Day: June 21, 2016

34-ounce glass tea press for loose teas and tea bags

After 5 years of pretty much exclusively using my Bodum teapot I have gotten so used to it I only notice the process when I’m not at home and have to use a different teapot.

I like having a big pot of tea sitting on my desk while I work on the computer but with most teapots the tea continues to gain in strength the longer it stays in the pot; unless you want to outright remove the tea which is nothing but a hot mess. This is the best teapot in my experience for being able to brew tea that can stay in the pot but not continue steeping and increasing in strength.

The system is very simple, the strainer inside the teapot has no holes in its bottom section so when the plunger is fully depressed the tea cannot continue to soak in the water as it has been cut off and sealed in the bottom of the strainer.

I use it whenever I’m at home and can have 1 liter of tea that is of a consistent strength sitting on my desk, making the only other issue I have to deal with the fact that eventually it will go cold which is an issue I have not found a solution to other than drinking the tea.

I was not able to find the exact porcelain model I have online anymore, it seems like Bodum may have discontinued it but they make the same size and shape pot out of borosilicate glass (the stuff pyrex is made from) so if anything its now stronger and more shatter resistant if dropped plus since its now clear you can see exactly how much tea is left in the pot. — Thomas Webster

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20 grams of melt-in-your hand gallium for $10


Gallium is a metal that melts at 86 degrees F. It’s more fun than playing with mercury, and probably safer, too (it *will* temporarily stain your skin gray though, because it’s “wet” when liquid and will adhere to the crevices of your skin). My daughter’s friend brought some over a couple of weeks ago, and it was such a hit at our house that we had to get some of our own. This 20 gram sample is just $10 including shipping on Amazon.

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A fast, indie space opera for summer


Don’t let the cover art scare you away! The Chronicles of Benjamin Jamison are fun, hero beats the odds, space opera fun. In Thomas Wright’s first installment, Call Sign Reaper, we meet familiar characters, then and head off on a familiar plot!

Retired special forces type space guy Ben was drummed out of the service on trumped up charges. Instead of disappearing to the Los Angeles underground, he spends a couple months off. Ben is recruited back into service via a bar fight, and an attractive commanding officer. You do know where this is going, right? Get ready to roll your eyes.

Thomas Wright gets this genre, and clearly enjoys it. The story rollicks along, and the characters are just getting going. You

Standard indie novel warning: lots of folks have complained of the editing, but I enjoyed the stories enough to not notice much. The novel was free via Kindle Unlimited.

The Chronicles of Benjamin Jamison: Call Sign Reaper (Book 1) via Amazon

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White House issues report on President Obama's impact on science and tech


In 2009, President Obama pledged to “restore science to its rightful place.” He said, “We will not just meet, but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the space race, through policies that invest in basic and applied research, create new incentives for private innovation, promote breakthroughs in energy and medicine, and improve education in math and science.”

Today, the White House released an Impact Report listing 100 things that Obama has made happen with the support of many people across research, policy, education, and, yes, maker culture. Here’s the full Impact Report. A few examples from the list:

• Prioritized and encouraged broad participation in STEM education. The President’s Educate to Innovate campaign, launched in November 2009, has resulted in more than $1 billion in private investment to improve K-12 STEM education. The Nation is on track to meet the President’s January 2011 State of the Union goal to put 100,000 additional excellent STEM teachers in America’s classrooms by 2021. The President has helped showcase to students—including through events such as the White House Science Fair—that science, math, engineering, and computer programming are deeply compelling subjects that can help solve problems locally and globally.

• Fostered a nation of makers. The President hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire; highlighted the growing importance of additive manufacturing by being the first President to be 3D scanned for his Presidential bust; and led a call to action resulting in commitments to create more than 1,000 maker spaces around the country. Under his tenure, the number of new manufacturing firms is rising for the first time in the past decade; participation in local maker events has risen ten-fold; and venture capital for hardware-focused startups is rising.

• Supported next-generation robotics. In June 2011, the Administration established the National Robotics Initiative to spur research and development in the field of robotics across an array of disciplines and applications, including healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing, space exploration, and national security. The initiative has helped catalyze more than $150 million in funding since June 2011 for innovative robotics research and development at institutions across the country. The effort has led to new collaborations and advances, including in autonomous vehicles, robotics for educational development, and robotics for disaster response. In addition, efforts such as the DARPA Robotics Challenge, which brought together 25 robotics teams from around the world in a competition to demonstrate disaster-response operations, have pushed the field forward and shown what is possible.

• Fostered a burgeoning private space sector and increased capabilities for our journey to Mars. Working with NASA, American companies have developed new spacecraft that are delivering cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) and will start ferrying astronauts there by the end of 2017. The Administration’s investments in space technology development, including through the Space Technology Mission Directorate created by NASA in 2013, are developing less-expensive capabilities for NASA’s exploration missions and for the President’s goal of a human mission to Mars in the 2030s. Due to the Administration’s leadership, ISS’s lifetime has …read more

These bizarre vintage hair-dryers will blow your mind, and your tresses


When I was little, my mother had a 1960s sit-under hair dryer with a huge translucent plastic hood that I’d imagine was a variation on a Star Trek Transporter. But that hulking machine had nothing on these vintage hair dryers from the first part of the 20th century. These would have provided me with years of science fiction fantasies and nightmares. See more at Dangerous Minds.





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How satellites put better wine in your glass

Credit: Wojtek Szkutnik, Flickr Creative Commons

“Wine is nature’s magical accident,” wrote former champion jockey and mystery writer Dick Francis. We enjoy wine today because naturally occurring yeast on grapes turns the sugar within them into alcohol.

The Right Amount of Vigor

Growing grapes for wine depends on a deep and intimate knowledge of what the French call the terroir (ter-WAH): how the region’s soil, climate and terrain affect the taste of the grapes grown there and the quality of the wine. Traditionally, knowledge of the terroir was gained by endless walking of the rows of vines, inspecting and pruning the plants, irrigating the dry spots and draining the wet ones. Pruning sets the stage for what they call vigor: the amount of leaf that vines grow. Vines need to be vigorous – but not too much so – to produce a good-quality grape.

Such methods work well for small, family-owned vineyards. They are an increasingly poor fit, however, for the global business that wine has become. More than one million wine producers around the world bottle and ship close to 3 billion cases per year. The “new world” vineyards of the US, South America, South Africa and Australia are in a hurry to build understanding of their terroir – and have turned to a combination of satellite and information technology called “precision viticulture” to do it.

Eyes in the Sky

Two space-based technologies underlie precision viticulture: satellite imaging and global positioning by satellite, better known as GPS.

Winemakers take photographs captured and transmitted by satellites in orbit and enter them into geographic information system (GIS) software to generate detailed vineyard maps. The images are sharp enough to let the entire vineyard be divided into 2-meter square blocks, and the software is capable of recording elevation, slope, soil condition and water retention ability for each block. It still requires walking the vineyard to gather that information, but the result is a digital asset of enormous value in getting the most from the land. Using it, winegrowers can determine the best grape, plant spacing, arrangement of rows and irrigation or drainage for each 2-meter block.

But photographs in visible light are just the start. Infrared detection from space can reveal much more. Specialized satellites beam infrared light at the ground and receive reflections. These can be analyzed to produce something called a normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), which accurately measures the amount of leaf area in each 2-meter block. By taking repeated scans through the growing season, winegrowers can get a detailed block-by-block analysis of the all-important vigor. They can then focus their attention on blocks where there is too much or too little, and apply the time-honored practices of winegrowing to reduce or increase it. The result is lower labor cost, higher productivity and grapes of a more consistent quality year in and year out.

Pinned to the Ground

This level of detailed understanding takes more than pictures from space. It also takes GPS. It is the GPS coordinates that pin the satellite images to specific loca¬tions on Earth, block by 2-meter block, making what …read more

The adventures of serial impostor Stanley Clifford Weyman


Over the span of half a century, Brooklyn impostor Stanley Clifford Weyman impersonated everyone from a Navy admiral to a sanitation expert. When caught, he would admit his deception, serve his jail time, and then take up a new identity. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we’ll review Weyman’s surprisingly successful career and describe some of his more audacious undertakings.

We’ll also puzzle over why the police would arrest an unremarkable bus passenger.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon!

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Batmanga - Campy, humorous, and sometimes so on the nose it's laughable


See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga Vol. 1

by Jiro Kuwata (illustrator)

DC Comics

2014, 352 pages, 5.8 x 8.2 x 1.1 inches (softcover)

$10 Buy a copy on Amazon

Available for the first time in English, Jiro Kuwata’s Batman is basically a Japanese version of the 1960s Batman TV series. It’s campy, humorous, and sometimes so on the nose it’s laughable. Maybe Batman will escape danger with a goofy, too convenient action, or the villain will taunt Batman with some of the oldest superhero cliches around. It will surely be an adjustment for readers who haven’t experienced any of Batman’s older stories, but it’s important to remember this was produced in the ’60s, and Kuwata was essentially mimicking the style of Batman that was popular. If you can do that you’ll find a thoroughly enjoyable alternate take on the Caped Crusader and the Dynamic Duo.

Included here are six Batman stories, featuring Batman and Robin vs. unique villains like Lord Death Man and the Human Ball. The story arcs are all standalone and don’t reference each other, however each arc is sub-divided into three to four parts. These villains are all formidable foes and a good mix of character types. Lord Death Man for example keeps coming back from the dead, while the Human Ball wears a metal suit that allows him to bounce off any surface, including Batman’s punches. Each time, Batman is tasked with not just fighting the villain into submission, but using his classic Batman intellect to outthink them and set a trap. I personally love any Batman story that draws heavily on his detective skills, and Kuwata’s work is one of the better examples of how to do it right.

The art style is interesting in that it looks and feels like a Batman comic, but Bruce is also drawn to look Japanese. It’s incredibly authentic and you may even find yourself thinking that Kuwata himself invented Batman in the first place. The book is mostly black and white but a few color pages sneak in, and the chapter cover pages are all in color as well.

This translation keeps all the non-dialogue text in Japanese (signs, paces, SFX, etc.) and helpful translations are snuck into the margins. If you’ve never read manga before, have no fear! Pages are regularly numbered for clarity (as manga reads right to left). They’re small and unobtrusive so manga pros probably won’t even notice them. Two more volumes in the series are available, showcasing Kuwata’s complete run. If you’re a fan of manga or Batman, or hopefully both, you owe it to yourself to check this out.

– Alex Strine

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Trippy animated zoom video makes everything you see in the real world recede


After watching Ben Ridgway’s “Continuum Infinitum” video, everything I looked at seemed to recede for a while. Ben recommends downloading the video and looping it.

As you watch the movie for a minute or so and then look away, you will experience a mild optical illusion that feels as if everything you look at is shrinking away from you. This is caused by the motion after-effect (MAE). It is a visual illusion experienced after viewing a moving visual stimulus for a time (tens of milliseconds to minutes) with stationary eyes, and then fixating on a stationary stimulus. The stationary stimulus appears to move in the opposite direction to the original (physically moving) stimulus. The motion aftereffect is believed to be the result of motion adaptation.

Neurons coding a particular movement reduce their responses with time of exposure to a constantly moving stimulus; this is neural adaptation. Neural adaptation also reduces the spontaneous, baseline activity of these same neurons when responding to a stationary stimulus. One theory is that perception of stationary objects, for example rocks beside a waterfall, is coded as the balance among the baseline responses of neurons coding all possible directions of motion. Neural adaptation of neurons stimulated by downwards movement reduces their baseline activity, tilting the balance in favor of upwards movement.

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Watch a bounce house float away into power lines


A bounce house at a birthday party in Niagara County, New York flew off into the sky before descending on power lines in a shower of sparks. Now that’s entertainment! (No, nobody was inside at the time.)

“I’m willing to bet that it wasn’t properly secured just because I’ve done thousands of rentals and I have never had one problem. Either that or some sort of crazy wind gust, but I highly doubt that, most of the time when they’re properly secured there’s no problem and you know it’s a fun amusement device for kids,” Michael Gersitz, proprietor of Party in Buffalo Bounce House Rentals, told WIVB.


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Couples who divide housework fairly have more sex


New research from the University of Utah and Cornell University suggests that couples involved in egalitarian marriages, at least as chores are concerned, have more sex. (Note that the study is only about heterosexual marriages.) This new study appears to counter a 2014 New York Times Magazine article titled “Does Gender Equality Kill Sex Lives?.” For this work, the Utah and Cornell researchers compared a 2006 marital satisfaction survey with data from 1992-1994. From a news release about the paper:

Turns out, the “rules” that govern sexual and marital satisfaction have been changing rapidly—and, like many generalizations about modern marriage, the 2013 study (that the NYT article reported on) was based on outdated data. As Cornell University Professor Sharon Sassler shows in her new paper, “A Reversal in Predictors of Sexual Frequency and Satisfaction in Marriage,” presented today to the Council on Contemporary Families, when couples share similar tasks rather than different, gender-stereotyped ones, this seems to deepen desire.

Sassler reports, “Contemporary couples who adhere to a more egalitarian division of labor are the only couples who have experienced an increase in sexual frequency compared to their counterparts of the past. Other groups – including those where the woman does the bulk of the housework – have experienced declines in sexual frequency. This finding is particularly notable given reports indicating that sexual frequency has generally declined worldwide over the past few decades.”

Quartz digs deeper into the new study:

…Couples who reported sharing housework equally had sex 6.8 times per month, on average, or about once more per month than those where the woman does more “routine housework,” defined as: preparing and cooking meals, washing dishes, cleaning around the house, shopping for groceries, and doing laundry…

The study had some not-so-great findings too. Couples in which the man does the bulk of the housework have significantly less sex than those in conventional or more egalitarian pairings (the study did not look at same-sex couples). And while sexual satisfaction varied little between conventional and egalitarian couples; counter-conventional couples, those in which he does the bulk of the housework, were more dissatisfied with their sex lives compared to those in other arrangements.

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Stunning cyberpunky short film shows off Unity engine


This absolutely gorgeous under-six-minutes short film, called Adam, was rendered by the Unity team, in real-time, to show off the capabilities of the current Unity game engine. Here’s what Unity Technologies has to say about the film.

The Unity Demo Team built Adam with beta versions of Unity 5.4 and our upcoming cinematic sequencer tool.

Adam also utilizes an experimental implementation of real-time area lights and makes extensive use of high fidelity physics simulation tool CaronteFX, which you can get from the Unity Asset Store right now.

To make Adam, the Demo Team developed custom tools and features on top of Unity including volumetric fog, a transparency shader and motion blur to cover specific production needs. We’ll make these freely available soon!

Adam runs at 1440p on a GeForce GTX980. Attendees at Unite Europe were able to play with it in real time, and we’ll make a playable available soon so everyone can check it out.

Open it to full-screen, HD, for maximum impact. It is quite impressive.

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Watch: movie directors using color to mess with your mind


Color Psychology” by Lilly Mtz-Seara (Vimeo)

Antonio Vivaldi – The Four Seasons “Summer” III.Presto

Maleficent (2014), Robert Stromberg
My Girl (1991), Howard Zieff
Boyhood (2014), Richard Linklater
Marie Antoinette (2006), Sofia Coppola
Grease (1978), Randal Kleiser
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), Wes Anderson
Chicago (2002), Rob Marshall
Mean Girls (2004), Mark Waters
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015), Christopher Landon
The Wolf of Wall Street (2011), Martin Scorsese
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), David Yates
Jennifer’s body (2009), Karyn Kusama
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), David Yates
Moulin Rouge! (2001), Baz Luhrmann
Belly (1998), Hype Williams
Spring breakers (2012), Harmony Korine
Legally Blonde (2001), Robert Luketic
Whiplash (2014), Damien Chazelle
Big Eyes (2014), Tim Burton
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), George Miller
Only God forgives (2013), Nicolas Winding Refn
Hard Candy (2005), David Slade
The shining (1980), Stanley Kubrick
The Aviator (2004), Martin Scorsese
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Stanley Kubrick
Alice in Wonderland (2010), Tim Burton
Fifty shades of Grey (2014), Sam Taylor-Johnson
Inglourious Basterds (2009), Quentin Tarantino/Eli Roth
American Beauty (1999), Sam Mendes
Upstream color (2013), Shane Carruth
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), Matt Reeves
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Wes Anderson
The Darjeeling Limited (2007), Wes Anderson
Born to be wild (2011), David Lickley
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Wes Anderson
Skyfall (2012), Sam Mendes
Apocalypse Now (1979), Francis Ford Coppola
The Martian (2015), Ridley Scott
Pan (2015), Joe Wright
The Virgin Suicides (1999), Sofia Coppola
Ruby Sparks (2012), Jonathan Dayton/Valerie Faris
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014), Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Big Fish (2003), Tim Burton
Her (2013), Spike Jonze
Top Five (2014), Chris Rock
Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), Shekhar Kapur
Moonrise Kingdom (2012), Wes Anderson
Into the wild (2007), Sean Penn
Life of Pi (2012), Ang Lee
The tree of life (2011), Terrence Malick
Lost River (2014), Ryan Gosling
Melancholia (2011), Lars von Trier
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), Mike Newell
Fight Club (1999), David Fincher
The Truman show (1998), Peter Weir
The Revenant (2015), Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Hugo (2011), Martin Scorsese
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), Chris Columbus
The Matrix Revolutions (2013), Andy Wachowski/Lana Wachowski
Avatar (2009), James Cameron
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), Bryan Singer

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Guy Fawkes signature, before and after torture


In 1605 an English Catholic man named Guy (“Guido”) Fawkes joined 12 other Catholics in an attempt to to blow up the Houses of Parliament with 36 barrels of gunpowder. Fawkes was caught red handed in the cellar of the Parliament. He was tortured an executed. Here’s how his signature appeared, before and after torture.

In those days, England didn’t take kindly to Catholics, especially ones who tried to kill Queens and members of Parliament. I recently read Simon Singh’s excellent The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography which has a chapter about Mary Queen of Scotts who, while under house arrest in the late 1500s, sent encrypted messages to a group of Catholic men conspiring to assassinate Queen Elizabeth and put Mary on the throne. The men were captured and gruesomely executed in front of a crowd of gawkers. As Elizabethan historian William Camden wrote, the conspirators were “cut down, their privities were cut off, bowelled alive and seeing, and quartered.” Mary, being a Queen, was merely beheaded.

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Jerry Seinfeld's apartment in Doom


“After over 100 hours of work, I present to you Seinfeld.wad,” writes Doug Keener. “A replica of Jerry Seinfeld’s Apartment from his hit sitcom, Seinfeld!”

Join Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine in this neat Doom/Seinfeld crossover! There are many custom textures and sprites to bring you the full experience of being inside Jerry’s Apartment, inside Doom 2! Each sprite has audio clips and death animations! Have fun slaughtering the gang relentlessly in this wad about nothing! …

Special Thanks to GIMP 2.0, GZDoomBuilder, Slade3, applekwisp, Seinfeld cast and crew, and the lovely people over at ZDoom forums and wiki.

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Get yourself thrown out of this show, if you can


This is not a review of the finest theater visit I’ve ever had, but more of a recap of my emotional journey through it. During my two-day connection with the illusionist Derek DelGuadio’s show I felt surges of amazement, fear, pride and relief – and I guarantee that my experience was different from the other attendees.


In this show an audience member’s experience is as personal as they want to make it – and mine was very much so.

As I watched, there were moments when I wished I had a time machine to go over what had just happened – and in a strange way my wish came true. You see, at one point of the show I was kicked out of the theater while the rest of the audience saw the finale that I could only imagine.

I was escorted out the side hatch and asked to come back the next day with a documented recollection of what happened so far – and a theory of how I thought things would play out after I was removed. To be honest, at this point I felt pressure because of what was ahead of me – I now had homework.

On my way home, I took a detour through the streets of Hollywood while looking for a certain golden brick but came up empty handed. When I settled into my den, I began writing in the journal that DelGuadio gave me and didn’t stop until my story was recorded.

journal_If what I’m describing here seems strange to you, it’s simply because you haven’t yet seen In & Of Itself – and you really should. Once you do, you’ll want to witness it again and again, because there’s so much personal storyline that you’ll miss the first time around.


And when you do see it, do yourself a favor and try to get thrown out when the time is right. I’m convinced that you’ll have a better experience for having done so but be warned, it can only be done on your first viewing – it just wouldn’t make sense otherwise.

The Honest Creator

Derek DelGuadio is a writer, magician, performance artist as well as the sole star the show. His resume is ridiculous and I really don’t understand how he’s been on the Earth for only 31 years.


In & Of Itself is a meaningful experience that stays with you long after you’ve walked (or been kicked) out of the theater. The maze of story threads that he weaves are truly personal to Derek but by the end of the show it will all relate to you – and what’s more is that you’ll most likely leave wiser than you arrived.

His story is unveiled through a series of intertwining chapters with artistic and thoughtful magic pieces throughout. But this is not a magic show – it’s an unforgettable experience that has magical elements to support it.

During the chapter in which Derek flawlessly …read more

Lawsuit claiming Starbucks systematically shorts terrible coffee to proceed


I tried Starbucks cold brew, and it is the worst tasting coffee I’ve ever had. Cold brew tastes like 2 day old giant urn coffee at a civic event! Remember Folgers? Imagine Folgers on ice.

Even so! Some folks are suing Starbucks over an alleged conspiracy to short their coffee, thus keeping costs down. The bitter mermaid attempted to have the suit dismissed, as they happily remake any beverage when asked. It appears shitty coffee aficionados will have their day in court, fighting for their last sip of poorly made coffee.

Via the SF Chron:

A federal judge is allowing the bulk of a lawsuit accusing Starbucks of systematically under-filling lattes to move forward.

Two California residents are suing the Seattle-based coffee chain, claiming that Starbucks lattes are only filled to about 75 percent of the cup’s capacity. The lawsuit says Starbucks instituted a recipe in 2009 to create smaller lattes in order to save money on milk.

A federal judge in San Francisco has thrown out three of the eight claims filed against Starbucks.

Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges says in a statement that the company believes the lawsuit is “without merit” and it will be prepared to defend itself in court. He says if a customer is unhappy with their beverage, Starbucks “will gladly remake it.”

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British man who tried to take gun from cop at Trump rally says he wanted to kill Trump

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 9.27.37 AM

Michael Steven Sandford, 20, was arrested at a Donald Trump rally in Las Vegas after he tried to take a gun from a police officer. He said he’d been thinking about killing Trump for a year.

From BBC:

He had reportedly tried to seize the gun after saying he wanted Mr Trump’s autograph at Saturday’s rally. He said he had been planning to try to shoot Mr Trump for about a year but had decided to act now because he finally felt confident enough to do so, court papers say.

I guess this means we need to ban all British people coming to the US.

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Latest SpaceNews Magazine features Patti Grace Smith tribute

SpaceNews Magazine June 20, 2016 cover

The June 20 issue of SpaceNews Magazine, landing in mailboxes and email inboxes this week, features a special tribute to Patti Grace Smith and a five-page special report on the burgeoning satellite servicing sector — plus a Q&A with Tom Wilson of Space Logistics LLC, the Orbital ATK-back satellite-servicing venture that’s arguably the furthest along.

The new issue also contains our regular staff columns: Foust Forward, The Bottom Line and Milspace Briefing.

Patti Grace Smith: A tribute to a transcendent trailblazer

In our cover story, SpaceNews senior staff writer Jeff Foust remembers Patti Grace Smith, the former head of the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation. Smith died earlier this month after losing a battle with cancer many of her colleagues didn’t even know she had been fighting. This graceful advocate for commercial spaceflight was able to see a “yes” where other regulators would have seen a “no,” laying the foundation for the likes of SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and more.

The cover story was illustrated by Brooklyn artist Brian Hubble, whose photo-collage illustrations have graced the pages of the Atlantic Monthly, Harpers, The Washington Post, The New York Times and others, The Patti Grace Smith piece is Hubble’s first commission for SpaceNews.

The tribute continues with the My Take guest column was penned by Jim Muncy, the former Hill staffer turned space consultant who worked closely with Patti on landmark legislation that put suborbital spaceplanes under the purview of FAA/AST instead of the jurisdiction of the FAA’s heavier-handed airplane regulators. Don’t miss “Remembering my big sister from another mister.”

Triple A for Outer Space
Satellite servicing ventures see dollar signs, but it’s too soon to say how many owners will opt to repair rather than replace old or ailing satellites. SpaceNews Silicon Valley correspondent Debra Werner examines this burgeoning sector, interviews the president of Space Logistics LLC, and checks in with NASA and DARPA on what they’re doing to coordinate their separate satellite-servicing efforts.

Suborbital Stowaways
Suborbital research flights are ramping up, with Friday’s New Shepard being just the latest to take science payloads along for the ride. SpaceNews senior staffer writer Jeff Foust asks “should humans go along for the ride?”

The State of the Satellite Industry in 5 Charts

Paris Bureau Chief Peter B. de Selding breaks down the Satellite Industry Association’s annual report into five annotated charts.

SpaceNews Magazine is published 26 times a year. It’s available in print and in an electronic edition. More information is available on our subscription page. Check out to see what you’ve been missing.

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Improv Everywhere: asking random New Yorkers to give a commencement speech

animation (3)

The fun-loving stunters of Improv Everywhere staged a fabulous stunt in New York City’s Bryant Park: they set up a crowd of “grads” in caps and gowns with a stage and a podium, then sent the “dean” out into the park to beg randos to step in and serve as emergency commencement speakers, filling in for a last-minute cancellation.

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Have your body turned into effluent and just poured down the drain when you die


A funeral home in Ottawa, Canada, is using a new body eco-friendly disposal technique called Alkaline Hydrolysis, which leaves only a coffee-like slurry that can be simply poured down the drain.

Aquagreen Dispositions began operating in a rental unit within the former Rideau Regional Centre in Smiths Falls in May 2015 after receiving a licence from the Ontario government. Hilton’s Unforgettable Tails, a parallel business handling the remains of pets, had been using the same process for a couple of years prior to Aquagreen Dispositions, but it took longer to get a licence to handle human remains.

The owner, Dale Hilton, who is from a family of funeral home operators in Smiths Falls, said he watched as the “green wave” swept through the funeral industry, bringing biodegradable caskets and urns.

We’ve covered the technique before here and here, where John Brownlee pointed out that a straightforward chemical disposal process is, if nothing else, more dignified than the disgusting bilking-of-the-bereaved that oftentimes goes on at funeral parlors.

Nevertheless, “we keep an eye on these things,” a local water quality official, Ted Joynt, told CBC News.

Cremations take hours to complete and release carbon dioxide; the alkaline disposal system uses potash, salt and water to “break down a human body in a heated, pressurized vessel” that allows implants and artificial joints to be recovered and reused.

In wide use for animal disposal, similar equipment can be seen at Pri-Bio’s Thermal Tissue Digester product page.

Here is a deleted scene from Dune where a body is broken down to water and the remains given to the dead man’s killer, who must safeguard it for the tribe. This is probably just like the funerals going on in Ottawa nowadays.

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Winston Beauchamp on what DoD is looking for in new satellite programs

Winston Beauchamp, the deputy under secretary of the Air Force for space, talks with SpaceNews about the issues the Defense Department is studying this summer as part of the Space Portfolio Review, what the Pentagon has learned from a new joint space operations center with the intelligence community and the role of hosted payloads. Credit: SpaceNews video still

In the last nine months, the Pentagon has overhauled its space governance structure, studied how to best reclassify some of its most secretive satellite programs and kicked off a the new process for evaluating next-generation satellite programs.

The push comes from Bob Work, the deputy secretary of defense, as the Pentagon responds to emerging threats from Russia and China to the United States’ national security satellites. But Winston Beauchamp, the deputy under secretary of the Air Force for space, is the man responsible for implementing the changes.

In a wide-ranging interview with SpaceNews, Beauchamp, who also serves as the director of staff for the Principal DoD Space Adviser, explains those moves as well as which space issues the Defense Department is studying this summer as part of the Space Portfolio Review, what the Pentagon has learned from a new joint space operations center with the intelligence community and the role of hosted payloads.

This video presentation was made possible through support from Intelsat General Corporation.

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Space botanists are beneficiaries of Canada's legal weed boom


It’s hard to fund space exploration research — the commercial applications are speculative and far-off — but there’s never been a better time to study super-efficient, closed-loop botany of the sort that will someday accompany human interplanetary missions, thanks to the need to develop better grow-ops for the burgeoning legal weed market in Canada.


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SpaceX balks at Canaveral’s proposed $15,000 port fees

SpaceX's Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship in port. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX could have to pay port fees of up to $15,000 for each Falcon 9 booster it returns to Port Canaveral.

The proposed fee, to be considered at a Canaveral Port Authority meeting this week, is intended to cover the costs to the port of handling the stage, which is returned to port on SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ship after the stage lands at sea.

SpaceX opposes the proposal, arguing that the fee is 14 times higher than what any other user of the port is charged for using its facilities. [Florida Today]

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The launch of a Japanese military communications satellite on an Ariane 5 has been postponed after the satellite was damaged in shipment to the launch site. The DSN-1 X-band military communications satellite was to launch on an Ariane 5 in July along with India’s GSAT-18 communications satellite. How the satellite was damaged, and how serious the damage is, remain unclear. The DSN-1 delay means that GSAT-18 will also be delayed until at least September, when it could be launched along with the Sky Muster 2 broadband communications satellite. [SpaceNews]

An Indian PSLV is set to launch a collection of satellites tonight. The PSLV is scheduled to lift off at 11:56 p.m. Eastern Tuesday night from India’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre. The launch’s primary payload is the Cartosat-2C remote sensing satellite. The rocket carries 19 secondary payloads, including the SkySat Gen2-1 remote sensing satellite for Google-owned Terra Bella and 12 Dove imaging satellites for Planet (formerly Planet Labs.) [PTI]

Aerojet Rocketdyne plans to save up to $20 million a year by refinancing its debt. The company announced Monday that it was taking advantage of “robust debt market conditions” to refinance its debt with a new credit facility. The company said it will save about $20 million a year in interest payments through the refinancing, but will have to pay an unspecified one-time charge associated with the write-off of earlier refinancing fees. [Aerojet Rocketdyne]

Jeff Bezos is the latest winner of the Heinlein Prize commercial space award.The Heinlein Prize Trust said Tuesday it is giving the award to Bezos for his achievements developing reusable vehicles and engine technology at Blue Origin, including the company’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle. The prize, intended to honor individuals who have made key achievements in commercial space, was previously won by Peter Diamandis and Elon Musk. The prize comes with a cash award and a specially designed sword. [SpaceNews]

A new paper argues that the U.S. needs to take a “proactive prevention” approach to space security. The paper, released by the Atlantic Council last week during an event hosted by SpaceNews senior staff writer Mike Gruss, emphasized the need for the U.S. to engage with China and Russia on space security issues through diplomacy rather than through increased preparations for conflict in space. Those discussions should include identifying “red lines” for unacceptable activities in space and establishing other norms and rules of the road. [National Defense Magazine]

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Bezos wins Heinlein Prize commercial space award

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos poses in front of his rocket. Credit: Blue Origin

SEATTLE — Jeff Bezos, whose commercial space company Blue Origin recently completed another test flight of its New Shepard reusable suborbital vehicle, is the latest winner of the Heinlein Prize for commercial space achievements, previously won by an archrival.

The Heinlein Prize Trust announced June 21 that Bezos will be the third recipient of the prize, established in the name of the late science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein, for his efforts to develop suborbital and orbital launch vehicles to make space more accessible. The award will be formally announced at the NewSpace 2016 conference here.

“Under Jeff’s visionary leadership, Blue Origin has developed launch vehicles and a commercially-financed line of engines that pave the way to reusability in space transportation,” said Art Dula, trustee of the Heinlein Prize Trust, in a statement. “As a recipient of the Heinlein Prize, we recognize Jeff and the efforts of the Blue Origin team in its development of technologies that could revolutionize the industry and provide commercially-available launch capabilities to a variety of customers.”

Blue Origin is currently developing the New Shepard suborbital vehicle, which conducted its latest test flight June 19 from the company’s West Texas test site. That flight was the fourth consecutive flight of the same propulsion module, which makes a powered vertical landing and can be reused with only minor maintenance between flights. The company has indicated the vehicle could enter commercial service, carrying people and experiments, as soon as 2018.

New Shepard is also a technology pathfinder for a future orbital launch vehicle. The first stage of that vehicle is designed to land and be reused, and be scaled up to even larger orbital vehicles. That vehicle will built at a new factory at Florida’s Cape Canaveral and its first flight is expected around the end of the decade.

That orbital vehicle will use a new engine, designated BE-4, in its first stage. Blue Origin is currently developing that engine for use in both that vehicle as well as United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan launch vehicle. ULA has yet to make a formal decision on whether to use that engine, but has previously acknowledged that it is the frontrunner to power the Vulcan’s first stage.

Bezos welcomed the award. “Robert Heinlein inspired millions with his visionary — and incredibly entertaining — stories, and it’s an honor for all of us at Blue Origin to receive this award,” he said in a statement. “Heinlein foresaw a thriving future with humans throughout the solar system. We won’t stop working to make that vision come true.”

Bezos is the third winner of the prize, first awarded in 2006 to Peter Diamandis for establishing the X Prize that stimulated the development of commercial suborbital reusable launch vehicles. The second winner, in 2011, was SpaceX founder Elon Musk for his development of the now-retired Falcon 1.

Musk, like Bezos, is also pursuing reusable launch vehicles, having successfully landed four Falcon 9 first stages on land or on ships for potential reuse. Bezos and Musk have in the past engaged in debates, …read more