Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Atlantis Lands as Space Community Gathers

Space Shuttle Atlantis landed safely today in Florida after its last scheduled mission, though there is continuing consideration of one more flight.

Meanwhile, I'll be off to join many in the space community this week for this year's International Space Development Conference (ISDC) in Chicago.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Lesson of Europe's Fading Fantasy

Europeans are finding the debts from their decades of social welfare states are coming due, according to this NYT article.
Across Western Europe, the "lifestyle superpower," the assumptions and gains of a lifetime are suddenly in doubt. The deficit crisis that threatens the euro has also undermined the sustainability of the European standard of social welfare, built by left-leaning governments since the end of World War II.

This is a timely lesson as the struggle of ideas is reaching a critical point in this country.
This is not the culture war of the 1990s. It is not a fight over guns, gays or abortion. Those old battles have been eclipsed by a new struggle between two competing visions of the country's future. In one, America will continue to be an exceptional nation organized around the principles of free enterprise -- limited government, a reliance on entrepreneurship and rewards determined by market forces. In the other, America will move toward European-style statism grounded in expanding bureaucracies, a managed economy and large-scale income redistribution. These visions are not reconcilable. We must choose.

Note: I don't agree with the assertion that the other cultural struggles, particularly over abortion, are passe. The prolife movement is growing stronger than ever. But life and liberty are intertwined and, getting past the first couple of sentences, the author is spot on in pointing out the clash of world views of free enterprise v. statism as a fundamental cultural issue.

Japan Launch Includes Venus, Solar Sail Demo

A Japanese H-2A launch (Friday morning Japan time, Thursday evening EDT) lofted a scientific probe to orbit Venus and several secondary payloads including a solar sail demonstrator.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Atlantis Docks with ISS

Shuttle Atlantis arrived at the International Space Station (ISS)today. Note that the mission patch shows Atlantis heading off into the sunset as this is the spaceship's last (planned) mission.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Atlantis Soars Once More

Photo Credit: NASA/Ben Cooper

The Space Shuttle Atlantis launched this afternoon on its last planned mission (then again?) to deliver a Russian module, batteries and other supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

Monday, May 10, 2010

One Year Ago: Servicing Hubble

May 11, 2009 saw Space Shuttle Atlantis launch on its mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. It was a memorable time when I witnessed the Florida launch in person from a few miles away and then went on to Houston to support the mission. Here is my post of some of the photos I took of the launch. Here is the May 2009 archive where, scrolling from the bottom up, you can read my account of those exciting days.

Gee, I Wonder if He's Read Life at the Frontier

In a commencement address at Hampton University, President Obama bemoaned how some of today's technological and media innovations can be a distraction to citizens (and maybe a pain for political leaders).
"With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, -- none of which I know how to work -- information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation," Obama said.

He bemoaned the fact that "some of the craziest claims can quickly claim traction," in the clamor of certain blogs and talk radio outlets.

"All of this is not only putting new pressures on you, it is putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy."

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Kathryn Jean Lopez on Pope Benedict and Church Scandals

I haven't posted anything so far on the latest round of reports on the shameful scandals of the small minority of priests who abused minors and of some bishops who tried to sweep these crimes under the rug. Kathryn Jean Lopez points out that attempts to bring down Pope Benedict XVI and the Church as a whole are misdirected, agenda driven and futile.
He weeps, too, because of all the priests and Catholics who walk around with a cloud above them, or who are confused and angry and hurt because of what a minority have done. He knows that there are men and women who are in grave danger of losing their faith because of others who have lacked the courage of integrity.

While MSNBC waits for the pope’s resignation, he, every day, leads a renewal. In our hearts and in the structure of the Church. I think even the New York Times realizes it. It’s why they grasp at old stories, trying to obscure what’s happening now. And even as they do that, they have to admit, as they recently did, that "there are indications that Benedict had a lower tolerance for sexual misconduct by elite clergy members than other top Vatican officials."

How to v. How not to Open Up the Debate on "Global Warming"

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has invoked a state anti-fraud law against climate scientist Michael Mann over use of $500,000 in grants that funded Mann's studies. This move has caused even some scientists skeptical of global warming, including Paul "Chip" Knappenberger, to question how the AG's actions could impact free scientific inquiry. (Hat tip to Climate Depot.)
The idea, I guess, would be to look for evidence that Dr. Mann produced results while working under his University of Virginia research grants (considered to be state money even though it may have come from non-state sources) that he knew to be wrong.

But, except in very rare instances - for example, completely fabricating data - scientific research and the results it produces do not fall neatly into being right or wrong, nor lend themselves to being judged as fraudulent under Virginia’s FATA.

Well, let me back up. I am not a lawyer, but I sincerely hope that scientific research cannot be judged that way. Because if it can, a FATA case can be built against virtually every practicing scientist.

Knappenberger says that more free scientific inquiry is the way to hold the claims of Mann and others accountable.
Nowadays, blogs are playing a larger role in this process, to the dismay of some but to the great pleasure of others.

The purpose of all of this is to stimulate discussion and thought about the new data, methods and results and how they add to the scientific knowledge base. And, of course, to inspire new investigations.

This process moves science forward. Perhaps not always smoothly and without setbacks. But, in the long term, there is ultimately progress.

Better ideas eventually replace outdated ones. Sometimes only after bitter debate. But the discarded results are not fraudulent. They are a normal course of science.

In no way will the threat of a civil lawsuit move science along more efficiently. More than likely it will have the opposite effect as intimidation will result in fewer ideas being put forth.

Breitbart on the Media

New media entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart points out that the real power on the left side of the political and cultural struggle is not in the White House or Congress but in the establishment Media.
"For these people to tell me with a straight face that they don’t come to the media and their jobs from a political perspective, from a left-of-center perspective, is just a bald-faced lie."

When facing mistreatment by the media, Breitbart urged conservatives not to play by the rules as defined by the mainstream media. "These people don't fight fair," he said. "The left does not fight fair, and so I'm basically saying to conservatives, you don't have to fight fair."

"I want to break down this politically correct paradigm. These are rules that tell conservatives: you're not allowed to say this, you're not allowed to think that. This type of Orwellian thought crime crap is what I'm fighting against."