Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Private enterprise protecting us against meteorites

Volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis and other natural disasters are difficult to detect in advance and to stop. There is one scary natural disaster we can do something about.  Meteors have been hitting the earth since is first coalesced, and in a positive way have helped evolution.  Now we are 7 billion people and have a shorter attention span, but have the ability to prevent the mass loss of Life.

First thing we need to do is detect the meteors as early as possible to give us a long lead time to deflect them. The recent small Russian meteor was missed by the current NASA tracking system, as it cannot see meteors coming from the sun.

The private, non-profit, B612 foundation has been working on a better infrared detector, that will orbit the sun closer in than Earth so it is never blinded by the sun.  Scheduled to be launched next year. A private venture that benefits mankind.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Life in the Universe

To find life elsewhere in the universe would be amazing, truly amazing. Whether it is simple or exotic.

And with the launch of the custom designed space telescope Kepler in 2009, which is still limping along, thousands of planets have been discovered nearby, as close as 20 light years. A percentage could support life. Life on Earth can be traced back to 1000 million years after Earth coalesced, the beginning of terraforming the planet from its nasty beginning.  Life is tenacious and can start and survive in hostile environments.

There could be billions of planets able to support life in our own galaxy.  But distance = time, and everything is so far away.  We need automatic probes and commitment to the future, as to travel just 20 light years and beam back pictures will take much more than 40 years.

Monday, November 18, 2013

People and Animals

People are addicted to animals and they suffer from our addiction.

Zoos were built to engage our curiosity, but as society we are moving away from gawking at caged animals, and zoos are now looking for a new mission in life. Many are at the forefront of conservation programs, with breeding programs and animal releases back to the wild. They have more open, larger areas for animals to live. In Texas many private wild game ranchers stock rare and endangered wild animals and have been successful at breeding them in large fenced areas. They live a more natural life, on a partially wooded ranch, rather than in a zoo.

We now understand better the life and ecology of animals. The natural world is a scary, dangerous place for most animals not on the top of the food chain, but I expect it would be better than being confined to a few hectares or a cage.  Animals have evolved to live, breed, interact, and die in a specific environment; a zoo or a ranch is an inferior imitation of this.

Humans are really clever and need to apply themselves to improving the happiness and well being of each other and other animals.  A good mission statement for us all.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

American Football

American football, the NFL, is a huge business, and a culture that permeates American society.  But research has shown it does irreparable harm to the players, it damages their brains, in the same way boxing does.

There are 32 NFL teams with a combined worth of $37 billion.  It is also promoted, and highly popular, in practically every school and college.  It a perfect world american football should not exist, it does harm.  Schools and colleges are places for learning and research, so why do they spend time and money promoting a game that damages brains?  Money.

Recently Katy High School proposed to spend $69.5 million on a new 14,000 seat football stadium. For a School of 3000 students! The bond package was voted down thank heavens.

The news for ex-football players is grim.  Tony Dorset, and ex Dallas Cowboys' player has signs of degenerative brain disease, CTE, and reports depression, mood changes, and getting lost.

And O J Simpson, another ex-NFL player, is infamous as the person who, in a rage, knifed his ex-wife and friend to death.  No sane mind could do that. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Nuclear Power

Nuclear power has such a bad image, but with the need to clean up our environment it seems to be the only good choice.  At least we have a good choice.  The pollution and risks associated with coal, oil, gas, and even solar and wind are considerable. Seven billion people want to live healthy and long lives.  The need for new power stations is huge.

We know how to build and site safe nuclear power stations, that will safely shut down with no power. Outside of France we lack the political will. France gets 80% of its electricity from nuclear power stations, while German next door has plans to decommission all its nuclear power stations.

Russia is busy promoting its own nuclear business. It has sunk $55 billion of state money into Rosatom. The nuclear business has grown out of the wealth of Soviet knowledge of nuclear subs, ships, and fuel reprocessing.  They have developed a nuclear power station on a floating platform, that they plan to market to customers that need power near a coast.  They are promoting a full suite of power plants, which can include returning the spent fuel back to Russia.

And why is wind and solar less clean and useful?  The industry needed to extract and refine the large volume of metals that go into them is dirty.  They are not steady suppliers of energy, which makes managing a steady voltage power grid more difficult, requiring more quick-start gas powered plants to balance the load.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Yassar Arafat - Still Inconclusive

The travel bag has been analyzed, and a year has passed.  The 108 page Swiss report is out and available on the Al Jazeera site:

The conclusion is "The results moderately support the proposition that the death was a consequence of poisoning with polonium-210."

Not exactly an exciting conclusion, and no one seems to really care about the guy.  The world has moved on, and his wife still lives in Paris living off the money that belongs to the Palestinian people.

Check out the pictures of the bag's contents.