Monthly Archives: March 2007

Congratulations, SpaceX!

SpaceX, which I’ve covered previously, successfully launched its Falcon 1 rocket yesterday.  The launch wasn’t without incident — there was a problem with the second stage after launch, and the first launch attempt was aborted at the last second — but the results were deemed enough to justify launching commercial payloads later this year.

On the latest flight, the second stage did not achieve its full speed, again because of an early shut down of the engine, this time because the vehicle began an unexpected roll.

Mr Musk said he thought this problem should be easy to fix once flight engineers had analysed the data.

“The launch was not perfect, but certainly pretty good,” he added.

“Given that the primary objectives were demonstrating responsive launch and gathering test data in advance of our first operational satellite launch later this year, the outcome was great.”

I personally see this as a huge success, because they were able to launch, reach space, and test their operational capacity.  Besides all that, they were able to make fundamental improvements to their launch platform in a single year, while still targeting that $7-million-per-launch figure.  Congratulations, SpaceX, and we can’t wait for the next stages!

four years

I’m too lame wiped out to post anything today, but Ame sent along a compelling plea:

Today is the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war. There are vigils tonight and, yes maybe they don’t make much difference, but maybe they do. I chose to believe they do. Plus, it gives you a chance to be around other people who also think this whole thing is crazy. Please join me in going to one tonight if possible. Yes it’s short notice, but what the hell.

If you can’t, take a moment to acknowledge where we are, four years into this war:
View: an update and a video on my site (Pixel Lava)
Do: Register at MoveOn and get involved

Kind regards ~ Ame

P.S. If you can make it to the vigil tonight in San Diego, it’s at 6pm at the corner of 6th and Laurel. Bring a sign and/or candle.

So go forth. There are signs that we can finally put an end to this idiocy, and every little bit counts.

Sometimes I love Britain

Okay, so a lot of the time I love Britain. It’s a me thing. But in this case, it’s specific. Agencies controlling food standards and safety have ordered baby milk (formula) manufacturers to stop putting claims like “next best thing to breast milk” on their packaging. They can’t say, “Helps support the immune system.” They can’t say, “helps growth and the immune system.” Even if these things are true they cannot print them on their packaging because it may be undermining the push toward greater numbers of breastfeeding moms. Yay!

Getting along: a survival strategy

Well here’s something interesting, and in Newsweek, no less. Getting along, social bonding and using their wits are what helped our ancient ancestors to survive:

The realization that early humans were the hunted and not hunters has upended traditional ideas about what it takes for a species to thrive. For decades the reigning view had been that hunting prowess and the ability to vanquish competitors was the key to our ancestors’ evolutionary success (an idea fostered, critics now say, by the male domination of anthropology during most of the 20th century). But prey species do not owe their survival to anything of the sort, argues Sussman. Instead, they rely on their wits and, especially, social skills to survive. Being hunted brought evolutionary pressure on our ancestors to cooperate and live in cohesive groups. That, more than aggression and warfare, is our evolutionary legacy.

Both genetics and paleoneurology back that up. A hormone called oxytocin, best-known for inducing labor and lactation in women, also operates in the brain (of both sexes). There, it promotes trust during interactions with other people, and thus the cooperative behavior that lets groups of people live together for the common good.

So it was not big sticks, aggression or killing large prey that created the evolutionary success of our ancestors (in fact, there is a lot of evidence, according to the article, that our ancestors were prey, not predators), but trusting people and working together for the “common good.” Well, how about that?

This quote comes from the current cover story of Newsweek, “The Evolution Revolution.” It’s actually a good read and worth a look — lots of interesting tidbits about our deepening understanding of human evolution — we’ve got lots of extinct cousins, folks. But remember, it’s still Newsweek: the article has an almost apologetic use of God and Bible references — as if we can’t talk about evolution without refering to religion. It’s annoying.

actor + neocon + southern + candidate = scary

Is it just me, or does the phrase “Fred Thompson Considering A 2008 Run” give you some heebies and a few jeebies? Granted, I’d never heard of Fred Thompson before reading that article, but let’s go over the vital stats:

  • actor in a popular television drama
  • ex-senator from a southern state
  • thinks the ‘surge‘ is just peachy
  • has all his wedge issues lined up
  • fundraiser for Scooter Libby’s defense

So he’s fully bullet-point ready to be the PNAC candidate. Or am I just paranoid?