Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mark Steyn faces off his accuser's sock puppets

Pajamas Media has an almost depressing write-up of Mark Steyn's TV confrontation with his accusers. Depressing because he's convinced he'll lose the case and be effectively banned from the Canadian press. But he certainly got the better of them on TV, and I can only hope that the Canadian public is on his side, fat lot of good that'll do him in the kangaroo court.

Monday, May 19, 2008

UN racism investigator checks out our presidential election

So the UN is sending a "special rapporteur" to check out racism in the US. Reuters connects this with the presidential campaign, seeing as how we have a black running for president, and there are some people in the country who aren't voting for him. I don't know if that's the real reason for the "special rapporteur"'s visit or not, but I'll just highlight this deep, insightful line from the article: "However, the United Nations has almost no clout when it comes to U.S. domestic affairs and is widely perceived by many as interfering." No kidding?

Get the heck out of my country, and go bury your nose in someone else's business.

Obama to Tennessee GOP: lay off. Tennesee GOP to Obama: pthllbt!

Well, well. Obama doesn't want his wife to be discussed in the presidential campaign. Yet another item to put into the increasingly long list of things that'll be considered dirty, low-down attacks by his camp. I think if he wants to make discussion of his wife off-limits (in principle, that's a fine idea), then she ought to stop running down our country. She does that while campaigning for him, and she can't help but make herself an issue. This would have been the same with any candidate's wife or husband. If Laura Bush, of all people, or Barbara Bush (the two most nonpolitical First Ladies we've had in decades) had campaigned for their husbands and said that America was a "mean" place, or that seeing people supporting their husbands had made them "really proud" of their country for the first time in their adult lives, then you bet they'd have become political liabilities. You don't run down America and expect to be off-limits as a potential First Lady.

With that in mind, I think the Tennessee GOP's YouTube video welcoming Michelle Obama to Nashville is an excellent way of poking fun at her, and rather gently, too. It doesn't slam her but simply lets her words speak for themselves, interspersed with comments by patriotic Tennesseeans on what they love about America. Very nicely done.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Jenna Bush's wedding and the stone cross

Nice article on Jenna Bush's wedding at her parents' Texas ranch. One thing I noticed from the photo was the large, apparently stone, cross. I wondered if it were simply a temporary decoration for the occasion. The article clears that up: nope.

Jenna Bush and Henry Hager exchanged vows in front of a Texas limestone altar with an attached vertical limestone cross picked out personally by President Bush. The three-ton cross and altar are permanent and manmade from stone from a local quarry.

"My one contribution is to -- we put a giant cross made out of Texas limestone that will serve as the altar, but also serve as a landmark on our place for years to come," President Bush told ABC's Robin Roberts in an exclusive interview this week at the White House.

That's an interesting approach, and it speaks for the President's devotion. I've always liked the idea of worship services at home with the family (like is depicted in the beginning of Gone With the Wind), and this fits in that category. Reminds me of a smaller version of the one at the University of the South at Sewanee.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Armageddon, here we come!

A lot of my fellow astronomers didn't like the movie Armageddon, since it was pretty ridiculous in its science. True enough, but I don't mind turning off my brain and having a fun time at the movies, so I enjoyed it. But the idea of having astronauts land on an Earth-crossing asteroid is getting some serious consideration now. Rob Landis at Johnson Space Center has been promoting this as a practice for some of the tasks we'll need to master for the manned Mars mission in a few(?) years. He's proposing to use the new Aries/Constellation Crew Exploration Vehicle, which would "land" on the Earth-crossing asteroid 2000SG344. Because it's so small (yacht-sized) and spins, it'd be a tough approach and would have to be anchored to the asteroid.

Landis has a few papers out on this topic. The full text of one is available as a PDF here: Scientific Exploration of Near-Earth Objects Via the Crew Exploration Vehicle. The abstract of another is here.

I love the idea. My only complaint is the use of that horrible PC wording NASA's trying to promote: "crewed" or "human" as opposed to "manned." Ugh! It's a butchery of the English language: "...experience conducting crewed exploration missions..."

The best data recovery I've ever heard of

I see here that a computer hard drive from the space shuttle Columbia has been restored, and 99% of the experimental data on it has been recovered. Wow. This, despite the fact that the outside of the drive was a melted lump of metal and plastic, the seal had broken open, and part of the disk had been pitted with dust-sized debris. But because the computer was running DOS, which stores data in one place at a time, rather than scattering it across the disk, it chanced that the damage was not to the place the experimental data was stored, and 99% of the experiment's results were recovered.

The experiment probed the effect called "shear thinning," which is how substances like canned whipped cream come out like a liquid but then stiffen. They measured shear thinning in xenon near its critical point. NASA's write-up is here (with photos!), and this is a link to the article itself, coming out in Phys. Rev. E.

I think I remember some acquaintances or friends of friends at NASA who had another experiment on Columbia, but I don't know if any of their data were recovered.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Weekly Standard on The Newseum

The Weekly Standard has an interesting review of the Newseum, the new museum of journalism in D.C. I'm curious to see inside it, but I haven't read any good reviews of it yet on substance.