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[ 20070228 ]

OK, This Is A Month Late

-- and I'm not going into competition with Dan Bush, but here's a terrific submission from occasional contributor Ric Locke (click on image for full-size version, 1024 × 768):

Ric writes:

I've noticed that stargazers in general tend also to be interested in clouds and cloud formations. Perhaps it's only that on too many occasions that's what they have to look at instead of their intended object(s). :-)

At any rate, when I took this picture I thought of you .... it was last Monday, 29th January, shortly before 0800 CST. The viewpoint is close to 33N 98W, looking almost due East. Ground temperature was almost exactly freezing, with nearly no wind; the glitter in the trees to the right is ice on the branches, accentuated by compression artifacts. I don't own an accurate barometer.

From the visible path it would seem the aircraft left DFW airport, or at any rate the control area, at the southwest departure, performed a climbing right turn, then turned left at its assigned altitude, which happened to be precisely at the level of the thin high clouds (stratocumulus?). The disturbance of the air added enough energy to vaporize the ice crystals within the vortex cones of the plane.

Atmospheric conditions were such that the path persisted through the morning until the cloud formations broke up completely. I know it was still visible, much wider and less distinct, at 1100 CST, although I didn't get any more pictures. There were several other such "inverse contrails" formed, none of the others as distinct as this one, and also a patch which I didn't figure out for a long time: the aircraft in question had climbed through the clouds to a higher altitude, leaving an oval hole instead of a long thin formation.

We get contrails here very frequently, most often from aircraft going from Denver to Houston (aircraft headed for DFW or one of the other airports in that zone have descended before they get close to me). But I hadn't seen anything like this distinct an inverse contrail before.

Ric's location brought back fond memories of my old observing site, around 32°48' N, 98°39' W, on P33 a few miles south of Possum Kingdom State Park.

Jay Manifold [6:08 PM]

[ 20070221 ]

The Longer I Refrain From Posting --

-- the more ideas readers send in. If this happened at work, I'd get paid more the less I produced. Lots of jokes in there somewhere ... anyway, Alan Henderson tagged me with the name-six-weird-facts-about-yourself meme.

Dear God, where to start?

  1. Career: I'm a lifer at a major corporation, having been in the direct or indirect pay of the same entity since 1989. That may not sound weird as such, but believe me, no one who knew me in the '70s, or in most of the '80s, for that matter, would have bet a plugged nickel that I'd take that route.

  2. Politics: I'm an evangelical who is overwhelmingly pro-science and almost completely uninterested in the right's social agenda. On the other hand, I'm a Libertarian who wants the US to finish draining the swamp in the Muslim world. It's a throwaway line, but if I were young enough, I would enlist (as things are, I'll have to content myself with paying more in taxes these days than I was grossing in my 20s).

  3. Blogging: Most of the bloggers I've made road trips to visit have been gay, atheist, or both. No one involved seemed to have a problem with the contrasts.

  4. Hobby: I am capable of identifying celestial objects other than the Sun and the Moon on sight, which as near as I can tell puts me in about a 0.1% minority.

  5. Talents: I won first prize for "Radio Speaking" at a metro-wide forensics tournament in my senior year, out of competitors from 18 high schools.

  6. Bizarre Biographical Detail: Alan Henderson was my roommate from 1994-8.

That'll do to go on. Now whom shall I tag? ;^)

Jay Manifold [6:45 PM]

Another Lefty C4

-- may be found in the person of Jeff Weintraub.

Long; skip straight to the "P.S." (about halfway down) for a C2-to-C4 moment. I dearly wish there were more people on the left with that degree of self-awareness.

(Those who understandably don't know what in the world I'm talking about are directed to Situational Citizenship for a primer.)

Jay Manifold [6:45 PM]

[ 20070205 ]

Think This Will Be A Movie-of-the-Week?

Talk about your statistically improbable phrases: Astronaut tried to kidnap love rival: police.

UPDATE: OK, the info I was hoping to find turned up in Ed Pilkington's Guardian piece, Spacewoman falls to Earth on charge of trying to kill love rival:

"To say the group to which 43-year-old Mrs Nowak belongs is select is an understatement: she is one of only 97 astronauts currently trained and ready to fly, 20 of them women. Nasa has selected a total of just 321 astronauts since the US agency began preparing to go into space in 1959.

"All of which makes her behaviour in the early hours of Monday so baffling."

Actually, it makes it a lot less baffling. Grazing over here, we find something like 600,000 arrests for violent crime in the US each year, for a per capita rate of around 1 in 500 per annum. That is to say, about 300 times higher than the (new) astronaut violent crime arrest rate of 1 in 321 over the past 48 years. Astronauts are still much, much safer to be around than regular people. ;^)

Jay Manifold [9:17 PM]

[ 20070202 ]

Imbeciles Anonymous

Are you a boneheaded celebrity who can't stop making idiotic statements in public about scientific subjects? Well, if you're in the US, you're screwed, but the UK dolt contingent now has a hot line available for improving the informational quality of the hot air spewing from their pie holes.

I am not making this up, and I dearly wish for its duplication elsewhere, especially in the States. Read all about it in Laura Buchholz's immensely heartening Reason on the red carpet. God bless Sense About Science; you can download their flyer, Science for Celebrities (236 kB PDF), which among many other excellent items includes the phone number to call. Even twits deserve to be thus engaged.

Jay Manifold [3:05 PM]