Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Scott Pruitt - willing to endanger unborn children?

Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump's nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, is willing to accept the release of toxic mercury into the environment;  the kind of mercury that can get into the developing brains of unborn children and damage them.

So Scott Pruitt does not value the lives of unborn children.

Scott Pruitt vs. Science

"On other issues, Pruitt appeared to contradict his record as Oklahoma attorney general. Asked about the impact of mercury pollution, Pruitt said mercury is "very dangerous" and that he's "concerned." In 2012, however, he signed onto a lawsuit challenging the EPA's mercury regulations, arguing that "the record does not support EPA's findings that mercury…pose[s] public health hazards."
So what's it going to be, Scotty boy?  Are you going to work to prevent more mercury from getting into our environment, or not?  We'd really like to know.

Here's more, from Time.

Donald Trump’s EPA Pick Imperils Science—And Earth

"Mercury is a deadly neurotoxin that damages the brains of “the developing fetus and young children,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. It is spewed into the air from coal-fired power plants and other industrial sources before settling into lakes and waterways and contaminating the fish we eat. But Pruitt’s challenges against the EPA’s mercury standards include a tidy piece of scientific denial, claiming “the record does not support the EPA’s findings that mercury… pose[s] public health hazards.” After that legal challenge failed, Pruitt sued a second time to block the mercury rules—even though virtually all power plants had already complied with them at a fraction of the expected cost."
We'd all like to know.  And I fear we're going to find out.

Same ol' story from Republicans: pollute the water, pollute the air

Well, guess what.  The Republicans in Congress want to cut regulations.  Regulations that protect the air we breathe and the water we drink.

We've seen this before.  They get into power, they overshoot.  They're overshooting again.  Amazingly enough, even a good percentage of Republicans think this is wrong.

Hill Republicans move full speed ahead to slash Obama era rules
"Among the regulations on the Republican chopping block are new Interior Department rules aimed at protecting waterways near coal mines and preventing the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas wells, as well as a Labor Department rule that expands overtime eligibility."

Of course.  Nothing they do surprises me.  I just don't know what level of appalled I'm going to achieve.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Why not earlier than this? But it's cool

I'm confused by this.  NASA apparently just released footage from the Huygens probe that was released from the Cassini satellite, entered the mega-moon Titan's atmosphere and descended to the surface, taking measurements and snapping images on the descent.   It even got images of when it landed, including the passing shadow of its parachute, as that fluttered by, on the organic carbon winds of Titan.

But what I want to know is:  why did it take so long to release this descent video?  Huygens landed on Titan in 2005.  It took 12 years to process this data?  I don't think so.

But they don't explain why it took so long, so we can just contemplate what it saw.  (From what I can gather reading various articles about it, they put together a new video, with some computer magic, to commemorate the landing as the Cassini mission nears its finale.  Or to put it another way, they didn't stitch together the images taken by the camera into a video until now.  I guess.)

First glimpse of an alien world: Nasa finally shares stunning footage of its 2005 landing on Saturn's moon, Titan

Baby news, a bit late

Luminous actress Katherine Heigl had her baby with husband Josh Kelley -- back in December.  The news just made it into the public media.

Katherine Heigl welcomes baby boy with husband Josh Kelley

Now, here's the thing.  In late February 2016, Heigl instagrammed that she and the hubby had a secret project underway.  I wrote up a short mention of this.  And in a subsequent post, when she announced they were pregnant, I suggested that the "secret project" was this procreative effort.

But was it?

Well, if it was, then they either knew they were pregnant really early in the process (not that likely), or they were making the attempt with much vigor (much more likely).  But if she went for a complete gestational span a little longer than the norm, not uncommon for first children, then they might have known with an EPT.    Either way, I'm pretty sure now that the "secret project" was indeed the newborn tyke.   Congrats to them all.

Lighthouse of the Week, January 15-21, 2017: Hirtshals, Denmark

I have a pretty unrefined process for choosing the Lighthouse of the Week.  I'll think of a place -- a body of water, a country, a state, a province, etc. -- and then check to see if there are lighthouses there.   I usually choose locations on the coasts of bodies of water, as there are many more lighthouses there than at inland locations far from the water.


But it is a random process.  I'll choose the location, then search for images, and then decide if one of them is interesting or picturesque, and go from there.

In the case of this one, I decided to travel back to Denmark.  I've had a couple of lighthouses before from there, but not "classics" -- one choice was an orange and green pair of lighthouses at the entrance to a harbor, and the other was an abandoned lighthouse in the process of being engulfed by sand dunes.

This one is a classic;  a white tower, situated on a bluff, overlooking Denmark's famed Skaggerak, passage to the Baltic Sea from the North Sea.

This was the picture that caught my eye, a picture of the Hirtshals lighthouse, near the domicile of Hirtshals.  So I decided to feature it this week.

Here's more about it, from a Danish site:

Hirtshals Fyr (Lighthouse)

Gleanings from this site:  the tower is 35 meters high, the bluff is 22 meters above the sea, so the light can be seen 46 km or so out at sea.  Well-situated.

When I looked at the map, I realized that this lighthouse was not far from the lighthouse that's being engulfed by the sand dunes (Rubjerg Knude).   I mapped it, and indeed, they are only 25 km apart.  That would be a nice scenery and lighthouse-photographing trip.

So, by serendipitical choosing, I ended up with this one, which isn't far from one of my previous choices for Lighthouse of the Week from Denmark.

Two more pictures (this one has been photographed numerous times), and a short video.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Winner of the "in bed" game

Apparently it's a fairly common fortune to find inside a fortune cookie, but I had never received it myself before.   This is how it read:

"Accept the next proposition you hear"

Now, if you don't know, there's a game where you put the words "in bed" after the fortune cookie message, and then read it out loud.   Well, I think that this fortune wins that game, hands down.

Or hands up.  Or no hands at all.  Depends on what you're into.

(If you want to read other fortune cookie fortunes without eating lots of fortune cookies, go here.)

Activity at Bogoslof

Alaska's Bogoslof volcano, which is mostly underwater with just a small presence above the surface, has been active since mid-December 2016.   Because it's winter, there aren't a lot of pictures.  The Daily Mail has a really good article on this volcanic activity.

Alaska's Bogoslof volcano blows an island to smithereens and sends ash 35,000 feet into the air in repeated eruptions

The third picture, with a volcanic ash plume behind the mountains, must have been taken from Dutch Harbor or Unalaska on Unalaska Island (the largest Aleutian island near Bogoslof).  [I confirmed this with a quick image search.]

Here's a satellite image showing the whitish ash plume, and indicating the volcano's position relative to Unalaska Island.