Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

ebolaThere is a chilling international report out of this week on the origins of the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Researchers from the United States and Africa were able to trace the origins of the outbreak to a funeral in Guinea. The report expanded the data on Ebola by 400 percent. However, the standard listing of authors on the study have a chilling notation, a “‡” designation for “Deceased.” Five team members died in the effort to trace this Ebola stain and the release of the report honors their extraordinary sacrifice.

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250px-Chinese_Kilo_in_serviceChina appears to be close to one of the greatest technological breakthroughs in military history: the supersonic submarine. I know that that sounds ridiculous but it is possible. As a military buff, I had to share the story. The submarine is based on “supercavitation” technology that was used earlier on torpedo technology but the Chinese have reportedly used to envelop an entire submarine that could theoretically allow it to cover the distance between Shanghai to San Francisco in less than two hours. If that (likely hyperbolic claim) is attainable, it would constitute less time than it sometimes takes to just get through the security line at Dulles International airport (of course some international flights seem shorter than TSA lines these days). It is not clear what the submarine would look like (this is a conventional nuclear Chinese submarine).

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By Charlton Stanley, weekend writer

FAA logoAlmost everyone likes model airplanes. Kids and adults have been building model flying machines for centuries. In fact, the Wright brothers experimented with model helicopters as well as fixed wing airplanes. I built my first model when I was nine years old. It was a Guillow’s kit of a Grumman TBF Avenger, the same plane flown by Lt. George H. W. Bush during WW-2. It is amazing to me the same kit is still in production, although a bit more pricey than when my dad bought mine.

When Congress passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, they carved out an exemption for model airplanes and aeromodeling in general. As passed by Congress, §336 prohibits the FAA from promulgating any new rule or regulation regarding model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft …” The law does specify that certain requirements must be met for an aircraft to qualify as a model airplane. However, that did not deter the FAA in its quest to amass more power over anything that can get off the ground higher than the Administrator can jump. After all, the space between the trees in your backyard, the local park, or your model flying club IS airspace, and they see their job as controlling airspace, dammit! All of it.

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By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

VIDEO Snakes Revenge As Severed Head Bites And Kills ChefEating habits in Guangdong Province, China are likely about to change. There, the Indochinese spitting cobra is a prized delicacy. The preparation of the serpent is a time-honored tradition but yesterday something went terribly wrong for Chef Peng Fan of Foshan. Disposing of the head of the snake that had been killed twenty minutes before, Fan was fatally bitten and died before the anti-venom could be administered. Spitting cobra venom contains  one of the world’s most powerful neurotoxins that kills within hours of injection by suppressing involuntary muscles which control respiration.

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Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 7.04.48 AMI have got to get myself one of these. Whooshh Innovations have developed a solution (shown below in the video) to the falling salmon populations. The salmon had been kept from their migrating areas by a series of dams. The obstacles at dams leave them “disoriented” and lost. So enter the “salmon cannon” — a pneumatic tube that can shoot up to 40 fish a minute to up to 22 mph. Apparently, getting shot out of a cannon is less disorienting to the salmon but, come on, who would not want to be shot out of a cannon? It is the ultimately water park attraction for the high-end gill crowd.

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By Charlton Stanley, weekend writer

FAA logoThe Federal Aviation Administration issues medical certificates for pilots. There are three levels of medical certificates. Class I, Class II and Class III. The most stringent is the Class I. That is an extremely rigorous medical standard, and must be renewed every six months. This level of certification is for Air Transport Pilots who haul airliners full of passengers. The Class II is for all other commercial pilots. Not as stringent as Class I, but still quite high standards. The Class III medical is for private pilots, and is good for two years. The Class III medical examination is still a strict examination. One of the requirements is to fill out a list of EVERY doctor’s visit not already reported.  That means every visit to your family doctor for anything from a runny nose or worse. Do as I did a couple of weeks ago. Gashed my thumb on a piece of glass, and went to the emergency room for some stitches. Required to report that? Oh, yes indeed!

That application form is submitted to the FAA “Under Penalty of Perjury,” so errors of both commission and omission can and do result in draconian penalties.  One thing that sets off alarms at the FAA is a visit to a psychiatrist or psychologist. Many veterans have not sought treatment for combat related stress problems for fear of losing their license. I know a number of former Vietnam and Desert Storm combat pilots whom I suspect suffer from untreated PTSD in silence because they know if they see a VA psychologist or psychiatrist, a PTSD diagnosis is a license killer.  Yet, some of these pilots have been flying safely since the 1960s.

The requirements for passing a Third Class medical are the least strict, but are nevertheless stringent, especially if the pilot reports having sought mental health counseling.

Several years ago, in 2004, the FAA created a new class of pilot called Sport Pilot. Sport Pilots and are not required to have a Third Class medical certificate. A current and valid driver’s license will suffice. A Sport Pilot’s license is required to fly a light sport aircraft (LSA), but doesn’t need a medical certificate. A state issued driver’s license is sufficient. A Sport Pilot may not fly aircraft exceedomg the limits set by the LSA rule.

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Seal_of_the_California_State_UniversityTriceratops-skull-Zachi-Evenor-002There is a controversy at the California State University where scientist Mark Armitage claims that he was fired for his creationist beliefs as an evangelical Christian. Armitage recently published a paper where he suggested that soft tissue that he found in a triceratops suggested that the animal died no more than 4000 years ago rather than the common view putting extinction at 65 million years ago. The school is investigating his claim of religious discrimination.

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