Browsing today's KCStar, we find this story, in which we learn that a man went to traffic court in a vehicle containing "seven firearms, heroin, methamphetamine and the prescription painkiller oxycodone." Also an apparently unconscious passenger. The vehicle itself was quite familiar to local police, who recognized it immediately. Things went downhill from there.
Had pleasant stay in FL, which besides time w/family included visits to this, this, and this. Discovered that the vast majority of the traffic into Arcturus is coming from Alan Boyle's Cosmic Log. This may lead to a greater focus on astronomy.
I'll begin that by recounting a brief observing experience with my nephew Jonathan's 70 mm f/5 Meade refractor. It comes with 2 eyepieces, 25 mm (yielding 14x magnification) and 9 mm (39x). We did not plug in the computerized control system which (once the telescope has been aligned properly) can be used to find lots of things -- I am biased toward actually learning the sky and finding anything too faint to see with the naked eye by "star-hopping."
Last Tuesday night, we looked at the Pleiades, which were very impressive at 14x, and at the Andromeda Galaxy; we were also able to spot M32 (the nearer satellite galaxy in the picture). The higher-power eyepiece did show the rings of Saturn, but only as a tiny oval elongation of the planet; Titan was visible nearby. Viewing conditions were not ideal, as we were near the southeastern edge of a metropolitan area of 1.1 million people, but I was favorably impressed by the telescope, and now have a nephew who thinks that I know "where everything is!"
Jonathan is about to turn 10 and may be ready for a full-immersion experience like this in another year or two.
-- to borrow a phrase from Rand Simberg. I'll be in Jacksonville Beach, FL, for the next 5 days, so posting is likely to be light until next weekend. Thanks for your continued patronage ...
Scientists Revise Odds of Asteroid Collision, reports Patricia Reaney of Reuters. Specifically, Tunguska-class events are now expected about once per millenium. But here are the really intriguing numbers:
In research reported in the science journal Nature, the scientists studied more than eight years of data from U.S. Department of Defense satellites which scan the Earth for evidence of nuclear explosions.
According to the satellite information there were nearly 300 flashes of small asteroids ranging in size from less than one to 10 yards exploding in the upper atmosphere during that time.
Back in September, I estimated half a dozen impacts a year which could potentially be mistaken for nuclear explosions, and calculated that within 11 years, there is a 50-50 chance of such an event occurring over India or Pakistan.
The numbers given above, however, imply that the flux of very small near-Earth objects striking Earth is about six times what I estimated. Were all of these capable of being drastically misinterpreted, the threat to the subcontinent could become critical over a mere 2-year period. Another reason to start up a distributed observing program.
Joe Katzman, whose blog is currently dormant, cc'd me on something he sent to two really smart guys, namely Space elevator plan is on the move. Most of my readership is, I expect, already somewhat familiar with this concept, whose technical feasibility is now merely a matter of realizing the mass production of carbon-nanotube-composite ribbon; all the other components of the system either already exist or are being created for other applications. On this basis, therefore, construction could begin within five years.
Purely technical risks, however, are not the only kind. This structure is to extend from a point on Earth's equator straight up for a hundred thousand kilometers. It will be only 1 meter wide, but it will nonetheless, in effect, present an obstacle to every satellite in low and medium Earth orbit, all of which are on trajectories which potentially intersect with some part of the space elevator. Were I an owner of one -- and there are ~104 of them -- I would require a great deal of assurance that my property would not be striking an object a meter across at speeds up to nearly 8 km sec-1.
Grazing on over to HighLift Systems and reading through the FAQ, we find:
Will the large amount of orbital debris be a problem?
Low Earth objects can and will pose a serious problem. However active avoidance can be used to avoid objects that would cause damage. On average, an object would have to be avoided every 14 hours.
The FAQ begins by noting that "[m]any questions revolve around the issue of failure." Mine certainly do, but I care far less about the failure of the space elevator than the failure of existing infrastructure in LEO and MEO (which includes, for example, the GPS satellites). It sounds like this is being addressed*. But I suspect that the legal hurdle it creates will be far more difficult to surmount than any of the technical issues, and will become, as we say, "the long pole in the tent."
When or if this is dealt with, however, the space elevator has the potential of opening up the Solar System in a way comparable to the highest hopes associated with Project Orion. Payloads released from the far end of the space elevator will have "sufficient energy to escape from Earth's gravity and travel to the Moon, Mars, Venus and the asteroids." Specifically, a 105-km space elevator allows a payload to be sent to any point in the Solar System between about 0.5 and 6 AU from the Sun, giving access to Venus, Mars, the entire asteroid belt, and Jupiter, entirely without the use of a booster rocket. Increasing the final altitude of the elevator to 140,000 km brings all the planets into range.
* Quoting from Subsection 10.3 (Low-Earth-Orbit Objects) of the Phase I NIAC paper (warning: ~16 MB *.pdf):
... we want to avoid all impacts on the cable from objects larger than 1 cm (this becomes less stringent as the cable grows). Based on the system proposed by Johnson Space Center the space elevator would need to avoid a piece of space debris every fourteen hours on average (see table 10.3.1). With an understanding of cable dynamics, a good computer system and the proposed anchor facility (Chapter 6: Anchor) this level of active avoidance is feasible.
The anchor is mobile by virtue of being located in the Pacific Ocean, ~1500 km west of the Galapagos islands, on a ship similar to the Sea Launch facility.
Bill Walker would love to change the world, but he doesn't know what to do:
... the planet is getting smaller, the weapons are getting bigger, and the political motives for war are the same as ever. What is the solution? How can a minarchist or anarcho-capitalist society defend itself from the intellectual heirs of Genghis Khan?
I'm less alienated than Bill. I agree with his call for civil defense, but I also believe that offensive weapons have greatly improved; precision-guided munitions, in combination with good intelligence, manage the risk to noncombatants about as well as is humanly possible. They reduce the number of munitions used, the number of planes and pilots put in harm's way, and the number of civilian casualties, all by two orders of magnitude. Sometimes they don't even use explosives -- a deliberate effort to minimize collateral damage.
To be sure, the risks represented by the proverb that "war is the health of the State" must still be managed as well. Not every idea we've heard since 9/11 has been a good one. But most of the threats are domestic -- the wish-list USA PATRIOT act, and the umpteenth permanent Cabinet-level department created in a transient crisis. Our vigilance must be directed against opportunists as well as terrorists.
(First previously unmentioned reader to tell me where I got the title and first line of this post gets the usual prize of seeing their name here.)
Just a brief comment on the What Would Jesus Drive campaign, since KC is to be a test market for its advertisements.
The discussion paper (where we unsurprisingly find Ron Sider) has the usual problems, most notably a failure to acknowledge that air pollution in the US has plummeted and therefore cannot be a cause of the ills (increased asthma, adverse climate change, etc) it highlights. "The nationwide data show that since 1970:
Notwithstanding having quoted the above, however, I find myself entirely in agreement with the principles listed in the discussion paper:
(I daresay that my ideas of how to implement Principle Three would differ from those of the authors of this campaign, if only because the word "nanotechnology" appears nowhere in the discussion paper.)
So what about the original question -- what would Jesus drive? Well, based on this, I'd have to say: something he could sleep in. Picture a beat-up old station wagon or conversion van long past its prime.
Send 'em in. Here's mine:
Got up at 2 AM (argh), stumbled around, donned warm-weather gear, put lawn chairs in van, bought coffee and doughnuts at local convenience store, and drove on out to site, arriving before 3 AM. No one else was there, but I was soon joined by fellow ASKC member Bob Sandy and several "civilians" (amateur amateur astronomers?). The radiant was already halfway to the zenith in the eastern sky. Moon was bright enough to read by but was far enough westward not to be too much of a problem. Both seeing and transparency were excellent -- considering the moonlight, relatively faint stars were visible, and the stars barely twinkled.
I lay down on a large piece of cardboard in the shadow cast by the van -- this also got me out of the wind, though it was only a light breeze. Temperature was relatively warm for the middle of the night in mid-November, around 40° F, and humidity was low; no dew on the grass. Saturn shone at magnitude -0.3 between Taurus and Gemini, and Jupiter dominated the eastern sky at magnitude -2.3 (that is, about 6 times brighter than Saturn) just to the right of the "sickle" in Leo, only a few degrees away from the radiant.
There were a few bursts of meteors right around 3:00 CST, then things quieted down for a while, though the quantity was always at least as good as the best Perseid showers I observed in the 1980s, with a ZHR of perhaps 200. But right around 4:30, as predicted, the rate increased enormously. Between 4:30 and 5:15 I observed at least 10 meteors per minute, and I was unable to watch more than about half the sky hemisphere at any given moment. The ZHR must have been well over 1,000 and, had it not been for the moonlight, would have appeared several times that figure.
Since the Moon was effectively filtering out all the fainter meteors, a disproportionate number of the visible ones were exceptionally bright, leaving glowing trails that persisted for anywhere from a few seconds to over a minute. The only color I noticed was green. Due to the geometry of the orbit of parent comet Tempel-Tuttle, most of the meteors were very fast, lasting no more than a fraction of a second.
Toward dawn, the brightest star in the eastern sky was, whaddaya know, Arcturus, but Venus was far brighter at magnitude –4.5 (8 times brighter than Jupiter!) -- it looked like a streetlight, or perhaps an airplane, when it was near the horizon. Just above it, near Spica, was Mars, 300 times fainter at magnitude +1.7; so for a while four planets, plus the Moon, were all visible, all more or less in a line due to the approximate coplanarity of their orbits.
At 5:42 AM CST, the International Space Station emerged from the Earth's shadow in Gemini, near Saturn, moving from northwest to southeast. It moved faster than I expected and grew brighter until it rivaled Jupiter, then slowly faded as it moved away. By then I'd been out for 3 hours and was getting cold, so I drove home, with the Frost Moon setting in the west-northwest.
UPDATE: Here's a lengthy report from a local observer, coincidentally named Leo, who watched the meteors from about 30 miles west of where I was.
I was one of the fortunate observers of the 11/1966 Leonids - the shower that holds the current world rate record (citation below). In 1966, I'd read about a "meteor storm" in the Kansas City Star. Curious about such an event, I had stayed up late to watch -- and saw nothing at all. I was disappointed, and abandoned the attempt. Then, I'd awakened early to try again. I witnessed the entire November sky over 103rd Street and Tracy frantic and alive with movement - an awesome panoramic spectacle indeed for a naive 11 year old. That night I became a true fan of Deep Space.
The '66 Leonids continue to inspire me to prostrate (except face-up!) my middle-aged self for Tempel-Tuttle's stream almost every November. (That's "prostrate" - and not "prostate"...)
Last night I'd stayed up late to rout a basement sewage backup and then publish some HTML to the web for clients. I suddenly awoke about 4:15 with a "I'm forgetting something" feeling. I decided that the good lord was again demanding my presence underneath his light show. So, I soon found myself in a Chiefs coat lying on a group of evergreen bushes near 3 Tree Island (just adjacent to JCCC) looking for Regulus so I could orient. Toes east, hood west, eyes east of zenith. The temp was perhaps 40F; I was wishing I'd remembered to wear socks [portions of this account may be unreliable -- JDM].
I was not disappointed. Although the light from the waxing gibbous moon behind my head had to be swamping most of the faint objects, I counted meteor trails into the hundreds during a 45 minute observation. I saw one extremely fast meteor emerge from Leo's head, apparently pass near Denebola, and appear to collide with Spica towards the northeast. I saw one slower bolide flare twice on its way through Cancer to Gemini, leaving a long trail which persisted perhaps 10 seconds despite the moon scatter. I also saw a head-on event (appears as a bright point instead of a trail) that appeared to exactly complete Leo's backwards sickle by exactly eclipsing m Leo (Leo's 12th brightest; dimmest in the Sickle; 2nd star from the Sickle tip), appearing to brighten it to the magnitude it should have always been in the first place. That was cool.
Presently, my toes got cold, and I came in. To commemorate the occasion while I warmed up, I listened to Thomas Dolby "Astronauts and Heretics" - and a little Last Chance by Kansas City's own.
"Albert Einstein nailed Space/Time
but the wild thing had him stumped.
Al baby, two and two make five and a quarter -
That's why people fall in love.
And our lives are like grains of sand.
Snack time for a moonbeam -
and tonight is a perfect night
to dissolve in this ocean of light
and fall in love."
-- Thomas Dolby ("That's Why People Fall in Love")
(1966 Leonids over Arizona: 40 minute burst; rates up to 60,000 per hour -- that's 1,000 per minute, or 16.6 per second; p 59; Bone, Neil; Sky & Telescope; Observer's Guides, Meteors. Ed. Leif J. Robinson. Cambridge: Sky Publishing, 1993.)
... if you want to have a significant affect on the earth's temperature, you have to somehow legislate people to reduce their total energy use by about 50 percent in the next 50 years, even as the number of people using energy will nearly double in that time. That works out to about 25 percent of today's energy running tomorrow's house, car and economy.
That's not going to happen, despite the wishes of Annan or virtually every state. Legislation can devolve from the United Nations to the United States to individual states -- but physics is eternal.
I rarely disagree with Cato, but technological advance in this century will outstrip any environmental legislation, good or bad. As Eric Drexler has written:
Scenarios for energy use and climate change assume continued reliance on fossil fuels. The production of similar fuels from water, CO2, and sunlight is at present impractical because the required devices are either costly or inefficient. Molecular manufacturing technology (MMT)-enabled processes are well suited to the required chemical transformations, and more advanced MMT will remove the cost barrier, producing (for example) photovoltaic stick-on film at a cost below $0.10 per square meter, and mechanically suitable for road resurfacing.
Similarly, Drexler, Peterson, and Pergamit wrote:
On a sunny day, an area just a few paces on a side would generate a kilowatt of electrical power. With good batteries (and enough repaved roads and solar-cell roofing), present demands for electrical power could be met with no coal burning, no oil imports, no nuclear power, no hydroelectric dams, and no land taken over for solar power generation plants.
The most conservative estimates have nanotechnology in all its aspects arriving by 2050. The ability to pave the roads with photovoltaic material and mass-produce cheap energy-storage devices will certainly precede far more complex applications like cell repair. Kyoto does not matter. Greens may enact the strictest emission limits, down to and including zero; nanotech will match them, long before 2100.
|"God will not suffer man to have the knowledge of things to come; for if he had prescience
of his prosperity he would be careless; and understanding of his adversity he would be senseless."
|You are Augustine!|
You love to study tough issues and don't mind it if you lose sleep over them.
Everyone loves you and wants to talk to you and hear your views; you even get things like "nice debating with you."
Yep, you are super smart, even if you are still trying to figure it all out.
You're also very honest, something people admire, even when you do stupid things.
(Via Iain Murray).
Earlier this year, the U.S. government casually asked for bids from NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) for contracts to provide humanitarian services in central Iraq. For years, such contracts were given out for northern Iraq. That's the Kurdish area that has been kept free of Iraqi troops and secret police by American and British airpower, and the Turkish army. Seeing America lining up NGOs to pass out food and medicine in Baghdad sends a chilling message to the current rulers of Iraq.
This appears to be an excellent example of risk transference.
Lots of people are blogging this; I'm going to try to add value via my usual method of playing with some numbers. Via Dave Trowbridge, the Cracker Barrel Philosopher finds Californians want a single-family home. After decades of incessant hectoring from radical environmentalists demanding "smart growth," 6 out of 7 Californians want ... a house with a yard. Four out of five renters aspire to one.
According to the
control freaks"advocates of more mixed development," that's because they're ignorant:
... [they] say Californians haven’t seen enough good examples of compact urban living that compact urban living that emphasizes walking over driving.
“I think that awareness does play a role in the Bay Area and other places where more people have seen what a denser, walkable neighborhood can look like,” said Steven Bodzin, spokesman for the San Francisco-based Congress of New Urbanism. “Anywhere with historic cities you have people who are aware.”
This patronizing, borderline-hate speech is being promulgated by "three wealthy California foundations ... the James Irvine Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and David and Lucile Packard Foundation." Donors, close your checkbooks. Here's why:
The story says "[California] loses 50,000 acres of irrigated farmland every year to development." Taking this figure at face value, we turn to this document, where we find that "[t]he most common reasons for irrigated farmland loss were the cessation or idling of irrigated crop production, conversions to low density rural housing, urban residential and commercial development, and new golf courses.".
Now recall Thomas Sowell's quoting of the definition of economics as stated by Lionel Robbins: "... the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses." The total "loss" of farmland, irrigated and otherwise, in California from 1987-97 was just under 1% per year; you can look it up. Turning to this table, we find that the average annual productivity growth rate in California agriculture was 1.7% per year from 1960-96. During the final 7 years of this period, it declined by a mere 0.2% per year. Less food is not being produced; the land is merely being reallocated to other uses.
Now turning to the Census 2000 California profile, we find that the state has a population of about 34 million, grouped into 8 million households. How much room would it take to put all of them into houses with yards? Assume a generous (actually, by Californian standards, enormous) lot size -- around 70' ´ 140' -- then 4 households will fit into 1 acre (with allowance for their portion of a residential street). Add a generous 25% allowance for major streets and any additional commercial development, so that the overall average drops to 3 households per acre. Total: less than 4,200 square miles. This is 2.7%, or about 1/37, of the entire area of the state. Maybe it's just me, but I'm not seeing a problem here. Bring on the American dream.
PS - They've got plenty of water, too. But that's another post for another time.
(For newcomers, this is a frequent topic; I last wrote about it on October 4th).
The meme spreads: via Post-atomic, a Pakistani op-ed discussing the danger of misinterpreting an asteroid strike as a nuclear attack.
-- they're too laid back to notice it:
A Jackson County man reported a pipe bomb to the Jackson County Sheriff's Department on Friday -- about five months after he found it.
He discovered it in July, tossed it into some weeds and then forgot about it, deputies said.
This time the man's son found the bomb and placed it on a large rock at the end of a driveway. Deputies were called about 1:30 p.m. to the 6900 block of Taylor Road, east of Blue Springs.
The Independence police bomb squad was dispatched to destroy the device. Buses for the Blue Springs School District were rerouted to avoid the area.
A spokeswoman for the sheriff's office said it was not clear why the resident had not reported the bomb in July.
As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.
Via On the Third Hand, here's the Pledge of Support, drafted by Vincent Ferrari of Insignificant Thoughts. I encourage my readership to sign it. Unlike a certain online petition that has been taking a beating, it appears to be moderated.
And don't forget What We're Fighting For.
I got to wondering who's been signing "Not In Our Name" and grazed over there for a look at the M's. Results: 3,444 names beginning with "M"; number leaving comments: 1,329. The following analysis is necessarily slightly subjective, but I guarantee that it's way more accurate than, say, a certain well-debunked study from earlier this year. Here are some illustrative totals, with no double-counting:
As you can see, the great preponderance fall into several major categories: people isolated in the academic world, which is notoriously repressive and unrepresentative of society at large; people whose reflexive self-identification is political rather than occupational, familial, or religious; artists of all types; students; and those in the "helping professions," self-defined and otherwise.
Meanwhile, there are no more than a handful of, for example, "fathers," "managers," "engineers," entrepreneurs, or academic disciplines with a significant mathematical component.
Notwithstanding that this is a self-selected group (I was careful to ignore the numerous gag names on the list entered by detractors), the personality-type correlations are striking.
Figured I'd better do a follow-up on this earlier post to explain just what I'll be doing about it. Monday, Tuesday offer century's last glimpse at intense Leonid meteor storm, says the KCStar (on the front page of today's dead-tree edition!).
Me, I'll be at Blue & Gray, as usual, specifically here, that is, near the picnic shelter ¼ mile east of Buckner-Tarsney Rd on Hammond Rd. Locals, let me know if you're interested. I plan to arrive by 3:30 AM CST Tuesday morning the 19th.
To focus only on the benefits of action rather than on both the costs and benefits of action, as well as inaction, is logically indefensible whether we're talking about our war against terrorism or our war against pollution.
I would add only that in addition to action (risk acceptance) and inaction (risk avoidance), there are also risk transference and risk mitigation (those just grazing in may wish to read this and this for background). As regards pollution, public-sector risk transference organizations (eg the EPA) have been less effective than is popularly believed. Actual risk mitigation occurs through technological advance and the effective marketing thereof rather than detailed economic regulation. Near-perfect mitigation will be brought about through nanotechnology within (I believe) one generation.
Separately, Alan Henderson asks in e-mail, "what will be the civilian death toll in Iraq if we do not go to war, i.e. what casualty rate does normal government operations in that country generate?"
Amnesty International implies ~103 civilian deaths per year from "normal government operations," while noting that the Iraqi government claims that ~100 persons die each year from US/UK enforcement of the "no-fly" zones.
The outright executions and murders, however, are only a tiny portion of the human cost of Saddam's dictatorship. This source suggests half a million civilian deaths in the aftermath of the Gulf War; CNN puts Iraqi deaths during the Gulf War at ~105. The FAS estimates 375,000 Iraqi deaths in the Iran-Iraq war. This source notes a high rate of water-borne diseases before the Gulf War. Turning again to the FAS, we find child mortality estimates which, taken together with the birth rate, imply just over 100,000 deaths per year (UNICEF notes that this is "comparable to current rates in Haiti and Pakistan").
The total of all of these going back to the year of Saddam's takeover (1979) would be well over 2 million, and perhaps as high as 4 million, for an average of nearly 200,000 per year. Recent pessimistic estimates of the toll of a war amount to a little over 2 years at this rate. So if we don't invade, Saddam kills just as many people by early '05 anyway.
(Full disclosure: Bill graduated from the University of Chicago at the end of my first year there . We both resided -- along with about 58 other guys -- in Henderson House, consisting of the 5th and 6th floors of Pierce Tower dormitory.
Alan was my roommate during the final four years of my bachelorhood [1994-98] in D/FW.)
Yahoo! News picks up a Space.com story about new pictures of the Sun at 100-kilometer resolution. The Background and summary webpage from the Royal Swedish Academy of Science's Institute for Solar Physics reports that "[i]n the best images the resolution is close to 0.1 arcseconds. This is a factor of 1200 better than 20/20 vision."
(This implies that 20/20 vision requires a resolution of 2 arcminutes, or 1 part in about 1,700; this source defines 20/20 vision as "able to read 3/8 inch letters at 20 feet." Since letters are made up of smaller elements, such as the stems on an "E," which must be resolved to make the letters readable, the actual resolution at 20 feet is about 1/7 of an inch.)
This represents the first major discovery -- "dark-cored filaments" extending down into sunspots (images) -- made via the application of adaptive optics to solar studies, as Adaptive optics and image restoration explains:
While AO techniques has been available for night-time astronomy since the late eighties, due to heavier computing requirements, it was developed later for solar astronomy. The first system was taken online at the Dunn Solar Telescope at Sacramento Peak in New Mexico in 1998 with our system following after a couple of months.
Because typical exposure times are much shorter for solar astronomy than for night time observations, the emphasis of our system is not to maintain a consistent correction but to make the moments of good seeing closer to perfect.
In the Space.com story, John Thomas of the University of Rochester in New York suggests that "larger telescopes with adaptive optics might be able to see structures as small as ... 1 kilometer." This raises some intriguing possibilities. Were such an instrument to be pointed at the Moon instead, it would have a resolution of about 8 feet, making it possible to take pictures of the descent stages of the lunar modules left behind by the Apollo missions. It might even be able to spot the lunar rovers left behind by Apollos 15-17.
Were it to be pointed at a potentially-hazardous asteroid 0.05 AU (7.5 million km; 4.7 million mi; 19x lunar distance) from Earth, it could be used to directly measure the diameter of the asteroid if it were as small as 50 meters.
And although such an instrument is unlikely to be available by then, during next August's opposition of Mars, it could resolve details on the planet's surface as small as 370 meters, nearly as good as the images taken by the Viking spacecraft orbiting Mars in 1976-80.
A war against Iraq could kill half a million people, warns a new report by medical experts - and most would be civilians.
The report claims as many as 260,000 could die in the conflict and its three-month aftermath, with a further 200,000 at risk in the longer term from famine and disease. A civil war in Iraq could add another 20,000 deaths.
Collateral Damage is being published on Tuesday in 14 countries and has been compiled by Medact, an organisation of British health professionals.
Browsing this page, we find that "Medact is part of ... International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War" and "[t]he report will be launched on the same day by IPPNW and its US affiliate Physicians for Social Responsibility ..."
Regrettably, these are not credible organizations. I say this because their concept of risk management is -- well, here are some sample statements from their webpage:
... there is no medical response possible to the use of any of the 30,000 nuclear weapons still in existence [emphasis added].
Are we to infer that Medact/IPPNW would refuse to treat victims of a nuclear blast? They're not much good at historical accuracy, either:
... progress to nuclear disarmament is very slow indeed. The INF Treaty is the first to have been completed - on 31 May 2001. It got rid of a whole class of nuclear missiles ...
That date is off by thirteen years -- "the INF Treaty entered into force on June 1, 1988." The treaty eliminated nearly 2,700 missiles, many with multiple warheads -- this is "very slow indeed"? But the most important point about the INF, and nearly all nuclear disarmament to date, is that it happened because the Soviet Union was falling apart, not because the US and USSR suddenly saw the light and decided to dump their nuclear arsenals. There are thousands fewer nuclear warheads in Europe today because the Warsaw Pact no longer exists.
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has been ... ratified by 31 of the 44 nuclear-capable, or potentially capable, states who have to sign for it to come into effect. The US Senate has refused to sign it, and now the US threatens to resume testing ...
One could get the impression from this that the US is obstructionist. This much more honest pro-CTBT site, however, informs us that "[t]o date, all but 3 of the 44 nations (India, Pakistan, and North Korea) have signed the CTBT .... Of the 13 states that have signed, but not ratified the treaty the United States of American [sic] and the People's Republic of China are notable exceptions." But Medact/IPPNW prefers to mention only the US. Nor is the treaty an unalloyed good; Mackubin Thomas Owens of the Claremont Institute recounts the arguments against it which led to its defeat in the Senate in 1999, and notes that "the inter-war period illustrates the folly of believing that a scrap of paper will always limit the activities of states."
Funny you should say that. Back over to Medact/IPPNW, which uncritically informs us that
An international treaty that would ban all nuclear weapons within an agreed time frame (known as a Nuclear Weapons Convention) would be a good way forward. The Abolition 2000 network is campaigning for such a treaty.
Did their great-grandparents campaign for the Kellogg-Briand Pact? Anyway, onward and -- downward:
Now Son of Star Wars - the proposed US Missile Defence scheme - threatens to end all forms of nuclear disarmament.
This is truly wretched. My lengthy post Thinking About the Unthinkable, written at the end of last year, delves into the matter; I concluded: "A missile defense capable of intercepting a single accidentally launched ICBM before it incinerates an American city, or a single deliberately launched missile before it sends most of the country back to 1820, is a threat to no nation. It is, rather, an excellent insurance policy against the ghastliest of accidents and the deadliest imaginable act of terrorism."
Not surprisingly, Medact/IPPNW is also pushing depleted uranium junk science.
One might therefore feel less than confident about the latest Medact/IPPNW "report," and such lack of confidence is not eased by reading the Executive Summary, which among other things credits Saddam Hussein for prosperity in Iraq and blames "war and sanctions" -- while never mentioning their causes -- for Iraq's present parlous state:
Thanks to the oil revenues and social policies of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, Iraq pre 1991 had become a reasonably prosperous, urbanised, middle-income country with a modern social infrastructure and good public services. The combined effects of war and sanctions, only partly offset by the humanitarian relief of the Oil-for-Food programme, relegated it to a pre-industrial age, and it now occupies a lowly 126th place out of 174 in the UN Human Development Index.
Then it lets itself completely off the hook: "As an objective report by health professionals, the report does not take a political stance on the alternatives to war on Iraq." Being an objective health professional means never having to say you're sorry.
As a non-objective blogging amateur, I conclude that Medact/IPPNW is useless. So how do we manage the risk of high civilian casualties in Iraq?
1. Decide among avoidance, transference, mitigation, or acceptance:
Avoidance is what Medact/IPPNW is suggesting, though only by default; don't invade.
Transference -- "seeking to shift the consequence of a risk to a third party together with ownership of the response," to quote the PMBOK -- could mean creating an organization for the specific purpose of minimizing delayed casualties from injuries, disease, famine, etc.
Mitigation means minimizing noncombatant casualties through good intelligence and precision-guided munitions; also by getting the combat over with as quickly as possible.
Acceptance is pretty much what we did in '91 by not occupying the country; let lots of people die, the great majority of them noncombatants and about half of them children.
2. Acknowledge that Medact/IPPNW isn't quite useless after all; take their numbers as a baseline in allocating resources to the risk transference organization (if any), and in planning military operations.
3. In any case, publicly emphasize the costs of risk avoidance and our dedication to risk mitigation during combat and effective risk transference in the aftermath.
Indeed, where Medact/IPPNW goes astray is by, in a phrase, failing to acknowledge that there are any risk management strategies other than avoidance and acceptance.
-- says Alan Henderson, in a first-class satire of the chattering classes in Europe (circa A.D. 1588).
I administered a Fisking to Gwynne Dyer the other day for, among other things, implying a moral equivalency among the following set of nations whose regimes were overturned by military action: Germany, Japan, Israel, Algeria, Kenya, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.
Well, now the 2003 Index of Economic Freedom rankings are out, and whaddaya know -- the first three are pretty good and the last four stink:
19 - Germany
33 - Israel
35 - Japan
85 - Kenya
94 - Algeria
135 - Vietnam
153 - Zimbabwe
Not to rub it in or anything. Dyer still gets a KC steak dinner if he's ever in town, by way of proving that it's nothing personal.
A Sky & Telescope article has the details -- or you can jump straight to the graph, on which the later (blue) peak is the one that counts. This has the ZHR passing 1,000 at 0930 UT and topping out at 2,500 shortly after 1030.
Equivalent local zone times in the contiguous US are 1:30-2:30 AM PST, 2:30-3:30 AM MST, 3:30-4:30 AM CST, and 4:30-5:30 AM EST, all times Tuesday morning 19 November.
Similarly, of the accompanying maps, it's the one on the right that most of us will want to go by. There is a special note, however, for down-easters, who should look at the one on the left:
... it is not out of the question that a brief bevy of Earth-grazing Leonids may be visible from parts of New England and eastern Canada. Keep in mind that for New England this peak is due on the previous calendar day; November 18th locally, at about 11:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. For Atlantic Canada, the corresponding time is midnight, and for Newfoundland it's 12:30 a.m. on the 19th. Unfortunately, the Moon will be near its highest point in the southern sky around this time as well.
The article also includes this fascinating recommendation: "... all viewers are well advised to keep a Leonid watch right up through sunrise, since at past Leonid outbursts brilliant fireballs have been perceived in bright twilight, even broad daylight."
They may feel fine, but they sure do look funny.
Others have blogged this story about a laser shooting down an artillery shell. Let's look at it:
The shell, moving at about 1,000 mph, was tracked by radar and heat-sensing infrared sensors, then locked onto and zapped by the laser beam traveling at light speed.
The so-called Mobile Tactical High-Energy Laser is a short-range weapon being co-developed with Israel, which wants it to destroy Katyusha rockets fired at its border villages by Hezbollah guerillas in Lebanon.
Applying the range equation, we find that the maximum range -- ignoring, among other things, air resistance -- of an artillery shell with v = 1000 mph = 447 m sec-1 and q = 45° is just over 20 kilometers (its maximum altitude would be just ¼ the range, ie 5 kilometers).
Was this a realistic test? The Paladin has a range of up to 30 kilometers, implying v = 542 m sec-1 = just over 1,200 mph. This source states (on printed page 33, which may be listed as page "38 of 69" in your browser window): "Most of the [Katyusha] rockets [of Hizbollah military forces in Lebanon] are 120mm and 127mm variants with a maximum range of 22 km." So the velocity and range of the test projectile do indeed appear to closely match both a general battlefield application and the specific threat faced by the Israelis.
This source, however, notes that
... long range rockets have a range of 70 kilometers and can hit strategic facilities and large urban areas in the Haifa bay. A laser-based defense against such weapons must rely on more systems, which could be rapidly mobilized to protect a much larger area. Similar threats could face US contingencies in other parts of the world. This requirement is driving the need for an air-mobile version of the beam weapon.
Will the wavelength being used do the job? This paper describes the THEL system; Figure 4 (on page 9 of 11) indicates that the system is intended to destroy its target near the target's maximum altitude, implying that the laser can penetrate ~5 km of atmosphere. The THEL laser is based on "[t]he MIRACL [Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser] ... a megawatt class, deuterium fluoride, chemical laser operating at HELSTF since the early 1980s." (HELSTF)
Lots of info about MIRACL at this site, most importantly that the "laser [has] energy spectra distributed among about 10 lasing lines between 3.6 and 4.2 microns wavelength." It is also described as "continuous-wave mid-infrared (3.8 microns)." Not coincidentally, atmospheric transmissivity is nearly 100% at 3.8 m.
Unless, of course, it's cloudy, dusty, or smoky. Cloud droplets range in size from 10-50 m; dust particles (see page 6) are typically 20-40 m in diameter; and smoke particles cover a wide range but are often several microns in size. All of these will scatter the THEL beam and protect incoming rounds from destruction.
Smoke and dust are one thing, but what about the weather? Various sources which strike me as less than authoritative state that Tel Aviv gets 300 sunny days per year; this one says that it averages 64 rainy days annually; and this paper notes that "[p]recipitation occurs from November to March, mainly in December - February."
So over-reliance on THEL could turn the winters into "rocket season" in Israel. But a system that is 75-85% effective at shooting down short-range ballistic missiles (or, for that matter, cruise missiles and drones) represents an enormous improvement in defensive technology.
This story from Space.com is a headliner on Yahoo! this morning:
At [4:51 AM CDT] on Aug. 27, 2003, Mars will be within 34,646,488 miles (55,746,199 kilometers) of Earth. This will be the closest that Mars has come to our planet in about 73,000 years, based on detailed computations by Jean Meeus ...
You can read more about Jean Meeus, celestial calculator extraordinaire, here. And now, dear reader, indulge me as I recycle some material I wrote twelve years ago, recounting the events of two years earlier. Apologies in advance for the note of self-congratulation toward the end; this passage is intended to whet your anticipation for the possibilities of ten months from now:
Observation is an art. It takes time, effort, and humility to become any good at it. My intrinsic laziness, plus the usual dollop of arrogance, has fortunately been intermittently overcome in some areas by a ravening curiosity; this has allowed me to achieve a tolerable level of performance at amateur astronomy in particular, with a garnish of politics, some technical goodies, and perhaps some insight into the human condition. Correction: no native curiosity was at work regarding the human condition; that stuff just got hammered into me.
I'd better stick to astronomy for my analogies. The most striking insights to be found in the history of human endeavor in this field are, it has always seemed to me, concerned with Mars observing. Now, while I am more interested in planetary astronomy than any other subset of the science, I have never had a particular mania for Mars like Schiaparelli or Lowell did [I prefer the outer planets -- JDM]. So I speak with a certain sense of detachment.
How to picture Mars in a telescope? Take a section of wall in an average room in an average house. Paint a circle on it that just touches the floor and ceiling, i.e., 8 feet across, flat black. Stand back 10 feet or so from the wall. The black circle is the field of view of your imaginary telescope. Say you're using enough magnification that the full Moon would just fill the circle, which is about 40° across -- fairly high power. Mars, at its closest approach to Earth, would be pink-orange spot about the size of a nickel.
Challenging, no? It's no surprise that most people are enormously disappointed the first time they see Mars in a telescope. It's also no surprise that it took upwards of two and a half centuries, following the invention of the telescope, for the first detailed observations to be made, observations which were largely spurious. The "canals" were nothing more than a product of the human visual system's penchant for creating linear features out of disparate elements just below the threshold of resolution.
But time: many hours spent at the eyepiece, for many weeks before and after a close approach of the planet -- and effort: sketching the Moon, naked-eye, through several months of full Moons -- and humility: waiting for the one moment of good seeing, when the air suddenly steadies and a swarm of detail erupts into your visual cortex -- will wear away at the maddening little blur, and force it to divulge its secrets, down to some irreducible minimum built into our Earthly existence.
On the night of 24 September 1988, I experienced what I expect will be the best look I ever get at Mars, unless I someday travel there. I was at Powell Observatory in Louisburg, with a lot of other people, all of whom were also looking at Mars; it was within days of its closest approach until the year 2003. I was not at the 30" telescope in the dome, but rather at a 16" owned by a club member. We actually had the better view, since heat trapped in the dome was perturbing the image in the 30".
There is no describing the detail. It was better than seeing canals; we were seeing the stuff that people a century ago had perceived as canals, resolved into individual features. I wished desperately for a camera, even knowing that no film would record what we were seeing, or a sketchpad, even knowing that I can't draw worth a damn. I couldn't get enough of what I was seeing. The air was rock-steady, not for seconds, but for minutes, stretching into an hour.
And then for some reason I looked away from the planet, and out to the side at about three o'clock, one or two diameters away, was the faintest little speck of light. I asked the other guys if they could see it. After a bit, they reported that they could. The same thought was in all our minds, and somebody rummaged around for the latest issue of Sky & Telescope, which contained the appropriate ephemeris. We looked at the diagram and figured the time difference, and a suspicion I had not dared utter aloud was confirmed: we had sighted Phobos.
Phobos is a random chunk of rock a few miles in diameter. It goes around Mars once every seven hours, and is nearly always overwhelmed by the reflected light from the planet. It wasn't even discovered until 1877, with a telescope far larger than the one we were using. It is six hundred thousand times fainter than Mars, and none of us, in fact no one in the entire history of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City, had ever seen it before.
It made a nice present for my twenty-ninth birthday, two days later.
For locals, I can assure you that the ASKC will be making the most of the August '03 opposition; and for non-locals, there are groups of amateur astronomers everywhere who will delight in sharing this experience with the public.
Non-locals may wish to read this earlier post for background. Piper School District voters remove board member Chris McCord, reports Diane Carroll of the KCStar:
Official results show 1,279 votes in favor of recalling McCord, with 1,270 opposed.
Recall leaders blamed the board and then-Superintendent Michael Rooney for the criticism heaped upon the school district in the wake of the plagiarism incident. They say the board should have objected when Rooney suggested changing the grading system to help 25 students who had plagiarized on a biology project. Changing the system allowed some of those students to pass. McCord was the board's president at the time.
Another board member, James R. Swanson, was retained in the same recall election, but he has already announced that he will not seek re-election next year, and two others resigned as a result of the scandal. So there is some effective negative feedback occurring, but the razor-thin margin by which McCord was recalled -- and the much wider margin by which Swanson was retained -- indicate that district patrons have a strong tendency to vote for mediocrity, just as CSLewis described.
From the UN resolution on Iraq:
The Security Council .... requests the IAEA to resume inspections no later than 45 days following adoption of this resolution and to update the Council 60 days thereafter ...
Contra James Taranto, who seems to think that 45 + 60 = 96, this works out to Friday, February 21st.
If we follow the pattern of the Gulf War, the attack begins at 0000 UT on Sat 22 Feb, that is, 0300 Iraq time or 9 PM CST on Friday the 21st. And the phase of the Moon? Turning once again to this handy application, we find that civil twilight begins at 6:15 AM in Baghdad and that the Moon's phase is waning gibbous with 65% of the Moon's visible disk illuminated; the Moon doesn't set until 10:06 AM.
If the attack really is dependent on a Moonless night, it won't start until about Mon 3 Mar; but I doubt that such a dependency exists.
-- is what Science News suggests we've got:
Nearly all political elections in the United States are plurality votes, in which each voter selects a single candidate, and the candidate with the most votes wins. Yet voting theorists argue that plurality voting is one of the worst of all possible choices. "It's a terrible system," says Alexander Tabarrok, an economist at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and director of research for the Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. "Almost anything looks good compared to it."
... the plurality system looks only at a voter's top choice. By ignoring how voters might rank the other candidates, it opens the floodgates to unsettling, paradoxical results.
... plurality voting dilutes voter preferences, creating the possibility of electing a leader whom the vast majority of voters despise.
They say that like it's a bad thing. ;)
Seriously, read the whole article. I note that voting theorists are now drawing on chaos theory. Maybe we're all really "chaocrats" at heart ... the article also references this paper, which suggests that a voting system which better reflected the true preferences of US voters in 1860 could have prevented the Civil War. Harry Turtledove, call your office.
Bill Walker has the solution for illegal immigration:
At present, governments expend huge resources on border cages, to keep their uncollared livestock in place. But with collars, the ugly razor-wire and sensor towers could come down, everywhere from North Korea to the US-Mexican border. With collars, humans could be kept from crossing borders by the simple, unobtrusive Invisible Fence®. After a few "training shocks" and explosive collar detonations, humans would learn to avoid borders on their own.
Ridiculous? No. This is ridiculous. Conservatives should know better.
UPDATE: Alan Henderson writes: "An INS agent proposed a similar system (with more painful shocks) in the 'Coneheads' movie."
Also, as an antidote to all this authoritarian fantasizing, be sure to graze on over and read about the first batch of winners of the Henderson Prize for the Advancement of Liberty, which I was supposed to submit some nominations for ... those are coming Real Soon Now, I promise ...
The headline is one of those self-awareness-demonstrating things I try to do every now and then. This is a report on the first (that I am aware of) KC blogger meetup, hosted by Jessy and attended by Andy, Ryan, Barry (language warning), a couple of non-blogging friends of Jessy's, and me. Venue was Harry's Bar & Tables, a smoky place on the southwest corner of Westport Rd and Penn. We met Tuesday night -- yes, election night. Starting time wasn't until 8 PM, and I managed to hang out until about 10:15 in spite of having morphed into a morning person a few years ago.
Notwithstanding some generational differences -- I'm 43, Andy is (I think) a few years older, and everyone else there appeared to be well under 30 -- and considerable, er, latitude in blogging, as you can tell by looking at each of our sites -- all went well, which is to say that either everyone genuinely enjoyed everyone else or our smiling-and-nodding skills were adequate to the situation. I know I had fun, at any rate, and look forward to more; Jessy -- a recent Californian expatriate who is obviously good at finding friends -- has offered to organize future events.
Jupiter probe ready for swan song, writes Irene Brown of UPI. The final mission of the Galileo orbiter will be a flyby of Amalthea, Jupiter's innermost substantial satellite (Adrastea and Metis are closer to the planet, but much smaller, roughly comparable to the moons of Mars), and the first one discovered after the Galilean satellites themselves.
Amalthea is small (~170 km diameter), dense (~3 g cm-3), dark (albedo ~0.09), therefore quite faint (magnitude +14 or so), and surprisingly poorly characterized, considering that Galileo has been operating in its general vicinity for seven years. But it was never a priority for the spacecraft, especially after the problem with the high-gain antenna resulted in a data-transmission rate of only 10 bps -- it's as though we were sending pictures back from Jupiter via telegraph.
Amalthea was discovered by the great E.E. Barnard in 1892 (and was the last moon of any planet to be discovered visually, that is, with a telescope but without photographic or other equipment). Its orbit takes it around the planet in less than 12 hours, moving at over 26 kilometers per second. For comparison, a satellite the same distance (181,400 km) from Earth would have a velocity of only 1.5 km sec-1, and an Earth satellite with a 12-hour period would be only about one-seventh as far from Earth as Amalthea is from Jupiter.
Galileo will therefore have an enormous velocity relative to Amalthea, 18.4 km sec-1. The radiation flux will be intense, much greater than that at Europa, which is nearly four times farther from Jupiter -- and Europa gets a million rads a day at the surface (though this drops to ~5 krad per month 10 centimeters down in the ice):
For comparison, the natural radiation environment at the surface of Earth gives an average dose of about 0.1 rad per year. The ionizing radiation exposure limits for astronauts are 25 rad per month and 50 rad per year, not to exceed 100 to 400 rad total in a career, depending on age and sex (these are whole-body doses). Many microorganisms tolerate far more radiation; D. radiodurans [for which see this post], for instance can grow and reproduce in a 6-krad/hour environment.
The LD50 dose for humans is ~400 rads, so we may infer that the environment of Amalthea is such that an unshielded human would receive a fatal amount of ionizing radiation in a matter of seconds. The view would be spectacular -- Jupiter would loom 45° across and shine over 1,000 times as bright as the Full Moon does on Earth -- but the tourists wouldn't survive.
See this source for a discussion of the regulatory issues -- including treaty obligations and requirements for nuclear-material launch-safety reviews -- which led to the decision to drop Galileo onto Jupiter rather than crash it into one of the moons or send it into solar orbit. The report also notes that an Amalthea flyby, even with nothing but a radio transmitter,
should yield an estimate of the mass and, correspondingly, the bulk density for the satellite. This estimate is important because Amalthea may be a fragment of an object that formed closer to Jupiter than the Galilean satellites, where temperatures in the circumjovian nebula would have been higher. Given that Amalthea's volume is currently known to an accuracy of about 10%, a mass accurate to even 20% may allow conclusions to be drawn about conditions in the jovian nebula and the satellite-formation processes, in general. Mass determination requires no functional instruments, only tracking of the spacecraft's trajectory through monitoring of its downlinked radio signals.
Thanks to 1) Glenn Reynolds and 2) Bill Walker
Ignore your mate's pain. No, really:
Overly solicitous spouses -- those who, for example, serve the suffering something to drink or fetch the television remote control -- actually reinforce pain in their husband or wife, researchers said.
Non-solicitous individuals were defined as those who, instead of helping the sufferer into an easy chair, suggested the person go for a walk or try to get his or her mind off the pain, or simply left the room when the person began complaining.
No word on what happens to these marriages ...
Of the latest survey to sweep the blogosphere ...
Via The Kitchen Cabinet.
A strong and shallow earthquake struck central Alaska along the Denali Fault early this afternoon, local time (1:12 PM = 2212 UT = 4:12 PM CST). Although it was rated 7.9 on the Richter scale and centered only 5 kilometers beneath Earth's surface, significant damage and casualties are unlikely. Only two small communities are located within 100 km of the hypocenter (which this bulletin says is 10 km underground, not 5).
A much smaller earthquake struck north-central Nebraska at 2041 UT (2:41 PM CST). Its magnitude of 4.3 means that the amplitude of the Alaska quake was nearly 4,000 times greater, that is, 10(7.9 - 4.3), and the energy of the Alaska quake was over a quarter of a million times greater.
UPDATE: The Alaska quake was felt in Louisiana:
More than 3,000 miles away from the epicenter in the New Orleans area, the quake made lakes ripple and sloshed water out of pools.
In Mandeville, La., Carol Barcia, 47, saw boats bouncing around and her own boat banging against its dock. "One poor guy across the canal from us fell off his sailboat," she said.