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Archive for January 20, 2011

Utah city may use blimp as anti-crime spy in the sky

January 20, 2011 Comments off

By James Nelson

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Reuters) – A proposed unmanned floating airship surveillance system is being hailed by city officials in Ogden, Utah as one way to fight crime in its neighborhoods.

“We believe it will be a deterrent to crime when it is out and about and will help us solve crimes more quickly when they do occur,” Ogden City Mayor Matthew Godfrey told Reuters.

The airship entails military technology now available to local law enforcement, he said.

Godfrey floated the idea of a dirigible in the skies above Ogden for his city council members last week. The council is expected to vote on the measure in coming weeks.

He says the cost of the blimp is being negotiated but said it is more “cost effective” to operate than helicopters or fixed winged aircraft.

“We anticipate using it mainly at night. The cameras have incredible night vision to see with tremendous clarity daytime and nighttime. It will be used like a patrol car. It will be used to go and check things out and keep things safe,” said Godfrey.

One person will be able to operate the system but Godfrey says it will also function on its own with programing directives.

The blimp is 52 feet long, will be outfitted with two cameras, and is capable of flying up to 40 miles per hour at 400 feet above the city.

Officials say the cigar-shaped blimp, powered by electric batteries, can fly for four to six hours before needing to be recharged.

“Once you understand the capability of the technology as well, not only the cameras but the ability to relay that data from the camera down to ground it’s amazing,” said Godfrey.

The blimp is long but narrow and moves quickly and quietly, meaning it should be fairly undetectable, he said.

The blimp is being developed by the Utah Center for Aeronautical Innovation and Design at Weber State University. Researchers say the blimp is a helium filled balloon with a special coating of fabric developed at their center.

“The very lightweight fabric was developed in partnership with the Utah State Legislature who gave us a grant… The air envelope would leak the helium it would penetrate through so it had to be coated,” said Bradley Stringer, research team executive director.

Ogden will be the first metropolitan police force to employ this technology, Stringer said.

The blimp has almost no operational costs and minimal maintenance expenses, he said. Ogden city officials say it will cost about $100 a month to operate but would not comment specifically on the cost of the blimp.

“It’s in the high five-figures. Most of the cost is in the night vision cameras,” Stringer said.

“It’s extremely silent. It can hover or stay stationery or silently meander over pre-programed courses over the city at nighttime.”

Stringer said the Ogden City Police would receive the blimp in April. Testing is now underway and will continue right up to delivery.

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China Builds Underground ‘Great Wall’ Against Nuke Attack

January 20, 2011 Comments off

The Chinese Army is believed to have built an underground “Great Wall” that stretches for more than 5,000 km in the Hebei region of northern China. Citing the People’s Liberation Army’s official newsletter, the Ta Kung Pao daily of Hong Kong on Saturday said China’s strategic missile squadron, the Second Artillery Division, built a massive underground tunnel to conceal nuclear weapons, including the Dongfeng 5 intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of 13,000 km.

Since 1995, the Second Artillery Division has mobilized tens of thousands of soldiers to build a network of tunnels stretching for more than 5,000 km below the mountain regions of Hebei, China’s state-run CCTV reported. “A missile base has been built hundreds of meters underground and can withstand several nuclear attacks,” CCTV said. “People refer to the network of tunnels connecting to the missile base as the ‘Underground Great Wall.'” In March 2008, CCTV broadcast a documentary which revealed that the PLA had been building underground facilities enabling it to launch a counterstrike in case of a nuclear attack.

Taiwan’s Asia-Pacific Defense Magazine also said, “The early version of China’s mid- to long-range missiles had all been deployed above ground and were vulnerable to detection by spy satellites and attacks by interceptor missiles. That prompted the Chinese military to move all of their missiles hundreds of meters underground.” As a result, the squadrons of the PLA deployed there are completely undetectable because they are based in subterranean bunkers and move around beneath the surface.

The purpose of the secretly constructed underground Great Wall is to give China a second chance after a nuclear attack, military experts said. The main objective of the Second Artillery Division is to be able to launch a counterattack against enemy targets after escaping the first volley of attacks. The Ta Kung Pao daily reported that it was unprecedented for the PLA’s newsletter to reveal classified information about the tunnels and that this demonstrates Beijing’s confidence in its military power.

“Suicide” Comet Storm Hits Sun—Bigger Sun-Kisser Coming?

January 20, 2011 Comments off
Comet Ikeya-Seki.

The sun-kissing comet Ikeya-Seki, as it appeared in the dawn sky in 1965.

Photograph by Victor R. Boswell, Jr., National Geographic

Andrew Fazekas

for National Geographic News

Published January 17, 2011

A recent storm of small comets that pelted the sun could herald the coming a much bigger icy visitor, astronomers say.

Since its launch in 1995, NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, orbiter has captured pictures of 2,000 comets as they’ve flown past the sun.

Most of these comets are so-called sungrazers, relatively tiny comets whose orbits bring them so near the sun that they are often vaporized within hours of discovery. (See a picture of a sungrazer spied in October.)

The sun-watching telescope usually picks up one sungrazer every few days. But between December 13 and 22, SOHO saw more than two dozen sungrazers appear and disintegrate.

Seeing “25 comets in just ten days, that’s unprecedented,” Karl Battams, of the United States Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., said in a statement. “It was crazy!”

According to Battams and colleagues, the comet swarm could be forerunner fragments from a much larger parent comet that may be headed along a similar path. And such a large icy body coming so near the sun would result in a spectacular sky show.

Sun-Kissing Comet “Granddaddy” on the Way? Read more…

Alarming NOAA data, Rapid Pole Shift

January 20, 2011 Comments off

magneitic-north-pole-shift-400-years

The NOAA National Geophysical Data Center maintains a data set of annual magnetic north pole coordinates going back to the year 1590, derived from early measurements from ships logs to modern day techniques.

Noting that there has been lots of reporting of pole shift lately, to the point where the phenomenon is actually causing real-world issues such as temporary airport closures, a deeper investigation was in order.

After transferring 420 years of north pole position data from the NOAA Geo Data Center, configuring it to fit in an Excel spreadsheet, adding a complicated formula to determine exact distance between 2 sets of latitude-longitude coordinates, applying the formula to each data point in the series, and then finally plotting it all in a visual graph, it is alarming to discover the amount of pole shift just over the past 10 to 20 years.

Here is one very interesting fact…
Since 1860, the magnetic pole shift has more than doubled every 50 years. That is pretty significant.

Here is another very interesting fact… Read more…

Russian government now largest shareholder in BP

January 20, 2011 Comments off

“Will almost certainly complicate the politics of levying and collecting damages” from Gulf oil disaster says Congressman

BP’s frantic efforts to repair its devastated reputation in the US have been set back by a major new alliance with the Russian government, prompting outraged comments from all sides of the political spectrum.

Amid continuing anger from the American public over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, politicians are calling for an investigation into BP’s deal to sell a 5 per cent stake in the company to the Russian state-controlled oil giant Rosneft.

That deal, which gives BP access to vast untapped oil reserves in the Arctic, was signed with fanfare in London on Friday night, but across the Atlantic, one Congressman renamed BP “Bolshoi Petroleum”. US critics also suggested BP has now become a national security threat, as well as environmental one.

“The national security implications of BP America being involved with the Russian company – that does require scrutiny by the Committee of Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS),” Michael Burgess, a Republican from Texas, said in a television interview hours after the deal was signed. Read more…