Why the Space Shuttle failed

Texas Tech alumnus Rick Husband was the final ...

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After nearly 31 years of dedicated service to NASA, the remaining space shuttles used by it are being retired. And it couldn’t be done soon enough, for the whole idea of the space shuttle as a means of slashing costs for space launches and making space more accessible was doomed from the start. The reason: the way those vehicles were made in the first place.

There were four parts to each space shuttle at launch: the orbiter that most people think about as THE Space Shuttle, the two Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) , and the External Fuel Tank (EFT) . After the shuttles  were launched, the SRBs would be jettisoned after a few minutes, and then the EFT, drained of its contents, would be jettisoned too just before the shuttle reached orbit. The SRBs would be recovered from the Atlantic Ocean by ships that would drag them back to Cape Canaveral to be used again; the EFT would simply fall back into the atmosphere to be burned up upon reentry.

Thus even though the space shuttle was supposed to be resuable, the actual largest part of it, the EFT, wasn’t! But no one seemed to notice that.

Of the five shuttle orbiters that were built (why so few?), TWO were destroyed! Those were the Challenger in 1986, and the Columbia in 2003.  The first disaster was caused by the launching of the shuttle under extremely low temperatures, resulting in a failure of one of the SRBs. Leaking and burning gas from that SRB ignited the EFT, destroying the whole shuttle. The second disaster was caused by a small piece of the EFT hitting the wing of the orbiter, causing enough damage to make reentry too dangerous. In both cases, NASA administrators behaved so arrogantly that they ignored warnings made to them by engineers who knew the limits and risks of the shuttles. As a result of that stupidity, 14 people died needlessly.

If I had been the head of NASA in the 1970s, I would have rejected the proposed design that eventually came out. Instead, I would have insisted on the shuttle launching and landing as a single piece.  I also would have demanded that the shuttle have the potential for interplanetary flights. In all the flights the real shuttles made, they NEVER went beyond Earth orbit, not even to the moon! Manned flights back to the moon and then to Mars, which the shuttle could have made possible, were not even considered!

The space program of the United States was ultimately ruined by the vast sums we spent on the Space Shuttle projects. It’s perhaps the most massive disappointment in all of American history!

P. S.  I have a personal reason for writing this: I was told after the fact that Shuttle Commander Rick Husband, who died on the Columbia in 2003, was a distant cousin of mine, though I never met him. In any case I would have been proud to know him! But now it is too late.  😦

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Douglas_Husband

The New Atheists step up their campaign against the NCSE and the BCSE

This is the direct sequel to:

https://dalehusband.wordpress.com/2011/02/06/atheists-shrieking-about-the-aaas/

Once again, P Z Myers and Jerry Coyne have decided to push for the elimination of all mentioning of religion in scientific organizations, including the NCSE (National Center for Science Education, the American organization defending evolution) and the BCSE (British Centre for Science Education, the version of the NCSE in the United Kingdom).

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/a-bright-spot-at-the-chronicle-and-an-open-letter/

Open letter to the NCSE and BCSE
Dear comrades:

Although we may diverge in our philosophies and actions toward religion, we share a common goal: the promulgation of good science education in Britain and America—indeed, throughout the world.  Many of us, like myself and Richard Dawkins, spend a lot of time teaching evolution to the general public.  There’s little doubt, in fact, that Dawkins is the preeminent teacher of evolution in the world. He has not only turned many people on to modern evolutionary biology, but has converted many evolution-deniers (most of them religious) to evolution-accepters.

Nevertheless, your employees, present and former, have chosen to spend much of their time battling not creationists, but evolutionists who happen to be atheists.  This apparently comes from your idea that if evolutionists also espouse atheism, it will hurt the cause of science education and turn people away from evolution.  I think this is misguided for several reasons, including a complete lack of evidence that your idea is true, but also your apparent failure to recognize that creationism is a symptom of religion (and not just fundamentalist religion), and will be with us until faith disappears. That is one reason—and, given the pernicious effect of religion, a minor one—for the fact that we choose to fight on both fronts.

The official policy of your organizations—certainly of the NCSE—is apparently to cozy up to religion.  You have “faith projects,” you constantly tell us to shut up about religion, and you even espouse a kind of theology which claims that faith and science are compatible.  Clearly you are going to continue with these activities, for you’ve done nothing to change them in the face of criticism.  And your employees, past and present, will continue to heap invective on New Atheists and tar people like Richard Dawkins with undeserved opprobrium.

We will continue to answer the misguided attacks by people like Josh Rosenau, Roger Stanyard, and Nick Matzke so long as they keep mounting those attacks.  I don’t expect them to abate, but I’d like your organizations to recognize this: you have lost many allies, including some prominent ones, in your attacks on atheism.  And I doubt that those attacks have converted many Christians or Muslims to the cause of evolution.  This is a shame, because we all recognize that the NCSE has done some great things in the past and, I hope, will—like the new BCSE—continue do great things in the future.

There is a double irony in this situation.  First, your repeated and strong accusations that, by criticizing religion, atheists are alienating our pro-evolution allies (liberal Christians), has precisely the same alienating effect on your allies: scientists who are atheists.  Second, your assertion that only you have the requisite communication skills to promote evolution is belied by the observation that you have, by your own ham-handed communications, alienated many people who are on the side of good science and evolution.  You have lost your natural allies.  And this is not just speculation, for those allies were us, and we’re telling you so.

Sincerely,
Jerry Coyne

Let’s look at some excerpts from this open letter:

There’s little doubt, in fact, that Dawkins is the preeminent teacher of evolution in the world. He has not only turned many people on to modern evolutionary biology, but has converted many evolution-deniers (most of them religious) to evolution-accepters.

Note that Coyne does not specify that Dawkins has converted all these former evolution-deniers into atheists.

Nevertheless, your employees, present and former, have chosen to spend much of their time battling not creationists, but evolutionists who happen to be atheists.

How so? By not openly supporting atheism?

you have lost many allies, including some prominent ones, in your attacks on atheism.

HA HA HA HA HA HA! So not affirming atheism is the same as attacking it? REALLY?! Show me ONE official statement by the NCSE or the BCSE that attacks or denies atheism. Just one!

your repeated and strong accusations that, by criticizing religion, atheists are alienating our pro-evolution allies (liberal Christians), has precisely the same alienating effect on your allies: scientists who are atheists.

Coyne, you are alienated only because you are so convinced that only atheism is true. But that has nothing to do with teaching science. The fact remains that many children from Christian backgrounds will be learning evolution in schools and if they see a conflict between evolution and the Bible, they will remain Creationists rather than give up their faith and accept evolution. The efforts at accommodation by the NCSE and the BCSE are intended to show that you can choose to be religious and deal with science as it is also. It is YOU that is being intolerant, Coyne! It is YOU that choose to be alienated. You can still advocate atheism on your blog while promoting evolution too. No one in the NCSE or the BCSE is saying you cannot.  So what is the problem?

Then P Z says on his blog:

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/04/the_bcse_blows_up.php

How often do we have to repeat ourselves? There is no goal of turning the NCSE or the BCSE into an atheist organization; we think having an organization that is honestly neutral on the religious issue is extremely useful in advancing the cause of good science education for all. We want the NCSE/BCSE to support neither atheism nor religion.

You know what? The atheists in this argument have a crystal-clear understanding of the difference between atheism and secularism, and are saying that the science education organizations should be secular. It’s these sloppy accommodationists who have allowed liberal christianity to become their default position who have violated the distinction.

First, no one is asking Myers and other atheists to repeat themselves, so that is just rhetorical crap. Second, the NCSE has made clear its own religious neutrality.

http://ncse.com/about/faq

What is NCSE’s religious position?

None. The National Center for Science Education is not affiliated with any religious organization or belief. We and our members enthusiastically support the right of every individual to hold, practice, and advocate their beliefs, religious or non-religious. Our members range from devout practitioners of several religions to atheists, with many shades of belief in between. What unites them is a conviction that science and the scientific method, and not any particular religious belief, should determine science curriculum. (Emphasis mine)

Sorry, but until atheists become the vast majority of American and British people, the screaming about accommodation by atheists is pointless. I just don’t accept it. If the atheists wish to have all science organizations never mention religions or treat any religious people with respect again,  they can push for that. And once they get their way, the political support for scientific organizations will most likely dry up.  And the only ones who gain from that would be Creationists. The atheist fanatics are giving them exactly the talking points they need to fight longer and harder the public relations war over science education!

Please support both the NCSE and the BCSE. Here are their websites:

http://ncse.com/

http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/

The Stupidity of Ayn Rand, round 2

First, read this, if you haven’t yet done so:

https://dalehusband.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/a-bitter-rant-about-ayn-rand/

Gee, I wish I’d written this brilliant comment!

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/5729-the-tea-party-and-ayn-rand

#futhark 2011-04-24 16:46

Kudos to Ayn Rand for “objectively” choosing to receive Social Security benefits and Medicare in her old age. To not do so would have been contrary to her best interests.

Shame on her for jeopardizing her health through a life-long nicotine addiction, causing her to require assistance from socialistic institutions supported by a collectivist state. But even more shame on her for her arrogant, social-Darwinist values that the sick, hungry, ill-clad, and ill-housed are only reaping the rewards of their personal lack of industry and creativity. Her compassion rating is a big, obese ZERO!

Indeed! (Clap, clap clap, clap!)

The Capitalist Delusion

There is a common delusion in the USA that in the capitalist system, everyone can rise up the social ladder from poverty to wealth and that once you do, you should enjoy the rewards of your own labor, or the incentive to better one’s life would disappear. The reason this is a delusion is because those who are already wealthy would have an unfair advantage over those who are poor. Sure, the rich and their giant corporations DO provide jobs for the poor, but only to make themselves even richer, while keeping the poor working for small change, thus limiting actual economic growth. If anyone doubts this, think about why we Americans got Social Security, Medicare and minimum wage laws in the first place. It was because THE CAPTIALIST ECONOMIC SYSTEM IS NOT SELF SUSTAINING! If it is not moderated by the government, it will fail. That’s why we had a Great Depression and that’s why we keep having so many recessions since Ronald Reagan was President of the United States. Capitalism by itself DOES NOT PROVIDE PROSPERITY FOR ALL!

Religion, imperialism, and oil

Christianity is the most popular religion in the world, with about 2 billion followers all over the world. Islam is the second most popular religion, with over a billion followers. Part of the reason Christianity is larger is because it is older, since it is about 2000 years old, as compared with Islam being only 1400 years old.

Another reason Christianity is more popular is because of its association with imperialism. First, it took over the Roman Empire. After the Roman Empire fell in 476 AD, the religion continued as the dominant ideology of the Byzantine Empire, which was a direct offshoot of the Roman one. Later, the Arabs built a vast empire using Islam as their unifying force, challenging the Byzantines. Finally, the Turks, another Islamic power, destroyed the Byzantine Empire.

Then the European powers spread their empires all over the world, taking Christianity with them. Islam remained relatively weak until two things happened to make it more powerful: European imperialism fell apart and oil was discovered in most parts of the Middle East. Suddenly,  the Arabs became  extremely rich due to their oil revenues, and with that wealth came the ability to spread Islam around the world. But in Europe, Christianity declined as the people became increasingly secular. The tragic events of World War II probably did more to destroy Europeans’ faith than anything else. Today, the USA is the most powerful Christian dominated nation in the world, but it is still secular in its government. And even here, religious influence is slowly declining.

I suspect that within another generation, Islam will surpass Christianity as the most popular world religion, but its power cannot last long, because oil is a nonrenewable resource. And when that oil runs out, the economies of the Middle Eastern  states that depend on oil will break down, and so will Islam.

What can freethinkers, atheists,  and secular humanists do to overcome this situation? They must do everything possible to end the dependence on oil, and indeed all other fossil fuels, and establish societies based on renewable and sustainable sources of energy such as wind, water, the sun and geothermal sources. Once at least some parts of the world are free from needing resources that are doomed to run out, we will have even less need for religions like Christianity and Islam.

An Open Letter to Lawrence Krauss

First, read this:

http://skepchick.org/2011/04/lawrence-krauss-defends-a-sex-offender-embarrasses-scientists-everywhere/

If you actually said what Rebecca Watson quoted of you, then you are one contemptible hypocrite. Not a true skeptic anymore, and certainly not an Honorable Skeptic like I try to be. Close friendship is no excuse for selling out!

Rebecca wrote:

Jeffrey Epstein is the infamous media mogul who was jailed in 2008 for paying underage prostitutes who said they were recruited by his aides. Some girls were allegedly flown in from Eastern Europe, their visas arranged by his bookkeeper.

Then she quotes you as saying:

Based on my direct experience with Jeffrey, which is all I can base my assessment on, he is a thoughtful, kind, considerate man who is generous to his friends, and all of the women I have known who have been associated with Jeffrey speak glowingly in the same words……jeffrey apparently paid for massages with sex… I believe him when he told me he had no idea the girls were underage, and I doubt that people normally are asked for or present a driver’s license under such circumstances… Moreover, I also believe that Jeffrey is an easy target for those who want to take advantage of him…

You sound like an IDIOT there! WTF is wrong with you?! I wonder if you are a sex offender yourself, to rationalize away the actions of Epstein and claim that he isn’t so bad because he has so many other “good” qualities. NO! A MURDERER is a MURDERER, and child rapist is a child rapist, period! And a skeptic is a skeptic also, and you are NOT one anymore!

https://dalehusband.wordpress.com/an-honorable-skeptic/

Another thing I am adamant about is my sense of honor, which I hold more dear to me than my life. It allows for no exceptions whatsoever. So if I have lost friends or even made enemies for standing up for my honor, so be it. If I see someone who comes across to me as a liar, a bully, or just plain rude and stupid, then I usually try to fight back. If I see someone doing or saying things that damage the credibility of the causes I happen to believe in, I deeply take offense at that because I want those causes to be protected, even at the expense of picking fights with those who are unworthy to support those causes. I believe in absolute standards of right and wrong and so I see no point in ever excusing something that is wrong because the wrongdoer is otherwise a friendly or nice guy. That’s how corruption sets in.

No matter how great the pressure, I feel that one must never “sell out”. It is being able to stand up to the urge to conform to the shallow desires and priorites of others who have a limited vision that makes one truly heroic. I choose my friends according to my ideals; I never bend my ideals for the sake of keeping friends.

That is MY standard, and I am saddened that it is not yours. Grow up!

With disgust,

Dale Husband