Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

earth-screensaver_largeYes, we actually have some good news to report about the environment. The United Nations has issued a report with NASA photos showing that the giant hole in Earth’s ozone layer is shrinking. The ozone layer protects us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays and was being destroyed by the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Over vehement objections from industry that curtailing CFCs would destroy the economy, new laws forced the use of substitutes and the result has been predictable and encouraging.

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By Charlton Stanley, Weekend Writer

FAA logoLast year, in a virtually unprecedented move, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Aerospace Medicine ordered that all pilots who applied for a medical certificate would have their Body Mass Index (BMI) calculated. If the BMI was 40 or greater, a sleep study became mandatory in order for the medical certificate to be granted. In other words, the pilot has to prove he or she does not have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

This announcement of new rules bypassed completely a request for comments from the public, which is mandated by law. One day the rule did not exist, the next day there was a new rule requiring horrendously expensive and intrusive testing by a board certified specialist in sleep studies.

It got worse. The policy, published in the Federal Air Surgeon’s Medical Bulletin, Vol. 51, No. 4, goes on to say, “Airman applicants with a BMI of 40 or more will have to be evaluated by a physician who is a board certified sleep specialist, and anyone who is diagnosed with OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) will have to be treated before they can be medically certificated.” The kicker? The order makes it clear the standard will eventually be expanded to include pilots with an even lower BMI, whether they have any history of daytime sleepiness or sleep disorder. The order is based on BMI alone.

The FAA does not provide any accident or statistical data to justify this extraordinary rulemaking at all. Why? Because there isn’t any.

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Djoser_Pyramid_-_1900-1Last year, I wrote a column about how there appears to be little accountability in government for gross negligence, as shown by the response to the debacle over the rollout of the Obamacare website and billions wasted or lost in Afghanistan and Iraq. Egypt has shown that this is not just a problem in the U.S. Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities, Mamdouh Eldamaty, is under fire after rehiring a company named Shurbagy for restoration of one of Egypt’s oldest pyramids after the firm caused damage and major deterioration to the very same structure in an earlier botched job.

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earth-screensaver_largeThere is a new report on global climate change this week that addresses many of the claims being raised against the theory by critics. Despite the overwhelming agreement of the scientific community, people continue to cite anecdotal observations of cool temperatures to refute predictions. The new report crunches the climate numbers and concludes that there is less than 1 chance in 100,000 that global average temperature over the past 60 years would have been as high without human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

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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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