March 28, 2014

Amazing Resources

It's quite incredible that NASA seems to just upload all the data they gather straight on to the Internet.

Look at all the stuff here:

I mean, this is just incredible.

The whole fricking data and everything is here.

One could spend a day or a year browsing.

I guess this would be of maximum interest to geologists.

History Via Los Alamos

From B 61 images to a lot else.

It is somewhat unbelievable that these stuff are even in the public domain.

Here are a few samples:

"Adobe was a free fall airburst that was a successful LASL verification test of the XW-50X1-Y2 warhead in a Mk-39 Mod-1 Type 3 drop case. The device was similar to those tested in Aztec, Kingfish, and Bluegill Triple Prime. The W-50 warhead was eventually deployed in three yields: Y1 (60 kt), Y2 (200 kt), and the Y3 (400 kt) and deployed on the Nike Zeus SAM (surface-to-air missile), and the Pershing surface-surface ballistic missile. The mushroom cloud rose to about 60,000 ft.

"This was a generally successful LASL of the the XW-50X1-Y3 in a Mk-39 Mod-1 Type 3 drop case. It was the highest yield variant of the W-50 warhead (used on the Nike Zeus and Pershing missiles), giving a yield-to-weight ratio of 2.21 kt/kg. This device used a spherical secondary stage. The device was similar to those tested in Adobe, Kingfish, and Bluegill Triple Prime. The yield was slightly lower than expected. The mushroom cloud rose to about 60,000 ft.

"Arkansas was a highly successful LRL test of the XW-56X2 (Fife-I) warhead for the Minuteman missile. This warhead was derived from the breakthrough LRL W-47 warhead developed for the Polaris missile. The characteristics of the two warheads are generally similar although the W-56 kept the same general yield (usually given as 1.2 Mt) as the high yield W-47Y2 variant, while trimming 133 pounds of the weight. This test used a Fife secondary stage. This test demonstrated a yield-to-weight ratio 4.00 kt/kg (remarkably close to the effective practical limit of 6 kt/kg for such a light weight device). The test device included a mockup war reserve firing set. This was similar to the devices (also W-56s) fired in Swanee and Bluestone. The mushroom cloud rose to about 60,000 ft.

"Frigate Bird was the only US test of an operational ballistic missile with a live warhead. This test involved firing a Polaris A1 missile from a ballistic missile submarine. The missile was launched by the USS Ethan Allen (SSBN-608) at 13:18 (local) from a position 1500 nm east-northeast of Christmas Island. The re-entry vehicle (RV) and warhead flew 1020 nm downrange toward Christmas Island before re-entering the atmosphere 12.5 minutes later, and detonating in an airburst at 11,000 feet. The system tested was a combination of a Polaris A1 SLBM, and a W-47Y1 warhead in a Mk-1 RV. The Mk-1 RV had a beryllium heat-sink heat shield, and with the 717 lb warhead had a gross weight of 900 lb. The missile/RV demonstrated an accuracy on the order of 2200 yards. This warhead had a yield-to-weight ratio of 1.84 kt/kg, but the higher yield Y2 variant tested in Dominic Harlem doubled the yield and nearly doubled tht YTW ratio to 3.61 kt/kg.

Taken from here.

A Wiki page.

March 26, 2014

Stephen Fry On The Meaning Of Life

“The humanist view of the meaning of life is different. Humanists do not see that there is any obvious purpose to the universe, but that it is a natural phenomenon with no design behind it. Meaning is not something out there, waiting to be discovered, but something we create in our own lives.”
“And although this vast and incredibly old universe was not created for us, all of us are connected to something bigger than ourselves, whether it is family and community, a tradition stretching in the past, an idea or cause looking forward to the future, or the beautiful natural world on which we were born and our species evolved.
“This way of thinking means that there is not just one big meaning of life, but that every person will have many different meanings in their life.”

March 21, 2014

In Memory Of The Emergency

Like the partition and its accompanying riots, Emergency was an abomination. It's good to remember lest we repeat the same mistakes again.

Khuswant Singh was one of those who initially supported it but then opposed it when they realized how grotesque it was. It turns out that Jayprakash Narayan was sort of like an Arvind Kejriwal of his day. Or, to put it in another way, Kejriwal is trying to be the JP of the present age.

A new generation or two has come of age since Indira Gandhi's time. Who remembers the ghouls such as Jagmohan or Naveen Chawla or the other chamchas of Sanjay Gandhi and their misdeeds. There were a few heroes too of course, such as George Fernandes.

The death of Khuswant Singh is an occasion for a bit of looking back.

March 18, 2014

Inflationary Universe

Dennis Overbye's story at the New York Times.

Nature explains gravitational waves.

Nature article about the observation.

Nature interview with John Kovac.

Lawrence Krauss in the New Yorker.

Discovery article about the discovery.

Washington Post tells it this way.

Phil Plait covers it over at Slate.

From Scientific American.

From New Scientist.

Yosemite HD II

Search Engine Algorithms

How do you create search logic that works globally on the WWW and returns the most meaningful results?

How to make sure that the top result is and someone searches for 'Harvard'? It may seem trivial but it is not.

How to ensure that websites for 'Honda' or 'Toyota' turn up in the search results when someone searches for 'automobile manufacturers'? After all, those websites are not likely to contain the phrase 'automobile manufacturer' on them?

There's a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes. Here's a paper about some such stuff.

Here's a Google patent about a method for ranking hyperlinked pages using content and connectivity analysis.

A Google patent about determining reachability. One more Google patent.

Google Fellow Jeffrey Dean. Google Research home page.

A paper about the 'Temporal Dynamics of Online Information Streams."

March 12, 2014

Primary Sources: Permissive Action Links and the Threat of Nuclear War

The dangers of nuclear Armageddon as existed during those oh-so-long-ago years ... 50 years since the Cuban Missile Crisis ... how many of the humans alive now have been born since then!?

Perhaps for the inhabitants of the planet now, nuclear war is an improbable thing. But who knows? Look at the unnecessary war-mongering by the Republicans in the U.S. over Ukraine and Crimea.

Look at Israel's sabre-rattling over Iran's nuclear program. Look at the occasional border tensions between India and Pakistan, those two famously 'nuclear-armed' neighbors in South Asia. Things can always 'escalate.' Humans seem loath to let go of their ever-present prejudices.

Hence, this New Yorker article is quite important. Since the United States and then former Soviet Union pioneered both the development and deployment of ever-more ferocious nuclear weapons in those bygone days, the evolution of the thinking in those nations during those days gives important insights.

There would be nothing more absurd of course than if an 'accidental' nuclear weapon went off or a rogue guy set one off and that led to full-scale nuclear exchange. Hopefully, now that probability is gone with these 'permissive action links' in place.

But even so, I wonder how a nuclear event would evolve. Say, if Pakistan drops a nuclear weapon on India, would India resist the inevitable pressure on it not to retaliate? And if India does retaliate, and Pakistan responds, where does it all end? When all the 400 nuclear weapons have been 'used' on the 'enemy'?

Consider what a crazy situation that would be. Though in the India-Pakistan case, such mutual, full-scale nuclear war won't either lead to the entire population of India disappearing — let alone the entire human species. In the case of the US-Soviet rivalry of course, any escalation may well have led to the end of our species. Remember Carl Sagan talking about such a scenario in his Cosmos from a cosmic perspective. Is it likely that many civilizations do appear and evolve into being scientifically and technologically advanced and then eventually self-destruct? Well, may be not.

Why should we impose our own biases upon others? Just because we humans here on Earth want to kill one another because of the flimsiest excuses — differences in nationality, religion and so on — why should we assume that species that evolve on other planets will suffer from those same lack of wisdom as well.

Consider the vastness of the Milky Way galaxy with its 300 billion galaxies most of which have planets around them. We humans may choose to travel there and set up camp, as it were. At least on those planets that are clement to life and to human life in particular. We have got all the time in the world ... or the universe. The universe ain't going anywhere; nor the Sun. Let us keep advancing our technologies and then become a multi-planet species. What's the point of South Koreans and North Koreans fighting? Or India and Pakistan fighting? Or the U.S. fighting with Russia?

Also, I hope the Indian nuclear arsenal also has all these permissive action links that the article talks about. I am sure over the decades there would have been some covert collaboration between the U.S. and India whereby the U.S. would have helped India to make its arsenal safer. This applies even more to Pakistan.

Let's remember that we are talking about 'real' stuff here and not play things. These bombs carry enough power to destroy entire cities and kill tens if not hundreds of thousands of people.

Whatever 'strategic' calculation has persuaded the "strategic" thinkers to argue in favor of a nuclear arsenal cannot justify the needless killing of thousands of innocent civilians.

March 11, 2014

Satoshi Nakamoto

So, the Bitcoin founder was 'outed' by a newly resurrected Newsweek magazine. He denies being the founder though. So the Whodunit continues?

That and other article links in this article.

But really, this post is mainly a tribute to that 'priceless' expression on the face of the man in the image above. I wanted to preserve that expression.

Redditers are skeptical that Dorian Nakamoto is Satoshi Nakamoto, the founder of Bitcoin.

March 09, 2014

Is NASA Going to Europa?

After the White House asked for $15 million in the FY 2015 budget request for Europa mission-related expenses, there's vigorous speculation about whether it's actually going to take off.

Remember that this is going to be either a Flagship class mission costing $4 billion to $5 billion or a Frontier class mission in the $1 billion range.

Here's a WaPo article that surveys the landscape.

Related article about how the sudden cancellation of the Constellation program and Ares I rocket has affected the space coast in Florida and left behind a brand-new, unused $500 million launch tower.

A quite exhaustive article on NASA and its cost constraints.

A collection of articles by Joel Achenbach.

March 06, 2014

2015: Year of the Dwarf Planet

Emily Lakdawala has written a passionate blog post about the great stuff that are going to happen next year.

And she wants the readers to 'spread the word' about all that since the public is insufficiently aware of all that as of now.

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