Aging Soviet Space Vehicles Still Impress

Eric Berger, writing at Wired:

The Soviet Union’s Buran space shuttle program stands as one of the saddest episodes in aerospace history. After NASA began working on its space shuttle program in the early 1970s, the Soviet Union conceived of its own orbiter program, the eerily similar looking Buran shuttle. Ultimately, the vehicle made just one flight, an uncrewed mission in 1988. The Soviet Union’s collapsing economy doomed the program.

The Buran orbiter that made the initial three-hour flight was destroyed in 2002, when the roof of the hangar where it was stored in Kazakhstan collapsed. Like the United States, the Soviet Union didn’t make just one Buran, they made several with the intention of eventually having a fleet of orbital vehicles. When the program was canceled, those vehicles, from mock-ups to nearly flight ready articles, were mothballed.

Eclipse 2017: T-2 Months

If you’re anything like me, you heard about the 2017 eclipse over a year ago and thought “cool,” but haven’t really thought about it since.

This week, some of the photography podcasts I listen to started talking about the eclipse and man, I’m really starting to get excited!

Adjustments With A Restrained Hand

Photographer Brian Matiash, writing at Digital Photo Pro:

You may be asking what all this talk about camera sensors and RAW file formats has to do with faithfully representing your image. The bottom line is that making even some mild tonal, white balance and color adjustments to the straight-out-of-camera image can pay back with massive dividends, and it’s as applicable to portrait photos as it is to landscape, nature and urban ones. The trick is to know when to say “when.”

Nice reminder that often, “less is more.”

Remember Chain Letters? Hackers Do

Ashwin Seshagiri, New York Times’ Tech Roundup:

The victims have a choice […] Pay the hackers a ransom of one bitcoin, a digital currency worth roughly $2,365, in exchange for regaining access to the computer, or try to infect two new people on behalf of the attackers.

That sucks.

Oldest Fossils of Homo Sapiens Found in Morocco

Carl Zimmer, writing for The Paper of Record:

Dating back roughly 300,000 years, the bones indicate that mankind evolved earlier than had been known, experts say, and open a new window on our origins.

The fossils also show that early Homo sapiens had faces much like our own, although their brains differed in fundamental ways.

Until now, the oldest fossils of our species, found in Ethiopia, dated back just 195,000 years. The new fossils suggest our species evolved across Africa.


Trump decides not to invoke executive privilege, not that he could

John Dean, writing at CNN:

As a leading student and expert on the subject of executive privilege, Mark J. Rozell, has written, it is an accepted doctrine when appropriately applied in two circumstances: (1) certain national security needs and (2) protecting the privacy of White House deliberations when doing so serves the public interest.

Clearly, Donald Trump’s conversations with James Comey do not fall into either area. Trump was wise not to try to concoct a phony justification for using the doctrine, which at best would have been a delaying tactic and only increased the already-fiendish interest in the specifics of Comey’s testimony.

Pretending James Comey is testifying only because the President is not invoking executive privilege is not only disingenuous, it borders on small-bore fraud. To claim you have a power you do not, in fact, possess is dishonest.

My comments on Facebook, just yesterday, in response to an article announcing the President’s “decision”:

I just love that this is presented by the White House as though our reaction should be “gee, the President is such a great guy,” when all along they know that if he even tried, the rational reaction could only be “gee, the President is an even bigger piece of shit that I had previously thought”…

Thought of the Day

I will double your IQ, or no money back.

(Limited time offer)

Star Wars at 40

Star Wars, a film which has unfortunately come to be known as Episode IV: A New Hope, was released 40 years ago today. Although I didn’t see it on opening night, or even opening weekend, I did see it soon thereafter (you have to be able to get a ride when you’re eleven…), and I can still remember being amazed right from the very beginning–“a long time ago? Awesome.

FCC: No punishment for Colbert’s Trump joke

The Associated Press:

NEW YORK (AP) – There will be no fine for Stephen Colbert’s risque joke about President Donald Trump.

A Federal Communications Commission spokesman said Tuesday that the agency received “thousands” of complaints about the late-night host’s May 1 show, so it reviewed the material as “standard operating procedure.” It’s the FCC’s job to police obscene or indecent material on TV when it receives complaints.

The agency found that the joke, which involved Trump, Russian leader Vladimir Putin and a crude word for penis, did not warrant punishment.

What a monologue!

Gallup: Belief in Creationist View at New Low

Art Swift at

• 38% say God created man in present form, lowest in 35 years
• Same percentage say humans evolved, but God guided the process
• Less-educated Americans more likely to believe in creationism

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The percentage of U.S. adults who believe that God created humans in their present form at some time within the last 10,000 years or so — the strict creationist view — has reached a new low. Thirty-eight percent of U.S. adults now accept creationism, while 57% believe in some form of evolution — either God-guided or not — saying man developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life.