Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Rocket launch tonight to send 29 satellites into orbit from Virginia - including one developed at a high school -

Rocket launch tonight to send 29 satellites into orbit from Virginia - including one developed at a high school - 

Live streaming video by Ustream

At 7:30 p.m. tonight,  a rocket will blast into space from Wallops Island, Va., carrying a record 29 satellites, including one developed at a high school in northern Virginia.  Sky watchers up and down the East Coast should be able to catch a glimpse.
The launch window for the mission, known as ORS-3 – run by the U.S. military’s Operationally Responsive Space Office, extends from 7:30 p.m. to 9:15 p.m.  Skies are forecast to be clear with diminishing winds, so assuming no technical hiccups (always a possibility), launch should proceed.
The Air Force’s Space Test Program Satellite-3, which will measure different aspects of the space environment, is by far the mission’s biggest spacecraft.
The satellite developed by Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., known as TJ3Sat, is one of 28 miniature “CubeSats” or nanosatellites that are part of the mission.
TJ3Sat is the first satellite to be built and tested by high school students, according to Orbital Sciences, the project’s corporate sponsor as well as the developer of the Minotaur rocket, boosting the various satellites into orbit.
“Since the beginning of the TJ3Sat program, Orbital has purchased flight hardware and contributed mentors and advice throughout the process, as well as assistance with final testing prior to launch,” said David Thompson, Orbital’s President. “We are thrilled to see the hard work and dedicated efforts of the students at Thomas Jefferson High School come to fruition and look forward to the educational benefits this satellite will bring to other students around the world.”

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The 4 Worst Recent Police Fails in America -

The 4 Worst Recent Police Fails in America - 

Cops tend to be so darn authoritative that the only chance we get to laugh at them is usually in The Naked Gun films (or if it's the weekend, during PCP fits from the back of a squad car). But you may be shocked to learn that not all police officers are the shining pillars of their communities either. Right now, there are entire departments that make the cast of Reno 911! look like the Justice League.

#4. St. Louis Police Stop Looking at Fingerprints, Start Arresting the Wrong People
Fingerprints are like anuses in that no two are the same and cops love checking them for clues. Fingerprinting suspects is as basic as police work gets -- unless you're the police in St. Louis, Missouri, who apparently prefer a more lax "let's just arrest whoever" approach. Take Shannon McNeal, who was arrested for having the same name as another woman who's 14 years younger than her ... and also dead. Even though her fingerprints didn't match, McNeal was thrown in jail and ended up paying $15,000 in fees.

Pissed off yet? The good people of St. Louis are, because McNeal's arrest is just one of 100 found cases (so far) of wrongful arrests in the city that included multiple arrests of the same person, a 211-day wrongful incarceration, and 15 people locked up when the real suspects were already in jail -- all of which were completely preventable by a simple process called "looking at their fingerprints." The department's reaction? It's the arrestees' fault for being in the system in the first place. And having fingers, probably.

#3. Multiple Cops Are Caught Speeding ... to Get to Lunch
We've all seen a cop car jet past us with no sirens and assumed they had some reason for doing it, probably a serial-killer-related one. Or, you know, they were just hungry. Among the many, many cases of police officers recently caught speeding for no good reason are some like the North Carolina Highway Patrol officer clocked going at 80 mph ... only to pull up at a Dunkin' Donuts like some kind of ridiculous cartoon stereotype.

But that's nothing compared to Officer James Bell of the Sorrento Police Department in Louisiana, whose GPS revealed 737 instances of speeding ... since July. That's an average of 11 pedal-stomping fly-bys per day, or perhaps just one really fun week. Along with his insane record, Bell is being sued for an accident in which he went 100 mph into a civilian vehicle. And he's still on duty, due to the department being short on manpower. (Maybe the department's rationale is that if he goes really fast, they can pretend he's actually several officers.)

#2. Cops Keep Having Their Guns Stolen, or Losing Them
Most people have taken something from their place of work at some point, be it a stapler, or a hamburger they were supposed to throw out, or a semi-automatic rifle. Or several. Yep, in Washington, D.C., alone, the cops have managed to lose at least a few hundred weapons -- mostly from cops taking them home, even after retirement.

But hey, at least police guns aren't ending up in the hands of criminals, right? Sorry, that's also happening: In Cincinnati, the local news has uncovered reports showing multiple instances of police just flat out leaving their guns unlocked in their homes or, more often, their cars -- only to have that shit snatched like a badly flaunted iPad. One officer lost a shotgun that was just sitting in his personal non-cop car, while another misplaced a fucking AR-15 that was laying in his back seat because he "planned to put it in the trunk" but, shucks, just didn't get around to it. He was suspended for half a day and presumably given a bazooka.

#1. New Mexico Police Dog Is on a "Brutally Cavity Searching Innocent People" Kick
For one New Mexico citizen, the night started like any other, with a quiet trip to Walmart and a routine traffic stop. Two rectal exams, three forced-defecation searches, three enemas, one colonoscopy, and 14 hours later, things were starting to get a little weird. Apparently it was decided that there was something hiding in the gentleman's bum because he "appeared to be clenching his buttocks," a completely unheard of reaction when confronted by angry cops. No butt-drugs were found, but that didn't stop the cops from going full-blown Deliverance on him.

The man filed a lawsuit, but it turns out this is the second time this has happened, as another man was stopped, got extensively bum-searched, and left the cops empty handed. In both stops, the police were using a drug dog named Leo ... who is "wrong pretty often" and whose certification expired years ago. We take some solace in the fact that humans don't have a monopoly on the "irresponsible asshole cop" category.

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Tiny Black Insects Taking Over Parts Of North Texas County - called Hackberry Nipple Gall Maker insects -

Tiny Black Insects Taking Over Parts Of North Texas County - called Hackberry Nipple Gall Maker insects - 

They are tiny black insects and they have taken over parts of Tarrant County.

“I’ve been here 15 years and haven’t seen anything like this,” Watauga resident Glenn Knight explained. “I don’t know what this is.”

Knight says when he walks outside, he is immediately attacked.

Migrating Spiders Sailing Through North Texas Skies

The swarm of insects cover his windows, cars and have even made their way inside his home. “They jump on you. They get down in your clothes,” he said. “They crawl down in your shirt.”

The tiny bugs are called Hackberry Nipple Gall Maker insects.

According to experts, they are homeless bugs in a sense and when it gets cold, they too want to be inside someplace warm.

“They are really just a nuisance. They’ve come out over winter. Once the leaves start falling it stirs them up,” explained Johnny Gibson, with Savior Termite & Pest Control. “They don’t bite. They don’t sting. They are just annoying.”

Experts say they’ve been getting a lot of calls in the last few days. Their advice — make sure all your windows are sealed and if you find them inside your home, vacuum them up. The bugs don’t live very long and will eventually die.


Confused President Barack Obama claims '100 million' have enrolled... meant to say 100,000.... -

Confused President Barack Obama claims '100 million' have enrolled... meant to say 100,000.... -  

President Barack Obama told a conference-call audience of progressive volunteers on Monday evening that 'more than 100 million Americans' – in a nation of less than 314 million – have successfully signed up for health insurance via the Affordable Care Act.
And at a time when his signature legislative initiative's website has made the White House the butt of jokes, the website hosting the conference call was plagued with its own connection errors and other malfunctions.
A weary-sounding Obama made his gaffe during the call, hosted by Organizing For Action, the nonprofit successor to his campaign organization Obama For America. The group claimed 200,000 people managed to listen, aided by an RSVP process that included a fundraising solicitation.
'I just wanted to take a few minutes to speak to everybody because you guys are the ones who are in the trenches, day-in, day-out,' Obama said, complaining of 'misinformation' that has circulated about his health insurance overhaul law.
But 'problems with the website ... have created and fed a lot of this misinformation,' he admitted.
Boasting of his administration's skill in encouraging taxpayers to buy health insurance policies through public marketplaces, he claimed that 'in the first month alone, we've seen more than 100 million Americans already successfully enroll in the new insurance plans.'

That number is att odds with reality, but Obama didn't skip a beat or make any effort to correct himself, and his next comments did little to clear up the mistake.
'You've got a million Americans who've completed an application for themselves or their families,' he continued. 'And that represents about a million-and-a-half people.'
'And of those million-and-a-half people, you've already got a whole bunch of folks who have successfully signed up to get coverage, and you've got almost 400,000 folks who could gain access to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.'
'So effectively, in a month,' he said, 'we've already got half a million Americans who will likely have the security of health care – for the first time, in some cases, in their lives – as soon as January 1.'
It's likely Obama meant to initially take credit for 100,000 success stories, rather than 100 million. But his mangling of the statistics put him off-track by a factor of 1,000.

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Ever want to be invisible? It could happen soon in America, unless Canada beats us to it - 

The greatest hypothetical question of all time may be one step closer to being answerable. No, no one has yet invented a horse-sized duck or a thousand duck-sized horses. I'm talking about the greatest hypothetical question: flight or invisibility?

Experiencing something approaching human flight has long been possible. For a price, anyone can leap out of a plane with a parachute, and jetpacks can make up the difference. As for the second, more elusive part of the equation? Researchers from Texas and Toronto say they have invented two different types of invisibility cloaks. For now, these devices only make things seem to disappear on wavelengths undetectable to the human eye, but researchers on both products say a full-scale invisibility cloak is no longer just an impossible dream.

While the allure of the power of invisibility goes back at least as far as H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man—if not Greek mythology— it first became a scientific reality in 2006. That year, researchers at Duke University had created a cloaking device that could make tiny, two-dimensional objects appear invisible to microwaves.

But this cloak, and others like it, were a far cry from anything you'd read about in a Harry Potter book or see in a Star Trek episode (*required references in any article about invisibility cloaks*). One of the major problems, according to a new paper from Dr. Andrea Alú from the University of Texas (Austin), is that while it makes objects invisible in one frequency, it actually makes them more visible under another frequency. An object made invisible in red light, for example, would be even more visible in blue light.

But Alú says he has invented a new type of device that fixes that problem. Like the cloaks of yore, Alú's new design uses meta-materials (synthetic textiles with properties not found in nature) that can bend light around an object and make it look like it's not there. But, by adding an electronic source like a batter to the cloak (making the cloak "active" as opposed to "passive"), Alú says he can make objects transparent at "all angles and over all broad bandwidths."

Naturally, a lot of the funding for this research comes from the Defense Department: Want an airplane or a tank to be invisible to radar? This is the type of device for you. But it's not just the military that is interested. Alú says a good chunk of funding comes from wireless providers. Because if a building is in the way of your wireless signal, making it invisible might be a better alternative than knocking it down.

Alú says he expects to have a version of this device built within the next couple of years.

Why the hurry? Maybe it's so we can get one before Canada does. Researchers at the University of Toronto seem to be neck and neck with the U.S.

In a recent paper published in the Physical Review X, Toronto professor George Eleftheriades and his student Michael Selvanayagam describe a device made up of a series of antennae that can radiate light and radio waves away from the object it surrounds. But these researchers have done more than just write about such a device; they've jury-rigged one up using Styrofoam, masking tape, and 12 antennae. It cost under $2,000 and has been nicknamed "the active cloak machine."

It essentially works like this: Say you shine a beam of radio waves at an object. When the waves hit the object, they will bounce back. But if you surround the object with antennae that bounce back the opposite radio waves, it will seem as if the object is not there.

When asked who might be interested in such a device, Eleftheriades stuttered a bit.

"The military is the most obvious," he said. "We have been approached…. I shouldn't say too much about that."

As for whether this could ever be applied to making someone or something invisible to the human eye, Eleftheriades says there's no reason it couldn't scale up, it would just need the right kind of antenna (ones that don't yet exist).

So, what do researchers have to say about the age-old question of which would be cooler, flight or invisibility?

"I think becoming invisible," said Eleftheriades. "Because this experience, no human has had it before. Maybe we cannot fly on our own, but we know how it feels to fly."

And despite their friendly competition on the subject, Alú can agree with his colleague on this.

"I would choose invisibility," Alú said. "Flying is easier to achieve in other ways, and I know exactly how hard it is to achieve invisibility.

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