About a month after a meteor hit the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, a U.S. House panel led by Texas’ Rep. Lamar Smith, put scientists on the hot seat, asking if the United States is prepared for such an event.
NASA administrator Charles Bolden was widely reported to have told them that if an asteroid is headed to Earth, his advice is to “pray.” He did say that, but as is often the case, it’s not the whole story.
“The funding did not come,” Bolden said. “And so the answer to you is, if it’s coming in three weeks, uh, pray.”
“Unfortunately, the number of undetected potential ‘city killers’ is very large,” said John Holdren, assistant to President Barack Obama for science and technology. “It’s in the 10,000 range or more.”
Congress has directed NASA to improve methods to be able to identify and track 90 percent of meteors 140 meters or more in diameter by 2020. That’s task that will likely not be achieved until 2030, using current budget estimates, Bolden said.
The estimate was not “particularly reassuring” to the committee’s chairman, Smith, who said he’d look into “possible budgetary assistance.”
Bolden said scientists need more telescopes in outer space. “Ground-based systems are great. … But if you really want to find and detect asteroids and near-earth objects early enough that we can do something, you want that vehicle to be in space,” he said.
To do all this, NASA needs a lot of “budgetary assistance.” Check out Holdren’s estimates:
Detection efforts = $100 million a year.
Mitigation efforts = $2 billion between now and 2025.
Air Force Space Command = $200-300 million a year.
So … maybe “pray” doesn’t seem like such a flip answer?
Last week, Twitter introduced Vine, a mobile service that allows Twitter users to capture and share short looping videos of up to 6 seconds.
Since the launch, Vine has been plagued with porn. But Twitter is now blocking many searches for pornographic terms, reports The Verve:
Trying to search for the #porn hashtag (and other terms such as #sex and #booty) brings up no results at this time. However, there are still numerous workarounds — #pornvine is still allowed, for example, as is #nsfw.
Driver Warren Thomas Michael III pulled over after swerving and weaving on and off a road in Jacksonville, Fla., Saturday night and told a Clay County sheriff’s deputy that the squirrel did it, wptv.com is reporting:
Michael opened his window to greet officers, he wasn’t holding his driver’s license and registration — he was holding a squirrel.
“Upon contact with the defendant, he immediately told me he had a squirrel eating him,” the arresting officer said in a report.
The 23-year-old Fleming Island man was arrested on charges of driving under the influence and without a seat belt, jacksonville.com reports.
As for the squirrel, his girlfriend reportedly picked it up with his pickup.
Amanda Palmer wants to friend you: (photo by Shervin Lainez)
By Joey Guerra
Just a few years ago, Amanda Palmer might have taken issue with anyone labeling her sound — gasp! — pop.
“I really just put a very strong filter on my work for many years, mostly because I really didn’t want to be seen as pop, and I didn’t want to be seen as mainstream,” says Palmer, who first pricked our ears as part of punk-cabaret duo the Dresden Dolls.
“I would literally veer away from song ideas that I thought sounded too accessible. I would prefer to veer into the realm of the weird and the challenging and the aggressive. And I don’t regret that at all”
Quirky, loopy, strange — sure. Anything but the p-word.
Palmer’s gorgeous and epic new record, “Theatre is Evil,” however, changes all that. It’s a bracingly accessible affair, built on a wall of horns and drums crafted by her cohorts in the Grand Theft Orchestra. Shades of Blondie, the Cars, Tori Amos and even Queen flutter amid the chaos, creating a sort of riot-girl/new-wave soundscape.
“I think everyone is worried that calling Amanda Palmer pop is like some sort of profanity,” Palmer says with a laugh. “Pop is defined by popular music, i.e., music a lot of people like. It doesn’t have to be inherently satanic. This record, I really did allow my inner muse and songwriter to follow uncharted territory, and for me, uncharted territory was popular material.
“I feel like I gained enough credibility and believability that if I write a pop song, people are going to take me seriously. That’s important to me.”
“Do It With a Rockstar” and “Want it Back” are easy highlights, built on Palmer’s signature flair for the dramatic and theatrical. (She’s married to English writer Neil Gaiman.) “The Bed Song” has a lovely, parlor-room lilt; and “Melody Dean” is an ode to Palmer’s bisexuality that riffs on the Knack’s “My Sharona.”
But “Theatre is Evil” is only one step in Palmer’s musical (r)evolution. She funded the album (as has been exhaustively reported) via the fan-sourcing Kickstarter platform, rewarding backers with everything from commissioned artwork and house parties to customized turntables, art books, bonus tracks and homemade crafts.
The final tally was an astounding $1.2 million via more than 24,000 donations, the most ever for any Kickstarter campaign. Palmer rallied fans via her official blog and Twitter, which boasts more than 600,000 followers. She interacts with them on a daily basis, sometimes for hours, creating an intense, intimate relationship that translated into palpable support. “Theatre is Evil” was formally released a week ago.
“It was a pleasant surprise, because I certainly didn’t take it for granted. But I did think it was possible to get there if everything went well. That was my fantasy goal,” Palmer says of the million-dollar mark. She soared past the initial goal of $100,000 within seven hours.
Several artists have turned to Kickstarter to raise money for projects, including locals the Last Place You Look, Craig Kinsey, Miss Leslie, Alkari, Savannah Berry and Tamar Davis, who nabbed $30,000 to shoot a music video. (See the list of locals HERE.)
It may seem like instant gratification, especially in the wake of major-label downsizing and dissension. Palmer herself left Roadrunner Records in 2010 after a lengthy battle and remains independent today. Her recent successes, however, were built on years of intense work.
“It really does feel like a great culmination of years of planning and making and learning, This moment, this record release, kind of pulls out all the stops and features every single talent that I’ve found in the last 13 years,” she says.
“You can’t start a band from scratch, have no fans and hope that random people off the Internet are going to give you 10 bucks to make a record. It just won’t happen. You need to do what bands have had to do from the dawn of time: play a bunch of local shows, get in a van, go to the next town, spread your message.”
Palmer continues to follow that credo. Her current tour will travel much of the world over the next 14 months and will be supplemented, in every sense of the word, by fans. Palmer is enlisting local horn and string players in each city and is asking fans to upload “emotional data” (photos of their bedroom, street, a lost loved one) via her official site that will be incorporated into the stage show.
And let’s hope the local participation leaves her with a sunnier view of Houston.
“The only thing, sadly, connected with Houston is the last time I played Houston someone stole my cellphone from the dressing room,” she says. “It had pictures from Neil’s 50th birthday and a flashmob street performance that I stupidly had not downloaded to my computer.
“We’re playing the same venue this time. I’m leaving my cell phone on the bus. Or taking it onstage with me.”