November 1, 2014 archive

But they’re “our” Nazis

(Allen) Dulles was one of the intelligence titans of the 1950s, one of the original cold warriors. And he was someone who believed that there were, quote-unquote, “moderate Nazis,” his words, who the U.S. could use to its advantage in the Cold War. And he actively recruited them himself and, in a number of cases, intervened on their behalf when they were facing accusations about their past, about their involvement in Nazi war crimes. And he and J. Edgar Hoover were really the two linchpins in this, in developing this strategy of recruiting ex-Nazis as cold warriors, as anti-Soviet assets who, they believe, could gather intelligence for the U.S.

Now, the irony is that a lot of these guys, a lot of these ex-Nazis used as spies by the CIA, by the FBI, really turned out to be bad spies. There are all sorts of files that I examined showing that they-not shockingly in hindsight, that the Nazis were found to be liars and cheats and embezzlers, and in a couple cases they were even found to be Soviet double agents. So, not only do they have the incredible baggage of being Nazis, but they were not even good spies.




On This Day In History November 1

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

November 1 is the 305th day of the year (306th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 60 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1512, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, one of Italian artist Michelangelo’s finest works, is exhibited to the public for the first time.

Michelangelo Buonarroti was commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1508 to repaint the vault, or ceiling, of the Chapel. It was originally painted as golden stars on a blue sky. The work was completed between 1508 and 2 November 1512. He painted the Last Judgment over the altar, between 1535 and 1541, on commission from Pope Paul III Farnese.

Michelangelo was intimidated by the scale of the commission, and made it known from the outset of Julius II’s approach that he would prefer to decline. He felt he was more of a sculptor than a painter, and was suspicious that such a large-scale project was being offered to him by enemies as a set-up for an inevitable fall. For Michelangelo, the project was a distraction from the major marble sculpture that had preoccupied him for the previous few years.To be able to reach the ceiling, Michelangelo needed a support; the first idea was by Julius’ favoured architect Donato Bramante, who wanted to build for him a scaffold to be suspended in the air with ropes. However, Bramante did not successfully complete the task, and the structure he built was flawed. He had perforated the vault in order to lower strings to secure the scaffold. Michelangelo laughed when he saw the structure, and believed it would leave holes in the ceiling once the work was ended. He asked Bramante what was to happen when the painter reached the perforations, but the architect had no answer.

The matter was taken before the Pope, who ordered Michelangelo to build a scaffold of his own. Michelangelo created a flat wooden platform on brackets built out from holes in the wall, high up near the top of the windows. He stood on this scaffolding while he painted.

Michelangelo used bright colours, easily visible from the floor. On the lowest part of the ceiling he painted the ancestors of Christ. Above this he alternated male and female prophets, with Jonah over the altar. On the highest section, Michelangelo painted nine stories from the Book of Genesis. He was originally commissioned to paint only 12 figures, the Apostles. He turned down the commission because he saw himself as a sculptor, not a painter. The Pope offered to allow Michelangelo to paint biblical scenes of his own choice as a compromise. After the work was finished, there were more than 300. His figures showed the creation, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the Great Flood.

The Breakfast Club (Rocket Science)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgSaturday Science Special

Once again there have been fatalities in the pursuit of manned space flight and I mourn the loss just as everyone does.

But you know folks, they call it Rocket Science for a reason and even after a century of development (I personally date it from the work of Robert Goddard which is terribly parochial of me, some would date it from the work of Konstantin Tsiolkovsk in 1903) it’s still an extremely dangerous undertaking.

A century you say?  Well, two of Goddard’s patents, those for liquid fuel and multiple stages, were granted in 1914.

His 1919 monograph A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes is considered one of the classic texts of 20th-century rocket science. Goddard successfully applied three-axis control, gyroscopes and steerable thrust to rockets, to effectively control their flight.

Although his work in the field was revolutionary, Goddard received very little public support for his research and development work. The press sometimes ridiculed his theories of spaceflight. As a result, he became protective of his privacy and his work.

Even way back when (1920) the Grey Lady often missed the point-

A Severe Strain on Credulity

As a method of sending a missile to the higher, and even highest, part of the earth’s atmospheric envelope, Professor Goddard’s multiple-charge rocket is a practicable, and therefore promising device. Such a rocket, too, might carry self-recording instruments, to be released at the limit of its flight, and conceivable parachutes would bring them safely to the ground. It is not obvious, however, that the instruments would return to the point of departure; indeed, it is obvious that they would not, for parachutes drift exactly as balloons do. And the rocket, or what was left of it after the last explosion, would need to be aimed with amazing skill, and in a dead calm, to fall on the spot whence it started.

But that is a slight inconvenience, at least from the scientific standpoint, though it might be serious enough from that of the always innocent bystander a few hundred or thousand yards from the firing line.

[A]fter the rocket quits our air and really starts on its longer journey, its flight would be neither accelerated nor maintained by the explosion of the charges it then might have left. To claim that it would be is to deny a fundamental law of dynamics, and only Dr. Einstein and his chosen dozen, so few and fit, are licensed to do that.

His plan is not original

That Professor Goddard, with his “chair” in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution, does not know the relation of action and reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react-to say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.

Umm… bright boy, action reacts against the body providing the action (thrust), not against the density of the medium being traveled.  If anything it’s easier because you don’t have to account for drag and, not that I’m a math whiz or anything, when you study Newton in basic Physics a vacuum is always assumed because it makes the equations so much simpler.

While I like to imagine myself a brave revolutionary who’d tell The New York Times to piss up a rope (usually messy but theoretically possible given a rope with the right kind of capillary action) in fact I’d probably do what Goddard did and skulk away reclusively, muttering imprecations under my breath.

To their credit The Times did retract, one day after the launch of Apollo 11 and a mere 24 years after his death-

A Correction

Further investigation and experimentation have confirmed the findings of Isaac Newton in the 17th Century and it is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error.

I thought it especially magnanimous that they recognized that they had misunderstood Newton’s equations, which were after all published in 1687.

There is no getting around the fact that spaceflight is inherently dangerous.  Just getting to orbit is basically like shoving a stick of dynamite up your butt and hoping for good things to happen, let alone the difficulties of a hostile environment and a high speed fall (I think jumping off buildings is fun, don’t you?).

That Richard Branson is marketing this as “Adventure Tourism” seems the height (heh, he said height) of irresponsibility to me though I can’t wait for the day when (your least liked celebrity, arrogant asshole capitalist, or corrupt politician here) burns up in a Stratospheric fireball.

I’ll be sad.  Of course I will.

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Crashes in New Setback for Commercial Spaceflight


OCT. 31, 2014

The pilots, who have not yet been identified, were flying the plane for Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company created by the entrepreneur Richard Branson, and Scaled Composites, the company that designed and built the plane.

One pilot was able to parachute from the plane and was taken to a hospital with “moderate to major injuries,” said Ray Pruitt, the public information officer for the Kern County sheriff’s office in California.

The test was the first time SpaceShipTwo had flown using a new, plastic-based rocket fuel.

It was the second major accident in a week for the commercial space industry, which has been widely promoted in recent years as an alternative to costly government programs. On Tuesday, an unmanned rocket launched by Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., which was carrying cargo to the International Space Station, exploded 15 seconds after launching.

The list of would-be astronauts includes celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Justin Bieber and Angelina Jolie.

Experts said it was too soon to tell when the effort would resume. “Virgin was out ahead of everyone else for space tourism,” said Michael Blades, the aerospace and defense industry senior analyst at Frost & Sullivan, a market research and consulting firm. “It will still happen, but it has been pushed way to the right.

“It is just like any kind of other new technology, especially when it comes to flight,” he continued. “You have your tests and you have your failures.”

Marco Caceres, director of space studies at the Teal Group, a consulting firm, said that “in an age where it is very expensive to fly these vehicles, the pressure is to do the minimal amount of test flying.”

“So that may be something we have to take a look at,” he continued. “Everyone seems to be in need of more money to conduct more flights, so the pressure is to start operational flight too soon. Maybe we are being unreasonable here.”

Patricia Hynes, director of the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium, who organizes an annual symposium for people in the commercial space industry, said the accident “helps people understand why it’s never been done before.”

“This is a tough business,” she said.

Science and Technology News and Blogs

Science Oriented Video!

The Obligatories, News, and Blogs below.

Late Night Karaoke

Random Japan

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Shibuya celebrates Halloween costumes and huge crowds

 Michelle Lynn Dinh

While you might not see a lot of trick or treaters out in Japan, if you find yourself in Tokyo, specifically Shibuya, you’re sure to see some original and inspiring costumes. Let’s take a look at some of the best homemade and store-bought costumes spotted in Shibuya this Halloween.

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Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness News, a weekly diary which is cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette. It is open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

It’s Time to Try Nutty, Sour Trahana

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Trahana is a wheat product that is eaten throughout Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean. It is usually added to soups and stews, and is also eaten as a porridge. Traditionally it was a way to preserve milk for the winter, when production was always lower, by mixing it with wheat and drying it.

There are many versions of trahana, some made with only milk (this type is called sweet trahana and usually uses goat’s or sheep’s milk) and some with milk and yogurt (called sour trahana). In Greece there is even a lenten version made with vegetable pulp. The liquid is combined with wheat – bulgur or cracked wheat, flour, semolina flour or a mix of semolina and flour – and either kneaded into a dry dough (if flour is used) or simmered until it is a thick porridge. Then it is spread out on netting and dried in the sun. The Greeks usually make it during the hot, dry month of August. Once thoroughly dry it is broken up into granules that can range in size from bulgurlike morsels to small pellets You can find imported trahana in Greek markets and in some Mediterranean markets.

~Martha Rose Shulman~

Homemade Sour Bulgur Trahana From Ikaria

Easy to make yourself, the trahana may become a new pantry staple.

Simple Trahana Soup With Lemon and Olive Oil

A simple trahana dish that is both satisfying and refreshing.

Stewed Green Beans and Tomatoes With Trahana

A delicious main dish stew that can be served hot or at room temperature.

Puréed Trahana and Vegetable Soup

A thick, comforting soup with sweet and tart flavors.

Trahana With Mushrooms

A savory, comforting dish with a delicious thick broth.