Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tiny Mimas, huge Saturn

Saturn is a gas giant, and we all know it's really big. But this photograph, taken by the Cassini spacecraft, really puts the ringed planet's hugeness into perspective.

That's Mimas in front with Saturn filling the background. As a reference, Mimas is 392 kilometers in diameter, or 244 miles. That's pretty small, but it's still a decent-sized object, and it really highlights the immenseness of its mother planet.

Someday, I'm sure, we will have humans traveling to these sections of our solar system, and hopefully such sights will be seen with actual human eyes, live and in full color. Perhaps such flights will even become commonplace, though I'm sure that will be well after my time.

But I hope we get there, eventually.

Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute. More information on the picture here.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hoaxing is hard

Sometimes, you have to be pretty obvious. Xkcd proves that.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Fighting panda extinction

Maybe we shouldn't give them such calm, quiet-sounding names.

HONG KONG - A giant panda named Peace bit a park keeper's left leg while he was laying bamboo leaves in the animal's pen at a Hong Kong amusement park, officials said Tuesday.

The worker was recovering well in hospital after the attack at Ocean Park, which has four giant pandas from China, park spokeswoman Christie Lau said.

Lau said park officials were still investigating the Nov. 30 incident involving the male panda, whose name, An An, means "peace" in Mandarin.

They are wild animals, and they will act like it from time to time. And I don't think they're very cute, either.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Gravity waves

Do you think the rings of Saturn are perfect and crisp? They're not.

Here's a photo of Saturn's F ring, which has been warped by the gravitational influence of the small moon Prometheus.


Image courtesy NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute. Original with explanation found here.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Choosing the wrong article

Not long ago, the wife bought a set of Christmas CDs. Each disk represents a different style of music, and my eye was caught by the cover art of the rhythm-and-blues disk.

I'm not really a prescriptivist, but the choice between "a" and "an" is pretty clearly determined by the sound of the word or letter following it, not the letter itself. As such, this collection of Christmas tunes should have been titled "An R&B Christmas" instead.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to claim the world is coming to an end over such small errors in English, but I always thought the distinction between "a" and "an" was rather instinctive with native speakers. Perhaps I'm mistaken, or perhaps this CD was manufactured in some place where English is not the primary or preferred language.

Yep, I was right. I just checked. This CD was made in Quebec.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fighting panda extinction

Love the pandas, but don't hug them. Really, please, don't.

BEIJING - A college student in southern China just needed a hug, but he probably shouldn't have picked a panda for his warm and fuzzy moment.

Instead of a hug, the panda bit the student after he broke into the animal's zoo enclosure.


The official Xinhua News Agency reports the hospitalized student later said the panda was so cute and cuddly he never expected to be bitten.

Remember, pandas are wild animals, not teddy bears! They don't love you, and they never will, no matter how much you want to save them and hug them and make them breed when they don't want to!

If you want love, save a dog from the pound. Or just be a friend to someone who needs one.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Stretching a euphemism

When you are a police officer, and a dog at a suspect's home attacks you, I think most people would expect you to dispatch that dog quickly with your weapon.

See, I used a euphemism. I used dispatch rather than kill or slay. That seems more apt to me than what an SAPD sergeant said to explain one of his fellow officer's actions.

SAN ANTONIO -- A San Antonio police officer shot and killed a dog Thursday during a search for two robbery suspects on the city's west side.


When some other officers surrounded the home, the homeowner's dog came out and charged at one of the officers, said Sgt. Lloyd Jackel of the San Antonio Police Department.

"He hollered at the owner to secure the dog three times," Jackel said. "The owner was attempting to come out and do that, but the dog got too close and the officer felt threatened, (so) he had to come out and euthanize the dog." [emphasis added]

(from KSAT-12)

Euthanize normally means to put an animal out of its misery or to put it down in a painless manner. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't blame the police officer for shooting the dog, but I don't think euthanize is the right word to use here. The bullet probably hurt a bit, and I don't think the dog was suffering to begin with. So, if I were the sergeant, I would have just said, "He had to come out and kill the dog for the safety of everyone involved." I think that's a good enough word.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Construction morning

Girders captured in the morning light.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembering those who served

It's Veterans Day.

Thanks to everyone who wore the uniform.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Language quote of the day

The difference between actual things and the words people use to signify them, as explained by a medieval theologian.

The philosopher knows only the significance of words, but the significance of things is far more excellent than that of words, because the latter was established by usage, but Nature dictated the former. ... The unsubstantial word is the sign of man's perceptions; the thing is a resemblance of the divine Idea.

Hugh of St. Victor, from the Didascalicon

A bit of Platonism going on there, but that's no surprise. A lot of old Western thinkers loved that ancient Greek thinker.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Raptor afternoon

Have you ever seen an F-22 up close?

Yes, they're loud.

Thanks to the folks at Lackland AFB for a wonderful air show November 1 and 2, 2008.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Just in time for Halloween: Test Pattern and its commenters serve up some of the scariest movie lines.

So much goes into a good fright flick. To me, it's all about the suggestion. Your own mind can always create a scarier monster than anything the special effects department can dream up with latex. Movies that create a sense of true dread, that set up a scenario where you can feel the fear without being overwhelmed by monsters and gore, will win me every time.

I feel that one of the most overlooked elements of a great horror movie is the dialogue. Dramas and comedies are expected to have eloquent or snappy dialogue, but horror-movie lines often get lost in the avalanche of fake blood. Yet a great horror-movie line can chill you to the bone and stay with you for months. It can also break your heart.

Here are my favorite scary movie lines, from Aliens:
Newt: My mommy always said there were no monsters - no real ones - but there are.
Ripley: Yes, there are, aren't there?
Newt: Why do they tell little kids that?
Ripley: Most of the time it's true.

Still creeps me out, even twenty years later.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Doomed moon

One of Mars's moons is destined for disaster. Drink it in, while you have the chance.

Image courtesy of NASA. From the original caption:

This moon is doomed. Mars, named for the Roman god of war, has two tiny moons--Phobos and Deimos--whose names are derived from the Greek for fear and panic. These Martian moons may well be captured asteroids originating in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter or perhaps from even more distant reaches of the solar system.

The larger moon, Phobos, is a cratered, asteroid-like object in this stunning color image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Phobos orbits so close to Mars that gravitational tidal forces are dragging it down. In 100 million years or so, Phobos likely will be shattered by stress caused by the relentless tidal forces, the debris forming a decaying ring around Mars.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Answering the quiz

So, what is welder Romero working on?

It's a rocket.

Here's the caption to the photo, which can be found in NASA's image galleries.

A welder at NASA's Glenn Research Center (GRC) grinds welds on an Ares I-X rocket segment being readied for shipment to Kennedy Space Center. Ares I is part of the next generation of launch vehicles that will return humans to the moon and later take them to Mars and other destinations. Ares I is an in-line, two-stage rocket configuration topped by the Orion crew vehicle and its launch abort system. In addition to the vehicle's primary mission -- carrying crews of four to six astronauts to Earth orbit -- Ares I may also use its 25-ton payload capacity to deliver resources and supplies to the International Space Station, or to 'park' payloads in orbit for retrieval by other spacecraft bound for the moon or other destinations.

The Ares I-X is scheduled for a test launch in 2009. GRC is designing and manufacturing several components of the test rocket, including the upper stage mass simulator and the service module and spacecraft adapter simulators.

Image Credit: NASA/Marvin Smith

Good work for the betterment of mankind.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Calling B.S. on a comic book character

I know -- it's a comic book character I'm about to bring up.

By their very nature, comic book characters defy conventions, timelines, physics, metaphysics, religions, common sense, and willing suspensions of disbelief. So I should just relax when I note an inconsistency in a comic book and move on. Right?

But this time I couldn't.

I was reading a Marvel comic book to my son, one in which the Avengers come across the Marvel version of Hercules. There's a misunderstanding of epic proportions because Hercules only understands Greek (helpfully translated by the editor), and the demigod ends up fighting the Hulk for a while before Captain America -- who understands a little Greek from the time he spent in the country during World War II -- convinces him that he needs to team up with the Avengers to stop a giant, rampaging Cerberus. An understanding is born, and the three-headed monster is defeated.

No problem there. Standard Marvel fare. But what bothered me just a touch was the language Hercules used. Rendered in [bracketed English] so you can tell it's a translation of Greek, the language was presented in mock heroic tones with Hercules speaking of great feasts and feats of strength and general pleasure in good fights. And what caught my eye was a mild oath uttered by the ancient Grecian.

It was zounds.

I remembered from my studies of medieval and Renaissance literature that zounds is an abbreviation of "God's wounds," an exclamation used to express suprise or anger. It was used in that sense by Hercules in the Marvel comic book, but "God's wounds" is an allusion to the wounds suffered by Jesus Christ during the crucifixion. It's an oath born out of Christianity, and one that would be familiar in Christendom, but hardly in ancient Greece. Even if Hercules were real.

I know, I know -- it's a comic book. I should relax. Actually I am pretty laid back about it. It really doesn't bother me that much, but it did give me a good prompt for a blog post.

What's next? Thor screaming "Gadzooks"?

Quizzing you

Quick quiz, what is the welder named Romero working on?

Hint: It has to do with a theme of this blog.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Getting to space, privately

I think we need more of this.

Thanks SpaceX.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Walking in space, Chinese style

The Chinese achieve a significant milestone in the progression of their space program.

BEIJING - Chinese celebrated their nation's first spacewalk Saturday, gathering at outdoor TV screens to cheer live video of the milestone for a program that has ambitions of building a space station and challenging the U.S. and Russia in off-world exploration.


The spacewalk was mainly aimed at testing China's mastery of the technology. Mission commander Zhai Zhigang's sole task was to retrieve a rack attached to the outside of the orbital module containing an experiment involving solid lubricants.


In step with its growing list of achievements, China's military-backed space program has grown progressively less secretive, and officials have hinted in recent days at a desire for greater cooperation with other nations. China plans to mass-produce the next version of the Shenzhou ship to service a future space station and says it may make such missions available to other countries.

As with anything about China, I have mixed feelings about this achievement. I think it's great that other nations are at least showing an interest in working together to advance humanity's chances of becoming a space-faring species. On the other hand, this is China.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Calling B.S. on an insane saying

Here is a letter to the editor that appeared in the Sunday, September 21, 2008 issue of the San Antonio Express-News.

Review the history

In order from highest to lowest, the 10 U.S. cities with the highest poverty rates are: Detroit, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Miami, St. Louis, El Paso, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Newark.

The last time the following cities elected mayors who weren’t Democrats was: Detroit, 1961; Buffalo, 1954; Cincinnati, 1984; Cleveland, 1989; St. Louis, 1949; Milwaukee, 1908; Philadelphia, 1952, and Newark, 1907.

Albert Einstein once defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

C. F. Eckhardt, Seguin

No, no, no, no, no! I am tired of hearing this stupid saying! Please, quit using it!

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is not the definition of insanity. The definition of insanity is really "the condition of being insane; a derangement of the mind". I know, I know, people like to use that line repeated by Mr. Eckhardt of Seguin because it makes for good hyperbole, but that is not an accurate saying, and it was never uttered by any person such as Einstein.

In fact, the line actually is this: "Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results." It's from a book by an American writer named Rita Mae Brown. It may have been a clever line at the time Ms. Brown published her book, but it's not anymore. It's overused and it's trite. Please, let's not utter it again.

Rant over.

Downtown afternoon

A view of downtown San Antonio on a bright day.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Calling B.S. on Star Trek

Someone had to. It might as well be a talking dinosaur.

The issue in an ongoing series is once you've done it and it wasn't a fluke, it's like you've shown that one of your characters got Superman powers. And then in the next episode when a building is about to fall over on someone, Superman's running around in circles saying "Oh no what do we do? Frig frig frig" and the audience is sitting there, furrowing their brows, one hand on their chin.

I'm with T-Rex on this one. Star Trek made time travel too easy for it to be a compelling plot point in later episodes, and T-Rex is right to wonder why they don't do it all the time!

My own personal pet peeve with Star Trek concerns warp travel. If it takes seven (or twelve or twenty) days to get to the next starbase at warp three but only three seconds at warp nine, then why not go full speed all the time! C'mon, it makes no sense to be dawdling about the universe in a huge ship with a well-trained crew when you could be handling crises in an instant!

Captain, we need to dock at Station 33.3 for vital repairs.

Very good. Set a course. Warp five. Engage.

But Captain, that will take us 23 hours. We can get there in like ten minutes if we just go warp nine.

Oh. OK, I forgot. Let's do it then. Warp nine. Engage.

Makes sense to me.

Streetscape morning

A dripping potted plant on a pole in downtown San Antonio.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Shadowy Mimas

Have you ever wondered what a moon might look like with the shadow of planetary rings falling across it?

Wonder no more, and gaze upon Saturn's moon Mimas.

Image courtesy NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute. Read more about it here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Most unmatched headline of the day

As Hurricane Ike roars ashore, KSAT-12 in San Antonio has a bold headline followed by an unmatched second hed.

AP: About 1M Stayed Behind
Authorities in three counties alone said roughly 90,000 stayed behind, despite a warning from forecasters that many of those in one- or two-story homes faced "certain death."

There's a big difference between 1,000,000 and 90,000.

Since the home pages of the news stations have been changing frequently, I include the screen capture for illustration purposes.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A domain for the tree people

One of my e-mail addresses ends in ".net", but sometimes I find my fingers accidentally typing ".ent" instead. Obviously, this doesn't work, but wouldn't it be cool if there was a domain reserved just for the Ents?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

River Walk afternoon

Sometimes, a placid river runs through a busy city.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Somewhat ambiguous headline of the day

"Methodist promises stroke center" [S.A. Express-News]

And in other news, the vows made by Catholics please the middle-of-the-road voters.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Clunky news story line of the day

This comes from WOAI-TV in San Antonio:

Another employee has filed a lawsuit against BexarMet, its General Manager Gil Olivares and Adolfo Ruiz, Bexar Met's lawyer.

This most recent lawsuit, was filed by Humberto Ramos. Ramos claims his phone was illegal wiretapped. He states the lawsuit was filed because of BexarMet's "mismanagement, improper employment practices and other improper conduct." [emphasis added]

What a sloppy construction. Wouldn't it have been better to write, "his phone was tapped illegally"? Or just "his phone was tapped"?

BACKGROUND: Bexar Met is a San Antonio-area water company that is currently entangled in a corruption scandal.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cityscape afternoon

Have you ever been to downtown San Antonio? If so, have you ever noticed the gold-domed building?

Monday, August 25, 2008

"Talk about amazing animal magnetism..."

Gee, what else will Google prove useful for?

A study of Google Earth satellite images has revealed that herds of cattle tend to face in the north-south direction of Earth's magnetic lines.

Staring at cows may not equal the thrill of spotting celebrities in public or rubbernecking at car accidents, but the researchers found nonetheless that our bovine friends display this strange sixth sense for direction.

Their field observations of red and roe deer also showed those animals facing toward magnetic north or south.

I wonder if the sun's path has anything to do with this, like helping warm up the large animals.

Oh, by the way, I object to Jeremy Hsu of Live Science characterizing automobile accidents as thrilling.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Asking for a new term

Xkcd takes on the disconnect between scientists and journalists.

I think the problem here is the use of the word "quantum" to describe this kind of teleportation. To most people who aren't scientists, "quantum" means something akin to large or great or awesome. A "quantum leap", to the laity, means a big change.

So, to avoid the confusion demonstrated in the xkcd comic, perhaps scientists might think about renaming the concept. Instead of "quantum teleportation," which may be more accurate, perhaps they could refer to "particle teleportation," or something similar.

That would probably clear things up a bit for the masses. Or at least for journalists.

Friday, August 15, 2008

No fishing

No one's fishing today.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ten random Wikipedia pages

Here is another installment in the randomization function of Wikipedia.

1. The Sun Don't Lie
The Sun Don't Lie is an album by Marcus Miller, released in 1993, belonging to the jazz rock genre.

2. Bomb Jack Twin
Bomb Jack Twin is a platforming arcade game that was released in 1993 by NMK.

3. Keith Richburg
Keith Richburg is a journalist and the author of Out of America, which detailed his experiences as a correspondent in Africa, during which he witnessed the Rwandan Genocide, a civil war in Somalia, and a cholera epidemic in Democratic Republic of Congo.

4. Noreen Young
Noreen Isabel Young, C.M. (born September 11, 1952) is a Canadian producer and puppeteer, and is still actively involved in the puppeteering business through her corporation, Noreen Young Productions.

5. Millennium Tower (London)
The London Millennium Tower was one of several ideas for the site of the former Baltic Exchange at 30 St Mary Axe, City of London that had been destroyed beyond repair by a Provisional IRA bomb blast.

6. Tales from the Public Domain
“Tales from the Public Domain” is the fourteenth episode of The Simpsonsthirteenth season.

7. Schneier's Law
The term "Schneier's Law" was coined by Cory Doctorow in his speech about Digital Rights Management for Microsoft Research.

8. National Black Writers Conference
The National Black Writers Conference (NBWC) is a biennial symposium dedicated to an exploration of "emerging themes, trends and issues in black literature."

9. Cosmic gravitational wave background
The cosmic gravitational wave background is a relic of the Cosmic inflation, which can be measured directly, or indirectly by examining the polarization of the Cosmic microwave background radiation.

10. Bunion
A bunion (hallux valgus) is a structural deformity of the bones and the joint between the foot and big toe, and may be painful.

"NASA drops plan to fly new spaceships by 2013"

Too bad.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla - NASA has abandoned plans to get its replacement for the retiring U.S. space shuttles into service by 2013 because of a lack of additional funds and technical issues, officials said on Monday.

The U.S. space agency had hoped to fly astronauts to the International Space Station aboard a new spaceship called Orion as early as September 2013, well before its formal deadline or goal of March 2015.

The faster the better. It's good they're shooting to get this project done early, though they seem to have suffered a setback.

"The window of opportunity for us to accelerate Orion has closed," program manager Jeff Hanley at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston told reporters during a conference call.

The United States will be without a means to transport people to and from space after the shuttle fleet is retired in 2010 until the new ships are ready to fly. It intends to rely on Russia to ferry crews to the space station and on private companies to deliver cargo during the gap.

I would hate to rely on Russia for anything, but if we had to rely on them for something, I suppose help in the field of space exploration might be our safest bet.

NASA had hoped to minimize the gap, but additional funding to do so has not been approved by the U.S. Congress.

The agency now hopes to be able to fly an Orion crew to the International Space Station by September 2014.

Let's hope so.

Monday, August 04, 2008


Jetty evening

Just a picture of a jetty scene on a summer evening.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

"NASA confirms water on Mars"

It's official.

LOS ANGELES - The Phoenix spacecraft has tasted Martian water for the first time, scientists reported Thursday.

By melting icy soil in one of its lab instruments, the robot confirmed the presence of frozen water lurking below the Martian permafrost. Until now, evidence of ice in Mars' north pole region has been largely circumstantial.

Now, let's get up there!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Finding lakes on Titan

It's not much for water-skiiing, but it's still a lake on another world, and we have pictures of it.

A giant, glassy lake larger than North America's Lake Ontario graces the south pole of Saturn's largest moon Titan, new research confirms.

"This is the first observation that really pins down that Titan has a surface lake filled with liquid," said lead researcher Robert Brown of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson.

Called Ontario Lacus, the lake extends 150 miles (235 kilometers) and covers an area of about 7,800 square miles (20,000 square kilometers). The lake structure is filled mostly with methane and ethane, hydrocarbons that are gases on Earth but liquid on the bone-chilling surface of Titan.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ten random Wikipedia pages

For no particular reason, let's play the randomization game again using Wikipedia's "random article" feature.

1. Xenobatrachus fuscigula
Xenobatrachus fuscigula is a species of frog in the Microhylidae family.

2. Permian Basin Regional Planning Commission
The Permian Basin Regional Planning Commission (PBRPC) is a voluntary association of cities, counties and special districts in the Permian Basin region of West Texas.

3. Keter Betts
Keter Betts (July 25, 1928August 6, 2005) was an American jazz double bassist.

4. Otoya Kawano
Otoya Kawano (かわの をとや Kawano Otoya, born August 18, 1965) is a seiyū who was born in Taketa, Ōita.

5. Canal de Berdún
Canal de Berdún is a municipality located in the province of Huesca, Aragon, Spain.

6. Tinselfish
Grammicolepididae is a small family of deep-sea fishes, called tinselfishes due to their silvery color.

7. Tor-grass
Tor-grass (Brachypodium pinnatum) is a plant in the grass family, with a widespread distribution in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

8. Marine Wing Communications Squadron 28
Marine Wing Communications Squadron 28 (MWCS-28) is a United States Marine Corps communications squadron.

9. Blepharis mitrata
Blepharis mitrata is a species of plant in the family Acanthaceae.

10. 12310 Londontario
12310 Londontario (1992 DE4) is a Main-belt Asteroid discovered on February 29, 1992 by Spacewatch at Kitt Peak.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Strange headline of the day

"Apparent conjoined barn swallows found in Arkansas"

And in other news, a seemingly twin toolshed has consumed something in Missouri.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Getting a new perspective on our world

An absolutely cool MSNBC video of Earth rotating in space and getting eclipsed by the moon, as seen by Deep Impact.

I never quite realized how big our moon is compared to our planet. I had read that this ratio was unusual when compared with other moons and planets, but this video illustrates the size relationship from a new point of view.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ten random Wikipedia pages

For no particular reason, I logged onto Wikipedia and hit the "Random aritcle" function ten times in a row. Here's what came up, in click order, with the first line of each article reproduced.

1. Carlo Boscarato

Carlo Boscarato (May 9, 1926June 12, 1987) was an Italian cartoonist and comics artist.
2. Friedrich Kuhlau
Friedrich Daniel Rudolf Kuhlau (September 11, 1786March 12, 1832) was a German-Danish composer during the Classical and Romantic periods.

3. Interdepartmental Liaison Group on Risk Assessment

The UK Interdepartmental Liaison Group on Risk Assessment (ILGRA) is "an informal committee of officials responsible for policy development and practical applications of risk assessment in all major Departments."

4. Suomenlinna Church

The Suomenlinna Church was built originally as a Greek Orthodox garrison church for the Russian troops of Suomenlinna sea fortress in 1854 and originally had five onion domes.

5. March 5 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)
Sunday of Forgiveness (see Paschal cycle)

6. Tank (arcade game)
Tank is a 2 player arcade game by Atari Inc. subsidiary Kee Games, originally released on November 5, 1974 and designed by Steve Bristow and Lyle Rains.

7. Adonibezek
In the Book of Judges (1:4 - 7), Adonibezek, (simply "lord of Bezek"), was a Canaanite king who, having subdued seventy of the chiefs that were around him, was attacked by the armies of Judah and Simeon.

8. Don't Wanna Live Inside Myself
Don't Wanna Live Inside Myself was the Bee Gees second single from their 1971 album Trafalgar.

9. The Keeping Place
The Keeping Place is a science fiction novel by Isobelle Carmody, set in a post apocalyptic world.

10. List of regions in India
This is a list of unofficial, or quasi-official regions of India.

The power of words ...

... as conceded by Utahraptor. To T-Rex's dismay.

the last two lines are BASICALLY why i don't get to write hulk comics

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"Belgium government collapses, country next?"

Languages split a nation.

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Belgium's government collapsed Tuesday, unable to resolve an enduring divide over more self-rule for the country's Dutch and French-speakers. The gap was so wide the premier suggested the end of Belgium as a country was looming.

King Albert II immediately began political discussions with lawmakers to try to resolve the situation, talks expected to take several days. He did not formally accept the resignation of government offered by Premier Yves Leterme late Monday, so Leterme's government stays on in a caretaker capacity for now.

In an unusual declaration, the premier said Belgium's constitutional crisis stems from the fact that "consensus politics" across Belgium's widening linguistic divide no longer works.

Language matters. Belgium is home to the executive branch of the European Union, and now it's existence is threatened by differences in tongues. Let's hope other nations don't suffer the same fate.

More ice!

The lander has exposed more ice on the Red Planet.

From Andrea Thompson at

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander used its robotic arm to expose more of the hard icy layer just below the Martian surface so that it can more easily gather a sample of the material for analysis.

The trench, informally called "Snow White," was about 8 by 12 inches (20 by 30 centimeters) after digging by the arm Saturday. Mission controllers sent commands to the spacecraft Monday to further extend the length of the trench by about 6 inches (15 centimeters).

Scientists said tests in a lab on Earth suggested more area must be exposed in order to collect a proper sample.

"Right now, there is not enough real estate of dark icy soil in the trench to do a sample acquisition test and later a full-up acquisition" for the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA), said Ray Arvidson, Phoenix's "dig czar," from Washington University in St. Louis. The TEGA instrument bakes samples of the Martian dirt in tiny ovens and analyzes the vapors given off to determine the composition of the regolith.

Keep trenching, Phoenix! You've got a dig czar on your side.

The power of words ...

... does not kick in until they are in writing. At least, as explained by dinosaurs. And God.

more accurately, t-rex would have easily won if he'd made the argument before the invention of written language. but then the punchline doesn't work! you can't just build the hms sinkytowne out of words!!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Taking our words

Race-baiters want to take our usage of certain words, and The Volokh Conspiracy calls it an "unintentioal self-parody". I call it more. I call it intimidation at its most mean-spirited.

The original story is at the Dallas Morning News. Here's the gist:

A special meeting about Dallas County traffic tickets turned tense and bizarre Tuesday afternoon.

County commissioners were discussing problems with the central collections office that is used to process traffic ticket payments and handle other paperwork normally done by the JP Courts.

Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield, who is white, said it seemed that central collections "has become a black hole" because paperwork reportedly has become lost in the office.

Commissioner John Wiley Price, who is black, interrupted him with a loud "Excuse me!" He then corrected his colleague, saying the office has become a "white hole."

That prompted Judge Thomas Jones, who is black, to demand an apology from Mayfield for his racially insensitive analogy.

Mayfield shot back that it was a figure of speech and a science term.

As I assert in the comments section of the Volokh post, people this country seem to want to have a conversation about race. But how can we do that when white people don't know what words they can and can't say? It seems any word can offend (and you won't know it causes offense until it does, and then it's too late to do anything about it), so the white side of the aisle will eventually stop talking altogether and the "conversation" will be one-sided. And how does that help?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Window morning

Nothing but a picture of some windows to add texture to your downtown experience.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Explaining strange asteroid shapes

It may not occur to most people, but asteroids are shaped funny, and they can also change shape. Now astronomers think they know why, as reported by Lee Pullen at

But what changes the asteroids' shape? Gyula [Szabó from the University of Szeged in Hungary] and his team have shown that asteroids change shape from elongated to roughly spherical due to being impacted during their lifetimes. They are like pebbles on the beach that become worn smooth over many years -- only in space, erosion is caused by small impacts as rocks knock into each other and chip pieces off.

Impact specialist Jonti Horner from the UK's Open University agrees with Gyula. "The results make sense," he says. "Catastrophic impacts create a huge slew of fragment shapes, like the shards of a broken bottle. The debris then are weathered over time and smoothed towards sphericality by small impacts."

Space pebbles. Cool stuff.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Singing of the bun engines

Absolutely cool phonetic rendering of an Indian song.

[via Althouse, via Andrew Sullivan]

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Swirling Saturn

Reminding you that some parts of space -- though small parts -- are still vast.

From the Photojournal:

Sinuous clouds and hurricane-sized vortices mingle in Saturn's northern skies.

This view looks toward a region located at 70 degrees north latitude on Saturn.

Despite the level of detail visible here, the region shown is wide enough to contain the planet Mars comfortably.

Image courtesy of NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Sunday, June 22, 2008

God knows what you're saying

Dinosaur Comics demonstrates:

Well, isn't that the old paradox? Can God create a sentence with grammar so bad, even HE can't correct it?


Don't try to get one past the Big Guy.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ice on Mars!

The first direct evidence of water ice existing on the Red Planet has been discovered by the Phoenix lander, as reported by Clara Moskowitz on

When the probe took photos of a ditch it had dug four days before, scientists noticed that about eight small crumbs of a bright material had disappeared. They concluded those crumbs had been water ice buried under a thin layer of dirt that vaporized when Phoenix exposed them to the air.

"It's with great pride and a lot of joy I announce today we have found proof that this hard material really is water ice and not some other substance," Phoenix principal investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson said at a briefing Friday.

Let's hope there are giant aquifers of the stuff deep underground.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Smelling space exploration

Who knew that moon dust smelled like gunpowder?
During the Apollo missions, the astronauts donned their space suits inside the Apollo Lunar Module cabin, which was then depressurized to allow them to exit the vehicle. Upon the end of EVA, the astronauts would re-enter the cabin in their suits, bringing with them a great deal of dust which had adhered to the suits. Several astronauts reported a "gunpowder" smell and respiratory or eye irritation upon opening their helmets and being exposed to the dust.

[referenced article at, "Lunar Explorers Face Moon Dust Dilemma" by Leonard David]

I learn something new every day.

If you're not a shooter or firework afficianado, then you might not know what gunpowder smells like, but it's actually a very distinctive smell. I never thought I would hear that something smells like gunpowder other than actual gunpowder.

Platform afternoon

Nothing but a picture of an off-shore platform on a hot summer day.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Picking up the sword

In Leon Valley, a suburb of San Antonio, the City Council voted to develop a system of trails in one of the few undeveloped portions of town, but "not before getting an earful from neighborhood residents who don’t want a welcome mat to the public in their backyards." [from the Northwest Weekly]

The citizens are concerned about criminal elements having easy access to their properties, but two of the councilmen assured the residents that they would protect them. And they used a phrase you might not expect in a modern confrontation between citizens and elected officials.
Councilmen Art Reyna and Jack Dean vowed to “pick up the sword” on the trail should residents’ fears become realized.
Actually, I kind of like that imagery. I only wish it were literal. Who can resist the thought of councilmen girding for battle and patroling the trails with medieval weaponry to keep the ruffians at bay?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Just another day on the job

Be careful out there.

Photo of astronaut Mike Fossum, mission STS-124 courtesy of NASA/JSC.

Doing nothing at all, and doing it in a big way

Out near Seguin, it seems some kids were getting into trouble by smashing up a bunch of mailboxes. That's not very unusual out in rural Texas, but I did get a kick out how one resident described the offenders' actions.

From KSAT-12:

More than 50 mailboxes across the county and about 15 inside Seguin were smashed or run over, much to the chagrin of the mailbox owners, and some residents believe teenagers with nothing to do are the culprits.

"I think the kids need to be structured out here, resident Bruce Trahan said. "When they get out of school, it just seems like they have nothing to do and they do it."

Mr. Trahan has a way with words.

[Cross posted from Strange in San Antonio.]

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Feminists challenge Islamic terrorists

But, it's not what you think. They want equal rights, sure enough, but to blow themselves up just as much as the men. [emphases added]

In response to a female questioner, al-Qaida No. 2 leader Ayman Al-Zawahri said in April that the terrorist group does not have women. A woman's role, he said on the Internet audio recording, is limited to caring for the homes and children of al-Qaida fighters.

His remarks have since prompted an outcry from fundamentalist women, who are fighting or pleading for the right to be terrorists. The statements have also created some confusion, because in fact suicide bombings by women seem to be on the rise, at least within the Iraq branch of al-Qaida.


Al-Zawahri's remarks show the fine line al-Qaida walks in terms of public relations. In a modern Arab world where women work even in some conservative countries, al-Qaida's attitude could hurt its efforts to win over the public at large. On the other hand, noted SITE director Katz, al-Zawahri has to consider that many al-Qaida supporters, such as the Taliban, do not believe women should play a military role in jihad.

Al-Zawahri's comments came in a two-hour audio recording posted on an Islamic militant Web site, where he answered hundreds of questions sent in by al-Qaida sympathizers. He praised the wives of mujahedeen, or holy warriors. He also said a Muslim woman should "be ready for any service the mujahedeen need from her," but advised against traveling to a war front like Afghanistan without a male guardian.

How bizarre to these Western ears.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

"NASA spacecraft successfully lands near Mars pole"

This is good news.

PASADENA, Calif. - A NASA spacecraft plunged into the atmosphere of Mars and successfully landed in the Red Planet's northern polar region on Sunday, where it will begin 90 days of digging in the permafrost to look for evidence of the building blocks of life.

Less than two hours later, the Phoenix Mars Lander beamed back four dozen black-and-white images including one of its foot sitting on Martian soil amid tiny rocks. Others included the horizon of the arctic plain and ground with polygon patterns similar to what can be found in Earth's permafrost regions.

"Absolutely beautiful," said Dan McCleese, a chief scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "It looks like a good place to start digging."

I'm sure they will get started in no time. Let's hope the Phoenix mission goes very well.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Ice-sampling probe set for Sunday landing on Mars"

Let's hope this mission is a success.

PASADENA, California (Reuters) - A new chapter in Mars exploration opens on Sunday when a small robotic probe jets down to the planet's arctic circle to learn if ice beneath its surface ever had the right chemistry to support life, mission managers said on Thursday.

NASA approved the mission, known as Phoenix, after the Mars orbiter Odyssey found ice surrounding the polar caps in 2002. Five probes landed near Mars' equatorial zones, including the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which discovered signs of past surface water. Odyssey found no sign of buried ice around Mars' equator.

"We're going way to the north," said Peter Smith, a planetary geologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson who heads the Phoenix science team.

Good luck to the team running Phoenix.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"Robotic suit could usher in super soldier era"

Absolutely cool.

Rex Jameson bikes and swims regularly, and plays tennis and skis when time allows. But the 5-foot-11, 180-pound software engineer is lucky if he presses 200 pounds — that is, until he steps into an "exoskeleton" of aluminum and electronics that multiplies his strength and endurance as many as 20 times.


Jameson — who works for robotics firm Sarcos Inc. in Salt Lake City, which is under contract with the U.S. Army — is helping assess the 150-pound suit's viability for the soldiers of tomorrow. The suit works by sensing every movement the wearer makes and almost instantly amplifying it.

The Army believes soldiers may someday wear the suits in combat, but it's focusing for now on applications such as loading cargo or repairing heavy equipment. Sarcos is developing the technology under a two-year contract worth up to $10 million, and the Army plans initial field tests next year.

And the best line in the story:
"It takes no special training, beyond learning to relax and trust the robot," he said.

When can I get one?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Fighting panda extinction

Sometimes PETA is just all over the map.

TOKYO (AFP) - Animal rights activists on Wednesday urged Japan to reject visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao's offer of two pandas, saying the crowd-pleasing animals would be miserable in a zoo.

Hu, trying to reconcile with Japan on the first visit by a Chinese president to Tokyo in a decade, offered to lend a male and a female panda to replace Ling Ling, who died last week at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent a letter to Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura urging Japan to halt the deal.

The US-based rights group noted that the pandas were being leased, not gifted, and estimated the zoo would pay China around one million dollars a year for each animal.

"Pandas are an endangered species, not a commodity to be traded for human amusement," [Not even for gushing journalists?] PETA campaigner Rie Ichikawa said in the letter.

"In honour of the late Ling Ling -- the panda who spent his entire life in a zoo, where he was denied his freedom, the right to choose his own mate, and everything that was natural and important to him -- we urge Minister Komura to declare that no more pandas will be taken from their homes and sentenced to a life at the Ueno Zoo."

So, PETA's problem is the fact that money is exchanging hands? Or is it that the pandas will be miserable in a zoo? Or is it that the pandas are in captivitiy at all? If that's it, then why stop the deal, since the pandas would still be in captivity in China?

Sometimes, I really don't understand PETA or its motivations.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Odd headline of the day

"Peace protesters deflate NZ spy base dome "

And the story is kind of kooky, too.

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Peace activists attacked and deflated a large inflatable globe housing a satellite dish at a top secret New Zealand spy base on Wednesday in protest at United States military actions.

The group, calling itself ANZAC Ploughshares, said it cut through fences and razor wire and avoided electronic sensors to slash one of two 30-metre (98-ft) white globes with a sickle at the Waihopai base near Blenheim at the top of the South Island.

The base is described as a satellite communications monitoring facility, but peace campaigners have said it is part of a global signals interception network called Echelon.

"The Echelon spy network including Waihopai, is an important part of the U.S. government's global spy network and we have come in the name of the Prince of Peace to close it down," said Ploughshares in a statement.

I didn't know Jesus advocated sickle work. And I didn't know satellite communications domes in New Zealand were appropriate targets for anti-American sentiment. But I do know that the first three words of the article have got to be the funniest words I've read today.

Monday, April 21, 2008

"Primitive Alien Life May Exist, Stephen Hawking Says"

I'm not much of a scientist, but I think Stephen Hawking is right on track here when he talks about the possibility of alien life forms.

Alien life may well exist in a primitive form somewhere in our corner of the galaxy, famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking said Monday.

Given the size of the universe, it is unlikely that Earth is the only planet to develop some sort of life, Hawking told an audience at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He added that humanity must embrace space exploration, if only to ensure its long-term survival. [Complete agreement here.]

"While there may be primitive life in our region of the galaxy, there don't seem to be any advanced intelligent beings," said Hawking during a lecture as part of a series commemorating NASA's 50th anniversary this year.


The probability of primitive life developing on a suitable planet may be extremely low, or it may be high, but aliens intelligent enough to beam signals into space may also be smart enough to build civilization-destroying weapons like nuclear bombs, he said. More likely, he added, is that primitive life is likely to develop, but intelligent life as we know it is exceedingly rare.

"We don't appear to have been visited by aliens," Hawking said, adding that he discounts reports of UFOs. "Why would they only appear to cranks and weirdoes?"

'Nuff said.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Shutter afternoon

Nothing but a photo of shutters making an interesting texture.

"NASA extends Saturn mission for another 2 years"

This is excellent news.

PASADENA, Calif. - NASA says it is extending the international Cassini mission that is touring Saturn and its moons for another two years.

The space agency announced the extension Tuesday. Since 2004, the unmanned probe has beamed back about 140,000 images. Its prime mission is slated to end in July.

The agency says the $160 million extension will allow Cassini to make 60 more revolutions around the ringed planet and fly by its largest moon, Titan, and four other satellites.

The Cassini mission has yielded precious information about Saturn and its moons that have astoundingly advanced our knowledge of the solar system. I'm glad it is being extended. The success of this mission and the gains obtained by the Mars rovers should be sources of pride for NASA, the United States of American, and all of humanity.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Stating the obvious

Who knew California was in danger of earthquakes?

"Forecast: Big quake likely in Calif."

LOS ANGELES - California faces an almost certain risk of being rocked by a strong earthquake by 2037, scientists said Monday in the first statewide temblor forecast.

New calculations reveal there is a 99.7 percent chance a magnitude 6.7 quake or larger will strike in the next 30 years. The odds of such an event are higher in Southern California than Northern California, 97 percent versus 93 percent.

"It basically guarantees it's going to happen," said Ned Field, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena and lead author of the report.

No kidding. Really, with a difference of 97 and 93 percent, does it really matter where you live in California? Just enjoy the weather and get ready for the shaking.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Computing the old way

Just a photo to remind you that humans didn't always need electricity or software to run their computers.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Denigrating husbands

I call B.S. on this Reuters report on another stupid study.

A new study from the University of Michigan shows that having a husband creates an extra seven hours of extra housework a week for women. But a wife saves her husband from an hour of chores around the house each week.

"It's a well-known pattern. There's still a significant reallocation of labor that occurs at marriage -- men tend to work more outside the home, while women take on more of the household labor," said Frank Stafford, of the university's Institute for Social Research (ISR), who directed the study.


The researchers studied diaries to assess how people spent their time and questioned men and women about how much time they spend cooking, cleaning and doing basic work around the house.

They found that young single women did the least amount of housework, at about 12 hours a week. Married women in their 60 and 70s did nearly twice that amount, while women with more than three children spent 28 hours a week cleaning, cooking and washing. [emphases added]

I haven't seen the original study, but I wonder if it measured time spent mowing, cutting limbs, working on the car, building shelves, and other work around the house that might be left up to the husband more often than not.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

"Shock absorbers may fix rocket shaking"

Well, it makes sense.

For nearly half a year, NASA's No. 1 technical problem in designing its Ares I rocket, which will eventually propel astronauts back to the moon, has been a sound wave vibration problem from its solid rocket motors.

If the vibrations hit the right frequency, they could potentially shake the astronauts to death — or at the least make it impossible for them to work. The astronauts would be in the Orion crew capsule launched on top of the Ares.

The leading solution is to put weight on springs in parts of the bottom end of the rocket and underneath astronauts' seats to dampen the vibrations. Think MacPherson struts, said Garry Lyles, who heads a NASA team working on the problem.

"These are actually absorbers that are used in vehicles today, especially one-ton and 1 1/2-ton pickup trucks," Lyles said in a Thursday telephone news conference.

[Insert obligatory joke about it not being rocket science here.]

Monday, March 24, 2008

"NASA cut means no roving for Mars rover"

Too bad.

LOS ANGELES - Scientists plan to put one of the twin Mars rovers to sleep and limit the activities of the other robot to fulfill a NASA order to cut $4 million from the program's budget, mission team members said Monday.


Both rovers were originally planned for three-month missions at a cost of $820 million, but are now in their fourth year of exploration. It costs NASA about $20 million annually to keep the rovers running.

I hate to see them limited or shut down now, especially since they've performed well beyond expectations. They are truly one of NASA's triumphs.

UPDATE: NASA has changed its mind.

LOS ANGELES - NASA has no plans to turn off either of the healthy twin Mars rovers to make up for cost overruns faced by a big new rover slated to fly to the Red Planet next year, the space agency said Tuesday.

In a rare move, NASA said it rescinded a letter sent last week to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena that directed budget cuts to the Mars exploration program, including a $4 million reduction from the rovers project.

Good move.

Evening moon

Nothing but a picture of the moon rising over a verdant ridge.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

R.I.P. Arthur C. Clarke

The famed author of 2001: A Space Odyssey has died.

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Arthur C. Clarke, a visionary science fiction writer who won worldwide acclaim with more than 100 books on space, science and the future, died Wednesday in his adopted home of Sri Lanka, an aide said. He was 90.

Clarke, who had battled debilitating post-polio syndrome since the 1960s and sometimes used a wheelchair, died at 1:30 a.m. local time after suffering breathing problems, aide Rohan De Silva told The Associated Press.

Clarke was regarded as a technological seer as well as a science-fiction writer, and was known as "the godfather of the telecommunications satellite."

Not only do we have him to thank for some great science fiction, but we also have him to thank for modern communications.

Requiescat in pace, old visionary.

Monday, March 10, 2008

"South Korea changes first astronaut"

Well, gee, how old is she? Five months?

Seriously, though, it seems that the first South Korean astronaut was disqualified by the Russians for--


The wrong stuff.

SEOUL, South Korea - South Korea said Monday a female engineer would become the country's first person in space by going aboard a Russian spacecraft, after Moscow rejected Seoul's first choice because he violated reading rules during training.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said at a news conference that Yi So-yeon will replace Ko San as the country's choice to fly on a Russian Soyuz capsule to the International Space Station in early April.


The Russian authorities said Ko took a book out of the [space training] center without permission and sent it to his home in South Korea in September, Lee [Sang-mok, a senior ministry official] said. Ko later returned the book, explaining he accidently sent it home together with other personal belongings, Lee added.

In February, Ko again violated a regulation by getting a book from the center through a Russian colleague — material he was not supposed to read, Lee said. Officials did not give details about the book's contents, but South Korean officials portrayed both of his infractions as minor. [emphasis added]

I wonder what that book was about.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Looking back at home

Have you ever wondered what the Earth looks like from Mars?

Wonder no more.

Image taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera and courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona. Find out more about it here.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Passing away

A guitarist has died.

TORONTO - Blind rock and jazz musician Jeff Healey has died after a lifelong battle against cancer. He was 41.

Healey died Sunday evening in a Toronto hospital, said bandmate Colin Bray, who was in the room with Healey's family when the guitarist died.

The Grammy-nominated Healey rose to stardom as the leader of the Jeff Healey Band, a rock-oriented trio that gained international acclaim and platinum record sales with the 1988 album "See the Light." The album included the hit single "Angel Eyes."

Healey had battled cancer since age 1, when a rare form of retinal cancer known as Retinoblastoma claimed his eyesight.

Too bad. He was a good guitarist.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Baffling the rocket scientists

There's always something new and incredible to learn about space, which is why we need to do a lot more exploring.

From Charles Q. Choi of

Mysteriously, five spacecraft that flew past the Earth have each displayed unexpected anomalies in their motions.

These newfound enigmas join the so-called "Pioneer anomaly" as hints that unexplained forces may appear to act on spacecraft.

A decade ago, after rigorous analyses, anomalies were seen with the identical Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft as they hurtled out of the solar system. Both seemed to experience a tiny but unexplained constant acceleration toward the sun.

A host of explanations have been bandied about for the Pioneer anomaly. At times these are rooted in conventional science — perhaps leaks from the spacecraft have affected their trajectories. At times these are rooted in more speculative physics — maybe the law of gravity itself needs to be modified.

Now Jet Propulsion Laboratory astronomer John Anderson and his colleagues — who originally helped uncover the Pioneer anomaly — have discovered that five spacecraft each raced either a tiny bit faster or slower than expected when they flew past the Earth en route to other parts of the solar system.


"I am feeling both humble and perplexed by this," said Anderson, who is now working as a retiree. "There is something very strange going on with spacecraft motions. We have no convincing explanation for either the Pioneer anomaly or the flyby anomaly."

There's a lot more to discover out there.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Disparaging a fruit

I couldn't agree more with XKCD's assessment of grapefruit.

P.S.: Hover over the comic for an equally appropriate view of coconuts.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

No preaching to the choir

If you have more than a passing interest in the English language and its development, then you will probably enjoy reading this post from Geoffrey K. Pullum at Langauge Log. It's pretty much his thoughts on one man's review of a language book, but, if that sounds particularly dry to you, I tell you it's not. There's a lot there to think about in the post, and it's well worth the read.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Stellar Wednesday

A lot of space stuff is happening Wednesday, February 20, 2008.

"Atlantis aims for Wednesday landing"
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - After nearly two weeks in orbit, Atlantis and its crew aimed for a Wednesday landing on either coast to clear the way for the military to shoot down a dying spy satellite.

"US may shoot down satellite Wednesday"
WASHINGTON - An attempt to blast a crippled U.S. spy satellite out of the sky using a Navy heat-seeking missile — possibly on Wednesday night — would be the first real-world use of this piece of the Pentagon's missile defense network.

"Lunar eclipse to occur Wednesday night"
LOS ANGELES - The last total lunar eclipse until 2010 occurs Wednesday night, with cameo appearances by Saturn and the bright star Regulus on either side of the veiled full moon.

Enough to keep a lot of people busy.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunday sonnet: William Shakespeare

Here's a sonnet from Shakespeare, published in 1609 and telling of the permanence of poetry.


Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war's quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
'Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wears this world out to the ending doom.
- So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
- You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes.

Rhyme scheme: abab cdcd efef gg

Friday, February 15, 2008

"British Moon probe wins UK-NASA backing"

This sounds promising. I like the idea of space collaboration.

LONDON (Reuters) - A plan for the first British-led mission to the Moon won the backing of an Anglo-American space committee on Friday.

The Joint Working Group on lunar exploration named the proposed unmanned MoonLITE launch as its primary mission for collaboration.

The 100 million pound launch would fire three or four darts carrying measuring instruments into the surface of the moon from an orbiting satellite.

Scientific data recorded by the darts would be transmitted up to the satellite and relayed back to Earth.

The working group brings together experts from America's NASA and Britain's space authority, the British National Space Centre (BNSC).

But the piece contains this bit of journalistic error.
Potential targets for the MoonLITE probes include the Moon's permanently dark far side and its two shadowed polar regions. [emphasis added]
Please, Tim Castle of Reuters, take some time to do a few seconds of research.