Archive for August, 2004

You can blame NASA for the weather.

I have resisted commenting on this summer’s weather in hopes that it would straighten itself out. Since that no longer seems possible, however, I feel compelled to offer some advice on the subject.

Those of you old enough to remember the early days of the space program may recall that some people feared that shooting off all those rockets would affect the weather. Then, when U.S. astronauts landed on the moon, the same people said that their walking around on the lunar surface would alter the tides and bring on climate changes.

All that speculation was nonsense, of course. The last moon landing was in 1972 and the United States has not launched a manned space flight since the shuttle disaster. Yet the weather has continued to deteriorate and the forecast is that it will be worse next year.

There are two possible explanations, both of them connected with the space program although not in the way the old wives’ tales suggest.

The first theory is that although landing on the moon had no effect on terrestrial weather, the more recent unmanned probes of Mars well may have disrupted our climate in ways just now becoming apparent. It stands to reason. The moon is only a satellite of the earth. Its gravity affects our tides, but that is about the only influence it has on this globe. Mars, on the other hand, is a planet. It is smaller and has less mass than the earth but, being a planet, it influences the other planets, including the earth, in ways we still do not fully understand.

The delicate balance of the solar system can be disrupted by any number of things. Look at the chaos cause by sun spots, for example. It is quite possible that landing foreign objects on other planets or even just flying in their vicinity could have catastrophic effects. And we have been at it since 1969, when Mariner 6 came within 2,000 miles of the Red Planet. Since then, we have sent more than a dozen probes to Mars, some of them landing and sending little carts scampering over the surface.

Not only that, but we have sent unmanned space ships to or close to Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. In fact, we have visited every planet except Pluto and it’s just a matter of time before we get there. Some eminent authorities on subjects such as hydraulics and beekeeping have suggested it might be wise to cut back on NASA’s budget until we know more about its effects on climate change.

The second theory is that it is the space launches themselves, not their destinations, that cause the trouble. To understand this, you have to remember Newton’s third law of motion – that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

From watching space launches on television, you have seen how much force it takes to get even an unmanned space vehicle off the ground. It takes even more if there are five or six heavy people aboard in those space suits and bulky shoes. They have been using women more often lately, but even so, it takes a lot of power to overcome the earth’s gravity.

If it takes that much power to raise a rocket, then according to Newton, the same amount of force is being exerted on the earth. Considering the earth’s bulk, one lift-off may not have much effect, but think how many launches there are from Cape Kennedy every year and assume that each launch pushes the planet a few feet out of its normal orbit. In the course of a decade, that could amount to a major displacement, enough to have a major effect on the earth’s climate.

To test the theory about landing on other planets, the only thing to do is to stop sending out those probes until we see if the weather returns to normal. If it doesn’t, the problem probably is the launches themselves.

In this case, we can resume launching but set off a corresponding explosion on the other side of the world each time we fire one from Florida. Bangkok looks like about the best place to do it.

*NOTE* I Didn’t write this. It was written by Bruce D. Callander . But I had to post it here. IT’S HILLARIOUS!!!!

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Missouri bans gay marriage.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri voters solidly endorsed a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a decision that was closely watched by national groups on both sides of the battle.

With nearly all precincts reporting, the amendment had garnered 71 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results for Tuesday’s vote. It was the first such vote since the historic ruling in Massachusetts last year that legalized same-sex weddings (search) there.

Although the ban was widely expected to pass in conservative Missouri, experts said the campaign served as a key barometer for which strategies work as at least nine other states, and perhaps as many as 12, vote on similar amendments this year.

Missouri and 37 other states already have laws defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. But amendment supporters fear a court could toss aside the state law, and they believe the state would be on firmer legal ground if an outright ban is part of the Constitution.

“I’m very gratified and encouraged and thankful that the people of this state understand our current policy’s a wise public policy and they want to see it protected from a legal challenge,” said Vicky Hartzler, a spokeswoman for the Coalition to Protect Marriage in Missouri

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