The Secrets Out

The U.S Air Force’s highly secret unmanned space plane was supposed to stay in space for nine months, but it’s now been there for a year and three days – and no one knows what it’s doing.

The experimental craft has been circling Earth at 17,000 miles per hour and was due to land in California in December.

However the mission of the X-37B orbital test vehicle was extended – for unknown reasons.

The plane resembles a mini space shuttle and is the second to fly in space.

The first one landed last December at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California after more than seven months in orbit.

The 29-foot, solar-powered craft had an original mission of 270 days.

The Air Force said the second mission was to further test the technology but the ultimate purpose has largely remained a mystery.

The vehicle’s systems program director, Lieutenant-colonel Tom McIntyre, told the Los Angeles Times in December: “We initially planned for a nine-month mission. Keeping the X-37 in orbit will provide us with additional experimentation opportunities and allow us to extract the maximum value out of the mission.”

However, many sceptics think that the vehicle’s mission is defense or spy-related.

There are rumours circulating that the craft has been kept in space to spy on the new Chinese space station, Tiangong.

However, analysts have pointed out that surveillance would be tricky, since the spacecraft would rush past each other at thousands of meters per second.

And Brian Weeden, from the Secure World Foundation, pointed out to the BBC: “If the U.S. really wanted to observe Tiangong, it has enough assets to do that without using X-37B.”

Last May, amateur astronomers were able to detect the orbital pattern of the first X-37B which included flyovers of North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, heightening the suspicion that the vehicle was being used for surveillance.

Other industry analysts have speculated that the Air Force is just making use of the X-37B’s amazing fuel efficiency and keeping it in space for as long as possible to show off its credentials and protect it from budget cuts.

After all, under budget cuts for 2013 to 2017 proposed by the Obama administration, the office that developed the X-37 will be shut down.


According to X-37B manufacturer Boeing, the space plane operates in low-earth orbit, between 110 and 500 miles above earth. By comparison, the International Space Station orbits at about 220 miles.

The current flight launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in March.

Attribution: Ted Thornhill

Man, That was Close

A 150-foot asteroid orbiting Earth called 2012 DA14 will pass so close to Earth it will fly UNDER man-made satellites orbiting our planet.

Nasa’s Impact Risk report said that the odds of the space rock actually hitting our planet are very low, but on February 15 next year it will pass just 17,000 miles from Earth, closer than ‘geostationary’ satellites.

If an asteroid of that size hit our planet, it would cause an explosion similar to a nuclear blast.

Two astronomers from the the Observatorio Astronómico de La Sagra in Spain spotted 2012 DA14 in late February and its orbit has been calculated to be very similar to Earth’s.

Some reports suggested that on February 15 next year an impact was a possibility, but U.S astronomer Phil Plait, the creator of the Bad Astronomy blog, has ruled out an impact.

He wrote: “Asteroid 2012 DA14 is almost certainly not going to hit Earth next February. And by, almost certainly, I mean it. The odds of an impact are so low they are essentially zero. This does not rule out an impact at some future date, but for now we’re safe.”

 The space rock will come within 17,000 miles of Earth, which is closer than some of our satellites, but Plait says this is nothing to worry about.

He adds: “Seventeen thousand miles is well beneath many of our own orbiting satellites. To the best of my knowledge, this is the closest pass of a decent-sized asteroid ever seen before the actual pass itself. However, let’s again be very clear, it will miss. In astronomical terms, 17,000 miles is pretty close, but in real human terms it’s a clean miss.”

After next year, 2012 DA14’s closest brush with Earth will come in 2020, but Plait said that even then, the odds of an impact will be less than the chance of being hit by lightning in your lifetime – 1 in 100,000.

Last night a space rock caused panic across the UK, with police forces inundated with calls after spotting it in the sky and mistaking it for a burning aircraft.

Reports of a ‘bright light’ and an ‘orange glow’ were received by police across Scotland and the north of England at about 9.40pm yesterday.

The Met Office tweeted: “Hi all, for anyone seeing something in the night sky, we believe it was a meteorite.”

The Kielder Observatory also reported the sighting of a ‘huge fireball’ travelling from north to south over Northumberland.
The Observatory posted on Twitter: “Of 30 years observing the sky, fireball best thing I have ever seen period.”

Attribution: Ted Thornhill

A Toast to Your Health, With Coffee

In the Avionics shop at the Naval Air Station I was assigned to, there was a coffee station. Several pots were going at any given time, morning, noon and night. Up on the wall, over the pots, was a sign that read, “Warning; more than 3 cups of coffee per day may be harmful to your health”. 

Just like everything else that tastes good, coffee was going to be the death of us.

And, like the other food scares throughout history, the coffee-killer myth has been proven to be just that, a myth.

(Reuters) – Coffee drinkers have no more risk of getting illnesses such as heart disease or cancer, and are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, according to a German study involving more than 40,000 people over nearly a decade.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, came in the wake of many previous studies that produced conflicting results, with some tying coffee drinking to an increase in heart disease, cancer, stroke and more.

“Our results suggest that coffee consumption is not harmful for healthy adults in respect of risk of major chronic disease,” said Anna Floegel, lead author of the study and an epidemiologist at the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke.

The researchers collected information at the beginning of the study on coffee drinking habits, diet, exercise and health from more than 42,000 German adults without any chronic conditions.

For the next nine years, the team followed up on the participants every two or three years to see whether they developed any health problems, particularly cardiovascular disease, stroke, heart attack, diabetes and cancer.

They found that coffee drinkers and non-drinkers were similarly likely to develop one of those illnesses.

For instance, 871 out of 8,689 non-drinkers developed a chronic disease, compared to 1,124 out of 12,137 people who drank more than four cups of caffeinated coffee a day — about 10 percent in both groups.

On the other hand, the researchers found that coffee drinkers were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, the form that does not need insulin and is linked with obesity, than those who didn’t drink coffee.

Among those who drank four cups a day, 3.2 percent later reported that they had type 2 diabetes, compared to 3.6 percent of people who drank no coffee.

After taking into account factors that could influence diabetes, such as weight and smoking, the researchers determined that frequent coffee drinkers were 23 percent less likely to develop diabetes, a result that squares with other studies.

That doesn’t mean that coffee is responsible for preventing type 2 diabetes, but experiments in animals have hinted that certain chemicals found within coffee could positively affect metabolism.

“We do not encourage people to start drinking coffee if they do not enjoy this, but the overall evidence on coffee and health suggests that there is no reason for persons without specific health conditions to reduce their coffee consumption in order to reduce their risk of chronic diseases,” said Rob van Damn, a professor at National University of Singapore, who was not involved in the study.

I’m Givin You all She’s Got, Captain!

Star Trek’s ‘warp drive’ is portrayed as a safe, easy way to travel from galaxy to galaxy, barring occasional hiccups with the dilithium crystals.

But scientists warn that the reality of faster than light drives might be rather different, after simulating what a ‘real’ warp drive might do.

“Any people at the destination would be gamma ray and high energy particle-blasted into oblivion,” claims a new paper by University of Sydney physicists.

However ‘boldly’ Captain Kirk might go, he would arrive at a series of dead, sterilized solar systems and the TV series would have made considerably less interesting viewing.

The physicists analyzed how matter might behave around a theoretical ‘warp drive’ known as an Alcubierre drive.

The simulation found that particles would cluster lethally around the bubble in space-time used to ‘jump’ through space.

The real problems start when the Enterprise hits the brakes.

“The region of space in front of a ship decelerating from superluminal velocity to subluminal velocity is blasted with a concentrated beam of extremely high energy particles,” say the physicists.

The Alcubierre (warp) drive is a theoretical, faster-than-light drive, dreamt up by physicist Miguel Alcubierre in 1994, where a bubble of ‘negative energy’ around a craft expands space and time behind it, while compressing space in front of it.

The drive could make faster-than-light travel possible, at least in theory. But it now seems that it would also be very unwise.

“Interestingly, the energy burst released upon arriving at the destination does not have an upper limit,” said the University of Sydney’s Brendan McGonigal.

“You can just keep on traveling for longer and longer distances to increase the energy that will be released as much as you like. It’s one of the odd effects of General Relativity.

 Unfortunately, even for very short journeys the energy released is so large that you would completely obliterate anything in front of you.”

Since Mankind has yet to unlock the secrets of faster-than-light travel, it might seem odd that ‘serious’ physicists might be researching ‘warp drives’ at all, but the research warns of what COULD happen.

No fear though. Creating a bubble of negative energy is also currently impossible, so we won’t be hitting ‘Warp Factor Ten’ for some time anyway, regardless of the possible consequences.

Attribution: Daily Mail


We Know Better

Picture yourself in a hospital. In a sealed room you see a loved one laying on a gurney with an I.V. in his arm. The room is completely impenetrable. There is no way in.

You are forced to witness the slow demise of this individual.

It turns out the I.V. is what’s killing him, although very slowly. You are told the I.V. is a good thing and that the drug they are administering will eventually save his life. You are confused.

There was nothing wrong with your loved one before the I.V. was forced upon him. He was perfectly healthy, yet the experts tell you that no, he is really quite ill and they are the only ones who can save him.

You know this to be false. You’ve seen the results of his physicals, his complete medical records. He was the picture of health, yet the people in charge will not look at the records or simply dismiss your claims of his health.

You must be in denial and fail to see just how sick he is. These are people of faith and they know what must be done. You must place your trust and the life of your loved one in their capable hands. They know better than you what is good for the dying man. They are the experts, not you.

As Rick Santorum so aptly stated; it is a theology. The religion of the left is environmentalism. Unlike other religions that fill one with hope & joy, this one brings only misery and will eventually ruin us all, as it is in this community in Colorado. Just like the man on the hospital gurney, it is a painful, slow death.

I think the people of Craig, Colorado know that death is around the corner and they are helpless to stop it. The utter frustration for these citizens is, that they know the madness could be reversed and their community revitalized if only the despotic rulers of the country and their state would step aside. and allow the I.V. of extremist enviromentalism to be removed.

Flip the Switch

 Where shall we file this article? Maybe we can put it in the ” Ain’t technology grand and it will never be abused or used against us” folder. Is there an App for that?


By: Jordan Robertson of Bloomberg

Janne Kytömäki, a Finnish software developer, was cruising Google’s Android Market for smartphone apps last year when he noticed something strange. Dozens of best-selling applications suddenly listed the same wrong publisher. It was as if Stephen King’s name had vanished from the covers of his books, replaced by an unknown author. Kytömäki realized the culprit was a piece of malware that was spreading quickly, and he posted his findings online.

Google responded swiftly. It flipped a little-known kill switch, reaching into more than 250,000 infected Android smartphones and forcibly removing the malicious code. “It was sort of unreal, watching something like that unfold,” says Kytömäki, who makes dice simulator apps. Kill switches are a standard part of most smartphones, tablets, and e-readers. Google, Apple, and Amazon all have the ability to reach into devices to delete illicit content or edit code without users’ permission. It’s a powerful way to stop threats that spread quickly, but it’s also a privacy and security land mine.

With the rollout of the Windows 8 operating system expected later this year, millions of desktop and laptop PCs will get kill switches for the first time. Microsoft hasn’t spoken publicly about its reasons for including this capability in Windows 8 beyond a cryptic warning that it might be compelled to use it for legal or security reasons. The feature was publicized in a widely cited Computerworld article in December when Microsoft posted the terms of use for its new application store, a feature in Windows 8 that will allow users to download software from a Microsoft-controlled portal. Windows smartphones, like those of its competitors, have included kill switches for several years, though software deletion “is a last resort, and it’s uncommon,” says Todd Biggs, director of product management for Windows Phone Marketplace.

Microsoft declined to answer questions about the kill switch in Windows 8 other than to say it will only be able to remove or change applications downloaded through the new app store. Any software loaded from a flash drive, DVD, or directly from the Web will remain outside Microsoft’s control. Still, the kill switch is a tool that could help Microsoft prevent mass malware infections. “For most users, the ability to remotely remove apps is a good thing,” says Charlie Miller, a researcher with the security company Accuvant.

The history of kill switches on smartphones and e-readers suggests they’re double-edged swords for the companies that wield them. In 2009, Amazon reached into users’ Kindles to delete e-book copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm that had been sold by a publisher without the necessary rights. The ensuing backlash caused Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos to call the move “stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles.”

The reluctance of tech companies to set explicit policies for when they will and will not use kill switches contributes to the fear they’ll be abused. Civil rights and free speech advocates worry that tech companies could be pressured by governments to delete software or data for political reasons. “You have someone who has absolute control over my hard drive in ways I may have never anticipated or consented to,” says Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University’s law school in California. “If they use that power wisely, they actually make my life better. We don’t know if they use the power wisely. In fact, we may never know when they use their power at all.”

Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s vice president of Android engineering, says the search company reserves the use of the kill switch for “really egregious, really obvious cases” of harmful content. Microsoft’s Biggs says the company has used the functionality in its smartphones only for “technical issues and content issues.” Apple declined to comment. Amazon did not respond to several messages.

Like many in his profession, Kevin Mahaffey, co-founder of the San Francisco startup Lookout, which makes security software for smartphones, expresses mixed emotions about the emergence of kill switches. “The remote removal tools are very much a response to the mistakes of the PC era,” he says. “Whether or not it’s an overcorrection, I think history will tell us. It can be done right, but we as an industry need to tread carefully. It’s easy to imagine several dystopian futures that can arise from this.”

One supporter is Janne Kytömäki, the Finn who discovered the Android malware outbreak. He says Google did the right thing by deleting the malware without users’ permission. “What was the alternative?” he says. “Leave those apps installed on 200,000 people’s mobiles? This is something that had to be done.”

End Article

Famous last words: We couldn’t just do nothing!

How about , “Buyer Beware”, or user beware. We’ve allowed the door of abuse to cracked open. Mark my words. This kill switch program will progress into other areas and it wiil eventually be abused.

Ben Franklin said: “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

This Month in Space

A supernova remnant 170,000 light years away in one of the Milky Way’s galactic neighbors. This image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, shows ambient gas being shocked by the expanding blast wave from the exploding star

Sand dunes trapped in an impact crater in the Noachis Terra region of Mars. The area covered in the image is about 1km (1100 yards) across. Sand dunes are among the most widespread wind-formed features on Mars. Patterns of dune erosion and deposition provide insights into the sedimentary history of the surrounding terrain. This picture is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

This panoramic image taken from the International Space Station shows lights from population centers in Belgium and the Netherlands (center bottom), the British Isles partially obscured by solar array panels (left), the North Sea (center left), and Scandinavia (right) behind the space station’s remote manipulator system

Nasa captured this dramatic image of a solar flare on 2 January. To view a video of the event click here. The show lasted about three hours, but the blast was not directed at Earth

Solar flares on 23 January enhanced the aurora borealis in the skies over the frozen Susitna River near Talkeetna, in Alaska

Be Blown Away

Ok, this just has to be seen & heard to be believed!

This incredible machine was built as a collaborative effort between the Robert M. Trammell Music Conservatory and the
Sharon Wick School of Engineering at the University of Iowa. Amazingly, 97% of
the machine’s components came from John Deere Industries and Irrigation
Equipment of Bancroft, Iowa . Yes, farm equipment!

It took the team a
combined 13,029 hours (6.26 years) of set-up, alignment, calibration, and
tuning before filming this video but as you can see, it was WELL worth the

It is now on display in the Matthew Gerhard Alumni Hall at the
University and is already slated to be donated to the Smithsonian.

Attribution: Bev

How’s the Air up There?

Standing five foot six inches tall he was was well within the boundaries of normal.

But, in his mind’s eye, this New Yorker, who wants to be known only as Apotheosis, saw himself in a different light, as a statuesque six foot.

Desperate to become the man he believed he should be, the determined 37-year-old turned to drastic measures- undergoing agonising, expensive surgery.

The procedure, in which both legs are broken and then slowly stretched, bears more than a little resemblance to medieval torture.

But the brave patient has now achieved a remarkable six inches of extra height.

‘Apotheosis’ explained: “I realized that the world looked at me a certain way that I didn’t look at myself in that certain way.”

“I wanted the way I felt about myself and the way the world felt about me to be similar.”

In some cultures the painful and expensive procedure is seen as an investment in the future.

The trend for limb-lengthening surgery swept China where minimum heights are often quoted in personal and job advertisements as the country opened up to the West a decade ago. To join the foreign service men are required to be at least five foot seven. But the controversial surgery was banned in 2006 after a succession of botched jobs.

Meanwhile a ‘growing’ number of men are pursuing limb-lengthening operations in the U.S.

Florida based orthopedic surgeon Dr Dror Paley is one of few U.S. doctors to have completed the cosmetic procedure.

The surgeon, who works at the Paley Institute at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, last year performed 650 leg-lengthening surgeries, most but not all to remedy deformities.

Dr Paley said: ‘The majority who come for cosmetic limb lengthening have what we call, height dysphoria. They’re unhappy with their height.

“It’s one of the few psychologic-psychiatric disorders that you can actually cure with the knife.”

The surgery is not for the faint-hearted. The leg bone is broken in two. The doctor then implants a state-of-the-art telescopic rod into the cartilage of the bone which then pulls it apart very gradually, one millimeter a day.

New living bone grows along it to fill the gap and the muscles, nerves, the arteries, and the skin, also renew themselves.

The cost is a prohibitive at $85,000, and takes at least three months to complete. Gruelling physical therapy is essential.

Apotheosis travelled to Germany for his surgery and has first generation implants that are extended by the body’s movement rather than remote control.

He is still recovering and is reluctant to speak too soon of success. He told ABC News:  “I am still lengthening right now and there could be further complications so I don’t want to talk about it until it’s been successful.”

On a candid internet discussion board for those considering surgery he advises: “I am not telling anyone they should do this surgery, but I am laying out my experiences and the risks that I have taken and the successes that I have had and let people make their own decision,” he said.

But he says he already feels like a new man.

“When I walk down the street a different person perceived differently by the world for the rest of my life, you know, I am who I want to be now,” he said.

The online nickname Apotheosis, comes from the Greek to become godlike, in the sense of being the best you can be.

“And that’s kind of what I want? And I am not trying to be godlike; I am trying to be the best me that I can be.”

Attribution: Daily Mail

Take the Shot

A high school basketball enthusiast, who contracted a potentially fatal illness and fell into a coma, astounded doctors when she continued to shoot hoops in her comatose state.

Maggie Meier fell ill in 2008 and was admitted to a hospital after suffering a seizure.

The student at Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park, Kansas was found to have mycoplasma meningoencephalitis, a form of meningitis which causes swelling on the brain.

The teenager fell into a coma for almost three months during which time she was moved every two to three hours to prevent her limbs stiffening up.

To remind her of who she was, the family placed a basketball in Maggie’s hands when she was seated upright in a wheelchair. Amazingly, the young woman’s reflexes kicked in and she started shooting hoops.

Dr William Graf, Meier’s neurologist said, “The act of shooting a basketball must have been ingrained as one of Maggie’s basic instincts, her basketball shooting motion came back to her even before she was able to stand up or walk again.”

On the road to recovery: Maggie Meier had to relearn how to walk, speak and read after spending several months in a coma.

During the girl’s extended stint in the hospital, she would shoot a few hoops, then fall back into a comatose state.

Since coming out of her coma, the high school student has had to relearn every facet of her daily life – how to walk, speak and read.

During her stay in the hospital, Maggie’s fellow players on the school team the Huskies and coach David Glenn kept a chair by the court which said ‘reserved for Maggie Meier’ on the back.

On Monday, she returned to the court after almost four years spent recovering.

She said, “When I’m out there, I don’t think about it that much… But when I do think about it, it’s pretty awesome.”

After graduating high school, Miss Meier plans to go to Benedictine College in Kansas and study for a degree in special education.

Mycoplasma meningoencephalitis is a bacterial disease which causes inflammation of the brain.

Although the condition is reversible and patients can make a full recovery, in certain cases the illness can be fatal.

Attribution: UK Daily Mail