Saturday, December 19, 2009

Potpourri CXI

Cleaning out the inbox and getting laundry done this's an epic morning at Casa de Bart! Why not join in the fun?

The Iranians claim to be behind a crash/hack of Twitter yesterday. Message: "You allow our people to tell the world what we're doing to them, we'll crash your site." Nice.

From Melissa: an alternative to the Diet Dr. Pepper I've been drinking ("That stuff causes kidney damage!")...Zevia Black Cherry Cola. Well, first I'll have to find it locally. Second, I'll have to find out if I'm allergic to it. The reason I shifted from regular to diet was because I liked the caffeine but was allergic to the high-fructose corn syrup. Zevia is sweetened with stevia, a plant-based sweetener that has recently appeared on TV as an alternative to aspartame or saccharine (both old favorites of mine).

Need something fun (toys/treats) for your dog this holiday season? Here's a shameless plug for Bark Avenue Bakery, my friend Christine's dog bakery in southwest Orlando. Chris also takes internet orders for merchandise.

A reflection of sunlight was found on a frozen lake on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. Frozen water? Unlikely, given how far out Saturn is from the sun, but interesting nonetheless. Interesting universe out there.

From Pastor: Luther Bible verses in MP3 online. Guess who volunteered to read for the German service this year? That'll teach me to take Spanish in high school...

The Zombie Apocalypse craze continues. Doc ordered one of these shirts--how the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine would look like in the event of the Z.A. Still don't get this zombie thing. Some sort of comment on the quality of acting on television? Our politicians? I'm baffled.

Insurgents in Iraq have occasionally intercepted imagery from overhead drones. Apparently encryption wasn't high on the list? How good would an insurgent feel if the feed they were getting was of themselves just as the missile was being fired? The Department of Defense is working on this issue, presumably.

With the sun's sunspot cycle being very quiet the last few years, NASA has determined that the outermost layer has been cooling dramatically. No word from the global warming crowd if they were going to accuse the sun of being in collusion with oil companies to undermine the proof of global warming.

SpaceX was planning to run its last engine test prior to launching Falcon 9 in 2010. No word on the SpaceX website yet that they've actually run the test, though.

Scientists using data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) presented a paper suggesting that the radiation environment on the Moon might not be any worse than what a nuclear industry or x-ray technician gets exposed to in a year. This is good news for future explorers or settlers, as there are existing protocols and mitigation steps to cope with those levels of radiation. Still, you wouldn't want to be sunbathing out there...

Alerting Bruce Willis...saving the world from an incoming asteroid wouldn't be as simple as NASA sending up a group of roughnecks to take care of business. Former Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart suggests that a certain amount of international diplomacy would be called for first. Why? Well, deflecting an asteroid using some sort of tug would be a very gradual process, and until it was safely out of the risk zone, its trajectory could actually be pointed at various countries on the Earth. Who decides what a safe trajectory is? Who builds the hardware? Sigh. There are times when it helps to take unilateral action.

From Tracy: an article explaining why the trends in new media are hard to track.

NASA is making audio files of space stories available online.

From Lin:

  • An editorial on the source of the ongoing problems with the economy. If you've read this blog or Lin's contributions long enough, you probably don't need to guess what direction this editorial is pointing.
  • An open letter from the National Taxpayers' Union asking Congress to reject H.R. 4173, "The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009" because of the amount of additional regulation taxes it would impose on an already struggling economy. The Obama administration either doesn't get it or gets it and doesn't care, but if you take more money from businesses by increasing taxes and make it harder for them to operate, they will not create jobs and the economy will remain stuck.
  • While salaries might be declining in the private sector, the number of civil servants making big money has increased dramatically in the last two years (note: this implicates Bush AND Obama).

And to end on a more positive note, I've been toying with research for a science fiction novel. Dr. OZMG is a sharp observer of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality types, so I'll probably be pinging her at some point on how the various MBTI types might operate in a space environment. One thing that was interesting to note was that the primary jobs needed to get any mission done up there--astronaut, engineer, scientist, researcher, pilot--tend to fall into two major personality categories: INTJ (my type, incidentally), and INTP. Both of these types are introverted, more focused on abstract principles than exterior/social cues, and thinking (as opposed to feeling). This also describes most of my friends in the space business.

That is not to say that there are not extroverted scientists or engineers (or even technical writers). It's just that folks with this set of personality traits is more drawn to the technical disciplines that make space travel possible. The more social folks will probably end up making money elsewhere and becoming passengers on Virgin Galactic or some other space tourism operation.

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