Friday, September 29, 2006

Global Warming Puts the Arctic on Thin Ice

Arctic Ice is Melting Very Quickly

Arctic Ice is Melting Very Quickly

Polar Bears are losing their homes

Arctic Ice - 1979

Arctic Ice - 2003

Arctic Ice - Future

A new study of the Arctic permafrost forecasts that global warming will thaw and shrink the total area of perennially frozen ground 60 to 90 percent by 2100.

If true, it will increase the freshwater run-off into the Arctic Ocean by 28 percent, lead to the release by soils of vast doses of greenhouse gases, and upset ecosystems over wide areas.

"This (projection) is definitely higher than other projections, both in area and depth," said David Lawrence, a climate modeler with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate and Global Dynamics Division.

Lawrence and Andrew Slater of the University of Colorado in Boulder published their permafrost projection in the February issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

Currently in the Northern Hemisphere there are about four million square miles (10 million square kilometers) of land surface that does not thaw, even in the summer, which comes to about 24 percent of the land north of the equator.

Lawrence and Slater incorporated into a computer climate model the current and projected rates of global warming, as well as the physical parameters of freezing and thawing of the upper 11 feet (3.5 meters) of permafrost ground.

They generated a broad-brush image of what might remain of the frozen ground by 2100. That image shows today's permafrost shrinking to between 400,000 and about two million square miles (one to four million square km).

Put another way, the area of permafrost lost by 2100 could match or exceed the total land area of Australia.

Thawing such a vast swath of northern lands means those soils will begin draining, moving more water to the sea, which raises sea levels and could wreak havoc with global weather patterns.

It also means carbon that was frozen in the soils will be free to move up into the atmosphere in the form of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane, said Lawrence. This whole new source of greenhouse gases isn't something Earth needs right now.

Check out the article at Discovery News.

We had better get moving on taking measures to handle this problem before it becomes a runaway train!

For more information, check out this article at National Geographic News.

For a glimpse of what could be our future, check out this article at Discovery News

Ground Truth Investigations is another great source of information on this topic.

Also check out this National Resource Defense Council article

Check out my previous Global Warming post.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A New Look at an Old Face

Valles Marineris - The Grand Canyon of Mars

Face on Mars - 1976 Viking Orbiter 1 Photo

New Look at an Old Face

The famous "Face on Mars" has gotten another close-up.

The European Space Agency has released new, highly detailed images of the controversial, face-like formation first captured by a Viking orbiter at Mars’ Cydonia region in 1976.

The Face may be a popular target for orbiters – NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor snapped images in 1998 and 2001 – but it’s not an easy one.

The site, located at 41 degrees north Martian latitude, is often obscured by atmospheric dust and haze. Still, after several attempts, the High Resolution Stereo Camera on board ESA’s Mars Express captured a series of images with a ground resolution of approximately 13.7 meters per pixel.

"These images of the Cydonia region on Mars are truly spectacular," said Agustin Chicarro, ESA Mars Express Project Scientist. "They not only provide a completely fresh and detailed view of an area famous to fans of space myths worldwide, but also provide an impressive close-up over an area of great interest for planetary geologists."

Chicarro and his team say the high-resolution images further confirm what NASA scientists have been saying for years: It’s not a face, but a raised, eroded surface.

NASA’s chief scientist for Mars exploration, Jim Garvin, describes the formation as the equivalent of a butte or mesa, landforms common around the American West. Such formations are common in Mars’ Cydonia region, which is located between the planet’s southern highlands and northern plains.

But then, some may never be convinced.

Since the spooky, face-like structure was first photographed by NASA’s Viking 1 Orbiter 30 years ago, the site has been the subject of breathless speculation.

In movies, books and on the Web, some have argued this is a massive sculpture built by intelligent life and that surrounding conical-like structures are pyramids, or remnants of a great city, built by a complex civilization.

Check out the article at Discovery News.

Natural shapes can take on many forms when viewed with the human eye... ever looked for shapes in clouds?

For more information on Mars, visit The Nine Planets or NASA Solar System Exploration.

Check out my previous space posts: Space 9, Space 8, Space 7, Space 6, Space 5, Space 4, Space 3, Space 2 and Space 1

Monday, September 25, 2006

Superdome Back in Business

2006 Superdome

Inside The Louisiana Superdome

Saints Enter the Superdome for the first time since Hurricane Katrina


NEW ORLEANS — The Superdome will be back in business Monday when the New Orleans Saints march back in to play the Atlanta Falcons.

A sellout crowd will be inside the repaired building, a national cable audience will watch on television, and hundreds of media types will chronicle the spectacle.

The Superdome, from the moment its doors first opened 31 years ago, has symbolized New Orleans’ status as a world-class tourist destination.

Last year, it symbolized the destruction and despair Hurricane Katrina wrought on the Gulf Coast.

New Orleans hopes the rebuilt Superdome will symbolize a great American city’s arduous recovery from a near-death experience.

Check out the article at The Advocate.

Glad to see things are starting to get back to normal again!

And what better way to kick off the newly-renovated Superdome by throwing a kick-ass party! Saturday night - U2, the Goo Goo Dolls, and Green Day rocked the Dome!

To add to the festive atmosphere, a national television audience will be watching the undefeated New Orleans Saints play the Atlanta Falcons tonight.

Follow all the New Orleans Saints action!


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Upgraded Space Station May Rival Venus in Night Sky

The biggest and brightest man-made object orbiting Earth just got bigger and brighterInternational Space Station - 2006

International Space Station - 2005

Space Shuttle Atlantis

Astronauts on board the international space station unfurled a new pair of solar-energy panels that sprout out of the end of a new 17.5-ton truss section, which was brought up by the space shuttle Atlantis.

They are the largest solar panels ever taken to space; fully unfolded, they reach a length of 240 feet (73 meters).

They are designed to double the ISS' capability to generate power from sunlight when they go online during a future shuttle mission.

Like other satellites, the ISS shines by virtue of sunlight reflected off of its metallic skin. The station orbits approximately 213 miles (341 kilometers) above Earth.

How bright?

Before the ISS spread its new pair of gold wings, it was already the brightest of all space vehicles, at times appearing to shine with a brilliance equal to the planet Jupiter.

Now skywatchers should notice the orbiting outpost glowing with an even greater luster.

Nobody knows exactly how much brighter it will be, but there's a good chance that it could be brighter than magnitude -3, approaching the glow of Venus, the brightest planet.

On this astronomers' scale, smaller numbers denote brighter objects, and negative numbers are reserved for the handful of the very brightest.

The ISS will likely get even brighter. The solar panels are only the second of four planned arrays that will be deployed between now and when the shuttle fleet retires in the year 2010.

When to look

Skywatchers across much of North America will have opportunities to see the ISS in the coming weeks.

To the unaided eye, it appears as a large "star" with a yellowish-white tint that moves with a steady speed across the sky.

Beginning late next week and running through the first two weeks of October, early risers will be able to look for the station in the dawn twilight if skies are clear.

Starting in mid-October, it will make passes during convenient evening hours, soon after sundown.

To find out if the international space station will pass over your hometown, go to NASA's tracking page or the Heavens Above web site.

Amateurs with large telescopes and some knowledge of astrophotography have in the past had success photographing the space station.

Check out the article at Fox News.

I'm hoping to catch a good photo of it this month!

Check out my previous space posts: Space 8, Space 7, Space 6, Space 5, Space 4, Space 3, Space 2 and Space 1

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Questionable Officiating

Bad Call, Ref!

Early Doucet victimized

Referees are giving zebras a bad name

Tommy Tuberville paid referees

What has become the Southeastern Conference’s most rugged rivalry had all the usual elements: two punishing defenses, a pivotal officials’ call that left both sides a bit perplexed and some follies in the kicking game.

The call went Auburn’s way.

With LSU facing fourth-and-8 from Auburn’s 31 and 2:43 left, JaMarcus Russell fired the ball to Early Doucet near the goal line. A diving Brock deflected the pass, but Zach Gilbert was called for pass interference that would have kept the drive alive.

The officials overturned the call, although replays showed the contact came before the ball was tipped by Brock.

“I got sick to my stomach,” said Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville about seeing the flag. “I still don’t understand it. It’s just a judgment call and thank goodness it went our way.”

LSU coach Les Miles wasn’t happy with the change.

“If the ball is tipped at the line of scrimmage, there is no pass interference,” said Miles, also unhappy with a pass interference call against his team. “The ball was tipped downfield. The proper explanation will be forthcoming.”

Auburn (3-0, 2-0) got the ball but LSU’s defense stopped Kenny Irons on three straight runs. Irons had 70 yards on 25 tough carries.

The visiting Tigers (2-1, 0-1) drove to Auburn’s 24 with 2.5 seconds left as Russell hooked up with Craig Davis for gains of 20 and 21 yards and Dwayne Bowe for 21. On the final play, Russell went to Davis again. The receiver caught the pass inside the 10, but Brock stopped him cold with a jarring hit at the 4.

Check out the article at MSNBC.

The referees made the interference call against Auburn's #38 Zach Gilbert (committed on LSU's Early Doucet), which was clear as day. Then they reversed the call that was already made, giving the ball to Auburn, and essentially ending the contest!

Then, to hear not only the CBS announcers Steve Beuerlein and his partner say the call was blown by the officials, but also New York CBS Sportscasters Tim Brando and Spencer Tillman echo the sentiments by the game announcers... I think there is a problem with the SEC officials.

I think it stinks to have a game ruined by the incompetence of not one, not two, but a crew of guys who can’t decipher the rules and make a correct call. This is the greatest conference in the country, and its fan base is the strongest in the nation with three of the six largest stadiums located in the SEC!

If Auburn would have won clean, I would have nothing but respect for them... and they had a well-deserved #3 national ranking. They have a national caliber football team that deserved a clean win... not this BS bad ref call to tarnish their season!

Well, what's done is done, but I honestly believe that the outcome could have been different!

Check out my LSU Football 2006 post.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Non-Lethal Weapons?

Air Force secretary Michael Wynne says
non-lethal weapons should be tested on U.S. civilians
before being used on the battlefield

Riot Police

Active Denial System

Microwave Weapons TerrorNonlethal Weapon

Government Warning

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Nonlethal weapons such as high-power microwave devices should be used on American citizens in crowd-control situations before being used on the battlefield, the Air Force secretary said Tuesday.

"If we're not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens, then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation," said Wynne. "(Because) if I hit somebody with a nonlethal weapon and they claim that it injured them in a way that was not intended, I think that I would be vilified in the world press."

The Air Force has paid for research into nonlethal weapons, but he said the service is unlikely to spend more money on development until injury problems are reviewed by medical experts and resolved.

Nonlethal weapons generally can weaken people if they are hit with the beam. Some of the weapons can emit short, intense energy pulses that also can be effective in disabling some electronic devices.

Check out the article at CNN.

WTF?!? You mean, like when non-lethal weapons were used in Boston after the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the 2004 AL Championship Series?

I tend to trust the scientists' views on your so-called non-lethal weapons before they get tested on American citizens. Why don't you guys use these things on the terrorists and quit trying to turn this country into a police state?

For more information on non-lethal weapons, check out this article at TIME.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Never Forget 9-11

Never Forget 9-11

World Trade Center

World Trade Center

Never Forget 9-11

Never Forget 9-11
Never Forget 9-11
Never Forget 9-11

Never Forget 9-11

Never Forget 9-11

Never Forget 9-11

There has not been a terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, although there have been a number of attacks across the globe -- from Madrid and London to Casablanca and Bali -- killing hundreds and wounding thousands.

The United States Military has killed or captured more than three-fourths of the terrorist organization that plotted and carried out the September 11 attacks, and at least 10 plots have been foiled since then.

However, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri, are still on the loose and regularly appear on videotapes, audio tapes and Web postings, commenting on everything from Iraq to Mideast politics.

Al Qaeda may have lost its Afghan sanctuary, but its ideals have spawned franchises around the world.

"They are regrouping on the Internet, experimenting with technologies. They are re-energizing in homegrown types of terrorist movements in Great Britain and getting some training in Pakistan," former 9/11 Commission member Tim Roemer said.

Most Americans expect another attack on American interests.

Americans' confidence in how safe they were was shattered by the news that suspected terrorists were plotting to use liquid explosives to blow up airliners bound for the United States from Great Britain.

The alleged plot raises questions over how much security has improved in the years since 9/11

It doesn't seem like it's been five years since this day of terror. The attacks on our citizens and landmarks were a tragedy that I truly will never forget. We need to do everything in our power to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.

Check out these 9-11 links:

September 11 Wiki

9/11 - Five Years Later

Never Forget

The Binch Who Stole Airplanes

Friday, September 08, 2006

National WWII Museum acquires C-47


The National WWII Museum

NEW ORLEANS — A C-47 aircraft that played a pivotal role in World War II, including dropping paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne into Normandy on D-Day, landed Thursday at Lakefront Airport and will be moved this month to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

“Like the Higgins boat, the Sherman tank and the jeep, the C-47 was so important to the success of the war effort that the National World War II Museum would not be complete without it,” Mueller said during a press preview for the C-47 — also known in civilian aviation as a DC-3 — at Lakefront Airport in eastern New Orleans.

This particular C-47, 096, carried Pathfinder paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne into Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, dropped a Pathfinder paratrooper team of the 101st Airborne into German-occupied Holland in Operation Market Garden; flew in a massive resupply mission to the 101st Airborne during the Battle of the Bulge; and took part in Operation Varsity — the “Rhine Jump” — in 1945.

But one of the more remarkable aspects of the National World War II Museum’s latest artifact, which has seats for 26 paratroopers, is how it was discovered.

“We found it on E-Bay. It was a great find,” Mueller said, noting that the purchase price was $155,000 and another $50,000 was put into the aircraft to restore it. “We think that’s a steal.”

The C-47 was described by famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle as “the workingest airplane in existence ... Almost any pilot would tell you it was the best airplane ever built.”

Check out the article at The Advocate.

It's amazing what kind of deals you can find on E-Bay! It's funny how you can buy/sell military aircraft on E-Bay, but no firearms!

Well, anyway, it looks like I'm going to have to head to the Big Easy, wade through a few sombreros and check this new addition out!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Dark Matter

Purple Haze flanking the Bullet Cluster
A purple haze shows dark matter flanking the "Bullet Cluster."

Bullet Cluster bending light
The Hubble Space Telescope was used to observe how the Bullet Cluster bent light coming from background stars.

As a rule, scientists seek certainty. So it's rather unusual that for more than 70 years, many astronomers have wagered the universe is primarily made of dark matter -- a mysterious and unproven substance.

It's a bet that finally paid off, because a team of scientists working with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has found direct evidence that dark matter is as real as the rings around Saturn.

The discovery cements dark matter's status as the biggest building block in the universe, while also putting to rest the nagging worries of many astronomers that they gambled wrong.

Dark matter's murky nature has always sat a bit uneasily with astronomers. "It is uncomfortable for a scientist to have to invoke something invisible and undetectable to account for 90 percent of the matter in the universe," said Maxim Markevitch, a Chandra astrophysicist and researcher with the study.

One of the main arguments for the existence of dark matter involves galaxies and their clusters. Galaxies whip through space at enormous speeds and are searing with hot clouds of gas. Speed and heat of galaxies should cause them to fly apart, but they don't. A leading explanation for this is that the gas and stars are held together by the gravity of dark matter. Belief in dark matter is widespread across the scientific community, but astronomers don't know what it's made of. Still, they believe it acts like it has mass and exerts gravity, yet is invisible and can't bump, touch or crash into anything.

Like determining the origin of the universe or how black holes work, dark matter is one of the holy grails of astronomy. "Little is known about it; all that the numerous searches for dark matter particles have done is rule out various hypotheses, but there have never been any 'positive' results," said Markevitch.

Doug Clowe, leader of the study, set out to see if believing in dark matter was wishful thinking or informed faith. "A universe that's dominated by dark stuff seems preposterous, so we wanted to test whether there were any basic flaws in our thinking," said Clowe.

Check out the article at NASA.

It is important that we continue to research this phenomenon... it will lead to a better understanding of the universe as a whole and will probably generate new resources and technologies in the process.

Check out my previous space posts: Space 7, Space 6, Space 5, Space 4, Space 3, Space 2 and Space 1

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Crocodile Hunter

Steve Irwin - The Crocodile Hunter

Steve Irwin - The Crocodile Hunter on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

Steve Irwin - The Crocodile Hunter

Steve Irwin - The Crocodile Hunter

Steve Irwin - The Crocodile Hunter

Steve Irwin - The Crocodile Hunter

The consensus of public opinion on the sudden death of the man we called the Crocodile Hunter is “I’m shocked… but I know I shouldn’t be.” The man waded into crocodile-infested waters, hauled poisonous snakes out from under rocks, and scaled trees in further search of things that send most people — and other animals — skittering the other direction.

The stingray that killed him pierced him, fittingly, directly in the heart. Here was a man who lived from his raw-edged passion.

Say what you will about his leaning into the camera, his insistence upon rarely changing out of his trademark khakis; the man was brimming with good television. He didn’t quietly narrate the feeding habits of a wild kangaroo as it rustled through the bushes. He dashed up into its face and brought it in for a close up.

“You need to come with me and be with that animal,” I once saw Irwin tell an interviewer on one of his Animal Planet specials, “…because if we can touch people about wildlife, then they’ll want to save it.”

He then turned towards the camera, as I’ve seen almost no other celebrity do before in a soft-light interview. “Come with me!” he said, eyes wide. “Come with me.”

Steve Irwin loved all the animals

Most of us took up the invitation. Steve Irwin the zoo owner and Steve Irwin the media typhoon were practically indistinguishable. His Animal Planet and Travel Channel shows propelled him to worldwide stardom, complete with action figures, a movie, t-shirts, stickers, trading cards, a clothing line named after his daughter Bindi Sue (herself named after a crocodile and a dog), and a raft of DVDs. He was accompanied on his honeymoon by a film crew and was fully miked for the births of his two children.

“If I get bitten, I’ve made the mistake,” he would say. Sometimes he did get bitten — but not always by his beloved crocs. In 2004 a world of furor smashed over his shaggy head when he carried his then-one-month-old son, Bob, into a media-filled public feeding, the infant in one hand, a raw slab of meat in the other. The government of Queensland changed its laws governing the presence of children in a crocodile enclosure, a dubious legacy only one man on Earth can claim. One wonders if Irwin sat amongst the rubber snakes in his zoo’s gift shop wondering if the media wave he’d created was worth crashing to shore like this.

The hands of Steve Irwin were gnarled, scarred, and calloused, but they weren’t without passionate intent. “Good morning, Douglas!” he was recently filmed greeting one of his crocodiles, for he loved them all, the cranky ones and the old ones, the “sheilas” and the brooders. Animals did not have to have long eyelashes and a fluffy coat for Steve Irwin to gather them unto him.

“The audience loves it when I almost die,” he would say proudly during the feedings. There is a reason, perhaps, why the Discovery Channel features an entire series of clips on Irwin’s homepage dubbed “Close Call Clips.”

There was something throwback and cowboy about Irwin, his insistence upon restraining crocs for relocation or medical attention without the use of drugs, his persistent mullet, his pronouncement that “getting married was the scariest moment of my life.” He trembled with adrenaline and adverbs.

Reports are now surfacing that Irwin, who was filming a documentary when he died, never saw the stingray that killed him until after it struck. His friend John Stainton told Australian media that the cameraman floated in front of the ray as Irwin swam alongside. The animal likely felt cornered. The barb swung.

If the camera hadn't been there, it may not have attacked.

But then again, if the camera hadn’t have been there, we likely would have never known Steve Irwin at all.

Check out the article at MSNBC.

Steve Irwin, "The Crocodile Hunter," died doing what he loved to do - getting up close and personal with wild animals.

There are those who would criticize this man's way of life as reckless and dangerous. But, if it were not for him, many millions would have changed the channel to something more interesting... and in the process they would have turned a blind eye toward nature conservation and the very science that Irwin was so passionate and enthusiastic about.

Hats off to a man who had the guts to chase his dream. Then, when he got there, he set his goals higher and kept on going!

Check out these Steve Irwin links:

International Crocodile Rescue

Australia Zoo Website - Home of the Crocodile Hunter

Steve Irwin's Wikipedia Page

Steve Irwin Biography

Steve Irwin Filmography

Steve Irwin Career Highlights

Steve Irwin Quotes