Archive for the ‘Space’ category

WASF, Part ∞

November 23, 2016

If we can’t see it, it won’t happen, climate change edition:

Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by Nasa as part of a crackdown on “politicized science”, his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said.

Nasa’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space.

After all, we can’t have any of that nasty left wing bias that reality imposes:

There is overwhelming and long-established evidence that burning fossil fuels and deforestation causes the release of heat-trapping gases, therefore causing the warming experienced in recent decades.

[Trump campaign advisor Bob] Walker, however, claimed that doubt over the role of human activity in climate change “is a view shared by half the climatologists in the world. We need good science to tell us what the reality is and science could do that if politicians didn’t interfere with it.”

Walker is, as one expects from Trumpistas, simply lying. Half of the world’s climatologists do not doubt the fact of human-driven climate change, unless you include those who got their advanced degrees at the University of Exxon’s Koch School of Science.  Ostriches and sand ain’t in it.

carl_eytel_and_george_wharton_james_in_a_horse-drawn_wagon_on_the_butterfield_stage_road_in_the_colorado_desert_ca-1903_chs-2280

This is a hugely consequential move.  There are two technologies that are essential to modern climate science: large scale numerical modelling made possible by the insane advances in computing power and associated computer science over the last several decades…and remote sensing, the ability to monitor earth systems on a planetary scale.  That’s what NASA — and for the forseeable future, no one else, brings with its earth science programs.  Kill that and we not only lose data going forward, we degrade a capability in an intellectual infrastructure that will take a long time indeed to restore:

Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said as Nasa provides the scientific community with new instruments and techniques, the elimination of Earth sciences would be “a major setback if not devastating”.

“It could put us back into the ‘dark ages’ of almost the pre-satellite era,” he said. “It would be extremely short sighted.

“We live on planet Earth and there is much to discover, and it is essential to track and monitor many things from space. Information on planet Earth and its atmosphere and oceans is essential for our way of life. Space research is a luxury, Earth observations are essential.”

This is a call your representative kind of issue.  It’s going to be difficult, certainly, if Trump really does go down this path, but NASA is enough of a pork barrel, and some GOP senators, at least, are not wholly clueless on this issue, so it might be possible to avoid the worst outcome.  It’s necessary to try.  If and as I hear of organized campaigns on this, I’ll bring the news  here.

Feh.

PS: that laser like media focus during the campaign on issues like climate change sure was impressive, wasn’t it?

C. C. Pierce, Carl Eytel and George Wharton James in a horse-drawn wagon on the Butterfield Stage Road in the Colorado Desert, c.1903. (Eytel was a painter associated with the “smoketree school” of artists working on desert subjects; James was a journalist and photographer.)

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Don’t Even Think About Being The Coolest Person On (Above) The Planet…

May 12, 2013

…that slot is taken:

Tip o’ the hat to Commander Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadlfield) aboard the International Space Station.

October 18, 2012

Good work by the LA Times  yields ~2:40 of pure pleasure

watch?v=XIRfTAq21ek

You’re welcome.

Annals of Stupidity Update–More on the GOP Hates Science beat

July 24, 2011

I didn’t get around to  flagging this on the day, but I’ve just arrived in Shanghai, and the China connection in the folly below reminded me I’d meant to write on this one.

I’m here to take part in a workshop for East Asian journalists on covering climate change, and for science journalism instructors to think about how to teach this odd craft.  This is exactly the kind of exchange IMHO, that might be kind of useful in a world in which a range of issues facing the public demand both knowledge and analytical skill manifest across society, if anything like democratic informed consent is ever to be achieved.

Sadly, this is not a priority for your modern GOP.  In fact, it is something that our empiricism-averse friends on the right actively seem to oppose.

That’s the conclusion I draw from this New York Times article, published just a little over a week ago:

A proposal by Rep. Frank Wolf, a fierce critic of Beijing, would slash by 55 percent the $6.6 million budget of the White House’s science policy office. The measure was endorsed by a congressional committee this week, but faces more legislative hurdles, and its prospects are unclear.

IIRC, this blog (others) have been on aspects of the GOP fear of technical cooperation in any form with China.  Wolf in particular has sought to block US-China exchange of information about their space programs, which the GOP has already banned, despite

….one benefit of basic forms of cooperation, such as sharing data and basic design criteria, could be to learn a little more about China’s opaque space program. Since 1999, the U.S. effectively banned use of its space technology by China. That also has a commercial downside for American producers in an increasingly globalized marketplace.

“Renewing civil and commercial space cooperation with China … is not a blank check and need not provide China with sensitive technologies,” wrote James Clay Moltz of the Naval Postgraduate School in testimony at a congressional hearing on China’s civilian and military space programs in May.

Economic and national security costs don’t seem to bother Wolf, who has already succeeded in attaching a ban on NASA-China Space Agency cooperation to a bill that made its way through committee in the House this month, (which is to say, fortunately, it’s still a long way from becoming law).

But that act against US interests is not sufficient to slake Wolf’s thirst for stupid.

Because of what he alleges to be Science Advisor John Holdren’s violation of the earlier rules on US-China contact on space, he now wants to crash the entire enterprise of providing high-level science advice to the President.  Holdren’s “crime”:

Meeting twice with China’s science minister in Washington during May.

Uhhh.  The top US science advisor meets with the relevant minister from, you know, the world’s most populous nation, one which is developing enormously rapidly, and oh, by the way, holds a gazillion or so in US government debt…and that great sin of conversation Wolf says, means that  “The Office of Science and Technology Policy is in violation of the law,”

Wolf’s remedy? Cut either 55% or all of the OSTP’s budget

Oh FSM!

Anyone who thinks that the Republican Party is actually a political institution capable of governing and suitable to be entrusted with a share of power is not paying attention.  They’re a cult.

That is all.

Image: Quentin Massys, An Allegory of Folly, early 16th century.

I do believe I’ve used this one before.  But I just can’t quit it, because there are some motley characters out there who so fit the image.

 

Soshalist Obama’s Secret Plan to Bring Kenyan Mooslim Communism To Outer Space

February 5, 2011

So, in 2010, while distracting the nation with a smokescreen of trivialities like the creation of  death panels to murder grandma in the name of health care reform and the government take over of a reform of the financial system, that relentless enemy of all things capitalist, Barack Hussein Obama, snuck past an unsuspecting public his real plan:  NASA now leads the government take over of the high ground! Yup, the final frontier itself.

Or not, as today’s New York Times reports.

Last year, the Obama administration pushed through an ambitious transformation for NASA: canceling the Ares I rocket, which was to be the successor to the current generation of space shuttles, and turning to the commercial sector for astronaut transportation.

The story focuses mostly on the work of Sierra Nevada Space Systems, which sounds as if it has done a number of very clever things, including leveraging prior work by NASA on a space-plane design (itself derived from a spy-plane photographed Soviet experiment).  That project had been discarded under the former and not-much-missed administrator Daniel Goldin, but Sierra Nevada’s use of the external shape of the earlier vehicle allows them to grab all the wind test data NASA collected before the original project went poof.

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What’s this?  Under Obama’s administration, smart and nimble private companies are aiding the government in the achievement of national goals while seeking profit?

Unpossible.

Next thing you know, Richard Branson will sign up to handle the passanger trade for the new space hoppers.

Oh wait:

Virgin Galactic, the spacecraft division of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin empire, signed on as a strategic partner in December. Among the possible roles that Virgin could play is selling seats on the Dream Chaser.

That dastardly Obama.   You know he’s not a real American because he’s so damn sneaky.

Image:  Y’all know this one, right.  Anyway:  Vincent van Gogh Starry Night, 1889

Because I’ve Got Too Much On Today to Blog Seriously…And I’m Feeling Spacey…And Did I Say That I Love You….

March 3, 2010

Can’t be an orbital kind of day without casting mind and ear back to tone deaf, (sic!) cult-hero, sonwriting/producing murderer-suicide Joe Meek* and this hit:

And just to make sure the weirdness gets its full run, consider this make-my-backbone-quiver, oh-my-fsm-I’m-back-in-Second-Grade-classroom-film-experience account of the machine that forged some untraceable synaptic connection to yield the song above:

*a)  You couldn’t make Meek’s story up, and b) perhaps not everyone’s mind thinks telecommunications satellites and the strange, strange world of London’s early ’60s music scene when they feel that wave of not-enough-coffee disorientation, but apparently I do.

Because it’s Friday: One Giant Step For Who? department….

March 6, 2009