March 27, 2006

SCIENCE

My favorite episode of From the Earth to the Moon is "Spider", in which engineers build the LM. How do you design something to go somewhere we've never been and do things that have never been done before? These engineers had to tackle issues we never have to think about here on earth. And it seems scientists are working on these issues again as they prepare to go back to the moon as a stepping stone to Mars.

Once planners choose a base, the astronauts will immediately need to bring a host of technologies to bear, none of which currently exist. "Power is a big challenge," Toups said. Solar arrays are an obvious answer, but away from the poles 14 days of lunar sunlight are followed by 14 days of darkness, so "how do you handle the dormancy periods?"

Next is the spacesuit. Apollo suits weighed 270 pounds on Earth, a relatively comfortable "felt weight" of 40 to 50 pounds on the moon, but an unacceptable 102 pounds on Mars. "You can't haul that around, bend down or climb hills," Lee said. "Somehow we have to cut the mass of the current spacesuit in half."

And the new suit, unlike the Apollo suits or the current 300-pound shuttle suit, is going to have to be relatively easy to put on and take off, and to be able withstand the dreaded moon dust.

After three days, Apollo astronauts reported that the dust was causing the joints in their suits to jam, "and we're not talking about three outings," Lee said of the next moon missions. "We're talking about once a week for 500 days -- between 70 and 100 spacewalks."

Dealing with dust is also a major concern in building shelters on the lunar surface. Toups said it might be possible to harden the ground by microwaving it, creating a crust "like a tarp when you're camping." Otherwise, the dust pervades everything, and prolonged exposure could even lead to silicosis.

Dust also makes it virtually impossible to use any kind of machinery with ball bearings. Civil engineer Darryl J. Calkins, of the Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, warned that the combination of dust, low gravity, temperature swings and the high cost of flying things to the moon is going to define the lunar tool kit in unforeseen ways.

"You can't put a diesel up there; you can't put a 20,000-pound bulldozer up there; and none of our oils or hydraulic fluids are going to survive," Calkins said in a telephone interview. "We may have to go back to the 19th century to find appropriate tools -- use cables, pulleys, levers."

And even then, it will be difficult to level a base site and haul away the fill because there's not enough gravity to give a tractor adequate purchase. Instead, Calkins envisions a device that can "scrape and shave" small amounts of soil and take it away bit by bit.

But in the end, "you have to learn how to do it, with real people," McKay said. "This is hard, but we can learn it. And if we do it right on the moon, we will be able to answer my ultimate question: Can Mars be habitable? I think the answer is 'yes.' "

I love that first sentence: "bring a host of technologies to bear, none of which currently exist." It reminds me of Michael Crichton's insight on the horse:

Let's think back to people in 1900 in, say, New York. If they worried about people in 2000, what would they worry about? Probably: Where would people get enough horses? And what would they do about all the horseshit? Horse pollution was bad in 1900, think how much worse it would be a century later, with so many more people riding horses?

But of course, within a few years, nobody rode horses except for sport. And in 2000, France was getting 80% its power from an energy source that was unknown in 1900. Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Japan were getting more than 30% from this source, unknown in 1900. Remember, people in 1900 didn't know what an atom was.

I can't wait to see what these scientists come up with.

Posted by: Sarah at 04:41 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
Post contains 706 words, total size 4 kb.

March 06, 2006

PATRIOTISM

Pericles asked a question that I thought about a lot last night and that I'd like to answer as honestly as I can.

What I'm not sure that you recognize, at least not consistently, is that people who disagree vehemently with you can still love their country passionately. I question the intelligence and competence of Bush and his ilk, but I have never questioned their patriotism. I completely disagree with their vision about what is best for America, but I don't doubt that they are motivated by a concern for doing what is best. Based on my observations, you don't always give the people with whom you disagree that same kind of credit. Am I wrong?

I do in fact think you are wrong. I don't doubt either that John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Ralph Nader think that their plan of action is the best choice for America. You make it sound like I believe they're all in some dark room musing, "How can we make the US worse?" I think that Hillary Clinton honestly believes that her plans for health care, education, or business are in our country's best interest. But do I want to live anywhere near Hillary Clinton's version of America? Heck no.

There's a big difference between questioning someone's patriotism and questioning their credentials. You question Bush's intelligence, which is your prerogative, and I question the intelligence of others as well. Back to George Clooney as always, my beef is not with his patriotism but his knowledge. Why is a college dropout who played a doctor on TV someone we go to when we want political commentary? I have a hard time believing that Clooney spends nearly the time I do online reading various news sources, so why does anyone care what he thinks? I asked a Lefty about this once recently, and she said, "Gosh, I never thought about it because I just agree with what he says." Questioning his expertise is not the same thing as questioning his patriotism.

I think the "don't question my patriotism" phrase is overused and most of the time is a red herring. It's like calling someone a racist for opposing affirmative action: it's the easy zinger that often has nothing to do with the argument. However, I tried to think about it a lot last night, and I realized that it depends a lot on how you define patriotism.

Do you define patriotism as simply love for your country? Do you define it as the thought that your country is better than others? Do you define it as putting your country ahead of yourself? Do you define it as being willing to sacrifice for your country? What's the definition? Because I know a lot of people who don't have any of these feelings for the US.

I don't know many people like you, Pericles. I feel I've sort of gotten to know you through your comments, and I basically get the impression that you love an ideal version of the US that's neither represented by the Republicans nor the Democrats. Please correct me if my assessment is wrong, but that's what I have gleaned. But most of the people I've come in contact with are nothing like you. I was a French and International Studies major and I got an MA in ESL. I was constantly surrounded by people who jumped at the chance to be anywhere but the USA. My colleagues consistently thought that France/China/Fill-In-The-Blank was better than the US. When they travelled, they were ashamed to admit they were Americans. They graduated and many looked for ways to leave the US and find something better. They thought the grass would be greener anywhere but the USA.

So do I question their patriotism? I do. They don't have any deep feelings for their own country. And any feelings they might have include shame and guilt. Is shame for your country patriotism? They don't have a deep love for America that transcends their hate for Bush. They just don't want to be in the US, period. I'm sorry if I'm a bad person for refusing to see them as patriots. I'm sorry that the internet is filled with stories of yahoos who hate our flag and our country. Yes, I question these people's patriotism, and none of them are Republicans. That doesn't mean that I automatically question every non-Repub's patriotism, but I can't help but notice the consistent trend.

I respect people who love our country even if "Bush and his ilk" don't fit the bill, but like I said I simply don't know many people like this. If Hillary Clinton were elected president, the US would move further away from what I consider the ideal, but you can bet I'd still wear my US flag pins and leave the big USA country code sticker on the bumper of our car. Because I love my country no matter who's at the wheel and I still think she's the best country in the world.

Posted by: Sarah at 04:56 AM | Comments (18) | Add Comment
Post contains 837 words, total size 5 kb.

March 02, 2006

TAPES

Why isn't this as big of news as Cheney's hunting accident?

Inconveniently for critics of the war, Saddam made tapes in his version of the Oval Office. These tapes landed in the hands of American intelligence and were recently aired publicly.

The first 12 hours of the tapes — there are hundreds more waiting to be translated — are damning, to say the least. They show conclusively that Bush didn't lie when he cited Saddam's WMD plans as one of the big reasons for taking the dictator out.

...

War foes have long asserted that Saddam halted his WMD programs in the wake of his defeat in the first Gulf War in 1991. Saddam's abandonment of WMD programs was confirmed by subsequent U.N. inspections.

Again, not true. In a tape dating to April 1995, Saddam and several aides discuss the fact that U.N. inspectors had found traces of Iraq's biological weapons program. On the tape, Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law, is heard gloating about fooling the inspectors.

"We did not reveal all that we have," he says. "Not the type of weapons, not the volume of the materials we imported, not the volume of the production we told them about, not the volume of use. None of this was correct."

There's more. Indeed, as late as 2000, Saddam can be heard in his office talking with Iraqi scientists about his ongoing plans to build a nuclear device. At one point, he discusses Iraq's plasma uranium program — something that was missed entirely by U.N. weapons inspectors combing Iraq for WMD.

Why in the heck is it reported like this on Investor's Business Daily but reported completely differently on CNN? On CNN, the lead paragraph in bold is all about how "Hussein told his Cabinet in the mid-1990s that the U.S. would fall victim to terrorists possessing weapons of mass destruction but that Iraq would not be involved." And then in smaller font in paragraph two, it reads "Hussein also can be heard speaking with high-ranking Iraqi officials about deceiving United Nations inspectors looking into Iraq's weapons program." Why is CNN focusing on nothing and ignoring that Saddam tricked the UN, as the US suspected when we went to war? Everyone knew that Hans Blix was a impotent doofus, and this proves it. So why isn't it bigger news?

Apparently it's much bigger news that there's some tape of what Bush knew about Katrina, because that's what's on all the headlines right now.

I know these tapes came out two weeks ago, but why isn't anyone talking about them?

Posted by: Sarah at 05:08 AM | Comments (15) | Add Comment
Post contains 429 words, total size 3 kb.

<< Page 1 of 1 >>
99kb generated in CPU 0.08, elapsed 0.1981 seconds.
49 queries taking 0.141 seconds, 207 records returned.
Powered by Minx 1.1.6c-pink.