Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Boston bomb scare and hysteria

CNN report on the ad campaign for a Cartoon Network TV show that closed universities, blocked river traffic, and caused mass overreaction. Instead of deciding that we as a society have overreacted and cost ourselves millions of dollars of lost productivity, we'll blame the LED throwies. Again, we fool ourselves to think this way. Bruce Schneier will hopefully say something intelligent about it, although the powers that be certainly won't listen. What are the odds a weird device deserves a massive response? Answer: very, very low.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Google Gapminder

Via Scientific American's blog, a link into Google's Flash application of world statistics, Gapminder, accurately described as "the world's most fantastic and amazing piece of interactive infoporn you have ever laid eyes on." Enjoy the animations and the simple first-level presentation, but explore deeper and see the complexity of the tool. One of the first Flash apps worth it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tonight's State of the Union

CNN is reporting that:
President Bush, in Tuesday's State of the Union address, will propose a plan to cut U.S. gasoline consumption by 20 percent while bolstering inventory in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Republican sources say.

The president's 10-year plan to cut gasoline use includes tightening fuel economy standards on automakers and producing 35 billion gallons of renewable fuel such as ethanol by 2017, according to sources briefed on the speech.

One official said the moves would be equivalent to taking 26 million vehicles off U.S. roads.

Great, if they actually do it.
Sounds familiar, yes?

Dropping gasoline consumption by 27% for passenger cars would end all imports from the Persian Gulf--entirely removing our need for trillions in defense for our started wars in the region.

Of course, in mid-2001,
Cheney said telling Americans to do more with less is not enough. "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy," he said.

Now, will they finally get CAFE standards to apply to light trucks and SUVs?
And can they avoid giving massive subsidies to companies that don't need them?
Or will they continue to push the hydrogen/fuel cell car, a technology poorly suited for mobile use?

Last year's comments.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Chinese Anti-Satellite test?

Arms Control Wonk is passing a rumor, which Aviation Week and Space Technology will also run a story on January 22nd, that the Chinese launched a missile and successfully destroyed one of their own weather satellites. Destroying a satellite in such a manner should leave a rather dangerous cloud of debris that can affect other satellites in orbit for years.

If you are looking for the orbit data, look for Fengyun 1C instead of FY-1C.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Comet McNaught

Last night it started clearing up right near sunset, and through scattered clouds I was able to see a blazing new comet, C/2006 P1 McNaught, near perihelion. A bright coma and tail was visible golden deep in the murk of the western horizon. It reminded me much of Comet Hale-Bopp, except H-B was that bright and in a dark sky--this one is only 10 degrees from the Sun.
This picture is a view through a six-inch refractor at approximately 40x, taken afocally (aka put the camera up to the eyepiece).

How to find it

Saturday, January 06, 2007

New astronomical discovery or hype?

You never know from embargoed press releases--in this case, from the ESA.

The online edition of Nature will publish, on 8 January 2007, a major scientific achievement in astronomy, in which European astronomers have participated, using a space telescope with ESA participation.
The script will be online as a PDF file under as of Sunday 7 January, 18:00 GMT.

Via Bad Astronomy and SpaceRef

UPDATE: It was a dark matter survey over time.