Irwin Ozborne, ContributorThanksgiving: Celebrating all that we have, and the genocide it took to get it.Thanksgiving is one of the most paradoxical times of the year. We gather together with friends and family in celebration of all that we are thankful for and express our gratitude, at the same time we are encouraged to eat in excess. But the irony really starts the next day on Black Friday. On Thursday we appreciate all the simple things in life, such as having a meal, a roof over [...]
The Hooker 100-inch reflecting telescope at the Mount Wilson Observatory, just outside Los Angeles. Edwin Hubble's chair, on an elevating platform, is visible at left. A view from this scope first told Hubble our galaxy isn't the only one.
Courtesy of The Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science Collection at the Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif.
The Hubble Space Telescope this week celebrates 25 years in Earth's orbit. In that time the telescope has studied distant galaxies, star nurseries, planets in our solar system and planets orbiting other stars.
But, even with all that, you could argue that the astronomer for whom the telescope is named made even more important discoveries — with far less sophisticated equipment.
A young Edwin Hubble at Mount Wilson's 100-inch telescope circa 1922, ready to make history.
Edwin Hubble Papers/Courtesy of Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif.
In the 1920s, Edwin Hubble was working with the 100-inch Hooker telescope on Mount Wilson, just outside Los Angeles. At the time, it was the largest telescope in the world.
On a chilly evening, I climb up to the dome of that telescope with operator Nik Arkimovich and ask him to show me where Hubble would sit when he was using the telescope. Arkimovich points to a platform near the top of the telescope frame.
"He's got an eyepiece with crosshairs on it," Arkimovich explains. The telescope has gears and motors that let it track a star as it moves across the sky. "He's got a paddle that allows him to make minor adjustments. And his job is to keep the star in the crosshairs for maybe eight hours."
"It's certainly much, much easier today," says John Mulchaey, acting director of the observatories at Carnegie Institution of Science. "Now we sit in control rooms. The telescopes operate brilliantly on their own, so we don't have to worry about tracking and things like this."
Today, astronomers use digital cameras to catch the light from stars and other celestial objects. In Hubble's day, Mulchaey says, they used glass plates.
"At the focus of the telescope you would put a glass plate that has an emulsion layer on it that is actually sensitive to light," he says. At the end of an observing run, the plates would be developed, much like the film in a camera.
The headquarters of the Carnegie observatories is at the foot of Mount Wilson, in the city of Pasadena. It's where Hubble worked during the day.
A century's worth of plates are stored here in the basement. Mulchaey opens a large steel door and ushers me into a room filled with dozens of file cabinets.
"Why don't we go take a look at Hubble's famous Andromeda plates," Mulchaey suggests.
The plates are famous for a reason: They completely changed our view of the universe. Mulchaey points to a plate mounted on a light stand.
"This is a rare treat for you," he says. "This plate doesn't see the light of day very often."
This glass side of a photographic plate shows where Hubble marked novas. The red VAR! in the upper right corner marks his discovery of the first Cepheid variable star — a star that told him the Andromeda galaxy isn't part of our Milky Way.
Courtesy of the Carnegie Observatories
To the untrained eye, there's nothing terribly remarkable about the plate. But Mulchaey says what it represents is the most important discovery in astronomy since Galileo.
The plate shows the spiral shape of the Andromeda galaxy. Hubble was looking for exploding stars called novas in Andromeda. Hubble marked these on the plate with the letter "N."
"The really interesting thing here," Mulchaey says, "is there's one with the N crossed out in red — and he's changed the N to VAR with an exclamation point."
Hubble had realized that what he was seeing wasn't a nova. VAR stands for a type of star known as a Cepheid variable. It's a kind of star that allows you to make an accurate determination of how far away something is. This Cepheid variable showed that the Andromeda galaxy isn't a part of our galaxy.
At the time, most people thought the Milky Way was it — the only galaxy in existence.
"And what this really shows is that the universe is much, much bigger than anybody realizes," Mulchaey says. It was another blow to our human conceit that we are the center of the universe.
Hubble went on to use the Mount Wilson telescope to show the universe was expanding, a discovery so astonishing that Hubble had a hard time believing it himself.
If Hubble could make such important discoveries with century-old equipment, it makes you wonder what he might have turned up if he'd had a chance to use the space telescope that bears his name.
After years of silence on all but the most prosaic aspects of the secretive X-37B space plane program, the Defense Department has revealed that the mysterious, truck-sized craft's next mission will host an experimental new thrust system that could greatly improve the shelf life of satellites.
The X-37B program has sent its shuttle-like Orbital Test Vehicle craft into space three times for a total time in orbit of almost four years. What the spacecraft has been doing up there is anybody's guess — its creators have declined to comment except to say that everything is working properly. But a news release this week from the Air Force says in no uncertain terms that the next flight of the X-37B, set to begin next month, will be the platform for testing a Hall thruster.
Hall thrusters combine electricity and a noble gas like xenon to produce a miniscule amount of direct force — weak in comparison with thrusters that use ordinary solid fuel, but at a far lesser cost of fuel. Trading power for fuel efficiency would allow satellites and probes to make course adjustments for much longer, extending their lives and versatility. Spaceflight Now has more details on how the system works.
Of course, this sheds no light on what the last three X-37B missions were — but in light of this new information it seems more likely that it's a test bed for high-tech space experiments, and not an orbital bomber or elite spy satellite. But you never know.
January 7, 2015 / Greg Giles / Comments Off on California breaks ground on bullet train project despite opposition, as price tag soars
Excerpt from foxnews.com Despite cost overruns, lawsuits, public opposition and a projected completion date 13 years behind schedule, California Gov. Jerry Brown broke ground Tuesday on what is to become the most expensive public works project in U.S. history: the California bullet train.
Over the next 1,000 days, California is estimated to spend roughly $4 million a day on the project.
The high-speed train, set to be finished in 2033, originally was supposed to deliver passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in two hours and 40 minutes. That was the promise when voters narrowly approved $10 billion in bonds for the project in 2008. Since then, however, the estimated trip time has grown considerably, and the train has encountered persistent problems -- as experts uncovered misrepresentations in the ballot proposition, and opponents sued to stop the project on environmental and fiscal grounds.
"We're talking about real money here," said Kris Vosburgh, executive director of taxpayer watchdog group Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. "This is money that's not available for health care or education, for public safety, or put back in taxpayers' pockets so they have something to spend. This is money being drawn out of the system for a program that is going to serve very few people."
Much about the project has changed since it was sold to the public. Voters were told the project would cost just $33 billion. Once experts crunched the numbers, however, the price tag soared to $98 billion. It was supposed to whoosh riders from Southern California to the Bay Area in less than three hours, but now it’s more than four hours due to changing track configurations and route adjustments. The train was supposed to get people off the freeway and reduce carbon emissions, but a panel of experts now says any carbon savings will be nominal. (A drive by car takes just over 6 hours. Ed.)
Further, ridership projections have been cut by two-thirds from a projected 90 million to 30 million a year. Fewer riders means higher prices. According to a panel of transportation experts hired by the Reason Foundation, Citizens Against Government Waste and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, tickets will exceed $80 -- not $50 -- and the system will require annual subsidies of more than $300 million annually.
"The public has turned sour on this plan but the governor, to paraphrase Admiral Farragut, has taken a position of 'damn the people, full speed ahead'," Vosburgh said.
Undaunted by critics, Brown broke ground in Fresno on Tuesday on the first 29-mile segment of the train's system. Under Brown's direction, the California High Speed Rail Authority has gone to court to seek an exemption from an environmental quality law the state imposes on other projects but not this one. Brown also convinced the state Legislature to dedicate an annual revenue stream from the state's carbon tax, to help pay for the bullet train. "It's a long project, a bold project and one that will transform the Central Valley," Brown said Monday as he began his fourth and final term as governor.
Once construction begins, supporters say it will be harder to stop the project. Several lawsuits linger, but a bigger question concerns the money: Where will it come from? If every penny committed to the project is added up, the project is still more than $30 billion short. Republicans in Congress are vowing not to commit a dollar more than President Obama approved in 2012.
"For years now, Governor Brown and the high-speed rail authority have turned the idea of high-speed rail into a public albatross far beyond what Californians envisioned or voted for," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a statement released Tuesday. "Sadly, today's groundbreaking is a political maneuver. Supporters of the railroad in Sacramento can't admit their project is deeply flawed, and they won't give up on it despite the cost. But these political tricks are exactly what the American people are tired of and what the new Republican Congress is committed to ending."
Supporters don't see waste. They argue the project will reduce freeway gridlock, offer competition to air travel and provide an alternative to trucking freight.
Environmentalists also have opposed the project, suing and claiming the construction project would harm 11 endangered species and worsen air quality in the already dirty Central Valley. They lost when a federal judge ruled the project did not have to adhere to the state Environmental Quality Act, unlike other projects. Additional legal challenges remain, but supporters believe once the train leaves the station and ground is broken, there's no going back.
"The legacy of the Brown family is that they have been big thinkers, but also big builders," said Democratic state Assemblyman Henry Perea. "I think this is an opportunity for the legislature to step up, support Governor Brown. "
According to the research of David Wilcock, there is an impending shift going on within our solar system that will give us all the opportunity to make a quantum leap in consciousness.I was watching a "Contact In The Desert" video featuringDavid Wilcock and he brought up some information that is quite fascinating.The following is an excerpt from "The Brown Notebook" which is a channeling from Walt Rogers that was done in the 1950's. Much of what was channeled is proving to be tr [...]