More Junkmail from Bob!

January 26, 2016
Important Stuff.

Rocket Science

In August 2011, NASA launched the spacecraft Juno toward Jupiter.


Actually, they launched it out beyond the orbit of Mars. In 2013 it returned to within 5,400 miles of earth and accelerated from 78,000 mph to 93,000 mph with the gravity assist from Earth. Then it headed out toward Jupiter.

Today, Juno is about 57,000,000 miles from Jupiter. That's around 60 percent of the distance from the Sun to the Earth. Juno should arrive in Jupiter orbit on July 4 of this year, and will have traveled 540 million miles at that point.

Juno is powered by three solar panels, each 29.5 feet by 8.7 feet.


It weighs about 3,500 lbs and carries another 4,500 lbs in fuel.


Juno should discover a lot of new things about Jupiter, such as its mass, details on Jupiter's gravitational and magnetic fields, details on Jupiter's atmosphere, and a bunch of other stuff.

The company SpaceX didn't launch Juno, but it has been launching a lot of rockets into low earth orbit and geostationary transfer orbit.

They even sent the Deep Space Climate Observatory to Lagrangian point L1, a point for a reasonably stable orbit between the earth and the sun. The spacecraft observes space weather, not earth weather.

SpaceX is competing successfully with the established space companies, such as Orbital Sciences, which still uses Russian rocket engines. Sometimes they don't work.


But then, sometimes SpaceX rockets have trouble, too.

Japan has been launching rockets, too. Here's the launch of the Akatsuki, which had a few problems getting to Venus orbit:


Several countries have launched satellites into orbit: Soviet Union, U.S., France, Japan, China, U.K., E.S.A., India, Israel, Ukraine, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. This means that Iran and North Korea can launch missiles to targets anywhere on earth. The other nations can, too, but they're less likely to nuke someone just for sport. ...

In a somewhat unrelated photo, here's Apollo 12 commander Charles Conrad in 1969, standing next to the unmanned moon lander Surveyor 3, launched a couple of years earlier. I like this picture.



For a few hundred dollars, you can get a drone that will fly a predetermined route and take pictures at specific locations, without human intervention.

(my house)

What if you use the drone to shoot paintballs or depleted uranium projectiles or cow patties instead of photos? Then you have an autonomous weapon.

Of course, you could build an autonomous weapon out of a golf cart or a car or a tank or a boat or an airplane. The fact is, it's getting easy to do, with fast computers providing almost immediate image recognition, GPS and inertial navigation, and efficient propulsion.

Oddly enough, some people don't like the idea of autonomous weapon systems that might make errors and, worse, that take the human fun out of killing people. If killing people isn't personal, what good is it?

The fact is that autonomous weapon systems are coming in one form or another. Even if the major countries ban them, they are easy enough to develop with current technology that they'll be "available soon at an arms dealer near you." The initial ones won't be very sophisticated, but technology marches on, ready or not. ...

It's a little like surveillance and eavesdropping, which are so cheap and easy they have become ubiquitous, legal or not.


Some animals navigate using the earth's magnetic field to navigate, orientate, or postulate. People are not among them. We need a compass, or maybe a GPS. But monarch butterflies, salmon, lobsters, bats, mole rats, and even some termites can sense and use magnetic fields.

Nobody has been able to figure out exactly how they do this. I have personally asked several monarch butterflies what their secret is, but every last one of them refused to answer.

Siying Qin and some other researchers in China may have figured this out. They call it a magnetic protein biocompass.

Here's the original paper.


A T-shirt shrinks because of the dryer, not the washer.

Internet of Stuff

It's easy now to hook up household devices to the internet. For example, I have a magic light bulb in my garage that comes on whenever a door opens, stays on 5 minutes, and then goes out. It's not really too exciting, but if I happen to be visiting Kodiak, Alaska I can use my cell phone to turn that bulb on and off over the internet. That's pretty exciting, if not overly useful. (I live a sheltered life.)

There are several controllers available for this kind of thing, such as the Samsung Smart Hub. They can connect to any outlet, many appliances, and lots of sensors. You can view cameras (and your neighbors' cameras, if they're not careful), use timers, control heat and air, lock and unlock doors, and a lot more.

For example, you can buzz your phone when the doorbell rings, then unlock it after you view the camera and make sure it's not one of your children, or turn on the front porch electric fence if it is. There are sensors for motion, temperature, doors, windows, light, and sound. All this is easily programmable.


It would be really stupid to ban encryption or force people to include back doors for law enforcement in their encryption. Even the NSA agrees with me on this topic. If the federal government gets access to encrypted files, then everybody else in the world will either figure it out or borrow it from the government. The U.S. government seems to be better at offense rather than defense in digital security.

Global Climate Data

Global climate data is not being altered for political purposes, at least not until after the research is published. At that point, lobbyists, politicians, and paid "experts" take over, unbound by reality or truth, and fabricate tales to fit the party line.

The idiot politicians who are demanding emails from researchers are, well, idiots. They want to take a few emails out of context and use it to "prove" that there is no such thing as global warming.

It's clear to anybody who looks at the data that the earth has gotten warmer of the past 50, 100, or 150 years. Just look at Washington, DC! Incidentally, weather does not equal climate.

Skullduggery also takes place in the pro-global-warming arena, where sea-level rise is consistently exaggerated with photos of ordinary beach erosion, local weather anomalies are attributed to climate change, and anti-corporate regulations are frequently demanded without regard to cost or effectiveness.

Bad Passwords Are Good

You regularly see articles about how stupid people continue to use simple, easy-to-break passwords for various things.

But there is a good reason to use bad passwords. You can remember the passwords and type them quickly.

There are a lot of web sites that I visit occasionally. Some of these require a password. For many of these sites, I don't care whether anybody else uses my account. I would prefer not to have a password at all. So I use the same, simple password for most of the unimportant sites I visit. (A few of them quite rudely require numbers, capital letters, or special characters. I try to avoid those sites, because I never remember my password.)

My accounts and accounts of other people who don't care about the security on unimportant web sites undoubtedly make a significant contribution to the bad password list.

If you do follow this insecure security habit, it's a good idea to remember which sites are really unimportant and which are not. Assume someone, sometime will grab your bad password and username, and try to use them on every site on the internet.

Antibiotics, Colds, and Sinus Infections

There are some new guidelines for using antibiotic prescriptions for respiratory tract infections. Since most of these infections are viral and go away without antibiotics, you may be able to save a trip to the doctor and suffer in solitude.

Do Headlines Need to Ask a Question?

Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.

Furthermore, any internet link that advertises a list ("Top 6..." or "8 Ways You Can..."), has roughly a 98.237 percent chance of being a lousy clickbait article generated either by a bot or a content mill.

You can improve the quality of your ingested web content dramatically if you skip headlines with lists or questions.

em Client

I recently started using the email client "em Client". Over the past several years I have used Windows Live Mail, Thunderbird, Outlook, and Gmail. "em Client" is the best email client at the moment, for me, despite its bad name.

Gmail is also pretty good, but I prefer more control over spam filtering and other email options, and would rather miss out on the ads, so I use my own mail server.

Oklahoma's War on Public Education

Oklahoma funding cuts to education continue, leading the nation in the war on public education.

Oklahoma has a budget shortfall in the neighborhood of a billion dollars in 2016. By coincidence, Oklahoma has cut the top income tax bracket from 6.65 percent to 5 percent in recent years, costing the state about a billion dollars annually.

The cuts in education are roughly equivalent to the tax breaks Oklahoma offers for horizontally drilling:


The Oklahoma state legislature, well known as the most technically and scientifically advanced individuals in the nation, has introduced laws to ban the teaching of global warming, evolution, and the sun-centered model of the solar system. OK, maybe I'm exaggerating. But the new law will allow public teachers to teach that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around the earth, without fear of discipline or reprisal. Any scientific theory can be ignored or refuted in class, such as notorious theories of gravity and relativity.

The intention of the new law is to prevent the teaching of evolution, global warming, and any other science that does not strictly adhere to the conservative party line. This should help public education as much as the current funding levels do.

Galileo would be proud.

Go Climb a Rock

DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc. has been the concessionaire at Yosemite since 1933. That means they manage the hotels, restaurants, stores, etc. Beginning March 1, Yosemite concessionaire will be Aramark, under a new 15-year contract. Aramark has similar contracts at Denali, Glacier Bay, Mesa Verde, Olympic National Park, Glen Canyon, and Lake Mead.

DNC is apparently not happy about this change. Before 1998, the law gave preferential rights of renewal to incumbent concessioners. Last year, the contract was subject to fair competitive bidding, with no preferential rights. Aramark won the contract.

"Go Climb a Rock" is a trademark owned by DNC. Don't ever say that without paying them a royalty, under penalty of 5-years indentured servitude. They also have trademarks to "Ahwahnee Hotel", "Curry Village", and "Wawona Hotel", even though these establishments are owned by the National Park Service and were in business long before DNC took over their management in 1993.

DNC was a gracious loser in the new contract award, demanding $51 million from the National Park Service for the use of the names of Yosemite establishments established in the early 1900's. But the park service did something sensible, which is very uncommon for a government institution. They decided to change the names rather than pay extortion to a former concessionaire and a mob of lawyers.

The Ahwahnee Hotel will become The Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Curry Village will be Half Dome Village, and the Wawona Hotel will be the Big Trees Lodge. Naturally, after DNC's $51 lawsuit was deflated by the impending name changes, DNC was "shocked" and proceeded with legal action to prevent any name changes. Never mind that DNC has no involvement in those businesses after the contract changeover.

In fact, DNC didn't even apply for these trademarks until 2002 or 2003, more than 100 years after some of them were first used in commerce. Of course, the letter of the law, let alone common sense, rarely deters the USPTO from approving a stupid patent or trademark. Even more ridiculous, DNC applied for a trademark on the word "Yosemite" after they lost the contract bidding and after they filed the lawsuit against the National Park Service.

Remind me to avoid DNC businesses in the future.

Bright Star

There's a star that's pretty bright. It's exploding. It's a supernova. It's about 570 billion times brighter than the sun. It's brighter than all the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, combined. It's probably the brightest star ever observed.

Luckily, this exploding star is far enough away that it won't cause radiation poisoning, or even sunburn. It's located 22,338,300,000,000,000,000,001 miles (3.8 billion light years) southwest of Adair, Oklahoma. That's too far away to see with your eyes, or even with a back yard telescope. It's hard to believe people can detect and recognize it!

PCs, CPUs, and the PCIe SSD

2015 U.S. PC sales were down 2-3 percent and down around 8 percent worldwide, according to Gartner and IDC.

There are a few reasons for this. First, cell phones and smart pads are taking the place of PCs for many people. Second, Windows 8 and 10 did not inspire as many new PC purchases as did previous Windows releases. (Apple PC shipments were up 6 percent last year.)

Third, PCs have not gotten a lot faster. Advances in desktop CPU speed have been minimal over the past few years. If I could get a reasonably priced PC that's 50% faster than my two-year-old system, I'd buy it today. Instead, the best performance gain for me is a PCIe SSD.

Solid state drives, or SSDs, are much smaller, faster, and efficient than the traditional hard drives with rotating magnetic media. A solid state drive is essentially some non-volatile memory with a hard drive interface.

A typical SSD may be 50 or 100 times faster than a magnetic hard drive (HDD). One of the newer PCIe SSDs is several times faster than that.

One reasonably reliable source says that the arrival of SSDs and other storage class memories "is likely the most significant architectural change that datacenter and software designers will face in the foreseeable future."

If you want speed, the Samsung 950 Pro is a good bet. It's better if you have a spare PCI Express 3.0 x4 slot.

Nothing to Hide

If you have nothing to hide, why do you care whether the government records your phone calls, texts, and internet use?

Sulfur Dioxide

There's usually a little sulfur in coal, more in some regions than other. When you burn coal, the sulfur is burned along with it and the gas sulfur dioxide is formed. That's where the horizontal yellow clouds near some power plants come from on a calm day.

When sulfur dioxide dissolves in water, SO2 becomes H2SO4, or sulfuric acid. When it rains, the sulfur dioxide in the air is typically changed to sulfuric acid, and comes down with the rain. If there's enough, it can affect the acidity of surface water. This is called acid rain.

Exhaust scrubbers in power plants and low sulfur diesel have reduced sulfur dioxide emissions in the U.S. to levels near those of 1900. In China, that's not quite the case.


Even in the last 10 years the sulfur dioxide levels in the U.S. have dropped significantly.

Science Breakthrough of the Year

CRISPR, a genome-editing technology that has been progressing rapidly in the last three years, was named Science’s Breakthrough of the Year. CRISPR is a technique that can be used to edit and manipulate the DNA of any organism-crops, livestock, and even humans. It can allow scientists to control gene expression and selectively turn genes on or off.

Two striking examples-the creation of a long-sought “gene drive” that could eliminate pests or the diseases they carry, and the first deliberate editing of the DNA of human embryos-debuted to headlines and concern. Each announcement roiled the science policy world. The embryo work (done in China with nonviable embryos from a fertility clinic) even prompted an international summit to discuss human gene editing.

Crash Test

Newer cars are much safer! This test compares a 1959 Chevy with a 2009 Chevy.

Pictures of Today!

Quandary Peak (upper right), 11/28/15
(Josh, Gill, and Kiran)

Quandary from the Top, 1/12/16

Colorado Flower, 7/27/15
(more pictures)

P1260020.jpg P1260021.jpg
Tricia's Laptop, 11/14/15

Snowplows, 11/25/15

Roosters, 12/12/15

Water, 12/28/15

Water and Snow, 12/27/15

Little House on the Prairie, 1/10/16

Windy, 1/11/16

Alien Giants, 1/14/16

Giant Footprints, 1/14/16

Strang Bridge, 9/12/15

Lindsey Mayes Bridge, 1/18/16

Step carefully.

Something's missing...

It fell into the river!


The End