Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Science, Space — Rick Moran @ 2:32 pm

The year 2005 will go down as one of the most innovative and remarkable years in the history of science. Of course, you could probably make the same boast about any year in the last quarter century or so. Our knowledge and understanding in a multitude of scientific disciplines is increasing so fast that it takes one’s breath away to think where we were in 1980 and where we are now. In fields as diverse as cosmology, medicine, the mind, and human origins, this year has seen some startling breakthroughs that have added substantially to the richness of our understanding of humanity and our place in the universe.

I have taken what I consider the top ten science stories from a variety of sources. Some topics are more general rather than specific to reflect a multitude of advancements.

Feel free to add or subtract from this list in the comments.


The question uppermost in everyone’s mind is can NASA get it right? Will they be able to bring the next generation manned crew exploration vehicle (CEV) home on time and within very tight budgetary limits? The new Administrator Michael Griffin is making all the right noises about the new CEV even going so far as to say he will deliver on the project two years early. But given NASA’s history, many are skeptical.


Plenty of fodder for both advocates and detractors of global warming this year as several atmospheric models of how much CO2 should be in the atmosphere proved to be massively wrong while ice core evidence from Greenland shows a spike in CO2 levels not seen in 600,000 years. The beat goes on in 2006.


From discovering clues to the origins of homo sapiens to unlocking the secrets of life itself, the pace of discovery in the study of genes continues to amaze and awe laypeople like me.


In a development that will become more commonplace once various earth-based systems come on-line and the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST) is launched, a rocky planet 7.5 times the size of the earth was discovered just 15 light years away. With 150 planets and counting, the coming decade will see an explosion of planet discoveries that could very well answer the question “Are we alone?”


Both European and US Martian probes continue to surprise and amaze scientists, finding what appears to be methane (which could be a sign of subsurface life) as well as the almost certainty of water. The little Rovers Opportunity and Spirit approach the end their second year still working magnificently and beaming back pictures and data that continues to amaze. Not bad for a couple of rovers that were only supposed to last three months.


The Europeans and Japanese have decided to go ahead and build the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in France. The concept behind this project has such enormous implications for our future that the decision to finally build it must be considered a top story for any year. If everything goes well, within 3-5 years, we should have the world’s first fusion reactor - a breakthrough that will eventually lead to truly clean nuclear energy.


In a triumph of both technological wizardry and international cooperation, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft sent the European probe Huygens drifting gently toward the surface of Saturns enigmatic moon Titan. The spectacular pictures sent back from the only moon in the solar system known to have an atmosphere will have scientists scratching their heads for years to come.


It was the busiest hurricane season on record which caused a speculation fest among global warming advocates that atmospheric warming was to blame. Thankfully, the grown ups stepped in and pointed out the cyclical nature of Atlantic hurricanes, much to the displeasure of people who thought they could accuse George Bush of another crime against humanity.

2. STS-114

The Space Shuttle returned to flight following the Columbia disaster. Despite years of work to make Shuttle launches safer, NASA engineers had to go back to the drawing board as insulation on the external fuel tank continues to fall off in dangerous chunks.


The top science story of 2005 has to be the Deep Impact Mission to Comet Tempel 1. The probe traveled 250 million miles in order to deliberately crash into the comet so that scientists could get a glimpse of what’s inside. The mission succeeded beyond all expectations and was a masterpiece of precision and “gee whiz” gadgetry. Truly. Awesome.

I know that I was a little heavy on space stories here but frankly, that’s where my interest lies. I would genuinely be interested in some competing stories anyone may have. Feel free to use the comment section to supply recommendations and links.


This post has been published for less than an hour at this point and I’ve already received two emails asking about the ID vs. Evolution story.

At the risk of angering some of my most loyal and supportive readers, I will say that the reason the story was not included was because I don’t believe it to be a science story but rather a political one. The “debate” over the efficacy of ID is largely one sided and besides, there have been no significant breakthroughs in research on Intelligent Design that would be worthy of including in a post about the top science stories for 2005 .



Filed under: General — Rick Moran @ 7:22 am

Originally uploaded by elvenstar522.

Picture of Titan’s surface taken from about 8 miles up. The picture shows what could be a “lake” of frozen methane, a clearly defined shoreline, and a mist-shrouded horizon. The picture below is an enhanced 3-D view of the same topographical features.

Originally uploaded by elvenstar522.

The pictures were NOT processed by NASA or the European Space Agency. Instead, the raw images were downloaded and processed using open source image technology. (HT: The Professor. Note the link is to Spaceref.com due to very slow page loading). Titan enthusiasts were impatient with the slowness with which NASA and the ESA were releasing the processed images from the Huygens lander so they took matters into their own hands.

The second picture in the sequence above is an extrapolated image using image processing software. It allows any image that’s scanned to be viewed from any angle. The color has been added according to the ESA color scheme seen in this picture.

Note the clearly defined channels running down the bluff into what scientists think may be a methane (or perhaps hydrocarbon) lake. The second picture shows what could be an island in the background.

Weird. Odd. Spectacular.



Filed under: General — Rick Moran @ 8:00 am

Originally uploaded by elvenstar522.

15 January 2005
This image was returned yesterday, 14 January 2005, by ESA’s Huygens probe during its successful descent to land on Titan. This is the coloured view, following processing to add reflection spectra data, gives a better indication of the actual colour of the surface. Initially thought to be rocks or ice blocks, they are more pebble-sized. The two rock-like objects just below the middle of the image are about 15 centimetres (left) and 4 centimetres (centre) across respectively, at a distance of about 85 centimetres from Huygens. The surface is darker than originally expected, consisting of a mixture of water and hydrocarbon ice. There is also evidence of erosion at the base of these objects, indicating possible fluvial activity.

Credits: ESA/NASA/University of Arizona

(From European Space Agency)

The camera aboard Huygens is so good it’s making those rocks appear much larger than they actually are. Other pictures reveal an awe inspiring landscape including islands in a sea of methane with a mist shrouded horizon. The “fluvial activity” is most intruiging. Is it the result of liquid methane or liquid nitrogen running over the rocks? Or could it be possible that at some disant point in Titan’s past, liquid water flowed?




Filed under: General — Rick Moran @ 2:58 pm

Originally uploaded by alpenstock.

You’re looking at the first picture sent back from the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan taken by the Huygens Lander earlier today.


After nearly 25 years of work, European scientists are ecstatic over the engineering and scientific success of the probe. It performed flawlessly earlier today as its parachute opened and allowed the craft to gently drift down through the thick atmosphere of the only moon in the solar sytsem known to have one.

Taking nearly 2 hours to float to the surface, first reports show that the telemetry from Huygens was successfully downloaded onto its mother ship, the Cassini, which is currently orbiting Saturn. What’s truly remarkable is that the batteries powering the little Lander evidently have outperformed even the most optimistic projections as scientists will have nearly two hours of data from the surface of Titan itself. This is far beyond the 10 or 15 minutes of power most scientists had expected. This also means that over the coming days, we’ll see even more spectacular pictures from the surface of Titan.

The primary mission of Huygens was to gather information about Titan’s atmosphere by collecting data on its long, gentle descent. Any images or data gotten from the surface of the frigid moon would be a bonus. Huygens, apparently has hit the jackpot.

Not only is Titan important because it has an atmosphere, but also that atmosphere may reflect (in a deep freeze sort of way) what the earth’s atmosphere was like in the very beginning. Titan’s atmosphere is largely nitrogen with a bit of methane. It’s so cold however, that it’s probable that there are oceans of liquid nitrogen as well as liquid methane. Pictures taken during the descent show possible channels carved into the moons surface suggesting that some kind of liquid flowed or is flowing on its surface.

Trying to get any of these pictures by accessing either NASA.gov or Space.com was a chore. There must be millions of people as curious as I am about what the surface of this strange place looks like.


Here’s a link to the story at Space.com. Be prepared for very long page loads as they must really be getting slammed. I gave up trying to get any text from NASA.



Filed under: General — Rick Moran @ 6:53 am


Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. It falls on December 26th, which is also St. Stephen’s Day.

Boxing Day is so called because on this day it was the customary for tradesmen to collect their Christmas boxes or gifts in return for good service throughout the year. Also, it included giving money and other gifts to charitable institutions, and the needy.

The holiday may date from as early as the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is not known. It may have begun with the Lords and Ladies of England, who gave there Christmas boxes/gifts to their servants on December 26, or maybe by priests, who opened the church’s alms (charity boxes), and distributed the contents to the poor and needy.

To all of our friends in the English speaking world…have a happy, relaxing day!


The European Space Agency’s hitchhiking Huygens spacecraft has detatched successfully from its mother ship Cassini and is on its way to a rendevous with the atmosphere of Titan on January 14.

For years, scientists have speculated about Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. Larger than the planet Mercury and almost as big as Mars, Titan is the only moon in the solar system known to have an atmosphere. What has scientists excited about the results to be gleaned from the Huygens probe is the probability that Titan’s atmosphere, which contains nitrogen, methane, and carbon, could give us a glimpse of what planet Earth looked like before life arose. What complex processes contributed to the formation of proteins that resulted in life? Could those processes be duplicated in the atmosphere of Titan? And what about the surface of Titan? Is it solid? Or is it more like a swamp, with liquid nitrogen in place of water?

It’s unknown whether the Huygens probe will survive all the way to the surface of the moon. It’s primary function is to explore the atmosphere of Titan, taking as long as two hours to float through the dense, foggy, perhaps even mushy atmosphere taking temperature readings and analyzing the chemical make-up of what is surely one of the more exotic locations in the solar system. If Huygens batteries survive, we may get as much as 2 additonal hours worth of data from the surface of that moon…assuming there is such a thing as a “surface.”

Some scientists have speculated that the surface of Titan could be made up of liquid methane and nitrogen, meaning that Huygens would land on something with the consistency of clam chowder. With a surface temperature of -290 degrees, Titan ranks as one of the more inhospitable places in the solar system.


The Yahoo headline says it all:

Mystery Martian ‘Carwash’ Helps Space Buggy

Apparently, an unknown atmospheric process is cleaning the solar panels on the Martian lander Opportunity…but leave it to the press to fan the flames of conspiracy for the “Face on Mars” believers and others who don’t know their ass from a hole in the wall.

Here’s Reuters trying to be funny:

It said something — or someone — had regularly cleaned layers of dust from the solar panels of the Mars Opportunity vehicle while it was closed down during the Martian night.

The cleaning had boosted the panels’ power output close to their maximum 900 watt-hours per day after at one stage dropping to 500 watt-hours because of the heavy Martian dirt.

Someone??? Oh fer cryin’ out loud. The press covers science stories rarely enough as it is…but to deliberately entertain the notion that Martians are doing us a favor by cleaning the rover’s solar panels has Reuters performing a huge disservice to its readers.

The historic nature of these two little rover’s accomplishments (Opportunity’s twin Spirit is exploring the other side of the red planet) have been the most underreported science story of 2004. We now know conlcusively that Mars at one time had water…lots of water. That the water flowed over large portions of the planet and that it was present long enough to at least give life a chance to arise. These discoveries have confirmed for the first time that liquid water existed on another body in the solar system. The prospects for life arising elsewhere in the Universe have gone up astronomically (from a scientific perspective).

Instead of reporting on these extraordinary findings, Reuters chooses to hint at “little green men.”




Filed under: General — Rick Moran @ 4:33 am

And so, it’s begun.

More than 18 months after the war began in Iraq, the climactic struggle against the thugs, terrorists, Saddam bitter enders, and foreign fighters has been joined as an operation involving Iraqi and American forces seeks to take Fallujah away from the “insurgents.” (Not, of course, any terrorists. After all…there are no terrorists in Iraq. There never HAVE been terrorists in Iraq.)

Leading the way, as they have for more than 200 years, are the men and women of the United States Marine Corps.

Many of these fine young men are going to die. The terrorists are not going to give up easily. The entire islamic world is watching Fallujah and hoping that the terrorists can inflict thousands of casualties on the Americans before they die. I have no doubt that Al Jazeera will dwell long and lovingly on each and every civilian casualty, each new “outrage” by American forces against the peace loving people of Fallujah. The fact that the terrorists are using the civilian population as “human shields” will not be mentioned in the islamic press. After all, it would ruin the story line.

“We are here to defend our country,” said Ali, 28, a soldier from Nasiriyah who is in the Iraqi army’s 1st Brigade. Like many of the Iraqi soldiers interviewed here, he gave only one name. “We have to get rid of terrorism. All the world looks down on Iraq now because of the terrorists who are not Iraqi. We will make them see Iraqi men ending the terrorism in Iraq.”

Does this sound like Viet Nam to you?

These guys are serious. They are proud, nationalistic, and motivated. And while they have complaints about the quality of their weapons and equipment compared to the Americans, they see their duty and are prepared to meet the challenge. Here’s the Iraqi Commander:

“We know our enemy, even if they have developed weapons,” he said. “As Iraqi people and army, we’ll fight them with traditional weapons. We have our strategy and mentality. What made the Iraqi soldier fight the American soldiers in 1990 and last year, despite their high technology, is the same we will use in this battle.”

Does this sound like Viet Nam to you?

By all reports, our troops are ready to go. As professionals, they don’t need to be told of the importance of this battle. According to reports, they’re anxious to take the battle to the terrorists. After almost a year of ambushes on lonely roads and car bombs exploding at checkpoints, these guys seem eager to engage, despite the bloody work ahead:

“You’re rested, you’re ready, and we’re prepared,” Lt. Col. James Rainey of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment of the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division, told his staff as their mobile command center was broken down around them. “This is going to be the biggest fight any of us will do in the near future. . . . No matter what you think about the Iraqi war or the Iraqi government, this fight is 100 percent about terrorists — terrorists who want to come to your house and kill you.”

“Terrorists who want to come to your house and kill you.”…I think that just about says it all.


Is Saturn’s moon Titan a better place to look for life than Mars?

That’s the question NASA’s Cassini space probe is seeking to answer as it made it’s second flyby of the giant moon and trained its array of instruments at the surface.

“When Cassini turned its formidable instrument array on smog-shrouded Titan, it made some very intriguing finds, the most surprising of which was the moon appears to be geologically active — the spacecraft’s instruments showed the moon has continental plates and volcanism. It also exhibits a veritable soup of hydrocarbons, including methane, ethane and benzene — some in liquefied deposits the size of very large lakes. Put this all together and it makes — what?”

What, indeed. The fact that the moon is geologically active means that there may be heat being generated at the surface. If so, and if the complex molecules have found a way to combine without the presence of water, life may have in fact developed at some point in Titan’s past.

“The question is, can life spring from hydrocarbons but not water? For that matter, can life’s soup be made from only a partial ingredients list? Finding the answer is critical, because if life is discovered on another distant world — thereby doubling the count of life’s known locales — then it becomes more likely life exists on many of the estimated 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Earth-like planets in the universe.” (Don’t you just love it when scientists use such big numbers?)

The most exciting phase of the mission will come Christmas day when the European built lander Huygens will attempt a soft landing on the moon’s surface. If successful, the lander will surely encounter the most bizarre surface ever studied. Titan’s pools of hydrocarbons (liqiud oil? probably not)and acres of frozen methane present challenges no lander has ever had to deal with. And while the lander is not designed to search for or identify life, it may answer questions that could lead to a determination if life could exist in some form on the surface.


Leave it to a moonbat to consider himself a member of something called the “reality based community.”

When I first started seeing Atrios, Kos, and Eric Alterman refer to themselves as belonging to something called the “reality based community,” I just couldn’t believe the arrogance, the hubris, the out and out BALLS of people whose belief in their own superiority was so set, so unshakable as to place themselves on a different plane of “reality” than the rest of us poor slobs in the red states.

How reality based is it to believe that George Bush is the second coming of Adolph Hitler?

How reality based is it to believe that Vice President Cheney urged war in Iraq to personally enrich himself?

How reality based is it to believe that John Ashcroft wants to tear up the Constitution, repeal the Bill of Rights, and put innocent people in jail?

How reality based is it to believe that, despite all evidence to the contrary, George Bush stole the election of 2000 by “disenfranchising” millions of minority voters.

How reality based is it to believe that Diebold Corporation, the company that makes voting machines, is in cahoots with the Bush administration and helped Republicans “steal” Ohio by hacking the electronic voting machines and running up huge totals for the President?

How reality based is it to believe that we’re fighting in Iraq for oil? (If we are, we’re sure as hell not getting much now, are we?)

How reality based is it to believe that, despite every bit of evidence to the contrary, there is going to be a draft in a second Bush term?

How reality based is it to believe in so many conspiracy theories that you can’t keep track of which ones conflict with which other ones?

Lawrence Kaplan has an article in today’s New Republic that discusses this weird phenomena. In short, Kaplan points out that saying your political opponents live in a “non-reality” based community, you’re not going to win many votes:

“If this is what passes for rational discourse on the left–and for too many liberals these days, it is–then just who is it that belongs to the “reality-based community” and just who is it that suffers under the weight of what the left used to call “false consciousness”? The question merits an answer, since Wills and otherwise sensible voices on the left–such as The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne, who professes himself “alarmed that so many of our fellow citizens could look the other way and not hold Bush accountable for utter incompetence in Iraq” and “amazed that a majority was not concerned about heaping a huge debt burden on our children just to give large tax breaks to the rich”–see their task as raising the level of consciousness of Americans out of step with reality. But what if their own estrangement leads not to insight, but rather to blindness and, more important, to separation from the very Americans they mean to influence?”

“Raising the level of consciousness” was very big in the 1960’s. It usually referred to some kind of drug induced “eureka” moment where one would experience a thrill when the mysteries of the universe would be revealed. (I remember my raised consciousness involved realizing that “God” spelled backwords was “dog!” Woof! Woof! Lord).

Kaplan points out that such arrogance is, in fact, anti-american. That seems about par for the course for our monkey-brained moonbats whose “reality” doesn’t include those of us who voted for George Bush.


Tim Worstall has a link to a Bob Herbert piece on “the reality based community” teaching us right wing yankers about…well, reality.

“Yes, I know, hard to believe that this is a step up but at least he is only calling them ignorant, not morons.

Actually, I think he’s really on to something. Democratic Underground activists, perhaps Kos or Atrios instead, conducting teach-ins to explain to these pig-ignorant homophobes and evangelicals that their entire worldview is wrong and that their self-identification with ShrimpyMcBushChimp was all a delusion based upon their ignorance.”

Herbert makes a distinction between being called “ignorant” rather than a “moron.” I guess that’s a step up. After all, “moron” refers to someone who’s…how shall we put this…mentally challenged (oh those compassionate moonbats!) while “ignorant” is a condition that ostensibly can be improved with education (or, more aptly “re-education”…as in camps).

I cringe in awe and fear as the light of superior knowledge and intellect shines down upon me from above. Is it from God? Jesus?

No, silly…it’s Michael Moore.

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