Ares I-X/Man-made Auroras

August 5, 2009

Image Via Universe Today

Image Via Universe Today

NASA is assembling the Ares I-X rocket currently in the the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kenndey Space Center. This rocket is a test version for the Ares I which, under the current plan, will eventually take astronauts to the ISS and moon. They plan to do the test flight on Oct. 31st of this year. However, Obama’s Augustine Commission is currently reviewing the direction of NASA and could come out with a report that recommends scrapping the Ares rockets in favor of retro-fitting the space shuttle’s external fuel tank/SRB assembly to work with the new Orion Crew Vehicle. (I’ve posted about this before.) I’d say the test will happen regardless of the Augustine Commission’s recommendations, and furthermore I’d speculate that their findings will be somewhat dependent on the results of this test flight. Either way, it’ll be cool to see what happens. (Via Universe Today)

It’s unfortunate that most really big advances and breakthroughs in science are the result of military initiatives. (See: THE INTERNET) A scientist can ask the government for money to research a technology that could greatly improve the lives of everyone, but as soon as he/she mentions that the technology could have military applications, their chance of getting said money goes up exponentially. Such is the case with one of the most mysterious facilities ever to be built. No, I’m not talking about Area 51, I’m talking about HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) in Alaska. This thing is literally capable of creating its own miniature aurora in the sky. It’s a 3.6 megawatt antenna array aimed directly into the sky, and its purpose is to turn the ionosphere (a layer at the top of the atmosphere full of charged particles) into a giant low frequency antenna. I think the intent of the scientists behind this project is good, but the facility has fueled tons of conspiracy theories. Some even say it is responsible for Hurricane Katrina. I’m not knowledgeable enough to know exactly how ultra low frequency radio waves can affect the weather, but I do know that something powerful enough to blast the ionosphere and create a mini-aurora is pretty awesome, and the scientific knowledge that can be gained from such experiments is well-worth the evils of military application. The main military application in this case is the penetrating power of those ultra-low frequency radio waves generated by the ionosphere. Those waves could be used to detect underground bunkers and communicate with submarines deep in the ocean. Other radio waves are quickly absorbed by just a few feet of water or land, but these high-powered, low frequency waves have much more penetrating ability. I suggest reading this well written article on Wired about HAARP for more info if you’re interested. Here’s what the antenna array looks like:

I originally planned to resume posting yesterday, but we encountered some traffic issues on the way back from Austin which resulted in us not getting back till 6am monday morning. I had to be at work at 7. Needless to say, I did not feel like blogging yesterday. More on that later…

Mostly quick links today:

First of all, be sure to check all my slideshows of pics from SXSW over at Nashville Cream. I had a blast, even if I did catch the SXSW Cold Virus of Death on saturday.

Also on the Cream, round one of the Mercy Lounge’s Road to Bonnaroo 8 off 8th contest happened last night, and apparently the Features won by one single vote, edging out Kindercastle. Phew. I do like Kindercastle, but I have to say that the Features deserve it more, even if they do get stuck in some tiny side tent playing at noon while everyone’s still nursing their hangovers. They’ve been at this since 1994, and are probably the tightest, best live act in this city.

The New York Times has an interesting article about the extreme branding/marketing/advertising involved with SXSW.

Those Darlins did a Daytrotter session back in January. I guess they don’t always post these right after they’re recorded… I honestly never paid that much attention before though.

Local bloggers Janet Timmons (Out the Other) and Glenn Peoples (Coolfer.com) were both mentioned in a Reuters article about the blogging panel held on Thursday of SXSW.

Ok enough SXSW junk….

Kottke.org highlights a survey that reaveals the average American citizen’s ignorance of basic science. I find it absolutely pathetic and appalling that only 53% of Americans know how long it takes the earth to complete one revolution around the Sun. But it doesn’t surprise me.

Alaska’s Redoubt volcano finally erupted last night after weeks of rumbling. Seismologists have been expecting an eruption for at least a month now. It’s good to see that our prediction methods are at least somewhat accurate.

The entire Cosmos Series, hosted by Carl Sagan, is now available on Hulu. I will be watching them soon. It’s sad that I can only recall seeing one or two episodes…

I hate mosquitoes. They are the bane of my existence. In my opinion, the world would be a better place if they did not exist at all. They do nothing but reproduce uncontrollably and bite people… and animals. That’s why I was very pleased to read this article about a high-tech laser system that targets and kills them. Yes, you heard right- a mosquito-killing laser weapon. This will probably only be used in areas where mosquito-spread disease is a major problem, but we can hope for it, right?

The Space Shuttle Discovery has been attached to the ISS for several days now, and the astronauts have successfully attached the final set of solar panels, which will give the station enough power to support the new crew size of 6-7 astronauts. You can watch live coverage, including footage from onboard the shuttle and the space station, on NASA TV.

Finally, I have some sad personal news to report. My cat Sherman had to be put to sleep this morning. I know it seems lame, but to avoid having to explain the whole story over and over again, I posted a facebook note about it that read as follows:

I’m sad to say that my cat Sherman had to be put to sleep this morning. I’m telling this story on here so that I don’t have to do it 100 times for everyone I know.

We arrived back in nashville from my SXSW trip at 6am monday morning, just barely in time for me to get ready for work at 7. I found him lying on the floor unable to move. He was still yowling, however, so I rushed him to the vet. We discovered that he had a urinary blockage and had been unable to urinate for at least a few days. (Probably since friday, because that’s the day Megan checked on him & he was ok.) This caused his kidneys to malfunction and thus his body was unable to get rid of toxins. He was so near death when I found him that the vet told me there was little hope for him, but I had to at least try to save him. They put him on an IV, relieved the blockage, and put him on a heating pad. His condition improved slightly, but this morning he was unable to control his bladder, showed no interest in food or water, and was still unable to walk or stand. It was obvious that the odds of him recovering were too small for it to be worth the continued suffering it would put him through. So I made the decision to end his suffering. It was a hard choice but it gives me relief to know that he’s no longer suffering.

If you have a male cat 3 years or older, be wary of their urinary habits. This only occurs in male cats, and it’s due to the chemical makeup of cat urine and its tendancy to crystallize. When that happens in their urethra, it causes a blockage. When you can’t pee, it causes major problems VERY quickly. Can you imagine not being able to pee even for 12 hours? If your male cat constantly goes to the litter box but seems to just scratch around a lot, or you notice him squatting but not really doing much, that’s a sign that he might have a blockage problem, and it needs to be treated FAST.

I’ve always wondered exactly how they create the yellow 1st down line in football TV coverage. It’s something I always think about while I’m watching a game, but never dig into later. Well, the wonderful kottke.org comes through again with a link to this fascinating explanation. I always knew it had something to with a chroma-key effect, so that it only shows up on the green grass as if it’s actually under the players. What I never could understand though, is how they keep the angle correct as the camera pans, zooms, etc….

This year’s Coachella lineup has been announced, and it’s pretty awesome. I actually really wish I could go this year. But with SXSW, the possibility of covering Bonnaroo again, and another summer trip with Megan, it ain’t gonna happen. Interestingly, it’s Paul McCartney’s 1st festival appearance in the US. Via Pitchfork. Still waiting to see if the big rumor about Phish playing Bonnaroo is true.

If you know me, you know that I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE Camera Obscura. You’ve probably heard me get all giddy about the time I saw them in Athens at the 40-Watt and got to meet Tracyanne Campbell (and buy her a drink!). Well, they have a new album coming out soon, and they’re playing SXSW. Of course, since I probably won’t have a badge when I go, I probably won’t get to see them, but who knows what will happen? I’m just really really happy that they worked with the same producer as their last record Let’s Get Out of this Country, Jari Haapalainen. He did wonders with that album, and matched just the right amount of lush production to their style. I’m really anxious to hear what he’s done with them on the new one. I’m also really anxious to see their US tour schedule. I have no clue if they’ll flesh out a bunch more dates around their SXSW appearance and the lone other US date on their current calendar- Mar 24th at the Bell House in Brooklyn. I don’t see why they wouldn’t.

It looks as though Mount Redoubt in Alaska is about to blow its top. The last major eruption for the active volcano was in 1989, and scientists says this eruption could be about the same or a little less intense than the last one. Luckily it’s not close to any heavily populated areas, and the small towns close enough to recieve some of the ash will just have to deal with it, but it shouldn’t cause any huge problems.

Not much to report on this looming winter storm coming monday and tuesday. The weather service hasn’t changed its forecast much, but I can see that the latest model runs show a slightly weaker storm than before, but there’s still a lot of time, and the models will probably change their minds several times. They just aren’t very reliable more than a day or two out, especially when dealing with these fickle winter systems.