Friday, May 30, 2008

Shiny Happy Spaceships

Just a pick and a quick link. I'll prolly be posting more freq'ly again, once my brain stops trying to kill me.

Mars lander to inspect itself with robotic arm

---Phoenix touched down in Mars's north polar region on Sunday and quickly started beaming back images of its surroundings.

Now, the lander's robotic arm has finished freeing itself from its restraints, a crucial step along the way to sampling the Martian soil and ice.

Two pins held the arm in place and prevented it from being damaged by vibrations during Phoenix's launch and landing. NASA commanded the arm to start the process of freeing itself on Wednesday morning PDT (Wednesday afternoon GMT).

The arm has now completely freed itself from the pins and a sterile wrapping called the biobarrier, which prevented the arm from being contaminated with Earth microbes prior to launch, the Phoenix team reported at a press briefing on Thursday.

"Our arm was cooped up in our restraints for 14 months," Phoenix team member Matthew Robinson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, US, said during the briefing. "It was raring to go, it's busted loose now, and we're ready to go – we're excited."

Monday, May 26, 2008

You Stick Your Right Foot Out . .

. . and make sure it's firmly planted. There's work to be down now.

I wouldn't say I've been holding my breath, but it still did come as quite a relief to learn that the Phoenix has landed successfully on Mars. There were no bouncing bags on this mission as like those which made the two Mars Rovers landings so successful. This one came down standing, as it were.

Now, to the mission.

First Phoenix images reveal 'quilted' Martian terrain

Phoenix is designed to dig down to the ice and search for traces of organic residue that might indicate whether this part of Mars could have been habitable in the past.


Prior to this evening, NASA's recent successes – including Mars Pathfiner in 1997 and the two Mars Exploration Rovers in 2004 – have all bounced to the surface of the Red Planet encased in inflatable air bags.

Phoenix and future missions, including the more ambitious Mars Science Laboratory, were designed to land with thrusters, considered a must for heavier payloads – and for any future attempt to send astronauts on Mars.

"The way we're going to land humans on Mars is with propulsive systems and landing legs," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

[Talk about "look before you leap"!]

On a timely note; I think that this landing on Mars is an incredibly significant Memorial to the men and women who've given their lives so that people could continue to freely discover all that our universe has to offer. There are so many reasons to hate War, and so many more to be grateful to the Warriors who have fought and sacrificed for their countries. I hope that, going into the depths of our Solar system, we have ever less need for such sacrifices, and ever more opportunities for Heroes to be made sans killing.

Fighting Ignorance, not each other, is what missions such as this one are all about.


Thursday, May 22, 2008


It's always comforting to find other folks who've not read all the "classics", but have a similar number of 'em under their belts as I do. That's one reason it was cool to come across this post on Wren's site. Another is just that I dig teh memes.


With a little help from cut/paste, here're the directions, the list and my own emphasisations. Have at it for yourselves.

Copy the list of books, then bold the books you have read, underline the ones you read for school, and italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish. As Wren did, I'll add a wee bit o' commentary next to some of the titles. Enjoy!
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina (Always wanted to, but maybe that's just cuz I love her name.)
Crime and Punishment {shudder}
Catch-22 (I think everyone but me has read this book.)
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Hmmm... Sounds familiar, but I don't think so.)
Wuthering Heights (I'll probably approach this one some time.)
The Silmarillion (Tolkien)
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose (No, I guess watching the movie [w/ Sean Connery] doesn't count)
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Ulysses ("Lucy says Joyce is effing incomprehensible. I totally agree." And I heartily concurr!)
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey (For school and I'm glad as I loved it!)
Pride and Prejudice ("Another Great Book my English teachers didn’t assign and so I’ve never read". What she said.)
Jane Eyre (There's a series by a guy named Jasper Fford about a woman who "goes into" books, and this is one of 'em. I don't think I'll read it though. Of Fford's novels, though, I can't get enough. )
The Tale of Two Cities (Depressing or I'd own it. Maybe I will yet.)
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad (Same as for the Odyssey.)
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (On the list to read)
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a Memoir in Books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales (Saw a movie version then loved the book!)
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (The only Joyce I did get through, though how I'm not sure.)
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dracula (Not read, but... you know)
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King (Worst of the Arthur stories. Go with Marion Zimmer Bradley's for historical realism.)
The Grapes of Wrath (Took me forever to get to it, since it wasn't assigned in school. WELL worth the read.)
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels and Demons
Inferno (Attempted, but bored me quickely.)
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist (Ummm... I really think I've read this...)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : A Memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-Present
Neverwhere ("I love this title. I’d better read the book." I'm with Wren! lol)
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Really enjoyable writing.)
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots and Leaves
The Mists of Avalon (Well, there ya go!)
Oryx and Crake
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (Note to self; Add it to the list)
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and its Consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield

Just as Wren did on her post, I gots to list "some of my own old favorites, read over and over:" or which were simply some of my all time faves.

The Lord of the Rings (read at least 7 or 8 times.)
(Series by Larry Niven)
Thieve's World: Sanctuary Anthology (Edited initially by Robert Lynn Aspirin, then by several others.)
The Mote in God's Eye More Larry Niven. Dude is my All Time Favorite author!
Anything by Ben Bova, Greg Bear, Arthur C. Clark, Jerry Pournelle or Kage Baker.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What Was Lost Shall Be Found

Study one's own spine
Sooner or later revealed
Questions unanswered

Errr.... Or somethin' like that. VERY cool, regardless.

Missing matter found in deep space

Now about half of the missing baryonic matter has turned up, seen by the orbiting Hubble space telescope and NASA's Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, or FUSE.

"We think we are seeing the strands of a web-like structure that forms the backbone of the universe," said Mike Shull of the University of Colorado, who helped lead the study published in The Astrophysical Journal.

The matter is spread as superheated oxygen and hydrogen in what looked like vast empty spaces between galaxies.

However, observations of a quasar -- a bright object far off in space -- show its light is diffused much as a lighthouse can reflect on a thin fog that was invisible in the dark.

"It is kind of like a spider web. The gravity of the spider web is what produced what we see," Shull said in a telephone interview. "It's very thin. Some of it is very hot gas, almost a million degrees."

This is where the dark matter comes in. The dark matter is heating up the gas, Shull said.

"Dark matter has gravity. It pulls the gas in," Shull said. "This causes what I call sonic booms -- shock waves. This shock heats it to a million degrees. That makes it even harder to see."

The atoms of oxygen are in a stripped-down, ionized form. Five of the eight electrons are gone. It emits an ultraviolet spectrum of light that instruments aboard FUSE and Hubble can spot, Shull said.

These web-like filaments of matter are the structure upon which the galaxies form, he said.

[Where shall we go from here?]

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wishes as fishes
Lost in the aquarium
Old habits die hard

Thursday, May 08, 2008

No Pill's Gonna Cure This Ill

From Public Agenda

Foreign Policy Anxiety Indicator

It's been more than 15 years since Bill Clinton's campaign advisors confidently declared "it's the economy, stupid," to sum up the public's mood of the moment. For the past few years, foreign policy and the war in Iraq in particular have been at the forefront of public concern. But the economy is reasserting itself as a priority�and economic concerns are shaping how the public views foreign policy.

The most dramatic example of this is the public's worry about the cost of energy. Fully 7 in 10 say they worry "a lot" about the rise in the cost of energy, a 16-point jump from six months ago. But for the public, economics and security are tied together on this issue. Becoming less dependent on other countries for our supply of energy is now the public's first choice as a national security strategy, with 6 in 10 saying it would do "a great deal" to make the country more secure.

[Getting it Right without guns. What a concept!]

Normally, what the Pollsters show the Public is thinking doesn't mean a whole lot in regards to what Policies are needed. Sure I love seeing $hrub's approval numbers being the worst of any President's since polling began, but that's because it gives me hope that the Public will force their Representatives to do something about it.

{sighhh} Well, anyway...

Whether for good or ill, well, we'll be to see.

Note: Hmmm... I'd referenced the Consumer Confidence index, but realized that I had it confused with another system, so pulled it. Fun stuff... Need vacation...


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Two Haiku

My foot, tasting burned
Still I munch it. Ecstasy!
No rare occurrence

For a friend.

Sanity subsumed
True/False light envelopes me
Hopeless? Not as such

For me.