Thursday, September 30, 2010

I can think of two ways to make money with this

Two Russian companies have announced that they're going to build and launch and maintain a commercial space station (CSS). They also offer it as a "safe haven" in case the ISS goes kafutzy; I think that the ISS and CSS orbits would have to be sufficiently synced for that to work.

Now, they say that they'll market it for medical experiments, Earth observations, and for, euphemistically: "... some parties are interested in short-duration stays on the station for enjoyment." Oy. As well as some media events. Well.

Let's get back to that enjoyment thing. As far as anyone knows or can tell, there is no documented and/or established circumstance in which a human couple has engaged in orbital relations. Or, to put it more simply, it's very unlikely that any male-female pair has managed a weightless docking in the physical sense. And if my wordplay still doesn't capture it, what I'm basically saying is that there's a very high probability that no two spacefarers have ever had sex in space.

How much would someone be willing to pay for the first time?

Now, here's the ultimate question: if there is a couple seeking to be the first members of the 200-mile high club, would they feel inclined to publicize their achievement if they actually made it to orbit and inhabited the CSS? If a couple so inclined did indeed launch, would it be possible for the world press to ignore the likelihood that this lucky couple might be the first couple boldly going where no couple has gone before? I think not -- and I certainly think the CSS enterprise would be idiotic not to sell tickets for this opportunity.

And the next level of opportunity is, putting it bluntly: a sex tape. See the above so-called "medical experiments". Is this not the ultimate medical experiment? Doesn't the world need to know if a) it can be done, and b) how to do it? Now, Spider Robinson got deeply (if that be the right way to write it) into this issue in the novella-turned-series "Stardance" -- broaching the subject of weightless coitus rather well, with balanced intimacy and a little humor. I think it almost unimaginable how much money could be made if two well-trained and attractive astro-copulators made a video of one particular very giant shtup for mankind.

If well done, it could fund the entire U.S. space program.

Here's another treatment of this subject:
Outer space sex carries complications

This quote shows similar thought patterns to mine:

Woodmansee said sex would be "the killer app of space tourism ... because every couple who goes up there, or threesome or whatever their personal choice is, is going to want to try this."
Now, blending arts and sensuality, the article also has this quote:

"It's a pretty messy environment, when you think about it," he said. "And for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. However ... I can well imagine how compelling, inspiring, and quite frankly stimulating choreographed sex in zero-G might be in the hands of a skilled and talented cinematographer with appropriate lighting and music."
Can I start selling tickets NOW?

This next article puts the price on being the first spaceborne hookup at $40 million US.

The first orbital honeymoon: the next step in space (with a tasteful yet indicative illustration)

Here's a more technical treatment of this wondrously speculative idea:

"Complicating Factors: Issues Relating to Romance and Reproduction During Space Missions". While this article goes into great detail about what could happen after conception -- which is mostly not good -- and it also gets into some of the problems that could occur in space vehicle crews if two crewmembers are suchly "involved" -- it doesn't spend much time on the mechanics or techniques involved in effecting the necessary functional coupling prior to the release of sperm near the access point for the female oviducts. If you catch my drift.

Someone else got into this act:

The mile high club goes orbital (including the aspect of "tie me up, tie me down" to make the act more feasible).

OK, well, the CSS guys really ought to think about this. If they haven't already.

In a much more mundane sense, the CSS offers the possibility of entertainment, literally a star dance (or dances). There's been too much science in space; having a CSS would allow for the arts. I thought that when Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte went into orbit there might be some of that, but I don't think there was.

But, if "Dancing with the Stars" can draw such a big audience, what about "Dancing IN the Stars"? My mind swims with the idea of Julianne Hough demonstrating her supple grace in weightlessness. But in reality, someone like Nastia Lyukin might be more suited (the picture below illustrates why).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cassini gets extended

Considering that it would make ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE to shut down a fine working satellite in orbit around a far distant planet (Saturn, in this case): NASA has prudently decisioned to give more funding to the Cassini mission to allow it to continue exploring the fabulous moon and moonlet retinue, as well as the clouds and rings and auroras, and of course the enigmatic carbonic planetoid Titan [and the vapor-spewing Enceladus], all in the Saturnian system.

Sometimes you have to applaud when the government surprises us by doing the sensical thing. So in this case, clap clap clap clap clap.

Cassini Equinox Mission: Hello, Saturn Summer Solstice - Cassini's New Chapter

The extension goes to 2017, so there won't be any year-to-year cliffhanging drama about mission extension funds for quite awhile.

Klum and Seal

NY Daily News has an article about Seal's new video, for his new song from his new album: which features him in bed with his wife, happening to be ubersupermodel Heidi Klum. The article has stills, and also the whole video.

Secret, from Seal 6, "Commitment"

They appear to be demonstrating the methodology required to have progenyted three children together, considering that very few clothes are visible. Top moments are at 1:55, 2:40, and 3:01.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Trouble for Africa's uranium

Nuclear power needs uranium, and that's a problem in Africa currently. Advocating nuclear power means that I recognize measures need to be taken to stabilize the situation, and perhaps share the wealth a little!

Africa's uranium business turns risky

Al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb, which claims to hold the hostages seized in Niger, declared in a statement France shouldn't take military action against it and cast its warning further afield.

It said Western firms "that steal our wealth and take advantage of our people should know that they are legitimate targets for the mujaheddin and they should leave promptly because our land is not a field for plunder and our wealth is not something to be taken advantage of."

That may be little more than jihadist rhetoric to cover a kidnap-for-ransom enterprise and there is considerable skepticism that AQIM has the resources to conduct such a campaign.

But the colonial legacy of France, Britain and Belgium and the backing they have given African dictators in return for access to the continent's wealth is sure to strike a chord among impoverished Africans whose leaders have plundered their countries' natural resources to enrich themselves.

People starve in Niger despite having large uranium reserves (video report)

AREVA Workers Kidnapped Abroad (video report)

AREVA, which has been mining uranium in Niger for more than 40 years and employs about 2,500 people there, has recently become more concerned about potential threats from a Tuareg militant movement and from Al Qaeda's north African affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which is active in the region.

In 2008, the company reinforced security after Tuareg rebels kidnapped four French citizens. The hostages were freed, unharmed, five days later.

Tuareg tribesmen, who say the government is not sharing the proceeds of the country's mineral wealth, have been fighting a low-level insurgency in northern Niger since 2007. Niger, one of Africa's poorest countries, has one of the world's largest uranium deposits.

Now that's what I call skinny jeans

Whitney Port was viewed and photographed wearing a truly namesworthy pair of skinny jeans on her skinny gams:

Now, Ms. Port has a lot of physical attributes that are quite appealing: namely length AND curves. And she's fairly pretty to boot:

Despite what the first picture emphasizes, she's got a pretty fine body type. They say that the camera adds ten pounds (which doesn't appear to be true of that picture), but some of her other glamour shots give her a fairly ideal feminine shape, such as:

She looks nice in a bikini, and it's always nice to see sunlight between a girl's thighs, I say.

Shaquille O'Neal really is working on a Ph.D.

After watching Extreme Makeover last Sunday, I had to wonder if the Shaq is really working on a Ph.D. Seemed strange, but indeed he is: from Barry University, in Human Resource Development.

Shaquille O'Neal, Ph.D.

Barry University: Organizational Learning and Leadership

Given the general lack of scholastic aptitude in the NBA (sorry, but that's absolutely the way it is), Shaq's dedication to education is remarkable -- and a good example for other athletes to follow. Especially the ones in college with a chance at a pro sports career. [Most NCAA athletes do graduate and go on to other productive careers; only a very select few play pro sports, of course.]

What we're looking for

PHO is not just a soup, it's also a Potentially Hazardous Object. Now, I'm not talking about Heidi Montag standing in the middle of a busy city intersection wearing nothing but a bowtie (which despite the alterations that made her Barbie-esque and less humanesque, would still force the attentions of male drives hitherward and towardherward) -- in this case, PHO means an asteroid capable of a) coming close to Earth, and b) in the worst case, hitting Earth.

(As has happened before: update on the pristine Egyptian crater, complete with picture of a fragment.)

Anyhoo, a new telescope system has spied it's first PHO, which is what it's looking for. Glad to see the system is functional. Now we can hope that it finds something that's going to hit us in time for us to make it not hit us.

Europe sets up marine protected areas,but they're too small

It's been shown pretty conclusively that marine protected areas -- areas where there is no commercial fishing activity, and better yet, if possible, no poaching -- can fairly rapidly foster the recovery of a lot of marine species that are otherwise having depletion problems. While it's not true of everything that calls the marine realm an abode, most marine species (especially the non-mammalian kinds) are fecund; give them a chance to mix milt and eggs, and you get lots of little ones, and fairly soon, the area will be fairly floppin' with flounder (or whatever else happily spawned in the protected zone).

So it's a great stride forward -- or so it wouldeth appear -- when the European Union declared lots of areas under its general jurisdiction MPAs -- Marine Protected Areas.

Europe seeks to protect mid-Atlantic high seas

But here's the problem; while the areas are good, they aren't big enough, according to Oceana:

The EU, Norway and Iceland once again postpone protection for the North-East Atlantic:
The commitment to create Marine Protected Areas has been postponed until 2012

The agreement reached during the summit postpones the creation of a network of MPAs until 2012, despite the commitments requiring the network’s completion by 2010. Oceana believes that 2012 should mark the starting point of the next step in conserving the Atlantic: protecting 30% of the marine environment and developing management measures that foster the survival of all ecosystems in the North Atlantic.

The OSPAR Convention did see to the approval of six new MPAs, including the seamounts of Milne, Altair, Antialtair and Josephine, and two areas in the Atlantic ridge. These new additions bring the current number of MPAs to 165, making up less than 3% of the marine surface area of the North-East Atlantic OSPAR region, and significantly less than the 10% minimum required by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. The least protected areas are in Belgian waters, the high seas and the area from the Bay of Biscay to the Straits of Gibraltar, where less than 1% is protected.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It all worked out in the end

CBS News Sports has an interesting article about the end of this year's Tour Championship (golf), which nice guy and oft-overlooked Jim Furyk won with a sand save on the 18th.

Do the math -- Furyk wins, and wins $10 million

Furyk has probably been more noted for his weird swing than for his remarkable record of excellence and longevity. In the year that Tiger Woods went way, way down, this is a nice way to end the year on a better note.

(And I have to mention -- his wife Tabitha is rather cute. And now she's got a couple million bucks to spend on a new dress.

Big British wind power farm generates buzz

A new offshore British wind farm has begun generating power. Despite my misgivings about wind power, Britain and the North Sea are one of the places that the wind blows pretty steadily.

Analysis: Firms jump on UK offshore wind bandwagon

Here's a video report:

Not everyone thinks that this is a good idea:

The Thanet wind farm will milk us of billions (by Christopher Booker)

Opening salvo:

In all the publicity given to the opening of "the world's largest wind farm" off the Kent coast last week, by far the most important and shocking aspect of this vast project was completely overlooked. Over the coming years we will be giving the wind farm's Swedish owners a total of £1.2 billion in subsidies. That same sum, invested now in a single nuclear power station, could yield a staggering 13 times more electricity, with much greater reliability.

Parting shot:

If all this sounds dizzyingly surreal, the fact remains that we must begin to grasp just what the green fantasies of Mr Huhne, the EU and the rest are costing us. Even the Queen, we learn, tried to claim a "fuel poverty" allowance for her soaring electricity bills, which have risen 50 per cent in the past year. But a crucial first step towards getting some grip on reality must be for those who report on these wind farms to stop hiding away the colossal price we are all now having to pay for one of the greatest scams of our age.

I guess I'm not the only person with misgivings.

(By the way, this is post 1,000 on my blog. I like to keep 'em short and sweet).

Friday, September 24, 2010

WAGs and other women

Three warm GQ videos:

Brooklyn Decker (Andy Roddick)

Miranda Kerr (Orlando Bloom; OK, not literally a WAG in the sporting sense, but there must be a movie star WAG category!)

Irina Shayk (Cristian Ronaldo; particularly notable at :59 and 1:19)

and a bonus feature:

Shakira on Letterman (the appearance I tweeted about yesterday; what she's doing at about the 1:39 mark tells me that this is a woman who knows how to enjoy herself when the opportunity is arising)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nice-looking couple

Nicklas Bendtner, Denmark footballer playing for an English side (when he gets over his groin injury) and his beautiful, ultra-rich, pregnant -- what more can anyone ask for? -- oh yeah, older woman -- fiancee' Caroline Luel-Brockdorff are posing somewhat slightly provocatively (I could ask for a little more, in her case) on the cover of Denmark's version of Elle magazine.

Nicklas Bendtner and Caroline Luel-Brockdorff pose on the cover of Elle magazine

I first posted about them here, and later on the pregnancy announcement.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Last stands for the tigers

National Geographic (and dedicated researchers) describe where tigers are holding out, which main hold the key to their survival; which is unfortunately very dicey.

A last stand for tigers?

This is what sickens me:

"Nearly every part of a tiger--skin, bones, internal organs, eyeballs, claws, whiskers, even blood--can find a buyer on the black market. Where some people prize bone-infused potions for their reputed medicinal or aphrodisiac properties, others collect claws and other remnants as trinkets, talismans, and souvenirs."

It's sick to kill animals for their parts in medicine (which does nothing); it's really sick that so many ignorant people think having part of a tiger in some potion will do something for them.

Here's some more:

Just a little over a century ago, an estimated 100,000 tigers stalked through the forests from Turkey to the Russian Far East. Since the 1930s, three subspecies of Panthera tigris--the Bali, Caspian, and Javan tiger--have vanished.

Beyond the relentless pursuit of poachers, the wide-ranging tiger must cope with ongoing habitat loss, a primary threat to nearly every endangered species on Earth. Since 1900, the species lost close to 95 percent of its numbers and range.

Geez! Here's the minimal hope:

With most tigers confined primarily to these small, protected areas, the authors of the new study argue, it's crucial to protect these sites. In a call to action, the Wildlife Conservation Society's John Robinson, executive vice president for Conservation and Science, and Joe Walston, director of the WCS's Asia Program, along with 19 other tiger conservation scientists argue that it's time to redouble efforts to protect tigers where they live--before it's too late.

In the study, the authors identified 42 "source sites" throughout Asia, so-called because they contain enough tigers to repopulate the wider landscape. Nearly 70 percent of the world's last wild tigers, including most of the breeding females, live in these sites, which cover just 6 percent of their current range--a sobering 5 percent of their historic range.

and bottom-lining it:

Though long-term strategies--such as restoring the broader landscape, shutting down illegal trade routes and reducing the demand for tiger parts--are important, Walston acknowledges, they'll be irrelevant if the last source sites aren't protected. "We're at such a stage now that if we don't focus a disproportionate amount of our effort on source sites, all other strategies are bound to fail."
Another no-brainer.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Every now and then...

Every now and then, exquisitely pretty actress Keri Russell poses in the buff. While (like many actresses who do this), she doesn't reveal that which would make her utterly and totally starkers, the results tend to be comely and interesting.

She did it most recently for Esquire:

Keri Russell: The Woman Next Door (hint: it's the middle one, but the right one has its merits, too)

But this is still the most appealing: Hot couch potato

Freddie Flintoff officially retires

The knees, the knees. Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff couldn't come back from the knee injuries. Well, he had his moments; good and bad. When he was good, he was very, very good. When he was bad... he tried to go home inebriated in a water cycle and fell out (search on "Flintoff" and "pedalo", or just "Fredalo".

Andrew Flintoff quits cricket for good

La Niña update from JPL satellite topography

La Niña is smack dab on the Equator, according to the sea surface height data

La Niña chills the Pacific

This could be a worsening drought year for the Southwest, something they don't need. And this won't do the snowpack in the Rockies and the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada any favors, either.

"After more than a decade of mostly dry years on the Colorado River watershed and in the American Southwest, and only one normal rain year in the past five years in Southern California, water supplies are dangerously low," [Bill] Patzert added. "This La Niña could deepen the drought in the already parched Southwest and could also worsen conditions that have fueled Southern California's recent deadly wildfires."

Friday, September 17, 2010

Mark Schubert in trouble

Mark Schubert, USA Swimming's national team head coach, was ordered to take a 60-day leave of absence -- or get fired.

Mark Schubert takes leave of absence (Swimming World, good summary of his career)

The Washington Post had a bit more insight, indicating that Schubert has recently had some excessive vociferousness (and perhaps some other stuff). Here's hoping that he can cool off and get back to doing what he obviously does well.

I met one of his Mission Viejo Nadadores swimmers once, butterfly specialist Valerie Lee, while lifeguarding (she was traveling and dropped by the pool I was working at for a workout). I recognized her pretty immediately because of her red hair, and I'd seen her on the cover of Swimming World.

Valerie Lee

[after I wrote this I did a little more research; I'd forgotten that Valerie should have been a world champion in 1975; she was beaten by one of the East German steroid queens in the 200 meter butterfly. God d*mn, I truly despise those cheaters. A lot of swimmers should have had gold medals and been in the ISHOF if it wasn't for them and their corrupt government. It is a travesty that any of them still has their name in the record books. If Reggie Bush can lose the Heisman, then there should still be some retroactive awards, because the doping records for every one of the East German athletes were found) (East German doping) (Swimming World article) (about Werner Franke and Brigitte Berendonk (pdf))]

I had to look this one up

Charles Krauthammer, in an op-ed decrying the Christine O'Donnell upset of Mike Castle in Delaware on Tuesday, used the word "lumpenproleterians".

I admit, I couldn't use that in a sentence until I researched it. But NOW I can!

Wikipedia is sometimes criticized as a source of information, but I have to say, their entry on Lumpenproletariat was informative.

This part caught my eye:

Frantz Fanon also argued in "The Wretched of the Earth" (1961) that revolutionary movements in colonized countries could not exclude the lumpenproletariat, as it constitutes both a counterrevolutionary and a revolutionary potential. He described the lumpenproletariat as "one of the most spontaneous and the most radically revolutionary forces of a colonized people." However, it is an ignorant and desperate class, particularly susceptible to being co-opted by counterrevolutionary forces. Therefore, he claimed, education of the dispossessed masses should be central to revolutionary strategy.

Which is an excellent characterization of the Tea Party movement. Good on yah, Krauthammer. You nailed 'em. (Oh, Krauthammer thinks the Tea Party is "among the most vigorous and salutary grass-roots movements of our time"). That may be. That doesn't make them any less ignorant or any less susceptible to co-opting. In fact, much of their vigor thrives on ignorance and desperation.

More on the Serengeti "really bad idea" road

Found this article today about the travesty of a road across the Serengeti, which I posted about a day or so ago. This article has a map showing the proposed road and the proposed nature-sensitive alternative road proposed by scio-naturalists (I just made that up).

Scientists Say: The Highway Across the Serengeti Is a Terrible Idea

Quoting this article, which quotes another article:

Today in Nature, a group of 27 scientists chimed in on the project. Their verdict: It would be a biodiversity disaster.

Conservationists led by Princeton’s Andrew Dobson … argue the planned 2012 road would stop the yearly migration of 1.3 million wildebeests, the cornerstone species of the park, and harm other animals such as the 1.5 million zebras that yearly migrate as well. [USA Today]

OK, so this is a double no-brainer. It's a no-brainer to see what should be done; it's a no-brainer if Tanzania ends up building the road that bisects the Serengeti. Can't we (collectively) once, make the right decision here? Who has to get bribed to make this happen the right way?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Blue tit population declining

No, this is not about the females of the Na'vi. But since I mentioned it:

Actually, this is about little English songbirds who are losing the battle at the bird feeder with bigger birds, and their other traditional ways of getting foodstuffs are apparently no longer as popular, either.

Wrong kind of bird feeders leading to fall in the number of blue tits

In the past blue tits had a monopoly on the relatively tricky kind of feeders people put out. The tiny birds were uniquely able to feed from upside coconut shells full of fat, or perch on strings of monkey nuts. They were also the bird most likely to steal the cream from milk bottles, that used to be left on the doorstep.

However in recent times people has switched to larger bird feeders that a variety of birds are able to use, most of which are bigger than the blue tit. At the same time old fashioned feeders like monkey nuts and coconut shells are no longer used, and milk comes in plastic bottles that are kept in the fridge.

OK, I'm not even going to comment on monkey nuts...

but this goes to show that if you want to attract more blue tits, you've got to treat them right.

That might apply to other kinds of ... but that's just speculation.

Can we (collectively) not be idiots here?

Highway plan would destroy Serengeti: biologists

Paris (AFP) Sept 15, 2010 - Plans to drive a 50-kilometre (31-mile) two-lane highway into Tanzania's Serengeti would destroy one of the world's last great wildlife sanctuaries, top biologists warned on Wednesday. "The road will cause an environmental disaster," 27 biodiversity experts said in a commentary published by the science journal Nature. They urged the Tanzanian government to look at an alternative route that runs far south of the UN-listed haven. The planned road slashes right across the annual migratory route taken by 1.3 million wildebeest, part of the last great mass movements of animals on Earth, they said.

The wildebeest play a vital role in a fragile ecosystem, maintaining the vitality of Serengeti's grasslands and sustaining threatened predators such as lions, cheetahs and wild dogs, they said. In other parks, such as Canada's Banff National Park, Etosha National Park in Namibia and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in Botswana, fences and roads on migratory routes have triggered a collapse in the ecosystem, the scientists said. "Simulations suggest that if wildebeest access to
the Mara river in Kenya is blocked, the population will fall to less than 300,000," they said.

"This would lead to more grass fires, which would further diminish the quality of grazing by volatising minerals, and the ecosystem could flip into being a source of atmospheric CO2." The idea of linking Tanzania's coast to Lake Victoria and Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo has been around for two decades. With Tanzania due to stage elections next month, the scheme has gained in priority because of increasing foreign interest in exploiting the mineral wealth of central Africa, the commentary said. The proposed road would cut a broad swathe 50 kilometres (31 miles) long through the northern part of the 14,763-
square-kilometre (5,698-square-mile) Serengeti National Park, close to the border with Kenya. The alternative route invoked by the experts would be around 250 kilometres farther south, below the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Opportunity takes picture at halfway point to Endeavour

The living, talking, moving Mars rover Opportunity (in contrast to the please-wake-up and call-home Spirit) took a picture at about the halfway point to it's hoped-for destination, Endeavour Crater (which can be now clearly seen on the horizon).

Opportunity's halfway there picture (article from JPL/NASA)

How pretty is Natalie Portman, anyway?

At times, very, VERY, pretty. Like here at the "Black Swan" premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. And the early Oscar buzz has her as a contender for this one.

Drew Barrymore grows into her unique beauty

OK, even if the cover picture (shown here) has surely been modified a bit, Drew Barrymore has evolved from cute to striking. Go to the linked article for more pictures from her Harpers Bazaar appearance. The other two pictures, still glamourous, look a bit more like the "real" Drew.

Drew Barrymore Covers 'Harper's Bazaar' October 2010

Cancer drug blasts melanoma; breakthrough?

Cancer is a scourge; it frequently causes premature end of life, even in people that have lived relatively healthy lifestyles. Thus, a potential to truly "cure" cancer, at least to understand it such that a true cure might be found, is Big News.

I hope this is.

Is this cancer's 'penicillin moment'? Gene targeting drug could herald 'end game' for disease

Here's a more "scientific" take on the drug, with a link to the Nature paper about it, but for the latter you have to have a subscription or that archaic structure known as a 'library'.

Highlight: Scientific breakdown of cancer reveals promising results

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Washington Post article about mini nuclear plants

I'll hope to analyze this in more detail later, but the Post had an interesting article about the potential (or lack thereof) of mini nuclear power plants:

Miniature nuclear reactors might be a safe, efficient source of power

What about radiation, you ask? The ash coming from a typical coal plant carries plenty of radiation: According to some estimates, it carries 100 times more radiation into the surrounding area than a nuclear reactor producing the same amount of energy.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Something to look forward to

The Annenberg Space for Photography in LA is having a future exhibition (starting in October) called "Extreme Exposure". Starts October 23. Most of the pictures should be online when it officially starts.

Future Exhibition - Extreme Exposure

One of the featured photographers is actually two: Donna and Steven James O'Meara. They take great photos of volcanoes.

Like this one, of Eyjafjalljokull with lenticular clouds.

Beauty of Saturn

Another amazing view from the Cassini Equinox mission:

Video Music Awards brief red carpet review

Some of the usual bizarreness showed up, but in terms of pulchritude:

Not too much outstanding... Ashley Greene SOOOO pretty, such great legs.... Selena Gomez showin' the mole again... Brenda Song looking more mature (and has a tattoo)...
why were all these Disney stars there? The Jonas Brothers?

Gallery on CBS News

Gallery on Wonderwall

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Driessen glosses over DDT resistance

Big Oil defender and anti-environmentalist writer Paul Driessen has a DDT screed out. He makes a standard erroneous case against environmentalism and the supposed (nonexistent) ban on DDT. He vilifies many of the environmental groups that argued for the reduction of use of DDT due to a) bioaccumulation, b) trophic level effects, and most importantly c) development of resistance in mosquito populations.

Here's the article.

Three billion and counting

Here's what he says about resistance:

"Resistance? Mosquitoes have never become resistant to DDT’s life-saving repellency properties, but they are developing resistance to the pyrethroids used in agriculture – and bed nets."

Here's the facts. Mosquito populations with resistance in their gene bank will very rapidly redevelop it when re-exposed.

Here's some more facts (from Encyclopedia of Earth):

Indoor residual spraying (IRS) is one of the primary vector control interventions for reducing and interrupting malaria transmission. In recent years, however, it has received relatively little attention. Recent data confirms the efficacy and effectiveness of IRS in malaria control in countries where it was implemented well. According to the WHO, effective implementation of IRS with DDT or other recommended insecticides should be a central part of national malaria control strategies where this intervention is appropriate.

Control is implemented with the objective of reducing malaria morbidity and mortality and accelerating progress towards global and national malaria targets. There are important considerations, however, that must be taken into account when considering whether to introduce or scale up IRS. In particular, there must be sufficient capacity to deliver the intervention effectively, to prevent unauthorized use of public health pesticides, and to manage insecticide resistance. Intensified research efforts are needed, for example to develop new insecticides, long-acting formulations and improved application technologies.

Driessen is flacking the movie "3 billion and counting", which apparently makes these same mistaken arguments. My question: what does the movie say about mosquito resistance? Because one of the main reasons for the ban on the widespread spraying use of DDT was that it was so long-lasting in the environment it was easy for mosquito populations to develop resistance. So I'm making a side bet that the movie doesn't say much about that.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Should we worry about Mt. Sinabung?

"Mount Sinabung is near Lake Toba, a 100-kilometre long volcanic crater that some archaeologists believe was the site of an eruption that almost wiped out the human race when it erupted 69,000-77,000 years ago."

Nah, I wouldn't worry about that. Things like that don't happen more than once every 100,000 years or so.


Indonesian volcano unleashes violent eruption

My worry; Sinabung pulls a Pinatubo, and the resulting very cold phase for several months (La Nina plus sulfate cooling) completely messes up the climate change debate in the United States, which is one of the leading anti-science issues that Nature so aptly opined about.

A good reason to keep trying to educate smart kids about science; despite the efforts of the know-nothings. I mean Republicans.

I know what I meant.

Friday, September 3, 2010

New geostationary weather satellite goes into operation

I don't know if this was coincidental or not, but as the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season encroaches, the new NASA-launched, NOAA-operated GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, or similar) has just been certified as ready for observations. I'm still peevish at NOAA for the NPOESS ongoing screw-the-f*ck-up, but they do some things right. I guess NASA has to get the assist on this success.

GOES-13 is America's new GOES-East satellite

Brooke Shields framed

I never saw this picture of Brooke Shields before. Warning; she isn't clothed, but it's all artistic and such.

Brooke Shields framed

This turned up in an investigation of tennis WAGs (that's Wives and Girlfriends, of course). More later, but as I tweeted, I'm taking a break by the pool next week. Mental stability exercise (as if that were actually possible!)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Smart lap dancers

Of course, those partaking of the joys of strip clubs and lap dancing probably don't think very often about the intellect of the young ladies who are gyrating and gesticulating in arousing manners to pad their garters, but it turns out that it's a viable income generator for those who need the money -- even those who are college graduates and beyond.

One in four lap dancers has a university degree

All the 300 women interviewed during the year-long study had finished school and gained some qualifications.

Almost 90 per cent had completed a further education course, while a quarter had undergraduate degrees.

Just over one in three dancers were currently in some form of education, with 14 per cent using dancing to help fund an undergraduate degree.

The researchers found arts degree graduates were most likely to turn to dancing after being unable to find other work.

Others used dancing to provide a more steady and reliable income when working in more unstable arts jobs.

Of course, one is rarely lucky enough to acquire a lap dancer as accomplished as Natalie Portman.

Corona surveillance mission anniversary

There's an article out about the 50th anniversary of the first Corona military reconnaisance satellite, which was a critical part of the Cold War intelligence establishment. For me, the most fascinating aspect of Corona was the film capsule recovery -- the re-entering film capsule would pop it's parachute, and then a U.S. Air Force plane would snag the re-entering capsule and parachute, to allow recovery of the film and surveillance pictures. There are a couple of pictures of the Corona recovery process out now, so I'm showing both here.

It was a pretty remarkable accomplishment in the still-early days of the Space Age.

First Corona remote sensing satellite marks 50-year anniversary

Chinese facing up to pollution in Yangtze River

Well, the Yangtze River Dolphin is a lost cause, but the Chinese -- at least some of them -- are realizing that the Yangtze River itself is one of their most important natural resources -- and they've been exploiting and trashing it for decades. Apparently there's a new awareness that they have to get their act together collectively (or socialistically, whatever works), or the state of the Yangtze will continue to go steeply downhill. The flooding and associated trash and debris of the past couple of months accentuated awareness; will it actually motivate action that can accomplish something?

Clean-up bid for Yangtze set to begin (Xinhuanet)

A weekly report released by the Environmental Monitoring of China agency on Aug 17 revealed that just two of the 18 monitoring stations along the Yangtze River graded the water quality as good.

The total volume of sewage discharged into the river reached nearly 30 billion tons, including at least 9 billion tons of domestic sewage in 2005*, according to an annual report by the Yangtze River Water Resources Commission.

* which probably means it's worse now!

The river is facing serious pollution with tons of sewage discharged into it every second, Ma Yi, deputy chief of the regional bureau of East China Sea fishery management, which is affiliated to the Ministry of Agriculture, told the Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post in July.

Morano demonstrates idiocy of "aggregation"

Marc Morano linked to a Reason magazine column that said, in part, this:

"So to recap: Lomborg has always thought man-made global warming is a problem, but not the biggest problem facing humanity in this century."

Alright; I tend to agree with that. Water shortages and lack of clean drinking water could be a bigger problem early in this century than global warming (for example; I could think of a few more if I tried. Like Iran having nuclear weapons.)

But... Morano "aggregates" climate change news, he doesn't filter it for sense or quality. So here we find on Climate Depot (which I like to think of as Climate Desperate):

NASA Scientist Declares Climate Dissent: 'Scientific analysis must conclude the basic theory wrong!'

OK, so, then "respected" skeptic Bjorn Lomborg has always agreed that manmade global warming is a problem, just not the "biggest" problem. This would mean that he agrees with the overwhelming scientific conclusions and consensus that anthropogenic global warming is taking place and will have deleterious effects on Earth's habitability this century (but other problems might have more deleterious effects; another one I thought of is increasing bacterial resistsnce to antibiotics). But no-filter Morano links to another paper by a NASA aeronautics engineer, with no expertise in climate science, who states that there isn't global warming due to greenhouse gases! Morano doesn't tell us who we should give more weight to -- he just blithely posts anything "negative" about global warming that happens to stick to his shoe while he's shoveling manure in the stables. So thus he posts blatant contradictions.

Love that credibility factor!

OH, and by the way, I found this gem whilst searching around; also on Climate Depot:

Prof. Brocker's [sic] Claim: 'Of the really good scientists, only a handful would say global warming is not a problem' - Email is

This is of course the esteemed and brilliant scientist Wallace "Wally" Broecker, one of the most noted and awarded oceanographers of the 20th century. And Morano can't spell his name right, even though he posts his email address inviting skeptics to bombard him with hostile email; an email address in which Dr. Broecker's name is SPELLED CORRECTLY!!! (I apologize to Dr. Broecker for posting it here as an example; I doubt that the traffic through my blog will cause him any problems).

Marc Morano is a festering pimple on the face of humanity.

A mission with too few places to go

I've noted here before that I like the idea of a manned mission to an asteroid. The problem according to the article linked below is that in the next 10-15 years, there aren't a lot of hard targets in convenient enough orbits to allow such a mission, and one of them is only available in a timeframe that would be somewhat of a rush.

Well, nobody said it was going to be EASY.

Few asteroids look ripe for asteroid mission by 2025