Next-gen Iridium satellites to launch on SpaceX Falcon 9

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

The Iridium sat-phone company will use the Falcon 9 rocket to launch many of its replacement spacecraft.

The US firm recently announced a $2.9bn project to upgrade its network of 66 operational satellites from 2015. It has now contracted the fledgling SpaceX corporation and its brand new Falcon vehicle to put the Iridium Next constellation in orbit…

Wednesday’s deal is valued at $492m, making it one of the largest commercial launch contracts ever signed.

The Iridium Next project itself is probably the world’s biggest private space venture right now.

The Falcon could loft several satellites at once and a special mechanism to dispense multiple payloads would be developed for the task, an Iridium spokesperson told BBC News…

The Iridium constellation operates in a low-Earth orbit about 780km above the planet. The spacecraft are aligned in six planes and relay communications between themselves and ground stations to provide global coverage.

Rock on, SpaceX.

Rock on, Iridium.

Woman thrown off Ryanair flight for skin ailment

A woman was thrown off a Ryanair flight in Spain because cabin crew feared a rash on her arm was contagious, despite assurances from a doctor on the flight that it was not.

A senior flight attendant noticed spots on the arm of Patricia Roa, a 59-year-old Spanish woman, and asked her to leave the plane before take-off at Madrid’s Barajas airport last Wednesday.

Mrs Roa, who has suffered for ten years from prurigo nodularis – an itchy skin condition that is non-contagious – tried in vain to explain the nature of the disease.

A doctor who happened to be on board confirmed the diagnosis and Mrs Roa telephoned her dermatologist who offered to fax the airline a medical certificate giving permission to fly.

But staff refused to listen and order the woman and her daughter off the flight which was bound for Trapani, in Sicily. Five officers from Spain’s civil guard boarded the aircraft to escort them off after the pair refused to go quietly…

She said she had travelled all over the world and never experienced a similar problem. This was the first time she had attempted to fly with the budget airline.

Ryanair appears to be run by ignorant fools. Another great reason not to fly on their airplanes.

If their flight crew won’t accept the medical analysis of a doctor – why should anyone accept that the flight crew is qualified to be onboard? Because they say they’ve been trained and certified?

Why take their word?

Study: Relying on superstition to help you win? Good luck!

“Yes, yes, I understand. Capablanca is evil. Good kitty.”

Superstitions are often regarded as irrational and inconsequential, but researchers in Germany have been taking them seriously, trying to identify the benefits of superstitions, if any, and their underlying psychological mechanisms.

Social psychologist Lysann Damisch, who is interested in sports, noticed that many players have lucky charms or engage in superstitious behavior before their events. She realized the players thought they were gaining some benefit from the superstition, but as a scientist, Damisch wondered what benefits were gained and how the superstitions worked.

Damisch teamed with colleagues Barbara Stoberock and Thomas Mussweiler, also from the University of Cologne, to design four experiments to test the effectiveness of good-luck superstitions based on a common saying (such as saying “break a leg” to an actor before a performance), an action (such as crossing the fingers), or a lucky charm. The superstitions were tested to see whether or not they improved subsequent performance in motor dexterity, memory, solving anagrams, or playing golf…

The results of all four experiments showed the superstition did improve performance…

The research is the first time superstitions associated with good luck have been demonstrated to affect future performance beneficially. It also showed the superstition worked even if it was activated by someone else (as in the first and second experiments)…

In each case the superstition was essentially found to boost a participant’s confidence in their own abilities, and this resulted in enhanced performance. The increased confidence also encouraged them to work harder at the task and to persist until they succeeded.

Damisch and her colleagues plan to test negative, or bad-luck, superstitions next and see if they also affect performance.

Security of U.S. Passport production is questionable

The U.S. government agency that prints passports has for years failed to resolve persistent concerns about the security risks involved in outsourcing production to foreign factories.

“On a number of levels this is extremely troubling,” said Clark Kent Ervin, a former inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security. “Something like that ought to be produced only in the United States, under only the most rigorous security standards.”

Despite repeated assurances they would move production to the U.S., a key government contractor has continued to assemble an electronic component of the nation’s new, more sophisticated passport in Thailand…

The Thai factory was one of several concerns raised in an inspector general’s audit earlier this year that looked into the way the GPO is producing the new e-passport – a passport that is supposed to be impenetrable to counterfeiters because it stores information on an embedded computer chip that is tucked into the cover.

Experts agree that passport production is a critical homeland security concern, given that possession of an American passport can help a traveler bypass some of the stringent reviews conducted of those entering the U.S. from abroad. Ervin described the document as an EZ-pass into the United States, something officials say terrorists know all too well.

GPO’s inspector general has warned that the agency lacks even the most basic security plan for ensuring that blank e-Passports — and their highly sought technologies – aren’t stolen by terrorists, foreign spies, counterfeiters and other bad actors as they wind through an unwieldy manufacturing process that spans the globe and includes 60 different suppliers.

RTFA – and face up to the reality that years of incompetent management by fools like Bush and creeps like Cheney will take forever to unravel and get sorted. Outsourcing the components for something as significant as passport production to 60 companies around the world is the ultimate in corporate cronyism.

We probably need a special agency established just to investigate and correct the economic crimes and corruption the current administration inherited from the days of Republican control of our government.

Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Another Study

Replacing as little as a third of a daily serving of white rice with an equal amount of brown rice may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, a study suggests. And replacing white rice with other types of whole grains can cut the risk even more.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health say their study is the first to look at the relationship between rice intake and diabetes in a U.S. population. The authors based their findings on diet, lifestyle and health information from three studies covering 197,228 health-care workers, 80% of them women.

They found that eating five or more servings of white rice per week was associated with a slightly higher risk of type 2 diabetes than eating less than one serving a month. Eating two or more servings a week of brown rice, however, was associated with slightly lower risk.

The researchers conclude that replacing 50 grams of cooked white rice, equivalent to about a third of a serving, with an equal amount of brown rice seems to cut the risk of type 2 diabetes by 16%. Replacing white rice with other whole grains such as whole wheat and barley appears to lower risk by an estimated 36%, the paper says. The findings were published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The study didn’t prove that eating brown rice cuts the risk of diabetes. And it is possible that brown rice eaters are simply healthier in other ways. But the study’s lead author, Qi Sun, now an instructor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, says that researchers adjusted for factors such as physical activity, body mass index and alcohol consumption that might have skewed the results. “After we adjusted for those, you still see an association,” he says…

Dr. Sun says rice intake is increasing in the U.S., but that people are mostly eating white rice. “The message for the public is that they should try to avoid refined carbohydrates, no matter if it’s [in the form of] rice or bread, and replace them with whole grains.”

Let’s face it, brown rice is the safe bet. But I’d be lying if I told you that I don’t indulge in white rice also, simply because I enjoy it.

Bloody Sunday killings ‘unjustified and unjustifiable’

The Bloody Sunday killings were unjustified and unjustifiable, the Prime Minster has said.

Thirteen marchers were shot dead on 30 January 1972 in Londonderry when British paratroopers opened fire on crowds at a civil rights demonstration.

Fourteen others were wounded, one later died. The Saville Report is heavily critical of the Army and found that soldiers fired the first shot…

A huge cheer erupted in Guildhall Square in Derry as Mr Cameron delivered the findings which unequivocally blamed the Army for one of the most controversial days in Northern Ireland’s history.

In 1972, the fracking BBC still called the town Londonderry.

BBC legal affairs correspondent Clive Coleman said the decision whether or not to prosecute the soldiers would not be straightforward.

There needed to be sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction – not an easy test after 38 years.

“If any defendent believes that the passage of time makes a fair trial impossible, they could argue the prosecution was an abuse of process,” our correspondent said.

“Any prosecutions would also need to be judged to be in the public interest.”

RTFA. “The public interest” has been the excuse used for decades of cover-up. Not that political opportunism, lies and deceit are something new in the history of British imperialism.

Or the American flavor of the same disease.

Which airline has worst food? Rude staff?

Southwest turns out to be the best – again
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Overall, air travelers’ level of contentment with carriers is on the rise, according to the University of Michigan’s latest American Customer Satisfaction Index for the airline industry. The findings are similar to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 North America Airline Satisfaction Study released last week…

“Airlines are creating more satisfied passengers, but the… data suggest this won’t last for long,” said Claes Fornell, founder of the satisfaction index, in a statement.

“Airlines are already beginning to charge higher fares. Flights are becoming more crowded, and the increasing number of carry-ons could lead to cabin congestion and delays.”

When it comes to individual airline satisfaction rankings, Southwest Airlines leads the pack for the 17th straight year, followed by Continental and American, according to the index, which uses customer interviews to come up with a score on scale of 0 to 100. United Airlines was at the bottom of the list…

Southwest’s flight attendants were also voted as the friendliest in the industry, followed by Delta/Northwest, JetBlue and American.

But the staff at Delta/Northwest seems to have as many foes as fans, because the airline was also ranked as the carrier with the least-friendly flight attendants in the survey. United and American were ranked second and third in that category…

As for which airline has served the worst food over the past 12 months, Delta/Northwest led the pack, followed by United and American.

Paranoid politicians and chickenshit voters have solved the whole question of air travel for me. As long as DHS and TSA are in charge of air travel – I won’t go anywhere I can’t drive in my pickup truck.