Preview of Official NASA Budget/Policy Events – Update

Keith’s note: Places where you can expect to hear Charlie Bolden, Lori Garver, and others spell out what NASA’s budget means – and what the agency will and will not be doing with that budget:

– 1 Feb: OSTP 2011 Federal R&D Budget Briefing: OSTP officials brief meda and “stakeholders” at the AAAS from 1:00 to 2:00 pm EST. Webcast (registration required). Word has it that Charlie Bolden and other NASA officials will be there. Budget materials will be online at OMB at this point.

– 1 Feb: NASA FY 2001 Budget Press Briefing: Budget materials online at 12:30 am EST (slightly earlier at OMB), Charlie Bolden and CFO Beth Robinson with make a short presentation and take questions for an hour or so starting at 3:00 pm EST. Webcast on NASA TV. Don’t expect a lot at this event other than for Bolden to go over high level aspects of the budget and then answering the same core questions – over and over – after being asked the same questions a dozen different ways by the media.

– 2 Feb: NASA event at National Press Club: Event starts at 10:00 am EST but will probably not last more than an hour. Word has it that other things will be presented by Bolden that may not be purely associated with the budget (education issues are apparently on his agenda). Expect a little more detail to emerge – but mostly in response to questions that media feel that Bolden did not address the day before.

– 3 Feb: Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee – Hearing: Key Issues and Challenges Facing NASA: Views of the Agency’s Watchdogs: 10:00 am EST – hearing runs for two hours. You can expect Subcommittee Chair Rep. Giffords to pick up where she left off at a previous hearing wherein she will bash Norm Augustine and the Administration’s plans to change the Constellation program – specifically Ares 1. ASAP Chair Adm. Dyer will be in agreement with Giffords for the most part but NASA OIG Martin will probably end up pointing to the OIG’s previous work (and GAO’s) which cast continual doubt about the pace and maturity of the Constellation program – as implemented by NASA.

– 11 Feb: 13th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference 10-11 Feb: Bolden speaks from 8:00 – 8:45 am EST. This is the place, space fans, where the big picture will emerge. Hopefully it will be on NASA TV

– 12 Feb: The State of the Agency: NASA Future Programs Presentation: All day. Don’t bother to RSVP – there are no more seats available. Watch it on NASA TV. NASA is only allowing some media (Space News and Nature) into the event (where they can ask questions) while other publications/websites are not being allowed to send representatives. I am told this has to do with seating limits. Duh. No one seems to have planned for media. Oh well. These events are held every year and tend to be rather bland and dumbed down. Mostly its like a low key high school reunion where retirees get generic updates as to what the agency is doing. However, given that this event happens the day after the AST event, lots of questions will be floating around – so it may be a little more peppy than it would otherwise be.

– 18-19 Feb: NASA Advisory Council Meeting: You will certainly see additional detail presented by Bolden and senior staff at this meeting – i.e. charts to back up previous public comments. Media may manage to grab Bolden et al in the hallway.

– 17-20 Feb: Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference: Lori Garver speaks on Thursday, 18 February. Given the high amount of commercial interest and participation in this event and some exciting presentations by others, you can be certain that more detail on NASA’s commercial plans will emerge one way or another.

And, of course, there will be leaks in between all of these events 😉

Pre-Announcement Space Policy Reactions

Hopes for NASA’s moon mission fade, Washington Post

“White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said Sunday, “The President is committed to a robust 21st century space program, and his budget will reflect that dedication to NASA. NASA is vital not only to spaceflight, but also for critical scientific and technological advancements. The expertise at NASA is essential to developing innovative new opportunities, industries, and jobs. The President’s budget will take steps in that direction.”

Change in Space for NASA: Renting the Right Stuff, AP

“Getting to space is about to be outsourced. The Obama administration on Monday will propose in its new budget spending billions of dollars to encourage private companies to build, launch and operate spacecraft for NASA and others. Uncle Sam would buy its astronauts a ride into space just like hopping in a taxi.”

The End of an Era? Brian Williams, MSNBC

“During the State of the Union, I turned to David Gregory and Andrea Mitchell and blurted out the obvious: I could never be president. The specific reason I gave was that I’d bankrupt the nation by re-starting an all-out push into space – back to the moon, to Mars and beyond.”

Texas lawmakers balk at cutting manned spaceflight, Dallas Morning News

“Everyone in Washington wants fiscal restraint these days – except when it comes to their priorities. Case in point: NASA. Texas lawmakers in both parties are girding for battle with the Obama administration over the future of human spaceflight. Many of the same lawmakers routinely accuse the president of sending deficits into the stratosphere.”

The woo marches on | Bad Astronomy

While searching my blog archives for something I wrote on UFOs, I stumbled on an old article: Woo shots, about the antivax movement. It was one of the first times I wrote about the antivaxxers on the blog, and the first time I took them on directly:

If these people prevail, we are all at risk. If you’re under the age of, say, 40 do you personally remember anyone getting smallpox, or polio?

No? Guess why.

That’ll all end if the antivax people have their way. They must be stopped, and being vocal about critical thinking is the only way to do it…. and when it comes to the important stuff, the really important stuff, I’ll take all the help I can get to make sure the word gets out.

That article was written almost exactly two years ago, and little did I know then that not only would the movement grow stronger, but in the intervening 700 or so days many people — including babies — would die due to the words of those who deny vaccinations to their own children. That’s despite the 60 or so posts I’ve written about this, and the efforts of others like Steve Novella, Orac, Joe Albietz, Rachael Dunlop, and so many others. But it’s on more than individual blogs now: Daily Kos has a lengthy article up today about antivaxxers, and many other weighty websites and even the mainstream media have taken up the issue. I’m very glad to see it.

When I write about these topics, I get a handful of complaints from readers who think I should stick to astronomy. Well, that’s not going to happen. After these past two years I remain as adamant and as impassioned to spread the word that antivaxxers are dangerous, and their ideas kill. I will continue to write about this health danger, and keep you up to date as much as I can on the latest news on this.

People are dying, and it’s because of bad thinking. We must stop this, and the first step is to be aware of the problem. I can hope that two years from now I won’t have to write about this any more… but I’m a realist, and I know that this will be a problem for a long, long time to come. It’s up to us to minimize that time. Bad thinking takes lives, but good thinking can save them.

Think well.

Fallen Heros

Click here to view the embedded video.

This is from NASA TV on January 28th, and the NASA Day of Remembrance.

What makes this even sadder is the thought these people will have paid the ultimate price for very little if the administration has its way and starts down the road of letting the United States take a back seat to the rest of the world in science.


Super Bowl and South Beach, Miami’s Dynamic Duo

Historic lifeguard station is painted to match South Beach's famous Art Deco architecture

When the last scrimmage has ended and the final buzzer of Super Bowl XLIV has sounded, sports fans will find no lack of things to see and do in the greater Miami area. One of these is South Beach, the famous ribbon of sparkling sand that runs from 23rd Street to the southern tip of Miami Beach, on the barrier island that lies just across Biscayne Bay from downtown Miami.

Boardwalk parallels the entire length of South Beach

Just walking along the boardwalk that parallels the beach is a feast for the senses. Roller bladers and tourists on Segways expertly weave between pedestrians. South Beach residents promenade pampered pets, bejeweled and beribboned, between the beach and their glitzy hi-rise condos. On one side of the boardwalk, tourists stream endlessly between sidewalk cafe tables, lured by offers of half-price meals and free giant mojitos hawked by Latina servers in skin tight leopard-striped pants.

Latina beauties, dressed to lure customers into their sidewalk cafe

On the other side of the boardwalk, sweeping sands are framed by the Atlantic Ocean, shimmering a dozen shades of turquoise. The beach is one of the best places to people watch. Model thin sun-worshipers in the skimpiest of bikinis mingle with stocky Midwestern families that have fled frozen landscapes for a week of well-deserved vacation. From the oiled and tanned lifeguards manning the historic lifesaving stations to the rippling muscles of body-builders, South Beach is a site well worth a visit, if only to enjoy the eye candy.

Body builder eye candy

Photo credit: Barbara Weibel
Article by Barbara Weibel of Hole In The Donut Travels

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Avatar..a great movie !

I do not understand what the big deal is among transhumanist bloggers who have critically bashed the most awesome movie ever , AVATAR ! I mean, it is still not possible to get tickets in Chennai unless booked several days in advance. As for transhumanist expectations, the movie is designed for a mass audience and has to answer to everybody’s sensibilities rather than answer to philosophically accurate ramblings about existentialism ! I personally felt the completely immersive 3D experience to be just awesome and unforgettable… cannot wait to see it again ! And I cannot even imagine how awesome it would be on IMAX ! I shall write more on this movie soon enough !

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Steve Jobs: Google’s "Don’t Be Evil" Mantra is "Bulls***" [Steve Jobs]

During that Apple town hall meeting we mentioned earlier this week CEO Steve Jobs reportedly had some choice words regarding Google that left little doubt about how the outspoken executive sees the competition. Updated.

That “Don’t be evil” slogan Google’s known for? “Bullshit” Jobs said, after which he was reportedly rewarded with a big round of applause from the gathered throng of Apple employees.

Also about Google, Jobs said that company “entered the phone business. Make no mistake they want to kill the iPhone. We won’t let them.”

Jobs also singled out Adobe, calling the company “lazy” because, in his opinion, “they have all this potential to do interesting things but they just refuse to do it.” Jobs also criticized Flash for being buggy. When a Mac crashes, it’s usually because of Flash, he reportedly told the crowd. “The world is moving to HTML5”, he said.

Reports that the town hall meeting was adjourned with a gavel that made a loud Bing sound were completely fabricated and made up by me just now.

Update: Mac Rumors and Daring Fireball have an update on this. Most of Wired’s quotes are paraphrased, and with that came some discrepancies between what may have been said and what was written to page. One change being “bullshit” was probably more along the lines of “full of crap.” So, same sentiment, different word choice. Also, while the lazy quote hasn’t been disputed, the tone may have been. Daring Fireball’s John Gruber said an attendee wrote to say Jobs was actually very nostalgic about the “kick ass Adobe of old.” [Wired]

Celebrity Sex trouble-maker may be Libertarian Party candidate for NY Governor?


by Eric Dondero

Kristin Davis, famed New York City Madam, is flirting with a run for Governor of New York on the Libertarian Party ticket. Ms. Davis showed up to a local Libertarian Party meeting in Manhattan last night, accompanied by the often eccentric GOP political consultant Roger Stone.

Stone is a self-described “Republican hitman.” He served in various capacities in Ronal Reagan’s presidential campaigns in the 1980s, and was responsible for the infamous “Willie Horton ads,” for Bush ’88. He’s also a close friend and political confidante of Donald Trump. He describes himself as a “Goldwaterite libertarian.” Many also know his former wife Republicans for Choice President Anne Stone.

From the Examiner:

At the Manhattan Libertarian Party Convention on Saturday, a curious entourage invaded the subterranean confines of the Ukrainian Village Restaurant on Second Avenue. Kristin Davis, the madam who ran the call girl service that Eliot Spitzer was so fond of, was escorted to the event by the notorious Republican political trickster, Roger Stone. Ms. Davis is seeking the gubernatorial nomination from the Libertarians.

We first reported on Madam Davis back in July. She had appeared on the Opie & Anthony Sirius/XM show and hinted strongly that Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell had also been a client of her Escort Service. From LR, July 25:

Some respectable Right blogs and media are now zeroing in on Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell as the mysterious “John” mentioned by Madame Kristen Davis. She had asserted in a recent magazine interview that Elliot Spitzer wasn’t the only client of her escort firm who was a Governor. Davis said that one of her “courtesans,” had multiple visits from another prominent head of state. The escort described her client as polite, and a real gentleman. Further, she hinted that Client II was relatively quick in finishing his business, unlike the somewhat kinky, overly demanding Spitzer.

(Source: DeusExMalcontent)

A Shock Jock, a Socially Libertarian former Governor, and now an Escort Service CEO

This won’t be the first time the New York Libertarian Party has run Celebrity Sex candidates. Howard Stern was a candidate for the Party’s nomination for 3 to 4 months in 1992, after ultimately dropping out. He said at the time, his lawyers looked into the legalities, and found that it would be a great conflict with his syndicated radio show. However, others speculated that Republican Senator Alfonse D’Amato, talked Stern out of the run, figuring he’d take votes away from George Pataki.

Also of note, William Weld, in his New York Governor’s bid in the 2008 Republican primary, briefly sought the Libertarian Party nomination. Though, after he was soundly defeated for the GOP nomination, he declined to run on the Libertarian line.

There’s some speculation that Republican mischief may be at work with the Davis candidacy as well.

From Albany Libertarian stalwart Eric Sundwall (2009 special election candidate for Congress – Kirsten Gillibrand seat):

So Stone (photo – bottom left) trots in the one time fancy of A-Rod (photo – top right) and has her tout her credentials as a high school valedictorian, hedge fund manager, successful entrepreneur and future recipient of an unnamed Master’s degree. All great stuff for the political rubes who brought you the nominations of Howard Stern and William Weld. Both of whom left the doe eyed libertarians at the electoral alter. Only to be replaced by relative unknown party stalwarts who carried the water to the finish line without the prize of 50,000 votes which presumes to bring legitimacy to the endeavor by so many believers.

Sexual Libertine vs. the Ron Paul man

If Davis does indeed follow through, the nomination won’t be a cakewalk. A serious-minded, though admittedly rather dull Libertarian has already declared for the nomination.

Warren Redlich is a “Ron Paul Republican,” from upstate New York. He served as one of Paul’s attorneys in his 2008 Presidential campaign. He also ran for Congress twice on the GOP ticket in 2004 and again in 2006.

From his Bio (

He started his own law firm… worked for the New York State Court System and for an insurance company.

Born and raised in New York State, Warren graduated from Rice University with a degree in Mathematical Economics. He has a Master’s degree from Stanford University and a J.D. from Albany Law School.

A lawyer/mathematician versus a flashy media savvy escort service Madam; ought to make for an interesting Libertarian primary battle. Ironically, at the moment there’s little if any excitement on the GOP side. The only prospective candidate is the guy who lost to Hillary – Rick Lazio.

Surely Republicans can come up with a bit more pizzaz than that. This is New York, after all.

The Last Cockler by Peter Naylor

We at the beach blog are dedicated to highlighting all the fun reasons to be on beach. On occasion though, I think it is important to show how, as humans, we really do need beaches. Not only to unwind but also to make a living and most of the time, to define a culture of those who live around a beach. This piece by Peter Naylor, produced for the BBC’s Ten Towns Tour, highlights the impact that global economics has on one seaside community in Norfolk, England.

By Sebastien Tobler

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Spongy Steel Won’t Soak Up a Mess, But It Could Save Your Ass in a Firefight [Science]

Future comic book heroes may be referred to as Men of Spongy Steel if one researcher’s experimental metal makes it out of the lab and into real-world applications.

There’s no fancy name attached to this stuff yet, so we’ll just call it steel foam for now. Name or no name, its various applications (tested in the lab) still sound incredible:

Rough traffic accident calculations show that by inserting two pieces of her composite metal foam behind the bumper of a car traveling 28 mph, the impact would feel the same to passengers as impact traveling at only 5 mph.

Then there’s the smash test, wherein researcher and materials scientist Afsaneh Rabiei takes a piece of steel and a piece of foam steel and smashes them both into a base plate at high speed. After the test, there’s a clear indentation in the traditional steel, while the foam shows no damage whatsoever. Energy absorption, and all that.

As the article notes, metal foam isn’t exactly a new invention, but these tests show Rabiei’s may be the strongest version yet. Already scientists’ minds are swimming with applications for this super spongy steel, most notably body armor, artificial limbs, boats and airplanes. [Live Science via Neatorama]


With the availability of extremely powerful permament magnets like the Neodymium, can we ever see permanent magnets acting as a source of stored energy like batteries? I found that Neo magnets have a capacity of about 400 KJ / m^3. A Car battery of say 12 v, 20 Ah or 240Wh or 864KJ has a volume of a

turbine and gen coupling problem?

i want to install a common emergency stop push butoon for all generators units to be all stoped togeather in emergency case, but i want to know if there is a problem will happend in coupling between the turbine and the gen shaft if the load suddenlly removed and circuit breaker opened? if that true

Deep Basketball Team (And Cable Company) Owner Thoughts [Blockquote]

So says Mark Cuban, opining about the potential for children’s entertainment and media consumption with the iPad. The man owns a basketball team and was on Dancing with the Stars, people. Technology savant as far as I’m concerned.

Editor’s Note: In all honesty I’m actually pretty excited about the iPad (from a software potential perspective), so don’t take this light-hearted post to mean I’m making fun of Cuban. He’s actually got quite the tech/media background (and HD too), and I happen to agree with him, for now. [MSNBC]

Revealed: Scott Brown really did save the Republic

Speculation has run rampant since Republican Scott Brown’s miraculous victory on Jan. 19, that his win stopped ObamaCare dead in its tracks. Now comes solid confirmation.

From The Hill, “Health deal was reached days before Brown’s Senate victory” Jan. 30:

The latest revelation shows how agonizingly close Democrats came to passing a final healthcare bill in time for President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.

[Tom] Harkin (D-Iowa), who attended healthcare talks at the White House, said negotiators were on the cusp of bringing a bill back for final votes in the Senate and House.

Harkin said “we had an agreement, with the House, the White House and the Senate. We sent it to [the Congressional Budget Office] to get scored and then Tuesday happened and we didn’t get it back.” He said negotiators had an agreement in hand on Friday, Jan. 15.

Note – Scott Brown will be seated in the US Senate on February 11.

I Can Has Kiss? | The Intersection

This week’s addition to The Science of Kissing Gallery features the collection’s second interspecies kiss! (and LOLCats fans are encouraged to offer headline suggestions in comments!)

Gabrielle Stern reminds us that, “Some receivers of kisses aren’t as gracious as others. Here’s my cat and I. Clearly, I’m more affectionate than he is, which often makes for fun pictures.”

Thanks to both of you for such an expressive photo!

Submit your original photograph or artwork to the gallery here and remember to include relevant links.


Scott Brown: Perfectly libertarian on abortion

Scott Brown confirms he’s pro-choice, but against government funding.

From the AP via Breitbart, Jan. 31:

Republican Sen.-elect Scott Brown of Massachusetts says he opposes federal funding for abortions, but thinks women should have the right to choose whether to have one.

Brown says the abortion question is one that’s best handled by a woman, her family and her doctor. He also says more effort needs to go into reducing the number of abortions in the U.S.

He says he’s fiscally conservative but more moderate on social issues.

Editor’s Note – The vast majority of libertarians, myself included, are pro-choice. All libertarians oppose government funding, and most support parental notification laws, and oppose late-term abortions. However, in fairness, pro-life libertarians, though a distinctly minority view, are valued and welcomed members of the libertarian coalition.