Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ripple Rock 1958 (Canada) - Giant Demolition Explosion

"As early as 1931, a Marine Commission recommended removing Ripple Rock, but it was not until 1942 that the government authorized attempts to remove it. There was political opposition to the destruction of Ripple Rock, as some felt it would serve well as a bridge support to connect Vancouver Island to the mainland.

The first attempts at planting explosive charges on Ripple Rock were made with floating drilling barges with the goal of blasting away the rock in pieces. The first, in 1943, was secured with six 3.8 cm steel cables attached to anchors that altogether weighed 998 metric tons. This approach was abandoned when one cable broke on average every 48 hours. Another attempt in 1945, involving two large overhead steel lines was similarly abandoned after only 93 (out of 1500 planned) controlled explosions were successful.

In 1953, the National Research Council of Canada commissioned a feasibility study on the idea of planting a large explosive charge underneath the peaks by drilling vertical and horizontal shafts from Maud Island in the sound. Based on the study, this approach was recommended. Dolmage and Mason Consulting Engineers were retained to plan the project, and three firms, Northern Construction Company, J.W. Stewart Limited, and Boyles Brothers Drilling Company, were granted the contract, which ended up costing in excess of 3 million Canadian dollars."

"Between November 1955, and April 1958, a three-shift operation involving an average of 75 men worked to build a 174 meter vertical shaft from Maud Island, a 762 meter horizontal shaft to the base of Ripple Rock, and two main 91 meter vertical shafts into the twin peaks, from which "coyote" shafts were drilled for the explosives. 1,270 metric tons of Nitramex 2H explosives were placed in these shafts, estimated at ten times the amount needed for a similar explosion above water.

The explosion took place at 9:31:02 am on April 5, 1958. 635,000 metric tons of rock and water was displaced by the explosion, resulting in debris at least 300 meters in the air, falling on land on either side of the narrows. The blast increased the clearing at low tide to about 14 meters (45 feet).

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police cleared the area of within 3 miles of the explosion, and the engineers and TV crew that witnessed the explosion were housed in a bunker.
The explosion was noted as one of the largest non-nuclear planned explosions on record, though Soviet authorities reported a larger explosion in the Ural Mountains to carve a new channel for the Kolonga River and in China to open a copper mine."

At more than 1 KT, this is clearly a massive explosion. Similar to operation sailor hat, but considerably more powerful. Even larger tests were conducted by various nations over the years, particularly American tests such as the Misty Castle test series which had conventional blasts up to about 4 KT. These tests were used to simulate nuclear explosions aboveground, at a time when only underground tests were allowed.

"Misty Picture" explosive charge

There was also a larger test called Minor Scale seen below:

Minor Scale was probably the largest non-nuclear (intentional) explosion ever.
There is also a test report for Minor Scale.

Finally, there was Minor Uncle, the last of the blasts over 2 KT:

Minor Uncle, one of the last large-scale simulated nuclear blasts (but still using conventional explosive), was undertaken in 1993. "The MINOR UNCLE test was executed on 10th June, 1993, at 0910 hrs Mountain Daylight Time at the Permanent High Explosive Test Site (PHETS) site , White Sands New Mexico. The event simulated a 4 kt nuclear detonation (the simulation was most accurate in the 7 kPa overpressure region) by detonating a hemispherical charge of 2472 tonnes of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil (ANFO) mixture initiated by a 125 kg octol booster. The charge which was detonated at its center, was contained by a fibreglass hemispherical shell which was located at ground zero." Minor Uncle information at

It is unclear if any industrial accidents have been larger in yield than 4 KT, though many have come close. One possible, highly speculative estimate, puts the Kuybyshev Ufa train disaster, a natural gas explosion, at 10 KT. There is little in the way of confirmation for this, however. The brissance of natural gas is generally much lower than high explosives.

For more giant explosions, visit the List of the Largest artificial non-nuclear explosions. And also

Check out the images from some other tests:

Misers Gold - 2.5 KT

Direct Course - 600 T

Sadly you can only read 8 Global Security articles before it forces you to log out. That may be motivation for me to sign up and pay them, or more likely motivation to copy the images and text so that I can use it later. :( Charging for internet content seldom works out.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Earth and Moon from the Elektro-L spacecraft

Credit: NPO Lavochkin


Check out the little impact crater to the left of the giant Debussy crater (bright rays). This small crater, with very dark rays, is called Matabei:

These dark rays may be material that was excavated and broadcast across the lighter surface. More interesting would be if they represent the debris of the impactor object. Either way, this represents a very rare (dozens of examples at most) phenomenon for Mercury.

Credit: NASA / JHUAPL / Carnegie Institution of Washington

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Imaging Fomalhaut b (with a hat tip to TPF)

"NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has taken the first visible-light snapshot of a planet circling another star.

Estimated to be no more than three times Jupiter's mass, the planet, called Fomalhaut b, orbits the bright southern star Fomalhaut, located 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Australis, or the "Southern Fish."

Fomalhaut has been a candidate for planet hunting ever since an excess of dust was discovered around the star in the early 1980s by NASA's Infrared Astronomy Satellite, IRAS.

In 2004, the coronagraph in the High Resolution Camera on Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys produced the first-ever resolved visible-light image of the region around Fomalhaut. It clearly showed a ring of protoplanetary debris approximately 21.5 billion miles across and having a sharp inner edge.

This large debris disk is similar to the Kuiper Belt, which encircles the solar system and contains a range of icy bodies from dust grains to objects the size of dwarf planets, such as Pluto.

Hubble astronomer Paul Kalas, of the University of California at Berkeley, and team members proposed in 2005 that the ring was being gravitationally modified by a planet lying between the star and the ring's inner edge.

Circumstantial evidence came from Hubble's confirmation that the ring is offset from the center of the star. The sharp inner edge of the ring is also consistent with the presence of a planet that gravitationally "shepherds" ring particles. Independent researchers have subsequently reached similar conclusions.

Now, Hubble has actually photographed a point source of light lying 1.8 billion miles inside the ring's inner edge. The results are being reported in the November 14 issue of Science magazine.

"Our Hubble observations were incredibly demanding. Fomalhaut b is 1 billion times fainter than the star. We began this program in 2001, and our persistence finally paid off," Kalas says.

"Fomalhaut is the gift that keeps on giving. Following the unexpected discovery of its dust ring, we have now found an exoplanet at a location suggested by analysis of the dust ring's shape. The lesson for exoplanet hunters is 'follow the dust,'" said team member Mark Clampin of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Observations taken 21 months apart by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys' coronagraph show that the object is moving along a path around the star, and is therefore gravitationally bound to it. The planet is 10.7 billion miles from the star, or about 10 times the distance of the planet Saturn from our sun.

The planet is brighter than expected for an object of three Jupiter masses. One possibility is that it has a Saturn-like ring of ice and dust reflecting starlight. The ring might eventually coalesce to form moons. The ring's estimated size is comparable to the region around Jupiter and its four largest orbiting satellites.

Kalas and his team first used Hubble to photograph Fomalhaut in 2004, and made the unexpected discovery of its debris disk, which scatters Fomalhaut's starlight. At the time they noted a few bright sources in the image as planet candidates. A follow-up image in 2006 showed that one of the objects is moving through space with Fomalhaut but changed position relative to the ring since the 2004 exposure. The amount of displacement between the two exposures corresponds to an 872-year-long orbit as calculated from Kepler's laws of planetary motion.

Future observations will attempt to see the planet in infrared light and will look for evidence of water vapor clouds in the atmosphere. This would yield clues to the evolution of a comparatively newborn 100-million-year-old planet. Astrometric measurements of the planet's orbit will provide enough precision to yield an accurate mass.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2013 will be able to make coronagraphic observations of Fomalhaut in the near- and mid-infrared. Webb will be able to hunt for other planets in the system and probe the region interior to the dust ring for structures such as an inner asteroid belt."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rose Center Anniversary Isaac Asimov Debate: Is Earth Unique?

"Join astrophysicist and Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson as he hosts and moderates a panel discussion dedicated to the perennial question "Is Earth Unique?" With what we now know about the stars in our galaxy and the planets that orbit them, we can begin to address this question with informed debate."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Terrestrial Planet Finder

"Terrestrial Planet Finder is a mission concept currently under study by NASA for a potential future mission suite. TPF would study all aspects of exoplanets: from their formation and development in disks of dust and gas around newly forming stars to their suitability as abodes for life."


If you are really into this, I suggest reading the book for free.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hey there, blimpy boy

The dirigible is pretty great, but really the ladders are blowing my mind the most. Can you imagine being at the top of one? What if it starts to roll away?

Footage from prototype helicopters - Bell 1940s

"Various model of helicopter prototypes conceived by Lawrence Dale Bell in the US from 1941 to 1945, including shots of a chilling accident happened to a test pilot during a take off attempt. He was wearing no helmet and no seat belts, so he was very lucky to survive with a broken shoulder and arm."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Nuclear power accidents

I have just started reading Uranium:

The timing feels appropriate, what with the multiple meltdowns going on in Japan, and the author of the sometimes great, sometimes Sarah Palinesque, Unwanted Blog suggesting that nuclear activists (with communist puppet masters) caused the meltdowns in Japan.

Many would have you think that nuclear power is perfectly safe. Others think that it is automatically going to result in disaster. Neither group is correct. Nuclear power can be safe, but has often been dangerous in the past. The problem is complex, because the technology is complex. For example, letting the lowest bidder buy and operate a plant is a bad idea. Also, having insiders from the industry work in regulation later is not a great idea. On the other hand, most nuclear plants run for decades without any major problems. When they do have an accident, usually the results are minor. Rarely, there are actually serious accidents. Sure even the worst accident only caused a few thousand premature deaths (mostly from cancer years later). And a very small accident like the one in Japan is only going to cause a few dozen cancer deaths at most (the exact number is impossible to state because of the probability involved), but then again how would you like to get thyroid cancer? It matters if the deaths can be prevented. And so far, every nuclear accident could have been prevented. Usually it is a matter of being a bit more humble, a bit more cautious, or spending a bit more money. Here are some major accidents from the past:

Worst nuclear accidents

The source for this information is somewhat biased. Their comments on the accidents appear to be modest and factual, but the commentary at the end means one should carefully consider the point of the article. Having said that, the scientific information on this page is typically quite good. For example, they participated in a much needed debunking of the super-moon hoax. (That was even on CNN as one anchor stated that parts of the ocean had "run dry" as a result of a super low tide, and that ships had crashed as a result.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

JWST Sunshield

1/3rd scale shield

"The James Webb Space Telescope has a unique shield to protect its sensitive instruments from the heat and light of the sun. The sunshield is like an umbrella popping open on the shores of the cosmos that allows the instruments beneath it to see far into the universe.

Like a beach umbrella protects people from the sun's heat and ultraviolet radiation, the sunshield protects the telescope and the sensitive infrared instruments that fly beneath the Webb telescope's sunshield from our sun's heat and light. "Each of the five layers of the shield is less than half the thickness of a piece of paper. The five work together to create an effective SPF (or Sun Protection Factor) of 1,000,000," said John Durning, Deputy Project Manager for the James Webb Space Telescope Project, at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

A new video takes viewers to Northrop Grumman's Astro Aerospace in Carpinteria, Calif. to understand the mechanics necessary to unfold the large tennis-court sized sunshield. In the 3:00 minute video, engineers are interviewed to explain how the new technology extends the sunshield in space and unfurls it before the Webb telescope attains orbit one million miles from Earth."


Shaped charge vs armor

"Those are bird strikes. Sparrows, to be precise."

Kennedy Space Center staff makes space shuttle orbiter

This time-lapse video shows employees at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., taking a few moments to assemble for a historic aerial photo outside of the Vehicle Assembly Building. Thousands of workers stood side-by-side to form an outline of a space shuttle orbiter. The event was organized in honor of the Space Shuttle Program's 30-year legacy, soon to end.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spitzer image of center of Milky Way

"Stars Gather in 'Downtown' Milky Way
The region around the center of our Milky Way galaxy glows colorfully in this new version of an image taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

The data were previously released as part of a long, 120-degree view of the plane our galaxy (see Now, data from the very center of that picture are being presented at a different contrast to better highlight this jam-packed region. In visible-light pictures, it is all but impossible to see the heart of our galaxy, but infrared light penetrates the shroud of dust giving us this unprecedented view.

In this Spitzer image, the myriad of stars crowding the center of our galaxy creates the blue haze that brightens towards the center of the image. The green features are from carbon-rich dust molecules, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are illuminated by the surrounding starlight as they swirl around the galaxy's core. The yellow-red patches are the thermal glow from warm dust. The polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and dust are associated with bustling hubs of young stars. These materials, mixed with gas, are required for making new stars.

The brightest white feature at the center of the image is the central star cluster in our galaxy. At a distance of 26,000 light years away from Earth, it is so distant that, to Spitzer's view, most of the light from the thousands of individual stars is blurred into a single glowing blotch. Astronomers have determined that these stars are orbiting a massive black hole that lies at the very center of the galaxy.

The region pictured here is immense, with a horizontal span of 2,400 light-years (5.3 degrees) and a vertical span of 1,360 light-years (3 degrees). Though most of the objects seen in this image are located near the galactic center, the features above and below the galactic plane tend to lie closer to Earth.

The image is a three-color composite, showing infrared observations from two of Spitzer instruments. Blue represents 3.6-micron light and green shows 8-micron light, both captured by Spitzer's infrared array camera. Red is 24-micron light detected by Spitzer's multiband imaging photometer. The data is a combination of observations from the Galactic Legacy Infrared Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire (GLIMPSE) project, and the Multiband Imaging Photometer for Spitzer Galactic survey (MIPSGAL).

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech"


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Three views of the Moon


First Moon Landing, One Shot, 1969, Apollo 11

"This is one shot, starting about 10 minutes before touch down. Seen trough the right window of Lunar Module (LM). Landing on the Sea of Tranquility : 20 July 1969 20:17,40 UTC.

Video starts at 40 000 ft above the Moon surface. "You are go to Continued Power Descent"."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Nuclear rockets and tests at area 25

BREN (Bare Reactor Experiment, Nevada) Tower
Located at Area 25 - Jackass Flats, Nevada Test Site.

Nerva nuclear rocket test footage:

(Action begins at 3:35.)

And check out this great Soviet video about nuclear thermal rocket engines:

Will they try top-kill or golf balls next?

"TOKYO — Japanese officials struggled on Sunday to contain a widening nuclear crisis in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake and tsunami, saying they presumed that partial meltdowns had occurred at two crippled reactors and that they were bracing for a second explosion, even as they faced serious cooling problems at four more reactors." NY Times

I am no expert, and also a large fan of nuclear power for certain purposes. For space exploration, the production of radioactive isotopes, for research, and even power generation under the right conditions, I think nuclear power is very useful. But all the same, I am shocked that we are still not able to scram a civilian reactor sufficiently and put it in a configuration in which it no longer generates even a few percentage points of operational heat. Even if that means having an emergency configuration in which the entire core and vessel is split into a few pieces that can be moved far apart or dropped into a tank of water and reactor poison (neutron poison) like boron. Further, as said in a previous post, it is hard to imagine that there is no emergency method for the cooling of a core by totally passive means such as a reservoir or in this case, by seawater. It should be automatically activated when the generator system fails. In addition, if triple redundancy is to be had for generator systems, three identical generators in the same location cannot be considered suitable. Each generator must be a different type, and located in a different place. One should be on the ground, the other high in the air (to prevent damage from tsunamis which, yes, come from the Ocean sometimes.) The third should be underground or indoors and resistant to attack by humans.

Basically, it seems as if the ability to react to a disaster near a nuclear power plant (earthquake, flood, tsunami, terrorist attack) has not changed much since 9-11, not changed much since April 26th, 1986, not changed much since March 28th, 1979. And all the while, experts proclaim that another accident is simply impossible. Yet all it takes is a temporary loss of power, plus the failure of a few identical generators (all vulnerable to the same fault), for several cores to meltdown (Chernobyl) and hydrogen explosions (Three Mile Island) to damage power plant infrastructure. As usual, these experts either profited from the expansion of the nuclear power industry, or were simply unwilling to imagine scenarios in which humans were unable to anticipate things like earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan. What language is "tsunami" anyway?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Explosion at nuclear power plan in Japan - Fukushima Daiichi plant

This is a very large and powerful explosion. The sources in Japan claim it was a steam explosion. Either way it looks massive indeed. And considering the proximity to the core, alarming.

It looks very bad for nuclear power if an advanced nation, using some of the best nuclear technology, loses a plant and has several other cooling problems after an earthquake. Odds are there will not be a large radioactive release and the danger is not as high as most would think. Indeed the greatest risk is probably panic. But all the same, these plants must have been designed with large earthquakes in mind. Hopefully they can cool the cores properly and also prevent any further explosions. It looks as if the emergency cooling generators, a typical part of any nuclear plant, failed at the Daiichi plant. Chernobyl occurred during a test to see if the emergency generators there could be given enough time to turn on and gain full speed (a minute or so) by using the power generating turbine system as it spooled down. That did not work out, largely due to a cascade of human errors. In this case, it is important to see why these generators failed. I personally wonder about building plants at locations where there can be a passive emergency cooling system. A large water tower is not enough in this instance, but perhaps a small gravity fed reservoir serving the reactor cores via a shock-mounted pipeline or hose system?

"An explosion at a nuclear power plant in northern Japan on Saturday blew the roof off one building, brought down walls and caused a radiation leak of unspecified proportions, Japanese officials said, after Friday’s huge earthquake caused critical failures in the plant’s cooling system.

The Fukushima nuclear power plant before and after a reported explosion that affected a building at the bottom, left on Saturday. Television images showed a huge cloud of white-gray smoke from the explosion. Soon afterward, government officials said an evacuation zone around the plant had been doubled, to 12 miles.

The chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano, confirmed earlier news reports of an explosion at the Fukishima Daiichi nuclear plant, 15o miles north of Tokyo, saying: “We are looking into the cause and the situation and we’ll make that public when we have further information.” He was speaking amid fears that a disastrous meltdown could be imminent after critical cooling failures at that plant and another nearby, Daini, after both were shut down.

Images on Japanese television showed that the walls of one building had crumbled, leaving only a skeletal metal frame standing with smoke billowing from the plant. The Associated Press reported that the damaged building housed a nuclear reactor, though that report was not immediately verified by nuclear officials. The cause of the explosion was unclear, with some experts speculating that it may have resulted from a hydrogen build-up."

NY Times

The plant is now cooling on battery tertiary backup power, good enough for a few hours. Hopefully this will buy enough time for sufficient cooling or to get the generators working again. If the core overheats and runs dry (all coolant boils off), there is a good chance that even so long after the scram, the fuel system can melt. If fuel elements melt and slump together, reactivity can increase. A super-prompt critical condition is highly unlikely, but possible. And then you have your disaster.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan - 8.9 Earthquake and 10 meter tsunami

"TOKYO — A devastating tsunami hit the coast of northeast Japan on Friday in the aftermath of an 8.9 magnitude earthquake about 80 miles offshore, killing at least 23 people and injuring many more. The earthquake triggered widespread power blackouts, and countries across the Pacific Ocean, from Russia to South America and including Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States, braced for possible tsunami waves." - NY Times

Images from AP

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Old NASA footage

Wont let me embed.
"Tests conducted in 1959 at NASA Langley Research Center's 20 foot Vertical Spin Tunnel. Along with reentry vehicles other model footage can be seen in this video."

Same problem with this video.
"The test demonstrates the investigation of the dynamic stability and controllability of a towed model of a modified half-cone reentry vehicle. The test was conducted by Robert E. Shanks in NASA Langley Research Center's Full Scale Tunnel."

Test of the US Akron and Lakehurst Hangar
"Test conducted in NASA Langley Research Center's Full Scale Tunnel in 1935. The first part of the clip shows the tests of a 1/14 scale airship. Smoke streams were used in this test. The second half of the clip shows smoke streams being used to test a 1/14 scale model of the airship's hangar which was located in Lakehurst, New Jersey. The purpose was to measure pressure-distribution measurements.The two engineers who conducted the test, Smith DeFrance and Abe Silverstein, later became Directors of NACA laboratories at Ames and Lewis, respectively."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

ISS and Shuttle against the Sun

Date: 07.03.2011
Subject: ISS transit
1 frame @ ISO 100, 1/1000s
GPU Optical 102/640 APO
Herschel Prism
Telextender Meade 2x, Canon EOS 550D
Pixinsight, PS CS5
Author: Cătălin Fus

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hubble revisits proto-planetary nebula CRL 618

"Observations with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope show a previously unknown richness of detail in the intriguing proto-planetary nebula CRL 618. CRL 618 is a superb example of the transition taking place in the later stages of the life of a star like the Sun after it has lost most of its mass and before it emerges as a fully-fledged butterfly-like planetary nebula. CRL 618 is evolving so rapidly that we can literally watch through Hubble's eyes the hatching of one of these heavenly butterflies from its dusty cocoon. This snapshot of cosmic evolution provides important clues for current theories of the origin and evolution of planetary nebulae."

The top image was taken by Hubble first, and the next and more recent observation is supposed to be far more detailed. Which do you like more? Post a comment. Personally I prefer the color and composition in the older image, but for the sake of science clearly it is not quite as good. Because this is Hubble, it looks as if this object is quite small indeed. If Hubble can only get it this sharp, we need to get JWST on the job also!

Alien life pt. 2 (probably not ^2)

Mr. Plait, who was far gentler than he had to be the first time, delves into the topic more in this post, and it is not looking good for the article, author, or journal.
Bad Astro (As in "Your love is like bad astronomy. Bad astronomy is what I need.")

One quote from the article recalls my previous point about microscopy:

"As a microbiologist who has looked at thousands of microbes through a microscope, and done some of my own electron microscopy, I see no convincing evidence that these particles are of biological origin. " - Rocco Mancinelli - Bay Area Environmental Research Institute.

This is really the science equivalent of Morgellons disease. By that I mean a person gets a microscope, knows what they want to find, and then starts searching. If you know what you want to find, and you presume it is there, odds are you will find it. Even if you wind up being wrong. Microscopy is a discipline and even a art sometimes; it demands lots of practice. A person who picks up a cheap toy microscope and looks for Morgellons worms in their scab is going to find cotton fibers, which naturally move under bright light as they dry, and as a result of tiny air currents, and call them living worms. Similarly, a somewhat legit somewhat fringe scientist who has (for years) been claiming that life exists in rocks from space, but one who has only modest SEM experience, is going to find tubes and call them bacteria. That is the whole point of science; to protect us from our own self-deluding nature. And the whole point of peer reviewed journals is to find out problems like this and hold scientists to a very high standard.

Please don't let my comments come off the wrong way: This is valuable research and we should be looking at meteorites very carefully. But because this is so important, we must proceed carefully and take all results as preliminary until they are overwhelming. We cannot claim that, based on shape alone, these objects are bacteria. To do so actually hurts astro-biology and hurts our credibility among the public.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Life found in a meteorite? Probably not.

The Journal of Cosmology has posted an article called "Fossils of Cyanobacteria in CI1 Carbonaceous Meteorites" by Richard B. Hoover, Ph.D. NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center.

Now the quality of this work should stand on it's own, and at first this scientist is able to talk the talk. However, as a microscopist, I am most skeptical when people claim to see something under a microscope that is unlikely. It is very easy to look for life (as I bet this author was) and then find it under the Scanning Electron Microscope. If you look for rods and spheres, you will find them eventually at some magnification. That hardly means that you have found micro-fossils. Specimen preparation can produce a wide range of artifacts - and it is very easy for bacteria on Earth to get into any nook and cranny you can imagine. We find micro-organisms in just about any place we look on Earth, including deep underground and inside of rocks. Not to mention inside the human body, nuclear reactors, and certainly on the hands of SEM operators. To be honest, these objects look more like non-living artifacts or in a few cases, clay minerals. But that is just what it looks like to me. All that matters is that these observations be used to make testable predictions about the future (hypotheses) and that these are then falsifiable with future research. Where do we go next? Obviously the final word is that we need to visit these objects around the solar system and look for extant life directly.

I also have serious doubts about this journal in general. The production value of it (comparable to this humble blog), the fact that there are Google ads and ads, and the fact that there are blog posts and comments, all make me wonder how carefully they check articles. Is this unfair? Compare it to other journals and scientific web pages; Nature, the FAS, or the NYAS. Clearly they have more money, and clearly making a new journal is hard. But if you are not getting the money, there may be a reason for that. Either NASA and the Illuminati are out to get you (see the letter below), or there may be a quality control problem with your product. The product of a journal is carefully reviewed scientific research. The one thread that links all sciences, including anthropology, is not the hypothetico-deductive method (despite what students are told in high school), rather it is the peer review process. That ensures that good science survives while flawed research is respectfully left behind.

Having scanned some previous articles, my impression is that basically this is a place to go for real or slightly fringe scientists to publish articles that cannot be published elsewhere because the work is a bit too tenuous or the claims made go a bit to far. By this I mean that, while many of the articles are a good read, many of them are also opinion based or speculative. It is a good read, but one should be (as always) very careful about the claims made by any source, particularly this source.

Here is what Phil Plait has to say about this, taking a careful skeptical path (as everyone should when confronted with extreme claims) and also treading far more lightly than he could have when critiquing this journal. He does mention that one of their editors has made some outrageous claims in the past: Chandra Wickramasinghe.

Also, note that the Journal of Cosmology appears to be closing. Take the following statements, as always, with a huge grain of salt:

Feb 14, 2011
"Journal of Cosmology To Stop Publishing--Killed by Thieves and Crooks

JOC will publish its last edition in May of 2011.

The Journal of Cosmology (JOC) was founded in the summer of 2009, published its first edition in October, and immediately became a success. Within one year it was receiving nearly 1 million hits a month and dozens of news articles were appearing regularly about its content--a phenomenal achievement for a scientific journal.

Naturally, JOC's success posed a direct threat to traditional subscription based science periodicals, such as "science" magazine; just as online news killed many newspapers. Not surprisingly, JOC was targeted by science magazine and others who engaged in illegal, criminal, anti-competitive acts to prevent JOC from distributing news about its online editions and books.

Because JOC's editorial policy was to publish all peer reviewed science-based theory, including articles which directly challenged the "sacred cows" of "conventional wisdom", its success posed a direct threat to the entire scientific establishment and the "gate-keepers" who wish to protect easily disproved myths and crush dissenting views. Suddenly, here was this upstart, highly successful scientific journal, with a prestigious editorial board, which was directly challenging the status quo and their control over science.

JOC also threatened the status quo at NASA.

As we all know, the leadership at NASA is a disaster. Just last month NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel concluded that NASA is "adrift" and dysfunctional. Its leadership is under attack by Congress and is good only at leading a retreat and killing programs. They are running scared with their heads down, fearful of upcoming Congressional hearings, fearful of more criticism, fearful of losing their jobs. Fear. Fear. Fear. If these nincompoops and gutless wonders had been in power during the 1960s we would have never made it to the Moon and would not have a space program today. No clear goals, no direction, a space program completely adrift, this is the leadership at NASA.

The Journal of Cosmology stepped into the leadership gap and published a special edition explaining how a mission to Mars could be accomplished and paid for--as detailed in a brilliant article by Dr. Rhawn Joseph (Marketing Mars). Twenty four NASA scientists contributed, including two astronauts who walked on the Moon, over 120 top scientists in total.

How did NASA's leadership respond? With fear. What if NASA's leadership were asked to explain this before Congress? So, they sabotaged, interfered with, and blocked press releases by their own Senior Scientist, and kept secret, from reporters, a press conference at NASA to discuss the human mission to Mars book and JOC's special Mars edition edited by a member of their own science directorate. The leadership at NASA headquarters is afraid of losing their jobs, they are being attacked as incompetent failures by Congress, and here was JOC and top NASA scientists saying: Onward to Mars. Better to kill the messenger.

As it turned out, certain people at NASA have a business relationship with JOC's competitors. As the folks at NASA admitted in a letter to Dr. Joseph (dated 2/13/2011), they knowingly plagiarized his article, they knew its purpose was to promote JOC and his business plan, and they stripped his name and all mention of JOC from the article, and used it instead to promote themselves and their publishing partners in the private sector. Dr. Joseph summed it up this way: "What a bunch of crooks."

When people working for NASA decide to steal from you, and when NASA (the U.S. Government) is in business with your competitors, it is time to say "Adios."
The April Edition of the Journal of Cosmology will be devoted to: "Consciousness and the Universe" (edited by Sir Roger Penrose of Oxford).

The final May edition, will be devoted to astrobiology, astrochemistry, and the pioneering work of Fred Hoyle (who coined the term "the big bang") and his colleague (and JOC editor) Chandra Wickramasinghe who along with Hoyle, coined the term: "Astrobiology."
In this final edition, evidence will be presented, demonstrating that life on Earth has a genetic pedigree extending backwards in time by over 10 billion years (billions of years before Earth was formed). We have the evidence. Its in our genes.

Life on Earth, Came From Other Planets ---and this is something the Bible-thumpers, the "leadership" at NASA, and the status quo, do not want the public to know.
With nearly a million hits a month, JOC turns off the lights as a winner. The loser is the public... but this is the history of science, and the nature of business. Its just the way it is."

Truly, Lana Tao

Sounds like a very bitter, very emotional statement. Real journals have no argument to sell, no desire to fight horrible leadership at NASA or "Bible Thumpers." Real journals present scientific research which is supported by evidence. And science stands alone quite well, supported internally, and needs no angry advocacy.

The more I think about this story, the more I think this was just a final publicity grab by a group of scientists who, as too often is the case, are very good at their area but then know precious little about other branches of science.

The journal even has a shockingly petty attack on Phil:

"The torches and pitchforks crowd, led by astronomer-wannabe Phil Plait claims its not so. But then, Plait's most famous discovery was finding one of his old socks when it went missing after a spin in his dryer." Source from search.

Not only does good science stand alone, good scientists do not have to rely on personal attacks or arguments from authority to convince anyone. I don't know what we are losing when this journal closes, but I somehow doubt it is very much.

Is there life elsewhere in the Universe? Almost certainly. Have we found it yet? Probably not. Has this paper proven anything conclusive? Certainly not.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

All-solid Nova design

The Unwanted Blog is the ideal place to find new and strange rockets, and this post is no exception. The proposed, but never built, project is for a Nova class launch vehicle that is made of large, seemingly monolithic solid motor units in every stage. Like a giant project farside rocket scaled up! (Hmm how about launching this as a rockoon off of a 1,000,000,000 cf solar-thermal balloon?)

For more information, there is a PDF article. (It may take a while to load on your computer depending on Internet conditions.)

Friday, March 4, 2011


Despite the failure of the previous hit counter, recent estimates put the total page views for this page at more than 500,000 views to date. The actual number was passed some time this month, but it is certainly over that number by today. Most of these views were people simply searching "High Power Rocketry" while trying to buy rocket kits or motors, but thousands of them belong to you the loyal readers who come back often. Thanks are due to you most of all for making this small page enjoyable to maintain.

Here are some of the things that the more random set have been searching via Google when they arrive here:

high power rocketry - 133
high powered rocketry - 112
hmcs fraser sailor hat - 90
high power rockets - 47
q motor - 43
tnt gigatons to solar flare - 41
frag grenade - 39
glory launch failure - 39
high power rocket - 33
high power rocket motors - 28

Glory mission launch failure

"NASA Launch Director Omar Baez said the countdown and launch went smoothly until the point at which they should have received data indicating that the fairing had separated from the vehicle.

Once more data is analyzed, the teams hope to have a better understanding of what went wrong and where in the South Pacific the spacecraft may have landed.

The new Earth-observing satellite was intended to improve our understanding of how the sun and tiny atmospheric particles called aerosols affect Earth's climate.

Project management for Glory is the responsibility of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The launch management for the mission is the responsibility of NASA's Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., is the launch service provider to Kennedy of the four-stage Taurus XL rocket and is also builder of the Glory satellite for Goddard."
Universe Today

I blame Al Gore and the East Coast liberals.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

100K rocketry challenge

(Kosdon Thunderbolt)

John Carmack, of ID fame, is offering $5,000 for the first team to fly above 100,000 feet (done several times before) while meeting several other conditions:

"You must publicly register the project on the "aRocket" mailing list with a description of the vehicle at least 30 days before the first attempt.
Announce the location and dates of the launch attempt, so everyone gets to share the anticipation and drama.
You must supply a GPS serial log of the flight with at least one report above 100,000 feet.
The vehicle must be recovered essentially intact, within 24 hours of the launch.
You must supply video of at least the launch portion (ideally there would be video of the entire flight to recovery).
A report on the vehicle and operations suitable for publishing in a magazine must be made publicly available on the Internet."

This kind of goal is doable on a good Q motor, or an O to N flight (CTI 150mm O to an N1100 would be a good match.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Video of Project Daedalus

"The world's first engineering study of an unmanned spaceship to explore one of the nearer stars was made by a technical group of the British Interplanetary Society between 1973-77. The target selected for the exercise was Barnard's Star, nearly 6 light years distant from Earth. The contributors recognised that the work, based on the technology extrapolated to the beginning of the 21st Century, could represent only a first approximation to the solution of starflight.

The results showed it would be a formidable task requiring a massive craft that would dwarf the Saturn V moon rocket, the largest space vehicle yet flown by man. Daedalus, as conceived, would weigh some 54,000 tonnes, nearly 20 times the weight of the Saturn V, carrying nearly 500 tonnes of fully automated payload. Because of the enormous time lag involved in radio communications between the Earth and the ship, a semi-intelligent computer would have to control the entire ship and work out all actions necessary for the exploration phase of the mission.

The result was a two stage, nuclear fusion powered vehicle, unmanned and under autonomous operation due to the distances involved, accelerated to 16% of the speed of light, and armed with a variety of probes, sensors, robotic wardens and intelligent decision making computers. Although the journey could take as long as 40 years, a flyby at such speeds would be over in 70 hours.

Although the study was conducted during the 1970's, it's still referred to today, even in NASA, as a baseline study. Any future mission to the stars probably won't look anything like Daedalus, but it gives a good idea of the complexity and scale of task, and the length of time it would take to get to even the closest stars.

No estimate of the cost of such an enterprise could be made, but it would be way beyond the capacity of an individual nation, and would probably need a period of world stability unlike any we have seen to date. (Source:

Credits: British Interplanetary Society & Adrian Mann"