Two giant leaps

People are making history all the time. Amazing, wonderful things are happening beneath the surface, things that will change the world forever.

Like right now.

The first private flight to leave Earth is in the air as we speak. SpaceShipOne is the result of countless millions of dollars, and years of research spearheaded by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. He started his own space program. And it’s paying off.

As I type this, SpaceShipOne is travelling towards a height of 100 kilometers away from Earth — officially out of our atmosphere, which will make pilot Mike Melvill the first man to fly out of earth’s atmosphere in a private spaceship.

Take note. These men (both male and female) are about to change the way we look at space, and what we can do with it. They are opening the door for everything science fiction has been promising us for the last hundred years.

(Who would have thought we would owe it all to Microsoft?)

Almost there, B.D.

Depressing Thoughts For Thursday:

A report released by the Center for Biological Diversity reveals that in the first 20 years of the Endangered Species Act, 114 different species have vanished from the face of the earth forever. From the report:

While only 19% of the extinctions involved species on the endangered species list, a full 81% were not on the list. Lacking legal protection, recovery plans, critical habitat, and recovery funding, these species went extinct due a lack of commitment and attention. “Virtually all of these species could have been saved if the Endangered Species Act was properly managed, fully funded and shielded from political pressure,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity and one of three authors of the paper. “Instead they were sacrificed to bureaucratic inertia, political meddling, and lack of leadership.”

The American Department of Justice has announced a massive worldwide bust of copyright infringers:

Operation Fastlink is the culmination of four separate undercover investigations simultaneously being conducted by the FBI, coordinated by the FBI Cyber Division, and the U.S. Department of Justice, coordinated by the Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) of the Criminal Division. As a result of Fastlink, over 120 total searches have been executed in the past 24 hours in 27 states and in 10 foreign countries. Foreign searches were conducted in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden as well as Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Operation Fastlink is the largest multi-national law enforcement effort ever directed at online piracy. Nearly 100 individuals worldwide have been identified by the investigation to date, many of whom are the leaders or high-level members of various international piracy organizations. As the investigations continue, additional targets will be identified and pursued.

Since last monday, the events of Doonesbury have taken a drastic turn. B.D., who we all know and love (the guy with the helmet) has been injured while serving in Iraq. He lost his helmet, and his leg. For those of you who don’t follow Trudeau’s work, this is A Big Deal. B.D. has been around for as long as the strip has, even serving in Vietnam during the 70s. He’s always worn a helmet, signifying that he’s a team player — the team itself is mostly irrelevant, what’s mattered is that he supports it. The decision to maim a thirty-five year old character didn’t come lightly, I’m sure, and the removal of his helmet alongside the injury is in no small way communicating Trudeau’s feelings about the overseas war.

(You may dismiss it as a silly cartoon gimmick, but Trudeau has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, and President Gerald Ford once stated that “There are only three major vehicles to keep us informed as to what is going on in Washington: the electronic media, the print media, and Doonesbury – not necessarily in that order.”)


A beautiful view of the Himalayas from the International Space Station.

Oblique view of the Himalayas, looking south from over the Tibetan Plateau.

At first glance, one might think that the image looks like a picture taken from an airplane, until you remember that the summits of Makalu [left (8,462 meters; 27,765 feet)] and Everest [right (8,850 meters; 29,035 feet)] are at the heights typically flown by commercial aircraft. The full mosaic covers over 130 kilometers (80 miles) of the Himalayan front, and could never be seen this way from an airplane.

i think we should drive out to see stars tonight

In the Gemini constellation tonight, Venus and Jupiter will be only one degree apart. Look for it after sunset, near the hip of the left Gemini twin.

On June 17th, 2 BC, the two planets were zero degrees apart, and were by far the brightest object in the sky with the exception of the moon.

Tonight, you will be one degree away from witnessing the Star of Bethlehem.