So the concept was this, we’d orbit a satellite around a comet (which is kind of a fun feat of astro navigation, like hitting a bullet with a bullet) and in addition to visual observations we’ll send down a lander to take actual surface samples.
And that went horribly, horribly wrong, though in kind of a predictable way.
You see micro-gravity is tricky to work with because thinks have a tendency not to stick where you put them (it being micro and all) and it’s really easy to achieve escape velocity so when you jump up you never come back down.
Anyway the EU fires off Philae which has this kind of harpoon thingee that’s supposed to hold it down but it doesn’t work and we kind of lose track of it.
Now it’s kind of obvious that it didn’t simply bounce off because then we would be able to see it (deduction!) and we do get some signals that it’s running out of power so it’s in a shadow somewhere (space is a very bright place if you have a line of sight to a nearby star like, oh, Sol for instance) but all that kind of peters out and we don’t have any pictures from the orbiter (Rosetta) of it lying around.
Fortunately it’s got this power on reset routine and as it gets closer to the sun it wakes up.
As near as we can tell at the moment after the harpoon failed it bounced around for a while and ended up stuck in a crack where the solar power wouldn’t work. But micro-gravity and it’s all fine and ready to do some hay making while the sun shines.
Not that Rosetta didn’t answer some big questions already. The reason we’re interested in these dirty snowballs at all is we imagine them time capsules of some 4.5 billion years ago when the planets were forming. What we’ve discovered (thanks in part to Philae and Rosetta) is that the solar system was a whole lot more nebulous (as in less dense) than we thought and that planetary orbits not as stable as we were taught.
Does basic research like this have any practical benefit? Well, if you don’t count the technical skills that went into building the machines it does somewhat justify our “exceptionalism” because we survive in a unique and fragile moment that is destined for doom. Does it mean we’re unique? God’s special favored creation? Space big. Really, really big. And time is looong. Diamonds are considered valuable because of the monopolistic marketing practices of the DeBeers cartel, in fact you can make them out of peanut butter (though there are other forms of carbon that work better).
Rosetta space orbiter to be moved closer to Philae lander comet
by Matthew Weaver, The Guardian
Wednesday 17 June 2015 19.00 EDT
“The key here is to maximise the communication with Philae,” Elsa Montagnon, Rosetta’s deputy flight director told the briefing. She explained that if the orbiter got too close it would shut down because of dust thrown up in the comet’s wake. She likened the mission to driving through a snow storm.
The Philae probe made contact with agency for the first time in seven months on Saturday, and has sent back hundreds of packages of valuable data. It had been silent since a partially botched landing last November.
If more contact can be established the probe will able to send back more data than if it had landed in the spot it was meant to, scientists said.
Montagnon confirmed that there was contact for 85 seconds on Saturday night. The comet then made one revolution in which there was no contact, but then a further three 10-second bursts were received on Sunday evening, she said.
Jean-Pierre Bibring, the lead scientist on the project, told the briefing that the mission had already been a success because it had been so unexpected and challenged existing paradigms. He said the mission could now “go beyond expectations”, if longer periods of contact were made with the probe.
He said the probe’s reawakening showed it survived temperatures of minus 150 degrees. He acknowledged that the probe would probably have overheated if it had not landed under the shadow of an area of the comet identified by the scientists as the “Perihelion cliff”. He said: “Although we are in shadow we survived and that is really amazingly fantastic.”
Bibring said that the material already gathered from the lander is “amazingly exciting” because it gives detail of the material that modelled the solar system.
The comet lander Philae has finally woken up after seven months
By Rachel Feltman, Washington Post
The fact that Philae set down on a target just 2.5 miles in diameter — let alone that it hit its intended landing site, and worked for days after the fact — is an incredible feat.
But it soon became obvious that the harpoons meant to anchor Philae into the ice hadn’t deployed properly, so that initial touchdown at the intended site had been followed by several bounces and a precarious landing at the edge of a shady crater. It was obvious that Philae wouldn’t get enough sunlight to keep operating, and certainly not enough to power communications with Earth.
Until recently, we weren’t even sure where the lander had landed. Scientists knew it was a shady area, probably the edge of a crater. But without more data from Philae, they were left searching for the lander in photos taken by its orbiter.
Now that we know that Philae survived its hibernation, we can actually consider its bumpy landing a fortunate mistake. Philae’s intended landing site would have given it enough sunlight to power its operations for months, it’s true. But the lander probably would have been dead by now, growing too hot as its host comet approached an August rendezvous with the sun.
Space agencies are interested in comets because of the secrets they might hold about the early days of the universe — and more immediately, the early days of our solar system. We’re fairly certain that comets are remnants of the early solar system and that their frozen cores contain the molecules that were present 4.6 billion years ago. By unlocking those time capsules, scientists could get a better read on what activity led up to the formation of our planet.
“It’s a look at the basic building blocks of our solar system, the ancient materials from which life emerged,” Kathrin Altwegg of the University of Bern in Switzerland, who works on the Rosetta orbiter, told The Post in November. “It’s like doing archaeology, but instead of going back 1,000 years, we can go back 4.6 billion.”
In its accidentally shady spot, Philae will get to make observations on the comet as the sun heats it up, which is the most volatile time in its life cycle. Things are melting, gasses are off-gassing and new clues about the way comets form and evolve are being revealed. With Philae back on the case, there’s no telling what we could learn.
Science Oriented Video
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)
Science News and Blogs
- The Moon’s Puzzling Dust Cloud Finally Yields an Answer, by Elizabeth Howell, Space.com
- Traces of Earliest Stars That Enriched Cosmos Are Spied, By DENNIS OVERBYE, The New York Times
- A Russian Official Wants To Investigate The Apollo Missions, by Chris Mills, Gizmodo
- A Robotic Dog’s Mortality, The New York Times (autoplay)
- Earth’s Mysteriously Light Core Contains Brimstone, by Elizabeth Goldbaum, Live Science
- Mercury Sole Survivor of Close Orbiting Planets Around the Sun, by Nola Taylor Redd, SPACE.com
- Should Your Self-Driving Car Be Programmed To Kill You If It Means Saving A Dozen Other Lives?, by Karl Bode, Tech Dirt
- Science, Now Under Scrutiny Itself, By BENEDICT CAREY, The New York Times
- Study: A Third of Global Groundwater Basins Are Overstressed, The Associated Press
- DuckDuckGo traffic soars in wake of Snowden revelations, by Chris Johnston, The Guardian
Obligatories, News and Blogs below.
Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when
we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED)the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.
I would never make fun of LaEscapee or blame PhilJD. And I am highly organized.
This Day in History
Hong Kong Legislature Rejects Beijing-Backed Election Plan
By MICHAEL FORSYTHE and ALAN WONG, The New York Times
JUNE 18, 2015
They rejected the measure for the same reason tens of thousands of demonstrators paralyzed major portions of the city last year, drawing worldwide attention. The election plan, which had to follow strict guidelines set by China’s Communist Party-controlled National People’s Congress, was, according to supporters and detractors alike, designed to ensure that anyone deemed unacceptable to the central government was screened out by a committee of about 1,200 people dominated by Beijing loyalists.
Supporters of the election proposal, including Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, argued that it was a huge improvement over the current system, under which Mr. Leung and his predecessors were chosen by that same 1,200-person committee, minus the public vote. Supporters also argued that the plan could be improved in the future, and therefore should be adopted now.
For all its solemnity and seriousness, the tallying of the votes Thursday was marked by an embarrassing political misstep by the pro-Beijing side. Some members walked out before voting, in an attempt to force a 15-minute delay as they waited for a senior member of their bloc to return to the chamber. But not all the pro-Beijing lawmakers knew about that plan, and the vote went ahead, with the government garnering only eight votes in favor of the election proposal.
Nine Are Killed in Charleston Church Shooting; Gunman Is Sought
By JASON HOROWITZ, NICK CORASANITI and ASHLEY SOUTHALL, The New York Times
JUNE 18, 2015
A white gunman opened fire Wednesday night at a historic black church in this city’s downtown, killing nine people before fleeing and setting off an overnight manhunt, the police said.
At a news conference with Charleston’s mayor early Thursday, the police chief, Greg Mullen, called the shooting a hate crime.
Later, a group of church leaders gathered at the corner of Calhoun and King Streets, a few blocks from where the shooting occurred, and held an impromptu news conference. Tory Fields, a member of the Charleston County Ministers Conference, said he believed the attacker had targeted the victims because of their race.
“It’s obvious that it’s race,” he said. “What else could it be? You’ve got a white guy going into an African-American church. That’s choice. He chose to go into that church and harm those people. That’s choice.”
The church is one of the nation’s oldest black congregations. The Gothic Revival building dates from 1891 and is considered a historically significant building, according to the National Park Service.
The congregation was formed by black members of Charleston’s Methodist Episcopal Church who broke away “over disputed burial ground,” according to the website of the National Park Service.
In 1822, one of the church’s co-founders, Denmark Vesey, tried to foment a slave rebellion in Charleston, the church’s website says. The plot was foiled by the authorities and 35 people were executed, including Mr. Vesey.
The church houses the oldest black congregation south of Baltimore, the National Park Service said.
Brian Williams to Stay at NBC, but Not as News Anchor
By EMILY STEEL, JOHN KOBLIN and RAVI SOMAIYA, The New York Times
JUNE 17, 2015
Mr. Williams is expected to move to a new role at NBC News, primarily at the cable news network MSNBC, which would probably be in a breaking-news capacity at the beginning, according to one of the people.
Exactly what Mr. Williams’s new role at NBC entails is not clear. But revitalizing MSNBC, which has suffered sharp ratings declines, is known to be a priority of Andrew Lack, the former president of NBC News who was brought back in March to head the division. With the evening news anchor decision out of the way, Mr. Lack is expected to focus a good portion of his attention on fixing MSNBC, and in the coming months, the cable network is expected to introduce more hard news and more reporting from NBC News talent during daytime hours, according to a person briefed on the plans. That would be something of a break from its more opinion-based programming.
The new role can be viewed as a humbling comedown for Mr. Williams, who before the controversy was one of the country’s most prominent and respected broadcast journalists. One point of contention during the negotiations over his new role at the network was the extent to which Mr. Williams would apologize for the controversy, according to a television executive who discussed the issue with people at NBC.
A person close to Mr. Williams who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private, said his supporters saw the decision as, if not quite an exoneration, a signal that any wrongdoing investigated by NBC was not so egregious as to prevent a return. When the scandal first emerged, many media executives inside and outside the company had thought it was untenable for him to remain with the company.
Mr. Williams’s departure from the anchor chair left NBC in an awkward position for its national newscast. He had recently signed a five-year contract worth $50 million, and the network was not anticipating having to replace him so soon. No one in the news ranks was being prepared to succeed him.
The truth behind the Salem witch trials
by Katherine Howe, The Guardian
Thursday 18 June 2015 06.06 EDT
In the 1970s – a time somewhat steeped in drugs, as it happens – a theory was advanced that the most deadly witch trial in North American history could be blamed on ergotism, a rare hallucinatory syndrome caused by consuming moldy rye bread. The adolescent girls who blamed their troubles on difficult, argumentative women in their community were suffering nothing worse than a bad acid trip. Comforting though this idea might be, the theory was discarded within months of its advancement. Not all the afflicted girls lived in the same household, for one thing. Hallucinations are generally preceded by violent vomiting, for another (which is absent in the contemporary accounts of the girls’ behaviour), and often conclude with one’s feet rotting off. It turns out that witchcraft cannot be solved with a simple disease, nor can it be safely consigned to the past. Early modern English witchcraft is more important than that.
The brutal truth is that witch trials had much more to do with power and gender than my interlocutor would like to believe. The typical person accused as a witch in the English Atlantic world in the 1500s-1600s was a woman, first and foremost, in part because at the time women were thought to be more innately at risk of temptation into sin. She was often someone who made her neighbours profoundly uncomfortable. Contrary to the Hansel and Gretel image of a withered old hag, most women accused as witches during this period were in middle age, or the time of life when they should have been at their most influential and powerful – heads of families, members of their church. Women who were childless, or had been abandoned by husbands, or who were destitute, or who were insane wore their exclusion from society in painfully conspicuous ways.
One North American English alleged witch, Rachel Clinton of Ipswich Massachusetts, was accused, among other things, of “hunching a woman of quality with her elbow” when the other woman passed her in the meeting house. What does this tiny detail nearly lost to history tell us about Rachel Clinton? First, that she is not herself considered to be a “woman of quality.” Second, that she doesn’t know her place. Third, that she is very, very angry. And finally, that when she is angry, she lashes out. Rachel, a childless, middle aged woman whose indentured servant husband had absconded with all her money, leaving her penniless and dependent on the charity of her neighbours in a time of great scarcity even for better-off people, embodies all the greatest fears of early modern English village women. Rachel’s desperation reminds all the other women of her small, closely-knit community what is at stake if they don’t behave the way women should.
Ramadan in St Petersburg – the city where the sun doesn’t set
by Alec Luhn, The Guardian
Thursday 18 June 2015 01.00 EDT
These are the celebrated “white nights”, the period lasting from roughly late May to early July when a few hours of twilight is the closest it gets to true night. Although they are observed across the far north, white nights have the strongest association with St Petersburg, the northernmost city with a population of more than 1 million and Russia’s unofficial cultural capital.
According to some St Petersburg Muslim authorities, the long-lasting daylight in the city at this time of year is simply an extra challenge to their faith.
“In St Petersburg, Muslims see this as a test. In the time that is now starting they will observe the fast,” said an employee of the St Petersburg and Northwest Regional Muslim Spiritual Centre, who declined to give his name. “Those Muslims who are observing the fast will wait 21-22 hours to break the fast, they will eat for only three hours.”
When asked about the difficulty of keeping to this strict schedule, he said it was no burden for the faithful. “Islam is a way of life,” he said. “For us, fasting is the same as getting up in the morning and brushing your teeth.”
St Louis Cardinals espionage claims: US sports’ dark arts go back 100 years
by Dan McQuade, The Guardian
Wednesday 17 June 2015 10.34 EDT
Cardinals officials are believed to have consulted a master list of passwords created by a former executive, Jeff Luhnow, who left the Cardinals in 2011 to become general manager of the Astros. It is alleged Luhnow created a proprietary database (Ground Control) in Houston that was similar to one he created while in St Louis (Redbird). It’s not clear which Cardinals employees were behind the alleged intrusions into Houston’s database. “This wouldn’t be cheating in the classic baseball sense,” Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan wrote. “It would be a crime – a literal crime – borne of stupidity and hubris.”
For fans of other teams, the revelations were a chance for a good bit of schadenfreude. Cardinals fans are already known as the “Best Fans in Baseball” (sometimes pejoratively.) Fans and media rushed to make jokes at the Cardinals’ expense. “To be fair,” Chris Driver quipped on Twitter, “the Cardinals’ mascot’s full name is Fredbird Snowden.”
The use of electronics isn’t limited to espionage. Sometimes it’s for simple cheating. A chess grandmaster was caught sneaking into a bathroom stall to check an iPhone for strategy between moves. Chess hasn’t resorted to metal detectors yet, though. “If we asked players to take their shoes off and strip-searched them before every game,” Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis head Tony Rich told NPR, “I doubt you’ll find many people who’d want to come out to the chess tournament.”
Electronic espionage in sports seems to be so ingrained that José Mourinho’s favorite restaurant was once bugged. Sports espionage is likely here to stay. Baseball has come a long way since elaborate buzzer schemes were used to steal signs. Teams have known to look out for subterfuge around their signals from pitcher to catcher. Now they know to establish more secure databases.
US struggling to recruit Iraqi troops to fight Isis, Pentagon chief admits
by Paul Lewis, The Guardian
Wednesday 17 June 2015 12.49 EDT
The US defense secretary Ash Carter has painted a bleak picture of the country’s efforts to train fighters in Iraq and Syria, revealing the military has trained fewer than a third of the Iraqi troops it expected would lead the fight against the Islamic State.
“We simply haven’t received enough troops,” Carter said on Tuesday, stating the US has only trained around 7,000 Iraqi security forces, at four specialist sites it had anticipated would be used to train 24,000 soldiers by the fall.
Last week President Barack Obama approved sending 450 extra troops to bolster the Iraqi army in Anbar province.
As with other deployments, the White House insists these are non-combat personnel. The US has been incrementally increasing its presence in Iraq with troops it describes as advisers and facilitators in the year since Isis took control of large sections of the country.
More than four years after the US officially pulled its troops out of Iraq, the total number of its military personnel deployed in the country now stands at 3,550.
Walmart hid $76bn of assets in foreign tax havens, new study claims
by Rupert Neate, The Guardian
Wednesday 17 June 2015 13.37 EDT
Walmart hid $76bn of assets in tax havens across the world, including $64.2bn managed by 22 different subsidiaries in Luxembourg, where Walmart has no stores, according to a study published on Wednesday.
The study, published by campaign group Americans for Tax Fairness and funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, alleged that Walmart has “kept its tax haven subsidiaries secretive by burying mention of their existence”. Walmart denied the claims.
A spokesman for Walmart, denied that the company passed its overseas profits through Luxembourg in order to avoid tax. The spokesman, Randy Hargrove, told the Guardian that Walmart used its Luxembourg office to manage its affairs because “many banks are headquartered there, and the people are well educated”. He also said Luxembourg had a favourable time zone for managing its international affairs. There is a seven-hour time difference between Luxembourg and Tokyo.
Britain beware, «Brexit» could be your Waterloo!
The bicentenary of the battle of Waterloo is actually pushing French historians and commentators to look at this crucial episode in a more balanced way. Defeat it was, but a glorious defeat : it took the whole of Europe to break the French army. Who remembers Wellington ? It is Napoleon who is celebrated today, including in BBC series. Yet in France, the Napoleonic legend has lost much of its luster. The military genius, it turns out, was also a dictator. The image of the revolutionary, of the visionary of modern Europe is now tainted with the legacy of nepotism and slavery.
More importantly, Waterloo marked the beginning of an unprecedented era of peace, stability and development in Europe. For some historians, the 19th century truly started in 1815, just as the 20th century started in 1914. Waterloo marked the end of the political cycle of the French Revolution and the beginning of the industrial revolution in Britain. For the next century, no major European war would erupt. After the Congress of Vienna, European monarchs took to meet regularly to solve tensions and crises : a new system of collective security had emerged.
Some may argue that, had Napoleon continued to rule, industrial development would have started earlier in France, reactionary regimes would not have crushed progressive movements, France might have been spared two revolutions, in 1830 and 1848. But the most noble ideas of the French Revolution had spread, opening the way to modernization of European societies and a golden age for European science, arts and literature.
Analysis: Obama Asia Policy Faces Toughest Test on Trade
JUNE 18, 2015, 3:33 A.M. E.D.T.
Legislation to smooth the way for a free-trade pact with 11 other Asia-Pacific nations hit a wall in Congress last week. There could be a fresh vote in the House as early as Thursday to try to reverse that setback. Formidable obstacles remain- principally, opposition from Obama’s fellow Democrats who believe trade deals cost American jobs.
The upshot is the current logjam in Congress. Obama and his legislative allies – which in this case are mostly Republicans – were consulting Wednesday to find a way a way through it.
While plans were yet to be finalized, officials said the House could have a stand-alone vote on fast track on Thursday. A package of aid for workers who lose their jobs because of imports would become part of a separate bill. The two measures were originally combined into one, to sweeten the deal for union-backed Democrats, who voted against it anyway last Friday.
Larry Summers, a former director of the National Economic Council in the Obama White House, wrote that unless the trade legislation votes were successfully revisited, it would “doom” the TPP. “It would leave the grand strategy of rebalancing U.S. foreign policy toward Asia with no meaningful nonmilitary component,” he said.
Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb told Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Wednesday that TPP nations could be just one week’s negotiation away from completing the agreement, but if fast track isn’t resolved in the next two or three weeks, “I think we’ve got a real problem with the future of the TPP.”
New Zealand Trade Negotiations Minister Tim Groser said the problems in Congress could stall the agreement until 2018.
Singapore’s Foreign Minister K Shanmugam put the U.S. dilemma in broader but starker terms.
“Do you want to be part of the region or you want to be out of the region?” he told a Washington audience this week.
U.S. police laws don’t comply with international standards, report says
By Colin Daileda, Mashable
Laws governing police use of lethal force in the United States do not comply with international regulations, according to a new report released on Thursday by Amnesty International, a human rights advocacy group.
The report, titled “Deadly Force: Police Use of Lethal Force In The United States,” comes amid a stream of high-profile police killings of minority people in America. It says that no state in the U.S. meets international regulations when it comes to governing when it is appropriate for police to take a life.
“Amnesty International reviewed US state laws-where they exist-governing the use of lethal force by law enforcement officials and found that they all fail to comply with international law and standards,” the report states. “Many of them do not even meet the less stringent standard set by U.S. constitutional law.”
- Plan B: Ditch Help For Workers, Just Get Corporations What They Want, by Jon Queally, Common Dreams
- Federal Appeals Court Revives Lawsuit Against Bush Officials for Post-9/11 Abuse of Immigration Detainees, by Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake
- The IMF “Defense” of it[’s] Actions against the Greeks is an Unintended Confession, By William K. Black, New Economic Perspectives
- Administration Tries to Resurrect Toxic Trade Deals After Big Defeat. Will It Succeed?, by Joe Firestone, Naked Capitalism
- Time to “Fire” Mary Jo White: SEC Covers Up for Bank Capital Accounting Scam Promoted by Her Former Firm, Debevoise, by Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism
- Here’s how the fast-track fight ends: Why it all comes down to Obama, by Jim Newell, Salon
- Tamir Rice and the Meaning of “No Justice – No Peace”, by Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report
- Dems still steamed over labor’s trade attacks, By Lauren French, Politico
Allow me to interupt for just a moment and say- Fuck you, you whiny ass tittly babies. You don’t own our votes, you ungrateful sellouts.
- As TPP Supporters Whine About Failure Of Fast Track, Why Is No One Suggesting Increased Transparency?, by Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt
- Paradigm Change in Science and Economics, By Ed Walker, emptywheel