Spirit no longer roving

The Mars Spirit Rover has been stuck for months in a sand trap, and it hasn't helped that one of the wheels were broken in the first place while another wheel broke down as well. Efforts to get Spirit out of the sand trap now have finally been given up. Considering that it has roamed around Mars for six years (albeit over very small distances), far longer than its original three-month planned lifespan, that ain't so bad. And even with the Spirit rover being stuck, it will now be serving as a static station observing the Martian weather and seismological activity. Not to mention that Opportunity is still roving ...

Declaration of war in Korea (yet again)

In response to a South Korean defense minister raising the possibility of a first strike if North Korea showed clear signs of attacking with nuclear weapons, North Korea accused the South of declaring war. The defense minister was being unwise: he should have been vague enough to make North Korea wonder if South Korea would ever strike first, while not making statements that the North could unambiguously use in accusations without making themselves look like even bigger jerks than they usually come across as. On the other hand, North Korea is yet again vastly overreacting (as usual).

Maybe for most people in the world, a "you just declared war on us" claim from a neighboring nation might be cause for great alarm. But for the average South Korean, it wouldn't be cause for panic, even if it does increase worry, since the North Korean government has been regularly saying things like that for decades. And it's rather hard to stay in total fear mode for so long when total open warfare has not broken out during all that time. No doubt such aggressive posture by North Korea is ulcer-inducing for military planners, since this might be the one time that the North actually starts something drastic, but North Korea has been crying wolf far too many times for the average person.

The average person in North Korea might have similar attitudes regarding aggressive proclamations from the South Korean government, except I suspect they never actually get to hear about them ...

Guns versus bombs

One thing that always occurs to me when there is a mass shooting is that they often don't seem to be fundamentally different from suicide bombings. In both types of events, the perpetuator usually ends up killing and wounding a lot of people, and the perpetuator almost always end up getting themselves killed, by getting themselves blown up, shooting themselves, or getting shot by cops. And yet, suicide bombings are invariably described as terrorist acts while mass shootings are treated as 'merely' very tragic events (well, except perhaps if the shooter is Muslim). The one fundamental difference between a mass shooting and a suicide bombing seems to be that there might be less property damage from the former, even if in practice there might be different proportions of motives.

Not terribly important in the grand scheme of things, but the different perceptions have been bugging me ...

Stone tips or not?

I'm a big fan of the MythBusters and have watched every single episode of the myth-busting show. Given the things they are testing all the time, I've always wondered if they ever work with those in academia to publish some of their results in peer-reviewed journals. I also subscribe to Research Blogging for blog posts that talk about papers discussing current research, as part of my effort to find stuff to include in Science Gossip, my "meta-blogging" site for science news.

Continue reading Stone tips or not?

Listening for the Phoenix

Phoenix Lander Amid Disappearing Spring Ice

The Mars Odyssey orbiter will be listening for radio signals from the Mars Phoenix Lander. Having ceased communications near the end of 2008 with the onset of the Martian winter, the Phoenix lander is extremely unlikely to have survived, but if it somehow manages to come back to life with the start of the Martian spring, it will be sending out signals that Odyssey should be able to pick up. The Phoenix lander was not designed to survive the Martian winter, so it would be extremely impressive if Odyssey picks up signals from the lander: it really would be like a phoenix in more ways than one (the other way being a resurrection of a cancelled Martian lander project).

There most likely won't be any signals from the Phoenix lander, though, but this is still an opportunity to remember the impressive achievements it made.