Wednesday, April 23, 2014

China's navy does "Top Gun"

It looks as if China's Navy has taken a leaf from the US Navy's collaboration with Hollywood in such movies as "Top Gun".  It's released this publicity video of its 'new' carrier Liaoning and its naval fighter pilots.  I found it a bit cheesy (as I did "Top Gun"), but it's not a bad publicity effort.


A Japanese account of the Pearl Harbor attack

I was fascinated to read a translated account by a Japanese torpedo plane pilot of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.  Here's a brief excerpt.

One day, shortly after I was transferred to the Omura Squadron, I was shocked to receive a telegram ordering me to report immediately to the carrier Soryu. This was highly unusual because it was navy policy to always send transfer orders to petty officers by written letter. Something’s up, I said to myself. I was filled with a sense of anticipation and foreboding. This was partly because much as I wanted to go to the Soryu, I still hadn’t yet landed on the deck of a carrier!

Training was soon arranged, and a few days later, there I was, looking down at the deck of a carrier and thinking: We’re going to land on that? It looked way too small. As I descended for my first approach I noticed  that the deck was not only tiny, it was moving up, down and sideways! Okay, calm down, breathe deeply and don’t do anything dumb, I thought. One hundred feet, fifty feet, thirty feet, then ka-chunk as the wheels touched down and the arresting hook jerked me to a stop. It was only then that I noticed that I was completely soaked with sweat.

While I was overjoyed to finally be carrier qualified and assigned to the Soryu, I was also acutely aware that this meant I would probably be going back to war.

With our carrier quals behind us we began special torpedo training in Kagoshima Harbor. Until then our torpedo training had been quite orthodox: maintain an altitude of 150 feet and drop the torpedo at a distance of 1,000 yards. At Kagoshima we were trained to come in at fifteen feet and drop at a distance of only 200 yards.

Although the navy prohibited low level flying, we were now turned loose to take our ships right down on the deck, and we loved it! The hard part wasn’t flying low — that was pure fun — but estimating the distance to target of 200 yards. Day after day we formed up over Mt. Kirishima at 12,000’ in nine-plane formations, then dove down in trail formation straight at the harbor. This put us at about 100’ as we came thundering over Kagoshima Station. What the frightened citizens of Kagoshima made of our antics I can only imagine. A few seconds later we were screaming along at 130 kts., a mere fifteen feet above the water. Because our altimeters were useless at such low level, in our free time we climbed up on something to put our eyes at exactly fifteen feet above ground to get used to the sight picture.

For lack of better targets we took to lining up our runs on the fishing boats in the harbor. Boats with their sails up were often knocked flat by our wind blast. Before long they were all jerking down their sails as soon as they saw us coming.

Training began every morning at 8:00 a.m. We flew two three-hour sessions during the day followed by night training and didn’t get back to our bunks until after midnight. The training was brutal, and the only days off we got were courtesy of bad weather.

It must have been sometime in October, as our training was winding down that a rumor began to circulate: “We’re going to war with America.”

There's much more at the link, with many photographs.

Thanks to the good people at Vintage Wings of Canada for putting this article on their Web site.  When the author's book is fully translated, I think it'll be a must-read for military buffs.


"The science is settled"? Like hell it is!

I've long since become fed up with the intellectual and academic dishonesty of those who claim that climate change is 'settled science' (when in fact it's far from settled), or who proclaim that this or that or the other study proves that this or that or the other dietary component is good or bad for us.  (Funny how those verdicts tend to change so often, isn't it?)

The problem of scientific misconduct is widely known.  What's less widely known is that many so-called 'scientific' journals have a pattern of misconduct as well - brilliantly described by an article in the Ottawa Citizen.

I have just written the world’s worst science research paper: More than incompetent, it’s a mess of plagiarism and meaningless garble.

Now science publishers around the world are clamouring to publish it.

They will distribute it globally and pretend it is real research, for a fee.

It’s untrue? And parts are plagiarized? They’re fine with that.

Welcome to the world of science scams, a fast-growing business that sucks money out of research, undermines genuine scientific knowledge, and provides fake credentials for the desperate.

And even veteran scientists and universities are unaware of how deep the problem runs.

When scientists make discoveries, they publish their results in academic journals. The journals review the discovery with independent experts, and if everything checks out they publish the work. This boosts the reputations, and the job prospects, of the study’s authors.

Many journals now publish only online. And some of these, nicknamed predatory journals, offer fast, cut-rate service to young researchers under pressure to publish who have trouble getting accepted by the big science journals.

In academia, there’s a debate over whether the predators are of a lower-than-desired quality. But the Citizen’s experiment indicates much more: that many are pure con artists on the same level as the Nigerian banker who wants to give you $100 million.

. . .

At the University of Saskatchewan, medical professor Roger Pierson wonders how can scientists trust the journal system to share knowledge.

“Basically you can’t any more,” he said, except for a stable of well-known journals from identifiable professional societies, where members recognize ethical work is in all their best interests.

He had just spent time with the committee that oversees tenure and promotions at his university.

“We had three cases where people had published things in what were obviously predatory journals, and they didn’t think anything was wrong with that.

“The reality though is that these (fake journals) are used for promotion and tenure by people who really shouldn’t be there. The world is changing fast ... It’s a big problem.”

He tracked a paper from one job applicant to the journal website and found the giveaway clue: It takes weeks to publish, the site said, but if authors needs faster service to impress their universities then “it costs another $500 and they’ll publish it in days.

“It’s got absurd. There are hundreds if not thousands” of shady publishers, Pierson said.

“Universities are particularly vulnerable” to being fooled by these fake credentials.

It used to be pretty easy to spot them, said Pierson. “But the predatory journals are becoming a little more sophisticated, (and) new journals in every field are popping up weekly.”

Even Pierson didn’t know the latest trick. Journals are rated on their “impact factor” — how often their articles are used as references in later studies. And the predatory journals are now buying fake impact factors from equally fake rating agencies.

He believes this taints the reliability of what is published everywhere.

There's more at the link.

So, when 99% of published articles on a subject all agree about it . . . and more than half of them are published by these predatory journals . . . how trustworthy is their consensus?  As far as I'm concerned, it's not worth the paper it's printed on or the pixels used to display it.


Non-verbal communication?

Well, non-language, at any rate!


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A sexy TV news broadcast . . .

. . . but not the sort of which you're thinking, I'm sure.


Doofus Of The Day #765

Courtesy of a link from Rev. Paul, today's award goes to the Airport Police in Anchorage, Alaska.

Police at Anchorage’s airport briefly lost track of a small quantity of explosives used for training K-9 units Monday, but were able to recover them hours after a rental-car customer drove away the vehicle they were attached to.

There's more at the link.

And whose bright idea was it to attach the explosives to a car that was in the active rental pool, rather than one they knew would be hanging around for a while?

As a matter of fact, this isn't the first time I've heard of explosives in a rental car.  Back in the 1980's, in South Africa, a family bought a well-used Volkswagen Kombi from a car rental company.  They drove it for several months, and noticed that dirt and dust seemed to collect at several evenly-spaced spots on one of the side panels.  When they took it in for a routine service, they mentioned this to the technician and asked him to find out why those points in particular attracted road dirt.

When he took off the interior panel to check the bodywork, he nearly fainted.  There were four Soviet SPM limpet mines attached to the metal using their magnets - the same type of mine frequently used to target civilians as part of the terrorist campaign in South Africa.  (See here for one such attack.)   He called the police, who brought in the bomb squad to remove them.  They surmised that a terrorist or sympathizer had rented the vehicle and concealed the limpet mines inside the interior panel, but for some reason was unable to deliver them to their destination.  The magnets on the mines had attracted iron particles in the road dust and dirt ever since, causing the patterns noted by the Kombi's new owners.

As the technician observed, it's a good thing they never had a collision with that particular cargo on board!


A happy story for Earth Day

Just in time for Earth Day, and courtesy of a link at Instapundit, we find a heartwarming story of a Native American tribe based in British Columbia who've found a way to restore their vanishing salmon fisheries - and outraged the environmental lobby into the bargain.  National Review reports:

In 2012, the British Columbia–based Native American Haida tribe launched an effort to restore the salmon fishery that has provided much of their livelihood for centuries. Acting collectively, the Haida voted to form the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation, financed it with $2.5 million of their own savings, and used it to support the efforts of American scientist-entrepreneur Russ George to demonstrate the feasibility of open-sea mariculture — in this case, the distribution of 120 tons of iron sulfate into the northeast Pacific to stimulate a phytoplankton bloom which in turn would provide ample food for baby salmon.

The verdict is now in on this highly controversial experiment: It worked.

In fact it has been a stunningly over-the-top success. This year, the number of salmon caught in the northeast Pacific more than quadrupled, going from 50 million to 226 million. In the Fraser River, which only once before in history had a salmon run greater than 25 million fish (about 45 million in 2010), the number of salmon increased to 72 million.

. . .

Native Americans bringing back the salmon and preserving their way of life, while combating global warming: One would think that environmentalists would be very pleased.

One would be very wrong. Far from receiving applause for their initiative, the Haida and Mr. George have become the target of rage aimed from every corner of the community seeking to use global warming as a pretext for curtailing human freedom.

. . .

The advent of higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere has been a great boon for the terrestrial biosphere, accelerating the rate of growth of both wild and domestic plants and thereby expanding the food base supporting humans and land animals of every type. Ignoring this, the carbophobes point to the ocean instead, saying that increased levels of carbon dioxide not exploited by biology could lead to acidification. By making the currently barren oceans fertile, however, mariculture would transform this putative problem into an extraordinary opportunity.

Which is precisely why those demanding restraints on carbon emissions and restrictions on fisheries hate mariculture. They hate it for the same reason those demanding constraints in the name of allegedly limited energy resources hate nuclear power. They hate it because it solves a problem they need unsolved.

There's much more at the link.  Recommended reading.

Let's see now:

  • Native American?  Check.
  • Restored and revitalized natural process?  Check.
  • Politically incorrect?  Check.
  • Environmentalists outraged?  Check.

What's not to like?


Try playing this game by hand!

It's nice to see companies get creative with their advertising.  Caterpillar has just done that by playing a giant-size game of Jenga using their earth-moving and construction equipment instead of hands.  I recommend watching it in full-screen mode.

And here's how they made it.

Full marks for originality!


Monday, April 21, 2014

A veteran strikes back

There seems to be a trend among certain politicians to decry veterans of military service as 'never having held a job', or something like that.  It happened in Maryland today, and last month an Arkansas politician claimed that his Republican opponent had a 'sense of entitlement' because he was a veteran.

The Republican veteran has struck back with this entertaining video ad, assisted by his former Drill Sergeant.

How to defuse an attack, make the voters smile, and make your opponent look like an idiot, all in one thirty-second advertisement.  I love it!


"Spring Break" = "Debauchery Central"?

As a teen I never took part in anything resembling 'Spring Break' here in the USA.  I've read reports about it since coming to this country, but I'd never paid them much attention.  I was therefore horrified to read this description of it in Taki's Magazine.  I'm not going to reprint any of it here, because it's frankly disgusting;  but the author goes into detail about the sexual debauchery and risks to the health and future of the participants.  Much of it is emphatically NSFW.

I can hardly believe that such goings-on are the norm.  I accept that they may happen in some places, and with some groups, but I simply can't understand how they could be the norm.  If they were, surely such details would have hit the mainstream media long ago?  Surely fathers would have taken up shotguns and handcuffs to confine their kids at home and prevent them from going on Spring Break at all?

I'd be grateful if readers who know more about the subject than I do would please let us know the truth.  Take a look at the article, then let us know whether what it describes is the norm, or the extreme.  Thanks.


Doofus Of The Day #764

Former Mayor Bloomberg of New York City has committed $50 million to opposing the National Rifle Association and fomenting opposition to firearms in communities throughout America.  He's called his new movement 'Everytown'.

One of the group's first efforts was to put up this picture on Facebook.

Needless to say, it provoked instant mockery throughout the gun-owning community.  (For the benefit of readers who may not get it, the picture shows a full cartridge coming out of the barrel of the gun.  In reality, the cartridge case would remain behind in the firearm until ejected, and the propellant in the case would burn, propelling the bullet itself - the pointy end - out of the barrel on its own.)  If this new movement is willing to lend its name to such shoddy research and false information, I daresay it won't achieve much.

Everytown has since tried to blame the image on opponents who 'hijacked' that Facebook page, but I don't place much credence in such denials, because this isn't the first time anti-gun forces have screwed up in this way.  It's just more of the 'same old, same old'.


Verily, the mind doth boggle . . .

I haven't encountered much in the way of 'cosplay', where individuals dress up (sometimes very elaborately) in imitation of favorite film, TV or comic-book characters.  After seeing IO9's two part photo essay on 'The Most Amazing Cosplay from Wondercon', I have to simultaneously shudder at some of them, and take my hat off to others for their attention to detail.

Here are just four examples, two images out of the dozens in each article, to illustrate the lengths to which cosplayers will go.  They've all been reduced in size to fit here.

Of course, some of the photographs illustrate the unfortunate reality that if one doesn't have the body to go with the costume, one really, really shouldn't wear it!

You'll find Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.  Both make . . . interesting viewing.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Around The Blogs 2014-04-20

Lots of good stuff in the blogosphere over the past week or so.

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I linked to Captain Tightpants' essay 'I think I broke her' earlier today.  I repeat the recommendation here to go read it in full.  I think it's important.

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I'm sure readers have seen the reports claims propaganda emanating from Chicago about how crime is decreasing there.  Don't you believe it!  If you want to know what's really going on there, one of the best resources is the blog 'Second City Cop'.  Half an hour spent reading its archives will give you a graphic picture of just how bad things are in the Windy City, and reasons enough to avoid going there unless you absolutely have to.  (For the truth behind the falsified statistics coming out of Chicago, read this exposé in Chicago Magazine.)

As a sample of the sort of posts you'll find there, here's their take on the 'Homicide Quilt', which is embroidered with the names of countless murder victims.  Seems the 'victims' weren't such innocent little baa lambs themselves, as SCC points out:

Is it wrong for us to hear tomorrows weather report of rain mixed with snow and a 40 degree temperature drop and think to ourselves, "Damn, that quilt looks warm - it'd be nice to sleep under that tonight." And the fact that most of the names on that quilt are currently enjoying the balmy confines of Hell just make it feel all the warmer.

Uh-huh . . .  Clearly, political correctness is not among Second City Cop's problems!

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Some very interesting articles on the economy this week.

All the above are highly recommended.

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For those who dislike guns or regard them with fear and loathing, Blue's Blog offers some trenchant thoughts.

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Lantry takes on the challenge of teaching a recalcitrant first-grader how to read, and does so by not merely ignoring, but working against all the politically correct claptrap that the school system was trying to shove down the kid's throat.  It made me smile.  That's one boy who's going to be raised the right way come hell or high water . . .

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Rev. Donald Sensing sums up the philosophy of progressives in a short but trenchant article.  Money quote:

The progressive agenda fundamentally rests on the notion that ordinary men need brilliant people to tell them what to do.

Which, of course, explains why progressives regularly have their asses handed to them by those same ordinary men . . .

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My accent is Colonial English, with basic British undertones topped off by a healthy helping of South Africa.  Britain itself has myriad accents, ranging from Irish, Scottish, Welsh and basic English to the distinctions between Midlands, Cornwall, the various Shires, Cockney and so on.  However, help is at hand.  Never Yet Melted takes us on 'A tour of the British Isles in accents'.  (Very useful, that, old chap - I'll have to have my American wife study it carefully.  Thanks awfully!)

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Ace Of Spades has a long and damning article showing the myriad ways in which the Obama administration is 'cooking the books', statistically speaking, to present its policies in the best possible light and deny that they're actually failing.  After all, if you control how they're measured, you can fudge the numbers until the cows come home!

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Two blogs offer interesting military food for thought.

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The Minuteman describes problems experienced with a gun safe, in the process treating us to an interesting photo essay on what the innards of the door and lock look like.

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There's a lot of fun and laughter too.  Here's a selection.

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I wasn't familiar with the term 'Water Blob'.  It's apparently a plastic container filled with water upon which kids bounce and play.  Be that as it may, Homemade Toast offers instructions on how to make your own, which I thought was pretty enterprising as a domestic project for those with young children who'd enjoy it - and a lot cheaper than buying one!

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C. W. Swanson brings us a picture of ultimate relaxation.  Ours does that, too, although not in pots.

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Matthew Allen, who blogs at 'Straight Forward In A Crooked World', has a very interesting article in Shooting Illustrated about the use of both hands on the gun, and why this can be counterproductive in certain circumstances.  He makes very useful points, and offers much food for thought.  Recommended.

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And last but definitely not least, Karl Denninger offers some sobering thoughts for the Easter Vigil.  No matter whether you believe in anything or nothing, they're worth reading.

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That's all for this week.


Captain Tightpants nails it

I'm sure many of my readers are also readers of Captain Tightpants.  He's been AWOL from the blogosphere for a few months, but returned yesterday with a post I wish I'd been able to write.  He and I are both combat veterans, and we've identified with each others' views in the past, particularly concerning the SEAL movie 'Act Of Valor' (see my review here, and his here).  I guess he's struggled to explain what being a combat vet does to his outlook on life, just as I've found the same difficulty.  He found words during a recent group therapy session.

We somehow got into discussing tools in terms of mental/emotional/physical responses - what the individual is capable of in terms of dealing with a particular stimulus/event/incident. And, I'll preface this with noting [the psychologist] had fallen into the mistake that it seems a lot of people do of equating certain backgrounds with ignorance or a lack of intelligence - even though she was bubbly she definitely talked down to people. Which didn't help my mood. So I told her about tools.

The point I made was this. I asked her what she might do if one of us made her mad - mad her so angry she couldn't see straight, hit at the core of her being, just straight out pissed her off beyond words? Then I explained oh yes, she might yell, she might throw something, she might even hit someone if she got pissed off enough. That she could throw a great little tantrum at the injustice of it all and truly vent.

Well, I'd sunk the bait, but then I set the hook.

In a very calm voice I explained to her that every person in that room had moved past that. We didn't "hold in our emotions because we were afraid of what we might do." We held them in because we knew what we could do. Big difference. Because everyone in that group knew how to take a life. I don't mean some theoretically concept, I mean we knew the sights and the sounds and the smells involved in a person's final moments. We knew that, if pushed to the wrong point, we could do what was needed. I told her I had a tool in my toolbox that I hoped she never, ever would - that I could kill a person. That my toolbox extended beyond anger, beyond even seeing the person as themselves, and moved into targets and options and reactions. And, that unless you are completely broken, once you've used that tool for good or bad you are forever changed. It doesn't mean you're broken, or evil, or wrong, or any of that other bullshit. But once you realize how easy it is to deal with mortality, you never look at life the same. And that's why so many combat veterans have that distance - because it's not that we're afraid we might snap, or somehow lose it - it's just that we know what happens on that edge, and we know to avoid it unless need be.

It was a strange thing saying it. Because it was almost like I could see my words hitting her like punches - I don't think she'd ever thought of it that way. Again, I'm not saying she's a bad person, and I know she means well - but to her death and killing are an amorphous concept. The actors get up after the directors call cut, and brush off the dust. The video game hits a save point and you end it. You close the book and move to another. She has never, ever conceptualized the fact that there are men and women in this world who have lived this as a part of their day to day existence, and then have to deal with the ways it changes you for good and bad in the aftermath. I could see and sense the reactions of the other vets in the room, and knew without asking that they agreed.

And parts of it reminded me of comments from my wife and others over the years. How it's not just my lack of extreme emotions, but that when I get angry, really upset it's not that I yell or rage or anything - it's that I go to a very cold, distant place where "I" am no longer there. Because I recognize this as the place I work from in these situations, where everything is based with dealing with the threats of the moment as opposed to the emotions of the "normal" world.

There's more at the link.  Go read the whole thing.  Please.  It's important to me.  Captain Tightpants has put into words exactly what I've tried - and failed - to say over the past I don't know how many years.  I fully endorse what he says, and I confirm it from my own experience.

Miss D. has half-jokingly complained sometimes that when she's getting all worked up about things going wrong (such as our truck's transmission losing its fluid and stranding her on the side of the road) she wants to start yelling, but I'm quite relaxed - which she finds frustrating, to say the least!  (That morning I said to her, when I arrived in the other car, "Don't worry, love - it's not like you drove over a landmine."  I meant it, too.  A truck's just a truck.  We can always buy another.  I can't buy another Miss D.)  On the other hand, I've warned her more than once that if she sees or hears me go very quiet and ice-cold, she needs to get ready to duck for cover right now.  That reaction will mean I've identified something or someone that appears to be a threat to her and/or I, and I'm getting ready to do something drastic about it (or them) if necessary.  I've seen similar reactions in many other combat veterans.  We know that it's dangerous to let an enemy start a fight on his terms;  we're more than capable of taking the initiative away from him;  and we know the value of those who are dear to us.  If it comes to a choice between the threat and our loved ones, guess who's going down?  (Miss D.'s had some experience of that reaction in me when a stimulus has drawn forth a response based on events from the past, most recently a couple of months ago.)

That's a reality shared by a lot of us - more than you might suspect.  It colors our reactions to the world around us.  We know that the veneer of civilization runs relatively thin in almost any society, and is almost non-existent among the worst of the criminal element and some other individuals.  If others make it necessary, we stand ready to shed our own veneer of civilization in response.  That makes some people uncomfortable . . . but it's the way it is.  As George Orwell put it:

People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.


Thanks, Cap'n Tightpants, for saying what needed to be said.  You did well, buddy.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

The hardest separation

Brigid, dear friend to Miss D. and myself, lost her big brother yesterday.  He'd fought cancer for many months, but the disease finally won.  She's written very movingly about him on her blog.  Go read her words for yourself - they're worth your time.

The bond between adopted siblings is sometimes a particularly close one.  I'm not adopted, but I've seen it before, and I understand it.  When one's adopted, there's sometimes a sense that one's been abandoned by those who should have loved you for yourself . . . but for some reason they didn't.  The child wonders, sometimes so deep that there are no words to describe it, whether he did something so bad that they refused to keep him, or whether she was so far from what they wanted that they decided to throw her away and try again.  The interior monologues are sometimes truly that brutal.

For that reason, the bond forged between two children who come together when adopted into a new family is sometimes extraordinarily strong and tenacious.  They look out for each other, protect each other, keep a wary eye on their adopted family until they're sure they won't be abandoned again, stand up for each other in school . . . to use a military expression from my youth, they're 'foxhole buddies'.  They've got each others' backs, no matter what.  Brigid certainly seems to have been at least that close, if not closer, to her adoptive brother.

I know how my friend's feeling tonight.  There's an emptiness in a part of her very soul, a place that was full but is now hollow.  It's a lousy place to be.  She has the warmth of others' love for her, from her husband to her father to her friends, but that's like an external blanket placed around a chilly center.  In time it'll provide warmth, but right now that warmth can't penetrate to the innermost core of her being, where a part of her from her earliest years is now raw and painful.

Say a prayer for Brigid tonight, and for her adoptive father, and for her brother's soul.  They're all in need of the comfort of this Easter season, when we celebrate rising to new life.  May her brother do so now, and may she - and all of us - follow him when the time comes.


Seeing sounds

I was interested to find this video from NPR on YouTube.  It shows how sound waves can be photographed using special techniques, so that one can literally 'see sound'.

Let's hear it for science!