November 23, 2015
By Kate Woods, Galactic Sandbox Writer-At-Large
H o t U n d e r t h e C o l l a r
I knew this nation’s GOP lawgivers were prone to hysterics, but I never imagined they would come up with an historically mortifying witch-hunt akin to Senator Joe McCarthy’s whack-a-commie crusade that targeted every “liberal” politician, artist and journalist in the 1950s.
Silly me. You see, I try to forget that Congressman and human lookalike Lamar Smith (R-Texas) heads the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, which “oversees” NASA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) much like one sharpens a carving knife before slicing a holiday turkey.
Unfortunately for NOAA, the Earth monitoring agency in June published an update to its global surface temperature dataset that continues to show an acceleration in rising global temperatures. Ooooops (sound of pin dropping). Smith did not like that news. Not one bit.
Specifically, what got Smith’s blood boiling was that in its latest dataset update, NOAA plainly detailed, of course, that Earth has become hotter since 1988 – by more than one tenth of a degree with every decade. These new calculations, which used more accurate methods of measurement and analysis, now jive with NASA’s global warming numbers, as well as the results of studies done by independent Earth-monitoring organizations and scientists.
Reportedly, after NOAA’s report was released to the public, Smith went berserk and in July demanded written details of the agency’s methodology. NOAA promptly complied, but Smith didn’t like the long, big words in all that information, nor the fact that he could not find any political influence in NOAA’s findings. So the congressman accused NOAA of doctoring the dataset and scientific methodology!
Never a quitter and striking one for the Gipper, Smith slapped subpoenas on NOAA for all public and private emails and internal communications of its employees, including scientists and “political staff,” whatever that means. That’s when NOAA drew the line and refused to comply, saying Smith was now on a political “fishing expedition.”
Smith and his sycophants promptly demanded closed-door meetings to grill NOAA Chief of Staff Renee Stone, NOAA Communications Director Ciaran Clayton, and two leading NOAA scientists for some good old fascist, er that is, fashioned hot seat “debriefings.” That’s military-politico speak for tortuous 11-hour long intimidation sessions. NOAA told Smith he could shove that one where the Sun don’t shine as well. Obviously, it was not a reference to the bright daylight streaming between Smith’s ears.
Apparently, Smith is making good on his promise to attack any federally funded earth-monitoring scientist who goes public with any “hogwash” regarding “climate change.” Ultimately, as he declared some seven weeks ago, he wants to defund any new scientific discoveries that could benefit the Earth. Yes, I am translating into blunt English the Congressman’s threats to Earth-studying scientists.
Smith has now publicly declared that NOAA “fudged” its results. In a statement he gave Nature magazine in October, Smith had the temerity to say, “It was inconvenient for this administration [NOAA] that climate data has clearly showed no warming for the past two decades. The American people have every right to be suspicious when NOAA alters data to get the politically correct results they want and then refuses to reveal how those decisions were made. NOAA needs to come clean about why they altered the data….”
Sounds like fightn’ words to me – so, what’s Lamar’s evidence? Oh yeah, he has none. He just disagrees with NOAA’s global temperature data. Lamar Smith does not have a background in any science – or math or environmental studies. What he does have is a PhD in protecting big oil interests and fanning a propaganda machine designed to portray NOAA or any scientific-based agency as a traitorous organization brimming with bleeding heart liberal Bolshevik Obama pawns!
Sadly, this is the latest in the ongoing war between anti-science politicians and people who have dedicated their lives to discovering the unvarnished truth about the health of this planet. It has now become a battle of publicized statements in which neither the House Committee nor NOAA has yet to say “Uncle.”
B o l d e n S t e p s
And now for some most excellent news. Not only are NOAA officials fighting back, but also NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden – a four-time astronaut — has taken up the cause for his sister agency.
The reputable Ars Technica publication interviewed Bolden about it last week:
“I don’t think scientists will be intimidated by the subpoenas and everything else … That may be its intent, but I don’t think it will work. It’s peoples’ life’s work, and they’re not just going to walk away because somebody threatens them with a subpoena to appear before the Congress of the United States. They’ll probably welcome it, to be quite honest.”
Bolden also said he will continue calling for the funding of Earth science research at NASA to be restored, at least to 1988 levels – which was far greater, even during the Reagan Administration, than Congress allows now. During the Baby Bush years (George W. Bush’s reign of error) the agency’s Earth science budget was ravaged by 37 percent. In the spirit reminiscent of the Dark Ages, Senator Ted “Bat Crap Crazy” Cruz (R-Canada) this year led the moronic GOP charge against Earth sciences by getting his fellow inmates to slash $500 million from the paltry $1.95 billion requested by Obama this year.
Bolden added that when Congress continues “to ignore facts about the climate, that’s to our detriment. It’s not to theirs, it’s to the detriment of the nation.”
M a j o r M e l t d o w n
Meanwhile, another of Greenland’s great glaciers is melting faster than predicted, even by brainiac Earth scientists. NASA and university researchers reported that the Zachariae Isstrom glacier calved from its stabilizing shelf and is rapidly melting into the North Atlantic Ocean, which will add another unexpected 18 inches to global sea level rise when it completely dissolves.
It’s not as if no one had any warnings. The Maine-sized glacier started an “accelerated retreat” in 2012, losing 5 billion tons of ice a year thereafter, says NASA JPL.
The super-massive glacier is doing what’s called a “bottom melt,” which is just what it sounds like. Bottom melting of the world’s glaciers has doubled since the 1990s.
More climate change news: What’s left of NASA’s Earth tracking sats honed in on India last week, and they have collected new details of the rainfall that caused the nation’s recent deadly flooding. Don’t let Lamar Smith know or he might demand the satellite’s emails and birth certificate.
W h a t ‘ s Y o u r s I s M i n e
Continuing the sour note, Congress took action in the name of cosmic corporate plundering, I mean space mining, this week! The bill, which will allow “entrepreneurs” to own whatever they can haul away from asteroids or moons in outer space, overwhelmingly passed both houses and is expected to be signed into law by President Obama without delay.
Here’s the kicker: The GOP lawgivers gutted from the bill all the normal regulations on space flight – if it’s for extra-terrestrial mining – for the next seven years.
Let the claim jumping begin!
B a b y ‘ s F i r s t P l a n e t
Okay. Now that I’ve taken a handful of sedatives I am ready to give you some pleasant stuff. Astronomers at the University of Arizona got to watch a planet being formed, and for the first time ever documented it on film.
Using the Large Binocular Telescope in southeast Arizona, team leader and graduate student Stephanie Sallum at the University of Arizona is surely celebrating this birth of a giant gas exo-planet hugging a young star named LkCa 15 (don’t ask me why the astronomy guys pick such ludicrous and clumsy appellations). The LBT is a super eye-on-the-sky, with a 27-foot-wide mirror.
The star system is 450 light-years from Earth, and LkCa 15 is only a baby itself having been around a scant two million years.
R i d e o f t h e V a l k y r i e
In January, NASA will give some fabulous belated Xmas gifts to MIT and Northwestern University. Both institutions will have a prototype of the R5 robot, a humanoid contraption the agency intends to send on space missions, perhaps to an asteroid (if it’s not owned by the Koch brothers), and then Mars before it sends actual humans there in the 2030s.
NASA wants the brains at MIT and Northwestern to develop software for the bipedal robot, which is also called “Valkyrie.” NASA originally designed it to aide in disaster relief. Scientists hope it will be able to set up habitats and produce fuel when it goes to out of orbit.
E x e c u t i v e R e v i s i o n
Once again, UFO enthusiasts have been tin foiled, this time by the President.
Gentlemen’s Quarterly published an extensive interview last week with Obama wherein writer Bill Simmons delved into the great conspiracy theories of the 20th century, including the JFK assassination and the otherworldly occurrences of Roswell, NM, in 1947.
Both responses were dissatisfying to true believers.
Regarding Roswell, Obama said, “I gotta tell you, it’s a little disappointing. People always ask me about Roswell and the aliens and UFOs, and it turns out the stuff going on that’s top secret isn’t nearly as exciting as you expect. In this day and age, it’s not as top secret as you’d think.”
But UFOers like to point out an earlier interview Obama did on late night show “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” in which he was flippant but slightly more enigmatic.
When asked about UFOs, Obama told Kimmel, “The aliens won’t let it happen … they exercise strict control over us.” Then later added, “I can’t reveal anything.”
Hmmmm … This makes me scratch my imaginary goatee! For Dog’s sake, when will they learn? It only means Obama, because he is a Democrat, is not allowed to know anything the NSA or the CIA or the FBI or any other X-File Group has on the matter.
R a i s i n g O u r S i g h t s
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station continue to be used as guinea pigs, and the newest series of tests involve a study in how zero gravity affects eyesight.
We know it’s way not good what the weightlessness of low-Earth orbit does to the human body over time. Aside from bone loss, muscle loss, and heaps of radiation bombardment, spacefarers have to worry about their eyes too. It’s called “space vision.”
When body fluids flow upwards to the head (as say, when one lies down on an uncomfortable slanted board during a “closed-door interview” in Lamar Smith’s Congressional office) extra blood exerts more pressure on the eyeballs. Over weeks, the pressure first blurs focus, then curtails peripheral vision and even causes complete blindness in severe cases. When astronauts are sent up, NASA has to equip them with special corrective lenses to help reduce the problem.
As always, the NASA research will have great benefits for us landlubbers back on Earth. The space vision study is expected to help scientists better understand conditions such as glaucoma and migraines. Apropos the latter, I personally will be grateful for their discoveries after watching the world go mad again this past week.
L a S o l i d a r i t é
The crew aboard the ISS held a moment of silence last Tuesday for the victims of the massacres in Paris; the carnage carried out by a bunch of hopeless, brainwashed psychopaths who have nothing to live for.