Guided hurricanes

17/08/2010

Predictions revisited and Climate Change: News and Comments

Guided hurricanes

When speculating four decades ago about the military uses of geophysics, Gordon J.F. MacDonald of UCLA contemplated the triggering of earthquakes or tsunamis, or melting polar ice with nuclear weapons. And he didn’t overlook the idea of steering hurricanes to ravage the enemy’s coasts. Reminding me of that prediction is a report now in press in Geophysical Research Letters, about how natural variations in the colour of the sea help to guide cyclones in the Pacific. A cyclone, remember, is a loosely used generic term that includes the major storms called hurricanes (Atlantic), typhoons (Pacific) or tropical cyclones (Indian Ocean and Australia).

Contributing to Unless Peace Comes, (1968), in a chapter entitled “How to Wreck the Environment”, MacDonald wrote:

… preliminary experiments have been carried out on the seeding of hurricanes. The dynamics of hurricanes and the mechanism by which energy is transferred from the ocean into the atmosphere supporting the hurricane are poorly understood. Yet various schemes for both dissipation and steering can be imagined. Although hurricanes originate in tropical regions, they can travel into temperate latitudes, as the residents of New England know only too well. A controlled hurricane could be used as a weapon to terrorize opponents over substantial parts of the populated world.

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Identified flying objects

25/05/2010

Uncategorized – or declassified, you could say

Identified flying objects

It’s always worth keeping an eye on the sky. Not just because a mass ejection from the Sun is heading vaguely our way and there may be nice auroras this week. You could also spot a secret spaceflight, except that the one I have in mind is hardly secret any more.

On 22 April the US Air Force launched an unmanned mini-shuttle, X-37B, from Cape Canaveral on an undisclosed mission. For photo-reconnaissance, you might guess. Four weeks later, amateurs Greg Roberts in South Africa and Kevin Fetter in Canada saw it. On the following night another Canadian, Ted Molczan, found it again, having computed its orbit from the earlier sightings. In the past few days (sorry, all you Pentagon folk) X-37B has been anyone’s game. Today, 25 May, spaceweather.com publishes this picture of its photographic trail as it cruised across the sky, taken by Gary O. in Texas.

Trail of the mini-shuttle X-37B, 2010. Photo by Gary O.

Meanwhile, on 22 May, Thierry Legault in Switzerland got a remarkable shot of the International Space Station passing directly in front of the Sun, with the Space Shuttle Atlantis docked to it – again reported by spaceweather.com

Transit of the ISS front of the Sun, 2010, with Atlantis docked centre-left. Photo by Thierry Legault.

Congratulations, Thierry. To me, this is one of the finest images of the Space Age — and I’ve seen all the pretty ones since 1957.


The Register approves

08/05/2010

Noticing the Internet 64 story posted on Calder’s Updates a couple of days ago, The Register (online IT newspaper) has an article by Andrew Orlowski http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/05/07/nigel_calder_internet_1965/

It closes with the kind remark:

“The blog is only a week old, but already looks like a splendid editor’s scrapbook, a place to while away some time.”

Thanks, Andrew

Nigel Calder