Space Junk

One of my AvantGo channels I download to my Palm to read on MARTA is I’m not sure how they make money, but they have a lot of good space-related articles. Today they had one on space junk, all the pieces of old rocket motors, dead satellites, loose screws, and other pieces of debris in orbit around the earth travelling thousands of miles per hour. Even a paint chip travelling at 10,000 miles per hour can knock a hole in a satellite or spaceman. So it is a significant problem and there are all kinds of efforts to minimize any cast-off material or debris. Also there is a project to track every known piece of junk to make sure critical satellites, the space shuttle, space station, etc. can move out of the way if they are in danger of being hit.

This article is about a series of old Russian satellites that had nuclear reactors on board for elecricity. The Russians didn’t want the satellites to fall to earth with reactor cores in them so they included a booster rocket that would, after the satellite was no longer needed, launch the reactor core into a much higher earth orbit that would take thousands of years to degrade. By the time the core would re-enter the earth’s atmosphere so many half-lives would have passed that it would no longer be dangerous. So that was a neat idea right there.

But then it seems that after the cores were ejected, the leftover part sprung a leak in its liquid coolant. A stream of drops came out of the satellite. Each drop is a piece of space junk and some of the “drops” are a couple of inches in diameter. So now there are 10,000 drops of Sodium-Potassium coolant in orbit waiting to hit anything in space at extremely high speed. Oh, and each drop is radioactive.

Then they said that because these satellites were all at roughly the same orbit, that even the non-leaking ones are now subject to be hit by one of these droplets, causing further leaks and even more space junk. In fact they said people are doing research to see if there is already a “critical mass” of space junk that will just keep colliding into each other and producing even more pieces of debris that will cause more collisions and so forth.

Fifty years of exploring space and we may have already ruined it.

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Katie’s surgery Part 2

This is a continuation of the original post

Katie is now half-way through her recuperation. The staples were taken out two weeks ago and the doctor seemed satisfied with the progress, but I still have to take it easy for the full eight weeks. They seemed a little disappointed that Katie had gotten a couple of staples out and the scar hadn’t grown together perfectly. In parts where the staples stayed put there’s just a little line, but other parts are still red even at 4 weeks. I would guess the scar is about 85% healed. She still licks it some. At least half the hair has grown back on her leg so she is at least all black again.

At eight weeks they will take x-rays and make sure the bone has grown back together and then we can start doing therapy by taking progressively longer walks.

Katie is doing pretty well. I haven’t been taking Clio for walks either so we are all suffering and getting stir crazy (and gaining weight in the case of me and Clio at least; Clio and I have gone to Stone Mountain with Susan and her dogs the last couple of weekends). Katie still doesn’t put much weight on the hurt leg, but doesn’t keep it raised off the ground either. She really wants to play but we can’t do anything physical.

See a follow-up entry.

Market Timing Part 2

I posted my first entry on market timing last May. The market had bottomed out and was on the rise and I wanted to a way to stay out of future declines while still being invested during rallies. Market timing seemed to be a way to do that and I decided to play around with it in my deferred compensation account which allows me to get in and out of my mutual funds without paying capital gains taxes or incurring sales charges. I was going to do it with only Fidelity Over-the-Counter (ticker: FOCPX, 20% of my portfolio) but decided to apply to my others as well including Vanguard Index 500 (VIIIX, 60%), American EuroPacific Growth (AEPGX, 10%), and Ariel Fund (ARGFX, 10%). I would use the 50-day moving average. When the current price drops below the 50-day moving average you sell. When it goes back above the 50-day moving average you buy it back. You can refer back to my original posting to see how well this can work.

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When I’m filling in album names and song titles I would get kind of confused on what words you capitalize and which you don’t. I found some tips on the internet somewhere that were very helpful:

Don’t capitalize:

a an the (articles)

at by for in of on to* up (prepositions)

as but if or nor (conjunctions)

except if it is first or last word

except in parallel with words that are capitalized: Homes In and Near Ohio

*do capitalize in infinitives: One Life To Live

Letter to CBS and Viacom

Today my satellite provider pulled the plug on Viacom stations including MTV, VH1, and Comedy Central. Fortunately the Osbournes season was over, but I will miss The Daily Show. Although some CBS stations were pulled, the Atlanta station is still on. The disagreement stems from CBS charging Dish Network to carry their signal. Not only were they increasing the rate, but also requiring Dish Network to carry their Viacom stations which they also charge for. The end result is everyone pays more for their cable bill. But what bothers me the most is that they charge providers *anything* since they should be getting their revenue from advertisers. CBS makes these signals available free over the air but charge the cable providers to carry them. It makes no sense.

Dear CBS and Viacom,

If you didn’t run commercials on all of your programming then you should be able to charge whatever you want to cable companies to carry your signal just as HBO does. But because you burden your viewers with commericals (more than ever) you should not charge cable or satellite companies anything to carry your signal. Nor should they charge you to carry your signal since you need viewers and they can supply them. I blame CBS and Viacom for the constantly increasing cable and satellite bills. Dish Network on the other hand is trying to look out for its subscribers by resisting your attempts to extract more money from the viewers. I applaud Dish Network and their efforts to keep rates low. And I ask that CBS and Viacom not only go back to their old rates, but stop collecting fees from cable providers altogether and support your programming via the advertising that you subject us to. Until then I will continue to enjoy watching other networks and other programming and watching their commericials.

Thank you for your time,

iPod Battery Pack tests

I ran a test on my home-made iPod battery pack. Just running the iPod at 50% volume through a playlist and otherwise not touching it, it will last 7.8 hours. By using the battery pack to recharge the iPod when its battery meter goes down to 1 bar out of 4 and charging for an hour I was able to 4 charges plus part of a 5th charge. This gave me a total of 27.7 hours including the 4.5 hours of charging when I was playing it too.

Read all about the test and the battery pack


I’m always looking for ways to invest. Lately gold has gone up a lot from $300 per oz a few years ago when all the countries were selling off their gold reserves up to $400 per oz now. So I was wondering how you can buy gold even though I’m not really seriously considering it (Motley Fool points out that if you bought $1 of gold in 1802 that today it would be worth $0.98 adjusted for inflation (however with the US on the gold standard, the value didn’t change by much until the 1970’s when the US finally let the currency float; it’s probably not fair to compare stocks and gold prior to 1971; US bonds would be worth $304; regular bonds $952; and stocks $599,605) but I wanted to know how it would work.

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