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.