Sunday, February 28, 2010

Full House

Saturday night February 27, PLAYING DOCTOR played to a full house! In the show, Rob Brewster pretends to be an MD to please his parents. People were literally rolling in the aisles with laughter. We actors had to give up our dressing room chairs to accommodate the overflow audience. The show is a big hit!

Also this week, the local university hosted a physicist lecturing on "dark energy." Admission to his dark talk cost more than a ticket to our play. He promoted a Joint Dark Energy Mission while asking for a billion more dollars to launch it. The hypothesised "dark energy" has not led to any solutions, but a divergence of models and requests for more money. Why should the public reward failure? Compared to our show, the lecture was sparsely attended with no laughter.

The show must close after this week, so purchase tickets soon! PLAYING DOCTOR is a lot more fun than hearing about a dark universe.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Prometheus Close Up

Can Black Holes exist hidden within small bodies. Mathematically, the answer is yes. From time to time this blog has wondered about Black Holes within our solar system. Our Cassini spacecraft has captured the closest views yet of Saturn's moon Prometheus. Prometheus and Pandora are called shepherd moons because they appear to hold F Ring in place.

At one time the Rings were thought to exist inside a mathematical "Roche Limit." Outside this limit moons could form, and inside they would break up tidally to form Ring fragments. Prometheus has a density of barely 0.27 g/cc, barely 1/4 that of liquid water. It is odd that objects with a density less than liquid exist inside the Roche Limit, within which liquid objects are not supposed to exist at all.

Prometheus leaves big gaps in the F Ring, causing particles to spiral toward the moon in tight strands. The spiralling strands are indicators of a magnetic field. Presence of a magnetic field from a tiny moon would be indication of a singularity. If Prometheus' 10^17 kg mass contained a 10^11 kg singularity, the moon would not collapse. Presence of a singularity would hold Prometheus together within Roche's Limit. The singularity would rotate within Prometheus, powering a magnetic field. There is far more in the Universe than meets the eye.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Falcon 9 Rises Again

Saturday February 20, SpaceX's Falcon 9 was once again erected at launch Complex 40, Kennedy Space Center. Preparations are being made for launch sometime in the next 1-3 months. With the cancellation of Constellation and the new emphasis on private space, this first flight will be crucial. If all goes well on this launch, a later flight will approach within 10 km of the International Space Station. A third flight will demonstrate rendezvous and docking. The next step will be for NASA to fund COTS-D, human-rating the Dragon spacecraft to carry crews.

There has been some resistance, even among astronauts, to flying on a privately developed spacecraft. The writer has heard NASA personnel complain that Dragon will have no controls (not true) or that the crew will not be able to fly the ship. How arrogant some "civil servants" can be. SpaceX may be the best hope for continued American access to orbit. Best wishes, Elon and crew!

From Australia, Astroblogger hosts the new Carnival of Space!


Friday, February 19, 2010

Playing Doctor

Houston just saw the opening of PLAYING DOCTOR, by Billy Van Zandt and Jane Millmore. In this hilarious farce Rob Brewster pretends to be a doctor to impress his visiting parents.Wacky hijinks ensue! The theatre programme says that the nurse also works as a scientist at Johnson Space Center.

A backlash is beginning against the "educated" classes. The study of Earth's climate has been marked by the scandal among PhD scientists at University of East Anglia. Other PhD's at Goddard Institute of Space Studies have harmed NASA's reputation. PhD scientists dragged physics into the hole of string theory, inflation and "dark energy." Those of us privileged to work as scientists have great responsibility to the truth.

PhD's and other doctors need to take themselves less seriously and enjoy the show!


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bolden Visits

Johnson Space Center February 8, 2010

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and JSC Director Mike Coats in a meeting. Both former astronauts were classmates at Annapolis over 40 years ago. The audience was full of questions and concern about NASA's new direction. One woman, a senior engineer with Orion, was in tears asking, "Did you fight for us?" With the end of the shuttle program, many were concerned about jobs and expertise that would be lost. Bolden tried to reassure everyone that human spaceflight would continue. He offered hints that some of the cancelled Constellation program would return. Bolden reminded us that if someone else reaches the Moon they will find American bootprints there. He promised that the ultimate goal is still Mars.

The new direction began with a new administration. As recounted here, the Augustine Commission decided that the Constellation program was unsustainable given current budgets. According to Augustine Ares I might fly around 2017, but at the cost of junking the International Space Station. The heavy-lift Ares V might be ready until sometime in the 2020's, but without a lunar lander. The Augustine Commission most favoured a "flexible path" of limited lunar missions and flights to asteroids and other destinations. The Obama administration has responded by cancelling all of Constellation. This is an exciting and changing time at NASA. Like the speed of light, the only constant is change.


Friday, February 05, 2010

Robonaut 2

Robonaut 2 was developed by General Motors and Oceaneering Space Systems in Houston. A new video shows an advanced Robonaut landing on the Moon. Potentially this could be part of NASA's Flexible Path beyond Earth orbit. Project M is a secretive project within JSC Engineering Directorate to put a robot on the Moon within 1,000 days. Innovation is still alive here at NASA.


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