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Category archive: Space

Friday April 05 2019

On June 13th 2008 I was wandering about in Quimper, photoing photos.  Mostly the photos were of such things as Quimper Cathedral with its twin spires, photoers photoing Quimper Cathedral with its twin spires, that kind of thing.

But in among all those, and with no accompanying explanation (like a context photo with less zoom (memo to self: always photo a context photo if it might help)), this:


KanaBeach seems to be some sort of Brittany based clothing brand ("Kanabeach est une entreprise de vêtements bretonne"), which a few years later seems to have crashed and burned, after which catastrophe it may or may not have made a recovery.  (A recovery attempt which involved a giraffe, for some reason.)

But, I have no idea who Jean-Francois Kanabeach is.  And I am similarly baffled by the Nuclear Rabbits From Outta Space.  Google’s basic reaction to that was, first off, to ask if I meant “Nuclear Rabbits From Outer Space”.

A rabbit was, so it says here, launched into space in 1959.  And the Chinese did some stuff on the Moon in 2013, with something called the Jade Rabbit (aka Yutu).  But Nuclear Rabbits, from Outta Space?  Quesque c’est? Usually the Internet has something to say in answer to questions like this.  But in this matter, rien.

Friday December 21 2018

The book.  The movie.

And the label:


Another Facebook “friend” (also an actual friend) found this, in another part of Facebook.

I don’t know the answer.  Let’s ask this guy.



NASA took the photos, but it was Sean Doran and Brian Swift who spotted the dolphin and “visual artist and citizen scientist” Doran then Tweeted it.


I’m guessing that this dolphin is not a permanent fixture, but an accident of cloud formation.  I’m guessing it will soon be gone.  But what do I know?  About dolphins.  On Jupiter.  Or anywhere.

See also, these two galaxies, which resemble a penguin looking after its egg.

Friday December 15 2017

Incoming from Rob Fisher: link to a piece in the Independent, about machine learning applied to old telescope data is finding new planets.


A computer was trained to look through the data from the Kepler space telescope, and look for signals that might belong to planets. And it found new planets within existing systems, by spotting signals that seemed to indicate something of interest but were too weak to have been spotted by humans.

That suggests that there might be whole worlds and solar systems hiding within the data we’ve already collected, but which we had not noticed because there are simply so many signals to pick through. Kepler has collected four-years of data from looking at the sky and 150,000 stars – far more than humans could ever look through.

So, exactly what were these weak signals?

The new planets – just like all of the thousands found by Kepler – were spotted by watching the sky for light coming from the stars. When planets pass in front of their stars, scientists can register the dimming as they go, and use the speed and characteristics of that dimming to work out what the solar system might actually look like.

Much of that work relies on pattern recognition, which until now has been done by scientists looking through the data. But the new findings are the result of work between Nasa and Google, which trained machine learning algorithms to learn to spot those patterns itself and so pick through the data much more quickly.

This is good.  Keep Skynet busy with harmless hobbies.

Maybe not.  Getting Skynet to compile a huge and exhaustive list of all the places in the universe where biology-based life might be, after biology-based life on this planet has been taken care of.

This is maybe how the robot holocaust will happen.  We will have been telling them to “take care of” us and our fellow creatures.  But they’ll have been watching too many gangster movies, and ...

Friday February 28 2014

Yesterday evening, just as the place was closing, I spotted (and took bad photos of) a promising sofa, hiding in among lots of other clutter in something called the Futon Centre, in Tottenham Court Road:


Staff were trickling out the side door, even as I was seeing this for the first time.  Can I take a closer look, just for a second?  Yes, just a quick one, they said.  But, look on the website, they said.

So I did, and this is what I found:


Three hundred and fifty quid.  As you can see there is a choice of colours.  If on closer inspection (tomorrow?) I find that I like it, and that it is not too deep front-to-back, I am in the mood to take the hit.  After all, a sofa is for life, not just for the next few weeks, and I think I do like it already.  Deep it may be, deeper than I would like.  But almost all of the other sofas I’ve looked at are hideous monster sofas with arms on them like the arms of a person starring in a television show called Embarrassing Arms.  I already have a monster armed sofa like this and could not bear another.  Those arms are two extra people.

The question is: Can I get it up my stairs?  Because of Health and Safety the people who deliver it won’t do that.  How the hell does that make the world any safer?

Wish me luck.  If this suits, then I will win that fifty quid, in the limited sense of not having to give it to anyone else.

Wednesday May 25 2011

First, the current BrianMicklethwaitDotCom endorsee for American President, Gary Johnson, being interviewed by PJTV, which you can view here.

Johnson is older, thinner, duller, better dressed, more evasive, more “political” than I expected him to be, based on this.  In short, not what I expect a Gary to be.  I guess American Garies are not like our Garies.  Plus, he is a real politician, having been a real governor of a real state.  But then, I don’t expect a Gary to be a real politician.

He goes on about drugs being a medical condition, rather than a choice about how to have fun which is what I think it is, a choice which may have consequences, but not criminal-law consequences unless (under the influence of drugs) you commit an actual crime, besides the non-crime of using drugs I mean.  Talking about drugs as a healthcare problem legitimises all kinds of interventions and general bossing around.  But still, whatever his spiel, he wants to move things in the right direction.

Does Gary J have any chance?  This guy says he is better than Ron Paul.

Next up, a wondrously biased attack on the idea of internet neutrality, from someone called Crowder, viewable here.

Finally, rocket scientist Jeff Greason, expressing optimism about space exploration, despite and because of having become totally disillusioned with NASA.

About a fortnight ago, I was so impressed by this that I started writing down what Greason was saying, with a view to quoting it on Samizdata.  But I never wanted to stop quoting, and gave up when something else intervened and I never got back to it.  Does anyone know if the words of this performance have already been written down, to save me the bother of doing it?

Tuesday October 12 2010

So I went looking for flat photos of the latest Branson spaceship escapade, reported on, among many other spots, here.  This will do:


As will this:


I found those here.

Do you remember when Branson was pratting about in balloons?  Trying to break one of those fatuous, made up just to get into the Guinness Book of Records, records, for pratting round the world in a balloon faster than the previous prat in another balloon?  When he was doing all that, I was ready to believe the worst that lefty book writers were writing about him.  It was all stolen, he rips everybody off, he’s actually poor, his empire is balanced on nothing and will crash, blah blah.  But now, all that could still be entirely true but I do not care, because whereas balloons were stupid, rockets are cool.  More the point, rockets are great.

It’s the difference between pseudo-adventure and the real thing, between doing something pointlessly dangerous, and getting seriously and helpfully involved in something that is just as dangerous but which is truly going somewhere and truly achieving something.

I can’t believe I’m the only one who thinks like this about this extreme contrast.  To put it another way, I think that Branson’s ballooning did nothing for the Virgin brand and maybe a minus quantity, but that these rockets are already paying for themselves many times over.

I can remember having libertarian conversations about space travel, back in the eighties and seventies.  We used to fantasise about how space travel ought to be paid for, as opposed to how it was paid for (and still is mostly).  And what we fantasised was: this.

Friday August 06 2010

Photoed by me at Farnborough, minutes after photoing this cat:


I particularly like the shovel in the bumper.  See the picture on the left.

Actually it all makes sense, despite my immediate objections on the day.  Supacat is the brand of the vehicle I photoed.  The Bloodhound is one of those spaceships with wheels that people drive across dried out lakes in America, trying to break the world land speed record.  And Falcon is the name of the company that makes the rockets for the spaceship with wheels.  The Supacat carries the Falcons for the Bloodhound, which is why it calls itself the Bloodhound quiver.  Clear?  I think so.

I’m still confused, however, about whether the “Falcon Project” linked to there is anything to do with this.  I believe they’re two separate enterprises, but comments agreeing with that or disagreeing with that would be very welcome.

Friday July 16 2010

imageThe blog posting (linked to from here) is entitled Exploitation Movie Posters 1939 - 1960.  But why exactly are these movies referred to as “Exploitation” movies?  Who is being exploited?  And in what way is Apocalypse Now any less exploitative than the movies advertised in these particular posters?

I suppose the notion being got at is that it is our desire for pure and utterly undiluted entertainment, with no morally lofty excuse attached, to do with being educated, uplifted, improved, that is being “exploited”.  Our baser instincts are being played to.  Our ids are being massaged, while our egos look down, aghast.

Being a libertarian, I am particularly wary of the word “exploitation”, blurring as it does, often deliberately, the boundary between being used in a way that you consent to (often enthusiastically) and being used (often outrageously) in a way that you do not consent to.  Dare to favour the first and you get accused of favouring the second.  Which is a difficult trick to combat if you don’t realise what the trick is.

Putting the point about ids and egos in the language of consent, to talk of “exploitation” movies is to suggest that while our base appetites “consent” to watch movies like these, we ourselves do not.  We are at the mercy of our appetites, who are co-opted by our “exploiters”.  Our appetites betray us, enslave us even.  But controlling our base appetites, if that’s what we decide they are, is for us to do for ourselves.

Personally I don’t think that there is anything wrong about enjoying Cat-Women of the Moon.

Sunday May 30 2010

Incoming from Michael J:

Look around, ye mighty, and despair ...

Indeed.  Follow the link and gaze upon some truly excellent photos of world class USSR cranage and clutter, in a state of advance decay:


Not being a reader of Russian, I was only semi-sure what this stuff once was.  Pictures like this settled the matter:


Although that piece of decay seems to have been given a facelift.  It reminds me of how they make dead bodies look their best for funerals, but don’t actually fool anyone.

Saturday February 20 2010

Almost the ultimate vertically thin picture - five hundred across, just seven from top to bottom:


Sliced from this.  Via here.

Monday December 21 2009

First, the moment the much delayed Boeing 787 Dreamliner lifted off for the very first time.  Note the red helicopter flying alongside photo-ing everything:


Second, a particularly fabulous snap taken by Dale Amon of SpaceShipTwo (already featured here a fortnight ago), one of a set posted at Samizdata on Saturday:


Clearly that photo is also an obvious candidate for cropping above and below, to make this blog posting shorter, but I include everything in Dale’s original shot, because all that darkness is essential to the total effect, as Dale himself makes clear:

It came from out of the dark of a Western night ... the first commercial Space Ship.  Am I really here? Is it really here?

Far out man.

My thanks to Dale for emailing me a bigger version of this photo than the one at Samizdata However, I think the shot works best when still rather small.  The plane itself, in this shot, is small and distant, like a magical jewel.  Blowing it up in all its over-lit bigness adds little.

Finally, another highly evocative airplane shot, this time of Air Force One, just after landing in Washington, President Obama having just returned from the Copenhagen Conference.


Richard North featured this photo on his blog on Saturday.  North knows and I know and you surely know: climate isn’t weather.  But since the AGW mob blame every slightest blip in the weather on AGW (put it like this: I hear no denials from that quarter when this is done by, e.g., the BBC), they deserve the same treatment back at them, now that they are on the back foot in this huge argument.

So, two photos of morally excellent capitalist ambition.  And one of a morally very dubious attempt to curb and shackle such ambitions.  The first two seem to be succeeding, albeit with much difficulty, as you would expect.  The third project?  Everything still to play for there, but here’s hoping that fails.

Monday May 18 2009



There’s a tightly cropped image here.  I’ve cropped it even more.

Taken by the same guy, Thierry Lagault, this:


Again cropped some more by me.

Sunday October 12 2008
Friday January 26 2007

It’s Friday again, and time for more kitten-blogging, to celebrate the fact that here at Brian Micklethwait Dot Com, whatever Brian Micklethwait feels like blogging about is what gets blogged about!


That’s the Kitten Space Vehicle.

This was an plan, attempted around or before the year 2000, for a personal space ship that you assembled from a kit.

The Kitten was the brain-kitten of a certain James Hill.  He owned/bossed a company called Cerulean Freight Forwarding, which . . .

. . . aimed to construct very, very low cost vehicles. Their first vehicle, the Space Kitten, was intended for the X-Prize. They reportedly had reached about 75% of the $500k funding required to begin construction of the Kitten as of May 5, 2000.

The founder James Hill passed away in April of 2001. The company restructured by 2002 and split into 2 separate development groups: KAT & KTN. The overall goal is a sub-orbital Kittyhawk single stage vehicle. KAT will focus on propulsion development and KTH on airframe and assembly.

I found that by scrolling, down, and down, and down, here.  None of the links in the original quote (Cerulean Freight Forwarding, KAT, KTN) seem to lead anywhere interesting, so I guess it all just fizzled out, or got swallowed up by other space enterprises.

See also the Dart Kitten II, which dates from the time when we Brits used to do stuff like this.