Saturday, April 29, 2006

monster sudoku (060429)

monster sudoku (060429)

Well, nobody posted the solution to last Saturday's monster sudoku; so, once again, I win. I rule. Anyhow, this week's edition might be a little easier, so give it your best shot. Go ahead, I dare ya.

The rules of Monster Sudoku: The puzzle board consists of a 16 by 16 grid, which is further divided up into sixteen 4 by 4 blocks. In each row, column, and 4x4 block, the letters A through P each get written exactly once. There is only one solution. If the letters are a little too small for you, click on the image to bring up a large version. For those who need help, a short tutorial on how to solve sudoku puzzles can be found here.

To solve this puzzle, I suggest first saving the GIF on your computer. Then print it out (or copy it out on graph paper) and solve it in pencil (or in pen if you're feeling bold). If you don't feel like using paper, then solve it using a graphics editor such as Microsoft Paint.

If you solve this puzzle, post your solution in the comments. The first person who posts the correct solution wins a prize: a permalink on my blogroll and a graphic declaring him or her to be the Monster Sudoku Champion, which can be displayed on their own blog. I will post the solution next Saturday if nobody else gets it by then.

If you want to play the regular 9 x 9 sudoku puzzle, just scroll down; there is a sudoku puzzle just before the cartoons, which you can play right on this blog.

Update: Lone Pony posted the correct solution here, and now joins the pantheon of Monster Sudoku Champions.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Chernobyl, 20 years later

Chernobyl, 20 years later

Boy, 1986 sure was a historically-interesting year. In January of that year, Space Shuttle Challenger blew up on takeoff, and then on April 26, 20 years ago today, the world's worst-ever nuclear accident took place in Chernobyl. 29 firefighters and plant workers died in the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, and longer-term deaths due to thyroid cancer and other radiation-induced sicknesses are expected to total about 9500.

Today, the Chernobyl area is a bizarre wilderness, as ably documented by Elena at Kidd of Speed.

In my work in electronics manufacturing for Sanmina a few years ago, I worked with a number of Russian immigrants, one of whom was from the Chernobyl area (not from the immediate vicinity, but fairly close). He told me stories of people who refused to move away, even though radiation levels were still fairly high there, as the food production was incredible - such as tomatoes the size of basketballs.

I don't want to make light of Chernobyl, but I have to tell the following story. The Chernobyl disaster occurred during my last semester of high school, and I happened to be taking senior-level Biology that semester. A few weeks prior to the disaster, the teacher assigned our class a project - to divide up into groups of two and present an oral report to the class on any Biology topic we desired. My buddy Rod Bland and I decided to make a movie on radiation. So, we did a bit of research at the university, interviewed Rod's radiologist brother-in-law, and set about writing the script. Included in our script was a little skit showing a meltdown at a fictional nuclear reactor (in the small town close to our small city). We decided to do our filming on the weekend before our presentation was due, and that Saturday just happened to be April 26th, 1986. So, the morning of our filming we found out about Chernobyl, and after some discussion on the appropriateness of using an actual disaster in our movie, the Calmar nuclear reactor quickly became the Chernobyl reactor in our script. My sister Heidi did some fine acting as a nuclear technician that day. That little skit really made our film Radiation: is it all bad? into a success; Rod and I got an A on the project. Rod went on to a career in film, doing computer-generated special effects for movies and commercials, and my fascination with Chernobyl was a big factor in my choosing to major in Physics in university. Both of our careers basically began with that disaster 20 years ago today.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

more real Star Trek technology

more real Star Trek technology

Ok, we've had "communicators" (cell phones) for decades, and various handheld environmental sensors (tricorders) have come out in the last few years. But this is something I didn't expect to see: the beginnings of the Universal Translator, which translates spoken English into spoken Chinese.

I wonder if they make a model that translates from English to Klingon...

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playing both sides

playing both sides

A Russian rocket launched an Israeli spy satellite today. The satellite's mission? To spy on Iran's nuclear program.

Guess why NASA can't just buy Soyuz rockets from Russia? That would be because of ITAR, a program designed to keep nuclear secrets from Iran. And, since the Russians are supplying nuclear technology to Iran, under ITAR NASA can only do limited cooperation with the Russians, pretty much limited to coordination on ISS activities.

So, Russia sells nuclear secrets to Iran, then sells a launch to Israel so that Israel can spy on Iran's nuclear installations.

It sure must give the Russians a hearty laugh, being able to sell to both sides like that. I wonder if Russia will continue to laugh when Iran starts selling nuclear technology to all those Muslim states on Russia's borders. Does the word "Chechnya" ring a bell?

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geez, leave it alone already

geez, leave it alone already

Once again, I have changed the template on the blog. I got rid of the newsfeeds and condensed my sidebars into just a single sidebar. That should make things load a lot faster.

I added a few more links to the sidebar as well, mostly in a new category in my Space links, for amateur rocketry.

I've also added a button in the sidebar, linking to my Bloglines feeds; that's where I get most of my news from anyhow, so those newsfeeds in my sidebar were redundant.

And yes, I know I haven't been blogging much lately. Give a guy a break, willya?

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

monster sudoku (060422)

monster sudoku (060422)

Here we are again: another Saturday, another monster sudoku. Once again I forgot to post one last week (smacks forehead). I'll be posting them again every Saturday starting today.

The rules of Monster Sudoku: The puzzle board consists of a 16 by 16 grid, which is further divided up into sixteen 4 by 4 blocks. In each row, column, and 4x4 block, the letters A through P each get written exactly once. There is only one solution. If the letters are a little too small for you, click on the image to bring up a large version. For those who need help, a short tutorial on how to solve sudoku puzzles can be found here.

To solve this puzzle, I suggest first saving the GIF on your computer. Then print it out (or copy it out on graph paper) and solve it in pencil (or in pen if you're feeling bold). If you don't feel like using paper, then solve it using a graphics editor such as Microsoft Paint.

If you solve this puzzle, post your solution in the comments. The first person who posts the correct solution wins a prize: a permalink on my blogroll and a graphic declaring him or her to be the Monster Sudoku Champion, which can be displayed on their own blog. I will post the solution next Saturday if nobody else gets it by then.

If you want to play the regular 9 x 9 sudoku puzzle, just scroll down; there is a sudoku puzzle just before the cartoons, which you can play right on this blog.

Update: The solution is available here.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

when is a constant not a constant?

when is a constant not a constant?

Mu, the ratio of the mass of a proton to the mass of an electron, may have decreased by 0.002% over the last 12 billion years (to a confidence level of 99.7%).

There has also been speculation that the fine structure constant (alpha) has also changed, along with other fundamental constants such as c (speed of light) and G (the gravitational constant).

Now, one of the pillars of Einstein's theory of relativity is that fundamental properties of the universe, such as the above constants, are the same everywhere. This finding, along with theories such as Inflation (which would require a much higher value for c in the first moments of the universe's existence) suggests a possible route to a Theory of Everything, which would combine relativity and quantum mechanics. If the constants are not in fact constant, then this may be evidence for Superstring or M-theory.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Project Orion

Project Orion

Norden at Deep Space Bombardment will love this video of a proposed Orion spacecraft.


Those explosions that take place when the spacecraft is in space are atomic bombs. The shock wave impacts the shock absorber on the bottom of the craft to propel the spacecraft forward.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

now how in the heck did I miss that?

now how in the heck did I miss that?

I made the very first post in this blog on April 17th, 2003. That made Monday my third blogiversary. There have been a ton of changes in that time, in this blog, in my life, and in the world. When I started, the space community was still reeling from the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia; since then the X-Prize has been won, and people are seriously talking about (and funding) extensive private business in space. I've been in the middle of a Sea of Red and watched as the Calgary Flames came withing a hair's breadth of winning the Stanley Cup. I've gathered together over 130 space blogs, and joined up with a number of other blogrolls. It's seen my monthly traffic climb from less than a hundred hits a month to several thousand hits per month (but it will be a while yet before I catch Glenn Reynolds).

All in all, it's been a pretty good three years. And I have no plans on stopping anytime soon- although I should probably start posting a little more regularly. I've been such a slacker. I'll stop procrastinating tomorrow.

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liberty!

liberty!

Left Brain Female hosts this week's Carnival of Liberty. I'm going to be hosting the Carnival in May, and I'm rather looking forward to it.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

a-flutter on the breeze

a-flutter on the breeze

Taylor and Company hoists the 40th edition of the Red Ensign Standard, and does so rather well. Check it out and give him some traffic-love.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

burn baby, burn

burn baby, burn

"A short film clip of lighting of the grill with 3 gallons of liquid oxygen. Started with 60 lbs of charcoal, and burnt up 40 lbs of it in 3 seconds. Result is a grill ready to cook in about 3 seconds, and all the old grease, etc burned off. Don't try this at home."

No kidding - do NOT try this at home.


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He is risen

He is risen

Happy Easter.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Trackback

Trackback

Trackback.

Wild Rose Country

Wild Rose Country

Over on Alberta Blogs, there is a small set of lovely photos of one of the most beautiful places on earth, my home province of Alberta. There are thousands more photos available here, of which I have selected just a few to publish below. Enjoy!









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space anniversary

space anniversary

Today, April 12th, marks the 45th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's historic first manned spaceflight. It also marks the 25th anniversary of the first Shuttle launch.

I remember being a very excited 12 year old 25 years ago, getting up early in the morning to watch the TV in the final hours before launch, and the exhilarating launch itself. Since that first flight, a total of 294 people have been launched into space aboard the shuttle fleet on more than 100 launches.

So, with the shuttle program officially 25 years old, can we please end the fiction that the shuttle is still an experimental vehicle?

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How big is Xena?

How big is Xena?

The 10th planet, 2003UB313 (Xena) has been imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope. Previous ground-based measurements of Xena had indicated that it was about 30% larger than Pluto, but Hubble's measurements indicate that it is less than 1% larger than Pluto, at a diameter of 1490 miles plus or minus 60 miles, compared to Pluto's diameter of 1422 miles:
Only a handful of images were required to determine Xena's diameter. Located 10 billion miles from Earth with a diameter a little more than half the width of the United States, the object is 1.5 pixels across in Hubble's view. That's enough to make a precise size measurement.
Now, I have a problem with this measurement. What is a half a pixel? It can only mean that sometimes Xena shows up as a single pixel in Hubble's instruments, while at other times Xena shows up as being two pixels wide. There is simply no way to get that plus/minus 60 miles (4%) error size when your imaging instrument has a 50% to 100% difference (1 or 2 pixels). In order to get that 4% error margin, Xena's image would have to be at least 50 pixels wide according to the Nyquist sampling criterion. The data simply cannot support the conclusion that Xena is only slightly larger than Pluto.

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Book Review: Return to the Moon, part 3

Book Review: Return to the Moon, part 3

Back in December I started bothering Rick Tumlinson to get me a copy of the book Return to the Moon for review on this blog. At the end of February, the publishers - Apogee Space Books, kindly routed a copy to me. Since the book is a collection of short essays, I had promised Rick that I would review the book essay by essay over numerous blog posts. If there are any spelling errors in the quotations I give, then these errors are entirely mine, as I am copying from the book rather than cutting and pasting.

Previous in this series: Part 1, Part 2


In the third essay in Return To The Moon, Courtney A. Stadd starts us off with a look into the future, to 2015, where he presents us with some possible alternate futures - mostly horror stories. Among these is this story:
"Welcome to the World In Retrospect where every week we try to take you, the viewer, back in time to understand why certain government initiatives went awry. Tomorrow morning at ten o'clock we will bring you live coverage of hearings by the Joint house and Senate Intelligence Committee. The Committee has called on the nation's Director of Intelligence, Dr. Chelsea Clinton, to respond to new reports of apparent laser weapons tests being conducted on the far side of the Moon by the Chinese-Indian lunar expedition force, and their reported replacement of US flags left by the Apollo astronauts with Chinese and Indian flags to bolster their claim of ownership of the Moon. In light of these hearings, this evening we review the long forgotten decision by former President George W. Bush to commit this nation to go to the Moon and on to Mars and try to understand why the initiative went nowhere and why President Britney Spears and her Administration is not only facing criticism for failing to respond to the actions on the Moon, but is also on the defensive explaining why American aerospace is now considered the least competitive industry sector - far behind Europe and Asia."
Well, for one thing, we won't have to worry about a President Britney Spears in 2015; she was born on December 2, 1981, and won't be 35 (and elegible for election to the office of President) until after the 2016 elections. But for the rest of the horror story, it is entirely possible that India and China will send men to the Moon long before the US government does. Stadd continues:
The choices made now and the methods used to implement those choices will determine whether the United States continues to have a viable, effective space exploration capability, or whether it will fail to match a renewed vision with a plan of action that discards old ideas of government-first or government-only approaches and instead pursues an aggressive collaboration with the commercial sector... Already, it is obvious that NASA cannot be the same agency it was before the [Vision for Space Exploration] was announced. It cannot do all the things it was doing before and still do all that is required to advance the new exploration agenda.
Stadd goes on to compliment the NASA Centennial Challenges Program, a series of prizes totalling $20 million (out of NASA's total budget of $16.5 billion) for "revolutionary, breakthrough accomplishments from innovators not usually affiliated with the space program", and ends off by urging NASA to find a way to become a co-equal partner with the American commercial sector in the historic return to the Moon.

The biggest problem with NASA is that it long ago (around 1970) ceased to be a military government space program. Instead, NASA has morphed into a government jobs program, sustained by Congressmen unwilling to lose the votes of thousands of NASA employees in their districts. As a result, the enormously-bloated workforce of NASA required for the Apollo missions is sustained, long after the professionals who ran the Apollo program have retired. With the military objective of beating to the Russians to the moon achieved, NASA's raison d'etre became sustaining NASA.

This has had a chain reaction effect on space ventures for more than three decades. First, due to the enormous expense of maintaining that work force, the price for all space ventures has also been maintained at an enormously expensive level. New private businesses have had a very difficult time breaking in to the space market, as they are forced to compete with the deep pockets of NASA. Second, the impression that "space is so expensive that only governments can do it" limits the willingness of bankers or venture capitalists to invest in new space businesses. Financing for new commercial space ventures thus becomes particularly difficult - only the very rich dreamers like Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Robert Bigelow, Jeff Bezos, and John Carmack are willing to put their money into commercial space programs.

This one-two punch has stalled commercial space ventures, other than abortive blips here and there over the last 30 years. With NASA in the way, venture capital is blocked and only the self-financed billionaires can get their businesses off the ground. By analogy, imagine what would have happened to the airline industry in the early 1900s if the FAA was responsible for all aircraft and airport construction, maintenance, and operation. Further imagine that the only people allowed to be passengers would be those specially-trained and vetted by the FAA, that there were only a couple of flights per year, and that there were only a couple of airports in all of North America. How far would aviation have come in the last hundred years if the FAA was to take on responsibility for every aspect of flight? If that were the case, then aviation would also be enormously expensive, and only governments could afford to do it, and new aviation ventures would have a particularly difficult time attracting enough capital to get their businesses off the ground. The same thing is happening in the space industry as a result of NASA's continued involvement in every aspect of America's presence in space.

The solution is to completely change NASA, from by itself being the entire industry, to something more like the FAA; to concentrate in that second A in NASA and be an administration of the industry rather than the whole industry.

Perhaps instead of NASA continuing to stifle America's space commerce (chiefly by being in the way), we might instead realize another one of Stadd's possible future scenarios:
"Hello, this is Nancy Adkins reporting live from our Fox "Eye in Space" media platform where Ted Nellis, employee of Amazon.com billionaire Jeff Bezos' Blue Origins company, is about to deploy the first space hotel, the Trump Celestial Plaza, at Taurus-Littrow, where the last American astronauts walked on the lunar surface in 1972. This project resulted from a deal struck in 2008 between 'The Donald', Mr. Elon Musk, who provided the low-cost cargo and crew transport vehicles, and Mr. Robert Bigelow, President of Bigelow Aerospace, who has successfully revolutionized the economics of building and deploying space habitats in low Earth orbit and on the lunar surface. In fact, as many viewers may already know, I am reporting from a module, orbiting the Earth, built by Mr. Bigelow's company."
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Saturday, April 08, 2006

monster sudoku (060408)

monster sudoku (060408)

Here we are again: another Saturday, another monster sudoku. I just plain forgot about last week's version, sorry. I was thinking about putting two up this week instead, but then I thought... nah. Here we go.

The rules of Monster Sudoku: The puzzle board consists of a 16 by 16 grid, which is further divided up into sixteen 4 by 4 blocks. In each row, column, and 4x4 block, the letters A through P each get written exactly once. There is only one solution. If the letters are a little too small for you, click on the image to bring up a large version. For those who need help, a short tutorial on how to solve sudoku puzzles can be found here.

To solve this puzzle, I suggest first saving the GIF on your computer. Then print it out (or copy it out on graph paper) and solve it in pencil (or in pen if you're feeling bold). If you don't feel like using paper, then solve it using a graphics editor such as Microsoft Paint.

If you solve this puzzle, post your solution in the comments. The first person who posts the correct solution wins a prize: a permalink on my blogroll and a graphic declaring him or her to be the Monster Sudoku Champion, which can be displayed on their own blog. I will post the solution next Saturday if nobody else gets it by then.

If you want to play the regular 9 x 9 sudoku puzzle, just scroll down; there is a sudoku puzzle just before the cartoons, which you can play right on this blog.

Update: the solution is available here.

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

pissing away other peoples' money

pissing away other peoples' money

Back in early March, I wrote about the Dawn mission cancellation; in late March, NASA brought back the Dawn mission.

Originally, the Dawn mission was supposed to cost a maximum of $299 million, as were all the Discovery missions. The Dawn mission managers had that figure extended to $373 million. Now that Dawn is back on, it will cost $446 million, which is 49% over the original budget.

And now today Rand Simberg reports that the cost of modifying the shuttle solid rocket boosters to serve as the first stage of the Crew Launch Vehicle has risen from an estimated $1 billion to a new estimate of $3 billion, a whopping 200% over the original budget.

I guess it is easy to piss away money when other people are paying for it.

I for one am not willing to give NASA and ATK Thiokol the benefit of the doubt on this one, unlike Jon Goff. This stinks, and at the very least ATK Thiokol should lose the contract for the first stage of the CLV.

Here's an idea for NASA, proposed in the comments at Rand's blog by David Summers:
Wouldn't it be great if they offered a "prize", such as anyone that builds a comercially available launcher that can get 3 people to ISS for less than the predicted launch cost of the stick gets as an award half the remaining development budget.
In other words, if SpaceX (or any other company) could develop a vehicle to get 3 people safely to the ISS for a cost to NASA of, say, $500 million, then SpaceX would receive a ($1B-$500M)/2 = $250 million bonus. Or, if SpaceX could do it for $200 million, then they would receive a $400 million bonus.

Or, NASA could simply put out a contract, $50 million or $100 million or $200 million or whatever for delivering 3 astronauts to the ISS and back. Or, $500 million for the first company that can deliver 3 astronauts to and from the ISS, plus a contract for 10 additional flights at $50 million apiece.

That would bring the full power of the market to bear, and give 11 launches of three astronauts per launch to the ISS at a cost of $1 billion. In other words, for the price that was originally quoted by ATK Thiokol just to modify the SRBs to be the first stage of the Crew Launch Vehicle (ie not counting the development of the rest of the CLV or Crew Exploration Vehicle), NASA would get 11 launches.

Wanna bet that, even without such a contract, SpaceX (and others) have their own orbital manned vehicles flying before NASA gets the CEV off the ground? And at less than 10% of NASA's cost?

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

You've gotta be kidding me

You've gotta be kidding me

What do you get if you cross the story of Rip Van Winkle with the 1997 blockbuster Titanic?

You get Titanic Two: the Surface. And no, I don't think this is a parody (but I could be wrong).


Whatever bright light thought this would be a good idea? Is Leonardo di Caprio really this hard-up for a job?

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psychopath

psychopath

Dr. Eric R. Pianka of the University of Texas is a psychopath. That is not hyperbole.

I first read about Pianka a couple of days ago at Back Off Government and small dead animals. Then I decided to go digging a little further.

Recently at a meeting of the Texas Academy of Science, Pianka gave a speech advocating the extermination of 90% of humanity through the use of airborne Ebola.

Forrest M. Mims III was at the speech and had this to say about the speech:
Professor Pianka said the Earth as we know it will not survive without drastic measures. Then, and without presenting any data to justify this number, he asserted that the only feasible solution to saving the Earth is to reduce the population to 10 percent of the present number.

...After praising the Ebola virus for its efficiency at killing, Pianka paused, leaned over the lectern, looked at us and carefully said, "We've got airborne 90 percent mortality in humans. Killing humans. Think about that."
Now, Forrest Mims is no crank. Aside from writing over 60 books on electronics (which have sold more than 7.5 million copies, and are available in every Radio Shack) - something which requires a great deal of precision in thought - he is also the Chairman of the Environmental Sciences section of the Texas Academy of Science. He's no Luddite, and he obviously knows a thing or two about environmental sciences if he holds that chairmanship, so his word carries a bit of weight. He didn't like what Pianka had to say one little bit. However, he wasn't the only one at that meeting who commented on Pianka's speech. Brenna McConnell at Serenity had this to say:
While what he had to say is way too vast to remember it all, moreover to relay it here in this blog, the bulk of his talk was that he's waiting for the virus that will eventually arise and kill off 90% of human population. In fact, his hope, if you can call it that, is that the ebola virus which attacks humans currently (but only through blood transmission) will mutate with the ebola virus that attacks monkeys airborne to create an airborne ebola virus that attacks humans. He's a radical thinker, that one! I mean, he's basically advocating for the death of all but 10% of the current population! And at the risk of sounding just as radical, I think he's right.
OK, so we have two points of view here; Mims disagrees with what Pianka said, Brenna agrees with Pianka, but both Mims and Brenna agree on what it was that Pianka said. This contrasts sharply with Pianka's denial that he advocated genocide:
Pianka says he would never advocate genocide or extermination like some suggest he does.

"I've got two granddaughters, man. I'm putting money in a college fund for my granddaughters. I'm worried about them," Pianka said.
OK, so what's the truth here? Is it merely the case that some kind of professional rivalry exists between Mims and Pianka? Well then, if that is the case then Brenna (who published her blog post three weeks before Mims' editorial) is in on it with Mims, even though she states that she agrees with Pianka.

So is Pianka telling the truth in his denial? Let's have a look at some comments from some of Pianka's students, in the Fall 2004 course evaluations:
"I don't root for ebola, but maybe a ban on having more than one child. I agree . . . too many people ruining this planet."

"Though I agree that convervation biology is of utmost importance to the world, I do not think that preaching that 90% of the human population should die of ebola is the most effective means of encouraging conservation awareness. I found Pianka to be knowledgable, but spent too much time focusing on his specific research and personal views."
This is damning. Not only has Pianka advocated the deaths of 90% of humanity via Ebola, he has done so for years.

Contrary to what Panda's Thumb says, Pianka's denial did not "debunk the whole thing". His denial is a bald-faced lie.

Pianka advocating the horrible death of 5.8 billion people is consistent with something that Robert Bidinotto wrote about the enivironmentalist movement:
Ask yourself the following question: Where is there a place for humans and their works in a world where pristine nature is deemed ideal, and the productive use of nature for human gain is deemed immoral?

In essence, environmentalists are attacking our very right to live, period. That position permits no compromise. To concede an inch of ground to it is to surrender, in principle, the entire battle for our lives, well-being, and happiness.
Pianka was born in 1939, which puts him at age 67 or 68 today. It is high time that the University of Texas revoked tenure for this psychopath. If I had university-age children I sure wouldn't want this nutbar teaching them.

Update: LuboŇ° Motl has way more, including stories by the CBC, CNN, ABC news, and many others.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Why wait?

Why wait?

Premier Ralph Klein of Alberta, probably the most successful politician in Canadian history, has announced that he will submit his letter of resignation in September.

The question is, why wait so long? If he knows he is going to retire, then why mess around with this extended lame-duckness? This is the same reason that he got only 55% support from the Alberta Progressive Conservatives at the leadership review; the extended farewell cost him support, as everyone has known since the last election that he was a lame duck.

What possible purpose could it serve to drag this out? He should submit his letter of resignation today, not say that he will resign six months from now. He's got nothing left to do in Alberta politics, he's run out of ideas, he's lost the fire in the belly.

Premier Klein, resign now. Let the PC party pick a new leader over the next two months. Dragging this out for another six months just means infighting within the caucus as leadership hopefuls jockey for position in an unofficial race well in advance of the actual leadership race. I cannot see that any good can come from an extended farewell.

If you're going to go, then go. Shit or get off the pot.

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gross incompetence

gross incompetence

You can't make this stuff up:
CAPE CANAVERAL - NASA launched an investigation Monday into yet another shuttle workplace accident: serious damage to a nearly half-million-dollar power controller that routes electricity to critical orbiter systems.

The incident, which occurred last week at a shuttle spare parts depot in Cape Canaveral, followed a recent rash of accidents that have resulted in damage to shuttle orbiters and the death of a construction worker.

Two other investigation boards have met to determine the cause of two of those incidents in hopes of preventing similar mishaps in the future.

The estimated cost of replacing the power controller damaged last week would be $452,710, according to a Kennedy Space Center mishap report. Investigators are not yet certain whether replacement will be required.

Incidents like these reflect poorly on the whole agency. Is there anyone competent left working at NASA?

The people working at NASA now are not the people who sent men to the moon; they're just sitting at their desks.

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Sunday, April 02, 2006

overloaded

overloaded

I spend a lot of time online, just reading other people's stuff. There are something like 147 sources for my RSS feed reader, and just plain keeping up with the latest news makes a serious dent in my day. That is why I am so happy that a group of librarians have found a realistic way of dealing with the sheer volume of information that I have to sift through every day. Check out the Cure for Information Overload.

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Book Review: Return to the Moon, part 2

Book Review: Return to the Moon, part 2

Back in December I started bothering Rick Tumlinson to get me a copy of the book Return to the Moon for review on this blog. At the end of February, the publishers - Apogee Space Books - kindly routed a copy to me. Since the book is a collection of short essays, I had promised Rick that I would review the book essay by essay over numerous blog posts. If there are any spelling errors in the quotations I give, then these errors are entirely mine, as I am copying from the book rather than cutting and pasting.

Previous in this series: Part 1


In his essay "The Next Age of Lunar Exploration", Andrew Chaikin gives a little history of the Apollo program, and talks about his conversations with Apollo astronauts Alan Bean, Dave Scott, Buzz Aldrin, and Bill Anders. He then makes the case for returning to the moon:
But there are some who would bypass the Moon in favor of going directly to Mars. Their viewpoint mystifies me. Scientifically, our nearest celestial neighbor is priceless; it is the Rosetta Stone for decoding the history of the Solar System. And the fact that six teams of astronauts spent a total of about 12 days living and working on the lunar surface means we've barely begun to explore it.

When it comes to the operational aspects of living and working on other worlds, the Moon is invaluable. Just two and a half days from home, it will be, in the words of the science-fiction writers Judy and Gar Reeves-Stevens, a kind of Outward Bound school for planetary explorers... Compared to the Moon, getting to Mars will be like the difference between hiking in the foothills and climbing Everest.... I don't think the "been-there-done-that" crowd appreciates how exciting it will be to step outside at night, look up at the Moon, and say, "there are people living there, and learning how to explore the solar system."
Sure, the moon is a good stepping-stone for the long trip to Mars, but to view human habitation of the moon as merely an excitement-generator and as a stepping stone to bigger and better things is shortsighted, and simply not enough to justify a human settlement there.

Fortunately, the moon is more than a training ground. The vast resources of its surface will be the enabling resources for every long-term human endeavour in space over the next century. The raw materials available there, with just a little industrial processing, will be the ones which supply the Oxygen and Titanium and pretty much any metal we require for construction of real space stations (gigantic rotating wheels that house thousands of people at the LaGrange orbits, GEO, and so on), at much lower cost than if they were hefted from the earth; the Platinum-group metals we find there will be absolutely required to shift from an oil-based economy to a Hydrogen-based economy; and the construction of gigantic solar-collector power stations in orbit will only happen if we can bring the raw materials of the moon into play. The moon's biggest advantage is as a source of raw materials near the top of the earth's gravity well.

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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Internet to be taxed

Internet to be taxed

In a special late-night session, Congress has passed a resolution to tax the Internet. Called the Byte Tax, a levy of US$0.01 will be charged for every byte transmitted. According to the transcript of the bill, the tax is an effort to curb online music piracy. The new tax will be collected by internet service providers and will appear on monthly internet bills.