Angels from Another Pin
(Eschatological aspirations)


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28 February 2003 ::   I can do anything I want; I'm eccentric  
Oh, hey, did you know that you can be arrested for saying "Bush is out of control" in a library in Santa Fe? Neither did I. But now I do.

This is getting the tiniest bit ridiculous.

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After thirty years of sending back scientific data, Pioneer 10 has fallen silent out past the orbit of Pluto. The space probe lasted twenty times as long as it had been designed to, and was sending back useful data until near the end of its functional lifetime.

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The extremely strange yet curiously compelling "Snack Treats" is Fred Coppersmith's latest addition to the world of letters. (There is also some punctuation to make the letters flow more smoothly.) The sketch is full of obscenity and adult situations and other things which would get it relegated to Adult Swim - or, more likely, HBO - so don't read it at work. Monty Python on acid.

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27 February 2003 ::   And then she plays an eight-minute piano solo on her tie  
The next page of A Miracle of Science is live.

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There are few people in broadcasting I respect, but Fred Rogers was one of them. He has died of cancer at the age of 74.

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Joe Foering
Some are crude, some are inspired, but all these parodies of the DHS terrorism readiness site are worth a look:

And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go?


And you may ask yourself
Am I right?...Am I wrong?


And you may tell yourself
MY GOD!...WHAT HAVE I DONE?

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Axis of Dumb: wander into a party being thrown by the local cops and attempt to sell the local narcotics officer drugs.

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Craig Powell


26 February 2003 ::   Man, if it gets any wilder in here, a bridge game is going to break out  
Using a toxin manufactured from coral, scientists have come a lot closer to figuring out the functioning of the ion pumps in cell walls.

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Scientists have come a long way in advancing towards computers made of DNA. At the moment, the DNA can be programmed but is not universal - that is, there are some problems it cannot solve - so it's not really a "computer" yet. Only time will tell if DNA-based computing has any real uses.

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Glenn Juskiewicz


25 February 2003 ::   Well, at least I shall die as I have lived. Completely surrounded by morons.  
The coldest place known is the Boomerang Nebula, which is cooled to one kelvin by the refrigerating effect of the star's swift stellar wind.

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I wouldn't be so completely disgusted with the current Administration's tax plan if it weren't obviously written by psychotics who have forgotten to take their medication.
The only way this notion of running up huge deficits makes sense as a purposeful strategy is to think of it as a Lenin-style "heightening the contradictions." That is, make things worse until there is a crisis in which you can triumph when the smoke clears. Or, to make the same point with a different metaphor, perhaps the idea is that government spending is an addiction, and the patient has to hit rock bottom before an intervention can start him on the path to a cure.

But who is the patient? Who is this government that is so out of control? Republicans now control the White House and both houses of Congress. Even the Supreme Court has made vividly clear that it stands ready to help if necessary. And self-labeled conservatives are pretty much in control in the party itself. There is nothing to stop President Bush and his congressional cohorts from proposing, enacting, and imposing any vision they may have about the proper size of government and method of financing it. They don't need wacky behavioral schemes and incentives.

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24 February 2003 ::   If deadly radiation knocks on your door, do not answer  
Homeland Sesame Advisory System:

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Mark Sachs
Brisco and Curtis - I mean Benjamin and Caprice - break a couple of rules in this episode of Law & Order A Miracle of Science.

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Those deeply mental people at Corn Pone Flicks have a new short film available for download.

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Mark Sachs
It's a bad time for sitcom writers, who have nothing but their overstuffed bank accounts and Harvard degrees to fall back on now that reality shows have battered the market for unfunny psuedohumor.

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Homeland Security Advisory System Monster Scale (warning: contains bad words, so don't read it at work, kids!)

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21 February 2003 ::   Lightbulbs are "Old Media". Today we can download photons directly from the Internet!  
How to turn an ancient superstition into a moneymaking opportunity: either become a born-again televangelist or, like the Kabalarians, charge to make up some crap about people's names!

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Jessica Gothie
Iraq is doing what dictatorships and unpopular American administrations always do when in a jam: pretend everything is all right and hope that weak-minded people believe it.

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Mitch Hagmaier
This test's creator asks: "Michael Jackson era are you?" I are the Jackson 5 era.

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Alyce Wilson
You have a lot of snow on the ground when you require a bulldozer to bring people through it.

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Jessica Gothie


20 February 2003 ::   Clearly, the influence of this blog is as pervasive as it is inconsequential  
The newest page of A Miracle of Science is up. I maunder on about the positive benefits of laziness, while Mark expounds on the ethics of online anonymity. This is a radical departure from last week - a mirror image in fact - since last week I commented on the formation of natrocarbonatite volcanoes on Earth and sulphur volcanoes on Io, while Mark noted that he hadn't mentioned frogs lately.

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You may have noticed that the advertisements on television have become music videos. Car commercials, especially, have done this. I've seen the phenomenon spread to other industries' advertising in the last couple of days, with the detergent Cheer offering its advertisement's song for download via a URL flashed on the screen during the commercial and computer maker Gateway actually putting the name, singer, and such of its ad's song in the lower left like an MTV video.

With some singers finding success after their music gained exposure via advertising (the boost in sales of Sting's "Desert Rose" after the song appeared in a car commercial springs to mind), I think the advertising agencies have perked up their ears and taken notice. For the next several months, at least, the commercial-as-music-video concept will be on the tube. If it doesn't get people to purchase products, I expect to see this meme drop out of heavy rotation.

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This one is of special interest to regular reader Joe, whom I know has one of these little doodads on his car: the evolution of the Darwin fish.

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19 February 2003 ::   We don't necessarily want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, but we would like to do some exploratory surgery  
You need to go read an interview with the author of the worst book in the world. Really. Go read it.
I am on the phone with Robert Burrows, author of the recently published political novel Great American Parade. This book has sold only 400 copies nationwide, and Burrows seems flabbergasted to be hearing from me. The most prestigious newspaper to have shown any interest so far is the Daily Student at Indiana University.

I tell Burrows that if he is willing to submit to an interview, I am willing to review his book at length in The Washington Post. The only catch, I said, is that I am going to say that it is, in my professional judgment, the worst novel ever published in the English language.

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If you hadn't noticed yet, I feel that John Ashcroft is a disgrace to his office. Baltimore Sun writer Michael Hill isn't too fond of him, either:
Ashcroft's role as one of the most visible members of the Bush anti-terrorism team ended in June when he staged a news conference while in Moscow to announce the arrest of Jose Padilla, a Chicago street criminal accused of planning to explode a radioactive bomb in the United States. Ashcroft referred to Padilla by his adopted name of Abdullah al Muhajir, calling him "an al-Qaida operative," and said his arrest "disrupted an unfolding terrorist plot to attack the United States."

Few others in the administration saw Padilla as such a threat. Many thought Ashcroft was grandstanding. His appearances were severely curtailed.

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18 February 2003 ::   Everyone's always in favor of saving Hitler's brain, but when you put it in the body of a great white shark, ooo, suddenly you've gone too far  
I am a sucker for clever timepieces, so this Flash clock makes me happy.

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Would it be too much to ask of the Christians in the Knoxville area for them to stop beating and harassing a little girl because she's not Christian?

I wonder if they would harass and/or attack me. Because I'm not Christian, either, but I'm a lot bigger and meaner than a little girl...

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17 February 2003 ::   This is attributed to the belief that being evil damages the Reality Lobe of the brain  
The next page of A Miracle of Science is up, even though there are snowdrifts blocking my front door. Mind you, Mark actually updates the page, but I feel some mention of the snow should be made.

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The weapons you are looking for are currently unavailable. The country might be experiencing technical difficulties, or you may need to adjust your weapons inspectors' mandate.

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This fellow appears to have shown that increasing the incomes of the rich to the detriment of the poor and middle class will probably cause economic growth rates to fall. This is the exact opposite of the current Administration's neo-trickle-down theories.

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14 February 2003 ::   "Leela, this must all be very confusing."
"A little, that's why I've decided to hurt you until you explain it."
 
Bayard Rustin, a native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, organized the 1963 march on Washington.

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Winners of the Hoagiesville Science and Engineering Fair
Elementary Division:
First Place, Can Geraniums Learn?, Martin Luther Burbank, Jr.
Second Place, The Effects of Sunlight on Vampires, Jimmy Van Helsing
Third Place, The Effects of the Plague on Mrs. Fishbein's Fourth Grade Class, Ti Foid
From the extremely goofy online comic Doctor Fun.

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13 February 2003 ::   It's a great big universe and we're all really puny; we're just tiny little specks about the size of Mickey Rooney  
Robert Kline, a man who has lived in Virginia for fifty years, is attempting to raise a statue of President Lincoln outside Richmond. The mouth-breathing lackwits who still want the South to rise again are against the plan. They think Kline is somehow degrading the memory of the southern soldiers who died in the Civil War. Well, I have news for them: the South lost. They deserved to lose. Slavery is - and was - morally reprehensible, and so was the attempt to tear apart the world's first true attempt at democracy. I find neo-confederates disgusting and foolish. Whimper all you want about the imagined glories of Old Dixie, or about the supposedly genteel ways of plantation life, but never forget you are glorifying a way of life that stole children from their mothers, tortured people for not working hard enough, and denied the most basic rights to millions of enslaved persons over the course of centuries.

So keep your Strom Thurmonds and your Trent Lotts and your David Dukes, all the relics of the Old South. The new South will be better for the passing of men such as those, and better for the defeat of the neo-confederates.

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The newest page of A Miracle of Science contains robots, and a font-based joke. I am such a geek.

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The lyrics to every song from Animaniacs (including one that was never used) ought to keep you guys busy for a while.

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Anyone who tells you we need to cut taxes for the wealthy because they're overtaxed is misinformed. The tax burden actually falls pretty evenly, as a percentage of income, over all income groups:
source: New York Times

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12 February 2003
When a heavy pendulum reaches the end of its arc and prepares to swing back the other way, one hears a small, tensile creak from the rope and the ceiling. The rope is starting to creak in Congress as they forbid the Pentagon to use the TIA program against Americans.

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Fred Coppersmith
This one is for Matt Smith: Rent Liechtenstein!

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What do you do if you're looking for neutrinos so energetic and rare that one is expected to strike a square kilometer of Earth's surface less than once a year? You use the Moon as a neutrino detector.
[Chuck] Naudet is one of the five people who make up the Goldstone Lunar Ultra High Energy Neutrino Experiment, aka GLUE. Neutrinos are almost-massless particles produced during various nuclear reactions and decay; since the discovery of the particles half a century ago, physicists have searched for them in myriad ways, from monitoring chemical changes in underground tanks of dry-cleaning fluid to looking for sparks deep inside the Antarctic ice. These experiments have seen neutrinos from the humdrum nuclear reactions at the core of the sun and glimpsed their higher-energy cousins from the more spectacular explosions at the hearts of supernovas. But GLUE is looking for something else - neutrinos that no well-understood process could conceivably have made, neutrinos with energies that dwarf anything seen before. GLUE is looking for individual subatomic particles that pack as much punch as a tennis champion's serve.

In some ways, the project is easy. Low-energy neutrinos are notoriously hard to detect because they almost never interact with ordinary matter. But neutrinos with the sort of energies that Naudet and his colleagues are interested in can be stopped pretty reliably by just a few kilometers of rock. As a bonus, they can be expected to give off a reasonably plaintive yelp of electromagnetic radiation as they do so. Unfortunately, these more obtrusive neutrinos are also far, far more rare; at the surface of Earth, you can expect fewer than one per square kilometer per year. Picking up a signal like that takes a very big detector, indeed.

As Naudet tests out the systems at the focus of NASA's best radio antenna, the neutrino-stopping part of his experiment is dragging itself over the eastern horizon, big and yellow. In a couple of hours, after exhaustive tests, the GLUE team - two professors, two NASA staff researchers, and a graduate student - will settle down to listen for radio squawks from dying neutrinos. It's a long way from the thousand-person teams that would have worked the detectors beneath the farmland south of Dallas. But if the GLUE team is small by Texan standards, its detector is not - lighting up the night sky from a quarter-million miles away.

Even more interesting than the mere idea of using the Moon as a telescope is the detection of neutrino death-squawks that appear to be coming from near the Moon, but not within it:
GLUE's biggest challenge is showing that any neutrino-ish signals it picks up actually come from the moon, rather than from local radio interference. It was Peter Gorham, then a colleague of Naudet's at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, now a professor at the University of Hawaii, who saw that JPL's Goldstone interplanetary communications facility in the Mojave Desert offered a way to minimize the problem. At Goldstone, they can use two dishes at once, 22 kilometers apart. At any given time, one of the dishes will be a bit nearer to the moon, and so will receive any lunar radio burst a few microseconds earlier. The time lag will change continuously as the moon moves through the sky, in a way any astronomer can easily calculate. In just over a hundred hours of operation spread out over a few years (the Goldstone dishes are only rarely spared for listening to anything other than spacecraft), GLUE has yet to see a signal that matches exactly what it would expect from a neutrino in the moon. But it has seen something odd. Gorham and his colleagues keep on receiving intriguing signals that have almost, but not quite, the offset necessary for something coming from the moon. These signals are consistently 1 microsecond off - which suggests that they are coming from an empty piece of space that sticks close to the moon as it passes across the sky.

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11 February 2003 ::   At the end, you will be asked to accept this agreement and provide this Website with a warm, lingering, creepy hug  
The bad news is, the Administration believes the erosion of our rights and liberties hasn't gone far enough, and they believe a second PATRIOT Act is therefore required. The good news, according to a legal analyst for CBS, is that it is likely the members of Congress may actually read the damned thing before passing it and may actually reject it. We can only hope.
According to the Center for Public Integrity, the draft expansion of the Patriot Act would be called the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003.

Among other things, it would prohibit disclosure of information regarding people detained as terrorist suspects and prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from distributing "worst-case scenario" information to the public about a nearby private company's use of chemicals.

In addition, the measure would create a DNA database of "suspected terrorists;" force suspects to prove why they should be released on bail, rather than have the prosecution prove why they should be held; and allow the deportation of U.S. citizens who become members of or help terrorist groups.

Police State Threat: Orange (High)

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Put on your tinfoil beanies: For some reason, I have seen searches for the phrase "second coming rat poison" hitting this site from locations in Europe. Quite odd.

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As if you needed another reason to think Wal-Mart is evil: Apparently they discriminate in employment practices based on gender. The study in which the claims of discrimination are made will be used as part of a class-action lawsuit that could grow to encompass as many as a million claimants.

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Self-image matters to the Giant Armored Death Kitty

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10 February 2003 ::   Great news, everyone! I've taught the toaster to feel love.  
My little sister and her husband are going to be parents. I will use the general psychological shock of this announcement to explain away any and all dumb things I may say or do over the next couple of weeks.

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Romantic comedy on Io in the latest installment of A Miracle of Science!

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The Unseen Theatre Company, an acting troupe in Australia, is performing a number of plays based on Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels.

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9 February 2003 ::   It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice  
Ofer Springer claims to be able to scan in his vinyl records and turn them into (mushy and out-of-tune) music.
Remember those flat round things you may have found lying around the house. Those that never really worked well as flying saucers? Well, the other day I happenned to have a good look at one through a magnifying glass. I was able to discern something waveform'esqe in the shape of the grooves. I thought, "groovy, there must be a way to extract something sensible off of that" (actual thought quoted).

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7 February 2003 ::   Let me tell you, to have your villain be a flaming eyeball for three whole movies is a difficult thing  
In a Moebius loop of logic, scientists have invented automatic scientists.

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The reason I'm having so much trouble flying this ship is because it's black. The walls are black, the floor is black, the console is black, the switches are black, the labels are little black letters printed on a black background, and when you press anything, a black light lights up in black to tell you you've done it.

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6 February 2003 ::   The potted plant, which our scientists have determined to be a nice chrysanthemum, really goes well with the dining room --Joe Foering  
The next page of A Miracle of Science is up, now with added nanotechnology!

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Four animated short stories based on The Matrix are being made available, one a month, by Warner Brothers. The first one is up, and it is well worth watching. It contains a number of visual references to events in the twentieth century that are very well used.

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Persuant to the Latin link yesterday, Jessica has found a site where professional Latin speakers speak Latin. Latin poetry. Good Latin poetry.

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Jessica Gothie


5 February 2003 ::   No matter how monstrous their truck show may or may not be  
In the game of Logi-Sticks, two players compete to see who can complete logical circuits from the center of a chessboard to its edges using boolean operators. I want to play this.

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Why do stores all seem to be the same nowadays? Why, category management, of course!

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Jessica Gothie
"At last, Acme has conquered topological and engineering frontiers to manufacture genuine glass Klein Bottles. These are the finest closed, non-orientable, boundary-free manifolds sold anywhere in our three spatial dimensions."

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Jessica Gothie
Atomic bomb detonator cables $2 each. (Scroll to the bottom of the page.)

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Jon Acheson
When Johnny Carson Jokes Attack, next on Fox: National Geographic is publishing a swimsuit issue. This is a brilliant bit of marketing.

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Amanda Bancock


4 February 2003 ::   I would explain how to actually put iron and copper together to make an electromagnet, but I'm not convinced Ben wouldn't use his new magnetic powers for EVIL  
My favorite sentence in Latin is Caesar si viveret, ad remum dareris.

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The same folks who provide the site to which I linked over a year ago which shows a daily plot of the location of every known object in the inner Solar System now provide an animation of every object to make a close approach to Earth in early 2002. (Warning: This is a 1.5 MB GIF file.)

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Scientists and historians have determined that the landmarks given in Homer's poetry match reality.

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3 February 2003 ::   Ad astra per aspera  
The next page of A Miracle of Science is up.

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I take it as a matter of faith that we will continue and expand our efforts at manned spaceflight. With that in mind, come up with a name for the next Space Shuttle we will build, and post it over in the Discussion area.

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Using quantum entanglement, scientists have managed to teleport photons over a mile. The method only recreates one in a thousand photons at the far end, so it's far from useful just yet.

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Highway sign: CALL POLICE TO REPORT SPACE SHUTTLE DEBRIS Automated highway signs in Dallas warn motorists to call police to report debris from the Space Shuttle. I take this as a sign that the future marches onward.

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2 February 2003 ::   When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and take the step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for us to stand on or we will be taught to fly.  
The Space Shuttle Columbia launched for the first time in April of 1981; I considered it a slightly early present for my twelfth birthday. I remember watching a tape of the launch broadcast on the noontime news on a television in school. We stopped class and watched as the huge, white chevron was propelled into the sky on a tower of fire on a bright Florida morning. Twenty-eight times Columbia launched into space, and twenty-seven times it returned safely. On Saturday I watched, on every channel, as it returned to Earth in a plume of fire on a bright Texas morning. Columbia was a fixture in the space program as long as I can remember. I had looked forward to the day, a couple of decades from now, when it would have been retired to a museum so I could see it up close. Columbia, and even more so the seven astronauts who lost their lives bridging the chasm to a permanent human presence in space, will be missed.

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1 February 2003 ::   Look, buddy, in this Whitehouse, everyone wears Klingon makeup, comprende?  
Scientists in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica are studing the region's unusual geology for clues to explain the geology of Mars.
They stood on rocks that blanket the oldest ice on the planet the remnant of a glacier that could be anywhere from one million to eight million years old. They examined freeze-dried algae, possibly 10 million years old and possibly still alive. In the process, they hashed out some longstanding mysteries about climate change here and on Mars.

The three major Dry Valleys and the mile-high mountains that separate them occupy a region about the size of Delaware and embrace some of the most unusual environments on Earth. At lower reaches, near the Ross Sea, frozen lakes partially thaw in the Antarctic summer and microscopic worms and algae come alive.

Farther inland, the valleys run into mountain barriers that block ice flow from interior East Antarctica an ice sheet up to two miles thick that covers more than 3.8 million square miles. Here the average temperature is 35 below zero. Except for tiny skiffs of snow that blow in from the ice sheet, there is no water. It has not rained for 15 million years.

"This is the best preserved landscape on Earth," Dr. Marchant said.

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I can't make stuff like this up: Due to rules passing the chair of the conference alphabetically through evey nation in the UN, Iraq and Iran are to co-chair the United Nations Conference on Disarmament.

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(The Side of the Angels)

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