March 7th, 2008

#949: Why don't we just buy the Russian space program, and get it over with?

We're running out of Pu-238.

Plutonium 238 is used to make radiothermal generators for spacecraft. The decay of the Pu-238 atoms generates heat, and the temperature differential between the hot core and the infinite blackness of outer space! is sufficient to allow the generation of electricity.

But the Department of Defense has been out of the Pu-238 business since 1988, and we've been buying the stuff from Russia since 1992 to supplement the dwindling domestic supply of the stuff.

NASA Administrator Mike Griffin apparently doesn't like the idea of the US space program having to rely on foreign countries for space resources, such as flights and materials. Particularly he seems bothered by having to go to Russia for these things. I don't blame him; America is rich enough and has a long enough track record in space that in the year two-thousand-fricking-eight AD we ought to be able to build Hummer H2s on the Moon and ship them to Earth and still make a profit on the deal. WTF.

Meanwhile, the Russians have been using basically the same designs since Gagarin was being fitted for his "Hero of the Soviet Union" medal; despite an economy which totters on the brink of being third world Russia nonetheless manages, somehow, to keep flying rockets and--in a development which would have surprised the greats of the US space program in the 1960s--ends up being the go-to guy for space flights. Again, WTF.

This is what happens when you let government design a replacement for a perfectly viable launch platform by committee.

#950: Friday, and I feel better!

I really do. Whatever was biting me, whatever stick was in whichever unlikely orofice, I woke up at 11 AM feeling free of it. I don't know how long this will last, but it's nice not to be safety-wired to the "pissed off" position, even if it's only for a little while.

Let's go right to the top: The basic math behind all global warming estimates is wrong.

Let that sink in for a moment.

IT'S FREAKING WRONG. The math, as used by current researchers, assumes that our atmosphere is infinitely thick. As the article states, you can often get away with this and it doesn't seriously effect the accuracy of the equations. Edge effects can be tricky to deal with and they don't always matter to the end result--in fact, usually they do not.

But sometimes the edge effects are important and you can't afford to ignore them. That appears to be the case here; if this guy is right, the entire "proven science of global warming" is utterly bugfuck wrong because they're not accounting for the fact that our atmosphere does, in fact, have an "edge" of sorts.
The new theory predicts that greenhouse gas increases should result in small, but very rapid temperature spikes, followed by much longer, slower periods of cooling -- exactly what the paleoclimatic record demonstrates.
That pesky little "agrees with observations" thing goes a long way towards convincing real scientists that a particular theory works. No current climate model of any sort can match this new theory in that arena.

* * *

Unauthorized sexual activity! Alert the mind police! You think I'm kidding? "...the district attorney served Skinner Middle School principal Nicole Veltze with a misdemeanor summons for failure to report an unlawful sexual contact."

"Unlawful sexual contact"? A kiss between a 5-year-old and a 6-year-old is illegal? Good God, y'all! Don't hug or kiss your children or you'll go to jail for child sexual molestation!

* * *

This kid's mother is very wise. And the kid appears to have his head screwed on reasonably straight, too, for a 16-year old--he's not mad at his mom for punishing him for doing something egregiously stupid.

Awesome. Maybe there is some hope for the future.

* * *

Gays are upset because they don't like being told "no".

Not having sex in public is one of those basic little rules you're supposed to absorb from society via osmosis. It's supposed to be an association: it's bad to take a crap on the sidewalk; it's generally considered unacceptable to run around nude; sex (however you do it) is supposed to be a private function.

What the fuck is wrong with these assholes?

* * *

Cue Apocalypse in three, two... Apparently the Ark of the Covenant has been found--at least, this dude claims to have found it. He did not find it in a secret US government warehouse, either.

But in fact it turns out to be a drum, not the Ark itself. So much for "Apocalypse".

The Ark is thought to be stored under Qumran, or perhaps in a secret chamber under the Temple Mount. Anyway, "drum"<>"Ark".

Now, if we ever hear stories about people's faces being melted off and stuff, maybe then....

* * *

Warning: bridges become icy before roads. ...and how on earth do you bend a truck in half?

* * *

Yesterday, I fixed the snowblower.

It wasn't the belt.

No; I tried turning the augur by hand and found that it wouldn't turn. Then I discovered that I had put a bolt in the wrong spot. A short bolt was supposed to go there; I put in a long one--and the augur would turn until it hit that bolt, and turn no further.

Swapped it for a shorter bolt, started the thing, and it worked perfectly. That's the kind of thing that really makes me feel smart, you know?

#951: A Pirate I Was Meant to be....

From The Curse of Monkey Island, as I recall. This clip is one of the funniest sequences in the game.

This game came out before Phantom Menace and when I heard the guys from the Trade Federation talk the first thing I thought of was the evil pirate Rottingham who features prominently in the first part of the linked video. I mean, they sounded just like Rottingham to me.

I use the short pirate's line, "It was a rousing battle, cap'n!" all the time.

And the song the pirates sing is hilarious for its own reasons. The game was set up so that if you click through Threepwood's dialogue choices in order (which the person who made the YouTube video didn't do) the humor in the song would naturally build to Threepwood's verse (the one ending "You're not pirates; you're just slackers!") and then his "eat an orange" foil.

Curse of Monkey Island is the one with Murray, too, who has to be the best supporting character in a video game of all freaking time.