Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Posts Tagged ‘Mars Curiosity Rover

Through Thick and Thin

with 3 comments

Another week gone by. Two more days to the last and final debate between Romney and Obama. Both sides are pulling out all the stops. I’m more bored by the day. What’s this, the tenth election in a row billed as “the most important election ever?” I don’t think so. Might be the most screwed up election ever. Now that “both sides” have convinced their base that the only thing that matters is their narrow ideological stand on a  handful of of social  issues, there is zero chance that any of the real issues facing this country will be addressed. Climate change? What’s that? Our endless overseas wars? Don’t go there. Our every expanding security state? Fracking? GMOs? Forget about it. Nope, just legions of people who thinking they are saving babies or saving women by their respective vote for a dyed-in-the-wool agent of the 1%. Like in the previous election, I’m hoping that the Republican wins, because it might breath new life into the antiwar left, which Obama has effectively driven into a lobotomized coma. Yes, Obama has succeeded where Nixon and his generation only dreamed, he destroyed the antiwar movement. In any event, a few random notes on recent events, in no particular order:

A huge US led anti-mine drill in the Persian Gulf was a disaster. It was called the single largest naval drill in history, with more than 30 nations participating. Twenty nine simulated mines had been planted, the whole point of the exercise was to demonstrate the West’s effectiveness to find mines and keep the Straight of Hormuz open. Reportedly the drill was an abject failure, with less than half of the simulated mines being found. Not exactly sure what this signifies. I can’t see why the US would lie about something like this, maybe they want to encourage the Iranians to do something rash? Seems like sowing international doubt about our ability to keep the straight open wouldn’t be worth the damage it would do to the US’s credibility and efforts to prevent diplomacy with Iran. It’s certainly possible that we’re just that bad, a huge amount of military spending the past few decades has been about enriching the arms manufacturers, with limited attention paid to whether equipment will actually work under real world conditions. Who knows, curious though.

An interesting poll was just taken in Egypt. Apparently there is a trend towards support for Iran and Egypt acquiring nuclear weapons. And the military is still the most trusted institution in the country. Interesting for a number of reasons. I think it’s a good thing that Egyptians are turning away from the USA and the west and more interested in hewing their own path. It’s painfully clear at this point that the USA doesn’t give as rat’s a** about the people of the Middle East, and is only trying to maintain western and Israeli hegemony in the region. And it’s also painfully clear that the nuclear powers, declared and undeclared (cough Israel cough) have no intention of giving up nuclear weapons and are perfectly happy to have the current situation perpetuated forever. It was also interesting some of the reaction to the poll in the west. They saw it as a sign of the rise of extremism in Egypt. Yerp, people deciding they know what’s best for their countries and not wanting to be a satrap of the USA is extremism. The US and Israel keep reaping what they sow, and there seems like no end in sight.

Scientists have decided to send a paddle boat into space. Those crazy scientists, what will they think of next? OK, not space exactly, they want to send a paddle boat to Titan, a moon of Saturn. It’s actually a good idea, it will get to sample both the lakes and the atmosphere of Titan, and move around a bit to get more varied data. The plan is for it to last for six months to a year. The last Titan lander lasted 90 minutes. Considering it’s nearly 300F below zero that’s a tall order. I’m assuming it will be nuclear powered. In other space news someone stitched together the above panorama from shots taken by the new Curiosity rover on Mars. I love pics like this, really shows it  as the surface of a planet; add a few juniper bushes and it could have been taken in Nevada.

I have a number of dedicated posts I have been chipping away on. Hopefully I will get some of them out in the next week. Another week where I have a lot of work. that’s good, the wolves have been pushed back out the door at least. I hope everyone had a good weekend!

(The above image is public Domain under US copyright law. Credit and copyright: NASA. For the readers of coarser tastes so to speak, a stone penis was also recently discovered on Mars. I don’t think it’s going to give the Face on Mars a run for its money.)

Written by unitedcats

October 21, 2012 at 8:12 pm

World’s Fastest Blog Post

with 3 comments

Well, I have about a hour to crank out a post. Apologies in advance. I have a couple of partially written posts but none of them inspired me. Not a whole lot inspires me lately, either the world is going to hell in a hand basket, or I am coming down with some sort of terrible disease the main symptom of which is deep dark cynicism permeating everything. Maybe both. However, might as well keep writing, it’s what I do. I’m also happy to write custom blog posts for a price. Or accept donations. Hint hint. Clicking on my name below the introduction above leads to a page with my contact information.

Moving right along. Pussy Riot. Yeah, I have a post about that fiasco in the works. Julian Assange for sure, that’s gotten interesting. A foreigner who is afraid that he might not get a fair trial in the USA, yes, that’s what modern America has come to. Frankly, anyone who thinks he would get  a fair trial in the USA isn’t using the word “think” the way it’s normally understood. In fact he likely wouldn’t even get a trial, he’d just disappear into the American gulag. Granted it’s not as extensive as the former Soviet gulag, but it’s just as ugly. Obligatory comment about the founding fathers spinning in their graves.

See, 200 words already, this is going to be easy. In breaking news, an American congressman is in hot water for skinny dipping in the Sea of Galilee while on a fact-finding trip to Israel. I wish,  really really wish I was making this up. Nope, this is the sort of nonsense that passes for news in the USA today. I guess his naked junk touching the water Jesus walked on is offensive to some. Offensive to the same people that claim Muslims are all crazy. Go figure.

In another imbroglio, a Congressman running for  election to the US Senate said that he sees no reason to allow abortion in the case of rape, becasue women rarely get impregnated when they are “legitimately” raped. This, this is why my brain has to be kept heavily sedated these days. At least Romney and company criticized and disavowed his remarks. Still, it’s shocking that a sitting congressman could be so frighteningly ignorant, not to mention insensitive. And the kicker, brace yourself: Mr Akins is on the House Committee for Science, Technology, and Space. Be afraid, be very afraid.

In real science news, the Curiosity rover has fired up its laser and zapped its first rock! Yes, we have sent a probe to Mars at fabulous expense so it can fire lasers at rocks, is that exciting or what? No word yet on whether the Martians, helpfully illustrated above, fired back. (Thank you Leslie for bringing that fine image to my attention.) Aside from the fun of saying “Pew pew pew” while shooting a rock with a laser, this is indeed real science. The vapour made by the laser can be analyzed to determine exactly what elements the rock is made of. This was just a practise rock, but soon enough Curiosity will roll on to real interesting rocks.

I’m toying with making a web site about the Loch Ness Monster, UFOs, and related items. A web site where I explain the basic logical reasons why each of these is, well, silly. And hopefully without the smarter-than-all-the-kooks attitude that most skeptical websites sport like a badge of honour. Basically a site where people who are genuinely interested but uninformed can find out the basics about such stuff. And so that people who want to debate such things with their more credulous friends can equip themselves with basic, reasonable arguments about same. Good idea, bad idea, stupid idea?

Speaking of weirdness, this video shows some strange finned creature swimming off Skegness Beach in the UK. No, it’s not a hoax, this is real. It’s not however a real mystery, biologists think it’s either a Basking shark or possibly an Orca. The people who make a living promoting the weird of course have their interpretations. I think I’ll go with the biologists on this one. To be honest though, it seems entirely possible that there are still large unknown sea creatures waiting to be discovered, especially since a few have been discovered the past few decades. The Megamouth Shark for example.

Woohoo! I’m gonna make 800 words! Or close enough. Now I can go to the bank which was mysteriously closed by a “plumbing emergency” on Saturday. I don’t want to know. It’s been a weekend for emergencies in my neighbourhood. Sunday I was awakened by the sound of a multiple car crash on my corner. Turns out it wasn’t multiple cars, just two. The first crash was two cars impacting each other. The second crash was one of the cars wrapping itself around a signal/light pole. The third crash I head was the light pole falling onto the car that cashed into it. Fortunately these were new cars so several hundred air bags deployed and protected everyone within a block from serious injury. Even more fortunately the light pole prevented the car in question from crashing into Bill’s Deli on the corner. That would have been tragic.

(The above image has been all over the Internet for years so I suspect it’s effectively public domain. I’m claiming it as Fair Use under US copyright law just the same, yadda yadda yadda.)

Written by unitedcats

August 20, 2012 at 9:47 am

Through Thick and Thin

with 9 comments

It’s been awhile since I wrote a “Through Thick and Thin” post. The phrase still and likely always will appeal to me. Partly because it’s a reminder of a more bucolic era, it is an old phrase. Partly because I like running around in the woods and fields myself. I don’t do as much of it as I used to. Moving right along, a lot has been happening lately, so why not comment on several trending events?

Chick-Fil-A. Sigh. This has gone off on so many tangents it’s gotten truly bizarre. Note above image. Conservative black churches tend to be very anti-LGTB. So we have people who in living memory were a terribly discriminated against minority … actively advocating continued discrimination against another minority. It’s images like this that explain why the aliens haven’t contacted us yet. While I respect people’s right to oppose gay marriage, I won’t dignify their opinion by referring to it as a “defence of marriage.” Marriage is not under attack, it needs no defence. In fact, if marriage is such a good thing, why shouldn’t any two adults be allowed to get married? So much silliness though. Tortured explanations from the left as to why it’s OK to use the power of the state to discriminate against Chik-Fil-A. I still don’t think so. Claims by Chick-Fil-A’s defender that this is a freedom of speech issue. No, aside from some rhetoric, no one’s freedom of speech has been threatened. Yet. I’ve seen a mangled Lincoln quote trotted out by LGBT defenders to bolster their cause. Yeah, adopting Faux News tactics doesn’t impress me.

Granted, some of the groups that Chick-Fil-A has been funding (it’s not just their owners, the corporation itself is a big donor) have been designated as hate groups. I find the appellation “hate group” as annoying as “terrorist group.” It’s a label to demonize a group and their opinions. Neither terrorism nor hate is an ideology, so when it comes right down to it, as a descriptive label its misleading as best. It’s an attempt to frame the discussion in such a way that the other side’s concerns can be ignored. That’s not really a good way to resolve an issue. Lastly, after defending Chick-Fil-A’s right to donate to whoever they please, let me say this. They are donating to some groups that are spreading the most horrific lies and falsehoods about homosexuals. Groups that are advocating the death sentence for gays in Africa. Not cool, not cool at all. I won’t be patronizing Chick-Fil-A, and I heartily encourage others not to do so.

Syria. Sigh. I’m writing a post about it, but it’s complicated. Kofi Annan is quitting as UN-Arab League envoy for the Syria conflict at the end of the month, he claims foreign meddling by both sides is making his job impossible. How the UN ever got involved in an internal, not international, dispute is not mentioned. China and Russia support the Assad regime. The USA and the west are supporting and arming the Islamist revolutionaries. Yes dear readers, China and Russia are supporting the secular government of Syria, while the USA is arming Islamist rebels, including Al-Qaeda linked groups. The people who we call terrorists when they are fighting us. As my more astute readers know, supporting Islamist rebels was such a  great idea in Afghanistan, how could it go wrong in Syria?

The Mars Curiosity Rover sets down on Mars this weekend. Hopefully. It’s the most amazing rover ever deployed, jam-packed with whiz-bang experimental gear. If it lands OK and functions OK, it will be like the Hubble on Mars. If they forgot to convert English measurements into American measurements, or installed something backwards, it will be a waste of over 2 billion dollars. This is what the old folks called “putting all of your eggs in one basket.” I still think that at a dozen cheaper rovers based on the wildly successful Spirit and Opportunity rovers would have been a better option. I hope I’m wrong.

The Aurora shooting … conspiracy theories abound! This is priceless. Yes, it looks like this will be as good as the Truthers or the Birthers, or maybe it will be a flash in the pan, who knows. It’s a fascinating how some events can trigger conspiracy theories. Scientists are no doubt gathering data and examining this as I type, this is like seeing a supernovae. So much can be learned about the psychology and sociology of conspiracy theories if one watches one actually spring forth. In this case, the current Holmes version is that this was some sort of false-flag government operation to act as an excuse for gun control. And that the person being tried isn’t actually Holmes. Pass the popcorn.

Australia refuses US carrier base. Yes, Australia in no uncertain terms said they saw no need to have a US naval base in Australia. No doubt the USA will punish them for their refusal in some way, but it’s nice to see a bit of sanity in the world. WTF does Australia need with a US base, and all the attendant problems that go with it? World War Two is long over, there is no threat to Australia that requires the presence of an American carrier task force. And why does the USA want a naval base in western Australia? It’s all part of the militarization of the world, apparently we are going to be the world’s policemen now. I’m not kidding, Marine units are now being trained to act as world policemen. There’s so much wrong with this I don’t know where to start, so likely there will be a post on it in the future.

Lastly, a bonus image to share. This made me laugh. Have a great weekend everyone.

(The above two images are claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Both have gone viral on Facebook, so I think they are pretty much public domain, I have no idea who to credit them too. Heck, I could make an entire blog just from the interesting images that crop up on Facebook daily, I’ll certainly try to post more of them here in the future.)

Written by unitedcats

August 3, 2012 at 8:40 am