Monday, October 31, 2005

SCO to challenge the US for Central Asia?

Is it possible that a little-known alliance called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) could challenge the might of the world's only superpower -- if only in the vast landlocked spaces of Central Asia? The SCO brings together China and Russia plus the four Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan in a marriage of convenience that seems set on squeezing the United States out of the region. RFE/RL looks at the shifting balance of power in Central Asia and the strength of the Sino-Russian alliance in this second part of a five-part series on the battle for Central Asia.

Read it here.

We're off...well, in a few hours

We'll be leaving for 19 days of Seattle in about 5 hours. Now I need to get some sleep.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Baby Update

Avrora D Baird is 21 lbs and 28 inches if the Drs and their minions are to be believed. Today was her 8th month.

That's 9.5 kg and 70 cm for you heathens. ;)

Friday, October 28, 2005

More SCO News

Pakistan wants to join Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said Thursday his country wanted to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

"This organization is of immense strategic importance," the prime minister said.

Pakistan, along with India, Iran, and Mongolia, currently hold observer status in the regional organization that comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

Aziz said the SCO was a venue for opinion exchange, which was extremely helpful for the participants. He said the organization's motto could be: "We will help each other help ourselves."

Aziz said that according to standard practice, Pakistan would remain an observer for some time before joining the SCO as a full member.

The premier said the organization was a useful economic, strategic, and diplomatic tool in combating terrorism. At the same time, he said the SCO did not address bilateral issues at the moment and did not play a role in the Pakistan-India settlement.

"The SCO mandate does not stipulate military cooperation on a multilateral basis," Aziz said. "However, some members are allowed to develop bilateral military cooperation and have done so."

He added that if the SCO conducted military exercises like those performed by Russia, China, and India recently, Pakistan would consider participating.

From here.

China wants to broaden SCO cooperation

China wants deeper cooperation between the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC), Chinese State Council Premier Wen Jiabao said during a meeting of the SCO prime ministers in Moscow Wednesday.

Wen said that it is necessary to establish links with other regional structures and financial institutions and China may develop joint projects with the Eurasec and other regional organizations. The premier said that the SCO is meant to effectively deliver regional security and guarantee the development of its members.

He said that work on improving customs regimes, general trade rules and road transportation, as well as trade in electronic goods, should be accelerated.

Wen said that within the framework of the organization, more attention should be paid to the development of regional agriculture, scientific research and the fight against transnational diseases in the area.

SCO cooperation on fighting terrorism was another major topic of the session.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov said the SCO is ready to cooperate with other international organizations on counter-terrorism and in other spheres.

"The SCO is open for contacts, we will use every opportunity we have to become a factor of cooperation in the fight against terror," Fradkov said Wednesday during a press conference following a session of SCO prime ministers.

The SCO is considering opportunities to establish security contacts with the OSCE and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, Fradkov said. "We are establishing contacts with the OSCE and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, we are currently on the stage of studying areas for cooperation."

Read the rest here.

SCO: NATO of the East?

Russia and China could take a step closer to forming a Eurasian military confederacy to rival NATO at a Moscow meeting of the six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Wednesday, experts say.

The group, which started in 2001 with limited goals of promoting cooperation in former Soviet Central Asia, has evolved rapidly toward a regional security bloc and could soon induct new members such as India, Pakistan, and Iran.

One initiative that core members Russia and China agree on, experts say, is to squeeze US influence - which peaked after 9/11 - out of the SCO's neighborhood. "Four years ago, when the SCO was formed, official Washington pooh-poohed it and declared it was no cause for concern," says Ariel Cohen, senior researcher at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. "Now they're proven wrong."

Read more here.

Heritage Foundation...ugh.

Anyways, the unofficial slogan of NATO was 'Keep the Russians out, Germans down, and Americans in.' What will it be for SCO then?

The Americans out...that part seems to be set in stone. Who is down and who is in then?

Japanese Juggernaut

The ruling party on Friday approved its final draft of a proposed revision of Japan's pacifist constitution that would drop a clause outlawing war and give the military a greater role in international security, officials said.

Article 9 of Japan's current constitution — drafted by U.S. occupation forces and unchanged since 1947 — bars the use of military force in settling international disputes.

It also prohibits maintaining a military for warfare, though the Japanese government has interpreted that to mean the nation can have armed troops to protect itself, allowing the existence of its 240,000-strong Self-Defense Forces.

The Liberal Democratic Party's final draft cuts the "no war" clause from Article 9, and outlines an expanded role for the military.

In the approved draft, released on the party's Web site, the section currently titled "Renouncing War" will be renamed "National Security."

The change is part of a general push by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's government to give Japan a larger military and diplomatic profile in the world. Koizumi's party has also long campaigned for replacing the U.S.-drafted constitution with Japan's own.


In an effort to calm worries about a resurgence of Japanese militarism, the draft said Japan remains a pacifist nation and renounces the use of military force to settle international disputes.


"The draft completely overturned the pacifist principle of the current constitution," said opposition Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima, calling it a "serious challenge to postwar democracy and totally unacceptable."

Read more here.

They're moving fscking fast. Why?

Japan's Ruling Party Wants a 'Real' Military

Japan should possess a military not just to defend itself, a role to which it has been restricted for nearly 60 years, but to play a greater role in global security, the main ruling party said on Friday.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party proposed revising the country's pacifist constitution, which has not been changed since it was written by U.S. Occupation authorities just after World War Two.

The draft may touch nerves in Asia, where bitter memories of Japan's wartime atrocities run deep. Ties with China and South Korea, already strained, deteriorated further after Koizumi last week visited a shrine for war dead seen by Beijing and Seoul as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.

Read the rest.

Wow. So the moment finally seems to have come. Japan begins to slip off the leash placed on it in 1945. This is a pretty damned profound moment too. Most people will ignore it and move on. Most people don't realize that if this passes, everything as far as security interests in Asia just changed.

No, that's an understatement.

It put up a big glaring halon search light of a sign the size of Manhattan and pointed it at everyone in Asia's faces.

Japan is back.

If this passes, expect that there will be a ramp up of military spending over the next decade. Indeed, with Japan's economy being 30% of the US' alone...expect some big things to come out. Being an island nation, expect the Japanese Navy to be the big gun here.

Now will Japan be the US' subordinate ally? Or will she begin to chart her own way?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Politicos are starting to blog

I dinna believe it...

Read here.

An Iran-Russia-China axis?

The decision by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to refer Iran's nuclear programme to the UN Security Council has thrown into sharp focus relations between Iran and Russia. Moscow may soon have to choose whether to back Iran or align itself with the US and the European Union (EU) in reining in Iran's nuclear intentions.

Russia appears ready to co-operate with both the USA and Iran in order to boost its trade relations with the two countries. Although Russia is also a leading oil exporter and therefore unlikely to be intimidated by Iranian threats to reduce oil sales, the Russian nuclear industry is dependent on the completion of Iran's USD1 billion Bushehr project, which Moscow hopes will be followed by future billion-dollar contracts. Russia's defence industries, also badly in need of an economic boost through exports, have also been selling weapons systems and aircraft to Iran.

Meanwhile, China is becoming even more dependent on Iran for energy. A November 2004 deal to supply China with gas worth USD100 billion is likely rise to a total of USD200 billion after a similar oil agreement is finalised. Iran will export 10 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) annually for 25 years in return for Chinese investment in exploration and drilling. This energy co-operation is rendering the US administration's economic sanctions on Iran ineffective. However, the Russians must now assess the likelihood of being supplanted by China if they appear willing to trade favours with Washington and lose the confidence of Tehran. Iran may yet emerge as a leading member of a post-Cold War alliance which will work to undermine US regional objectives.

If you want to pay for it, the rest of the story from Jane's is here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Putin Talks up the SCO.

Top officials from a regional group bringing together Russia, China and key central Asian countries met in Moscow, with India, Iran and Pakistan attending as observers for the first time.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) "is gathering momentum and acquiring more and more political weight," Russian President
Vladimir Putin said after meeting Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao at the start of the talks.

He noted that the countries represented, which include major global energy producers, made up more than half the world's population.

The SCO "will come up with decisions which have an effect on... the majority of people on this planet. That in itself is a significant factor in world politics," Putin said at the SCO meeting later Wednesday.

A major focus for the group would be "the security of our citizens, including efforts against international terrorism," Putin said, mentioning unrest in Uzbekistan and the Russian North Caucasus city of Nalchik this year.

The SCO inaugurated an anti-terrorist centre in the Uzbek capital Tashkent in June 2004.

Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh, Iranian Vice President Parviz Duvadi and Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz were attending the SCO meeting for the first time Wednesday after being given observer status earlier this year.

Mongolia joined as an observer in 2004.

Read more here.

Does this mean that Russia is slowly starting to see itself as an 'Asian' nation rather than a European one?

Ukraine: An Exemplary Start - Financial Times

This week's auction of Kryvorizhstal steel mill was a resounding triumph for Ukraine's fledgling market economy and much-needed good news for Victor Yushchenko's government. The 4.8bn paid by Mittal Steel exceeded expectations and was achieved through a fair and open process.

It will reassure investors unsettled this year by divisive government debates; it will also reassure Mr Yushchenko's restive supporters that he has the will to redress the wrongs of Leonid Kuchma's corrupt government.

The sale of Kryvorizhstal last year was one of the worst of some questionable post-Soviet privatisations. Foreigners were excluded from the auction, and the mill was sold for only $800m (�448m) to a group of local businessmen, among them Mr Kuchma's own son-in-law.

It was therefore the most obvious candidate for reprivatisation. The more challenging question is what should be done next.

On a visit to London, and the Financial Times, last week, Mr Yushchenko was passionate in his insistence that the millions of people who came out on the streets in the Orange Revolution demanded and deserved a clean-up of Ukraine's corrupt shift of assets from the state to private hands.

Read the rest here.

As a counterpoint:

Ukraine security chief Anatoliy Kinakh supports conducting the effective privatization of strategic industrial objects in Ukraine, though believes that during the period of the parliamentary election 2006, the privatization of strategic enterprises, including the Odessa Port Plant, Ukrtelecom, must be suspended.

Read the rest here.

Ukrainians have one thing definitely sorted out as far as being a democracy: they can yell and squawk their very opposing views through the free press.




This didn't come without a cost though. There are several dead journalists to get here. May Ukrainians continue to defend their new rights.

Russia's Space Budget & 9 Year Plan

The Russian Cabinet on Tuesday approved a nine-year government program to expand its space programs, backing the ongoing development of the new Clipper spacecraft as well as building Russia's segment of the international space station.

Read the rest here at CNN or here.

The plans include the building of the Russian portion of the International Space Station, the launch of a Martian probe (well, a martian moon probe for phobos), preparations for a manned mission to Mars (!) and funding and expansion of the Kliper program.

Interesting times indeed.

China In Space: In the Service of the Emperor

The Chinese government is not known for placing a high value upon the lives of its citizens. This is not surprising. As Natan Sharansky wrote in The Case for Democracy, authoritarian governments are never known for valuing the lives of their citizens, because they do not depend upon the citizenry for power. Sharansky claims that this makes them dangerous and more warlike, because it’s easier to send your people to the meat grinder when they’re scared of the leaders, and not vice versa.

It was therefore slightly jarring to see the conservatism that went into the Chinese human spaceflight program which started with test flights in 1999 and proceeded very methodically to the launch of Yang Liwei in 2003, and now seems to have slowed down from that deliberate pace. The government went to extraordinary efforts to ensure that Liwei returned intact from his flight, in contrast to earlier Chinese space projects that on several occasions killed numerous citizens on the ground—all hushed up, of course.

This attitude is similar to that which we now know occurred with the Soviet space program during the height of the Cold War. The Soviets at times took stupid risks with ground personnel working on their rockets, such as allowing launch pad crews to approach fully-fueled rockets that then blew up horrifically. However, they also developed an effective escape system for their cosmonauts, as well as recovery forces and all kinds of other safety systems. The reason is simple: while authoritarian governments can kill hundreds, thousands, or even millions of their citizens on the ground and cover it up, human spaceflight is a highly visible event that occurs on the world stage. Kill a cosmonaut and you cannot keep it secret. Kill a cosmonaut and the leadership looks bad.

What this fact highlights is the close connection between human spaceflight and political power. For China, human spaceflight reflects directly upon the leadership of the Communist Party. It is meant to enhance their power.

The flight of Shenzhou 6 has thrown this relationship into harsh relief. Wu Bangguo, the party’s number two leader, watched the landing at the Beijing control center and remarked, “This will further improve the country’s international status and national strength, and will help to mobilize its people to rally around the Communist Party and work harder for the future of the country.” The New York Times also quoted a Beijing electrician, Li Guoqiang: “It’s really incredible and we’re all filled with pride. It’s about developing and expressing our national strength.”

Dwayne write s alot more here.

I recommend reading it. It's a rather interesting read. We'll see if history ends up agreeing with him. Or not.

Scientists build world's first single-molecule car

Rice University Scientists have done it. After BMW announced the possibility of producing a car that would utilize nanotechnology practically for all functions, Rice University scientists developed the world’s first single-molecule car- the car that was driven on a gold microscopic highway. It a small coupe that is devoid of any plush seating or conventional steering system. But it is a real solution for the grid locked cities. With a wheelbase of less than 5 nm, parking it is a cakewalk.

Read the rest here.

This prolly has been all over the net already. However, people might want to think about getting together investment funds ove rthe next 5 years...assuming the real estate pop isn't eating all of the money shortly. The boom really will take place about 10 years from now, imo.

Latest Baby Pictures

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

If this is true...oooooh wow.

Read it.

First impeachment of a VP?


That's something to go down in the history books for.

BS Tech or not?

A friend of mine sent me a link to this.

The question is whether or not this is vaporware.

Monday, October 24, 2005

James Nicoll's Humans as The Elder Race

James Nicoll has a very interesting post on his Live Journal: What if Humanity is the Elder Race (ie The First Ones).

Unfortunately, the follow-ups to it are not as thoughtful.

The idea is fascinating and explains the Fermi Paradox w/o needing to go into handwaving. It's not my prefered hypothesis, but it'll do. It's my second favourite, actually. My first one is that intelligent species go through a boom-bust cycle (exploration, expansion, extinction) and the last time around Earth wasn't so interesting and at best only had a handful of visitors that cleaned up after themselves. However, Humanity as the First Ones works too.

Perhaps even better.

Ukrainian News: NATO Aspirations

On the One Hand:

The United States on Sunday stepped up its support for Ukraine to join NATO, noting the former Soviet state's progress in political and military reform.

U.S. defense officials, attending a NATO conference in Lithuania, said that while Ukraine had a long way to go on the path of reform and that NATO's entry standards must be met, there was full support from Washington for membership.

"Progress (on reform) has been made and we encourage it and are available to be of assistance in various ways," U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a press conference.

Ukraine is looking to join the alliance around 2008, during a tentatively scheduled NATO summit. Rumsfeld declined to give a timing on when Ukraine could join, saying: "That's a decision to be made by NATO."

Read the rest here.

The US is very much for Ukraine to join NATO and the EU. This is rather interesting. It means the US is committed to peeling Ukraine out of Russia's traditional orbit. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. This is both from the idealistic and the cynical views of US policies.

The idealistic view is that the US policy is aimed at helping a reforming nation with promises of joining the most protected and one of the best environment's, politically, for sustained development. Additionally, it gives the Ukrainian people an oppurtunity to move to better conditions and allowing for Ukrainians that stay at home to live in much better conditions as well by potentially reducing the competition for jobs and having an extreemly active oversight for corruption imposed by the EU.

The cynical side is that it's the 'Keep the Russians Out' policy all over again. after the uber kissy faces exchanged with the Russians after the 9-11 attacks, the American-Russian relations have significantly cooled. Depending on who the successor (or the successor to the successor) to Putin is, there's the possibility of a revanchist Russia bent on rebuilding the Soviet Union. Ukraine in NATO and the EU permanently breaks that possibility. Without Ukraine, Russia lacks a very large population base of ethnic Slavs. All told, Ukraine has almost 50% of the Slavic population of Russia despite Russia having almost three times the population. The fear in Russia is that the nonslavs will - partially because of the Russian ethnoidentity; partially because of the Little Nation ethnonationalism that was so prevalant in the 1990s; and largely because Russians just aren't having kids - attempt to further break up Russia (re Chechnya). To Russians, Ukrainians are Malorus - little Russians - and of the same nationality. An addition of them would help stem the influence of the nonslav ethnicities and possible secessionist movements. Or so goes the train of thought.

From this POV of American policies with respect to even Turkey make sense. Substitute Ukraine and Russia with Turkey and Middle East, and you get the picture. However, it's not just the Americans running the show in NATO, nevermind in the EU. The Europeans do have some small say. ;)

On the other hand, the Ukrainian prospects of joining the EU and NATO from the European POV are dimmer. It's not that they don't like the idea of Ukraine joining the EU and NATO, eventually. It's just that there are a few more issues that the Europeans have to live with that the US would not. The first is that the Ukrainians have a horrible level of corruption. This needs to be fixed, or at least largely tamed, prior to joining the EU lest it get loose with the EU itself. The second is that the Ukrainian economy is...not up tot he standards of joining yet. The fiscal responsibility (*snicker*) and underlying economic economic engine are in bad shape, if improving: the EU doesn't want to be saddled with a horribly broken economy it will be pouring money into for decades and watch it all vaporize into corrupt officials' pockets. The last reason is the population of Ukraine. There's a lot of Ukrainians. If all of them could move where they will in the EU, a very large portion would up and leave. I'm guessing that it'd be about 20 to 40 %. That means somewhere between 10 and 20 million Ukrainians would move west into the 'Older EU'. Americans should keep in mind that the US absorbs about 1 to 1.5 million illegal Mexicans per year in a nation nearly 300 million strong and we have a rather large heart burn over that. 10-20 million Ukrainians scattered across a supranation of approximately the same size - and higher costing government social programs - would cause uber problems. So the European reticence is understandable.

However, Ukrainians shouldn't despair. Getting from here to there is possible. It requires patience and a commitment to the goals. There are no comments from the Europeans along the lines of "Ukraine isn't really a part of Europe" or that "Ukraine will never be part of the EU" unlike what's happening to Turkey. It's more that Eurpoeans are just concerned with getting a pauper daduschka (pardon the bad transliteration). I know of more than one Ukrainian family that would be concerned about this if it happened on the personal level, so that states and suprastates do this shouldn't be a surprise at all. However, the light and hope of the Ukrainains is that they are on course to not be the pauper of Europe. They are making a great deal of progress even in the last six months. They just have to stay that course and they will get there. Yes, there have been mistakes made (oy! Ain't THAT so!) However, making mistakes and government...well, that goes hand in hand. That's up to the Ukrainian people to make sure that the government fixes its mistakes.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The web comics I read...

Truth be told, there are only two.

The first one Randy McDonald introduced me to by MegaTokyo. It has the manical fun and romance of a good manga even though its written by an American.

The second one is one that Doug Muir just introduced me to. It's The Order of the Stick. This is hilarious if you are a D&D gamer (or were).

Oh Frack!

You scored as Capt. Lee Adama (Apollo). You have spent your life trying to life up to and impress your Dad, shame he never seemed to notice. You are a stickler for the rules. But in matters of loyalty and honour you know when they have to be broken.

Capt. Lee Adama (Apollo)


CPO Galen Tyrol


Commander William Adama


Dr Gaius Baltar


Number 6


Lt. Kara Thrace (Starbuck)


Tom Zarek


Lt. Sharon Valerii (Boomer)


President Laura Roslin


Col. Saul Tigh


What New Battlestar Galactica character are you? created with

Titanian Weather...a convective cloud?!

niversity of Arizona scientists say that the peculiar clouds at middle latitudes in Titan's southern hemisphere may form in the same way as distinct bands of clouds form at Earth's equator.

"Titan's weather is very different from Earth's," said UA associate professor Caitlin Griffith. "If you walked past Titan's minus-40-degree-latitude line, you might be showered with liquid natural gas. If you decided to visit Titan's south pole, you might encounter a storm the size of a hurricane which also consists of methane, more commonly known as natural gas," Griffith said. "Otherwise, don't expect clouds on Titan."

Titan's weather forecast has remained the same for years, and that baffles scientists. They don't understand why clouds a thousand miles long stretch over the temperate latitude.

Read the rest here.

Planets Formation Around Brown Dwarfs

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted the very beginnings of what might become planets around the puniest of celestial orbs – brown dwarfs, or "failed stars."

The telescope's infrared eyes have for the first time detected clumps of microscopic dust grains and tiny crystals orbiting five brown dwarfs. These clumps and crystals are thought to collide and further lump together to eventually make planets. Similar materials are seen in planet-forming regions around stars and in comets, the remnants of our own solar system's construction.

The findings provide evidence that brown dwarfs, despite being colder and dimmer than stars, undergo the same initial steps of the planet-building process.

Read more here and here.

It seems that SF genre made a pretty good prediction then about planets around BDs. I'm delighted! Now if we could just find an actual planet around a BD and then an O2 baring one...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

To the Moon!

Given all the attention that has been focused on NASA’s new plans to return to the Moon, it’s easy to forget that the United States is not the only nation with lunar exploration plans. While the US is the only country with definitive plans to send humans to the Moon (rumormongering about Chinese plans notwithstanding), the US is not the only country planning to mount robotic lunar expeditions—nor is it even in the lead in this area. By the time the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission, the first in NASA’s series of lunar missions, launches in 2008, no fewer than four countries—Europe, Japan, China, and India—will have carried out missions of their own to the Moon, some as the beginning of more ambitious programs.

The last time the Moon was the object of such intense scrutiny was at the end of the Cold War-fueled space race between the US and the Soviet Union. With a far different geopolitical climate today, is there room for cooperation, rather that competition, among the various countries exploring the Moon? Can the missions in the planning stages be reconciled among each other to prevent duplication of science? Or, are factors potentially more powerful that science, like national prestige, enough to prevent any meaningful cooperation? Those were the issues representatives of several space agencies grappled with last month at the International Lunar Conference (ILC) in Toronto.

Read the rest here.

Personally, I am all for the seperate expeditions to the moon with the sharing of data. Competition with group learning seems to gain more for nations and space programs than does cooperation in the traditional put-everything-in-one-basket-ahem-program. It keeps agencies far more focused and polities as well. Prestige and oneupmanship make for a powerful tools.

India, China, Europe, America, and possibly others must share what they find though. Science, especially planetary science, works best when everything is shared as far as the end results. NASA can plan its next mission better. ESA can as well. HOWEVER, that's only if all share and share alike. I doubt that the US would, even if the others don't, not share its info though. NASA's extremely open with its findings and the contrast of the NASA MERs and ESA's Huygens was remarked on numerous times. ESA wasn't going to keep the data secret: they weren't going to share though as it came in.

Anyways, let's see how this one works out. It should be rather interesting, this set of exoatmospheric expeditions...

NATO & Ukraine: Doors Remain Open...but not wide

NATO doors are always open to Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Wednesday during his three-day trip to the country.

There should be no deadlines in this matter, he said at the end of a Ukraine-NATO Commission meeting.

We should focus on the process itself, not set any schedules or dates in terms of months or years, the secretary general said, responding to a question about the possibility of Ukraine's admission to NATO in 2008. He added that he could not put a timeline on the process.

The most important thing is that Ukraine is ready to carry out essential reform, he said, promising alliance support.

Obtained from here.

Then contrasted with what the Ukrainians are saying:

Ukraine has a real chance to become a NATO member in 2008, Foreign Ministry Roving Ambassador Konstiantin Morozov said during a round table on Ukraine's Place in NATO, organized by the Democratic Initiatives Fund and Ukraine-NATO Public League, the Cabinet's press service.

And the reasoning for Yuschenko wanting to be a part of the EU and NATO:

Euro-Atlantic integration, with a focus on joining NATO, is a priority for both foreign and domestic policy in Ukraine, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said Wednesday.

Yushchenko said Ukraine's move towards NATO and the European Union must be in line with the country's interests in the context of the current military and political situation.

"Since NATO is a guarantor of stability in Europe, Ukraine is ready for fully-fledged membership in theses organizations [NATO and EU]," he said.

Yushchenko spoke Wednesday at the joint session of the NATO North-Atlantic Council and the Ukrainian Council of National Security and Defense.

Basically, Ukraine wants to get the same benefits that Poland has recieved from being a part of NATO and the European Union. Economic stability. Protection from aggressive neighbors. Guarantees. The ability to attract foreign capital. etc.

Ukraine has a lot further to go than Poland did. Being a part of the Soviet Union and the extremely difficult times of the 1990s has hobbled far more than it did Poland. In the 1960s or 1970s, who would have thought that being a part of the Soviet Union would make a child nation like Ukraine so...well...broken compared to the Warsaw Pact countries. There was a time when the Soviets restricted Poles from moving into the country. Now the reverse is true...especially for Russians. Boggle that reversal.

Ukrainian Problems Caused by...Yuschenko!

So sayeth...Yuschenko! Talk about candid:

The President Viktor Yushchenko has admitted that during the last seven months the authority has made a lot of mistakes. The head of the state stated about that opening the sixth meeting of the Consultative council regarding foreign investments in Ukraine. “We understand the faults committed by the authority during the last 7 months,’ said the President.

He noted that first of all that relates to cancellation of the 24 free economic zones and priority development territories in Ukraine.

Besides, according to the President, there are quite problematic privatization matters. Viktor Yushchenko added that the authority’s latest steps of revision sent the worst signals for the market. “That was the bad signal for the business although neither I nor Verkhovna Rada made any political decision regarding this matter – that is a true fact,’ said the President.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Dino Species Flew Like a Biplane

According to a pair of scientists, a two-pound (one-kilogram) dinosaur known as Microraptor gui used the same biplane design to get aloft during the early Cretaceous period. Fossils of the four-winged dino were first found in China in January 2003. (See "Four-Winged Dinosaurs Found in China, Experts Announce.")

U.S. researchers combined data from new analysis of the Chinese fossils with a computer simulation that models the ancient animal's aeronautical abilities. The fossils show evidence of flight feathers on the raptor's feet. They also indicate that the dino could not have splayed its legs far enough to use its four wings in tandem, like a dragonfly.

Instead the researchers successfully modeled Microraptor gui gliding between treetops with its wings in a staggered biplane layout.

Read the little left here.

This has certainly been a day for interesting fossil finds.

Another New Pterosaur

A new species of flying reptile that died out with the dinosaurs 65 million years ago has been named for its fang-like teeth, British scientists said on Tuesday.

Palaeobiologists at the University of Portsmouth in southern England dubbed the remains of the pterosaur found on a beach on the Isle of Wight three years ago Caulkicephalus trimicrodon.

Caulkhead is the informal name for natives of the Isle of Wight, off the southern coast of England, and trimicrodon means three small teeth.

"It has massive fang-like front teeth, behind which are three small teeth. Behind those are bigger teeth and then rows of smaller teeth," said Dr David Martill, who described the specimen in the journal Cretaceous Research.

"It was a fish-eater, with a crest on the tip of its snout and a wing span of 5 meters (yards) which would have made it one of the largest flying animals of its time," he added in a statement.

Read the rest here.

Evidence of Swimming Dinosaur Found

Researchers have found tracks of a previously unknown, two-legged swimming dinosaur with birdlike characteristics in northern Wyoming and are looking for bones and other remains in order further identify and name it.

It was about the size of an ostrich, and it was a meat-eater," said Debra Mickelson, a University of Colorado graduate student in geological sciences. "The tracks suggest it waded along the shoreline and swam offshore, perhaps to feed on fish or carrion."

The tracks indicate a dinosaur that was about 6 feet tall and lived about 165 million years ago along an ancient inland sea, Mickelson said in a university news release.

"The swimming dinosaur had four limbs and it walked on its hind legs, which each had three toes," she said. "The tracks show how it became more buoyant as it waded into deeper water — the full footprints gradually become half-footprints and then only claw marks."

Mickelson said research so far by herself and others supports the "conclusion that the dinosaurs were intentionally swimming out to sea, perhaps to feed."

Read more here.

Smallest Extrasolar Planet Yet Found Circling a Main Sequence Star

7.5 Earth Masses.

Read more here.

Actual, Real Baby Pix

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

More Gorillas with Tools

An infant gorilla in a Congo sanctuary is smashing palm nuts between two rocks to extract oil, surprising and intriguing scientists who say they have much to learn about what gorillas can do -- and about what that says about evolution.

It had been thought that the premeditated use of stones and sticks to accomplish a task like cracking nuts was restricted to humans and the smaller, more agile chimpanzees.

Then, in late September, keepers at a Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International sanctuary in this eastern Congo city saw 2 1/2-year-old female gorilla Itebero smashing palm nuts between rocks in the "hammer and anvil" technique, considered among the most complex tool use behaviors.

Read more here.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Ukrainian WTO Dreams?

Ukraine plans to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) in December, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said Monday.

"Work is continuing, and we plan to make Ukraine ready to join the WTO in December of this year. Three-quarters of preparations for this have already been completed," the president said.

Read the little bit more here. Optomistitc, ain't he?

Unfortunately, Pascal Lami, Director General of the WTO, says:

The Director General of World trade Organization Pascal Lami reckons there is no chance for Ukraine to enter WTO in December, 2005.

“There is a long queue of the countries intending to enter WTO. But no Russia neither Ukraine will be able to complete all negotiations concerning the entrance by the end of the current year. They should wait a bit,” mentioned Lami.

Read more here.

We'll see if that happens. If Lami's statement holds true, Yuschenko is going to lose big time to Timshenko when comes election time. "Look, he betrayed us!" We'll see if politics will makes what he said hold true. The US might bring to bare some serious pressure to bare to get Yuschenko some support.

Ukraine wants accession to NATO, EU: Yushchenko

Visiting Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on Monday reaffirmed his ambition to take his country into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU).

When addressing the Royal Institute of International Affairs, known as Chatham House, Yushchenko said he hoped to see the creation of a free trade area between Ukraine and the EU within 12to 15 months and the start of talks on possible NATO membership next spring.

"We are convinced that the key area in foreign policy should bethe European aspirations of the Ukraine. That is integration to the EU and integration to NATO," he said.

Read more here.

Lost Condy, Gain Newt?


I'd rather vote Condy; however, she's not running in 08. Newt might though.


"Hope" his own intern issues don't kill his chances. heh.

Rice not a Candidate for 08

"It's not what I want to do with my life, it's not what I'm going to do with my life," [Condoleeza] Rice said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Read more here.

Well, that's one that could have been a front runner that just pulled the rip cord. She would have been an interesting candidate if nothing else. Perhaps as a VP choice? Then again, I have a feeling that whoever runs in 2008 for the Republicans will not want to have too many ties with teh Bush administration unless he ends it on a, say, pulling Osama out of his hat or something.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Reading Update

I haven't done a reading update in a while. Reason being that my reading time was decreased. This is due to the fact that work has been kicking my ass and my daughter has been falling asleep asap after I put her in bed. However, I am still getting some reading done even if its at a pathetic pace compared to my premarried and preparental days.

First I finished The Pterosaurs : From Deep Time. I really liked this book. Don't let the first review fool you. It's an excellent walk through if you're not a paleontologist of that subject for pterosaurs. They're not often written about and this was a lot of fun. I do recommend it.

I also read Working with Concrete. There's some tips in there, but, really, get it at a library sale or something if you want to own it.

I also read Iron Sunrise by Charlie Stross. It was pretty good. It lost a lot of the unique flashing signs of FUTURE that its predecessor had, but it was a good book. I have a comment that I think I'll save that demonstrates either a complete disconnect in American-British belief systems or maybe, perhaps, its just mine and Charlie's.

I am into yet another construction book. There's only one more that's a top down do-it-yourself book that I am going to read after this one. After that, some more about deep foundations and I move onto different aspects of the project.

It will have to wait until after the whole conference for work through for much else. I'll finish the one I am on before the conference and prolly read one about the Siberian economic missteps by the Soviets while there during my scarce downtime, but most of my free time will be taken up by my wife and daughter up there in Seattle. I probably won't order much in the way of books until December, unfortunately. :S

Yanukovich Opposes WTO...possibly permanently.

The Ukrainian Party of Regions will not support the bills, needed for Ukraine’s joining of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), at least until national producers give their consent to it, Viktor Yanukovich, leader of the party who is now touring the Donetsk Region (Donbass), said here on Friday.
Read the rest (what little there is) here.

Troubling that is. Maybe there's an issue here that Timoshenko and Yuschenko can still reach out to each other about in this.

Some things are just plain wrong together

In this case, it's wireless access and the restroom.

Hearing clickety-clack from a laptop the next stall over is just sooooo wrong on soooo many levels.

We'll leave it at that.

Trifecta Challenge: The Only Ones Standing...for sure

It's official.

We're the only ones left standing. There were other entries, but apparently they were poorly written up and rejected. Let me tell ya the power of having an experienced coauthor...whew!

We have our shot at fame and glory at 6 pm on Tuesday November 15th.

We also have two talks that we have to do. We're talking about our Bandwidth Application on Nov 15 at 11:50 for 10 minutes. Then we will be talking for 15 minutes about our StorCloud Application on Nov 16th at 11:15.

Past that, we've been told to make sure that we get to the Awards Ceremony on Thursday.

Growing gap in US and EU R&D spending

European defence spending on research and development (R&D) remains far behind the US, according to report issued by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The OECD's 'Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2005' indicates that, after a decline in the early 1990s, the US government's defence R&D budget "has increased as a share of GDP and reached 0.63 per cent in 2005".

The report, which is published biennially, claimed that this figure represents two and a half times the ratio for defence R&D spending in the UK and France, which respectively have the second- and third-highest ratios (about 0.24 per cent of GDP).

"In 2003," the report continued, "the United States accounted for more than 80 per cent of the overall OECD-area budget for defence R&D." This represented more than five times the EU total.

European defence industry officials are well aware of the need to address the R&D investment gap with the US. The European Defence Agency (EDA) has repeatedly called for more investment in R&D among member countries. Most recently, in a keynote address on 12 October, EDA Chief Executive Nick Whitney reiterated his desire to see European governments increase defence R&D expenditure.

"Generally speaking, I find comparisons between European and US defence expenditure lacking in much meaning," he said. "But the fact that the US puts five times as much into defence R&D as the Europeans combined is something that European defence ministries need to think about very seriously."

If you want to pay, read more at Jane's.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Raptors, raptors everywhere!

The discovery of a bird-like dinosaur in South America has paleontologists rethinking when, where and how one group of raptors evolved.

The rooster-sized dinosaur is called Buitreraptor (bwee-tree-rap-tor) gonzalezorum. It has a long head and long tail and wing-like forelimbs. Its serrated teeth, like steak knives, suggest it was a carnivore.

Buitreraptor is related to Velociraptor, the presumed cunning killer made famous by Hollywood. Both belong to a class of birdlike dinosaurs that ran swiftly on two legs and are called dromaeosaurs.

The new find suggests such raptors go back much further in time that previously thought.

Read more here.

Ukraine-NATO Exercise

Ukraine staged a major NATO-led anti-terrorism and disaster relief exercise Thursday, a step that this ex-Soviet republic hopes might improve its chances of joining the Western military alliance.

The four-day drill, held near Ukraine's border with NATO-member Poland, finished with a simulated terrorist attack on a chemical facility.

Elite Alfa troops of the Ukrainian State Security agency parachuted from a helicopter, while a separate assault team set off stun grenades to subdue the faux terrorist group that seized the dilapidated Soviet-era building, being used as the chemical facility for the drill.

Multinational emergency crews rushed to the scene to fight a giant fire.

Hosting the Joint Assistance 2005 maneuvers is Ukraine's latest effort in its bid to join NATO. The alliance has said its door remains open to this nation of 47 million people, which shifted to a pro-Western course after last year's Orange Revolution.

"This is an important step toward making our ties with Europe even closer, particularly in combatting such a serious threat as terrorism and the use of chemical weapons," said Maj. Gen. Volodymyr Tymoshenko, the deputy head of Ukraine's Security Service.

The exercises involved 12 countries and 30 observer nations, and included a major deployment of field hospitals, rescue equipment and reconnaissance armored vehicles. Members of the NATO-led Department for Emergency Situations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were among the 1,000 personnel involved, including 250 Ukrainians.

Read the rest here.

Ukraine's push West has been talked about quite a bit here. This is just another step in that direction. 1k troops is not a major exercise, but its a good small step forward.

Lockheed Martin CEV Pictures (perhaps not current)

Just for comparison with the Northrop equivalent.

Northrop Grumman CEV Pictures

Northop Grummna's CEV Unveiled

A Northrop Grumman Corporation [&] The Boeing Company team today unveiled its plans to design and build NASA's proposed Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), a modular space system intended to carry humans to the International Space Station by 2012 and back to the moon by 2018.

Photos accompanying this release are available [here].

The CEV comprises a crew module that builds on NASA's Apollo spacecraft, a service module and a launch-abort system. It is designed to be carried into space aboard a shuttle-derived launch vehicle -- a rocket based on the solid rocket booster technology that powers the early phases of current shuttle flights.

The CEV will be produced both as a crewed space transportation system and as an uncrewed space vehicle capable of transporting cargo to and from the International Space Station. NASA expects to select a CEV prime contractor in the spring of 2006.

Read the rest directly from Northrop Grumman here.

From Aviation Week:

CEV Competition Will Come Down To Cost, Northrop Grumman Says

With NASA dictating most elements of the design for its Crew Exploration Vehicle, the crux of the industry competition to build the vehicle will be the price tag and production efficiencies proposed by each team, according to Doug Young, Northrop Grumman's CEV program manager.

"Clearly it's all going to come down to cost," Young said Oct. 12. "The customer has been very clear in terms of where they want to go with the general approach, so it's going to really ultimately evolve into getting those cost numbers down to the bare minimum in order to achieve mission success."

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Whether or not it will be Lockheed or Northrop Grumman & Boeing. Originally, Lockheed was proposing a lifting body. From what I understand, this is no longer true. They've been swacked and told to do a capsule. That's interesting. That's not necessarily good. That's not necessarily bad. We shall see.

With the Russians teaming with the Europeans to build Kliper and the Chinese with their own taikonauts in orbit right now, we're seeing a space race once more, imo. It's about damn time. You (the rest of the wrold) have been lazy bums for too long. Unfortnately, I cannot say that America has been any better, frankly. I am just waiting for Japan and India to announce their own manned capabilities.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Haiti: This is mildly profound

A Haitian-born U.S. businessman may run for president, Haiti's highest court ruled Tuesday in a decision the would-be candidate said marked a turning point in the roles expatriate Haitians could play in their homeland.

The elections will be the first since a February 2004 revolt toppled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the first democratically elected president in the country that has suffered decades of civilian and military dictatorships and coups.

Presidential and legislative elections were scheduled Nov. 20, but elections officials have said preparations are behind schedule and the vote likely will be postponed for up to a month.

The provisional Electoral Council had ruled that Dumarsais Simeus, owner of a food services company in Mansfield, Texas, could not run in the election because he is a U.S. citizen.

But the Supreme Court's five judges ruled he could run because the electoral commission had not produced documents to prove Simeus had given up his Haitian citizenship, the court's chief clerk Andre Bignon said.

The provisional Electoral Council likely will challenge the decision, council lawyer Andre Joel Petithomme told The Associated Press.

"This decision is completely illegal, the court did not even let us to talk," Petithomme said.

Simeus said his candidacy would allow new roles in Haitian politics for Haitians abroad.

Read the miniscule rest here.

Haiti is not exactly a world leader in anything. However, the prospect of American citizens that have not given up their native citizenship being able to become president of another country is...weird. I wonder where else this is possible.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


I hate naming everything *Gate for a scandal, however, it looks like Katrina might really be headed for one if Mr President really means what he just said (always in question):

President Bush pledged Tuesday that the federal government will not seek to dictate terms for rebuilding the hurricane-devastated Gulf Coast but will instead allow state and local officials to make the key decisions. He rejoiced in what he said is a spirit of revival there.

(Taken from here)

In the most corrupt part of our country, the South especially NOLA, we're just going to dump dinero off to the locals to do with what they want. I mean Nagin, NOLA's most wonderful, far thinking, and uber planning mayor, said he wants to add casinos wholesale to NOLA to stimulate the economy after Katrina's devastation. Hmmm.

Casinos are NEVER a source of corruption...just ask some very polite Italian men that used to set up shop in the desert 'round 'bout, oh, Las Vegas.

Sounds like we're gonna have a pretty bad scandal that is gonna swack the Republicans so hard they're gonna lose 2008 pretty hardcore.



Wow...Southrons for Serenity.../now/!

Some of us that are at least minimally history literate have been twitching over the whole SFnal series called 'Firefly' for some time. That'a s rather curious statement, isn't it? Why would history geeks be unhappy with a SF series and subsequent movie? It's just a bit of skiffy that pretends to be witty and has a mild Western feel, right?

Really its Yet Another Southerner/Confederate Apology. The big difference is that Joss thought he could cloud the issue a little bit by making Firefly's Unionists, ahem, I mean "bad guys" look more like Germans so that everyone politicall correct and history illiterate would miss the Big Red Flag. James Nicoll said this first out loud. I, personally, was already annoyed with Firefly for said reasons, but the more I thought about it, the more I despised it. The more I despised it, the more I wanted to scream out that the brain eater had come for him already since he'd taken up being an Apologist for the South.

Now, it might have remained conjecture that it was just some history geeks seeing this in Joss' work, but now a Southron of full grey color has come out and said he loves Serenity for exactly that message of Unionists Bad, Confederates Good in Joss' latest creation. Here's the whole thread.

I should have been waiting for it, finally happened. One of them noticed that message too. I half seriously wonder if Serenity will be popular in certain circuits in the South.

More H. florensis

Scientists digging in a remote Indonesian cave have uncovered a jaw bone that they say adds more evidence that a tiny prehistoric Hobbit-like species once existed.

The jaw is from the ninth individual believed to have lived as recently as 12,000 years ago. The bones are in a wet cave on the on the island of Flores in the eastern limb of the Indonesian archipelago, near Australia.

Read more here and here.

Too bad this wasn't named Homo bagginses. Gollum would have liked the current name or the laternate here. ;)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Feduccia Attacks Dino-Bird Link

No good evidence exists that fossilized structures found in China and which some paleontologists claim are the earliest known rudimentary feathers were really feathers at all, a renowned ornithologist says. Instead, the fossilized patterns appear to be bits of decomposed skin and supporting tissues that just happen to resemble feathers to a modest degree.

Led by Dr. Alan Feduccia of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a team of scientists says that as a result of their new research and other studies, continuing, exaggerated controversies over "feathered dinosaurs" make no sense.

"We all agree that birds and dinosaurs had some reptilian ancestors in common," said Feduccia, professor of biology in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. "But to say dinosaurs were the ancestors of the modern birds we see flying around outside today because we would like them to be is a big mistake.

"The theory that birds are the equivalent of living dinosaurs and that dinosaurs were feathered is so full of holes that the creationists have jumped all over it, using the evolutionary nonsense of ‘dinosaurian science’ as evidence against the theory of evolution," he said. "To paraphrase one such individual, ‘This isn’t science . . . This is comic relief.’"

A report on the team’s latest research appears in the Journal of Morphology published online Monday (Oct. 10). Other authors are Drs. Theagarten Lingham-Soliar of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and Richard Hinchliffe of the University College of Wales.

Read more here.

Not an expert here, but it sounds like a rear guard action by a minority group. The wording is a little inflammatory as you can see.

X Cup Expo

BTW, that's gotta be the worst name ever...X Cup? I didn't know that they made a bra that big...


X Cup Expo

Several thousand space enthusiasts swarmed to the city's airport for a glimpse of a future in which you might just as easily book a rocket to space as you would a plane to Las Vegas.

The final day of X Prize Cup Week in New Mexico on Sunday drew a throng of would-be astronauts, entrepreneurs and curiosity seekers. They milled about the wind-swept airport grounds transformed for the afternoon into a Tomorrowland-type theme park.

The organizers' goals were to show off what clever things entrepreneurs are doing to get into space, and to promote the X Prize Cup, a weeklong competition scheduled to begin in southern New Mexico next year. The contest will include a rocket race that backers pitch as a
NASCAR event in three dimensions.

Read more here, here, and here.

That's my old home town. I have some photos that a friend of mine back home sent me of Carmack's Armadillo Aerospace booth.

The friend in question is one I've known for years. He works in the Flight Safety group at White Sands Missile Range. He's critical of the small companies that are coming out with X Prize/Cup and such entries. He feels that all of them are pretty fscking clueless when it comes to safety. Don't get me wrong. He emphateically believes that commercial space that flies on airliner style operations is the future. The problem is that the companies assume that they are already at that level of knowledge for their rockets. Indeed, none of the existing rockets ever acquired that sort knowledge base from what I recall.

The fact of the matter is that they're not. Not even close. None of them go through what Boeing does to validate the safety of Boeing's aircraft. If they did, he'd feel a lot less worried about the safety of what they are doing. The small rocket companies are pointing back to the early years of flight in their discussions. "Back then they didn't have to..." The problem is that the country, esp around the test ranges, is a lot fuller when it comes to people. We're a country of 300 million now, not less than 100 million. The land area of the US hasn't exactly grown either three fold. The population surrounding the missile range in NM is close to 500k.

So some accomodations with safety are going to be have to be made, like it or not, until such time as their rocket makes it through the same standards are met as for aircraft. For teh time being, that does mean a 'Flight Termination Package'.

Yes, that means exactly what you'd expect.

The couple pictures sent to me are in the next post.

Exoskeleton Tech Update

Exoskeletons are strutting out of the lab—and they are carrying their creators with them

Science-fiction fans have long become accustomed to the idea of steely commandos clad in robotic exoskeletons taking on huge, vicious, extraterrestrial beasts, shadowy evil cyborgs, or even each other. Supersoldiers encased in sleek, self-powered armor figure memorably in such works as Robert A. Heinlein's 1959 novel Starship Troopers, Joe W. Haldeman's 1975 The Forever War, and many other books and movies. In 1999's A Good Old-Fashioned Future, for example, Bruce Sterling writes of a soldier dying after crashing in his "power-armor, a leaping, brick-busting, lightning-spewing exoskeleton."

Today, in Japan and the United States, engineers are finally putting some practical exoskeletons through their paces outside of laboratories. But don't look for these remarkable new systems to bust bricks or spew lightning. The very first commercially available exoskeleton, scheduled to hit the market in Japan next month, is designed to help elderly and disabled people walk, climb stairs, and carry things around. Built by Cyberdyne Inc., in Tsukuba, Japan, this exoskeleton, called HAL-5, will cost about 1.5 million yen (around US $13 800).

Meanwhile, in the United States, the most advanced exoskeleton projects are at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Sarcos Research Corp., in Salt Lake City. Both are funded under a $50 million, five-year program begun by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, in 2001. During the past several months, each group has been working on a second-generation exoskeleton that is a huge improvement over its predecessor. Little information about the new models had been officially released by press time, but IEEE Spectrum has learned that the Berkeley unit was successfully tested in a park near the campus this past summer and the latest Sarcos model was demonstrated to a panel of military observers at Fort Belvoir, Va., last April.

Read more here.

That's some rather impressive stuff. I was rather aware of the BLEEX project. I'm very encouraged that they have their newest one working such that they can run (up to ~5 mph) and that it even supposedly allows a wearer to dance if they like. I'm also curious about the Sarcos model especially if theirs allows a user to stumble and not get crushed.

If you work out the strengths invovled with either system, it happens to be just enough to put on a full body suit of the bullet proof material that is used in the vests used in Iraq right now. Interesting that. More interesting is that it makes your average AK not so useful. It will also not be ready for some time. My bet is about 2015 for the first ones to get rolled out.

The Japanese aren't slacking off either. Betcha they go mecha some time soon too. ;)

Bright Spot on Titan not What They Thought

A 300-mile-wide patch that outshines everything else on Titan at long infrared wavelengths appears not to be a mountain, a cloud or a geologically active hot spot, University of Arizona scientists and Cassini team members say.

"We must be looking at a difference in surface composition," said Jason W. Barnes, a postdoctoral researcher at UA's Lunar and Planetary Lab. "That's exciting because this is the first evidence that says not all of the bright areas on Titan are the same. Now we have to figure out what those differences are, what might have caused them."

Read more here.

Friday, October 07, 2005

NATO to Ukraine: Do. Don't Talk.

NATO on Friday urged Ukraine's overhauled government to stop talking about its hopes of joining the alliance and the European Union and get on with turning itself into a strong democracy.

While the EU is seen as reticent about any further enlargement, some in NATO believe Kiev could receive an invitation as early as 2008 to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation [emphasis added] -- but provided it sees through political and defence reforms.

"The key message this morning was: 'Actions speak louder than words'," NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters after talks with new Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov, on his maiden visit to Brussels.

The message was strikingly similar to that delivered by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Thursday, who urged Kiev "not to talk all the time about (EU) membership but to achieve concrete results".

Read more here.

Ukraine's gotta beat that corruption down. Otherwise, it'll languish on the frontiers of the West and forever be the other side of the border borderland. The only ones who can do that reform are, well, the Ukrainians.

Scientists Confirm Early Toxic Seas

NASA exobiology researchers confirmed Earth's oceans were once rich in sulfides that would prevent advanced life forms, such as fish and mammals, from thriving. The research was funded in part by NASA's exobiology program.

A team of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, working with colleagues from Australia and the United Kingdom, analyzed the fossilized remains of photosynthetic pigments preserved in 1.6 billion-year-old rocks from the McArthur Basin in Northern Australia.

They found evidence of photosynthetic bacteria that require sulfides and sunlight to live. Known as purple and green sulfur bacteria because of their respective pigment colorations, these single-celled microbes can only live in environments where they simultaneously have access to sulfides and sunlight.

The researchers also found very low amounts of the fossilized remains of algae and oxygen-producing cyanobacteria. The relative scarcity of these organisms is due to poisoning by large amounts of sulfide.

"This work suggests Earth's oceans may have been hostile to animal and plant life until relatively recently," said Dr. Carl Pilcher, NASA's senior scientist for astrobiology. "If so, this would have profound implications for the evolution of modern life."

Interesting. Read more here.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Ukraine's future is "in Europe".

Ukraine on Thursday (6 October) got the clearest signal so far that it is in the queue for enlargement, as well as the promise of an EU visa deal by December.

"Our door remains open. The future of Ukraine is in Europe", European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said after a meeting with Kiev's new prime minister Yuri Yekhanurov in Brussels.

From here or here.

They were told that they need to work on their ... issues, but that they are on the radar for the future for expansion of the EU. Interesting that on many levels and it'll help Ukrainians in their efforts if they know there is an end goal.

Pterosaur Image

Picture of the two I already reported.

Plesiosaurs Had Unexpected Diet

The fossilized last meals of two giant marine reptiles show the ancient animals used their long necks to trawl for clams, snails, and crabs along the seabed, according to a new study.

The discovery, based on the remains of two plesiosaurs unearthed in Queensland, Australia, challenges the long-held idea that these impressive ocean predators targeted only fish, squid, and other free-swimming prey.

Study co-author Alex Cook, assistant curator of fossils at the Queensland Museum, says the team was surprised by the fossilized sea creatures' last meals, eaten between 100 and 110 million years ago.

"Throughout the stomach region [of one specimen] were bits of broken clam and snail shell," Cook said. "There was also a fossilized food mass from the intestine, which was basically a solid lump of broken shell.

"This elasmosaur wasn't bothering much with fish—it was feeding almost entirely on bottom-dwelling mollusks."

The other elasmosaur's stomach contained crab and crustacean fragments.

Read more here.

That's totally unexpected.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Russia Still Gets it Wrong on Ukraine

Russian leaders were delighted, even gleeful, when Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was fired in early September. Their unabashed gloating confirms that Moscow still does not realize why its interference in the 2004 Ukrainian presidential elections failed so miserably (see EDM, September 23). Instead, Russian officials have continued to look wistfully toward Ukraine.

Russian leaders believe that the ongoing political crisis could lead to Ukraine's disintegration or civil war between eastern and western Ukraine. If the country divides, Ukraine might return to Russia and end President Viktor Yushchenko's pro-Western foreign policy. These scenarios are decidedly wrong.

Read more here.

This is a pretty good article about the Ukrainian-Russian relations and why Russia just doesn't 'get it'.

Two new pterosaur species

Paleontologists have uncovered the remains of two new flying reptile species that shared the skies with early birds 120 million years ago in what is now China.

The two species, Feilongus youngi and Nurhachius ignaciobritoi, belong to a family of flying reptiles known as pterosaurs. Both were discovered in Liaoning, a northeastern province of China famous for yielding fossils of bird-like dinosaurs.

Feilongus had two crests atop its head running from front to back, one along its foot-long snout and another on the back of its head. It had a slight overbite and its teeth were curved and needle-shaped, while that of Nurhachius were pointed and triangular.

Read more here.

Hayabusa has problems...

Japan's Hayabusa asteroid sample-return spacecraft has lost the use of a second reaction wheel, forcing increased reliance on its chemical-propellant thrusters for attitude control and raising questions about whether it can make its planned asteroid touchdown in November, Japan's Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) announced Oct. 4.

Read more here.

Iran remains on cusp of entering satellite club

The launch into space of Iran's first satellites - reconnaissance satellite Mesbah (Lantern) and research satellite Sina-1 - has been postponed from the scheduled date of 30 September due to a malfunction in the Sina-1 satellite.

The press chief of the Russian Space Troops, Colonel Alexei Kuznetsov, told the Itar-Tass news agency that the launch was postponed because of a delay in the manufacture of the Sina-1, which was assembled by Polyot of Omsk.

However, when the launch does go ahead in the coming weeks, it will make Iran the 43rd country to possess its own satellites and a member of the much more exclusive club of countries with spy satellites.

Iran unveiled its military space programme in 1998, when the then defence minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani declared that the future design of Iran's intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), the Shahab 4, would be capable of launching payloads into orbit. Iranian television presented a mock-up of a future satellite launch vehicle, dubbed IRIS, which appeared to be a three-stage, constant-diameter launcher based on the Iranian Shahab 3 and North Korean No-dong IRBMs.

There's not much more to read here unless you pay.

With Iran acquiring spy sats and the capability to put their own sats in orbit seriously changes their position in the global power structure. If they do explode a nuclear weapon, life gets...really strange.

Persian Empire reborn?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

NASA, Industry Partners Complete Tests of Solar Sails

NASA engineers and their industry partners have successfully deployed two 400-square-meter solar sails during ground testing. This is a critical milestone in the development of a unique propulsion technology that uses the Sun to propel vehicles through space.


The 20-by-20-meter solar sail systems, large, sprawling sheets of material that resemble extremely thin pieces of aluminum foil supported by a series of booms, were developed by two engineering firms, ATK Space Systems of Goleta, Calif., and L'Garde Inc., of Tustin, Calif. Their work is led by the In-Space Propulsion Technology Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Both companies successfully and safely completed a series of system tests at NASA Glenn Research Center's Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio. The tests were conducted in Plum Brook's Space Power Facility, the world's largest space environment simulation chamber.

L’Garde concluded its systems and deployment testing in July. The tests subjected the sail to temperatures as cold as minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit to simulate the conditions of space. The sail technology uses an inflatable, thermally rigidized boom system, which is heated prior to inflation and then becomes stiff in cold space environment conditions. The boom is the core of the support structure for the thin, reflective solar sail itself and includes a stowage structure and built-in deployment mechanism. Engineers used a computer-controlled boom pressurization system to initiate deployment of the boom and sail system.

ATK Space Systems completed testing of its 400-square-meter solar sail system in May. This sail employs a “coilable” graphite boom, extended or uncoiled via remote control -- much the way a screw is rotated to remove it from an object. The boom supports the lightweight sail, which is made of an aluminized, temperature-resistant material called CP-1. Named NASA's 1999 Invention of the Year, CP-1 was invented by NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and is produced under exclusive license by SRS Technologies of Huntsville. The boom system also includes a central stowage structure and deployment mechanism.

Read more here.

Space Based Weapons Bun Fight: Senate NFIRE Proposal

U.S. Senate appropriators have approved language that could reignite a debate over developing and fielding space-based weapons.

The Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC), which recently finished its version of the fiscal 2006 defense appropriations bill, has proposed reviving the Missile Defense Agency's canceled plans for adding a kill vehicle to the Near Field InfraRed (NFIRE) satellite. The NFIRE satellite is designed to track launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles to increase understanding about how hostile missiles perform early in flight.

MDA stopped pursuing the kill vehicle amid objections from congressional authorizers concerned that the device might collide with a missile and fuel perceptions that the United States is weaponizing space. But in its report on the bill, the SAC told MDA to finish developing the kill vehicle and integrate it onto the NFIRE satellite, saying the kill vehicle could provide "critical" risk reduction for developing missile defense interceptors.


"This starts that whole food fight again," said Theresa Hitchens, director of the World Security Institute's Center for Defense Information.

Read more here.

It's interesting that it is the Senate instead of the House that's arguing for this. That would imply a pretty big shift in thinking on the Hill.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Planetary Society Decides to Try Again


With our members’ support, we are raising funds to build and fly another solar sail [emphasis added], and we are seeking new sponsors. We are evaluating technical options, and we are committed to finding a launch vehicle that won’t fail us next time. Our Russian colleagues at the Lavochkin Association, who built Cosmos 1, and the Institute for Space Research (IKI), who were in charge of the electronics, are doing their best to help us, while taking into account the hardware, software, and intellectual investment we have already made.



Where do I send the check for my part of Cosmos 2?

Read more here.

Russians Ponder Unification with Ukraine, Belarus

Many adults in the Russian Federation would welcome the creation of a new country with a neighbouring former Soviet Republic, according to a poll by the Yury Levada Analytical Center. 71 per cent of respondents believe forming a single state encompassing Russia and Ukraine would be positive.

Read more here.

The Great Russians Mentality is alive and well. *sighs*

For Canadians, they ought to understand and sympathize with the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians do not want to be Russians. The Russians like the idea of adding Ukraine to their country (again). Sound familiar? The difference being that the US is no longer looking to annex Canada by force (if at all).

Both Russia and America have poisoned the wells rather completely these days for those sort of prospects too. As much as Canada might be sore at the US for various things, what Russia (historically, in its various guises) has done to Ukraine is orders of magnitude worse.

Canuckistanis as Bad as the US Religious Right...

...for genetic science. Okay. Now that I have your blood up. Forbes has a very interesting article about the individuals that have recently worked their version of a bill that has repeatedly failed to pass here in the States banning genetic engineering.

At a business conference this summer in Toronto Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, told the Canadians again and again how wonderful they are--how open to new ideas, how tolerant, how diverse and therefore how potentially creative. Unlike the U.S., which is afflicted by divisiveness and the religious right, Canada is a model country. That was his story, at any rate.

A few hours later I picked up a newspaper and got a different view. On the op-ed page a scientist was pleading for Canada to repeal its law against cloning human embryos for research. In tolerant, open-minded, diverse and creative Canada therapeutic cloning--defined as creating an in vitro embryo with the same chromosomes as any other individual--is a crime punishable by ten years in prison.

In the divisive, religiously addled U.S. a similar measure has failed repeatedly to become federal law. (Some states ban therapeutic cloning.)

U.S. scientists and their supporters tend to assume biomedical research is threatened by know-nothings on religious crusades. But as the Canadian law illustrates, the long-term threat to genetic research comes less from the religious right than from the secular left. Canada's law forbids all sorts of genetic manipulations, many of them currently theoretical. It's a crime, for instance, to alter inheritable genes.


Genetic research also offends egalitarians. They fear that the rich will benefit first or that money for research will come from social programs. Social justice, argues Marcy Darnovsky of the Center for Genetics & Society in Oakland, Calif., "means not just ‘no designer babies,' but also ‘no designer medicine.'"

These intellectual influences are stronger in Europe (and Canada) than in the U.S. But two equally threatening ideas do crop up frequently among mainstream Democrats: that commerce taints medicine (those evil drug companies!) and that any activity that has social consequences ought to be centrally regulated.

The Center for Genetics & Society praises Canada, among other countries, for adopting a comprehensive law to "prohibit unacceptable activities, require public oversight of acceptable activities and establish socially accountable structures for revising policies or setting new ones."


Let me reemphasize something from the article again:

Canada's law forbids all sorts of genetic manipulations, many of them currently theoretical. It's a crime, for instance, to alter inheritable genes.

Even though that it is something that will not be an option for my children, alas, genetic engineering to remove inheritable problems willbe an option for my grandchildren. Ridding us of this almost crippling myopia, the diabetes that is prolly in recessive still, and the potential problems of Alzheimers that look like they inhabit my wife's side of the family is going to be a pretty big prioirity for us in the end. Yes, there will prolly be the desire to get a lot of other things down as well that are not that important, the more aesthetic changes, but that isn't what I worry about. I worry about some jackoff denying us the right to rid our descendants of all the nasty little recessives that we've accumulated. Aggressive outbreeding is great for preventing the problems of recessives from coming to the top. However, there's prolly a lot of them - little genetic bugs - hiding in the code and we want to be rid of them. In fact, being rid of them would prolly reduce the medical costs to this country...