Bizarre wildlife tales of the year

December 22, 2009

The Guardian employs the second-laziest of journalistic techniques in bringing you this round up of 2009’s bizarre wildlife stories.

The laziest technique, in case you were wondering, is the one employed in this post.

Iridium satellite destroyed in collision

February 12, 2009

“Your call cannot be completed as dialed”

An Iridium telecommunications satellite was destroyed in a high-speed collision with a defunct Russian military satellite, Aviation Week reports.

The Russian Cosmos 2251 comms sat collided with the Iridium bird, a member of the Big LEO constellation, at a closing speed of 7 miles per second.

“It was a hefty clip,” Nicholas Johnson of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, told Aviation Leak.

US Strategic Air Command told New Scientist that it has already detected more than 500 pieces of debris resulting from the space prang.

The debris cloud poses a “very small [but] elevated risk” to the International Space Station, which lies 271 miles below the orbit of the collision. The ISS is capable of performing “debris avoidance maneuver[s]” should this become necessary.

The shower of space junk further clutters an already hazardous orbital environment, coming two years after China smashed one of its Fengyun weather satellites to smithereens with an earth-launched missile.

Iridium’s communications network will not be permanently affected, as the company plans to deploy one of its hot spares, which it keeps in other orbits, within 30 days. Now that’s resilience through redundancy.


New Scientist has a handy Q&A about satellite traffic control (or lack thereof), plus a simulation of the crash and resultant debris clouds.

Just say “No causal link”

January 27, 2009

Reefer not wholly to blame for madness

On Monday, the British Government announced the reclassification of cannabis from a “Class C” to a “Class B” controlled substance, leading to stiffer penalties for those found guilty of possession.  But is this reclassification based on scientific evidence, or is it, as the Liberal Democrats claim, mere posturing?

Read the rest of this entry »

Astronomically expensive

August 21, 2008

“Not because it is easy, but because it isn’t hard enough”

Imagine, if you will, some far-off time when all our knowledge has passed away, and nothing remains of our present existence but a few marks in the soil.  Imagine, too, that nature has seen fit to instil a future people, or indeed a future creature, with a curiosity about what went before.  Imagine this band of future archaeologists happens upon a peculiar site, built in the midst of a swamp: Read the rest of this entry »