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Archive for the ‘Will Rogers Moments’ Category


Meteoroids, not Space Debris

Posted by jns on February 16, 2009

SpaceWeather.com (operated by NOAA) reports that people all over the US are seeing meteors and are concerned that it’s space debris from that dramatic orbital collision between Iridium 33 and Kosmos 2251. Apparently there was also a large meteor seen over Italy that led to similar thoughts.

I’ve also seen reports that the FAA has warned pilots to be on the lookout for space debris, although it’s not clear to me what they’re supposed to do if they see some streaking by except get hysterical.

It’s easy to understand why people will have this reaction, so it’s also useful to note that meteoroids and space debris enter the atmosphere in different–and distinguishable–ways.

Anyway, here is what Spaceweather (for 16 February 2009) had to say about those fireballs:

WEEKEND FIREBALLS: A daylight fireball over Texas on Sunday, Feb. 15th, triggered widespread reports that debris from a recent satellite collision was falling to Earth. Those reports were premature. Researchers have studied video of the event and concluded that the object was more likely a natural meteoroid about one meter wide traveling more than 20 km/s–much faster than orbital debris. Meteoroids hit Earth every day, and the Texas fireball was apparently one of them.

There’s more: On Friday, Feb. 13th, people in central Kentucky heard loud booms, felt their houses shake, and saw a fireball streaking through the sky. This occurred scant hours after another fireball at least 10 times brighter than a full Moon lit up the sky over Italy. Although it is tempting to attribute these events to debris from the Feb. 10th collision of the Iridium 33 and Kosmos 2251 satellites, the Kentucky and Italy fireballs also seem to be meteoroids, not manmade objects. Italian scientists are studying the ground track of their fireball, which was recorded by multiple cameras, and they will soon begin to hunt for meteorites.

Videos, eye-witness reports and more information about these events may be found at http://spaceweather.com.


Non-Hostile Casualties

Posted by jns on April 3, 2005

Is it just me? I find the following paragraph very odd and unsettling. Thanks to a mention at the Whiskey Bar, we read this

(AP) — As of Saturday, April 2, 2005, at least 1,533 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,162 died as a result of hostile action, according to the Defense Department. The figures include four military civilians.

The number 1,533 is upsetting enough as it is. But it’s the figure between the lines that catches my attention (in rather the same way that sometimes it’s worth remembering that foods that trumpet “90% fat free” are still 10% fat).
The implication of these figures is that 371 troops have died in the war not as a result of hostile action. Put another way, that’s nearly 25% of our war casualties that are not the result of “hostile action”!
What does this mean? What would be the “not hostile action” here, and what is it about non hostility that kills so many troops?


“Science” a Dirty Word?

Posted by jns on March 29, 2005

Behold the British Press, willing to say what the American Media apparently prefer not to mention:

For Bush, science is a dirty word
In America’s right-to-die controversy the facts were not allowed to get in the way of evangelical populism

Admittedly, the piece was written by Tristram Hunt, a visiting professor of history at Arizona State University. Is it significant that his opinion was published not in America?
I’ll quote the thesis, and then suggest that you read the rest — it’s got too much good writing about really bad things.

Thanks to the policies and prejudices of the Bush administration, science has become a dirty word. The American century was built on scientific progress. From the automobile to the atom bomb to the man on the moon, science and technology underpinned American military, commercial and cultural might. Crucial to that was the presidency. From FDR and the Los Alamos laboratory to Kennedy and Nasa to Clinton and decoding the genome, the White House was vital to promoting ground-breaking research and luring the world’s scientific elite. But Bush’s faith-based, petro-chemical administration has reversed that tradition: excepting matters military, this presidency exhibits an abiding aversion to scientific inquiry that is in danger of affecting the entire country.