Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Space Station Retiring?

My article today:

Space Station Is Near Completion
Plan to 'De-Orbit in 2016 Is Criticized

A number of times in recent weeks a bright, unblinking light has appeared in the night sky of the nation's capital: a spaceship. Longer than a football field, weighing 654,000 pounds, the spaceship moved swiftly across the heavens and vanished.

Fortunately, it was one of ours.

The international space station is by far the largest spacecraft ever built by earthlings. Circling the Earth every 90 minutes, it often passes over North America and is visible from the ground when night has fallen but the station, up high, is still bathed in sunlight.

After more than a decade of construction, it is nearing completion and finally has a full crew of six astronauts. The last components should be installed by the end of next year.

And then?

"In the first quarter of 2016, we'll prep and de-orbit the spacecraft," says NASA's space station program manager, Michael T. Suffredini.

That's a polite way of saying that NASA will make the space station fall back into the atmosphere, where it will turn into a fireball and then crash into the Pacific Ocean. It'll be a controlled reentry, to ensure that it doesn't take out a major city. But it'll be destroyed as surely as a Lego palace obliterated by the sweeping arm of a suddenly bored kid.

This, at least, is NASA's plan, pending a change in policy. There's no long-term funding on the books for international space station operations beyond 2015.

Continue reading

By Joel Achenbach  |  July 13, 2009; 2:14 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Roman Holiday
Next: Fortress Mentality


Re-posting from last Kit:

We are already at the God Science Fair, but we have trouble discerning the conclusions of the experiments. The principal investigator could perhaps have expressed his conclusions more succinctly and unambiguously, with less reliance on the passive voice.


I doubt that nitrogen is much more prone to diffusing through the tire walls than oxygen, plus there's the fact that the outside air is mostly nitrogen already -- osmotic pressure wouldn't be all that high. Whereas, for helium, it would be diffusing from a high-helium region to a no-helium region, which makes for very rapid diffusion. In any case, this is another way in which CO2 would be superior, as it is a much bigger molecule and less prone to diffusion through the walls.


I think it is correct to say that if your tires were filled with nitrous oxide, you would be disinclined to worry after a blowout. Considering that nitrous is used as a super-oxidizer to get a burst of power out of an engine, I suspect that there is little that would continue to bother you, if you were to fill your tires with nitrous oxide.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 13, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 13, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

How many times does 17 divide into $2 million? About $117,000, roughly.

AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry's border Web camera program is out of money after a first year that fell far short of the goals for arrests and reports of illegal crossings.

An internal report showed that just 17 of 200 cameras — one for every 70 miles of the 1,200-mile Texas-Mexico border — were installed with a $2 million federal grant received last year. ...

Perry wants another $2 million for the project, and his office revised a report to make it look like the program had come closer to achieving its goals.

Posted by: laloomis | July 13, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

The Boodle is grand institution. ISS and race car tires.

I hope those of you attending have a smashing BPH.

Posted by: Yoki | July 13, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, I just skimmed the abstract of the beautifully-edited document to which you pointed me. I found the conclusion that O2 diffuses across the tire barrier faster than N2 to be unlikely -- O2 is a more massive molecule by 12.5%, but of the same physical dimension, properties which should keep its diffusion rate equal to-or-less-than the diffusion rate of N2. The hypothesis of rapid diffusion is not impossible, but would not be my first guess in comparing two gases, one of which is moderately inert and the other is a highly effective oxidizer. My first hypothesis would be that the oxygen was incorporated into oxidation products on the tire's interior surface.

I suspect a cheaper alternative than refilling tires with N2 all the time would be to bond a mylar coating to the interior of the tire. This would not affect all of the phenomena that recommend N2 for aircraft tires (e.g., the condensation of water is an important issue), but would decrease the loss of tire fill and increase lifetime.

But I still think that a CO2 fill has not yet been given its fair test, and I hypothesize that there would be significant performance benefits. I suggest that the DOT should get right on top of that. Or maybe bc could do some tests for us.

You know what would really help? Going back to old-fashioned inner tubes, so that gas containment is separate from mechanical performance.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 13, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

From the report's conclusion:

"NHTSA testing of tires has confirmed that using nitrogen as an inflation gas in place of air slows the static IPL of the tire significantly. In the 90-day static room temperature test, the inflation pressure loss rate for tires inflated with nitrogen was approximately two-thirds of the loss rate of tires inflated with air. Dynamic testing on a roadwheel test shows the differences between the diffusion rate of air versus nitrogen versus 50/50 N2/O2 are maintained at higher temperatures and dynamic conditions (i.e., simulating rolling operation on a vehicle). The decrease in permeability for nitrogen gas was observed to be independent of tire innerliner composition and thickness, thus applicable to all tire types studied."

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't this image from the front page look like some sort of strange thought bubble or question mark?

Posted by: -TBG- | July 13, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I am curious, still, about that 2016 date. Was this date chosen because this is when the Operational and Maintenance costs are expected to have a big jump, or are there other, less technical reasons for choosing this year for the Big Splash?

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 13, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Is zat what it said? I dunno. I have no idea. I'm guessing whoever edited it was in a kind of mindless Zen mode, just letting the words pass by, waiting for certain word patterns to trigger a Pavlovian reflex response, and his reading comprehension was probably somewhere down around zero. I'd bet even money the poor sumb1tch probably fell asleep at least three or four times in the middle of that puppy.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Lots going on today. The waste involved in the space station's demise is troubling. I wonder if it were boosted to higher orbit and decommissioned for possible future use - abandoned temporarily - using ion rockets

or whether if then, radiation and years of sustained micro-impacts would render it useless anyway.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 13, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I have to say that the ISS' problem is that it was created by Ronald Reagan. No group of engineers came up with a list of tasks and requirements that could be well-served by permanent facilities in space and then said "How do we design a facility to serve these needs?"

I could see how the space station could serve a valuable need in curating extraterrestrial samples returned to Earth. Right now, we put them down on the ground, we expose them to air, then we seal them up again and hide them -- possibly in a nitrogen-rich atmosphere, but certainly not in a vacuum. Seems to me that an enclosed, but still at-vacuum, section of the ISS would be perfect for handling returned samples from cometary or asteroid (or even Mars) missions, and transferring them into a multi-barrier vacuum containment. The sealed vessels could be returned to the ground under mechanical pumping (not as good as space vacuum, but it will maintain purity longer), then open only a few samples at a time so that they stay sealed until needed.

The ISS also would be good for doing outrageously dangerous chemistry and spectroscopy experiments, with stuff like ClO (chlorine monoxide), HCN (hydrogen cyanide) and other lovely gases that are naturally present elsewhere in the solar system. Set up properly, if there is an inadvertent explosion, it would be no worse than a puff of air, or a bit of exhaust from the Shuttle's maneuvering motors. It would require repairs to lab equipment, but it wouldn't kill or injure anyone.

However, those activities would require equipping the ISS to actually *do* something outside the crew compartment -- and there has never been any motivation to do that, because it makes you wonder exactly why a crew compartment is needed.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 13, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

We could also finally find a good place to stash the bodies of those four Grays we found at Roswell up in the ISS, in case any of their kin want to come by and take them home.

Also Ann Coulter.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I would stash Ann Coulter on the outside, to avoid outgassing problems.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 13, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

No problemo.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Permeation may be one of those couterintutive process Tim. The gas has to first enter the solid, the adsorption process. To be accepted and embraced by the solid so to speak. I'm sure there are plent of bigoted solids out there who wouldn't give the time of day to a nitrogen molecule. Surface physics can be finnicky.

The molecule has to travel through the solid after that. The oxygen is a heavier but slightly smaller molecule. Does it mean that the molecule has more paths to travel to the outside or does it mean that the wayward oxygen can explore more nooks and crannies in the structure of the rubber than the lighter, slighty bigger nitrogen? I don't know.

Then the gas has to leave to solids. How fast is that process for a nitrogen-loving rubber? Oxygen on the other end may be snatched away by a marauding reducer when it reached the other side. That won't happen to nitrogen, nobody loves it, it's a useless inert gas that is not one of the beloved noble gas.
The net result seems to be that nitrogen permeates slower than oxygen through your usual highway tire. That's good to know. Is it worth $8-10 per wheel?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 13, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

I suspect that the 2016 de-orbit date is exactly what Suffredini says it is -- it is the first date after the end of current planning for what to do with the station. If it is to be disposed of, it is best to do it while all systems are operational and while astronauts can be sent there to do anything that needs doing to prepare it for its doom. Come up with more plans for the station, and the de-orbit date will be pushed back, accordingly.

The station is a $100B investment, but it also requires continual reinvestment to make use of it. If we stop that reinvestment (i.e., maintaining a crew), then we need to dispose of it before it creates a hazard. If we want to keep crews there, then we need a reason to spend the couple-$B per year that it costs to keep it going (I am spitballing the cost; I don't really know).

If space-diving like in "Star Trek" were really possible -- wouldn't it be cool to ride the ISS into the atmosphere as long as possible, then jump out a hatch?

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 13, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Tough, SciTim, you're tough.

Posted by: slyness | July 13, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

SCC More than one...

And I know nitrogen isn't exactly inert. The FSM only knows how much ammonia is made from the stuff...

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 13, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

It's my impression that the Japanese modules are superlatively engineered and have finally justified the existence of the ISS. At least assuming the second module actually gets launched. Yesterday's thunderstorm snuck up just close enough to scrub the launch, then withdrew.

Couldn't we fill tires with argon? Nice, heavy molecules, not as abundant as oxygen, which gives it a bit of exclusivity.

An apparently neat little movie, "Moon", is playing locally. Exploited labor in a lonely setting.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 13, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Have we heard Coulter on Sotomayor? It's got to be ugly.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 13, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Could the ISS be targeted to crash on public land in New Mexico, with enough precision so the public could come to watch?

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 13, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

DotC, you know some yahoo would wander out into the big "X" with a catcher's mitt, right?

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 13, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Scottynuke: yes. assuredly. But at sea, the ISS might hit a whale, unless it's aimed at a vast saltwater desert. Southern hemisphere, mid-Pacific, I think.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 13, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Argon is an elemental monoatomic gas -- the interatomic distance in a gas molecule generally is greater than the atomic diameter, so argon is a tiny particle, even though a massive atom. Helium is much more commonly available, because He is continually released from Earth's interior by the farting of radioactive decay processes (helium nuclei are a common byproduct of many radioactive decay chains). We know where to go to get relatively concentrated helium gas, from natural gas wells. So, argon (or krypton!) would be slick to use, but not particularly readily available.

You want an exclusive sort of gas that is nevertheless practical? try uranium hexafluoride.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 13, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, could this announcement basically be a ploy to rustle up some sympathy for more funding?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

laloomis - Must be nice cameras! Of course, I've wandered around that border a bit. It takes some pretty tough equipment to stand up to the conditions, plus you probably need twenty-four hour armed guards to keep everything from being stolen and/or vandalized by whoever/whatever happens to wander by.

Expensive plans, these.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 13, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Reposted from previous:

Good evening, all.

Joel's written something about the International Space Station, and plans to "de-orbit" it.

All 700,000 or so pounds of it.

*Tim and I discussed that concept a couple of years ago (as a follow-on to a discussion of de-orbiting the Hubble) and swallowed hard at the thought, even then. Tough to walk away from a $100B investment, and tough to junk it.

Given how much it costs to lift such weight into orbit, I wonder if it's possible to move it to more of a parking orbit somewhere and keep it around as a used spacecraft parts depot.

Some thoughts on Galileo later, perhaps.


Posted by: -bc- | July 12, 2009 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: -bc- | July 13, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

More Reposting from Previous:

slyness, thanks.

I can see myself as an Orbital Fred Sanford, running the Great Junkyard in the Sky.

Hmm, I wonder how hard it would be to get a salvage title for the ISS. I'm afraid to ask what the Blue Book on that thing is... and how much it will cost to get regegistered. Oy.

Well, $5000 might be enough to get a start -- perhaps a parts counter and a junkyard robo-dog.


Posted by: -bc- | July 12, 2009 10:37 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: -bc- | July 13, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Final Reposting -- I promise.

Meant to add slyness - thanks for the vote of confidence. $5000 *would* be a start.

If I were Japan, Russia, Canada, or any of the nations of the European Space Agency - nations that contributed sections and components to the ISS - I'd be pretty pi$$ed off that the US were going to junk the beast. Those nations' governments/space agencies spent lots of time and money building those components, and I believe they thought that they'd get some use out of them over many years working with the the US government and NASA.

Now instead of a skylab they'll get a sealab? (OK, maybe I shouldn't have said Skylab)...


Posted by: -bc- | July 12, 2009 10:54 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: -bc- | July 13, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I didn't hear that last part, SciTim, really I didn't...


Posted by: Scottynuke | July 13, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

If ISS was made of sturdier stuff, they could crash it pretty much wherever they want. But for some reason, they didn't build it primarily with compact landing zones in mind.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 13, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

It's in the public domain, dude. Although, I would recommend avoiding undue scrutiny by keeping the tire rotation rate down below a few thousand rpm. Wouldn't want to seem like an unlicensed and unregulated centrifuge.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 13, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

The thing is, there is really nothing fundamentally new going on here. The disposition of aging government equipment always comes down to storing it, selling it, abandoning it, or destroying it. The question of what to do, and when to do it, comes down to the value of the equipment.

And value isn't the same thing as cost. In essence, the argument that we must keep the space station up there because it cost so much to build confuses this point. Regardless of how much it cost, the space station, in and of itself, has value only if it enables something to be produced that we find valuable.

If, as some suggest, the scientific research, whatever that might be, occurring on the ISS has value, then the question becomes at what point is this value exceeded by the Operational and Maintenance (O&M) costs of the station? And the answer to this question must also consider the opportunity costs of other scientific endeavors that might be passed over just to keep the ISS up.

The problem with the argument of scientific utility, as Joel points out, is that much of the science has been stripped out of the budget already. The justification for the space station seems to be to prove that we can build, maintain and live in a space station. Again, that this might have value is something that is worthy of debate. And certainly there is something valuable in national prestige.

But to argue that because something costs a lot of money means that it is worth preserving is nonsensical. It is the definition of throwing good money after bad.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 13, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I suppose by 'prep', they mean detaching the compartments form each other to form several cylindrical objects. Then they'll attach fins on one end to create a preferred entry orientation, and install a GPS system with transmitter inside the unit so that the splashdown point of each section can be evaluated for location on a predetermined grid, enabling a gigantic game of lawn (ocean) darts. Remember kids, there's a reason the game was withdrawn from the market. Don't try to catch them.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 13, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

As much as I would have liked the discussion of driving a Bugatti Veryon, I'll let it pass.

Except to say that I've never driven a Bugatti, but I have driven a $1M McLaren F1... it's a *magnificent* driver's car - hewn from titanium and aluminum, shaped from carbon fiber and kevlar, and insulated with real gold foil.

I've driven a couple of race cars (tagged and registered for street use) with around 1000 hp, too, but it's not about fuel mileage, or even great distances -- it's about getting from point A to point B (all of 1,320 ft. away) as fast as possible. As in 9 seconds from a standing start. Scary, intimidating, fun. And make sure you know where the 'chute handle is, should you need it.

To nitrogen in racing tires - the reason I use it is because it does not change the tire inflation pressure much as the tire carcass' temperature changes. Tires are essentially springs in a car's suspension system, and as tire pressure changes, it changes the spring rate, which affects a car's handling characteristics. For a finely tuned race car suspension, a one- or two- pound pressure change can make a difference in handling as well as tire life on a long run.

Using nitrogen in tires makes the car's handling more stable and predictable for a long runs, where a driver may be taking every corner on the limit of adhesion. This allows the driver to have a high degree of confidence in the car's handling characteristics and to thus extract the most possible performance from the system (that is, the car).


Posted by: -bc- | July 13, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

bc, would you consider trying a CO2 fill? Based on what you say about preserving inflation pressure, I suspect CO2 would do even better.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 13, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

RD, I was taught that the first rule of financial analysis is Ignore Sunk Costs.

Posted by: Raysmom | July 13, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I dunno, Padouk. I'm inclined to think pretty much the opposite: because we built it and it cost a bundle of money, we ought to preserve it. I don't see the argument that we don't have a need for it means we ought to destroy it makes particular sense. If I have learned anything from a lifetime of having miscellaneous assorted stuff in my garage, it is to never pre-judge what might eventually become useful, or re-useful.

If we truly don't have an immediate use or budget, I say park it in ome nice high, safe orbit and let the future worry about it. Maybe 40 years from now somebody will think of use, or somebody will need an emergency place to hang out when a space vehicle is damaged, or whatever.

Ya just never know what's gonna come in handy when you least expect it.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

I think ScienceTim has a sideline selling Co2.

Posted by: nellie4 | July 13, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

He's the Mary Kay of inert gases.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

*Tim, I'd be willing to consider CO2, but one of the cool things about nitrogen is that there are fewer issues with water vapor in the medium. And water hitting the 240 deg carcass of an overheating tire... significant pressure changes...

I'm wondering about wisdom of turning the ISS into a used spaceship parts, place, but also Mudge's idea of making it a motel/service station for weary travellers and space tourists. Stop for a leak (air on otherwise - and hey, come see our nice new bathroom!) on the ride up or down if you need to, get a patch and a reinflation if you need it, and maybe some freeze dried ice cream for the kids.

Paint the Interplanetary Service Station in bright florescent colors and put a big sombrero on it...

"Hey keedz, Pedro sez only 200 miles to North of the Border!" (or is that North of the Atmosphere?)

I should keep this stuff to myself, shouldn't I?


Posted by: -bc- | July 13, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

At least SciTim doesn't repair copiers... :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 13, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

*off-to-the-BPH Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 13, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

CO2 is almost a solid in Northern Alberta.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 13, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Definitely want dry CO2. Get it the same way they get dry nitrogen -- allow the cryogenic form to evolve gas into a pressurized container. Water ice will be left behind.

I've been considering the testing protocol for a new tire-fill. Obviously, you wouldn't want to deploy it in a high-performance situation like a race, with turns and stuff, until you know more about its performance. I think I would start with a bunch of modest-power drag runs. Put a block under the accelerator or some such thing. Test the tires before and after each race for temperature, cooling rate, pressure. How fast do tires wear out in race situations? Gradually work up to full-power drag runs. If all that looks good, then consider moving to practice runs and time-trials.

Or, just go for it and take those CO2-filled tires straight into a race. Depends how much you enjoy risking death.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 13, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Cats do control their owners.

This wouldn't work on deaf owners, incidentally. Which is why some cats have also developed the art of sitting on faces.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 13, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Won't be able to attend today's BPH, alas. Have a good time, folks. (Gotta go swimming to get some leg therapy.)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe there was any doubt, Wilbrod!

Posted by: -TBG- | July 13, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

You know what they say: dogs have owners; cats have staff.

Posted by: Raysmom | July 13, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I used to feel sorry for my cat for being so "helpless" until I realized she gets anything she wants right when she wants it.

Posted by: -TBG- | July 13, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of Ann Coulter -- I've been reviewing cases today for a pleading I shall be working on during the week, and I came across a case out of the western district of New York which was so fascinating on so many levels that I sent it to my colleagues and have proceeded to muse on it all afternoon. It's from the 1990s and apparently some guy went off on a tear defecating (figuratively) all over the legal system, opposing attorneys, the judicial system as a whole and judges personally with incredibly abusive language and demeanor -- of course the funniest thing about it was that he was a law professor who didn't get tenure. Gee, I wonder why. I figure him to be a paranoid schizophrenic. He also apparently took things very literally. This brings up an interesting issue: I once read somewhere (don't ask me where) that deliberately literally interpretation of words and events can be a sign of schizophrenia or other organic brain disorder. OR, we can find such behavior patterns in the psychiatric profession, where such persons tend to interpret words and actions quite literally. I call it a constipation of imagination, which I find very funny, really.

Ah, well. Anyway, the judge's sanctions were the worst -- complete dismissal of the case. This sanction is not imposed very often, and when it is imposed, the conduct has to be really egregious. This guy's conduct was, indeed.

I hope the BPHers have a good time. What's not to enjoy, eh?

Posted by: -ftb- | July 13, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Afraid of height? This guy isn't.

I listened to a bit of the Sotomayor hearing. Why is the GOP insisting on having Southern-drawling Senators of the grey-haired male persuasion (some with a less than spotless racial sensitivity records) do the questioning? Have they heard of Marshall McLuhan? Jeez.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 13, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Well sure, Mudge, that's the storing it option. Which, as you well known, is commonly done. I just have no idea if that is even the remote bit feasible either technically nor economically.

The worrisome part about parking it way up somewhere is that eventually the thing is going to come down. If we park it and forget it, might this make it difficult to safely de-orbit it in the future? To lose control of the thing and have it come crashing down someplace inconvenient would be real bad.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 13, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Oh cursed be them typos.

Have fun at the BPH.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 13, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Well, SD, that's pretty much who the GOP senators are these least on the judiciary committee. I listened to Franken's statement, and after the first couple of minutes, he was as boring as anyone who has been there for years. I read Graham's opening remarks, and didn't see anything particularly insulting, but maybe you had to be there.

Posted by: seasea1 | July 13, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

i look forward to bph reports!

random question - i no longer can get to the newest kit directly. the achenblog link opens the second to last, and the link for the newest kit only shows up after clicking on comments. does anyone else experience this?

my firefox is probably an older version, but i still find this sort of odd.

Posted by: LALurker | July 13, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

LAL, you might have the older page in your cache and that's why it shows up first. Try clearing the cash and setting a bookmark after clicking on the Achenblog link on the main opinions page. That way, if you use the bookmark, you should always come to the main Achenblog page as recent as the last time the refreshed itself.

Posted by: Yoki | July 13, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

SCC: second 'cache' (or temporary internet files, in Explorer)

Posted by: Yoki | July 13, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Just listened to a bit of the Sotomayor hearing today. A pox on all their houses-dispense with the opening statements, particularly the vile ones that include "(scurrilous rumor recounted), which if true, and I hope it's not..."

Gorgeous but busy day. City council meeting tonight.

Toodles boodle.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | July 13, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

thanks, yoki. the achenblog home page has all the kit links now, but i swear i tried refreshing multiple times before. (i believe refreshing updates the versions in the cache.)

Posted by: LALurker | July 13, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Space shuttle launch scrubbed again:
Makes me nervous when there are this many delays...

Posted by: seasea1 | July 13, 2009 7:01 PM | Report abuse

And that means that the historic occasion of two Canadian astronauts going at the same time retreats.

Posted by: Yoki | July 13, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Olbermann just called the secret CIA program that Cheney was involved in and that was kept secret from Congress "Project McGuffin."

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 13, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Dealing with (or not) that pesky Swiss banking secrecy

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 13, 2009 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Howdy. I hope all those attending the BPH are having a wunnerful time (cue accordion music). I have vastly enjoyed the gaseous discussion, though I have absolutely nothing of interest to add. Go Boodle science! and please don't suggest any home experiments to the Boy. I am intrigued by the ISS as way-station, or as parking garage for aliens and other inconvenient or objectionable creatures.

It was only about 105 today. Ha ha. Please, you northerners, continue to post your cool temperatures so I may live vicariously. I'm not bitter, much. The Boy had rowing camp this morning. He's mentioned several times that it is really to hot for him to be out there (they should get on the river soon). I tell him it builds character. He hears that a lot but never seems to appreciate it.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 13, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse

High of 72 degrees, pretty dry.

Sky report for Dandylion: Some light fluffy clouds in the kind of light but intense blue that you just feel yourself falling upwards to.

Fishing again tomorrow; I hear a hot fishing spot has been found.

Let's see if my hook finds a lot of dance partners or winds up dangling uselessly, ignored, as the water waltzes keep going on around it.

105 degrees isn't building character. It could be building heatstroke and then he won't be able to deal with the heat as well later on.

It happened to me, which is why I now find near-Canuckstani weather a glory.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 13, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Home from the BPH. A good crowd of us--Don, rick0shea, Scotty, Nukespawn, bc, Moose, TBG, Son of G, Houseguest of G, LiT, CqP. Unfortunately, I wimped out and left before the Sphincter Town in Connecticut jokes commenced.

Posted by: Raysmom | July 13, 2009 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Shame on you, Raysmom! You know we were counting on you to tell us all the sphincter jokes. Tehehe.

Posted by: slyness | July 13, 2009 9:44 PM | Report abuse

"near-Canuckstani weather a glory", now there is an expression you do not hear very often!

Similar weather here, breezing and still a cooler than it should be.

Ivansmom attempting to send cool breezes in your direction, having a little trouble with the pesky jet stream though.

Glad you and the others had fun Raysmom.

Posted by: dmd3 | July 13, 2009 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Undershot the forecast by 5 degrees today, topping out at Wilbrod's 72 instead of the expected 77. Have that same jet stream trouble dmd experiences when trying to send cool air to Ivansmom.

Canuckistani weather would be a glory. In January the tropical temps of Toronto look pretty good.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | July 13, 2009 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Too much of a good thing isn't good either. It was 10C/50F this morning when I got the dogs out, in shorts and tee-shirt. It's just south of 14C/59F right now. Not exactly swimming weather.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 13, 2009 10:30 PM | Report abuse

There is an EL NIÑO brewing. It's not bad for us but the Pacific nations will feel its wrath.

It's the ultimate unfair weather condition, punishing the southern poor while sparing the western/northern rich.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 13, 2009 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, just so you know...

I am sitting here boodling in my basement. It is so cold down here that my feet are mildly blue and I am shivering. I will head usptairs where it is only a degree or two warmer. Maybe I'll stop shivering. I expect I'll be digging out the long johns shortly and I plan to sleep with my socks on. I'm also thinking about looking for my toque.

I hope this helps.

Posted by: --dr-- | July 13, 2009 10:44 PM | Report abuse

we could use the rain in socal, so el niño sounds good to me.

Posted by: LALurker | July 13, 2009 11:12 PM | Report abuse

shrieking_denizen, CO2 was pretty definitely always gaseous in the giant Wyoming frost pocket where I once lived. Cold air collected at the bottom of the Bighorn Basin.

The town didn't get much rain, and snow tended to be just enough to boost the albedo, making things even colder. It usually sublimated. Liquid water was something you got from an irrigation ditch or the town's water system.

El Niño, at least a properly configured one, tends to suppress North Atlantic hurricanes.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 13, 2009 11:23 PM | Report abuse

There is some concern for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 with El Niño:

(The newspaper seems to have misplaced their tilde.)

Posted by: seasea1 | July 13, 2009 11:53 PM | Report abuse

On cats:

Posted by: DNA_Girl | July 14, 2009 12:27 AM | Report abuse

There may be a sort of chill and a slight dimness in the middle of the days. And the sunsets of course.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 14, 2009 12:32 AM | Report abuse

Feel for you, Ivansmom. It's been beautiful here, in the mid-80's. I think the tomatoes would like it a little hotter.

Governor Palin is taking herself seriously. I can see Democratic officeholders lining up for her support.

Posted by: -dbG- | July 14, 2009 12:56 AM | Report abuse

Dear God. I thought dbG had been bitten by the WaPo's lack of copy editors when I followed that link. But yes, Sarah Palin wrote an editorial, in which she claims to know what is ironic (she does not), uses "progressing" as a verb, and gives us this gem:
"Many states have abundant coal, whose technology is continuously making it into a cleaner energy source."

At the end:
"The writer, a Republican, is governor of Alaska."
For 12 more days.

Posted by: seasea1 | July 14, 2009 2:41 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. Another 10C/50F morning. I sure hope Summer will be here when I take my vacations in mid-August.
"Clean coal" is a load of carp with regard to CO2 emissions. Of course that wouldn't bother the good Sarah.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 14, 2009 6:25 AM | Report abuse

Morning, all. 68 degrees F here this morning, with a high of 87 predicted. It will be a nice summer day. I'll fax the weather to anyone who needs it. An El Nino pattern is okay by me, but please, let's skip La Nina, which IIRC causes drought in the southeastern US. We've had enough of that in the past several years.

Yesterday I stayed home and worked on my book chapter. I made progress, but this is not a particularly fun project. Oh well, there is money in it, not enough, but some. Today I gotta get outta da house before I lose my mind. I need that thing sometimes.

Hey Cassandra! I hope you folks got rain yesterday. We had half an inch or so, we'll take what we can get. I also hope you're feeling more rested this morning.

Posted by: slyness | July 14, 2009 7:05 AM | Report abuse

Yes, the Palin op-ed is even on the home page, and I believe the WaPo op-ed staff scrupulouly adhered to the principle that one never edits an op-ed submission, except for length requirements...

NukeSpawn and I had an ab-fab time at the BPH, I tellya, but I'm heartbroken to learn that if she were to start posting here, she might prefer another Boodle handle! *sobbing* Photos will appear eventually, never fear.

Don't bother with the comments section for any of the coverage of the Surgeon General nominee... *rolling my eyes*

*still-not-quite-back-in-the-swing-of-this-work-thing Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 14, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle. Everyone still asleep except Scotty and slyness, it appears. Today is scrapple day here in the gummint, and there's some left in the Ready Room for those so inclined.

Today in Nautical and Aviation History

July 14, 1897: The packet Excelsior arrives in San Francisco with $750,000 in gold from the newly discovered Klondike gold fields; the news prompts the great Alaskan gold rush as some 100,000 prospectors flock to the Yukon over the next three years. The gold field produces $10 million in gold each year until the mines eventually dry up.
1914: Dr. Robert Goddard, the “father” of U.S. rocketry, receives a patent for his liquid-fueled rocket design, which waits 12 years for its first test flight.
1951: Maiden flight of the triple-ruddered Lockheed Super Constellation, the four-engine, 102-passenger “Connie,” soon to be the mainstay of many airlines and unquestionably one of the most beautiful airplanes ever built. She was created at the behest of major Lockheed stockowner Howard Hughes, and designed by Lockheed’s legendary design engineer Kelly Johnson (founder of Area 51, by the way) and his boss, Hall Hibbard. The Connie was the first fully pressurized airliner in general use, and the first with de-icing built into the wings. However, early models of the four-engine aircraft had engine troubles, leading to the Connie’s alternate nickname, the “world’s finest trimotor.” Her military designations were the C-69 and the C-121, among other variants. Twenty survivors are still in existence, including one at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport outside DC, and Columbine III, the VC-121E that was Dwight Eisenhower's presidential aircraft, now at Wright-Patterson AFB. Curiously, the Connie has the same basic wing shape as the Lockheed-built, Johnson-designed P-38 Lightning twin-boomed fighter plane of WWII.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 14, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodle!

BPHers, be aware I have toasted you yesterday with a pisco sour.


Posted by: Braguine | July 14, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodle!

I had a great time at the BPH last night. It was nice to put new faces with familiar names.

Back to the grind for me!

Posted by: Moose13 | July 14, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Only to be followed three days later, on July 17, by the Portland, arriving in Seattle, also carrying much Klondike gold.

Followed two years later, in 1899, by the Harriman science expedition to Alaska--a party of well-heeled elites, as compared to those middle-class educators and scientists who received free rail passage from Harriman's RR to Wyoming in 1899 for a fossil expedition.

Posted by: laloomis | July 14, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Yeah... maybe Palin has a point about government intrusion. This is a disgraceful idea, isn't it?

Posted by: -TBG- | July 14, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

A bill signedby Obama that went under my radar, as reported by the Salt Lake City Tribune last month:

[Convicted fossil thief Nathan] Murphy's theft case was still pending when President Barack Obama in March signed a law setting a penalty of up to five years in jail for stealing bones or other fossils from public land. The Paleontological Resource Protection Act is the country's first-ever law to specifically protect fossils.

Paleontologists and some public lands managers had sought the measure for years, but it came too late for Murphy's case.

LL: If time permits today, perhaps I can resurrect the story of the Swiss Siber-attack on Wyoming's fossils.

Posted by: laloomis | July 14, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Oh... also... I forgot to thank Jumper for that awesome link to the volcano article. The space station was able to take this very cool picture...

The article, again...

Posted by: -TBG- | July 14, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

OK, pointy-science head types, here is a serious question, the answer to which could aid the professionally pointy-headed: why should we be exploring the Outer Planets (Jupiter and outwards)? Mars missions are fairly easy to justify, because we can make a straightforward connection to a question that practically every human being finds compelling -- are we the only life in the universe? Venus has something similar, though not as compelling -- is Venus our future? Was Venus once like us? Is this what it looks like when a planet dies? The Outer Planets are a tougher sell, and perhaps there's a good reason for that. Europa is fairly easy, for the same reason as Mars. What about Ganymede? Titan? Jupiter? Saturn?

I'm at a meeting on exactly this subject today. Compelling answers could potentially find a voice among those who do this stuff professionally (or unprofessionally. Whatever).

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 14, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Last night's BPH had an all-star cast! My houseguest enjoyed herself and thought everyone was very nice.

@Southwester... how'd your anniversary celebration go? Did your wife like her present? Can we find out now what it was?

One more question for you... next time we gather for a BPH, can we expect you to join us?

Posted by: -TBG- | July 14, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Morning, friends. Slyness, we got rain all day long, and everybody was so happy to see it. I mean it has been so dry here, and the gardens are brown. Not a pretty sight. I got tomatoes from a vendor near the Dollar General, and they are delicious.
Maybe one day I'll be able to plant and harvest tomatoes like the ones I bought yesterday. I know, I'm dreaming here.

The space station is going to hit the water. And what about all that money spent? Do we get anything for the money? Does it have some saving grace? Seems like such a waste. Can't we use it for something else? And seriously, will China do the upkeep? I suspect it gets so lonesome sitting in that space station, day in, day out, without being able to go outside. It's like being locked up in prison or something. Those guys are going to need serious therapy when they return.

Mudge, Scotty, Yoki, Martooni, and everyone here, have a wonderful day. *waving*

The g-girl and I are heading to the laundry room as soon as we get dressed and fed. Have some music to face today, so please say a pray for me. Thanks a bunch.

Posted by: cmyth4u | July 14, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Why explore the outer planets? Tim, the answer is fairly easy: One explores that which is unknown, not that which is known.

It really doesn't have to be any more complicated than that. It would be like Jacques Cousteau deciding to study shallow waters rather than the Deep, because the Deep was too much trouble, and there was probably nothing much there anyway.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 14, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

That really is a spectacular photo of the volcano, BTW. Thanks for the link and re-link.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 14, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

But there is "unknown" that is closer and/or cheaper to explore. Why explore this particular "unknown"?

This is one of the fundamental challenges in grant-funded science: I need to persuade you that I know how much it will cost to do certain explorations, and I can explain why it matters, in order for me to take a step into the purely unknown. It's an elaborate lie. I need to convince you that I know everything except for one or two critical items, but those "few" unknowns are so important that I know nothing unless I know those things.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 14, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

What I want to know is how Tim's gonna explain us in his meeting... "Well... my IMAGINARY friends think..."

Posted by: -TBG- | July 14, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Orlando Sentinel has a substantial story on the presidential committee's work on manned space flight, including this:
"NASA confirms that it is looking at different versions of the Ares V, though a spokeswoman played down the significance of the review.",0,2316961.story

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 14, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Huh? Not following that.

I understand that there are extraneous considerations, such as money and grant funding, etc., and that these "real-word" considerations are inescapable. Nevertheless, one hopes that a major factor would be a "purely" scientific judgment, not a monetary one, about the relative merits of which of two (or more) paths to pursue.

Granted that there are still many unknowns about the near planets, Mars and Venus; nevertheless, the fact remains that we have already sent many missions to both places, and we already know a great deal about them. So the question about remaining unknowns about the near planets is only a "glass half empty/glass half full" one. I'd submit the remaining unknowns are relatively minor or simply examination of finer details *compared against* (emphasis necessary) the almost total unknown of the far outer planets and bodies.

Remember the statement that "the good is the enemy of the perfect." In trying to add more to the study of the near planets, we are striving toward "the perfect" (the total, the complete) knowledge, at the expense of "the good" (a broader but less detailed knowledge of *all* planets/bodies in the system).

If we could quantify the argument, it would be this: do we want 95% knowledge of Mars and 5% knowledge of the outer planets, or is it better to have only 60% knowledge of Mars, and 50% knowledge of Ganymeade, Jupiter, Neptune, Io, etc.? Built into this is the assumption that having 50%, 60%, whatever, knowledge of Mars and Venus allows us to extrapolate and speculate about the remaining/missing portions, whereas having only 5% knowledge of the outer planets is not sufficient to extrapolate.

And look at it like this: we already know enough about the near planets that we have no reason to expect/predict that continued exploration is going to result in some blockbuster new piece of knowledge that is going to be a "game-changer" in what we know. We cannot make this same statement about the outer bodies.

The argument in favor of exploring the inner/closer/cheaper planets simply smacks too much of the "expedient," not the scientific. It smacks of bean-counterism, it smacks, quite frankly, of cowardice, of complacency, of laziness. It smacks of being the "safe" choice (NOT a compliment). It is a decision a bureaucrat would make, not a scientist, not an astronomer. Not an explorer.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 14, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Pure curiosity is why *I* do it. But I need $2B, for which the usual counter-argument is "why aren't we spending that here on Earth?" (we are, of course -- all that money goes to scientists and engineers and thereby flows to their communities. And, given that we are a famously liberal bunch, a lot of that money goes to helping poor folks, etc). Nevertheless, I need to persuade folks why that money should be spent on Outer Planets research as well as money spent on Mars or exploring the deep ocean, etc. We don't want to dis the other guys, but we need a publicly-compelling argument for why we deserve serious consideration as well.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 14, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

"Home from the BPH. A good crowd of us--Don, rick0shea, Scotty, Nukespawn, bc, Moose, TBG, Son of G, Houseguest of G, LiT, CqP. Unfortunately, I wimped out and left before the Sphincter Town in Connecticut jokes commenced. - Posted by: Raysmom | July 13, 2009 9:39 PM |"

Yep, that was it. Nobody else there at all!


Posted by: bobsewell | July 14, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Good luck in your ordeal today, Cassandra (whatever it is).

Hi all!

Posted by: Wheezy11 | July 14, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Tim, maybe you should write a compelling poem about the far planets.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 14, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Bob S., of course you were there! You hid behind the coat rack to avoid the surveillance cameras, remember? :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 14, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Why outer planets?

How about because it is increasingly apparent that there are patterns in the overall structure of solar systems. Looking at the gas giants and the inner planets only is like trying to study the ecosystem of a pond by only looking at the visible fish and amphibians.

Posted by: engelmann | July 14, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Oh, dear. We have to be EXTREMELY cautious about commenting on patterns. Bode's "Law" and Intelligent Design get their footholds from that sort of thing.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 14, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Personally, I am kind of inclined to think that new priorities all need to be on hold until after we hear the results of the Kepler Mission.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 14, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Bob, I'm so sorry! As I wrote that, I was afraid I had forgotten someone, and so I did.

*administering 50 lashes with a wet noodle to myself*

Posted by: Raysmom | July 14, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Fair enough, though I maintain the 'ecosystem' theme is a compelling one for laypeople that may be adaptable to your argument.

Posted by: engelmann | July 14, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

What happened when 70 paleontologists recently visited the Creation Museum in Kentucky, a field trip during a paleo conference in nearby Cincinnati? The museum called by one writer the Mecca of Idiocracy.

Posted by: laloomis | July 14, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Here are my basic precepts for exploration --

What is the source of our science priorities? It is the fundamental set of questions that have dogged human culture for thousands of years: Why are we here? How did we get here? Where are we going/what will become of us? Are we alone/are we unique/are we special/can we be special? Science is a finely-crafted tool to pursue these questions, and any particular investigation may only be able to touch on these questions in the tiniest way. The closer we hew to the fundamental questions, the more compelling the priority of the investigation.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 14, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Just checking briefly (as I have a "brief" to write). I wanted to see some of the Sotomayor hearing and happened upon the pompous blowhard Orrin Hatch, being full of himself (and, um, you know, full of other stuff). So, I decided to come over to the imaginary neighborhood for a bit of R&R.

I'm slogging my way through a Supreme Court case which I'm gonna use in my brief. It's really very good for our side, and emanates from the pen (or, perhaps, "bat") of Whizzer White. Scalia dissents, but whatever he has to say in this particular case does not interest me one whit -- nor should it.

Glad everyone who participated had a good old time (or good *olde* time) at yesterday's BPH.

cy'all later.

Posted by: -ftb1- | July 14, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I'll throw in on Tim's challenge:

#1 Search for Life
It's no surprise to those familiar with me that I want deep drilling done on the moon, Mars, Europa. With some 90% of the mass of life on earth comprising subsurface underground bacteria and other single-cell forms, I want samples from these other deep places. I don't care whether this work is robotic or human although I think robotic is likely cheaper.

#2 Resource evaluation with applications for exploitation. I include asteroids, comets, and Phobos, Deimos; and want to find metals, carbon, water, nitrogen, and perhaps other good stuff (we need to know what materials - all of them - are READILY available.)

#3 Astrophysics and Astronomy. Keep doing what we are doing. The more we look at exotic environments such as neutron stars, novas, black holes, the more we understand the physics of fusion and transmutation of matter.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 14, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I realize that I do not possess a science background nor the correct procedures for arguing a point, but it seems to me that any exploration, whether scientific in nature or otherwise depends to some extent on the nature and characteristic of those willing to extend themselves in that pursuit. In short, moxey(?), for lack of a better word. Some people will always want to go beyond, to seek further than what is known or even tread in those same paths. Sure money is an object as it is with everything in this world, but that will not prevent or hinder the really bold personality. The person that says "so what". And there will always be a person that wants to go outside of what is ethical and human, that wants to venture in really murky water, and care nothing for guidelines or rules of decency. We've seen this before in history, our own history, and sometimes even in that there's a benefit, but, oh, the cost. Yet no one thinks about the cost when that same bold streak was used, and now offers rewards for the many.

And I realize this is more of an ethical point than perhaps choosing what spheres to explore in science, but I believe it falls in this discussion as well. There's ugliness in it all, and we just have to choose our demons. So much of this unknown could lead to the very circumstances that we as human have a tendency to repeat. Bad treatment of each other, something we are all well versed in, and as history tends to show, we constantly repeat.

Posted by: cmyth4u | July 14, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Look away, frosti, look away...


Posted by: Scottynuke | July 14, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

The main arguments I can see for exploring the outer planets are the following:

1) They are still so unknown that the knowledge/cost ratio is superior to competing missions.

2) Understanding our gas giants will help better understand the gas giants around other stars, which compose the majority of the planets so far detected.

3) The outer planets represent the buffer region between where we live and exosolar space. Being familiar with them might allow us to better detect changes in the exosolar environment.

4) The outer planets are beautiful and inspiring and worthy of our attention.

5) That's where the secret alien space stations are located. (Optional)

I wish I could think of more, but at some point exploration really does become an end in itself.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 14, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Oh, the reason for exploring the gas giants?? Easy -- determine what noble gases (and how much) are available for future tire inflation.

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 14, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

"World's finest tri-motor" almost got past me unnoticed. Funny.

I left out a lot on space exploration. For example I'm very willing to keep Venus and Mercury on the back burners.

In another matter, the reason I keep wondering about that volcano is because I wonder what effect the massive ash cloud is going to have on short-term climate. I was in Texas when a similar ash cloud kept rotating around the earth blocking the sun barely perceptibly. Memory is dim and this is damnably difficult to find info about online, but although it was shortly after Mt. St. Helens, I think that ash cloud was from a different, Mexican volcano. (In any case we noticed the dimming on several occasions and if we had been superstitious primitives it would have scared us. It was like a partial eclipse without the eclipse.)

These clouds only seem to come into play if they are very high; very forceful eruptions. Such as over 30 km or so.

Anyway, the following winter, '80 - '81, was the coldest in Ohio where I had moved, in a long time. It hit -27 F. one night outside Dover. I always suspected the ash cloud the year prior had contributed. And I wonder if this is going to be repeated because of the current volcano ash cloud.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 14, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Oh, Scotty, is that guy gonna get blown away in court.

ftb, I've been listening to the testimony all morning, too, and yes, Hatch is tedious in the extreme. He made me furious when he introduced that American Way nonsense, and later said there were comments that had no business in such a hearing. That being so, why did the ashhat introduce said comments? Grrrrrrrrr.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 14, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

the Pinatubo was a major pain in the neck.
Coldest summer ever in the following year in 1992.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 14, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Howdy. Thanks for the cool temperatures, y'all. It must have worked; according to one source we're only scheduled to hit 100 today. Of course, two others have us at 105 or over. I'm betting on them. It is barely in the nineties now, plenty cool enough for the Boy and his rowing camp cohorts. They have water, etc., and the organizers are very conscious of heat and overexertion. Fortunately they're aware that such solicitude is their best economic interest. Thus, the Boy's attendance continues to build his character.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 14, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Scotty's link was, um, interesting enough. Then I read some of the comments. Then, as an added twist, the only comment being held for review, but viewable when clicked, was exactly not what I expected.

Posted by: engelmann | July 14, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Good afternoon all -

*Tim, one reason I'd look at spending more time and effort exploring the outer planets in our solar system (the gas giants, not to be confused with Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh) is because with our current methods of extrasolar planetary detection, these are the kinds of planets we can "see."

And there appear to be a *lot* of them in our galaxy.

The more we know about the planets that are close to us (relatively speaking), the better we may understand those planets we're Observing in orbits around far off suns.

And vice versa - science that may yield multiple benefits.

Also, it would be a dandy incentive to develop new deep space propulsion systems and all the other associated technologies (shielding, orbital manuvering, imaging, data transmission/compression, automation/robotics... etc.) that may pay benefits as we start stepping out and developing the earth-luna system, and beyond.


Posted by: -bc- | July 14, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

*faxing Ivansmom two gallons of lemon Italian water ice [the really good kind, with tiny flecks of real lemon peel in it]and a couple of those cute little wooden paddles/faux spoons*

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 14, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Oh, I see RD covered my thought while I was composing my 12:39 PM and eating lunch...


Posted by: -bc- | July 14, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Jumper, I was in Texas then too, with the volcano ash. I'd almost forgotten.

Howdy to Cassandra. I'm glad you got some rain. Expect a box of books in a few days.

I like RD's and Jumper's answers to ScienceTim's question. Really, that's what I was going to write myself.

Regarding the hearings: I can no longer watch or listen. I think they should drastically change the format. If they want a real hearing, where the judicial candidate answers questions, let them do that. Outlaw, ban and prohibit any introductory speech or speech in the form of a question, as well as questions which use as a primary source or frame of reference the speaker's personal opinion; finally, any question which requires more that, say, three sentences to frame within the parameters above. Heck, let's make it two sentences. This should offer ample opportunity to competently assess the nominiee's qualification. After all, that is what the hearings are about. Isn't it?

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 14, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Hey everybody, I'm enjoying the reasons for planet exploration. They make sense to me! SciTim, I hope you're getting stuff that will be useful.

Gotta share a bumper sticker I saw this morning that cracked me up:

Jesus loves you,
But *I'm* his favorite!

Posted by: slyness | July 14, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, I saw a sticker recently:

"Jesus is coming - look busy"

Posted by: engelmann | July 14, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I do like RD_Padouk; a scientist with soul.

Off to a public debate on carbon tax proposals; don't suppose we'll come up with the perfect model.

Posted by: Yoki | July 14, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

That one made me laugh too, englemann! Thanks for sharing...

Posted by: slyness | July 14, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

@slyness: one of my brother's greatest regrets is passing up on buying the bumper sticker "I worship Satan ... and I vote!".

Posted by: Southwester | July 14, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

My number one favorite of all time bumper stickers of is the
"Somewhere in Texas a village is missing it's idiot". Oh my, I saw that on my way into work one day and laughed every time I thought of it for some time.

I would rather be boiled in oil than watch these SCOTUS hearings. I strive not to be too cynical about politics. I strive to believe that all politicians are not bloviating nincompoops. I want to believe that there are good, honest public servants who are committed to making our country a better place. Watching these hearings would pretty much put an end to those hopes, I think.

Haven't boodled in days, but glad to hear there was a fun BPH!

Posted by: Kim1 | July 14, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

oops, SCC- ing all over the place there.

Posted by: Kim1 | July 14, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

One of my favorite bumper stickers seen on the road...

"I can't come to work today. The voices are telling me to stay home and clean my guns."

Posted by: -TBG- | July 14, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Not exactly a bumper sticker, but...

"QUIET voices, or I'll poke you with a Q-tip again!"

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 14, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and more than 2,300 comments on the Palin op-ed...

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 14, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Apparent anti-abortion protestor just stood up and yelled something during the hearing, and got his butt removed from the room. All back to normal, now.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 14, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

I've always been partial to:

I love Jesus... It's his fan club that makes me nervous.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 14, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I agree that RD does indeed have Soul, but I also contend that the machines we send into the Universe do not. To this point, we haven't any that do -- to my knowledge, anyway.

Perhaps one day our tools, our constructs, will have hearts, minds, and souls like us. Perhaps even a type of life itself. And in fact we may be able to impart our very own onto them, the greatest gifts and perhaps worst curse we possibly could -- but until then, ad astra.

If I weren't already the Jackson Pollock of the English Language, I might just be the John Henry of Space Travel.


Posted by: -bc- | July 14, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

How come "I heard voices" when used as a defense is not automatically followed with "So why did you think you were supposed to obey them?"

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 14, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

It's not only the WaPo that has a low standard for the quality of editing and publishing for its website. The venerable Time has a typo on its frontpage since noon.

"Parents of swine flu victim Chloe Buckley say they are satisifed with care"

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 14, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

I think "satisifed" is just one of those cute little Briticisms that the English & the Canadians are always slipping in to make us 'mericans feel inferior.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 14, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

sa-tee-see-fee, Sa-tee-see-fed, I can see that bob s.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 14, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Well, one of my favorite bumper stickers is: "Stop Tailgating! I'm Out of Estrogen and I Have a Gun!"

My new Mac actually has tons more estrogen than I do anymore. *sigh*

Ivansmom -- I'm with you about the hearings. I'm hoping soon-to-be-Justice Sotomayor can blow off some steam later with her family and friends. She can even come over here and blow it off with some new imaginary friends. Mudge, you'll get the bunker ready for her, won't you?

Posted by: -ftb1- | July 14, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Nothing new in almost an hour?

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 14, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

They're vacuuming the Kincaides and dusting the Lladros, *Tim...

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 14, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: -TBG- | July 14, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

*peeking out from under a doilie*

(Stealth) Moose

Posted by: Moose13 | July 14, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

I got nothin'.

Posted by: ebtnut | July 14, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

I'm doing the shopping list for the bar/snack area in the bunker. Do we have a brand preference on mixers? For cheap wine, are we going with the Smoking Loon or the Menage a Trois? (There's only enough money in the cuss jar for one bottle of the Cakebread.) Frog's Leap or Stag's Leap for red-letter days?
Let's see...lemons, limes, trash bags...two bottles of capers or three?

Someone else needs to do the beer run...I'm not the right person for that job.

Posted by: LostInThought | July 14, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

If you're goin' fer beer, get me some of this-

Posted by: kguy1 | July 14, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Dr G and I are planning to stop at Straub's Brewery in Pennsylvania on our mini road trip next week. How about we pick up a keg while we're there, LiT?

Posted by: -TBG- | July 14, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Is that Unibrow, kguy?

Posted by: -TBG- | July 14, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Unibrow? Blasphemy! Made in Quebec by Unibroue, La Fin du Monde is wonderful stuff. Triple brewed Belgian ale with 9% ABV, yet smoooooth. No need to glug a six pack to feel benevolent toward your fellow creatures, with that alcohol content. One or two LFdM's will mellow you right out. Thank you, Canuckistanis!

Posted by: kguy1 | July 14, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Good choice kguy but the Fungi prefers La Maudite.
They should show their seasonal labels, they got quite funny ones over the years. I like the one with the devil taking a bath in a steaming holy-water stoup.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 14, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

One of my few college field trips (exclusive of Physical Geology) was to the DuBois Budweiser brewery, which regrettably didn't survive the age of mass-market beer. It was an absolutely neat old place.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 14, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Menage a Trois, please, LiT. Red AND white, if you'll be so kind.

I'll bring the stash of cheese we got the other day, Cajun cheddar, Treasure Cave bleu, and fresh goat cheese. Vinta crackers for the crowd, rice crackers for me since I'm off wheat.

Posted by: slyness | July 14, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

My 60th birthday present will be a trip to Germany for the 1,000 year anniversary of the Weihenstephan Brewery, the oldest active brewery in the world (and brewer of the best beer in the world, too).

Posted by: Southwester | July 14, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Hey Southwester, did you tell us what the present for Mrs. Southwester was? Inquiring minds are noisy as all get out.

Posted by: slyness | July 14, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

@slyness: It was an iPod touch with bluetooth headphones. Perfect for keeping on the move entertainment while your hands are busy attending to the needs of an infant. She is very happy with the gift, but I think she was even more impressed that I managed to keep it secret.

Posted by: Southwester | July 14, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

SW-er, I just so happen to have a Weihenstephan cardboard coaster just to my right to hold that hot cuppa tea. It even looks like it's 1000 years old now. But you're not 60 yet, are ya?

Posted by: -ftb- | July 14, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Of all things. Kenneth Turan's review of "Public Enemies" at the Los Angeles Times prompted me to email him about a minor (and in my opinion justified) anachronism. The FBI office had aluminum chairs, typical of military hospitals and some government offices after they were invented for the Navy during WWII. Set in 1934, they're anachronistic, yet give that FBI office exactly the right "scientific" look.

To my surprise, Turan sent thanks. I'm flattered.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 14, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

@ftb: Nope. This is a longterm plan. Weihenstephan has been brewing since 1040.

Posted by: Southwester | July 14, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Way cool, Southwester. You done good.

Posted by: slyness | July 14, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

The early batches must be past their prime.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 14, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

My husband finished the epilogue of the book "Public Enemies" about an hour before we saw the film "Public Enemies" on the Monday following the July 4 weekend.

Never have I seen him so angry after the film credits. He said he was tempted to walk out of the movie because the story was so Hollywoodized--and deviated so far from the book and the truth, especially the depiction of Melvin Purvis, the film portraying this desk agent as more competent than he certainly was in real life. My husband was grossly disappointed. I'd give the movie "Public Enemies" a five out of 10--a neutral rating, neither disliking it nor liking it.

Posted by: laloomis | July 14, 2009 7:54 PM | Report abuse

I saw My Sister's Keeper recently and then had the major difference in the book pointed out. Don't want to say much more than that.

Posted by: engelmann | July 14, 2009 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Which version made you cry the most, E-mann?

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | July 14, 2009 8:38 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, what made you angrier than you had ever been before?

Posted by: russianthistle | July 14, 2009 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Oh, the mental anguish...

All-Star game or "Princess Bride" in HD on ABC Family!!! ARRRRRGH!!! :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 14, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

S'nuke- we have a reverse Catch 22 situation here. The Obama birther Major doesn't want to deploy, but his reasoning so calls his reasoning into question he's not mentally fit to hold a clearance and thus not fit to deploy. A total win-win for him.

Long day today, and two more to go before I take a day off to have a long weekend. The frostrents arrive in town tomorrow for the annual "cousins weekend." Not a full blown reunion but the population of Our Fair City will double by Saturday when the complete "off year" contingent is in town.

There are times in the Sotomayor confirmation hearing where I simply cannot bear to listen to another self promoting pomposity. Is it just me, or does Senator Sessions sound like he really, really, really, really wanted to be a judge and still hasn't moved on?

Finally had some rain today but we topped out at 63, tomorrow's forecast says 65-70.

One variety of clematis and campanula Bowl of Cherries opened their first flowers today.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | July 14, 2009 9:24 PM | Report abuse

When my 16-year-old stepson punched his mother (my wife) in the face, knocking her backwards down the stairs ass over teakettle, and giving her a black eye. I believe that I came as close to killing another human being as it is possible to do without actually doing so.

What prompts the question, Weed?

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | July 14, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, did you beat the crap out of him?

Elderdottir was 11 when her father and I separated - a tough time at a tough age. She was a real pain until the day I wrestled her down and showed her that I could beat the crap out of her and would, if I needed to. I didn't, but I left no doubt about my ability to do so. Not a shining parental moment, but helpful in the long run.

Posted by: slyness | July 14, 2009 9:33 PM | Report abuse

My cousin sister got beaten by her husband umpteen times and majority of the times she needed medical attention. They have 12 kids. Sigh. He also beat up his mother and once sent her crashing down the stairs breaking her leg. If he hadn’t been killed by a car in front of their house when he was in his 40s, both women would have gotten more beatings.

Posted by: rainforest1 | July 14, 2009 9:47 PM | Report abuse

Today’s a public holiday for us. It’s the big guy’s birthday. The capital is all decked up with beautiful lightings. Normally, there would be a big celebration with parades, floats and all other stuff. This year, because of swine flu (300 confirm cases,) all public gathers, except for special prayers for the big guy in mosques, are cancelled.

Every year, 1 month before the big guy’s birthday, gov’t servants are not allowed to take leave to go out of the country. This year, because of the public gather cancellation, majority of them took leave on Thurs and Sat (gov’t dept and gov’t schools have their weekends on Fridays and Sundays) to have a long stretch of days off. All these people all going to jam the immigration check points.

Posted by: rainforest1 | July 14, 2009 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Those parental "moments" can be something else, Slyness, but almost always needed to clear the air, and other stuff.

Well, God is good. I'm stll alive at the radio station. I'm so happy it went well. I just love being a missionary. Thanks to those that sent up prayers, may God bless you and those you love.

The g-girl and I are getting ready to hit the sack. She went to a cook-out across the street, and just getting in, loaded with ice cream and cake. Have a good night, friends. Sweet dreams.

Posted by: cmyth4u | July 14, 2009 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, that sounds awful. And rainforest, too bad for words.

Almost forgot... thanks Ivansmom. I'll keep a lookout. The kids did poorly on the end of the year reading tests in just about every school. They had to re-take the test. I don't know if I'm going to see improvement in my lifetime or not. This year we changed our focus to include math because they did so poorly on those test. Many of them pass the math test, and flunked the reading test. Now if we can just get some balance on the situation. Thanks again, Ivansmom, and give my best to the Boy and Ivansdad.

Posted by: cmyth4u | July 14, 2009 10:03 PM | Report abuse

The President was really good and natural in the booth. It's got to be nice to hve Brad Pitt as the head of state.
Anybody knows if Harper is knowledgeable about any pro sport?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 14, 2009 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, so it wasn't a movie presentation of a book or story?

Sorry for the oblique reference... I thought you may have seen an earlier post about anger at the movies de l'ouest

Posted by: russianthistle | July 14, 2009 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Isn't he writing a hockey book Shriek, :-)

Posted by: dmd3 | July 14, 2009 10:26 PM | Report abuse

SD, it is nice, especially after enduring both Bushes. I was looking for the picture of Ichiro Suzuki meeting Obama, which Tim McCarver and the other guy talked about - said Ichiro had a look of delight. Haven't found it yet...but this is cool too:

And this is a movie review of the new Harry Potter movie, which touches on translating from books to movies:

And one more - on the Sotomayor hearing:

Posted by: seasea1 | July 14, 2009 10:33 PM | Report abuse

Um, three bottles of capers, please.

The Menage is good, and I'll put some change in the kitty for some Stag's Leap, thanks.

I can do some of the beer run, too - on these hot days, I'm good with some nice Belgian white wheat beers.

The All-Star Game's interesting enough, tied at 3 in the 7th.

And somehow I haven't been able to get Rush's "Bastille Day" out of my head since I woke this morning.

One other quick observation -- it's amazing how much kid grumpiness can be dissipated by a good water fight.


Posted by: -bc- | July 14, 2009 10:35 PM | Report abuse

No, slyness, I wanted to. I was too busy making sure my wife was still alive at the bottom of the steps. He bolted, and I told him never to set foot in this house again, and he never has. This is the one of the five kids I'm estranged to (and now you know why), and whose two kids (two of our grandkids, in theory) I've never met, and likely never will. My wife has since forgiven him, but I have not.

And to this day, he's still a jerk, just like his (biological) father, my wife's ex.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | July 14, 2009 10:39 PM | Report abuse

This losing by one point to the Al is getting old.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 14, 2009 11:35 PM | Report abuse

bc, go well.

Capers are easy.


Posted by: Yoki | July 14, 2009 11:53 PM | Report abuse

Forgiven, but not forgotten, I'm sure, Mudge. What a horrible day to be reminded of.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 15, 2009 12:01 AM | Report abuse

water fights are the best, bc.

Posted by: LALurker | July 15, 2009 12:21 AM | Report abuse

At least it wasn't a flippin tie Shriek.

After a very wet spring in this area,it hasn't rained since June 20th.I have done all the usuall things to make it rain,wash the car,go on the river without checking radar.But nothing has worked.Perhaps a rain dance is in order when I get back to west by god.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | July 15, 2009 1:08 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, it's hard to tell. I was pretty upset over having paid $12 to go see it.

Seriously, the book is more powerful.

Posted by: engelmann | July 15, 2009 1:15 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. Just above 9C/48F this morning. So it's official now, Summer's been cancelled.

I thought reading Picoult required some form of chemical castration for men first. I was apparently wrong.

Boring leg of the tour de France yesterday as the teams protested the ban on radios and earbuds. The only highlight was going through Nohant, a village famous for being the homebase of writer George Sand (a.k.a. Amandine Dupin). Chopin lived with her in Nohant for 7 years and wrote half his oeuvre during that period.

The radios and earbuds are back in the Tour today, that should be a normal day.

Let's find some coffee.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 15, 2009 6:00 AM | Report abuse

SCC composed half his oeuvre.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 15, 2009 6:22 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all. It's a pleasant 63 here, a wonderful temperature in which to walk.

Cassandra, I'm glad to hear you survived your day yesterday. Hope you and the little one slept well.

Mudge, I understand your reaction to your stepson's actions. Stuff like that is one reason I left my exhusband. Mr. T is one of the most gentle, peaceful souls I have ever known - one reason I love him dearly.

Gonna be a busy day, so I'll go ahead and jump into the fray.

Posted by: slyness | July 15, 2009 6:58 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Good, good, morning, friends. Slyness, thanks a bunch, and we slept like logs. The g-girl still holding up her end. I'm getting ready to jump into the fray also. As always, a busy day on Wednesday.

Mudge, even growing up in a single parent home, my sisters and I would never have done that. Your wife must be a very loving person. I think I've mentioned my mother was blind, but carried a pistol. Nope, never, no way, not even. I'll bet those kids really miss their grandfather and grandmother.

On kit, so much of science and religion still clash as in the history books. Do you think that will ever change?

To the Dawn Patrol, good morning, and all.

The bathtub is calling, and my day has begun. Time to get cracking. Have a wonderful day, folks, and really try to enjoy the day. I'm going to do my best.*waving*

Posted by: cmyth4u | July 15, 2009 7:18 AM | Report abuse

Morning all... got a call at 6:30 this morning from Dr G, who was down the street at the local Exxon station after his car started acting hinky. After the initial "ugh" about getting out of bed and picking him up, I'm happier now that he's fixing breakfast.

And I'm enjoying my first K-cup of coffee. Yum!

Hope y'all have a great day... wonder what Joel's up to right now? I hope he's enjoying his Roman Holiday.

Posted by: -TBG- | July 15, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse

Morning all!

Well, not EVERY All-Star game can be a barn-burner, right gwe??

And frankly, it looked like mutual giddiness when the President went around the clubhouses before the game. Ichiro's body languange and expression were priceless -- bouncing on the balls of his feet, "Hee hee hee, I'm getting his autograph on a baseball!" The kind of thing you'd expect from a 10-year-old kid getting Ichiro's signature. And the President looked quite starstruck with Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Stan Musial and all at home plate afer the first pitch (and a quite decent one at that!) Massive bummer that Wakefield didn't get to pitch, though.

No NukeSpawn in the office today... really sedate and quiet for some reason. :-)

And Sneaks, Maggie O'D, bc -- here's a sad note from Boston, WBCN is going off the air:

Also quite sad the Stone and Franklin Park Zoos are literally threatened by Bay State budget woes.


*Happy-Hump-Day-and-where's-the-coffee Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 15, 2009 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Sorry to be AWOL, but my parents left behind a couple of bottles of Charles Shaw complete with $2.99 stickers. Any takers?


Posted by: yellojkt | July 15, 2009 7:40 AM | Report abuse

Wow, jkt, you have two official bottles of "two buck Chuck" ... under the line by a penny

Posted by: russianthistle | July 15, 2009 7:48 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodlers!

We interrupt your peaceful activities with the latest piracy scores.

Piracy events in the first half of 2009 have doubled over the same period last year from 114 in 2008 to 240 up to the end of last June.

Some more numbers:
130 events attributed to the Somali franchise

13 events in Nigerian waters, a similar number off India.

In the western hemisphere, 10 events occured in Peruvian waters.

591 hostages taken
19 seamen were wounded
6 murdered.

Now, what's for breakfast?


Posted by: Braguine | July 15, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Late to the game, but here's my rationalization on the Outer Planets, ScienceTim:

1) The Outer Planets provide a natural laboratory for understanding meteorological processes under relatively idealized conditions (no land masses, mountains, or oceans with differential heating to deal with). Moreover, given the different axial tilts, by studying all of them you introduce a seasonal variable while controlling for those other factors. This has a strong potential for understanding the interplay of weather variables on Earth. This is especially important because weather forecasts are based largely on prior patterns (95% of the time, when we see conditions "X", we experience weather "Y" 3 days later). With the current rapid changes in global climate, this style of forecasting my become less reliable in the coming years, so a better understanding of fundamental climate variables will be necessary to accurately predict Earth's weather.

2) If you are already studying the Outer Planets, you also have their satellites in close proximity, which can also be studied with minimal additional effort. Voyager, Galileo, and Cassini have all demonstrated the tremendous geological variety of the OP satellites. Study of these bodies can also help with the understanding of Earth's geological systems, particularly plate tectonics, heat flow, and the effects of geologic outgassing on atmospheric composition. Of all the bodies in the solar system, Earth seems to be the only one in which plate tectonics are active (although there's a chance Mars may have had tectonics in the past). Tectonics are critical to Earth's internal heat flow, so how do other bodies manage? Moreover, what role does tectonics play in atmospheric composition (certainly it has an effect on CO2 levels). Is there some correlation between tectonics, CO2 concentrations, and life, that can be used to remotely predict conditions on extrasolar planets?

My 2 cents.

Posted by: Hopeful_Monster | July 15, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle.

OK, Boodle gardeners, here's a tough one for you: has anybody ever heard of spontaneous combustion in potting soil? The other day my wife thought she smelled something burning outside near the garage, but we couldn't find anything. The next morning she called me out onto the end of our deck. We have an urn-like pot there about 18 inches tall and maybe 15 inches diameter across the top, made out of something like recycled plastic. It is filled with potting soil and has some flowery stuff growing in it. Near the top of the urn there was a hole in the side that looked like it had melted. When you put your hand on the side of the urn, it was warm to the touch, not hot, but definitely warm. And the burning smell was coming from it. I took the urn down to the backyard and we dumped it out onto a sheet, in case it was smoldering inside. We didn't find or see anything, though.

Anybody got any ideas?

OK, here's your history medicine for the day:

Today in Nautical and Aviation History

July 15, 1815: Fresh from his defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon Bonaparte surrenders to British Capt. Frederick Maitland aboard HMS Bellerophon at Basque Roads, en route to his final exile on the island of St. Helena.
1933: Italian Air Marshal Italo Balboa and his fleet of 24 Savoia-Marchetti 855 flying boats arrive at the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago after a 15-day goodwill flight from Ortebello, Italy. Gen. Balbo and his fleet are one of the major aviation attractions of the inter-war years.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 15, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Wow, Mudge... smoking pot, eh?

Actually... I think LindaLoo has the experience in the combustible-soil arena.

Posted by: -TBG- | July 15, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Note that when the British campaign against Napoleon finally ended, the British economy, because of war debt, severely contracted. One impact of both shrinking national and personal fortunes was the cessation of the building of big estates and public construction--and the use of English building materials, including oolitic limestones.

Personal spending also plummeted, so Brits were far less likely to spend seven pounds to purchase the first geological map of England, published that same year, in 1815, the culmination of years of toil, travel, and numerous observations by William Smith. See Simon Winchester's "The Map that Changed the World."

Also, what percentage of a chance that Mars may have had plate tectonics in the past? 25 percent? 50 percent? 75 percent?

Posted by: laloomis | July 15, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, only one source for that kind of phenomenon... aliens. I'm sure that Joel will address when he returns.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 15, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Linda, at that price, it would have been cheaper to just hire yourself a geologist. Come to think of it, it still is.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 15, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

I'm sorry no one caught it at the time, but a friend just e-mailed me that Shifty Powers died a month ago. For those who never saw it, Shifty was one of the main characters in the 10-part TV series "Band of Brothers," and was in every episode.

Shifty was a member of the now famous 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment's Easy Company, in the 101st Airborne Division, and made the parachute jump into Normandy on D-Day, made the jump into Arnhem, and fought all the way across the Rhine into Germany. He was considered the best shot in the company.

After the war ended in Germany, there was a lottery to see which man from the company would be sent home first. Shifty won, and riding in a jeep on the way to the airfield, Shifty was badly injured when the jeep overturned. He spent many months recuperating and instead of getting home first, he got home last. And of course it was ironic in the extreme that a man who had survived from Normandy to Brechtesgaden more or less without a scratch was badly hurt in a traffic accident a few days after his war was over.

Here's his obit:

His Wikipedia write-up:

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 15, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

LOL. Yes, TBG, that was my very first experience with smoking pot. Cough, cough, choke, choke.

Say, we haven't had virtual lunch at the club in quite a while. Whaddaya say?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 15, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Re: the 9:37...???

Posted by: laloomis | July 15, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Hey Mudge, there must have been something decomposing in that soil that decided it would rather oxidize quickly than slowly. The process is called spontaneous combustion. I haven't heard of it in garden soil but a pile of dirty, oily rags will heat up and catch fire rather reliably.

Is there anything in the area that would act as a prism to focus light on the pot? That'll start a fire also.

Posted by: slyness | July 15, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Teenage groundhogs smoking behind the pot?
A part of the Space Station that made an early de-orbiting?

The pool water temperature was 84F two weeks ago. It was at 72F this morning. At this rate we should be able to skate on it by early September.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 15, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

You don't get the reference? Sorry.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 15, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I know about spontaneous combustion in rags, wet (drying) newspapers, etc. No, no light source, either.

I didn't get it either, Weed.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 15, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

The 40 remaining William Smith maps command more than seven pounds today, without doubt. According to this Sept.2005 blogpost, there are only two in the U.S. So contemporary geologists would make a pilgrimage to Bufalo?:

Buffalo's Central Library has put on display its copy of William Smith's 1815 geological map of Great Britain. The rare map, one of only 40 hand-made copies that remain, was the first geological map of any country in the world. It has been called, "the map that changed the world" because its mapping of the earth's layers and fossils, is said to have influenced the work of Charles Darwin and the world's coal and oil industries. Smith, who eventually became known as the, "Father of English Geology" noticed layers in the rocks and that the fossils varied from layer to layer in the canals he was digging. His studies formed the foundation for a new chronology of the earth's history and provided a tool for detecting coal and oil reserves. Unforntunately, the Father of English Geology wound up in debtor's prison and was even homeless for a while. Years later the importance of his work was recognized and was recently the subject of a best selling book, by Simon Winchester.

Newsday reports that the exhibit, put together with the help of University at Buffalo scientists, has geologists from all over the country making plans to travel to Buffalo to view this map. The only other copy in the United States lies in the Library of Congress. The exhibit runs through the end of the year.

Posted by: laloomis | July 15, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Why Buffalo? Who is Chauncey Hamlin?

The famous map found its way to Buffalo, thanks to Chauncey Hamlin, who headed Buffalo's Museum of Science (then called the Buffalo Society of Natural Science) from 1920-48. During those years, he assembled a collection -- called "The Milestones of Science" -- of 196 first editions of manuscripts and letters of many of science's giants including Copernicus, Galileo, Archimedes and Kepler. The William Smith map was among them.

According to this website, actor Harry Hamlin is Chauncey's grandson...

Posted by: laloomis | July 15, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Note, too, *l*:

"If geology were a religion, this map would be its bible," said Robert Jacobi, Ph.D., UB professor of geology. The [William Smith's] 1815, hand-tinted, 10-foot-by-six-foot map is the world's first geologic map and it's now on exhibit at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.

Posted by: laloomis | July 15, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Peat moss fire?

Posted by: engelmann | July 15, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Cannibal ants getting ready to cook up the neighboring colony?

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 15, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

laloomis... we're visiting Buffalo next week and I can't figure out if that map is still on exhibit. Those links are from 2005 and the library's exhibit website shows dates but no years (ugh!).

Thanks for pointing it out! Dr G is a fan of Winchester's book.

Posted by: -TBG- | July 15, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, I've been listening to your senator, Coburn, grilling Sotomayor. My conclusion: Coburn is a sneaky, tricky, b@st@rd. (And Sotomayor handled him with one hand tied behind her back.)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 15, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Meanwhile, Sotomayor is soooooo wily herself. She must have quoted Scalia a dozen times so far this morning.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 15, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Coburn's already pretty much flat said he won't vote to confirm, so he's just marking time and talking to hear himself, or for the two or three constituents that may care.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 15, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Sad, sad article here...


Posted by: Scottynuke | July 15, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I'm putting my money on the presence of a cigarette smoker, Mudge. A hastily buried butt, then smoldering for a day or so deep into the peaty mix?

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 15, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

rainforest --

Here is a follow-up to the thermal energy story.

Posted by: nellie4 | July 15, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

My husband would be sad to see the space station done away with. Twenty years ago he worked for a contractor involved with the project; he had something to do with spare parts. I believe he was responsible for the decision to scrub the plan to use a big basket and long rope to get the parts up there when needed.

Posted by: nellie4 | July 15, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

rainforest: it is easier to read with the link --

Posted by: nellie4 | July 15, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

This cracks me up... I just searched our clip art service website for "religious" images and this was the fourth image...

Posted by: -TBG- | July 15, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

I would think slyness is correct in her assessment of your pot Mudge. I tried a while ago to take a picture of the steaming pile of compost I had.

We had a neighbour who had a smoldering fire in their garden, turned out to be a falty wire in their outdoor lights which caused the soil to start to smolder, I remember it because they were away and it was crazy hot and I kept going out in the back yard and smelling the small of something burning but saw no smoke or any sign of fire, kept checking things. When they came back they told me what had caused the smell, fortunately no serious damage and the received new lights under warranty.

Is the pot close to a window - reflection warming the pot?

Posted by: dmd3 | July 15, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

As has been pointed out, decomposing stuff (like, say, swamps, big mounds of mulch or ... potting soil) can give off plenty of heat energy and some interesting chemicals in gas or vapor forms. (e.g. methane.)

A bit of an unpleasant surprise to have a little exothermic reaction going on in a pot of soil, but certainly not surprising. And while the local weather has not been terribly hot and humid lately, there's there's been plenty of clear skies and sun (a vigorous UV quotient lately, IIRC), maybe enough to send your buds Up in Smoke. Under the right conditions, of course.

So, who has tonight in the Pool for the Shuttle launch?

Also, who has the punch line to, "So, Two Canadians Walk into the ISS, and ..."


Posted by: -bc- | July 15, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

SCC: "certainly not shocking."



Posted by: -bc- | July 15, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

If that's a moose, I'd hate to see your rats.

Posted by: Yoki | July 15, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Nope, no wiring, no reflected light, plenty of ventilation, nothing near it. We considered the smoldering cigarette butt theory (since both kids smoke), and looked for evidence of same so we could yell at somebody, but found nothing.

My entry: ""So, Two Canadians Walk into the ISS, and ..."

"...proceed to sit down and hold a polite converstion."

Uh, bc, are we supposed to be going for humor, or technical accuracy?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 15, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

"So, Two Canadians Walk into the ISS, and ..."

" says to the other, 'Say, you can see Russia from here.'"

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 15, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Oops, sorry. That was a Sarah Palin joke.

Never mind.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 15, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

"So, Two Canadians Walk into the ISS, and ..."

" says to the other, 'If we're up here, who's on the Achenblog?'

Posted by: -TBG- | July 15, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Hey Mudge and Linda...

"... so Brits were far less likely to spend seven pounds to purchase the first geological map of England ..."

It must be all the weed I smoked as a youth.

For seven pounds, you can get yourself a Geologist. You wouldn't need a map.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 15, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

The combusting peat moss story sounds serious enough. The stuff catches fire in nature, sometimes on a spectacular scale in places like Okeefenokee Swamp.

But I would never have thought of people with cigarettes presenting an urban peat fire menace.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 15, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I maintain my compost in a plastic trash can and I think it lacks the volume to get seriously active, which has me constantly dreaming about a big 1 cubic yard container, preferably the rotating kind. I think the smaller trash can (30 gallon thereabouts) radiates its reaction heat too fast to get it going good like the center of a BIG compost pile. This small pot of Mudge's made me suspect another source of ignition than retained heat of composting. But it's all a mystery to me anyway: I don't see how the heat-producing bacteria can survive the heat buildup towards ignition anyway no matter how large the pile.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 15, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Texas Gov. Rick Perry wanted to secede from the Union, then his office misprepresented the results of the $2 million border camera/surveillance program, now this...:

More than 15,000 Texans will exhaust their unemployment benefits by the end of July and could face a delay of months before getting a 13-week, federally financed extension because the state can't program its computers fast enough.

They're among 82,000 Texans who are on the last emergency extension of unemployment benefits before the additional 13 weeks kicks in. The extra benefits are paid for under the federal stimulus package.

Posted by: laloomis | July 15, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Dana Milbank has a funny column (at last!) about the Sotomayor hearing:

Posted by: seasea1 | July 15, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Someone in the talk section of Wikipedia (which article on spontaneous combustion taught me nothing new, really) wondered if this link should be at the bottom of the main article:

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 15, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, the term "punch line" typically indicates a joke.

However, humor, of course, is relative.
Even the Three Stooges.

My punch line for the joke:

"... and after it's all over, with lord only knows what floating around the ISS main module, mission control quietly says, 'and what do you call that manuver? Please advise. Over.

And the Canastronauts say, 'The Aristocrats!'"

Someone please tell me that their names aren't Terrance and Phillip.


Posted by: -bc- | July 15, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

New kit. Be seeing you!

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 15, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

"So the question about remaining unknowns about the near planets is only a "glass half empty/glass half full" one."

I would say that we have a process and you maybe stuck on the first step. Once we collect knowledge about a planet, we travel there and we make use of it. We see a tree, we locate fruit and we collect it. If we spend all our effort on the first step - as in robots only for space exploration, we miss the other and more productive steps and do not get our payback. That is a mistake.

Oh, the Golden Apples of the Sun.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | July 16, 2009 6:02 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company