Friday, October 31, 2008

A Poem for the Day

The wayfarer,
Perceiving the pathway to truth,
Was struck with astonishment.
It was thickly grown with weeds.
"Ha," he said,
"I see that none has passed here
In a long time."
Later he saw that each weed
Was a singular knife.
"Well," he mumbled at last,
"Doubtless there are other roads."

Stephen Crane, from War is Kind

Quote for the Day

For a country to have a great writer is like having a second government. That is why no regime has ever loved great writers, only minor ones.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Quote for the day

It is not because the truth is too difficult to see that we make mistakes. It may even lie on the surface; but we make mistakes because the easiest and most comfortable course for us is to seek insight where it accords with our emotions — especially selfish ones.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Friday, October 24, 2008

Armadillo Aerospace Wins Level 1 Lunar Lander Challenge

The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge is a competition funded by NASA's Centennial Challenges program. The competition offers a series of prizes for teams that launch a vertical takeoff/vertical landing (VTVL) rocket that achieves the total delta-v needed for a vehicle to move between the surface of the Moon and its orbit. The multi-level competition is conducted by the X PRIZE Foundation, with sponsorship from the Northrop Grumman Corporation who run the competition. The prize purses are paid by NASA. It has been held annually at the X PRIZE Cup, making its debut at the 2006 Wirefly X PRIZE Cup in October, 2006.

The competition is divided into two levels. Both levels require teams to demonstrate control of their vehicle by flying to an altitude of more than 50 meters (160 ft), flying laterally for 100 m (330 ft), and landing on a pad. For level 1, this pad is a simple 10 m (33 ft) diameter circle; for level 2, it is a simulated lunar surface, complete with craters and boulders. After completing this first flight, the vehicle can then be refueled, and must then fly a second leg back to the original starting point. Each flight must meet a required minimum flight time of 90 seconds for level 1 and 180 seconds for level 2. For each level, the two flights along with any necessary preparation must be accomplished within a short 150-minute time period.

Each Level offers a first- and second-place prize. Level 1 features a first place prize purse of $350,000 and a $150,000 purse for second place. The more difficult level 2 offers a first place prize of $1 million and a $500,000 second place prize.

This afternoon, Armadillo Aerospace was able to win the Level 1 prize. They will try for the Level 2 Prize on Saturday, October 25, 2008. This was the third year that Armadillo had competed.

Armadillo Aerospace is an aerospace startup company based in Mesquite, Texas founded by John D. Carmack, best known as the owner of Id Software and the developer of the game, Doom. Its initial goal is to build a manned suborbital spacecraft capable of space tourism, but it has stated long-term ambitions of orbital spaceflight. The company was founded in the year 2000, and was incorporated on January 1, 2001.

Video is of the second, prize winning flight:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Quote for the Day

"Describe worrying," he went on.
"Pretend I'm someone who has never worried. I'm mystified. It don't get it. Tell me how to worry."
"Well...I guess the first step is to envision a sequence of events as they might play out in the future."
"But I do that all the time. And yet I don't worry."
"It is a sequence of events with a bad end."
"So, you're worried that a pink dragon will fly over the concent and fart nerve gas on us?"
Neal Stephenson, Anathem

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Quote for the Day

Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for - in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.

Ellen Goodman

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

1000 Days From Earth

The New Horizons space probe was launched on January 19, 2006 bound for Pluto, traveling faster than any space craft in history. It passed the orbit of the moon in barely 8 hours (it took Apollo astronauts 3 days to cover that same distance). Today is the 1000th day since that launch. It is only 1/3 of the way there, at about 32 Astronomical Units out, putting it past the orbit of Saturn. An Astronomical Unit is the distance from the Sun to the Earth: 93 million miles. New Horizons will not reach Pluto until July 14, 2015.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Commentary Magazine has an interesting article, 1948, Israel, and the Palestinians: Annotated Text:
Sixty years after its establishment by an internationally recognized act of self-determination, Israel remains the only state in the world that is subjected to a constant outpouring of the most outlandish conspiracy theories and blood libels; whose policies and actions are obsessively condemned by the international community; and whose right to exist is constantly debated and challenged not only by its Arab enemies but by segments of advanced opinion in the West.

During the past decade or so, the actual elimination of the Jewish state has become a cause célèbre among many of these educated Westerners. The “one-state solution,” as it is called, is a euphemistic formula proposing the replacement of Israel by a state, theoretically comprising the whole of historic Palestine, in which Jews will be reduced to the status of a permanent minority. Only this, it is said, can expiate the “original sin” of Israel’s founding, an act built (in the words of one critic) “on the ruins of Arab Palestine” and achieved through the deliberate and aggressive dispossession of its native population.

This claim of premeditated dispossession and the consequent creation of the longstanding Palestinian “refugee problem” forms, indeed, the central plank in the bill of particulars pressed by Israel’s alleged victims and their Western supporters. It is a charge that has hardly gone undisputed. As early as the mid-1950’s, the eminent American historian J.C. Hurewitz undertook a systematic refutation,[1] and his findings were abundantly confirmed by later generations of scholars and writers. Even Benny Morris, the most influential of Israel’s revisionist “new historians,” and one who went out of his way to establish the case for Israel’s “original sin,” grudgingly stipulated that there was no “design” to displace the Palestinian Arabs.[2]

The recent declassification of millions of documents from the period of the British Mandate (1920-1948) and Israel’s early days, documents untapped by earlier generations of writers and ignored or distorted by the “new historians,” paint a much more definitive picture of the historical record. They reveal that the claim of dispossession is not only completely unfounded but the inverse of the truth. What follows is based on fresh research into these documents, which contain many facts and data hitherto unreported.

Take a look at the whole thing.

Soyuz TMA-13 Safely in Orbit

The latest Soyuz launched to the International Space Station tonight, carrying two Americans and one Russian. It took off on time on Sunady, October 12, 2008 at 12:02 AM PDT. One of the Americans is a space tourist. His name is Richard Garriott. His father, Owen Garriott was a NASA astronaut who flew aboard America's first space station, Skylab. Richard Garriot paid about 30 million dollars to go into space tonight. He made his fortune making the Ultima series of computer games as well as the currently available online game, Tabula Rasa (a MMORPG).

Friday, October 10, 2008

Quote of the Day

There are 1011 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.

Richard Feynman

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Possible way of Testing if the Many Worlds Hypothesis is True?

Frank J. Tipler, best known for his books, The Physics of Immortality and The Physics of Christianity, has published a paper entitled, Testing Many-Worlds Quantum Theory By Measuring Pattern Convergence Rates.

Up until now, no one has been able to come up with an experiment that would distinguish between the various possible interpretations of quantum physics. Whether Tipler's proposed experiment will actually do what he hopes is the big question, of course.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

NASA's 50th Anniversary

The legislation authorizing the creation of NASA was signed on July 29, 1958 but the funding to actually create it wasn’t available until the beginning of the next government fiscal year, which always starts at the beginning of October. So today, October 1, is the actual start date for NASA.