Fail selfie of the week!

Selfie with squirrel

A photo op with a squirrel that went awry has left a teenager flustered but unhurt.

Seventeen-year-old Brian Genest, of Auburn, said Thursday he saw what appeared to be a friendly squirrel on a hand rail while walking through John Chestnut Park near Tampa, Florida. He was on a trip looking at colleges.

Genest took a selfie of himself and the squirrel. But the flash and noises from his camera phone scared the squirrel, which climbed under his shirt and hung onto his back before scampering back out…

Genest’s mother, Paula Wright, snapped photos of the hoopla, originally posted to his Instagram feed along with his selfie.

Mom was laughing so hard she could hardly take the picture – much less help rid him of the squirrel. 🙂

Cold War spy plane fries FAA computers — shuts down LAX

A relic from the Cold War appears to have triggered a software glitch at a major air traffic control center in California Wednesday that led to delays and cancellations of hundreds of flights across the country…

On Wednesday at about 2 p.m., according to sources, a U-2 spy plane, the same type of aircraft that flew high-altitude spy missions over Russia 50 years ago, passed through the airspace monitored by the L.A. Air Route Traffic Control Center in Palmdale, Calif. The L.A. Center handles landings and departures at the region’s major airports, including Los Angeles International (LAX), San Diego and Las Vegas.

The computers at the L.A. Center are programmed to keep commercial airliners and other aircraft from colliding with each other. The U-2 was flying at 60,000 feet, but the computers were attempting to keep it from colliding with planes that were actually miles beneath it.

Though the exact technical causes are not known, the spy plane’s altitude and route apparently overloaded a computer system called ERAM, which generates display data for air-traffic controllers. Back-up computer systems also failed.

As a result, the Federal Aviation Administration had to stop accepting flights into airspace managed by the L.A. Center, issuing a nationwide ground stop that lasted for about an hour and affected thousands of passengers…

“FAA technical specialists resolved the specific issue that triggered the problem on Wednesday, and the FAA has put in place mitigation measures as engineers complete development of software changes,” said the agency in a statement. “The FAA will fully analyze the event to resolve any underlying issues that contributed to the incident and prevent a reoccurrence.”

In other words, our crap air traffic control software couldn’t understand a problem we generated 50 years ago with old-style technology used to spy on folks. Using it over the West Coast this week.

Sources told NBC News that the plane was a U-2 with a Defense Department flight plan. “It was a ‘Dragon Lady,’” said one source, using the nickname for the plane. Edwards Air Force Base is 30 miles north of the L.A. Center. Both Edwards and NASA’s Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center, which is located at Edwards, have been known to host U-2s and similar, successor aircraft.

The U.S. Air Force is still flying U-2s, but plans to retire them within the next few years.

Uh, the CIA is also still flying U-2s.

This is what the US used for spying on other countries before we caught onto the Soviet Union’s idea of using eye-in-the-sky satellites. The plane’s “operational ceiling” is 70,000 feet. FAA software probably doesn’t normally concern itself with planes flying at that altitude since civilian craft have an operational ceiling well below that.

The computer dicho still rules. Garbage in = garbage out.

Most recently – September 2013 – The Flight Deck Automation Working Group concluded that modern flight path management systems create new challenges that can lead to errors. Uh, yup.

Thanks, Uncle Dave

Carbon-dioxide levels haven’t been this high in at least 800,000 years

Koch Bros coke alongside the Detroit River

Since 1958, the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii has tracked the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — the simplest measure of how humans are altering the Earth and warming the planet.

This “Keeling Curve” reached a new milestone in April: the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere remained above 400 parts per million for the entire month (an average of 401.25 ppm). That’s the first time that’s happened in recorded history…

Last year, carbon-dioxide levels rose briefly above 400 parts per million for a single day in May before falling again. This year, they spent an entire month above 400 ppm — and will likely drop again this summer. In a few years, so long as humans keep burning fossil fuels, we should get above 400 ppm permanently.

Is 400 ppm an important milestone?

By itself, probably not — it’s more notable as an indication that carbon-dioxide levels are going up and up, which will set the stage for future global warming.

The broader historical picture is a bit more relevant here: In recent decades, carbon-dioxide levels have remained higher than at any point in 800,000 years. Scientists figured this out by analyzing prehistoric air bubbles that had been trapped in ice cores…

Indeed, some studies go further and estimate that carbon-dioxide levels may be at their highest point in 4.5 million years. During the Pliocene era, scientists have found, carbon-dioxide levels appeared to be around 415 ppm…

We have to go back 4.5 million years to find an analogue to the present day…

What’s also relevant, climatologists note, is the speed of change — the Earth is blowing past 400 parts per million today much faster than it did in the past. That makes it more difficult for species to adapt to the accompanying temperature increases (including, for that matter, humans).

So how high will carbon-dioxide levels rise?

That’s the big unknown. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that we should stabilize levels at somewhere between 430 and 480 ppm if we want a good shot at keeping total global warming below 2°C — which is ostensibly the international goal. For reasons I laid out here, that scenario looks increasingly unlikely…

RTFA and examine a practical, achievable list of means and methods to remedy the situation. Then, reflect upon the knuckle-dragging populists who react to Pavlovian commands from pigs like the Koch Bros to oppose not only positive and forward-looking change; but, do their worst to push every industrial nation into exacerbating our climate questions.

For questions they are – not problems. Answers are ready and at hand. Only the politics of stupid prevent implementation.