January 30, 2017
Man for No Reasons
Just when we naively thought the political attacks on science couldn’t get more Orwellian, this week they became downright fascist: Trump’s “gag mandates” lobbed on nearly every U.S. agency that deals with proven science – including the EPA, the National Park Service, the USGS and even the USDA – have been blatant, putrid, and globally embarrassing acts of treason. (Editors Note: Due to the effective pushback from multiple groups and individuals, many of these federal agency black-outs have been lifted. However, that doesn’t mean things couldn’t change at a moments notice, or that the Trump administration will deny any of this ever happened.)
We knew this ignorant Whiner-In-Chief egomaniac and possible Putin Pulcinella was bad news, but oh boy… he’s a disastrous man-child leaving a massive swath of broken toys in his wake. It started even before his first working day as our Orange Leader when his transition demolition team demanded the names of all federal employees in the Energy Department who had studied or written about global warming, or had taken part in mere “climate talks.” And less than an hour after being sworn in, redecorated the official White House website with his plan to frack and drill the National Parks and all other federal (public) lands. A few days after that, and in the wake of his obsession with crowd size, “Little Hands” ordered the National Park Service and the EPA to cease all dissemination of research information to the public, put a “presidential gag order” on all social media accounts of said employees (both official and personal pages), and halted all projects, grants and contracts involving the EPA – including all Superfund clean-up plans (such as preventing and filtering out poisons like lead and methyl-mercury from water sources used by people and animals and crops).
Enter our favorite idiot sock-puppet and Tin Foil Hat fashionista Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Inferno): the head of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, whose feeble grasp of the current state of science is laughably and ironically tragic. As if our nerves weren’t frazlzled enough, like a sinister jack-in-the-box he just had to rear his inane head. Surprise!Delivering a bizarre, nonsensical monologue to his captive peers on the Congressional floor, Smith insisted to the American public and his horrified colleagues last Thursday that the only thing believable in the news is whatever Trump says. He implored the world not to believe news journalists, that “the media are liars,” praised the Predator-in-Chief for his “stamina” and “conviction, and chastised the media for not reporting on those qualities. “No, the national liberal media won’t print that or air it or post it,” Smith barked. “Better to get your news directly from the President. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.”
A disgusting, groveling, step-and-fetch-it shuffle if there ever was one.
Dog-piling atop that spectacle, Space X chieftain Elon Musk held a press conference Thursday proclaiming that to protest against Trump is “pointless,” and that the president would be much more open to “reason.” (What the Flying Spaghetti Monster??) Keep in mind, Trump just made Musk one of his key space and science policy advisers. (We wonder how Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic [granted, he’s British] and other space launch entrepreneurs feel about that). And in a most Trumpian mode of communication, Musk tweeted to reporters: “Simply attacking him will achieve nothing. Are you aware of a single case where Trump bowed to protests or media attacks?”
Er, yes, in fact we do, Elon. Officials at the Department of Energy told the Trump gang to stick it, that they patently refuse to “name names” of colleagues who had taken part in international climate talks. And by the way, the subject is of great concern to that department since global warming has been named by the Pentagon as one of the biggest security risks the nation faces. Just as frightening, the Energy Department is also the agency that is in charge of our nuclear arsenal. We are also sure Trump and his surrounding umpa lumpas, like Energy Secretary-to-be bozo Rick Perry, had no inkling of that fact.
The Trump press machine eventually backed off, and said the “mandate” had not gone through “official” Administrative protocol. Yeah, right. Then another lone voice of resistance in the wilderness, an employee of the Badlands National Park in South Dakota, started tweeting out “factoids” about global warming, in defiance of the Trump gag order. Then, after an onslaught of public outrage over the gag “orders,” the USDA itself lifted its own silencing. Soon after, the National Parks followed suit. And we all know what happened last Saturday across this nation, indeed the globe: millions of people participated in the Women’s March protesting President Cheeto’s inauguration. Considering his notoriously thin, burnt sienna skin, we know that was more than a burr under his saddle.
So, like these instances of brave public servants and citizens who have stood up in the face of this polar vortex of totalitarianism, the editorial board of Galactic Sandbox begs to differ with the idea of doing nothing or using “reason” to deal with a creature who does not even know what that concept is. We already have reason on our side. Instead, use the Bill of Rights to deal with this Trump propaganda mill. It’s true that Trump and his goons have no idea what our rights are. But their lawyers sure do, and if our scientists defy Trump and ignore his threats and orders, we believe they would triumph. Take it to court if need be! They wouldn’t have a leg to stand on, as long as the Constitution hasn’t been altered. Fascism and its ilk relies on ignorance, fear, and rapid-fire falsehoods to wear people down, especially when mouthpieces like the Barbie Doll from Hell, Kellyanne Conway, says her boss and comrades are using “alternative facts.” That’s another, whitewashed term, for LIES. If everyone still standing in these assaulted science agencies would simply abide by the Constitution and ignore the Whiner’s unreasonable demands, we believe we have a chance. – Kate Woods, Writer-At-Large
NASA Rogue One
Some friends of NASA employees have created a rogue Twitter account asking the public to help them save scientific data from the Trump Anti-Science Doomsday Machine. A how-to quickie tutorial is given in the Daily Kos:
The folks who started the “Unofficial Resistance Team of NASA,” started the cause when their friends, NASA scientists, were bemoaning what to do to save their scientific research – not to mention their very jobs. As a result, all science-lovers or like-minded souls are encouraged to help them archive the employees’ work before it is taken down and erased forever. It involves installing the Wayback Machine Chrome Extension in your PC, and all the instructions are given in the article. Let’s save our knowledge. It belongs to the people, anyway.
Just the Facts, Ma’am
In response to Trump’s assaults on science and fact-fueled U.S. agencies, organizers pushing back are planning a worldwide March for Science in, er, March. Much like the gargantuan Women’s March last week, a group of scientists and science aficionados have seen their idea take off exponentially around the globe. It started as a simple discussion on how to repel against Trump’s anti-science moves, and when they decided to propose a March for Science, within 24 hours the group’s Twitter account had gained an additional 124,000 followers. The group’s new Faceybook page suddenly gained half a million followers.
Like the Women’s gatherings earlier this month, organizers are suggesting participants wear pink knit caps – but instead of the pussycat-ears motif, they have come up with a pink “brain” design.
Will keep you posted!
Carpe Tunnel Diem
Seriously. Elon Musk of Space X and Tesla electric luxury cars, now presumably science and space adviser to the Cheeto in Chief, says he plans to tunnel underground, presumably in Los Angeles, because he hates the above-ground traffic. No, he has not applied for any permits from the State Department of Transportation yet, but it’s just the type of big ticket item “Moonshot Musk” would attempt. The company is called The Boring Company, and its quest would be to make an underground subway of sorts. He’s not giving any details, so we don’t know if mag-lev or bullet trains are involved, or even if it would be his own private “person mover.” Details, or lack of, in The San Jose Mercury News. Ground-breaking to start in the springtime. Hmmmmm.
Eye On the Prize
Five grass-roots initiatives to send robotic missions to the Moon have been given the green light to rev up their engines for the Lunar surface no later than the end of this year. The privately-funded Google Lunar XPRIZE announced last week that in addition to splitting its $1 million Diversity Prize among 16 teams, it has selected the five finalists based on their ability to secure launch contracts to land their unmanned craft on our nearest celestial neighbor, with the missions to be initiated no later than December 31, 2017. “Each of these teams has pushed the boundaries to demonstrate that you don’t have to be a government superpower to send a mission to the Moon, while inspiring audiences to pursue the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” gushed Chanda Gonzales-Mowrer, senior director, Google Lunar XPRIZE. Below are the five scrappy Moon units that will soon be making the giant leap from one world to another (as described on Google Lunar XPRIZE’s site):
SpaceIL (Israel), a non-profit organization, has secured a position on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Their goal is to make an educational impact and to create an “Apollo Effect” for the next generation in Israel.
Moon Express (USA), signed a multi-mission launch contract with Rocket Lab USA for three lunar missions by 2020. Their directive is to open up the Moon’s vast resources for humanity and establish new avenues for commercial space activities beyond Earth orbit.
Synergy Moon (International), team member Interorbital Systems will serve as the launch provider, using a NEPTUNE 8 rocket to carry a lunar lander and rover to the surface of the Moon. Synergy Moon is made of up individuals from over 15 countries, with a mission to make manned orbital travel, personal satellite launches and Solar System exploration cost effective and accessible.
TeamIndus (India), signed a commercial launch contract aboard the Indian Space Research Organization’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). TeamIndus’ spacecraft is designed to nestle inside the nosecone of the PSLV and will launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.
HAKUTO (Japan), signed a rideshare agreement tohave TeamIndus carry its four-wheeled rover to the Moon. Hakuto’s ultimate target is to explore holes that are thought to be caves or ‘skylights’ into underlying lava tubes, for the first time in history, which could lead to important scientific discoveries and possibly identifying long-term habitats to shield humans from the Moon’s hostile environment.
Up to Speed
According to new research led by Nobel laureate Adam Riess, the Universe is expanding even faster than speeds measured by the European Space Agency Planck Satellite Mission in 2015. Comparing gravitational lensing from distant quasars such as RXJ1131-1231, Riess’ scientific team has pegged the speed that our Universe is flying apart (called the Hubble Constant) at 44.7 miles per second per megaparsec. (A megaparsec is about 3.26 million light-years.) That’s ratcheted up from the previous estimate of 41.6 miles per second per megaparsec. Gravitational lensing is the phenomenon created when nearby galaxies warp light coming in from distant objects such as bright galactic core remnants known as quasars. Fittingly, images from the Hubble Space Telescope, along with imagery from the Spitzer Space Telescope and some ground-based instruments, all contributed to this new discovery. As astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson said in his Inexplicable Universe series, it’s a good thing we are studying what we can see now, because we won’t be able to see it when the Big Rip leaves us seemingly and utterly alone in the Universe – with nothing to look at but images of Donald Trump lying on TV.
Sighs of the Times
It’s no surprise to us that the National Science Foundation just put out a call for proposed partnerships to shoulder the costs of running the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The giant Arecibo costs about $8 million a year to maintain and run, and the NSF wants to whittle that down to $2 million. Established in the early 60’s, the Arecibo was used by the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) for decades, but the signal seekers now have facilities they use around the globe, not to mention their own array now in Hat Creek, CA. The NSF has no doubt seen the cuts and gag orders coming down the pike, straight towards them, from the Whiner-In-Chief’s Administration. Proposals to the NSF are due in late April.
Dressed to the Nines
Looks like astronauts will be sporting a sleeker, more 21st-centuryish look in the not-so distant future following Boeing’s unveiling of a line of lighter and more comfortable spacesuits for its Starlliner spacecraft. If all goes as planned International space station crews will begin traveling to low-Earth-orbit in August 2018 sporting a ready-wear ensemble more reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey than Apollo 13.
According to NASA a few design advancements include:
- Lighter and more flexible through use of advanced materials
- Helmet and visor incorporated into the suit instead of being detachable
- Touchscreen-sensitive gloves
- Vents for cooling
The fully-accessorized astro-garb, complete with an integrated shoe, weighs about 20 pounds – 10 pounds lighter than last season’s model worn by space shuttle crews.
The Big Picture