It’s been a busy month, with house guests, autumnal yard-work, and internet chores stealing my attention from favorite TV fare (news and Britcoms) and my current writing project. The last-named is a treatise on the solar system. Yes, there are plenty of solar system books around, but few that describe the Sun and planets and explain how we find out about them, The chapters on the history of astronomy, telescopes, launch systems, navigation, communication, and scientific instrumentation are now finished, so now all I have to do is write about the planets themselves,
Science and Technology
Nearly two and a half decades ago, on October 18, 1989, yours truly was stationed at Cape Kennedy, watching as the Atlantis shuttle roaried into the air, ruffling my shirt with the acoustic waves from its giant booster rockets. I was there because Atlantis was carrying a precious cargo, NASA’s Galileo mission to Jupiter and her moons, and my lab had nominated me to help staff a small team of Department of Energy information officers at the launch.
In my luggage was a computer and a digital copy of How We Will Explore the Outer Planets,
Close-up mapping of highly dangerous “Containment Level 3” pathogens — including the viruses that cause AIDS, hepatitis, and some kinds of influenza – should soon be possible, a session of the American Association for the Advancement of Science was told at the annual AAAS meeting on February 17. Development of effective therapeutic treatments and vaccines is expected to follow as better knowledge of viral structures is gained through the use of the century-old science of x-ray crystallography.
Crystallographic research on Containment Level 3 pathogens will be carried out using Britain’s national synchrotron facility,
Long Live Curiosity, the mobile Mars Scientific Laboratory! It is highly unlikely, virtually impossible, that Mars does not contain the chemical building blocks of life that Curiosity is looking for, unless they’re buried beyond the reach of the super-rover’s instrumentation. But some interesting questions remain. . .
If hot springs, hydrothermal vents, or subsurface water are found, the chances of finding life take a huge bound farther into the realm of the likely, rather than the mere possible. Then we could get into the big question of whether Martian extremophiles could,
This month, which saw the pollen count reach 2200 at my place, mostly from cedar/juniper, I decided to change the passage in my autobiography which says that asthma is seldom a mortal illness.
Anthony Shadid, a brave and altogether admirable foreign correspondent of the New York Times, died from acute asthma on the Syrian-Turkish border not from pollen inhalation but from the dander of horses. This happened on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012, and Shadid was carrying his full complement of asthma medications with him.
Is nuclear energy really on the verge of coming back to the Western world? I have a strong feeling that the answer may be yes.
The most recent information from the International Atomic Energy Agency tells us that 435 nuclear power plants are in operation worldwide, with the United States the top producer with 104 plants, followed by France (58) and Japan (53). The United Kingdom (19) lags behind Russia (31) and Korea (20), in fifth place.
Sounds fairly reasonable from a distance,