Thursday, December 25, 2014

The cliffs of the comet

Another amazing picture from Rosetta of Comet 67P Churyumov–Gerasimenko.  This one shows the cliffs rising over the boulders.

Funnily enough, this image reminded me of an Astounding Science Fiction magazine cover picture from decades ago.  This being the Internet Age, I actually found it.   The picture was to illustrate the story "The Dueling Machine" by Ben Bova and Myron R. Lewis.

Again, this being the Internet Age, the actual short story is available for free to read.

The Dueling Machine

And to top this all off, the story includes a duel (basically in an immersive virtual environment written about in the 1950s!) on a low-gravity asteroid very similar to what it would be like on Comet 67P.

That's wild.

3rd of three new baby articles - the Monaco heirs

If you search on "Princess Charlene" or "Charlene" or "Monaco" on this blog, you'll find that I've followed the relationship and marriage of former world-class swimmer from South Africa, now striking woman Charlene Wittstock, with Prince Albert of Monaco.   As you may recall, the Prince has already fathered a couple of out-of-wedlock kids, who will receive an inheritance and I think already receive a stipend but can't be a Prince or Princess of the Rainier dynasty ruling over the Principality.  As you may also recall, the revelation of a possible third bastard (I'm sorry, but that is the official word for it) was speculated to have caused very cold feet for Charlene prior to her wedding, and a possible intercepted run for the border to avoid walking down the aisle.   (She's denied that was the reason since, but still, it was a bit awkward).  They did indeed get married.

After that, it has taken a bit of time for the Prince and now-Princess (seen looking pretty here in pictures by Julian Lennon in an article I didn't have a chance to discuss) to get together in the reproductive sense, also causing some speculation that if she didn't conceive and deliver, she might get let go for someone that could, somewhat like Henry VIII.   Not that there was any assurance that the Prince could find another willing Princess.  (As speculation goes, there's also the speculation that having produced a heir - actually two - Princess Charlene may be free to go, having fulfilled her heir-producing responsibility. But we'll she if she sticks around for heir-raising.  Ha ha.)  Hope not on that last part.

Here are links about this significant event.

It's a boy AND a girl for Princess Charlene! Monaco royal gives birth to twins

Their first public appearance! Monaco's baby twins will be presented to the public early next month, says Palace... as Princess Charlene prepares to leave hospital

'I'm totally in love': Princess Charlene's joy after giving birth to twins as she reveals she may have to stay in hospital until Christmas

Introducing the future prince of Monaco (and his sister): Proud Prince Albert and Charlene introduce their newborn twins Jacques and Gabriella

Celebrations fit for a prince and princess! Monaco goes mad for its baby royals, as proud father Albert visits the new arrivals

2nd of three new baby articles

Hayden Panettiere finally popped out the tyke that was occupying a significant portion of her fairly small frame, who was fathered by boxing champion Vladimir Klitschko.

Hayden Panettiere Gives Birth To Baby Girl Kaya

FIRST LOOK: Hayden Panettiere and fiancé Wladimir Klitschko share picture of their newborn baby girl Kaya Evdokia

Yes, it is possible

Lighthouse of the Week, December 21-27, 2014: Gäveskär Light, Göteborg

Posting on Christmas Day, I chose another Swedish lighthouse, the postcard- or model-cute Gäveskär Light, Göteborg.

Here's what the comprehensive UNC lighthouses Web site (Sweden, Göteborg area) has to say about it:

"1964 (station established 1886). Active; focal plane 10 m (33 ft); quick-flashing red light. 10 m (33 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery. Lighthouse painted white with one red horizontal band under the gallery. A walkway leads to a 1-story wood keeper's house; the house is painted red with white trim. ... This is an important light, because ships approaching Göteborg make a turn to the north as they pass this point. Located on a small island about 400 m (1/4 mi) north of the island of Brännö. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed."

If you look at the Google image, you can see that is important, with the ship wakes passing by.

Here's four different angles on this one:

Monday, December 22, 2014

Many, many pictures of Michelle Keegan wearing nice clothes

The wondrous Michelle Keegan, who has left the Brit soaps to move on to more prominent things, has been doing one thing in her spare time;  modeling for a British fashion house named Lipsy UK or Lipsy London or something like that.  (Maybe it's actually just Lipsy.)

Whatever their name is, Michelle has been modeling and providing fashion insight for them.  The up coming link features Michelle in a lot of different Lipsy looks.   Some of them are quite appealing and verging on lingerie/nightwear (as shown below), but none of them actually is.

OK, as a man, I would prefer to see many, many pictures of Michelle NOT wearing clothes. Since that's unlikely to happen, these will have to do for now.

I don't know how much I would have to pay Michelle Mone to get her namesake Michelle Keegan to be the next featured lingerie model for Ultimo (now that Abbey Clancy is pregnant again by Peter Crouch - more on that later), but if I had it, I'd pay it.  And Michelle K. certainly has all the prerequisites for that job.  Of course, she has done some posing for the mags in lingerie, and there are the marvelous bikini pics as well, but a collection of Michelle K. in frilly underthings would pretty much be a whole lot of really great.  (And I'm shre there would be videos, too.)

Go figure

Why is it that Maryland just elected a governor (Hogan) who likely won't do many good things for the Bay environment,  unlike his predecessor, while normally lagging Virginia now has a governor (McCauliffe) who might do more for it?  Can't we get some political  consistency here?   It would sure be a help for the bay when Hogan's Heroes start dumping more of their effluents down the storm drains.

Good News for Blue Crabs: Va. Governor McAuliffe Appointed to Bay Leadership Role

National tennis honors to Dimitrov and Halep

Just noting briefly in passing that tennis player Gregor Dimitrov, who had a good year on the court and perhaps maybe an even better year off it by commencing a relationship with Maria Sharapova, was named the Bulgarian Athlete of the Year.  (There isn't an award for Bulgaria's Most Envied Man of the Year, apparently.)

Simona Halep, who had a fabulous year on the courts (but it would have been even better if she had beaten Dimitrov's girlfriend in the French Open final) was named the Romanian Athlete of the Year.  Let's remember that even though she didn't beat Serena Williams in the final of WTA Championships, she absolutely demolished her in a round robin match.   If I remember correctly, if she had won in three sets instead of two in that match, Serena would have been out of the tournament, giving Halep a likely better path to the title.

Tennis-Dimitrov and Halep win domestic sports awards

I really like Katie Cassidy

As the title says, I really do like Katie Cassidy.  She's done a very good job as Laurel on CW's Arrow, requiring a decent amount of emotional range and a decent amount of action.  And she's going to get more action as she tries to take the place of her deceased sister Sara.

Of course, one of the reasons I like her is that she has a great figure (as noted here).  And she's been getting that bod into shape for the new parameters of her character.

And that work is showing on the beach, as shown here.  The abs are visible, the balcony is suitably curvaceous, and the orchestra is tres, tres yummy.

Katie Cassidy gets cheeky in teeny polka dot bikini - hits the beach in Miami with her best friend

If you want to skip straight to an image demonstrating the truth behind my words, click here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lighthouse of the Week, December 14-20, 2014: Malmö, Sweden

This week's lighthouse actually doesn't work as a lighthouse anymore.  It's just for show in Malmö, Sweden.  But it's good-looking, and it's also octagonal, which makes it a bit unusual.

Here's what Lighthouses of Sweden (Scania) says about it:

1878. Inactive since 1983 (a decorative light is displayed). 20 m (66 ft) octagonal cast iron tower with lantern and gallery, mounted on an octagonal stone base. Tower painted white with two narrow red horizontal bands; the lantern dome is also red.
Three shots from various angles.

First of three new baby(ies) articles

This is the first of three articles about famous women/couples having new babies.  In the case of Zoe Saldana, definitely plural, as she just had twins.

'They are so excited!' Zoe Saldana 'welcomes twins' with husband Marco Perego

And there is NO truth to the rumor that the new tykes have blue stripes and tails.  Not true at all.


What she said, as in "I have no idea what she said"

The following article, entitled

Fangaði rétta augnablikið í sjöttu tilraun (which means "Capturing the right moment on the sixth attempt", approximately, in Icelandic) 

has an AWESOME video of the ongoing spectacle of the Holuhraun volcanic fissure eruption in Iceland.   Watch it, perhaps more than once.  It's worth watching.

Also watchable is the young, blonde, hot Icelandic newscaster that introduces the video.  Not being versed in Icelandic, I have not a whit of an idea what she says.

And I don't care.  (Actually, I do care, I wish I knew what she was saying.  But I can watch her speaking words that I do not remotely understand quite happily.)

If you're more interested in magnificent Icelandic women than Icelandic magma, here's 15 of them





And they ought to

Environmentalists concerned about climate change should back nuclear power.  It's real simple;  we're going to need energy, and we're going to need greenhouse gas emissions-free energy.  Over the next couple of decades, nuclear is the only expandable technology that supplies sufficient base power to satisfy our needs.

So it makes sense that climate change is forcing some environmentalists to back nuclear power.

"The risks associated with the expanded use of nuclear energy are orders of magnitude smaller than the risks associated with fossil fuels," the letter added.
 Furthermore, as written in the esteemed New York Times:

Betting on the Need, Scientists Work on Lighter, Cleaner Nuclear Energy
"But if the world decides in the 2030s and 2040s that it is time to deploy a new fleet of reactors, those will be based on work done in the few labs like this over the next decade, experts predict.

“In a carbon-constrained world, with that time frame, you better have some advanced reactors ready to go,” Dr. Peters said."
 That's right.

Finally, Dana Milbank, writing in the Washington Post in "The New Climate Denialism:  Carbon Dioxide is Good for You", has this pithy, frameable quote:

"And the solution to climate change is not to ban energy but to make it cleaner."   [Cleaner including lower CO2 emissions]


Monday, December 15, 2014

Great pictures of the Fogo eruption

The eruption of Pico de Fogo in the Cape Verde islands, while not killing anybody, is still managing to cover over a lot of houses in the caldera with some fresh cooling lava.

The pictures from PhotoVolcanica are pretty amazing - it's definitely a fly-in, drive-in volcano.

Fogo Volcano

Two examples, to whet your volcanically-attuned senses:

It's a lock, unless December plunges

With the November 2014 global temperature now recorded, it appears that even though November was a wee bit cooler than a record, as had been set for the past several months, that we are very close to being set for a new record warm calendar year, globally. 

This is big news - so much so that the skeptical crowd is retreating to its bastions of false certitude, which is where they feel comfortably ensconced to argue against reality.  They will argue that the surface temperature record is not as reliable as the satellite temperature record and therefore the satellite temp record (which is not setting records) should be consulted over the surface record. Unfortunately the oft-cited satellite temp record is not measuring the same thing as the surface record.  So they will argue that the surface record is "biased" or "contaminated" or "poorly situated" or some such, all the while ignoring or forgetting about the numerous phenological indicators that the world is getting warmer.  They will blame it on El Nino, forgetting or overlooking that the small El Nino now is pushing world ocean temps higher than the monster El Nino of '97-'98. 

Well, we shall ignore the ignoranti, and just look at what NOAA and Climate Central are saying:

Global Summary Information - November 2014

2014 on pace for hottest year

So, a "normal" warm December will definitely lock us in to a record warm year.  Which is good news for the argument but bad news for the planet.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

I think I'd like this

Either pre- or post-coitally (but probably more so pre- ), I think that this bed with a view directly into the shower would be rather arousing, particularly if there was definitely some enjoyable activity planned after the shower.

(It does have a roll-down shade for privacy, maybe for the more private functions.)

In other news, milk comes from cows

A dramatic scientific research discovery has determined that men find women in high-heeled shoes more attractive than women in heels that weren't so high.

High heels scientifically proven to increase women's attractiveness

Well, clearly there's a reason to wear them other than art.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rosamund Pike has her second child

Even though she's got a pretty strange choice for a partner, given her considerable gifts as both an actress and a looker, Rosamund Pike apparently loves him a lot, and they just had their second baby together.

Rosamund Pike and boyfriend Robin Uniacke welcome their second child into the world

Obviously she was preggers at the "Gone Girl" premieres.  You can kinda tell.  Word is she may get a Best Actress nomination for this role.

Australia mets also believe El Niño is close

Australian Bureau of Meteorology hints El Niño is appearing

"Five of the eight computer models surveyed by BoM for its latest forecast published today (Tuesday 2 December 2014) suggest that El Niño thresholds for sea surface temperature will be exceeded this month.

However, the El Niño is likely to be weak and brief with only two of the models forecasting that it will be maintained into the southern hemisphere Autumn."

 That's OK.  We've been waiting so long, any El Niño is worth all of the anticipation.

How do you say El Niño in Japanese?

I have no idea.  But the Japanese (specifically their main meteorologists) are saying we've got one going on.

It's written this way:  エルニーニョ  (and you can hear how to say it,  too - sounds a lot like El Niño in English)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Lighthouse of the Week, December 7-13, 2014: Yalta Breakwater, Crimea, Ukraine

Before there was a Ukraine-Russia crisis in 2014, there was a Ukrainian-Russian lighthouse crisis in 2006.  One of the lights involved was the Yalta Breakwater light.  Here's what the useful and comprehensive UNC lighthouse archive has to say about it (the links are to other pictures of the lighthouse):

" 1957 (station established 1891). Active; focal plane 15 m (49 ft); red light, 3 s on, 4.5 s off. 12 m (39 ft) octagonal cylindrical stone tower with lantern and gallery, painted white. The nearby 9 m (30 ft) post light appears to be active as well. A 1-story masonry keeper's house is set into the pierhead. Vyacheslav Argenberg's photo is at right, a closeup is available, Wikimedia has a photo by Andrew Butko, and Google has a satellite view. Huelse has a postcard view of the earlier lighthouse and Forand has a second postcard view; that lighthouse, a cast iron tourelle of typical French design, actually survived World War II but in increasingly dilapidated condition. This is one of the best-known lighthouses of Crimea, and its occupation by Ukrainian personnel in January 2006 precipitated the lighthouse crisis between Ukraine and Russia. Located at the end of the Yalta breakwater, which extends southwestward parallel to the shoreline. Site open, tower closed; the lighthouse can also be seen easily from anywhere on the waterfront. ARLHS UKR-034; Admiralty E5320; NGA 18344. "

Here's three pictures of the Yalta Breakwater Lighthouse:

Yalta Breakwater Lighthouse from Panoramio

From Flickr by Patrick Costello

A contemplative sonnet for December

if my eyes beheld what he has held

I know a woman (though not well); to say
she is spectacular does not express
her magnitude, and it does not convey
the span of her totality. Her dress
is often not extravagant, though she
can be supremely elegant -- proclaim-
ing her begins and ends with beauty, free
of what society requires, the fame
she has accrued for wearing nothing, true
and basic and fantastic. So I wish
that I could lurk behind the eyes that view
her grace as she undresses, the delic-
iousness that is her normal, naked state;
his fortune shall not ever be my fate.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Good explainer on the so-called (and illusory) global warming "hiatus"

Using basic statistical measures, Stefan Rahmstorf writing at RealClimate explains the reality of what's been happening recently, global temperature-wise, and why we're confident it's happening, and not stopping.

Recent global warming trends: significant or paused or what?

Here's an excerpt to whet one's statistical appetite to read the whole thing (and I specifically recommend what he says "In summary".)

"Over a short interval, random variability can create large temporary trends. (If today is 5 °C warmer than yesterday, than this is clearly, unequivocably warmer! But it is not “statistically significant” in the sense that it couldn’t just be natural variability – i.e. weather.)

The lesson of course is to use a sufficiently long time interval, as in Fig. 1, if you want to find out something about the signal of climate change rather than about short-term “noise”. All climatologists know this and the IPCC has said so very clearly. “Climate skeptics”, on the other hand, love to pull short bits out of noisy data to claim that they somehow speak against global warming – see my 2009 Guardian article Climate sceptics confuse the public by focusing on short-term fluctuations on Björn Lomborg’s misleading claims about sea level."

Yeah, he lays out on the line (the trend line) pretty well in this article.  Read it, whether or not you're a climate skeptic.  If  you're a climate skeptic, try to learn something.

Way to go, Alia!

Alia Atkinson, who I noted in a previous post could become Jamaica's Usain Bolt of the swimming pool, pulled off a superb swim in the short course 100 meter breaststroke at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar, and won her biggest victory to date.  Her final turn was INSANELY fast; she came off the wall like a torpedo.   She outtouched favorite Ruta Meilutyte by a tenth of a second.    She had to tie the short course world record to get the win.

WOW.  World records have been falling like dominoes at this meet.  More on that later.

Race footage:  Alia Atkinson ties 100 meter breaststroke world record for the gold medal

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Yep, it's Ricky Number Three

Actually, it has been confirmed virtually beyond any doubt that skeletal remains found under a parking lot in Britain were those of the nefarious English king Richard III.  When they found the remains, they were astonished to find that it exhibited signs of significant scoliosis (i.e., curvature of the spine), which meant that Richard was somewhat deformed, consistent with the Shakesperean description and tradition.  DNA analysis has confirmed the high likelihood of this being Richard's body and final resting place.  He was apparently ignominiously buried there after being de-horsed, defeated, and dead at the Battle of Bosworth Field.

DNA Confirms: Here Lieth Richard III, Under Yon Parking Lot

There are some interesting sidelights to this main story.  Go ahead, click the link, see what they are.

Good statement - why we need nuclear energy for climate

There's a lot to chew over here, but it's worth it.

The Role of Nuclear Power

From the Conclusion:

"In order to achieve the emission reductions necessary to avoid the worst potential consequences of climate change, it is necessary to obtain increasing quantities of electric power from zero-emission sources. Nuclear power is the largest source of zero-emission power in the United States, and it provides stable and steady baseload power, which helps ensure electric grid reliability. Currently, only nuclear, natural gas, coal, and hydro facilities can provide steady baseload power at the necessary scale. As the United States considers options for a low-carbon future, the importance of the current fleet of nuclear reactors should not be forgotten."

I recommend reading the whole thing, if you have the time, because it gets into the current economics of various energy-generating resources.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Speaking of lava

Remember how I noted that it seemed like volcanic activity around the world is increasing?  (That was a couple of posts ago.) Well, in that assessment I left out the big Holuhraun fissure eruption in Iceland, which is still going strong.  And now I read that the volcano Nyamuragira in Tanzania is hosting a lava lake. 

It is very important not to confuse Nyamuragira with Nyiragongo, its neighboring volcano, which also, famously, hosts a lava lake.  So these are two of the most neighborly lava lakes in the entire world.   I'd love to be an eco-tourist myself to both of them, but I really don't see that happening.  So I'll just have to marvel at the pictures like most of the rest of us.

Fogo eruption uncomfortable for the locals

The eruption of Pico de Fogo in the Cape Verde Islands is pretty serious.  There is a lot of great footage of it, partly because it isn't all that dangerous, short-term wise.  Meaning it's OK to watch, and that sure would be fun to do.  But long-term, it has caused the evacuation of the villages built inside the caldera of an active volcano -- certainly the inhabitants knew that might happen -- and the lava flows have destroyed some buildings.

Here's a short video of the eruption at night. The sound of the eruption is amazing.

I guess the main concern is that the area inside the caldera was also decent agricultural land on an island and in an archipelago that is pretty dry otherwise.  So the lava flow is both cutting the road that provides access there, and covering the fields that were planted there (including vineyards).   So while it isn't life-threatening or a danger to aviation, it is causing problems.   Maybe some of the problems can be offset with eco-tourism.

There are lots more videos at this link.  You can watch the slow moving flow (a'a, it looks like) obliterate a building!

Championship time on the pitch, in the pool

This particular period in the year is low on championship events.  Football has not yet reached the bowl game or playoff stage (now for both college and pro).   Hockey and basketball are still in the early stages of the season.  Tennis is taking it easy before the Aussie Open in January.   Golf is also taking it easy (except there just was an Australian Open golf tournament, won by Jordan Spieth).   Baseball is in the off-season.  

So it is that other sports can be noted for approaching championships.  NCAA soccer, men and women, is in playoff mode -- for the men, Big Ten champs Maryland got knocked off in the first round by the brainiac school to the north, the University of Maryland Baltimore County, which then beat Louisville too, to get into the Elite 8.  Georgetown also advanced, and will play Virginia next.  Since I'm sort of close to all of them, I feel good about that.   On the women's side, the Final Four for the College Cup is set, with Virginia, Texas A&M, Florida State, and Stanford making up the number.  Virginia was a 2 seed, all the other teams were 1 seeds.  Shockingly, behemoth North Carolina was beaten 1-0 by its geographic rival, South Carolina (who was tromped by FSU 5-0 in the next round).
The MLS Cup is next weekend, too, with the LA Galaxy playing the New England Revolution.

And finally, swimming is having its short course meters World Championships.  All of the short course events seem more explosive than the long course,  which gets the publicity because of the Olympics.  But short course can be fun with fast turns and lead changes and speed.  The finals will start at 10 AM EST, so I'm going to keep track of the results.

That was simple

It seems that the Republicans in Congress, at least the leadership, realizes that government shutdowns get blamed on Republicans.  I think that's an admirable view to take, because it is usually Republicans that are a) threatening to shut down the government, and b) not voting on spending bills that would fund the government and prevent a shutdown.  You see, the majority in the House (and now sadly the Senate, in January), actually has to pass the bill that provides the funding.

Now we find out that the public understands this dynamic, because a new CNN poll asked who should be blamed when the government gets shut down.   Here is the question and the result.

If the federal government shuts down, do you think that Barack Obama or the Republicans in Congress would be more to blame for that?

Obama: 33
Republicans: 50
Both: 13

I will note that "Both" shouldn't be offered as an option as an answer for this particular question, as it is phrased, because if you answer "Both", you are basically saying that President Obama and Republicans in Congress are both "more to blame".  That does not make any sense, because it's not possible for both sides to be more to blame.  Either one side or the either is more to blame than the other.  But obviously and correctly in the poll results, the Republicans are at fault and blamed when the government shuts down.  Wish the public would remember that when voting time comes around.  

Well, you can't say we liberal Democrats didn't sound a warning about this.