Friday, March 31, 2006

Obituaries: Stanislaw Lem- International Herald Tribune

Obituary: Stanislaw Lem,- International Herald Tribune

One of the world's top Sci-Fi authors died Monday in Krakow, Poland. He did most of his work living under the Communist government of Poland. Solaris was his best known work, turned into a movie first by Andrei Tarkovsky of the Soviet Union, then by Steven Soderbergh of the U.S. He was cerebral, sometimes dark and sardonic and always good, often funny. He will be missed.

The photo is from a SF website with quotes from Pan (Mr.) Lem, see

Thursday, March 30, 2006

World First Biogas Plant to Recover Hydrogen and Methane Quickly from Kitchen Waste

World's First Biogas Plant to Recover Hydrogen and Methane Quickly from Kitchen Waste

Huzzah, when does it enter the energy stream? Even if hydrogen can be made cheaply, the distribution infrastructure is not there yet. Also, there is the Hindenberg effect. People worry about massive explosions caused by hydrogen. Evidence abounds that the dope used to glue the fabric onto the skeleton of the Hindenburg was made out of the same substance that is now used as rocket fuel. Most of the flames from the doomed craft was caused by this rocket fuel and the material making up the craft.

Santa Fe Institute


Santa Fe Institute

"The Santa Fe Institute is devoted to creating a new kind of scientific research community, one emphasizing multidisciplinary collaboration in pursuit of understanding the common themes that arise in natural, artificial, and social systems. This unique scientific enterprise attempts to uncover the mechanisms that underlie the deep simplicity present in our complex world."

I've mentioned this institute before, it is very interesting - real science with a different approach. Also see the book:

"Fire in the Mind", by George Johnson and featuring the Santa Fe Institute. It opens with a journey through Pueblo Kivas, Catholic Pentitents, Evangelical Christian communities and Los Alamos. "Are there really laws governing the universe? Or is the order we see imposed by the prisms of our nervous systems, a mere artifact of the way evolution wired the brain? Do the patterns found by science hold some claim to universal truth, or would a visitor from another galaxy find them as quaint and culturally determined, as built on faith, as the world's religions?" This is from a review of the book.

Winter 2006 Bulletin (download .pdf)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I Ching

Darkness mocks all masks.


is a blank canvas. It asks frightening, but joyful, questions.
is a long walk at night. All pillows are patient.
is a running dream. You will wake tired, but relieved.
is the night barking of a dog. He knocks at each window.
is travel at dawn. The birds sing good-bye.
is an empty vase. Do you have a more welcomed chore?

I sometimes write an article for a local computer magazine. The perennial question of all who seek to write, “Oh what to write this time”. Well, I went to:, an I Ching site claiming to use modern language. Know that I have only a glancing familiarity with this method of divination, but I do find it fascinating. It is an ancient Chinese art that is very adaptable to the computer, using, as you see, only ones and zeros. Wikpedia defines I Ching as: “The I Ching is the oldest of the Chinese classic texts. It describes an ancient system of cosmology and philosophy which is at the heart of Chinese cultural beliefs. The philosophy centers on the ideas of the dynamic balance of opposites, the evolution of events as a process, and acceptance of the inevitability of change (see Philosophy, below). In Western cultures, the I Ching is regarded by some as simply a system of divination; many believe it expresses the wisdom and philosophy of ancient China.”

Why the I Ching in a computer magazine? Well, for god’s sake, look at those 1’s and 0’s! There are those who claim a more modern connection of the I Ching; connections to quantum physics and chaos theory for a start. There are a number of science fiction books in which the I Ching plays a role. The latest is ____________ . In this story, writer aboard a cruise ship through the “Bermuda Triangle” gets regular warnings of problems on board via I Ching readings slipped under his cabin door. There is also the Phillip K. Dick alternate future novel, ___________________ in which the Japanese occupiers of the West Coast after WWII consult the I Ching for advice on a regular basis.

Ideas from anyone out there?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Do trees share blame for global warming? |

Do trees share blame for global warming? |

Just when we thought we had the answers. Remember, nations signatory to the Kyoto treaty have to plant trees to scrub out CO2 that they pump into the atmosphere over their limit. Of course, our late president Ronald Reagan was blasted as a fool for saying "Trees cause pollution". We must not judge so quickly!

Also, a slight increase in temperature in the rain forests is spurring the growth of a fungus that is killing off the frogs. Warming makes nights warming and days slightly cooler because of an increase in cloud cover. Go to NPR Talk of the Nation for a link to the audio of this story.

Security Watch: Theft of trust - CNET reviews

Security Watch: Theft of trust - CNET reviews

As someone who recently learned that a large medical provider insurance information on a laptop left in an employee's car was stolen, I have some interest in the subject of security and identify theft. I also heard the radio consumer reporter, Clark Howard, report on the methods for identity security in the marketplace. He said that many object to fingerprint, retina scans and full facial scans because of the "creep factor". That may be, but unless one live in a small town, don't travel and don't use the internet, one must be careful. I may well hook up the fingerprint ID attachment to my computer again. It is sitting in a drawer.

According to the c/net reporter (see linked article), we still need to take care online even with updated firewalls, spam filters, anti-virus and spyware detectors.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Liftport Group Home

Liftport Group Home
The Space Elevator Companies web page. Is this going to be the cheap way into orbit? Or will rocket launches come astronomically down in price?

For an early vision of the space elevator, see the excerpt from Arthur C. Clarke's The Fountains of Paradise, by Arthur C. Clarke. This book was published by Ballantine in 1978. One should pay attention to Sir Arthur as it was he who came up with the concept of satellites in geosynchronous orbit in the technical magazine Wireless World”. This published his landmark technical paper "Extra-terrestrial Relays" that first developed this concept. See

You might also wish to check out the Yahoo Space Elevator discussion group:

Quoted Below from Yahoo Groups:


The Space Elevator

It is expected that should a space elevator be completed the structure will drastically reduce the cost of reaching space, finally making large scale projects such as SPS and asteroid mining a distinct possibility. Even so, there are a number of challenges that must be overcome. Join us to discuss everything related to the space elevator.

A few of the many topics that will need to be considered are the base tower, space station, and counter weight. How will the cable be constructed and what materials will be used? What would be the optimal propulsion system and how will the elevators themselves work? And, of course, there are still many other issues that need to be considered.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

Friday, March 24, 2006

Technology Review: Emerging Technologies and their Impact


This is an article from MIT's Technology Review regarding terrorists websites and how the Net helps enable terror. The article goes on to suggest ways that the online industry can help.

I do recall that when China forced down a U.S. reconnaissance plane and held the crew briefly, hackers from the U.S. went to war and began attacking Chinese government websites. Of course, Chinese hackers did the same to our websites. I believe that the evidence pointed to just plain hacker geeks in the U.S and P.L.A (People's Liberation Army) professionals on the Chinese side. Our hackers did quite well!

For the Australian military's approach, see the paper written by Squadron Leader Nigel Thompson, Officer in Charge, Information Assurance Centre, Royal Australian Air Force. You may find a PDF version of a paper he wrote on terrorism and the 'net. For the U.S. Army's approach, see Mindjack. Finally, for the Army's official site, see the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command.

"Let's be careful out there!"

Artwells Oracula : Indicating Nothing

I was trying to find subject matter for a sometimes monthly column I write for CompterChips Magazine and found this by Googling "modern I Ching". Try it! The I Ching, the ancient Chinese divination tool using 0 1 is a natural fit for computer geeks! Click on the I Ching above to go to an interesting Do-It-Yourself I Ching site.

Chaos Forever! Or is it KAOS??

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Lunar Property for Sale in Bulgaria

Lunar Property for Sale in Bulgaria

Interesting, but . . . Possession is 9/10ths of the law. The Lunar Treaty (not signed by the U.S.) does not allow national claims on the moon. While the U.S. planted a flag on the moon during the first Lunar landing, no claim was made despite the fact that the U.S. was not a signatory. At some point, lunar real estate will become valuable, especially for the mining of Helium 3 for fusion purposes. At that point, there may well be the international equivalent of mining claims, but no actual title inferred. Those offering to sell lunar real estate today can show no title which they could pass on by sale, though they might have the effect of a quit claim deed.

A space law firm, Hulsey Intellectual Property Lawyers, P.C., in Texas is a valuable resource regarding space law. See also the Dallas chapter of the Mars Society. Finally, see the Space Tourism web site for general space tourism info.

Monday, March 20, 2006

New Light Detector Could Allow Broadband in Space on Yahoo! News

New Light Detector Could Allow Broadband in Space on Yahoo! News

Finally, something faster than dial up speeds for interplanetary communications!

"Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology have developed a tiny light detector that could one day boost interplanetary communications to broadband speeds.

The work could permit the transmission of color video between astronauts and satellites and scientists on Earth across interplanetary distances, something that is not practical with current technologies."



this is an audio post - click to play

ScienceDaily: NASA links smog with global warming

ScienceDaily: NASA links smog with global warming

NASA says that summertime smog is greatly affecting arctic global warming.

See also accusations by NASA scientists that politics is polluting the science regarding global warming.

Government accused of rewriting science

WASHINGTON, March 20 (UPI) -- A renown U.S. scientist says he is limited by the Bush administration as to who he can talk with and what he can say because of Bush's political strategies.

Link to accusation

Saturday, March 18, 2006

joaquin.jpg (JPEG Image, 267x370 pixels)

joaquin.jpg (JPEG Image, 267x370 pixels)
Joaquin Murietta

Read More About California Legends

Information on the Bandits Known as Joaquin

The image drawn of a Mexican Bandit by Nahl.

The first books:

  • The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murietta, Celebrated California Bandit by John Rollin Ridge AKA Yellow Bird, 1854.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Sharp rise in CO2 levels recorded

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Sharp rise in CO2 levels recorded

What does the BBC know? Doom! Alternatives? I believe a recent British study showed that more nukes would not really allieviate the problem, but that is where we are going. The latest congressional energy bill provided for more nukes and members of the G8 recently met in Moscow to plan for more nukes to cut down on global warming, C)2 and the like.

For a spririted, if not really civil, discussion of the CO2 issue, see the Space Policy discussion group at:

Friday, March 17, 2006

Astronomers report unprecedented double helix nebula near the... 3/15/2006

Astronomers report unprecedented double helix nebula near the... 3/15/2006
The double helix nebula.  (The image uses false colors because the eye is not sensitive to infrared light.)  The spots are infrared-luminous stars, mostly red giants and red supergiants.  Many other stars are present in this region, but are too dim to appear even in this sensitive infrared image.The double helix nebula. (The image uses false colors because the eye is not sensitive to infrared light.) The spots are infrared-luminous stars, mostly red giants and red supergiants. Many other stars are present in this region, but are too dim to appear even in this sensitive infrared image.
Download high-quality images for this release

The above from a UCLA press release. Double Helix/DNA! Very Interesting!

NOVA | America's Stone Age Explorers | Before Clovis | PBS

NOVA | America's Stone Age Explorers | Before Clovis | PBS

Look to 28 Pre-Clovis sites in North America. Folks were here much earlier than previously thought, possible from Europe as well as Asia. See this on PBS NOVA soon. Tune to Broadcast: Tuesday, March 21, 2006 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT (Repeat)
(NOVA airs Tuesdays on PBS at 8 p.m. Check your local listings as
dates and times may vary.)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

ScienceDaily: Comet From Coldest Spot In Solar System Has Material From Hottest Places

ScienceDaily: Comet From Coldest Spot In Solar System Has Material From Hottest Places

The comet return misson to Wild2 has returned prelminary results. Olivine and other minerals created in extreme heat were found in the dust particles analyzed by University of Washington researchers. This may lead to a radical rethinking of the early solar system.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Robots break Asimov’s first law

Robots break Asimov’s first law
The story below is from a publication called The Inquirer - No, not the National Enquirer! A more complete story is at:
What Would Issac Asimov say??!! The first law of Robotics is
  • A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  • A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  • A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Someone else put some detail into those laws. See
It was published in a scholarly magazine.

Robots break Asimov’s first law

And so it begins

By: Nick Farrell Wednesday 15 March 2006, 08:20

THE US Army is deploying armed robots in Iraq that are capable of breaking Asmov’s first law that they should not harm a human.

SWORDS (Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection Systems) robots are equipped with either the M249, machine gun which fires 5.56-millimeter rounds at 750 rounds per minute or the M240, which fires 7.62-millimeter rounds at up to 1,000 per minute.

They are still connected by radio to a human operator who verifies that a suitable target is within sight and orders it to fire. Then the robot has the job of making sure lots of bullets are sent towards the target.

The bots are modified Talon robots that have been used by the military for at least four years, but apparently they are better at shooting than human soldiers.

Later the US plans to replace the control system of the bots with a "Gameboy" type of controller hooked up to virtual reality goggles. There are some pictures here.

ScienceDaily: Super-Earths May Be Three Times More Common Than Jupiters

Super-Earths May Be Three Times More Common Than Jupiters

However, they are in gas giant orbits and too cold for water, thus, under current understanding, too cold for life. Apparently, their stellar systems did not have enough gas to allow the planets to coalesce into gas giants as seems to be the norm in extra-solar systems. However, I believe that a number of gas giants have been located orbiting in Venus/Earth/Mars orbits. Current theory says that when gas giants orbit that close to their stellar parent, there can be no earth-like planets present in that system. See
for information about close orbiting gas giants.l

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

NASA - Mars Odyssey Imagery

Fly through the Vlles Marineris, the "Grand Canyon" of Mars. It is as long as the U.S. is wide and deep!

NASA - Mars Odyssey Imagery

Mars Canyon with Los Angeles for Scale
Mars Canyon with Los Angeles for Scale
Image above:

A "Grand Canyon of Mars" slices across the Red Planet near its equator. This canyon -- Valles Marineris, or the Mariner Valley -- is 10 times longer and deeper than Arizona's Grand Canyon, and 20 times wider. As the picture shows, you could drop the whole Los Angeles basin into a small part of Valles Marineris and leave plenty of room to spare. In length, the canyon extends far enough that it could reach across the United States from East Coast to West Coast, while its rim stands more than 25,000 feet high, nearly as tall as Earth's Mount Everest.

Slashdot | Google Goes to Mars

Slashdot | Google Goes to Mars

Try this out...easy locating spots on Mars using various imagery from Mars orbiting craft. Try to find the locations mentioned in your favorite Mars SF! Let us hope that Google does not give in to the Martian government's demand for censoring out the good stuff!

Direct Link:

British Rail flying saucer unearthed | The Register

British Rail flying saucer unearthed | The Register

Ah, Public Employees . . . Alas, I was one until recently. These dedicated public servants with British Rail "invented" and patented a nuclear fusion flying saucer in 1973. Of course, fusion was not there yet, but they hoped it was just around the corner . . . NOT!

The best thing I invented as a public servant was a "tin hat" to allow the wearer to discuss medical conditions of others without violating HIPPA rules ("HIPPA HAT"). It doubled as a device to protect the wearer from adverse magnetic field flux damage when the Earth's magnetic field shifts. For more on this, see:

Monday, March 13, 2006

ScienceDaily: Emory Researchers Study The Effects Of Zen Meditation On The Brain

ScienceDaily: Emory Researchers Study The Effects Of Zen Meditation On The Brain
Zen meditation is an ancient spiritual practice that promotes awareness and presence through the undivided engagement of mind and body. For thousands of years, many religious traditions have made meditation a common practice. Now, researchers at Emory University are looking at the effects of Zen meditation and how the brain functions during meditative states. By determining the brain structures involved in meditation and whose activity is gradually changed in the course of long-term meditative practice, researchers hope this training could one day be used as a complementary treatment for neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The above is from a June 14, 2004 posting on
I am trying to be a little more mystical to make up for some of the hard science stuff listed recently. See my older postings below for some of my earlier postings on the subject of Buddhist psychology and the discussions between the Dali Lam and neuropsychologists on how the brain works and the differences and similarities in describing emotions.

The Dalai Lama's SFN DC Talk

22 Feb 2006 by MurMacI used to think that the Dali Lama was just some Tibetan mystic who lived in the hills of India. However, in listening to recordings of some of his talks and reading books about his interaction with Western Science, I am impressed.

Buddhism and the Interdisciplinary Study of the Mind

14 Dec 2005 by MurMac

The Dalai Lama is one smart dude. Buddhism and Western Psychology and Cognitive Science meet at many levels. Read the book, "The Art of Happiness" Buddhism and the Interdisciplinary Study of the Mind.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Propulsion research goes into hyperdrive - -

Exotic, futuristic propulsion systems discussed!

Propulsion research goes into hyperdrive - -

'A healthy dose of skepticism is key, said John Cole, formerly in the Advanced Space Transportation Project Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Cole worked over the past several years in the Propulsion Research Center at Marshall supporting several advanced propulsion concepts and experiments, and is now reassigned to support work for NASA's Crew Launch Vehicle.

Regarding new propulsion ideas, Cole said there's room for surprises. He said that novel concepts presented at STAIF are the by-products of people wanting to help move humans beyond Earth's environment out into the solar system.

If we ever want to get to the stars … we can't do that with chemistry," Cole told

Similarly, there are also drawbacks to nuclear systems, even fusion concepts, Cole said, for pushing humanity outward toward the stars. "If you are going to do that in a reasonable amount of time, something exotic has got to be found," he advised.'

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Institute of Noetic Sciences: Home Page

Okay, now for some of the other goals of this insane blog, I present for your consideration:

Institute of Noetic Sciences: Home Page


We are a nonprofit membership organization located in Northern California that conducts and sponsors leading-edge research into the potentials and powers of consciousness—including perceptions, beliefs, attention, intention, and intuition. The institute explores phenomena that do not necessarily fit conventional scientific models, while maintaining a commitment to scientific rigor.


The institute is not a spiritual association, political-action group, or a single-cause institute. Rather, we honor open-minded approaches and multiple ways of knowing, bring discernment to our work, and support diversity of perspectives on social and scientific matters.

Through our publications, events, and educational media, we inform our members and the public about the findings of our frontier research on consciousness and its relationship to the physical world.

Our 200-acre Retreat Center hosts workshops, retreats, and educational activities. We support community-building through local community groups, online discussions, and other networking opportunities.

Regular tours of the IONS campus take place on the 2nd Tuesday of the month from 1:00 - 2:00. Please RSVP at 707-775-3500 or via email.

In this section

· Vision and Mission - What IONS is about.
· What is Noetic - Defining terms
· President's Message - Words from James O'Dea
· Our People - Everybody involved with the institute
· History - How we (IONS) came to be

Friday, March 10, 2006

MRO in orbit around Mars

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
News Release: 2006-034 March 10, 2006

"Robotic NASA Craft Begins Orbiting Mars for Most-Detailed Exam

With a crucially timed firing of its main engines today, NASA's new mission to Mars successfully put itself into orbit around the red planet.

The spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, will provide more science data than all previous Mars missions combined." See full text at

I understand that the large (HiRise)camera on the MRO will take huge pictures of the Martian surface. Some will measure 20,000 x 40,000 pixels and will contain gigabytes per image.

This brings to mind an NPR story today about the NASA budget. That is, almost all of NASA's budget from this point on will be dedicated to the space station, the shuttle and the CEV (Crew Exploration Vehicle...Shuttle replacement). There are few remaining unmanned planetary missions funded. These missions thus far have brought in knowledge of immeasurable value. I have been a ardent supporter of manned missions since listening to and watching space adventures in the 50's. However, today's situation is causing me to rethink this position. The space station has no real value and it will be finished just to say it is finished . . . and to live up to international obligations. Maybe if NASA adopted the cheap Mars Direct plan devised by the Mars Society, public excitement over the prospect of an imminent manned mission to Mars might loosen up some money. Absent that, however, why not just fund the Russians to continue building cheap Soyuz capsules to ferry astronauts to the ISS and rethink the ISS mission. This would release up money to pepper Mars with unmanned missions to study and explore...maybe even to set up some of the infrastructure that will eventually be needed for manned exploration.

Ack...what have I said...Doom!

ScienceDaily: NASA's Cassini Discovers Potential Liquid Water On Enceladus

ScienceDaily: NASA's Cassini Discovers Potential Liquid Water On Enceladus

"NASA's Cassini Discovers Potential Liquid Water On Enceladus

NASA's Cassini spacecraft may have found evidence of liquid water reservoirs that erupt in Yellowstone-like geysers on Saturn's moon Enceladus. The rare occurrence of liquid water so near the surface raises many new questions about the mysterious moon."

Wow, who would have thunk???

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Impact of Emerging Technologies: Cheap Hydrogen Fuel - Technology Review

The Impact of Emerging Technologies: Cheap Hydrogen Fuel - Technology Review

"Cheap Hydrogen Fuel

GE says its new machine could make the hydrogen economy affordable, by slashing the cost of water-splitting technology."

GE claims that using cheaper materials in manufacturing the electrolyzers used for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen could soon reduce the cost for hydrogen from $8 to $6 per kg. in the near future. It is said that this translates to roughly $2/gallon gasoline for fuel cell cars.

GE is claiming that it is "Going Green". Maybe so . . . as Willie Sutton the bank robber said when asked why he robbed banks, 'because that's where the money is'. Green is where the money is if done right. However, many companies have gone down the green drain. Perhaps GE is big enough to pull it off.

Note that in the discussion section of the MIT Technology blog from whence this article came, someone asks the question about the cost of electricity into the process to produce this cheap hydrogen. I assume that GE considered that in claiming the cheap cost. However, I could not find any specifics on the GE research website. I did find, however, a reference to a pdf document on the use of solar energy to produce hydrogen that projected gasoline equivenlent costs 10-25 years in the future. However, I don't know if they meant using the new materials or the traditional methods. That document is at:

Also, see
for Biological Production of Hydrogen FuelA Cheap, Unlimited Hydrogen Production Method For the Third World Is Discovered "These hydrogen-producing bacteria are everywhere. You go outside, grab a bucket of soil, and they're there. You don't need some specialized bacterium or genetically engineered bacterium in some science professor's lab."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

JPL.NASA.GOV: News Releases

Fast-Talking NASA Spacecraft Starts Final Approach to Mars
March 08, 2006

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has begun its final approach to the red planet after activating a sequence of commands designed to get the spacecraft successfully into orbit.

The sequence began Tuesday and will culminate with firing the craft's main thrusters for about 27 minutes on Friday -- a foot on the brakes to reduce velocity by about 20 percent as the spacecraft swings around Mars at about 5,000 meters per second (about 11,000 miles per hour). Mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, are monitoring the events closely.

"We have been preparing for years for the critical events the spacecraft must execute on Friday," said JPL's Jim Graf, project manager. "By all indications, we're in great shape to succeed, but Mars has taught us never to get overconfident. Two of the last four orbiters NASA sent to Mars did not survive final approach."

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will build upon discoveries by five successful robots currently active at Mars: NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity, NASA orbiters Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey, and the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter. It will examine Mars' surface, atmosphere and underground layers in great detail from a low orbit. It will aid future missions by scouting possible landing sites and relaying communications. It will send home up to 10 times as much data per minute as any previous Mars mission.

First, it must get into orbit. The necessary thruster burn will begin shortly after 1:24 p.m. Pacific Time on Friday. Engineers designed the burn to slow the spacecraft just enough for Mars' gravity to capture it into a very elongated elliptical orbit. A half-year period of more than 500 carefully calculated dips into Mars' atmosphere -- a process called aerobraking -- will use friction with the atmosphere to gradually shrink the orbit to the size and nearly-circular shape chosen for most advantageous use of the six onboard science instruments.

"Our primary science phase won't begin until November, but we'll actually be studying the changeable structure of Mars' atmosphere by sensing the density of the atmosphere at different altitudes each time we fly through it during aerobraking," said JPL's Dr. Richard Zurek, project scientist for the mission.

Additional information about Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is available online at:

The mission is managed by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft.

Guy Webster (818)354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Dwayne Brown (202)358-1726
Merrilee Fellows (818)393-0754
NASA Headquarters, Washington


JPL.NASA.GOV: News Releases

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

My article in ComputerChips Magazine

For a full copy of the Magazine, go to the ComputerChips Blogspot

Okay, so I missed the last issue! I could have been traveling in space, but, alas, it was that nasty virus going around. This month’s article will be a potpourri of Cosmic items. This month, we will explore the Cosmos through sight and sound, with a liberal sprinkling of website references.

Most of at least seen NASA pictures of space, especially those taken from the Space Telescope. However, sound from space is also available. NASA’s Voyager spacecraft, now far beyond Pluto, carried a12-inch gold-plated copper disk with the sounds of earth embedded thereupon. Astronomer Carl Sagan chose the contents. More information on this high-tech phonograph record, including a listing of the contents and technical details, is at record.html. Interestingly enough, NASA and JPL recorded plasma-wave signals while the spacecraft flew past Mars to Jupiter. Processors shifted the frequencies shifted to the audio and processed into a five CD set called "Symphonies of the Planets". It is a fabulous recording, with incredible gong, bells and other pleasant sounds. While this Laser Light recording is out of print, there are other commercially available CD’s containing the sounds of the stars and planets.

The website Space Sounds,, is an elegant site that leads to sounds from the planets, the stars and other astronomical objects. One animated object is a rotating black hole with an X-ray jet emitting from the center. When you hold your mouse on the jet, you hear the sound of that emission. Space Sounds also contains audio histories of spaceflight, pictures of astronomical objects and links to Space Art. NASA even got into the act and posted spooky Halloween sounds – recordings of the Cassini spacecraft collected near Jupiter in January 2001. Spooky sounds are at Finally, the University of Iowa has links to a variety of sounds from space, both those collected from spacecraft and those recorded on earth. This site is at http://www The Iowa University Physics & Astronomy Department, in collaboration with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences produced a multimedia presentation, “Sounds of Space and the Kronos Quartet Sun Rings”. See for more information on space sounds and download a fully illustrated mpg lecture, including sounds.

NASA comes through again and provides on online very low frequency receiver (VLF). Go to to hear real-time sounds from space. Finally, if you are ambitious, and have already built the Lunar Excursion Module computer described in a previous column, go for it and build your own receiving system for space sounds. Build a Pocket-Portable WR3 Natural Phenomena Receiver. Go to instructions.

Now it is time for the fun stuff! Moviemakers generated Space sounds a strange musical instrument called the Theremin. This instrument worked using the principles of beat frequency or heterodyning oscillators. The first film to use totally synthesized music was Forbidden Planet. That film from the early 1950’s featured great actors such as Leslie “Whoopee Cushion” Nielsen in the serious role as a starship captain. It also starred Walter Pidgeon and the every lovely Anne Francis. The electronic music in that film is fantastic. Not only could you feel cultured watching Anne Francis in a skimpy outfit, but also one could comfort oneself with the knowledge that Shakespeare’s The Tempest inspired the plot. Finally, you can watch cows defend the earth at The connection to space sounds is a bit tenuous, but you will figure it out when the cow uses its ultimate weapon!

On the visual side of space, there are a myriad of websites devoted to photos from space. The foremost of these is at the Hubble Space Telescope site. Images are at are phenomenal! Another interesting site is the Slooh Online Telescope at You can go there and take a free tour or join as a subscriber. As a $49/year subscriber, you get to participate in group observing missions, getting real time views from the Slooh telescope along with audio commentary from various experts. For more money, you can buy time for yourself and explore the universe using their observatory on Mount Teide in the Canary Islands. Go to for images and links. This site is a daily space news site. A university site run by Oklahoma State University,, has archives of space images. Go to for Astronaut photographed images of the earth. Obviously, these are just a few of the interesting internet resources for images.

Astronauts and cosmonauts have obviously been fascinated by what they have seen and experienced in space. This brings us to the final section of this article – Space Art. The term, Space Art, is somewhat self-defining. For a scholarly definition, try, Go to for information about the premier Soviet cosmonaut artist, Alexei Leonov. Alan Bean, a lunar astronaut is a prominent American space artist. A commercial site for Space Art is Another site, with an obvious name, is, a non-commercial site.

If one considers film as art, one of the first such movies was the 1902 movie Le Voyage dans la Lune. One of my favorite space movies, discussed above, was Forbidden Planet, A good site for space movie listings is Finally, movies about Mars began early in history of movies, beginning with an epic Soviet film about a trip to Mars. For listings of these movies, see the website maintained by Gerry Williams, a member of the San Diego branch of the Mars Society. His is also a professional Hollywood camera operator. Go to and be enlightened.

Well, that is all for now. Future subjects may include space law, quasi-serious UFO discussions as well as science fiction, Zen on the internet and other related topics. If you have comments or suggestions, please contact me at You can also comment at the CompterChips blog at May the farce…er, Force be with you!

A comment from a reader pointed me to a very good Space Art site:

Monday, March 06, 2006

Not by Fire but by Ice

Not by Fire but by Ice

Well, okay, I admit it. I sometimes listen to the Art Bell show and his successor. I heard this guy, Robert Felix, a non-scientist, and he made some interesting points. I am not sure about the thermodynamics and heat transfer of ocean venting and its ability to change ocean temperatures, but, hey, it looks like fun.

The real question of global warming and man's influence on same can't be answered without more data and more testing of the climate models now being used. Doom?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Antarctica losing ice to oceans

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Antarctica losing ice to oceans

Yes, no? Maybe? Despite the headline, the article lists some of the findings that indicate that while the West Arctic ice sheets are shrinking, in other areas, they may be thickening.

Friday, March 03, 2006