Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A spacecraft is about to do something no spacecraft has ever done before: orbit a comet and land on its surface -

A spacecraft is about to do something no spacecraft has ever done before: orbit a comet and land on its surface - 

A spacecraft from Earth is about to do something no spacecraft has ever done before: orbit a comet and land on its surface.
Right now, the European Space Agency's Rosetta probe is hurtling toward Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  The spacecraft's mission is to study the comet at close-range as it transforms from a quiet nugget of ice and rock, frozen solid by years spent in deep space, to a sun-warmed dynamo spewing jets of gas and dust into a magnificently evolving tail.
News flash:  The metamorphosis has begun.

"Comet 67P is coming alive," says Claudia Alexander, project scientist for the U.S. Rosetta Project at JPL. "And it is even more active than I expected."
Launched in 2004, Rosetta has spent the past few years in hibernation as it chased the comet across the Solar System. In January of 2014, with its destination in sight, Rosetta woke up and turned on its cameras.  At first, the comet looked like a dimensionless pinprick, inactive except for its quiet motion through space.  Then, on May 4th a bright cloud appeared around the nucleus.

"It's beginning to look like a real comet,” says Holger Sierks of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany where Rosetta's OSIRIS science camera was built. "It is hard to believe," he says, "that only a few months from now, Rosetta will be deep inside this cloud of dust and en route to the origin of the comet’s activity."
Spacecraft from NASA, ESA and other space agencies have flown by comets before.  A whole armada of spacecraft visited Comet Halley in the mid-1980s, an international event which still serves as a touchstone of comet research. Other notable examples include NASA's Stardust mission, which flew through the tail of Comet Wild in 2004 and returned the samples to Earth two years later; and the Deep Impact spacecraft, which in 2005 dropped a projectile into Comet 9P/Tempel, blowing a hole in its nucleus so that researchers could look inside. 
Flybys are informative, but Rosetta will do much more.

"A flyby is just a tantalizing glimpse of a comet at one stage in its evolution," points out Alexander. "Rosetta is different. It will orbit 67P for 17 months. We'll see this comet evolve right before our eyes as we accompany it toward the sun and back out again."
The most exciting moment of the mission will likely come in November when a European-built lander descends from the spacecraft and touches down on the comet's surface.  The lander’s name is “Philae” after an island in the Nile, the site of an obelisk that helped decipher—you guessed it—the Rosetta Stone.
Because a comet has little gravity, the lander will anchor itself with harpoons. “The feet may drill into something crunchy like permafrost, or maybe into something rock solid,” Alexander speculates.
Once it is fastened, the lander will commence an unprecedented first-hand study of a comet’s nucleus while Rosetta continues to monitor developments overhead.
Although Rosetta is a European mission, NASA has contributed some important instruments to the spacecraft, and US scientists are just as eager as their European counterparts for Rosetta to arrive.  The recent photos have helped mission controllers pinpoint 67P and start a series of maneuvers that will slowly bring the spacecraft in line with the comet in time for an August rendezvous.
"Our target is ahead," says Alexander, "and Rosetta is chasing it down!"


Endless winter: Lake Superior 'ice may last until July'... -

Endless winter: Lake Superior 'ice may last until July'... - 

I'm gonna keep writing about this until the last cube of ice is melted (if that happens). Unimaginably, there's still ice from the savage winter of 2013-14 on the south shore of Lake Superior near Marquette, Mich.

The National Weather Service in Marquette posted this late yesterday, June 1:

View image on Twitter

The Marquette Mining-Journal newspaper reports that according to some forecasts, the ice may last until July:

"To many area residents who suffered through one of the worst winters on record for the area, seeing the ice chunks on the lake every day is a continuing reminder of that wintry grip of Mother Nature, which still has yet to completely loosen," the paper noted on its website.


Angry crows attack Blond Women in London park... -

Angry crows attack Blond Women in London park... - 

A spate of attacks on women in London has been blamed on angry crows with a grudge against blondes.

The incidents in Eltham Park South are remniscent of Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 film The Birds.

Blonde women have been ambushed by crows while walking or jogging in the park, with some even to afraid to return to the green space after the terrifying encounter.

The recent attacks echo a previous problem with angry crows in the park in 2010, in which blondes were also the target of avian rage.

A bird expert explained that the crows in Eltham Park South are targeting blondes because they trigger bad memories.

British Trust for Ornithology spokesman Paul Standcliffe told the London Evening Standard: "The reaction to fair hair may be a response to a previous attack by a creature with lighter hair or fur, like a Labrador."

Sarah Green was attacked by a crow while running in the park. She said: "The bird swooped down very fast, landed on my head and started pecking away. It was the shock of it: it felt quite big and strong.

"I was shaking my head and flapping my arms and trying to get it off me. It had its claws in my hair. It was quite hard to shake off."

The incident has forced her to change her jogging route. "It's put me off running around the park. I think I'm going to stick to the roads," said Green.


Get ready for car software updates - annoying "Update Required" pop-ups will soon be in your car too -

Get ready for car software updates - annoying "Update Required" pop-ups will soon be in your car too - 

Those annoying "Update Required" pop-ups on your smartphone and computer will soon be in your car too.
Cars are already high-tech devices. Dozens of microprocessors control your steering, acceleration and more. It's gotten to the point that Toyota (TM) engineers joke they only slap on wheels to keep the computer from scraping the ground.

The next generation fleet is made of wirelessly connected cars, which presents a new opportunity: A vehicle that improves over time.
What happens if an auto maker figures out how to better calibrate internal parts to increase horsepower and fuel efficiency? It'll just push out a software update.
The relationships between you, your car and its maker are about to change. Auto manufacturers, suppliers and their software consultants gave CNNMoney a peek at the future they're building.
Fewer auto recalls. A faulty device might get fixed without ever taking it back to a dealer. Remember the software glitch that stalled Toyota Prius cars back in 2005? In the future, click "Accept Update" and you're set. (Faulty physical devices, like GM's ignition switch, are another story.)
Expect security updates. Get ready to download the latest version of your seat belt's antivirus software.
As computers, cars can be hacked. Much like Microsoft (MSFT) issues updates to its Windows operating system, patches to automobile software bugs will prevent hackers from hijacking your vehicle mid-drive.
Say hello to auto apps. Your car's dashboard will soon function like a tablet, running all sorts of apps -- navigation, weather, social media -- within the "infotainment" system. That means auto companies must develop their own version of the Apple (AAPL) iTunes app store or Google (GOOG) Play store.

The question now is, how exactly do you pull this off? Security updates could be optional by default. But what if they're dangerously urgent? Then there's the matter of how and when you download them. Can you do it while driving without worrying about the car shutting off? And updates sometimes make computers buggy. Will it be unsafe to drive?
The auto industry hasn't yet figured these out, said Scott Morrison, who oversees car app engineers at CA Technologies. (CA)
"Security patches are something that haven't been part of the auto manufacturers' lexicon," Morrison said. "This is going to require a radical change in technology and in the process."

Meanwhile, auto parts companies are building new tools with apps in mind. Continental, one of the world's three major auto parts suppliers, hopes to make the inside of your car more interactive.
"Today with my cell phone, I have apps that tap different parts of my phone to give me added value," said Tejas Desai, Continental's head of interior electronics for North America. "That level of functionality is not in a car today. That's going to come."


The United States is becoming a place where “anything goes”, and most Americans are okay with that -

The United States is becoming a place where “anything goes”, and most Americans are okay with that - 

The United States is becoming a place where “anything goes”, and most Americans are okay with that.  No matter which side of the “culture war” that you are on, you have to admit that our culture is being fundamentally transformed.  In fact, new numbers from Gallup confirm that there has been a colossal shift in America’s moral values just since 2001.  Over the past 13 years, we have become a dramatically different country.  Many of the things that used to be considered “evil” are now considered to be “good”, and many of the things that used to be considered “good” are now considered to be “evil”.  In other words, our culture is literally being turned upside down, and the “values” that our national leaders speak of today are far different from the “values” that our grandparents grew up with.  So is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Every year, Gallup conducts an “annual Values and Beliefs survey”, and the survey results for 2014 have just been released.  When you compare the numbers from 2001 to the numbers for this year, the difference in quite a few of the categories is quite striking.  Here are a few examples…

Sex between an unmarried man and woman

2001: 53%

2014: 66%


2001: 59%

2014: 69%

Having a baby outside of marriage

2001: 45%

2014: 58%

Gay or lesbian relations

2001: 40%

2014: 58%

Medical research using stem cells from human embryos

2001: 52%

2014: 65%


2001: 30%

2014: 33%


2001: 13%

2014: 19%

Cloning Humans

2001: 7%

2014: 13%

As a nation, we are moving much more in the “socially liberal” direction.

But does that mean that everyone is changing?

Well, when Gallup broke the numbers down by political affiliation, they found something extremely interesting.

Gallup discovered that the values of Democrats had experienced a seismic shift since 2001, but that the values of Republicans had actually changed very little…

In the 12 years Gallup has asked this overall question, Democrats have become significantly more tolerant on many issues, while independents generally show a smaller shift in the same direction and Republicans’ views have changed little. The percentage of Democrats who say an issue is morally acceptable has increased for 10 issues, including abortion, sex between an unmarried man and woman, extramarital affairs, cloning humans, divorce, cloning animals, suicide, research using stem cells from human embryos, polygamy, and gay and lesbian relations.

In some cases, the change among Democrats has been substantial. For example, in 2003, 52% of Democrats said having a baby outside of wedlock was morally acceptable, and 40% of Republicans and 61% of independents agreed. This year, 72% of Democrats, a 20-percentage-point increase, say it is morally acceptable. Meanwhile, Republicans have seen no change, with 40% still saying it is morally acceptable, although a higher 50% viewed it as morally acceptable last year. Independents have also not seen a change, with 60% saying having a baby out of wedlock is morally acceptable this year.
In other words, the “values gap” between the two major political parties is now larger than it has ever been.

And Gallup has previously found that there are huge differences between age groups when it comes to moral values as well.

For example, only 19 percent of Americans 55 and older consider pornography to be “morally acceptable”, but 49 percent of Americans in the 18 to 34-year-old age group do.

This is true on issue after issue, and it is an indication that Americans will continue to become more “socially liberal” as older generations of Americans die off.

But as our values change, America is becoming a much different place.

You see, the truth is that moral values have consequences.  The following are just a few statistics about the current state of morality in America from one of my previous articles…

-18 percent of all women in the United States say that they have been raped at some point in their lives.

-It is estimated that one out of every four girls will be sexually abused before they become adults.

-Approximately one-third of the entire population of the United States (110 million people) currently has a sexually transmitted disease according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

-In the United States today, more than half of all couples “move in together” before they get married.

-For women under the age of 30 in the United States, more than half of all babies are being born out of wedlock.

-At this point, approximately one out of every three children in the United States lives in a home without a father.

-Right now, there are 70 million Americans that are on mind-altering drugs of one form or another.

-According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately two-thirds of all Americans in the 15 to 24-year-old age bracket have engaged in oral sex.

-During 2012, more than 85,000 military veterans were formally treated for sexual abuse that they suffered while serving in the U.S. military.

-According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, there are 747,408 registered sex offenders in the United States.  And those are just the ones that have been caught and convicted.

Can our society survive if everyone just does “whatever seems right in their own eyes” and young people are allowed to decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong?

Some would suggest that our nation is “evolving” and that we are steadily becoming a more “progressive society”.

Others are deeply alarmed that we are abandoning the values that this nation was founded upon and are calling for a return to those values.

So what do you think?


Blue light emitted by devices 'increases hunger' - How using a smartphone or tablet could make you FAT -

Blue light emitted by devices 'increases hunger' - How using a smartphone or tablet could make you FAT - 

Using a computer or smartphone at night can cause us to pile on the pounds, new research has revealed.
The study found a link between blue light exposure - blue light is emitted by smartphones and tablets - and increased hunger
It found that exposure to the light increases hunger levels for several hours and even increases hunger levels after eating a meal.

Results of the US study show that blue-enriched light exposure, compared with dim light exposure, was associated with an increase in hunger that began 15 minutes after light onset and was still present almost two hours after the meal.
Blue light exposure has also already been shown to decreased sleepiness in the evening increasing the risk of insomnia.
Study co-author Ivy Cheung, of Northwestern University, in Chicago, said: ‘A single three-hour exposure to blue-enriched light in the evening acutely impacted hunger and glucose metabolism.

‘These results are important because they suggest that manipulating environmental light exposure for humans may represent a novel approach of influencing food intake patterns and metabolism.’
The findings are published in the science journal Sleep and were presented today at an annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Minneapolis.
The study group comprised 10 healthy adults with regular sleep and eating schedules who received identical carbohydrate-rich meals.