This!

NASA’s mission is not safety, says Rand Simberg, and I agree 200%. The money quote:

The surest way to make sure our astronauts don’t die in space is to keep them on the ground. And indeed, that is more and more what we do, choosing robotic exploration over opening the frontier to humanity.

The obsession with safety is sincere, if unspoken, testimony to just how unimportant we consider the opening of that final and harshest of frontiers. The last time space was important was when we were racing the Soviets to the moon more than four decades ago. Now, we no longer consider it worth the risk.

And I can’t decide whether this is sad or infuriating. I grew up reading science fiction in which, at the very least, human beings had actively colonized every rock in the solar system — and that is the future I want, damn it!

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ATROCITY – This is Not Science

I recognize that this is a long piece, but I urge you to read through it in its entirety.  The further down the post you go, the more terrified you’ll be for the state of climate science and public policy in general in re: publicly funded scientific research.

This is way…WAY worse than Climategate 1.0 – this is one of the ugliest sequences of misconduct and treachery that I’ve ever heard of in my life in science.  We all recognize the peril when a private company bankrolls science and employs people who are involved in journal scholarship…how is this any different?  Where does the money come from?  The government.  Who employs the journal editors and other bigwigs in climate science?  The government.  Who decides what information reaches the government and the media to inform policy?  THE GOVERNMENT.
Don’t even ATTEMPT to pretend with me that these folks are impartial.  Not after reading this.  Not after see with my own eyes how precisely climate research has been so besotted with tyrannical oppression of opposing points of view.
This is an utter and complete disgrace.

Is FTL Travel Possible?

Modern physicists currently say no, but an experiment at the CERN particle accelerator has thrown doubt on Einstein’s theory:

Has a Speeding Neutrino Really Overturned Einstein?
Michio Kaku @ the Wall Street Journal

Physicists fired a beam of neutrinos (exotic, ghost-like particles that can penetrate even the densest of materials) from Switzerland to Italy, over a distance of 454 miles. Much to their amazement, after analyzing 15,000 neutrinos, they found that they traveled faster than the speed of light—one 60-billionth of a second faster, to be precise. In a billionth of a second, a beam of light travels about one foot. So a difference of 60 feet was quite astonishing.

It’ll be interesting to see whether other groups will be able to replicate these results.

The Sky Is Falling! The Sky Is Falling!

Defunct NASA satellite slows down plunge to Earth,
US no longer out of woods

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A dead 6-ton satellite baffled NASA experts Friday by slowing its descent toward Earth and delaying its ultimate crash until the early part of the weekend.

The space agency is now predicting the satellite will crash down to Earth late Friday or early Saturday, Eastern Time. Increased solar activity had been causing the atmosphere to expand and the satellite to fall more quickly, but that’s no longer such a major factor, experts said. What’s more, the orientation of the satellite apparently has changed in orbit, and that’s slowing its fatal plunge.

Friday morning, NASA cautioned there is now a slim chance any surviving debris will land in the United States. Earlier this week, NASA said North America would be in the clear and that the satellite would strike somewhere Friday afternoon.

The probability that anyone will be hit by a chunk of debris from this satellite is very low, but still — watch your heads!

Gamers – not just losers anymore!

I found this news story beyond cool and into whole new unexplored realms of bad-ass.

Gamers Solve AIDS Mystery

For a little background:

One of the reasons AIDS has been so difficult to defeat even in our age of rapidly advancing scientific progress is that the vital agent which delivers its genetic code into host cells has eluded proper scientific understanding for more than a decade since its discovery in 1999.  There is a retroviral protease ensyme (basically…a protein structure that enables the binding of retroviruses to host cells…the part of the process where the AIDS virus or any other similar retrovirus hijacks the RNA-making machinery of a cell to self-replicate) that has eluded proper understanding for over a decade, which, if its life cycle is properly mapped, could be destroyed before it does its damage, effectively starving the AIDS virus (amongst many others) of reproductive equipment, rendering them inert.  Scientists have never been ble to map the assembly of that structure – they have no idea how the protein building blocks come together – until now.

It seems that if you turn complex biological problems into logic puzzles with clear game-like goals and scoring, then tens of thousands of people with no understanding of biology can attack your problem for you using pure logic and strategy as if they were playing chess or jenga.  Foldit.com – a site that should be commended for its’ insight into human psychology and revolutionary software – received a copy of the AIDS reotrovirus ensyme a short while ago…and gamers solved its’ life cycle in less than 10 days,  That’s right…biologists couldn’t solve it in ten years, but gamers can solve it in ten days.  Wow.

It goes to show you that if you make learning fun and drive it through the parts of our brains that are most keenly developed (those being our strategic and logical reasoning centers, generally, because those are the evolutionary advantages that allowed us to conquer Neanderthal and claim the Earth at the top of the food chain), you’ll solve problems much faster than you will reading scientific literature, which is the EXACT OPPOSITE of fun.