Monday, May 18, 2009

Potpourri XLII

Let's see...what's lurking out there? Tell ya what, before I dive into the usual space, politics, and technobabble, some good news in the world of my e-niece, Morgan. On Saturday, Darlene the Science Cheerleader hosted a benefit for Morgan, presumably to help her family with her medical bills. The benefit raised $23,000! Gooooo, Dar! Staying tuned for further medical developments.

Tip o' the fedora to Tracy for this: Astronaut (not the singer) Tom Jones wrote an op-ed in the New York Post.

For those of you wondering what NASA has done for you lately, here's an excerpt from a press release on NASA's efforts to support environmental research:


WASHINGTON -- NASA has awarded $6.4 million in grants to institutions of higher education and not-for-profit education organizations nationwide to enhance learning through the use of NASA's Earth science resources.

Some good editorials in Jeff Foust's The Space Review:
  • To boldly go: the urgent need for a revitalized investment in space technology---NASA long invested in development of advanced technologies, but in recent years that effort withered as the agency concentrated on plans to return to the Moon. John Mankins explains why it's necessary for NASA and the nation to reinvigorate its technology development efforts.
  • The god that failed---In the mid-1970s articles and books promised a grand future in the form of space colonies, a future that has not been realized. Dwayne Day looks back at one such description of such a future, and why it hasn't happened.
  • Exchanging uncertainties---It appears increasingly likely that the White House will nominate someone for NASA administrator in the immediate future, solving one problem long identified by NASA's supporters. However, Jeff Foust notes that whoever is selected won't be able to make all the uncertainties surrounding the space agency go away.
  • NASA and the book of laws---Norm Augustine, picked by the White House to lead a new panel on the future of NASA's human spaceflight programs, is best known for promulgating a series of "laws" about management practices. Taylor Dinerman examines what those laws, and other experience by Augustine, could mean for the future of NASA.

Congressman Blair Holt's proposed bill to put additional restrictions on the Second Amendment. Or, as the bill's language puts it,

To provide for the implementation of a system of licensing for purchasers of certain firearms and for a record of sale system for those firearms, and for other purposes.

Sounds reasonable, but as the accompanying email noted,

Basically this would make it illegal to own a firearm. Any rifle with a clip or ANY pistol unless:

  • It is registered
  • You are fingerprinted
  • You supply a current Driver's License
  • You supply your Social Security #
  • You will submit to a physical & mental evaluation at any time of their choosing
  • Each update change of ownership through private or public sale must be reported and costs $25
  • Failure to do so you automatically lose the right to own a firearm and are subject up to a year in jail.

Most of this is unnecessary and intrusive control of law-abiding citizens, since there are already laws on the books "preventing" criminals from purchasing weapons.

Another thought-provoking video from TED on "the sixth sense." Wow!

Boy, am I glad I read science fiction! It might be the only literature on Earth that helps the reader cope with "Future Shock." The techie in me says, "Way cool!" The neo-Luddite in me is thinking, "Uh oh, what next?"

Some additional thoughts from Scott on buying gold for that ugly rainy day at the end of civilization:
In your bullet point saying “Gold ( or were recommended to me at one point).” You might want to say “Currency, or something to use as currency. I mean the real thing, not paper or other fiat money. Everyone thinks of gold, which I recommend; but you’ll also want silver for those smaller purchases. When you buy a loaf of bread the seller may not be able to give you change from your 950-dollar (at today’s price) gold piece. Buy coins from a country people have heard of, don’t buy collector-grade, uncirculated, mint, or other coins priced at a premium, and don’t buy ingots as neither you nor your seller will know if they’ve been debased or not.”

New from Hu:
  • The U.S. Army is looking at more Stryker brigades. The son of one of my managers back in NoVA was captain of a Stryker brigade. And from what I heard, his team was quite effective. Of course it helps to have the right people in command and on the ground...
  • Some thoughts on the safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. This might be important reading, given that they're reported to be increasing their nuke stockpile.

Some interesting stats on the state of our education system/test scores.

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