Category Archives: science news

Looking forward to this launch

It has been a good while since I’ve felt this kind of excitement preceding the launch of a rocket ship … but here it is.

They’re going to fire a rocket into space on Wednesday with two astronauts aboard. The launch will occur at Cape Canaveral, Fla. The rocket will be a Space-X ship and it will take place under the auspices of NASA, the U.S. space agency. The rocket will ferry the astronauts to the International Space Station.

It’s been more than a decade that U.S. astronauts have launched from an American launch pad. We have been flying Americans into space aboard ships launched from Russia.

The Space-X launch is a big deal in that it signals a potential return of manned space flight in the nation was able to put men on the moon, was able to set many space-flight records.

I plan to watch the launch when it occurs Wednesday.

My excitement over this launch is beginning to remind me of how excited I used to get when I was a boy. I would awaken every morning during the Mercury space program of the 1960s. I would watch and wait — and then wait some more during the delays — with my mother. We would cheer the Redstone rockets as they lifted off the pad. They graduated to the Atlas rockets for the orbital flights. Eventually we would cheer the monstrous Saturn rockets as they hurled astronauts toward the moon.

I certainly got excited during the launch of the initial space shuttle launches, beginning in April 1981 when the Columbia took off with John Young and Robert Crippen aboard.

The shuttle program ended. Since then we have relied on the Russians to take our men and women into space.

Now we’re getting back into the space game with the Space-X ship set to take off.

I’ll be in front of the TV … cheering the launch just like the old days.

‘I don’t know who he is; I’ve never met him’

Donald J. Trump’s response to the scathing testimony from a fellow he demoted in the midst of an infectious disease pandemic speaks volumes to me.

Dr. Richard Bright is now a whistleblower who is reporting to Congress about what he believes are serious shortcomings in Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Bright once led the administration’s effort to search for a vaccine to fight the virus, but then questioned whether Trump was correct to push a drug with little known affect on the COVID-19 virus.

Trump got angry and pushed Bright aside, sent him to a midlevel post in the National Institutes of Health.

OK, so Trump responded Thursday to a question about Bright’s testimony. He said he doesn’t “know him; I’ve never met him.” He said he doesn’t “want to meet him” and that Bright sounds like a “disgruntled employee.”

Let’s ponder that response for just a moment.

If Donald Trump is telling the truth — and that is a highly dubious presumption — then he has just revealed to the world precisely why his pandemic response has been such a hideous failure to date. The man chosen to lead the vaccine research effort is unknown to the commander in chief who wants to be known as a “wartime president”?

Suppose, too, that Trump is lying, that he really has met Dr. Bright; that tells me plenty as well about Trump’s reliability, his leadership and his command of the situation.

Bright said the fight against the pandemic lacks a coordinated national effort. Gosh, who do you suppose should be providing that national coordination? Hey, I’ll take a stab at it: The responsibility belongs to the president of the United States.

He has failed!

As Bright told the congressional committee: “We’re in deep s**t.”

Politicians should cease setting back-to-normal schedules

The feeble efforts by human beings to predict when they’ll be able to declare victory in a fight against a deadly virus make me want to … pull my hair out by the roots.

One such human being happens to be the president of the United States, who keeps insisting he has a preferred date in mind when he can start relaxing guidelines brought to bear by the coronavirus pandemic.

How many times must we tell Donald John “Stable Genius” Trump what should be patently obvious? Politicians cannot dictate to a deadly virus when it should stop sickening and killing human beings! We need science to determine when that will occur. We need human beings with deep scientific backgrounds and experience battling infectious disease to take the lead on this endeavor.

Donald Trump wants to establish some “flexible guidelines” that would dictate whether or to lift some of the stay at home directives that governors have issued. He keeps saying he wants a May 1 deadline to reopen the economy; then he talks about some states loosening restrictions even sooner than that!

C’mon! Let’s quit this game-playing!

We need science-based facts. We need to stop trying to outmaneuver a virus. Here is one more obvious fact that still needs to be brought up once more: A killer virus is no respecter of human deadlines, human wishes and human goals.

The ‘new normal’ might become just plain ‘normal’

I now want to share a bit of good news, given that we’ve been bombarded with a torrent of bad news of late.

The good news as I see it is that the “new normal” we are likely experiencing could become simply “normal” once the crisis subsides and ultimately drifts into history.

And it will. I am confident that the coronavirus pandemic will dissipate. It will take some time, which brings me to my point.

Which is that we are going to spend a lot of time and energy changing the way we do things.

There might be so much hand-washing, using sanitized wipes, extra precaution taken with “social distancing” that it will become second-nature even after we no longer need to do all these things.

My wife and I are wiping down fuel pumps, shopping carts, door handles … you name it, we’re wiping it down. “You never know who touches these things,” my wife says with her considerable wisdom. Indeed, we’re taking precautions we didn’t use to take.

We were walking through the ‘hood the other morning when we met a gentleman who works as a construction foreman on the houses being built in our Princeton, Texas, subdivision. He has an Oregon Ducks decal on the rear window of his pickup. I asked him, “Are you a Ducks fan?” He said he is. He then told us he grew up in Portland, attended Sunset High School, Portland State University — and attended the Pac-12 football championship game in the Bay Area this past season when the Ducks “destroyed Utah.” We told him we moved to Texas from Oregon in 1984. He’s a home boy!

I started to shake his hand, then pulled my hand back. “Hey, no sweat,” he said. “I get it.”

Handshakes with strangers well might become a thing of the past, too.

Yep, the new normal is upon us. It’ll take time to get used to this new way of living. I suspect if the crisis lasts long enough, what’s new will become, well, just plain “normal.”

Times — and customs — are changing as we fight disease

We made a command decision this morning in our house: We decided to postpone indefinitely our first RV trip of the season.

There you have it. We watched the news this morning and were inundated once more with the torrent of information and advice about how to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. One bit of advice hit us squarely in the face: Do your part.

So, we heard that advice and decided to do our part by staying off the road, away from gasoline service stations, away from convenience stores, away from fast-food joints. We’re staying home for the foreseeable future. How long that lasts is damn near anyone’s best guess.

We also have decided we can spend this foreseeable future doing household projects, embark on some tasks that need doing. Sort pictures and get ’em put away; we will start slapping some paint on the walls; our garage needs to be straightened out; the yard is emerging from its winter dormancy and it needs our tender loving care.

We also want to wave at our neighbors, wish them well, extend a kindness or three when it presents itself. Heck, we might just volunteer to deliver a random of act of kindness.

Thus, our lives are changing in real time. So are some of our customs.

The question of the day: Will we continue to practice good neighborliness as the coronavirus threat dissipates? I hope we do.

Thus, I truly believe as surely as I’m sitting here that I will continue to do my part.

Trump’s crisis bumbling might have done politically mortal damage

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Donald Trump has proved to be one of the nation’s most remarkable political survivors. Concerns over his boorishness, bullying, bravado all have washed away as his base of supporters continue to hang with him.

Now comes this, the pandemic that has swept around Earth and has killed dozens of Americans while infecting thousands more.

Trump’s response has been, well, let’s just say it’s been as un-presidential as one can imagine. The difference this time as compared to earlier un-presidential responses is that lives are at stake.

Is this the turning point, the tipping point that Trump so far — until right now — has managed to avoid?

I am not going to make any predictions. I mean, this individual has proven me wrong countless times ever since he declared his presidential candidacy in 2015; my goodness, it seems like a dozen lifetimes ago!

The current president of the United States has acted time and again since the coronavirus became a household term as if his main concern centers on his re-election. At what cost? His downplaying of the pandemic’s severity while at the same time medical and scientific experts say precisely the opposite tell us all a tale of presidential incompetence.

That is precisely the kind of ineptitude that many of us saw coming. Thus, it does not surprise many of us that Donald Trump has continued to fail this fundamental test of leadership.

The Liar in Chief worries that a cruise ship docking in California will drive up the numbers of infected Americans. He likes the numbers of stricken Americans “where they are.” He continues to boast about the economy while trillions of dollars in Americans’ retirement investments are being flushed away.

Donald Trump is masquerading as president.

I take no pleasure in any of this, given the impact this crisis is having on my life and that lives of my loved ones. However, we well might be witnessing the dousing of a political career that had no business igniting in the first place.

Let’s stop arguing over which ailment is deadlier; it’s Covid-19

I heard him say it with my own two ears, both of which are in good working order.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the world’s leading epidemiologist, told Congress this week that the Covid-19 strain of the coronavirus that the World Health Organization has labeled a pandemic is about 10 times more lethal than influenza.

He said the mortality rate from the flu is less than half of 1 percent; the death rate from Covid-19 is about 3.5 percent.

There. Is that clear? It is to me.

Yet we hear some politicians and other doubters fall back on the raw numbers, the gross number of cases as a defense of their downplaying of the threat that Covid-19 poses to the public. Donald Trump, for one, keeps saying the flu kills more people annually than coronavirus. Yes, that is true. It’s also irrelevant.

Dr. Fauci tells us the pandemic we’re experience is going to worsen before it improves. It could worsen by a lot. Meaning that a lot more human beings are going to succumb to this illness. What’s more, they will do so more frequently than they fall victim to the flu.

I am weary of the argument. Anthony Fauci settled it for me.

Covid-19 presents the type of existential threat to our very lives than the flu ever has done.

Period. Now, let’s get to work trying to control this frightening disease.

It’s your lying ignorance, Mr. POTUS

Donald John Trump’s lack of credibility was on full display as he toured the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

He claims to know everything about the coronavirus and the impact its outbreak is having on the nation and around the world.

According to “I like this stuff,” Trump said. “I really get it … Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability.”

Umm. No, Mr. President. You don’t.

Your only “natural ability” that I can discern is to lie with impunity, with no regard, or awareness or understanding of how badly you do it, how transparently false your statements sound to those of us who hear them.

Trump’s credibility in handling the coronavirus crisis is at utterly zero, no matter the fawning praise heaped on him by Vice President Mike Pence or any of the other sycophants who do his bidding.

If we ever hear from a single doctor who can confirm what Trump says about his knowledge of the coronavirus, I will eat my words.

Shut up, Mr. POTUS, on the subject of ‘coronavirus’

Donald John Trump is putting millions of Americans — the folks he took an oath to protect — in dire jeopardy if they listen to his idiotic rants about his “hunch” and the coronavirus.

Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity last night that those who might have the coronavirus could just get “well” even if they go to work while infected with the highly contagious — and potentially fatal — disease.

What is this guy trying to do?

Then he disputed the World Health Organization’s view about the mortality rate among those who come down with the virus. WHO doctors suggest the rate is about 3.4 percent. Trump says it is his “hunch” that the death rate is less than that figure. His hunch? What the hell is that all about?

U.S. public health officials do not have enough testing kits to find the virus among the population. At least we have an admission of that shortfall from Vice President Pence, who went to Washington state today to assess the situation at the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States.

As for the president, he needs to stop tweeting his idiocy. He needs also to leave the topic of the coronavirus exclusively up to the health experts who are working to stem the growing concern.

Donald Trump doesn’t know a damn thing about this virus. He needs to shut his trap and let the experts do the talking.

Hoping for a return of a can-do spirit and drive

Americans are looking back with some sort of fondness at an event that occurred 50 years ago.

Yes, we won that race to the moon. Two American astronauts landed on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969. Neil Armstrong stepped off the lander’s ladder and declared that he was taking “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

For years I had thought that Armstrong’s transmission got garbled somehow, that he really did say it was one “small step for a man.” Alas, that was mistaken … apparently. Armstrong flubbed the line, or so I learned.

President Kennedy had laid down the marker in 1961. He declared that we should get to the moon by the end of the 1960s. The president rallied the nation to his dream. He ventured to Houston and said that “we don’t do these things because they are easy. We do them because they are hard.”

And so the race was on.

Hey, we had a geopolitical adversary that had rubbed our noses in it. The Soviet Union launched the first satellite. The USSR put the first man into space.

Meanwhile, as the nation’s prepared to launch humans into space, we couldn’t get a rocket off the pad. They were exploding. Our national psyche suffered.

But we got into space. We put two men into sub-orbital flight. We finally put a man into orbit with John Glenn’s historic three-orbit flight in February 1962.

President Kennedy, of course, didn’t live to see his dream come true. Still, the mission proceeded at full throttle.

The Apollo 11 mission was the culmination of a national task. The world held its breath. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left indelible prints on the dusty lunar surface. Those boot prints remain there to this day. There would be others, too.

Over the span of time our manned missions dissipated and all but disappeared. The Soviet Union vanished from Earth in 1991. Russian rockets are taking Americans into space these days. I wonder what President Kennedy would think of that development.

I suppose you could say that the Apollo 11 mission was the beginning of our exploration of another celestial body. It actually was the beginning of the end of our grand adventure.

However, I do hope we get back into space. Human beings need to explore. We are built and wired to do great things.

A half-century ago we cheered the heroism of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, the third astronaut who orbited the moon while waiting for his shipmates to return. These men exemplified a can-do spirit that I am missing today.

I hope we can find it … and soon.