Thursday, May 30, 2013

More on the Ecuador satellite collision

A couple of days ago I posted about my fulfilled prediction when Ecuador's first satellite had the misfortune to orbit through some old Russian rocket space junk, significantly damaging the Ecuadorian microsat.

Now someone has made the bold suggestion that one way to deal with the problem is to hold the countries responsible for the junk that did the damage responsible for the damages.

I tend to think that this might not work, but I'm guessing that this incident will raise awareness among the powers that orbit satellites that space junk is becoming an increasingly worrisome, and potentially very expensive, problem.

Here's a picture of the satellite, with some people in the picture to show how big it wasn't.  But it was still Ecuador's first working satellite in space.

I think cloning a mammoth is inevitable

Used to be that we didn't think we could have babies conceived in test tubes or cloned domestic livestock, like sheep and cows.  Now that's pretty much routine.

So with the discovery of a mammoth apparently with some of its ancient blood still liquid (though I will want to read the peer-reviewed description of that), I think that if it pans out, the inevitability of cloning a mammoth is one step closer.

After all, a female elephant could carry a cloned mammoth fetus to term, so it isn't like they'd have to make an artificial mammoth uterus.

I'm going to make a general prediction here and say that we'll have a living, walking cloned mammoth within 10 years, a lot sooner than men will get to Mars.

Mammoth find: Preserved Ice Age giant found with flowing blood in Siberia 

The picture of Arctic amplification

One of the climate warming talking points favored by skeptics is that the globe in total hasn't warmed much over the past 15 years or so.  They manage to get to that conclusion by taking the high temp in 1998 and the low temps of recent La Nina years and drawing a line between them.  Stupid, I know and I hope you do too, gentle reader, but that's what they do, ignoring the decadal warmth of the ought decade a couple of years back, which was far warmer than any other decade we've seen since systematic temperature records began to be collected.

But forgetting about that, one of the predictions of standard accepted influence of greenhouse gases on the temperature of the Earth is that the Arctic will get warmer faster than elsewhere on the globe.  And this recent picture from the NASA Earth Observatory site shows that's exactamente what is happen-amente.

And that means we are getting more caliente, un poco at a time. 

Arctic amplification

How many places are named 'Urbana'?

Urbana, Illinois, was named after Urbana, Ohio, which was named after Urbanna, Virginia.  Urbanus means  city dweller and was the name of eight Popes.   But:   Urbanna, Virginia means "City of Anne" and was named after Queen Anne of England.

(This question occurred to me because I noticed Maryland has a town named Urbana.)

And there's one in Venezuela.  I imagine that had something to do with honoring a Pope.

Benton County, Iowa   

Steuben County, New York   

Wabash County, Indiana   

Dallas County, Missouri   

San Jacinto County, Texas   

Champaign County, Illinois   

Frederick County, Maryland   

Champaign County, Ohio   

Union County, Arkansas   

Neosho County, Kansas   

Barnes County, North Dakota   

Sifontes, Bolivar, Venezuela

Middlesex County, Virginia   

Monday, May 27, 2013

Hyperextendable - and fast

Elite athletes are not like most of us.  The best of them have a certain drive that allows them to train harder, faster, and longer than the average.   But many people can train hard.  Elite athletes are also born with physical attributes that make them different than average people.  Bigger lung capacity, unusually proportioned limbs, better eyesight or hand-eye coordination.

Elite swimmers have many of these attributes (maybe not the eyesight), but one thing that many of them also have in common is joint flexibility.    Joint flexibility allows better leverage and better grip on the water, longer strokes, and stronger kicks.   In particular, hyperextendable knees allow more depth on the kicks for all but the breaststroke - elite breaststrokers have other physical advantage.

The linked Daily Mail article has several pictures of Olympic medalist and world record holder Ryan Lochte. He's obviously strong and tall and developed (though a little post-Olympic soft).  But in the first picture, notice how hyperextended his knee is.  That's a physical trait he was born with, which gives him a stronger kick.  Next time you watch a world-class swim meet (if you do), notice how many of the competitors also have hyperextendable knees.  It's something you can't win without.

Ryan Lochte shows off his ripped body

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Curiosity on Mars, by Curiosity

The Mars Curiosity Rover took the self-portrait below before it rolled off toward Mount Sharp.

If you want to see the high resolution version, where the detail is really impressive, click here.

Jennifer wears lingerie on the red carpet

Jennifer Morrison, despite being a very lovely gal, never really went all-out sexy on House

That appears to be changing in her public appearances.  WOW.

Jennifer Morrison rocks a lingerie maxi-dress at the Billboard Music Awards.

The Daily Mail article that's linked there made some catty remarks about her derriere being less than perfectly toned.  Of course, their standard for toned is pretty high, considering how many pictures of Victoria's Secret models they feature.  So I have no problem with Jennifer's posterior and wouldn't mind seeing more of it.

Jennifer also posed ostensibly nude in Allure magazine.  More on that later (soon).

Best of the Met

The annual Met Gala Ball lets fashion designers go a little crazy.  And they went crazier than normal this year with some kind of punk-couture theme.  So there weren't a lot of va-va-voom outfits on the red carpet this year.  So rather than try to pick the best-dressed and the worst-dressed, which was done many other Web places, I just picked who I thought looked good.    So here they are:

Blake Lively: This might have been the best dress of the night, and it doesn't hurt to be worn on her superstructure.

Jessica Alba:  enjoying the cleavage cutouts on this fashionably hot mom.

Julianne Hough and Nina Dobrev:  Not that wild about Julianne, but Nina the vampire in lace and bustier drives me a bit wilder.
Miranda Kerr.  Some critics didn't like this bandage top dress.

I do.

A lot.
Emmy Rossum:  she is capable of going from cute girl to extremely high level knockout glamor.  This is an example of the latter.  Very regal and elegant.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

I recognize you!

I was looking at these very funny fake ads, and one of them (the one with the naked model humorously partially covered), caught my eye.  Check out #10.

The best fake ads of the year (2012) 

It took my brain a couple of minutes to process the visual input and come up with a name -- Lindsay Wagner, Playboy Playmate, November 2007.

Now, this led to a bit of research, and I discovered a) that she's on Twitter, b) that she's married to relatively wealthy guy, and c) she has two kids, one pretty recently.  This via some of the pictures she posted.  (Oh yeah, she's still VERY cute).

The relatively wealthy guy plays hockey, but I don't think he's a pro hockey player.  This, however, is not clear.

One thing about this Lindsay Wagner - it has always been a slight challenge to find pictures of her, because of that OTHER Lindsay Wagner, the fine actress known best for being The Bionic Woman (even though her body of work showed that she was more than just an android).

I'll have to tell Playboy about this via Twitter during the workweek.

Yes, she has very nice ones

If you follow the type of news I like to follow (occasionally), then you will have found what I found already.  If not, and if you follow this blog (not very many people do, so consider yourself very fortunate), I am linking below to pictures of the slight wardrobe accident that befell Miranda Kerr last week.

To be specific, her top slipped down, exposing her lovely pair.
(This is probably NSFW, for those concerned).

Now here be the thing;  I've seen them before.  Many, many other people have too. She's gone topless before, both informally and formally.  She's posed nude for glamor, and she's posed nude on the beach.  I probably have even written posts about this type of thing before, so if you search 'Miranda Kerr' in the search box, you might find some more.

So is this a big deal?  Well, the way Miranda handled it, not so much.  She seemed amused.  So in essence if you're used to being valued for your beauty in your line of work, and you know that you've already displayed it all before, it isn't a big deal for you (and many of these swimsuit models will admit that there is no body privacy on a shoot, anyway).

But the thing is;  they're really nice.  And the thing about Miranda is, she's a dazzling combo of the cute and the beautiful and the sweet and the slinky.  She has a confidence in how she looks, who she is, and what she's got (which includes a cute tot and a handsome actor hubby).  So therefore giving the fans another glimpse of part of what makes her special is just another day on the job.

Well, maybe not just another day.  But, well -- how do you like THEM apples?

At least the Senate might go nuclear

Not as in nuclear energy, but as in nuclear option.

Let's face it, it's ridiculous.  And Democrats are partly to blame, because they played games blocking nominees by Republican presidents when they shouldn't have.  But the Republicans in this Senate have pushed the nomination delays to a whole new bad level of bad, and it appears with increasing probability that we're going to have a nuclear showdown over filibusters.

While it's sad that grown men who should know better are behaving this way, it appears necessary for the proper governance of the country to rein in the out-of-control, abused filibuster power.

Harry Reid escalates 'nuclear' threat

Check that one off

Revisiting my undangerous predictions for 2013;  number 10 was somewhat of an afterthought, added to make the list have 10 items:

10. A major satellite collision in space emphasizes the space debris problem.
-- The odds of this keep increasing every year!

Well, if you consider the first-ever satellite belonging to the country of Ecuador 'major' (the Ecuadorians probably do), then this is a totally came-true prediction.  Even if it's only a little nanosatellite, it was working, it was in orbit, and now it's in big trouble after hitting stuff in space.

Ecuador satellite hits Soviet era space junk

"Mr Nader said that despite the collision, which occurred 1,500 kilometres above the east coast of Madagascar, the satellite seemed to be holding its course.

Later data indicated that the nanosatellite [named Pegaso], a cube weighing just 1.2 kilograms, struck tiny debris in the particle cloud surrounding the Soviet space junk.

The EXA said that the satellite's antenna had lost its orientation and the craft was spinning wildly over two of its axes, and could not receive transmissions or send commands.

According to the space agency Ecuadoran engineers will not know whether they can get Pegaso to work again until Monday."
The ironic thing about hitting Soviet space junk is that Ecuador will try again with another nanosatellite on a Soviet rocket (the first one was launched on a Chinese rocket).

Unfortunately, the plans to have streaming Webcam views from space from Pegaso are probably not going to work out. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Food calamity possible with climate change

I covered the very real concern about honeybees a couple of posts ago;  here's a more general article about the threat to food supplies from climate change:

Food supply under assault as climate warms

“We are in the midst of dramatic assault on the security of the food supply,” said Dr. Robert S. Lawrence, director of the Center for a Livable Future, part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The group promotes ecological research into the nexus of diet, food production, environment and human health.

The primary culprit of all this menu mayhem is climate change, which is choking off certain crops already weakened by both genetic tinkering and chemically based farming, some experts contend."
 One of the problems highlighted in the article is that warmer weather allows more plant pathogens to attack crops - a serious problem for coffee, for one thing.

That's a definite wake-up call.

Another reason to like Shakira

Not only is Shakira blonde Latina gorgeous and she has dance moves that are marvelous seductive, it turns out that she is very, very, very flexible - circus contortionist level flexible.  She recently demonstrated this talent.

Shakira shows she could have been a circus contortionist

I'll be her husband's interest was Piqued.

(If you don't understand that, read this:  Shakira's husband)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Fuel from pond scum, i.e., algae

I wrote a bit ago (as did several others) about the bioengineered bug that can turn CO2 into a potential fuel source.  Now there's a study about how we can engineer ponds to efficiently produce pond scum (i.e., wondrous algae) all over the USA, that can be a feedstock for fuel production, too.

(I wonder if David Biello has seen this one.)

Anyway, between this and the recent discovery that sea urchins use nickel as a catalyst to make calcium carbonate, which might be an excellent way to scrub CO2 out of fossil fuel -burning energy plants (which might unfortunately remove incentive for nuclearization, but that's a topic for another day), we might yet be able to turn around the climate change bus.

Going green:  U.S. equipped to grow serious amounts of pond scum for fuel

" Seriously, babe, I could be converted into biodiesel! "

Sonnet for May: 'As If You Were'

About time I wrote another sonnet.   This one came out about the way I wanted it to.  You never can tell if a sonnet will end up where you think it's going to go at the beginning.

'As If You Were'

How many times have I encountered you
in thought? Uncountable - you do possess
my mind at unexpected moments, through
the minutes of all days. As I progress
each mundane section that assembles life,
unbidden yet expectedly I find
myself with you, as if you were my wife
and we together celebrated bind-
ing love with physical emotions, deep
within each other's souls as bodies rolled
and mold and force and surge, before they leap
into the flames of ecstasy. I hold
those images until they fade, until
another comes and I am with you still.

The more things change...

... the more some things remain constant, tennis-wise.

Talk of Rafael Nadal's demise was apparently a bit premature, as he beat Federer on clay again. And Serena Williams is on a serious roll, having won four tournaments in a row with this waxing of Azarenka. 

Italian Open:  Williams, Nadal win

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cheryl, and Cheryl and Eva

I haven't posted a picture of the extraordinary Cheryl Cole for awhile, and it's been even longer since I updated her relationship status.  (She's in one, and it's working, it appears - more on that soon).

She's also a face of L'Oreal cosmetics, and as a perk of that she gets to show up at the Cannes Film Festival and model gorgeous gowns.

And with Cheryl, it's the smile that makes her more than just a pretty face and great body.  The smile makes her both radiant and girly, at the same time.  (The dimples, of course).

Turns out that she and another gorgeous girl, Eva Longoria, with whom Cheryl shares a history of being married to a professional athlete who did not comprehend his outrageous fortune, met up at Cannes and showed that putting beauty together is multiplicative,  not additive.

Cannes Film Festival:  Long-lost 'twin sisters' Eva Longoria and Cheryl Cole

This is all just fun with the red carpet glam, but that can indeed be fun. 

England is playing cricket with New Zealand at Lords

The Ashes (vs. Australia) are coming up again, and England is playing New Zealand at Lord's right now.  They had a disappointing visit to NZ a few months ago.

(I'm sorry that I mainly write blog posts about England cricket, but that's what the Daily Mail covers, mostly).

As of today, it turns out that impressive bowling from Stuart Broad finalized a victory at Lord's for the English team.

Broad's 7-wicket haul clinches victory at Lord's

England got 71 runs from this new guy Joe Root in their second innings;  the most NZ could get in their second innings was 13. 

They start the second Test on Friday.

Who hasn't won a Stanley Cup?

As the Washington D.C. area hockey fans were burned and spurned again by the fickle Gods of Hockey, I wondered how bad it's getting for here compared to elsewhere in the hockey universe.

The answer is that it's getting pretty bad, but isn't quite yet as bad as it is in other places.

I get my info from Sports Illustrated here:  Longest Stanley Cup droughts

  • The LA Kings won the Cup last year for the first time, not having won it before in their entire 44 years of existence, with their other appearance the infamous serious famous for the curve in Marty McSorley's blade and the godlike goaltending of Patrick Roy.  Oh yeah, they also had Wayne Gretzky that year.
  • Toronto Maple Leafs, last Cup in 1967, finally made the playoffs again this year.  (46 years)
  • St. Louis Blues, 44 years, haven't been to the finals since 1970.
  • Vancouver Canucks, 41 years, 3 Stanley Cup finals.
  • Buffalo Sabres, 41 years, two finals, and a few more conference finals.
  • Washington Capitals, 37 years, 1 Stanley Cup final.
  • Philadelphia Flyers, 37 years, but they've won a couple, and been in few more recent finals.
  • Phoenix Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets, 33 years.  No finals, but made it to the Western Conference final last year.
  • The New York Islanders, 29 years;  but yeah, there were four Stanley Cups before that.

So the Caps aren't the worst it can be, yet, but part of the recent problem is that they've been ousted early with Ovie and the Young Guns.  There are a lot of reasons why, and clearly hockey IS fickle, and no one ever guaranteed that every team has to win a championship.  Yet I think the Caps deserve a change of luck next year, but with the new NHL alignment, they might not even make the playoffs next year.  The repercussions of such a failure like that will be fairly large, I would think.

Bad snow news for skiers and drinkers

Due to climate change, aka global warming, Rocky Mountain snowpack is getting smaller.

I'm really starting to get concerned about New Mexico's water supply.

Warmer Springs Causing Loss of Snow Cover throughout the Rocky Mountains
"Each year we looked at temperature and precipitation variations and the amount of water contained within the snowpack as of April," said USGS scientist Greg Pederson, the lead author of the study. "Snow deficits were consistent throughout the Rockies due to the lack of precipitation during the cool seasons during the 1930s – coinciding with the Dust Bowl era.  From 1980 on, warmer spring temperatures melted snowpack throughout the Rockies early, regardless of winter precipitation. The model in turn shows temperature as the major driving factor in snowpack declines over the past thirty years."

Runoff from Rocky Mountain winter snowpack accounts for 60 to 80 percent of the annual water supply for more than 70 million people living in the western U.S., and is influenced by factors such as the snowpack’s water content, known as snow water equivalent, and the timing of snowmelt."
 Got that?  Global warming = warmer springs = less snow = less water.  Reason for serious concern.

This may be the world's most critical agricultural crisis

Eventually, water supply is going to be more important, and probably cause far more difficulties (as well as deaths), but right now, the world's most critical agricultural crisis is ...

Honeybees.   (Kudos to you if you've been paying attention and already know this.)

As it stands, I think that it would make some sense to store away some almonds in anticipation of the imminent almond shortage.  That would sound kind of funny if I didn't believe I wasn't kidding.   Hazelnuts and cashews and walnuts, too. And there are some fruits that it might pay to save:  blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, tangerines, tangelos, oranges, apples, avocados, pears, raspberries... are you starting to get worried yet?

Orange blossom honey?  In your dreams, sweetheart. 

The plight of the honeybee (from National Geographic)

This is where it gets downright scary:

"The latest data, from the 2012-2013 winter, indicate an average loss of 45.1 percent of hives across all U.S. beekeepers, up 78.2 percent from the previous winter, and a total loss of 31.1 percent of commercial hives, on par with the last six years. (Most keepers now consider a 15 percent loss "acceptable.")"

This article is even more apocalypse-is-nightic:

Bee deaths may have reached a crisis point for crops

How bad is it?

Farmers who grow crops like almonds, blueberries and apples rely on commercial beekeepers to make sure their crops get pollinated.

But the number of honeybees has now dwindled to the point where there may not be enough to pollinate those crops.

Pettis says that this year, farmers came closer than ever to a true pollination crisis. The only thing that saved part of the almond crop in California was some lovely weather at pollination time.

"We got incredibly good flight weather," Pettis says. "So even those small colonies that can't fly very well in cool weather, they were able to fly because of good weather."

Some more concerning articles:

Bee deaths create a crisis for crops

Without honeybees, we may cease to be

Mystery malady kills more bees, heightening worry on farms

Mr. Dahle said he had planned to bring 13,000 beehives from Montana — 31 tractor-trailers full — to work the California almond groves. But by the start of pollination last month, only 3,000 healthy hives remained.

Almonds are a bellwether. Eighty percent of the nation’s almonds grow here, and 80 percent of those are exported, a multibillion-dollar crop crucial to California agriculture. Pollinating up to 800,000 acres, with at least two hives per acre, takes as many as two-thirds of all commercial hives. 

This past winter’s die-off sent growers scrambling for enough hives to guarantee a harvest. Chris Moore, a beekeeper in Kountze, Tex., said he had planned to skip the groves after sickness killed 40 percent of his bees and left survivors weakened. 

“But California was short, and I got a call in the middle of February that they were desperate for just about anything,” he said. So he sent two truckloads of hives that he normally would not have put to work. 

Like I said, you may want to lay aside some almonds for a rainy day.


Friday, May 17, 2013

A strong (climate) case for nuclear energy

On the Web site for the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, a new Science Brief released along with a new published paper:

Coal and gas are far more harmful than nuclear power

In this, the authors make the case that direct deaths caused by nuclear energy are far less than those caused by fossil fuel burning. 

I am certain that this paper will be critiqued, criticized, examined, and revisited.  But it says some things that are self-evidently true, such as:

"Likewise, we calculated that nuclear power prevented an average of 64 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent (GtCO2-eq) net GHG emissions globally between 1971-2009 (see Fig. 3). This is about 15 times more emissions than it caused. It is equivalent to the past 35 years of CO2 emissions from coal burning in the U.S. or 17 years in China (ref. 3) — i.e., historical nuclear energy production has prevented the building of hundreds of large coal-fired power plants."   (emphasis added - and coal-fired power plants cause direct health problems, regardless of the climate effects)
And for those impressed with the rise of fracking and the concomitant rise of U.S. natural gas production, there's this eye-opener:

"Our findings also have important implications for large-scale "fuel switching" to natural gas from coal or from nuclear. Although natural gas burning emits less fatal pollutants and GHGs than coal burning, it is far deadlier than nuclear power, causing about 40 times more deaths per unit electric energy produced (ref. 2)."

Since the co-author of this piece is climate skeptic target James Hansen, it's not surprising that it comes down hard on GHG-emitting power plants.  But what's surprising to me is the way that they approach it - not in terms of economic cost, but in terms of human cost.  The alternative is that "underpowered" Third World countries could do better health-wise with more robust economies built on increased energy production.  Since they may be spiting themselves with fossil fuel energy production, the alternatives are primarily solar and nuclear -- and until we get a lot of big flow batteries online, nuclear is the only proven alternative.

The heartbreak of the Capitals

Wrote at the Washington Post, in the Comments section on Thomas Boswell's column, "Washington Capitals Playoff Exit:  A tradition that's getting old" :

My first comment:
"I follow tennis quite a bit. In singles tennis, you can see a player's mental state pretty readily. There have been numerous hard-fought five set (mens) matches, or three set women's matches, that were battles through the first 4 (2) sets, and which then turned into laughers, like 6-0 or 6-1, in the final set. Because in a hard-fought battle, every thing is razor sharp. Every point counts. The stress level is incredibly high when so much is riding on each swing of the racket.

But then... something goes wrong for one of the players. A call they thought was surely out was barely in. A fan yellls in the stands at the wrong time, disrupting a serve that turns into a double fault. They mishit an easy volley. SUDDENLY, in the player's mental state, everything is against them. Shots that were an inch in now fall an inch out. First serve lasers now are just long. They can't make that last step to make a return. And against them is an opponent that senses the desperation, the weakness, the errors creeping into the game, and their confidence soars. They blast away, and the opponent's weak resolve collapses. Match over.

Over and over in this series [Capitals vs. Rangers] we heard "hold serve" for the home wins. But we also heard "clinch in 6" when the Caps went back to NY. Yeah, even from Barry Melrose [ESPN hockey commentator]. They had the big MO, the confidence. Does anyone forget the nail-biting game 5 win? [Overtime win] Wasn't that mental toughness? However it happened, the refereeing in game 6 affected the outcome. The obvious interference on Perreault - not called (even he asked "Where's the penalty?"). The slew foot on Green. As one writer put it, were the Rangers such gentlemen? And the Caps lost a very close one, 1-0, creating an edgy mentality for Game 7. And when things started to go wrong in Game 7 (including an almost "I'm going to be a hero" moment for Wilson), it snowballed. They collapsed. Mental edge - pfft. 

Bos, remember the Cubbies? The Bartman ball? What happened after that?

My second comment:
Having said all that, what can be done differently? When does bad karma reverse itself? You never can know. The Red Sox [pro baseball team], famously, tantalized their fans with occasional World Series appearances - which they famously, heartbreakingly lost. They kept trying to build a team with skills and mental toughness not to give up. When you have that, sometimes luck finally lends a hand. Like Mariano Rivera walking Kevin Millar, 9th inning, Game 4, down 3-0. Like Dave Roberts making a steal, just barely beating a tag from an incredible Jose Posada throw. Winning that game, just introducing enough doubt into NYY [New York Yankees] that suddenly a team that always lost couldn't lose. And finally, after decades of infamous frustration, didn't.

Certainly, personnel-wise, Caps have a lot to think about. Cap space, age, prospects (or lack of them), injuries - all of these will figure into what they do going forward. There are no easy answers. I personally think that the main thing they really lacked this year was a true reliable second scoring threat. At times in the season I thought Brouwer was that (pardon me, where was HE in the playoffs? - I thought he filled the big body tough guy in front of the net role). We never will know what a healthy Erat might have contributed, but the second line of Ribeiro-Brouwer-Fehr didn't seem to be much of a factor. 

After their horrid start, this team could have packed it in and gone home early. They steadied and got some puck luck to get into the playoffs, and whatever is said about why, PK-ed a lot of minutes in the playoffs to get it to a game 7. There was one factor that was true the whole season; when they had a lot of PKs early, the offense rarely got on track during the game. I saw that happening against an effective Rangers shot-blocking D. 

Final thought: did Rangers crash the net and play tough around the net to win game 6? As I recall, it was a fortunate shot from the point that fell in that made the difference. 

No magic for the Caps.  [I'll write a bit more about magic and the Stanley Cup later this month.]

Just DO it, before it's too late for the country

The Senate Democrats have been thinking about this for some time, but this is more evidence that they're getting truly and justifiably fed up with the Pubbies tactics.

Senator Mikulski ready to go on nuclear option for filibuster reform

"The Hill reported on Monday that some Senate Democrats are considering changes to the filibuster to prevent Republicans from blocking nominations by requiring nominees meet a 60-vote threshold, rather than just a simple majority.

Reid is reportedly mulling the option and Mikulski said she would back him if he did — even if the mid-session change leaves Democrats open to the criticism that they’re changing the rules in the middle of the game."
From the admirable Greg Sargent:

You want a scandal?  Here's a scandal

"The New York Times yesterday highlighted two of the more recent ways that Republicans have manipulated loopholes in Senate rules to delay confirmation of Secretary of Labor nominee Thomas Perez and Environmental Protection Agency nominee Gina McCarthy. It’s worth stepping back and realizing: what’s happening here is that Republicans are delaying these nominations beyond their eventual insistence that almost all nominees must get 60 votes. In other words, they’re filibustering on top of their own filibusters.

That’s just two examples. There are numerous others; again, with virtually all nominees required to have 60 votes, one can accurately say that Republicans are filibustering every nomination. But perhaps the worst are the “nullification” filibusters, in which Republicans simply refuse to approve any nominee at all for some positions — the National Labor Relations Board, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — because they don’t want those agencies to carry out their statutory obligations.

In doing so, Republicans are not breaking the rules of the Senate. They are, however, breaking the Senate itself, and harming the government."

Seconded.  Heartily seconded. 

Another magazine cover

Sorry I've been gone awhile - unplanned hiatus.

So I return with another nice magazine cover, OK! magazine, featuring Michelle Keegan with a side (literally and figure-atively) of Kelly Brook.

Nice indeed. "The Sexy Issue", indeed.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

I love magazine covers

Here's two reasons why I love magazine covers:

1. Alison Sweeney.   Holy sh*t.

Shape:  Alison Sweeney looks red hot in our May issue.

If she wasn't still on "Days of Our Lives", and a mom, I bet she'd pose nude.  She looks that good.


2. Maria Sharapova.   Nude is a color that looks good on her.  And a few bonus pictures of the hot Russki tennis pro. 

Daily Mail on the Maria Sharapova Esquire cover

Now THAT's a sexy Sharapova

Cartoonish agreement

Back on the 9th (two posts back) I wrote about hopes that the Chesapeake Bay oyster population could be somewhat restored, which would help in general to clean up the bay and improve the ecosystem overall.  Well, Tom Toles of the Washington Post agreed with that. 

I downloaded this cartoon but in the interests of copyright, I'm going to  link to it.  To see it you'll have to sit through a short advertisement.  Sorry about that.

Note added May 17:  the link now goes to the whole gallery for the month of May.  So click through to get to the cartoon for May 10. 

Sunken gold

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What does Paricutin look like from space?

Paricutin is the cinder cone volcano that popped up in a farmer's field in Mexico - poor farmer Dionisio Pulido will forever be remembered as the unlucky guy farming those particularly unfortunately located acres.  The volcano was named for the little tiny town that it obliterated, and the lava flows from the volcano also took out a slightly bigger burg, where the church steeple can still be seen emerging from the lava flow.  See below for a small picture of that with the still-active volcano on the horizon.

So it occurred to me that I had never seen what the volcano looked like from space (though I think I did see a picture of the larger volcanic field that Paricutin is part of).  So I simply took a look with Google Maps.  Because it's still black and fresh, the new volcanic cone and surrounding lava flows do stand out.   It's easy to see many other older cones in the picture.    Because I active loaded it from Google Maps, you can slide it around, zoom in, or zoom out on it.  Have fun.

View Larger Map

But how do you keep them alive?

Oysters.  If large areas of the Chesapeake Bay could bring back viable oyster reefs, then the water quality of the Bay would improve markedly.  Nutrient levels would go down.  Phytoplankton levels would go down.  Anoxia would go down, because less phytoplankton would be dying and sinking to the bottom to get decomposed, using up oxygen.  Water clarity would increase.  Seagrass areas would increase because of the increased water clarity.  Fish would be healthier, because there'd be less bad water and toxic algae and bacteria would all get filtered by the industrious oysters.

But the problem is:  disease.  Can they come back fast enough, and not harvested so much, to defeat the diseases that nearly wiped them out?

Oyster disease:  Dermo
"Dermo is caused by a parasite that thrives in above-average water temperatures* and during droughts*. It inhibits growth and reproduction, and causes death in heavily infected oysters."

 * both consequences of climate change, I must note

Oyster disease: MSX

I don't know.  Maybe the oysters that are surviving are the resistant base of a growing population that can survive in the Bay. 

It's going to be a slow-growth process, but maybe there's a chance.

We can only hope, Part 2

Youth climate vote rising?  Did the Markey defeat of Lynch hinge partly on young voters mobilized by  climate change concerns?

 Here's some things the linked article says:

"The youth vote has made its presence felt before. In the past two presidential elections, it was the youth vote that tipped the scale and decided the outcome of the race. We turned out in unprecedented numbers, in large part based on Obama's promises to take meaningful climate action. For many youth, and millions of other Americans, our vote is also a climate vote -- a vote for a livable future. We will be using our votes, our voices, to defend that future with a renewed urgency -- as we showed in last week's primary."

"The climate movement is a growing political force, and you can expect us to be a permanent and powerful part of the political landscape. We'll work to shape it until it reflects the America we need to see. As climate change takes an increasing toll on our economy and way of life, we will see more and more people taking a stand on the issues that matter most to America's future.

You'll be seeing us in electoral politics, mobilizing votes and going on the offensive. You'll see us at the polls too. We'll be the ones voting for our future. We hope you join us."

I already have, son.

We can only hope

Rush Limbaugh vs. Cumulus Media

Although apparently Rush is disputing it, the facts don't support him (as is often the case with much of the Limbag's assertions) -- he and stations he's on are losing advertisers and thus the stations are losing money by airing him. The apparent abandonment of Rush might be a bellwether indicating a shift in the general public opinion, pointing to an increasing marginalization of the far right, partly based on the increasing  obviousness that a great many of them possess nary a clue related to reality. 

They still have way too much influence in Congress;  we can only hope that the loss of Limbaugh advertisers and a couple more missteps in Congress, perhaps combined with a collapse of the right-wing heaven in Kansas and increasing sequestration woes, will lead to a growing and influential recognition that the positions and politics of the intransigent and ignorant far-right are becoming less important.  It will take awhile for this to shake out, but there is definitely some shaking going on.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Update on the pitch drop experiment

Did you know we're overdue  
for a drop?

I didn't either, but we are.  It could actually happen 'soon', 'soon' being very relative when talking about the world's slowest scientific experiment.

But this new Web site about it has something I hadn't seen before, a time-lapse video of a year's worth of drop evolution, showing that the drop is actually getting bigger.  And thus it could drop 'soon'.

The pitch drop experiment (including Live View!)

Here's the recent article update about the world's most boring experiment.  I don't think that's fair if you're into material properties -- the world record holder for slowest-flowing liquid is kind of interesting in that respect.  Even if it is slower than molasses in January by a good stretch.

One of Saturn's menagerie of moons

Saturn has a lot of strange moons, leading off with Titan and following up with Iapetus.  And the little moons are weird too, including the shepherd moon that leaves a gravity wake in the rings, in case you didn't believe in gravity.

Today's subject is Epimetheus, which shares an orbit with another moon, Janus, and was thought to be Janus for awhile until observers figured out exactly that, which is that Epimetheus shares an orbit with Janus.  If you want to know how that works, look it up (or go here). 

Meanwhile, Epimetheus is also one of those astronomical bodies so small that it doesn't have enough gravity to mold itself into a spheroid, so it kinda looks like a wedge.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Caloris Basin has knobs

While most of our planet-exploring attention is focused on the exploits of the Mars rovers, it's worth remembering that the amazing MESSENGER is still studying Mercury.

Here's a recent reminder:

CAPTION: The plains that surround the Caloris basin are geologically complex. Today's featured images highlights some of the kilometer-scale knobs that surround much of the basin, which are thought to be blocks of material ejected by the Caloris basin-forming event. This area, a region within Tir Planitia, has also been subjected to compressional stresses, which resulted in the formation of scarps that cut across the scene. Unraveling the complex sequence of events in this region, which includes deposition of ejecta, possible volcanic resurfacing, and tectonic deformation, will be aided by the high-resolution targeted images to be collected in MESSENGER's second extended mission.


Another advocation of lionfish consumption

Lionfish are still a really big problem for the Caribbean reefs.  As I've noted, even though it's hard to have an impact on 'em, throwing out catch limits and letting divers spear and eat all they can is a good idea.

So here's another Web site advocating eating lionfish (you do have to be careful not to get nicked with the poisonous spines) "

How can we stop lionfish from taking over our oceans? Eat them

Strangely enough, the article doesn't have a link to the cookbook, but I'm providing one here.  Also available at Amazon and other fine online bookstores.

Lionfish cookbook

They really suck at this

Republicans can't get their own House in order, according to an article from Politico.  They are so riven in terms of their ideology and their motivations, they can't decide if making sure rape victims can't get abortions is more important that making sure kids born to mothers in poverty can't go to preschool.

Such a dilemma. 

This has been building, and coming, for a long time;  but the problem is now that these internal divisions are threatening the ability of the United States to ACTUALLY FUNCTION AS A SOVEREIGN NATION.  I.e., it's not just about politics, it's about government and governing and ACTUALLY DOING WHAT'S RIGHT FOR THE PEOPLE THAT LIVE HERE.

Sorry for the shouting.   But it's ripely clear that these guys have no idea how to fix the mess that they're in, which is creating a bigger mess for all of us to deal with.  So in the meantime, messes like climate change and the sequester and disaster relief and gun control don't get dealt with.

No wonder the approval rating of Congress is 17%.  Or 12%.  Doesn't really matter, it's obvious that Republicans suck at governing and most Americans are sick of their sucking.  Like I am.

A House in chaos 


" Speaker John Boehner, Cantor and McCarthy are plagued by a conference split into two groups. In one camp are stiff ideologues who didn’t extract any lesson from Mitt Romney’s loss and are only looking to slash spending and defund President Barack Obama’s health care law at every turn. In the other are lawmakers who are aligned with Cantor, who is almost singularly driving an agenda which is zeroed in on family issues."

and also

" House Republicans have had worse days — they had to abandon a tax plan pushed by Boehner in December, which was followed by a gaggle of rank-and-file members trying to prevent Boehner from serving a second term as speaker.

But the continued internal struggles illustrate a miniature picture of chaos. Despite all of House Republicans’ efforts to plot, plan and strategize to shift a divided Washington in their favor, hurdles have been difficult to avoid."

Face it, they SUCK at this.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Maybe it's a little to small to catch

You may or not have heard that NASA's Next Big Thing will be an asteroid capture mission.  They are planning on capturing an asteroid and dragging it back in the Earth zone and putting it into orbit around the Moon so that it can be studied, as explained here in an illustrated article

SUPPOSEDLY, NASA will try to do this by 2021.  But it turns out that a good-sized space rock will be dropping by Earth, very close, in 2026 (2013 GM3).   AND the cruise phase of the capture mission is 1.7 years!  So why not wait a couple more years and just go get this one that's going to cruise right by us? 

Below is a picture of the capture phase of the mission.  I can't tell how big the conceived asteroid being captured is supposed to be, but it doesn't look a lot bigger than 20 meters in diameter.  I think they should seriously consider catching 2013 GM3.  (Maybe this would be a good test of that space debris capure technology the world will be working on.  Yeah, right.)

Speaking of which (space debris)

I just posted about the Fermi telescope's near collision last year.   And just last week, there was the biggest ever European conference on space debris.   And here's one of the things they concluded:

"There is a wide and strong expert consensus on the pressing need to act now to begin debris removal activities," says Heiner Klinkrad, Head of ESA's Space Debris Office.

"Our understanding of the growing space debris problem can be compared with our understanding of the need to address Earth's changing climate some 20 years ago."

There was wide agreement that the continuing growth in space debris poses an increasing threat to economically and scientifically vital orbital regions.
Now, if 20 years ago there was an understanding of the need to address Earth's changing climate, and nothing of major significance, import, or impact has been done since, then clearly the next 20 years probably will result in very little progress on the space debris problem, as the problem gets progressively worse.

Great.  However, there's a big difference between this and climate change:  the deleterious economic and scientific consequences of a markedly increased frequency of space accidents that disable expensive satellites are immediately perceivable.   For that reason, action might start to get taken.  They are already emphasizing that all new satellites will need deorbit capability, and they also said this:

"... current levels mean that we must soon begin removing debris from orbit, with research and development urgently needed for pilot 'cleaning' missions."

I'm going to be REAL interested in the pilot technologies that ultimately get launched to make the attempt to clean up orbiting space junk.

My satellite collision prediction almost happened, last year

 As I have noted before, one of my 10 undangerous predictions for 2013 was the following:

10. A major satellite collision in space emphasizes the space debris problem.
-- The odds of this keep increasing every year!

Earlier this year, there was a report (since questioned) that a  Russian mini-sat might have been hit by debris.  (There's another post in May about the questioning of this event.)   So that's not a sure one.

But I read yesterday that the NASA Fermi telescope nearly got hit last year by a Russian satellite -- they had to perform an evasive maneuver with thrusters not intended to be used for that purpose to avoid it.

The Day NASA's Fermi dodged a massive bullet

And the article describes how close it could have been:

"Twice before, the Fermi team had been alerted to potential conjunctions, and on both occasions the threats evaporated. It was possible the Cosmos 1805 [defunct Russki Cold War satellite] encounter would vanish as well, and the spacecraft's observations could continue without interruption.

But the update on Friday, March 30, indicated otherwise. The satellites would occupy the same point in space within 30 milliseconds of each other."

So this event shows two things:  one, it is crowded up there, and two, the actual chances of a collision are reduced by tracking of satellites and debris and maneuvering when necessary to avoid a hit.

But there are still seven more months in 2013, and like I said, it's crowded up there.  I don't want it to happen, but one can't deny that it's possible, with increasing chances of such an event every day.

Ask a question, get an answer

One of the wonders of the Internet is that you can conceive a question that previously would have taken a trip to the library and several encyclopedias to answer (if it was answerable at all), and get the answer in a couple of minutes.

Thus, when my brilliant yet skewed cerebellum conceived the following:

"How many milk ducts does the female breast nipple have?"

I could then commence searching, and very quickly ascertain the following answer:

"Nestled amid the fat cells and glandular tissue [of the breast] are the milk ducts, an intricate network of channels. Pregnancy hormones cause the milk ducts to grow in number and size.

The ducts branch off into smaller channels near the chest wall called ductules. At the end of each ductule is a cluster of small, grapelike sacs called alveoli. A cluster of alveoli is called a lobule; a cluster of lobules is called a lobe. Each breast contains between 15 and 20 lobes, with one milk duct for every lobe."

So there's the answer to the question.   And I even found a diagram (below).  So now you know what I know now.