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Comment Re:Not for any definition of "real time" that I kn (Score 1) 140

As the AC pointed out, by your criterion nothing occurs in "real time" (unless it's on your own worldline), thus rendering the term effectively meaningless. Your post is just silly overeducated nitpicking (and I say this as someone who went to grad school for GR). You probably scream "there's no sound in space" at the movie screen, too.

Comment Re:Why is NASA studying things best left to the NO (Score 1) 122

Who said the manned space program is NASA's main purpose? Have you read either the Space Act or their mission statement? Earth observation and science has always been a major part of their purpose.

Furthermore, you have no idea how NASA is funded, do you? It's not like if all of NASA's Earth observation activities were shifted to NOAA, Congress would suddenly give NASA more money for the manned space program.

Finally, it's kind of comical that you seem to consider Earth observation satellites "only vaguely space-related at best".

Comment Re:One or both lied? (Score 2) 91

Iran got an advanced centrifuge design from A.Q. Khan that is extremely difficult to operate in practice. (We also interdicted the supply of some of the advanced machine components it requires.) For some reason, they stuck with it, and eventually got it to work. That's why it's taken them so long to get significant enrichment.

Now, if they were on a crash program to build a bomb, they could have abandoned it and pursued a simpler earlier Soviet design. So I agree it's not their first priority. Indeed, the fact that they stuck with the expensive but efficient technology suggests that they want more than to just "build a bomb".

However, that doesn't preclude a dual program, to pursue civilian uses, but retain the option of building a bomb as well. I suspect that's their real intention, and there is evidence that they've done some preliminary weapons work (such as implosion devices and delivery systems, IIRC). Iraq actually used (chemical) WMDs against them in the 1980s, and with all the U.S. activity in the region, they may eventually want a deterrent.

Comment Re:Climate Change (Score 1) 122

I can't see how this furthers the exploration of space,

It doesn't further exploration of space. My point is that exploration of space is not the only thing NASA does, nor the only thing that it is tasked to do.

which seems to be the very last priority on the budget sheet these days, and the one that gets entirely cut first.

I'm sympathetic to cuts in both exploration and science, but my point is that NASA is supposed to, does, and should, do both.

Furthermore, my reading of this year's NASA budget indicates that Earth Science got a 0.2% cut over the previous year, while Exploration got a 6.5% increase. ("Science" as a whole got a 0.2% increase, due entirely to a 3.7% boost to Planetary Science, which IMHO also counts as space exploration.)

Comment Re:Climate Change (Score 2) 122

But this isn't scientific discovery, since gravity was already discovered 150 years ago.

Oh good grief. Talk about tortured logic.

Let me explain this to you simply: the scientific purpose of GRACE is not to "discover gravity". It is directly to measure the Earth's gravitational field. Indirectly, it is to discover a lot of things about geoscience (ice dynamics, hydrology, etc.).

I may also point out to you that (as has been noted elsewhere in the comments) the Space Act which chartered NASA explicitly states that part of its mission is to expand human knowledge of the Earth (using spaceborne technology).

Comment Re:Detecting anthropogenic movement on the surface (Score 1) 122

Partial answer: GRACE has a horizontal spatial resolution of several hundred kilometers. I think its time resolution ends up being monthly, after a lot of post-processing of data from individual orbits (not realtime). So pretty far from what's required. There's talk of a GRACE follow-on mission with 1 angstrom inter-satellite distance resolution (compared to its current micrometer resolution). Not sure what that would translate into in terms of Earth's gravity field resolution.

Comment Re:Climate Change (Score 2) 122

Because it's not their field of expertise.

Making gravity measurements, building the instruments to make gravity measurements, and the rockets to fly them, ARE their respective fields of expertise.

Because they should be focusing on what my tax dollars pay them to do - develop methods for space exploration and explore space.

Your tax dollars pay them to build and fly the GRACE mission and many other Earth-observing missions. So they already are focusing on what their tax dollars pay them to do. All of which, by the way, fall under NASA's mission statement.

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