Monthly Archives: March 2006

Some More Space Links

Can’t get enough space news.

A New Dawn!

The recently cancelled Dawn mission to the asteroids of Ceres and Vesta has been revivified! How cool is that? NASA brought it back from the dead and gave the probe another chance to explore the asteroid belt. Apparently NASA’s one sided decision to scrap the mission ticked off European agencies that had invested a great deal of time and money, to say nothing of the ire of the scientific community. Well it’s good to hear that NASA will continue to fund science missions instead of funneling all the agency’s budget into keeping three people spinning around in low earth orbit in a stinky box.

First Images From MRO

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is successfully in orbit around the red planet and just sent back the first pictures. Nothing too spectacular, the engineers are just testing out the equipment. The photos were taken from an altitude of 2500 kilometers, well above the satellites final orbital height of 300 kilometers, and show some highlands from Mars’ southern hemisphere. Current resolution is about 7 meters per pixel, which is damn good, but the image resolution will be better than 1 meter per pixel in the final orbit.

Godless Heathens

Just a set of links on atheism and religion, the merry-go-round:

  • Religious Belief Itself Is An Adaptation – An interview with Edward O. Wilson on biology and religion.
  • Defenders Of The Faith – A reprinted NY Times editorial about how the ones most likely to defend religious freedom are atheists.
  • Atheists Are America’s Most Distrusted Minority – Along the same lines, people distrust atheists more than any other minority in this country. Somehow I feel this and the editorial are related, probably through the ideas mentioned in the first link (how we are wired for belief in tribal religions to form cohesive groups – us vs. them)
  • The Good Old Days – What was America like in the late 19th century, the high water mark of Christianity in the States?
  • Anatomy Of A Lynching – A crowd in Thailand beat a Buddhist monk to death when he took a hammer to a sacred statue of a Hindu god, proving it’s not just a Christian or Muslim thing, even Buddhists get caught up in religious frenzy.

Talking ‘Bout The Weather

It’s been a wet and rainy couple days, much needed rain. It looks like it has cleared out now, but there was a light drizzle yesterday this morning. Hopefully that was enough to give the ground a good dousing, and curb some of these brushfires that have been scorching the island.

Speaking of the weather, forecasters are predicting an average typhoon season for 2006. Let’s hope that means no typhoons for Guam.

Tyger! Tyger! Burning Bright

A Florida PantherHeard an interesting story on NPR this morning; there is a plan afoot to introduce the rare Florida panther into the Ozark forests of Arkansas. Only about a hundred panthers still exist, the victims of hunting and loss of habitat. The remaining panthers are currently kept in a protected refuge in southern Florida, but development pressures are encroaching on the preserve. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is looking for large areas of undeveloped land to place the big cats, and Arkansas’ Ozark National Forest offers 1.2 million acres, just the right size for a few dozen panthers to wander around, pouncing on deer.

The idea of releasing large predators into the woods is obviously not too popular with some folks. Farmers are concerned about livestock, and others are concerned about mountain lion attacks on people. Arkansas officials vowed to fight any introduction of the panthers. Public comment on the decision is being accepted until April.

Standby Power Sucks

I know this is a growing problem; all these electronic gizmos littering our modern domestic landscape suck tremendous amounts of energy – even when they are not on. Televisions, stereos, VCR’s, DVD players, microwaves, all this stuff is never really off. They all just sit there, quietly sucking electricity during the 99% of the time they are not actually in use. Sure it’s just a trickle compared to when they are actually working, but magnify that trickle across the entire nation and it is an immense amount electricity – equivalent to the output of 18 typical power plants. The Economist has a good article about this problem: Pulling the plug on standby power. I’m as guilty as the next guy. When I turn off the light and night, my living room is aglow from all the LED’s signaling the electronic vigilance of my appliances.

Freighter Travel

I am intrigued by the idea of freighter travel; not because of concerns about the environment or carbon emissions, but because visions of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark and his adventures on a tramp steamer dance through my head.

Anyway, here’s a couple links to freighter lines that offer berths for paying customers. Regrettably Guam does not appear to be on any of the destinations. I guess the only way I’m cruising off this island is on somebody’s sailboat.


Cyclone Larry

I saw on the news yesterday that northern Queensland got hammered by a humongous tropical cyclone, Cyclone Larry. Winds over 180 mph lashed the coast south of Cairns, completely obliterating the town of Innisfail. The AP is reporting thousands left homeless, though thankfully no fatalities were reported. I know how much it sucks to be in the path of a Cat 5 storm, and the long weeks afterwards of clean up and hardship.

Salon Trio

Three interesting pieces from Salon that I read last week:

  • Decline and fall – America is just as doomed as Rome, Spain and Britain were in their imperial ambitions. A trifecta of ominous portents; peak oil, religious zealotry and mounting debt all point towards collapse of the Republican kakistocracy.
  • Planet of Slums – First it was a planet of weeds, now comes a planet of slums. It looks to me like it will probably be a world of both weeds and slums. Guam’s starting to look more and more like both.
  • I, Nanobot – But never mind the desolation of the planet, we’re about to push our species into extinction through the creation of artificial life forms. And we’ll go joyfully into that good night, dazzled by our brilliance and the beauty of our limitless future.

Ukiyo-e Sunday (Actually Monday)

Oops. My final ukiyo-e and I forgot to post it on Sunday. Well here it is now and I might as well go out with a bang:

The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, Katsushika Hokusai, 1830-1832
The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, Katsushika Hokusai, 1830-1832. From the series Thirty-six Views of Fuji.

I’m sorry to end this little experiment, but I am out of reproductions to scan. Perhaps I will get my hands on more nice reproductions I can scan sometime in the future.