- Travel to Mars without leaving Moscow: UniverseToday offers a video tour of the Mars500 capsule, a facility in which a multinational crew of six will be sealed for 520 days in an environment simulating a voyage to Mars (minus the cold, heat, solar radiation, particle impacts, and the terror of being a hundred million miles from the nearest Starbucks). In two minutes we get to see the sleeping quarters, exercise room, rec room (complete with Nintendo Wii), shower (allowed only every 10 days), and bathroom facilities. (I could have done without the explanation and video shot of the urine sample bottles.) The whole thing is housed in a warehouse in Moscow, which will help keep the participants from trying to get out. Mars500 is applying some of the lessons from Biosphere, the most important lesson being not to build things like Biosphere.
The Mars500 experiment is actually in its third and last phase, the first having been a 14-day isolation experiment, the second a 105-day experiment in extended isolation, and the current 520-day full-mission simulation. It’s interesting to consider the composition of the three crews, listed below. One would be forgiven for wondering how Mars will ever be colonized if women are not allowed more than two weeks from Earth. Or is it that Russian men cannot be trusted around single women more than two weeks at a time?
- Phase 1 (14 days): Five Russian men, one Russian woman.
- Phase 2 (105 days): Four Russians (including the commander), one French airline pilot and a German military mechanical engineer. All male.
- Phase 3 (520 days): Three Russians (including the commander), a French engineer, a Colombian engineer, and a Chinese individual listed as “professional astronaut.” All male.
- Americans being denied banking overseas: In March President Obama signed a law which requires foreign banks to reveal the accounts of Americans citizens living and banking abroad with balances over $50 000, else the banks would face a 30% tax penalty on all payments made to them in the U.S. That gives the American Internal Revenue Service (IRS) a long, long reach to anywhere in the world. It’s also seen, by both Americans overseas as well as foreign banks and governments, as a very arrogant action, in effect claiming that American tax regulations apply outside the U.S. and must be enforced by banks all over the world. The aim of the law was to ensure that Americans aren’t “hiding” money overseas, but the effect has been that banks all over the world are telling their American expat customers to take their banking elsewhere. It has also resulted in an unprecedented rate of Americans being led to resign their citizenship, and I predict it will also lead to a bumper crop of banks that trumpet their avoidance of any presence in the U.S. and even existing foreign banks pulling out of the U.S. Full story at the Wall Street Journal (with thanks to Instapundit). Things are just getting better and better.
- Does New Jersey stink? Quick: In five seconds, think of three good things about New Jersey. (Brief Jeopardy! “Think” music.) Did you think of three good things? Naw, I couldn’t either, and I’ve spent time in the “garden” part of the Garden State. (Is that the Pine Barrens?) Well then, you need to check out JerseyDoesn’tStink.com. It’s a new site designed to convince people (starting with people in New Jersey) that New Jersey isn’t a terrible place. There’s even a video of a guy dressed like a giant pine-scent air freshener (I’m not making this up) going around asking New Jerseyans (yes, that’s correct) if they think New Jersey stinks. Unfortunately, almost all the New Jerseyans he asks think New Jersey does stink. A lot of work to be done, I think.
- And while we’re at it: The Jeopardy! “Think” music linked above was originally called “A time for Tony.” It was a lullaby written by entertainer Merv Griffin for his son Tony. Merv Griffin was the creator of Jeopardy! (and several other game shows) and wrote the various themes used in the show over the years. That’s totally useless knowledge, but since I went through the trouble to look it up I thought you’d like to know.
- A Father’s Day tribute: John Nolte of BigHollywood.com crafts a Father’s Day lesson from a famous scene in director John Ford‘s classic How Green Was My Valley. (It’s the same lesson I learned from my father, a police officer, and it upset my mother just as much as it did young Huw’s mother in the film.) It’s perhaps a politically incorrect message in today’s era of the metrosexual male, but Nolte cites Ford’s film as a tribute to the role of fathers across the land, most of whom deserve more thanks than they get.