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30 March 2011

the first batch of MESSENGER's images of Mercury from orbit! / Thank you, Chen-wan Yen!

Click image to enlarge.

Recently achieving orbit around Mercury, NASA's MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging) probe has begun a one-year imaging survey expected to send back 75,000 images of Mercury's surface, much of which has never been imaged before.

Mercury is the most difficult planet for robot probes to survey because of its nearness to the intense gravitational field of the Sun. MESSENGER required several years, and several gravitational "slingshot" flybys of Venus and Mercury, to finally position it for orbital insertion in early March 2011.


In the years since the Mariner 10 mission [launched 1973, Mercury flyby with imaging 1975], subsequent mission proposals to revisit Mercury had appeared too costly, requiring large quantities of propellant and a heavy lift launch vehicle. However, using a trajectory designed by Chen-wan Yen [Jet Propulsion Laboratory] in 1985, the study showed it was possible to seek a Discovery-class mission by using multiple, consecutive gravity assist, 'swingby' maneuvers around Venus and Mercury, in combination with minor propulsive trajectory corrections, to gradually slow the spacecraft and thereby minimize propellant needs.

~ ~ ~

A First Look at Terrain

Near Mercury's North Pole

This WAC (Wide-Angle Camera) image showing a never-before-imaged area of Mercury’s surface was taken from an altitude of 450 km (280 miles) above the planet during the spacecraft’s first orbit with the camera in operation. The area is covered in secondary craters made by an impact outside of the field of view. Some of the secondary craters are oriented in chain-like formations.

This image was taken during MESSENGER’s closest approach to the sunlit portion of the surface during this orbit, just before crossing over the terminator. The oblique illumination by the Sun causes the long shadows and accentuates topography. The highly elliptical orbit of MESSENGER brings the spacecraft down to a periapsis (MESSENGER’s closest approach to Mercury) altitude of 200 km (125 miles) and out to an apoapsis (MESSENGER’s farthest distance from Mercury) altitude of 15,000 km (9300 miles).

Date acquired: March 29, 2011

Image Credit:
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Carnegie Institution of Washington (DC)

1st image of Mercury from orbit / MESSENGER sends 1st of 75,000 orbital survey photos

Click image for larger, clearer.

27 March 2011

the essential heterosexual romance song

Gimme Some Money
by Spinal Tap

Stop wasting my time
You know what I want
You know what I need
Or maybe you don't

Do I have to come right flat out and tell you everything?

Gimme some money, gimme some money

I'm nobody's fool

I'm nobody's clown
I'm treating you cool
I'm putting you down

But baby I don't intend to leave empty handed

Gimme some money, gimme some money
Oh yeah! Go Nigel, Go!

Gimme some money, gimme some money

Gimme some money, gimme some money

Don't get me wrong (Gimme some money, gimme some money)

Try getting me right (Gimme some money, gimme some money)
Your face is OK
But your purse is too tight (Gimme some money, gimme some money)
I'm looking for pound notes, loose change, bad checks, anything
Gimme some money, gimme some money

Gimme some money, gimme some money

Gimme some money, gimme some money
Gimme some money, gimme some money
Gimme some money, gimme some money
Gimme some money, gimme some money

26 March 2011

a quick and easy detour to avoid Information Superhighway Robbery

Niemann Journalism Lab
Harvard University / Cambridge, Massachusetts USA
Monday 21 March 2011

That was quick: 
Four lines of code is all it takes 
for The New York Times’ paywall 
to come tumbling down

by Joshua Benton

The New York Times paywall is costing the newspaper $40-$50 million to design and construct, Bloomberg has reported.

And it can be defeated through four lines of Javascript.

That fact is both the problem and the opportunity of a leaky paywall. There is no one consistent, workable price for online news content. For the vast majority of people who read a news site, the price they’re willing to pay is zero; for a few, it’s something more. The key question of the Times paywall — and of any paywall, really — is how to maximize the revenue generated from those two extremes and the various gradations in between.

The Times’ approach is to create a relatively high price point — $15 to $35 a month, depending on the package — for those willing to pay. For those who are very casual fly-by readers — those who read fewer than 20 articles a month — the site remains free, and the Times makes money from advertising. And for those in the middle — readers who lack the brand loyalty to want to pay, but nonetheless like to see Times stories pop up in their Twitter feed — the social media “leak” in the paywall will keep letting them in for ads.

That kind of nuance makes for a much more precise instrument than a blunt-force paywall. But it also puts the onus on you to get all that nuance right. Get it wrong and you risk angering readers — or letting would-be paying customers in for free.

The Times paywall doesn’t launch in the United States for another week; the paper has plenty of time to plug this particular Javascript vulnerability, which goes by the name NYTClean, if it wants to. But the real question is: Is this a hole they really want closed? Or is this one of the intentional leaks in the wall?

The parable of NYTClean

In my piece Thursday looking at the paywall — currently only live in Canada — I noted that, when you reach your 20-article limit and try to read more, the contraband article actually loads just fine in your browser — it’s just quickly covered by an overlay obscuring the article and reminding you to pay up:

The full text of the article is still visible in the page source. And as I mentioned in responding to a commenter — and as is evident to anyone who can right-click on a page and choose “Inspect Element” — the overlay is nothing more than a little CSS and Javascript.

Unfortunately for the Times, there are plenty of popular (or popular-among-nerds) tools that tactically remove little bits of CSS and Javascript. There’s Greasemonkey, there’s Stylish — not to mention the ease with which a browser extension in Firefox, Chrome, or Safari can be built to strip out code. As I wrote:

    …not to get too far into it (although many bearded people will in the coming days, I can assure you), but yeah, as far as I can tell it’s just a set of divs generated by some javascript. Although I couldn’t quickly find that script in any of the linked .js files, certainly someone nerdier than me will.

    So an attempt at a set of Firefox/Chrome/Safari extensions named FreeNYT can’t be too far off. Although I’m sure the Times has already thought of some creative things to counter that too.

Well, consider the first shot in the NYT paywall battle fired. Canadian coder David Hayes has just released NYTClean, a bookmarklet that, in one click, tears down the Times’ paywall.

“Released” is probably even a little strong — it makes it sound like there was an extended development process. All NYTClean does is call four measly lines of Javascript that hide a couple
s and turn page scrolling back on. It barely even qualifies as a hack. But it allows you access to any New York Times story, even when you’re past the monthly limit. (I just tested it out with a Canadian proxy server — works just like it says.)

(Obligatory note: I think the Times is right to ask regular readers to pay, and I think their paywall is basically well designed. Me, I just became a print subscriber last week, using the Frank Rich Discount. Support your local journalist!)

Leakiness: a bug and a feature

Now, the Times paywall is, to a certain extent, defined by its leakiness. The various holes — external links from social media and search biggest among them — are no accident; they’re the result of some (correct, I say) thinking about hitting the right balance between fly-by and dedicated readers, between those who come in the front door and others who arrive from the side.

But the tradeoff for those holes is that they’re designed to be a pain to use if you’re a dedicated NYT reader. Click an occasional Times link when it comes up in your Twitter stream? No problem. But if you’re the kind of person who goes to every morning and clicks on four or five articles, you’ll quickly find it’s a big pain to go search for a headline in Google or Twitter every time you want to read another David Carr piece. (A similar workaround has existed for Wall Street Journal stories behind its paywall for years, but it’s doubtful anyone other than the most desperate reader has ever used it much.)

This CSS-and-Javascript hole, however, isn’t difficult to use at all. One drag into your bookmark bar, then one click whenever you hit a blocked article.

And yet this workaround is so blindingly obvious to anyone who’s ever worked with code that it’s difficult to imagine it didn’t come up in the paywall planning process. The other major news paywalls — WSJ, FT, The Economist — don’t actually send the entire forbidden article to your browser, then try cover it up with a couple lines of easily reversible code. They just hit you with a message saying, in effect, “Sorry, pay up here” whenever you stray past the free zone.

And that leakiness is actually a defensible choice, I think, on the Times’ part. Imagine a Venn diagram with two circles. One represents all the people on the Internet who might be convinced to pay for The other represents all the people on the Internet who (a) know how to install a bookmarklet or (b) have read a Cory Doctorow novel. Do you really see a big overlap between the two? If someone is absolutely certain to never pay for the NYT, then it makes sense to squeeze a little extra advertising revenue out of them on the rare occasions when a link sends them to

The problem with that model, though, is that it assumes inefficiency. It assumes that the happy-to-pay crowd (or the grudgingly-will-pay crowd) never find out about the workarounds — or at least that the workarounds remain complicated enough that they won’t want to bother. One click, though, ain’t all that complicated.

And that nudge-nudge approach to security through obscurity also assumes that the Times will be, at some level, okay with people using workarounds. It’s a tough balance: tolerating them so long as they boost advertising revenue and continue to give people the impression is available to them; breaking them when they prove to be too popular among people who might otherwise pay.

To get an idea what that balance looks like, check out statements from two top Times officials in the past few days. First, Eileen Murphy, NYT vice president of corporate communications, talking to the Canadian Press:

    She said the paper will be watching for attempts to circumvent the digital subscription system and the limits in place, like if Twitter users tweeted links to the entire paper.

    “If it was something blatant…that is likely something that we would make an effort to go after,” Murphy said.

    “If there was some real attempt to game the system in some way that was not appropriate it’s something we would certainly look at.”

Psst…if you’re looking for someone who tweets a whole bunch of links to NYT content, I know a guy.

Or Martin Nisenholtz, in his interview with Peter Kafka:

    …we want to make sure that we’re not being gamed, to the extent that we can be…We’re obviously going to be vigilant over the next couple of months, in looking at the ways that people are doing that…

    I don’t think we’re going to spend enormous resources to go tracking people down. But at the same time, we’re going to obviously work to see where the source of these workarounds are, and work to close them off, if they become substantive enough.

    But in looking at the research that we did, we expect [paywall jumpers] to be a very significant minority, a small, small number of people. When you look at your Twitter feed, based on the people you follow, it probably seems like it’s looming very large. But in the scheme of things, among people who don’t live in Silicon Valley or don’t cover it, the vast majority of people do not have this on their minds.

That last bit gets at the issue: You can afford to let nerds game your system. You probably want them to game your system, because they (a) are unlikely to pay, (b) generate ad revenue, and (c) are more likely to share your content than most.

The danger is when it becomes easy for non-nerds to do it. And that’s the risk of any leaky paywall — the risk that you might calibrate the holes incorrectly and let too many of your would-be subscribers through. Something like NYTClean — or the many tools that will soon follow it — could be the kind of thing that tips the balance in a way that hurts the Times.

- 30 -

Postalo Vleeptron / reissue for no particular reason: 1066 1835 1910 1986 Earth flybys / the Promise: It will be back in 2061

 Click image to enlarge.

To Robert, who is camping in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia with his Geiger counter:
* * *

We camped in the MacDonnell Ranges for a week, took the Ghan [train] from Adelaide to Alice Springs. Does that count? 
We weren't surveying for radiation. We were there to see Comet Halley, the Southern hemisphere had the best seats on the planet for the '86 flyby. You needed a desert with documented photometric nights, and unlike South Africa, Australia was not seething with violent insurrection.

In the bar car on the Ghan, when the other passengers realized we were Yanks, one sat at the little piano and everyone sang "Waltzing Matilda" 400 times for us.

At our campground, one day we saw a party of Australians, one with a video camera filming another adult man running through the campground wearing only a giant diaper. We inquired.

They were astonished that we'd never heard of Lindy Chamberlain and her baby. Turns out the Chamberlains had camped in our campground the night before the dingo etc. They were making a homemade video documentary of the famous incident.

As for Comet Halley, after a few grouse nights (that's what the TV weather called it; I thought they were saying it was good bird-shooting weather), the skies cleared, and the comet was startlingly obvious. It was creepy. A naked-eye comet makes you think the sky is broken or damaged.

At a nighttime get-together at a nearby race track, the Alice Springs Astronomy Club had their big portable telescopes set up. It was my first glimpse of the remarkable Southern Skies. Most of the Astronomy Club members were actually Yanks, NSA spooks employed at the Golf Ball Factory (Pine Gap).

A Caucasian lawyer who represented Aboriginals around Alice Springs said the Aboriginals were not at all happy about Comet Halley. They thought it was a nasty old man throwing rocks down at the Earth, and they wanted it to go away promptly.

I very much miss Red Centre beer. Our cans had a commemorative comet over Uluru [Ayer's Rock] on it.


Massachusetts USA

25 March 2011

Extinct Media / rugged, affordable rooftop solar panels powering CD deck / Stockham drags Caruso decades into the future

Yeah, sure, click on images.

There used to be -- maybe still is -- a fascinating e-List called "Extinct Media" which gloried in ancient vanished unsupported sound and image formats -- 8-tracks of course, pre-roll-film glass photographic plates, Edison recording cylinders, piano rolls for the amazing circa-1905 Welte player piano, etc. (Welte playback was robot fingers and feet which could play any piano exactly as the human pianist had.)

On a freighter/ferry voyage up the coast of Labrador and back -- cheap, and maybe still taking tourists -- we stopped at Red Bay (once red with whale blood) and in the tiny ancient general store I saw a gorgeous Edison phonograph on display. When the storekeeper saw me drooling over it, she inserted a cylinder, wound the thing up, and a foxtrot from around 1900 squawked out of the giant sound horn. The contraption reproduced music (and speeches from the great orators of the day) entirely without electricity.

The Stockham Soundstream process (1976, Dr. Thomas G. Stockham Jr.) was the first use of digital computers to transcribe and manipulate -- clean up -- archival analog sound. Stockham discovered that most of the distortion on pre-microphone pre-electronic recordings wasn't due to scratches or dirt/dust imbedded in the grooves, but was caused by the singer(s) and orchestra having to aim their sound into a big horn, which would concentrate the sound waves to mechanically wiggle the needle to cut analog grooves on the rotating master cylinder. 

His first big project was RCA's Caruso recordings. Once digitized, Stockham was able to mathematically filter out most of the collecting horn distortion. RCA released Stockham-processed Caruso LPs, which leapfrogged the listening quality of Caruso's arias from squawky, hissy 1902 mechanical embarrassments to a sound quality very much like 1930s Billie Holiday electronically amplified microphone recordings. For the first time you could really appreciate the opera voice of a lifetime, you could hear what all the ballyhoo was about.

Most of the Caruso tracks were made in Italy before Caruso had ever toured and was unknown. The RCA field recordist paid Caruso $25 a song. When the home office in London learned that their field recordist was incinerating these outrageous sums on this dubious project, they cabled him to cancel the session, but it was too late. The Caruso cylinders "made" the phonograph, launching it, and recorded sound, into a must-have item in every home.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, March 24, 2011 8:51 PM
Subject: Re: [GeigerCounterEnthusiasts] Re: 2 items from today's Electronic Goldmine e-mail flyer

up here in the great northeast - home of Uconn womens basketball (the men ain't too bad this year also) - we have upgraded to those new things called cassette decks - much smaller and, with the new "walkman" technology, they are as portable as those transistor radios you here about now!!  ain't that a hoot!   Rick

--- On Thu, 3/24/11, tedtedted***** wrote:

From: tedtedted*****
Subject: [GeigerCounterEnthusiasts] Re: 2 items from today's Electronic Goldmine e-mail flyer
Date: Thursday, March 24, 2011, 8:39 PM
Oh, Rick... That was a low blow!! Actually, it is a six disk changer that I pulled out of my car when I replaced it with the bluetooth deck. Truth be told, I do, in fact have an 8-track tape machine, but it's a reel to reel deck I once used in an old recording studio my brother and I owned years ago. It's sitting in a closet, in perfect condition and fully aligned. And... that's just where it will probably stay until the poor sod who has to liquidate all my junk upon my demise finds it!!

--- In, R******* a**** wrote:
> sounds like all those old/ancient 8-track player found a home (where else but in TEXAS!!!!)
> Â
> Rick
> --- On Thu, 3/24/11, tedtedted0001 wrote:
> From: tedtedted*****
> Subject: [GeigerCounterEnthusiasts] Re: 2 items from today's Electronic Goldmine e-mail flyer
> To:
> Date: Thursday, March 24, 2011, 8:16 PM

> For whatever it's worth, Harbor Freight has a 45 watt solar panel kit for just over $200. I've got one, had it about a year, no problems of any kind. It's been hit pretty hard a couple of times by hail (Texas style thunderstorms can produce hail the size of softballs). Not so much as a crack. Comes with a 12v battery charger regulator. I charge a car battery which is hooked to an old UPS inverter. It provides 110vac to my little pagoda in the backyard and I took a 12v tap off of the battery to run an old car stereo mounted on a marine housing to provide tunes while relaxing. I strung up a cheap (really cheap) ceiling fan under the pagoda thing that actually works quite well. As I say, for whatever it's worth......
> ted

22 March 2011

How are you, Please reply to me i have important discussion to discuss with urgently

From: miss janet umar
Subject: hello
Date: Mar 22, 2011 8:50 PM

How are you,
Please reply to me
i have important
discussion to
discuss with

Nuova grafica e nuove funzionalità! Crea subito Gratis la tua nuova Casella di Posta Katamail


  Click images to enlarge.

"Brer Rabbit" wallpaper by William Morris, 1882.

Yup yup, after a month recuperating from a "cabbage" -- quadruple coronary bypass -- in the Calvin Coolidge Rehabilitation Center in Northampton, Massachusetts USA, I'M BACK HOME NOW!!!


4 photos of Saturday's huge, bright SuperMoon

Click on image to enlarge.

On Saturday, the Moon was the closest it's been to Earth (orbital perigee) in 18 years. All over the Earth it shone startlingly huge and bright.

US Army wins hearts and minds of Afghan people and Muslims worldwide

Click on image to enlarge.

Reuters (UK newswire)
Monday 21 March 2011 5:15pm EDT


US Army apologizes for 'repugnant' Afghan photos

Five soldiers charged with murdering 3 Afghan villagers

Soldier Jeremy Morlock to testify against co-defendants (Refiles to delete extraneous last line)

BERLIN, March 21 (Reuters) -- Germany's Der Spiegel magazine published photos on Monday of American soldiers posed over the bloodied corpse of an Afghan civilian whose slaying it said is being prosecuted by the U.S. military as premeditated murder.

Disclosure of the images, among dozens seized as evidence in the prosecutions but kept sealed from public view by the military, prompted the U.S. Army to issue an apology "for the distress these photos cause" and condemning actions depicted in them as "repugnant."

One photo shows a soldier identified as Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock, 23, of Wasilla, Alaska, broadly smiling in sunglasses as he crouches beside the bloodied, prone body of a man whose head he is holding up for the camera by the hair.

A second soldier, Private First Class Andrew Holmes, 20, is seen in a separate photo kneeling over the same corpse, also raising the victim's head by the hair.

As published by Der Spiegel and circulated elsewhere on the Internet, the face of the body has been deliberately blurred in the pictures to render it unidentifiable.

Lawyers for both soldiers confirmed to Reuters that their respective clients are the soldiers who appear in the images.

Morlock and Holmes are among five Stryker Brigade soldiers facing court-martial at Joint Base Lewis McChord near Tacoma, Washington, on charges of premeditated murder stemming from the deaths of three Afghan villagers whose killings were allegedly staged to look like legitimate combat casualties.

According to his lawyers, Morlock has agreed to plead guilty later this week to three counts of murder and other offenses and to testify against his co-defendants.

Under the plea deal, still subject to approval by a military judge, he would receive a 24-year prison sentence, as opposed to the life term he faced if convicted of all charges.

Holmes has reached no such deal. Defense lawyers insist Holmes is innocent and have sought, so far unsuccessfully, to force the military to unseal a number of photos they say would help exonerate their client on one count of murder.

(Reporting by David Stamp in Berlin; Additional reporting by Laura L. Myers in Seattle; Editing by Louise Ireland, Steve Gorman and Greg McCune)

- 30 -

21 March 2011

Obama screws the pooch with USA's ***3rd*** war against a Muslim country

See previous post.

Well, now the United States of America is simultaneously fighting 3 wars: Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.

Below, Dennis Kucinich today called for Congress to consider impeachment proceedings against Obama.

These would begin in the House Judiciary Committee. If the Judiciary Committee passed a bill of particulars, the full House of Representatives would vote. If the House passed the bill of impeachment, Obama would be tried by the U.S. Senate.

Two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have been tried by the Senate. Both were acquitted. Nixon resigned after the House Judiciary Committee passed the bill of particulars.

Calls to impeach Obama from Republicans and Tea Party loonies have been as common as rain in England, but this is the first call for impeachment from a Congressman of Obama's own party.

Kucinich ran for the 2008 Democratic nomination, promising immediately to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama uhhhh sort of vaguely and ambiguously hinted he would uhhh end the wars. He ran on a platform of Hope and Change.

Libya produces 2 percent of the world's oil. US gasoline prices have skyrocketed since anti-Ghaddafy protesters began their war against Ghaddafy's 40-year-old dictatorship.

~ ~ ~

The Los Angeles Times
(daily broadsheet)
Monday 21 March 2011

Obama faces growing 

criticism for Libya campaign

Some U.S. lawmakers complain that President Obama failed to consult Congress before launching military action. The Arab League and Russia also criticize the U.S.-led airstrikes.

by Paul Richter and Christi Parsons

Reporting from Washington -- President Obama is facing growing criticism at home and abroad over whether the military campaign in Libya is the wrong policy — or the right policy at the wrong time.

Obama, on a five-day tour of Latin America, defended his administration's muscular approach in Libya, saying it was "very easy to square our military actions and our stated policies."

Speaking in Chile, Obama said U.S. military forces would focus on the goal approved by the U.N. Security Council last week, preventing longtime leader Moammar Kadafi's army from attacking Libyan civilians. But he also reiterated that Kadafi should be removed.

He said the United States also would use nonmilitary means, including economic sanctions and an arms embargo, to try to end Kadafi's four-decade rule.

Obama sent a letter to congressional leaders Monday attempting to assure them that the administration was seeking a "rapid but responsible transition" of military command to other members of the United Nations-backed coalition. The letter followed complaints that he had failed to consult Congress before launching military action.

Political analysts say Obama could benefit if Kadafi is quickly ousted, or if there is another quick and relatively bloodless resolution. But if the conflict becomes a stalemate, criticism is likely to mount.

Complaints have already started to escalate. Some early advocates of military intervention, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), said Obama may have waited too long to help the opposition in Libya.

A contingent of liberal Democrats, normally allied with the president, condemned the use of military force. Some conservatives, as well as foreign policy experts, said Libya is not a vital U.S. interest.

An antiwar group announced plans for protests in Los Angeles, Chicago and nine other cities this week.

"The president seems to have angered almost every major group: He's either done too much or too little or he's done it too slowly," said James Lindsay, a former official in the Clinton White House who is now with the Council on Foreign Relations. "There's a very real political risk for Barack Obama in all of this."

Among the critics Monday was Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a widely respected voice on foreign policy who has often sided with the administration.

"There needs to be a plan about what happens after Kadafi," Lugar said. "Who will be in charge then, and who pays for this all? President Obama, so far, has only expressed vague hopes."

A group of liberal Democrats, including Reps. Jerrold Nadler of New York, Donna Edwards of Maryland, Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio and Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee of California, issued a statement over the weekend saying they "all strongly raised objections to the constitutionality of the president's actions."

Complaints also came from the Arab League, which initially called for imposing a no-fly zone in Libya, a decision that helped persuade the White House to join the fight. Russia's prime minister, Vladimir Putin, lashed out at Washington for launching what he called "a crusade," saying it justified Russia's military buildup.

Administration officials acknowledged the political risk of involvement in Libya at a time when the U.S. is engaged militarily in Iraq and Afghanistan, and polls indicate that Americans want Obama to focus on the economy. But they say the president's insistence that he won't send ground troops, the involvement of other countries, and the promise to hand off command should help bolster support for Obama.

Robert Danin, a former State Department official who is a Mideast specialist, said he could not imagine how the mission could prove a political winner for Obama.

Americans are likely to worry, he said, that the United States will be stuck with part of the bill for rebuilding Libya. And U.S. officials, he noted, are still unsure whether the anti-Kadafi forces are necessarily pro-America and pro-democracy.

"The politics of this are just bad," Danin said.

Times staff writers Lisa Mascaro in Washington and Sergei L. Loiko in Moscow contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

- 30 -

Comments (4)

morristhewise at 7:17 PM March 21, 2011

The life expectancy of the six sons of Gadhafi is short, they will suffer for the sins of their father. But Gadhafi had a long and happy life, he will loudly praise his sky god before being hung.
nowswimback at 7:11 PM March 21, 2011

You gotta love how he just started this thing as he was waving goodbye to go on yet another vacation, this time in Rio. No Congressional approval. It's time for the House to start the Articles of Impeachment.

nowswimback at 7:11 PM March 21, 2011

You gotta love how he just started this thing as he was waving goodbye to go on yet another vacation, this time in Rio. No Congressional approval. It's time for the House to start the Articles of Impeachment.

Ross2010 at 7:07 PM March 21, 2011

I think our Commander & Chief needs to read the constitution. Where does it say we can bomb another country without provocation and commit an act of war without the consent of Congress?

In the USA, who has the power to declare war? (And who doesn't?)

 Click image to enlarge.
The Constitution 
of the  
United States

Article I.
Section 8.

The Congress shall have power ...

To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

To provide and maintain a navy;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress; ...

19 March 2011

GEO's photo gallery of wind turbine anomalies

Click on image to enlarge.

GEO, the founder and guru of the Yahoo! list Ionizing Radiation Affacianados, has been collecting photographs of these little anomalies of the cleanest, most free, most sustainable pie-in-the-sky green energy technology of the future. There are more.

I am reminded of Admiral Strauss' circa-1950 prediction that electricity from nuclear power would be "too cheap to meter."

Not shown: The naughty little secret of Wind Turbines: Their wind patterns seem to lure in birds, particularly raptors, and at the base you find piles of Eagle Sausage (Adlerwurst).

She's insane! She's dumb as rocks and profoundly ignorant about radiation and medicine! Ann Coulter explains why the Japan nuclear plant meltdowns are good for your health.
Wednesday 16 March 2011

With the terrible earthquake and resulting tsunami that have devastated Japan, the only good news is that anyone exposed to excess radiation from the nuclear power plants is now probably much less likely to get cancer.

This only seems counterintuitive because of media hysteria for the past 20 years trying to convince Americans that radiation at any dose is bad. There is, however, burgeoning evidence that excess radiation operates as a sort of cancer vaccine.

As The New York Times science section reported in 2001, an increasing number of scientists believe that at some level -- much higher than the minimums set by the U.S. government -- radiation is good for you. "They theorize," the Times said, that "these doses protect against cancer by activating cells' natural defense mechanisms."

Among the studies mentioned by the Times was one in Canada finding that tuberculosis patients subjected to multiple chest X-rays had much lower rates of breast cancer than the general population.

And there are lots more!

A $10 million Department of Energy study from 1991 examined 10 years of epidemiological research by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health on 700,000 shipyard workers, some of whom had been exposed to 10 times more radiation than the others from their work on the ships' nuclear reactors. The workers exposed to excess radiation had a 24 percent lower death rate and a 25 percent lower cancer mortality than the non-irradiated workers.

Isn't that just incredible? I mean, that the Department of Energy spent $10,000,000 doing something useful? Amazing, right?

In 1983, a series of apartment buildings in Taiwan were accidentally constructed with massive amounts of cobalt 60, a radioactive substance. After 16 years, the buildings' 10,000 occupants developed only five cases of cancer. The cancer rate for the same age group in the general Taiwanese population over that time period predicted 170 cancers.

The people in those buildings had been exposed to radiation nearly five times the maximum "safe" level according to the U.S. government. But they ended up with a cancer rate 96 percent lower than the general population.

Bernard L. Cohen, a physics professor at the University of Pittsburgh, compared radon exposure and lung cancer rates in 1,729 counties covering 90 percent of the U.S. population. His study in the 1990s found far fewer cases of lung cancer in those counties with the highest amounts of radon -- a correlation that could not be explained by smoking rates.

Tom Bethell, author of the The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science has been writing for years about the beneficial effects of some radiation, or "hormesis." A few years ago, he reported on a group of scientists who concluded their conference on hormesis at the University of Massachusetts by repairing to a spa in Boulder, Mont., specifically in order to expose themselves to excess radiation.

At the Free Enterprise Radon Health Mine in Boulder [Montana], people pay $5 to descend 85 feet [26 meters] into an old mining pit to be irradiated with more than 400 times the EPA-recommended level of radon. In the summer, 50 people a day visit the mine hoping for relief from chronic pain and autoimmune disorders.

Amazingly, even the Soviet-engineered disaster at Chernobyl in 1986 can be directly blamed for the deaths of no more than the 31 people inside the plant who died in the explosion. Although news reports generally claimed a few thousand people died as a result of Chernobyl -- far fewer than the tens of thousands initially predicted -- that hasn't been confirmed by studies.

Indeed, after endless investigations, including by the United Nations, Manhattan Project veteran Theodore Rockwell summarized the reports to Bethell in 2002, saying, "They have not yet reported any deaths outside of the 30 who died in the plant."

Even the thyroid cancers in people who lived near the reactor were attributed to low iodine in the Russian diet -- and consequently had no effect on the cancer rate.

Meanwhile, the animals around the Chernobyl reactor, who were not evacuated, are "thriving," according to scientists quoted in the April 28, 2002 Sunday Times (UK).

Dr. Dade W. Moeller, a radiation expert and professor emeritus at Harvard, told The New York Times that it's been hard to find excess cancers even from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, particularly because one-third of the population will get cancer anyway. There were about 90,000 survivors of the atomic bombs in 1945 and, more than 50 years later, half of them were still alive. (Other scientists say there were 700 excess cancer deaths among the 90,000.)

Although it is hardly a settled scientific fact that excess radiation is a health benefit, there's certainly evidence that it decreases the risk of some cancers -- and there are plenty of scientists willing to say so. But Jenny McCarthy's vaccine theories get more press than Harvard physics professors' studies on the potential benefits of radiation. (And they say conservatives are anti-science!)

I guess good radiation stories are not as exciting as news anchors warning of mutant humans and scary nuclear power plants -- news anchors who, by the way, have injected small amounts of poison into their foreheads to stave off wrinkles. Which is to say: The general theory that small amounts of toxins can be healthy is widely accepted --except in the case of radiation.

Every day Americans pop multivitamins containing trace amount of zinc, magnesium, selenium, copper, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, nickel, boron -- all poisons.

They get flu shots. They'll drink copious amounts of coffee to ingest a poison: caffeine. (Back in the '70s, Professor Cohen offered to eat as much plutonium as Ralph Nader would eat caffeine -- an offer Nader never accepted.)

But in the case of radiation, the media have Americans convinced that the minutest amount is always deadly.

Although reporters love to issue sensationalized reports about the danger from Japan's nuclear reactors, remember that, so far, thousands have died only because of Mother Nature. And the survivors may outlive all of us over here in hermetically sealed, radiation-free America.

1130 Walnut, Kansas City, MO 64106


Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American
Friday 18 March 2011
Attention, Ann Coulter: 
Report to aisle 5 
for radiation clean-up
by Philip Yam

Well, I am impressed how conservative columnist Ann Coulter finds ways to make headlines. The darling of the radical right ventured into science journalism the other day, when during an interview with Fox News's Bill O'Reilly, she said that radiation above the government cutoff is good for you.

She was promoting her latest column on her website, "A Glowing Report on Radiation." She was trying to explain the concept of hormesis without actually using the term -- and certainly without fully understanding it.

Developed by Edward Calabrese of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, hormesis is a kind of Nietzsche toxicology: what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. The idea is that low levels of toxin can stress your body like exercise does, stimulating immune and cell-repair systems.

The evidence, based on lab experiments done on mice, zebra fish and other non-humans, is intriguing. But the theory is incomplete, hard to study, often confusing and impossible to generalize as a basic biological principle. For instance, dioxin shows hormetic effects but only when the data includes all cancers, not specific types of cancer.

Part of the trouble lies with measuring the effects of extremely low doses. As PZ Myers ably describes in his blog take-down of Coulter's column, separating signals from noise is difficult at that level.

As Myers puts it: "In the low dosage regime, these responses get complicated at the same time the data gets harder to collect." He likened the situation to driving on a winter road: when you see an ice patch, you slow down, cutting your risk of an accident. But that doesn't mean that a little ice prevents accidents.

No good evidence exists for hormesis in human epidemiology, either. In her column, Coulter mentions that Japan's atom bomb survivors lived longer than average. But that longevity has an easy explanation: the survivors received greater medical care over the course of their lives after the bombing.

And although she correctly points out that identifying Chernobyl radiation deaths is tough, her analysis on the excess thyroid cancer cases is strange: she concludes that they resulted from iodine deficiency. I presume she means that more iodine (like what you might get in potassium iodide pills) would have prevented the radioactive isotopes created by the Chernobyl meltdown from getting into the thyroid. So yeah, it's the diet's fault--riiiiight.

Most researchers remain skeptical of hormesis, and no safety agency can in good conscience change dose safety levels based on controversial animal data. Besides, controlling doses near fallout zones would be impossible.
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SuperMoon tonight! Biggest, brightest Moon in 18 years! / No Earth disasters, tides higher by a couple of centimeters.

Click on image to enlarge.

by Dr. Tony Phillips

On Saturday 19 March, a full Moon of rare size and beauty will rise in the east at sunset. It's a super "perigee moon" -- the biggest in almost 20 years.

"The last full Moon so big and close to Earth occurred in March of 1993," says Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory in Washington DC. "I'd say it's worth a look."

Full Moons vary in size because of the oval shape of the Moon's orbit. It is an ellipse with one side (perigee) about 50000 km = 31069 miles closer to Earth than the other (apogee). Nearby perigee moons are about 14% bigger and 30% brighter than lesser moons that occur on the apogee side of the Moon's orbit.

"The full Moon of 19 March occurs less than one hour away from perigee -- a near-perfect coincidence that happens only 18 years or so," adds Chester.

A perigee full Moon brings with it extra-high "perigean tides," but this is nothing to worry about, according to NOAA. In most places, lunar gravity at perigee pulls tide waters only a few centimeters (an inch or so) higher than usual. Local geography can amplify the effect to about 15 centimeters (six inches) -- not exactly a great flood.

Indeed, contrary to some reports circulating the Internet, perigee Moons do not trigger natural disasters. The "super moon" of March 1983, for instance, passed without incident. And an almost-super Moon in Dec. 2008 also proved harmless.

Okay, the Moon is 14% bigger than usual, but can you really tell the difference? It's tricky. There are no rulers floating in the sky to measure lunar diameters. Hanging high overhead with no reference points to provide a sense of scale, one full Moon can seem much like any other.

The best time to look is when the Moon is near the horizon. That is when illusion mixes with reality to produce a truly stunning view. For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging Moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects. 

On March 19th, why not let the "Moon illusion" amplify a full Moon that's extra-big to begin with? The swollen orb rising in the east at sunset may seem so nearby, you can almost reach out and touch it.

Don't bother. Even a super perigee Moon is still 356577 km = 221567 miles away. That is, it turns out, a distance of rare beauty.
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18 March 2011

Geiger Counters! Get 'em while Fukushima reactors are hot!

Click image to enlarge.

You can see the catalog for these inexpensive Geiger counters, kits or already assembled, and order them HERE.

Vleeptron -- guiding Earth's citizens safely through nuclear power catastrophes.

NASA and Johns Hopkins U. Messenger probe now orbiting Mercury!

Click image to enlarge.

(USA magazine)
Thursday 17 March 2011

NASA Probe Successfully 

Orbiting Mercury -- a First

by Rachel Kaufman

NASA made history tonight as the MESSENGER probe became the first spacecraft to orbit the tiny planet Mercury.

Launched in 2004, the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging mission marks the first time a craft has gone near Mercury since 1975, when NASA's Mariner 10 probe conducted flybys. (Get MESSENGER facts and figures.)

For the past six and a half years MESSENGER has been maneuvering itself into an orbital path via so-called gravity assists, using the tugs from flybys of Earth, Venus, and Mercury itself to speed up and alter course.
At 8:45 p.m. ET, MESSENGER performed a "burn"—essentially "riding its brakes" by firing its main thruster—to slow the spacecraft enough to be captured by Mercury's gravity.

The mission control team at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland was monitoring MESSENGER's progress from 96,000,000 miles (155,000,000 kilometers) away.

At 9:10 p.m. engineers confirmed that the burn had occurred. By 9:45 p.m. the probe had turned its antenna back toward Earth and began transmitting more detailed data showing that the 15-minute burn was "clean"—indicating that the probe has entered orbit.

As with burn sequences during the craft's previous flybys, the team had contingencies in place if MESSENGER had failed to enter orbit, Sean Solomon, principal investigator of MESSENGER's science mission, told reporters at a press briefing Tuesday.

But the backup plans, he said, didn't involve an immediate retry and would have substantially changed the time line of the mission.

Mercury Probe to Fill in Blanks

With orbital insertion complete, MESSENGER should start collecting science data by early April.

During the probe's year-long mission, it will orbit Mercury twice every 24 hours—conducting the equivalent of two flybys a day and sending back reams of data from a suite of onboard cameras and spectrographs.

For instance, being in orbit will allow the probe to take "ultra high-resolution images" of the planet's entire surface, said Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington in D.C. (See pictures: "Mercury Craft Shows 'Spider,' Asteroid Assaults.")

Mariner 10 captured just 45 percent of the cratered surface before moving on, and the three previous MESSENGER flybys didn't quite fill in the whole picture.
MESSENGER will also be studying Mercury's atmosphere and inner structure, as well as its magnetic environment, which changes rapidly due to the planet's close interaction with the sun.

(Related: "Final Mercury Flyby Reveals Huge Magnetic 'Power Surges.'")
"We will benefit tremendously from being there, rather than having to take drive-by snapshots," Solomon said.

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Comments (2)


1:26 AM on March 18, 2011
- Is Messenger an orbiter/satellite AND probe?
- How does it's manuevers and activities like d-imaging, etc. work... are they all pre-programmed/physics-math calc?; and/or is it somehow signaled?
Truly AMAZING... just making a lump of something on Earth that doesn't melt- esp. the solar-satellites and getting it out there is INCREDIBLE...

~Sci-fi is alive!~

17 March 2011

Washington Post reporter suspended, apologizes for plagiarizing from Arizona Republic stories

NPR / National Public Radio (USA radio network)
Thursday 17 March 2011

Pulitizer Prize-Winning Reporter Apologizes For Plagiarizing

by Mark Memmott

Sari Horwitz of The Washington Post, who shared a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for her work on problems in the child-welfare agencies of Washington, D.C., has been suspended by the Post for three months after it was learned that she copied substantial parts of stories by the Arizona Republic when she was reporting on the aftermath of the Jan. 8 shooting rampage in Tucson.

According to the Post, Horwitz issued a statement in which she says, in part:

    "I am deeply sorry. To our readers, my friends and colleagues, my editors, and to the paper I love, I want to apologize. ... Under the pressure of tight deadlines, I did something I have never done in my entire career. I used another newspaper's work as if it were my own. It was wrong. It was inexcusable. And it is one of the cardinal sins in journalism."

The Post says that earlier this month she lifted two paragraphs from one Republic story and 10 paragraphs from another. It has posted an "editor's note" apologizing to the Republic and its readers.

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