Monday, March 31, 2008

Ekeler Confident of Young Husker LB Corps

More from the OWH on Husker LB Coach Mike Ekeler and his young charges. Mike is confident that the players will be able to perform well under the new system despite not having any returning starters. As he sees it, the challenge will simply be to get the best players on the field.

"Here's what was left for Ekeler when he arrived from Louisiana State to assume his first job as a full-time assistant:

• Not one returning full-time starter from last season, and only one player with more than a dozen career tackles.
• Just one senior, who happens to be a walk-on.
• Only five scholarship linebackers, one of whom was recruited to play safety.

For comparison, NU has seven scholarship receivers. Yet Ekeler looks insulted if you question what he has to work with during spring football practice. "We're fairly deep," Ekeler said. "We've got some good guys. We don't look at it as scholarship and non-scholarship. We just need to see who's going to rise to the top. That's what it boils down to."

NU hasn't had to replace all three positions since 1997. Mike backer Phillip Dillard has three career starts, bur has played in 24 games total and looks to establish himself as a defensive anchor. Blake Lawrence and Latravis Washington (moved from safety) seek to fill the starting spots with competition from scholarship LBs Nick Covey, Austin Stafford and walk-on senior Tyler Wortman. In addition, the current crop will recieve four scholarship recruits in the fall, including highly touted prospects Will Compton and Millar North's Shawn Fischer, as well as Micch Kriekemeier and Alonzo Whaley.

"So what makes the perfect linebacker?"A guy who is sharp, a guy who's going to play with fanaticism, play with his hair on fire and a guy who's going to just be relentless and refuse to get blocked and make plays," Ekeler said. "That's perfect to me."

Sounds perfect to me too. Good luck to Mike and his players.

Organic Compounds Found on Saturn's Moon

Livescience has another report from the team working on the Cassini mission examining the planet Saturn and its system of moons. The moon Enceladus has been of particular interest after it was discovered to be erupting geysers of water into space, generated by the intense tidal forces being exerted on it by its parent planet. The probe's orbit allowed a sample to be taken recently, which found the presence of several organic compounds.

"Scientists have been intrigued by the moon since the fountain of water was first spotted in 2005. Now they've identified a soup of prebiotic material there, similar to what's found in comets, from an analysis of data collected by the Cassini spacecraft. Nobody really knows how life began, but astrobiologists guess it required chemicals like those tasted by Cassini, a little liquid water and some unknown spark."

In addition, a new heat imaging shows the southern polar region of the moon much warmer than anticipated. This raises the possibility that liquid water may exist in that region of the moon. In addition to water, the geysers contain carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, and organic compounds such as methane, propane, acetylene and formeldehyde.

Husker Spring Practice Notes

OWH reports a number of Husker players are reporting in a bit lighter than under the previous regime.

"Dillard reported for the Huskers' first spring practice Wednesday at 238 pounds. He was listed at 250 last season but said at times he was closer to 265. NU coach Bo Pelini told Dillard he wanted him playing at a lower weight. Guard Matt Slauson and defensive end Zach Potter said the same Monday, and defensive end Barry Turner and I-back Quentin Castille also are supposedly lighter."

The transition to more of a speed type attacking defense appears to be well on its way.

In addition, RB Cody Glenn is healthy and looks forward to competing for some touches after being disappointed with his amount of playing time last year, and lineman Mike Smith moves around in the 2 deep to C/G from offensive tackle. The starting line is shaping up with Jacob Hickman at C, Mike Huff at LG, Lydon Murtha at LT, Matt Slauson at RG and Javario Burkes at RT. OL Coach Barney Cotton said the team expects to do less 'cross-training' than last year's squad.

In a related article, Coach Bo Pelini believes QB Joe Ganz has a chance to be a special kind of QB, and the Husker senior is a little surprised by all the attention he is getting as "the man" now in Lincoln.

"And the new head coach, by the way, said he's impressed with Ganz."I like Joe," Bo Pelini said. "I think he is a leader. He has a tremendous amount of confidence, and I think he is a good football player. At this point of his career, he has only touched the base of his talent. There is a lot more out there for him. He understands that. "He is very intelligent. You put that together with the work ethic he has, and the sky is the limit."

Pelini, for the record, said all that this week, two days before the Huskers opened spring drills. It ranked unchallenged at the time as the highest praise delivered by Pelini about one of his new players. Apparently, the quarterback's feelings about Pelini are mutual."I love Coach," Ganz said. "His door is always open, and his mentality is definitely welcomed around here. He knows how to motivate us. He's a player's coach. I'm very excited to get to work for him."

Zac Lee, Patrick Witt, Beau Davis and newcomers Kody Sprano and Jim Ebke will audition for the understudy role this spring with the competition likely to continue into the fall.

Boston Legal Quotes

Alan Shore: I wasn't aware you provided emotional counsel as well as legal , Lori, that's quite a perk.

Lori Carlson: A woman tries to kill you, so you go to represent her. You don't think there is a pathology at play here?[long pause] I refer to yours.

Alan: I got the reference, thank you. Speaking as an enormously unlikeable person, I find it difficult to maintain grudges against all those who wish to kill me. Don't you? [Lori chuckles and walks away] Yes, you'll perhaps find that witty comeback in your office.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Boston Legal Quotes

Alan Shore: Christine, you were in love with a man who was unworthy of you. Who made you doubt everything you had a right to count on. Who perhaps even toyed with your sanity. Christine Pauley: Still no excuse for trying to kill him.
Alan: Perhaps he had it coming.
Christine: Perhaps you did.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Shuttle Makes Rare Night Landing

STS-123 mission flown by Endeavor was completed successfully last night with a rare night landing at the Cape. The shuttle orbited the Earth 250 times over a period of 16 days.

"On board Endeavour were Mission Specialists Takao Doi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Robert L. Behnken, and Rick Linnehan; Pilot Gregory H. Johnson; Commander Dominic Gorie; and Mission Specialist Mike Foreman, as well as European Space Agency astronaut LĂ©opold Eyharts, who returned to Earth aboard Endeavour after almost 50 days in space on the International Space Station. The 16 day mission was one of the longest space shuttle missions, with 5 spacewalks for station construction that included attaching a Japanese Pressurized Module and putting together Dextre, a robotic handyman that will be available to assist in station construction and maintenence tasks."

Congratulations to the crew for a fantastically successful mission to the ISS.

Husker LB Coach Mike Ekeler

Marc Hudgens of RealFootball365 interviews my fellow BHS alum and Husker LB coach Mike Ekeler. Beyond the usual questions about expectations at NU, the transistion from grad assistant to position coach, and the fact no one on the Pelini staff will "color" their view of the players by watching tape form last year's defense, he was asked to get specific about his new crop of four linebacking recruits, and had this to say about the young men:

"Q: So far you have four linebackers committed, the most in three years. This is a pretty large linebacker class.

EKELER: Yeah, no question. Alonzo Whaley, he's out of Houston, out of Madisonville, Texas; he's a guy we really, really like, and we really feel like he was one of . . . I don't know if I saw a better fullback in the last few years than Alonzo. So he's got an opportunity; he's such a versatile athlete that he could play a number of positions for us. So we'll have to see how that shakes out with him. I tell you what, he's a hammerhead now.

As far as the other ones . . . we're really, really, really happy, obviously, with our recruiting class. You know, Will Compton at a mike 'backer, the guy's 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, can run like a deer, is an all-state receiver as well, just tremendous athleticism, body control. Really, really a smart guy. He's about a three-nine student, already got fifteen hours of college credit, and the guy gets it. I mean absolutely gets it. I went in on a recruiting trip and the first time I met him, we started going over our defense and talking about adjustment and the questions he asked, I mean he asked what you wanted to hear. I mean he's just a sharp, sharp guy, and really, really, really excited to have the opportunity to coach him and to get him in our program.

And Sean Fisher, 6-5, 30 pounds right now, out of Millard North here in Omaha. He is a fantastic, fantastic athlete. Played running back in the state championship game, nearly carried his team to a state championship, played safety, and he can run. Again, another guy who can run like a deer.

And that's kind of the theme; that's kind of what we look to recruit, guys who are tremendous athletes, and guys who can just flat-out fly. Our whole defense, we're predicated on speed. And those guys, those two guys, those guys bring it right there. And Alonzo Whaley again, I touched on him earlier, he's a guy who is a tremendous athlete. Really, really good speed, really a physical, physical football player, and adds a lot of versatility to our team.

And then you have Micah Kreikemeier, out of West Point, Nebraska . . . I told Micah, it's kind of a funny story, told him that he put more pressure on me than any coach in the history of the game. Because if he doesn't turn out good, I'm probably going to lose my job. That was coach [Tom] Osborne's last . . . coach Osborne offered him right before we got here. And so, technically, he's coach Osborne's final recruit. And so, we're having fun with that, Micah and his parents and myself. I just keep on ribbing him on that, that he'd better bring your lunch pail because we got to get to work and get you ready to roll. We got to make coach Osborne right on his last recruit. But again you look at Sean Fisher, and Micah as well, they're two 4.0 students, actually greater than 4.0, and just fantastic, fantastic kids. Great character, these guys are going to come in and just work their tails off.

And then on top of that, we've got some guys who turned down major, major scholarships and walked on here. We got a number of guys who I'm just unbelievably fired up about. I can't comment on those guys right now due to NCAA rules, I guess I can comment on them, saying it in general terms, but I can't mention their names because technically they're still recruitable athletes until school starts and they're enrolled. But I'm telling you what, we just, Barney Cotton and Jeff Jamrog, our director of football operations, did a fantastic job of just scouring the state, and really, really, really happy."

Mike also answered questions about working with Tom Osborne, recruiting prospects, what gets him "revved up", the loudest stadium he's been in, what some of his favorite things are and what else he might like to do it he wasn't in coaching. Great interview.

Spring practice under Coach Pelini and the rest of the staff opened yesterday.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny Crane: [Denny is guarding Alan from his night terrors so he is sleeping in the bed with him]
[in his sleep] Denny Crane: Denny Crane. Denny Crane. Denny Crane.
Alan Shore: [Alan gets out of bed and stumbles. He has a rope tied around his leg; the other end is tied to Denny. Alan tries to get up and stumbles again. He tugs on the rope] Hey! Hey!
Denny Crane: What the hell do you...
Alan Shore: Get up, Denny. We're going to the bathroom.
Denny Crane: Untie the knot. [turns over]
Alan Shore: It takes too long. Let's just... get up!
Denny Crane: I'm not getting up!
Alan Shore: It'll take two seconds. [he tugs the rope]
Denny Crane: It's the middle of the night!
Alan Shore: Just get up!
Denny Crane: I'm not gonna get up.
Alan Shore: Dammit! Get up! [he tugs violently at the rope. Denny is pulled from the bed to the floor]
Alan Shore: Happy? [stands up]
Denny Crane: [Denny pulls the rope and Alan falls on top of him. They lie there, face to face] This isn't working for me.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Saturn Moon Tethys May Have Water

via National Geographic, a new study looking at Saturn's moon Tethys appears to have found evidence the satellite once held an underground ocean, and that there still may be water remaining on it. Tehtys hasn't undergone much scrutiny due to its "regular old moon" appearance, but a huge rift on the stallite may indicate something interesting was afoot many years ago.

"Tethys, Saturn's fifth largest moon, hasn't drawn much attention from astronomers because unlike the planet's other moons, it seems surprisingly ordinary, the researchers said.

"It was geologically active in the past, but it's not doing anything interesting today," said study co-author Francis Nimmo, a planetary scientist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. But the 662-mile-wide (1,066-kilometer-wide) moon hasn't always been quiescent. Billions of years ago tectonic forces produced an enormous rift similar to the East African Rift Valley on Earth, Nimmo said.

The rift on Tethys is about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) long, 62 miles (100 kilometers) wide, and 3 to 6 miles (5 to 10 kilometers) deep. "[It] cuts across almost half the satellite," he said. Nimmo and his graduate student, Erinna Chen, believe that the energy required to make such a rift is evidence that Tethys once hosted an ocean.

The team was examining the rift formation and found the energy required to create it is difficult to explain from the tidal forces generated on the moon by Saturn without the interior of the moon being a liquid. An underground ocean is the likliest explanation, allowing the moon's crust to flex more than if the moon was solid throughout. With the confirmation of water on Tethys, it would be the fifth outer solar moon known to contain water - Jupiter's moons Callisto and Europa, and fellow Saturnian moons Titan and Enceladus are the others.

NL Central

Short delay in getting to the Inferior League, I know how all three of you that read my insane ravings here were looking so forward to it. We work our way south to north, starting with the Space Cadets.

The Space Cadets had a disappointing season, but have a solid nucleus and some imports may help them more competitive this season, and have new manager Cecil Cooper to boot. Roy Oswalt leads the staff, which also includes inconsistent Wandy Rodriguez and Brandon Baacke. Shawn Chacon and youngster Chris Sampson are expected to round out the rotation, with Woody Williams waiting in the wings. Mercurical former Snake Jose Valverde takes over the closer spot. The Cadets swing some mean lumber and the park is a bandbox to boot. Switch hitting Lance Berkman, LF Carlos Lee and newcomer SS Miguel Tejada can boom with the best. Rookie J.R. Towles takes over at C for Brad Ausmus, who sticks around to mentor him. Kaz Matsui arrives from the Stones to take over at 2B assuming he returns from injury, with super sub Mark Loretta filling in to start the season.

The Redbirds disappointed last season as well, with a number of key injuries knocking them from contention, and the list this spring looks like a MASH unit. SP Mark Mulder, Chris Caprenter, Matt Clement and potential SP Joel Piniero start the season on the DL or recovering, leaving Adam Wainwright the only dependable arm. Oft travelled Braden Looper and Kyle Lohse fill some innings in the meantime, and Anthony Reyes gets yet another chance with the club as well. Dependable Jason Isringhausen closes, with Russ Springer and Ryan Franklin setting up. There was a considerable roster turnover, with 3B Troy Glaus arrving from Canada for Scott Rolen, SS Cesar Izturis replacing David Eckstein, and CF Rick Ankiel replacing Jim Edmonds and moving up in the order to bat cleanup after superstar 1B Alber Pujols. Young RF Skip Schumacher gets a chance to start for the first time as well.

The Cincinnati Communists also have a new manager, former Little Bear and Midget skipper Dusty Baker. The rotation appears set for the first time in years, led by Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo, with youngsters Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez and journeyman Josh Fogg rounding out the starting five. Phenom Homer Bailey will start in AAA and may be a mid-season addition if someone falters. The pen should be improved with the signing of free agent closer Francisco Cordero. The Marxists swing good lumber, led by monster LF Adam Dunn, RF Ken Griffey Jr., 2B Brandon Phillips and 3B Edwin Encarnacion and they should score runs by the bushel basket if new leadoff man CF Corey Patterson can find his way on base and new 1B Joey Votto shows his numbers from last September weren't a fluke.

Up the Ohio River, the Steel City Corsairs have some new hope with the development of some talented young arms, featuring three southpaws, that should take a step forward this season. Ian Snell will be start Opening Day, with lefties Tom Grozelanny, Zach Duke and Paul Maholm (all four under 26 years old) filling out the rotation with rapidly aging Matt Morris. Young Matt Capps closes ahead of lefty setup men Damaso Marte, Johns Graybow and submariner Byung-Hyun Kim. The lineup mostly returns, with LF Jason Bay, 1B Adam LaRouche and RF Xavier Nady providing the punch and CF Nate McLouth providing some thievery, but stellar former batting titlist 2B Freddie Sanchez starts the season on the DL after post season shoulder surgery.

The long suffering Little Bear fans should look forward to a pretty successful 2008 season, as the team won the Central last year under new skip Lou Pinella and made some nice off season acquisitions, inlcuding new Japanese import RF Kosuke Fukudome and SP Jason Marquis. The rotation is set with lights out Carlos Zambrano, lefty strikeout artists Ted Lilly and Rich Hill, and former closer Ryan Dempster filling the starting five and control artist Jon Lieber waiting in wings to provide both starting depth and long relief. Former phenom Kerry Wood moves to the pen and starts a new career as a closer ahead of setup men Bob Howry and Carlos Marmol. The lineup still includes dangerous 1B Derek Lee, 3B Aramis Ramirez, LF Alfonzo Soriano, and speedsters SS Ryan Theriot and CF Felix Pie. CF Reed Johson was signed to provide D and a right handed option in center.

The Barley Pops had a very successful 2007 campaign, but there are a number of unsettled questions coming into 2008. There is a ton of young talent but health and some position moves led the team to struggle this spring. The top of the rotation is set with ace Ben Sheets and veteran Jeff Suppan leading things off. Southpaw Manny Parra, Dave Bush and Carlos Villanueva fill out the staff, at least until the return of Yovani Gallardo. Lefty Chris Capunao is shelved for the season with elbow surgery.
The pen could be questionable with new closer Eric Gagne looking nothing like his old automatic self, and although setup men Dick Turnbow and Salomon Torres both have such experience, but both struggled in the spring. The lineup is very good if they can stay healthy, led by 1B Prince Fielder, 2B Rickie Weeks, 3B Bill Hall, LF Ryan Braun, and SS JJ Hardy. New CF Mike Cameron will sit 25 games after being suspended for using a banned supplement, so Tony Gwynn Jr. will fill in. Weeks and Hardy have struggled with illness and injury this spring. Braun and Hall also move positions, which the club hopes improves the defense, but the jury is still out.

The Central should be very competitive between the Windy City and der Beirmeisters, with the Marxists and Corsairs possibly making a move. The Cadets and Redbirds lack the arms to remain competitive but could spoil someone's fall. What I'd like to see is the Corsairs steal it but since they haven't had a winning season in 15 years, I don't see it happening but maybe 2009. I'm thinking the Little Bears win the division due to the strong rotation and the addition of one of Japan's best bats certainly shouldn't hurt.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny Crane: I have an erection. That's a good sign. I'm ready to go to trial. Lock and load.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

NASA Reverses Mars Spirit Rover Shut Down

Universe Today announced yesterday that NASA had decided to shut down one of the Mars rovers, Spirit, in order to save $4 million on its budget - then the agency abruptly reversed itself overnight after a huge netstorm of protest.

"You could almost hear the news sites and blogs rumble to life last night as the news surged through the web about NASA needing to cut $4 million from the MER program. Reports flooded in that the rover scientists were shocked and saddened by this surprise turn of events, the whole world seemed to react. Every other story on showed a new article about the budget cut, and looking through the comments, most reactions were of shear disgust about the short-sightedness of the government funded space agency. After all, Spirit and Opportunity represent the most successful robotic planetary mission ever; to simply switch one of them off seemed like a crime."

The two rovers represent what is likely the most successful robotic mission ever, expected to last on the Martian surface only a few months after their 2004 landings. However, due to some extraordinary life saving measures and excellent mission planning adjustments over the last couple of years, they have not only survived brutal storms, extreme Martian winters and mechanical issues, but managed to explore and discover new items about our planetary neighbor that would be impossible without the litttle rovers. The AP is reporting that the budget cut letter was sent without NASA administrator Michael Griffin's approval, hence the reversal.

Omaha Weather Office

One of my recent adds to the Local Yokel bogroll, Omaha Weather Office, has moved his site to the link above, lots of groovy new features and stuff - like live local and national readar!

How the Battle of Actium Changed the World

The latest installment of LiveScience's events that changed the world was issued yesterday, noting the Battle of Actium in 31 BC between the forces of Julius Caesar's nephew Octavian and Casear's friend Mark Antony for supremacy of the Roman world.

"It was the pivotal moment in an ancient soap opera, one marked by intrigue, romance, betrayal and widespread consequence.

The Battle of Actium in 31 B.C. was an epic showdown that pitted Mark Antony and Cleopatra against spurned former ally Octavian. When Octavian eventually reigned supreme in battle, it meant the end of the Roman Republic for good and the beginning of the Roman Empire, whose influences were ultimately felt throughout the world.

Antony's colossal defeat also led to his and Cleopatra's Shakespearean double-suicide, providing plenty of movie fodder 2,000 years later."

Actium was the culmination of a long series of events. The assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC led to a Roman power vaccuum filled by Octavian, who took control of the Roman west and Antony, one of Casear's top lieutenants, taking control of the Roman east. A truce between the two was cemented by Antony engaged to marry Octavain's sister, but then Egyptian Queen Cleopatra intervened, seducing Antony and giving Octavian the excuse to break the truce.

Actium was a naval battle fought off the coast of Greece, with over 1000 warships taking part in the battle, won handily by Octavian. Cleopatra and Antony committed suicide rather than be captured, and Octavian went on the become Rome's first Emperor, changing his name to Augustus.

Huskers Fall to UM in OT

Doc Sadler's Husker basketball team fell in overtime to Ole Miss 85-75 to finish the season 20-13. Senior Aleks Maric played a season high 41 minutes in his last game at NU and led the squad with 18 points and 10 boards, his 39th career double-double. Ade Dagunduro had 16 points, including 5 in the last two minutes to force OT and guard Steve Harley added 14.

"In overtime, center Aleks Maric hit a free throw on the first possession to put Nebraska ahead 71-70. But that was one of few things that went well for the Huskers' lone senior in the extra period. Maric committed turnovers on the next two possessions. Then he missed three of four free throws. By then, Ole Miss (23-10) was up by four with 1:29 to go.

"The momentum was swinging, the tide was turning," Maric said. "But we didn't play the way we wanted to. It cost us the game." Sadler wants no one to lay blame on Maric, who played a career-high 41 minutes because frontcourt mates Ryan Anderson (stomach flu) and Chris Balham (knee) were wobbling.

"It goes back to Aleks playing the most minutes he has all year," Sadler said. "And they are big. And he's involved in ball screens every possession, and that's hard.

"Not having Ryan hurt. We've not got enough depth yet. Chris Balham's knee is so bad. He tries, but he can't give you much. So we had to play Aleks a lot longer minutes that we normally play him."

Ole Miss jumped out to a quick nine point lead in the game that left the Husklers playing catch up all game, trailing at the half by four, 40-36. The 40 points UM put up in the first half were the most points given up by NU at the half in 11 games, and UM shot a blistering 62% for the opening half and 52% for the game. UM was led by Chris Warren's 18 points and Eniel Polynice added 15.

Boston Legal Quotes

Gracie Jane: Gracie Jane.
Denny Crane: Denny Crane.
Gracie Jane: Gracie Jane.
Denny Crane: Are you making fun of me?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Kepler Telescope Mission

Astrobiology gives a nice brief on the Kepler Space Telescope Mission expected to launch in next year in Febuary. The Kepler is designed to find extraterrestrial planets the size of the Earth, utilzing the "transit method", which finds an extrasolar planet by measuring the drop in brightness of a distant star when a planet passes in front of the star relative to Earth.

More on the Kepler Mission can be found from NASA found here.

"NASA’s Kepler mission, selected in 2001 as the agency’s tenth Discovery mission, is a space-borne telescope designed specifically to look for alien Earths. It is “NASA’s first mission capable of detecting Earth-size and smaller planets around other stars,” says David Koch, an astrophysicist at NASA Ames Research Center near Mountain View, Calif., and the Deputy PI on the Kepler project."

Kepler will be able to detect a drop in a star's brightness as low as one-hundredth of one percent - the difference between looking out a window in your house and looking out it while it is open is around one percent. The Kepler will be launched into an Earth trailing orbit to avoid the effects of the atmosphere, which can vary the amount of detectable light greatly exceeding the sensitivity of Kepler's instuments. Larger planets can be detected from the ground based telescopes, but the smaller worlds we seek do not "dip" the light from their parent stars enought to be detected, hence this mission.

The mission will be conducted over a period of four years, taking measurements of 10,000 stars every 30 minutes. Transits last for only a few hours at a time, so in order to detect one, a large number of stellar "snapshots" need to be taken in order fo discover them. Kepler will continuously examine the same part of the sky located between two of the northern hemisphere's brightest stars, Vega and Deneb. The first planets Kepler will discover will be those closest to their parent stars, and thus making the most transits.

The goal is to find a Earth size world making about four transits around a Sun-like star - making it quite likely to inhabit that star's habitable zone. There are around 5,000 such stars in the regions to be studied, but many possible planets may not lie in an oribital plane we will be able to see. The Kepler team expects to find around 50 such Earth type planets in a star's habitable zone. The mission is likely to find hundreds of other planets as well. 250 planets have already been found from ground based observations, many of them short period "hot Jupiters", gas giants that orbit very close the their stars.

2008 Baseball Preview - National League

Well, it's that time of year again, the time when the weather warms up, robins return and the grass starts to green, which means the Boys of Summer start training in Florida and Arizona. And that means I examine each team, their respective rosters and preview each team's chance of going to the Fall Classic. We'll start off, as usual, with the Inferior Circuit and save the Superior League for later in the week.

Out on the Left Coast, the SF Midgets are still old, with all but one position player over 30. The only player of any note signed was CF Aaron Rowland, who could move to left. The staff, led by Barron von Zito, younsters Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, could keep them in games, but the relief corps is shaky. Hard throwing youngster, Brian Wilson (not the Beach Boy) is slated for the closer spot. The Midgets swung skinny sticks last year hitting .254 and only scoring 683 runs, and don't look to improve that much with the departure of you-know-who.

Moving south to the team formerly from Brooklyn, the staff is pretty well set with Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Japanese import Hiroki Kuroda, top young gun Chad Billingsley and retread Estoban Loaiza filling out the rotation, and former ace Jason Schmidt waiting in the wings coming off injury. The pen is deep, with Takashai Sato and Jonathan Broxton both capable of shutting down the ninth and vets Rudy Saenz and Scott Proctor on staff. The Boys in Blue made one significant pickup, CF Andruw Jones, in the off season, who should provide both power and dazzling defense. LF (moved from CF for Jones) Juan Pierre and SS Raffy Furcal can both burn up the base paths, and old school 2B Jeff Kent provides some pop. Both 3B Nomar Garciaparra and Adam Larouche start the season injured, leaving young utility man Tony Abreu to man the spot until Nomah returns.

Moving even further south, the SD Priests enjoyed a very successful season last year, but failed in their one game playoff against the Stones for the wildcard. The Spiritual Ones will once again be led in the rotation by staff Pope Jake Peavy, lanky punchout artist Chris Young, the ever youthful Dalai Lama of control, Greg Maddux, and newcomer Randy Wolf, and some kid named Prior if he ever gets healthy. The ageless wonder with the terrific changeup (and career saves leader) Trevor Hoffman closes, and protogee Heath Bell sets up. Uber studs 1B Adrian Gonzalez and SS Khalil Green lead with the sticks, and 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff is developing nicely. Highlight reel CF Jim Edmonds arrives wiht his glove from St. Louis as well, and hopes to bounce back with the wood as well. No burners on the squad, RF Brian Giles is figured to leadoff.

While the Snakes won the West last year, the Stones made the Series out of the Wild Card. Hence, the team made a major move, landing AL All-Star game starter Dan Haren from Oakland. The staff should be solid, with former Cy winners Brandon Webb, the Unit, Haren, Doug Davis and young Mich Owings providing the innings and now healthy Brandon Lyon doing the closing. While the Snakes lack power, the are heavy with contact hitters, and CF Chris Young and LF Eric Byrnes can both fly and a savvy about swiping bags. 1B Connor Jackson and 3B Mark Reynolds provide some pop, and both 2B Orlando Hudson and up and coming SS Stephen Drew can both deal the wood and flash the glove. C Chris Snyder calls a good game and flashes some timely wood as well.

The Stones made a historic march to the Series only to fall very abruptly down a cliff and hit all the sharp pointy rocks in facing the Evil Oysters. The rotation set a franchise record with a 4.23 ERA last year and this year is even DEEPER - led by 17 game winner (a franchise record) Jeff Francis. Homegrown talents Aaron Cook, Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales fill out the rotation, along with former Tigger Mark Redman, and Kip Wells waiting in the wings and Jason Hirsch coming off injury. Manny Corpas returns to close, with former closer Brian Fuentes setting up and picking up an occaisonal ninth inning appearance. The boys can deal the lumber as well, with MVP LF matt Halliday, SS Troy Tulowitski, RF Brian Hawpe, 3B Garret Atkins and 1B Todd Helton all swinging good sticks and lead off man CF Willy Taveras can burn.

I see the division coming down to the Snakes and the Stones but expect the Priests and Team Brooklyn to have an extensive say about how things shake out. The Midgets have a nice shiny new ballpark and some good arms but can't compete. This is one of baseball's best and most competitive divisions, and could wind up being decided in the waning days of the season, and by who can stay healthy all year long. The Stones want to show they belong and that last year wasn't a fluke. The Snakes are probably the team to beat, however, particularly if Unit stays functional all season. the wildcard is pretty likely to come out of this division again.

Boston Legal Quotes

Alan Shore: You know we have a little saying in Massachusetts, "Maybe someday you'll get horribly sick and die."
[Melvin looks startled]
Alan Shore: Until then!
Attorney Melvin Palmer: Oh!
[he starts to laugh]
Attorney Melvin Palmer: You. You dog.
[he leaves]
Attorney Melvin Palmer: Ah...

Friday, March 21, 2008

NCAA Tournament

I attended the NCAA Tournament yesterday at the Qwest Center and watched Kansas defeat Portland State 85-61, as well as most of the UNLV - Kent State game, won by the Rebels 71-58. Have to say I was very impressed with KU, there is a definite reason they are a #1 seed - talent disparity between the Jayhawks and the other three teams is patently obvious just from watching the floor.

KU shot 48% from the land of three and 54% overall, while holding Portland St to 38% shooting, and led by double digits just 5 minutes into the game. I have to give some credit to State, they did not just roll over but remained scrappy throughout. Some of the players that impressed me were KU junior guard Brandon Rush and sophomore forward Darrell Arthur, along with the State's sophmore forward Alex Tiefenthaler and UNLV's senior G/F Curtis Terry.

I also witnessed a historic moment in the second game as UNLV held Kent to a NCAA-tying record for fewest points in a half, with just 10, although they did come back in the second half to close the gap to thirteen after trailing by 21 at the half.

Saturn Moon Titan May Have Underground Ocean

via ScienceDaily, the Cassini space probe is showing evidence that Saturn's largest moon Titan may have an underground ocean of water and ammonia.

""With its organic dunes, lakes, channels and mountains, Titan has one of the most varied, active and Earth-like surfaces in the solar system," said Ralph Lorenz, lead author of the paper and Cassini radar scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., "Now we see changes in the way Titan rotates, giving us a window into Titan's interior beneath the surface."

Members of the mission's science team used Cassini's Synthetic Aperture Radar to collect imaging data during 19 separate passes over Titan between October 2005 and May 2007. The radar can see through Titan's dense, methane-rich atmospheric haze, detailing never-before-seen surface features and establishing their locations on the moon's surface."

The scientists compared early radar maps of Titan's surface from the latest ones gathered, and a number of unique surface features identified in the frist maps had shifted significantly, up to 19 miles in some cases. Such an extenisve displacement is difficult to explain unless the surface is separated from the moon's core, floating on an ocean of water. It is believed the ocean may lie as deep as 62 miles under the surface. Cassini will make another flyby on March 25, using its instruments to both examine the atmosphere and the moon's southeastern surface quadrant.

Inner Planets May Have Different Origins

via National Geographic, a new analysis is challenging the long held theory that the inner rocky worlds in our solar system formed from the same general building block materials. The idea is that these planets are formed from the same mineral building blocks as the most common and oldest type of asteroids and meteorites, called chondrites. However, Earth's mineral composition doesn't quite match up, and a new French study (French?) of Mars and the Moon suggest that these worlds don't match up either.

"What our results suggest is that the sorting of the elements that make up these planets may have happened at a much earlier stage than had been believed," said Alex Halliday, a study co-author from Oxford University. "The composition of these worlds is inconsistent with them simply forming out of large 'lumps' of stony meteorites like those we see today in the asteroid belt."

Chondrites are commonly characterized by an abundance of the mineral neodymium 142, which is a byproduct of the decay of the metal samarium. However, Earth contains a higher percentage of neodynium than common chondrites, leading traditional earth science theorists to speculate that Earth's system of plate tectonics was "hiding" elements that would balance out the chemical ratio. However, the new study finds that both the Moon and Mars have the same excess of neodymium, even though they do not have active plate tectonics. These findings may suggest that the rocky planets may have formed earlier in the history of the solar system than the other chondrite type bodies.

Boston Legal Quotes

Ernie Dell: You see the thing is, fool that I am, I went out and hired a PI on my own. And guess what I found out, Denny?
Denny Crane: I'm not sure, Ernie, but you need to know I'm billing you for all these rhetorical questions.
[Dell pulls a pistol from his suit and points it at Denny]
Ernie Dell: My own lawyer. My friend. With my wife! Gee, Denny Crane is silent. Talking to me about my qwest for relevance, Denny. Tell me about my ego. Come up with one last profound thing to say. Before I pull this trigger! Come on, Denny, talk! I want to hear what the great Denny Crane has to say now!
[Denny stares at Ernie]
Denny Crane: First off, clients come in here wanting to shoot me all the time, and you know what I tell them? Go ahead. The worst thing about growing older, Ernie? You begin to slip. One day you wake up, and you're less than. And for me, I'm a legend, Ernie. I'm folklore in this town. Lawyers have feared me for years. For Denny Crane to slip, it would diminish my legacy, it would be a tragedy. Denny Crane has to go out big, page 1 of the Globe or the New York Times even. Do me a favor Ernie. Pull the trigger. Immortalize the legend, pull the trigger. I don't ever want to be less than, don't let me become irrelevant, pull it!
Ernie: [cocks the gun] Okay. Before I do, don't you at least want to apologize?
Denny: I do. I'm sorry, my friend. I'm truly sorry. Ernie, that gun. I bought it for you, remember? It's a starter pistol, Ernie.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Japanese Delivery a Hit on the ISS

Apparently the ISS astronauts have been getting a little tired of their diet of freeze dried spacefood, so it was a big hit when Japanese astronaut Takao Doi visited and brought in some take out - or is it take up?

"Doi, a veteran spaceflyer who is helping deliver the first segment of Japan's massive Kibo laboratory to the ISS, packed three types of Japanese noodles, some salmon and steamed rice for his crewmates aboard the shuttle Endeavour and space station.

"Actually, the Japanese food was great, especially after being up here for five months," station commander Peggy Whitson told Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda late Wednesday. "Takao was kind enough to bring us chopsticks to make it official."

Doi arrived on the currently running Endeavor STS-123 mission to deliver the both the Canadian Dextre robot arm and the Japanese constructed Logistics Pressurized module the first piece of the Kibo laboratory module, adding what will amount to a "space closet" for additional storage in the lab. The primary module for the lab will be sent up in May, with the last piece a "space porch" arriving in 2009. Doi is also testing some new Japanese designed space threads, including skivvies and experimenting how a boomerang works in zero gee.

The life these people lead is too bizarre to comment on fully, but it does make for some interesting blogging.

Just Another Day at the Office

Some great images available from the STS-123 mission to the ISS. Here astronauts are working on the Canadian built robotic arm known as Dextre.

"During the 3rd spacewalk, astronauts Rick Linnehan (right) and Bob Behnken work on the new Dextre, also known as the Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator (SPDM). This image highlights how big the station is getting, as the astronauts are almost dwarfted by this one area of the truss section."

There is yet another spacewalk scheduled today.

How Greek Agoras Changed the World

The latest from Livescience's series on items that have changed the world examines the impact of the Greek Agora - the central marketplace in the Greek city-states where not only goods were exchanged, but ideas. The agora also performed the role of the civic center, where politics and governing were conducted.

"Nearly every city of ancient Greece had an agora – meaning meeting place – by about 600 B.C., when the classical period of Greek civilization began to flourish. Usually located near the center of town, the agora was easily accessible to every citizen, with a large central square for market stalls bound by public buildings.

The agora of Athens – the hub of ancient Greek civilization – was the size of several football fields and saw heavy traffic every single day of the week. Women didn't often frequent the agora, but every other character in ancient Greece passed through its columns: politicians, criminals, philosophers and traders, aristocrats, scientists, officials and slaves.

Not only did the ancient Greeks go to the agora to pick up fresh meat and some wool for a new robe, but also to meet and greet with friends and colleagues. Akin to the modern high-powered lunch, much business got done in the casual setting."

The agora held not only the particpatory democratic assemblies, but the law courts as well. Laws were posted in the agora, and Athenian citizens voted for and debated such laws. Thus Athenian democracy started as an idea conceived, formulated, and then conducted in the agora. Most likely so did items such as the Hippocratic oath, and the Pythagorean Theorem (a squared plus b squared equals c squared), as the greatest scietific and philosophical minds met a discussed the issues of the day and taught students - all in the agora.

Methane Found on Extra Solar Planet

ScienceDaily reports the exciting discovery of methane by the Hubble Sapce Telescope in an alien star system. It was found on a "hot Jupiter" called HD 189733b. Methane is a organic hydrocarbon molecule and one of the primary components of natural gas. It is found on many worlds in our own solar system but had never been detected outside it. The interesting thing is that water vapor has already been confirmed on the same planet.

"The planet, HD 189733b, now known to have methane and water vapour is located 63 light-years away in the constellation Vulpecula, the little fox. HD 189733b, a "hot Jupiter"-type extrasolar planet, is so close to its parent star that it takes just over two days to complete an orbit. "Hot Jupiters" are the size of Jupiter but orbit closer to their stars than the tiny innermost planet Mercury in our Solar System. HD 189733b's atmosphere swelters at 900 degrees C, about the same temperature as the melting point of silver."

The real import of the finding is that we have now been able to detect atmospheric gasses from a far distant world. Utilizing the same methods, we may soon be able to do the same thing for smaller and cooler worlds that might have evidence of being habitable. The ultimate goal of these studies is to discover prebiotic molecules in the atmospheres of terrestrial type rocky planets orbiting within the habitable zone of another star.

Husker Thump UNC-Charlotte

via OWH, the Nebraska basketball squad defeated UNC-Charlotte in their first round NIT matchup 67-48 to become jsut the 12th team in school history to reach 20 victories in a season.

""That's a number that separates you from a lot of teams," NU coach Doc Sadler said. "That's a credit to our players. "If you would have thought this back in January, you'd be even more proud of it. If you can get 20 wins a year in this league, you're going to have a successful program."

The chance for a 21st win comes Monday night at 6 or 8 at Mississippi (22-10). The second-seeded Rebels beat seventh-seeded UC-Santa Barbara 83-68 at home and get to stay at home against third-seeded Nebraska. NU (20-12) got its 20th win in the same way it collected most of the other 19 — with stifling defense, holding Charlotte 22 points under its season average."

Charlotte's top two scorers were held to 2 of 13 and 4 of 13 shooting. After trailing 16-15 with 8:33 left in the first half, NU took the lead for good with an 18-5 run led off by two inside baskets by senior center Aleks Maric, who became the fifth leading scorer in school history with his nine points last night. He also became just the third player in conference history wiht 1600 points and 1000 rebounds.

Congratulations to the team and Coach Doc Sadler.

Boston Legal Quotes

[Denny Crane and Ernie Dell walk into Denny's office]
Denny: This is not going to be easy for you to hear, but it needs to be said. I don't give a damn who slept with your wife. Neither do you, really. You don't love her. It's an ego thing. She's a trophy girl, something for your friends to admire. Maybe you should be flattered.
Ernie: I'm not -
Denny, interrupting: I'm talking! Ego, Ernie. You acquire fast cars and young wives, all in hope to stay young yourself and confuse youth with relevance. Well, here's a flash for you. We're all desperate to be relevant. You're 76 years old, want to feel you still mean something, move to Florida, punch a chad, screw up an election. Don't go looking for affirmation between the two artifical jugs of a woman who married you for - gee, could it be your outstanding sense of humor? [Ernie clenches up]
Take a swing, if you want to, if it'll make you fell better.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ancient Greek Outpost Discovered

Livescience reports on an amazingly well preserved archaelogical site dating back to the Late Bronze Age Mycenaen Greece. The site, Korphos-Kalamianos, lies partly underwater and was probably built, at least initially, as a military outpost. the site was found along the shores of the Western Aegean Sea 60 miles southwest of Athens and 40 miles east from the major Greek state of the time,and the one that gives its name to the culture, Mycenae. The Mycenaen culture is best known as the time period set forth in the Iliad and Odyssey by the Greek poet Homer, who recounted the events surrounding the legendary Trojan War. The culture is thought to have existed from around 1600 BC to 1100 BC.

"The site is unique because the remains of most Mycenaean towns are completely buried by now under a few millennia's worth of dirt and detritus. This one stands above ground, with many walls incredibly intact.

"Usually to excavate Mycenaean buildings you have to dig underground," Pullen told LiveScience. "What we have here is the plan of an entire town preserved for us. We have the fortification wall, we have all these buildings, and we can often see where the doorways would be. We can see how the buildings relate to each other, because we have obvious alleyways and streets."

The site shows a regular grid pattern suggestive of pre-planned construction that leads us to the military outpost theory, as most naturally developed urban sites tend to evolve in a more ad hoc arrangment. The site also appears to have been largely constructed at once, and lacks the farmland necessary to sustain a population of the size indicated by the area covered by the find. Researchers have yet to explore the underwater ruins, which might confirm the theory the site was devleoped to exploit a natural harbor existing at the time.

How to Get to Alpha Centauri covers several ways to potentially get to our nearest instellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri. Interest in sending a probe or a long term mission to the star has been increased by stellar modeling that indicates a high probability of both planetary formation and a strong possibility of a terrestrial type planet in the star's habitable zone. The distance and time required, of course, are both a substantial challenge.

"Sending a person to Alpha Centauri within a human lifetime wouldn't be easy. Alpha Centauri is 4.37 light-years away — more than 25.6 trillion miles, or more than 276,000 times the distance from the Earth to the sun."

A conventional rocket would be impossible to use, taking far to long - a shuttle rocket would require 165,000 years. This has mostly to do with the fact the shuttle uses up is fuel at a prodigious rate. What is required is a method of propulsion that would either sip fuel slowly or gather it along the route, slowly gaining speed (like rolling a stone downhill) at an ever increasing rate, a "constant boost" method. One possibility might be Star Trek like anitmatter engine, although warp drive is probably a long ways off. Unfortunately, only small amounts of antimatter can currently be created at one time and it requires a huge particle accelerator to do it. Storing it safely for even a short time also requires huge magnets - defeating the purpose of a powerful lightweight fuel with a enormous mass for storage.

Another method I alluded to earlier is to gather your fuel as you move along the route, like a ramjet does in the atmosphere, as proposed by astrphysicist Robert Bussard many years ago. Unfortunately, the interstellar medium is nowhere near as dense with the required type of deuterium hydrogen atoms as theorized by the good doctor. A third method could be the "solar sail" method, which utilizes the interstellar solar "wind" created by the Sun's photons. Again there is a problem - the "wind" dies down the further you get away, and you would face a headwind when you started to approach your destination. One way around this would be to use orbital or Lunar based lasers to generate a light "wave" for the spacecraft to ride. However you would need an extraordinarily powerful laser, and laser tend to disperse over distance. Neutrally charged particle beams might provide an answer to this, so it might be the most feasible idea in the short term.

The most radical idea would be nuclear propulsion, where the vehicle is propelled by the repeated explosion of nuclear weapons, with the spacecraft protected behind a "shield". And you thought the environmentalists were aleady in a tizzy. Such a "pulsed proplusion" system works most efficiently on very large craft, however, so sending a colony of a 1000 people would be more feasible than a 1 ton probe. Jordin Kare, a Seattle-based technical consultant on advanced space systems, has come up with a blended "sail beam" system, using laser pulses like bullets to propel many small sails.

One option not mentioned is ion propulsion, but perhaps this is because it is already been deployed, for instance on the dwarf planet/asteroid mission to Ceres and Vesta which orbit between Mars and Jupiter. Such engines create a very small amount of thrust, but use fuel rather sparingly and thus could achieve a fairly significant speed, particularly if coupled with the standard "gravity assist" method to achieve relatively high rates of speed and "sling-shotting" probes all over the soalr systems, such as the Pluto probe New Horizons, or the Voyager missions.

America Losing Space Lead?

via RCP, the Houston Chronicle bemoans the fact that the US may be facing a hiatus of its manned spaceprogram of five years or better. Can't say as though I disagree. China may wind up with a permanent post on the Moon before we do. Wew are facing the prospect of watching other nations leading the exploration of the next frontier.

"With the retirement of the aging space shuttle fleet looming in two years, the United States faces the humiliating prospect of paying billions of dollars to Russia for years to hitch rides to an international space station built largely with American funds.

Even more unsettling, when the next generation Orion space vehicle is finally ready to carry our astronauts back to the moon sometime before 2020, they may find Chinese counterparts already there and working. Having grown accustomed to the leading role in manned exploration of space, Americans are in for an era of diminished expectations and heightened competition for the high ground."

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin points out that the Chinese have 200,000 people working on their space program, just the third nation to send a man into orbit. That is twice the number participating in out own programs. The one caveat to this is America's growing private space industry, led by the SpaceX corporation. Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson has proposed additional funding to the Orion program to speed progress there as well. However, the Chronicle does miss a couple of points in their analysis - while our manned exploraiton will definitely be curtailed, our unmanned programs will certainly be able to continue, and there is the possibility of delaying the shuttle retirement for a short period if funding (ever the issue for NASA) could become available.

Husker BaseballTeam Wins 14th Straight

via OWH, Husker Dan Jennings threw a complete game gem to defreat Arkansas 6-1, spoiling the return of former Husker Coach Dave Van Horn. Jennings allowed only one baserunner past second base after the3 sewcond inning. Jennings struck out 7 and walked only two to earn his second victory of the year and third of his Husker career.

"On Tuesday, a crowd of 3,417 applauded Van Horn upon his first trip back with the Razorbacks and then sat back to watch his ex-assistant, Anderson, coach Nebraska to its 14th straight victory.

The winning streak is the longest in Anderson's six years and one away from the most consecutive victories at Nebraska under Van Horn, 15 games, in 2000. Anderson, despite the win, said he'd still prefer not to coach against old boss.

"It's good competition, obviously," he said. "We wouldn't do it unless I thought it was good for Nebraska baseball. But I know Dave very well. This crowd is here. This stadium's here. We're having success because of the things Dave Van Horn did.
I hope he has some emotion that way and feels the pride. It's something that he orchestrated."

NU's left fielder Nick Sullivan unlocked a 1-1 tie with a 2 run shot in the bottom of the second, and NU catcher Mitch Abeita uncorked a 3 run blast in the bottom of the 8th to seal the deal.

Creighton Survives Rhode Island

Via OWH, the Bluejays survive Rhode Island in their first round matchup of the NIT Tournament 74-73. Cavel Witter's 3 pointer from the corner with just 3 ticks remaining on the clock gave the Jays the victory. The Jays were down by 15 at the half, as many as 17 and tralied by 12 with just over 3 minutes remaining, but never gave up fighting. The smallest crowd in Creighton's five years, just 7,948 at the Qwest Center, witnessed one for the ages.

"Things looked pretty dismal for the Bluejays when Marquis Jones made a layup to give the Rams a 70-58 lead with 3:14 remaining. A 3-point basket by P'Allen Stinnett and his layup got Creighton within seven points, and Woodfox made a twisting 3-point shot to cut the deficit to 70-66 with 1:28 left.

Jones made two free throws at the 1:10 mark to push Rhode Island's lead back to six but Woodfox connected again from outside the arc to trim the Rams' lead to 72-69 with 1:03 remaining. Jimmy Baron missed a driving shot that Stinnett rebounded, and Witter made it a one-point game with two free throws with 13.3 seconds to play.

Rhode Island beat Creighton's press with a long pass to Jones, who was fouled by Witter as he drove to the basket. Jones, playing because sixth man Keith Cothran suffered an ankle injury earlier in the game, missed his first free-throw attempt but made the second for a 73-71 lead with 11.5 seconds remaining.

Rhode Island called timeout, allowing Creighton to set up one play. It was supposed to go to Stinnett, who took a pass from Witter on the left wing. Stinnett started to drive for the basket, pulled up for a shot and remembered what Witter had told him as they broke from the huddle after the timeout."

All Atlantic 10 conference G Will Daniels led RI with 16 points, while Woodfox and Stinnet led CU with 22 points apiece. CU will face teh winner of San Diego State and Florida, traveling to Florida if they win but staying at home if SD State topples the Gators.

Boston Legal Quotes

Matthew Caulder: What's going on?
Alan Shore: I'll keep it quick. These are for you. Photos. Snapshots really. Some delightful little business between you and a hooker. [Caulder starts flipping through the pictures] Friend of mine actually. I earn frequent flyer miles. She's a lovely woman. I arranged for her to seek you out at the bar. I particularly like that one. Don't you? Gives your bottom a nice...aura. Here's the deal, Sharon and the kids get to go to New York, or I start printing copies. Is that suger that you're snorting off of her magnificent porcelain breasts?
Caulder: You're a lawyer in a prestigious law firm for God's sakes!
Alan Shore: I know, awful. Hate to extort and run, but I'm going to need an answer on this, now.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Husker DE Coach John Papuchis

I caught this interview by Bill Jordan with Husker DE Coach John Papuchis the other day. Papuchis arrived from LSU with Head Coach Bo Pelini and Husker LB Coach Mike Ekeler. They first covered John's role on the staff.

"Bill Jordan for the Biz of Football: What is your role on the team besides coaching the defensive ends?

John Papuchis: Well, I’ve been working with Bo for a couple years, so as far as helping him put together a plan on defense from week to week and I coach our punt team. I also have a role with our special teams from an administrative prospective as well. I’ll be assisting it and putting together the depth chart and stuff like that. Primarily I’ll coach the defensive ends; I’ll coach the punt team and from an administrative perspective take care of special teams."

They also covered recruiting in general and it's is different between the two schools, his geographic area responsibilities for it, compared Bo's coaching style with LSU Coach Les Miles, how the LSU players reacted to the news of Pelini's hire at Nebraska, how welcomed he has felt at NU, how they prepared LSU for the NC game against Ohio State, and several other interesting tidbits. It's a very nice read on the new coach.

How to Market Humanity

Universe Today takes a look at how the SETI Institute plans to market humanity to alien species. The institute has a Director of Interstellar Composition - the individual repsonsible for crafting humanity's message to any aliens that may be lurking in the neighborhood.

If we're going to be communicating with aliens, we'll want to be careful about the words we choose. Get it right, and we've got extraterrestrial friends, here to uplift us to the galactic community. Get it wrong and we might be looking at radio silence, or worse…"

Worse means the Klingons begin the invasion I guess. Hopefully we run into the Vulcans and make a good first impression. Obviously, humanity has more, shall we say, colorful episodes in our history that may damage that impression. However, the man with the job at SETI, Douglas Vakoch, believes honsety is the best policy, and I would have to agree if we intend on maintaining a long term relationship (hopefully diplomatic, cultural and technological exchanges, rather than the ray gun kind) with any other intelligent species that may be out there. Our flaws, after all, are what really make us human.

Boston Legal Quotes

Alan Shore: Denny, I find myself having a bit of an identity crisis. I've alwasy prided myself on being - well, nuts. But in this firm, I'm finding myself falling into the sane category.
Denny [chuckles, smiles]:You think I'm nuts, do you?

Monday, March 17, 2008

NU, Creighton Both Make NIT

As expected, both NU and Creighton extend their seasons into the NIT tournament, with both squads receiving a #3 seeding and receiving first round home games. CU (21-10) plays Rhode Island (21-11) on Tuesday 8 PM at the Qwest Center.It will be CU's ninth NIT appearance and third in five seasons. It will be Creighton's 11th post season tournament in a row.

Meanwhile, the Huskers (19-12) will host Charlotte (20-13) on Wednesday at 8 pm in the Devaney Center. The Huskers defeated Mizzou in the Big 12 Tournament, then were defeated by eventual Big 12 Champ Kansas, 64-54, although they put up much more of a spirited fight then previous contests, actually holding a half time lead.

"Nebraska won the NIT in 1996 and finished third in 1987, both under coach Danny Nee. NU also reached the semifinals in New York after three victories in 1983 under Moe Iba. The Huskers have played more NIT games - 33 in 14 appearances - than anyone else in the Big 12.

NU now has the longest NCAA tournament drought in the Big 12 - 10 years. Baylor and Kansas State ended their absences of 20 and 12 years, respectively, by getting at-large bids on Sunday."

A Husker win would result in their first 20 win season since 1998-99. It will be Charlotte's eigth post season appearance in 10 seasons under their coach, Bobby Lutz. The NIT field includes the two NCAA tourney finalists from last year, Florida and Ohio State.

Kurdish Issues in Iraq

Carter Andress at National Review notes yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the Halabja massacre conducted by Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein. Hussein had warplanes and artillery drop mustard gas and nerve agent on the Kurdish town and killed approximately 5,000 people, almost the entire population. The attack initiated a wider campaign of genocide agains the Kurds that killed almost 150,000 and eliminated as many as 1,000 villages in northern Iraq. The rationale for the killing was two-fold; as an ethnic minority in Iraq with their own national aspirations, Hussein doubted their political reliability, and then there was that expensive black stuff in the ground.

"This ethnic cleansing of Kurds, while part of Saddam’s “Arabization” project, also had its pragmatic side: The Kurds were predominant in the oil-rich and strategically important areas of northern Iraq, and oil money could help their separatist movement. Perhaps for this reason, Saddam began his assault on the Kurds in 1979, as soon as he became president of Iraq. But he was no means the only guilty party. The entire Iraqi leadership, as well as tens of thousands of Iraqi army personnel and security forces, were culpable in these sickening crimes against humanity that continued until Saddam was removed from power."

Andress also notes how the Kurds have been both some the strongest proponents of the new Iraqi government but also one of the biggest stumbling blocks. Individual Kurds are signing up in increasing numbers for the new Iraqi army, and heavily involved and participating in the new political process in the Iraqi parliament. However, they have been a obstacle in the creation of the new national oil law, which the Kurds believe currently gives too much power to the central government. The elephant in the room, however, is the status of the city of Kirkuk. The 2005 Iraqi Constitution called for the city's status to be decided by the end of last year. The question whether it will be a part of the Kurdish region has yet to be resolved.

Lunar Ark Planned

Universe Today examines a proposal for a "Lunar Ark" that would place a substantial body of knowledge on the moon as a repository should some disaster befall our planet.

"Having a backup of your computer is handy, but having a backup of the entire progress of human civilization is even more practical. If a major catastrophic event like nuclear war or an asteroid strike wipes out most of the humans on the planet, it would be helpful for the survivors to have a record of all the accomplishments we've made in the past few thousands of years to help rebuild and repopulate the Earth."

There are already "seed arks" being developed in different areas on our planet committed to maintaining a record of our diverse ecology. The proposal for the Lunar repository would include not only records of plant life, but also include information on animals and human techniques such as smelting metals or how to plant crops. The idea would be for the information stored to be available from earth based "lifeboat" facilities scattered across the planet where survivors of a cataclysm would be able to congregate.

Interesting idea, although a better (although much more difficult) one would be to simply colonize whatever available real estate we can survice on within the solar system, say Mars.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny Crane: [while shaking hands] Denny Crane.
Donny Crane: Donny Crane.
Denny Crane: Denny Crane.
Donny Crane: Donny Crane.
Denny Crane: Denny Crane.
Donny Crane: Donny Crane.
Denny Crane: Denny Crane.
Donny Crane: Donny Crane.
Denny Crane: Denny Crane.
Donny Crane: Donny Crane.
Denny Crane: Denny Crane.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Another Take on Pelini Hire

I ran across a short inteview with Husker Heas Coach Bo Pelini at Yahoo! Sports conducted by sportwriter Olin Buchanan. He also talked with Husker legend Tom Ruud, father of recent linebackers Barrett and Bo about the new coach and the program. Buchanan points out the key to the hire:

"In making his first address to the team, Pelini brought a direct, no-nonsense message of great expectations and demands.

“I told them everybody is going to be held to extremely high standards,” Pelini said by phone last week. “They’re expected to do things right on and off the field and develop a sense of accountability. That’s not up for debate.”

Neither is that Nebraska’s once-proud “Black Shirts” defense hit bottom in ‘07 by allowing at least 40 points six times, including an all-time high 76 points in a loss to Kansas. Nebraska’s defense allowed at least 40 points 11 times in four seasons under Callahan. Before Callahan, the Huskers had allowed at least 40 points just 11 times in 45 seasons from 1959-2003.

But Pelini is a master architect of powerful defenses, having coached top-20 ranked defenses in each season as coordinator at Nebraska (2003), Oklahoma (2004) and LSU (2005-07). Restoring some teeth to the once-ferocious “Black Shirts” is the first step in leading Nebraska back to national prominence."

As a college assistant, Pelini's teams have never won less than 10 games, AND have never been ranked below #13 in total defense and #17 in scoring defense. Pelini indicated there will be subtle yet significant differences in how he runs our program from how his former bosses ran there own teams. Ruud stated that while Callahan was a good coach, Pelini has embraced the state and the culture in a very different way than Callahan, and Buchanan points out how the state has responded to the hire in a very postive manner, even going so far as to list the different T-shirt captions that have caught on utilizing the Coach's nickname.

Nice to have a positive article on the program for a change.

Rioting in Tibet

There are reports of rioting and two dead from the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. Tibet was an independent nation until invaded by the Chinese Communists in the 1950s. Political oppostion to the Chinese regime there has been nealry continuous and periodically explodes into violence. The Tibetan spirtiual leader, the Dalai Lama, escaped the Chinese government in 1959 and has led the political opposition from exile.

"U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia said troops using both live ammunition and tear gas fired on crowds torching vehicles and Chinese-owned shops in the center of the ancient capital of Lhasa. It said other reports put the death toll higher, but gave no figures."

The protest apparently started when Buddhist monks led an anniversary march commemorating the failed 1959 uprising against the Chinese, and spread among the population both in Lhasa and outside the city. The Dalai Lama and governments worldwide has called for the Chinese to show restraint in suppressing the protests, which are the largest uprisings in two decades. Accurate information is difficult to attain due to the close restrictions the Communist government imposes on foreigners travelling to the area.

The protests may have been precipitated by the government cracking down on the city's three largest monastaries after monks had launched hunger strikes. Tibetan opposition leaders and exiles believe that China can be pressured into making concessions due to the impending Olympic Games being held later this year in Beijing.

Joba and the Bronx

The American Spectator is the last place in the world I expected to see an article on former Husker Joba Chamberlain, but here it is. Michael Dougherty examines the way the Bronx fans have adopted our North Platte native son.

"So how did a rookie who pitched only 24 innings in the major leagues and whose most famous game featured him giving up a Yankee lead in a playoff duel with the Indians become a Yankee instalegend? That Joba Chamberlain's career has exploded is not disputed. Buster Olney, in a cover-story for ESPN the Magazine noted that before he even made it to the majors, "Chants of 'Joba' rattled through Yankee Stadium this season the way 'Maximus' flew around the ring in Gladiator."

First, there's the name that his young niece, who couldn't pronounce his given name of Justin, dubbed him with and which he wound up changing legally. Then there is the personal story of he and his father and their amazing work ethic, which Chamberlain takes to the ballpark. Third is his amazing arm and wicked slider, which can make even the best big leaguer's batting look stupid at the plate. Joba has over 30 strikeouts in 24 innings and a 0.38 career ERA. He also brings some youthful enthusiam to a generally staid and professional Yankee clubhouse, and there is also the memorable playoff game against the Tribe last year in which Joba failed to hold a lead but showed heart pitching in a plague of insects so thick the players could barely see each other on the field.

While Chamberlain was used out of the bullpen last year, he is expected to eventually start. He has indicated that he really doesn't care which role he performs, he's still just happy to be in the big leagues. That attitude, and the fact he quietly does "nice guy" things like taking a low-income family from North Platte to disney World for a week during Spring Training, explain why he is rapidly becoming the new face of the Yankees.

Earth's Inner, Inner Core

Universe Today has an article stating researchers have discovered a new layer to the our shiny blue marble. The Earth's layers have been tradiitonally defined as the crust (the surface where we live), upper and inner mantle, and outer and inner core, but scientist studying the Earth's interior have discovered an inner, inner core within the center of the Earth. The rotation of Earth's iron core generates the planetary magentic field that shields us and every other living organism from stellar radiation.

University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign were using naturally occurring seismic sound waves to study the core, which consists of a solid inner layer and a fluid outer layer. When the examined the results form the inner core, they discovered an anomaly in the results that led to the discovery.

"The team was specifically studying how the waves were affected as they passed through the solid inner core and were surprised to see that it wasn't a uniform sphere of iron.

Instead, the seismic waves clearly showed that there's an additional layer at a diameter of 1,180 km (733 miles), which makes this less than half the diameter of the inner core. This is the Earth's inner, inner core.

So what is it? Here's what the lead scientists, Xiaodong Song had to say:

"Our results suggest the outer inner core is composed of iron crystals of a single phase with different degrees of preferred alignment along Earth’s spin axis," Sun said. "The inner inner core may be composed of a different phase of crystalline iron or have a different pattern of alignment."

Interesting, still iron but formed into a different type of structure. Still no Lost World full of dinosaurs though, sorry Jules Verne.

Ancient Axes found in North Sea

Amazing find in the North Sea is documented at ScienceDaily. An English dredging operation has uncovered 28 ancient flint axes dating back possibly 100,000 years, dramatically proving humans inhabited this area in Europe at a very early date in the last Ice Age. With much of the world's water locked up in polar and glacial ice, the English Channel and North Sea areas now covered by water was a large valley connecting the British Isles with the continent.

"Ian Oxley, Head of Maritime Archaeology at English Heritage, said: “These are exciting finds which help us gain a greater understanding of The North Sea at a time when it was land. We know people were living out there before Britain became an island, but sites actually proving this are rare.”

These finds are some of the finest examples yet found of this type of the early Stone Age tool set used by early humans for a variety of purposes.

Husker Hoopsters Could See Post Season

Big win for Doc Sadler and the Husker Hoopsters over Mizzou last night, 61-56. While the NCAA tourney is still a long shot, the NIT is a definite possibility, perhaps even a probability. One more win would make this season only the 12th 20 win season in school history. Husker move to 19-11 with the victory, just their second Big 12 Tourney win in the last nine seasons. A post season berth would be a huge step forward for the program, which has languished since the departure of Coach Danny Nee.

Doc is in just his second year at NU, but appears to have the program developing in a very positive direction. NU's defensive play in particular has been absolutely stellar this season.

"But to second-year coach Doc Sadler, they are large leaps in his effort to rebuild a program that two summers ago was in danger of mass defections less than a month before school started.

"We've got so much to do," Sadler said. "And each time we do something that we haven't done, it's got to help. This was just another step.

"It's hard to sit there and listen to guys on TV talk about seven out of the last eight years we haven't won a game down here and all that stuff. Believe me, it starts messing with people's heads."

The game was very close and still in doubt until guard Steve Harley made a layup on an inbounds pass with 1:14 remaining, and senior center Aleks Maric sealed it with a blocked shot with 10 seconds left. NU held Mizzou to 31 % shooting and a season low in points after averaging 78 over the course of the season.

NU now faces the daunting challenge of meeting #2 tourney seed Kansas (rated #5 nationally) in the second round, which demolished the Huskers twice by 20 plus points early in the conference regular season. While I don't think we have the firepower to win, I do think NU's team has developed very well and should put up more of a fight.

Elsewhere in the tourney, Okie St faces #1 seed Texas late this morning, Colorado faces Oklahoma in the first afternoon game, NU-KU face off in the early evening and A & M takes on 3 seed Kansas St late tonight.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: I don't want you to tail the wife.
Lori: Denny, I don't need to tell you that Ernie Dell is one of our biggest clients. If he wants a private investigator, what's the real harm?
Denny: The harm would be to me.
Lori: I'm sorry?
Denny: I'm the one that's sleeping with his wife.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How to Introduce a Running Mate

The American Spectator's Quinn Hillyer's column this morning focuses not so much on the who of vice presidential nominee selections, for John McCain, but the how. Hillyer has previously done a column on who might make a good selection, and determined that SEC Chair and former California Congressman Christopher Cox would be the top choice according to the criteria he had outlined.

"If one accepts that John McCain should pick a running mate with serious Reaganite credentials, the ability to step into the Oval Office at a moment's notice if necessary (Lord forbid), and the ability to make the ticket at least competitive in a state, region, or constituency that otherwise might be off limits to a Republican, the question then becomes how his campaign should go about making the choice and introducing him to the nation."

He recommends introducing the candidate to the nation much the same way Chief Justice John Roberts was before his confirmation to the Supreme Court. One of his earlier criteria for a selection was someone without heavy political baggage on the national level. McCain's campaign would therefore have the ability to "shape the narrative" for the public. He also recommends the campaign conduct a focus group study of the top possibilities (after the requisite FBI background check) to "prequalify" the selection as much as possible, and to then introduce the candidate in a familiar setting, such as his home state.

As Hillyer points out, with the nomination sewed up and the Democrats current focus on each other, the McCain campaign has the luxury of time to do make the selection and carefully setting the nominee's introduction. He also notes the bigggest factor of the choice is what it tells us about McCain himself - what does he value, what attributes does he seek? The selection is tremendously important as it could go a long way toward getting McCain elected.

Dolphin Guides Standed Whales Back to Sea

Amazing story from Livescience of a local bottlenose dolphin named "Moko" in New Zealand going to the aid of a pair of standed sperm whales and guiding them to safety back out to the open ocean.

"Before Moko arrived, rescue workers had been working for more than an hour to get two pygmy sperm whales, a mother and her calf, back out to sea after they were stranded Monday off Mahia Beach, said Conservation Department worker Malcolm Smith.

But Smith said the whales restranded themselves four times on a sandbar slightly out to sea from the beach, about 300 miles northeast of the capital, Wellington. It looked likely they would have to be euthanized to prevent a prolonged death, he said.

"They kept getting disorientated and stranding again," said Smith, who was among the rescuers. "They obviously couldn't find their way back past (the sandbar) to the sea." Then along came Moko, who approached the whales and appeared to lead them as they swam 200 yards along the beach and through a channel out to the open sea."

Dolphins in the wild often interact playfully with humans and other species, and often trail ships at sea. Dolphins have been reported to have protected stranded swimmers before, but this may be the first recorded instance where the species came to the aid of another one.

Pretty interesting story.

Antarctic Meteorites Baffle Scientists

via National Geographic, scientists are struggling to identify the source of a pair of meteorites recovered from the Graves Nunataks region of Antarctica in 2006. First thought to have originated from the planet Venus, the rocks origin have continued to puzzle researchers. The Venusian theory been put to rest as the samples have been proven to be far older than the Venusian surface. The rocks are superficially similar to lunar rocks recoverd by Apollo 16 astronauts, but contain a much higher percentage of sodium.

"The identity of the meteorites' source remains exciting and mysterious, said Allan Treiman, a scientist with the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston who led one of the recent investigations of the rocks.

"From what has been reported so far, it's pretty clear that the meteorite is not from the Earth, or the moon, or Venus, or any of the common sources of meteorites," he said. "It's much harder to know where it is from."

The second team conducting analysis of the rocks initially believed them to originate either on the Earth or the Moon due to the composition of an oxygen isotope analysis, but other observations torpedoed that theory as well. Another researcher from the Carnegie Institute, Doug Ramble, beleives he has identified the meteors as the extremely rare brachinite type. These rocks are believed to have originated from early planetoids that orbited between the planets Mars and Jupiter in the early formative years of the solar system.

However, other researchers say that they don't fit neatly into this category either, nor do they exactly fit the more common chondrite type that originates from the asteroid belt, although they do have similiarities to both of these types of meteor. The meteors have a couple of rather unique characteristics that greatly complicate their analysis. One is that they have undergone a partial melting, which is not a chondrite characteristic, and the second is they contain unusually high levels of the mineral feldspar, which is not common of rocks originating between Mars and Jupiter. The melting appears to indicate an origin from a dwarf planet or very large asteroid, but it still uncertain what kind of geologic activity would create such unique characteristics.

Identification of these rocks' origin would greatly aid our understanding of the early formative years of the solar system and how asteroids and planetary bodies form.

Boston Legal Quotes

Sally: Please tell me you've never seen anything like that before.
Alan: Baring your ass to 24 attorneys, including two overseas, that is an unprecedented triumph. I'm just distraught I didn't think of it myself.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Oil Profits

Robert Murphy addressed the commercial oil industry and their profits in a column at Townhall earlier this week. The industry gets a bad rap both on exploring, producing and supplying the energy we all use but also on the effects that we the consumer produce when we use it. In addition, there is all that money the industry is making - due in large part to politicians in our country artificially constricting domestic exploration and more importantly due to the fact demand is skyrocketing from developing nations. The actual supply of oil being produced is actually increasing, to almost 85 million barrels per day. Another small factoid is that speculation in the commodities market, along with political factors in the Middle East also raise prices.

"When it comes to public hatred of big business, there’s no better target than oil companies. This hatred has been all the more intense since Exxon Mobil announced last year’s net income at $40.6 billion, the largest-ever profit for a publicly-traded company. With the threat of recession looming, many policymakers have been tempted to pay for relief measures by raising taxes on “Big Oil”—including the House’s recent bill rolling back tax deductions on integrated oil companies (though leaving them in place for other companies). Understandable as this impulse may be, it is a bad idea for average Americans. If the government tries to “do something” about record oil profits, it won’t provide meaningful relief revenue, but will certainly raise the price at the pump."

The major reason for the profits of these companies is their sheer scale. In order to compete with national oil companies like SaudiAramco and Petromex, the private energy industry has consolidated and merged to a large degree as once major players like Texaco and Phillips have combined operations with other firms. This has led to huge revenue streams that lead in turn to the imposing profit numbers. But if you look at the industy in terms of margins, you see that several other industries are more profitable. The oil industry makes around nine cents profit for each dollar of revenue. Industries such as banking and software can make several times that figure, and the average of the S&P 500 companies is 13 cents per revenue dollar.

Many politicians decrying these profits are threatening to impose additional taxes on the industry, which would of course be passed on to all of us consumers. The fact of the matter is that the firms paid almost $81 billion in taxes in 2006, and almost certainly more last year. Taxing something is an almost sure way to reduce the supply. As Murphy notes in closing:

"If politicians are concerned about gas prices, they shouldn’t erect extra hurdles for those companies in the business of finding new supplies of oil. If the government really wants to do something, it can roll back restrictions on offshore and Alaskan drilling. Beyond that, it should just let market prices and the profit motive do their jobs."

I have faint hope politicians will keep their noses out, but I have been surprised on occaission. While drilling in Alaska seems to be off the table for now, there are some developments in the Gulf of Mexico that could wind up being sizable domestic contributions to supply.

How Qin Shi Huang Changed the World

The next in the "world change" series at LiveScience examines the almost mythical Chinese Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who unified the nation around the same time as the First Punic War between Rome and Carthage. Seven warring states in China had been at war for aroiund 200 years before the nation unified.

"The world's most populous nation and emerging superpower was a jumble of warring states when Qin Shi Huang appeared on the scene in 246 B.C. as a powerful regional leader. Two decades later he was Emperor, bringing together the vast territory that would become China, standardizing its culture and implementing a form of government that his followers would use for another 2,000 years."

Qin Shi Huang established a centralized government, built roads and canals, standardized Chinese currency and the writing system, and abolished the old feudal order. He also was paranoid of attack from both internal and external enemies, and started the construction of China's most notable architectural feat, the Great Wall. He also built himself an enormous mausoleum, which covers four square miles, with a main chamber as large as the Great Pyramid of Egypt. According to records written just after his death, the crypt includes a huge map of his conquests with rivers of mercury running throughout it, thousands of terracotta warriors modeled on his actual warriors (8000 of which have been already found outside the tomb guarding the entrance) and a jewel encrusted "sky" of stars on the ceiling. The actual main chamber has yet to be excavated until better technical means of preserving the artifacts has been developed.

While the Qin Dynasty was overthrown shortly after his death, the nation took its name from him (Qin is pronounced "chin", hence China) and was mostly governed by the system he established for over 2000 years until the Chinese Republic was established in 1912.

SDI After 25 years

Baker Spring of the Heritage Foundation notes that March 23rd will be the 25 year anniversary of an amazing speech by President Ronald Reagan, who proposed a complete revamping of the American strategic posture during the height of the Cold War.

The President announced a strategic policy change from the idea of Mutally Assured Destruction (MAD), where potential conflict between the two competing sides of the Cold War was being prevented by the fact both sides would be destroyed in a strategic missile exchange, to instead focus on a posture in which America committed to developing defensive technology to shooting down these weapons and preventing their detonation, which would likely cause the end of civilization. In effect, each nation's citizenry was being held hostage at the time by its opponent. Reagan rejected that idea. One fear at the time was a period of heightened tension might cause an accidental exchange, which could then lead to an all-out escalation. The president was confident that old-fashioned Yankee ingenuity would solve the technical hurdles given time and proper resources. Deploying even a limited defensive system might be able to prevent such an accident, and would also have the added benefit of greatly complicating the efforts of the attacker from destroying military and civilian targets.

The president's proposal to change the equation greatly aided the end of the Cold War by imposing a huge new economic pressure on its cold war opponent, the Soviet Union. Its leaders realized that nation would have to develop a countervailing such system itself or greatly add to its nuclear arsenal to overwhelm a American defensive system, neither of which it could easily afford given its backward Communist economic system. America wound up winning the cold War almost by default as a result.

Condescendingly dubbed "Star Wars" by the media at the time, the President's Strategic Defense Initiative was ridiculed as being a technically impossible waste of money. Heritage had already initiated a study before the president's announcement, authored by US air Force General Daniel Graham titled High Frontier, which I purchased in book form at the time. In short, it proposed just such a system, and the study addressed many of the criticisms made of the proposal. One might think this may no longer apply given the Cold War has eneded, but it appears clear to me it is more relevant than ever given the world political climate. America still has enemies wishing to do it harm. Spring notes:

"It would be wrong, however, to conclude that the basic rationale behind SDI collapsed with the end of the Cold War. In the post-Cold War world, ballistic missile and nuclear proliferation and a multi-polar strategic environment make President Reagan's preference for defense over the threat of retaliation more relevant, not less so. It is indeed the foundation for a "truly lasting stability." "

There were three core principles in play to both the study and the speech, and I think them still very applicable. The first was a refusal to accept the vulnerability of US citizens to nuclear weapons. The second was for the United States to negotiate and operate from a position of strength in international politics and economics. Third, it recongnized the US would never be safe as long as its enemies could use space as an avenue of attack.

The success of these developments today is unquestionable, given the ability of the US to shoot down a malfunctioning satellite just days ago, as well as successful missile interceptions in the first Gulf War over 15 years ago. In my view, the development and further deployment of a layered strategic missile defense system is certainly in the strategic interest of the United States, and will be for the forseeable future as more nations gain access to missile and fissile technology.

Boston Legal Quotes

Laywer: Where's Edwin?
Edwin: Hello everyone. [Edwin Poole walks in - not wearing any pants]
Alan: Is it casual Monday?
Denny: Edwin, is everything alright?
Edwin: Hunky Dory.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Solar Future?

Arnold Kling over at TCS looks at some of our current and potential energy sources, and some of the challenges and opportunities they might meet in our future.

He points out the fact that at the present rate of increase, solar powered electricity generatioon is doubling every two years. This means in twenty years, conceivably all of our power could come from solar - except for the dirty little fact that this current rate of generation is heavily, and I mean heavily, subsidized by our well intentioned but ultimately moronic bureaucrats. He points out that if solar is to ever become our primary energy source, it will have to become far more economical. It is probably possible for it to eventually be a major energy source but only in the very long term.

Our current hydrocarbon resources, coal, oil and natural gas, are also the currently the most economical - despite the best efforts of the environmental lobby to make them increasingly expensive domestically, and the depressing economic and security effects that the control of petroleum resources by dictatorships has on their supply and production. While their short term future is a certainty, their long term prognosis is probably dim as long as these two political forces continue to grow in strength.

Nuclear faces many of the same political opposition but the effects of these forces are weakening, both in response to the "science" of global warming and the possible impact of a shift from a primarily gasoline fueled transportation network to one powered by electricity. These might achieve the economic and political tipping point necessary for new plant construction in this industry. They key here will be the continued development of batteries capable of powering a vehicle with the same theoretical range as one powered by conventional gasoline, or around 4-500 miles or more. In addition, new plant designs with a decreased or eliminated risk of radiation release will also help convince an ignorant and skeptical public of nuclear's potential.

Kling also examines the possibility of biofuels, which are also being heavily subsidized before economic viability. However, he thinks the potential with this technology isn't so much with fuels as it is with the creation of organisms that can take advantage of the sun to generate electricity directly. Conventional bio sources like ethanol, in addition to requiring heavy subsidization, also cannot reach the necessary scale to replace convetional sources - although I say they can help bridge the gap to the time when these might be replaced.

In addition, he explains his reasoning behind leaving off one of the other oft mentioned possibilities, hydrogen. He doesn't believe a distribution network that can parallel the conventional gasoline distribution can be achieved, although he does not discount the potential that might be found in hydrogen fuel cell technology. I tend to agree with him that hydrogen poses some substantial challenges, but some recent breakthroughs I've discovered (and mentioned in previous posts) might make hydrogen a player with the electrical powered transportation transformation that appears to on its way.

Shuttle Endeavor Lifts Off

via, the Space Shuttle Endeavor lifted off this morning for its ISS construction mission STS-123 with a seven person crew. The mission is slated to be the longest in duration yet for the shuttle fleet, scheduled at 16 days with at least five spacewalks planned. It was just the second night launch for the shuttle since the Columbia tragedy. It is the second of six planned mission for the fleet this year.

"During their planned 16-day mission — the longest station-bound flight yet — the crew will perform no less than five spacewalks to install a giant Canadian robot, deliver the first piece of Japan's school bus-sized Kibo laboratory and conduct a series of on-orbit science experiments.

Riding aboard the orbiter with Gorie are pilot Gregory H. Johnson, mission specialists Robert Behnken, Mike Foreman, Rick Linnehan, Garrett Reisman and Japanese astronaut Takao Doi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The launch marks the first spaceflight Johnson, Behnken, Foreman and Reisman.

Reisman will stay aboard the ISS as a member of the Expedition 16 and 17 space station crews. He will relieve European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Leopold Eyharts, who will return home on board Endeavour."

The first two spacewalks (and mission days) will be to unpack and assemble the 11 foot Canadian "Dextre" robot arms which will allow ISS crewmembers the ability to conduct repairs from inside the station. The third spacewalk will install the first of three of the Japanese built Kibo laboratory components. The last two excursions will be to test the ability to repair the shuttle's heat tiles and to repair the bearings in the damaged ISS solar array discovered on the last construction mission.