Archive for October 2008

HST Is Back

October 30, 2008

And Doing Science

Phil Plait, aka The Bad Astronomer [and worse political pundit. – ed] reports that as of Oct. 28, the Hubble Space Telescope has been up and running, using its Wide Field/Planetary Camera (WF/PC II) to do observations as intended.

It went offline when engineers were trying to restore Hubble back to speed after a major piece of hardware failed. They were able to get a backup piece working, but other problems delayed the operation. Now, however, things are looking good, and it looks like we have a working telescope.

This is known technically as a good thingTM.

Take a look at the picture freshly retrieved from the restored system. Of course, like many – most! – of the photos taken by HST, it’s gorgeous! WF/PC has been (lovingly) called the Wide-Field/Publicity Camera for a reason, you know!


This Is What His Support Means

October 30, 2008

Stunning, Awful Video Revelations

I started this blog with a few interests; science, politics and religion, mostly.  And I had a single concept – to write (mostly) about the times and places where those topics meet and sometimes clash.  I get away from that concept on occasion, with personal topics like bicycling and my home town team sports, and perhaps I’ve been drawn too much to write about those topics themselves, to the detriment of writing about their interactions and tensions.

Rarely do I find such a clear case of all three clashing in such a perfect storm of events, as in this post by Capt’n Ed Morrissey.  At Hot Air, he provides online a video that “…puts lie to the notion that late-term abortions do not result in infanticide when babies survive the abortion process – and that abortionists will render medical assistance to such living infants when not forced to do so.”  Apparently babies do survive, and abortionists don’t render assistance unless forced.

Planned Parenthood of Freehold, New Jersey confirms to this young woman that they commit negligent homicide when infants survive the abortion process. This is the same Planned Parenthood to which Obama pledged to pass the Freedom of Choice Act, which would remove all state limitations on abortion and restore federal funding for the first time in decades. These are the people to whom Obama pledges his loyalty.

There it is.  Politcs, religion, and (medical) science, combining in one story that some are lothe to even discuss.  To contemplate it is just.  too.  awful.

Go watch the video.  Go vote next Tuesday.  When you mark your ballot, make sure you know what you’re choosing, and what your candidate supports.  To do less than that isn’t illegal, but makes you a tool.  It’s also aiding and abetting evil.


October 29, 2008

You’re Rich!

Tigerhawk tells us so.

Rich was $250,000. Now “rich” is, by implication, $200,000, and Joe Biden is bidding $150,000.

“Awwwww – Unfair! Obama never said that $250,000 was the cut off“!

Joe Biden said in a Pennsylvania TV interview yesterday:

What we’re saying is that $87 billion tax break doesn’t need to go to people making an average of 1.4 million, it should go like it used to. It should go to middle class people — people making under $150,000 a year.”

Whew! Good to know he isn’t changing his mind! It appears that he always intended for families and small businesses making much less than that be taxed more.

Death of the Phoenix

October 29, 2008

This One Won’t Come Back To Life

The Phoenix Lander sits at the Martian equivalent of the artic circle, and winter is coming there. That means 6 (count ’em, 6) months of night (well, lots of it is like twilight, actually), and no way for the spacecraft to recharge it’s batteries.  From The Planetary Society:

With less and less sunlight each sol, and more frequent cloudy days, Phoenix’ solar cells are generating less power each day. At the same time, it’s getting colder, so the spacecraft is requiring more and more power just to keep its instruments and systems warm. Soon there will not be enough power generated each day to power the heaters and still manage to do any operations.

NASA engineers will be trying to terminate the mission as gracefully and gradually as possible, to maximize the science return.  Already, the robotic arm has been shut down, and won’t be used again.  Soon, the heaters will be turned off, one by one.

“If we did nothing, it wouldn’t be long before the power needed to operate the spacecraft would exceed the amount of power it generates on a daily basis,” said Phoenix Project Manager Barry Goldstein of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “By turning off some heaters and instruments, we can extend the life of the lander by several weeks and still conduct some science.”

Some of the instruments, the mast mounted camera, for example, can run for quite a while that way, because the generate sufficient heat on their own, relative to their needs.  But ultimately, the spacecraft will freeze.

Mars is a harsh place.

Can You Believe The Reports?

October 28, 2008

Or Your Own Lyin’ Ears?

There’s an amazing (read: brutal) discussion going on at The Volokh Conspiracy about an post by Todd Zywicky that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, where Pete DuPont lists the seven things he believes we can expect to happen if Sen. Obama is elected.  The preponderance of the comments say that the list’s author is either out of his mind or slandering the Senator (and that Todd Zywicky is a hack for reproducing the list in the blog). Others say “… um – it’s a fair representation of Obama’s own words on these issues”.  Here’s the list.

So where is the new Obama administration likely to take us? Seven things seem certain:

The U.S. military will withdraw from Iraq quickly and substantially, regardless of conditions on the ground or the obvious consequence of emboldening terrorists there and around the globe.

Protectionism will become our national trade policy; free trade agreements with other nations will be reduced and limited.

Income taxes will rise on middle- and upper-income people and businesses, and individuals will pay much higher Social Security taxes, all to carry out the new president’s goals of “spreading the wealth around.”

Federal government spending will substantially increase. The new Obama proposals come to more than $300 billion annually, for education, health care, energy, environmental and many other programs, in addition to whatever is needed to meet our economic challenges. Mr. Obama proposes more than a 10% annual spending growth increase, considerably higher than under the first President Bush (6.7%), Bill Clinton (3.3%) or George W. Bush (6.4%).

Federal regulation of the economy will expand, on everything from financial management companies to electricity generation and personal energy use.

The power of labor unions will substantially increase, beginning with repeal of secret ballot voting to decide on union representation.

Free speech will be curtailed through the re imposition of the Fairness Doctrine to limit the conservative talk radio that so irritates the liberal establishment.

These policy changes will be the beginning of the Europeanization of America. There will be many more public policy changes with similar goals—nationalized health care, Kyoto-like global-warming policies, and increased education regulation and spending.

Additional tax advantages for lower and middle income people will be enacted: a 10% mortgage tax credit that would average about $500 per household per year, a $4,000 tax credit for college tuition, a tax credit covering half of child-care expenses up to $6,000 per year, and even a $7,000 credit for purchase of a clean car.

Unbridled rightist propaganda and scare mongering?  Well, here’s Jonah Goldberg in the LA Times.

Officially, Obama says he is not advocating single-payer healthcare. That would seem too un-moderate. But in 2003, Obama told the AFL-CIO that “I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal healthcare program. … And that’s what I’d like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.”

Note: If Obama wins next week, all three of his preconditions will have been met, and his colleagues in the House and Senate are itching like junkies for a new New Deal.

So what do you do when confronted by words captured in a political campaign, and words captured that were thought to be forgotten?  It’s not like this is an isolated issue, you know.  I mean, even if you start with his pledge on campaign financing, how many times has the Senator reversed himself already?

Putting the two together make me think that the preponderance of commenters to the blog post are in deep denial.

Runners Do It Faster

October 28, 2008

Burn Calories, You Perv!

At least, this extra benefit bestowed upon those who do endurance sports (like running) is the claim made here in this brief article.

The benefits of exercise don’t stop when the running shoes come off. A new peek inside the muscles of resting athletes shows that they burn fuel even when their bodies don’t need the energy.

Researched published by Befroy, Petersen et. al. indicates that the benefit isn’t minor, either. Runners burn up to 54% more calories at rest than non-runners.

These data demonstrate that basal mitochondrial substrate oxidation is increased in the muscle of endurance trained individuals yet energy production is unaltered, leading to an uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation at rest. Increased mitochondrial uncoupling may represent another mechanism by which exercise training enhances muscle insulin sensitivity via increased fatty acid oxidation in the resting state.

That jargon means that a body will create more (and more efficient) mitochondria, which cause a runner’s body to burn more calories, even when he or she is resting. The catch (you just knew this was coming) is that you have to run (vigorously) something like 4 hours a week to get this kind of increase. Lessee – It’s true that I’ve lost quite a bit of weight since mid-May, and yes, I got quite a bit of exercise on both a stationary bike and on a treadmill (no – not walking on it, but running, starting with a slow jog and working my way up to 10 and even 9 minute miles). And yes, I also put in time doing low-intensity stuff too (mostly lunch-time walks). But I barely got in even half of that 4 hours a week of moderate to high intensity exercise they mentioned. Even counting my weekend bicycle addiction and walks with the AstroWife, I don’t think I could do that much and still have a life! without risking burnout and/or injury.

In other words, it’s a rather large (if not entirely impossible) investment in time and energy, worthy of a professional athlete. But my personal experience is that you get benefits anyway, even without running a marathon each week. I’d love to see research that shows how the improvement in muscle function increases with the time spent on the treadmill.

The CDC has decent guidelines for the amount of physical activity one should be getting. The recommend something like 150 minutes each week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, and additional strength exercise twice a week for adults. Then they say:

More time equals more health benefits
If you go beyond 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity, or 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity, you’ll gain even more health benefits.

Getting Hubble Back To Work

October 27, 2008

Andrea Thompson at reported over the weekend that Hubble was slowly getting back on track.

One week after two anomalous events caused a snag in NASA’s attempt to revive the Hubble Space Telescope, the orbital observatory is nearly back up and running, with science operations set to resume this weekend.

“We are up to the same place we were at about 8 o’clock Wednesday night of last week,” with the telescope control systems running, but its instruments still in safe mode, said Art Whipple, manager of the Hubble Systems Management Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Better.  Much better.  They still don’t know what caused the communications drop between HST’s main computer and the payload computer (which controls the science instruments) and caused the SDF side B to reset.   It’s officially being called “an electrical event”, origin unknown.  But since the Science Data Formatter Side A is permanently kurfluey, the reset caused concern that some damage might have been done by the “electrical event”.

Over this past weekend NASA and STScI engineers determined, however, that there was no further damage, and they could proceed with bringing HST out of safe-mode and resume science.

Whipple said that “it is possible that we may see another event of this type in the future.”

Fortunately, the electrical event “does not appear to have done any permanent damage,” Whipple said.

Already, revisions to the next Hubble Repair Mission are in the works.  Both SDF Sides A and B will be replaced, and they are all ready to install a new generation camera (the WFPC-3), add a new spectrogragh, fix the old one (STIS), replace (for the umteenth time) gyroscopes and batteries, and also upgrade Hubbles guidance equipment.