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Sunday, March 31, 2013

A rendering of the 1 World Trade Center (1 WTC), publicly released on May 10, 2012.
The Durst Organization

Another Freedom Tower update... As mentioned on this Blog more than a week ago, I was going to post another journal entry talking about how the antenna spire for the 1 World Trade Center (1 WTC) was completed this month. However, as the pic below shows, the spire is still under construction...with assembly on the 408-foot (124 meters) high structure now scheduled to be finished sometime this summer. It's all good. New Yorkers should be proud that the 1 WTC will soon make the artist's rendition above a reality.

The 1 WTC towers above the New York skyline, on March 26, 2013.
Courtesy of Facebook

Friday, March 29, 2013

One More NFL-Related Meme for Ya... Here's another Tony Romo-themed photo for those of you who aren't huge fans of the Dallas Cowboys quarterback. I myself am indifferent to Romo striking a six-year, $108 million contract extension with the team today. He's the football equivalent of Alex Rodriguez—prior to A-Rod pulling a LeBron James by taking a shortcut to a championship by playing with the New York Yankees four years ago. (Or did LeBron pull an A-Rod by joining the Miami Heat in 2010? Either way...) So much trash-talk in tonight's journal entry.

Where's that pencil? The Joker wants to do a magic trick on Tony Romo.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why You Don't Pet The Animals...especially in the Big City.

The Aflac Duck is apparently not getting paid enough by the insurance company.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter image showing the impact site of the Ebb spacecraft before and after the robotic probe crashed into the lunar surface on December 17, 2012.
NASA / GSFC / ASU

Ebb and Flow's Final Resting Places...

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Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Sees GRAIL's Explosive Farewell (Press Release - March 19)

Many spacecraft just fade away, drifting silently through space after their mission is over, but not GRAIL. NASA's twin GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) spacecraft went out in a blaze of glory on Dec. 17, 2012, when they were intentionally crashed into a mountain near the moon's north pole.

The successful mission to study the moon's interior took the plunge to get one last bit of science: with the spacecraft kicking up a cloud of dust and gas with each impact, researchers hoped to discover more about the moon's composition. However, with the moon about 380,000 kilometers (over 236,000 miles) away from Earth, the impact plumes would be difficult to observe from here. Fortunately, GRAIL had company. NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is orbiting the moon as well, busily making high-resolution maps of the lunar surface. With just three weeks notice, the LRO team scrambled to get their orbiter in the right place at the right time to witness GRAIL's fiery finale.

"We were informed by the GRAIL team about three weeks prior to the impact exactly where the impact site would be," said LRO Project Scientist John Keller of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "The GRAIL team's focus was on obtaining the highest-resolution gravity measurements possible from the last few orbits of the GRAIL spacecraft, which led to uncertainty in the ultimate impact site until relatively late."

LRO was only about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the lunar surface at the time of the impact, and variations in gravity from massive features like lunar mountains tugged on the spacecraft, altering its orbit.

The site was in shadow at the time of the impact, so the LRO team had to wait until the plumes rose high enough to be in sunlight before making the observation. The Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP), an ultraviolet imaging spectrograph on board the spacecraft, saw mercury and enhancements of atomic hydrogen in the plume.

"The mercury observation is consistent with what the LRO team saw from the LCROSS impact in October 2009," said Keller. "LCROSS (Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite) saw significant amounts of mercury, but the LCROSS site was at the bottom of the moon's Cabeus crater, which hasn't seen sunlight for more than a billion years and is therefore extremely cold."

LRO's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera was able to make an image of the craters from the GRAIL impacts despite their relatively small size.

The two spacecraft were relatively small -- cubes about the size of a washing machine with a mass of about 200 kilograms (440 pounds) each at the time of impact. The spacecraft were traveling about 3,800 mph (6,100 kilometers per hour) when they hit the surface.

"Both craters are relatively small, perhaps 4 to 6 meters (about 13 to 20 feet) in diameter and both have faint, dark, ejecta patterns, which is unusual," said Mark Robinson, LROC principal investigator at Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Sciences, Tempe, Ariz. "Fresh impact craters on the moon are typically bright, but these may be dark due to spacecraft material being mixed with the ejecta."

"Both impact sites lie on the southern slope of an unnamed massif [mountain] that lies south of the crater Mouchez and northeast of the crater Philolaus," said Robinson. "The massif stands as much as 2,500 meters [about 8,202 feet] above the surrounding plains. The impact sites are at an elevation of about 700 meters [around 2,296 feet] and 1,000 meters [3,281 feet], respectively, about 500 to 800 meters [approximately 1,640 to 2,625 feet] below the summit. The two impact craters are about 2,200 meters [roughly 7,218 feet] apart. GRAIL B [renamed Flow] impacted about 30 seconds after GRAIL A [Ebb] at a site to the west and north of GRAIL A."

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter complemented the GRAIL mission in other ways as well. LRO's Diviner lunar radiometer observed the impact site and confirmed that the amount of heating of the surface there by the relatively small GRAIL spacecraft was within expectations. LRO's Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) instrument bounced laser pulses off the surface to build up a precise map of the lunar terrain, including the three-dimensional structure of features like mountains and craters.

"Combining the LRO LOLA topography map with GRAIL's gravity map yields some very interesting results," said Keller. "You expect that areas with mountains will have a little stronger gravity, while features like craters will have a little less. However, when you subtract out the topography, you get another map that reveals gravity differences that are not tied to the surface. It gives insight into structures deeper in the moon's interior."

JPL manages the GRAIL mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. GRAIL is part of the Discovery Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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An artist's concept of the Ebb and Flow spacecraft, which comprised NASA's GRAIL mission, in lunar orbit.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / MIT

Friday, March 22, 2013

A World War II illustration depicting Japanese and American combat aircraft engaged in fierce dogfights above a USS Iowa-class battleship.
Courtesy of Facebook

The USS Iowa: Back in the Day... If you're a Facebook user (who isn't?), "like" the Pacific Battleship Center's fan page to check out the awesome images that the center—which is responsible for maintaining the USS Iowa at her dock in San Pedro, California—occasionally posts on its newsfeed. The illustration above and the photos below are but a few of the reminders of how formidable the USS Iowa (as well as her sister ships, the Missouri, New Jersey and Wisconsin) was in her heyday during World War II and the NATO exercises in the 1980s. Even though the Iowa is now a floating museum near Los Angeles, it isn't so farfetched that she'll be sailing across the ocean to shell enemy targets with her 16-inch guns once again...as the Pentagon has mandated that the Battleship of Presidents remains somewhat in a state of combat readiness through 2020, should she be called back into duty. That would be amazing (assuming, of course, the Iowa lives on to once again return to her final home in SoCal to resume being one of L.A.'s most popular museums).

The USS Missouri (BB-63, left) is docked alongside her sister ship USS Iowa (BB-61, right) in this World War II-era photo.
Courtesy of Facebook

The USS Missouri and USS Iowa head to Japan following that country's surrender at the end of World War II.
Courtesy of Facebook

The USS Iowa fires her 16-inch guns during a naval exercise in the 1980s.
Courtesy of Facebook

The USS Iowa fires her 16-inch guns during a naval exercise in the 1980s.
Courtesy of Facebook

The USS Iowa fires her 16-inch guns during a naval exercise in the 1980s.
Courtesy of Facebook

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The final segment of the 1 World Trade Center's antenna spire awaits its transport to the top of the building on March 12, 2013.

Freedom Tower update... Just thought I'd post these pics that show the nice progress being made on the assembly of the 408-foot (124 meters) high antenna spire that will grace the 1 World Trade Center (1 WTC). The image above shows the final segment of the spire awaiting its trip to the top of New York City's tallest building, while the photos below show the current segments as they are now secured to 1 WTC's rooftop. The spire should be completed by the end of this month (though I don't know how long it will take to disassemble and remove those construction cranes once their job is complete), so expect another entry about this skyscraper published soon.

An aerial view of the antenna spire atop the 1 World Trade Center as the Sun rises over New York City, on February 15, 2013.
Tom Kaminski / WCBS 880

An aerial view of the antenna spire atop the 1 World Trade Center in New York City, on February 15, 2013.
Tom Kaminski / WCBS 880

An aerial view of the antenna spire atop the 1 World Trade Center in New York City, on February 15, 2013.
Tom Kaminski / WCBS 880

An aerial view of the antenna spire atop the 1 World Trade Center in New York City, on February 15, 2013.
Tom Kaminski / WCBS 880

An aerial view of the antenna spire atop the 1 World Trade Center in New York City, on February 15, 2013.
Tom Kaminski / WCBS 880

Monday, March 18, 2013

Posing with Jessica Alba at an autograph signing in Pasadena on March 16, 2013.

Photos of the Day... Last Saturday, I drove down to Pasadena to attend an autograph signing by none other than Jessica Alba...who was promoting a new book that she wrote. I totally lucked out in meeting her in person—as I didn't find out about the signing till about one hour before it started. (Thank you, Facebook; you're not a total piece of crap, after all.) Needless to say, I had to quickly get directions to the bookstore where Ms. Alba (err, Mrs. Warren) was at and immediately haul ass to The City of Roses. So how was Ms. Alba (err, Mrs. Warren) in person? Just as beautiful as she is in TV shows like Dark Angel, movies like Sin City (its sequel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, gets released in theaters this October 4...my birthday!) and magazines like Maxim. Didn't really have a chance to say hi to her though; the two ushers standing near her table were pretty adamant (and naive— Did they REALLY think that I, as well as everyone else in line, wouldn't try to get a picture with her? PLEASE) about moving the line along. It's all good.

Jessica Alba signs copies of her new book in Pasadena on March 16, 2013.

My autograph by Jessica Alba.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Image of the Day... Just thought I'd post this meme in honor of Pope Francis becoming the new head honcho of the Catholic Church yesterday, and Cowboys fans yearning to go back to the glory days of...1995 (the season which concluded with Dallas winning in Super Bowl XXX, the site of its last NFL championship, under Troy Aikman, Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Larry Brown and company).

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo probably wouldn't appreciate this meme if he stumbled upon it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Two images comparing Martian rocks observed by NASA's Opportunity (left photo) and Curiosity (right photo) rovers.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / Cornell / MSSS

Another Milestone for Curiosity... Despite the fact she was sidelined for the past week or so due to an onboard computer memory glitch (lousy cosmic radiation), the Curiosity Mars rover was still able to relay very significant data that shows that the area she is exploring, inside Gale Crater, holds evidence that the Martian environment was indeed conducive to ancient microbial life. More below.

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NASA Rover Finds Conditions Once Suited for Ancient Life on Mars (Press Release)

PASADENA, Calif. -- An analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA's Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes.

Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon -- some of the key chemical ingredients for life -- in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month.

"A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "From what we know now, the answer is yes."

Clues to this habitable environment come from data returned by the rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) and Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instruments. The data indicate the Yellowknife Bay area the rover is exploring was the end of an ancient river system or an intermittently wet lake bed that could have provided chemical energy and other favorable conditions for microbes. The rock is made up of a fine-grained mudstone containing clay minerals, sulfate minerals and other chemicals. This ancient wet environment, unlike some others on Mars, was not harshly oxidizing, acidic or extremely salty.

The patch of bedrock where Curiosity drilled for its first sample lies in an ancient network of stream channels descending from the rim of Gale Crater. The bedrock also is fine-grained mudstone and shows evidence of multiple periods of wet conditions, including nodules and veins.

Curiosity's drill collected the sample at a site just a few hundred yards away from where the rover earlier found an ancient streambed in September 2012.

"Clay minerals make up at least 20 percent of the composition of this sample," said David Blake, principal investigator for the CheMin instrument at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

These clay minerals are a product of the reaction of relatively fresh water with igneous minerals, such as olivine, also present in the sediment. The reaction could have taken place within the sedimentary deposit, during transport of the sediment, or in the source region of the sediment. The presence of calcium sulfate along with the clay suggests the soil is neutral or mildly alkaline.

Scientists were surprised to find a mixture of oxidized, less-oxidized, and even non-oxidized chemicals, providing an energy gradient of the sort many microbes on Earth exploit to live. This partial oxidation was first hinted at when the drill cuttings were revealed to be gray rather than red.

"The range of chemical ingredients we have identified in the sample is impressive, and it suggests pairings such as sulfates and sulfides that indicate a possible chemical energy source for micro-organisms," said Paul Mahaffy, principal investigator of the SAM suite of instruments at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

An additional drilled sample will be used to help confirm these results for several of the trace gases analyzed by the SAM instrument.

"We have characterized a very ancient, but strangely new 'gray Mars' where conditions once were favorable for life," said John Grotzinger, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. "Curiosity is on a mission of discovery and exploration, and as a team we feel there are many more exciting discoveries ahead of us in the months and years to come."

Scientists plan to work with Curiosity in the "Yellowknife Bay" area for many more weeks before beginning a long drive to Gale Crater's central mound, Mount Sharp. Investigating the stack of layers exposed on Mount Sharp, where clay minerals and sulfate minerals have been identified from orbit, may add information about the duration and diversity of habitable conditions.

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project has been using Curiosity to investigate whether an area within Mars' Gale Crater ever has offered an environment favorable for microbial life. Curiosity, carrying 10 science instruments, landed seven months ago to begin its two-year prime mission. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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A Mastcam image of the first Martian rock sample extracted by the Curiosity rover's drill.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / MSSS

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Ferrari's LaFerrari hybrid on display at the Geneva Motor Show, on March 5, 2013.
Ferrari

The Fast & Furious... No, I'm not referring to this May's sixth installment in the Vin Diesel/Paul Walker action film series. However, I am talking about exotic, street-legal supercars here...which would be the new Lamborghini Veneno and Ferrari's LaFerrari hybrid. Both rides, other than being extremely fast on the road, will be pretty darn expensive—with the Veneno having a price tag of $3.9 million (only three were built; all of them are already sold) and the LaFerrari's cost most likely hovering in the seven-figure range as well. In terms of speed, the Veneno is a 750-horsepower beaut that cruises down the street at a top speed of 220 mph (with an acceleration rate of zero to 62 mph in just 2.8 seconds), while the LaFerrari has staggering 949 horsepower and a top speed of more than 217 mph. It will be able to accelerate from zero to 62 mph in less than three seconds, zero to 124 mph in about seven seconds, and zero to 186 mph in 15 seconds. Not bad for a supercar that's also a hybrid (electric motors add an additional 161 horsepower to the LaFerrari's V-12 engine, while its batteries weigh only 132 pounds and recharge whenever the automobile brakes).

A top view of the Lamborghini Veneno..
Fabrice Coffrini

Unlike the Veneno, there will be LaFerraris built for exactly 499 lucky (RE: wealthy-ass) buyers. But if there's one advantage that the Veneno has over its Ferrari counterpart, it's that it could take the DeLorean's place in a would-be reboot of Back to the Future (not to give a studio hack who's reading this any ideas). Just look at the pics posted directly above and below. This Lamborghini can either play a time machine or a Decepticon in a movie. Transformers 4 does come out in theaters next year.

The Lamborghini Veneno on display at the Geneva Motor Show, on March 4, 2013.
Fabrice Coffrini

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Bill Clinton da badass.
Jason Hauser / Etsy

Bill Clinton In All Of His Awesomeness... And why wouldn't Slick Willie deserve such a badass portrait? Gas prices were at the most $1.50 per gallon during his days in the Oval Office, the U.S. had a $1 trillion budget surplus, movie tickets were still as cheap as $5.00 in the late 1990s and Osama bin Laden wasn't yet Public Enemy Number 1 in America (well actually he was; he just wasn't hated enough to get the CIA chick that Jessica Chastain portrayed in Zero Dark Thirty to spend 10 years of her life tracking his whereabouts). Things were so good back in the day that the Republicans had to resort to bringing Clinton down over a mere lie about getting some lovin' by "that woman" Miss Lewinsky (who I don't recall looked as hot as she does in the artwork above)...as opposed to ex-GOP honcho George Dubya providing faulty evidence that led to the unnecessary deaths of more than 4,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq. (And the Bush-era Democrats did nothing...except getting Donald H. Rumsfeld booted from the Pentagon. Pathetic.) Clinton was da man—and is that Ronald McDonald I see firing a gat in the background? Epic.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Shenyang J-31... China's new stealth fighter jet.

Photos of the Day... Meet the Shenyang J-31, China's newest stealth fighter. In case you're wondering why this aircraft looks eerily familiar, it's because it is a blatant rip-off of the U.S. F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II jets (both built by Lockheed Martin). China isn't the first (communist) nation to copy the design of American-made aerospace vehicles though; The Soviet Union's most derivative achievement in its space program is the now-defunct (and demolished... The hangar it was housed in at Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome inadvertently collapsed in 2002) Buran space shuttle. In Beijing's defense, though, the oxygen delivery system on the J-31—unlike that aboard the F-22—is most likely working without a hitch. That's good... Besides its general military and wayward fishermen, China needs something else to harass Taiwan, the Philippines and its other Asian neighbors with. Oh and one more thing, having the J-31 as Starscream's vehicle mode (instead of the Raptor) in the live-action Transformers films would've actually been appropriate. The Autobots and U.S. soldiers confronting Decepticons in their disguises as Chinese weaponry in Michael Bay's flicks? Sounds right to me. 'Kay, I'll quit hatin'.

The Shenyang J-31... China's new stealth fighter jet.

The Shenyang J-31... China's new stealth fighter jet.

The Shenyang J-31... China's new stealth fighter jet.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

A character named Starkiller uses the Force to bring down a Star Destroyer in STAR WARS: THE FORCE UNLEASHED.
LucasArts

Star Wars Artwork... I'm five years late, but I just stumbled upon these awesome illustrations that were for the 2008 video game, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. All I can say is, it would be absolutely awesome if J.J. Abrams featured a scene in Star Wars: Episode VII where a character (whether it's Luke Skywalker or a new Jedi or Sith Lord introduced in the upcoming film) uses the Force to bring down a Star Destroyer or another similar-size vessel. In terms of playing The Force Unleashed, I do remember playing a demo of it at a local Target store two years ago. As far as actually owning the game goes, the only Star Wars titles that I bought and played in their entirety were X-Wing CD-ROM, Dark Forces, Rebel Assault and Star Wars: Battlefront I and II. My favorite of all these is X-Wing CD-ROM.

An illustration showing Imperial Forces invading a city that looks like Naboo from the STAR WARS prequels.
Image courtesy of Creative Uncut

Another illustration showing Starkiller using the Force to bring down a Star Destroyer in STAR WARS: THE FORCE UNLEASHED.
LucasArts

I also found the amusing artwork below depicting a Star Destroyer approaching San Francisco Bay. With this May's Star Trek Into Darkness apparently showing the USS Enterprise crashing into the Bay Area, I don't know what is it with cinema's two major sci-fi franchises (though Star Wars is technically science fantasy) making this NoCal city the target of giant interstellar warships. Not that I care. I guess Frisco's ultra-liberalism makes it an easy metropolis to pick on. I live in Los Angeles, by the way.

Cool artwork showing a Star Destroyer approaching San Francisco Bay.
Image courtesy of Wall321

Friday, March 01, 2013

A Star isn't what it's cracked up to be in CAT MARIO.

Cat Mario... Check out this hilarious video that one of my friends shared on Facebook today. Don't know what's more amusing in this clip— The narrator and his crazy accent? Or the fact that this game is a blatant rip-off of Super Mario Bros...only with a cat instead of the fat plumber, and much more twisted and harder to play? ("A Star killed me?! Probably 'cause he's too spiky, G*ddamn...") NSFW because of language (apparently); and also because you'll start laughing out loud and get in trouble with folks working in the cubicles next to you. I kid.