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Craig Conley's Blog

INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION

10/01/14 at 04:35 AM

The first space station was Salyut 1, which was launched by the Soviet Union on April 19, 1971. Several transformations (and outright additions) later, the International Space Station of today was officially created in 1998 by the merging of the Russian Mir-2 and Space Station Freedom together. It currently maintains a nearly circular orbit between 205 and 255 miles with an inclination of 51.6 degrees to Earth’s equator. It travels at a velocity of 17,227 mph and completes roughly 15 and a half orbits around the Earth daily. The station provides crew quarters for each member of the expedition's crew, with two 'sleep stations' in the Zvezda Module and four more installed in Harmony Module. The American quarters are private, approximately person-sized soundproof booths. The Russian crew quarters include a small window, but do not provide the same amount of ventilation or block the same amount of noise as their American counterparts. A crewmember can sleep in a tethered sleeping bag. Visiting crews have no allocated sleep module, and usually attach a sleeping bag to an available space on a wall—it is possible to sleep floating freely through the station, but this is generally avoided because of the possibility of bumping into sensitive equipment. It is important that crew accommodations be well ventilated; otherwise, astronauts can wake up oxygen-deprived and gasping for air, because a bubble of their own exhaled carbon dioxide has formed around their heads...

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CHANGE AHEAD THIS FALL

09/29/14 at 04:42 AM

The elections are coming and lines are being drawn. This one is for control of the houses and senates of state and federal governments. Forget the Independents, Green Parties, Libertarians, etc., etc. The game is between Democrats and Republicans. Back when I was a kid, there was a fair balance between the two parties…there were just about as many Republicans as there were Democrats. But today, that may not be the case. Republicans favor the wealthy folks among us, less taxes, smaller government, no welfare handouts, full speed ahead with making money…even if it destroys the environment or the future. Republicans are what’re called Conservative in their outlook, and they haven’t changed much in decades. They’re still holding onto the Christian beliefs about marriage, child-bearing, the death penalty, and so on, while keeping faith with the oh-so-important looking the other way when it comes to cheating on taxes, disregarding what the military-industrial complex bombs are doing to the limbs and bodies of the foreigners they’re getting dropped on, the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting global warming, and several other blind spots. It used to be...

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POLITICAL MUD-SLINGING

09/27/14 at 04:14 AM

The elections are almost upon us and I’m amazed at the amount of political mud-slinging going on. The television and radio waves are full of it, not to mention newspapers, roadside signs and, unfortunately, my mailbox. The slightest transgression from a candidate’s past is blown up and magnified for all to see. As if we didn’t already know that these characters were oozing sleaze trails as they walked down the street. It seems the sexual infidelities are the favored presentation, followed closely by indiscreet comments about everything from minorities to betraying the US workforce with overseas outsourcing to, depending on the area being spoken to, either increasing the military or downsizing the military or police forces. One thing you don’t hear though – nobody talks about how greedy they’ve been or intend to be. No mention of the limos, the $2,000 suits, the offices and staff on the payroll, the expensive air travel, the masses of campaign money collected (and where exactly it goes), the nice...

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SCOTLAND'S NO VOTE

09/25/14 at 04:13 AM

I was quite relieved to see that Scotland voted against seceding from the United Kingdom last week. The UK is basically a small island. The three countries inhabiting it, England, Scotland, and Wales, are more like sections or states than countries. They all speak English as a primary language, although if you get one of those old Scots with a thick burr, it’s hard to decipher what he’s saying sometimes. Of course, Welsh is pretty bizarre, too. All those double letters which aren’t normally doubled (ll, dd, etc.) can be confusing. But then, try going down to East London sometime and listen to those blokes talk. I guarantee you won’t catch but one word in ten…and they’re speaking proper English words. Unfortunately, the accent and the word substitutions from colloquial sources can mystify anyone who wasn’t born nearby. Still, I’m glad to see that the United Kingdom will remain intact...

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EASY RIDER BIKE

09/23/14 at 04:12 AM

The customized Captain America chopper Peter Fonda rode in "Easy Rider" came to symbolize the counterculture of the 1960’s. Now it's for sale. The auction house Profiles in History told The Associated Press that it estimates the Harley-Davidson will bring $1 million to $1.2 million at its October 18th sale being held online and at its galleries in Calabasas, California. The seller is Michael Eisenberg, a California businessman who once co-owned a Los Angeles motorcycle-themed restaurant with Fonda and ‘Easy Rider’ co-star Dennis Hopper. Eisenberg bought it last year from Dan Haggerty, perhaps best known for his roles in the ‘Grizzly Adams’ TV show and movies, who was in charge of keeping the custom-designed bike humming during the 1969 movie's filming. The gleaming stars-and-stripes panhead chopper with chromed hardtail frame is accompanied by three letters of authenticity. One is signed by the National Motorcycle Museum, where it was displayed for 12 years. Another is from Fonda and a third from Haggerty. The bike features a forward-angled front wheel and handlebars, fishtail exhaust pipes and a teardrop-shaped gas tank where the riders stashed their cash. It was designed with input from Fonda who insisted...

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SUPERNOVA DEBRIS

09/21/14 at 04:29 AM

I have a fondness for supernovas. They are the most powerful explosions in the Universe, and being something of a pyromaniac, I just adore them. I read everything I can about them. But I’ve noticed that many of the articles I’ve read describe how the star burns up all its fuel in the explosion. Now this is nuclear fuel, of course, as the primary energy comes from the Strong Nuclear Force which is released during the fusion process. Just like the energy that keeps our Sun going – the Strong Nuclear Force is liberated when atoms are heated so hot they bump into one another and fuse into one larger atom and convert a tiny bit of their matter into energy in the process (E=mc2). I’m realizing now that describing the star as having all its nuclear fuel go up at once to make the supernova explosion is misleading. Not all the protons, neutrons, and electrons are annihilated in one single moment. If that were true, there’d be no debris left over…and there is debris left over. Always. How about this for a scenario? Since a star is a sphere, and a sphere has more matter in its surface layers than at its center (common geometry), it stands to reason that there would be more gravitational pull near the surface of the sphere than at its one center point. What if, when a star gets huge...

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REAL VIDEO GAMES

09/19/14 at 04:18 AM

Here’s an idea which won’t be well-received, I’ll bet. You know the video games like Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty? Real life-like action where you’re blowing away people in war simulations, firing like mad, explosions everywhere; or battling cops and other supposedly unpleasant types to rack up high scores by stealing cars and getting away? Naturally, I wonder at the message we are sending to our young ones with such games, but the First Amendment protects free speech in all its forms, including these troubling manifestations. Of course, we can’t stop them now that they’re out there, but what if we decided to go a bit further and require these games to become even more life-like? Suppose from now on we required game player manufacturers to install a disc-writing subroutine in any new player which would overwrite any game disc someone inserted in order for it to play with stronger reality programming. Like, in Grand Theft Auto, you could wreak havoc, bash hookers, and make your getaway in your stolen prized auto, but if you got caught by the cops, your play disc would then only play the inside of a jail cell every time you booted it up (until the 10 or 20 years in real time of your sentence was up)...

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FRACKING LIES

09/17/14 at 04:14 AM

There’s an organization called “Protect Colorado” (oddly enough!) which is advertising that 93,000 jobs will be lost in Colorado if a fracking ban is initiated. I’ve never seen such hogwash! True enough, jobs will be lost if fracking is made illegal, but those jobs are going to be in the oil and gas industry, and if they are working to gang-rape Mother Earth to squeeze out every last drop of petroleum from her bosom, then I say put ‘em on the unemployment rolls. Let them find some kinder, more beneficial work. Fracking is a process which uses millions of gallons of our precious fresh water for each well! EACH WELL!! MILLIONS!! The cost to our biosphere for those few gallons of gas is disproportionate, to say the least! It’s time we started the cold-turkey withdrawal from the gasoline syringe – we all knew it was coming anyway. Fracking is like stealing from your parents to keep your habit going. This disgusting organization is running a thinly-veiled and misleading ad campaign to try and get citizens to believe that fracking is good (“protect”?) for states. It is not. One fracking site in Texas used so much water to fracture several wells that the local aquifer ran dry…leaving the unsuspecting citizens without drinking water or water for agriculture...

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TRACTOR BEAMS

09/15/14 at 04:10 AM

Scientists studying how floating particles move on the surface of water have come up with a way to pull them in, push them away or make them stay still. They can now precisely control objects by generating waves with specified frequency and amplitude. The work by Australian National University researchers might find use in cleaning up oil spills. It could also lead to a better understanding of how moving water develops into rip currents. It also could be the precursor to an actual ‘Star Trek’ tractor beam! "We have figured out a way of creating waves that can force a floating object to move against the direction of the wave," said physicist Horst Punzmann, who led the research. "No one could have guessed this result." At the heart of their advance was the discovery that complex surface waves generate currents that can be tuned to impart specific desired movements in objects bobbing on the surface...

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THE PREGNANT DUCHESS

09/13/14 at 04:28 AM

Well, it seems Kate is preggies again. The royal couple announced that the Duchess of Cambridge was once again knocked up – coming a year and two months after little (future) King George arrived. That’s smart, actually. I think having kids one right after the other is better than spacing them out over a wide range of years. Not only is it better for the kids since they’ll have brothers and sisters to play with in their own age group, but it’s better for mommy, too. She can devote her whole attention to the child-raising scenario and get it accomplished more-or-less all at once. Good to do it while she has the energy, too…wouldn’t want to be 65 years old and trying to contain a 14 year old kid. When Prince Harry was told of the forthcoming new heir to the throne, knocking him down to fifth place in the line of succession, he just laughed and replied, “Great.” I don’t think Harry wants to sit on the throne – he’s strikes me as more the playboy type. And what a great position to be in...

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ROBBERY FOR SMOKES

09/11/14 at 04:43 AM

I’ve noticed that a lot of the local convenience store robberies seem to involve cigarettes. Money first, of course, but a lot of the time the robber goes for cigarettes, too. I understand that cigarettes are getting very expensive with so many people wanting to eliminate the tobacco habit from humanity, but I rather doubt those cigarettes taken during the robberies are going to be resold. A more plausible explanation would be that the robber has gone broke and is desperate for a smoke so he musters his courage and knocks off a convenience store for a pack or two. Any money he can get – since he’s already there, so to speak – as well; but I wonder how many of those robberies are motivated primarily by the tobacco addiction. I’m going to guess more than a few. If that’s the case, how many of those crimes...

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RUSSIAN CONCERNS

09/09/14 at 04:21 AM

I am concerned that Russia is not going to stop until the Ukraine is back under Russian sovereignty. Russia has such a massive military…so well-equipped…and a long history of being a ruthless people, I just don’t see them lying down and doing nothing while the Ukraine secedes from the motherland. Especially with Vladimir Putin running things. He strikes me as something of an egotistical bully who would punish anyone who challenged him. I might be wrong, but current events sure seem to be leaning in that direction. Russia has not withdrawn and allowed the Ukrainian people to form an independent government, instead they are slowly but surely building up their forces around the separatists, moving in heavy military might in the form of tanks and such, and increasing the number of combat troops on the ground in the area. It looks like they’re getting ready to quell the “uprising” and put it down by force. Don’t be surprised if in the coming months, something dramatic happens there. Of course, the timing couldn’t be better for Putin. Right now the US is involved in the ISIS problem and it’s grabbing the media attention...

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BIRTHDAY GEMSTONES

09/07/14 at 04:34 AM

I wrote about the birthstones linked to the month of your birth, but did you know there are also birthstones tied to the day of the week on which you were born? Here they are: If you were born on a Monday, your birthstones would be Pearl or Crystal. If perchance you were born on a Tuesday; either Ruby or Emerald are your birthday stones. Wednesday’s birthstones are Amethyst or Lodestone. Thursday is Sapphire or Carnelian. Friday’s birthstones are Emerald or Cat’s Eye. If you were born on a Saturday, your birthday stones would be Turquoise or Diamond. Finally, if you were born on a Sunday, you’d have either Topaz or Diamond as your birthday stones. There are also specific birthstones related to the signs of the zodiac (for you astrology buffs). Aquarius is Garnet. Pisces is Amethyst. Aries is...

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BIRTHSTONES

09/05/14 at 04:27 AM

By her who in the January is born, no gem save Garnets should be worn, they will ensure her constancy, true friendship, and fidelity. The February-born shall find sincerity and peace of mind, freedom from passion and from care, if they an Amethyst shall wear. Who in this world of ours their eyes in March first open shall be wise, in days of peril firm and brave, and wear a Bloodstone to their grave. She who from April dates her years, Diamonds shall she wear; lest bitter tears, for vain repentance flow; this stone, emblem of innocence, is well known. Who first beholds the light of day in spring's sweet flowery month of May, and wears an Emerald all her life, shall be a loved and happy wife. Who comes with summer to this earth, and owes to June her hour of birth, with ring of Agate on her hand, can health, wealth, and long life command. The glowing Ruby shall adorn, those who in July are born;...

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9 YEAR-OLD KILLER

09/03/14 at 04:47 AM

Well, another example of why guns need to be banned. A 9 year-old girl in Arizona was being instructed on how to shoot an Uzi automatic weapon. The gun got away from her and shot her instructor in the head. He died. A couple of things come to mind. One: What kind of parents take their nine year-old daughter to a firing range to learn how to shoot an Uzi? An UZI, for Chrissakes! A 9 year-old girl!! She probably still has a Barbie doll and Hello Kitty underwear! Two: What kind of qualified instructor would even consider teaching a nine year-old girl how to shoot an Uzi? That’s unqualified if ever there was a word for it! Three: How is that poor young girl going to react the next time someone tries to get her to hold a gun? For the rest of her life, she will be filled with horror at the thought of what happened that day. Psychoanalysts, get ready…this one’s going to be in there deep. Four: It’s going to be labeled an accident...

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JURY DUTY

09/01/14 at 04:56 AM

I got called for jury duty recently. I usually try to get out of it, but this time I had nothing to do that day anyway so I decided to go along and play the game. At 8:30 in the morning of the day, I and about a hundred other good citizens arrived at the El Paso County Courthouse where we joined a line and were given a one page questionnaire and a pen. I sat and filled out the questionnaire, dutifully answering every question as truthfully as I could, and then was told to sit and wait. They had a chalkboard up in front of the room with four judges’ names on it. We were told by a fellow that those were the judges who might need a jury today. So, we sat and waited…all hundred of us. After a while, someone came out and used an eraser and erased one of the judge’s names off the board, leaving three. About an hour later, another two names got erased. Now there was only one. An hour after that, someone came out and erased the last judge’s name off the board and we were told that we were dismissed…they weren’t going to need a jury today. Everyone made for the exits. No one took the form I had filled out so I threw it in the rubbish...

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GLOBAL ECONOMY

08/30/14 at 04:23 AM

I got to thinking about the way the global economy works the other day, and some interesting thoughts came to mind. The United States currently operates in deficit. This is because its politicians have promised so many perks and benefits to its citizens…usually in an effort to get themselves elected…that there isn’t enough money to pay for them. No one wants to pay the taxes for that stuff (or give up the perks either), so we borrow. Who from? Well, at the moment, it’s China. Okay, fine, but surely China wants something for lending us its money…what? Well, we give them extremely relaxed trade agreements. That way they can ship over to us all the cheap shiny trinkets their billion people can manufacture as they’re working for 10¢ an hour. US citizens, being bored and over-sated from guzzling at the trough of our largess, are happy to get some shiny new little geegaw to occupy our attention span afresh, and we play with it until the first flecks of silver paint come off and then discard it in the rubbish. China gets enough money from the sale of these items to pay the 10¢ an hour salary to its billion people and there’s enough left over for the politicians to have their $2000 suits and limousines. The US doesn’t have any money of its own, but the politicians can stick the ‘China, Inc.’ credit card in the slot and buy their $2000 suits and limos. All the crap the Chinese sold us which is now in the rubbish bins gets bundled up and shipped...

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THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS

08/28/14 at 04:15 AM

The language of flowers, sometimes called floriography, is a means of communication through the use or arrangement of flowers. Meaning has been attributed to flowers for thousands of years, and some form of floriography has been practiced in traditional cultures throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Interest in floriography soared in Victorian England and in the United States during the 19th century. Gifts of blooms, plants, and specific floral arrangements were used to send a coded message to the recipient, allowing the sender to express feelings which could not be spoken aloud in Victorian society. Armed with floral dictionaries, Victorians often exchanged small ‘talking bouquets,’ called nosegays (or tussie-mussies), which could be worn or carried as a fashion accessory. The significance assigned to specific flowers in Western culture varied widely - nearly every flower had multiple associations listed in the hundreds of floral dictionaries - but a consensus of meaning for common blooms eventually emerged. Often, definitions derive from the appearance or behavior of the plant itself. For example, the mimosa, or sensitive plant, represents chastity. This is because the leaves of the mimosa close at night, or when touched. Likewise, the deep red rose and its thorns...

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TRITON AND PLUTO

08/26/14 at 04:45 AM

NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft gave humanity its first glimpse of Neptune and its moon Triton in the summer of 1989. Unfortunately, in 1989, most of the northern hemisphere of the moon was in darkness and unseen by Voyager. Because of the speed of Voyager's visit and the slow rotation of Triton, only one hemisphere was seen clearly at close distance. The rest of the surface was either in darkness or seen as blurry markings. Although Triton is a moon of a planet and Pluto is a dwarf planet, Triton served as a preview of sorts for the upcoming Pluto encounter. Although both bodies originated in the outer solar system, Triton was captured by Neptune and has undergone a radically different thermal history than Pluto. Tidal heating has likely melted the interior of Triton, producing the volcanoes, fractures and other geological features that Voyager saw on that bitterly cold, icy surface. Pluto is unlikely to be a copy of Triton, but some of the same types of features may be present. Triton is slightly larger than Pluto, has a very similar internal density and bulk composition, and has the same low-temperature volatiles frozen on its surface. The surface composition of both bodies includes carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen ices. Voyager discovered atmospheric plumes on Triton, making it one of the known active bodies in the outer solar system, along with objects such as Jupiter's moon Io and Saturn's moon Enceladus...

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A "QUALITY CHRISTIAN EDUCATION"?

08/24/14 at 04:22 AM

I keep seeing ads on TV for the Grand Canyon University offering a “private quality Christian education”. What that says to me is that the education received will probably be missing a few critical points. Namely; Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, the scientific evidence establishing the age of the Universe at 13.7 billion years old, and probably any discussion of the Big Bang Theory as the instrument which created the Universe. What this “quality” education will include will be daily prayer times, forays into nationalism (pledge of allegiance), and bible study (complete with tests). The fact that they include the word “private” in their enticement is significant, I think. This suggests that they will make an effort to keep out those unwanted and possibly disruptive ideas which don’t gel with Christian literature. Let me pose a question: Do we really want kids emerging into society who lack the scientific facts and theories proven and re-proven by the overwhelming majority of the scientific community at large? Such a thing would be a recipe for a return to the dark ages. Encouraging beliefs in imaginary deities who promise eternal punishment if alms or worship falls short? Condemnation of all who don’t believe in “the right God”? I think we need to remove any state certification from schools which abandon teaching accepted facts in favor of promoting mystical occults…however popular those cults may be. Our children...

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TITAN'S WEATHER

08/22/14 at 04:18 AM

NASA's Cassini spacecraft recently captured images of clouds moving across the northern hydrocarbon seas of Saturn's moon Titan. This renewed weather activity, considered overdue by researchers, could finally signal the onset of summer storms that atmospheric models have long predicted. The Cassini spacecraft obtained the new views in late July, as it receded from Titan after a close flyby. Cassini tracked the system of clouds developing and dissipating over the large methane sea known as Ligeia Mare for more than two days. Measurements of cloud motions indicate wind speeds of around 7 to 10 mph (3 to 4.5 meters per second). For several years after Cassini's 2004 arrival in the Saturn system, scientists frequently observed cloud activity near Titan's south pole, which was experiencing late summer at the time. Clouds continued to be observed as spring came to Titan's northern hemisphere. But since a huge storm swept across the icy moon's low latitudes in late 2010, only a few small clouds have been observed anywhere on the icy moon. The lack of cloud activity has surprised researchers, as computer simulations of Titan's...

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ROBIN WILLIAMS' DEATH

08/20/14 at 04:17 AM

It was very sad to learn of Robin Williams’ suicide. Apparently, his wife last saw him around 10:30 PM the night before he died when she went to bed. The next morning, she awoke and left the house, thinking he must be asleep in another room. His personal assistant discovered him hanged and dead from asphyxia the next morning when he didn’t appear. Media reports that he had been battling addiction and depression recently. It would seem that the warning signs were ignored by those around him. This suicide differs from those of stars like Janis Joplin, John Belushi, Jim Morrison, and Jimi Hendrix. Those people died of accidental overdoses of drugs. Robin Williams’ death was intentional and self-inflicted. He once made the rather strange claim that cocaine tended to calm him down, rather than stimulate as it does others. I realize he had something of a frenetic personality…

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PLANET VULCAN

08/18/14 at 04:59 AM

In the latter part of the 1800’s, scientists were beginning to get accurate measurements of the masses of the planets in our Solar System. They were working out the orbits with considerable precision and as they zeroed in on the final figures, something disturbing appeared. Somehow, and no one knew why, the math wasn’t tallying correctly. It seemed there was more mass pulling at the planets than was accounted for in their estimates of the Sun and the (then) nine planets orbiting it. Obviously there could only be one logical explanation; there was another as yet undiscovered planet somewhere. It was hypothesized that the new planet must be in an extremely close orbit right next to the Sun and was therefore invisible…hidden in the Sun’s glare. Given its close proximity to the Sun, scientists reached into their favorite naming resource, Roman mythology, and called it Vulcan, for the Roman god of fire. They worked out its approximate mass and speculated about its orbit and used it to repair the erroneous math which was bugging them. Now everything worked out the way it should on the blackboards. Trouble was, nobody could spot the missing world. Intense efforts were made by the astronomical community, but Vulcan remained unseen. It was a very troubling time for astronomers...

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EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 10 OF 'A SIRIUS SCORCHING'

08/16/14 at 04:59 AM

Pointer answered. “Your log from two days ago shows two ships arriving which we are interested in. They are outlaws and we’re here to capture them.” “Which ships were they, sir?” “KR-340 and KB-765” The Dockmaster consulted a copy of his log and replied, “KR-340 left last night, sir. She listed Pollux III as her destination.” “Damn!” Barnes swore. “That son-of-a-bitch!” “What about the other ship?” asked Pointer. “KB-765 is still here, sir. She had extensive repairs made…I think the service section replaced one of her thrusters…the number two thruster, I believe.” Pointer paused to consider this for a brief second. “Where is she moored? Which docking bay?” “She’s in 37, sir. Just right over there.” He pointed to T.J.’s ship standing between two much larger spaceships in the docking area. Pointer stood staring at it silently for a long minute. Then he turned back to the Dockmaster. “Could you give us a moment of privacy, please?” The Dockmaster nodded and moved away. Pointer turned to Barnes. “Korska’s not here, but McDuff still is. What are you going to do?” Barnes frowned sourly. “I can’t believe that ballsy son-of-a-bitch went right back to my home patrol star! Well…I have no choice. I’ve got to chase the bastard down. Can’t let him get away with this. What about you?”...

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TOYOTA'S HYDROGEN FUEL CAR

08/14/14 at 04:57 AM

Toyota is introducing a new hydrogen fuel cell automobile. It runs on hydrogen gas, and when combined with oxygen, produces only water (and heat) as exhaust. Toyota has been developing fuel cell vehicles in-house for more than 20 years. Toyota’s fuel cell system includes a proprietary FC Stack (Fuel Cell Stack: Individual fuel cells connected in a series. Fuel cells are stacked to increase voltage), which generates electricity from the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, and the required high-pressure hydrogen tanks. Toyota has employed a new way to use carbon fiber to construct the high-pressure tanks needed and reduced the amount of platinum required for the electricity production, thus reducing costs to practical limits. The new car has a cruising range of 700 kilometers (435 miles) and a refueling time of around 3 minutes. The car will launch in Japan before April 2015, and preparations are underway for launches in the U.S. and European markets in the summer of 2015. It will sell for approximately 7 million yen ($68,000 USD). The technology uses the hydrogen to generate electricity to power the engine...

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