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+ - Linking drought and climate change: difficult to do->

Geoffrey.landis writes: An article about the current California drought on 538 points out that even though global climate warming may exacerbate droughts, it's nearly impossible to attribute any particular drought to climate warming: The complex, dynamic nature of our atmosphere and oceans makes it extremely difficult to link any particular weather event to climate change. That’s because of the intermingling of natural variations with human-caused ones. They also cite a Nature editorial pointing out the same thing about extreme weather:
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+ - Adrift->

Geoffrey.landis writes: After the space shuttle retired in 2011, Russia has hiked the price of a trip to the International Space Station, to $71 million per seat. Less well recognized is the disparity in station crews. Before the shuttle stopped flying, an equal number of American and Russian crew members lived on board. But afterwards the bear began squeezing. For every two NASA astronauts that have flown to the station, three Russians have gone.

Eric Burger asks, how did it come to this?

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+ - A Playlist for Comet Ison->

Geoffrey.landis writes: As comet ISON made its perilous perihelion pass, I decided that ISON needed a theme song, but as the nature of its journey became evident, shattering in the sunlight, I realized that ISON needs an entire playlist. So, for your entertainment, here's my comet ISON playlist. Comments?
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+ - Why the Arabic World Turned Away From Science->

Geoffrey.landis writes: "The historical period that we call the dark ages, from perhaps 600 to 1200 AD, was the golden age of Islamic science, when great advances in science and technology were taking place in the middle east. But somehow, as the west experienced its renaissance, the blossoming of the age of science, and the founding of the modern technological world, the Arabic world instead turned away from science. Muslim countries have nine scientists, engineers, and technicians per thousand people, compared with a world average of forty-one, and of roughly 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, only two scientists from Muslim countries have won Nobel Prizes in science. Why? In an article "Why the Arabic World Turned Away from Science" in The New Atlantis, Hillel Ofek examines both the reasons why Islamic science flourished, and why it failed. Are we turning the same way, with a rising tide of religious fundamentalism and dogma shouting down the culture of inquiry and free thinking needed for scientific advances? Perhaps we should be looking at the decline of Islamic science as a cautionary tale."
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+ - The Election Map, as a Cartogram->

Geoffrey.landis writes: "By now we've all seen those maps of the US colored red and blue for which presidential candidate won a particular state. Those maps are a bit misleading, though, since vast areas of America have very low population. Mark Newman, of the University of Michigan, shows variant ways of mapping the election, with the maps distorted to un-distort the data."
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+ - Harrassment of Climate Scientists is Unique to America->

Geoffrey.landis writes: "In the United States, climate scientists are subject to significant amounts of harassment , including "torrents of freedom of information requests, hate mail and even death threats from skeptics"-- but this phenomenon seems to be happening only in America. In other countries, climate scientists are mostly free to work without fear.

"The harassment has an intimidating effect—especially on young scientists," according to Stefan Rahmstorf, head of Earth system analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. Alan Leshner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science said he sees the attacks on scientists in the United States as "very disconcerting." Last year, AAAS released a statement condemning the harassment. "The incidents reflect two unfortunate things," Leshner said in an interview, "we live in a society where ideologies trump our willingness to hear what science says, and in a country where free speech is so widely valued, people are being attacked."

The only other country in which climate scientists routinely face harassment and death threats is Australia, which is the largest exporter of coal in the world. Coal industry groups in Australia have sought to cast doubt on climate science and have lobbied against carbon emission limits."

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+ - Rover on a Parachute->

Geoffrey.landis writes: "Wow! The HiRise camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter caught a snapshot of the MSL in its aeroshell descending on its parachute. In the close-up view, you can see the disk-gap-band structure of the supersonic parachute.
The story is available on several sites, including EarthSky and, or on the NASA MSL Image gallery"

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+ - Majority of Americans Think Obama Is Better Suited to Handle an Alien Invasion-> 1 1

Geoffrey.landis writes: "At last, a public opinion poll that gets the opinions of ordinary Americans on the issues that matter! Apparently, two thirds of Americans polled think that Barrack Obama is better suited to defend against an alien invasion than Mitt Romney, according to a survey from National Geographic Channel, done to tout their upcoming TV series "chasing UFOs".
In follow-up questioning, Americans would rather call on the Hulk (21%) than either Batman (12%) or Spiderman (8%) to step to save the day.
No word on which candidate is most fit to defend America against shambling hordes of undead seeking to destroy civilization in the zombie apocalypse (perhaps that will be brought out in the debates)."

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+ - Photographing police: Deletion is not forever->

Geoffrey.landis writes: "The courts have now ruled that the public has the right to videotape the police in the performance of their duties. Of course, that doesn't stop the police from harrassing people who do so, even journalists, not to mention confiscating their cameras.
As it turns out, though, they're not always very knowledgable about how deletion works.
I would say that erasing, or attempting to erase, a video of police arresting somebody illegally (How can a journalist be charged with "resisting arrest" when he was not being arrested for anything other than resisting arrest?) is a clear case of destruction of evidence by the officers. Destroying evidence is obstruction of justice. That's illegal. Why haven't these police officers been arrested?"

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+ - Is the creative class engine sputtering?->

Geoffrey.landis writes: "The "creative class" was supposed to be the new engine of the United States economy, but--according to Scott Timberg, writing in Salon-- that engine is sputtering. While a very few technologists have become very wealthy, for most creative workers, the rise of amateurs and enthusiasts means that few are actually making a living. The new economy is good for the elite who own the servers, but, for most, "the dream of a laptop-powered 'knowledge class' is dead," he says."
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+ - Neal Stephenson on "Innovation Starvation"->

Geoffrey.landis writes: "In an essay discussing the space program, author Neal Stephenson suggests that the decline of the space program "might be symptomatic of a general failure of our society to get big things done." He suggests that we may be suffering from innovation starvation:
"Innovation can’t happen without accepting the risk that it might fail. The vast and radical innovations of the mid-20th century took place in a world that, in retrospect, looks insanely dangerous and unstable.""

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+ - Conservative means accepting science-> 1 1

Geoffrey.landis writes: "Recently, it has seemed that it is a requirements of being a conservative to deny the accuracy of climate science and cast aspersions on the motives of scientists, regardless of any evidence offered. So it's a little refreshing to see a Republican weighing in on the side of science, saying that conservatives should deal in facts, and "base policies on science, not sentiment.""
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+ - Loan to Solyndra pushed by both sides->

Geoffrey.landis writes: "I haven't been paying much attention to the bankruptcy of solar array manufacturer Solyndra-- they were pushing a technology I don't find terribly exciting. Still, it's interesting how the recent spin has called it as a failure of the Obama energy initiatives. In fact, as a recent timeline shows, the loan guarantees for renewable energy came from the Energy Policy Act of 2005-- and the particular loan to Solyndra was fast-tracked by the Bush administration, in an effort to show it has done something to support renewable energy.

alternate URL:"

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+ - What to Know if you're Filming the TSA->

Geoffrey.landis writes: CNN posts a brief article "Shooting video at a TSA checkpoint? Here's what you should know, explaining your rights in shooting video of TSA screenings. First, she notes (from an article on the TSA blog last year) that the TSA doesn't forbid photography, as long as you don't film those monitors showing nude passengers:

"We don't prohibit public, passengers or press from photographing, videotaping, or filming at screening locations. You can take pictures at our checkpoints as long as you're not interfering with the screening process or slowing things down. We also ask that you do not film or take pictures of our monitors."

--the article does go on to note that state laws or local ordinances may prohibit filming.

And then she posts advice from Ms. Smith's "Privacy and Security Fanatic," which is that

"if you do videotape TSA checkpoints, then you should have the TSA public affairs (TSA's Office of Strategic Communications) number plugged into your phone: (571) 227-2829. Another important phone number to have with you is the TSA's Office of Civil Rights at (571) 227-1917."

Ms. Smith goes on to tell some stories of people who have been challenged at airport screening stations for shooting video. Important note, it's probably wise not to take off your pants except your underwear while doing this.

So, go ahead, and video, but know your rights and "stay calm and polite at all times." You could be the next You-tube sensation.

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Getting the job done is no excuse for not following the rules. Corollary: Following the rules will not get the job done.