Dispatches from the Heat Front 4: Apocalypse NOW

I tried to write about how extreme the weather has been in the PNW. I wrote at Wonkette & here on my blog. I tried to keep track of high temps, excessively high low temps, fires, and other important aspects of this heat wave. But I wasn’t willing to state that it was the most extreme heat wave event in the history of meteorology. I just don’t have the knowledge necessary to make such a judgement.

So don’t take it from me. Take it from climate scientists (source: Common Dreams):

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Fucking Latvia. I bet this is rq’s fault somehow.

Apparently there was a secret plot hatched in Latvia 5 millennia ago to release Yersinia pestis into the world in order to take down Constantinople, usher in the Dark Ages, and then prolong them by sweeping through the entirety of Europe in the 14th Century. Per Agence France Presse:

Researchers said Tuesday they had found its first known victim: a hunter-gatherer who lived 5,000 years ago in what is now Latvia, whose remains carried the Yersinia pestis bacteria that causes the disease.

“The analyses of the strain we identified shows that Y. pestis evolved earlier than thought,” Ben Krause-Kyora, head of the aDNA Laboratory at the University of Kiel in Germany, told AFP.

Notice how they aren’t even investigating the possibility that Y. pestis escaped from an early Latvian virology lab? Yet more evidence of widespread conspiracy. The only way to combat this is to rename the Black Death. From now on, we’re calling it the Latvian Plague.


Dispatches from the Heat Front 3: Comparisons

I’m going to give you some data. I realize that this data won’t necessarily match what you’re seeing on your local news or on your favorite weather app. The Environment Canada temps may be different than temperatures recorded by other entities (for instance, Weather.com might aggregate data from local TV stations, while EC’s station might be located in a different spot in the same town). So you won’t consistently get one high temp for a city between different websites. One site might have more shade, or be located at a slightly different elevation. My own thermometer is consistently one or one & a half degrees (celsius) warmer than reported local highs, but during windstorms our max wind speeds are typically much slower. So you can’t compare cross platform.

But you can compare EC weather data this year to past years, and right now Campbell River is about 2 degrees over its highest recorded temp on this date in past years. Sure, okay, that doesn’t sound too bad. But it’s Celsius, so it’s more like 3 degrees Fahrenheit to you in the States. It’s not creeping over the past record, this is a solid smashing of the record.

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Video of Perseverance Landing

Many of us watched in real time as NASA got signals from Perseverance sent during its landing maneuvers. However, what we actually watched was video from earth of NASA’s team responding to this news + supplemental videos that were recorded in advance, including a simulation of the landing procedure.

It takes quite a while to send data from Mars to Earth. We can’t easily send a multi-frequency or high-frequency signal. We use radio frequencies for a good bit of the data transfer, and radio frequencies carry very little information compared to, say, a household internet connection. The ubiquitous household internet connections in 2020, after all, allow real time video. But radio signals do not.

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By the time you read this… PERSEVERANCE IS SAFE ON MARS! (Updated: Now with Pics!)

We’re at 3 minutes until Perseverance hits the Martian atmosphere. Are you watching?

The livestream is available at this link.

Chute opened, Perseverance now sub-sonic & under 10km altitude. Instruments have begun looking directly at Mars surface to direct the landing.

As soon as I hit update, they announced “radar lock” on the ground in the landing area.

“Valid solution” produced by nav system.

Velocity 83 m/s. Back shell has separated, altitude of 1000 m.

30 m/s, altitude 300 m.

Sky crane maneuver started…

20 m off the surface




touchdown confirmed!


“This is so surreal.”

“Stay tuned, we might get some pictures!”

“Still receiving a strong signal from the lander. … Perseverance is alive on the surface of Mars and we’re getting the first image.”

First image is one taken from when the lander was still in the sky.

First image from the surface is from the Nav camera, which is lower-res & just designed to avoid obstacles. Higher resolution has to wait for the wider-bandwidth connection to be established later in the day.

Now some big ol’ nerd talking about how working together brings success. WHAT. A. NAIF.


Student question from Landon Applegate! Wants to know about using resources present on Mars to help future missions instead of carrying everything with us. NASA Executive Assistant Vice-Nerd talks about an experiment that would test bringing up water from the soil & purifying it & even making oxygen from it.

Student question from Sophia Lopes! How will Perseverance survive? Jessica Stewart answers with information about the solar panels & heaters that help survival functions locally, but also shouts out to the human team who will constantly monitor the signals from the rover & work to prevent & diagnose problems that might threaten the probe.

Now it’s Wright Brothers footage introducing the helicopter-probe Ingenuity, the first powered aircraft we’ve sent to another planet.

Heh. They have a “chief pilot” for the helicopter. Heh.

Bob Balaram, Chief Nerd of Special Nerding Projects Related to Ingenuity (on Ingenuity’s helicopter flight experiment): “There’s a very good chance that we’ll pull it off, but there’s still a risk.”

Mimi Aung on now, also talking about Ingenuity: “We’ve been working on this for 6 years. … We have a series of major milestones [to pass] before Ingenuity’s first flight. …Surviving the first cold, frigid night on Mars will be a major milestone.” Goes on to talk about specific checks they’ll perform, and how the first flight will be only 3 meters just so that they can evaluate the performance before sending Ingenuity higher & farther, which, of course, comes with bigger risks.

Social media question: “Is the helicopter going to be doing science?”

Mimi replies: It’s a technology demonstration … “so we’re not doing science. We’re concentrating on engineering, data, on how [Ingenuity] will perform.” Of course, she’s underselling this, since validating the computer models is science, but hey. I think I understand why she answered “no” though.

And they’re now concluding this NASA.tv broadcast with a cover of Bowie’s Life on Mars with social-media shared photos of random people celebrating safe touchdown of Perseverance. It’s kinda cute, especially the kid with the Lego Perseverance.

LOL – and they threw in a tweet from Rick Astley. Well played, NASA, well played.

More updates as events warrant…


…but I guess they won’t warrant anymore. Still, when pictures become available later, I’ll probably throw them here. Might make a new post, but probably I’ll just update this one.


I always want to call it “Jezebel Crater”.

Yes, it’s an argument for nuclear power

While I actively campaigned to get rid of a nuclear power plant in the PNW that had been offered an extended license, and while nuclear power advocates can sometimes annoy me (much like militant vegans can annoy me despite my vegan diet) when they repeat fossil-fuel industries’ talking points bashing renewable power, there is sure as hell an argument for nuclear power being incorporated into our modern energy mixture, and it’s this:

While much of the criticism surrounding the burning of fossil fuels focuses on the long term impacts to the health of the planet, it can also have devastating short-term effects on the health of the human population. A new study led by Harvard scientists has shed new light on the extent of this problem, finding air pollution arising from fossil fuels to be responsible for more than eight million deaths around the world in 2018.

While I’m all for passive energy projects such as tidal, wave, solar, and wind, and while it’s quite obvious we could do more than we’re doing, quicker than we’re doing it, nuclear power, for all its risks, isn’t nearly as damaging as the fossil fuel industry. There have been deaths in uranium mining and during disasters such as Chernobyl, and, yes, Chernobyl even contaminated many square kilometers, forcing the evacuation of humans and creating demographically certain suffering for many animals, the harms simply do not compare to the scale of harms created by fossil fuel extraction and transportation. And, of course, the use of fossil fuels is another matter entirely: the burning of fossil fuels threatens global climate systems with massive change, which in turn leaves living things in changed environments, environments to which they are not adapted and because of which they might go extinct.

If we can save lives and reduce damage to the environment by building new nuclear power plants we should. Eight million deaths so that we can fill our cars in minutes instead of hours is cruelest indifference.


Silicone Science

Sometimes I despair at the continuing naïveté of scientists. From those who think we’re going to use new weapons responsibly to those who trust that grant money will be given out on the basis of which research holds the most promise to benefit the earth or humanity, researchers in any field can be startlingly ignorant of how their work will ultimately be used.

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Most Important News Story Of The Day

Oh, sure, we could go with something election related. Or we could follow in Wonkette’s footsteps & write about how Kentucky’s Attorney General brazenly lied about the grand jury’s investigation of Breonna Taylor’s killer cops (yes, we’re talking about murderous cops and not about people who kill cops) and about how the dishonest AG was counting on grand jury secrecy to keep his lies from being discovered even as he continued to break required silence on grand jury proceedings with no one to arrest him (since that would be the AG’s job, which would be him) and, finally, about how a new ruling on behalf of a grand jury member who wanted to be able to speak publicly about aspects of the proceedings which the AG had already (falsely) described without going to jail. That’s an important story, an Wonkette has a good write up of it, but it’s not the most important story of the day.

We will, of course, miss the work of James Randi, but while personally affecting, I feel the story lacks quite as much public impact as even the story about the release of the Taylor grand jury transcript’s release. The story about Giuliani’s bid to bed a Borat Betty is amusing if you’re in the right frame of mind, but that’s not important at all. There’s all sorts of election news, of course, but much of it is horse-race nonsense. The election is not won or lost based on polls conducted 2-3 weeks before election day.

No, there’s only one most important news story today:

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Holy Shit! Man Walks on Fucking Superconductor!

This from the University of Rochester seems credible to me (though of course IANAP), and in another sense absolutely, positively incredible. Someone has created a “room temperature superconductor” – though a rather cool room, by USA standards, at 14.5/58 degrees.

Obviously it’s a one-off. Like Apollo 11 was not the start of lunar tourism, this breakthrough is not the beginning of superconducting electromagnets powering your car. Still, you can’t get to lunar tourism without an Apollo 11, and you can’t get to cars & kids toys with superconducting electromagnets without work like that of the University of Rochester.

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