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Comment Broken Summary -- industrial alcohol != methanol (Score 1) 630

... it [the government] decided that the problem was that readily available methyl (industrial) alcohol — itself a poison — didn't taste nasty enough.

The article got it right:

Industrial alcohol is basically grain alcohol [ethyl alcohol] with some unpleasant chemicals mixed in to render it undrinkable. ... Some 70 denaturing formulas existed by the 1920s. Most simply added poisonous methyl alcohol into the mix.

It's not as if you would ever need to denature methanol. Denatured alcohol is typically ethanol with 10% methanol (a toxin) added. Such a formulation is also called methylated spirits.


I find it amusing that one of the antidotes used to treat methanol poisoning is ethanol.

Comment Re:Mock ups (Score 1) 300

Or for that matter did they not think to try testing the actual module on the ground prior to launch?

Lead ISS Flight Director Bob Dempsey was asked that during the most recent mission update briefing. (He discusses the problem in his initial remarks at 5:00, and answers the fit test question at 12:50.) He replied, "The main reason is the Center Disk Cover that we are installing was on orbit for many years before it could be fit checked on the module. Similar Disk Covers were fit into the module, but not the actual flight hardware, and not exactly in the configuration with the Cupola mated to the Node 3 as well." He later said that "every Center Disc Cover is a little bit different" (while discussing the Cupola relocation at 17:15) but didn't elaborate on it any further.

ISS commander Jeffrey Williams removed two bolts from a Cupola handrail mount which gave just enough clearance to install the center disc cover, but at the time of the briefing the ground engineers were still determining if the clearance was sufficient to proceeded with the relocation of the Cupola to the Node 3 nadir port, or if they should remove additional pieces and delay the relocation by a day. They eventually decide to go ahead with the relocation as is, and shuttle pilot Col. Terry Virts and lead robotics mission specialist Capt. Kathryn Hire will be relocating it in a couple of hours.

Watch it all live on NASA TV.

Comment Re:RPN Better than algebraic? (Score 1) 289

I looked on Youtube for some videos of the HP calculators, ...

For a good video of the philosophy behind RPN, see Rocket Girls Ep.2:

What are the values of delta v1 and delta v2?

But some of those numbers have seven digits...

You have a calculator, don't you?

Right, right! ... the heck is this? There's no equals key!

Of course not! Don't you know reverse Polish calculation?

Of course not!

Oh, really? In that case ... I'll take five minutes to cram its operation into your head. When I'm done with you, you'll never be able to use a regular calculator again. Prepare yourself.

Comment Re:Nevertheless, still doing science! (Score 1) 250

I think we need to send people there. But when we do, it should be a one-way trip. We should continue to send robots until we figure out a good spot for an initial landing site, then send a few more robots to build a permanent, self-sustaining base there. THEN we send people.


In the mean time, in order to determine the feasibility of such permanent outposts, we need to pursue two biological research programs -- medical mediation of radiation exposure and understanding long term low-g exposure.

While one can be done on earth, the other can't. We have a lot of information on long term micro-g exposure but we know nothing about the biological effects of long term low-g exposure. Since we have a LEO presence, why in the world did we abandon the Centrifuge Accommodations Module which would have permitted such experiments on test animals?


Researchers Pooh-Pooh Algae-Based Biofuel 238

Julie188 writes "Researchers from the University of Virginia have found that current algae biofuel production methods consume more energy, have higher greenhouse gas emissions and use more water than other biofuel sources, such as switchgrass, canola and corn. The researchers suggest these problems can be overcome by situating algae production ponds behind wastewater treatment facilities to capture phosphorous and nitrogen — essential algae nutrients that otherwise need to come from petroleum."

Comment Centrifuge Accommodations Module (Score 4, Interesting) 88

How much of a blow to low-g biological research was the cancellation of the Centrifuge Accommodations Module? It seems that a good amount micro-g biological research has been done (and hopefully will continue to be done during the next ten years), but very little is known about low-g effects. I would think that multiple generation vertebrate (lab rat) study of the effects of prolonged 1/3 and 1/6 g exposure would be critical to understanding the issues of a mars mission or a lunar base.

We have one spare shuttle external tank beyond the current manifest, so even if the shuttle is retired, the program could be extended for one more flight. (Early Augustine Commission discussions suggested this as a good idea for a number of reasons.) Could CAM construction be restarted and rushed to completion in time for a launch 18 months of so from now?

Imagine an ambitious mars program that spent the next decade with humans not traveling beyond LEO, but doing the serious research needed. After five years or so of low-g biological research on the ISS, long term human exposure tests could be done in a spinning "habitat on a cable attached to a counterweight". That way, after ten years of accelerated rover exploration and materials and technology development, we would have the knowledge to plan a serious mars mission, quite possible involving one-way trips and permanent stays.


Man Uses Drake Equation To Explain Girlfriend Woes 538

artemis67 writes "A man studying in London has taken a mathematical equation that predicts the possibility of alien life in the universe to explain why he can't find a girlfriend. Peter Backus, a native of Seattle and PhD candidate and Teaching Fellow in the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick, near London, in his paper, 'Why I don't have a girlfriend: An application of the Drake Equation to love in the UK,' used math to estimate the number of potential girlfriends in the UK. In describing the paper on the university Web site he wrote 'the results are not encouraging. The probability of finding love in the UK is only about 100 times better than the probability of finding intelligent life in our galaxy.'"

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