August 20, 2012 archive

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New Rules with Bill Maher: Mars Sucks

Adapted from The Stars Hollow Gazette‘s Rant of the Week

New Rules with Bill Maher 17 August 2012

Mars sucks.

Scientists must explain how it’s possible that the tiny island country of Jamaica can at the same time possess all the most stoned people in the world and all the fastest people in the world.

Voter ID laws solve a problem that doesn’t exist.


“She was an acrobat’s daughter.”  Originally posted here April 28, 2011.

Daffy Doodles

On This Day In History August 20

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

August 20 is the 232nd day of the year (233rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 133 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1911, the first around-the-world telegram sent, 66 years before Voyager II launch

On this day in 1911, a dispatcher in the New York Times office sends the first telegram around the world via commercial service. Exactly 66 years later, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) sends a different kind of message–a phonograph record containing information about Earth for extraterrestrial beings–shooting into space aboard the unmanned spacecraft Voyager II.

The Times decided to send its 1911 telegram in order to determine how fast a commercial message could be sent around the world by telegraph cable. The message, reading simply “This message sent around the world,” left the dispatch room on the 17th floor of the Times building in New York at 7 p.m. on August 20. After it traveled more than 28,000 miles, being relayed by 16 different operators, through San Francisco, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Saigon, Singapore, Bombay, Malta, Lisbon and the Azores–among other locations–the reply was received by the same operator 16.5 minutes later. It was the fastest time achieved by a commercial cablegram since the opening of the Pacific cable in 1900 by the Commercial Cable Company.

The Voyager 2 spacecraft is an unmanned interplanetary space probe launched on August 20, 1977. Both the Voyager 2 and the Voyager 1 space probes were designed, developed, and built at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California. Identical in form and instruments with its sister Voyager program craft Voyager 1, Voyager 2 was launched on a slower, more curved trajectory that allowed it to be kept in the plane of the Ecliptic (the plane of the Solar System) so that it could be sent on to Uranus and Neptune by means of utilizing gravity assists during its fly-by of Saturn in 1981 and of Uranus in 1986. Because of this chosen trajectory, Voyager 2 could not take a close-up look at the large Saturnian moon Titan as its sister space probe had. However, Voyager 2 did become the first and only spacecraft to make the spaceflight by Uranus and Neptune, and hence completing the Planetary Grand Tour. This is one that is made practical by a seldom-occurring geometric alignment of the outer planets (happening once every 175 years).

The Voyager 2 space probe has made the most productive unmanned space voyage so far, visiting all four of the Outer Planets and their systems of moons and rings, including the first two visits to previously unexplored Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 2 had two sensitive vidicon cameras and an assortment of other scientific instruments to make measurements in the ultraviolet, infrared, and radio wavelengths, as well as ones to measure subatomic particles in outer space, including cosmic rays. All of this was accomplished at a fraction of the amount of money that was later spent on more advanced and specialized space probes Galileo and Cassini-Huygens. Along with the earlier NASA Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, sister probe Voyager 1, and the more recent New Horizons, Voyager 2 is an interstellar probe in that all five of these are on one-way trajectories leaving the Solar System.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Catcher 1

Pique the Geek 20120819: Nitrogen, without Life?

I took a week off from blogging last week for a number of reasons.  One was that I was having trouble getting my mind around topics.  Another was being in sort of a strange set of moods that have made concentration rather difficult.  Yet again, and probably the root cause of the other two is either spending large amounts of time with someone (no time to write) or no time at all (no motivation to write).  In any event, I think that I have some balance back.

I got tired of writing about carbon so we shall move on to nitrogen.  With an atomic number (Z) of 7, it is the element after carbon.  Nitrogen is another of the few elements that ordinary people encounter on a daily basis, because it comprises around 78% of the atmosphere of the earth.

There are two stable isotopes of nitrogen, the very common 14N (99.64%), the rest being 15N.  Both of these isotopes are formed in larger stars by stellar nucleosynthesis.  Nitrogen is peculiar in that it is one of only five nucleides that are stable with both an odd number of protons and neutrons.  It is really unusual in that 14N is by far the most common isotope of nitrogen.

U.S.S. Constitution

Today they’re taking the oldest commissioned warship in the U.S. Navy out for a little sail and turn around.

Navy’s oldest commissioned warship to sail again

By JAY LINDSAY, Associated Press

Fri, Aug 17, 2012

The USS Constitution, which was first launched in 1797, will be tugged from its berth in Boston Harbor on Sunday to the main deepwater pathway into the harbor. It will then set out to open seas for a 10-minute cruise.

The short trip marks the day two centuries ago when the Constitution bested the British frigate HMS Guerriere in a fierce battle during the War of 1812. It follows a three-year restoration project and is the first time the Constitution has been to sea on its own since its 200th birthday in 1997.

Now the truth is they turn it around every few years anyway for preservation and maintenance, but it’s usually shoved along by tugs.  This is a big deal for the Sailors who get to participate either as workers (who’ve been preparing for a couple of years with the rigging which is not trivial even for 4 sails) and the ‘honorary’ crew who are mostly senior enlisted personnel (NCOs).

Not to disparage the Constitution‘s victory, but as with most such it was hardly a fair fight.

The English had been fighting continuously at sea against one nation or another (Netherlands, Spain, France) for over 2 hundred years using refinements of the same technology and tactics and got quite highly organized about it.  They divided ships into various types based on firepower mostly.  Fifth raters were never used in a battle line, but instead in patrols and as messengers.  In colonial waters they’d often pursue pirates or act as commerce raiders (there’s a HUGE difference).  The captured French frigate, Guerriere was armed to suit the English practice of running right alongside close up and blasting your hull with heavy carronades (30 x 18pdr guns, 16 x 32pdr carronades, 2 x 12pdr guns, 1 x 18pdr carronade).

The United States Navy was nothing like that.

What we called a frigate was actually a Fourth Rate Ship of the Line.  The Constitution never sailed with less than 50 guns (thirty 24-pounders on the main deck, twenty-four 32-pounders and two bored out 18-pounders on the upper deck on this occasion).  It also had the advantage of a 2 x 6″ bias ply hull over a diagonally stiffened frame that improved the sailing performance.

The Battle against the Guerriere is actually kind of instructive of why you just couldn’t expect a Fifth Rate to stand up actually.

Because of it’s heavier build the English long range guns had limited effect (thus Old Ironsides) while Hull put on more sail (unknown why Dacres did not respond) and soon got in range.  They exchanged fire for about 15 minutes with the Guerriere sustaining tremendous damage, including losing the Mizzen Mast.  Dacres had been maneuvering for a clear shot and tangled with the Constitution’s rigging.  Both Captains sent boarding parties forward to the contact point but were unable to board.

During this time the ships basically continued blowing each other apart until the Guerriere’s Fore Mast fell too and the Constitution disengaged and made ready for another pass.  During this time Hull dispatched a boat to ask if Dacres wanted to strike his colors.

Well, Sir, I don’t know. Our mizzen mast is gone, our fore and main masts are gone – I think on the whole you might say we have struck our flag.

That and the Battle of New Orleans are the notable victories and we forget about Detroit and the Burning of Washington.

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