Land of Counterpane

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June 26, 2017

By Elizabeth McMahon, Galactic Sandbox Writer-At-Large
and Agnett Bonwitt, Managing Editor

Mayors and CEOs and Governors, Oh My!

How has the Divider-in-Chief managed to unite 3 state governor’s, 30 mayor’s, over 80 university presidents and more than 100 businesses? By putting ‘America First’ and not caring about the rest of the planet’s well being and reneging on our participation in the Paris Climate Accord! This is such an abysmal abandonment of America’s responsibility (after all, we are the second biggest contributor to CO2 levels in the world) that others in positions of relative power are ready to step in to fill the vacuum left by President Tyrannosaurus Rex.

So far this group has not created a moniker for itself, while former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is coordinating the effort, reports the New York Times. “We’re going to do everything America would have done if it had stayed committed,” he said, adding that cities, states and corporations could achieve, or even surpass the pledge of the Obama administration. The United States is required to continue reporting its emissions for now, as a formal withdrawal cannot take place for several years (during which we had better figure out how to get the oil-backed greedy politicians out and the real human beings back in to our elected offices). Hopefully this is just the first of many more local and state level leaders to join this important move towards true ‘homeland security’ – an Earth with air we can breath and water we can drink!

And so while der Trumpenfuhrer has mastered branding himself (even while walking away from multiple business bankruptcies) he is going to find that ‘branding’ America as a standalone island becoming ‘great again’ all by itself is not going to work. Bankrupting an entire country’s reputation in the world is not something you can bail on and recover in a lifetime. Just like the manufacturing jobs that left, never to return (despite Trump’s PT Barnum promises to the contrary), America’s leadership role will slip away, allowing other more Earth-aware, science believing nations to fill the void. This is not something that a state such as California whose GDP is sixth in the world or Mayors who see the effect of climate change on their cities (Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Atlanta to name a few) want to happen.

According to the online resource SustainLane Government, Oakland, California is at the head of the class in meeting California’s mandate of 20 percent of electricity purchases to come from renewable origns by 2020. In fact, Oakland leads the US in green energy by drawing 17% of its electrical power from sources such as solar, geothermal and wind turbines.

In fact, most of the actual decisions that create climate action are made locally so if these actors remain committed to the Paris accord the goals can be reached, according to Bloomberg. For instance, the state of Washington, California, and New York, have adopted a cap on carbon pollution, invested in growing clean energy jobs and subsidizes electric vehicle purchases. Significantly, much of California’s booming economy is in the clean energy field and it risks losing out on this growing business sector to China if we follow President “Job Creator’s” lead and step away from being competitive in the world’s market.

California governor Jerry Brown discusses green technologies, innovation, and trade with Chinese President Xi.

And it isn’t just generous planet-hugging empathy that is motivating the CEO’s and Governors. These ‘American’ corporations do business all over the world, and if they piss off their overseas customers too much they risk losing enough business to put them out of the game. So while some corporations still have CEO’s on the ‘I can’t hear you unless you are singing my praises’ Presidential Advisory panels hoping against all apparent logic to make a difference, some, like Elon Musk, have called it a day and left. I can’t help but feel that this time around cutting loose the usual channels of power and talking with China (as California governor Jerry Brown did last week) is actually the more safe and sane approach. (If you had told me this in the seventies when we were just normalizing relations with China I would have thought you had lost your mind…but then haven’t we all these days, if only by reading the daily news!) – Elizabeth McMahon

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Of Musk and Men

High tech tycoon Elon Musk unveiled his Red Planet survivalist manifesto last week, claiming that a million-person Martian urban center complete with ‘iron foundries and pizza joints’ could be achieved within 50 years, reports the Telegraph. According to the billionaire SpaceX impresario who published his Mars-civilization-for-dummies in the journal New Space, earthlings would need an escape rout from Earth to avoid a ‘Doomsday event’ and our ‘eventual extinction.’  “I think there are really two fundamental paths. One path is we stay on Earth forever, and then there will be some eventual extinction. The alternative is to become a space-faring civilization and a multi-planetary species,” he said.

Musk estimates that the first wave of “colonists” could be sent to Mars in a decade, and explained that it would take between 40 and 100 years to transport enough people to populate a city on the Red Planet. Sounding more like an intergalactic Spring Break, rather than a perilous migration of humankind to another world, Musk describes the journey:

It has got to be really fun and exciting. It cannot feel cramped and boring. Therefore the crew compartment or the occupant compartment is set up so that you can do zero-gravity games. You can float around. There will be movies, lecture halls, cabins and a restaurant. It will be really fun to go. You are going to have a great time.

And once you get to Mars, the merriment doesn’t stop, says Musk. “It would be quite fun to be on Mars because you would have gravity that is about 37 per cent of that of Earth, so you would be able to lift heavy things and bound around.”

In addition to “iron foundries and pizza joints,” Musk envisions there will be methane plants on the Martian surface to provide fuel for rockets schlepping to and from Earth, a route he predicts will only take as few as 30 days (one way) in the future.

So, aside from the obvious questions like who/how will the million astro-squatters be selected, what they will breathe for air once they reach the Red Planet, and who will pull the short straw to build and work the foundries and methane plants, Musk’s dream of a Martian metropolis eerily reminds one of a cosmic groundhog day in which we tote our dirty laundry to the next unwrecked planet only to eventually slip on the same evolutionary banana peel that’s brought us to the edge of extinction here on Earth, thus truly becoming a multi-planetary species of wandering locusts dooming everything in its path.

It’s a Small World After All

In a less dumbed-down version of “stop the world, we want to get off,” famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking recently called for leading countries to unite in sending astronauts to the Moon by 2020 where they would complete a lunar base within 30 years, and also send humans to Mars by 2025, according to the BBC. Presenting his thoughts at the science and the arts Starmus Festival in Norway, the real-life Mr. Peabody communicated that he hoped such a shared endeavor would re-ignite a new sense of purpose for humanity as well as “unite competitive nations in a single goal, to face the common challenge for us all,” and “stimulate interest in other areas, such as astrophysics and cosmology.”

European Space Agency lunar base concept.

While not diminishing the need to also address Earth-bound crises such as a greenhouse gas apocalypse (unlike, he said, Donald Trump, “who may just have taken the most serious and wrong decision on climate change this world has seen.”), the renown physicist implored, “We are running out of space and the only places to go to are other worlds. It is time to explore other solar systems. Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves. I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth.”

Star-Crossed Warriors

Believing the Pentagon is dragging its feet regarding America’s military readiness in space, key members of the US House Armed Services Committee have formally submitted proposed language to the National Defense Authorization Act calling for the creation of a dedicated “Space Corps,” by January 1, 2019 – a role traditionally held by the Air Force. “We are convinced that the Department of Defense is unable to take the measures necessary to address these challenges effectively and decisively, or even recognize the nature and scale of its problems,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), who chairs the House Armed Services Subcommittee for Strategic Forces, and Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), the subcommittee’s ranking member, in a joint statement. “Thus, Congress has to step in.”

The new Space Corps would be led by its own chief of staff, and would answer to the civilian secretary of the Air Force, who, interestingly, is pushing back on the proposed new military entity. Secretary Heather Wilson said on Wednesday that she opposes the Space Corps, complaining that “The Pentagon is complicated enough. We’re trying to simplify. This will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart and cost more money.’ Congressional champions of the idea, who are pig-biting mad at Wilson’s cold shoulder, argue that the creation of a space fighting branch is essential in protecting America’s network of communications and navigation satellites from weapons developed by nations such as China or Russia.

Little Engines That Could

Prometheus engine concept.

Under a similar theme of cheap and recyclable rocket motors, the European Space Agency and Airbus Safran Launchers (to be renamed ArianeGroup on July1) inked a deal last week to cook up a low-cost, reusable liquid oxygen/methane rocket engine dubbed “Prometheus” to go online after 2030 that will be made with the use of 3D printers to keep costs dow to around $1.1 million, reports the New York Times. “The commercial market – at least the European one – is asking for reliability, on-time delivery and cost, and we have to find the best way to answer these market expectations,” Safran’s CEO, Alain Charmeau, told Reuters. Charmeau noted that in particular, the expected boom in driverless cars and their need to have data transmitted to them globally, will increase the demand for communications satellites – and therefore rockets to launch them.

 Goin’ Postal

The US Postal Service last week released a special stamp commemorating this August 21st’s total solar eclipse that will cut a 70-mile shadow through 14 states from South Carolina to Oregon. The collector’s dream features a pic taken by retired NASA astrophysicist and solar eclipse guru Fred Espenak, and boasts the first-ever use of thermochromic ink on a postage sticker, allowing the image to morph when the heat of a thumb or fingers presses the surface.  (The underlying thermal-triggered Moon image, transforms to the classic lunar occultation shot once the surface cools.) For fanciers who want to preserve the longevity of their philatelic gem, the USPS is selling a special envelope for a nominal fee. And for those who want to do more than just ogle at literally a postage-stamp sized version of this year’s astronomical event, click here for the best spots to view the celestial show.

F Goop

NASA last week tossed a penalty flag on claims that a miracle healing patch being hawked on Gwyneth Paltrow’s putridly pretentious “Goop” website is made with the same high tech wizardry employed to monitor astronauts’ health in space. Sold alongside such scientifically-sound products as vitamin supplements for women named “Balls in the Air,” and “The Mother Lode,”  the “Body Vibes” wearable stickers claimed to “promote healing” and to “rebalance” the body’s  “energy frequency” with the “same conductive carbon material NASA uses to line space suits so they can monitor an astronaut’s vitals” via “bio-frequency” resonating with one’s “natural energy field.” So, before you can say, “Houston, we have a problem,” Gizmodo’s Rae Paoletta contacted space agency reps who reported that spacesuits “do not have any conductive carbon material lining.” In addition, a former chief NASA scientist, not surprisingly, added, “What a load of BS this is.” Goop on its part distanced itself from the fray, issuing the standard “we don’t formally endorse the advice and recommendations of overpriced crap that’s sold our our site” statement, while the Body Vibes dudes threw a company engineer and distributor under the bus, saying that it was all just a miscommunication between the two. According to Vox, the company, however, still stands by its wonder patch, saying that “the origins of the material do not [in] anyway impact the efficacy of our product.” Goop on the other hand has removed the controversial claims, awaiting further verification, and Gwyneth is, well you know the saying, “in space no one can hear you scream.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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