Thursday, December 30, 2010

Is Famke Janssen the most eligible woman in Hollywood?

The other night I happened to watch a likable (and at times humorous) ~year 2000 vehicle called "Love and Sex", which starred Famke Janssen, and which was eclipsed pretty majorly by her other role that year, which was Jean Grey in the original "X-Men" movie. "Love and Sex" was a slightly, but not overly, naughty rom-com in which Famke played a woman trying to figure out the subjects in the title and their linkage. She ends up going back to a blobby artist played by Jon Favreau, who was devoted to her. She also tries making a go of it with a hunky and stupid guy. This brings back the factor of attractiveness; provided the Favreau character was sufficiently successful to be a provider (which in the case of real artists is NOt a given), then the fact that Famke was significantly more attractive than Jon would actually make for a stable relationship/marriage. And it indicated rather accurately that someone like the character played by Jon in the movie would be likely to be very devoted if someone with the attractiveness level of Famke was romantically and sexually involved with him.

The movie got me to thinking about Famke in a couple of ways. One, are there good nude or nearly nude pictures of her available (the logical question that seemingly always occurs in the era of the Internet)? Answer: not nude or even extremely close, but there are some early career lingerie shots, notably in Victoria's Secret. Example below.

Two, where is she, relationship-wise, these days? Apparently right at the moment she's with a guy named Cole Frates. She had a five-year childless marriage ended in 2000, and there aren't any other notable entanglements listed other than Ryan Gosling (who, d*mn him, has had his share of beautiful babes and was with Rachel McAdams for quite awhile).

I couldn't find anything that indicates what Cole Frates does other than be Famke's boyfriend (and walk her Boston Terrier with her), but his mother was founder of the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute and president of the Oklahoma Arts Institute. So I suspect that he's involved with the theatrical arts in some capacity other than being Famke Janssen's boyfriend. One link I finally found indicated that he co-wrote the movie that is her directorial debut, "Bringing Up Bobby". So I guess that pretty much covers it, and she isn't currently eligible. Darn.

Spectacular Cassini views of Tethys

The big Odysseus impact basin on Tethys isn't as globally dominating as the Herschel Crater on Mimas, but it's still a fine example of a big impact on a Saturn moon. New images and maps show this well:

A new view of Tethys

Contemplating the Ashes urn retention and the nature of failure and success

OK, after Australia had a disastrous 98 in their first innings at Melbourne, it was only a matter of time before England, in a somewhat workmanlike manner, won the fourth Ashes test and kept the Ashes urn. I recommend the Daily Mail cricket commentary, but there are other cricket sites around. One commentary piece indicated that the world's number one and two Test cricket teams, India and South Africa, are currently bashing each other in a tight Test series. I'll have to check that out.

But meandering philosophically...

Awhile ago I saw a "Science of Sports" episode where they compared the difficulty of hitting a cricket ball to the difficulty of hitting a baseball. The conclusion was, it's easier to hit a cricket ball with a cricket bat than a baseball with a baseball bat. I agree with that conclusion.

But the thing about cricket is... in a match, you only have two chances to bat, and one mistake means you're out. ONE. In a baseball game, the average player has three or four chances to bat, and quite a few mistakes can be made (those are foul balls that end up in the stands, or ground fouls, things like that).

Baseball has its share of stirring at-bats, where a batter has to get on base, and fouls off a lot of pitches before making getting that critical hit. And there are other instances of such an at-bat where the pitcher finally struck out the batter after numerous fouls. But there are a lot of games in a baseball season, and a lot of at-bats, so a bad day one day doesn't mean a bad season.

So yes, it is somewhat easier to hit a cricket ball, but because it's easier, the consequences of failure are magnified. And it's not just about hitting a foul ball, it's swinging and missing and having the ball hit the wicket, or getting caught leg-before-wicket (where the ball hits the body but would've hit the wicket if the body of the batsman hadn't got in the way).

So when a cricket batsman goes into a slump, it's hard for him to get a chance to get out of the slump against live bowling. A couple of swings and misses, and his entire summer of sport is imperiled. In each five-day game, he only gets two chances to bat, and two mistakes mean he's done!

That takes nerves. So when England batted so successfully in the second Test, you have to realize that they just weren't making ANY mistakes, swing after swing after swing. And that's impressive. Because the margin for error is so slim.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Congress and NASA: how to waste money quickly and efficiently

OK, since Congress didn't pass a 2011 funding bill (yet/if ever), the 2010 bill is still in effect. And that bill (a LAW) requires that NASA spend $500 million buckaroos, otherwise known as a cool half-billion bucks, on a launch system that won't ever fly.

And the GOP makes noise about $1,500 earmarks for little history heritage museums that otherwise would have to charge $10 for admission.


NASA must fund canceled rocket program

Brian Marsden passes into the Great Beyond

For a long time, anytime someone discovered a new comet or asteroid of note, Brian Marsden's name would pop up because it was via he that the orbit of the comet, and the potential display it might put on as it neared the Sun (if it did), was calculated with a couple of photographs for positioning. Marsden passed away on November 18, 2010.

Brian G. Marsden (1937-2010)

If anyone deserved to have a milligram of his ashes riding around forever on a comet, he did.

Galaxy 15 is no longer a zombiesat?

According to this news release, the zombiesat Galaxy 15 succumbed to power drain, which initiated a host of failback mechanisms, resulting in restoration of communications and operations. They'll be parking the wayward satellite in a safe orbit and then try to figure out if it's still usable.

Galaxy 15 Status Update: Power, Communications, and Control Restored

Like they say at Customer Service, the first thing you try if your computer is acting screwy is to reboot. Galaxy 15 rebooted itself!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Opportunity gets to Santa Maria Crater

In a post not long ago (here), I noted that Mars Rover Opportunity's next landmark, and probably the only major landmark before the Endeavour crater rim, was a cute and dark little crater named Santa Maria. Well, I just remembered to check on the rover site, and Opportunity has been making good progress, such that it has now arrived at Santa Maria. They are going to take a look around for a few weeks before heading off toward Endeavour again.

This is all explained in the extended captions to the press release images here:I wish there were anchors for the captions on the page, so that they wouldn't get shoved down as more images are put up, but there aren't, so I'm just going to reproduce the relevant images here with parts of the captions. And they even provided a context map!

A football-field-size crater, informally named "Santa Maria," dominates the scene in this 360-degree view from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity.

This image of Santa Maria Crater was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The context map shows that after they take their extended look at Santa Maria, there isn't much between there and the rim of Endeavour. Tally ho!

The red line on this map shows where NASA's Mars Rover Opportunity has driven from the place where it landed in January 2004 -- inside Eagle Crater, at the upper left end of the track -- to where it reached on the 2,436th Martian day, or sol, of its work on Mars (Nov. 30, 2010). The map covers an area about 15 kilometers (9 miles) wide. North is at the top.

Drives subsequent to Sol 2436 in early December 2010 brought Opportunity closer to Santa Maria Crater, which is about 90 meters (295 feet) in diameter.

Euro chefs get on the sustainable seafood bandwagon

Good article that major and prominent European chefs are getting on the sustainable seafood bandwagon, moving away from commonplace and overfished fish species and utilizing less-utilized species. Now, if we could just get them to promote that Asian carp delicacy we'd really be going places, but at least this is a start:

Europe's Top Chefs Push for Sustainable Seafood

Sunday, December 26, 2010

First winter storm is low snow

At one time we here in Calvert County were in line for 4-8 inches of snow, but the storm stayed at sea and we got a lot less, around 2 inches or so. Winds gusting over 30 knots, though, giving the air a bite.

It was exciting before it happened!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Abbey Clancy pregnancy update

One of my favorite British models, Abbey Clancy, pregnant by her occasionally cheating (well, only once according to reports) soccer player boyfriend Peter Crouch, with whom she is still apparently besotted, showed up on TV showing how well she's showing at six months.

Abbey Clancy's baby bump

She shore looks great.

4th Ashes Test underway

I hardly had time to comment on the Aussie blowout in the 3rd Ashes test, and time zones being what they are, the critical 4th has already started Down Under. In the last one, after taking a promising start, England's batting collapsed in the first innings, partly due to some masterful bowling from a Wild Thing-like bowler named Mitchell Johnson.

So it's 1-1, and they are underway on Boxing Day in Melbourne. And according to the Daily Mail report, Australia went out in their first innings for a shocking 98 -- unheard of in Test cricket where a middling score is 250-300 or so. So England is really set up to keep the Ashes urn -- unless they have a similar batting capitulation.

Tune in tomorrow (or it is it yesterday)?

Day 1 report: Ashes Live

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Good article about biochar

Biochar has been touted as one way to sequester carbon. The following article explains how it works and what it can do. I didn't know that fuel is one output of the process.

Biochar: running the numbers

A couple of parts of this:

Plant waste is heated to temperatures of several hundred Celsius in a pyroliser, a vessel from which oxygen is excluded; so it does not burn. Instead, gases and liquids are driven off, which can potentially be used as fuel or agricultural treatments. The remainder turns into a dry, carbon-rich solid similar to charcoal. Scattered on fields, biochar helps raise crop yields; and the carbon it contains is locked away for thousands of years. As that carbon had been absorbed from the atmosphere as the plants grew, what we have is a net removal of carbon from the atmosphere and storage in soil.


Research at Edinburgh and elsewhere has shown that the carbon economics of biochar can stack up rather well. In contrast to burning, about half of the carbon in the waste is captured and stored; meanwhile, the liquids and gases yield easily enough energy to power the pyroliser, with some left over for other uses around the farm.

Another arrow in the quiver, maybe.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's not just temperature

Now we have a report that ocean acidification, the effect of absorbing increasing atmospheric CO2 on surface waters, will also affect nitrogen cycling in the oceans.

Very little is known about how ocean acidification may affect critical microbial groups like the ammonia oxidizers, "key players in the ocean's nitrogen cycle," says Michael Beman of the University of Hawaii and lead author of the PNAS paper.

In six experiments spread across two oceans, Beman and colleagues looked at the response of ammonia oxidation rates to ocean acidification.

In every case where the researchers experimentally increased the amount of acidity in ocean waters, ammonia oxidation rates decreased.

Ocean Acidification Changes Nitrogen Cycling In World Seas

"Baby it's cold outside" is not a refutation

I've occasionally contended with the climate change skeptirati about the increasing Antarctic sea ice cover, pointing out that there has been more than one way to explain this as a consequence of warming ocean temperatures. Scant comfort there. Now there's a report tying colder winters (such as the one that is currently slugging Europe) with global warming, specifically its manifestation as a melter of Arctic sea ice.

Cold winters driven by global warming: scientists

Nonetheless, the simpletons who preach obfuscations to the simple folk who believe them -- ie., to the flock of anti-science conservatives who think that "Watts Up With That" is a bastion of scientific accuracy -- will say that colder winters mean that global warming is a) exaggerated, b) not a problem, c) not happening, d) a hoax, or e) all of the above, and never mind the fact that in a complex system, simple correlations do not necessarily indicate what's actually happening.

But accomplished lying scum like the esteemed Marc Morano, prime example of such, don't care who they mislead as long as they're scoring PR points for their sugar (or is oil) daddies.

But they take-away advice is this: don't find cold comfort about global warming in cold winters.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Maybe I still have a chance

Joanna Going is one of my favorite actresses of ALL time. Turns out she's going to be available again after the divorce from Dylan Walsh is final:

Divorce Week!!! 'Nip/Tuck' Star Files

Here she is near peak beauty (in 1991 -- is it really that long ago) in the primetime remake of "Dark Shadows";

(The blog where I found this picture described her as "mind-numbingly, jaw-droppingly, unbelievably beautiful". If she was really a vampire, she could have stayed locked in to that level.)

Yes, there are pictures from some of her other roles in which she was somewhat more exposed. But to reveal them here would demean my worship of her.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Meanwhilst, on the other Cole front

Appears that Ashley Cole may be squeezing a new cheesecake:

'He could be The One': I'm A Celeb's Kayla Collins gushes over new love Ashley Cole

How do these sports guy$ with a demon$trated and reported record of infidelity and cheating manage to keep getting the babe$? I can't $ee the explanation. There mu$t be $omething that explain$ it.

Kayla Collins was the August 2008 (US edition) Playmate of the Month. The blondeness appears to have the requisite associated dumbness aspects.

Find the six Saturn moons in this picture

There are indeed six Saturn moons in this picture, I think. I think the hardest-to-find one is a bright spot embedded in the outer large ring (which I think is the A-ring). Here's the descriptive part of the caption and then the picture - remember that you can click on the picture to see it considerably bigger.

Enceladus (504 kilometers, or 313 miles across) is the largest moon in this image and appears at the bottom. Janus (179 kilometers, or 111 miles across) orbits beyond the rings near the center of the image. Epimetheus (113 kilometers, or 70 miles across) orbits beyond the rings near the top of the image. Atlas (30 kilometers, or 19 miles across) appears as a tiny speck between the main rings and the thin F ring on the right. Daphnis (8 kilometers, or 5 miles across), which orbits in the narrow Keeler Gap of the A ring, appears as a small, bright speck on the left of the image. Pan (28 kilometers, or 17 miles across), which orbits in the Encke Gap of the A ring, also appears as a bright speck on the left of the image. Daphnis is farther to the left of the image than Pan.

OK, it looks like HoCo (or is it CoHo) is a no-no

Two articles, recently released. In one, it is stated that Derek Hough wants Cheryl Cole to "go public" with their relationship, or it's going to head to "over" status.

Derek Hough Urges Cheryl To Confirm Their Romance

In article two, Cheryl Cole says she's single.

Cheryl Cole: I'm single, I'm not dating Derek Hough

OK, then I guess it's over. Especially if there was never an a "thing" to be "over" with. Unless informed otherwise.

Contrast these two energy plans

The contrast between the scales of wind farms and nuclear plants could not be more clear than in these two articles:

Iowa is planning a 41 megawatt wind farm

Nordex USA has announced an order with wind farm developer RPM Access for a 41 Megawatt wind farm in Delaware County Iowa, just weeks after finalizing a 75 Megawatt order with EverPower Wind Holdings. Nordex' new manufacturing plant in Jonesboro, Arkansas will produce the turbines.

Malaysia is looking to have two 1,000 megawatt nuclear plants by 2025

Malaysia is looking to build two 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plants by 2022 to counter an "imbalance" in its energy supplies, the energy minister said Sunday.

Pithy excerpt:

The nuclear plan has been attacked by environmental activists who say the government has not thoroughly considered other forms of energy generation such as solar, hydroelectric and wind power.

But Chin said the potential for renewable sources was limited.

"Yes, very good, everyone wants to say that we want renewables, but what about cost? Can we force the people to accept high tariffs?" he said.

I think the differences are obvious. How is wind a viable energy-generation option with such small capacity (and the fact that the wind doesn't blow all the time)? Wind believers are wind delusionists.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

This appears to be the year of Natalie Portman

OK, so Natalie Portman just got nominated for a Golden Globe for "Black Swan". That was pretty evidently a slam-dunk for awhile now. Next up, during the January graveyard shift, is "No Strings Attached" with Ashton Kutcher. Is it a sleeper or a clunker? We'll see. Now she's also got an article in Vogue (complete with video of the classy shoot), and I just found out that she's in the big-budget 3D comic book hero flick "Thor" (official trailer here) this summer. I've got a soft spot in my heart for the big blonde guy with the hammer because I've always been fascinated with the tragic nature of Norse Mythology (and Lester Del Rey's Day of the Giants is one of my
favorite short sci-fi novels, not only because the hero gets to get it on with a valkyrie, but that's a selling point).

Back to Portman. It also turns out (as I had to Googly inquire) that she's dating a blisteringly hot hunk ballet dancer, who acted as choreographer for "Black Swan", named Benjamin Millepied. I am 100% heterosexual, but I am also 100% aware that if I looked like Benjamin Millepied, I'd have to resort to Thor's hammer to beat the chicks off me. So things are definitely WORKING for Portman right now.

Speaking of which, here's the movie poster for "No Strings Attached". As noted here in an earlier post of mine, I am enamored of girls in shirts and little else, so as you might imagine, I find this poster rather appealing. (As I also noted, Portman is convincingly happy-passionate in the "No Strings Attached" trailer while engaging in coitus with Ashton Kutcher's character.)

But... this following anticipates what I was thinking about "No Strings Attached" and its January release date, and indicates that it might possibly threaten Portman's Oscar run:

Could 'No Strings Attached' Be Natalie Portman's 'Norbit'?

Nuclear fuel and breaking wind

AREVA and Mitsubishi have partnered to produce nuclear fuel in the United States, in Richland, Washington to be exact about it:

Mitsubishi Nuclear Fuel and AREVA to Start a New Nuclear Fuel Company

If we'd build some more reactors here in the U.S. of A, maybe we could use this fuel rather than shipping it to more enlightened countries.

Speaking of which, there are plans afoot (or is that at-sea?) to build a mega wind farm offshore of Rhode Island:

Proponents double size of wind farm plan

Wind farm would link northeastern grids

That much real estate in the ocean for what?

200 turbines x 6 megawatts = 1200 megawatts. About the same as a classic mid-size nuclear plant.

Who are we kidding with these plans?

Third ASHES Test: new bowler replaces Broad

The biggest question for England going into the third Ashes Test against Australia was who to replaced injured bowler (actually, all-rounder) Stuart Broad. Australia has lots of questions, and according to the stuff I'm reading, the chance of England winning Down Under is very rare indeed. So they'd really like to win this next one, which would (I think) allow them to retain the cup. I'm guessing that if they won this one, even if the Aussies won the next two for a 2-2 match record, England would retain the Ashes urn because they are defending it. Not sure, but I think so. I should check on that.

Anyway, so England chose the tall Chris Tremlett to take over for Broad. He's returning to Test cricket -- I guess he was a little flaky. And then on the first day, England won the coin toss, which is unusual in itself, and proceeded to take the field rather than bat first, which is risky, especially if the opposition takes a big early lead. The English captain was putting a lot of pressure on his bowlers, including Tremlett, to shut down the Aussies, but they aren't as tough as they used to be.

So far, it appears that the strategy is working. Australia only scored 268 in their first innings (the first at bat), which is rather low. So now England is up for their first innings. One question is Kevin Pietersen, the Man of the Match last time, who reportedly tweaked a hamstring on the
first day.

Well, we'll see.

Theme from Dragonheart

Years ago, I was befuddled when I heard music in the trailer for "Forrest Gump" -- it turned out to be from the soundtrack of "Dragon - The Bruce Lee Story". The same thing happened for "Atonement" recently, but because it had happened earlier for "Patch Adams" (believe it or not), I knew what music I was listening to -- the theme from "Dragonheart".

"Dragonheart" has been on HBO Family recently, and despite the relative silliness of the plot, I admit to liking it, and the music is very enjoyable to listen to.

Here's the list of movie trailers that the "Dragonheart" music has been used in:

• Anna and the King (1999) - Theatrical Trailer
• Atonement (2007) - TV Trailer
• Dragonheart: A New Beginning (2000) - Theatrical Trailer
• Mulan (1998) - Theatrical Trailer
• Patch Adams (1998) - Theatrical Trailer
• Seven Years In Tibet (1997) - Theatrical Trailer
• Six Days Seven Nights (1998) - Theatrical Trailer
• Two Brothers (2004) - Theatrical Trailer
• Two Brothers (2004) - TV Trailer
• The Young Black Stallion (2003) - Theatrical Trailer

Here's a review of the soundtrack from "Dragonheart" (the music is by Randy Edelman)

Dragonheart theme

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The walnut shape of Iapetus explained?

I don't normally read USA Today for its science insight, and there's lots of other places to read about this, but it had a readable article about how Iapetus apparently accreted the debris of a Saturn moon moonlet that got busted up by the gravity of Iapetus, and the chunks rained down uponst the moon equatorially, resulting in the band of mountains. So it's supposedly an icy, aligned ridge.

No matter how one slices it, Iapetus is just plain WEIRD.

Iapetus' oddball shape explained

Close-up of the ridge:

The dark side of the highly-contrasted moon; the ridge is clearly seen here.

Why is Phyllis Schafly commenting on global warming?

Phyllis Schafly is a conservative. She's got no scientific background or training. And yet... she can pony up and write a column about global warming and energy policy.

She's a dunce.

She goes with the classic attack on global warming international policy: that it's a wealth redistribution scheme. No word about who will suffer most as climate shifts -- the less well-fortuned countries and people. We're all in this together, Phyllis -- and as things get worse, people get angry. And they can be easily convinced that those with more are oppressing those with less unless it is demonstrably and observably otherwise. So maybe wealth distribution is a good thing if the alternative is jihad and terrorism.

"It had little to do with any science about climate change and everything to do with trying to get the United States and other industrialized nations to redistribute their wealth to the poorer nations under the supervision of eager United Nations bureaucrats."

OK, thank you for vomiting up a skeptical talking point.

"Our over-consumption is alleged to cause global warming. We are guilty because we are prosperous, so we supposedly owe reparations to the poor nations."

It's beyond alleged, but that simple point is beyond the ability of your vacuous brain to comprehend it.

"The World Wildlife Foundation estimates that the amounts needed to protect against climate change will run to $160 billion to $200 billion yearly by 2020."

That little?

"The main cause of poverty in other countries is the lack of enough energy. We should be increasing the use of energy rather than expanding government powers to restrict energy."

We are all going to be running out of energy soon, Phyllis baby, unless nationally and collectively, we expand our portfolios. So what about maybe exporting scientific technology, like nuclear? Earlier on, Phyllis wrote:

"They also floated a scheme to force 37 industrialized nations to transfer their technologies along with huge financial bonuses to the poorer 155 nations."

Which is EXACTLY what we need to do if we are going to raise the standard-of-living in 3rd World countries, reduce their overpopulation by empowering their women so they don't have to have 10 kids -- which no doubt you have a problem with too, Phyllis, since you believe a woman's place is in the home, happy and pregnant -- and also protect the environment from air pollution and climate change.

So you answered your own question while belittling it. So pardon me if I don't think your opinion on this has any value. You wouldn't understand science if it stuck it's finger in your eye.

She finishes with this sickening sentence: "If poor countries want to be rich, the way to go is to follow our American model for success, freedom and prosperity."

Yeah, y'know how we did that? By kicking Native Americans off their lands, plowing forests under for farms, slicing the tops of mountains off for coal, burning cheap (at the time) oil for energy, and otherwise making money hand-over-fist without ever reckoning one iota of
environmental cost.

That's why you're a dingbat and a dunce, Phyllis, and you should never had put fingers to keyboard about this.

Katie Holmes shows how to be stunningly sexy while fully dressed

It's all in the hips.

Tom Cruise: Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, and now of course, Katie.


Monday, December 13, 2010

When they say "room with a view", they mean it

Looking down from the International Space Station Cupola module, one could see this.

That's the Bahamas, by the way.

I can see why a lot of people think space tourism could be successful.

Launching satellites is not easy

Launching a satellite on a rocket -- basically a bomb with navigational capability -- is not an easy task. One thing wrong, and about sixteen different kaflooey scenarios are invoked. The Russians proved this a couple of days ago when they lost three of their Glonass satellites, which they are launching to build a satellite constellation that does similar things to the US GPS system, which has been a major success.

So I guess they'll have to be a little more careful measuring the fuel in the tank next time.

Surplus Fuel Believed Cause For Russia's Glonass Satellite Loss

The main cause of the loss of Russia's three Glonass-M satellites was due to human error from fueling the booster rocket with an excess of 1.5-2 tons of fuel, the head of the Russian state commission probing the incident said on Friday.

As they say in the rocket launching biz: "Oops."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Nuclear on the Danube, hopefully

Russia is partnering with Bulgaria on a nuclear plant situated on the Danube River. Apparently the deal is done, but there's still some disagreement on the price of the deal. This particular project has been stalled for awhile, and Germany's RWE AG pulled out of an earlier plan.

Fortum, Altran, Rosatum to Build Bulgaria Atomic-Power Plant

Bulgaria agreed with Fortum OYJ, Finland’s biggest utility, French engineering company Altran Technologies SA and Russia’s Rosatom Corp. to set up a joint company to build and operate the Belene nuclear power plant.

The cost of the project has yet to be determined, Bulgarian Energy and Economy Minister Traicho Traikov told journalists today in Sofia. The joint venture that will build the 2,000- megawatt plant at Belene on the Danube river will be set up in four months, he said.

About that cost... from an earlier article:

Russia and Bulgaria Disagree Over Prices for Danube Nuclear Power Plant

Rosatom Corp., Russia’s nuclear power company that won a contract to build the two-reactor plant for 4 billion euros ($5.45 billion) in 2005, has increased the price to 6.3 billion euros because of the delayed construction, Bulgarian Energy and Economy Minister Traicho Traikov said today.

“The proposed price is unacceptably high for us,” Traikov said in Sofia. “The power plant should not cost more than 5 billion euros in our estimates.”

But apparently they've worked that out - maybe.

South Korea plans broader energy portfolio

South Korea, on a small peninsula with a growing population and go-go-growing economy, sees the need for more energy on that selfsame peninsula. So they're going to build more coal, more liquified natural gas, and key here, more nuclear power plants -- 14, actually.

I tend to think that they ought to see what they could do with just conservation and more nuclear, but that's just me. Anyway, it's clear that South Korea will be a good place for nuclear industrians.

South Korea Plans to Spend $39 Billion on New Nuclear, Coal and Gas Plants

The country may construct 14 more nuclear reactors, 13 coal-fired plants and 19 that use liquefied natural gas by 2024, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in a statement today. The proposal is a part of a government power supply-and-demand plan that outlines investment for the next 15 years. The plan will be finalized by the end of this year. (skip) Nuclear plants will provide 48.5 percent of power generation by 2024, up from an expected 32.7 percent next year, according to the ministry.

Friday, December 10, 2010

'Spectacularly' wrong? D*mn right it is

I even emailed Marc Morano of Climate Depot about the spectacular wrongness of the following posting, and I will have much more to say about that very soon.

NASA Peer-Reviewed Study Finds Low Sensitivity To CO2 Doubling: The UN's IPCC Global Warming Science Is Imploding

Put briefly, the study don't say what the author thinks it's sayin'.

I just now realized that I can email the author and tell him why he's spectacularly wrong about this; but I'll have to do that well. So what I'm gonna do is to write him, and post what I wrote him here, in conjunction with my comments about Marc Morano's psychological twistedness. Stay tuned.

Natalie Portman stripping

Actually, it looks rather more like she's just getting undressed, but that particular act has its own merits.

Natalie Portman is graceful as a swan as she strips down to her garter and négligée

I wonder if her next movie, with Ashton Kutcher ("No Strings Attached") will be good or not. It's being released in January, the traditional month in which movie turkeys are released. It's the "Dante's Peak" rule; looks like a good movie, but turns out to be... well, a turkey. Production values, stars, plot, but doesn't deliver.

Well, judge the trailer for yourself:
No Strings Attached Trailer

Portman sounds convincingly passionate at :54. But I wouldn't expect anything less from her.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

UNEP report on melting glaciers around the world

This got released at the Cancun climate impasse, er, conference or whatever. It'd be a shame if the chance for real progress got derailed by a country named JAPAN.

I'm starting to feel a bit of dislike for the arrogant Japs.

But anyway, here's the report:

Melting Glaciers Cause Droughts, Floods

Here's a compendium:

- Glaciers in Argentina and Chile, followed by those in Alaska and its coastal mountain ranges, have been losing mass faster and for longer than glaciers in other parts of the world.

- The third fastest rate of loss is among glaciers in the northwest United States and southwest Canada.

- Melting more slowly are glaciers in the high mountains of Asia, including the Hindu Kush region of the Himalayas, the Arctic and the Andes.

- Overall, the trend is shrinking glaciers, but greater precipitation in some places has increased the mass and the size of glaciers in western Norway, New Zealand's South Island and parts of the Tierra del Fuego in South America.

- Some areas are experiencing contradictory effects, according to the report. In smaller areas of Asia's Karakoram range, for example, advancing glaciers have crept over areas that have been free of ice for 50 years. But in Asia's Tianshan and Himalayan mountain ranges, glaciers are receding, and some are shrinking rapidly, causing glacial lakes to burst.

The report recommends:

* Strengthening glacial research and trans-national collaboration with emphasis on mass calculation, monitoring and particularly the effects of glacial recession on water resources, biodiversity and availability downstream.

* Improved modeling on precipitation patterns and effects on water availability in particular in mountain regions of Asia and Latin America.

* Prioritizing support to and development of adaptation to water-related disasters.

* Prioritizing programs and support to development and implementation of adaptation strategies for too much and too little water including strengthening the role of women.

* Urgently supporting the implementation and improvement of both small and large-scale water capture and storage systems and improving efficiency of current irrigation systems through the use of green technology and agricultural knowledge.

I say "yea". (and what about desalination?)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's about time -- Michelle Keegan featured in FHM

Ever since her attributioned self came to my attention, I've been waiting for Coronation Street (Brit soap opera) starlet Michelle Keegan -- who has waltzed off with several "Most Sexiest" or somesuch awards -- to get the full treatment in a magazine, other than a couple of tantalizing bikini shots on vacation.

Thankfully, it has happened. This girl gives the exquisite Emmanuelle Chriqui a definite run in the "shapely brunette with eyes to dissolve in" category. She's got that: body, eyes, a sumptuous mane of hair, and a girl-next-door seductiveness. She's a package, I tell ya.

So here's where to find her. Note that there are TWO video links on the page; the cover shot has a surprise in store.

Soap star Michelle Keegan in the bath for January

I have a feeling that luvly Michelle won't stay canned in a British soap much longer.

Tuna fishing ban in the Pacific pushed by island nations

They may be going underwater slowly, but Pacific island nations aren't going down without a fight. This week they got together and set up a ban on purse seining for tuna, a major, major, MAJOR statement move about overfishing in the world's oceans.

Japan, I hope you notice this.

Marine biologists say the development is a major step forward for efforts to halt the global decline of bigeye, yellowfin, skipjack and other tropical tuna species. In October this year, Britain turned the entire Exclusive Economic Zone around the Chagos Islands, in the centre of the Indian Ocean, into a no-take zone, making it the first area rich in tuna that has been closed to fishing. At 3.2 million square kilometres, the Eastern High Seas is six times larger.

"These are the most far-reaching ocean-conservation measures ever," says Daniel Pauly, a leading fisheries scientist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. "For the first time since man has been fishing out the open oceans, we're going to see a reversal of the decline of pelagic species in two big areas."

Islands champion tuna ban

SpaceX Falcon 9 test flight successful

There's coverage all over the world on this, so I just found a good article about the SpaceX test flight that went rather perfectly today:

SpaceX test flight of cargo craft a success

So maybe we won't be out of space for so long after all -- even though Falcon 9 isn't going to be human-rated for awhile yet.

Rough passage

High waves and winds imperiled an Antarctic cruise ship this week: 30-footers smashed windows on the bridge. Here's a video from MSNBC:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Rust-eating bacteria living in Titanic's rusticles

I think scientists knew that the rusticles draping the Titanic wreck were caused by the slow digestion of the ship's iron by bacteria, but now they've isolated a new iron-consuming bacteria, with the musical name Halomonas titanicae.

New species of bacteria found in Titanic 'rusticles'

Link to the actual SCIENTIFIC article!

Halomonas titanicae sp. nov., a halophilic bacterium isolated from the RMS Titanic

Video report

Saudi Arabia serious about nuclear power

Forget the fact that they've built and financed the kingdom on cheap oil -- the Saudis are looking into the future, and the future isn't carbon-based. It's alternative -- and being smart sorts, their alternative is nuclear. I think that they can sense that their population is going to need three main things: 1) energy, 2) water, and 3) food, and the main way to get 1) and 2) is to use what nuclear offers. Money is no object, so they can build now and get generating while in our country, Republican conservatives and especially know-little Republican conservative global warming skeptics sell us the pipe dream of cheap, polluting, climate-wrecking, non-sustainable, nearing peak, increasingly environmentally damaging oil and coal energy.

Saudi seen generating power from nuclear in 10 years

"Fast-growing power demand is forcing the world's largest oil exporter to look at all sources of energy. The kingdom will need 40 gigawatts (GW) of base load power by 2030, which could be met by nuclear plants, a government official said in October. "

It's a growth industry:

"Demand for electricity in the desert country is rising at an annual rate of 8 percent and is expected to triple to 121,000 megawatts by 2032."

U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce Francisco Sanchez sees opportunities for U.S. nuclear companies (let's hope so), but it's a competitive market, as France and Russia are already making nice noises to the Saudis.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Where EXACTLY is Opportunity (the Mars Rover)?

It's deucedly hard to figure out where in location to its targeted destination (Endeavour Crater) the Mars Rover Opportunity is. The JPL Mars Rover site has lots of short-range traverse maps, but they don't have a recent large one that puts its distance to Endeavour Crater in context. Even in September, when they said it was halfway, they didn't put out a map!

It took me a little effort, but I managed to find a few maps that help figure out where it is. Its next major target is probably what appears to be a nice little well-defined crater with its own dune field in the middle, Santa Maria.

1. Opportunity's long and winding road to Endeavour Crater (dated May 5, 2010). That links to this (labeled) image, released April 30, 2010:


2. This MarsDaily article gives a report on recent progress (mirroring the JPL Mars Rover reports): Opportunity Imaging Small Craters on Way to Endeavour

3. Mars Rovers Exploration Update (September 30, 2010)
This shows Opportunity's position on Sol 2239. It also shows where on the rim of Endeavour Opportunity expects to be. It's now around Sol 2440 or so.

4. This is the image that mentions Santa Maria crater, from the link above.
Caption: This image shows Opportunity's position every 100 sols and was created from a background image by JPL's Tim Parker, with the positions and ripple map created by James Canvin. Santa Maria Crater is the little black dot to the right of the 2300 sol position. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / T. Parker / J. Canvin

5. And this is the most recent one I could find, showing where Opportunity was on Sol 2400.
Sol 2400 map

So now I (and maybe you, dear reader) have a better idea of where Opportunity actually is. It looks like Santa Maria crater will be a nice target coming up soon on the way to Endeavour.

Here's a bit more on Santa Maria crater, with a well-developed image:
A closer look at Santa Maria

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What reason would be good enough?

This is one example of what Tony Parker lost.

Lesser men would be shattered. I sure hope he feels the pain, because I don't feel his.

Top 10 Reasons Tony Parker screwed this up:

10. Being married to a popular, gorgeous, successful, busy Hollywood actress isn't all it's cracked up to be.

9. He thinks that he's prettier than she is.

8. She wasn't naked often enough in the house.

7. He couldn't bear the thought of seeing her amazing body get large with child after he impregnated her.

6. Fellatio. (Use your imagination.)

5. Having a beautiful Hollywood actress madely in love with you gets downright boring after awhile.

4. Saw fans in the stands holding up life-size Eva Longoria posters while he was attempting free throws one too many times.

3. Tiger Woods envy.

2. Her major histocompatibility locus (MHC) was too similar to his.

and the Number One Reason is:

1. Actually, I can't think of a single reason that's really good enough to explain this level of masculine idiocy.

Friday, December 3, 2010

More on the secret space plane

After I posted my last article, I discovered that the Daily Mail (which seems to cover everything) had covered it, too.

X-37B secret unmanned space shuttle returns to Earth

This article is useful because it has a good set of pictures. And it turns out that putting humans in it would be a TIGHT squeeze.

Secret space plane lands

The X-37B space plane, a Top Secret mission tracked by amateur astronomers and a frequent subject of news articles, landed at Vandenberg AFB yesterday.

Secret space plane returns

I keep thinking that if this thing actually worked, why couldn't we use it to get astronauts to the International Space Station? Am I missing something?

If it looks this good, does it smell wonderful?

Shakira has a new fragrance out, called simply, "S".

The front picture on the Web site, of Shakira in gold chain mail, makes me want to inhale. Deeply.

S by Shakira

I doubt she'll mind the free advertising. One comment on this picture says that it doesn't look like Shakira. Well, it looks enough like her for my fantasies.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Erta Ale fills up its crater

Erta Ale is a shield volcano in the remote wilderness of the Afar Triangle of Ethiopia. It has been for many years the site of one of nature's most interesting phenomena, a lava lake. However, recently, the lava lake has been rising, filling the inner crater and spilling out into the larger summit crater/caldera. A report (in PDF) has full coverage of this interesting development.

I sure wish this would happen to the summit vent at Halemaumau!

Report: Erta Ale eruption observations

Here's a picture of what the lava lake used to look like, until recently (photo taken by Marco Fulle of Stromboli Online)

Current status of 2010 global temperatures, from World Meteorological Agency

It's getting down to the proverbial wire as to whether 2010 will be warmer than 1998 (and of course, that depends on what group is doing the analysis, too). But I thought the first paragraph of the WMO's statement about the current state of global temperatures for 2010 worthy of reading:

Cancun/Geneva (WMO) - The year 2010 is almost certain to rank in the top 3 warmest years since the beginning of instrumental climate records in 1850, according to data sources compiled by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The global combined sea surface and land surface air temperature for 2010 (January–October) is currently estimated at 0.55°C ± 0.11°C (0.99°F ± 0.20°F) above the 1961–1990 annual average of 14.00°C/57.2°F. At present, 2010’s nominal value is the highest on record, just ahead of 1998 (January-October anomaly +0.53°C) and 2005 (0.52°C). The ERA-Interim reanalysis data are also indicating that January-October 2010 temperatures are near record levels. The final ranking of 2010 will not become clear until November and December data are analysed in early 2011. Preliminary operational data from 1-25 November indicate that global temperatures from November 2010 are similar to those observed in November 2005, indicating that global temperatures for 2010 are continuing to track near record levels.

So, there's only a few weeks left for La Nina to beat back the record. Will it?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bluefin tuna get shafted; sharks actually get protected

The recently-concluded ICCAT meeting in Paris, despite the horrific revelations of the vast volume of bluefin tuna fishing cheating, basically set the next year's quota at the same level of last year's, but they did decrease it slightly in a cover-their-fat-asses maneuver by a paltry and essentially meaningless 600 metric tons. This leaves the Mediterranean bluefin tuna in the precarious positon of a 30% chance of fishery collapse (by ICCAT's own reckoning), and due to the uncontrolled cheating on the quotas, the actual likelihood of a collapse is likely much higher than that.

Environmentalists: fishing quota could be death sentence for bluefin tuna

How 'bout this for a finisher:
"An analysis last year by WWF predicted that the Atlantic bluefin tuna population in the Mediterranean will become functionally extinct by 2012 if the fishery isn't closed. According to the report Mediterranean bluefin breeding population's were cut in half between 2002 and 2007, while the size of breeding fish also fell by half over fifteen years."

2012 is little more than a year away.

Great news, eh? The main culprits who pushed ICCAT to maintain the high levels are the European Union and France. But there is good news on this front: more and more people are waking up to the problem this represents:

Thousands pledge to boycott restaurants serving bluefin tuna

The real solution is a ban on the trade and distribution of all Atlantic bluefin tuna. Japan was making noises that it was scared about how much of the bluefin it was getting was illegal; if real teeth could be put in the policing of the black-market trade, that would help, but the only real way out of this mess is to ban everything, because you can never be sure.

However, suprisingly, ICCAT stepped up to the plate on shark protection, except for the poor porbeagle:

Sharks Fare Better Than Tuna at Conservation Meeting

Unprecedented Shark Conservation Action taken by Atlantic Tuna Commission

Good news and bad news:
Good: While the oceanic whitetip shark protection agreed is broad, the new ICCAT measure on hammerhead sharks includes explicit exemptions for developing coastal States to fish the species for food and report catches by genus instead of by species. To balance these exceptions, the measure calls on these countries to ensure hammerheads do not enter international trade and prevent increases in hammerhead catches. [Who fishes hammerheads for food?]

Bad: The European Union (EU) failed to achieve consensus on a proposal to prohibit retention of porbeagle sharks due primarily to opposition from Canada, the only ICCAT Party with a targeted porbeagle fishery.

Also bad: The proposal to ban removal of shark fins at sea was offered for the second year in a row by Belize, Brazil, and the US. The proposal was deferred due to opposition from Japan and a desire to focus on other shark actions.

Damn Japs. Damn, damn, damn -- and I mean that sincerely.

This shark protection movement is important, because:

More than a million Atlantic sharks killed yearly - study

"At least 1.3 million sharks, many listed as endangered, were harvested from the Atlantic in 2008 by industrial-scale fisheries unhampered by catch or size limits, according to a tally released Monday. The actual figure may be several fold higher due to under-reporting, said the study, released by advocacy group Oceana on the sidelines of a meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)."

UN-believable. Emphasis on the UN.

NOAA was self-congratulatory:
United States Leads Push for Strong Measures to Protect Sharks and Sea Turtles
ICCAT Takes More Steps for Bluefin Tuna Conservation

They were "disappointed" that ICCAT didn't take more action on the bluefin tuna. I'd put "aghast". Let's see how that reads now:

"The United States was AGHAST that in other areas ICCAT did not fully act in accordance with the scientific advice of the ICCAT scientific body. For example, nations only agreed to minor quota reductions for bluefin tuna fisheries, and didn’t take the precautionary steps necessary to accelerate stock growth."

Yes, that sounds much better.

This one didn't get away

There are lots of jokes about "halibut", but this catch was no joke:

Largest halibut caught (the Daily Mail headline was dumb)

What the heck does it feel like when a monster flatfish like this hits the hook?

(Photo taken by Reynir Skarsgard)

This page has a list of other world-record fish catches:

Largest halibut - world record set by Günther Hansel

While I'm always impressed, I'm also distressed that these kings of the ocean no longer swim there. If they were caught and released, in their honor, then I'm fine with it.

Renewable energy substitutes won't be in time to forestall oil crunch?

Renewable substitutes won't be in time to forestall oil crunch

Oil will run dry before substitutes roll out: study

"Our results suggest it will take a long time before renewable replacement fuels can be self-sustaining, at least from a market perspective," said study author Debbie Niemeier, a UC Davis professor of civil and environmental engineering."


"Niemeier said the new study's findings are a warning that current renewable-fuel targets are not ambitious enough to prevent harm to society, economic development and natural ecosystems."

Nuclear power isn't renewable, but it can be the bridge to the ultimate new society where renewable sources can take their rightful place. If nuclear isn't a bit part of the short-term mix, we're in trouble.

Indonesia looks forward; more nuclear power?

The Indonesian National Nuclear Energy Agency has an expert stating that Indonesia could have a lot more nuclear power plants:

"The country's National Nuclear Energy Agency said the country's existing nuclear power plants have a capacity of 90 megawatts but the country has the resources to build more than 30 plants, the Antara news agency reported Monday."


"Those who reject or oppose nuclear energy plants are people who do not understand nuclear energy, he said." [Seconded.]

Just don't put them too close to a fault line or active volcano, and they should be inshore far enough to avoid potential tsunamis. Other than that... well, I hope they choose their sites prudently.

Monday, November 29, 2010

It's not over while I'm still breathing

...which might be attributed to Roger Federer, rather than a quote from "Avatar". Anyhow, R-Fed beat R. Nadal yesterday (Sunday) in the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour final in London, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. Basically, Nadal ran out of gas after being pushed to the limit by Andy Murray the day before, 7-6, 3-6, 7-6; an astonishing 3 hour, 11 minute THREE-SET match!

I hope Murray doesn't keep us waiting much longer and finally wins a major next year: preferably Wimbledon.

Here's the Daily Mail coverage. I'll have to read more about the Nadal-Murray semi to see if I can find the definitive description.

Murray so close: Nadal finds his best form to topple the British No 1 and reach first ATP World Tour final

Federer has the power: Swiss master beats rival Nadal to claim London title

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Is England playing for an Ashes Test draw?

OK, I admit, I thought the first Ashes Test was over (hah) when England went out in their first innings for only 260, and Australia came back with 481. That was before the second innings; captain Andrew Strauss for England started with 110, and then Australia couldn't get Jonathan Trott (135) and Alastair Cook (235!!) out. So England declared (which means for you non-cricketers that they said they were done, and dare Australia to get as many runs (or more) as they had scored. Which means that Australia would need 297 runs to win.

This on day five, the last day of the first Ashes test in Australia, Brisbane to be exact. So there's two choices, basically; either England gets all of the Aussies wickets before the day is over and the Aussies haven't matched their score -- in which case they win -- or more likely, they don't get all the wickets, but the Aussies don't make the score, and it's a draw. (The other possibility is that the Aussies get 297 runs by the end of the day. That'd be real bad for the Brits.)

So I think they're playing for the draw, but if they get lucky, that's even better. As I finish writing this, the score for the Aussies is 55/1 (51 runs, one wicket down) and there aren't a lot of overs (25 or so) left. So this one's most likely to end in a draw. (An over is 6 bowls.)

The next test starts on Friday, December 3, in Adelaide.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Out of curiousity: Rita Coolidge

Out of curiousity, I checked to see what Rita Coolidge has done recently. The last professional item that Wikipedia has on her is that she released a jazz album in 2006, titled "And So is Love". Wikipedia also says she now lives in the Avocado Capital of the World, Fallbrook, CA.

But, when I search around a little more, I found a page indicating that she performed at the Vancouver Wine and Jazz Festival in 2009. And she has a Web site, natch:

which says she was touring in 2010. The site isn't working quite right; the photo gallery links aren't linking to photo galleries.

But here's a recent picture (blurry) of her in concert this year.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Slowing or not? It'll take awhile to hash this out

I'm going to have to do more reading about this, but there are two different reports out that a) global warming is slowing, and b) that the data showing global warming is slowing are wrong.


Here's part 1: Global warming has slowed down over the past 10 years, say scientists

Not all for good reasons: "Scientists say one of the major factors is the rise in heavy industry and pollutant 'aerosols', particularly in Asia," the article states.

Here's part 2: Data suggesting global warming slow-down is wrong

Meat of the argument:

The change in methodology [of measuring sea surface temperature] lead climate experts to believe that the rate of warming had slowed down from 0.16 °C per cent per decade to 0.09 °C per decade, a change of 0.07 °C,which is quite a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

The claim has now been brought into question by John Kennedy and colleagues at the UK Met Office who have now found that the real slowdown was significantly smaller.

Kennedy suggests that the change in the way the temperatures are measured could account for up to 0.03 °C of the change.

Meanwhile, back in the States:

NASA study finds Earth's lakes are warming

"Researchers Philipp Schneider and Simon Hook of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., used satellite data to measure the surface temperatures of 167 large lakes worldwide.

They reported an average warming rate of 0.81 degrees Fahrenheit per decade, with some lakes warming as much as 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. The warming trend was global, and the greatest increases were in the mid- to high-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere."

Two new global warming studies spell trouble for Lake Tahoe

Besides melting snowpack, the lake itself is warming up (as discovered by the study immediately above):

Lakes in the the Northern Hemisphere’s mid and upper latitudes showed the most warming. That includes Lake Tahoe, which has heated up by 3 degrees Celsius since 1985, putting it behind only Russia’s Lake Ladoga.

I just can't wait to see how this whole shebang will get spun by Morano, McIntyre, Watts, as well as the lesser lights.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Travolta baby arrives

The Travoltas, John and Kelly (aka Kelly Preston) welcomed their new son, already named Benjamin, today. Congrats to both, but particularly the lovely 48-year old mom.

Now, there was a tabloid reporting that Kelly had an egg donor. I suppose that's possible (and could have been medically necessary), but we'll probably have to wait quite awhile to see if there's a difference in resemblances. But the fact is, kids usually look more like their fathers than their mothers. So it might never be obvious. I tend to doubt the egg donor story, but it does remain in the realm of possibility -- and really doesn't matter if the Travolta baby is robust and brings them happiness (as well as late-night diaper changes and feedings, and all the other good baby stuff).

No, not Oscar

Olivia Wilde, formerly of "House", lately of "Tron" (she seems to gravitate toward projects with one-word titles) has some pictures in Details magazine, as reported by the Daily Mail. It's possible to find her wearing less (like here), but this set has a very high attractiveness factor. In particular, the video has her looking very appealing. She has great hair, intense eyes, a warm smile when she flashes it, and she personifies the term "willowy". She can act, too.

A romantic comet flyby coming soon

Fresh off the EPOXI flyby of Comet Hartley-2, NASA has another re-use mission, this time the Stardust spacecraft. Stardust is going to flyby Comet Tempel 1. If that name sounds familiar, it's because it's the same comet that was visited by, and smacked by an impactor from, the Deep Impact spacecraft. That's the same Deep Impact spacecraft that got renamed EPOXI and flew by Comet Hartley-2!

It's nice to see some symmetry here. Anyway, I don't know what more they'll learn from Tempel 1 this time, but they hopefully will learn more about it.

NASA Spacecraft Burns for Another Comet Flyby

Stardust NExT

Oh yeah, whysit a "romantic" comet flyby? Because it will be on Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

UN Secretary General puts climate deniers on notice

A "must read" (if you haven't already):

UN demands "concrete results" from Cancun summit

Speaking to reporters in New York yesterday, UN under secretary general for planning Robert Orr said that the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which is due for release in 2014, will be much worse than the last report released in 2007.

That report warned that based on business-as-usual projections, average global temperatures could rise by as much as six degrees by the end of the century, resulting in a catastrophic impact on the global economy. (That ought to make some of the world's nations pay attention!)

Orr said the early indications revealed that the next report, which will be based on a wide range of scientific papers, will show that "just about everything... will be more dramatic than the last report, because that is where all the data is pointing." (Despite what you've heard from the conservative, right-wing, mostly American, know-nothing climate deniers. Speaking of them...)

He added that UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon will attend the summit and make it clear that countries "should not take any comfort in the climate deniers' siren call" and must instead be aware that climate change "is happening in an accelerated way".

(Which is what the scientifically honest and informed have known for several years already.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Top 10 list of image subjects found searching "Ursula"

1. Ursula from the "Little Mermaid" (Disney)
2. Ursula Mayes (or Meyes)
-- WARNING! Searching this name could fry your eyeballs (in the nice way)
3. Ursula Andress
4. Ursula Vargues
5. Ursula Burns
6. Ursula Brooks
7. Saint Ursula
8. Ursula Le Guin
9. Ursula Plassnik
10. Ursula Bogner / Ursula Corbero

You are invited to find out who these people (or characters) are. I knew 1,3,7, and 8.

One of my memorable Ursulas, Playboy Playmate Ursula Buchfellner didn't show up in this contemporary search. Ursula + October + 1979 finds her, though. And in this manner I also found out that Stacy Keibler was born on October 14, 1979.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Serious energy projection includes nuclear

A reasonable report on ways to get the world energy situation CO2-free by 2050 -- a laudable goal -- includes nuclear energy in the portfolio. It is, as I would hope and expect, a combination of technologies that pulls off this impressive trick. Getting there will require substantially more gigatons of effort from the world's major economies (yes, United States, that means us, and yes, China, that means you, too).

Risø Energy Report 9: CO2-free energy can meet the world’s energy needs in 2050

Developments in non-fossil fuel energy technologies: 2010-2050

Full report (PDF style)

Based on existing plans, world nuclear capacity may therefore increase from the present 340 GWe to more than 1,000 GWe in 2050, enabling nuclear power to provide 20% of all electricity.

As noted in Nature, "States or the Union", state initiatives, exemplified by the fact that California didn't vote out their GHG emissions-cutting plan, may force more progress than the GOP climate zombies in Congress want or expect; plus, the military's green push, which has been described multiple times in recent articles, may also force societal evolution down this path.

How they knew the dust in Hayabusa was from Itokawa; fast-spinning asteroid

Interesting short article about how the determination was made that the miniscule motes of dust found in the Hayabusa sample chamber (chamber A; they haven't opened chamber B yet) were extraterrestrial dust from the asteroid and not terrestrial contamination. To put it basically, they were the sames composition as the asteroid was expected to be based on other observations, and they weren't the composition of dust either from where Hayabusa launched or where it landed.

Hayabusa confirms return of asteroid particles

Another short article indicates that the asteroidal pipsqueak that went by us a few days ago was a spinner (cricket term, as the Ashes in Oz are coming up fast); it completed a full rotation in 31 seconds.

Tiny asteroid that buzzed Earth is a fast-spinning rock

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What's wrong with this picture?

Actually, it's a trick question. Nothing's wrong with the picture at all, and I find it hard to find any faults with this up-and-coming starlet.

It's her name. Oops.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Playboy reveals more of Kelly Brook

Just thought some of us would like to know; there are a couple of new pictures in circulation (easily findable) from Kelly Brook's recent Playboy shoot. I think two of the three are better than those which appeared in the magazine.

Playboy mansion for sale?

Actually no, and this is old news (it may have sold by now): back in May, a condo unit in the converted Chicago Playboy mansion (the original) was on sale.

Playboy condo

Well, somebody else will almost certainly buy it, or has already, but I still dream about spending a night in the mansion with Candy Loving.

Sherwood Boehlert tries to talk sense into GOP numbskulls

Can the party of Reagan accept the science of climate change?

(Short answer to this rhetorical question: not if you're drinkin' what the Tea Party's servin' !)

Boehlert attempts to be the voice of reason, but with the army of near-catatonic zombies intoning the talking points that have been repetitively circulated and reiterated in the conservo-blogosphere, he's spitting fire into the wind. The net effect of the propaganda blitz on global warming has been, for conservative right-wingnutters:

1) an increase in the strength of the opinion that ALL science is suspect [partly due to the meme that scientists paid by grants produce the science that they're expected to];

2) an increase in the strength of the opinion that Joe Bubba Layman can have just as informed a viewpoint on global warming after reading a couple of posts on WattsUpWithThat or ClimateDepot as trained, dedicated, and honest climate scientists have; and

3) an increasingly strident tone that anybody who states or repeats the basic scientific understanding of climate change is part of a socialist, global conspiracy to slap down the economic prowess of the Western world.

All of this is entrenched in the backassward provinces of the U.S. The Europeans are astonished at this level of ignorance (except for the vested interests over there, which aren't nearly so influential as they are here).

Additional information: the Climate Zombie Caucus of the 112th Congress (from Climate Progress)

Hereby hangs a tale: small Italian goalie could play large for women's World Cup berth

Profile of Anna Picarelli, Italy's goalie, in Los Angeles Times

"Content you, gentlemen. I will compound this strife.
'Tis deeds must win the prize... "

(Taming of the Shrew, set in Padua)

Critical game Saturday in Padua, Italy for the U.S. women to make it into the World Cup next year.

The effect of La Nina:

Year-to-date (January-October) was rated warmest ever by NASA and NOAA. University of Alabama - Huntsville lower tropospheric satellite temperatures rank year-to-date second behind 1998. But October is 8th warmest for NOAA, 3rd warmest for NASA. La Nina is pulling down the end-of-year global temperatures, as expected.

Globe has 3rd or 8th warmest October on record; year-to-date period warmest on record

Thursday, November 18, 2010

More indicators of earlier spring

Mentioned in passing; another study has found evidence that spring is arriving early, based on the budding of flowers in Ohio.

Budding research links climate change and earlier-flowering plants

I guess it doesn't matter what the thermometers and weather stations indicate (or don't) if nature is pointing in the direction that climate is going.
Well, actually it does -- it verifies the consistency of the trend we're feeling now and makes it more worrisome when regarding projections into the future.

Telescopic video of Comet Ikeya-Murakami

NASA has a stirring video of Comet Ikeya-Murakami, which is currently just passing by. It was filmed with a remotely-operated telescope. The 'scope is in New Mexico, the operator is in Alabama.

New comet video

Here's a still image. It's a pretty little dirty ice block, spewing CO2 jets (that's new info from the Comet Hartley-2 observations by EPOXI)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Transcript of live coverage of the House Science Committee hearing on Climate Science

I followed along while this was going on... and much of the commentary was better and more informative than the testimony. So here's a link to the transcript of comments:

Live coverage of House climate hearing

Favorite comment:
"[Richard] Alley's uncertainty graphic was a good one... The chance that the sensitivity "could be a LOT higher than the estimates" is not balanced by a corresponding chance that the sensitivity "could be a LOT less"... "

oh, and this one too:

"[Richard] Feely talks of global data on ocean portion of co2 going mostly into the highest portion of the ocean. Latest cruises around world's oceans has meant "no all" on acidification etc"

Yeah, and Joanne Nova (aka Jo Nova) thinks that this isn't a problem. Bitch!

Sir Clive Sinclair is a super-silverback

Just in case you haven't heard this one already, Sir Clive Sinclair, credited as being the inventor of the original pocket calculator and also some small, early personal computers -- and therefore very wealthy -- married a lovely young lap dancer named Angie Bowness, who is now Lady Sinclair. (He has three children from an earlier marriage.) Apparently he met Angie when she was doing a short stint in the men's club, because she discovered her rent in London was kind of high. She's also a model, and has the goods to be good at it. Sir Clive met her because despite escalating age, he liked to go out at night and have a good time, as it were.

They met 14 years ago when the nightclub owner Peter Stringfellow sat his friend beside the 19-year-old dancer at a dinner party. “She was Miss England at the time, and I thought she was really quite lovely.” [quoting Sir Clive. I imagine she was.]

Well, according to calculations, Clive is 70 and Angie is 34. And she looks somewhat younger under the right circumstances. [Cue first link below.] According to the articles, she divides her time, spending some of it at Sir Clive's home, and some of it at home in London with her son (not his).

An unlikely Lady?: Sir Clive Sinclair's young wife poses for sexy beach calendar shoot

Based on the above, I think that Sir Clive is probably totally OK with this arrangement if Lady Sinclair spends a portion of the time that she's at his house totally naked.

Or at least dressed like this:

More on this arrangement:

The beauty and the boffin

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Julianne Moore's Bulgari ads (banned in some places)

Julianne Moore did a series of advertisements for Bulgari -- and they were deemed too risque for some billboards in Venice (I guess when you share the square with a cathedral, you have to make SOME choices based on taste and decorum). But this is Venice where courtesans went around bare-breasted and masked during the Carnival. Hmmm...

This is an astonishingly lovely 49-year old woman. She deserves an award for looking this good.

Here's the pictures, size reduced. If you click the picture here, it gets bigger.

If you want to see the lovely Julianne without the props, the very small pictures below have her without props (but still not displaying anything erogenous, unlike in "Short Cuts" and "The End of the Affair", amongst others).

The little satellite that could - DID!

Hayabusa did it! The never-say-quite-dead, get-home-even-if-you're-three-years-late asteroid rendesvous satellite Hayabusa did indeed capture tiny grains of the asteroid Itokawa that it visited and bumped, hoping to dislodge bits of space rock. So the news (complete with photographic verification) is that it did knock some dust loose, and got it into the sample chamber.

A couple of articles:

Hayabusa probe succeeded in returning asteroid dust to Earth

Success! Hayabusa captured asteroid dust (this one is pretty good; excellent images, including a large version of the scanning electron microphotograph of some of the 1,500 asteroid particles)

Jen Schefft has a baby

There a lot of celebs and starlets pregnant and nearing their dilation days (still waiting on Kelly Preston and John Travolta)... so I am certainly not going to try to keep up with everyone who pops one out. But since I mentioned that former Bachelorette Jen Schefft was pregnant back in May, I should be polite and report that she has achieved parturition.

It's A Girl! Former Bachelorette Star Jen Schefft Gives Birth To Her First Child

Country Music Awards fashion review

Just looking over the CMA awards fashion gallery; here's my quick thoughts:

Thumbnail gallery (CMT)

Laura Bell Bundy -- beautiful!
Sara Evans -- looked good
Kimberly Williams Paisley -- stunning in blue
Martina McBride -- bad look
Jerrod Niemann -- hottest date
Katherine Heigl -- Josh Kelley is a lucky, lucky man
Taylor Swift -- beautiful but understated; oh, those KISSable lips!

Julianne Hough -- too much dress, wrong hair color
Gwyneth Paltrow -- best dress, best bod (see below)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Breaking up a comet

Based on a rather small sample set (comets Borrelly and Hartley-2, and also probably the asteroid Toutatis), it looks like a lot of comets could be contact binaries, or at least potato-shaped. This tells me that the weak point of a comet like that would be the narrow center.

If it should be found that there's a comet on an impact course with Earth, then (like in Armageddon), it should be possible to drill into the center of the narrow part, place an explosive device, and then blow the binary apart. This would obviously put each of the parts into a different orbit, probably (I say that carefully) no longer on an impact course, provided this is done sufficiently well advanced of the predicted impact date.

I think the best approach for longer-term prospects (like asteroids) would be to land a few plasma engines on the surface, turn them on, and gently push the dangerous rock into a different orbit. Again, this requires sufficient lead time. [Unsurprising, others more versed in rocket science agree.]

NEO defenses require global consensus, efforts

For short-term impact warnings, it's hard to tell what could be done at this point. We don't have the technology to get there and turn a potential impactor with months to spare. Part of the prior planning should be to build up a technology base to have the availability of technology that could do the job. I'll have to see if there are reports out of the recent meeting.

If an impactor is discovered only days out, well then, there's going to be big hole somewhere on Earth and we'll have to deal with it somehow.