Hidden Nook

"Because in Cyberspace, no one can hear you scream."

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas, Google Style

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Editor's note: Merry Christmas everyone! It looks as if the blogosphere is celebrating Christmas early, while Google kicks off the holidays by tracking Santa via Google Earth (if you have Google Earth, download file here).

Over at Blogger.com, one may have noticed the holiday hat (in orange?) on top of their logo.

At least they did not put any mistletoe up this year. ;)

Well, this author is going to be closing down this blog for the rest of the year (unless something dramatic comes up of coarse). Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all (and for those of Hebrew origins, Happy Hanukkah!).

For the curios ones who decided to expand this post, I've written a new story over at Sol Worlds.

By Darnell Clayton • 5:45 PM • Email Post • •


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bush Signs Umbilical Stem Cell Bill Into Law

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(The Christian Post) President Bush today signed into law a bill that will allow umbilical cords to be used for stem cell research and avoid the controversy over embryonic stem cells. [...]

"So many people don't realize that cord blood and adult stem cells are already treating patients, and have achieved remarkable breakthroughs over the past year," [Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.)] stated.

Despite the non-controversial potential of umbilical stem cells, many hospitals have been unable to use them due to the inability to house the umbilical cords. This law will remove that excuse by providing $265 million for life saving stem cell therapy, with $79 million going towards collection and storage.

(The Christian Post) The national program will also promote stem cell research by requiring participating cord blood banks to donate units not suitable for transplant to researchers and scientists. [...]

"Unlike the empty promises of embryonic stem-cell research, cord-blood stem cells provide patients with real treatment and cures," Wendy Wright, Executive Vice President of Concerned Women for America, noted yesterday in a statement released after Congress passed the bill. "Thousands of patients will have more than just their hopes realized--their lives will be saved and suffering relieved, because this law will make ethical cord-blood stem cells available to them."

Congress hopes this bill will alleviate 90% of the demand of stem cells within the nation, and many pro-lifers hope that this bill will kill the need for embryonic stem cells (a practice requiring the destruction of life to benefit life).

Although the stem cell debate has divided America into what has become an increasingly hostile culture war, both parties should be able to put aside their differences and hopefully work together to develop useful treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and cancer.

Image Credit: White House/Paul Morse, Image from The Christian Post

By Darnell Clayton • 11:00 PM • Email Post • •


Robots Exploring Moon First (NASA)

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(Hat Tip: Lunar Soil)

(The Avion Online) In order to better understand the Moon before actual human presence is there, NASA will send robots to the Moon to study various locals. The robots will help determine landing sites for future missions. They will also determine which, if any, resources, such as oxygen and hydrogen, will be available for use in future manned missions to the Moon.

Using robots to scour the surface of the moon for water, fuel and metals will not only save time selecting hospitable locations but also avoid us selecting hazardous ones as well. Although probably not on the agenda, NASA should also equip the robots with lunar lawnmowers in order to resolve the moon dust issue which can cause havoc to both machine and man (once a site is selected of course).

(The Avion Online) "Establishing research stations on the moon will give us the experience and capabilities to extend to Mars and beyond," Butler Hine, robotics deputy program manager, said in a NASA press release. The first extended human expedition to the lunar surface will take place as early as 2015, but no later than 2020.

The moon is mankind's testing ground for whether or not our species has "grown up." It will determine whether we become a multiplanet species as it is a testing ground for other worlds such as Mars, Europa, Ganymede and Saturn's moons. In the words of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935), a Russian scientist who developed the rocket propulsion theory:
"The Earth is the cradle of mankind, but one cannot remain in the cradle forever."

Editor's note: Amen to that!

By Darnell Clayton • 10:29 PM • Email Post • •


New UN Body Created To Aid After Conflicts

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(Reuters) The U.N. General Assembly and the Security Council voted on Tuesday to create a peacebuilding commission designed to stop renewed warfare by helping countries develop once the fighting stops. [...]

Assembly President Jan Eliasson called the vote "historic" and "our best chance to reverse the trend, which in recent years, has seen around half the countries end their fighting only to lapse back into conflict within five years."

Although several issues such as the human rights commission (which desperately needs reform) and the two year budget need to be ironed out, it appears as if the United Nations may be heading down the road towards relevancy. Too often the United Nations is sent in a hostile region, only later to be asked to leave (ironically by the warring factions) and idly sit by while greater powers than they slug it out amongst each other.

This exact scenario is about to be repeated between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and hopefully the international body can intervene lest bloodshed ensues once again.

(Reuters) Compared to other U.N. coordination bodies, the commission seeks to direct governmental bilateral aid as well as that from the United Nations and financial institutions.

For example, Danish Ambassador Ellen Margrethe Loj, a negotiator of the resolution, said aid was too often distributed in a haphazard manner.

"It doesn't help only to train the policemen if you are not simultaneously ensuring that they have a prison to put the criminals in and a judiciary to try them," she said.

Although the United Nations may be unable to prevent current conflicts, they may be able to prevent future ones. If they are able to reduce the number of conflicts worldwide, America may grant them a wider role in nation building as the United States is already spread thin rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan. Only time will tell whether this new body can handle its rough assignment, but if successful this institution may restore faith back into the UN, at least with the American people.

By Darnell Clayton • 9:48 PM • Email Post • •


Japan Taking On Yahoo And Google?

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(PocketLint.co.uk) The Japanese government will launch its own internet search engine to stop Google and Yahoo dominating in its home market.

According to a government official, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will kick off a study group consisting of about 20 Japanese electronics companies and universities on internet search engines.

Japan intends upon launching their version of "YaGoohoogle" in the next three to five years, although by then Google, Yahoo and Microsoft will probably have segregated internet society and carved out the profits for themselves. Japan seems serious about this initiative, and the government is apparently investing 12 billion yen (or approximately 102,600,000 US dollars) into the project. END

By Darnell Clayton • 9:37 PM • Email Post • •


Is Mars Exiting An Ice Age?

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(Hat Tip: Red Colony)

(Space.com) Scientists have suspected in recent years that Mars might be undergoing some sort of global warming. New data points to the possibility it is emerging from an ice age. [...]

"One explanation could be that Mars is just coming out of an ice age," Feldman said. "In some low-latitude areas, the ice has already dissipated. In others, that process is slower and hasn't reached an equilibrium yet. Those areas are like the patches of snow you sometimes see persisting in protected spots long after the last snowfall of the winter."

If Mars is indeed exiting an ice age, this will probably come as a mixed blessing for scientists and Martian enthusiasts alike. A warmer Mars increases the chance that this world can be terra-formed, as it is probably easier to accelerate a warming planet than to initiate global warming artificially. A side affect of this is that potential water resources on the red planet may evaporate before colonists have a chance to use them, which may force colonies to settle around the Martian north pole.

(Space.com) Frozen water makes up as much as 10 percent of the top 3 feet (1 meter) of surface material in some regions close to the equator. Dust deposits may be covering and insulating the lingering ice, Feldman said. [...]

"A model that fits the data has three layers near the surface," said William Boynton of the University of Arizona, Tucson, team leader for the gamma-ray spectrometer instrument on Odyssey. "The very top layer would be dry, with no ice. The next layer would contain ice in the pore spaces between grains of soil. Beneath that would be a very ice-rich layer, 60 to nearly 100 percent water ice."

Hopefully the red planet will not melt too quickly, as water is Mars's greatest resource for future residents, as there appears to be no other resources of value upon the dusty worlds soil. Although our understanding of Mars has increased by leaps and bounds over the years, there is still so much humanity will have to learn about it if we intend upon investing our lives upon its surface.

Author Broadcast: Red Chasm (short story)

By Darnell Clayton • 9:14 PM • Email Post • •


Swiss Hospitals Permitting Euthanasia

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(ABC News Online) A Swiss hospital says it will allow euthanasia on its premises to the terminally ill. The hospital in the city of Lausanne will be the first in Switzerland to allow the practice.

Assisted suicide is permitted under Swiss law, but until now hospitals have refused to allow euthanasia to be committed on site.

After "careful consideration" doctors will allow euthanasia to be practiced within its walls at the beginning of next year. Although the guidelines for those seeking to end their lives is strict (i.e. soundness of mind, terminally ill, etc.) it will not be too surprising if abuse is discovered. END

By Darnell Clayton • 9:02 PM • Email Post • •


Monday, December 19, 2005

Federal Ruling On Intelligent Design

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Updated: Expand post and scroll down for details.

(MSNBC) A ruling in a landmark federal "intelligent design" trial is expected to be handed down Tuesday, according to court officials.

Judge John E. Jones III's response to six weeks of testimony could determine whether the concept--which attributes the origin of life and the emergence of highly complex life forms to an unidentified intelligent force — can be mentioned in public school science classes.

Scientists, whether Creationists or Evolutionists will be awaiting Judge Jones decision tomorrow, which will either allow the debate to be taught throughout high schools in America or only allow the viewpoint of evolution to be discussed in biology class.

This whole case started a year ago when the Dover Area School Board in PA voted to require students to hear a statement about ID, declaring that evolution is not a fact and has unexplainable gaps. This resulted in a lawsuit by eight families, contending with the decision by the board, objecting to the introduction of ID in the school system.

(MSNBC) Jones' ruling could go in one of three directions, legal experts have said.

He could rule in support of the school district's decision that intelligent design in high-school biology class does not violate the First Amendment, thereby paving the way for the concept to be introduced in public schools across the country.

Or he could decide that intelligent design is unconstitutional because it's religion disguised as science.

Jones could also decide that school board members were motivated by religion when they voted to include intelligent design in the biology curriculum, but avoid ruling on whether intelligent design is legitimate science.

Proponents and opponents of Intelligent Design will have to wait until tomorrow's ruling to know the status of their case. Although many evolutionists argue that Intelligent Design lacks scientific credibility, (as how does one prove God's existence?) ID supporters could counter this by simply viewing the gaps in the evolutionary chart. Although some have provided reasons for these gaps (something Talk Origins attempts to address here, here and here) none of them stand up to common sense and reason.

If evolution did indeed occur on planet Earth, then where are the millions of transitional forms? Despite the rarity of fossils, (due to scavengers, weather and sediment upheaval, etc.) one would assume that these transitional forms would still outnumber the established ones, unless of course animals mutated immediately producing another species (a theory that is laughably unlikely). If evolutionists wish to end the debate then they should allow ID to be presented to the students allowing them to decide for themselves.

After all, if evolution is an established scientific fact, then what are they so afraid of?

Update: Judge has ruled against ID, Kinshasa on the Potamic has the details.

By Darnell Clayton • 11:56 PM • Email Post • •


Towards Pluto...And Beyond

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(MSNBC) A small spacecraft bound for Pluto was being prepared for transfer to the launch pad on Friday in preparation for blastoff next month, NASA officials said.

New Horizons is the centerpiece of a $650 million mission to explore the last of the solar system's original nine planets. Scientists recently have discovered hundreds of Pluto-like objects orbiting more than 50 times farther away from the sun than Earth.

The New Horizon probe weighs about half-a-ton and is nuclear powered (via plutonium pellets), as opposed to solar powered because the suns rays are not powerful enough to generate electricity that deep into space. Scientists will not be able to gather any useful data on Pluto for approximately 9.5 years, and possibly even longer for some of the more interesting Kuiper belt objects (such as Xena and Gabrielle).

The New Horizons spacecraft is set to launch in early 2006, bound for distant Pluto and its moon, Charon, as well as Kuiper Belt objects.

(MSNBC) If the probe is not launched by Feb. 2, New Horizons will miss the opportunity to pick up extra speed by zooming close to Jupiter in 2007 for a slingshot boost from the giant planet's gravity. A direct flight to Pluto would take an additional three years, scientists estimate.

At its speed, there is no chance New Horizons can slow down and enter into orbit around Pluto for an extended stay. The probe does not carry the tremendous amount of fuel required for a braking maneuver.

Instead, the spacecraft and its sensors will target Pluto and its moons from about five months before closest approach to one month after, then head out in search of new subjects.

Hopefully the launching details of this space probe can be finalized, as it would be ashamed to have to wait an additional three years because of a few technical difficulties. Pluto is one of the nine planets that orbit the solar system (ten including Xena) and probably one of the most unique as it is the only world who is gravitationally locked with its moon, Charon. Pluto is believed to also harbor a thin atmosphere, but until a probe confirms this belief, Pluto will remain a puzzle at the edge of our solar system.

Author Broadcast: Icy Bridge (short story)

By Darnell Clayton • 11:19 PM • Email Post • •


Could Science Resurrect The Mammoth?

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(MSNBC) Scientists have mapped part of the genome of the woolly mammoth, a huge mammal that's been extinct for about 10,000 years. The breakthrough could lead to re-creating the creatures.

A team led by Hendrik Poinar at McMaster University unlocked secrets of the creature's nuclear DNA by working with a well-preserved 27,000-year-old specimen from Siberia. Colleagues at Penn State sequenced 1 percent of the genome in a few hours and say they expect to finish the whole genome in about a year if funding is provided.

Although scientists are currently far from able to breathe life into any creature today, prehistoric or modern, the ability to resequence the DNA of this ancient beast does open the possibility. If such a feat were possible in today's world, one would wonder where would man draw the line with resurrecting certain animals, especially dangerous ones as such feat may destabilize current ecosystems. (imagine Raptures in the woods of North America).

But it seems that some scientists may have an alternative towards resurrecting these ancient creatures by recreating them inside similar ones.

Hendrik Poinar, a geneticist with McMaster University, has sequenced a portion of the genome from a woolly mammoth. Poinar is pictured with the remains of Dima, a baby woolly mammoth unearthed in 1977.

(MSNBC) Other researchers have expressed a desire to revive the mammoth by injecting frozen sperm DNA — if they can find some — into elephants. Over several generations, they'd create a creature that's 88 percent mammoth.

The DNA revealed by Poinar's group is "very similar to the African elephant genome," the group writes in their journal paper.

Although bringing back extinct animals may appeal to the masses, one must remember that in doing so (regardless of the means how) may have its severe consequences. One only has to reflect on the movie Jurassic Park to imagine a creature escaping outside of its habitat and causing havoc towards whatever human populace it encounters. Science, although giving humanity the ability to alter creation around them must be used productively, otherwise we may bring back a species that could lead towards our own mass extinction.

By Darnell Clayton • 10:56 PM • Email Post • •


SpaceX Delays (Rocket Damage)

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(MSNBC) Three weeks after its first try fizzled out, a low-cost rocket company had to postpone its maiden launch once again on Monday when a faulty valve created a dent in the rocket's fuel tank.

Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, fueled up its partially reusable Falcon 1 rocket for liftoff from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, on a mission to put the FalconSat 2 plasma-monitoring satellite into orbit for the U.S. Air Force Academy.

This is an unfortunate set back for SpaceX, which aims to reduce the cost of launching men and machines into space. Although the cause of the dent was due towards electrical fault and not structural design, engineers are taking a closer look at the rocket in order to certify that the entire rocket is sound (as the last thing the space industry needs is another Challenger).

(MSNBC) SpaceX is hoping that the launch, funded by the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency as well as the Air Force, will be the first in a series of low-cost liftoffs from Kwajalein as well as Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The estimated price tag for a Falcon 1 launch is about $6.7 million, far less than the cost of similar launches by more established companies.

The company already has won a military contract worth up to $100 million for small-scale launches through 2010, and it is developing fully reusable, beefed-up versions of the Falcon rocket capable of lofting payloads and people to the international space station and beyond.

That contract depends on whether SpaceX can successfully launch a rocket into orbit. SpaceX was founded by Elon Musk, the creator of Pay Pal (which he later sold to Ebay). Through SpaceX Musk intends upon making humanity a "multiplanet species," who hopes to eventually aid in the colonization of Mars. Although he has faced many setbacks with SpaceX (both physical and legal) Musk is determined to enable mankind to leave his cradle and eventually take his place among the stars.

Image Credit: Thom Rogers / SpaceX

By Darnell Clayton • 10:51 PM • Email Post • •


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Blog Exploration: Farmers A Blogging?

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(MSNBC) University of Illinois Extension is taking on that challenge with a new blog for farmers. The Farm Gate began publishing earlier this fall at http://www.farmgate.uiuc.edu and was announced this month.

It aims to be a place farmers can go to find information on agricultural topics, ranging from crop science to economics to veterinary medicine.

Although a blog search will reveal a host of blogs dedicated towards farming, this site appears to be unique in the fact that it discusses a wide range of farming instead of being dedicated towards a specific area (such as with certain plants, animals or techniques of farming). If a farmer knows their way around the web, the Farm Gate Blog may prove its usefulness, saving the farmer time and hassle Googling relevant information on their own.

(MSNBC) "Instead of farmers looking for all of those ideas, what I can do is go collect them, synthesize them and present a summary of what the viewpoints are," said Ellis, an extension agent in Macon County. [...]

"I think farmers will really gain a lot from having a one-stop shop where you can go and get a variety of information. You name it and it will be there," said Hausman, who serves on an advisory committee for the Farmdoc Web site.

Although this site is fairly new, it will probably quickly become a high traffic "A-list" weblog within a couple of months as their are not too many other blogs dedicated to general farm issues within the blogosphere. The authors even offer ways to reduce taxes, advice every farmer could use in todays economy.

By Darnell Clayton • 11:58 PM • Email Post • •


EBA: Royalists Attack Nepali Blogger

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Emergency Blog Alert via Committee to Protect Bloggers

(Also posted on Mero Sansar) On Dec 14, 2005 army fires indiscrimantely and killed 12 innocent civillians. To protest that, political parties called for valleywide shut down programme on Dec 16, 2005.

There are some peoples who supports for King. They are called "Mandales". On Dec 16, 2005 they attacked protestors and severly beat them. I was at the scene and capturing all those horrific images. Then they came to me and asked to delete all the images and videos. After that they beat me and damaged my digital camera.

Besides that I have been targeted by threaten mails also.

Editor's note: Despite having their freedom stripped away by decree of their King, the Nepalese citizens continue to protest against the monarchy in power. Apparently supporters of the King do not enjoy this type of dissent, and their actions display their feelings towards all who object to the rule by the crowned king.

Blogs discussing Nepal: Keep Nepal Free, We Want Democracy, The John Narayan Times. END

By Darnell Clayton • 11:35 PM • Email Post • •


Israeli Nano-Armor Tougher Than Steel

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(Isracast) An Israeli company has recently tested one of the most shock-resistant materials known to man. Five times stronger than steel and at least twice as strong as any impact-resistant material currently in use as protective gear, the new nano-based material is on its way to becoming the armor of the future.

The company developing this material is ApNano, which focuses on nanotechnology products. Israelis have often proven themselves to be quite inventive, and if ApNano is able to create a protective vest for the battle field, they could potentially affect the global war on terror (not to mention generate a profitable revenue back home).

(Isracast) In recent research lead by Prof. Yan Qiu Zhu of the School of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering at the University of Nottingham, England, a sample of the ApNano material was subjected to severe shocks generated by a steel projectile traveling at velocities of up to 1.5 km/second. The material withstood the shock pressures generated by the impacts of up to 250 tons per square centimeter. This is approximately equivalent to dropping four diesel locomotives onto an area the size of one's fingernail.

With armor that strong on vehicles, soldiers may be able to survive a RPG attack from an unfriendly terrorist (something all too common on the Israeli front). This material would be quite useful in Iraq, where many soldiers (Iraqi and American) are probably suffering from a shortage of material, which is alarming considering who they are fighting against (Side note: Although our enemy is fierce, we are winning the war on terror).

Image credit: ApNano medieval armor, image from Isracast

By Darnell Clayton • 11:00 PM • Email Post • •


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Fusion Solution And Plasma Engines

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(Hat Tip: The Star Spangled Cosmos)

(Palm Beach Post) Physicists in the U.S., Japan, England and France have demonstrated the workability of fusion by sustaining reactions in the laboratory for up to 24 seconds. The problem is that plasma--the primordial gas resulting when hydrogen atoms are heated to 100 million degrees--is difficult to contain in small reactors. (Media Source*)

A five story reactor is being built in France and is sponsored in party by Japan, the United Kingdom, Russia, and the US (which may cut domestic programs in order to fund this project). Although some may be nervous about using nuclear powered shuttles in the future, there may be no other alternative if humanity is determined to colonize other worlds. Chemical fuel is simply too expensive while solar sails, although promising, may be more suitable as a hobby than for space travel.

As scientists are working on new ways to power the next star ships, the European Space Agency may have developed a new type of plasma engine that may remind some people of Star Trek.
(Universe Today) ESA has confirmed the principle of a new space thruster that may ultimately give much more thrust than today's electric propulsion techniques. The concept is an ingenious one, inspired by the northern and southern aurorae, the glows in the sky that signal increased solar activity.

"Essentially the concept exploits a natural phenomenon we see taking place in space," says Dr Roger Walker of ESA's Advanced Concepts Team. "When the solar wind, a 'plasma' of electrified gas released by the Sun, hits the magnetic field of the Earth, it creates a boundary consisting of two plasma layers. Each layer has differing electrical properties and this can accelerate some particles of the solar wind across the boundary, causing them to collide with the Earth’s atmosphere and create the aurora." (Media Source*)

If such an engine can be built this would enable star craft to reduce the time and hassle traveling to other worlds. This would also allow colonists to power needed systems upon arrival, as very few worlds contain adequate fuel resources abundant upon their surfaces (Saturn's Titan and Earth's Moon are the only known worlds harboring energy resources).

Image Credit: Helicon reactor in operation. Photo from ESA, via Universe Today.

By Darnell Clayton • 10:34 PM • Email Post • •


The Hindus Are Restless

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Note: One may also add that this group is also jealous.

(BosNews Life) Hindu militants who already threatened to burn and kill members of an evangelical congregation in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh have turned that church into a Hindu temple, a missionary group said Tuesday, December 13.

Apparently the Hindu group was upset about a ministry called Gospel for Asia, which has been successfully convincing Hindus to leave their former faith towards Christianity. The leader of the Hindus in Himachal Pradesh is threatening to lead a campaign forcing the Christians to convert back to Hinduism. The Indian police have thus far done nothing to retake the church back, although it may appear that they were surprised by the Hindu hostile take over.

(BosNews Life) [K.P. Yohannan] said he had urged GFA supporters to "pray and fast on behalf of Pastor Bhatti and his family and for all of the believers in their church" so "God's protection will be upon them, and [...] they will stand strong in the face of this horrible persecution."

Human rights groups have expressed concern about what they regard as growing attacks against churches and individual Chriastians across India, a predominantly Hindu nation. Christians comprise roughly two percent of India’s nearly 1.1 billion people, according to estimates of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The Hindu takeover by extremists demonstrates this groups intolerance of other beliefs, philosophies, creed, etc. that do not line up with their own. Such groups generally have more in common with Al Qaeda as opposed to the general population of the world, who would reasonably "agree to disagree" and would move on with life. Hopefully the Indian police can neutralize this force, otherwise India will not be a suitable place for business let alone tourism.

By Darnell Clayton • 10:07 PM • Email Post • •


Earth Sized Star?

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Or would that be mini-Earth sized star?
(Space.com )The brightest star in our sky has a companion that's smaller than Earth yet 98 percent as massive as the Sun, a new study reveals.

Astronomers already knew the brilliant blue-white Sirius had a stellar companion. But they didn't know the object's mass. The new measurement, announced today, was done by an international team of astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope.

Sirius B, a white dwarf star is only 7,450 miles wide (compared to Earth's 7,973 miles) and yet is so massive that if a person weighing 150 pounds stood on this sun they would be crushed by their own body weight at around 55 million pounds! END

By Darnell Clayton • 9:55 PM • Email Post • •


Google Tetris?

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Apparently the Google group has allowed users to add a "tetris" API to their personalized home page, giving it much needed value as many users could access their Gmail, GNews and Gfun else where via other Google services (i.e. Google Desktop).

(Google Blog) With the Google Homepage API, developers can now create modules for the personalized homepage. It's designed to be flexible and easy to use, and you don't need to download anything to create a module. To get the ball rolling, the team's created a few modules to add to the directory. So check these out and get started creating your own.

Other features such as the "Weather Map" are quite useful, although unless users submit creative works, Personalized Google may lack the interest necessary to make it worth while (hint: creative coders needed). END.

By Darnell Clayton • 9:13 PM • Email Post • •


Contact: Space Blogs Found

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Editor's note: This author took the liberty of exploring the blogosphere in search for unique blogs that not only talked about space travel (or related items) but had interesting topics and areas of focus.

Here are a few interesting sites this author discovered:

The Star Spangled Banner: "Taking on nuclear fusion and the final frontier--American style."

Out of the Cradle: "The Earth is the cradle of mankind, but one cannot remain in the cradle forever."-Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935), Russian scientist and developer of rocket propulsion theory.

Martian Soil: [B]ringing the exploration of the Red Planet closer to enthusiasts and little green men alike.
are welcome! Note: has a sister site called Lunar Soil. Both are worth reading.

More sites added to this blog are listed below, as well as with a description or motto.

Lunar News Network: Lunar News Network is a weblog dedicated to news about the U.S. Space Program and the return to the Moon.

Mars Blog: Note: A site more about space politics than about Martian exploration. Nice layout anyways.

NASA Watch: Note: A site dedicated to informing the public about what is going on about NASA.

Space News Blog: [Focused] mainly on robotic space exploration. Note: Another very interesting space site.

By the way: For those interested in Scifi stories, this author has launched another site called Sol Worlds which is about...you will have to check it out for yourself to see (updated weekly).

By Darnell Clayton • 8:47 PM • Email Post • •


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Torched Church And Muslim Protection

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(Christian Post) Islamic militants torched a church in the Indonesian Province of North Sulawesi, Thursday night, raising fears of more violence to come during the Christmas holidays. The recent blaze at Beth Eden Protestant Church in the city of Manado brought serious damage to a large section of the building. [...]

In the island nation's capital of Jakarta more than 640 churches have already been placed under police protection in the previous days. Nahdatul Ulama, Indonesia's [largest] Islamic organization, has also vowed to guard churches throughout the Christmas season.

Apparently the Christmas spirit (Editor's note: or the spirit of generosity for those of differing faiths) is spreading in Indonesia. Although many critics would love to paint Muslims as either practicing or non-practicing terrorists, this demonstration by the Nahdatul Ulama shows that many Muslims do not whole heartedly agree with the Islamic fundamentalists.

(Christian Post) A number of Muslim volunteers along with police have set up checkpoints near churches, searching all passers-by for dangerous materials or substances. In the province of East Java, 200 paramilitary volunteers from Muslim groups have joined police to search anyone entering church, including Catholics and Christians.

The Rev. E. M. Pattinasarane from the Inter-Churches Cooperation Forum of East Java urged churches to be responsible for their own protection, and that the police were just "additional resources."

The militants who attempted to burn down this church probably represent a minority of Muslims who harbor ill will towards other faiths, as their are plenty of others (i.e. Iraq The Model) who seem to be able to display some level of intelligence and tolerance. With the additional protection being provided by police and Muslim volunteers, hopefully these churches will be able to enjoy the holidays and celebrate the birth of Christ without fear of being attacked.

Image Credit: Indonesian police search motorists as part of a security operation in Jakarta. Islamic militants torched a church in the Indonesian Province of North Sulawesi, Thursday night, raising fears of more violence to come during the Christmas holidays. (Photo: Reuters / Crack Pallingi)

By Darnell Clayton • 11:43 PM • Email Post • •


Mars Has Bouncing Balls?

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(Hat Tip: Gizmodo, We Make Money Not Art)

(Universe Today) The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts has recently awarded a Phase II grant for a unique robot design that could hop across the surface of Mars. An array of these tiny robots could be deployed on Mars, coordinating with one another like a swarm of insects.

For the past several years, NASA has been encouraging scientists and engineers to think outside the box, to come up with ideas just this side of science fiction. Their hope is that some of these ideas will pan out, and provide the agency with technologies it can use 20, 30, or 40 years down the road.

If successfully developed and launched, these bouncing balls may soon become a common sight, as using miniature robots to map out the surface of a world is far more productive than sending an expensive rover. Future colonists could also use these "bouncing balls" to explore underground caves, and tunnels and perhaps even play pranks on their fellow crew mates (with NASA's approval of coarse).

(Universe Today) We are envisioning having them not all identical, but rather an ensemble, with enough of the different kinds of units fitted out with different kinds of sensors so that the probability would still be high, even given fairly high losses of numbers of units, that we would still have a complete suite of sensors. Even though each individual unit cannot have a giant payload of sensors on it, you could have enough so that it could give significant overlap with its fellow units.

Currently the project is still in "beta mode," as more testing needs to be done before these gizmos can be considered for the next Martian mission. It would not be surprising to find these little bots on the lunar surface, as that would not only provide a unique testing ground but also may aid astronauts by acting as a warning system if radiation levels rise too rapidly (Editor's note: author's suggestion, not NASA's).

Image Credit: Photo originally from NASA

By Darnell Clayton • 11:14 PM • Email Post • •


Verichip Hypocrite?

[Expand Full Post] [Media Source*]

(Free Market News) U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and four-term governor of Wisconsin Tommy Thompson said a few months ago that he would be "chipped." But now he says he has no time.

In July, during a CNBC interview, he declared that he would allow the VeriChip Corporation, of which he is a board-member, to implant him with one of the RFID devices they manufacture. However, according to an article on SpyChips.com, Thompson has not done so as yet, and has no plans to undergo the procedure in the near future.

It is ironic that for a man who advocated the use of verichip by all Americans now seems too busy to implant himself with the device. If the Verichip was as beneficial as Mr. Thompson claims, one would expect that he of all people would lead the way by personally having the chip inserted in his body.

Apparently Mr. Thompson is having some second thoughts about the new technology (within people that is). After all, if it is efficient for US passports, wouldn't it be efficient for human bodies as well?

(Free Market News) [Thompson] reportedly told CBS MarketWatch in July, and when a CNBC correspondent in another July interview asked if he would take a chip himself, Thompson allegedly replied, "Absolutely, without a doubt." However, further follow-up has revealed that such chipping has never taken place. VeriChip spokesman John Procter is quoted as saying Thompson has been "too busy" to undergo the chipping procedure, and that "I wouldn't put any type of time line on it."

Although the Verichip has proven its usefulness in hospitals, bars and even children's pajamas, Thompson's reluctance may reflect an American fear of being tagged by "Uncle Sam." Although some may view this technology as "the mark of the beast," citizens of faith generally have nothing to fear as Thompson's dream of every American being implanted with this device probably will not come to pass in this life time--at least not without a fight.

By Darnell Clayton • 10:37 PM • Email Post • •


First Druze In Israel's Arab Beauty Pageant

[Expand Full Post] [Media Source*]

(Ynet News) This year's contest, which will be held at the Haifa Auditorium and is sponsored by the Arabic weekly Kul al-Arab, will feature 18-year-old Lada Abu-Salach, the first-ever Druze to participate in the event.

Abu-Salach, who hails from Majdel Shams in the north, is a high school student who enjoys belly dancing and manages a restaurant in her spare time.

Some of the religious figures in the Druze community are not particularlyy excited by Abu-Salach's entry. First prize in this competition receives $10,000 USD, and if this competition is won by a Druze, it will be a first in Israeli history. End.

By Darnell Clayton • 10:17 PM • Email Post • •


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A Mini Terri Schiavo? (Euthanasia)

[Expand Full Post] [Media Source*]

(Life Site) An eleven year-old girl who was the victim of severe child abuse at the hands of her adoptive Aunt and her husband is the next subject of a Terri Schiavo-type euthanasia debate. Massachusetts officials, who now have custody of the girl, who has been living in what doctors claim is a vegetative state, say she should be removed from life support.

Haleigh Poutre was taken to the hospital three months ago after suffering broken teeth, a swollen face, and burns on her chest. She was extremely thin from not eating, she had cuts and sores all over her body and a temperature of just 81 degrees.

It is encouraging to see that in the best interests of society the state has decided to terminate a life that was violently assaulted as such a life lacks the attention needed to be appreciated as a human being (Editor's note: sarcastic and enraged). It is ironic that the child abuser is seeking to spare the child while the state is attempting to end her life, although this should not come as a surprise, especially in this day and age.

(Life Site) In Haliegh's case, Strickland does not have legal custody of her because he never adopted the girl, so the courts have given him no legal standing. But he will ask the Massachusetts high court to recognize him as the de facto father, which the Juvenile judge denied. [...]

John Egan, his attorney, told the Times that Haleigh called Strickland "Daddy" and he helped raise her. He says the girl's Catholic faith may also have made her opposed to euthanizing her.

Haleigh's birth mother, Allison Avrett, who lost custody of her daughter at age 4 over child abuse, wants life support to be removed.

Apparently her mother, whose lack of affection is probably evidence of how much she cares, has (along with her other family members) contributed towards the torment of this 11 year old girl who was needlessly beaten to a pulp. Although custody has been rightfully taken away from all offenders, the state should allow the child to be cared for by a willing third party, (such as a church) instead of merely shuffling Haleigh Poutre off the "cliff of life."

Editor's note: Although everyone is probably busy this holiday season, perhaps the blogosphere could muster the support to save little Haleigh's life this Christmas season. Any takers?

By Darnell Clayton • 11:43 PM • Email Post • •


Iran Christians Accepted For Resettlement

[Expand Full Post] [Media Source*]

(Compass Direct) The United States has approved emergency resettlement for a family of four Iranian Christians left stranded in Turkey since an October deportation order.

Last week Zivar Khademian and her three adult children were enrolled in three days of cultural orientation for resettlement in the United States under the auspices of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) in Istanbul.

This family of four have fled Iran in order to escape the religious persecution one faces from converting away from Islam. Apparently Kazem Moini, one of the sons was thrown into jail for up to six months for reportedly duplicating Christian tapes while his sister, Fatemeh Moini was facing possible marriage to a strict Muslim relative (who probably would not have appreciated her newly found faith).

(Compass Direct) Later, the family also obtained a copy of an arrest order issued in October 2004 by the Supreme Court of Iran against [Zivar] Khademian for committing apostasy.

Apparently everyone had immediate reasons to leave the Persian nation whose current government seems to lack tolerance towards those who defect from the state religion, Islam. Thanks to the assistance of the US government (not to mention other individuals as well) this family will hopefully be able to enjoy a safe trip towards a country that believes in freedom of faith--America.

By Darnell Clayton • 11:18 PM • Email Post • •


No ESA Funding For Russian Space Plane

[Expand Full Post] [Media Source*]

(New Scientist Space) European Space Agency officials are unlikely to approve funding for the development of a Russian space plane, according to observers at a high-level meeting in Berlin, Germany, on Monday. A final decision on this and other potential European space projects is not expected before the end of Tuesday.

The Russian space plane, named Kliper was ironically designed not only to give Europe the ability to travel towards the stars independently, but also to replace the Soyuz Space Craft (which ironically they are leasing out towards Japan and NASA).

The European Space Agency had considered outsourcing the project towards the Russians in order to save money but apparently the Europeans have decided to take on the endeavor themselves, regardless of the costs.

(New Scientist Space) Also popular with meeting participants on Monday was a resolution to use only European launchers for ESA space missions rather than rockets from Russia or other countries, even though those might be cheaper.

This is probably a wise move for the EU, as outsourcing the space flight technology would have disqualified them from being a true space power like their Russian friends (as well as Chinese and American). Russia may be disappointed by a set back in their cash flow, but by the EU building their own space ships they will contribute towards the diversity of future colonies everywhere.

By Darnell Clayton • 10:43 PM • Email Post • •


Hidden Nook In Space?

[Expand Full Post]

(Blog In Space) This certificate herby signifies that the above blog attempted to contact extraterrestrial intelligences utilizing state of the art sattellite broadcasting equipment with redundant high-powered klystron amplifiers connected by a traveling wave-guide to a five-meter parabolic dish antenna at a latitude of 28.4 and a longitude of 80.6.

Editor's note: Hopefully extraterrestrial life will not consider these transmissions an act of war. See certificate below.

By Darnell Clayton • 10:12 PM • Email Post • •


Monday, December 05, 2005

Jewish Group Defends Christmas Holiday

[Expand Full Post] [Media Source*]

(Hat Tip: Hyscience)

(Agape Press) A group of Jewish Americans says its members are fed up with the war being waged against Christmas. Yesterday, at a National Press Club gathering in Washington, the group's president, Don Feder, voiced his organization's feelings when he declared, "Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation is here today to say, 'Enough already. If you're offended by a municipal Christmas tree or Santa Claus in a holiday parade or a manger in a park, get over it.'"

It is ironic that a holiday that contributes more to the economic success of businesses than any other holiday is shunned from even being mentioned inside the windows of corporate America. According to the article, 96% of Americans celebrate Christmas, so what is wrong in acknowledging a holiday that mentions Christ's birth?

(Agape Press) "Why would a group of Jews who don't celebrate Christmas care about the disappearance of Christmas?" Feder asked, anticipating the question from his listeners. "Because Christmas is disappearing," he proceeded to explain. "It's disappearing from our culture at an alarming rate, disappearing from stores, disappearing from schools, and disappearing from the public square."

Christmas is slowly being replaced by the phrase "Happy Holidays" which has enraged many customers who threatened to boycott against several large retailers. These threats seem to have been effective, as stores such as Wal-Mart, have agreed to parktake of the Christmas spirit. Probably a wise move, as no store wants to be this seasons Target boycott.

By Darnell Clayton • 10:06 PM • Email Post • •


South African Woman Wins Space Lotto

[Expand Full Post] [Media Source*]

(BizCommunity.com) Julie will join a select group of less than 500 people internationally who have left our atmosphere and will follow in the footsteps of other pioneering South Africans involved in making space tourism a reality [...]

Julie was randomly selected as the winner from amongst ten finalists. There were close to 2,5 million entries received during the three month competition.

The contest, entitled Greatest Rewards on Earth, was sponsored by the First National Bank of South Africa and Ebucks. Julie, 27 year old mother seems thrilled at the opportunity to travel beyond the horizon and is being transported there by a company pioneering the space tourism industry--Space Adventures.

(BizCommunity.com) Julie, a data capturer at an outsourcing company, lives in Centurion with her husband Morne and their eleven month old daughter, Sage. [...]

The prize includes return tickets for Julie and a partner to the point of departure, a five day training course, all meals and accommodation for the duration of the stay, and the much envied seat on the sub-orbital space flight!

Image credit: Photo from BizCommunity.com, (left to right) Lezanne Human, CEO of eBucks, Julie Krause the winner, and Michael Jordaan, CEO of FNB

Julie will go down in South African history as the first woman to travel into space, as well as be one of the first 150 tourists to visit the space station. Her experiences on board will probably help enlighten those "envious on Earth" about what it is like to experience micro-gravity as well as view the sun rise 26 times a day. Hopefully this competition will stir something similar in the US and perhaps Japan and China as well.

By Darnell Clayton • 9:31 PM • Email Post • •


Inside Orkut (Would You Like To Know?)

[Expand Full Post]

Editor's note: As of yesterday this author launched another blog entitled Inside Orkut (Unofficial) which will detail interesting facts, fads and discussions that take place inside Google's hottest forum, Orkut.

Here are some discussions this author came across:

The blog is currently being manned by this author, although extra contributers will be considered in the future (more details below).

Although Inside Orkut will share the news, views and taboos of Orkut society, it is fairly impossible for this author to cover everything going on within Orkut as the community covers virtually every topic under the sun. If anyone would like to join there are several stipulations that a user must meet:

Although these cover the basics, this author is looking for people who are into other topics such as fashion, cars and other oddities that make Orkut great. Post here or email this site with your blog site, Orkut profile and indicate if you use Ad Sense as well.

By Darnell Clayton • 8:40 PM • Email Post • •


Friday, December 02, 2005

Is ID Becoming A Global Phenomenon?

[Expand Full Post] [Media Source*]

(Hat Tip: Uncommon Descent)

(NY Times) The result, he said, was the "red state-blue state clash--It's not science versus religion as such--but very much a cultural clash that we've got in America today." Others concurred, saying that the schism was part and parcel of a broader cultural war over contentious issues like abortion, gay rights and gun control.

But the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Ronald Numbers viewed the phenomenon as a growing global issue, saying intelligent design had made significant inroads in Australia, throughout Latin America, in Korea and most surprisingly, Russian and even China, which remains a communist state.

Many critics are wary of allowing intelligent design to be taught alongside of evolution, claiming that ID isn't science (although many Creationists are claiming that evolution isn't science either). Some have even resorted that ID has as much ground as the satirical spaghetti monster, although such assumptions may have to do with their lack of courage to examine the facts, something Australia seems more intent upon doing.

(NY Times) "And it's not just a Christian phenomenon," he added, citing a Turkish education minister who pushed for intelligent design in schools, as well as inroads made within both Judaism and Islam.

Numbers said that at heart, the proponents of intelligent design "want to change the definition of science" to include God, an issue he predicted would end up in the Supreme Court.

"One of the most successful PR campaigns we've seen in recent years," he added, "is intelligent design."

If evolution is truly science, then teachers, as well as students should have no trouble revealing the holes of the ID theory and shutting the mouths of the "religious right" (whether they be Christian, Muslim, or Jewish). But if it is revealed that evolution nothing more than a fairy tale then many atheists (who for some reason can not stand the thought of someone believing in a deity) will have to accept the reality of God's existence or cling towards a philosophy of pseudo-science.

After all, if science has proven evolution to be a fact, then what are they afraid of?

By Darnell Clayton • 10:08 PM • Email Post • •


Star Wars Reloaded? (Google Video)

[Expand Full Post]

(Hat Tip: My Brother)

Star Wars Revelations

Editor's note: Perhaps one of the best fan made flicks of Star Wars, Star Wars Revelations picks off where Revenge of the Sith left off. Portraying the tale of outcasts struggling desperately to reform the Jedi council, several former Jedi set out to acquire the lost information necessary to locate the other Jedi before the Empire does.

Note: Although not seriously related, a parody of the Storm Troopers is below.


Editor's note: What happens when the television COPS meets Imperial Troops? TROOPERS! Several Troopers respond to the bulletin that several droids have been stolen. Takes place during Episode 4, A New Hope.

By Darnell Clayton • 9:49 PM • Email Post • •


Cigar Shaped World Has Moon

[Expand Full Post] [Media Source*]

(New Scientist Space) Astronomers have spotted a second moon around a massive, cigar-shaped world at the fringes of the solar system. The discovery suggests multiple moons orbit many large, distant objects – but their unusual orbits raise questions about just how they could have formed.

This "world" (called 2003 EL61) orbits in a region known as the Kuiper Belt, where several large Plutonian-sized objects have been spotted, some half the size of Pluto. EL61 is unique because not only is it potatoed shaped (measuring 2000 km on its longest side) but also because the moons orbiting this world at odd angles. This may suggest it is nothing more than a surviving remnant of a much larger world.

(New Scientist Space) Robin Canup, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, US, agrees that a collision could explain the presence of the moons and the larger object's spin. But she says the difference in the moons' orbits is "surprising in this context, and may point to a more complex history for this system".

Image credit: Photo from New Scientist Space

What lies in this moons past, astronomers and scientists will have to determine. Although the world is a scientific curiosity, it will probably not draw much attention being in the fact that it lies so far from the Suns warm rayes. After all, who would want to live on a cigar shaped planet?

By Darnell Clayton • 9:32 PM • Email Post • •


Robots To Build On Other Worlds

[Expand Full Post] [Media Source*]

(New Scientist Space) NASA is offering two new $250,000 prizes to stimulate advances in the use of robots in planetary exploration and automated construction.

One, called the Telerobotic Construction Challenge, aims to promote the development of semi-autonomous robots that can build complicated structures with minimal remote guidance from human controllers.

If successful, these robots would be saving humanity from the stress of having to assemble a home upon a foreign worlds soil. By allowing robots to do the "dirty work" for us, colonists could instead focus their energies on other areas of concern, such as harvesting potential crops, processing minerals discovered by robots and improving their new shelters as opposed to starting from scratch.

(New Scientist Space) The other competition will award funding to teams that build an uncrewed, auto-piloted plane that can follow a complex flight path using only visual cues for navigation. The vehicle must also be able to "extend and retract" a probe that can hit several targets on the ground.

Called the Planetary Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Challenge, the competition may lead to the development of planes that can explore and collect samples from steep canyon walls on Mars or zoom close to intriguing features on other bodies with an atmosphere, such as Saturn's moon Titan.

Although NASA has not laid down the rules already, the competition begins in 2007, with $250,000 (plus bragging rights) towards the winner. If NASA really wanted to heat up the competition, they could throw in lunar landing rights as well (after all, wouldn't you want to go to the moon?).

By Darnell Clayton • 9:17 PM • Email Post • •


The Universes Most Accurate Clock?

[Expand Full Post] [Media Source*]

(Red Orbit) After 31 years of tracking the light- output of a burnt-out star from telescopes at McDonald Observatory, astronomer S.O. Kepler of Brazil's Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul and a slew of University of Texas colleagues have found the most stable optical clock in the heavens. [...]

The star in question is a 400 million-year-old white dwarf called G117-B15A, located in Leo Minor. Its pulses of light are so regular that it loses one second in 8.9 million years. This makes the pulses of G117 more accurate and much more stable than the ticks of an atomic clock, Kepler said.

Other astronomers have pointed towards other pulsars (millisecond ones) that have a better "time keep" than G117. Although this may be the case, Kepler argues those pulsars are unstable, and would thus break down eventually making them unreliable. G117 has proven itself by its track record, providing a constant rhythm for at least 20 years.

(Red Orbit) The reconnaissance of G117 continues. "My students will be observing G117," Kepler said. He traces the "family tree" from Rob Robinson, to John McGraw, to himself, to his Brazilian graduate student Barbara Castanheira, who is spending a year visiting The University of Texas at Austin.

Although quite impressive, G117, which loses a second approximately every 9 million years, has been defeated by NIST F1, an atomic clock on Earth. NIST F1 accuracy is nearly seven times greater than G117 (it can maintain its time keep for 60 million years) and will probably maintain its rank as the universal clock for the next million years--that is if is still around in a million years.

By Darnell Clayton • 8:42 PM • Email Post • •


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