Populism | Views From Two Perspectives

With morning coffee in hand, this seemed a good way to start my day. What follows is a discussion of the rise of populism as seen by two people from the U.S. and U.K. It provided a lot of insights. I understand better what the term means and how it manifests in the political theaters of Europe and the U.S.

Nick Clegg and Jonathan Haidt appeared at Emmanuel Centre in London on 21 November 2016. The group Intelligence Squared hosted their discussion. They spoke for about 45 minutes and then took questions for another 45 minutes.

Nuclear Options | Dialogue & Planning Needed

This post is a follow-up to one from a week ago. See below the line break for the original.

Thanks to comments by readers, there are three resources to promote which discuss the need for careful, considered dialogue and planning with regard to our nation’s domestic and military nuclear capacity. Readers shoreacres and Jim Wheeler discussed two resources by Thomas Nichols. The third resource is a recent NOVA program about the nuclear option.

First, what if we could rebuild our nuclear weapon forces from scratch? How should it be done?

Second, read the preface and introduction to the Nichols book No Use: Nuclear Weapons and U.S. National Security

Third, the NOVA program Nuclear Option is available for viewing until 8 Feb 2017.

All three urge bi-partisan discussion by all interested parties. One of the reasons hinges on the need for safety and security in our world today. The other reason hinges on the need for a viable solution to the challenges of climate change and global warming.

I believe nuclear energy should play a role in our future. To not examine the ideas and technologies formed in the 50s, 60s, and 70s which brought us to our current position is foolhardy. The world has changed very much since then.

Nuclear Weapons | Do Accidents Happen?

Have there been nuclear weapon accidents or incidents? Yes, there have been many. We are lucky to not have detonations or major spills of radioactive material. An accident near Damascus Arkansas on 18 Sep 1980 illustrates how a simple event can cause a situation of monumental potential for disaster.

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Nuclear Weapons | Do Accidents Happen?

Have there been nuclear weapon accidents or incidents? Yes, there have been many. We are lucky to not have detonations or major spills of radioactive material. An accident near Damascus Arkansas on 18 Sep 1980 illustrates how a simple event can cause a situation of monumental potential for disaster.

Local PBS television stations will broadcast on 10 Jan 2016 a program on the American Experience detailing this accident and others. Here is a short preview. Here is a Q&A with the director and the author.


Two airmen technicians were servicing a Titan II missile in an underground silo with a hydrogen bomb mounted on top. The bomb had 3x the explosive energy of all the bombs dropped in WWII including the two nuclear bombs dropped on Japan. It was based on the design of this one, the B53, developed during the Cold War. It had a 9 megaton yield.

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Dial-a-Moon | 2017

How will the Moon look today, on your birthday, or any date in 2017? Find out at NASA Dial-a-Moon. Enter any month, day, and universal time (UT) hour to see a high definition image. The composite images of Dial-a-Moon are made from those of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) in low altitude orbit around the Moon since 2009. Here is the link for southern hemisphere readers.

You may leave the universal time (UT) at the default 1 value. If you are a curious type, Universal time conversion can be done at this link. Enter UTC in the lower right box if it isn’t already set. You can switch from 12 hr to 24 hr at the bottom of the entry boxes. You may also enter any other local time in the upper left box. Go back to Dial-a-Moon to enter the UT.

The collection of accurate images of the Moon for each hour have been made into a movie lasting 5 minutes. Try watching full screen and increase the speed by 2x. Speed can be changed using the gear icon ⚙  after the movie starts. Two versions of the movie are available for readers in northern and southern hemisphere.

I explain the peculiar wobble and tipping motions at this blog post.

Northern hemisphere


Southern hemisphere

Polar Sea Ice | Variations | Trends

A story on 16 Dec 2016 from the NASA Earth Observatory site said the Antarctic and Arctic sea ice amounts for November 2016 were both at record lows for that month. The Arctic is in the process of refreezing the surface sea ice as it goes into the winter months. The Antarctic is in the process of melting the sea ice as it goes into the summer months. A chart from the story shows the total amount of sea ice north and south from 1 Jan 1979 to 14 Dec 2016. There has been gradual decline in the total. For 2016, the total is significantly less for the last months of the year. An animated version of this chart is in the linked article.


National Snow and Ice Data Center | https://nsidc.org/

Sea ice forms from water already in the oceans. Changes to the total does not alter sea level. Melting of land based ice drains into the oceans and does raise sea level. The decrease in total sea ice is due to shifting winds and warmer temperatures of the water. The underlying reasons and prognosis for future effects is an area of intense scientific study.

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Comet 45P | Near New Moon

There were many news stories about the appearance of New Year’s Eve Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková in the evening sky near the western horizon. After dinner, I walked my camera and tripod a block away and set up to try imaging the comet. It was to appear somewhere in the field to the left of the thin crescent Moon in this simulated view.

Simulated view by Stellarium

View simulated by Stellarium

I tried several images changing the zoom, ISO, field of view, and shutter speed. I got no evidence of the comet. It was too dim to detect even after several enhancements using Photoshop. If it is clear again tonight, I might try viewing with my telescope instead.

I did salvage one very nice image of the thin crescent new Moon. I’m always glad to see it.


Jupiter | Third Juno Close Flyby

The Juno spacecraft successfully made a third close flyby of Jupiter on 11 Dec 2016. It was initially captured in orbit on 4 July 2016 as I noted in this blog post. The next close pass will be in early February. This brief animation illustrates a close flyby as Juno skims barely above the cloud tops of Jupiter.


On board Juno is a video camera called JunoCam. During the passes, JunoCam captures images which are sent to Earth. They are available to the public for download and processing. NASA hopes the public will use the images in creative projects. The creations can then be uploaded back to the JunoCam site for others to view.

I downloaded three images in Red, Green, and Blue of the south polar region of Jupiter. The video above shows Juno approaching over the north pole, passing very close to the equator, then receding below the south pole with each orbit. My three images were taken when Juno was directly below Jupiter’s south pole.

Using Photoshop, I opened the three RGB files, adjusted them for intensity, them combined them into this color composite. The program allowed me to adjust the saturation of many different colors across the face of the planet for enhancement. I uploaded it back to JunoCam. The colors are not realistic. But they do show the differences and circulations more readily. That was fun.