Credit: NASA

First of all, I must make the point that these solar flares and coronal mass ejections we’re talking about will NOT harm us. At most, these can cause disruptions with satellite communications, but nothing more. On Sunday the sun belched forth an M-class (medium) solar flare with earth in the crosshairs. The stream of charged particles from the eruption is expected to reach earth sometime late tonight, and could create auroral displays visible as far south as the great lakes area. The sun is capable of flares much more powerful, that would create auroras visible all the way down here in TN, but they’re rare. I do expect there to be one or two of that magnitude in the next few years, however, as the sun is climbing toward its next period of maximum sunspot activity, known as solar maximum. It is possible that tonight’s flare could be more powerful than expected, and the resulting aurorae visible this far south, but it’s highly unlikely. If you’re in Canada or the northern US, however, I recommend going outside and looking north tonight. You just might get a treat. (Via space.com and spaceweather.com)

UPDATE: Apparently this same sunspot region produced another, more powerful flare last night. This time it was an X-class flare, though still not powerful enough to cause aurorae visible this far south. (Via Bad Astronomy)

Obama’s proposed budget for 2012 is basically in direct opposition to the Republicans’ ideas. The biggest area of contention will no doubt be science and education spending. Obama wants to boost funding for most everything science-related, which I applaud of course. But of course, Republicans want to make huge cuts in most everything science-related. It’s incredibly sad that most Republicans these days take such anti-science, anti-reality stances on issues. These proposed budgets are simply the beginnings of what will likely be a long, knock-down drag-out battle between the White House and Congress, and I hope there can be some concessions that will allow us to continue to grow in the areas of education and technology without vastly increasing the national debt. Granted, even a modest cut in the defense budget would probably take care of all these problems, but will that ever happen? Hell no. (Via NewScientist) Also, check out this nice infographic created by LiveScience.

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It is imperative for the future of NASA that you IMMEDIATELY call your congressman’s Washington office and ask they vote YES on S. 3729- NASA Authorization Act of 2010! If you’re in Nashville then your congressman is Jim Cooper and his # is 202-225-4311. The bill is up for a vote TODAY and the session ends this Friday, so if they don’t pass the bill now, NASA will have NO BUDGET for the next fiscal year, which also starts Friday. Phil Plait explains quite well on his blog why you should do this, but honestly, time is of the essence, please take my word for it: it is IMPERATIVE that this bill get passed! If you’re not in Nashville and read this in time, use this link to find you representative and CALL HIM/HER NOW.

Energy and space science rant

September 2, 2010

Rant time.

In case you haven’t been paying attention to the news, there was ANOTHER FUCKING OIL RIG EXPLOSION IN THE GULF. Which is why I’m going to now rant about how terrible fossil fuels are. There is nothing good about them as an energy source. They are filthy/pollute the environment, they’re inefficient, and most importantly they are FINITE. We will run out of them. Thankfully this particular explosion doesn’t seem as though it will cause more oil to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, but they aren’t sure yet. I firmly believe that every nation and every energy company in the world should be focusing 100% of their efforts on ways to eliminate the use of fossil fuels as an energy source as FAST AS POSSIBLE. As long as the world is still relying on them, we are speeding straight down a highway that ends with world wars the likes of which have never been seen, and possibly the end of the human race. Our use of fossil fuels will either lead to so much pollution that the entire ecosystem will collapse, or they will become so scarce that the entire world will go to war fighting over them. The very survival of our species could rely on finding a way to 100% renewable energy. Whether it be from the sun, the wind, the ocean, whatever… 100% renewable and clean energy as soon as possible MUST be the absolute goal, and we must stop at nothing to get there. There are lots of other uses for oil than energy, and dare I say those are probably a necessary evil, at least for a while- virtually all plastic is made from it, along with a host of other things, but those pale in comparison to how much is used for energy. I have no doubt technology will get to a point where we don’t need oil for manufacturing either, but energy should be our #1 priority.

Now for my space rant:

A group of spaceflight’s elite sent a letter to Congress yesterday urging the House Science & Technology Committee to revamp its NASA authorization bill. The group, composed of former astronauts, space industry veterans, and former NASA officials, are asking Congress to make their version of the bill look more like the Senate version, which is much closer to Obama’s initial budget recommendation which was announced in February. Unfortunately middle TN’s own Bart Gordon is the head of said committee. Yo Bart- I expect more from you than this. Look at the facts- Obama is right! I’ve said this many times on here before and I’ll say it again: NASA needs to focus its efforts on exploration beyond low-earth orbit and the moon. The private spaceflight industry is more than capable of taking over the job of getting our astronauts to and from the International Space Station, and can be capable much sooner than NASA could using its currently-under-development Constellation Program. But they need the help of NASA in the form of $$$. Less $$$, mind you, than we would spend on Constellation. We will never see the kind of innovation and progress again that we saw from NASA in the 1960’s unless their goals are ambitious and lofty. Putting a man on an asteroid and eventually on Mars should be the new main goal of NASA’s manned spaceflight program, and exploring the moons of Jupiter and Saturn should be the main goal of the unmanned (robotic probe) programs. Those are the kind of ambitious goals that will bring back the kind of innovation and tenacity of the 1960’s. Only this time it will be scientifically driven, not driven by a race to get to the moon before the Russians.

Rant: over.

Here we go again. I recommend investing in Kroger stock this year, because they’re gonna get a big boost in sales in TN from all these “snowstorms” wherein a meteorologist utters the word “snow” and 75% of the population immediately clears the milk, bread, and egg isles. (Apparently people only eat french toast during snowstorms?) As usual, I’ve been monitoring the progress of the forecast and find it interesting that the NWS hasn’t issued the winter storm warning yet, only a watch. I’m sure the warning will come, but it’s kinda funny that they’re hesitating, no doubt because of the giant snow fail from a few weeks ago. (To be fair, some areas around the midstate did get something close to the forecasted amounts, though no one really got the full 2-3 inches that was initially forecast…) This system is a little different than the last one, however. This one will most definitely have enough moisture to generate the 3-5 inches, unlike the last system which had moisture “issues.” The big limiting factor with this system will instead be temperatures. Nashville will literally be right on the dividing line between having an ice/rain mix and having an all snow event. If this system decides to track just 50 to 100 miles further north than the models think it will, that will cause more warm air to advect farther north, and we’ll end up having mostly rain friday changing to a little snow on the backside fri. night into sat. morning. If it decides to track slightly further south, we’ll have all snow, but much less of it, and areas to the south of us could actually see more snow than Nashville does. This system has a little better chance of “success” in giving us a good ol’ fashioned snowfall than the last one, but I wouldn’t place any bets yet.

Big rumors abound in the blogosphere about Obama’s budget proposal due to land in Congress on Monday. The biggest rumor is that it will completely cutout NASA’s Constellation program, which is the rocket system currently under development to not only replace the Space Shuttle, but also put men back on the Moon. I reported many times on the progress of the Augustine Commission and its recommendations for how NASA should proceed given that its current “trajectory” was financially unsustainable. One of the options they proposed was to eliminate the Constellation program and let commercial spaceflight companies like SpaceX takeover the duties of getting astronauts to the International Space Station and other low-earth orbit missions. I have a feeling that if the budget really does cut the Constellation funds, that’s where we’ll be headed next. Honestly I think it may not be a bad idea, because it would allow NASA to focus more on getting man further out into the solar system, and eventually to Mars. I tend to agree with Dr. Phil Plait’s (the Bad Astronomer) sentiments on the issue (as usual) but I’m not in total agreement with him that we should still go back to the moon. But then again, he’s the astronomer with a Ph.D and I’m not. For even more info, check out Universe Today. Check those blogs again on Monday afternoon, as I’d say they’ll be able to update waaaay sooner than I will once the actual budget info is released.

Via dontstaylong

Via dontstaylong

It’s that glorious time of year again. Moustache May is in full swing! If you have a stache, sign up! If you want to grow a stache and document the progess, sign up! *Update: as of ~12:45pm registration is already closed… ya snooze ya looze!* Or just bookmark it and check often for the always clever theme-days. I did it last year and it was fun, but I think I’m gonna lay low on the stache this year… It took at least 2 weeks for mine to grow enough so that I no longer looked like a creepy child molester.

Tonight I’ll be at a party, but a lot of you will probably be seeing Junior Boys & Max Tundra @ Mercy Lounge.
Also, The Rabbit Release party is going down at the Dirty Eye Warehouse (100 Talyor St.) Featuring Caitlin Rose, Heypenny, and others.

Tomorrow is also looking to be a good night for show-going:
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart @ the End w/ Zaza, Mother Father, and Bows & Arrows. Mother Father are locals… I have no clue about the other 2. I’ve blogged about POBPAH on here before. Obviously this is where I’ll be.

Also Saturday- Pico vs. Island Trees/Butterfly Boucher/The Bridges @ the Basement.

Do I really need to mention the Death Cab shows Sunday and Monday at the Ryman? We’ll be there Monday- I got Megan tickets for her birthday.

The world’s fastest camera can take 6.1 million photos per second. Needless to say, this device is only for scientific purposes. I mean, who else would ever want to take that many photos in a second? It also doesn’t use the conventional CCD or CMOS sensors that regular digital cameras use. Those sensors aren’t capable of anything even close to 6 million frames per second. The technology is explained fairly well in the article, so just go read it if you’re interested.

Universe Today has a story that sheds some much needed light on the confusion over the recent buzz about NASA’s plans for the shuttle fleet, the Constellation program, what we’ll be doing on the moon, etc… In a nutshell, congress is prepared to shell over the dough needed to extend the space shuttle program past 2010 (if needed), NASA still doesn’t have an administrator, and nobody’s really sure just what we’ll be doing on the moon in 2020.

Lastly, I give you the iSnort app:

Have a great weekend!

billy-puppet2

Stereogum reports that Billy Corgan is endorsing the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger. WHAT THE FUCK?!?!? I’ve really lost most of my respect for him after seeing this. As Stereogum points out, his band is managed by Irving Azoff, who also happens to be the CEO of Ticketmaster. Coincidence? I think not. Please do follow the link and read his letter to Congress. He offers absolutely no solid reasoning to back up his “opinion.” All he does is rehash what we all already know about the state of the record business- it’s broken because it failed to embrace and keep up with the evolution of technology, and it will never be the same again. “The combination of these companies creates powerful tools for an independent artist to reach their fans in new and unprecedented ways” he says. Really? A huge monopoly is going to help small independent artists reach their fans? I THINK NOT. Since when has any kind of music business behemoth given a shit about indie artists? NEVER. And this merger isn’t going to change anything. The next thing he says is that it will restore the power “where it belongs.” Where is that, Mr. Corgan? The CEO’s? You really think the “power” should belong to the CEO’s??? The very problems you were outlining earlier in your letter happened because the power has always been in the hands of the suits and not the artists and their fans! It’s blatantly obvious that he wrote it because Azoff told him to. I really wonder what kind of bribe Mr. Azoff offered him to write that letter. The most despicable thing about it is that Corgan did it in the first place. He’s just a corporate puppet now, and has lost almost all credibility in my eyes. I say “almost” because I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that he also testified in support of a new law that would require radio stations to pay royalties to the musicians who played on the recordings aired, not just the songwriters. I actually think this is a good idea, but I don’t know enough details to make a full judgment on the issue. Pitchfork has good coverage of that part of the testimony. It’s odd that they don’t even mention the merger support letter, though…

Ok, off the soapbox, and onto some local news:

Nashville hit a record high temperature of 80 degrees yesterday. Now, we’re looking at the possibility of sleet and snow thursday night into friday. Leave it to the mid-south to have a record high temp and then snow 2 days later. Why is this happening? It’s not global warming and it’s not some kind of sign of the apocalypse, it’s just how the weather behaves during the transitional seasons at this particular latitude. Yesterday we were in the “warm sector” of the low pressure system, and under the influence of strong winds out of the south, which brought very warm air up from the Gulf. Last night a very stark cold front passed by allowing much colder air from Canada to spill southward.

Nashville Is Talking reports on the failure of the Bible theme-park proposal in Wilson County. This same group of investors/developers/idiots tried to do the same thing in Rutherford County a year ago and got denied. Thankfully the lawmakers in Wilson County/Lebanon saw the light as well.