Saturday, September 12, 2015

Kelvin Jones: Call You Home

Kelvin Jones : Call You Home from Joe Connor on Vimeo.

About the video:
Yup, that really is a TV in space, for real. I created this video by sending a vintage Sony TV into orbit on a weather balloon provided by Sent Into Space, surrounded by cameras so as to capture this spectacular footage hovering above the Big Blue Marble itself.
More precisely, it took two launches - both from Snowdonia in Wales, with two identical TVs, with each launch providing the opportunity to rig the GoPros in different positions.
I'm pleased to say that all TVs in this music video were harmed as they crash-landed back to earth. We sent the TV off from Snowdonia and it landed in Bury, Manchester - taking in my hometown of Warrington on the way which can be seen in the promo. I'm proud to say that the TV got 99.997% above the atmosphere, just 0.003% below the Armstrong line - surely the highest TV in history.

NFL Opening Weekend Links

Football season is fully upon us, with harvest just around the corner.  Here are some stories for you to enjoy this weekend:

The Pitch - Grantland.  A remembrance of September 11 through baseball, and a reminder that the Bush presidency was a long series of major disasters. Also, Why Is ESPN Doing George W. Bush's Dirty Work For Him? - Deadspin.

The Never-ending Stadium Boondoggle - CityLab

Notre Dame President Stands Firm Amid Shifts in College Athletics - New York Times

Football Team Passes For 782 Yards, Scores 90 Points, Still Loses - Deadspin.  WTF?

Rediscovering the Pawpaw - Cincinnati Magazine.  I have some pawpaw trees on the farm, but can't say that there was enough meat to the fruit for me to really taste anything.  It was mainly packed with giant seeds.

Oh. Nuts! Why California's Pistachio Trees Are Shooting Blanks - The Salt

Cereals, Appropriability, and Hierarchy - Naked Capitalism.  Very interesting piece.  Is farmers' eternal hatred of the government and taxes rooted in the formation of society?

America's Most Unlikely Energy Project Is Rising From a Louisiana Bayou - Bloomberg

Understanding of complex networks could help unify gravity and quantum mechanics - ScienceDaily.  Way over my head, but sounds to me like mapping how a human-made or natural complex system is connected seems to match up with quantum theory.

Hellburners Were the Renaissance's Tactical Nukes - War Is Boring.  Speaking of tactical nukes...

A Prescription for More Black Doctors - The New York Times Magazine

Whatsoever Things Are True - The Atavist Magazine

The Continuing Cost of Catholicism's Sex Abuse Scandals - Pacific Standard

Chosen by Mississippi Democrats, Shy Trucker is at a Crossroads - New York Times.  Highlights the perilous state of the Democratic party in much of the interior United States, which also highlights the perilous state of democracy.

Jeb Bush and the Return of Voodoo Economics - The New Yorker  

The Case Against Stephen Harper - The Atlantic.  From what I hear the author say, it sounds like he is the first GOP prime minister of Canada.

Dairy Farmers at the Barricades  and Food Prices Drop Most in Seven Years on Grain Glut, China Rout - Bloomberg.  Seven years of plenty followed least in farm household incomes.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

One Place That Makes Congress Look Functional

Northern Ireland:
Northern Ireland has been plunged into its worst crisis in nearly a decade after the first minister, Peter Robinson, resigned from his post in the wake of the alleged involvement of the IRA in a Belfast killing.
In a dramatic move that threatens to collapse the Northern Ireland assembly for the first time since 2007, Robinson warned that the continued existence of IRA structures had “pushed devolution to the brink”.
But the first minister, who has faced intense pressure after the smaller Ulster Unionist party (UUP) pulled out its sole minister from the executive, stepped back from pushing power sharing and devolution over the brink.
Robinson appointed the finance minister, Arlene Foster, as acting first minister – a move aimed at keeping devolution going for a few more weeks – after failing to persuade David Cameron to suspend the Stormont assembly in Belfast. He emphasised that he had not “technically resigned”. Downing Street said the prime minister was “gravely concerned” by the events in Northern Ireland.
The move, which also saw all the Democratic Unionist party ministers resign from the power-sharing executive, leaves a seven-day window for the British and Irish governments to try to patch together a deal between the DUP and Sinn Féin. Robinson has seven days to renominate his ministers. Elections to the assembly would be triggered if Robinson fails to nominate a new team.
The DUP leader wanted Cameron to take on powers that would allow him to suspend devolution for a short time in an echo of the repeated suspensions which eventually led to the resignation of Lord Trimble as first minister in 2002. The suspensions, which were ordered during a a lengthy row over the decommissioning of IRA weapons, undermined Trimble’s position and paved the way for the DUP, then the more hardline unionist party, to displace the Ulster Unionists as Northern Ireland’s largest party.
In a reversal of roles, the much diminished UUP, which governed Northern Ireland from its creation in the 1920s until the imposition of direct rule from London at the height of the Troubles in 1972, is now putting pressure on the DUP over power sharing with Sinn Féin.
Downing Street and the Northern Ireland secretary, Theresa Villiers, indicated that Westminster would resist pressure from Robinson, saying on Thursday night that she would not suspend the devolved institutions. Villiers acknowledged that the DUP resignations meant the functioning of the executive would become much more difficult. “It is a sign of a complete breakdown in working relationships within the executive,” she said.
There's always something that will threaten the ability of that dysfunctional state to have a working government.  Way to go, Britain. 

El Nino Probably Won't End California Drought

Today, the National Weather Service released its monthly update on the weather phenomenon, and the meteorologists are saying this year’s is one of the strongest El Niños on record.
But that forecast comes laden with caveats. For one, it matters where and when that precipitation falls. If it falls too far south, it won’t fill crucial reservoirs. Neither would it help much with the Pacific Northwest’s wildfires. And California hasn’t even entered its proper fire season, so if the rains come too late the Golden State could face (even more) epic conflagrations. Finally, no matter how much water the El Niño brings, it’s unlikely it will be enough to sate the Golden State’s four-year deficit.
Typically, the Pacific Ocean is warmest in the equatorial waters around southeast Asia. In El Niño years, the warm patch moves east, towards South America. “You get a huge redistribution of heat in the Pacific,” says Bill Patzert, a NASA climatologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. This flip causes all sorts of weird weather: hurricanes, droughts, flooding, and massive storms. “The equatorial stretch of the Pacific stretches a one third of the way across the Earth, and the ocean covers thirty percent of the planet,” says Patzert. “So when that system kicks up, serious stuff goes down.”
For the month of August, the National Weather Service measured temps that were at least 2 degrees above normal in the equatorial waters off South America. That makes this year’s El Niño the third strongest on record, in terms of heat redistribution. And while effects are already being felt around the globe—India’s crippling monsoon, for instance—El Niño means one thing to most Americans: rain....
But even if this El Niño is particularly wet, it’s still not likely to alleviate California’s four-year drought. The state’s wettest El Niño, in 1983, dropped nine times the annual average rainfall. The state would need at least that much to bring its reservoirs back to normal.
Beyond California, the implications are a mixed bag. “Generally, the canonical El Niño gives the southern tier of the US a good soaking, and the northern tier has a mild winter,” says Patzert. Past El Niños have drenched and dusted the Rockies. Those mountains feed the Colorado River, the southwest’s major watershed. But El Niños tend to leave northern states drier. This is bad news for the Pacific Northwest, which is suffering its own water shortages (not to mention wildfires).
But, there is a lot of uncertainty out there.  But it is interesting (to me, at least) that the Old Farmer's
is going with the prediction of a third straight cold winter in spite of the El Nino.  I'll bet on a mild winter.

Geodetic Nerdiness In A Video

Do you realize how tiny Greenland really is? The most common type of map hugely distorts its true size, as this GIF by Tom Phillips shows. It starts showing how Greenland looks on a Mercator projection, but then Phillips drags the shape down to reveal Greenland's true size.

Ironic how all the largest countries also look even bigger due to Mercator projection.  People who study geodetic science make me look cool.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Some Labor Day Statistics

The LA Times highlights some of Bernie Sanders' talking points:

More here.  The amazing thing is that the only person with any ideas (that would work) about addressing this is the Donald.  The fact that all the rest of the Republicans are pushing tax cuts for the wealthy shows who owns that party.

NASA Photo of the Day

September 2:

The Flare and the Galaxy
Image Credit & Copyright: Martin Mark
Explanation: Is this person throwing a lightning bolt? No. Despite appearances, this person is actually pointing in the direction of a bright Iridium flare, a momentary reflection of sunlight off of a communications satellite in orbit around the Earth. As the Iridium satellite orbits, reflective antennas became aligned between the observer and the Sun to create a flash brighter than any star in the night sky. Iridium flares typically last several seconds, longer than most meteors. Also unlike meteors, the flares are symmetric and predictable. The featured flare involved Iridium satellite 15 and occurred over southern Estonia last week. In this well-planned image, a spectacular night sky appears in the background, complete with the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy running vertically up the image center.

More Gun Control, Fewer Gun Deaths

National Journal:

Surprisingly, some of the states with lower death rates include cities well-known for gun deaths, such as Chicago, Milwaukee and Baltimore.  There must be a lot of accidental shootings, suicides and other gun deaths in some of the states with weak gun laws.