Japanese parliament report: Fukushima nuclear crisis was ‘man-made’ – CNN.com

Wow. I’d bet our culture would have a hard time admitting that culture is an impediment, as we have a pretty wide ‘criticize everyone’ outlook; this must be shocking inside the Japanese culture:

The report’s authors — led by Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a former president of the Science Council of Japan — attributed the failings at the plant before and after March 11 specifically to Japanese culture.
“What must be admitted — very painfully — is that this was a disaster ‘Made in Japan,’ ” the report said. “Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the program.’ ”

via Japanese parliament report: Fukushima nuclear crisis was ‘man-made’ – CNN.com.

IMpressed at the critique, and the nerve it took to write; let’s hope it’s heeded.

Amateur Astronomer Snaps Historic Photo Of Another Galaxy | Fox News

This is the power of a technological revolution.

A New Zealand man was Monday being hailed as the first amateur photographer to capture an image of another solar system, after he photographed the star Beta Pictoris using a 10-inch 25cm telescope at his home in Auckland.Rolf Olsen, who moved to New Zealand in 2003 from Denmark, put the photograph on his website, sparking congratulations and amazement from members of the scientific community around the world.”I realized it was a special thing but I didn’t realize it would generate such a stir,” Olsen, who lives in Titirangi west of central Auckland, told news website stuff.co.nz.

via Amateur Astronomer Snaps Historic Photo Of Another Galaxy | Fox News.

via @SteveMartinToGo on Twitter. Yes, Steve Martin is a) on Twitter and b) apparently at least links Fox News.
[Read more…]

Apollo 11 Saturn V Launch (HD) Camera E-8 on Vimeo

I’m a sucker for the Mercury and Apollo programs (nothing wrong with Gemini, I just didn’t read as much about that).

Here’s 30 seconds of liftoff of Apollo 11 at 500fps, so it takes 8+ minutes.  Good narration.  Very entertaining!

Apollo 11 Saturn V Launch (HD) Camera E-8 on Vimeo on Vimeo

HT: The Aerospace Genius.

How to kill the space program: Satellites to issue speeding tickets from space – SciTechBlog – CNN.com Blogs

UK drivers had better stay under that speed limit, because the traffic authorities are watching… from outer space. According to The Telegraph, an American company called PIPS Technology has developed a system that uses two cameras on the ground and one mounted on a satellite in orbit to catch speeders.

via Satellites to issue speeding tickets from space – SciTechBlog – CNN.com Blogs.

This is entirely feasible now, with toll tags and the like.  Wisely, I think they’d rather have the tolls than a few fines and empty roads.

Putting big heavy snoopers into space is very very expensive, and totally optional.  Use an optional program against a populace (even one that’s guilty) is a really good way to get that one, and its more useful cousins, unfunded.

The Periodic Table of Awesomeness

Awesomely here.


Via the Aerospace Genius.

It turs out, you can smell fear.

From Rice University, “Fear-related Chemosignals Modulate the Recognition of Fear in Ambiguous Facial Expressions”:

Chen’s conclusion is consistent with what’s been found with processing emotions in both the face and the voice. There, an emotion from one sense modulates how the same emotion is perceived in another sense, especially when the signal to the latter sense is ambiguous.

The article says something about this being ‘unsuspected’, which is goofy, but the rest is very interesting.

Moon, Venus and Jupiter

Tonight, from the porch.


I know it’s them (Well, Sky & Telescope knows, and that’s enough for me).

More from Wired:

In what’s called a planetary conjunction, the two planets —the brightest in the night sky — will appear extremely close, separated by only the width of a finger held at arm’s length. They won’t be this close together and well-placed for evening viewing again until May 2013.

SciGuy: A Texan definition of a planet

SciGuy: A Texan definition of a planet
• Therefore, a planet must be any star-orbiting, non-fusing celestial body larger than the smallest sphere containing TEXAS.

Read it all, and enjoy.  I’m not an astronomer but it makes sense to me.

Improbable Research

Improbable Research is a great Journal (did it used to be the Journal of Irreproducible Results, or was that another?), which has the yearly igNoble awards for the most dubious research.

I bring it up because it’s now available online, and the articles are viewable in Low-Res .pdf format for free, which is all I need to a good laugh. It’s good research-geek fun, and I hope you try it out!

A future without fire-ants?

His title is perfect: SciGuy: My prayers answered — a fire ant virus

My prayers answered — a fire ant virus

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recently identified a virus that kills red fire ants, and the agency has begun the process of finding a commercial partner to develop the virus into a pesticide.

Read the article. I hope this happens soon enough for the Horney Toads to make a recovery.

An unsound theory

Scientists say nerves use sound, not electricity

The common view that nerves transmit impulses through electricity is wrong and they really transmit sound, according to a team of Danish scientists.

The Copenhagen University researchers argue that biology and medical textbooks that say nerves relay electrical impulses from the brain to the rest of the body are incorrect.

“For us as physicists, this cannot be the explanation,” said Thomas Heimburg, an associate professor at the university’s Niels Bohr Institute. “The physical laws of thermodynamics tell us that electrical impulses must produce heat as they travel along the nerve, but experiments find that no such heat is produced.”

Hmm. I’m not buying it. Too many lectures involving micro-electrodes measuring electrical nerve impulses, and all that.

And, what about local anesthetics? Are they just sound-deadening?

The scientists, whose work is in the Biophysical Society’s Biophysical Journal, suggested that anesthetics change the melting point of the membrane and make it impossible for their theorized sound pulses to propagate.

So, anyone have a vacuum chamber and a nerve? Me, I’m sticking with the whole saltatory-conduction thing.

Wasabi in Space

From Wired:

Wired News
The spicy greenish condiment was squirted out of a tube while astronaut Sunita Williams was trying to make a pretend sushi meal with bag-packaged salmon. The three space station crew members are given a certain number of bonus packs of their favorite foods to help endure their months in space where most meals are the equivalent of military MREs.

Since everything is weightless, spilled food is no ordinary clean-up challenge.

“We finally got the wasabi smell out after it was flying around everywhere,” Williams told her mother this week in a conversation arranged by Boston radio station WBZ. “We cleaned it up off the walls a little bit.”

Unfortunately for Williams, the wasabi tube has been banished to a cargo vehicle where it will stay packed away.

“I don’t think we’re going to use it anymore,” she said. “It’s too dangerous.”

My own brush with wasabi.  I can’t imagine it loose in a weightless environment.

NASA has a plan for everything

at least in space.  Including a psychotic event by a astronaut in orbit:

Science and Space NewsCAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) — What would happen if an astronaut became mentally unstable in space and, say, destroyed the ship’s oxygen system or tried to open the hatch and kill everyone aboard?

That was the question after the apparent breakdown of Lisa Nowak, arrested this month on charges she tried to kidnap and kill a woman she regarded as her rival for another astronaut’s affections.

It turns out NASA has detailed, written procedures for dealing with a suicidal or psychotic astronaut in space. The documents, obtained this week by The Associated Press, say the astronaut’s crewmates should bind his wrists and ankles with duct tape, tie him down with a bungee cord and inject him with tranquilizers if necessary.

Interesting.  I can’t imagine what a chore wrestling with another in zero-g would be.  I’m guessing a choke-hold would be the only real option, but again, that’s just a guess.

And, who knew they take Haldol into space?

Geostationary Banana over Texas

Geostationary Banana Over Texas

I’d give a few bucks, just for the grins.

Dr. Charles comments on…the impossible

Well, maybe not impossible, but the wildly hopeful: the elimination of diabetes (per Dr. Charles):

In a discovery that has stunned even those behind it, scientists at a Toronto hospital say they have proof the body’s nervous system helps trigger diabetes, opening the door to a potential near-cure of the disease that affects millions of Canadians.

Diabetic mice became healthy virtually overnight after researchers injected a substance to counteract the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Dr. Michael Salter, a pain expert at the Hospital for Sick Children and one of the scientists. “Mice with diabetes suddenly didn’t have diabetes any more.”

Read it, and wonder: if this pans out a) what a boon for many medical diseases currently thought of as chronic, and b) neurologists may have a new lease on life medicine.