stevegsltsz

My blog, my thoughts and my musings!


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Scottish Spaceport Plans Announced

Scotland is being considered as the site of the UK’s first-ever spaceport, which could be here as early as 2018, it was reported this week.

The spaceport would be the first one ever built outside of the US.

What’s more, Scotland are definitely the odds-on favourite to be granted this prestigious (not to mention historic) prize, as eight UK aerodromes have been short listed as possibilities and six of them are located in Scotland. 

It is thought that the spaceport would not only increase the country’s revenue by providing a site for satellite launches, but also through tourism, with ‘space tourism’ expected to increase in the next few decades.

Chief Secretary to The Treasury Danny Alexander (who was born in Edinborough), told BBC News, “I am delighted that the government is pushing forward with its ambitious plans to open a spaceport in the UK by 2018. Spaceports will be key to us opening up the final frontier of commercial space travel (…) Scotland has a proud association with space exploration. We celebrated Neil Armstrong’s Scottish ancestry when he became the first man on the Moon and only last week an amazing Scottish company was responsible for building the UK Space Agency’s first satellite (…) The UK space industry is one of our great success stories and I am sure there will be a role for Scotland to play in the future.”

UKube-1, a satellite designed and built by Glasgow-based firm Clyde Space, was launched earlier this week. It was the first ever spacecraft to be fully assembled in Scotland, but it may turn out to be the first of many.

According to the BBC, UK profits from the space industry are now exceeding £11bn a year and it provides employment for some 34,000 people. It is also a significant growth industry, with employment figures rising by 9% since 2011.

The recent interest in the development of UK-based, but more specifically Scottish, space exploration technologies has also become linked to the current debate over Scottish independence, with the Scottish government suggesting that a vote for independence on September 18th would only strengthen the space initiative.

A spokeswoman said, “Scotland is proving that it has the expertise to attract and support such a specialized, global industry, and as such an independent Scotland will be an attractive option for spaceport pioneers.”

However, it seems probable that the plans for a Scottish-based spaceport will go ahead either way, whether Scotland is declared an independent nation or not. In addition, doubts about the potential strength of an independent Scotland’s economy may also act to the detriment of its space research.

As with all things, time will tell…

SOURCES

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-28276525

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Emergency services prepare for TT influx

Article of the Day………ok so i haven’t got a piece of writing seven days a week, but if i get an opportunity I’ll post articles I find interesting. Lucky enough here is one of these articles that I read and needed to share. If you enjoy it as much as me, please add one of the special social media likes, you know the one that tells everyone that you loved something, rather than you sat on your arse and watched Television!

 

Months of planning and preparation are almost complete as the Island’s emergency services gear-up for a huge influx of visitors and their busiest two weeks of the year.

The Department of Home Affairs says its overriding aim in policing the festival and reacting to emergencies is to ensure a safe and successful TT.

During the fortnight, every police officer and firefighter in the Isle of Man is likely to be called on.

The arrival of tens of thousands of visitors at one time presents many challenges, in particular on the roads which will see a huge increase in traffic.

The roads policing unit is promising ‘strict enforcement’ of its 2014 TT safety campaign, under the slogan ‘For All Our Sakes, Slow Down’.

The Island’s TETRA radio system which is used to coordinate response to accidents, will handle many thousands of calls during the two week practice and race period.

Home affairs minister Juan Watterson says the integrated communications operation – handled under one roof and used by police officers, fire crews, marshals, ambulance staff and race controllers – reduces response time and will ultimately help save lives.


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Germany Lifts World Cup (For A 4th Time)

On Sunday 13th July, the German national football team defeated Argentina 1-0 in a close, intensely competitive game in order to be crowned the 2014 World Cup winners.

The match was very tightly contested, with Argentina’s defence regularly closing down Germany’s incisive passing game that had worked so well for them over the course of the tournament.

Both teams played so exceptionally well that the winning goal was only scored during the 30 minutes’ of extra time that was added on in order to yield a winner.

Substitute Mario Götze scored the winning goal at the 113th minute. The goal, which took full advantage of a great setup from Andre Schürrle, was an exceptional display of precision, marksmanship and team playing.

Götze is the first substitute in the history of football to score a World Cup winning goal, as well as the youngest player to score in a World Cup Final since fellow German Wolfgang Weber, who scored against England in 1966 (both were 22). 

Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuain had a goal ruled offside (and thus disallowed) in the first half and Argentina created more than a few chances to score in the game. However, German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was exceptionally proactive and was playing incredibly well throughout.

In fact, Neuer was given the 2014 World Cup’s Golden Glove award for being the best keeper of the tournament at the end of the match.

Argentine Captain Lionel Messi looked thoroughly dejected after the final whistle blew and, in this writer’s opinion, failed to set a good example for his exhausted and deflated teammates, who seemed to be in dire need of one. He grudgingly shook hands with officials and appeared to hold his ‘Golden Ball’ trophy with utter disdain. He also visibly removed his Runner Up medal almost immediately after receiving it.

Worst of all, Messi made no attempt to appeal to his countrymen (and women) in the stands, the vast majority of whom were proudly cheering their side in spite of the loss.

In truth, Argentina had nothing at all to be ashamed of. They had played extremely well and they had performed with heart and passion. Messi’s crybaby antics, if understandable to some extent, were an insult to both his team and the valiant effort they had put in on the night.

Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli stamped his authority on the game early on and made it very clear that he was firmly in control. He officiated extremely well throughout, ensuring that a fair game was played out.

This victory marks Germany’s 4th World Cup win overall, making them the second most decorated country in World Cup history, a position that they share with the Italian national team. Brazil has the most wins overall, with 5.

The German victory also marks the first time that a European side has triumphed in South America. As well as the third time that Germany has met Argentina in a World Cup Final, which is a tournament record.

Overall, it was a well-deserved win for Germany, who consistently fielded the best side of the tournament.

However, kudos ought to go to Argentina as well, for many felt that, after Germany hammered Brazil 7-1 in the Quarter Finals, a German victory would be a foregone conclusion. Instead, fans and spectators were treated to a tense game of close calls, heated moments and plenty of near misses.  This made for a very high quality match.

One would imagine that the parties across Germany went on long into the night! 


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WW1-Era Shipwrecks To Receive Protection

July 28th 1914 was a day that changed the world forever.

A global war was declared that would last for four long, bloody years and would cost Humanity millions of lives. Although the images of the gruelling, inhuman trench warfare that was waged in France are the perhaps most indelible from the conflict, it should also be remembered that an awful amount of lives were also lost at sea.

Britain alone lost over a thousand vessels from 1914 – 1919, together with about 89,300 sailors and merchant navy personnel. Germany lost hundreds of warships, as well as about 35,000 sailors. In addition, civilians were also caught in the ocean-going crossfire, as a German submarine sank the liner Lusitania in 1915, killing almost 2000 people in the process.

As we approach the centenary of the First World War, the seafloors are littered with the stark, skeletal remains of vessels leftover from this conflict. In recent years, however, these ruined ships have come under an increased level of threat from salvage teams, looters and profiteers, many of whom are intent on destroying the wrecks outright.

Shipwrecks such as those left over from the First World War, are a target for two main reasons. Firstly, they can be commercially exploited for scrap metals (and other artefacts) and secondly, fishing trawlers dredging the ocean depths in search of deep-sea fish can impact the ships, destroying them altogether.

In 2011 alone, three British cruisers, the final resting place of about 1,500 sailors altogether, were completely destroyed because copper and bronze had reached sufficiently high prices as to make such destructive salvage exercises profitable.

However, because the 100th anniversary of World War One begins this year, more and more of these ships will be protected by Unesco’s 2001 ‘Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage’, an agreement that extends International protection to shipwrecks over 100 years old.

Many people worry that these laws will prove difficult to enforce, however. Others still are worried that this move will increase the destruction of shipwrecks from more recent times, in particular, vessels from World War Two (1939 – 1945), before they come under Unesco’s protection.

Today, historians are attempting to use the centenary of the First World War as a way to educate people about the history and legacy of the conflict, as well as to demonstrate the cultural and historical importance of these undersea war graves. Many, including this writer, feel that such sites are deserving of our respect and reverence.

Shipwrecks also provide a very good habitat for local marine life and can even form the basis for coral reefs (if left undisturbed for long enough). These vessels are also studied for scientific interest, with experiments carried out on everything from metal erosion to marine biology.

At the time of writing, the British Government has failed to sign the convention.

SOURCES

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-28056244


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Earth is Being Photographed from Orbit…But the Views Differ

A group of Silicon Valley start-ups is attempting to create a comprehensive picture of the earth from space…In real time.

…And when we say picture…We mean video.

…And when we say video, we mean close enough to track a single car across a single highway, anywhere in the world.

The scientific appeal, from the perspective of a multitude of disciplines, is obvious. The business appeal is gigantic and the potential military application is bigger than both combined.

However, not everybody is convinced that this is a good idea…

131 ‘cubesats’ – satellite cameras (that are each about the size of a shoebox) are being primed for launch over the next 12 months. These cubesats will snap a daily photograph of the earth from space, building a Google Earth-style composite image of our home planet, the main difference being that, unlike Google Earth, this picture will update itself approximately every 24 hours.

One of the companies behind this initiative is Planet Labs, a 40-employee start-up based in San Francisco. Chief Executive and co-founder Will Marshall told BBC News that,

“We’re basically leveraging billions of Dollars that has been spent in consumer electronics to advance space exploration and the capabilities of satellites to help people on the planet,”

Certainly, the Humanitarian application is potentially groundbreaking. Such technology could possibly be used to locate missing planes (exemplified by the recent tragedy of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370), survivors of shipwrecks (like the four missing sailors currently lost at sea) and other disasters as well.

Mr. Marshall believes that his miniature satellites are in a unique position to do a lot of good.

“Instead of seeing a hole in the Amazon a few months after trees have been taken down there, we can see it as it’s happening” he says.

The first batch of 28 cubesats (known as ‘doves’ by Planet Labs), were launched in February of this year and are currently passing over earth at a speed of around five miles a second. Amazingly, they can produce images detailed enough to pick out individual trees.

However, photographs of individuals will be deliberately obfuscated, a decision taken after privacy groups protested against being captured on camera unwillingly. 

It all sounds innocent enough, until one considers that the company is funded by venture capital and is fully expecting to turn a profit from this endeavor. Hypothetically, this means that, although certain data may be handed to Humanitarian, scientific or environmental organizations, it will also be available to the highest bidder.

In addition, Planet Labs may be looking to send only its ‘doves’ into our stratosphere, but critics are concerned that such moves are already paving the way for the hawks to join them.

Start-ups like Skybox and Canadian Urthecast are far more interested in creating satellites that relay high-definition video to their corporate creators and are capable of targeting a single car on a narrow road, or even a small group of people.

In fact, Skybox launched 24 of these fridge-sized devices last December and the prototypes are already relaying 90 second black and white clips of the earth below them. The firm is currently in the process of being acquired by Google.

For their part, Urthecast are already talking about using HD-video as a sort of CCTV for homeowners.

Frankly, this has a lot of people worried. The old saying that, ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’, does, for many, apply here.

Thomas Immel, who worked for twenty years at the Space Science Laboratory at UC Berkely, compares this new initiative to the opening of ‘Pandora’s Box’ from Greek mythology. He maintains, “Some applications may be harmful or controversial”.

For all the potential good projects like this can achieve, the possible cost to personal freedom is, in many people’s humble opinion, simply too high.

SOURCE

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-27408318