Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Return of the Son of the Update!

Return of the Plague!

Looks like the survivors of that Algerian Al-Qaeda training camp were making for the border, the Egyptian border that is. The Black Death has sprung up in a small town in Libya not far from Egypt's Northern border.

Could be a coincidence, could not be. Never can tell. What I do know is all the dead from that camp were buried in a mass grave before they were found. Someone had to dig the hole and then fill it in, either survivors or the people who released the disease.

Could also have been spread from the initial infection site by unknowing nomads, or travelers. Nice thought isn't it? Innocent bystanders unknowingly spreading a Medieval plague all over North Africa.

The town that just got hit is near the ocean. So was the training camp in Algeria. Its also a pretty straight path between the two.

We can't go on together, with Suspicious Deaths (Suspicious Deeeeaaaaaths!)

Choked and thrown down a 120 foot stairwell at the U.N. building in Austria. Sounds about right for a well liked family man and all around boring academic.

I wonder what he might have been doing that pissed someone off enough to tear a page right out of the CIA assassination handbook?

Oh yes, here it is. He was a nuclear scientist with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization working on the ongoing talks with Iran over their nuclear program. Good thing his work wasn't sensitive or anything.

Obviously a spur-of-the-moment suicide or tragic accident. I can't even tell you how many times I have been walking along at work at the top of the stairs choking the shit out of myself and nearly fell to my untimely death. Happens all the time.

Russians shut down a Meteorite smuggling ring. I guess even Ivan loves Superman.

Not a lot to this one, so far. Some Russians and Czechs were attempting to smuggle 200 grams worth of meteorites out of the Russian Federation. Along with lots of books, and scientific equipment. Customs agents nabbed them after the became suspicious of the "granite office decorations" the men were shipping.

It is a bit odd that they managed to nail them on the spot, when it apparently took 3 months to ID the rocks as extraterrestrial in origin.

Somewhere out there is a very angry supervillain.

CIA Drug Smuggling operations are easy-peasy in Afghanistan, seeing as Afghan President Ahmed Karzi's brother is on their payroll.

He's involved in the opium trade, and on the CIA payroll. The headlines just write themselves, don't they? Yet still, people wonder why foreign troops in Afghanistan are not allowed to touch the poppy fields.

As much as this stinks of nefarious Vietnam and Reagan-era CIA shenanigans there is another side to it. Namely that opium is Afghanistans only export of note. Without the drug trade they would be entirely reliant on foreign aide to rebuild their infrastructure and fight the Taliban. That means we, the American taxpayer, would be on the hook for a fuck-ton (metric) more money for that little war.

Of course you could amend the intentional drug treaties that restrict opium production for medical uses to a few countries to allow the Afgans a chunk of the trade. Of course that means the money would be flowing to the Government proper in terms of taxes and tariffs, and to Big Pharma for the juicy pain-killing profits. Which of course cuts the CIA and the narco-empires they have spent 30+ years supporting out of the loop.

Make it legal and Uncle Sam, the UN, and Big Pharma get it.

Keep it on the down-low and the CIA, Taliban, and drug cartels get it.

The question there is which one of those would see the most benefit for the average Afgan citizen?

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...and we're back! My head is finally screwed back on tightly enough to update this crazy little blog. Family illness, work, and lots of other smaller issues have occupied my attention for many months. However I think we are back. Yes, yes it seems like we are.

Also I will be disabling ANON comments. Too much traffic from Chinese Gold Farmers, Nigerian Princes, and South American Pharmacies of dubious reputations. If you want to respond, you have to sign in now.

Also, we have a Twitter feed now! Enjoy bit-sized bits of high weirdness on your mobile platform of choice!

/End Transmission.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Space! I love it! NASA, they frustrate the shit out of me!

The Great Martian Life Conspiracy,3526,Methane-discovery-suggests-presence-of-life-on-Mars-say-Nasa-scientists,Newscomau,page2
BONUS: The sky, it is blue. On Mars too. [NASA and JPL don't like to release color pictures anymore. Probably because their tampering can be corrected with Photoshop. Also, they keep cropping out the color bars.]

A subject near and dear to my heart for many reasons, though one I usually only mention in passing. Life on Mars. Our colder, smaller, less atmospherically endowed sister planet in the Terran System. Does she harbor life? The age old question.

Yes, she does. Am I going to make a compelling case for it? Nope. Not really. Other, smarter, better academically endowed men and women have already done that.

So here it is!

Back in the late 1970's NASA sent our first brave robot friends to Mars, Viking 1 & 2. These pioneering automatons had the goal of snapping pictures and digging in the dirt for signs of life. They carried four different experiments on board for those purposes. Some of those experiments produced results indicating life.

You can look the details up yourself but the experiments involved soaking soil samples with a soup of different chemicals and measuring if any gas was released (to show microbes metabolizing nutrients). Then any gas released would be analyzed and if it looked like life then it would be baked in an oven at amazingly high temperature (1200 F). You know, to see if they kept going. Not surprisingly the activity measured (oh yeah, they got a positive result with the chemical soup free lunch experiment) leveled off and disappeared when they turned the autoclave on (the goal was to sterilize the soil, for control purposes).

Most microbes don't do well around 40 degree's or so outside their normal range. There are exceptions of course, but that seems to be a decent rule of thumb. So then, what was the average temperatures where the Viking Lander's landed? Plus or minus 1 F to negative 178 F. Poor little guys never had a chance.

Then in 2003 NASA picked up on something very interesting, methane in the Martian atmosphere. Why is that important? Methane is an unstable gas and Mars has a very thin atmosphere. Far to thin to retain methane in any measurable quantity for any great length of time. So it was an occasional kinda methane content. How occasional?

Seasonal. Specifically in the Summer time.

It gets better however. That is also when the Martian atmosphere has the highest concentrations of water vapor (hell, clouds even form sometimes). The plumes of methane are most dense in a few regions of Mars (Arabia Terra, Elysium Planitia, and Arcadia Memnonia), all of them equatorial.

NASA didn't want to make a fuss about this but a few months later the European Space Agency landed the Mars Express lander on the surface and confirmed it, effectively shaming NASA into talking about their own discovery.

Those rascally Europeans went a step further a few months later discovering ammonia in the atmosphere. Ammonia also breaks down very rapidly in Mars thin atmosphere, as such like the methane it needs to be replenished from some source.

There are two possibilities.

Geological processes such as vulcanism, plate shifting, etc.. deep within Mars releasing these gasses into the atmosphere. Or life.

The geological theory goes out the window into heavy traffic when you consider that all geological data from the lack of active volcanoes to the not shifting land masses to the extremely weak magnetic field of the planet indicate that Mars is, geologically speaking, dead.

It is possible that there is some hot magma action going on underneath Mars that we just have not observed yet. Fair enough, I will concede that point. It is odd however that this geological activity is on a very specific yearly cycle coinciding with the Martian summer and appearance of water vapor in the atmosphere from melting permafrost.

That leaves life.

There is the issue of water of course, oh wait, even NASA admitted to finding ice under the soil, and then even liquid water when a reporter noticed that the Phoenix lander had some splashed on its visible leg. Which didn't refreeze in the air, it evaporated. NASA then said there could be nothing alive in the soil because we found perchlorate tied up with the oxygen in the water.

Point one. Martian life may not thrive on or exclusively on oxygen. This is Alien life we are talking about. Even if it is microbes. Hell, it might eat that shit up like goth kids eat Count Chocula.

Point two. Perchlorate is found in the soil on Earth. For one in the Gobi desert, which is pretty inhospitable but still supports life. Its also found in 35 US states in the soil and ground water. So far, life continues to exist in most of the continental US.

Most scientists won't point any of this out for fear of ridicule and career suicide. Since I didn't pursue my degree in physics but went into a different field altogether I can sit back and poke fun at the inanity of the cover up all I like.

There is life on Mars ladies and germs. The only two reasons so far I can find for keeping that so poorly under wraps are thus. Fear of society collapsing in a panic, and fear of the Christians not feeling special anymore.

The first one won't happen. Maybe if we were talking about an Alien armada coming to cleanse the world of human life. Sure, I'd panic then. But microbes? I doubt it.

The second I could care less about. Frankly, science has no business holding the hand of any religion and caring about its feelings. Either they will adapt their beliefs, they will pretend it didn't happen, or they will lose their faith. Perhaps that is a little harsh. Perhaps. But isn't more harsh to withhold something of such monumental importance?

Not only would life on mars say, officially from NASA and thus a Western government (India already confirmed exolife last year, after it rained down on them from a comet), that we are not alone, it would say that life is common in the universe.


Because that means that life originated independently on two different planets in the same solar system. The odds against that are pretty steep, but if it happened twice here, then life must be more common in the universe than we think. It means we are not special anymore, but it also means we are not alone.

And now, Pictures!

Wow, look at that red sky! You see it? Its red! Oh wait, I forgot to alter the color settings on your monitor, gimme a sec... Oh, when I'm done, ignore the color plate. Forgot to crop that out...

So they are telling us the truth 'eh? They aren't hiding anything about Mars? Well, that being the case I was pledging allegiance to the wrong flag. All this time and I didn't know Old Glory was fucking purple.

Ah, bask in the hazy red sky of Mars. Quaid paid all that money for memories of this? It looks like Arizona.

All these pictures came from NASA websites by the way. Some of them are much harder to find now. Go figure. But they have hundreds of thousands. Some slip through.

Incoming objects from space now CLASSIFIED

Just a quickie at the end, because everyone loves a good quickie. The military & intel groups are no longer sharing data gathered on incoming objects from space with astrophysicists or astronomers. Up until now if their classified satellites picked up meteors hitting the atmosphere they would share whatever they could tell. Trajectory, area of impact, composition, size, etc.. Now, for no given reason, they have stopped. Weird.

The spooks and the military don't want to play nice with the nerds anymore, and science loses out.

High Weirdness of the Day: Radioactive Wasps. No, really.

Cleaning out an old Manhatten Project site is frought with the sort of peril one see's in 50's science fiction movies, radioactive bugs. This time, its wasps.

While they aren't gigantic, they are full of cessium and cobalt, and of course are wasps so they love to sting.It seems when the site was landscapped they moved in and used mud from an old nuclear fuel storage tank to build their nests.

If you live in Washington state, pray for winter... Well, actually they say most of the wasps are gone. Not dead, just gone. But they don't tend to re-use nests so each successive generation of wasps should be less radioactive than the last, if at all.

Unless of course, they mutate...

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Another real update, how about that!

Work and other obligations keep me occupied and away from meaningful time wasteing like my blog, I try. Just for you, my tens of dozens of loyal readers. Maybe I should start a Twitter feed? Nah, I am far to long winded for that.


/End Transmission.