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[ 20061031 ]

Big Surprise


I am nerdier than 90% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

(Hat tip: Alan Henderson.)

Jay Manifold [8:51 PM]

The Politics and Economics of Hubble

Grazing through AP science writer Seth Borenstein's NASA to send astronauts to repair Hubble, we find the repair mission is to cost $900 million and extend the HST's life by 5 years. Some reactions:

Jay Manifold [6:27 PM]

[ 20061025 ]

Dual Sun Pillar

Kudos to the ASKC's Scott Kranz for this great shot. I don't have the particulars of the exposure (camera, settings, etc), nor the place and time, though it was certainly around here somewhere and within the past few days.

Click on the picture for a larger version. You can read about sun pillars here (thanks to another ASKCer, David Neuenschwander, for the link).

Jay Manifold [6:27 PM]

[ 20061022 ]

Fragment of 1P/Halley Hits Earth, Wrecks House, Injures Inhabitant

That's one possible interpretation of German cottage destroyed by meteor: "We sought assistance from Bochum observatory and they noted that at that particular moment the earth was near a field of meteoroid splinter and it could be assumed that particles had entered the atmosphere."

Which "field of meteoroid splinter?" Grazing over to the IMO's Fall 2006 Calendar, we find that it could have been either a Draconid (peak 8-9 Oct) or, what makes an even better story, an Orionid (active 2 Oct - 7 Nov), that is, a piece of the most famous comet ever observed.

More info about the Orionids is available at Earth & Sky's Orion's meteors grace our skies tonight (by which they mean Friday night, ie 36 hours ago as I write this) and Space Daily's Orionid Meteor Shower To Peak October 20-24.

I note that the high v (66 km sec-1) of this shower is consistent with the Reuters account: "We believe this was a bolide (meteoric fireball) with a size of no more than 10 mm." The kinetic energy of a 1-cm sphere with a density of 1 g cm-3 at that velocity would be 1.1 MJ, equivalent to over half a pound of TNT.

For a larger historical example of this sort of thing, see Chicago Destroyed by Comet (and the fortunately much milder Great Chicago Meteor of 2003); and of course the "Asteroid Detection System" posts under "Important Stuff" in the left sidebar here on Arcturus.

Jay Manifold [9:03 AM]

[ 20061019 ]

The Missourian Role in Nuclear Proliferation

-- is explained by Iowahawk:

The Central Defense Committee of Iowahawk, Chuck, and Julio are to be congratulated for their ingenious creation of nuclear defense technology from glow-lite sticks and high-quality Missouri fireworks. Also to be honored is Chuck's ex-wife Rhonda, who drove the Central Defense Committee to Missouri to obtain firework materials, low-price smokes and PowerBall tickets.

Link to this post now, or be dealt a thousandtime blow of fresh nuclear Missouri M-80 retaliation!


Jay Manifold [11:44 AM]

Galactic Collision!

Yow! Graze on over to New image gives insight into colliding galaxies for a Hubble image of the Antennae; lots more goodies at the HubbleSite page.

This sort of thing happens, though rather more subtly, around here too -- see Wading in the Tidal Streams of the Milky Way for discussion of the work of KU's Bruce Twarog on the surprising dynamism of our own intergalactic neighborhood.

Jay Manifold [6:27 AM]

[ 20061017 ]

“Perils for Pedestrians”

In response to Everything's Up To Date, previously unknown reader (the best kind) John Wetmore pointed me to this program, which he produces, and which airs* on DISH Network Channel 9411 (Universityhouse Channel) on Tuesdays at 8:30 PM Central (correct for your time zone as needed). John notes:

The 34 page report never mentioned the role of pedestrians in emergency evacuations. However, walking was the primary means of evacuating Manhattan on 9-11. For perspectives on walking on 9-11 and during the 2003 blackout, see Episode 114 of "Perils For Pedestrians" on Google Video here.

Note: Pedestrians trying to leave downtown Kansas City during an emergency would have a real challenge because of the poor pedestrian access on the bridges over the Missouri River.

One of the items on my hidden agenda is struggle against homophily, so I was delighted to see John's e-mail. Now for some comments:

I think the lesson here is that as part of the whole disaster-preparedness thing that Glenn, among others, frequently remind us of, we should begin constructively wondering how we'd get home if we got stuck at work and couldn't use our cars. Think of it as a risk-management exercise; those are always fun.

* Should we say it "spaces" if it comes from a satellite?

** Driving across which was like driving on the surface of the Moon, but with 6x the gravity and a potential death plunge into cold, muddy water. It built character.

UPDATE: Not again?! OK, three things:

  1. As always, graze around; the "Important Stuff" posts listed in the left sidebar are recommended.

  2. Previously unknown reader (the best kind) Charles Gallo writes:

    I was one of the lucky folks who did NOT have to walk out on 9/11, BUT I did have to walk out during "the blackout" [loyal Arcturians may wish to see Cascading Failures and Politics for commentary on that -- JDM].
    One of the things that should be noted is even though the "lower east river crossings" (as we call them in NYC) (The Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges) DO have some footpath capacity (and in fact, the Brooklyn bridge has quite a bit), the Queensboro Bridge (59th St Bridge) was totally overwhelmed with pedestrian traffic. Normally, what is known as the "Northern Outer Roadway" is reserved for pedestrians - one lane. Hehehe. Traffic was basically stopped on the bridge (when it moved it moved slowly), partly because Nyers have NO problem jaywalking/dealing with cars - we walked across in EVERY lane - right with the cars - the bridge was full. When we got to the other side (Queensboro Plaza) people tended to disperse, just like the cars do - streams of people on both sides of the road on every major road.
    In an evacuation - you know how Nyers would deal with a bridge like your Broadway bridge? Walk across it! Yeah, there are no walk ways - by the time WE were done, the whole bridge would be LUCKY to have one lane open in each direction for vehicles. Get to the other side and there are airports and rail lines? Look for the trains and cross - the railroad would get the hint when there are 10k people crossing the tracks. Ditto the runways at the airport. What are they going to do, arrest/shoot tens of thousands of people? (and a leatherman tool makes short work of a fence).
    Pedestrians in NYC are "different", and we have a different arrangement with cars - cars will stop, and ease through a crowd of people, and the people will flow around the car. It's just the way it is, and part of what drives people nuts when they drive the first time in Manhattan - Making a turn is fun, you ease into the crosswalk, and keep going 1/2 MPH, and the people flow around you - you get a little space in front, you move, eventually the people go from walking in front of you to walking behind you.

  3. KC's dramatically lower population density greatly changes the car/pedestrian relationship -- NYCers who move out here tend to be pleasantly stunned by, among other things, all the room -- but in a mass evacuation on foot there would be, by definition, many walkers and few drivers. I again suggest that the main value of this exercise is to begin thinking about how you'd get home, or to a reasonable facsimile thereof, if you (and a whole bunch of other people) were stuck at work and couldn't use your car(s).

Jay Manifold [6:08 PM]

Hawaii Observatory Earthquake Reports

(Thanks to Rob Robinson of the ASKC for the links.)

Jay Manifold [10:52 AM]

[ 20061016 ]

The Matter With Kansas (XVII) - More Kansas Meteorite News

Graze on over to Rare meteorite found in Kansas field for news on the latest find from the Brenham field; RTWT. (See When the Stars Fall on Kansas for earlier posting on this topic.) I note:

Landowner Alan Binford watched with interest as the scientists freed the meteorite, bagging clumps of his rich Kansas farmland around it.

"I didn't figure there would be that much scientific value," he said. "I never thought about them going to this extent. It is interesting history."

Got it in one. Let's all hope and pray for more Alan Binfords.

(Previous member of series here.)

Jay Manifold [5:46 PM]

[ 20061012 ]

Everything's Up To Date

-- per Biggest U.S. cities not ready to evacuate: study: "The only city to score a top grade for evacuation capability and preparedness was Kansas City, Missouri." Not quite sure how this translates into civic-booster lingo, though ... perhaps: Relocate here! It's easy to leave!

Well, maybe something keying off this: "The cities were evaluated on internal traffic flow, highway capacity of major exit routes and residents' accessibility to automobiles." How about Sprawl = Safety? or Cars = Circumvention? But we won't be hearing about that from the politically-correct crowd anytime soon.

Jay Manifold [1:03 PM]

Physics Enabled White Board

I think I want one of these for Xmas. Hat tip: Brian Slezak of the Friday lunch bunch (stalkers are directed to the Quizno's at 127th & Metcalf in Overland Park; I'm this guy).

Jay Manifold [11:44 AM]

[ 20061009 ]

Earthquakes and Nukes

Unsurprisingly, they did it, producing a magnitude 4.2 earthquake. So how big was the bomb?

Russia: NKorea test greater than reported has Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov claiming that it was 5-15 kT, while South Korea's geological institute says it was 0.55 kT.

There are lots of potentially complicating factors here, but assuming (among other things) that the Norks didn't do anything to dampen the signature of the explosion, the rule of thumb in CU Scientists: Earthquake Mistaken as a Nuclear Test (which is about a 1997 event in the Russian Arctic) applies: "Seismologists use the Richter scale to measure the size of both explosions and earthquakes; a magnitude of 3.5 corresponds to an explosive yield of about one-twentieth of a kiloton."

The Richter scale is logarithmic, so a 4.2 is 5 times stronger than a 3.5, thereby working out to one-quarter of a kiloton.

Similarly, this page (about Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests) states:

The U.S. Geological Survey reported a teleseismic magnitude of mb 5.2 (mb is the bodywave magnitude and is roughly related to the Richter scale). Assuming simultaneous detonation of the three tests and using published magnitude-yield formulas for a stable region, the announced total yield of 55 to 60 kilotons appears to be at least three times larger than the yield indicated by the seismic data.

So if 5.2 = 20kT, 4.2 = 2 kT. The South Koreans, again with lots of simplifying assumptions, are more technically correct.

Given that the Russian claim is that the explosion was 2.5-60 times more powerful than the rule-of-thumb estimates, questions multiply: Do they know something the South Koreans don't? Do they acknowledge something the South Koreans prefer not to? Do they exaggerate for their own purposes? Do they exaggerate out of habit?

How bad would it be if used on a city? From the above, I think we can safely assume that something in the kiloton range has been detonated, for which the 5-psi overpressure radius (for an airburst) is just over a quarter of a mile (graze all the way back to Thinking About the Unthinkable for lots of background, including the formula). The area within that radius is a little over two-tenths of a square mile, and the population density of Seoul is at least 75,000 per square mile (source), suggesting that prompt casualties from a Nork nuke flung at Seoul would be at least 15,000.

UPDATE: Yikes! OK, while you're here, graze around and read through some of the posts listed under "Important Stuff" in the left sidebar.

Jay Manifold [11:01 AM]

[ 20061007 ]

How Astronomy Should Be Taught

-- well, to readers of The Onion, anyway: I'm Going To Be A Star. The usual language warning applies.

NERDY UPDATE INDICATIVE OF MY LOW SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE: There are, in fact, only 349 Barnard objects, so "Barnard 631" is a fiction.

Jay Manifold [3:42 PM]

Buck O'Neil

Requiescat in pace.

And read Don't weep for Buck:

Dressed to the nines, O'Neil strutted toward the dais, the walk of a fulfilled man, and asked everybody to hold hands and sing a song: "The greatest thing, in all my life, is loving you."

He wanted everybody to feel special, to feel like he was singing it to them as much as he was singing it with them.

Having been to a large offsite gathering sponsored by my employer that included a visit to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and an absolutely phenomenal speech by Buck himself, I can testify that he did indeed get audiences to sing that song, which is very much a gospel tune; see this page for lyrics and guitar chords.

(Buck was previously mentioned on Arcturus in It's A Midwestern Thing -- I Don't Understand. The difference between now and four years ago is that he's gone, but we still don't have an intelligent anti-war movement.)

Jay Manifold [10:39 AM]

[ 20061006 ]

Observing Opportunity

The Moon's going to occult the Pleiades again on Monday night. KC-area observers will see the first disappearance, of Electra, at 10:49 PM Monday, and the final reappearance, of Alcyone, at 12:41 AM Tuesday.

(For earlier mentions of these phenomena, see: Moon-Pleiades Conjunction/Occultation Tonight; Moon vs Pleiades; and Moon vs Pleiades: Observing Report .)

Jay Manifold [4:59 PM]

Illegal Aliens

We'll need more than just a fence to stop this invasion.

Jay Manifold [7:28 AM]

[ 20061004 ]

I Blame George Bush

And The Scientist agrees.

Jay Manifold [4:49 AM]

[ 20061003 ]

The Matter With Kansas (XVI) - American Dolchstoßlegende

Via Glenn Reynolds, a link to the ever-thoughtful Anchoress, who quotes from a CBS FreeSpeech episode ... here we go again:

This country is in a moral free-fall. For over two generations, the public school system has taught in a moral vacuum, expelling God from the school and from the government, replacing him with evolution, where the strong kill the weak, without moral consequences and life has no inherent value.

Yessir, everything was just going swimmingly around here until the Bad People™ snuck in and messed the place up. William Jennings Bryan made exactly the same argument in the 1920s; he was reacting to the trend seen in the leftmost quarter of this graph. It was silly then, not least because evolution was rarely if ever taught; and it's silly now, both because of the recent nosedive in homicides, which has us back to the levels of the 1950s, and because it's easily demonstrated that kids who get good grades -- by, y'know, paying attention in class, and thereby actually learning about (gasp!) evolution, are at the lowest risk for criminal behavior.

Thankfully, American society lacks any meme as specific as the Dolchstoßlegende -- though one wonders what might arise in the aftermath of a nuclear version of 9/11. Another argument for finding and stopping the dangerous men.

As the Anchoress points out, however, what's almost as funny as the teaching-evolution-causes-school-shootings idea is the reaction of the, well, reactionaries who think that Brian Rohrbough is merely a specimen of "ignorant, intolerant individuals" who can easily be filtered out. In reality his views are shared, to some degree, by nearly half the population. They are certainly wrong, they are somewhat selectively ignorant, they are intolerant only of what they regard as deadly risks -- and they're everywhere. As advocates of an altogether different subculture like to say, "get used to it."

(Previous member of series here.)

Jay Manifold [1:53 PM]

Pluto Hits Back

Click on image for larger version. Hat tip: Doug Spalding of the ASKC.

UPDATE: Thanks to Neta Apple of the ASKC for pointing me to the source of this "billboard."

Jay Manifold [6:15 AM]

[ 20061001 ]

I Told You So

(Ref this earlier post.) Read this first-class report from GMO Pundit a.k.a. David Tribe on the E coli outbreak (via J.F. Beck, via Tim Blair, via Glenn Reynolds).

And the more politically correct they are, the more dangerous they are: "... larger, certified operations are considerably less prone to bacterial contamination than smaller, more independent uncertified operations. E. coli contamination rates were roughly twice as high on un-certified organic farms compared to certified farms."

Luddism kills, whether it's from the Left or the Right. Haul them into court. And bring on the biotech.

Jay Manifold [8:25 PM]

Miss Universe Contest Results

As documented on Avant News. Hat tip: somewhat indirectly, Notional Slurry.

Jay Manifold [7:06 PM]

Ring Around the Sun

Click on image for larger version.

22° halo and parhelion (Sun dog) from Middle Creek State Fishing Lake, ~3 PM CDT Sat 30 Sep 2006. Graze on over to Atmospheric Optics for the definitive description (and excellent pictures) of these and many other related phenomena.

Jay Manifold [12:28 PM]