Friday, September 30, 2011

Simulation of a portion of the Universe at some stage of evolution

Bolshoi Simulation from UC-HPACC on Vimeo.

This is part of a much larger simulation that suggests the evolution of the Universe is understood pretty well at this point. I have doubts about it, but it is sure looks pretty.

"The standard explanation for how the universe evolved after the Big Bang is known as the Lambda Cold Dark Matter model, and it is the theoretical basis for the Bolshoi simulation. According to this model, gravity acted initially on slight density fluctuations present shortly after the Big Bang to pull together the first clumps of dark matter. These grew into larger and larger clumps through the hierarchical merging of smaller progenitors. Although the nature of dark matter remains a mystery, it accounts for about 82 percent of the matter in the universe. As a result, the evolution of structure in the universe has been driven by the gravitational interactions of dark matter. The ordinary matter that forms stars and planets has fallen into the “gravitational wells” created by clumps of dark matter, giving rise to galaxies in the centers of dark matter halos."

I personally would wait until we get some deep-space surveys under our belt, and then decide how well we know the structure of the observable Universe. LSST may help with this, I predict. Also the JWST, if it ever gets to space.

The Universe Today

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Suicide by rollercoaster

Euthanasia Coaster from Julijonas Urbonas on Vimeo.

"The three-minute ride involves a long, slow, climb -- nearly a third of a mile long -- that lifts one up to a height of more than 1,600 feet, followed by a massive fall and seven strategically sized and placed loops. The final descent and series of loops take all of one minute. But the gravitational force -- 10 Gs -- from the spinning loops at 223 miles per hour in that single minute is lethal."

While I doubt this would be a comfortable way to die (10 gs must be very painful) and also doubt that 10 gs for a minute is enough to kill someone, it is a very interesting and disturbing idea. That it could be use for over-population is a bit much; one hopes we never get that far. If you really want one last, wild ride, strap people on to a rocket sled and send them through a water trough at mach 3. They would be knocked out instantly at 100 or so Gs and die after a second or two. Or better yet, let them die at home surrounded by people they love through some painless (or even euphoria inducing) drug.

This is an interesting proposal simply because it raises a valid criticism of the sterile, highly medical form that euthanasia, PAS, and terminal care take on these days. Many will not find these formats personally comforting. Perhaps in the future those who are unable to live because of terminal illness and pain will chose a customized time and method of death. Something that best fits them. I would like to die next to a nuclear bomb, for example. How bad-ass would it be to die, get vaporized, re-condense as fallout, and lodge in the bones of unborn children? More seriously, death by nitrogen narcosis while diving in the twilight zone of some tropical reef, perhaps off of Christmas island, would be the way to go. Anything but a hospital bed.

Discovery News

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Man, 26, charged in plot to bomb Pentagon using model airplane

From CNN

This guy was probably crazy, and I have doubts about the success of any bomb small enough to fit on even the largest RC planes (perhaps 10 lbs?) but my first reaction was "good thing he wasn't planning on using rockets..."

Missile test footage from chase plane (inc. impact)

Sunday, September 25, 2011



RSA Factoring Challenge

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Sounds of NASA

"Here's a collection of NASA sounds from historic spaceflights and current missions. You can hear the roar of a space shuttle launch or Neil Armstrong's "One small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind" every time you get a phone call. Or, you can hear the memorable words "Houston, we've had a problem," every time you make an error on your computer. We have included both MP3 and M4R (iPhone) sound files to download."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Despite very slow post rate...

... there are still a decent number of visitors to this page every day. Generally they are searching for a few of the most popular terms found here:

Liberty rocket 89
Schwerer gustav 50
Explosion 30
High power rocketry 19
Project pluto 14
Gustav gun 10
Sr-71 10
Sr 71 9
Boosted dart 7
Rocket nozzle 6

By far, the most hits today was for "Liberty Rocket." Not sure why this got so hot, but perhaps it has something to do with the fact that a new rocket (basically a crummy looking, more expensive Ares V rocket) was announced and it may perhaps fly with (what is basically a cooler looking, but slightly less powerful Ares I) the Liberty rocket. In other words, years and billions spent to get us basically back to the same rocket program. Prove me wrong NASA, prove me wrong...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

JWST saved for at least one year

This will probably be enough time to reach a level of completion that will prevent wholesale cancellation. However, like Hubble, there is still the chance for severe delays post completion.

Note that The Hubble Space Telescope has cost on the order of $6 billion to date. I have yet to see anyone, even a crazy anti-science republican suggest that it was a waste of money. Even trying to retire the Hubble after a great mission lifetime resulted in a strong public reaction.

Friday, September 9, 2011

God bless 'merica!

After hearing Obama (aka the republican who is called a liberal) proclaim this one nation under god, and end his speech last night as he always does, with a "god bless you" and "god bless" this country... despite the fact that he is obviously agnostic at best (certainly no more religious than G.W. Bush who is likely an atheist)... I decided to share something way off topic (hey still one month away from the next launch) from rocketry:


(Written in 1956; posted by Daniel P. B. Smith on Mother's Day, 1998)

Additional indexing terms: agnostic, agnosticism, atheism, religion, freedom of religion


by Elinor Goulding Smith

It is a long time since I have heard anyone say, out loud and unafraid, "I do not believe in God." It frightens me that we need be afraid.

As I was born in 1917, I did a good deal of my growing up in the roaring 'twenties, which, as I was very young at the time, seemed a good deal less roaring to me than to some other people. If there was bootleg gin in the house--and I am sure there was--I was tucked in bed long before anyone drank any of it. And if my mother's skirt came only to her knees and her hair was bobbed, still after school we went roller skating or played hopscotch in the park, supped early on things like lamb chops, baked potatoes, and buttered carrots, and were bathed and bedded down by eight o'clock. My sister and I wore brown coats with beaver collars and wide-brimmed beaver-felt hats with long streamers in the winter; navy blue coats and navy blue, wide-brimmed straw hats with long streamers in the spring.

We toed the mark. Home work was done. If it was not of a neatness to suit my father (who was an engineer and thought blueprints a good standard neatness) it was done over. If either of my parents had ever heard us say "Gosh," we'd have had a tongue-lashing that would have kept us from saying "Gosh" again for a long time. We curtsied when we were introduced, stood up when anyone past twelve entered the room and I believe that had either of us ever been late for school, my father would have sent us out into the night, never to mention our names again. Report cards showed lettered grades for Effort, Proficiency, and Deportment. Proficiency could drop as low as B+ if we had missed a great deal of work because of illness. To this day I cannot think, because it is unthinkable, that either of us might ever have gotten anything but A in Effort or Deportment.

In that (I have been told) mad era of wild drinking and lawbreaking, home was an island of Gem├╝tlichkeit, snug and secure. We knew what was right and we knew what was wrong. Above all, we were taught from the beginning, if we did right and told the truth, nothing could ever harm us. It was a thought as comforting as a loving arm about your shoulders.

We were--still are--Jews. That is, we are Jews by race. When it comes to religion, I don't know just what we were. But whatever we were, we were taught to respect other people's religious beliefs, and that--no matter what our parents believed--we were free to believe what we wanted when we grew up. My grandfather on my mother's side was an atheist, and my mother is, I believe, more or less an agnostic herself. My father grew up in a more religious family, studied Hebrew and was bar mizvahed when he was thirteen like all good Jewish boys. Yet even he cast off most of his religious beliefs in adult life. My sister and I were sent to Sunday school on the grounds that we had to learn something of Jewish history and customs. We learned little. When I was twelve, I was confirmed along with the other children of my class because I thought my parents wanted it. As I stood at the altar of the synagogue in my white dress, waiting for my turn to make my speech, I looked around me and I thought, quite simply, that the whole thing--was utterly meaningless to me, and that I, having now completed this foolish thing, would never again set foot in a place of worship.

I never have.

After my confirmation, when I told my parents how I felt, they both agreed wholeheartedly with my feelings and said that, had they known how I felt, I needn't have been confirmed at all. Not that the confirmation was anything much to go through. We wore our white dresses, and the boys their dark blue suits, and we made our little speeches that somebody else had written for us, and the rabbi made his speech and said that we were all grown up now--which fooled no one--and blessed us, and that was it. What troubled me about it was that it made me feel dishonest, and I had been taught that honesty was important and good.

As it turned out, even though we had the same upbringing, my sister does not share my feelings or beliefs on this subject. She goes to temple (on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur) and sends her children to Sunday school. It would never occur to me to criticize her for this, although I cannot understand it, and if she were to criticize me for not going, I would be justifiably furious. For in the roaring 'twenties, when we were brought up, it was clearly understood that people's religious beliefs were their own affair.


All through the 'twenties, while we were in the New York City public schools, not only were we being taught to keep our fingernails clean, tell the truth, shine our shoes, and brush our hair, we were also taught that America was the greatest country in the world. We were taught this at school and at home. We were taught that this was so, not because we had more iceboxes and bathtubs and automobiles than the people of other countries, but because in our country our Constitution guaranteed to us certain things as stated in the Bill of Rights. We were taught that worship of God was a private, personal matter, and that the separation of church and state was vitally important to our freedom. This separation was carried out fully in our schools. We learned reading, writing, and arithmetic, and plenty of grammar, but when it came to religious instruction, that was left to the parents to attend to outside of school hours.

We said the pledge of allegiance every morning, and what we said was, "I pledge allegiance to the flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." I think those are pretty fine words. It had a certain grand cadence, too. Later it was explained that it was felt (by whom I can't imagine) that you could be saying those same words but secretly meaning the flag of another country. So the words "of the United States of America" were added just after "flag," thus spoiling the rhythm.

What puzzled me was, if some child felt a secret allegiance to some other country for some unimaginable reason, would saying "the flag of the United States of America" make him feel differently? If his parents came from Italy or Germany or Ireland, didn't they very likely come because they wanted to, as my grandparents and great grandparents had? And did they not, therefore, probably think this was a better place than the one they went to so much trouble to get away from?

But much more important, if they did like Italy or Ireland better, was that a crime? I can imagine myself living in another country, and being a good citizen of that country, but still loving my own best. If you don't break the laws of your new country and you earn a living and pay your taxes, why can't you think the old one is a better place to live? Later still, either during or just after the war, the words "under God" were added to the already overburdened pledge, and I took a dim view of this. Of course I do not have to say the pledge of allegiance any more, but my children do.

As the years went by, my feeling; about religion crystallized, and luckily I was married to a man whose ideas on religion are the same as mine. Our failure to go to temple or to send our children to any sort of religious school is not a failure. It is not a negative thing that happens out of carelessness or laziness. It is a positive thing, arising out of deep and serious conviction, and it is as important to us as any religion could be to a religious person.

We teach our children to love, to try to be honest and truthful, to try to help others without self-aggrandizement, to try never to hurt another, to feel a sense of responsibility to society, and to respect other people's concepts and ideas, not only about religion, but about ways of life. More important, we try to teach them that they will go wrong sometimes, they will make mistakes, they will do things that will hurt others. There will be times when they won't sleep because they hurt someone's feelings. Because we are human beings, and we must forever try, and forever fail, to attain perfection. And when they make a mistake, they and they alone will be responsible for it, they and they alone will punish themselves for it, and they and they alone may or may not forgive themselves. We know this is a hard way to live. We think it is a good way. Indeed, we think it is the only way.

But I will not teach them anything I cannot believe, and I will not teach them any ritual which scents to vie as senseless as knocking on wood when you say you haven't had a cold for a long time.

We teach our children that other people have other beliefs that are their own business, and we don't go around saying, "You're stupid to go to church," or, "You're stupid to believe in God."

I expect the same courtesy and consideration for my sincere convictions that I give to others. And in 1956 I don't get it.

Now we go back to the roaring 'twenties, when people were supposed to be so wild and unthinking. Wild they may have been, but there was far more freedom of thought then than we have today. Nobody questioned agnostics or free thinkers, or used the word "godless" as a word synonymous with "evil" and "antisocial." Now, in the not-roaring 'fifties--with no bootleg gin in the houses, no gangsters in Chicago, no Charleston, no flappers, w,hen nearly everybody cheats on his income tax and the gangsters are kids instead of adults--my children are pressured from every side to do something contrary to our beliefs.

The television programs tell them to go to church on Sunday, ("and take Dad and Mom, too"). I don't think television programs should teach our children what they should do about religion. I think my husband and I should teach our children about religion. I think we are the only ones who should teach them about our beliefs. The day I need a television puppet or clown to tell my children what's right and what's wrong, I'll bow out as a mother. In the same breath with the plea to go to church, these same television programs are preaching the most blatant materialism--"Ask your mother to buy you..." "Ask your mother to get..." "All the kids have..." "Don't you wish you had..."

In our public school a teacher reads to the class from the Bible in the morning. I don't object to my children reading the Bible. I have read it--both Old and New Testaments--myself, and encouraged the children to read it. Parts of it I read for its majestic prose, parts for its historical interest, parts for the fearsomeness of its antiquity and its crude, raw primitive code of ethics, and parts because they're good stories. At no time do we read it as a revelation from God. When it is read to my children as a Testament, the direct word of God, it is an infringement of personal freedom.

One year at Christmas time, one of my children came home and asked me if it was true that the infant Jesus could do magic. His teacher had read the class a story about how Jesus turned a black lamb white. (And incidentally, I shuddered at the idea that white is a better color than black, and was glad at least that there was no Negro child in the class.) This again, I submit, is an infringement of our great American concept of the freedom of religion--which I do not interpret as meaning, "freedom of religion for everyone but agnostics. You can have any you like, but you gotta pick one." My children played occasionally with a child whose father is a minister. They don't go there any more because every time they did, he told them they should believe in God and go to church. When his little girl came to our house, the subject of religion never carte up. Why would it? I assume that her parents try to teach her what's right. Why can't her parents make the same assumption about us? The point is, if we had a religion that had a name to it, Jewish, Mohammedan, anything, they would make that assumption.


The word "godless" has been applied, unthinkingly, to Nazis, Communists, all kinds of evildoers. The word is wrongly used. The Nazis, the Communists, the Fascists were in no sense "godless." They merely substituted a new and different "god" for their old one. Hitler was worshiped, Stalin was worshiped, power and the state were worshiped. The only truly godless people are those like ourselves, who worship nothing.

People of different religious faiths ask how we arrived at ours and why. We don't ask them how they arrived at theirs, or why they happen to believe in the particular God they believe in. They would be astonished if we did. And I am astonished when they ask me.

I cannot believe that my husband and I are all alone in the world. Surely, among the 160,000,000 people in our country alone, there must be others who have come to the same conclusions and beliefs as we, who would welcome a return to a true religious freedom.

The other day when we were discussing this subject with our children, I heard myself saying, "I wouldn't talk about this anywhere except at home," and instantly was horrified and wondered for a minute just where I was living. Yet we do have to caution our children about this.


I don't want a return to bootleg gin and flappers, particularly, but I do want the freedom to think and believe in the way I find right, and I want the freedom to raise my children in my own beliefs. I speak in what I fear is a lonely voice for a return to a real respect for one another's beliefs--or disbeliefs.