Monday, February 28, 2011

A little late, I think

The Daily Mail has a new article featuring Saturn's weird moon Hyperion:

Extraordinary close-up reveals sponge-like surface of Saturn moon

Now, while they don't actually provide the date when the picture was taken, you get the impression that it was recently.

Now, Cassini did a more recent flyby of Hyperion last December. Bad Astronomy blog even made a video:

Hyperion flyby video

The thing is: the picture used in the Daily Mail article is from September 26, 2005!

Cosmic blasting zone

I guess it was a slow science news day.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Does there need to be a better reason?

Kelly Brook in lingerie; pictures and a video.

Trust me. Those with the right bent will enjoy it immensely.

Fallen Angel Kelly Brook gains some wings but loses her clothes as she waits to be enticed down from heaven in saucy TV ad

It ain't over, and won't be for awhile

Even though it appears that there might be a deal that will make the immediate threat of a government shutdown go away, the Republicans are playing from the Dick Morris playbook and will demand cuts to avert a shutdown every time the reguarly-scheduled shutdown becomes nearly imminent again. At some point there's going to be a true stalemate. I'm going to write more about how the proposed cuts are not exactly in line with actual fiscal reality, even though I'm not the first one to note that, and won't be the last, either.

Meanwhile, here's Scientific American pointing out how STUPID it is to cut science budgets:

House Budget Cuts Could End U.S. Science Leadership

[Raymond] Orbach -- who served as DOE's undersecretary for science under President George W. Bush -- called the House cuts "devastating."

"I can personally attest that funding for scientific research is not a partisan issue -- or at least shouldn't be," wrote Orbach, now director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas, Austin.

"The cuts proposed in H.R. 1 would reverse a bipartisan commitment to double the science research budgets of the National Science Foundation, the DOE Office of Science, and the National Institute for Science and Technology over 10 years. These are national goals supported by both Presidents Bush and Obama, and they were affirmed as recently as last December in the America COMPETES Act," he said.

Orbach called on the Senate to reverse the House cuts.

"Failure to do so would relegate the United States to second-class status in the scientific community and threaten economic growth and prosperity for future generations of Americans," he wrote.

Hear, hear -- especially you, tone-deaf Republicans.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Good site on whale evolution

The Smithsonian Institution has produced a nice visual Web site on the evolution of whales, "backwards" because whales evolved from land mammals that went back to the ocean.

Did whale evolution go backwards?

Only one real omission, in my opinion: they left out the critical transitional stage of Rodhocetus.

This site has just about everything you could ever want to know about what is known about whale evolution:

The evolution of whales

Not in your grocer's freezer section

Back in April, I blogged on the subject of cheese, and one of the sub-subjects in that post was cheese made with human breast milk.

Well, now there's another gourmet (?) item made from this precious commodity, and I daresay it's a pretty logical development: ice cream made with human breast milk. And befitting the supply-and-demand paradigm, one serving is $23 U.S.

OK, I'd definitely give it a try.

The link has videos, and I have an ad campaign:

"Yes, I think I'll have two scoops, please!"

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What to wear after the wedding - briefly, anyway

I'm going to have to do some more uncoverage of Lily Aldridge, one of the new Victoria's Secret lead models, but this feature on her modeling bits and pieces from a bridal trousseau was worth noting:

Here comes the bride! Victoria's Secret model Lily Aldridge sizzles as she poses in wedding underwear

If you want to go shopping: Sexy Little Bride

This looks tasty:

So does this:

In case you think it's not happening, Peruvians know it is

Climate change halves Peru glacier: official (meaning that in the space of a few short years, an important and large glacier in Peru has lost half its volume, according to an official)

""Recent scientific studies indicate that between June 1983 and August 2006, the glacier has lost 50 percent of its surface ice," Erasmo Meza, manager of natural resources and the environment in the central Andean region of Junin, told the official Andina news agency.

He said the five square kilometers (1.9 square miles) of ice shrinkage on Huaytapallana, whose steep, jagged glacier and breathtaking lakes are popular tourist draws, was caused by global warming and presents growing problems in agriculture, health, fresh water resources and disaster mitigation."

Here's the glacier and the mountain:

Tragic, isn't it?

This is one of the things that the Tea Party Republicans want you to forget about.

I promise, we won't.

American Geophysical Union statement on science, shutdown

The American Geophysical Union has gone on record as opposing the unconscionable Republican budget cuts, and particularly their impact on scientific research in the United States.

Here's the statement:

AGU Reacts to Threats and Opportunities in FY 11/12 Budget Proposals

Here's the call to contact Senators, with summaries of the BAD impacts:

Contact your Senators regarding science cuts

Here's some of the reasons why the AGU is appalled, because the Tea Party continuing resolution does this, amongst other travesties:

  • Prohibiting the use of funds for contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (see Scientists Criticize House Vote to Bar Climate Panel Funds)

  • Prohibiting the use of funds to implement, establish, or create a NOAA Climate Service

  • Further reducing NASA's budget $298 million

  • Eliminating funding for President Obama's energy and climate advisor and for the State Department's climate envoy to international climate negotiations

  • Prohibiting the EPA from using funds to implement, administer, or enforce any regulation pertaining to greenhouse gas emissions

When you look at what they've cut, they even zeroed out the Joint Polar Satellite System, NOAA's next-gen polar observing satellite system (this is what NPOESS turned into). OK, yes, NPOESS has been a budgetary disaster, but we still need regular observations of the atmosphere and oceans. For one fricking example, the polar satellites are what give us sea surface temperatures, and these can help indicate when hurricanes might intensify (and where).

Oh, and they also monitor sea ice extent. Given that the Arctic sea ice is truly the Earth's climate's best canary in the coal mine, I can see why the Tea Party know-nothings want to keep the rest of us ignorant about that. Because it's hard to deny the disappearing sea ice, which is why so many skeptical, er, denialist Web sites are doing just that.

This is madness. Simply, simply madness.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Earthquake shakes Tasman Glacier loose

The tragic New Zealand earthquake of February 22, which hit Christchurch hard, had an interesting side effect, which was to cause a major calving event off the Tasman glacier. The falling ice caused a 12-foot-high lake tsunami in Lake Tasman, the lake that is at the Tasman Glacier outlet.

Ice chunk breaks off Tasman Glacier

Earthquake causes glacier to calve

Angelic Kelly Brook

Oh, just take my word for it. This isn't "raunchy", it's just Kelly Brook doing what she does best, wearing (and filling out) lingerie, this time with some angel wings on her back. As if Victoria's Secret hasn't done that before.

Kelly Brook is far from angelic in another raunchy lingerie shoot

And elsewhere here's a link to a Behind the Scenes video for this ad campaign (in it you can also hear her lovely British accent):

Kelly Brook featured in new Lynx fragrance campaign

If angels all looked this good, there'd be a line to get into heaven.

The Emmy Rossum connection

Emmy Rossum, who rose to fame in "The Phantom of the Opera", is now in a leading role on the Showtime series "Shameless", which is a gritty, comedic drama about a Chicago family that puts the "dys" in "dysfunctional". Watching it is like watching a slow-motion plane crash; you just can't look away. And in the cases where the gloriously coltish Emmy gets amorous with her paramour, there's no point in looking away, if you like things like good-looking young women with nice figures, big eyes, and not wearing much, if anything at all.

Now, the link below also has links to other links that provide just about all the Rossum coverage (or uncoverage) necessary if watching "Shameless" isn't on your agenda, but watching Emmy is.

Emmy Rossum: 'Shameless' Star Gets Naked (Photos)

Found in my archives

I was reviewing my archives and discovered that I had totally overlooked noting on my little-read blog that Kate Beckinsale had been named Esquire's Sexiest Woman Alive --- for 2009! What bugged me most about this was that lovely Kate provided several pictures of herself as qualifying entries for that title.

OK, now out of the millions of women in the world, that's a pretty hefty title. But because Kate in these pictures is about as sexy as a woman can get without revealing everything that makes her sexy -- those pesky erogenous zones -- one can take Esquire's opinion as fairly well informed.

Kate Beckinsale is Esquire's Sexiest Woman Alive

An example:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mars Opportunity is doing fine

I guess I was a bit too overly anxious about the Mars Opportunity rover; it's back in touch with Earth and ready to get on with the trek.

Opportunity emerged from the solar conjunction in good order. Solar conjunction is the period when communications between Earth and Mars are disrupted because the Sun is directly in between the two planets.

Telemetry has been returned from the two-week solar conjunction period. With the known exception of the miniature thermal emission spectrometer (Mini-TES), all systems are healthy. Extensive mössbauer (MB) integration spectra were successfully collected from the surface target Luis de Torres.

The rover has resumed normal tactical operations. The plan ahead is to perform a rock abrasion tool (RAT) grind on the surface target Luis de Torres for follow-on microscopic imager (MI) mosaics and alpha particle X-ray spectrometer (APXS) measurements.

Completing that, Opportunity will resume the trek towards Endeavour crater.

The Final: Record Temperatures, February 13-20, 2011

A few minutes after I put up the last posting, I was led to the following:

Kinda impressive, isn't it?

Temperature Records Set Across the Country This Week

Inspired by the vacuous dimness of one Steven Goddard ( where he asks, "Why isn't Romm blogging about this?");

and also by my own observation, posted the same day before I read Goddard's piece: ;

I utilized the same site Goddard used to see what happened over the next week. I generated the following four plots:

February 12-15

February 12-16

February 12-17

February 13-18

Like I said, it's been a warm week, hasn't it? Two weeks, one with lots of low normal temperature records, the next week with lots of high temperature records. Do a little averaging, and you have -- averages.

There's a bottom line here. In any season, there will be cold and warm temperature records. What is more interesting is WHEN the records are being set. Given the set of the jet stream, and Arctic cold heading south (explained by decreasing Arctic sea ice, if you're paying attention), it isn't surprising that this strong storm event set cold records in cold winter. That means that in the past there hasn't been a particularly strong cold snap this particular time in that particular region.

But if the climate is changing -- and things are getting warmer, such that OVER MANY YEARS, with the intrinsic variability of weather always a factor, one would expect to see more warm records EARLIER in late winter, which is where we're getting to now (more like meteorological winter, i.e., December-January-February, than orbitally-defined winter, when the spring equinox is in March.

So, even though La Nina is strong and influencing things, because of global warming, over the next few weeks, the transition time from winter to spring in North America, I would expect to see warm temperature records outpacing cold temperature records, because this time period is when the effects of an earlier spring would be most noticeable.

Using those weekly maps, let's see what happens this year. And next. And the year after that... because we're talking about climate, not weather.

And of course, there's always this:

Record High Temperatures Far Outpace Record Lows Across U.S.

The Republican Trash the Environment bill

OK, the Republicans have passed their budget bill taking $61 billion out of the 2011 budget, over the rest of the year.

They have proven that they are totally in the pockets of big business polluters, and NOT concerned about the health of the nation's environment, or its citizens.


From this:

GOP defies Obama veto threat as Congress votes to cut $61billion from federal budget

1. "Changes pushed through the House on Friday and Saturday – with voting ending at 4.47am – would shield greenhouse-gas polluters and privately owned colleges from federal regulators, block a plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, and bar the government from shutting down mountaintop mines it believes will cause too much water pollution, siding with business groups over environmental activists and federal regulators in almost every instance."

2. They took several swipes at the year-old health care law, including voting for a ban on federal funding for its implementation. At the behest of anti-abortion lawmakers, they called for an end to federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

(If that passed I would hope that a few Tea Party faithful lose a daughter to septic shock after a back-alley abortion. Don't they want the nation to return to the "good ol' days"?)

3. "The Environmental Protection Agency was singled out by Republicans eager to defend business and industry from numerous agency regulations they say threaten job-creation and the economy. The EPA's budget was slashed by almost one-third, and then its regulatory powers were handcuffed in a series of floor votes.

Proposed federal regulations would be blocked on emission of greenhouse gases, blamed for climate change, and a proposed regulation on mercury emissions from cement kilns would also be stopped. Additionally, the bill also calls for a halt to proposed regulations affecting Internet service providers and privately-owned colleges, victories for the industries that would be affected."

4. "Republicans also prevailed in more parochial issues, with Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., winning a close vote to block the government from removing hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River, while Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., won a 230-195 vote to block an EPA plan for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay that would cut pollution from runoff from farms and municipalities throughout the Chesapeake watershed.

And Florida agricultural interests won a vote to block EPA rules issued last year aimed at controlling fertilizer and other pollutants that stoke the spread of algae in the state's waters."

Campaign slogans for the current GOP

Vote Republican, the Party of Eutrophication

Al Gore Bad; AL-G Good! Vote Republican

Vote Republican, if you like Mercury in your Seafood

A Republican Vote is a Vote for Polluted Mountain Waterways

Vote Republican if You Don't Expect Your Harvard-Bound Teenage Daughter to Get Pregnant

Vote Republican and Put an End to the Chesapeake Bay (the most famous estuary in the United States)

Do You Like Mercury in your Salmon, Ma'am? If You Do, Vote Republican

Salmon Runs are a Thing of the Past, Says Republican McClintock; Vote for Him Again!

Vote Republican and Show Your Support for Increased Hurricane Damage!

Vote Republican and Put an End to that Useless Swamp in Florida (the Everglades)

If You Vote Republican, You Won't have to Obey the Laws of Physics

Smell That, America? Take a Deep Breath, that's REPUBLICAN Air!

Republicans: Vote for The Party of Now, and Screw the Health of the Next Generation -- and the World They'll Live On

Vote Republican: We Support Ocean Acidification!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Oceans getting packed with sardines, not tuna

First I found this in the Daily Mail:

How the demise of the shark has led to our oceans becoming packed with sardines

OK, but big sharks don't eat little fish (but little sharks do). It's more to do with the loss of the big predator fish, like the incredible built-to-eat bluefin tuna. What got me was that the increase in the sardines and other small schooling fish could lead to algae overblooms, because the little fish eat the zooplankton that normally graze on the phytoplankton.

(Thus for the Chesapeake Bay the decline in menhaden, which should help increase zooplankton numbers, probably doesn't have much of an effect, because all the algae in the eutrophied bay overwhelms the Bay's zooplankters).

Now I figured there'd be more of a scientifically oriented write-up on this, and of course there is, especially since this was presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting taking place right now just up the road in Washington, DC.

First, there's the University of British Columbia (UBC) press release:

Fishing down food web leaves fewer big fish, more small fish in past century: UBC research

“Currently, forage fish are turned into fishmeal and fish oil and used as feeds for the aquaculture industry, which is in turn becoming increasingly reliant on this feed source,” said [study author Villy] Christensen. “If the fishing-down-the-food-web trend continues, our oceans may one day become a ‘farm’ to produce feeds for the aquaculture industry. Goodbye, wild ocean!”

Christensen’s presentation was part of an experts’ panel to answer the question “2050: Will there be fish in the ocean?” The panel predicted that while there would be fish in 2050, it would consist mostly of the smaller variety.

Here's the real take-home headline:

Predatory fish in sharp decline, UBC researchers say

The UBC team found that 54 per cent of the decline in predatory fish population took place in the last 40 years.

(Rapidly increasing human population does have a few downsides, doesn't it?)

And there's this culinary suggestion:

Save the seas: eat small fry like sardines instead of tuna

PLEASE tell this to the Japanese!

Two great tweets during the AAAS meeting

@AndreaTOAP Andrea Thompson
by LiveScience
Malow quoted Azimov on how most exciting phrase in science isn't "Eureka!",
it's "that's funny" #AAASmtg

(that's verbatim: should be Asimov!)

Ha! RT @AndreaTOAP: "Helium walks into a bar. Bartender says 'we don't serve noble gases'
The helium doesn't react." #AAASmtg #sciencehumor

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Did you know: 3 nuclear stations under construction in U.S.

It may be news to a lot of the United States citizenry, but very quietly (probably better that way), the nuclear industry is finally building more nuclear power plants.

Wish that wave would crash into Maryland soon.

Scientific American has the details.

Is a U.S. Nuclear Revival Finally Underway?

The stations are in Vogtle, Georgia (where the archaeocete Georgiacetus vogtlensis was found), Jenkinsville, South Carolina, and the Watts Bar Unit 2 outside Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The article also commends:

"There are also applications for at least 20 other reactors under scrutiny at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)—the government agency charged with monitoring the nation's reactors—including final approval of the AP-1000 design."

Unfortunately, a new unit at Calvert Cliffs is not currently one of them.

The better news, energy-wise and climate-wise, is that 60 plants are currently under construction worldwide. Whether anyone likes it or not (I obviously am pleased), the world is going at least partially nuclear.

Pictures of Mimas

Even though Iapetus is appealingly weird, Titan is organically gifted, and Hyperion looks like an inside-out snowball, Mimas is my favorite Saturnian moon. The feature below has eight pictures of the unmistakable sphere.

Photos of Mimas: Saturn's Death Star Moon

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Boehner punts to public opinion

Speaker of the House John Boehner's line that it's not his duty to tell the American people what to think boots the responsibility to radio talk show idjits - like Hannity and Limbaugh and Levine - whose responsibility it is to tell their listening audience what they should think, whether or not their thoughts are actually supported by facts and logic.

What Boehner really should do to foster a reasoned discussion of the host of critical issues facing this country is to tell the American people, and especially his GOP consituency, HOW to think. Which is to find facts and not to believe just those things that reinforce your opinions.

Fat chance of that happening.

Boehner defends rights of Americans to be ill-informed

Yet the larger implications of his statement on a whole, especially in the context it was stated, are particularly troubling.

The Speaker told Gregory that people have a right to their beliefs and it wasn't his job to tell them what to think. However, as Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.” Where the President was born and what religion he practices are not matters of belief or opinion. This is evidential information. Boehner himself says he accepts Obama's Hawaiian birth and Christianity as "facts as he understands them".

Not only is Boehner saying he considers the views of the ignorant and misinformed to be equally as valid as everyone else, but he strongly feels that as a leader he has no obligation to lead. He will just follow blithely where the unwitting wish.

Where is Boehner and Obama's courage to lead?

Gregory: "But that kind of ignorance about whether he's a Muslim doesn't concern you?"

Boehner: "Listen, the American people have the right to think what they want to think. I can't - it's not my job to tell them."

But of course it is, and Boehner tells them all the time. Spending should be cut. The health-care law is a job-killer. Obama shouldn't be reelected. And unlike the proper level of taxation or the preferable political party, Obama's citizenship and religion are matters of fact, not opinion. The new speaker simply finds it inconvenient to tell people who just put him in that office that they are flat-out wrong. Indeed, Boehner and colleagues are the grateful beneficiaries of mass delusions about Obama's citizenship and religion. Birthers vote - and not for Democrats.

Boehner says it’s not his job to convince Birthers they are wrong (VIDEO)

John Boehner defends dumb people

This is why they don't believe in climate change/global warming, either

Poll: Majority of GOP primary voters don't believe Obama was born in the U.S.

If 51% of the likely Republican primary voters (that is heavily weighted now, in a lot of states, toward the Mind-Empty, er, Tea Party, voters) believe that Barack Obama wasn't born in the U.S. of A. (in Hawaii), then how in the world can we expect these Fox News disciples to grasp the nuances of climate change?

Answer: we can't. We need a massive heat wave to devastate flyover country to jolt them out of their complacency, on the order of what happened in Russia last summer.

Sorry to be so blunt, but it's the only thing that might make an impression. But they'd probably just end up blaming it on the "weather", anyway.

Has the Mars Opportunity Rover called home yet?

Now, I don't mean to sound alarming, but it seems like the Mars Opportunity Rover's phone-home call after solar conjunction is a few days late. Communications should have commenced by now.

"This year, the commanding moratorium will be Jan. 27 to Feb. 11 for Opportunity, with similar periods for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey orbiter."

OK, it's the Ides of February. Paging Mars Opportunity, please pick up the NASA courtesy phone...

India's environment minister

'Green hurdles for 16 coal blocks cleared'

Jairam Ramesh's new approach: Yes, but...

It's tough to protect the environment when the country is trying to grow and the pressures of industry and development fall on you, seeking a bending or breaking of the rules that you were appointed to uphold. So in a few articles about Jairam Ramesh (nicknamed "Dr. No" -- I like that), the balancing act that he has to follow is illustrated. He indicated that there's no way that India can get back to 1/3 forest cover over the whole subcontinent, and what really needs to be done is to preserve the quality of the forest that is left. He indicated that for a few reasons, he can approve some coal projects.

But he does seem to have his head in the right place, because he said:

India, whose economy is expected to grow by 8.6 percent in the current fiscal year, must ensure that its growth "is ecologically sustainable," Ramesh told a gathering of foreign journalists late Monday.

"The time has come for India to make tough choices," said Ramesh, whose ministry was seen as little more than a rubber stamp for industrial projects before he took over the portfolio.

The country "cannot pollute its way to prosperity," Ramesh said.

"All I am doing is enforcing the laws of the land."

Admirable sentiments for a man stuck between a rock and a hard place, with all the advantages on the side of the rock.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Is this an ordinary or extraordinary La Niña?

Ordinary, according to Amber Jenkins of My Big Fat Planet:

A La Niña like No Other Or Just a Big One

Current conditions:

Record warmth this week?

Climate change skeptics seem to get all excited when cold winters are cold, but how about when cold winters are warm? I spied this tweet:

"A high temperature of 50 degrees in #Wausau, Wis., on Sunday shattered the record of 42 degrees dating all the way back to 1908."

Not just by a degree -- eight degrees of separation!
Buttonville airport near Toronto set a new high record of 7 C (44.6 F).

International Falls, commonly the coldest place in the lower 48? "Skating rinks and snow piles took a beating Sunday while the nation’s ice box broke its record for warmest Feb. 13 with a high of 46 degrees, topping the old International Falls record of 44 set in 1983."

Manitoba had record highs all over the place.

Now, granted this was one warm day. But the week is supposed to be warm. I wonder how many skeptical blogs will note all these warm winter temperatures, after publicizing the hell out of the January snowstorms? Not many, I betcha.

But the wolverines will notice.

Here's what Stardust-NEXT did

No pictures yet.

Stardust-NEXT Tempel-1 flyby

My top 4 Grammy dresses

I'm not going for the outlandish here; eggs or sky-high wigs. In terms of attractiveness, I go with Heidi Klum, Kim bootylicious Kardashian, Selena mole-in-view Gomez, and the all-arounder, Julianne Hough.

Now, Jennifer Hudson's dress was nothing to get excited about, but her weight-trimmed figure definitely is!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Vanessa Hudgens: 1st in a series of Disney graduates

Well, maybe not quite the first -- I commented on Selena Gomez's mole a few days ago (which was also easily visible in her high-class Grammys dress tonight), but supercute Vanessa Hudgens is gradually breaking out of the High School Musical mode (and not with the help of any other naked sexts!) But she's looking good in Candies,

and she's also looking good down to the barest Details.

(Go here for video)

She's got a nice young figure, but looking at her in detail, sorry, indicates to me that the Hudgens appeal starts with her amazingly perfect lips. A smile actually detracts (slightly) from that pillowy, curvesome perfection, which is saying a lot because her smile is pretty appealing, too.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

MBARI provides a deep-sea valentine

Valentine's Day conjures up a lot of things, but this is the first time I've seen it expressed in the form of a bioluminescent comb jelly, a bloated starfish, a brittle star, some really outlandish octopi, jellyfish from a bathypelagic nightmare, a blood-red shrimp, a hairy crab, some deep-sea corals, a few other denizens of the deep, and The Thing from Seconds :44-:55. (Aiiieeee!)

It's astonishing.

Happy Valentine's Day

(MBARI is the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, brought to you by Hewlett-Packard)

Friday, February 11, 2011

This is REAL conservation

I guess we won't have to worry about intense coastal development in Namibia (one of the few places we don't): the country recently declared their ENTIRE coastline, north-to-south, a national park. Now, it's bare and desolate, and it's also next to really cold ocean water (which is why it's a desert, partly), so it's fairly easy to do that, but it makes my conservationally-minded heart go pitty-pat to know that this particular desolation will remain unspoiled desolation. (By the way, it isn't a wildlife paradise, but it has quite a few denizens for such a biologically-challenged place.)

Whole coastline of Namibia is designated a national park

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Unbelievable, but sadly true

Because of the funding on the continuing resolution currently keeping the country afloat is lower than expected, the planned launch date for the JPSS (formerly the first NPOESS) is now 2016. If they get funded according the budget request -- which at this point is probably VERY unlikely -- they might be able to launch in 2015. Maybe.

Budget Impasse Delays Key Environment Satellite

These are dark days indeed. Dark and stupid.

The world (not the U.S.) considers nuclear power enlightenment

IAEA workshop on nuclear power for mitigation of climate change

The International Atomic Energy Agency is this week hosting a meeting for countries considering developing their own nuclear power programmes as a way of helping mitigate the impact of climate change.

The four days of discussions and workshops are being attended by around 100 participants from 50 different member states, the IAEA said in a statement.

"Nuclear power is enjoying growing acceptance in many countries as a stable and clean source of energy that can help to mitigate the impact of climate change," the statement said.


IAEA to aid countries on path to nuclear power

"More than 60 countries are considering introducing nuclear energy. The IAEA projects that between 10 and 25 new countries are likely to bring their first reactors on line by 2030. Many of the countries which already have nuclear power are planning or building new reactors or extending the operational life of existing reactors."

OK, this is great. This is wonderful. This is what NEEDS to happen. These countries are forward-looking - they can see the steep slope of oil production decline out their on the horizon, whether it's actually 10, 15, or 20 years off. These countries are also more sensitive -- dare I say ENLIGHTENED (yes, there I said it) than the Neanderthal Party, check that, Tea Party that is trying to take over the American government and reduce its budget to the size of a third-world taxicab company. And the Neanderthals that don't understand climate change (yes, Ryan Maue, I'd never vote for such a demonstrable level of idiocy) are the ones standing in the way of OUR (USA) profitable, successful, nuclear future. The Stone Agers would have had us burning firewood when electricity was available because firewood was a "proven" technology,and all those health concerns about soot and carbon monoxide and charred meat are unlikely to proven true by science, are they? And we'll NEVER run out of firewood.

The Conservative GOP in the United States is a threat to the world, now and in the future. The near future.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Watts is very shortsighted

In a new post on Watts Up with That, the esteemed dunce running the site advocated steep cuts to NASA climate studies, cuts that are being floated by the anti-science, head-in-the-sand GOP numbskulls now trying to run things in the House chamber of horrors.

NASA climate programs being eyed for the budget axe

In reply to that, I write:
Before you go calling for massive cuts to NASA climate studies, you ought to look a bit more into what they constitute. NASA is a research organization, so they have continually pushed the envelope in terms of improving remote sensing of the Earth, which feeds back to remote sensing of other planets. We wouldn't know nearly as much about Titan (Saturn's moon with an atmosphere) were it not for the pioneering efforts of NASA engineers. NOAA satellites are just duplicates launching copies of the same instrument over and over, useful for basic monitoring, but not for research.

The Nimbus program was groundbreaking. The now-we-take-it-for-granted Landsat program was NASA's originally. Roy Spencer is now using data from AMSU, a NASA instrument better than its MSU predecessors -- by a lot. The lamentably lost Quikscat improved hurricane forecasting. The TOMS series of instruments confirmed stratospheric ozone depletion, and also turned out to be pretty adept at following volcanic eruption plumes. That's just a few examples.

The NPOESS fiasco showed that it's pretty hard to duplicate the innovative capabilities of NASA with regard to remote sensing. NASA earth observations are a lot more than the GISS modelers.

So before you toss the baby with the bathwater, it might be a good idea to recognize what NASA does pretty well.

Ben Gazzara's still alive

I guess because I've seen him offed in the climactic scene of "Road House" way more times than I should admit, I thought that Ben Gazzara has probably passed on somewhere along the way. Nope, he's an apparently healthy 80. He also had throat cancer (like Michael Douglas) in 1999, but pulled through.

Ben Gazzara (Wikipedia)

Going back as far as I can remember him, I vaguely remember the TV show "Run for Your Life". I also strangely remember the movie "Saint Jack", even though I'm pretty sure I never actually saw it - I think I know why, I think it was previewed in Playboy. It probably was, because it was produced by Playboy Productions. A bit of Googling reveals... yes, it was, in a fairly memorable issue, December 1978, the first one with Farrah Fawcett on the cover and centerfold Janet Quist, who I didn't originally think was that great but whom I since have realized was one of their best. The movie was actually quite good, somewhat of a comeback for Peter Bogdanovich (this was before Dorothy Stratten, but not by much), and won a few modest awards. It was also "literary", based on a novel by Jack Kerouac.

Gazzara and Denholm Elliott in a scene from "Saint Jack"

Amazing what you can remember when you research one topic that just happens to occur to you, isn't it?

Lyin', cheatin', fishermen

OK, we all know about the "one that got away", and in other cases, the one that didn't get away was reported as a lot bigger than it actually was. And fishermen probably routinely report that they caught a lot more than they kept -- at least at the recreational level.

Well, it turns out that at the commercial level, fishermen and fisher fleets report a lot less than they catch. Actually, a whole amazing lot less. And it's just now coming to light, based on the dedicated work of Daniel Pauly.

Arctic fishing grossly underreported

Here's some of the amazing, appalling numbers:

"The study, published this week in the journal Polar Biology, estimated that fisheries catches in Russian, Canadian and U.S. Arctic waters totalled 950,000 tonnes from 1950 to 2006 — nearly 75 times more than 12,700 tonnes reported to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization."

This as well:

"For example, statistics from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game showed that over the study period, the Arctic fish catch in Alaska alone was 89,000 tonnes, even though the U.S. reported no catches at all to the UN."

Someday we're going to wake up and wonder where all the fish went. And that day isn't far off.

Mole alert

This is what the mother of Selena Gomez is quoted as saying:

'I’m on constant ‘mole patrol,’ ” jokes Selena Gomez’s mother, Mandy. After seeing scandalous photos of other teen stars, she is determined that 16-year-old Selena will never show too much skin. The guide is a mole on her daughter’s chest that signals when a top hits the “danger—too sexy” point.

That was in June 2009. Well, it's February 2011, and Selena is looking a tad dangerous. I guess when you're dating Justin Bieber, you have to look the part.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Her in her place

As a follower of "Royal Pains" on the USA Network (and Jill Flint! of whom there are not enough pictures of a certain kind on the Web yet), I accidentally started watching the new show that follows it, "Fairly Legal". Part of the main reason that I started watching was the fairly instant realization that lead star Sarah Shahi is habanero hot. So anyway, things being the way they are, I've been looking around for bits and pieces of Sarah (which do exist).

Wouldn't you know it -- Esquire kicked off a new collaboration with the Me In My Place tumblr blog (caution; semi-exposed females located there) in which stars of some semi-note are photographed semi-dressed in their own abodes. Ms. Shahi leads off this new feature. And does it WELL. I've captured two examples, shown below. (And if Esquire is worried about me showing these pictures, well, they are already ALL over the Web.)

The thing is; this place looks gorgeous. Not to mention its adult female resident. Doesn't look like there's a toddler toddling around, does there? Well, the interview alludes to the husband, and seductively indicates that -- happily for him and her both, I would think -- they have a sex life. But what she doesn't talk about, which makes sense for someone selling her sexual attractiveness as part of the reason to watch her new show -- which is working -- is that she recently had a youngster, in July 2009. So look back at those two pictures above, or the rest of the set at Esquire, and realize that this woman has had a baby.

Wow. That's what I call world-class bounce-back.

The big junkyard in the sky

A potential way to address the increasing problem and danger of orbital space junk has been -- pardon me -- just floated for public perusal.

"The same superfund approach to those earthly pollution problems could be reworked to tackle space junk, according to the report, which is titled "Confronting Space Debris - Strategies and Warnings from Comparable Examples Including Deepwater Horizon." Superfund is the federal government's program to clean up the nation's uncontrolled hazardous waste sites."

One thing really interesting is that they find the same characteristics for similar problems.

  • Behavioral norms (past and/or present) do not address the problem in a satisfactory manner.
  • If the problem is ignored, the risk of collateral damage will be significant.
  • There will always be an endless supply of "rule-breakers."
  • The problem will likely never be considered solved because the root cause is difficult to eliminate.

(Climate change is in this same leaky boat!!)

So what technology could fix this problem? Well, they don't get into that:

"Developing the pathfinder technology now for such a remedy "may prove to be a wise decision" because on-orbit collisions are likely to continue to occur in the future, the report states. There are a number of space cleanup ideas floating about — such as using garbage scows, tethers, laser beams, giant foam balls and such. While outside the scope of their report, Baiocchi said, "it's really a matter of devoting resources. Eventually, you're going to get something. The hard part is convincing your friends in other countries that whatever you stick up there isn't a weapon."

So ultimately we might be forced to spend real MONEY to address the problem. Like climate change needing something dramatic (and probably disastrous) to garner sufficient attention for action, I think he's right about this:

"As soon as a DIRECTV satellite gets knocked out – or a GPS satellite or some other space asset we use – then you're going to have a lot of people up in arms about space debris," Welser said.

Moving on, moving on...

Now the USA and the country of France have decided to do a deal to address the space debris problem.

US and French defense chiefs plan to sign a space cooperation agreement on Tuesday designed to help track debris in outer space threatening vital satellites, officials told AFP. ... For years, the United States dominated space and saw little need to seek out international partners. But with more countries launching or operating satellites and the threat of collisions rising, military leaders want to promote data sharing with allies and industry.

Titled "Space Situational Awareness Partnership," the agreement is set to be signed during a visit to Washington by French Defense Minister Alain Juppe, who is scheduled to hold talks with his American counterpart, Robert Gates, on Tuesday at the Pentagon."

AND as far as actually addressing the problem, a fishing net company in Japan and the Japanese space agency are exploring the idea of using a net to capture space junk.

"The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Nitto Seimo Co. propose launching a satellite, attached to a thin metal net spanning more than a mile, into space before the net is detached and begins to capture space waste while orbiting earth, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday. As it collects debris the net would become electrically charged and be attracted back to earth by the planet's magnetic field, causing the net and its contents to safely burn up
in the atmosphere."

This might work; after all, the Japanese fishing fleet is responsible for most of the adrift "ghost nets" that snare and kill a lot of fish and sea turtles and dolphins in the ocean, particularly the Pacific. Glad to see that they've finally come up with a GOOD use for the concept!

Ghost net with captured debris:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Wolverines endangered by warming climes

Sure, we've heard about polar bears, but what about wolverines, the vicious big brothers to weasels and minks? Apparently warming temperatures aren't good for these guys for a couple of reasons:

1. “We’ve always known there was a strong association between wolverine and snow,” Copeland says. “It’s an animal that evolved in a snowy arctic environment.”

That snow proves especially important for moms. Around February they look for the ideal site to burrow in and create a den. This temporary home has to survive until their pups wean, around mid-May, which means deep snow has to persist that long. And real estate that meets those criteria is becoming increasingly limited."

This is taken from a really, really good article that will provide a great deal of information about wolverines, much more than simply that they are the mascot for the University of Michigan.

Wolverines: Climate warming threatens comeback

2. From another article, similar subject, "Wolverine Population Threatened by Climate Change"

is this: "The computer projections also showed that August temperatures may increase dramatically. Whereas August temperatures currently top off at about 72 degrees F (22 degrees C) in areas where wolverines live, maximum daily temperatures by the end of the century were projected to frequently exceed 90 degrees F (32 degrees C) under the two higher-emissions scenarios. Unless the wolverine is able to very rapidly adapt to summertime temperatures far above anything it currently experiences, and to a spring with little or no snow cover, it is unlikely that it will continue to survive in the contiguous U.S. under a high or medium-low emissions scenario," the study concludes.

How to save "The Cape"

It isn't good news that NBC cut down the show order for "The Cape" from 13 shows to 10. Apparently it isn't getting good ratings. This doesn't surprise me; superhero shows appeal to a certain niche audience of people that can suspend reality in favor of the unreality of worlds in which people have superpowers.

"The Cape" is in the Batman genre; people don't as much have superpowers as much as they have abnormal qualities. The main character apparently has a past as a Special Forces op in the military, and thus is an effective martial artist with a variety of fighting skills. The abnormal properties of the cape give him some extended abilities, and his learning of magic escape and deception tricks give him another effective quality. The villainess Dice was a human statistical
calculator. Other characters have extensions of circus performer capabilities. The entire show takes place in a venue called "Palm City" that isn't any particularly real place (but does kinda look like LA).

So suspending reality isn't as hard as for say, Superman or The Flash or even Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

But "The Cape" isn't doing well, and I think there are reasons for that. For one thing, right now, the main character (Vince Faraday/The Cape) is too virtuous. He's driven by revenge and to get back to his family. I.e., there isn't a lot of internal conflict. So the outcome is pretty much decided right now; he'll probably defeat the bad guy and get back to his wife and son. Not
much dramatic tension, or otherwise. The character of Orwell, Web-savvy crusading blogger, played by Summer Glau, has shades (she's likely to be the daughter of the chief villain, Chess, who is also the mayor of Palm City), but still is too much of a do-gooder. The circus troupe that gave The Cape his start is better, as they rob various things to supplement their minimal performance income. The rough-and-ready dwarf is one of the best characters on the show.

As Chess, James Frain brings dramatic bonafides to the role.

I'd like to see it continue, hope against hope, so here are a couple of ways
to make it better, maybe.

1. Serial format ("Tune in next time, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!")

The campy 60's Batman show did this -- every other week was a true serialized cliffhanger format, a time-honored format back to the silent movies and the Perils of Pauline. "The Cape" should take a chance, since they need to get ratings, and revive the serial format. Don't wrap it up at the end of the hour. Put the hero and some of his friends in dire unescapable peril at the
end of the show and then wait a week until the resolution is revealed, and try like nuts to not let spoilers out on the Web.

2. Romantic tension

Because The Cape is so motivated, and so heroic, he doesn't have romantic tension. There is no "will they/won't they?" question. So I think they should set it up. It should look like (externally) that Vince's wife has moved on; The Cape should see the buttoned-down lawyer boss in a towel in her bedroom because he spilled chicken soup all over himself and had to change (maybe into some of Vince's old clothes). And he should see his son apparently having a good time with the lawyer boss, too. Vince is a masculine type, has those masculine needs, and in his despair he could be drawn to the young and needy Orwell, who is young, abnormally hot (this is Summer Glau, after all), and needing a father figure due to abandonment. Will they or won't they?

3. Guest stars

It may be too late, but maybe they could bring in a guest star with some appeal to the sci-fi/fantasy crowd; the kid from Kick-Ass, or Adam West, or Tobey McGuire. Long shot? Maybe. But it still might get attention.

In terms of the most successful recent superhero TV shows, Lois and Clark, The New Adventures of Superman, capitalized on romantic involvement of Lois & Superman as a running theme! Smallville has different romantic high school entanglements, an attractive young cast, and also considerably lower ratings expectations on CW. The Incredible Hulk, with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno, utilized an ongoing serialized story (the quest format, Bruce Banner's quest for a cure for his Hulkdom, and pretty good acting from Bixby).

Some commentary from others:

Saturday, February 5, 2011

This is bound to be controversial

But it is unfortunately inevitable. And I agree with it. (Another reason for world government.)

UN 'concerned' by world population growth trends

The world population growth rate must slow down significantly to avoid reaching unsustainable levels, says a new UN report.

To have a reasonable chance of stabilising world population, fertility must drop to below "replacement level".

It must then be maintained at that level for an extended period, says the report.

(Don't tell all those celebrities having babies, like talk show host Craig Ferguson and his lovely nubile young wife Megan, because everybody likes to read those stories.)

Julianne Hough offers herself as a model for milk

With rare exceptions, almost anything featuring Julianne Hough is a delight to observe. So here's her new "Got Milk?" poster.

And here's Julianne well-dressed for the occasion of unveiling the new ad. (Now, I certainly wouldn't mind seeing Julianne well-dressed for the occasion of unveiling herself, but Ryan Seacrest has probably cornered the market on that opportunity.)

Speaking of the Seacrest, here's Julianne on why he's a great boyfriend.

The Mars rover that ate the NASA budget

The roving Mars Science Laboratory: the cost for this mission has skyrocketed ("ballooned" really doesn't do it justice) to a cooool $2.47 billion, and it needs $82 million more right now to maintain its schedule to launch next November -- because if it doesn't it would cost even more to launch it in another two years. With the James Webb Telescope already gobbling huge chunks out of NASA's wallet, this would be unacceptable. Impossible, really. And with the GOP looking to cut down the NASA budget to something that wouldn't even support a well-equipped high school chemistry class, anything like this is probably bad news for everything else that NASA is trying to do.

Imagine how bad it could get if the MSL doesn't survive the trip to Mars.


"Another $23.3 million is needed for MSL through the end of summer, and another $46.3 million for the last two to three months before launch, Green said.

However, finding the additional money could prove challenging in the current budget environment. Although NASA's Planetary Sciences Division had been slated for a 10 percent annual increase, to $1.49 billion, in 2011, Congress has yet to adopt a spending plan for the federal government this year, leaving NASA and other agencies operating at last year's spending levels under a continuing resolution approved in December.

In addition, Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives are proposing to roll back discretionary spending even further, to 2008 levels, for most federal agencies, including NASA.

Green said the continuing resolution under which NASA will operate through at least March 4 gives the division $144 million less than the White House proposed for the current budget year, including a $115 million shortfall in the division's Mars program, which is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif."

More secrets of cheese revealed by science

I last posted on the subject of cheese in April of last year (Three Kinds of Cheese News,). Now there is a new article about scientists trying to divine (not devein) the flavor elements of blue cheese, that lovely, fragrant, salty, and occasionally pungent variety of white cheese that is shot through with blue fungi or bacteria or something. Blue cheese includes what are likely the most well-known varieties: Rocquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola, and Danish Blue, though there are lot of other varietals.

So, here is the article about scientists unlocking the secrets to the nose and palate of the blue cheeses:

The quest for the ultimate blue cheese

"The scientists hope to find out exactly how the microorganisms in blue cheese work which could lead to better quality, consistency and fewer defects in the manufacturing process. They are working with Stichelton Dairy on the Welbeck Estate in North Nottinghamshire which produces a classic English unpasteurised blue cheese, similar to Stilton."

Now, this is an older article, but scientists have also carved into the secrets of the Gouda (not the Buddha):

Gooda, Gouda! Solving The 800-Year-Old Secret Of A Big Cheese

"... scientists have tried for years to pinpoint the natural molecules responsible for the long-lasting taste and wonderful texture of Gouda cheese. It develops during the aging or ripening stage, with aged Gouda more full and complex, with longer-lasting flavor, than the younger version. Cheese lovers prize this characteristic taste, known as the "kokumi sensation."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

If you can't beat 'em, eat 'em

I couldn't have said it better myself. More on the lionfish eradication efforts; no limit and all the filets you can ingest. And supposedly they taste good.

Now I have to find some good lionfish recipes...

If you can't beat ''em, eat 'em


"Eat me! Please! Please! Aaaaah... OH GOD -- don't stop, don't stop, eat me, eat me!"

I'll be impressed if it works

Australian swimming ultra-superstar Ian Thorpe is planning a comeback for the 2012 London Olympics. Having wisely (and somewhat accidentally) missed the supersuit period, it will be interesting to see if Thorpedo can get back even close to his astonishing form at the top of his game, though so far he says he just wants to get on the freestyle relays.

Even Biedermann, wearing a supersuit, only broke Thorpe's 400 meter freestyle record by one-hundredth of a second; and that record is now asterisked or however they're denoting/demoting it. So Thorpe's five fastest 400 meter swims are pretty incredible. What really amazed me is that after the stunning hide-from-the-field 400 at the Sydney Olympics (3:40.58), he actually went faster twice after that.

Ian Thorpe plans Olympic comeback

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Thank you for being sensible, Brits

Despite the fact that "Climategate" originated there, most of the British populace seems to have the correct opinion on climate change / global warming:

"Asked if climate change was a current or imminent threat, 83% of Britons agreed, with just 14% saying global warming poses no threat. Compared with August 2009, when the same question was asked, opinion remained steady despite a series of events in the intervening 18 months that might have made people less certain about the perils of climate change."

"The UK also suffered two unusually cold winters in 2009 and 2010. But three times more people said the freezing weather had actually made them worry more about global warming than those who were less worried. The finding runs counter to the idea that people are influenced more by local conditions than by reports of globally rising temperatures. It may also indicate an understanding of how warming is projected to increase extreme weather events and that people distinguish between changes in short-term weather and long-term climate."

"While climate sceptics remain a vocal presence in some parts of the climate change debate, the new poll shows them to represent a fringe position. An analysis of those who think climate change poses no threat reveals them to be predominantly men (70%) and about twice as likely to be over 65 and to have voted Conservative in 2010 than the general population."

Bottom line, on this side or on their side of the Atlantic, Conservatives are Stupid on Climate Change. (And that hasn't changed for a couple of decades.)

Public belief in climate change weathers storm, poll shows

Driving off a cliff with a blindfold on

I really enjoy eating fish and seafood. Salmon, tilapia, shrimp, lobster, scallops, trout, crab, even tuna subs -- all good. The thing is, I am fully aware that we collectively as a whole globally -- meaning US HUMANS -- are eating too much fish. As I have many times on this blog said, we need to do something else. For hopeless Japan, at least TRY to eat more tilapia sushi and less toro (i.e., the noble, highly endangered bluefin tuna).

I don't eat nearly as much seafood as I could or would, because I know that we're eating too much, and I try to eat mostly that which is farm-raised, with the occasional RARE exception of a tuna sub. And I can't even remember the last time I ate one of those now. (Also I don't mind lobster, even though cost-wise it doesn't happen often, because lobster is wisely raised in a sustainable manner).

So knowing all that I do, it is hardly a surprise to read that we collectively as a whole humanity are eating more seafood than ever before. This is madness. Stocks are collapsing, poaching is increasing, fish sizes are way down (subject of one of my early posts on this blog); something has to change. Here's one article about the study that inspired this posting:

Global fish consumption hits record high

Now, it turns out that there are other kinds of fish that can be eaten, and which have stocks that aren't over-exploited. Nuisance fish like Asian carp and lionfish -- eat all you want!

And they are alternatives that still taste really good. Time ran this article about top (I mean TOP chefs) switching from "classic" -- and heavily overfished, generally -- fish species to new and different kinds that are much less exploited. And chefs can influence general seafood consumption patterns. (I posted this once before but it's worth posting again.)

Europe's top chefs push for sustainable seafood

Reading the Monterey Bay Aquarium seafood guides also acquainted me with opah and tilefish, neither of which I've tried. I'll be looking for them.


Opah (moonfish)

Let's review the birth news

The celeb babies have been poppin' out with regularity. It struck me that part of the phenomena of knowing all these celebs are having babies is the massive increase in available information on the Internet. Not a huge insight, I know, but it used to sometimes be a surprise when you found out that one of your favorite TV or movie stars had a three-year-old kid. Also, it used to be that the out-of-wedlock tots were somewhat underpublicized. Not any more.

So, here's the most recent four that I found:

Doutzen Kroes

Samantha Harris

Penelope Cruz + Javier Bardem

Christina Applegate

The lovely Woz

With Sharapova not returning to Slam-winning form, and now perhaps with other things on her mind than 100% commitment to championship tennis, the torch of top tennis babe should soon be passed to Caroline Wozniacki, who looks luminous and curvaceous, but still athletic, on the court.

And curvaceous off of it, too. Good fit for the Sport Illustrated swimsuit issue, athlete section.

All she's got to do now is win a couple of majors to really nail the endorsement deals.