Recently in Science Category

Splat - thanks China

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Look up - from Space News:

Huge rocket looks set for uncontrolled reentry following Chinese space station launch
China launched the first module for its space station into orbit late Wednesday, but the mission launcher also reached orbit and is slowly and unpredictably heading back to Earth.

The Long March 5B, a variant of China’s largest rocket, successfully launched the 22.5-metric-ton Tianhe module from Wenchang Thursday local time. Tianhe separated from the core stage of the launcher after 492 seconds of flight, directly entering its planned initial orbit.

Designed specifically to launch space station modules into low Earth orbit, the Long March 5B uniquely uses a core stage and four side boosters to place its payload directly into low Earth orbit.

However this core stage is now also in orbit and is likely to make an uncontrolled reentry over the next days or week as growing interaction with the atmosphere drags it to Earth. If so, it will be one of the largest instances of uncontrolled reentry of a spacecraft and could potentially land on an inhabited area.

Emphasis mine - yeah - about that.  Usually, the agency launching the rocket makes sure that the stuff left over either falls in the ocean somewhere way out of shipping lanes or it comes back to Earth in a trajectory guaranteed to burn it up on re-entry. I guess the Chinese Communists haven't stolen that technology from Elon or NASA or the Ruskies. Yet. Class act there guys.

The last time the USA had something large deorbit uncontrolled, it was SkyLab back in July 11, 1979. 41+ years ago.

Object of desire

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Found a similar product on 'zon but not the style of mug I like:


The lava is ancient - from the Reykjavík Grapevine:

Lava From Geldingadalur Is The Most Primitive Iceland Has Seen In 7000 Years
Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, professor of geophysics, has spoken about the results of the research done on the lava flowing from Geldingadalur and states that is it very exciting, Vísir reports.

The results of the studies conducted show that the lava that is emerging from the volcano is likely the most primitive lava the surface of Iceland has seen for over 7,000 years.

Something different going on - the magma is coming from much deeper in the Earth.

Woooooosh - 2001 FO32

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From EarthSky:

2001 FO32: Big asteroid sweeps closest this weekend
The biggest known asteroid to pass in 2021 will sweep by on March 21. Asteroid 2001 FO32 is estimated to be about .6 miles (1 km) in diameter, not quite as long as the Golden Gate Bridge, but comparable in length. Although there’s no risk of impact, the space rock is of interest also because it’s one of the fastest space rocks known to fly by Earth. It’s traveling at about 76,980 miles per hour (123,887 km/h) or 21 miles (34.4 km) per second, relative to Earth. In contrast, Earth travels around the sun at about 18 miles (30 km) per second. Since 2001 FO32 is good-sized and occasionally passes near Earth, it’s been classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid. Its orbit is well known, though, and it poses no risk of impact now or for centuries to come. On the contrary, astronomers are excited about the asteroid, which, NASA has said will provide them with:

… a rare opportunity to get a good look at a rocky relic that formed at the dawn of our solar system.

On March 21, 2021, FO32’s closest approach to Earth will occur at 16:03 UTC; translate UTC to your time. At its closest, it’ll be about 1.25 million miles away (2 million km) – or 5.25 times the distance from Earth to the moon.

Not that long ago, we would have been clueless.  Fun time to be alive!

Fagradalsfjall - live stream UPDATE

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The new Icelandic volcano here - pretty spectacular. Can't seem to embed so visit the site and see for yourself.

And it's on YouTube Live:

An Earth Shattering Ka-Boom

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The volcanic eruption in Iceland finally happened.  They have had a month of small quakes and signs of magma shifting around. From the English language Reykjavik Grapevine:

BREAKING: Eruption At Fagradalsfjall
The Icelandic Met Office has just reported that an eruption has begun at Fagradalsfjall, long expected to be the location of a possible volcanic eruption. This eruption is being called Geldingadalsgos, after Geldingardalur, the valley where the eruption is taking place.

The announcement states that the first announcements of an eruption came to the Met Office at 21:40 Icelandic time, and were later confirmed visually.

Scientists and the Grapevine are on the way to the location now for further reporting.

This activity is the culmination of earthquakes swarms that began in the area on February 24th, with scientists predicting an eruption may happen in the area on March 4th. Since then there have been daily briefings and concerted scientific monitoring of the situation.

As early as this morning, scientists were cautioning that the apparent quieting of earthquakes in recent days could be a prelude to an eruption.

Here is the URL for the Icelandic Met Office's website run through Google Translate - more as it happens. It's about 20 miles from Reykjavik - visible from town but no danger as it is an isolated valley.

Wishful thinking - Solar Cycle 25

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In the mail today was my paper copy of the amateur radio magazine QST. The cover article was touting Solar Cycle 25 as though it was going to be the next best thing since sliced bread.


They are predicting a very active eleven years. For radio amateurs, this would be a very good thing as high solar activity means a very electrically active ionospheric layer and really really good long-distance radio propagation. Being able, not only to work other stations all around the world but being able to work them with very low power. Some hams like to specialize in low power operation - it is a lot of fun to get a signal through with the barest minimum of power.

Unfortunately, everything I have seen from other sources indicates a very quiet sun and a very low energy Cycle 25. This will be interesting as the sun is the primary driver of our climate and we have had periods of low solar output in the past - these can be measured by counting sunspots so the records go back thousands of years.

Few sunspots? Quiet sun. Cooler weather. Some of these minima have been so intense they were named: the Maunder Minimum, the Dalton, the Spörer, the Wolf, the Oort, etc... Not to mention the five major ice ages.

Looks like we are heading for another period of extended cold weather - computer models be damned (as well they should be). The River Thames in London froze over last month for the first time in 60 years. More people die during cold weather than during hot so this is what our political elite need to be looking at, not pop-Marxism.

Looks like there might be a new volcano happening there. The Reykjavik Grapevine has the news you need:

How to Pronounce Icelandic Volcano: Þráinsskjaldarhraun
If there is something you can rely on in Iceland, it’s that there will eventually be a volcano eruption somewhere—and the name of it will be impossible for the rest of the world to pronounce.

But we want to help, so welcome to Grapevine’s Science Lab where we will teach you to pronounce the words circulating around this possible eruption. Our guinea pig today is John Pearson, an experienced ex-BBC radio professional, who tries to get his English-speaking mouth around the news anchor’s worst nightmare.

Þráinsskjaldarhraun – Thrainn Shield Lava
Fagradalsfjall – Beautiful Valley Mountain
Sundhnjúkagígaröð – Channel Mountain Crater Series

There is a good video at the site so you can practice along with John.

8.1 Magnitude. Information at the USGS website.

No Tsunami is expected - it was pretty deep.

Interesting if correct - from the Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K.

A Precolumbian Presence of Venetian Glass Trade Beads in Arctic Alaska
Excavation at three Late Prehistoric Eskimo sites in arctic Alaska has revealed the presence of Venetian glass trade beads in radiocarbon-dated contexts that predate Columbus's discovery of the Western Hemisphere. The bead variety, commonly known as “Early Blue” and “Ichtucknee Plain,” has been confirmed by expert examination and comparative Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA). The beads are present in sites throughout the Caribbean, the eastern coast of Central and North America, and the eastern Great Lakes region, where they are commonly found in sites dating between approximately AD 1550 and 1750, although a diminishing presence continues into the early 1800s. Beads of this variety have not previously been reported from Alaska. Ascribed to Venetian production by their precolumbian age, the beads challenge the currently accepted chronology for the development of their production methodology, availability, and presence in the Americas. In the absence of trans-Atlantic communication, the most likely route these beads traveled from Europe to northwestern Alaska is across Eurasia and over the Bering Strait. This is the first documented instance of the presence of indubitable European materials in prehistoric sites in the Western Hemisphere as the result of overland transport across the Eurasian continent.

Now this is going to stir up some history theories. From Venice through the Bering Strait?  Glass beads would be an excellent trade-good - durable, compact and not locally produced.

I love when stuff like this happens. Turned 70 a few months ago which means that Plate Tectonics was a brand new thing when I was in grade school. Part of the reason why I majored in Physical Oceanography and Marine Biology.  Dropped out but that is another story.

Revolutions in thinking keep our minds engaged. More, faster please...

A non-starter from the Washington, DC NBC affiliate:

Elevated Radiation Levels Detected in Neutron Reactor Containment Building at NIST in Maryland
Elevated radiation levels were detected in the containment building of the research neutron reactor at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland, during a restart of the reactor Wednesday morning, according to a spokeswoman.

Several trained radiation workers were exposed to elevated levels and were undergoing standard decontamination and evaluation, a spokeswoman said. Authorities say there is no threat to the public nor to workers on the NIST campus.

In other words, everything happened as it should happen.  The radiation was contained in the... er... Containment Building.  This is the building that was designed to contain any radiation in the event that some was to leak out somewhere. In other news, water is wet, the sun will not rise until around 8:00 AM tomorrow morning so it is dark out and I have finished dinner so my stomach is full.

Must be a slow news day for them. And, before you start going on about how ANY radiation exposure is so bad for you, explore the concept of Hormesis.  You can Google it.  It's a thing.

But of course - China deletes the truth

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Expect nothing less. From the London Daily Mail:

New cover-up fears as Chinese officials delete critical data about the Wuhan lab with details of 300 studies vanishing - including all those carried out by virologist dubbed Batwoman
The Chinese government is facing fresh accusations of a cover-up after officials deleted crucial online data about the laboratory suspected of being the source of Covid-19.

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that hundreds of pages of information relating to studies carried out by the top-secret Wuhan Institute of Virology have been wiped.

Details of more than 300 studies, including many investigating diseases that pass from animals to humans, published online by the state-run National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) are no longer available.

The deletion of key evidence has reignited fears that China is trying to whitewash the investigation into the origins of the virus.

It comes after President Xi Jinping last week blocked investigators from the World Health Organisation entering the country in a move that drew international condemnation. Meanwhile, state media outlets have published hundreds of stories claiming that the virus did not even originate in the city of Wuhan.

As part of the NSFC’s purge of online studies, it has deleted all reference to those carried out by Shi Zhengli, the Wuhan-based virologist who has earned the nickname Batwoman for her trips to gather samples in bat caves.

The Daleks were just a bit ahead of their time - EXTERMINATE, EXTERMINATE, EXTERMINATE

If it does not fit the narrative, DELETE, DELETE, DELETE

I do hope that some brave soul somewhere has a thumb drive and is making plans to get it to WikiLeaks.

Gorgeous photo of the conjunction

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Missed it here yesterday but caught a glimpse this evening as I was driving home. No idea who took this photos but it is gorgeous - great idea and excellent execution:


New developments in rocket science

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From America's Newspaper of Record - the Babylon Bee:

California To Require All Rockets To Run On Wind Power By 2030
California has announced a bold new initiative: all rockets produced or launched in the state must run on wind power just ten years from now.

Governor Newsom claimed the executive order was guided by SCIENCE and MATH.

"We are following the SCIENCE here!" Newsom said. "We are once again leading the nation with initiatives that other states are too stupid to enact. Those backward hillbillies in states like Texas and Florida say they are pro-business because they have primitive technology like electricity, gasoline, and cars, but really, they just want the world to burn."

Giggles could be heard behind the curtain at the press conference, causing many to suspect it was a practical joke. But Newsom managed to keep a straight face, saying, "With SCIENCE on our side, we can go where no man has gone before, fully powered by green energy like wind and solar."

Early wind rockets have been unsuccessful, as the first one just fell over and then blew into an angry neighbor's yard. Another one got stuck in a tree. But Newsom is confident the technology will be ready in a decade.

Newsom and the state legislature were then shocked as Elon Musk announced SpaceX would be moving to Texas. A spokesperson for Texas said the state is excited to have Musk and that "that rootin-tootin space cowboy can build any kind o' rocket he wants down here, shoot, I tell you what."

Makes perfect sense - because SCIENCE. Absolutely. And don't forget MATH

Just wow - Aricebo collapse

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It turns out that the observatory crew were flying a drone to inspect the cables at the moment they snapped. 
Scott Manley has the video - from his twitter account:

Scott also has an excellent YouTube channel - check it out.

2020: My work here is done

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The final straw. The great telescope at Arecibo collapsed last night - from Florida's Orlando Sentinel:

Massive UCF-managed Arecibo telescope collapses in Puerto Rico
Scientists and Puerto Ricans lamented on Tuesday morning the collapse of one of the most powerful telescopes on the Earth, managed by the University of Central Florida and owned by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

The 1,000-foot wide Arecibo Observatory radio telescope platform collapsed in Puerto Rico ending an era of space exploration, officials told the Associated Press. It was the second largest telescope on the planet.

Yes, the Chinese telescope is bigger but it can not transmit.  Arecibo was unique in that it can operate as a radar.  Perfect for looking for astroids that can potentially impact the Earth. A sad day for Science and proving once again that 2020 has been a horrible year.

We are made of star-stuff

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Fascinating to ponder - from the University of Bologna:

Does the human brain resemble the Universe?
An astrophysicist of the University of Bologna and a neurosurgeon of the University of Verona compared the network of neuronal cells in the human brain with the cosmic network of galaxies… and surprising similarities emerged.

In their paper published in Frontiers of Physics, Franco Vazza (astrophysicist at the University of Bologna) and Alberto Feletti (neurosurgeon at the University of Verona) investigated the similarities between two of the most challenging and complex systems in nature: the cosmic network of galaxies and the network of neuronal cells in the human brain.

Despite the substantial difference in scale between the two networks (more than 27 orders of magnitude), their quantitative analysis, which sits at the crossroads of cosmology and neurosurgery, suggests that diverse physical processes can build structures characterized by similar levels of complexity and self-organization.

The human brain functions thanks to its wide neuronal network that is deemed to contain approximately 69 billion neurons. On the other hand, the observable universe can count upon a cosmic web of at least 100 billion galaxies. Within both systems, only 30% of their masses are composed of galaxies and neurons. Within both systems, galaxies and neurons arrange themselves in long filaments or nodes between the filaments. Finally, within both system, 70% of the distribution of mass or energy is composed of components playing an apparently passive role: water in the brain and dark energy in the observable Universe.

Starting from the shared features of the two systems, researchers compared a simulation of the network of galaxies to sections of the cerebral cortex and the cerebellum. The goal was to observe how matter fluctuations scatter over such diverse scales.

"We calculated the spectral density of both systems. This is a technique often employed in cosmology for studying the spatial distribution of galaxies", explains Franco Vazza. "Our analysis showed that the distribution of the fluctuation within the cerebellum neuronal network on a scale from 1 micrometre to 0.1 millimetres follows the same progression of the distribution of matter in the cosmic web but, of course, on a larger scale that goes from 5 million to 500 million light-years".

God has zero problem with re-use.  If a design works, try it for something else.
The title of the post? Carl Sagan from 1973

I have no problem believing in God as well as believing in Science - the more we learn, the stranger this shit gets.

An interesting idea - Antifa

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Someone who visits some of the larger Democratic controled cities needs to pony up a couple hundred bucks and start working on this. Portland? Seattle? Lookin' at you. From Gun Free Zone:

Better misery through chemistry
I’ve been mulling over an idea.

Antifa has been spray painting on and posting online “spicy air, don’t care.”


I have a background in Chemistry and a total lack of morals.

Allow me to introduce you to a family of chemicals called thiols, also known as mercaptans.

Same chemistry as makes the smell of rotten eggs and skunk spray. Thioacetone is listed as the world's smelliest chemical and Derek Lowe has a wonderful edition of his series "stuff I won’t work with" dedicated to trithioacetone

The post closes with this offering:

So if you are picking up what I am putting down, it’s time to do away with the pepper spray and CS gas.

Start hosing down Antifa with thioacetone.

Absolute, non-stop, uncontrollable crippling, wrenching and vomiting.

Thiols penetrate the skin (anyone who has been sprayed by a skunk knows what I’m talking about) so that smell will stick to them for days and weeks making their life unlivable.

Since the government has decided that Antifa isn’t yet ready to be shot with real bullets, but they’ve developed an immunity to pepper spray, it’s time to go with a bit rougher chemistry.

A fantastic idea - just checked and thioacetone is available with no restriction for under $200 for 25 grams.  Considering its potency, that is more than enough for several large-scale applications. Anyone have a drone they are not using?  The chemicals involved have very low toxicity as well - no poisoning or being overcome by fumes.  Just the smell.

I remember in high school, one of our organic chem labs involved butyric acid - relatively benign chemically but what a vomitous reek.  An oily acid too so it took about a week before I stopped stinking.  Nasal fatigue started in almost immediately so I did not know what was up at first. (And yes, I did get that person back - KMnO4 can leave very dark purple stains on the skin. Fun and epic story.)

Told 'ya - COVID

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It is politics and not public health. From James Delingpole writing at Breitbart:

Nobel Winner Michael Levitt Cancelled for Coronavirus Wrongthink
A Nobel Prize-winning chemist and Stanford professor has been cancelled for wrongthink on coronavirus.

Professor Michael Levitt, who won the Nobel prize for Chemistry in 2013, was due to be the keynote speaker in December at a virtual conference on his areas of special expertise – computational biology and biodesign.

But the First International Biodesign Research Conference withdrew his invitation – according to Levitt because they had received ‘too many calls’ from other speakers ‘threatening to quit’ because of his views on Chinese coronavirus. He has long maintained that the threat is overblown and that ‘we’re going to be fine.’

From Dr. Levitt's twitter account:

A New Dark Age indeed. Science and politics need to be divorced from each other.

From the Low Earth Orbit Tracking Lab twitter account:

Normally, these satellites would fire a rocket, de-orbit and splash down into the ocean but these two birds were built before that was a requirement. The objects are a Parus navigation satellite (Kosmos-2004), launched in 1989, and the Chang Zheng-4C Y4 third stage rocket launched in 2009. They are flying in opposed orbits  so the combined velocity is high.  Kessler syndrome anyone?


NEJM is a high-end non-political Scientific Journal devoted to the topic of Medicine and Medical Research.  They are not a partisan organization. Well... Maybe... From The National Pulse:

REVEALED: Anti-Trump New England Journal Of Medicine Is Partnered With A Chinese Communist Publishing House
The medical journal had never involved itself in U.S. presidential elections before, but recently published an op-ed entitled, “Dying in a Leadership Vacuum,” which implored American voters to remove President Trump office.

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), therefore, shares the same election preference as the Chinese Communist Party: a victory for Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden.

NEJM and the Chinese government, however, have considerably more in common.

NEJM launched a Chinese publication, app, and website in late 2016.

NEJM also partnered with Shanghai Science and Technology Publishing House, a subsidiary of government-approved Shanghai Century Publishing Co.

Shanghai Science and Technology Publishing House boasts on its mission page how it belongs to “the first batch of “National Excellent Publishing Houses named” by the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department and has received a host of awards from the government.

Furthermore, the group describes itself as “under the guidance of the party and the government’s publishing policies.”

Much more at the site.  Science = 0%, Politics = 100% Not surprised.

Sad though. I remember when Scientific American was a relaly good publication - read it regularly growing up.  I used to work with Greenpeace (Seattle office) back when they were a science-based organization. They moved to politics and I quit. Politics and Science do not mix.  Just because you are brilliant in your field does not mean that you have good judgement in other arenas. Paging Messers Dunning and Kruger.  Dr. David Dunning and Dr. Justin Kruger please come to the white courtesy telephone please.

Our quiet sun - a full month

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From Spaceweather:

The sun has been without sunspots for 31 straight days--a full month. This interval has pushed the current Solar Minimum into historic territory. Since 2016, there have been 825 spotless days. To find a lull in the solar cycle with more spotless days, you have to go back to the years around 1913 when the sun racked up 1023 spotless days. We are now experiencing a century-class Solar Minimum.

Sunspots are an excellent proxy for solar activity and solar output. Fewer sunspots? A cooler sun. Global warming? More like another cooling period like the Maunder Minimum.

Computer modeling

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A useful tool but it is too often been used to push a narrative. The model that Dr. Michael Mann used for the "hockey stick" graph of global warming is a perfect example. You can feed it completely random numbers and it will churn out more hockey sticks - the model was debunked shortly after publication but the paper still stands and people still quote from it because it promotes the narrative.

This is a perfect truth - from Watts Up With That:


Twenty eight days

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Our sun is in a quiet period - been 28 days without a sunspot. From Spaceweather:


A news item and an editorial. First, from the Pasadena Star-News:

With mammoth Bobcat fire looming, firefighters draw battle lines along Mt. Wilson’s steep slopes
Fire crews stood poised atop Mount Wilson on Tuesday, Sept. 15, strategizing in the shadow of billions of dollars worth of communications infrastructure and history-shaping telescopes. With the Bobcat fire’s various smoky layers dancing as close as 500 feet away, snaking upward toward the complex from various wooded routes, the team’s mission was simple: Protect the familiar towers of the Mount Wilson Observatory.

Already, a fiery tendril from the forest blaze crested a steep ridge around midday and wound toward an observation pathway facing east from the mountaintop. Black smoke poured out from the burning trees and flames climbed dozens of feet into the air. The wildfire sounded more like a waterfall, a din of cracking and popping.

That small, pesky fire, however, was the least of their concerns. It was just a finger off the mammoth blaze ascending from the base of the mountain.

And this from the LA-ist:

What We'll Lose If The Mt. Wilson Observatory Burns
You may not have realized it, but sitting atop one of the highest points in the San Gabriel mountains, looming 5,700 feet over L.A., is arguably one of the world's most important spots for scientific discovery: the Mount Wilson Observatory.

The 114-year-old site is covered in equipment that not only helped mankind discover the universe and cement Southern California as an astronomy hub, but still connects normal people to wonders beyond our own world.

Yes, the site is old and yes, there is a lot of light pollution but there is still a lot of really good science being done at the observatory. The place is at the bedrock of our understanding of the universe.

Interesting - Tsar Bomba

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The Russians finally declassified the information about it. Tsar Bomba was the largest (by far) nuclear device ever detonated. A good representation in this graphic:


Much more information at Zero Hedge:

Russia Declassifies Footage Of Biggest Nuke Ever Tested: "Mushroom Cloud 7 Times Higher Than Everest"
Russia has for the first time released full declassified footage of the Soviet Union's monster nuclear bomb known as the 'Tsar Bomba' hydrogen bomb (codenamed “Ivan”).

Widely considered to be the most powerful nuclear weapon ever created and tested, it was detonated 4,000 meters above a sparsely populated archipelago in the Barents Sea on Oct. 30, 1961 as part of a secretive test nevertheless detected by US intelligence.

The bomb had a yield of an estimated 50 megatons, or the equivalent of 50 million tons of TNT, and though poor-quality images had already been released, just days ago the Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation published a 40-minute full documentary featuring the new declassified video of the bomb detonation after being dropped by a Tu-95 Bear bomber on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Russia’s nuclear industry.

Much more at the site. The 40 minute documentary can be found at Rosatom - Russian voice-over with English subtitles:

The thought was that it was too large to be delivered as a weapon. Much smaller than expected.

From the New York Times:

Konrad Steffen, Who Sounded Alarm on Greenland Ice, Dies at 68
Konrad Steffen, an Arctic scientist whose work showed that climate change is melting Greenland’s vast ice sheet with increasing speed, died on Saturday in an accident near a research station he created there 30 years ago. He was 68.

And the irony?

A fellow scientist at the station, Jason Box, said the crevasse, or large crack, was a known hazard. But he added that high winds and recent snowfall had made visibility poor and landmarks harder to spot.

Global warming is causing Greenland to lose ice at an unprecidented rate. Oh. Wait.
Our sun is entering a cooling cycle. From Electroverse - August 11th, 2020:

Usually in mid-August, Greenland’s surface mass balance (SMB) is LOSING 4 Gigatons of snow & ice a day. Not yesterday, however — on Aug 10, 2020, the ice sheet GAINED a record-smashing 4 Gigatons of global warming goodness (and just listen to the silence coming from the MSM, it has so much to say).

Before this year, the Greenland ice sheet had never grown anywhere-close to 4 Gigatons in any of the months of June, July, or August, according to DMI records (which go back to 1981). In addition, the DMI record books also reveal that yesterday’s 4 Gt GAIN smashed the previous mid-Aug record by over 2 full Gigatons.

Here are the latest (Aug 10, 2020) measurements:

These are not the climate models. These numbers are coming in from satellites measuring the data. From scientists poking sticks into the ice. From real-world data, not from some computer simulation. It was the record snowfall from the current cooling cycle that caused Dr. Steffen to miss the warnings.

A poke in the eye - Arecibo

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The radio telescope at Arecibo suffered a mechanical malfunction - from University of Central Florida:

Broken Cable Damages Arecibo Observatory

20200812-arecibo.jpgOne of the auxiliary cables that helps support a metal platform in place above the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, broke on Monday (Aug. 10) causing a 100-foot-long gash on the telescope’s reflector dish. Operations at the UCF-managed observatory are stopped until repairs can be made.

The break occurred about 2:45 a.m. When the three-inch cable fell it also damaged about 6-8 panels in the Gregorian Dome and twisted the platform used to access the dome. It is not yet clear what caused the cable to break.

“We have a team of experts assessing the situation,” says Francisco Cordova, the director of the observatory. “Our focus is assuring the safety of our staff, protecting the facilities and equipment, and restoring the facility to full operations as soon as possible, so it can continue to assist scientists around the world.”

The 'scope has been in operation for 50 years. Gone through many upgrades and continues to do fantastic science. A treasure.

Pot use while pregnant - from Nature Medicine (the abstract):

Maternal cannabis use in pregnancy and child neurodevelopmental outcomes
Cannabis use in pregnancy has increased, and many women continue to use it throughout pregnancy. With the legalization of recreational cannabis in many jurisdictions, there is concern about potentially adverse childhood outcomes related to prenatal exposure. Using the provincial birth registry containing information on cannabis use during pregnancy, we perform a retrospective analysis of all live births in Ontario, Canada, between 1 April 2007 and 31 March 2012. We link pregnancy and birth data to provincial health administrative databases to ascertain child neurodevelopmental outcomes. We use matching techniques to control for confounding and Cox proportional hazards regression models to examine associations between prenatal cannabis use and child neurodevelopment. We find an association between maternal cannabis use in pregnancy and the incidence of autism spectrum disorder in the offspring. The incidence of autism spectrum disorder diagnosis was 4.00 per 1,000 person-years among children with exposure compared to 2.42 among unexposed children, and the fully adjusted hazard ratio was 1.51 (95% confidence interval: 1.17–1.96) in the matched cohort. The incidence of intellectual disability and learning disorders was higher among offspring of mothers who use cannabis in pregnancy, although less statistically robust. We emphasize a cautious interpretation of these findings given the likelihood of residual confounding.

This study has a very large sample size. Almost double the chances of autism? NBC News has a report:

Using marijuana in pregnancy may heighten baby's risk of autism
The risk of autism may be greater in babies born to women who used marijuana during pregnancy, a new study suggests.

In an analysis of data from more than 500,000 Canadian mothers and their children, researchers found a 50 percent increase in the risk of autism spectrum disorder in kids whose mothers had used cannabis while pregnant, according to the report, published Monday in Nature Medicine.

“Cannabis is not a benign drug and any use during pregnancy should be discouraged,” the study’s lead author, Daniel Corsi, an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa and a scientist at the Children’s Hospital of Ontario Research Institute, said.

No chance of error - sample size to big for any question. Now the question is what else? We do not have a history of studied pot use - what happens to your cognitive facilities after 30 years of toking?

I think I will stick with my beer and wine and an occasional single malt.

Earthquake in North Carolina

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Big 'un too - 5.1 Magnitude and only 3.7km depth   From The Weather Channel:

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee; Roads cracked, dishes broken
A moderate 5.1 magnitude earthquake shook several states in the Southeastern U.S. on Sunday morning.

The earthquake struck at 8:07 a.m.ET about a mile south-southeast of Sparta, North Carolina, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Sparta is in Alleghany County on the North Carolina-Virginia border about 90 miles north of Charlotte, North Carolina.

It was the sixth earthquake in the area in a little more than 24 hours. A series of small quakes began at 7:05 a.m. Saturday. The strongest of those was a 2.6 magnitude tremor that struck about 2 miles south of Sparta at 1:57 a.m. Sunday, the USGS reported.

The USGS reported that the quake was felt as far south as Augusta, Georgia, and as far north as Staunton, Virginia.

And from the South Carolina Department of Emergency Management:

Many people are unaware of how common earthquakes are in South Carolina. Approximately 10 to 15 earthquakes are recorded annually in South Carolina with 3 to 5 of them felt or noticed by people. About 70 percent of South Carolina earthquakes are located in the Middleton Place-Summerville Seismic Zone. The two most significant historical earthquakes to occur in South Carolina were the 1886 Charleston/Summerville earthquake and the 1913 Union County earthquake. The 1886 earthquake in Charleston was the most damaging earthquake to ever occur in the eastern United States. In terms of lives lost, human suffering and devastation, this was the most destructive United States earthquake in the 19th century.

Was not aware that the area was so seismically active. I knew about the New Madrid earthquakes in Missouri but those are quite some distance and a completely different system of faults.

UPDATE at bottom of post

From the National Arrows and Spears Administration:

NASA to Reexamine Nicknames for Cosmic Objects
Distant cosmic objects such as planets, galaxies, and nebulae are sometimes referred to by the scientific community with unofficial nicknames. As the scientific community works to identify and address systemic discrimination and inequality in all aspects of the field, it has become clear that certain cosmic nicknames are not only insensitive, but can be actively harmful. NASA is examining its use of unofficial terminology for cosmic objects as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

As an initial step, NASA will no longer refer to planetary nebula NGC 2392, the glowing remains of a Sun-like star that is blowing off its outer layers at the end of its life, as the “Eskimo Nebula.” “Eskimo” is widely viewed as a colonial term with a racist history, imposed on the indigenous people of Arctic regions. Most official documents have moved away from its use. NASA will also no longer use the term “Siamese Twins Galaxy” to refer to NGC 4567 and NGC 4568, a pair of spiral galaxies found in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster. Moving forward, NASA will use only the official, International Astronomical Union designations in cases where nicknames are inappropriate.

“I support our ongoing reevaluation of the names by which we refer to astronomical objects,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters, Washington. “Our goal is that all names are aligned with our values of diversity and inclusion, and we’ll proactively work with the scientific community to help ensure that. Science is for everyone, and every facet of our work needs to reflect that value.”

The administrators that green-lighted this move should be fired. They are not operating in alignment with NASA's founding principles. Astronomy has no need of political correctness and those that seek to inflict it are not benefiting science.

UPDATEAmerica's newspaper of record published this handy infographic:


Seems that they had caches of it around Europe - from The Jerusalem Post:

Hezbollah stockpiled chemical behind Beirut blast in London and Germany
Hezbollah kept three metric tons of ammonium nitrate, the explosive thought to be behind the mega blast in Beirut this week, in a storehouse in London, until MI5 and the London Metropolitan Police found it in 2015.

The Lebanese terrorist group also stored hundreds of kilograms of ammonium nitrate in southern Germany, which were uncovered earlier this year.

More at the site.  There is still too much missing information. NH4NO3 is the oxidizer, it still needs the fuel (such as the fuel oil or diesel in ANFO).

Still way to early to know what really happened.

Beirut explosion - ammonium nitrate

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The official story so far - from gCaptain:

Beirut Blast Blamed on Chemical Cargo Removed From Ship in 2014
The volatile chemical that Lebanese authorities blame for Tuesday’s lethal blast in Beirut had been lying in storage at the city’s port for six years in spite of warnings from customs officials about its hazards, documents show.

The ammonium nitrate arrived as cargo on the ship Rhosus in 2014, according to two letters issued by the director general of Lebanese Customs. For reasons that are unclear, dockworkers unloaded the chemical, which can be used to make fertilizers and explosives, and put it into storage.

Customs officials later asked judicial authorities at least twice to issue orders for the ammonium nitrate to be confiscated or re-exported, according to the letters. In one of the letters, dated May 3, 2016, the director general at that time, Shafik Merhe, warned of “the extreme danger” from storing the chemical in a warehouse “in these unsuitable weather conditions.” The material posed a risk to the staff and the port, he said.

Something does not ring quite right - pure ammonium nitrate does not burn very easily. It is an oxidizer and will not combust or explode unless there is a fuel present and mixed throughout. Once fuel has been mixed in, it still takes an awful lot of effort to discharge - dynamite has been used for this. An open flame is not sufficient.

The most common form of explosive is ANFO - ammonium nitrate + fuel oil. This is used for blasting. It is what was used in Oklahoma 25 years ago. Makes me wonder what the real story is...

Increased sunspots = increased overall activity. From the SpaceWeather site:

There's no longer any doubt. New Solar Cycle 25 is coming to life. The latest sign came yesterday with the emergence of a new sunspot group, AR2770, inset in this magnetic map of the sun's surface from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO):


AR2770 has two dark cores (each about the size of Mars) and is crackling with minor B-class solar flares. Its potential for even stronger flares will become clear in the days ahead as the sunspot turns toward Earth, more fully revealing its magnetic complexity.

Active regions from Solar Cycle 25 are now strewn across the sun's northern hemisphere. These are places where magnetic fields are intensifying, creating islands of magnetism on the sun's surface.

And this cautionary note::

The appearance of so many active regions at once is a clear sign that Solar Cycle 25 is gaining steam. However, that doesn't mean Solar Minimum is finished. These are just "starter sunspots," pipsqueaks compared to the behemoths expected when Solar Cycle 25 reaches its peak a few years from now. Solar activity should remain generally low despite this uptick in sunspot counts.

We could still be looking at an overall cooling period. - some numbers

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A good essay on the futility of alternative energy and it outlines just how wasteful and resource intensive most of these scams (wind, solar, etc...) are. From the Manhattan Institute:

Mines, Minerals, and "Green" Energy: A Reality Check
As policymakers have shifted focus from pandemic challenges to economic recovery, infrastructure plans are once more being actively discussed, including those relating to energy. Green energy advocates are doubling down on pressure to continue, or even increase, the use of wind, solar power, and electric cars. Left out of the discussion is any serious consideration of the broad environmental and supply-chain implications of renewable energy.

As I explored in a previous paper, “The New Energy Economy: An Exercise in Magical Thinking,” many enthusiasts believe things that are not possible when it comes to the physics of fueling society, not least the magical belief that “clean-tech” energy can echo the velocity of the progress of digital technologies. It cannot.

This is quite a long article, very well footnoted with the data to back up its claims. Here are a few observations:

Among the material realities of green energy:

    • Building wind turbines and solar panels to generate electricity, as well as batteries to fuel electric vehicles, requires, on average, more than 10 times the quantity of materials, compared with building machines using hydrocarbons to deliver the same amount of energy to society.
    • A single electric car contains more cobalt than 1,000 smartphone batteries; the blades on a single wind turbine have more plastic than 5 million smartphones; and a solar array that can power one data center uses more glass than 50 million phones.
    • Replacing hydrocarbons with green machines under current plans—never mind aspirations for far greater expansion—will vastly increase the mining of various critical minerals around the world. For example, a single electric car battery weighing 1,000 pounds requires extracting and processing some 500,000 pounds of materials. Averaged over a battery’s life, each mile of driving an electric car “consumes” five pounds of earth. Using an internal combustion engine consumes about 0.2 pounds of liquids per mile.
    • Oil, natural gas, and coal are needed to produce the concrete, steel, plastics, and purified minerals used to build green machines. The energy equivalent of 100 barrels of oil is used in the processes to fabricate a single battery that can store the equivalent of one barrel of oil.
    • By 2050, with current plans, the quantity of worn-out solar panels—much of it nonrecyclable—will constitute double the tonnage of all today’s global plastic waste, along with over 3 million tons per year of unrecyclable plastics from worn-out wind turbine blades. By 2030, more than 10 million tons per year of batteries will become garbage.

Much much more at the site. The papers are available as PDF files for you to download. Lots of links to reference numbers. is an economic rathole. If we spent the same time and money on liquid salt Thorium reactors, our energy problems would be solved for the next 5,000 years.

Cleaning house - China

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Great news from Science:

Fifty-four scientists have lost their jobs as a result of NIH probe into foreign ties
Some 54 scientists have resigned or been fired as a result of an ongoing investigation by the National Institutes of Health into the failure of NIH grantees to disclose financial ties to foreign governments. For 93% of the 189 scientists whom NIH has investigated to date, China was the source of their undisclosed support.

The new numbers come from Michael Lauer, NIH’s head of extramural research. Lauer had previously provided some information on the scope of NIH’s investigation, which had targeted 189 scientists at 87 institutions. But his presentation today to a senior advisory panel offered by far the most detailed breakout of an effort NIH launched in August 2018 that has roiled the U.S. biomedical community, and resulted in criminal charges against some prominent researchers, including Charles Lieber, chair of Harvard University’s department of chemistry and chemical biology.

“It’s not what we had hoped, and it’s not a fun task,” NIH Director Francis Collins said in characterizing the ongoing investigation. He called the data “sobering.”

We are distancing ourselves from the evil empire. Communism is antithetical to American values. The sooner it is removed, the better off the whole world will be.

Just wow. Documentary on David Bohm

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Dr. David Bohm is one of my favorite thinkers - a Physicist whose work was on the inter-connectedness of the universe.

The documentary is available here for free for a limited time: Infinite Potential: The Life and Ideas of David Bohm

Here is the trailer to give you a taste. The channel has a bunch of other videos - interviews, panel discussions, etc...

Democrats want to have as many COVID cases as possible between now and November so they can keep the Nation locked down. There are all kinds of statistical ways to play the numbers. The classic book on the subject was written in 1954: How to Lie with Statistics

The Ethical Skeptic cautions us about the upcoming COVID numbers - from their twitter account:

Replies would indicate that this process is already being implemented for some states. Follow the link to read for yourself - the facts do not lie. The narrative does. There is a big difference between the two.

Dealing with the pandemic

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We did horribly - the whole world did. Too many people politicized it or told their political masters what they wanted to hear with computer models of the death estimates ranging 100's of times higher than the actual numbers.

Seattle weather guru Cliff Mass takes them to the woodshed:

Weather Forecasting is Fifty Years Ahead of Epidemiological Prediction: That Must Change
In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy approached New York from off the Atlantic. Seven days before, a near perfect track forecast was made by the European Center and two days later the U.S. model (the GFS), run by the National Weather Service's Environmental Modeling Center, has locked on as well.

The stunningly accurate prediction of an extremely unusual event, saved countless lives, with only about 100 deaths in a region of tens of millions of people (and most who died made a bad decision to ignore the forecast).

He looks at the factors going in to this and compares it to our dealings with the Wuhan Flu:

Stunningly, U.S. epidemiological modeling has almost NONE of the above components or systems, and the performance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is poor.    Consider:

    • There is no large, permanent epidemiological prediction center in the U.S. government analogous to the NOAA/NWS.   U.S. response to COVID had to depend on a hodgepodge of university forecasting efforts, some spun up for this event.  Untested, unverified, and often very wrong.
    • Unlike weather prediction, U.S. epidemiologists do not have an accurate description of what is happening NOW.  Testing was slow to begin, in fact, the CDC made serious errors in test development.  Even today, six months into the pandemic there are not enough tests.  There is no attempt being made to randomly sample the population to understand how many folks have or were infected.  Unbelievable.
    • Unlike the comprehensive and smoothly running weather observational system, there is poor organization to the data collection by CDC. There are not even standard reporting approaches.
    • The epidemiological models are generally primitive affairs, many of which do not consider the complex, variable transmission properties of a heterogeneous population, and lack clear information of what is occurring right now (called the initialization in weather prediction).
    • Communication by CDC of both the threat and how to deal with the disease has been inconsistent and often wrong.  For example, they initially discouraged the use of masks, before reversing their guidance 180 degrees.  Similarly, CDC downplayed the threat in January and February, before reserving in March.  The NWS works very hard to start with reliable forecasts, to communicate the uncertainties, and not to go back and forth in their warnings.  They are masters at this.

Cliff is not a fan of President Trump but he offers this come-to-Jesus moment for the TDS sufferers:

The Political Opportunists
There are some folks and many media pundits who are claiming this COVID disaster is all the fault of President Trump and that things would have been much better under a Democratic President.

This is either very naive or very cynical.

There is no doubt that the President and his administration has been startlingly misinformed and ineffective. His abysmal leadership has made things much worse.

But the problems noted above are not recent developments and have been allowed to fester in recent administrations, including the 8-years of President Obama. I suspect we would not have been in much better place if Hilary Clinton would have won, because the basic institutional infrastructure was not put in place.

That is what we must do together as a nation, following the example of the weather prediction community. And speaking as one of them, we would be glad to help.

A very wise heads-up. Let us hope that President Trump has some advisers that think along the same lines. This bit of nastiness escaped from the Chinese lab despite their protestations to the contrary. Stuff like this will happen again and the sooner we can mobilize, the better.

Wonderful news - REE mining

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REE? Wheeeee!!!!  Rare Earth Elements - used in technological stuff. From Colorado's Page Two:

Colorado on cutting edge to reduce China’s rare earth element domination
A Colorado city is now home to the tip of the spear in combating China’s domination of the world-market for rare earth elements (REE).  Manipulation of the REE market by China most recently resulted in the shutdown of the Mountain Pass REE mine in California in 2015 after an attempt by Greenwood Village-based Molycorp to reopen what has been the only developed REE mine in the U.S.

A pilot plant, now in operation in Wheat Ridge, which borders Denver to the west, will fine-tune existing technology to extract and purify elements including lithium, scandium, zirconium, beryllium, gallium and hafnium, among others, from domestic ore deposits in Texas.

The plant, built by New York-based USA Rare Earth (USARE) and commissioned June 11, was built to be near the expertise at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, adjacent to Wheat Ridge, during the technology development phase. USARE expects to build a larger plant starting in 2021 at the Round Top REE mine the company is developing near El Paso, Texas.

In a company press release, Pini Althaus, CEO of USARE said, “Our Colorado pilot plant will be the first processing facility outside of China with the ability to separate the full range of rare earths – Lights, Mids and Heavies. Our Wheat Ridge pilot plant is the second piece of a 100% U.S.-based rare earth oxide supply chain, drawing on feedstock from our Round Top heavy rare earth and critical minerals deposit in southwest Texas. Taken together, Round Top and our pilot plant constitute essential links in restoring a domestic U.S. rare earth supply chain, extracting rare earths and processing them into individual REE oxides – without the material ever leaving the United States, thereby alleviating the current dependence on China for the both raw materials and mineral processing.”

Incredible news. Not only for our own use but to export. The enviros started the problem (naturally) 30 years ago and then the Chinese started currency manipulation and price dumping so it was not economical for older mines to compete. Now, there is a new mine coming in that will be able to operate efficiently and compete in the world market.

One huge side-benefit is that you frequently find Thorium ore (Monazite) in with the REEs so Thorium Reactors will become that much cheaper when we start building them. Thorium reactors?

Here: LFTR in five minutes The actual video continues for an hour or more after - it goes into a lot more detail.

The TL;DR part is in the first five minues.

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