Monthly Archives: May 2009

Water on a sub-freezing Mars

ResearchBlogging.orgNASA researchers is now reporting in the May 21st issue of Nature that water could remain liquid at sub-freezing temperatures if made stable against freezing by containing dissolved minerals. From the abstract:

Many features of the Martian landscape are thought to have been formed by liquid water flow, and water-related mineralogies on the surface of Mars are widespread and abundant. Several lines of evidence, however, suggest that Mars has been cold with mean global temperatures well below the freezing point of pure water. Martian climate modellers, considering a combination of greenhouse gases at a range of partial pressures find it challenging to simulate global mean Martian surface temperatures above 273 K, and local thermal sources cannot account for the widespread distribution of hydrated and evaporitic minerals throughout the Martian landscape. Solutes could depress the melting point of water in a frozen Martian environment, providing a plausible solution to the early Mars climate paradox. Here we model the freezing and evaporation processes of Martian fluids with a composition resulting from the weathering of basalts, as reflected in the chemical compositions at Mars landing sites. Our results show that a significant fraction of weathering fluids loaded with [various minerals] remain in the liquid state at temperatures well below 273 K. …

273 K is the freezing point of water in Kelvin, the preferred temperature scale for astro-scientoid types.

The paper says little more for the average reader than what is in the abstract, but NASA has a press release:

“We found that the salts in water solutions can reduce the melting point of water, which may help explain how liquid water existed in a frozen Martian environment,” said Alberto Fairén, a space scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. and the lead author of the study.

“Our goal was to learn how a combination of different processes of evaporation and freezing affect the freezing point of a hypothetical Martian solution. We also wanted to see how the liquid phases formed and destabilized over the evolution of different solutions, added Alfonso Davila, a co-author of the paper at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

A copy of the press release is here.

Continue reading Water on a sub-freezing Mars

My name is Rhoda Chiputu, I am 10 years old.

Rhoda nearly dropped out from school in 2005 as her friends used to laugh at her in class due to her poor performance. Most of the days, Rhoda could not do her home work because she had no time, as she spent most of her afternoons helping her mother fetch water.

“Now that there is a borehole in my community, the scarce potable water has become easily accessible; the distance to the water source has been much reduced; and this rainy season I have not suffered from diarrhea. I now spend less time collecting water than before and have more time to do my homework and concentrate in school. My performance is improving.”

Please go visit Digital Rabbit, read Rhoda’s Story, and leave a comment mentioning that you stopped by. This is a new blog doing important work and they could use some encouragement!

Learning the Bash Shell

This is a repost of a review that is timely, given this week’s focus on setting up your Linux server and changing all your computers over to Linux and so on.

i-30a1e0366512a8ac50ae2cf969f02d73-learning_bash_shell.jpgFor the most part, computer operating systems all have a “shell.” When people talk about the “command line” … they are talking about the prompt in a shell. The concept of a shell, and the way we think of a shell today mostly stems from its implementation on Unix systems. A shell is a computer program that has a human interface and a number of built in or accessible functions (mostly other programs) that humans can invoke to make the computer do something. On ‘servers’ and on most computers back in the old days, the shell would typically appear as a prompt on a computer screen, and that would be all you would get. You type stuff in, and the computer types stuff as well, and between the two of you, stuff happens. On a computer with a graphical user interface (GUI), there is still a shell, but it looks different. The shell is less tangible to the human user, but the GUI itself is a program that provides the user interface, and it may either be the shell itself or it may be invoked automatically as the computer starts up by the shell.

Continue reading Learning the Bash Shell

Giant blob found deep beneath Nevada, and other matters

How to knock out your children: Use PediSedate.

PediSedate is a medical device consisting of a colorful, toy-like headset that connects to a game component such as the Nintendo Game Boy system or a portable CD player. Once the child places it on his or her head and swings the snorkel down from its resting place atop the head, PediSedate transparently monitors respiratory function and distributes nitrous oxide, an anesthetic gas. The child comfortably becomes sedated while playing with a Nintendo Game Boy system or listening to music. This dramatically improves the hospital or dental experience for the child, parents and healthcare providers.

Giant blob found deep beneath Nevada

Hidden beneath the U.S. West’s Great Basin, scientists have spied a giant blob of rocky material dripping like honey.

The Great Basin consists of small mountain ranges separated by valleys and includes most of Nevada, the western half of Utah and portions of other nearby states.

While studying the area, John West of Arizona State University and his colleagues found evidence of a large cylindrical blob of cold material far below the surface of central Nevada. Comparison of the results with CAT scans of the inside of Earth taken by ASU’s Jeff Roth suggested they had found a so-called lithospheric drip. …


Zombie Preparedness Initiative!

The Zombie Preparedness Initiative is a knowledge base provided by a community of citizens concerned about the impending zombie invasion and the imminent disaster that is sure to follow. We are not claiming to be experts on anything, we are merely doing what we can to gather knowledge and share the acquired information with the public. By doing this, we hope to help people prepare for the very real threat that we shall face when zombies show up and governments have not taken the time to prepare.

Click her for more. Brains….. more brainssss……

A truly orphaned disease: Diarrhea

Diarrhea: The Unfashionable Disease

Ever hear about the World Concert for Diarrhea? Or the Celebrity Chefs Fundraiser for Diarrhea? Diarrhea just isn’t a disease that gets rallied for. It’s hard to understand that diarrhea can kill you. In the USA, it is an inconvenience. In developing countries, it is a killer. Why?

There are more than 100 microbugs that can cause diarrhea. A child who lives in village that has a bad water supply, limited water for hand washing, and no toilets, is likely to pick up one or more of these bugs at any time. These children can get one case of diarrhea after another….

Continue reading at DR

Don’t just do what people tell you to do.

Catholics are trained to steal away into closets or back rooms with any babies that happen to be left around, so they can be secretly baptized. You did know this, right? It is true. If you take your baby to a day care provider, check on this first. If you suspect there are Catholics working there, just tell them your baby is named Mark or Mary and mention some funny story about the Baptism and that should do it.

You probably knew all that, but what you probably didn’t know is that Atheists are trained to do this: CLICK HERE.

OK, now click here.

OK, now click here.

OK, that is all for now.

Godzilla Boat: Big Giant Science

… during its design … the ship became known as “Godzilla-maru”, so unusual and top-heavy were its projected lines.

“We started planning the Chikyu about 15 years ago, and there were some people who thought we were too ambitious,” he recalled.

“But now we can see that the ship is doing what it is designed to do and is opening up new possibilities.”

The idea was simple. Scientists wanted to drill down into the Earth’s crust – and even through the crust – to get samples from the key zones 6 or 7km down where earthquakes and lots of other interesting geological processes begin; but that was impossible with existing ships.

Solution: find six hundred million dollars, and design and build a new one.

All the details and more multimedia here a the BBC

Ubuntu Server: Why you want one and how to do it.

Why would you want to install Ubuntu as a “server” rather than as a desktop? The simple answer is: If you need to ask, you don’t want to do it. But, there is a more nuanced answer as well: By installing a server, you get to a) have loads of fun installing a server; b) learn things about the system you never thought were even there to learn; c) have your own server, so serve stuff in your very own home, so when The Internet goes down you can continue to pretend like there’s an internet. Just a much, much smaller and less interesting one.

And, if you happen to have anything to serve up in your own home, or if you want to serve a web site of your own, the server setup will make more sense than the desktop setup.

In truth, you can take a desktop installation and convert it over to a server by just installing and setting up some stuff. I myself am not convinced that this option is not even easier than the server-from scratch option. However, server from scratch (as opposed to tweaking a desktop install) will probably be cleaner and meaner, but most importantly, you will understand what you have in front of you better if you do it from scratch.

There are several resources you can use to help make this work. I recently read and very much enjoyed the book Beginning Ubuntu LTS Server Administration: From Novice to Professional (Expert’s Voice in Linux). (That’s a link to Amazon. If you go there and click around you’ll see a number of similar titles. None of the gay or lesbian server editions will be visible to you, of course.)

Here is a web site
that goes through the process on line. Which of these methods of learning (book vs. on line vs. trial and error) is of course a matter of personal preference.

Let’s go back for a moment as to why you might want a server. Your server may be a low-power draw machine with lower-end graphics that you use to access data (multi-media, files, etc.) and/or devices (printers, scanner, etc.) and in turn access via a wireless network elsewhere in your home.

So, physically, a server is different from another computer because it is not a laptop, it stays on, it is el-cheapo in the graphics department, and it has storage for stuff to serve up (all of these are breakable rules, of course).

In terms of software, there are big differences between a desktop and a server. The server has … servers. Like a web server (apache, for instance) and FTP server, and so on. That software can certainly run on your desktop, but the process of setting up a Linux server, such as the typical configuration known as a LAMP server (Linux, Apachae, MySQL databse, PHP), involves instaling, configuring, and turning on all these bits.

Another thing about a server, typically, is that it sits there without you interacting directly with it most of the time. Typically, you are not using your server for other things like day to day text processing, emailing, web surfing, etc. Again, these are all breakable rules. But a server normally is not your main interactive computer. One thing this means is that you can approach your server with a different personal affect than your regular computer. Your server can be a dangerous place, but because it is your server and not your day to day use computer, you can manage this.

Ubuntu by default does not allow a “super user” mode. A server usually does. So, you can sit down at your sever and check your email and stuff, but you can also sit down at your server and make modifications that only a super user should be allowed to do. Using the Ubuntu solution of “sudo this” and “sudo that” is not convenient, and can actually make some things hard to do, and some scripts that are designed to be run by super user will not operate with the sudo-only environment.

So, you want your server to have super user capacities that you can access, and when you sit down at your server you want to act in a responsible manner worthy of any super user. The book I refer to above does give instructions for changing Ubuntu so that there is a super user mode (you use sudo to do that, naturally).

Here is a web site that gives some suggestions for how to set up the hardware for a server, and also, info on installing Suse Linux.

I’d like to suggest two or three other resources that might make your bedtime reading for the next few weeks if you plan on playing server administrator. First you need Linux All-in-One For Dummies.

Then you need eitherThe UNIX Philosophy, in order to get your philosophical approach in line.

Between the above five mentioned texts, pick one from the first paragraph and zero or one from the second paragrqaph. Go to the used bookstore in your neighborhood that sells computer books (here where I am that would be Second Hand Books) and get whatever they have along these lines that is used. You don’t need current references, as these books are talking about *nix at a level where details are not important. The idea is to get down some basics, get some philosophy, and learn what sorts of things are possible by viewing these possibilities form a variety of different angles.

Then, go out and get a fairly current all in one bible type book that gives you the reference source you will need, such asA Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming (3rd Edition).

Some people don’t like books, and prefer on line resources. You can find all of the above on line in some form or another, and at another time I’ll make some suggestions along those lines . Some people like the book for various reasons. I like having these books as my bedtime reading. No computer, just the book. I know, that’s strange, but it’s how I roll.

An expression, by the way, that I really don’t like that much (“how I roll” … that expression).

Homeschooling + cult = NC ruling

Regarding home schooling mom Vanessa Mills, of Wake County, NC, USA:

…Mills … grew alienated from her husband and parents after joining a religious group that some former members call a cult, the judge in the case said Tuesday…

…Judge Ned Mangum ruled March 6 that it would be in the best interests of Venessa Mills’ three children to go to public school this fall.

That ruling, in an ongoing divorce case between Venessa and husband Thomas Mills, sparked national attention from conservatives who maintain that Mangum overstepped his bounds.

“Based on all of the evidence, the court finds that Ms. Mills engaged in behavior that alienates the minor children from their maternal grandparents, their aunt, and most importantly their father,” Mangum wrote.

Among other provisions, the written order said the parents will have joint custody of the children — who are 12, 11 and 10 — and that both parents can “practice their own religion and expose children to same.”

The ruling amplified Mangum’s reasons for ordering the change in schooling, noting that he recognizes the benefits of home schooling. It goes into significant detail about the Washington state-based Sound Doctrine Church to which Venessa Mills belongs. “It is in the best interest of these minor children based on all of the evidence presented that Mr. Mills, a father with equal rights, should be allowed to expose the children to more than just the experiences that Venessa Mills desires,” Mangum wrote.

Magnum’s ruling quotes people named as former members of Sound Doctrine who describe the institution as abusive. They say Sound Doctrine practiced brainwashing and was run by fear and manipulation.


This is a bit old, but I just came across it. (Hat tip: DOC)