Sunday, August 28, 2005

---Katrina, No Pain for Human Fetuses, Titan Images, and other stories 

Hurricane Katrina closes on New Orleans as Category 5+ [MyWay News/AP]
NOAA 3-day Track
NOAA Public Advisory

Sustained winds are 175+mph, potentially one of the worst storms ever to strike the U.S.. New Orleans, with its outflow levees into the Ponchartrain below the level of the Mississippi levees, and the entire city 12 feet below sea level, with the storm’s surges expected 30 feet above the tide levels, faces the real possibility of a “doomsday” storm. [ I haven’t found any information on how such a surge would affect the Atchafalaya spillway and control structures, or the Mississippi estuaries, for example.]
Despite decades of foreknowledge, the flaws in evacuation plans are becoming painfully evident. Thousands of fleeing motorists clog the intersate highways even though all lanes have been converted to outbound. Thousands of tourists, and others who don’t have their own transportation, are stranded in the city. The giant SuperDome has been pressed into service as an emergency shelter.
I am reminded of our friends at the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, where we went for a conference a few months ago. We pray especially for their well-being, and for all the people of the endangered region, in this time of crisis.

"Study" concludes fetuses don't feel pain[FOXNews.com]
I wonder if I could get funding for a “study” to show a correlation between pain-free existence and inconvenience to the medical/legal community---maybe, for example, if it included old people in need of long-term intensive care whose insurance has run out.

Earth's Core Spins Faster Than Crust[FOXNews.com]
On to scienterrific news: a study of seismic data from earthquakes and other information shows that the Earth’s inner core spins a quarter to a half degree per year faster than the rest of the planet.
Maybe this news will turn that recent, utterly wretched inner-Earth science-fiction movie into a “cult classic”. Maybe not.

Latest Titan Images from Cassini[JPL]
The latest near-infrared images from the Saturn orbiter show a region of the moon “east of Xanadu”, including an apparent crater with evident ejecta rays on the surrounding terrain. The crater was first seen in the orbiter’s SAR radar images in February. Otherwise, more of the mysterious light-dark contrasting areas reminescent of coastlines.

Mosul Boy favored in "Iraqi Idol" competition[FOXNews.com]
“Reality” TV with a different twist, as the competitors have to dodge bullets and bombs to get to the competition in Baghdad in the first place. The 12-year-old sang and played guitar, and apparently touched the Iraqi public. Whether this particular feature of Western culture will benefit the Middle East in the long run remains to be seen. We can’t be sure what it’s doing to the West, yet.

Asteroid 1950 DA[JPL]
In case you’ve run out of something to worry about, check out 1950DA, an asteroid a little over 1 kilometer in mean diameter which has about a 1-in-300 chance of ending, or seriously curtailing, life on this planet in 2880, according to current estimates. They even have an ominous radar movie of the object from Arecibo imaging.

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