Friday, September 16, 2011
A 34,000 km2 rectangle of land straddling the border of Virginia and West
Virginia surrounds The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, the world's
largest fully steerable radio telescope. The site was chosen partly
because the Allegheny Mountains block the horizontal propagation of radio
signals, but mostly because Robert C Byrd (D-WV) was one powerful US
Senator. Radio transmission in the zone is either limited or banned
outright. In addition to radio astronomers, the quiet zone has also
attracted a colony of people who say they suffer from Electromagnetic
Hypersensitivity (EHS). They certainly suffer from something, but EHS is
not medically recognized in the US. In a BBC News interview last week I
suggested that the appropriate treatment for a non-ailment such as EHS
would be homeopathic medicine.
In a move that could end deep space exploration, congressional budget
cutters left off the $15 million needed to restart the production of Pu-
238. Pu-238 is not bomb stuff; it's a non-fissile isotope used to supply
heat for thermoelectric generators (RTGs). With no moving parts, RTGs are
one of the simplest and most reliable technologies ever devised. They
generate electrical power to operate long-duration space missions too
distant from the Sun for solar panels. Let's see, that will cut a $300
billion budget by 0.0005%. Well, it's a start.
NOTICE: I HELD THIS ISSUE UNTIL 9/18/2011 SO I COULD INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING.
The New York Times says that on Monday President Obama will call for a new
tax rate for individuals making more than $1 million a year. It would
require them to pay at least the same percentage of their earnings as
middle-income taxpayers. Republican politicians lost no time in declaring
this to be the opening shot in a class war. It's been a class war all
along. All that's changed is that the war is no longer undeclared.
Obama's proposal comes a month after Warren Buffett wrote in the New York
Times that: "My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a
billionaire-friendly Congress. It's time for our government to get serious
about shared sacrifice." Why shouldn't those who benefited most from our
system be willing to return more.
The audience at a recent GOP presidential debate applauded the observation
that Texas Governor Rick Perry, an Evangelical Christian, has presided over
a record 234 executions, more than any other governor in US history, with
another one scheduled for Thursday.