Saturday, October 30, 2010

Historical Merapi images

Merapi erupts frequently, like it's doing now; thanks to the Eruptions Blog and Boris Behncke (a Mount Etna scientist who posts there frequently), here's a link to many past pictures of Merapi activity:

Merapi Foto

The 2001 eruption has one of the nastiest pyroclastic flow pictures I've ever seen.

Big squeeze

They keep building cruise ships bigger than they were last year, and this gigundo cruiser (complete with indoor park) just barely fit under a bridge in Denmark:

Water under the bridge, just barely

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Need a curly blond wig, anyone?

Taylor Swift proves there's nothing better than the original.

They should have gotten a wig that looks like this.

Venus has a hot patch

According to this article and image, geo-astronomers looking at data from the Magellan mission have spotted an apparent recent lava flow, recent because it's warmer than the adjacent surface.

Cooling lava flow spotted on Venus

There's something I don't get in this article, even though I think the observation is valid. Here's what I don't get:

"The flow must have been at least 15 years old when detected by Magellan, she says, because the Pioneer Venus orbiter photographed it in 1978."

As far as I remember, Pioneer Venus only photographed cloud tops. How did it see a lava flow on the surface? Reading around indicates that somehow Pioneer Venus saw it, and so I'll have to figure out how later.

When the gales of November come early

Early as in late October. Reports are that this was nearly an inland hurricane, with low pressures comparable to a Cat 2 or Cat 3 tropical system.

A picture of the storm is here "...lowest barometric pressures ever recorded in the Midwest"

And here's where my subject reference came from

Nasty weather we're having.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

American actresses are pretty cute, too

Because the Daily Mail is a British tabloid, I think I've been favoring British stars and WAGs a bit. But they've got two articles featuring the young maturity of a chiseled Reese Witherspoon, and the fully-ripe maturity of Halle Berry, that show the States still have some hotness. Reese especially -- shaZAM!

Halle Berry shimmers in sequins as she wears INCREDIBLY low-cut dress to Hollywood Awards Gala

Milla Jovovich looks more like a waxwork than either the Eva Longoria or Cheryl Cole wax figures did.

Reese Witherspoon has plenty to smile about as she wows fans in figure-hugging corset

Go Vesta, young satellite

A neat video of Vesta from the Hubble Space Telescope. We won't see better until Dawn gets there.

Vesta in rotation

Meanwhile, we await the EPOXI flyby of Comet Hartley-2 on November 4.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Just what the bluefin tuna need: more bad news

The bluefin tuna, who truly ought to be the WWF's marine equivalent of the panda, took another knock in their struggle for viability due to the BP oil spill. The oil flowed over one of the tuna's two GulfMex spawning grounds, killing off a significant number of the larval fish (estimated 20% impact).

When a fish stock is thus overfished, every little larval fish counts. So this should make it even more important and more pressing to not eat bluefin tuna.

Japan, are you listening?

Bluefin Tuna Hit Hard By Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pondering the attractiveness of Hilary Swank

Speaking of her facial beauty only, Hilary Swank is an unusual looking woman. Striking, yes; traditionally beautiful, probably not. She has a powerful smile and strong features. She also has a rockin', fit body. She exudes feminine power, ability, and life (for lack of a better word), but I had never thought of her as particularly "sexy", to use a general and generally-overused term.

But it turns out that Hil can vamp it and glam it up with the best of them; and the results definitely appeal to the baser heterosexual instincts and reflexes. I've got several results below.

Her abs are awesome in this ad.

Cal Thomas thinks things are simpler than they are (like most conservative Republicans)

Where to cut spending

Empty. He writes:
"The presumed new Republican majority can begin by paring down non-controversial spending that the public will understand and then, after proving the programs aren't necessary or could be better run by the private sector, move on to more expensive programs."

OK, Cal, name 10 items of non-controversial spending that can be pared down. Just a list of ideas here.



... still waiting ...



... still waiting ...



Well, maybe Cal's not listening to my little voice on the soapbox. But my contention is -- it's ALL about Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, because as both Congresses and Presidents have found out, the amount of discretionary spending that can be cut to reduce deficits and balance budgets is not NEARLY as much as everyone, especially rhetorical Republicans, claim it is. And cutting taxes cuts revenue, which is why President W started running up deficits by paying for the (necessary) war effort with less revenue!

Good for Rocco

Rocco Mediate won the Frys Open golf championship last weekend. Even though he had some trouble at the turn on the fourth round, he holed out an eagle on the 15th to lock it up. He had an eagle every day of the tournament. Even though he lost a memorable battle with a gimpy Tiger Woods at the U.S. Open (back when Tiger was still a family man), Mediate had struggled since, and was nearing the need to play in qualifying school next year. Winning a tourney means he won't have to do that for a couple of years.

Rocco Mediate's win shines focus on Fall Series (by Bob Harig)

The eagle on the 15th

Monday, October 18, 2010

I hate using one-use plastic cutlery

I still do it when called upon, but I wish there was a better way to eat at fast-food places and picnics and campouts and birthday parties and boating expeditions and... and... and well there are a host of places where the ubiquitousness of the plastic knife, fork, and spoon presents itself.
A few bites, a few morsels of food, and the imperishable cutlery gets tossed into the garbage bin, to be immortalized in a landfill.

What a waste of valuable oil!

Now, I could carry around my own silverware, but that begs the question of where I'm going to put it when I'm done with it. In a plastic bag? Well, knives and fork tines can easily punch through a plastic bag. I could rinse the food off in a nearby bathroom -- most of the time, at least.

I did find a Web site with some suggestions about how to cut down on the use of plastic -- they suggest bringing silverware from home and using it instead of the plastic stuff. Might work if the silverware could be washed somewhere; that still leaves the problem of transport. I actually like company cafeterias with dishwashers.

Perhaps part of the solution is offering more edible ways to eat things. OK, like this: let's say that you've got a picnic serving hot dogs, salad, and macaroni & cheese (or beans). Hot dogs don't need utensils. Serve the salad with pita bread or tortillas, roll it up, and eat it that way. Serve the mac&cheese or beans with either the big corn chip Frito scoops or heavy-duty tortilla chips, and use them to eat the mac&cheese or beans, then eat the scoop.

Well, it's a start. I could start carrying my own bag of Fritos...

Never mind the skeptics; the tide is rising

Actually, the tide is rising because the sea level is rising. A new publication ignores the skeptical chants of "it ain't happenin', it ain't happenin' " (performed with eyes closed and fingers firmly inserted into ears) and tells us what we should do to get better ready for sea level rise.

"The 420-page book: Understanding Sea-level Rise and Variability, is the work of more than 90 scientists from 13 nations, led by Dr Church, Dr Philip Woodworth from the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory UK, Dr Thorkild Aarup from the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), and Dr Stan Wilson from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration."

[ Those are some very accomplished guys, folks out there in reader-land. ]

"It provides a comprehensive overview of current knowledge on the science of sea-level rise, identifies the major impacts, assesses past sea-level change and the factors contributing to sea-level rise, and assesses how extreme events at the coast will change."

Here's another link:
We will need to adapt to rising sea levels

where the good Dr. Church sayeth:

"... coastal development has accelerated over the past 50 years. Many of the world’s megacities are situated at the coast and new infrastructure worth billions of dollars is being constructed. These developments assume that the stable sea levels of the past several millennia will continue. This assumption is no longer true. Populations in low lying islands and deltaic regions are particularly at risk."

So I guess the summary is: adapt or drown (especially if you're a mangrove).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Benoit B. Mandelbrot, NY Times obituary

Final tribute to a brilliant man.

Embryos in space might not get properly oriented for development

We tend to think of the human womb as a weightless environment, but it appears from some preliminary work that the tug of gravity is quite important for stem cell development, and by design, fetal development -- to the point that unless a lot more research is done to determine it's not a problem, the intrepid "first couple" in space in the intercourse sense had better have protection. Now, seriously, if they were so lucky as to get both lucky and knocked-up in space, I suspect that they wouldn't be in orbit long enough to affect the development of the space-conceived tyke.

So I doubt this interesting research has any serious long-term implications, at least for the foreseeable future and probably for longer than I'm boing, er, going to be alive.

Embryonic Idea: Human Procreation In Space Would Be Perilous

Friday, October 15, 2010

I feel bad for Rosamund Pike; she can cry on my shoulder (in the hot tub)

Lusciously smooth and delectable Bond naughty girl Rosamund Pike (Miranda Frost in Die Another Day) has had a real-life romantic break-up; her ex-boyfriend, director Joe Wright got married to the daughter of sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, Anoushka. (Anoushka also happens to be with child.)

Anoushka with sitar

Anoushka without sitar

Rosamund Pike devastated by ex's wedding news

But apparently she might have brought it on herself. Wright allegedly called off their wedding after the British actress sent out invitations that featured the couple in a hot tub, the Daily Mail reports. (I tend to think that wasn't the only reason, but provided a cover story for a bail-out.)

Rosamund, it's OK. I'd get in a hot tub with you anytime, and if we were so inclined, you could send out any kind of wedding invitations you want!

I tried to locate a picture of the wedding invites, but couldn't find any. So we'll have to make do with this cinematic simulation:

As a bonus, here's a picture of Rosamund doing slinky and glamorous at the same time.

More on that asteroid collision in space

Expectations have met reality with regard to the recently-observed asteroid collision.

For one thing, astronomers working with the Rosetta mission (and its OSIRIS camera) have been able to trace back the chain of events to pin down just about when it happened.

Further, it appears that rather than being particularly violent, with chunks of space minerals flying off hither and yon into the asteroid belt, the collision basically just created a debris cloud that is very slowly dispersing in the vacuum of space. (According to Hubble, that is.) It makes sense; the only thing that would cause wider dispersion would be some sort of turbulence-making medium, and there's very little of that in space; and also, there's gravity keeping the little pieces close to the main body.

So now we have a bit of a better handle on what happens

(cue soft apocalyptic music)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Asian water crisis should not surprise us

New news about an old topic; Asia is entering into a water crisis. Actually, Asia has probably been in a water crisis for quite awhile, it's just that it's acutening (that's another word for intensificationing).

Water crisis threatens Asia's rise

What are the aspects of this? First I guess, then I check the article.

1. Big population


"The risk of conflict over water rights is magnified because China and India are home to more than a third of the world’s population yet have to make do with less than 10 percent of its water."

2. Poor environmental control


"The probable water deficit for China is more manageable on paper — a shortfall of 200 billion cubic meters — but 21 percent of the country’s surface water resources are unfit even for farming, which consumes about 70 percent of the country’s water."

3. Uncertain sources and the future of them


“Even though the exact timing and magnitude of the ‘tipping point’ of each glacier is still uncertain, the projected long-term exhaustion of glacial water supply should have a considerable impact on the availability of water for both agricultural and human consumption,” the scientists wrote."

That was pretty easy to figure out. A partial mitigation route is cheap and abundant and clean nuclear power, enabling the operation of desalination plants on the oceanic coast, of which both China and India have a lot of. But more coal-burning plants would NOT be good for glaciers.

I'm thinking he must be somewhat successful

(First of many bird-watching posts I'm catching up on)

Daily Mail be praised, I've never heard of Brit comic Paddy McGuinness, never mind actually hearing him do anything, including comedy. (I could probably find something on YouTube.) But he must have a decent career and substantial financial holdings, because he is engaged to a somewhat phenomenal 22-year old fashion, lingerie, and bikini model (and former Miss Liverpool), Christine Martin. The paparazzi were all over both sides, top and bottom, of a McGuinness and Martin trip to the beach, and for that I thank them profusely.

It wasn't difficult to find many examples exposing Miss Martin's fine set of talents, and I'll offer a couple here.

And I will wish Paddy all the best, lucky sod that he is.

A glimmer of light for Calvert Cliffs 3

According to the news today, EDF is interested in trying to build the Calvert Cliffs 3 nuclear unit without partnering with Constellation Energy, and they initiated negotiations on that basis. The problem now is that Constellation appears to want to hold their feet to the fire (figuratively speaking) and force them to buy some coal plants that were part of the bail-out plan agreed to a couple of years ago, when Constellation was in dire straits. EDF insists that Constellation isn't in the bad shape it was two years ago, so they shouldn't need to sell the plants now, but Constellation (I smell a bottom-liner or two working on this) appears to be insistent.

If I was in charge and not just someone who assists the cause occasionally, I'd tell Constellation that they should save face and also establish a foundation for the renewal of the U.S. nuclear industry by letting EDF off the proverbial hook and negotiating an agreement. For one thing, Maryland needs the juice, and for another thing, the U.S. needs nuclear power. I'd not let this thing die gasping for air like a dying fish on a Chesapeake beach (pardon the metaphor).

EDF seeks to modify Constellation partnership

Constellation partner EDF wants to go forward with third Calvert Cliffs reactor

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Blooming cacoxenite

Saw this in Nikon's small world photography contest results:

This immediately made me wonder what "cacoxenite" was made of. Being a scientist type, I wasn't satisfied to know just that it was a "rare iron phosphate mineral". I had to know more.

So I found more. Here's the total story on cacoxenite:

Fe24 (AlO6) (PO4)17 (OH)12 - 75H2O is the mineral formula.

Hydrated Iron Aluminum Phosphate Oxide Hydroxide

"Cacoxenite on its own is appreciated as a scarce phosphate mineral and is known from classic phosphate localities. It is often associated with other attractive and rare phosphates and can therefore represent some very nice mineral specimens. These specimens can be quite popular and attractive with a silky luster and a typical yellow-brown color."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Constellation Energy pulls out of Calvert Cliffs 3 plant

I'm a little bit in shock right now; both at the shortsightedness of the government and the don't-plan-for-the-future mentality of Constellation Energy. If the government wants to get nuclear power back on track here in the States, they need to be a bit kinder to initiatives that could do that.

Constellation Pullout From Md. Nuclear Venture Leaves Industry Future Uncertain

"Constellation announced Saturday (after news reports surfaced) that it could not accept a $7.5 billion conditional federal loan guarantee because the Obama administration had insisted on too great a "down payment" in the form of a credit subsidy charge the developers would have to pay to the federal government to obtain the guarantee."

C'mon, Obama Administration, get with the program. You can't get anything started if you don't give the ball enough of a push to get it rolling.

Anyways, I'm deeply unhappy with the nuclear industry here in Maryland right now. I thought this venture would proceed. And I'm unhappy with the beancounters at the OMB:

Backed by an endorsement by President Obama, the Energy Department had hoped to use the guarantee program to support a few new reactors to test nuclear's potential as one of the answers to limiting greenhouse gas emissions. DOE kept seeking a solution in the Constellation case, sources close to the negotiations said, but a skeptical position from the Office of Management and Budget prevailed.


Constellation released its Oct. 8 letter to Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman yesterday, protesting a "shockingly high" figure for the credit subsidy of 11.6 percent of the guaranteed loan amount, or about $880 million, set at one point this summer. "Such a sum would clearly destroy the project's economics (or the economics of any nuclear project for that matter)," the company said.

But Constellation Energy is not entirely without blame, too.

EDF began sparring with Areva this summer over the escalating costs of new Areva reactors in Finland and France. With the Calvert Cliff's project at a critical juncture this summer, Constellation signaled that it might compel EDF to purchase some coal-fired power plants, an option EDF's purchase agreement provided -- a provision EDF hadn't expected to have to meet, industry officials said. The option expires in December, another key timing factor.

Bottom line:
The nuclear option has many GOP supporters, but their platform also includes attacks on the Obama administration's clean energy initiatives and the deficit, the latter stance allying them with nuclear power opponents on the left. The overriding challenge, this official said, is to find a path [out] of the national energy policy miasma and focus on where the nation's electric power will be coming from after 2020, before there's no time left to carry out the plans.

(He said "nuclear option". Snicker, tee hee hee.)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010

FLASH: Yellowstone Lake has hydrothermal vents

Who da thunk it? The place with more than 75% (could be even 90%) of the world's geysers actually has hydrothermal vents offshore of a lakeshore geyser basin?

Actually, that really isn't the big deal; it was known that the lake had underwater hydrothermal vents, lots of them, in fact. The discovery is that at least one of the vents has associated flora and fauna, somewhat akin to mid-ocean ridge vent systems. Apparently most of the others didn't (distinct from on land, where the springs are colonized with thermophilic bacteria, that gives the runoff channels riots of color).

So here's a couple of articles about this.

Steamy Yellowstone Vents Found Teeming with Life

MSU team finds rare oasis of life on floor of Yellowstone Lake (includes a video, and not a very exciting one, at that)

Am I so wrong?

I personally thought that Julianne Hough's "Is That So Wrong?" song (not another somebody done somebody wrong song) was good enough for airplay and the Billboard Top 100. I don't know if it ever made it (checking Wikipedia indicates that it didn't). Apparently (and I totally missed it until I was looking around today), her video accompanying the song generated some controversy. Because she did some dancing in it, in her style, which is rather entertaining from a primarily heterosexual male POV.

The problem is, I can't find the video. It has been pulled from everywhere.

Now, I did find a video of the filming of the video, which includes some scenes from the video: Behind the Scenes of Julianne Hough's Sexy New Music Video

This indicates that there are two pretty phenomenal dance moves in the video - one including a split roll on the bed, the other the removal of an article of clothing while spinning. So I'd sure like to see the whole thing, but that may never happen.

Or not. I did find it from a site called Apparently the URL for it keeps moving around. If interested, search for "Is That So Wrong" with the word "video" after that phrase.

So, assessing it -- she sings well, she dances PHENOMENALLY. She's a champion dancer, after all -- what's wrong with trying to utilize that? But it might not sit well with the fans of "true country", if that exists anymore. It may take awhile for her to gain acceptance in the mainstream CW community, given that she's trying to get into the club in an non-standard fashion. She might never. I don't know if CW is ready for someone who's a dancer first and singer second, unlike pop music, where I'd say she sings better and dances a LOT better than Britney Spears (as a representative example, but certainly not the only one). I think for other CW artists that have definitive sex appeal: Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Lorrie Morgan, Deana Carter, and current rapidly rising stars Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood are a few, and dare I say, Dolly Parton was most definitely female -- they were still singers first, the sex appeal just came along for the ride. Julianne, on the other hand, is leading with the abundant sex appeal and trying to bring the voice along. If she gets the right song, it should and could work -- but apparently "Is That So Wrong?" was the wrong song.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Heads up about good article regarding the "green" military

I want to do a little more discussion of this one, but it's late. Suffice to say, it makes sense. As the recent attacks on oil tankers in Afghanistan illustrate (and as I recall the final scenes in "The Battle of the Bulge" movie) -- the military has to have reliable energy sources (i.e., to this point in history, fuel) to maintain a fighting capability. So major energy conversion in the U.S. military might be a major push toward much better efficiency over all of human civilization.

The Marines Go Green
How the military's shift to renewable fuel could lower the entire nation's energy costs.

Hayabusa's asteroid dust update

According to the current reports, the investigation of the Hayabusa sample collection chamber might have yielded tiny grains of the asteroid it visited.

Heroic Hayabusa may have delivered asteroid dust

The 100 or so grains reported yesterday are tiny—micron scale. They were scraped off the sides of the capsule’s inner container with a remote control Teflon spatula, 6 mm long and 3 mm wide, and then examined with an electron microscope.

JAXA researchers say they are not metallic fragments, thereby ruling out the possibility that they came from the capsule itself, but they also say there is no evidence yet to conclude that they are from the asteroid. Still the fact that there were so many particles has given them, and the Japanese public, hope.

The thing is, according to this article, they have not yet opened up the "B" sample chamber, which is the chamber that might have even more dust. So getting anything in the chamber currently under examination would be promising.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Actual experts pick the World Series teams

FoxSport "Expert" World Series picks

Since I offered up my World Series picks yesterday, here is a set of sports "experts" with their picks. Nobody agrees with mine, but 4 out of 5 of them put the Phillies into the World Series. None of them came up with a Phillies-Rangers series, though; only one has the Rangers victorious over the Rays. To his credit, he gets the Rangers to the World Series.

As I write this, the Rays have lost Game 1 to the Rangers, the Twins have lost Game 1 to the Yankees, and the Reds have been historically no-hit by Roy Halladay in a loss to the Phillies. Given that, it's hard to bet against the Phillies getting back to the Fall Classic, considering they've got Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels pitching along with Halladay, and Rollins, Howard, Victorino, and the canny, skilled Chase Utley in the field. Apparently, Rollins has a tender hamstring; that would affect things a bit if he gets significantly hobbled.

Thomas Boswell writes about the futility of trying to pick teams in the baseball playoffs:
Predictably unpredictable

The walking definition of lucky

OK, I've oft-times noted the occasional man that has seemed overly lucky in the sexual partner department; this would be a male (usually a celebritic male) that has shared the romantic accoutrements and physical splendor of intercourse and all its associated enjoyments with more than one supremely lovely woman. [Currently, Olivier Martinez comes to mind: he's with Halle Berry now, and has previously been with Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Juliette Binoche, Mira Sorvino, and Kylie Minogue. Not to mention some of the best recent love scenes in cinema with Diane Lane. Geez.]

But getting back to the subject of this posting, there's a new man to envy now: Michael Sheen. He was married to and has a daughter by Kate Beckinsale (see recent pictures of Kate beaching in a bikini), and is now romantically entangled with Rachel McAdams (here in THAT DRESS). My mind boggles at the lucky-in-loveness of someone who has had a chance to wine and dine and bed and bathe with this particular pair of desirable women. And it's not just that they're pretty; there are a lot of pretty women. Kate and Rachel are magnetically, stunningly, attractive women.

Good on you, Sheen. Wish I'd been where you've been, at least a couple of times.

Nickel-iron or Nickle-iron?

The text below is exactly as found at the Mars Rover Opportunity status page.

"This week Opportunity approached an interesting surface target, the meteorite "Oileán Ruaidh."

The rover performed an in-situ investigation of the nickel-iron meteorite prior to resuming the trek to Endeavour crater. On Sol 2370 (Sept. 23, 2010), Opportunity made a short 2-meter (7 foot) bump to a location where the south-southwest face of Oileán Ruaidh would be reachable by the instrument deployment device. On Sol 2371 (Sept. 24, 2010), the rover used the microscopic imager to collect imagery of two locations on Oileán Ruaidh. These locations were named "Mulroy A" and "Mulroy B."

After collecting the microscopic imagery, the alpha particle X-Ray spectrometer (APXS) was placed on Mulroy B for a series of three measurements over the three-sol weekend plan. The findings from the APXS confirmed that Oileán Ruaidh is a
nickle-iron meteorite."

I just happened to notice that both spellings of "nickel" were used in the above; "nickle" isn't incorrect, just rare, and more commonly used for the 5-cent coin.

Nickle is also a programming language. (or it was; I'm not sure how popular it is anymore).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

NASA study finds more water flow into the oceans

HOT on the heels of the news that the lower tropospheric temperatures have not yet capitulated to the cooling tug of La Nina comes this NASA study (dated October 4) that the water flow into the oceans has increased.

But WHY, oh WHY, is this happening? Tell us please, NASA scientists!

" ... thanks to more frequent and extreme storms related to global warming ... "

and also

"They found 18 percent more water fed into the world's ocean from rivers and melting polar ice sheets in 2006 than in 1994. The average annual rise was 1.5 percent."

I'll be curious to see how the skeptical press reacts to this one (actually, these two; the warmest September ever in the lower trop, and the increased water flow to the oceans). Climate change skeptics keep having to deal with more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more data and observations undermining their position. Let's hope they finally give it up and relent, so that we can get serious about our energy alternatives (yay NUCLEAR!)

Parting note:

" [Jay] Famiglietti said the evaporation and precipitation cycle taught in grade school is accelerating dangerously because of higher temperatures fueled by greenhouse gases. Hotter weather above the ocean causes freshwater to evaporate faster, which leads to thicker clouds unleashing more powerful storms over land. The resulting rainfall then travels via rivers to the sea in ever-larger amounts, and the cycle begins again. "

I note that one of the co-authors is from Remote Sensing Systems -- those are the good guys.

Abbey Clancy - Peter Crouch followup

Since I wrote about them yesterday, I thought I ought to link to this followup article. Abbey looks quite nice into her fourth month.

Abbey Clancy and Peter Crouch in Dubai

Monday, October 4, 2010

Abbey Clancy: still modeling, still pregnant, still with Peter Crouch

OK, Abbey Clancy's life has had a few events lately.

She got engaged to English soccer player Peter Crouch;

she found out (with the rest of the world) that Crouch had a night with a high-priced Spanish hooker;

she found out (with the rest of the world) that she was pregnant, most presumably by Crouch;

and now she's planning a wedding next spring, still to Crouch, somewhat amazingly.

That's eventful in my book.

She recently modeled, likely with pregnancy enhanced cleavage, alongside Kelly Brook, at London fashion week. The makeup didn't do it for me.

She still does, though.

A five-foot-tall fossil penguin with feathers

Something about a penguin fossil just makes me smile. So this one, which provides some feather coloration helping to figure out what it looks like, makes me smile even more.

Inkayacu, from Not Exactly Rocket Science (with illustrations)

To understand Inkayacu’s melanosomes, the team first had to analyse those of modern penguins. They found something completely new: the striking black colours of the living birds come from giant eumelanosomes that are around 50% wider than those of any other bird.

But none of Inkayacu’s melanosomes came close to these dimensions – no dinner jacket look for this bird. Instead, based on the size, shape, distribution and packing of its melanosomes, the team concluded that Inkayacu must have been gray or reddish-brown in colour. These colours are more commonly associated with baby penguins, but Inkayacu’s skeleton suggests that it was an adult.

Weird and wonderful

Catches from the Census of the Seas:

Vampire Squid




Earth is a treasure; it's gems are the creatures that inhabit it.

World Series 2010 picks

I love the Rays, but I think they got unlucky to get the Rangers, with some question marks in their offense right now (Longoria's thigh, Pena's bat). If Lee pitches well -- Rangers in 5. God, I hate to write that.

Yankees and Twins: Morneau still out, questionable pitching on both sides, but Yanks have Sabathia. Yanks in 5.

Giants vs. Braves: Braves just barely made it (well, so did the Giants, but they've been building all year). Giants in 3.

Reds vs. Phillies: Toughest one to call, two really good teams. I want the Reds to win; I think the Phillies will win. Phillies in 4.

So that means ALCS Yanks vs. Rangers, and NLCS Giants vs. Phillies. Again, Rangers have Lee, and I think Hamilton will be fully back for this one. Pick: Rangers.

NLCS: Phillies vs. Giants - Phillies are loaded and peaking at the right time (again). Pick: Phillies.

Which brings us to a Phillies-Rangers World Series. And that's where I stop so I won't make a fool of myself until it happens, when neither of my two team picks ends up in it. I'm fully conscious of my prognisticatorial abilities!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The UK Guardian on the UK Royal Society climate report

The UK's Guardian -- a bit more staid than the Daily Mail or the Sun -- has an article about the new Royal Society report on climate change.

Royal Society's climate change guide cuts confusion out of the hard science

Understandably and predictably, the skeptics have taken aim at this one; perhaps I'll say more about that later. But I was particularly enamored of two passages from this article:

1. "The Royal Society's new report, by contrast, limits itself entirely to the physical science of climate change, and it is careful to lay out every qualification and uncertainty. But Pethica stresses that this approach does not signify an acceptance of criticisms that scientists had overstated their case in the past. "If the report sounds cautious, that's because the IPCC is cautious … There is no change in the science."

2. Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute, described the new guide as "excellent" and "an authoritative summary of the current state of knowledge".

That said, here's the report.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Studying the Goldilocks planet

Much abuzz in the newsosphere and blogosphere about the discovery of a planet in the so-called "habitable zone" of another (fairly close by) star system: where given the right combination of water and atmosphere, the water would be liquid and the atmosphere would be present. Probably, at least. Thus, something could theoretically live there. The name of the planet is Gliese 581g (presumably it weighs more than that). I thought this article about how to study the planet to figure out if it really is a potential site for active exobiology was a good read:

If There's Life on Alien Planet Gliese 581g, How Do We Find It?

First things first: detect an atmosphere:

Life doesn't have to be intelligent and advanced for astronomers to pick it up. Studying Gliese 581g's atmosphere, for example, could theoretically reveal the presence of organisms as simple as microbes.

This method assumes the alien planet has an atmosphere, likely a necessity for life to take hold. Gliese 581g's discoverers reported that the planet's gravity is probably strong enough to hold onto an atmosphere, but they didn't definitively detect one.

"The first thing is, you've got to have an atmosphere," said Bill Borucki of NASA's Ames Research Center, the science principal investigator for NASA's planet-hunting Kepler mission. "If there is one, then what's the composition of that atmosphere?"

Morano links to pitiful video

A stunningly awful post on "Climate Desperate" -- here's exactly what it says (click it if you want to see for yourself):

Video: Gore Heckled on Campaign Trail: Crowd Chants 'You are a Fraud' -- 'Global warming is a hoax!' (Pathetic Gore is reduced to citing hot summer temps as 'proof' of man-made warming)

In the video, apparently a lone person filming from his own POV yells out a few dumb-ass remarks and heckles, like "You're a fraud!" and "Global warming is a hoax". The post says that the "crowd" chanted this stuff. I see no evidence of a "crowd" doing anything but listening to Gore and there is considerable disapproval evidenced toward the attack heckler.

This is the best Morano can do? This is truly, truly pitiful, even for a master propagandist bullsh*tter like Morano.

See it and judge for yourself.
Al Gore confronted in Tampa on Global Warming Again!

Oh, and by the way, about those "hot summer temperatures" (from Climate Progress):

Second, you may recall that NASA predicted in January 2009 that 2010 would likely set a record. In this paper, he [NASA's James Hansen] explains “It is likely that the 2005 and 2010 calendar year means will turn out to be sufficiently close that it will be difficult to say which year was warmer, and results of our analysis may differ from those of other groups. What is clear, though, is that the warmest 12-month period in the GISS analysis was reached in mid-2010, as shown in the Rev. Geophys. preprint.”

Warmest 12-month period ever -- might cause a few warm days, methinks.

Here's a characterization from Hansen himself:

Extreme events, by definition, are on the tail of the probability distribution. Events in the tail of the distribution are the ones that change most in frequency of occurrence as the distribution shifts due to global warming.

For example, the “hundred year flood” was once something that you had better be aware of, but it was not very likely soon and you could get reasonably priced insurance. But the probability distribution function does not need to shift very far for the 100-year event to be occurring several times a century, along with a good chance of at least one 500-year event.

So go ahead, Morano, and try and argue against the record heat waves. It only adds to the steaming pile of evidence that you are a reprehensible and disgusting person. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Physicians evaluate small modular reactors

The Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) have released a balanced biased report about the feasibility of small modular reactors (SMRs). Now, one of the statements in the report strikes me as somewhat correct; "Efficiency and most renewable technologies are already cheaper than new large reactors." Gee, that's a self-evident statement. I/we already know that to get to a realistic energy future, improved efficiency and renewables are going to be part of the mix.

Small Modular Reactors:
No Solution for the Cost, Safety, and Waste Problems of Nuclear Power
(this be a PDF)

But they aren't enough. The population is still growing, U.S. and worldwide, and the growing, industrializing, standard-of-living-improving population is going to need more energy. All kinds. Until the renewable champions show me a superb battery (there are some) that can store enough power to run a household or a factory when a) the wind isn't blowing and b) the sun isn't shining, I tend to think we need to have all energy alternatives to the damn fossil fuels on the table and under R&D. [And to provide power for all the plug-in hybrids that won't be getting their energy from the burning of oil, coal, and natural gas.] And there are more ideas, that might be better and more feasible, than what they discuss in the report. Looking back and saying "it won't work because it didn't work" is quaint, but it's also unrealistic.

PSR is primarily a group opposed to nuclear war and nuclear weapons; always has been. It would be way outside their charter to advocate any form of peaceful nuclear energy. So it isn't surprising that their report finds fault with SMRs. But in spite of the fact that I think PSR has its heart and effort in the right places, addressing global warming and going after environmental dangers like mercury, and coal plant emissions -- dismissing nuclear energy is not going to help the world address the problems of a growing, more affluent population and the ominous approach of peak oil. So I'm going to advocate ignoring this bit of advice from PSR while telling them to keep up the good work -- in other areas.

Leave the development of fossil fuel-energy alternatives to the experts, not the doctors.