October 5, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 PM


Far side of the moon revealed, half a century ago : The images are patchy and blurry, but the first photos of the moon's far side were still a revelation. Tim Wallace, 10/05/17, cOSMOS)

For as long as humans have been able to appreciate the night sky, we have looked up at a more-or-less unchanging moonface. That's because the Moon is locked in what is known as synchronous rotation: it orbits the Earth once every 27.322 days, and revolves on its axis at almost the exact same speed. It wasn't always this way, but the gravitational effect of the Earth's tidal forces has slowed the rotation over time. The effect is called 'tidal locking' or 'captured rotation'.

All that changed when Luna 3 flew around the Moon's far side. With its fly-by timed to ensure the hidden hemisphere was facing the Sun, it passed within 64,000 kilometres of the surface and snapped 29 images with a photo-television camera over 40 minutes. Of those images, 15 (or 17, accounts vary) were successfully transmitted back to Earth. [...]

Through the quality of the Luna 3 images was poor, they provided the means to create the very first atlas of the Moon's far side. Published by USSR Academy of Sciences the following year, the atlas catalogued 500 distinguishable geographic features. Others followed.

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 PM


Exclusive: Mueller's team met with Russia dossier author (Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Pamela Brown, 10/05/17, CNN)

Information from Christopher Steele, a former MI-6 officer, could help investigators determine whether contacts between people associated with the Trump campaign and suspected Russian operatives broke any laws.

CNN has learned that the FBI and the US intelligence community last year took the Steele dossier more seriously than the agencies have publicly acknowledged. [...]

The intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA, and the FBI took Steele's research seriously enough that they kept it out of a publicly-released January report on Russian meddling in the election in order to not divulge which parts of the dossier they had corroborated and how.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 PM


Report: Kelly, Tillerson, Mattis met at White House after "moron" report (Axios, 10/05/17)

Trump fumed for two hours Wednesday morning after the report emerged, per NBC, and was even angrier when Tillerson didn't deny having called Trump a moron during a press conference later in the day.

Posted by orrinj at 9:59 AM



[T]he cost of most of life's necessities, from food to clothing to shelter, has stabilized or dropped over the past two decades care of the deflationary effects of technology. It isn't just that you can get a large flat-screen TV for next to nada. You can get a car that uses less fuel and is far safer for less money (inflation adjusted) than a gas guzzler of yesteryear. Thank, in part, composite materials, which also require less energy to produce than 20th century steel. You can get a smorgasbord of caloric abundance for a fraction of the cost of a much less varied diet in 1950; you can access new medicines to extend lives by years; and you can access for free on the Internet incalculable reams of data, costing you nothing but your time.

For some aspects of our lives, there is no apples-to-apples comparison with the past. With Moore's Law and the compression of data and power, today's smartphones are the equivalent of yesterday's supercomputer that cost 1,000 times as much, guzzled electricity and demanded expensive cooling systems. Electrifying a grid that needed to fuel that and billions of incandescent bulbs was costly compared with the dollop of energy needed to power LEDs. That washing machine, with its smart chips monitoring the size of your load? That smart thermostat in your home dynamically adjusting heat and air-conditioning? They also reduce costs, and overall electric demand, even in their limited numbers so far.

And this doesn't even begin to adjust for the possible efficiencies and benefits of the app economy that can connect buyers of goods and services with sellers with fewer frictional costs of middlemen scheduling and booking and coordinating. The TaskRabbit and Uber economy has pitfalls to be sure, but it surely does not drive prices up.

These are a tiny fraction of the examples of how our economy differs from the 20th century industrial economy. Similar changes are under way in the developing world, as labor gives way to robotics and basic goods become affordable and accessible to the planet's billions. 

Nor does it adjust for Thatcher and Reagan ending wage inflation and resuming the expansion of free trade twenty years before that.
Posted by orrinj at 5:54 AM


Inside the Founding Fathers' Debate Over What Constituted an Impeachable Offense : If not for three sparring Virginia delegates, Congress's power to remove a president would be even more limited than it already is (Erick Trickey, 10/02/17, SMITHSONIAN.COM )

The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia was winding down, the draft of the United States' supreme law almost finished, and George Mason, the author of Virginia's Declaration of Rights, was becoming alarmed. Over the course of the convention, the 61-year-old had come to fear the powerful new government his colleagues were creating. Mason thought the president could become a tyrant as oppressive as George III.

So on September 8, 1787, he rose to ask his fellow delegates a question of historic importance. Why, Mason asked, were treason and bribery the only grounds in the draft Constitution for impeaching the president? Treason, he warned, wouldn't include "attempts to subvert the Constitution."

After a sharp back-and-forth with fellow Virginian James Madison, Mason came up with another category of impeachable offenses: "other high crimes and misdemeanors." Americans have debated the meaning of this decidedly open-ended phrase ever since. But its inclusion, as well as the guidance the Founders left regarding its interpretation, offers more protection against a dangerous executive power than many realize.

Of all the Founders who debated impeachment, three Virginians--Mason, Madison and delegate Edmund Randolph--did the most to set down a vision of when Congress should remove a president from office. Though the men had very different positions on the Constitution, their debates in Philadelphia and at Virginia's ratifying convention in Richmond produced crucial definitions of an impeachable offense. And their ultimate agreement--that a president should be impeached for abuses of power that subvert the Constitution, the integrity of government, or the rule of law--remains essential to the debates we're having today, 230 years later. [...]

"Shall any man be above justice?" Mason asked. "Shall that man be above it who can commit the most extensive injustice?" A presidential candidate might bribe the electors to gain the presidency, Mason suggested. "Shall the man who has practiced corruption, and by that means procured his appointment in the first instance, be suffered to escape punishment by repeating his guilt?"

Madison argued that the Constitution needed a provision "for defending the community against the incapacity, negligence, or perfidy of the Chief Magistrate." Waiting to vote him out of office in a general election wasn't good enough. "He might pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation"-- embezzlement--"or oppression," Madison warned. "He might betray his trust to foreign powers."