An engineering student’s Blog

” …All of this. All of this was for nothing – unless we go to the stars.” – Infection, Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski

Timing is everything

Obama’s administration has ordered a 90-day review of the situation at NASA with the hope of chosing the best way to move our space exploration and science foward.  A likely topic on the table is which mission architecture and space launch vehicles will get the job done – cheaper, better & faster?  

Its at this time – before the fact finding and investigating begins – that a new article appears explaining how NASA attempted to discredit the DIRECT  shuttle derived Jupiter launch vehicle proposal to replace the constellation programs Ares I and V rockets.  The fundamentals are pretty straight foward, and the engineers working on the proposal have done a lot of work to nail down the details.  It must have ticked quite a few of them off when NASA managers defending Ares tried to pull a fast one and misrepresent the DIRECT plan in thier official and initially internal analysis.

Get the whole story a nasaspaceflight.com where David Harris has an article on the subject, and download the DIRECT teams official rebuttal of the bogus 2007 NASA ‘analysis’ 

According to NASAspaceflight, “DIRECT anticipates being heavily involved in the upcoming Blue Ribbon review for human space flight – which will include an evaluation on NASA’s current exploration direction – and the team will be presenting their latest proposals at the Orlando ISDC conference at the end of May and will also have representatives there able to discuss the latest evolutions of the proposal.”

Lets hope NASA gets it right this time. 
 

Filed under: Space

A question of severity & evidence of evolution

At risk of stating the obvious the flu appears to spread quickly.  DOH!  Its rate of transmissibility is high.  But its severity or virulence maybe indirectly related to its transmissibility.  People don’t have to be oozing with the virus and litterally falling apart for this thing to spread.  As a result the new H1N1’s initial fatality rate maybe low.  Quite low.  The danger however, still exsist that it can better adapt to human physiology, it could borrow the right code in a reassortment somewhere and come out with the right protiens to be much more lethal.  But for now its missing crital protiens needed for it to be much of a threat.  More information here at the Wall Street Journal by Peter Palese and Here at the Virology Blog

The most likely result in the short-term is the continued spread of a new, mild-flu which no one has any immunity to resulting in a larger number of hospitalizations as the virus spreads over a larger fraction of the population,  taxing our healthcare system.  In fall this will become a problem as it could come back as a slightly more virulent form during the usual flu season – or it just reach an even larger fraction of the population, sending a fraction of the population to the hospital for treatment.  

A healthcare crisis is possible in even a moderate flu epidemic.  At least it doesnt have the capability of the 1918 Spanish flu.  If we take this as an oppurtunity now would be the time to lobby and push for improvements to a healthcare system with some serious wholes in it.  Now before a more deadly organism emerges.

USEFUL LINKS ::

http://www.virology.ws/

http://crofsblogs.typepad.com/h5n1/

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/5/2/727192/-H1N1:-Why-Do-Schools-Close,-And-When-Do-They-Open

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About evolution – I’ve always thought of it as a useful theory in simplifying complex problems in the lifesciences.  A philosophical construct, a tool.

I’ve never accepted that there are solid arguements and real articles of evidence, in mutations occurring allowing a new genetic branch or new organism to thrive better than previous itterations which could eventually replace previous ones – evolution.  A few weeks ago I was thinking about this again and thought about insects and thought ants are ants, bugs remain the same for millions of years.  And I thought what about bacteria, something with a faster life cycle, something where a new generation appears on a more compressed time scale you maybe able to notice changes in genetics and potential improvements.  But I left it at that.

It would appear the evidence I was looking for smacked the world in its face recently.  A new virus – a random reassortment of genetic code gave us this new influenza A, which was of benifit to the organism experiencing the mutation allowing it access to more resources (humans) thru its new found quicker rate of transmissibility. So I will be investigating and entertaining the idea that evolution is more than just a philosophical construct or a useful way of aproaching lifescience problems.  

Although I will not quickly give up what I believe – it would be wrong to ignore the possibility that I was wrong.  The bible says, “make sure of all things.”  Essentially – it commands us to question, inquire and seek the truth.  Well evolution appears more to be a working theory with physical, real relevance and supporting evidence that needs to be explained.  As a human being with a head on and a heart pumping life thru it I have an obligation to do nothing less.

Filed under: Health, Science

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