40 years of continuity, LAGEOS still aids studies of Earth

NASA Press release video from 1975

LAGEOS – short for Laser Geodynamic Satellite – was the first NASA orbiter dedicated to the precision measurement technique called laser ranging. With it, scientists have measured the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates, detected irregularities in the rotation of the planet, weighed it, and tracked small shifts in its center of mass.

Small deviations in the satellite’s orbit were used to develop early models of Earth’s gravitational field. Further perturbations in the orbit helped explain how sunlight heating small objects can affect their orbits, including near-Earth asteroids.

Built to last, the 900-pound (about 400 kilograms) satellite is passive, with no on-board sensors or electronics and no moving parts. Its brass core is covered by an aluminum shell that is dotted with 426 retroreflectors, making the satellite look like a giant golf ball.

❝ “LAGEOS is elegantly simple – a ball covered with reflecting prisms,” said Stephen Merkowitz, manager of NASA’s Space Geodesy Project at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “But it set a new standard for laser ranging and has provided 40 years of continuity for these measurements.”

Read the tale of this simple, long-lasting project. The satellite is still providing the functions it was designed for and more.

Yes, I think it is worth fighting for a vision of science that surpasses the view of Congressional conservatives and beancounters – know-nothings and short-sighted political hacks.

Canada will stroll past the United States to become cannabis capital

…Chief executive of Denver’s largest marijuana dispensary…Andy Williams struggles with a lot of financial hurdles.

The First Bank of Colorado closed the accounts of everyone in the family business, Medicine Man Technologies, including children who have no part in the industry. Williams can’t take on any investment and needs to fund expansion through personal loans from friends and family.

Customers can only pay in cash; banks refuse to hold his money and everyone from employees to contractors need to accept cash payments. Employees, who can’t prove their income as a result, often struggle to get loans and mortgages.

Furthermore, section 280E of the US tax code prohibits the deduction of expenses related to controlled substances for tax purposes, and Williams predicts that he gives the internal revenue service an additional $600,000 each year as a result of business expenses that can’t be written off.

While recreational marijuana legalisation is well on its way in states like Colorado, it remains illegal at the federal level, stifling the growth and innovation of the industry’s first movers.

Our elected officials waver from know-nothing moralists to anti-science hypocrites to old-fashioned cowards. Most know better. Damned few have the courage to act.

Meanwhile, north of the border, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has vowed to legalise recreational marijuana consumption on a federal level, opening the door to investment, less restrictive tax policies and banks that can treat the marijuana industry like any other. While legalisation hasn’t yet taken place in Canada, when it inevitably does American marijuana businesses may suddenly find themselves at a disadvantage.

“They’ll be first to market,” says Williams. “There’s going to be a lot of development and innovation in Canada that’s going to spur economic growth and attract investment. First to market is going to get a lot of attention, so it’s a lost opportunity for the United States if and when that happens.”…

“The real setback will be longer term in their jump in developing that intellectual property, whether that’s in producing marijuana or developing brands or discovering new uses for cannabis in the medical field,” he said. “It’s the long-term effect of being behind the eight ball that I’m concerned about.”

Recreational marijuana is still illegal in Canada but many look to its medicinal marijuana system, which is considered among the best in the world, as a sign of things to come. Health Canada, the country’s federal health authority, already regulates over one million square feet of approved marijuana production space spread across 30 industrial-sized facilities…

Recreational legalization in Canada, however, could force policymakers in the US to modernize their federal policies in order to level the playing field.

Between populist hypocrite dope-smokers and spineless liberal hypocrite dope-smokers, our elected officials are doomed to a reaction policy roughly akin to snails racing to escape roadrunners. Trudeau in Canada will be replacing lost revenue from previous conservative government’s allegiance to fossil fuel producers. Obama – and whoever next sits in the Oval Office confronting a Congress populated with close-minded Republicans and centrist-dominated Democrats – will continue to dither and panic over popularity polls that show American consumers ready and willing to move ahead on legalizing cannabis as readily as they have every other so-called controversy petrifying the brains of our spoon-fed politicians.

Other nations in the educated world will continue to remind Americans there ain’t any greatness associated with being backwards, governed by fear.

Lightning strikes kill 40 in 24 hours in Bangladesh

At least 40 people have been killed by lightning strikes in Bangladesh within 24 hours as violent thunderstorms rumbled across the country.

The Bangladesh Meteorological Department said the storms caused disruption across 14 districts including Dhaka. Their spokesman told DPA news agency that most of the fatalities occurred due to a lack of awareness…

Two 20-year-old students were killed during a football match in Dhaka’s Jatrabari neighboughhood. Eight others were injured as the lightning bolt struck the ground.

The Hindu, a daily newspaper, reported that the casualties included a number of children who were playing in open grounds during the rain, but most of the victims were farmers working in their fields.

The rains do help to break the intense heat experienced ahead of the monsoon rains. However, the downpours are often accompanied by thunder and lightning.

Bangladesh’s Disaster Management Department has now launched a campaign to create awareness among people so that they remain inside during thunderstorms. Lightning kills around 300 people each year across the country.

Government responses to disasters like this often seem bogus. There is little in Bangladesh approximating a modern communications network – excepting cellphones, mobiles. Most cellphones in my neck of the prairie come with emergency warning systems turned-on by default. Local or state government can send me a warning on a moments notice. Probably the least expensive implementation of a warning system there can be.