Massive ordnance penetrator

Glenn Greenwald mentions rumblings against Iran with the MOP (massive ordnance penetrator, a huge multiton bomb that could be used to strike hardened underground nuclear facilities. However, what caught my attention was not the politics about the situation, but rather the bomb itself.

Think about it: it's a bomb that weighs over ten kilotons, presumably with an explosive more powerful than TNT. Now recall that the atomic bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki were equivalent to blasts of 13 and 21 kilotons of TNT, respectively. The MOP may as well be a nuclear bomb, just a really heavy one and lacking radioactivity. Imagine the MOP being used with little hesitation because it is a conventional warhead, but prompting a nuclear response because someone else might consider its powerful blast to be little different from having used a small tactical nuclear warhead ...

LCROSS saw water

LCROSS infrared spectrum
LCROSS infrared spectrum

LCROSS crashed into the Moon last month, although the lack of a visible plume in the real-time video feed made the impact less exciting than it could have been. But the lack of a visible plume is hardly a failure, since LCROSS was sent to do science, not make a flashy impact.

And it looks like LCROSS has managed to find exactly what it was sent to find on the Moon. Analysis of the near-infrared and ultraviolet spectra as LCROSS passed through the plume kicked up by the impact of the Centaur rocket upper stage indicates that the plume contained water. And not the piddling amount of water that seems ubiquitously present on the rest of the Moon: there must be significant reservoirs of water at Cabeus crater. Just how much water there might be remains to be seen, as well as the identity of other compounds that appear to have been detected in the impact plume.

The 11/3 Project

I often watch The Daily Show, and Jon Stewart's recent tribute to Glenn Beck was just so awesome that I have to mention it on my blog. He just emulated Glenn Beck so well that I could very well imagine Beck saying the exact same things. It probably wouldn't be funny at all if you've never had the misfortune of seeing Glenn Beck speak, though.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The 11/3 Project

The sad thing is that the arguments used in the eight-minute parody are just as strong as the ones Glenn Beck's fans swallow hook, line, and sinker all the time. Unless his fans think his show is actually a comedy ...

A glitch in Kepler

The Kepler spacecraft is supposed to continuously watch a hundred thousand stars to detect the slight dimming that would indicate the presence of a planet. The bad news is that the spacecraft has a few noisy electronic components: while Kepler should still be able to detect larger planets, the noise is enough that will be difficult to discover Earth-sized planets. The good news is that this problem can be fixed by software, and the software fix for Kepler should be in place by 2011.