Saturday, September 26, 2009

Climate Complexity

Jonah Goldberg comments on a recent New York Times article on the ambiguity of recent global climate trends and how it complicates what is perceived as the urgency of the issue of "global warming". He hits the nail on the head with this paragraph.
Now I'm open to the possibility that the explanation for the cool spell we're in is not a refutation of the general case for climate change. Climate is a complicated thing and we could be in a short cooling period in the middle of a long warming period. Or, we might not be. No need to rehash that whole argument here. But what I find absolutely galling is the failure of the Times or the scientists quoted to take seriously the possibility that the potential cooling period is an indictment of the tactics, rhetorical and otherwise, used by the alarmists. Ten years ago the models didn't predict any of what has transpired or appears to be transpiring. They undermined their own credibility. And now that they want to communicate "nuance" instead of fear - solely because the data forces them to - they're having a hard time of it. Well boo hoo for them.

Jonah Goldberg rightly points out the complexity of climate science here and the stubborn refusal of proponents of the man-made global warming proposition to consider the recent cooling trend as anything but a short-term temporary aberration to global warming. It is important for proponents and skeptics (notice I try to avoid terms like "believers" and "deniers") alike to be open minded to the complexity of climate science and that there is really much we do not yet understand.

As for climate policy, this means we should pursue vigorous climate research and monitoring plus a broad development of energy resources and other environmental policies that make sense whether man-made global warming is real or not. We should not pursue policies such as the current "cap-and-trade" bill that would turn our lives and economy upside down over a "crisis" on which respected scientists remain divided.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Water, Water Everywhere...

...especially on the Moon and Mars.

Credits: ISRO/NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS/Brown Univ.

Today's press conference announcing the confirmation of water on the Moon highlighted the fact that water is not only present at the lunar poles, where it has been suspected to exist in perpetually shadowed craters, but also (in lesser quantities) in the soil all over the Moon. This confirmation of lunar water is being called a "game changer" in terms of enabling human activities, including providing fuel for spacecraft.

In a separate media event today, more confirmation of the presence of water on Mars was discussed. It turns out that the Viking 2 lander, which arrived on Mars in 1976, may have been inches away from discovering ice under the Martian soil.

Heroes for the Rebel Alliance

There's been too much going on recently to keep up with, with our current national leadership pushing fantasy land foreign and domestic policies. So it's time to salute some real heroes who are waging the good fight to minimize the damage until the voters can have a do-over at the polls.

So here's to the team of James O'Keefe III, Hannah Giles and Andrew Breitbart, whose undercover journalism busted ACORN for its employees' consistently air-headed willingness to assist illegal and reprehensible activity. Here is an AP story on how this operation was developed.

This grassroots journalism operation not only busted ACORN (and hopefully raised doubts about other similar organizations), but has caught the much of the established media off guard and scrambling to figure out this new age of grassroots journalism.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day at the Faire

I spent today at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. This was the time to go because the weather was so perfectly comfortable for this outdoor activity and also because this weekend was Irish Weekend at the festival. (Halfway to St. Patrick's Day!)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Armadillo Qualifies for Lander Prize

Armadillo Aerospace has qualified to win the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge prize of $1 million, showing how prizes can spur affordable innovation. More information and links here.

Norman Borlaug, RIP

Norman Borlaug, the agricultural scientist who won the Nobel Peace Prize for starting the "Green Revolution" that spared many in the world from death by famine, died on Saturday at age 95. His success countered the dismal predictions of some of a catastrophic global famine.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

We the People Came by the Many Thousands

The First Amendment, shown here posted on the wall of the Newseum, was well exercised today in DC.

Just an intimate little tea party that turned out so many people in Washington DC today that I've heard crowd counts all over the range. Any way, I was there and I can say that the crowd size was at least comparable to recent years of the March for Life, where crowd estimates seem to range from 100,000 to at least 200,000.

The issues that drove today's rally included the raging debate over what kind of health care reform to enact. taxing and spending, and the influence of outside agenda-driven organizations such as ACORN, where an undercover media team busted ACORN employees in Baltimore and in DC all too willing to enable criminal activity as in prostitution involving underage girls. (Whoever thought that providing "housing services" includes being willing to provide cover for whore houses?). The common theme among these issues is the sense of a government out of control pursuing policies based on utopian fantasies with no grounding in real life.

Some have tried to marginalize these protests as the harsh expression of a vocal minority. Maybe they're upset that the rest of us have caught on to this "community organizing" thing. While I don't necessarily endorse every sign or slogan I've seen at this or any rally, I feel this kind of outpouring is a healthy form of debate in a free society. What will be interesting is how this conflict between differing powerful forces in our society will play out.

Some of the more interesting signs/buttons on display at the rally today

Discovery's Return Wraps a Busy Space Week

Space Shuttle Discovery landed Friday evening, a day late and in California instead of Florida, but after a successful mission to carry supplies, including valuable scientific equipment to the International Space Station (ISS) and to implement an ISS crewmember swap.

Meanwhile, Thursday saw the launch of Japan,s first HTV cargo ship to the ISS and the static test in Utah of a 5-segment booster designed for the Ares rockets planned for future exploration.

All this on top of the release of spectacular post-servicing Hubble images and the release of the Augustine Committee summary report on future human spaceflight options earlier in the week.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

In Remembrance of September 11, 2001

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael W. Pendergrass

Eight years ago tomorrow morning, I overheard a coworker down the hall from my office telling someone else about planes hitting the World Trade Center. I checked in on the Internet and on news radio for reports on what would develop into the the modern era's day of infamy. We know of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but there was also the attack that did not occur because of the heroic actions of the passengers on United Flight 93.

Eight years of daily living, along with increasing domestic rancor, may have dimmed the feelings of shock, horror, and outrage and the response of prayer, compassion, and resolve that united the people of America and most of the world. However, terrorist activity around the world should serve to remind us that the threat is still real.

This audio/visual Internet presentation developed by a New Yorker shortly after the attacks recaptures all of those experiences. The sequence is ~15 minutes long and some of the images and sounds are quite disturbing, others are inspirational. (I've also added the link to this video to my sidebar.)

It is important that we remember, not only to honor those who died and those who acted heroically that day, but to remain constantly aware of the ongoing dangers, of the presence of real evil in the hearts of some men, and to maintain constant vigilance and a determination to defeat this evil. Finally, we must always remember to trust in God and his mercy during trying times.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Fruits of Our Labor

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope snapped this panoramic view of a colorful assortment of 100,000 stars residing in the crowded core of Star Cluster Omega Centauri
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team

The first pictures and science data were released today from the Hubble Space Telescope after two new instruments were installed and two others repaired during the STS-125 servicing mission back in May. More links here. This is a great day for all of us who participated in preparing for and executing this historic mission.

Augustine Committee Summary Plus My Document

The Augustine Committee studying the future of human spaceflight issued a summary of its report yesterday. (The full report to be issued later.) While I haven't had time to read it, the summary reportedly lays out several options as paths for future exploration and points out the need for additional NASA funding and more engagement of the commercial space industry.

Meanwhile, the committee has a web page containing many documents both produced by the committee and those presenting at its public sessions plus many submitted by members of the public. Recently, the paper I submitted in June was posted on the site. Here it is. (PDF)

Obama's Health Care Speech

I was out at a gathering tonight so I did not see or hear President Obama's speech to Congress tonight on health care. Here are the texts of the President's speech and the response by Dr. Charles Boustany (R-LA).

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Robert Schindler, RIP

Robert Schindler, who fought to protect the life of his daughter Terri Schindler Schiavo in the case that resulted in her court imposed death in 2005, passed away Saturday at age 71. Mr. Schindler and his family founded the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation to protect other vulnerable people whose lives may be endangered.