More Junkmail from Bob!

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Important Stuff.


About 144 years ago a Russian ship (a "bark") sank off the coast of Alaska. It was headed to San Francisco with 350 tons of ice. It was before refrigerators were popular.

Last summer they thought they might have found the wreck, and this summer they confirmed it. It was the Russian-American Company ship Kad'yak. Its load of ice had melted.

Some other melting ice is causing earthquakes. There has been an increase in earthquakes in southern Alaska, probably due to the retreating glaciers. When the glaciers melt, they take a lot of weight of the earth, and the pressure changes result in quakes.

The Bering Glacier is the largest glacier in North America. A couple of years ago in Junkmail (as I'm sure you'll remember) I mentioned that the Bering Glacier was advancing, while most glaciers in Alaska and Canada are retreating. I was sort of right. The Bering glacier surges occasionally, but is retreats overall.

Since 1900, the terminus of the Bering glacier has retreated about 7 miles. It has a major surge about every 20 years that lasts for a few years.

Here's the Bering Glacier in 1986, before the latest major surge:

      bering_ls5_1986300_lrg   (hi-res version)

Here's the same glacier in 2002. It has just about receded from the 1993-1996 surge to its position of 1986.

      bering_etm_2002272_lrg   (hi-res version)

There is still ice at the North Pole. There's some water, too. Here are the latest images from the North Pole web cam. It will start getting dark there in a few weeks.

Here are some good North Pole pictures:

The temperature at the North Pole is right around freezing.

Here's an interesting article about glacier study:

Auto Black Boxes

The NTSB is recommending a black box for your car. Actually, it won't be black. But it will record things like speed, accelerator and brake applications, engine speed, etc. It should help them determine the cause of accidents. Some privacy fans don't like the idea.

Insurance companies may start offering discounts to people who use boxes that monitor speed and travel distance.

The U.K. and South Africa are considering RFIDs that can be used by the government to monitor and record automobile movement. I imagine privacy fans will like that even less than black boxes for cars.

To help out the chips in British passports, it's now illegal to smile for your U.K. passport photo. Actually, you can smile but you can't show teeth.

Important Information:

There are about 200 warnings and cautions in a new car owner's manual. None of them mention that you should not get high-centered on rocks. How is a person to know?

15% or 85%?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has determined that nearly 15% of U.S. adults are have personality disorders. I claim that it's the 85% of you who are nuts. We 15% are just creative.

Napster at College

The recording industry and Napster are visiting universities around the country, demanding money. I thought that was the job of the universities. It reminds me of an illegal extortion racket, but it's apparently legal.

According to several articles, the RIAA threatens to sue the universities unless they pay Napster and RIAA $3 to $10 per student per month. And the RIAA forces the university not to disclose the terms of the payments to the students and parents. The students get no choice on the matter.

Students at universities who pay RIAA/Napster are allowed to download all the music they want, but the music can only be played on their own computer at the university. When they leave the university, they leave the music.

It sounds like a reasonable deal, but some people think it is unreasonable for the RIAA to force universities into it, that it's unreasonable for the universities to keep the terms secret, and that it's unreasonable to force students into the agreement without their consent.


The Cassini spacecraft is orbiting Saturn on its mission to liberate the planet.


Cassini will fly around Saturn, its moons, and its rings for about 4 years. On Christmas day of this year (or Christmas eve, U.S. time), the Huygens probe will parachute down from Cassini onto Titan, one of Saturn's moons.

If all goes well, Huygens will send data to Cassini for 2-3 hours, and Cassini will forward the data on to Earth.

Titan has an atmosphere 50% denser than earth's. The atmosphere contains, among other things, complex organic molecules. It's generally accepted that it's too cold on Titan for life.

NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency are all working on Cassini-Huygens.

A close-up of Saturn's rings:


Saturn's A ring, interior to the Encke Gap:


Saturn's moon Phoebe:


This view is about 120 km (74 miles) across. Phoebe's diameter at the equator is about 220 km.



Over the past couple of years it seems like every so often an airline admits that they lied and did, in fact, give their passenger personal data to the Transportation Security Administration. This was so the TSA could develop its Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, known as CAPPS II.

I have no problem with the government getting airline passenger data, so long as the passengers know about it and the public agrees to it. (We are supposed to be living in a democracy, after all.) The airlines probably shouldn't deny that they gave the data to the government when they did, because it's not nice to lie and because it's really hard to keep a secret.

Now the CAPPS II project has been officially cancelled by the TSA. The TSA has already spent $102,000,000 on the project. But they have not actually started work on CAPS II. The $102,000,000 is just for planning. I think I want to become a security planner.

When asked about the cancellation, Homeland Security boss Tom said, "You have to understand. The cancellation of a government project at this level usually means that the project has merely been renamed to throw off the critics."


Two foreign students and their foreign friend were taking pictures at Boston College a few days ago. It happened to be during the Democratic National Convention. There happened to be Secret Service agents on campus. They happened to detain and one of the guys, named Sahni, for 5 or 7 hours.

Sahni wears a turban and a beard. But Sahni is a Sikh, not a Muslim. Sahni's Muslim friend from Saudi Arabia wasn't questioned. But then, he doesn't have a beard or a turban.

Sahni got really upset about this, which would be understandable if he didn't have 5 or 7 hours to spare. Secret Service spokeshuman Charles, when asked about harassing the Sikhs rather that Muslims, stated, "Religion has nothing to do with it. This guy was a Computer Science major!"

Model Airplane

Need a model airplane? Try the ScanEagle. For about $60,000 you can get a 40 lb. (max takeoff weight) surveillance plane with a 10-foot wingspan. The ScanEagle can stay up for more than 15 hours, and can fly a pre-programmed route or interact with a ground-based pilot. Get yours today!

Shoe Bombs

You might find this hard to believe, but when the shoe bomber was arrested I was a little skeptical about how serious a threat he really was. It turns out that he was a very serious threat.

Richard Reid's shoe had 8 or 10 ounces of  triacetone triperoxide and PETN. Triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, is a fairly unstable explosive which, significantly, doesn't contain any nitrogen. That allows it go get by traditional explosives sniffers. PETN is a plastic explosive that's more powerful per pound, and can be ignited with a flame or fuse.

If he'd managed to ignite his shoe, it would have killed a lot of people and might have crashed the plane. At his sentencing, Richard Reid seemed proud of his efforts to blow up an airplane full of people.

TATP is a fairly easy explosive to make, as far as explosives manufacturing goes. All it takes is acetone, hydrogen peroxide (3% medicinal peroxide is not concentrated enough), and a strong acid like hydrochloric or sulfuric acid. I don't recommended mixing up a batch for Independence Day celebrations because it's easy to blow yourself up when you make it.,1353,0-5-7-0-27253-ezine-0-2,00.html

Terrorists are Everywhere!

U.S. Representative Katherine from Florida said in a speech that there was a terrorist plot to blow up a power grid in Indiana. I think she should have checked that information on Snopes -- it seems that she was the only one in the world who knew about the plot.

Missing House

Jim and Janice inherited a house from their grandparents. One day then they were driving up to their house and noticed something odd. The house was gone. So they called the Sheriff and reported a missing house. It turns out that a housing development company had the wrong house demolished by mistake. Oops. The house was next to the new development, but not part of it. Until now.


The anti-spam law passed last January has apparently rolled over and died. Spamming had increased dramatically since then, and the U.S. government has yet to charge a single person under the act, as near as I can tell. Two spammers were charged with identity theft, but nothing under the anti-spam law.

But take heart! There are new anti-file transfer laws in the works. The RIAA might be able to prosecute you for swapping digital pictures before long. I bet that law won't be ignored -- there are too many campaign contributions at stake.

The Dead Zone

Every summer lately there has been a "dead zone" around the mouth of the Mississippi and other major rivers around the world. This is probably because of fertilizer and other organic matter in river water that ends up in the ocean. Phytoplankton really like that stuff, and they grow into "blooms." The phytoplankton use oxygen in the water, and in large blooms they deplete the oxygen in the water, leaving too little oxygen for fish and mollusks. So the fish, crabs, etc. either move away or die. Here are some details:

Here's the mouth of the Mississippi:

      mississippi_1999331_lrg     (hi-res version)

Here's the oxygen depleted zone in summer...


...and in winter:


Pictures of Today!

Here's a good photo of the U.S. from space (at least 48 states of the U.S.) This natural color image is a composite of more than 500 cloudless photos taken by MISR and combined with data from the  Shuttle Radar Topography Mission for the 3-dimensional look.

      PIA04361     (hi-res version)

The Byron Glacier, Alaska


It's bigger than it looks. There's a hiker to the left and below the rock near the center of the picture. Here it is a little closer...


...and a lot closer:


The blue part is ice. The white is more recent snow. The cracks are dangerous.


A look down from the glacier.


It doesn't look like it, but there is ice underneath the rocks in the above photo. Here's where some holes have melted:



Alaska Flowers, near Exit Glacier

      PICT6552       PICT6557       PICT6579

      pict6624.jpg       pict6671.jpg       PICT6693


The Exit Glacier, Alaska:

      PICT6562      PICT6574      PICT6586

      PICT6588      PICT6592      PICT6726


This is where the Exit Glacier drops off of the Harding Icefield. The Harding Icefield feeds about 40 glaciers.


Two girls at the Harding Icefield.   


A glacier that didn't quite make it:


The trail down:


A new Cicada, Pryor, OK:


(e) 1986, no rights reserved. Any unauthorized duplication, distribution, display, performance, replication, modification, or translation of this fine collection of zeros and ones is OK with me. Copy the heck out of it!

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