Posts Tagged ‘Indonesia’

 

The Thirty Foot Asteroid That Headed Toward Earth Unnoticed!

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

bolide3.jpgSpace is a dirty place. There’s all sorts of interstellar junk flying around at breakneck speed. In our solar system Jupiter, the largest planet with the strongest gravity, gets hit most often.

Still, in terms relative to the age of our planet, the Earth gets hit all the time. Just the random dust and specks burning out in the upper reaches of our atmosphere add a few hundred million pounds of additional mass to Earth every day!

Sometimes the incoming rocks are large.

We don’t see much evidence because water and weather gradually heal our wounds. The pock marked surface of the atmosphere free Moon gives a more realistic impression of what really happens.

I mention this because a reasonably significant rock came pretty close to hitting the Earth a few weeks ago. I’m only hearing about it now–and I’m usually pretty up on these things.

Here’s NASA’s dispassionate reporting:

On October 8, 2009 about 03:00 Greenwich time, an atmospheric fireball blast was observed and recorded over an island region of Indonesia. The blast is thought to be due to the atmospheric entry of a small asteroid about 10 meters in diameter that, due to atmospheric pressure, detonated in the atmosphere with an energy of about 50 kilotons (the equivalent of 100,000 pounds of TNT explosives).

The Jakarta Globe said the explosion was loud enough that, “Locals at first thought it was an earthquake and ran out of their homes in panic.”

Well, yeah. A hundred thousand pounds of TNT would make quite a rumble.

No one saw this bad boy coming. Not NASA. Not the Air Force. Surprise! It was the size of a small house and we had no warning at all.

What little we do know of this incident comes because we monitor atmospheric noise while searching for nuclear tests. Again, it’s a surprise to me, but there is a network of “infrasound stations” associated with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization and they pinned it down.

In writing about this incident NASA scientists mention “an average impact velocity for NEAs of 20.3 km/s.” In other words, near Earth asteroids hit the Earth’s atmosphere at around 45,000 mph! That’s New York to Los Angeles in under four minutes!

Bottom line, those scary movies where asteroids plunge to Earth causing death and destruction… maybe they’re more science and less fiction than we think.

My Bob Simon Envy

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

During the football season, it’s tougher to watch 60 Minutes. It’s on after football, so the start time drifts. The DVR is fooled.

I watched last night. Zip – right through A-Rod story. I just didn’t care.

What did catch my attention was an amazing story by Bob Simon. He went to a pristine, untouched area in Indonesia, hundreds of miles from any kind of civilization. As his scientist host said, “It�s probably basically the way it was five or 10,000 years ago.”

Think about the financial and resource commitment from CBS News and Simon. This story cost a small fortune to produce.

After a 20-hour flight to Jakarta, Indonesia, followed by a seven-hour plane ride to New Guinea, Simon and the team had concluded the easy part of the trip. They then boarded a single-engine plane with Bruce Beehler, the lead scientist from “Conservation International,” which stirred the world with its discoveries in 2005. After an hour in the air, they were looking for a grass runway.

The next morning, we loaded up a helicopter for the 45-minute journey up to the mountain. It’s at least a two-week hike from the village and there are no trails.

The destination was a jungle paradise never touched by man – never. These would be first footsteps over much of the ground. It was lush, green, astoundingly beautiful and bounding with life (though curiously, very few mammals).

I would love to go there. I probably never will. At the moment, I don’t even have a valid passport.

There aren’t many jobs like Bob Simon’s left. Some big newspapers still have foreign correspondents. The TV networks have deemphasized international news.

Bob Simon travels the world, covering wars and this week, covering paradise.

Enough With The Horse Race

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

The talk on NPR’s Talk of the Nation today was all about politics and the next presidential election. Their political junkie, Ken Rudin, was front and center.

I had MSNBC on while getting dressed for work. It was also a discussion of the ’08 presidential race.

That’s November ’08 they’re discussing. I haven’t thought about what I want for dinner tonight. Maybe November ’08 is just a little too far ahead for me.

I have no idea what any of the candidates stand for, outside a very few hot button issues. I do know Hillary Clinton is not Tammy Wynette, Barack Obama did not attend a Maddrassa while growing up in Indonesia, Bill Richardson has a lead foot and Connecticut’s Senator Chris Dodd has the softest hands I’ve ever shaken.

I attended a dinner in 1972 where I sat next to current Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich for a few hours. I don’t even remember if he was a neat or sloppy diner. I have no idea where he stands on anything. Ditto for most of the other declared candidates.

Let’s get back to the MSNBC conversation for a moment. What it didn’t contain was meat. It was totally about the horse race. Who cares!

The headline on Drudge as I write this is, “TIME POLL: HILLARY 19-POINTS AHEAD OF OBAMA.” But in that same poll a significant portion of the electorate said they’d never heard of Obama.

I hate to quote Ann Coulter (but I will):

In January, two years before the 2000 presidential election, the leading Republican candidate in New Hampshire was … Liddy Dole (WMUR-TV/CNN poll, Jan. 12, 1999). In the end, Liddy Dole’s most successful run turned out to be a mad dash from her husband Bob after he accidentally popped two Viagras.

At this stage before the 1992 presidential election, the three leading Democratic candidates were, in order: Mario Cuomo,

Jesse Jackson and Lloyd Bentsen (Public Opinion Online, Feb. 21, 1991).

Only three months before the 1988 election, William Schneider cheerfully reported in The National Journal that Michael Dukakis beat George Herbert Walker Bush in 22 of 25 polls taken since April of that year. Bush did considerably better in the poll taken on Election Day.

Lord help me – she’s right. I can’t believe I even wrote that.

This early jockeying is reported because no news organization wants to run ‘bars and tone.’ It’s cheap and easy to discuss who is ahead. But, it’s meaningless.

At this point it’s more important to know where people stand, what they believe in. Or, maybe, we should let the recently elected congress wrangle with the currently serving president. Isn’t that the important story now?

November ’08 will come soon enough. Why rush it?

Maybe The Revolution Will Be Televised After All

Friday, July 8th, 2005

Gil Scott-Heron said “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” I’m not sure this was what he was talking about, but based on what’s come out of London with the subway and bus explosions, he needs to rewrite the song.

The advent of cellphones with still and video cameras and the proliferation of fixed security cameras has changed everything. Not only did we see still images from the tunnels of the London subway system, we saw video too. It won’t surprise me if, as was the case in Spain, higher quality images from security cameras come out later.

The quality of the hand held cameras isn’t all that great, but it will get better with time. Actually, the quality of the video is inconsequential. The mere fact that we’re all able to be eyewitnesses is what’s important. We saw that demonstrated during the Gulf War when jumpy, pixelated videophones were the only live way out.

This trend of every significant human event being documented was even more evident in the pictures that came out of Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand during the December tsunami. With many of the cameras connected to the Internet, these photos are available immediately.

Today convenience store robberies… gas station fires… even police traffic stops are all seen on TV – and seen often.

How will this affect us? Recently, while watching a baseball game on ESPN, a fan ran onto the field. The cameras immediately left the field so as not to encourage others.

Will all of this coverage encourage more terrorism? It’s possible.

On the other hand, there are many who believe the major factor in turning public opinion away from the Vietnam War was the constant images on the nightly news. Could images of carnage stop the violence we saw yesterday in England? That’s possible too. Or it just might serve to galvanize the resolve of those targeted.

This will be much easier to judge in hindsight. All I can say now is, things have changed. This genie is not going back in the bottle.

Phishing for Charity Dollars

Saturday, January 8th, 2005

mercy-corp-fraud.jpgWho hasn’t donated money or thought of donating money to the tsunami survivors in the countries surrounding the Indian Ocean? A few days ago I started hearing about fraudulent charity pleas and then I received one.

This story has a unique twist.

The email came to my Gmail account. How is this account already on spam lists? That’s unreal.

It purported to be from Mercy Corp, a charity I had never heard of, but one I believe exists and is a legitimate “good guy.” I’ve attached the text from the message to the bottom of this entry, should you want to look. It’s a plea that’s tough to resist.

Of course it’s bogus. This is a phishing scam, someone using the name and the look of a legitimate organization to gain your trust.

Normally you’re on your own to figure this out, that’s why phishing scams are tough to stop. But there’s a difference here. The ‘phishers’ link back to legitimate Mercy Corp graphics. As soon as Mercy Corp found out, they changed the graphic making it obvious what’s going on.

Phishing still stinks. However, we now know someone at Mercy Corp is very clever.

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Tsunami Damage Photos

Friday, December 31st, 2004

DigitalGlobe has posted some amazing before and after images from their hi-resolution Quickbird satellite.

I have taken two and created the before and after animation you see of Banda Aceh, which is in Indonesia. Click here for a larger view.

DigitalGlobe has done an excellent job of analyzing the imagery (which, after all is what they do for a living). It’s worth taking a look.

The New York times has also published a chronology of the events which is quite well done.