Monday, August 3, 2015

Aluminum Foiled Again

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 Inevitably, after any moon landing anniversary, the hoaxers emerge from the timber paneling to bellow about shadows and wind and stars, and all the reasons why thousands of people worked on the Apollo project, "duping the world" -- yet fascinatingly, no whistleblowers have come forward for 5 decades.

Upon a recent entangling with one of these poor souls on Twitter (which we should just re-name "Trollville" at this juncture), I pointed out they might actually be projecting far more competence onto government bureacracies than deserved. The response was "I'll keep my tinfoil hat, thank you."

People still wear tinfoil hats??

MIT's Ali Rahimi
Ali Rahimi of MIT. Seriously.

Horrible news for the Conspiracy Theory Crowd came many moons ago, when an empirical study should have shut down any arguments.

Alas, if you could "reason" with conspiracy theorists, there wouldn't be any conspiracy theorists.

Whether you embrace the contemporary fashion for blocking government beams (or alien beams, in some circles) it turns out that tin foil headgear actually enables mind control!  Go figure.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tin_foil_hat
Oh, Tabby. Not you, too!

Seeking resource links about radio waves (different writing project), I once stumbled over this enlightening piece of news, whereby several scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (who knew they had so much time on their hands?) experimented with various radio frequencies used by the United States government. Would a tin foil hat truly stem the tide of Big Brotherly evil?

Astonishingly, after testing three common helmet styles, MIT researchers found that the tin foil magnified the waves instead of blocking them.

Fashion Statement

So hmm, maybe the aliens among us set this conspiracy theory in motion all along, hoping that tin foil caps would catch on??

You have no idea how much I wish I was making this up:

A quarter million dollars worth of equipment was used, including computer power, a network analyzer, a signal generator and omnidirectional antenna – all used to test signals in various ranges... all to find out that regular old Reynolds foil amplify the bands allocated to the government.

Wernher von Braun
Recently De-classified.

So what CAN one use to block alien beams or government mind-control technology? I have no idea, but I am sure new products for just this purpose are due to hit the market.

Please, please let it be chocolate.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Third Annual FIREFLY and COSMOS T-Shirt Giveaway

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Browncoats! Spacetweeps! Science nerds!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/cf6012653/

It is that time of year again. In celebration of Shepherd Book's milestone birthday this week, I'm once again partnering for tweetstorms with GeekChicTees for a Firefly T-shirt giveaway!

The contest will run for one week, today through next Friday (July 3rd - 10th). On July 10th, our supremely indifferent cat will pick one two lucky winners, and Ron Glass will officially be a septuagenarian!  Like, wow.

As always, very special thanks to Captain Mal's Wisdom, who always helps us get the word out to space cadets of all stripes. (Though we're pretty sure they do it for the cool free T-shirts, too.)

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/cf6012653/
Click to enter T-shirt Giveaway!

To enter the contest for either free T-shirt, pop over to our Official Giveaway Page and choose ways to enter on Twitter and Facebook.

Winners, upon sending clothing size and address confidentially, get to pick their favorite products from the GeekChic Tees catalogue!

Note: While we chose Rafflecopter's platform for easy collating so we don't miss any entries, know that email addresses are never farmed. They may ask you for email to sign up, but NO ONE at Pillownaut.com, GeekChic Tees or CMW will ever, ever, ever send spam or sell the email addresses of Browncoats. That is some serious Alliance-style BS right there! Anyone who even asked us for something that rude would have to get past Jayne & Vera, first.

 Click to Enter T-Shirt Giveaway!
Click on picture to enter contest!

If you are not on Twitter or Facebook, you can also share this page to Tumblr, Pinterest, and/or Google+ and comment on this blog post to say you have done so. We'll be watching all new messages!

Enter as many times as you like, on as many platforms as you like. We'll go check them out! Every follow, share, and tweet counts as an entry.

DEADLINE FOR ENTRIES: 9am PST, July 10th!
Winner will be announced directly afterward on this blog, Twitter, and Captain Mal's Wisdom. Which you should totally be following already, anyway.

 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Weightless Porn

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Anyone buying this? The 200-Mile High Club. Space agencies everywhere want you to believe it doesn't exist. And of course, as soon as I start blathering smugly that I don't court controversy or scandal, the concept of space porn hits the news.

 So let's talk about it. Seems the Pornhub team of Los Angeles has created an Indiegogo campaign for "Sexploration," whereby they hope to fund the first sex tape in space, and give away swag for those who contribute. You don't want details. I didn't even want details. Careful how you go about Googling it if you're curious.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/pornhub-space-program-sexploration#/story
Because space scientists are so enthused about Apollo
being associated with pornography

Despite the epic eye-roll my extraocular muscles conducted involuntarily, sex in space is a hugely overlooked area of research. So much so that if we truly want to discuss the concept of "colonization" on any other celestial body, one can actually call it a "research GAP" now.

While I don't think sensationalized pornography will be instrumental in addressing said gap, I'll reluctantly resign myself to acceptance if this gets some conversations started. Perhaps the problem is that the subject makes news so infrequently, and tax-payers are so squeaky about admitting sexuality in varying levels of gravity is a reality. Sex is a basic biological drive, and we're absolutely going to take it with us wherever we go.

My quibble comes with the immaturity with which any such efforts are accompanied (and this was edited just to show the cleanest stuff):

Look at all the potential Nobel Prize winners!

A few years back, the London Telegraph, NY Daily News, and even TIME journalists made unfunny quips about Shuttle Discovery Commander Alan Poindexter's statement that "We [astronauts] are a group of professionals. Personal relationships are not an issue."

I groaned when I saw this, knowing it would be crammed down every available throat if any two astronauts were so much as photographed hugging. Seems like this subject comes up every few years, the worst episode being the Document 12-571-3570 hoax, I repeat, HOAX... where the 1996 STS-75 mission allegedly completed assignments for testing various carnal positions in weightlessness.

Really? Pretty nifty accomplishment for the all-male crew of STS-75, being that there were no women and certainly no married couples aboard the orbiter (that only happened once, and they were married after the flight assignment had been set) -- but hey, don't let any pesky facts interfere with our all-too-human tendency to be humorously immature about intimate relations.

For the reality-challenged: This didn't actually happen in space.

I have two overall thoughts on this matter rearing it's head again:

1. People need to grow up. Stephen Hawking famously commented that successful off-world exploration and perhaps even the long-term survival of humankind will depend on learning to live and reproduce in space. Many science fiction novels have also examined the possible physics or developmental challenges in practical terms. This area of science is not an American Pie sequel and will be addressed in time.

2. Sexual intercourse has indeed occurred in micro-gravity, just not among humans or large mammals. Reproductive studies upon other taxa, such as fish, birds, insects, fish, and amphibians are evident in the literature for anyone who actually cares to examine scientific documentation, as opposed to the puerile ramblings of tabloids and pornographers who trivialize:

Ijiri, K: Fish Mating Experiment on STS-65
Freshwater Oryzias latipes mated, laid eggs in space, and these eggs developed normally to hatching in microgravity.

Ronca, April: Effects of Prenatal Spaceflight in Neonatal Rats
Ten pregnant rats flown for 11 days on board the NASA space shuttle from gestational day 9 (launch) until gestational day 20 (landing) of the rats' 22-day pregnancy.systems.

Fritzsch, Bruce: Foetal Rats / Birds Raised in Micro Gravity on STS-66
Deficits in behavioral orientation have been observed in chicks and rats reared in microgravity, suggesting that microgravity may induce the growth of anomalous neuronal connections between the vestibular and motor systems.

Wakayama S: Effects of Microgravity on Mouse Development on STS-80
Sustaining life beyond Earth will require clear understanding of how the space environment affects key phases of mammalian fertilization and reproduction.

The question isn't whether or not we can figure out a way to "do it" in weightlessness. We are animals. We will always find a way. The crucial question is can females safely become pregnant, and give birth to normal, healthy progeny on other worlds?

For more information, and differing opinions, see Motherboard's interesting 3 part series on Sex and Gender Issues In Space.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Laws of the Space Jungle

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http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/SpaceLaw/links.html

My last post wished the Hubble a happy 25th birthday and one of my pals joked over Facebook that hey, Hubble can finally get a rental car!  I had a funny flashback to Hubble turning 21, and quipping that it could finally have a beer.  Why do we project human milestones onto hardware missions? Beats me. Perhaps it's just our simplest measure of the passage of time, serving as easy comparison.

My buddy Mike C. in Austin quipped back on the same string, "Well if astronauts went up to repair it again and share a beer, since it is technically in space, would the age laws from the US apply on missions?"

Would you believe the answer is yes?! Technically, astronauts who imbibe in space would have to be 18 years old on Russian or Chinese rockets, 20 in the Japanese ISS module, and 21 on any various American crafts.

So says Article 8 of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 (excerpt): "A State Party to the Treaty on whose registry an object launched into outer space is carried shall retain jurisdiction and control over such object, and over any personnel thereof, while in outer space or on a celestial body."

Space Treaty
Mostly so this doesn't happen...

The HST is a shared project between NASA and the ESA, but the Hubble is on the American Registry of Space Objects, and also listed by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs as US territory. The same would apply to any of our orbiters or landers.

International Space Station laws apply similar "Location"-based principles. The broad agreement says "...each partner state in this visionary cooperation adventure registers its own part of the station, and consequently can apply its own laws to events therein."

The drinking age would only be a single example. Even patent law applies; if something is invented in the Kibo module, Japan owns the rights.

Legally speaking, we now have a piece of the US annexed to a piece of Europe annexed to a piece of Russia annexed to a piece of Japan in low earth Orbit.

Space Law
Cool, huh? And it's just the tip of the iceberg. Space Law is developing into such a robust field, all the major Space Treaties, Declarations and Principles are too numerous and labyrinthine to cover effectively here… but consider this:
The UN's master list of all agreements between space-faring nations is now 55 pages long... and those are just the titles! In addition, space exploration is subject to international law, not just the dictates of those with the resources to get there. In other words, all nations have a say in how space is used, even if they do not have launch capabilities.

Those who are curious can visit the UNOOSA site to browse traffic regulations, liability for floating debris and collisions, [lack of] moon ownership and, believe it or not, extra-terrestrial alien rights.

That's not a typo. ALIEN RIGHTS.

Interested in pursuing it as a career? As space tourism becomes a reality, this field will only grow. They even list the many schools offering degrees in space law. Because that's what we need. More lawyers ;)