this webpage.

Check it all out. I think you will find it worth your while.

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Historian discovers long-lost original of Galileo letter

An historian doing different research in the library of Great Britain’s Royal Society has accidentally discovered a long-lost original of a letter by Galileo that might clarify the events surrounding his eventual trial with the Inquisition.

The seven-page letter, written to a friend on 21 December 1613 and signed “G.G.”, provides the strongest evidence yet that, at the start of his battle with the religious authorities, Galileo actively engaged in damage control and tried to spread a toned-down version of his claims.

The question that has been bothering historians for hundreds of years is whether the letter, used as evidence against Galileo during his inquisition trail, was doctored by the inquisition or Galileo. During the trial Galileo presented a milder version that he claimed was the original. This original, with corrections in Galileo’s hand, suggests it was he that did the rewrite.

The story of how postdoctoral student from Italy, Salvatore Ricciardo, found it in a British library however is as interesting:

Ricciardo uncovered the document when he was spending a month this summer touring British libraries to study any handwritten comments that readers might have left on Galileo’s printed works. When his one day at the Royal Society was finished, he idly flicked through the online catalogue looking for anything to do with Castelli, whose writings he had recently finished editing.

One entry jumped out at him — a letter that Galileo wrote to Castelli. According to the catalogue, it was dated 21 October 1613. When Ricciardo examined it, his heart leapt. It appeared to include Galileo’s own signature, “G.G.”; was actually dated 21 December 1613; and contained many crossings out. He immediately realized the letter’s potential importance and asked for permission to photograph all seven pages.

“Strange as it might seem, it has gone unnoticed for centuries, as if it were transparent,” says Giudice [Ricciardo’s doctoral supervisor]. The misdating might be one reason that the letter has been overlooked by Galileo scholars, says Giudice. The letter was included in an 1840 Royal Society catalogue — but was also misdated there, as 21 December 1618.Another reason might be that the Royal Society is not the go-to place in the United Kingdom for this type of historical document, whose more natural home would have been the British Library.

The historians are now trying to trace how long the letter has been in the Royal Society library, and how it arrived there. They know that it has been there since at least the mid-eighteenth century, and they have found hints in old catalogues that it might even have been there a century or more earlier. The researchers speculate that it might have arrived at the society thanks to close connections between the Royal Society and the Academy of Experiments in Florence, which was founded in 1657 by Galileo’s students but fizzled out within a decade or so.

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A Trip Through Victorian Paris, France

An evening pause: This footage was taken from 1896 to 1900 in Paris, and has been cleaned up and shown here at the correct speed with sound added to match the visuals. What you will see:

0:08 – Notre-Dame Cathedral (1896)
0:58 – Alma Bridge (1900)
1:37 – Avenue des Champs-Élysées (1899)
2:33 – Place de la Concorde (1897)
3:24 – Passing of a fire brigade (1897)
3:58 – Tuileries Garden (1896)
4:48 – Moving walkway at the Paris Exposition (1900)
5:24 – The Eiffel Tower from the Rives de la Seine à Paris (1897)

What strikes me is the dignified behavior and dress of the people. We are of course mostly looking at Paris’s high class streets, but nonetheless there is something in the culture that requires them to behave as civilized as they can.

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John Sebastian – Darling be home soon

An evening pause: A simple love song, as performed at Woodstock, August 1969. The moment in time is significant.

Go–
And beat your crazy heads against the sky.
Try–
And see beyond the houses and your eyes.
It’s okay to shoot the Moon.

On this day, September 11th, it is worthwhile taking this glimpse at what the American dream stood for, and still stands for — gentle love and allowing each person to follow their dreams to do wonderful things — versus those other extremist ideologies that brook no dissent and have killed thousands, on this day as well as before and after.

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Armstrong filmmakers purposely obscured American flag

The filmmakers for the Neil Armstrong biography film, First Man, made a conscious decision to hide or obscure the American flag in certain situations.

This new information has been provided to me by a Washington consultant who, because of his own outrage over their decision to not show the planting of the American flag during the lunar landing, had been given the opportunity to see selected clips from the movie as well as ask questions to the production team.

First Man movie flightsuits, without American flag

According to that meeting, he learned that they had consciously made the decision to either reposition or remove American flags from the blue flight suits that the astronauts wore from day to day so that it would not be visible. The image on the right, from the movie, illustrates this, as the American flag was almost always sewn into the upper left shoulder of these suits.

The filmmakers also purposely repositioned the flag or filmed angles for many scenes that acted to obscure the flag on the astronauts’ white pressure suits.

The reasons the filmmakers gave for doing this was to enhance their foreign ticket sales.

To this I say, baloney. They might have had this financial excuse, but I think this holds little or no weight. By willingly admitting that they hid the flag in this petty way they have confirmed their political agenda, their desire to convince the world that this mission was not an American achievement but a “human achievement.” Both the film’s Canadian star as well as its director have made it clear they have a globalist vision of the Apollo program, and wanted to spread the credit of its achievement to all humanity. Consciously hiding the flag in this small-minded manner demonstrates their political motives.

Moreover, even though the director, Damien Chazelle, might have wanted to focus on “Neil Armstrong’s personal saga and what he may have been thinking and feeling during those famous few hours,” removing or obscuring icons of the United States serves no purpose other than to remove the United States from this decidedly American moment. Showing the flag on the flightsuits and pressure suits does not make this a jingoistic pro-American propaganda film. Nor does it do anything to prevent Chazelle from telling Neil Armstrong’s personal story. In fact, if anything, hiding the flag detracts from that goal, as Armstrong was very much doing this for his country (as numerous people who knew him have said), and to de-emphasize that reality is to rewrite history in a very dishonest way.

The pettiness of this entire action further outrages me. There is no doubt that sales would not have suffered in foreign countries, in the slightest, had the American flag been left where it belonged on these suits, and had been shown appropriately in other scenes. It accomplishes nothing positive for the film. What it does do is tell us what these Hollywood “artists” think of America.

So that there is no misunderstanding, I must add that neither my source nor I have as yet seen the entire film. It is still possible that these criticisms are unfair, and that the filmmakers might have shown the American flag appropriately in other scenes, and might even have shown it prominently.

Nonetheless, what we now know is that these filmmakers did made a conscious effort to rewrite history so that the United States no longer appeared as prominent in these events as it should have. Once again, it appears to me that these Hollywood filmmakers did this to express their disdain, almost hatred, of the United States and all that it stands for.

For this fact alone I think Americans should reconsider spending any of their hard-earned money on seeing this propaganda piece.

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Director of Neil Armstrong movie responds to flag critics

The director of the movie about Neil Armstrong, First Man, has issued a statement about criticism the movie is getting for not showing a scene of Armstrong and Aldrin planting the American flag on the Moon.

Below is Damien Chazelle’s statement in its entirety:

In “First Man” I show the American flag standing on the lunar surface, but the flag being physically planted into the surface is one of several moments of the Apollo 11 lunar EVA that I chose not to focus upon. To address the question of whether this was a political statement, the answer is no. My goal with this movie was to share with audiences the unseen, unknown aspects of America’s mission to the moon — particularly Neil Armstrong’s personal saga and what he may have been thinking and feeling during those famous few hours.

I wanted the primary focus in that scene to be on Neil’s solitary moments on the moon — his point of view as he first exited the LEM, his time spent at Little West Crater, the memories that may have crossed his mind during his lunar EVA. This was a feat beyond imagination; it was truly a giant leap for mankind. This film is about one of the most extraordinary accomplishments not only in American history, but in human history. My hope is that by digging under the surface and humanizing the icon, we can better understand just how difficult, audacious and heroic this moment really was. [emphasis mine]

That he did show the American flag on the Moon is encouraging to me, and makes me think that the criticisms about this issue being leveled at the film, including mine, are possibly unfair.

At the same time, I have witnessed too often the desire of Hollywood to denigrate the United States, so I remain suspicious. Getting eyes on the film to get another perspective would I think be very helpful. I might myself have to view it to give my own perspective.

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Audiobook of Genesis: the story of Apollo 8 now available

I am pleased to announce the release of the audiobook edition of Genesis: the story of Apollo 8. From the official press release:

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of one of mankind’s boldest adventures, the first manned flight to another world. To mark the occasion, an audio version of the first book about the mission of Apollo 8 has been released, narrated by Grover Gardner, a legend in the ears of fans of audiobooks all over the planet.

Says Valerie Anders, wife of Apollo 8 crew member Bill Anders, “When I first read this excellent account, published before the end of the space shuttle era, I was delighted.”

Now, with the advent of high quality audio books and online merchants like iTunes and Audible, and the resonant and expressive voice of narrator Grover Garner, everyone can enjoy this recording of this pivotal moment in space history.

While more recent books have been published on the mission of Apollo 8 (most of which rely heavily on Zimmerman’s work), none has captured the impact the Apollo program had on the families of the astronauts nearly so well as “Genesis – the story of Apollo 8.” The new forward to “Genesis,” by Valerie Anders, contains a moving tribute to those pilots who never returned from their missions – not as faraway as the moon, but just as dangerous and far more frequent.

This audio presentation also includes a preface and afterward recorded by the author, Robert Zimmerman, noted science journalist, a member of the National Association of Science Writers, and winner of numerous awards. Grover Gardner has been the narrator of more than 500 books, including many of the most popular audio books ever recorded, including the three part biography of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro and Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton. AudioFile magazine refers to him as “one of the best voices of the century.”

“Genesis – the story of Apollo 8” was produced for audio distribution by space fan and Army Lt Colonel William Hartel, who spends his work days as a professor of dentistry at the University of Tennessee. It is available wherever audiobooks are sold and runs 9 hours and 33 minutes.

Contact info: William Hartel, whartel123@aol.com 314-402-5227

You can listen to Grover Gardner’s reading of the foreword by Valerie Anders here.

The audiobook can be purchased directly from all the standard vendors. Or you can get it free with a 30-day trial membership in Audible for $19.99. This costs $2 more than buying the book direct, but this free trial deal will give me a much bigger cut per sale. If you support what I am doing, consider it.

And as always, for those who prefer to read, the ebook edition is also available.

Genesis cover

The ebook edition of Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8 includes a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 

Available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the publisher, Mountain Lake Press.

 

“Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America’s quest for the moon… Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America’s greatest human triumphs.”
–San Antonio Express-News

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Hollywood once again reveals its distaste for America

The just released new Hollywood movie detailing the life of Neil Armstrong, First Man, has so far gotten rave reviews.

Sadly, however, there is one detail about the Apollo 11 mission that the filmmakers decided they couldn’t include, even though it was in many ways the entire point of the mission. They made a conscious decision to exclude any mention of the planting of the American flag on the surface of the Moon.

Star Ryan Gosling, who plays Armstrong, defended director Damien Chazelle’s decision to omit the star-spangled moment when asked about it in Venice. “I think this was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement [and] that’s how we chose to view it, ” Gosling said per the Telegraph. “I also think Neil was extremely humble, as were many of these astronauts, and time and time again he deferred the focus from himself to the 400,000 people who made the mission possible.”

The Canadian actor added that based on his own interviews with Armstrong’s family and friends, he doesn’t believe the pioneering astronaut considered himself an American hero. “I don’t think that Neil viewed himself as an American hero,” Gosling said. From my interviews with his family and people that knew him, it was quite the opposite. And we wanted the film to reflect Neil.” [emphasis mine]

This is bunk. All the astronauts who flew to the Moon were very aware that they were warriors in the Cold War against the Soviet Union and communism, and did it very consciously so that the U.S. could win that space race, for the U.S. Planting the flag was thus for them a very important aspect of the mission, maybe in many ways the most important.

That these Hollywood filmmakers purposely excluded that moment only illustrates to me once again the hostility, even hate, that the modern elitist culture has for the United States and everything it has stood for since 1776: freedom, blind justice before the law, and individual responsibility. Here it appears they are making an effort to separate that very decidedly American culture, which made the lunar landing possible, from that achievement. They want to honor Armstrong as an individual, but do not want to give any credit to the country and culture that sent him to the Moon. Instead, they want to claim that the Apollo landings were merely “a human achievement.”

For shame.

This makes me very unwilling to spend any money to see this movie. Why should I support the work of such intellectually dishonest people?

I must add that I have already been emailed by several readers who are similarly outraged. I wonder therefore if this will turn into something that will actually hurt ticket sales. I suspect not, as too many Americans today do not care very much about these issues. They will go to be entertained, and many will buy into the lie that the Apollo missions was an achievement not of America but of the entire global world, working together in love and peace.

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The search for Mars Polar Lander

A small section where Polar Lander might have crashed

In December 1999 the U.S. lander Mars Polar Lander was to set down near the southern polar cap of Mars. After an almost routine eleven month journey to Mars, all efforts to contact the spacecraft after its landing failed. A NASA review eventually concluded that the spacecraft had prematurely shut down its landing engines while the spacecraft was still far above the surface, and had therefore crashed to the ground.

Since then there have been extensive efforts to locate the lander’s remains on the surface, all to no avail. Though Mars Global Surveyor, in orbit at the time, tried to find it, its resolution was not sufficient. In recent years Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has taken several dozen high resolution images of the estimated landing area, two of the most recent were included in the August 2018 image release. The image on the right is a cropped section of one of those images, illustrating the difficulty of the search. (If you click on the image you can explore the full version.) The other image is quite similar.

As the southern polar cap shrinks and grows seasonally, it produces endless numbers of black spots from the release of underground dust as the carbon dioxide dry ice sublimates into gas. Moreover, the growth and retreat of the dry ice cap changes the landscape, periodically covering any remains of the rover as well as quickly removing many of the ground disturbances that the crash might have caused. In the almost two decades since the lander’s crash landing, about ten Martian years have passed, meaning that cap has melted and frozen ten times over this region in that time.

Images taken by MRO of Mars Polar Lander landing area

The image on the right shows the footprint of all the images that MRO has so far taken of the Mars Polar Lander landing area. If you are ambitious and want to get your name in the news, all you have to do is spend some time combing through those images and find the lander there. Every one of these images is available for public download at full resolution. Go to HiRise image archive, hover your mouse over latitude 77 degrees south, longitude 166 degrees east, and click several times to zoom in. You then change the selector icon at the top from “+” to “the arrow”. When next you click on any portion of that footprint it will show you a bunch of the images taken, all of which you can now download and inspect.

If you are successful and find the lander, please let me know. It would be nice to make that announcement here on Behind the Black.

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The Polls Are Crazy

Link here. The author does what I had been thinking of doing, of listing a bunch of recent polls that result in completely contradictory conclusions about where the November 2018 elections might be headed.

So how can we make sense of all of this? We can’t. Voters increasingly see the Democrats as extreme and out of the mainstream–no surprise there, since they are. Many Democrats want the U.S. to follow in Venezuela’s footsteps, but don’t want to admit it. Meanwhile most voters, while sensing this, also want the Democrats to control Congress.

My guess is that the polls are missing major currents that will become clear, as in 2016, only after the votes are counted. What those currents will turn out to be, no one really knows.

I can probably provide one possible explanation for why the polls “are missing major currents.” For the past year I have been routinely hanging up on robot-polls. I found them to generally be insulting, useless, and stupid. Then, about three months ago I got a live person conducting a poll, and decided to participate. It was centered on the Republican primary for Congress in my district, something I had not yet delved into.

I soon found it was a push poll, designed to make two candidates look terrible while a third God’s gift to heaven. This was as insulting and annoying as the robot-polls. Worse, it took about ten minutes of increasingly obvious questions to find this out, a real waste of my time.

Since then, I have been refusing to participate in any polls, live or robot. I have better things to do with my time. And I suspect I am not alone in this decision. The number of polls that have been calling our home sometimes rose to ten a day, most of which were fake push polls or stupid in their content. I can imagine a lot of people have responded as I have, which of course makes all the polls increasingly unreliable.

One more thing revealed by the polls at the link, though this really isn’t a surprise: The favorable opinion of socialism held by the young and Democrats is based on some astonishing and apparent ignorance:

Still, one wonders: how can any sentient being favor an ideology that turns a prosperous country into Cuba, Albania, the U.S.S.R., North Korea or Venezuela? The only explanation is invincible ignorance. Rasmussen sheds light on the nature of that ignorance: “Democrats are less likely to know what socialism is compared to other voters but have a much more favorable opinion of it.”

Rasmussen applied a simple criterion for socialism: “Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Democrats…incorrectly believe the individual has more power than the government in a socialist system, a view held by just 12% of Republicans and seventeen percent (17%) of unaffiliated voters. Eighty percent (80%) of Republicans correctly say the government has more power in a socialist system, and 54% of Democrats and 67% of unaffiliateds agree.”

Ignorance about socialism is especially prevalent among the young: “Those under 40 have a much more favorable opinion of socialism than their elders do and are the strongest supporters of Democrats becoming a national socialist party. But younger voters are also the most likely to believe the individual has more power under a socialist system.

I read this and fear deeply for the future. The coming dark age is only a short journey around the corner.

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Is the entrance to space 80 kilometers up instead of 100?

A new analysis by one scientist suggests that the official line when one enters space should be lowered from 100 kilometers to 80 kilometers.

A close look shows that the traditional definition flies in the face of evidence, says Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As a hobby, McDowell compiles an influential, detailed record of rocket launches online.

…Most people continued to use 100 kilometers as a boundary, including the World Air Sports Federation (FAI) in Lausanne, Switzerland, the keeper of outer space records. Although definitions are always points of contention in science, it seemed worthwhile to McDowell to dig deeper, knowing such companies as Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin could soon be offering tourism flights to this boundary realm.

He started with data: namely, public records of satellite telemetry he had downloaded from the North American Aerospace Defense Command about the orbits of 43,000 satellites. Most didn’t matter for his project—they orbited far too high above the edge of outer space. But at least 50 had orbits that occasionally operated below 100 kilometers, such as the Soviet Elektron-4 satellite, which made 10 spins at 85 kilometers or below before disintegrating into the atmosphere in 1997. “Are you going to say [these satellites are] in space and then not in space every 2 hours?” he asked. “That doesn’t seem very helpful.” Below 80 kilometers, the story changes: It is highly unlikely a satellite will make another orbit, as thickening atmosphere sends it to a fiery end.

Considering that the Air Force has for many years used 50 miles, which is about the same as 80 kilometers, all McDowell is doing is accepting the American definition rather than an international one. It is also amusing how his actions help Virgin Galactic, since there have been rumors for years that their SpaceShipTwo design was never going to go as high as 100 kilometers, and was going to use the Air Force 50 mile definition to say their passengers reached space.

Putting Virgin Galactic aside, however, the Air Force definition has always made more sense. As McDowell notes, it better describes the dividing line between orbital space and the atmosphere where no satellite can remain in orbit.

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The first American dogs were different, and arrived a very long time ago

New genetic research using buried dogs found at two sites in Illinois suggests that the first American dogs came over from Siberia over 16,000 years ago, and were genetically distinct from European dogs.

In the 1960s and 1970s, archaeologists excavated two sites in western Illinois, where ancient hunter-gatherers collected shellfish from a nearby river and stalked deer in surrounding forests. These people also appear to have buried their dogs: One was found at a site known as Stilwell II, and four at a site called Koster, curled up in individual gravelike pits.

Radiocarbon analysis of the bones reveals that they are around 10,000 years old, making these canines the oldest dogs known in the Americas, researchers report on the bioRxiv server. It also makes these the oldest solo dog burials anywhere in the world. The Stilwell II dog was about the size of an English setter, whereas the Koster dogs were smaller and slenderer, says the study’s lead author, Angela Perri, a zooarchaeologist at Durham University in the United Kingdom. “It wouldn’t be surprising if they were all used as hunting dogs.” But where did they come from in the first place?

A second study, published today in Science, may have the answer. A large, international team of researchers sequenced DNA from the mitochondria, or cellular power plants, of 71 North American and Siberian dog bones—including from one of the Koster dogs—dated from about 10,000 to 1000 years ago. When they compared this material, which is passed down only by the mother, to that of 145 modern and ancient dogs, they discovered that the ancient American dogs have a genetic signature not found in any other canines.

There is much uncertainty still about the dates, but not about the genetics. The dogs were larger, resembles wolves, and even howled instead of barked. They were wiped out after the arrival of the Europeans in American, probably because of disease.

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Failed Soviet-era Venus probe to crash to Earth between 2023-2025

A failed Soviet-era probe to Venus that never left Earth orbit is now predicted to crash to Earth sometime between 2023-2025.

The Kosmos 482 interplanetary station, which was unsuccessfully sent towards Venus in 1972 by the USSR, may crash land on Earth between 2023 and 2025, astronomer and cosmonautics historian Pavel Shubin told Sputnik. He couldn’t pinpoint the exact location of the future crash site, but noted that it would be between 52 degrees north and 52 degree south latitude.

The astronomer has studied the data on Kosmos 482 orbit as well as its deterioration and detected that it started to degrade faster due to it getting closer to Earth and experiencing increased gravitational pull.

He also expressed confidence that the station would successfully reach the surface since it was adapted for entering the much harsher atmosphere of Venus so is able to endure stress of 300g and 100 atmospheres. The astronomer is anxious to study the station after it lands in order to analyze how prolonged exposure to open space affected its materials.

It is not likely that this probe will land anywhere where it can be recovered, as most of the Earth is ocean. However, the scientist’s hopes are not unreasonable, as it is always worthwhile for future engineering designs to study how the environment of space effects materials over long periods of time.

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AT&T: How to Use the Dial Phone

An evening pause: I would not be surprised if some of the younger readers of Behind the Black would need the instructions in this silent film in order to properly use a rotary phone.

Introducing any new technology requires instruction. This was strange stuff to homeowners in 1927, but a great improvement over party line phones that required an operator to do the dialing. And this was cutting edge then, and a symbol of the future.

Hat tip Jim Mallamace.

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The Declaration of Independence

Link here. I think today it is worthwhile to read the whole thing, even though it is the first sentence in the paragraph below that is most often quoted. The following sentences are just as important, though less frequently quoted.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

All governments tend toward oppression. Power-hungry individuals always act to use the power government wields for their own corrupt purposes. Thus, Jefferson was correct above when he said that, when those abuses become bad enough, it is the right of the citizen “to throw off such government.”

We sadly might be approaching a time in the U.S. where such action will once again be necessary.

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Buzz Aldrin sues his own family

Buzz Aldrin has sued his own family in response to disagreements about the management of his financial affairs.

This is one of those stories that is hard to interpret or analyze. The facts as presented by either side could justify their actions, and thus it is hard to say what really caused the rift. It will require a full court case to settle it.

Regardless, this does seem to be the kind of craziness that often follows Buzz Aldrin wherever he goes.

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Walt Disney’s MultiPlane Camera

An evening pause: This was filmed in 1957, and was almost certainly made to be shown as part of Disney’s weekly television show series for kids that began in 1954 and was one of television’s most popular shows in the 1960s. It describes one of the most important technical developments in animation, developed by Disney, until the arrival of computers.

To repeat: This was made for kids, yet it is thoughtful, entertaining, educational, and quite detailed in the information being conveyed. It treats its young audience with great respect and dignity.

I generally do not watch children’s shows today, but the few that I have seen have generally been quite shallow, overwrought, and would have insulted me, when I was a child. I don’t know if today’s kids would react the same today, because when I was a child Disney’s show was somewhat typical. I expected to be treated with respect. Today’s kids might not have that expectation.

Hat tip Wayne DeVette.

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The history of the second amendment

Link here. Anyone who wishes to avoid being willfully ignorant about the reasons and background to the second amendment and presently feels lacking in knowledge will find this essay immensely clarifying. Bottom line:

Again, both sides [in the debate over the ratification of the Constitution] not only agreed that the people had a right to be armed, both sides assumed the existence of an armed population as an essential element to preserving liberty. The framers quite clearly had adopted James Harrington’s political theory that the measure of liberty attained and retained was a direct function of an armed citizenry’s ability to claim and hold those rights from domestic and foreign enemies.

And from the conclusion:

English history made two things clear to the American revolutionaries: force of arms was the only effective check on government, and standing armies threatened liberty. Recognition of these premises meant that the force of arms necessary to check government had to be placed in the hands of citizens. The English theorists Blackstone and Harrington advocated these tenants. Because the public purpose of the right to keep arms was to check government, the right necessarily belonged to the individual and, as a matter of theory, was thought to be absolute in that it could not be abrogated by the prevailing rulers.

These views were adopted by the framers, both Federalists and Antifederalists. Neither group trusted government. Both believed the greatest danger to the new republic was tyrannical government and that the ultimate check on tyranny was an armed population. It is beyond dispute that the second amendment right was to serve the same public purpose as advocated by the English theorists. The check on all government, not simply the federal government, was the armed population, the militia. Government would not be accorded the power to create a select militia since such a body would become the government’s instrument. The whole of the population would comprise the militia. As the constitutional debates prove, the framers recognized that the common public purpose of preserving freedom would be served by protecting each individual’s right to arms, thus empowering the people to resist tyranny and preserve the republic. The intent was not to create a right for other governments, the individual states; it was to preserve the people’s right to a free state, just as it says. [emphasis in original]

Read it all. It puts this issue of gun rights into historical and accurate context. That there are Americans today that do not know these facts, and refuse to learn them, speaks very poorly of them. It also suggests their goal is not the prevention of violence but the oppression of others. Such a goal is directly threatened by these historical facts — describing the British and American search for liberty and freedom — which is why they do not wish them known, and often do whatever they can to suppress them.

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Woman sues NASA to keep possession of moon dust

A Tennessee woman is proactively suing NASA in order to guarantee the agency will not try to steal a vial of moon dust that Neil Armstrong gave to her in the early 1970s.

Murray Cicco received the small glass vial full of gray moon dust in the early 1970s. The vial came with a note: “To Laura Ann Murray — Best of luck — Neil Armstron Apollo 11.” …Armstrong’s note and signature have been verified and testing has confirmed the contents in the vial he gifted her do include dust from the moon.

Decades after receiving the glass vial of moon dust, Murray Cicco is moving forward with her federal court case in Wichita, even though she lives in Tennessee. The reason for filing the case in Kansas goes back to a previous case in 2016 where a U.S. District Court judge in Wichita ruled in favor of a collector who bought a bag containing moon dust that was mistakenly placed in an online government auction. In that case, the bag was then sold at auction last year for $1.8 million.

While NASA hasn’t demanded Murray Cicco give up the vial of moon dust, Murray Cicco’s attorney has requested a jury trial in Wichita to stay ahead. “There is no law against private persons owning lunar material. Lunar material is not contraband. It is not illegal to own or possess,” the court document detailing the case says. “Therefore, she requests judgment declaring her the rightful and legal owner of the vial and its contents, and vesting title in her name.”

This is a very wise move on her part. NASA has for years made it clear that it thinks it owns all moon material brought back by the Apollo missions, and has had the arrogant policy of demanding the return of any moon dust or rocks that it discovered was in the possession of any private citizen, no matter how small, or how well documented the ownership. This court case acts to block such actions, before NASA can even think of them.

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