Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Second March, Science... and Goodbye Cassini

   Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.    The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
   The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
   Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
   The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
   It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
-- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

Picture Legend:

1.Our home
2. Saturn
3. Cassini
4. Saturn’s rings
5. The Pale Blue Dot. The Earth, as seen from Cassini through the rings of Saturn, 870 million miles distant. This picture was taken April 12th, 2017, 10:41pm PDT. If you look hard enough you can just make out the southern Atlantic Ocean.
6. Titan in natural color. The thick atmosphere is orange due to a dense organonitrogen (any compound in which an organic group is directly linked to a nitrogen atom) haze
7. Being assembled
8. On the launch pad
9. Venus flyby
10. Flyby of the Moon
11. Jupiter
12. The moon Io transiting Jupiter
13. Arriving at Saturn July 1st, 2004
14. Huygens probe descending to Titan’s surface
15. Huygens in the surface
16. Pictures from Huygens, Titan’s surface
17. Saturn’s north pole
18. Hyperion
19. The small moon Epimetheus in front of smog-enshrouded Titan, with Saturn's A and F rings stretching across the picture
20. Iapetus
21. Rhea transiting Saturn from Cassini’s point of view
22. Enceladus
23. The moons Cassini discovered: Methone
24. Pallene
25. Polydeuces
26. Daphnis
27. Anthe
28. Aegaeon
29. And S/2009 S 1
30. Cassini’s picture of Earth taken July 19th, 2013. That’s me on the left
31. Cassini’s last picture of Titan taken April 21st, 2017
32. Like Silly Putty? Thank science
33. Like computers? Thank science
34. Like cell and smart phones? Thank science
35. Like guns? Thank science
36. Inhofe and his snowball
37. Inhofe and his BS
38. Scott Pruitt
39. Thom Hartmann
40. Sun Demon
41. Joyce’s Take correspondent Cara Santa Maria prepares for the March for Science by visiting the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History!
42. Hanging with my girl Lucy
43. “I got to take a selfie from the stage at the March for Science in DC”
44. I am so thrilled to be here at the March for Science with all my fellow science lovers!!
45. Bill Nye, the Science Guy
46. The March... signs Washington D.C.
47. More signs
48. Poets
49. Dancing dinos
50. Alchemists?
51. The rest of the country
52. Signs
53.    ^
54.   Will, a 10-year-old from Connecticut, told BuzzFeed News he thought Trump's environmental laws are "foul" and "completely awful and totally unfair."
55. Signs
56.   ^
57.   ^
58. Daisy, a 10-year-old wearing a polar bear sweater and wolf ears, said she was "marching for wolves."
59. Alternative Facts?
60. Signs
61.    ^
62.    ^
63.    ^
64. Brynn, a 9-year-old from Maine, said she came to the New York march because she "believes in science."
65. Signs
66.    ^
67.    ^
68.    ^
69.    ^
70.    ^
71.    ^
72.    ^
73.    ^
74. 12-year-old John from Buffalo said he doesn't "think it's right that our president should be turning a blind eye or telling outright lies about what is going to happen in our future."
75. Los Angeles
76.        ^
77.        ^   That’s me on the left
78. Portland
79. Pittsburgh
80. Chicago
81. London
82.      ^
83. Germany, Bonn
84. Berlin
85.     ^
86.     ^
87. Vancouver
88. Barcelona
89. Brazil
90. Calgary
91. Iceland
92. Dresden
93. Melbourne
94. Paris
95.    ^
96. Alesund Norway
97. San Diego
98. In Washington, DC,11-year-old Luis Fabish told BuzzFeed News he wants to be a mechanical engineer when he grows up, and that he and his dad are building a car from scavenged parts.
99. Garrett Reisman
100.  Reisman driving a battery-powered Hummer at the front of the March for Science satellite rally in Los Angeles
101. A statement to live by
102. Cassini approaches gap between Saturn and rings
103. Cassini’s path
104. Cassini’s last moments
105. About to crash into Saturn

   Last Saturday, April 22nd, was Earth Day here on the Earth.
   Various events were held around the planet to demonstrate support for environmental issues.
   Before 1970 there wasn’t any Earth Day because nobody cared about the Earth back then. But in 1970 we started caring about it and we thought up Earth Day as a way to demonstrate our caring attitude about the place where we live. The only place we have lived, the only place we currently live, and the only place we are likely to live for the foreseeable future, as Dr Sagan so eloquently put it above.
   Earth Day is an old friend of ours. We’ve talked about here on Joyce’s Take twice, here and here.
   This year April 22nd is also the date the Cassini robotic spacecraft made it’s last flyby of Titan, the planet Saturn’s largest moon.
   Before December 25th, 2004 Cassini was called the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft because the Huygens lander was attached to it. On Christmas day 2004 Huygens separated from Cassini and began to make it’s way to the surface of Titan, (Titan is 50% larger than our Moon. It is the second-largest moon in the Solar System, after Jupiter's Ganymede, and is larger than the smallest planet, Mercury , if you consider Pluto a dwarf (the term “Little Planet” is actually more politically correct), which I do not).
   Giovanni Cassini was an Italian astronomer who discovered the first of Saturn’s moons. Christian Huygens discovered Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. While Cassini saw the bulge around Saturn in his initial observations, it was Huygens who correctly identified them as rings.
    This was Cassini’s final opportunity to observe the moon close up, to peer through Titan’s dense atmosphere (the only moon in the solar system to have one) using it’s radar to glimpse the lakes and seas (the only moon to have those) of liquid hydrocarbons that spread across the northern polar region.
   The close approach happened  at 2:08am EDT, which was 11:08pm last Friday, April 21st PDT, my time.
   Cassini passed Titan 608 miles above it’s surface, which is pretty darn close astronomically, at a speed of 13,000 mph, which is faster than a roller coaster.
   After Friday Cassini will orbit the ringed planet 22 more times before taking a death dive into it on September 15th, which will mark the end of the mission as there will no longer be a Cassini.
   Jonathan Lunine, the director of the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, who has worked on the Cassini mission since the 1980s, is in denial.
   “I think it is too early to eulogize Cassini on the occasion of its death, as incineration is five months away," said.
   Don’t worry about him. He needs to go through the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, parts of the framework that makes up our learning to live with that which we have lost. 
   The total cost of Cassini was about US$3.26 billion, including $1.4 billion for pre-launch development, $704 million for mission operations, $54 million for tracking and $422 million for the launch vehicle. The United States contributed $2.6 billion (80%), the ESA (European Space Agency) $500 million (15%), and the ASI (Italian Space Agency) $160 million (5%).
   The Cassini–Huygens spacecraft was launched on October 15th, 1997 (19 years, 191 days ago) aboard a Titan IVB/Centaur rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 40, and entered orbit around Saturn on July 1st, 2004 (the first robotic spacecraft to do so), 12 years, 297 days ago, after an interplanetary voyage that included flybys of Earth, Venus, and Jupiter.
   Huygens landed on Titan on January 14th, 2005. There it successfully returned data to Earth, using the orbiter as a relay. This was the first landing ever accomplished in the outer Solar System.
    After launch Cassini performed two gravitational-assist flybys of Venus on April 26th, 1998, and June 24th, 1999. These flybys provided the space probe with enough momentum to travel all the way out to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, where the Sun's gravity pulled it back into the inner Solar System.
   “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!" -Cassini-Huygens
   On August 18th, 1999, at 03:28 UTC, Cassini made a gravitational-assist flyby of the Earth. One hour and 20 minutes before closest approach, Cassini made an approach of our Moon at 377,000 kilometers, and it took a series of calibration photos.
   On January 23rd, 2000, Cassini performed a flyby of the asteroid 2685 Masursky, gave it a little kiss, and then continued on to Jupiter.
   Cassini made its closest approach to Jupiter on December 30th, 2000, and since it was already there it performed a whole bunch of science stuff. It took around 26,000 pictures of the solar system’s largest planet, it’s sissy rings (compared to Saturn), and it’s moons during the six month flyby.
   Then it moved on to Saturn.
   Cassini-Huygens had its first flyby of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, on July 2nd, 2004, a day after orbit insertion.
   After a two-and-a-half-hour descent Huygens landed on solid ground on Titan. Although Cassini successfully relayed 350 of the pictures that it received from Huygens of its descent and landing site, a software error failed to turn on one of the Cassini receivers and caused the loss of another 350 pictures.
    Huygens had no more than three hours of battery life, most of which was used during the descent. Engineers expected to get at most only 30 minutes of data from the surface.
   Cassini continued on with it’s mission, which was extended several times (it’s original mission objectives were fulfilled in 2008). Cassini had several objectives, including: determining the three-dimensional structure and dynamic behavior of the rings of Saturn, determining the composition of the satellite surfaces and the geological history of each object, determining the nature and origin of the dark material on Iapetus's leading hemisphere, measuring the three-dimensional structure and dynamic behavior of Saturn’s magnetosphere, studying the dynamic behavior of Saturn's atmosphere at cloud level, and study the time variability of Titan's clouds and hazes, and characterize Titan's surface on a regional scale.
   Cassini has discovered 7 moons... and it took a lot of pictures... and still is
   On July 19, 2013, Cassini was pointed towards Earth to capture an image of our planet and it’s Moon, as part of a natural light, multi-image portrait of the entire Saturn system. The event was unique as it was the first time NASA informed the public that a long-distance photo was being taken in advance. NASA doesn’t usually do that because it doesn’t want anyone to know what’s it’s up to, but they felt good about this one time, and so they spread the word.
   The imaging team said they wanted people to smile and wave to the skies, with Cassini scientist, Carolyn Porco, describing the moment as a chance to "celebrate life on the Pale Blue Dot."
   Another picture of our planet was taken this month.
   A lot of people wonder why it is we spend so much money on outer space when we have so many problems here at home on Earth. Global warming, over fishing, deforestation, animal and insect extinction, the need for rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, the ridiculous costs of education and pharmaceuticals. On and on.
   We’ve got a lot of problems that need to be addressed, that is very true.
   But space exploration has proven to be cost effective.
   The exploration of space has created new markets and new technologies that have grown our economy and changed our lives in many ways.
   Here’s a list of some or the activities space technology has made possible:
   Red light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are growing plants in space and healing humans on Earth. Infrared ear thermometers which weigh only 8 ounces and uses infrared astronomy technology to measure the amount of energy emitted by the eardrum, takes your temperature the same way the temperature of stars and planets is measured. Artificial limbs: NASA’s continued funding, coupled with its collective innovations in robotics and shock-absorption/comfort materials are inspiring and enabling the private sector to create new and better solutions for animal and human prostheses. Ventricular assist devices: collaboration between NASA, Dr. Michael DeBakey, Dr. George Noon, and MicroMed Technology Inc. resulted in a lifesaving heart pump for patients awaiting heart transplants. Anti-Icing Systems, the cell phone camera, clean energy technology: the company that developed the space shuttle’s main engine is using the expertise gained to create clean energy technology that would decrease carbon emissions by 10 percent, the equivalent of taking 50,000 cars off the road. Scratch-Resistant Lenses, water filtration and purification, CAT scans, hand-held vacuum cleaners, air-cushioned training shoes, fire fighter breathing apparatus, blankets for marathon runners, groove cutting for safer runways, pill transmitters, faster racing cars, the roof of the Millennium Dome, personal storm warning systems, better sunglasses, the potential to preserve priceless art, car crash technology, longer golf shots, plane wing-tips, freeze-dried meals, baby food, warm feet, increased understanding of the beginning of life, anti-gravity' treadmills, hang gliders, straighter teeth, heat-absorbing sportswear, life support for patients, intelligent underwear, detection of forest fires, plant research, chromosome analysis, diminished trash, better skiing, better brakes, improved air quality, a possible end to  water shortages, more competitive swimming, the self-righting life raft, home blood pressure kits, hydraulic rescue cutters, satellite television, voice-controlled wheelchairs, mine-clearing technology, long-life tires, eye screening, personal alarm systems, Silly Putty, and literally a couple of other things.
   The list above mentions a few of the benefits of just space exploration alone, and does not take into account the many benefits mankind (and womankind) has reaped from science in general... like space exploration and the scientific method which allows us to discover what is true in nature and what is not. Electricity, advances in medicine, eradication of disease such as smallpox, mouse traps, robotic space probes, manned space missions, the International Space Station, weather forecasting, crab fishing, air travel, submarines, hydrogen bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles, telephones, clothes, transistors, Higgs bosons, atomic structures and models of DNA and therefore genetics, lasers, e-mail, refrigeration, vaccines, smart phones, cable T.V., computers, chain saws, garbage disposals, pens, printing presses, telescopes, microscopes, guns, Twitter, whipped cream, radio, sun screen, planes, trains, and automobiles.
   I could literally go on for about fifteen minutes.
   “Do you prefer one branch of science over another because you think its discoveries will be more useful in coming years? Consider that in hospitals, every machine with an on/off switch that diagnoses your health without first cutting you open, is based on one or more principles of physics, discovered by physicists and chemists who had no specific interest in medicine. This includes the MRI, PET scans, CT Scans, EKGs, EEGs, ultrasound, and of course, good old fashioned X-rays. So if you defund one line of research in favor of another, you thwart the entire moving frontier of discovery. In the end, nature cross-pollinates all sciences, so perhaps we should too.
   To reclaim America’s greatness, anyone with business acumen could think of science investments within our various government agencies as the R&D of a corporation called the USA. Science is not a Liberal Conspiracy. It’s not even bi-partisan. Science is a fundamentally non-partisan enterprise that serves us all. Without it, watch America fade from relevance on the world stage, as we gasp for an era of scientifically enlightened governance to rise once again.” -Neil deGrasse Tyson
   Despite all of the benefits that science has bestowed upon us we still have global warming, over fishing, deforestation, animal and insect extinction, the need for rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, the ridiculous costs of education and pharmaceuticals to contend with.
   If it’s not one damn thing it’s another.
   These problems are of worldwide significance and if continued to be ignored, or played lip service to, it is at our own peril.
   Part of the difficulty addressing some of these issues is that those currently in power, for one reason or another, refuse to admit they exist, such as the warming of the planet and it’s attendant difficulties, i.e., rising ocean levels, acidification of said oceans, worldwide drought conditions, fires, extreme weather events, etc.
   Global warming and climate change are real. The scientific debate about climate change has ended, largely because it's been an obvious, observable reality for decades, and that humans (us)  are causing warming global temperatures, and the other problems that come with it.
   Our president, Donald Trump, has tweeted dozens of times about how he does not accept the overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change is real.
   “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” - 6 Nov 2012 (I say prove it!)
   “They only changed the term to CLIMATE CHANGE when the words GLOBAL WARMING didn't work anymore. Come on people, get smart!” -14 Jul 2014 (I say prove it!)
   “Just out - the POLAR ICE CAPS are at an all time high, the POLAR BEAR population has never been stronger. Where the hell is global warming?” 29October 2014 (This tweet is a testament to bullshit)
   “Record low temperatures and massive amounts of snow. Where the hell is GLOBAL WARMING?” -14 February 2015 (He’s confusing weather with climate, a favorite tactic of climate change deniers)
   “Russia is on the move in the Ukraine, Iran is nuking up & Libya is run by Al Qaeda, yet Obama is busy issuing ‘climate change” warnings.” -7 May 2014 (Yeah, Stupid Obama is worried about the greatest threat to ever menace man (and woman) kind. What a dumb ass!)
   On and on.
   Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma thinks global warming is a hoax because he can make a snowball.
   “In case we have forgotten, because we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record, I ask the chair, do you know what this is,” Inhofe said to Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who was presiding over the Senate’s debate, as he removed the snowball from a plastic bag.
   “It’s a snowball. And it’s just from outside here. So it’s very, very cold out. Very unseasonable.”
   “We hear the perpetual headline that 2014 has been the warmest year on record,” he said, referring to a report from the previous month from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the NASA.
   “But now the script has flipped,” he said of the unseasonably cold weather.
   Again, weather is much different than climate.
   The new Trump administration is proposing drastic cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, National Institutes of Health, NOAA, NASA and other agencies. Information about climate change and environmental protection is being scrubbed from government websites, and scientists are being muzzled. Meanwhile, the government is increasing spending on military and nuclear weapons programs.
   Trump’s, EPA Administrator , former Attorney General of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt, and their allies in Congress have proven their hostility to the role of science at the EPA and their willingness to heed the requests of polluters.    Here are the top seven ways Trump’s EPA is attacking science:
    Administrator Pruitt rejected decades of science to keep a dangerous pesticide on the market.
   The EPA is full of climate science deniers, starting at the top.
   President Trump determined that climate change has no cost.
   President Trump has proposed drastic funding cuts to the EPA’s scientific research.
   President Trump and Congress want to slash the EPA’s scientific expertise.
   Rep. Lamar Smith wants to block the EPA from using sound science to set pollution standards.
   President Trump has failed to hire scientists throughout the government.
   It is rumored that, the U.S. government's largest civilian-linked data service, storing crucial information on climate change, life cycle assessment, health impact analysis and environmental justice, could face shut-down this Friday (4-28-17), according to people familiar with the plan.
   The U.S. House of Representatives voted last Friday to pass a resolution to undo a measure that would cut air pollution, prevent the waste of taxpayer dollars, and curb climate change-causing pollution.
   The Bureau of Land Management’s methane waste prevention rule aims to limit venting, flaring, and leaking of methane  the main component in natural gas, from oil and gas operations on public lands. The House is seeking to use the Congressional Review Act to repeal the rule, in what many see as a continued escalation of the most significant congressional attack on environmental rules and standards in American history.
   Repealing the rule is expected to result in the waste of $330 million in taxpayer-owned gas annually, and reduce direct payments to the public by $800 million over the next decade, analysis shows.
   “Those in Congress working to overturn guidelines that will reduce methane pollution would be taking money away from American taxpayers and removing protections for Americans’ health and the environment,” Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, said in a statement.
   “More than $1.5 billion in natural gas has been pointlessly burned and sent into the air since 2013,” Williams said. “It defies common sense for Congress to allow companies to waste our resources and ditch basic safeguards limiting the release of harmful methane pollution.”
   By the way, methane traps up to 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide within a 5 year period, and 72 times more within a 20 year period.
   President Trump signed legislation ending a key Obama administration coal mining rule last March which puts an end  to the Office of Surface Mining's Stream Protection Rule, a regulation to protect waterways from coal mining waste.
   Environmentalists supported the administration rule, saying it would protect waterways from pollution and preserve public health.
   When Trump signed the bill into law he said the regulation was "another terrible job killing rule" and said ending it would save "many thousands American jobs, especially in the mines, which, I have been promising you — the mines are a big deal."
   "This is a major threat to your jobs and we’re going to get rid of this threat," he added. "We’re going to fight for you."
   “If you want to help miners, then come address their health and safety and their pension program,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said during floor debate on the measure.
   Trump’s budget for NASA would be cut from roughly $19.3 billion to $19.1 billion, redirecting funds from the study of our own atmosphere in accordance with his climate change denial policies.
   Energy Secretary Rick Perry is wondering if solar and wind development is making the nation’s electricity grid less stable, and  has significantly altered its websites on renewable energy, removing references on how clean energy technologies can reduce the nation's reliance on fossil fuels and help lower climate-changing emissions.
   The DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which could face deep funding cuts under Trump's budget proposal, has made "extensive changes and reorganizations" on websites for the Bioenergy Technologies Office, the Wind Energy Technologies Office and the Vehicle Technologies Office, according to the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI), a coalition of academics and nonprofits that has tracked changes to federal websites ever since Donald Trump took office.
   I would suggest to Sec Perry that what is making the nation’s electricity grid unstable is the grid itself, which badly needs to be overhauled as a matter of infrastructure investment. The grid is also prone to being hacked. 
   What’s the problem with republicans? Why are they so opposed to fighting climate change and global warming? Don’t they breathe air like the rest of us? Don’t they like clean water to drink? If they don’t breathe air or drink water what about their children? What kind of world will republicans bequeath to their progeny. Why don’t they care?
   For those who are nominally human, I suppose money has a lot to do with it.    Here’s an excerpt from an article by the Union of Concerned Scientists last January when Pruitt was still a nominee.
   “The two dozen nonprofit groups and Senate committee members defending Scott Pruitt, President Donald Trump's nominee for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, have at least two things in common.
   Like Pruitt, they're climate science deniers. And, like Pruitt, most of them are funded by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who own the coal, oil and gas conglomerate Koch Industries.
   That funding helps explain why they all consistently misrepresent the scientific consensus on climate change. After all, money buys influence and since 1997, Koch foundations have paid a network of think tanks and advocacy groups more than $88 million to spread climate science disinformation—more than twice what Exxon, the second-biggest denier-network funder, has spent. Likewise, Koch Industries has contributed $38.5 million to federal candidates over the last 25 years and spent another $117 million since 1998 on lobbying.
    Pruitt has consistently fought for the corporate polluters that have financed his political campaigns, dismantling his office's Environmental Protection Unit, halting efforts to reduce poultry manure in Oklahoma waterways, opposing a wind energy transmission line and suing the EPA 14 times to block stronger air, water and climate safeguards that would better protect Oklahoma families and communities.”
   My, my. This doesn’t sound like a viable nominee that will head the EPA if one was serious about protecting the environment.
   Just the opposite.
   Senator Jim Inhofe has received an astounding $1,671,521 in contributions to his campaign committee and Leadership PAC from the oil & gas industry over the course of his political career, including $489,250 in the 2014 election cycle alone. Among his top contributors are individuals and political action committees associated with... guess who?! Koch Industries!
   Murray Energy is also a major contributor. It is the largest underground coal mining company in America, which has sued the EPA multiple times and has an outspoken climate changer denier as CEO.
   Oil companies ConocoPhillips, Devon Energy, Exxon Mobil, and OGE Energy are also among the top Inhofe contributors over the course of his career. Maybe they like Inhofe’s  outrageous claims, such as calling the EPA a “Gestapo bureaucracy”, and saying that “those individuals from the far left want us to believe it’s because we are contributing CO2 to the atmosphere, that’s causing global warming. It’s all about money.”
   Well he has that last sentence right.
      The elitist radio host, author, entrepreneur, progressive political commentator, and former psychotherapist, Thom Hartmann says, “There are huge profits to be made in poisoning us and our Earth, and the people profiting from that have and are funding politicians, ‘think tanks’ and PR firms, and television networks (via advertising), to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars over the decades.   The people denying science are doing so because of the cash.
   Why the hell won’t anybody say that out loud?
   ExxonMobil, we now know, has known about the damage their products were doing to our planet since at least the 1980s.  Instead of changing their business plan, they began to directly and indirectly fund climate-change-denying groups in a big way.  The Kochs aren’t idiots, yet their network of corporate and billionaire funders is one of the main sources of money to politicians like Pruitt and, presumably, Trump (in the largest sense).
   We are being poisoned for profits, and the scientists who are pointing this out are being shut down.  And in the case of high-profile scientists like Michael Mann, even subject to extraordinary levels of harassment.”
   So money is a large motivating factor... direct payments, or in the form of campaign contributions.
   Politicians are also vulnerable to good old fashion blackmail. Due to the Citizens United decision handed down by the Supreme Court in January of 2010, an unprecedented amount of money can be thrust into political campaigns. This implies politicians can and are bought and sold at the donors whim. They are subject to pressures associated with attempting to be re-elected running against an opponent who is being financed by outside interests due to the fact that they are willing to do the bidding of their donors. In other words, do what powerful interests want you to do, or face being thrown out of office.
   There is also a psychological factor involved. When men and women spend so much time and effort in promoting lies and falsehoods due to ideology, they invest so much of themselves into these lies and falsehoods that they begin to merge with them. Their worldview becomes the lies that they tell, and they begin to believe those lies as being the truth.
   President Trump being a prime example.
   And the attacks continue seemingly unabated.
   Other areas of science have been all but abandoned by Trump. The president has yet to nominate administrators for NASA and the NOAA, nor to appoint his own science adviser.
   John Holdren, science adviser during Barack Obama’s presidency, said Trump had “shown no indication of awareness of the role of science and the role of science in government”.
   “Scientists are understanding that they have to become activists, that they have to speak up, that they have to be heard,” he said. “The message isn’t, ‘Please save our jobs.’ Scientists would be in another line of work if they were just interested in their salaries. If funding for science is slashed, all of society will lose out.”
   Several famous voices have joined the cause.
   “Science has always been political. Attacks on science don’t just hurt scientists, they hurt scientists’ ability to protect the people. I don’t want science to be partisan,” Bill Nye, a prominent engineer and TV personality, told the Guardian.
   “Objective truths have become set aside and diminished and lawmakers are acting like a strong belief in something is as valid as careful peer review.”
   Nye said science was in a “dangerous place” but hoped the march would help nudge Trump to a more amenable position.
   “The president changes his mind quite frequently,” he said. “We want to influence the people who influence him. That’s our goal for the march.”
   What march?
   The march for Science of course. Last week we marched for Trump to release his tax returns. Did he do that? No. 
   Why not?
   Who knows? I certainly don’t.
   There’s probably nothing illegal associated with his returns or we would have heard from the IRS by now.
   But there’s more than likely personal and professional information within them that might be embarrassing for our president, such as his unsavory business ties, and the fact that’s he’s only worth 3.5 billion (according to Forbes Magazine) rather than the 10 billion he’s always mouthing off about.
   We’ll find out eventually.
   The Tax March was successful in that it annoyed our president to no end, which is a good thing. It prompted him to tweet this:
   “I did what was an almost an impossible thing to do for a Republican-easily won the Electoral College! Now Tax Returns are brought up again?”
   “Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!”
   One has to wonder what winning the election has to do with wanting to see his tax returns... it doesn’t have anything to do with anything!
   But in Trump’s mind the two are inexorably linked. I suppose in Trump World he believes that having won the election he can say and do whatever he wants without opposition.
   He is wrong.
   By the way... I’m still waiting for my marching money. I wish whoever is in charge of paying all of us, 5,000 in L.A. alone, would hurry up about it. I need to do some laundry.
   But back to the Science March.
   On their website the Los Angeles March for Science states their core issues are :


Facts matter
Government that ignores science endangers the world. Legislative decisions must be informed by both constituent needs and evidence-based fact. Policy should reflect our best understanding of scientific issues, adhering to scientific consensus.

Science costs
Velcro, penicillin, CRISPR… When fundamental research is invested in, discovery and innovation follow. A robust commitment to public science funding is critically important.

Right to know
Scientific research findings must remain transparent; communicated without omission or alteration. The primary employers of scientists (the tax-paying public) should benefit from their investments.

   Like last week the march was to begin at Pershing Square.
   And it’s a good thing too, as when I arrived at exactly 9:00am, there were already four to five thousand people there.
   Which pleases me. Folks seem to be much more interested and enthusiastic  about science than
Trump’s tax returns.
   Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It's Worth,” was playing over a loud speaker as I entered the park from the south. Food trucks lined the west side of Hill Street, and booths were set up.
   Again, there were mostly white people there, of all ages and sexes. There were short people there. Long people. People with hair. There were young people as well as old people. There were people there of an indiscriminate age.
   Today was supposed to be the hottest day of the week in L.A. which gave most of the young girls an excuse to wear as little clothing as possible (as if they needed an excuse).
   “For What It's Worth,” turned into Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On.”
   It literally took me fifteen minutes to make my way from the south end of the park to the northern end, where the stage was located, due to the throngs of people who were blocking my way.
   I found a little empty spot near a plastic trash can where I could sit or stand without being bothered by the crowd around me.
   It was wonderful.
   As I did last week I will go ahead and list some of the signs I saw people carrying, without warning.
   So here goes a couple.
   “The Oceans are Rising and So are We!”
   “There is No Planet B”
   There was a “Lost and Found” booth. An “Information” booth. An “Official Apparel” booth.
   “Female Arachnologist - I Bite Back!”
   “Science not Silence”
   “Twitter Wouldn’t Exist Without Science”   
   It was getting really hot. 90 degrees I discovered later.
   But there was no shade and I felt like a bug under a magnifying glass.
   I saw sun demons circling above.   
   I also saw Babysitting and Registration Booths
   So one could conceivably drop one’s baby off and forget about it until the end of the day’s festivities.
   Pretty cool.
   “Trump Should Thank Science... It Created His Hair!”
   “Ramble On,” was replaced with The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go.”
   I got a headache due to a man dressed as an American Indian beating a drum.
   American Indian’s are very involved in science. many people don’t know that.
   “Proud to be for Science - Embarrassed that I Need To”
   “Black Matter Lives”
   “A Book of Science is Like a Jar of Secrets Behind the Magic of Our Universe”
   “Make America Green Again”
   “Science is not a Belief System”
   “Climate Change is Not Fake News!”
   There was a nice Independent Investigation Group booth, where people could go to get investigated.
   There was a Students for Science booth for those attending school.
   “Science - Knowledge based on facts, Not Opinion”
   For some reason I thought about a press conference with Trump’s Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney stating "Regarding the question as to climate change, I think the President was fairly straightforward. We're not spending money on that anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.' So that is a specific tie to his campaign."
   I think an increase in military spending is a waste of money. I think corporate welfare is a waste of money. I think Mulvaney’s salary is a waste of money.
   But not money for the EPA, the NIH, Meals on Wheels, and school lunch programs. I would gladly pay for those things with my tax money.
   “Love of Ignorance is a Cause of Death”
   “Science is Only a Threat to Politics if Your Politics Deny Reality”
   Many were wearing the official “March for Science” T-shirts, which were green with a picture of an observatory above an atom.
   “The Good Thing About Science is That It’s True Whether You Believe In It or Not!” -Neil degrasse Tyson
   “I’m on the Side of Science”   
   Potential marchers kept entering the park. I stood up on a cement wall and looked south toward a sea of humanity and signs.
   “Truth, Justice, and the Scientific Method”
   “Data is Life”
   Later the crowd size would be estimated between 30 and 40 thousand science advocates.
   50 thousand had registered, but some didn’t show up.
   I would learn that 40,000 people showed up at the main march in Washington D.C., 40,000 in Chicago, 20,000 in New York City, 10,000 in Philadelphia, and 10,000 in London (who knew English people cared about science? I certainly didn’t!).
   “Don’t have Smallpox... That’s Science!”
   See the pictures above. Most of the people holding signs or marching, have big smiles on their faces.
   We are happy science advocates.
   “Don’t be Fossil fooled”
   “Shut Up and Drink Your Lead!”
   A sign with Trump’s smiling face read: “Some People Just Want to Watch the World Burn,” a subtle reference to The Joker.
   I watched a television program recently wherein a man, maybe a fisherman, maybe a farmer, who’s livelihood depended on predictable sea levels.
   Which were rising.
   Yet he rejected the idea that man was responsible for global warming which was responsible for rising sea levels. 
   He believed that scientists who promoted the idea of global warming were making only educated guesses, and that they had a fifty / fifty chance of being wrong... or right.
   A lot of people think that way, especially when it’s to their advantage to do so. When their argument, or point of view is bolstered by scientific opinion, then science is great!
   When it opposes their argument or point of view then all of the sudden science is just somebody else’s opinion, and doesn’t mean anything.
   That is a fundamental misunderstanding of how science works.
   “Politicians Who Deny Science are Like Atoms... They Make Up Everything!”
    “Science Rules!”
   Science is nothing more than a self-correcting, three step process for finding out what is real and what is not.
    That’s all it is!
   It doesn’t rely on anybody’s opinion at all!
   “Keep It in the Ground!” This is a subtle reference concerning carbon based fossils that environmentalists want to stay in the earth rather than be released into the atmosphere thereby accelerating climate change.  
   “Peer Reviewed Science Matters!”
   That’s right! But that’s the last step.
   “Weather Has No Agenda!”
   “Capitalism Consumes, Socialism Shares”
   The first step in the “Scientific Method,” is to come up with an idea, which I call a hypothesis.
   See! Isn’t this fun!
   “Make No Mistake, the War on Science Affects You!”
   “Science is Not a Liberal Conspiracy”
   Okay, you’ve got your hypothesis, which is an idea. Your idea may be right, or it may be wrong in describing how something works, or natural phenomena. So where do we go from there?
   “Science Made Me a Cancer Surviver”
   “Science is Real! Alternative Facts are √1,”
   I'm told √1 is an imaginary number.   
   You test that idea! How? By experiment! You think of a way to test your idea with an experiment. It better be a pretty good and rigorous experiment because it’s going to be scrutinized by other people.
   “Stop Attacks Against the E.P.A.!”  
   An eight year old boy walked by me with a sign that read “Change the Politics, Not the Climate!”
   If your experiment confirms your idea or hypothesis, then you may be on to something. If it does not confirm your idea, if it disproves it, then you have to amend your idea or experiment, or give up on it altogether, no matter how much you are attached to that idea, or invested in it. If your idea is wrong then you have to change your idea. You have to go where the evidence takes you, not where you would like it to go.
   “Planet before Profits!”
   I saw a Skeptical Inquirer Booth, which is good. Critical thinking is a good thing.
   “Fund Science, not war!”
   “Fossil Fuel is Not Our Future!”
   “A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be” Albert Einstein
   See! big Al knew all about the scientific method!
   So if your idea is confirmed by experimentation then the last step is to put all of your evidence into a big box and give it to someone who works in the same field as you do, a friend or competitor, it doesn’t matter, and have them check it out. If they can’t repeat the same experiment that you performed and get the same results then you’re screwed! Your idea is probably not representative of how nature works, or some aspect of it.
   Then you can either have somebody else check it, or start all over again.
   This is called peer review.
   “May the Facts be With You”
   “No Intelligent Species Destroys Their Own habitat”
   “Ben Franklin, Scientist and Founding Father!”
   And that’s all science is! It makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean you tell me what about this simple method doesn’t make sense.
   Please. I really want to know.
   Still, this little three part method has changed the world and will continue to do so. Perhaps that is why some people are so afraid of it.
   “I’m Here for the π”
   Ha, ha, ha. I like that one.
   And this one: “Science, Because You can’t Just make This Shit Up!”
   “Science is in the Air!”
   “π is all of the Irrationality I need”
   “Save the Bees!”
   “Fuck Golf!”
   Several crazed science advocates attempted to take my spot beside the trash can, which I defended vigorously. Afterwards, I thanked myself for the foresight of learning Aikido,  Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu, knife throwing, and explosive ordnance when I was in the Woodcraft Rangers as a young boy.
   “Science is Fundamental”
   At 10:09am a nice lady, one of the marches organizers, came to the stage and spoke over the loudspeaker. She spoke briefly of the future of the environment and health care. She talked about vaccines, and the NIH facing 6 billion in budget cuts.
   “Facts are not partisan! Science deals in facts, not ideology!”
   She mentioned that the march was a 100% grassroots effort, and she thanked all of the volunteers.
   “Grab Them by the Data!”
   “Unlike the Trump Administration, Science is legitimate”
   There was a barrier blocking off the crowd from the corner of 5th and Olive. We were essentially trapped!
   I immediately imagined being hemmed in by deranged Trump storm troopers from the Dept of Homeland Security, mad right wing supporters of the president, and insane ICE agents, moving in from Hill St., surrounding and capturing us to be hauled off to Guantanamo Bay for interrogation, sexual harassment, and solitary confinement.
   Fortunately that did not happen.  
   We were probably photographed and tagged from satellites above though, controlled by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).
   “Change the Climate by Voting in 2018!”
   Farisa Morales, an astrophysicist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, spoke about the way that science helps to fulfill the idea of the "American dream," both by providing people with the opportunity to pursue their passions, and by producing concrete spinoff technologies that improve people's lives.
   Well, we’ve already discussed that, haven’t we.
   “As the daughter of unprivileged Mexican immigrants, I never imagined I would get involved with exploration beyond our atmosphere," she said. "But here I am, pioneering discoveries of planets beyond our solar system.
   As an active astrophysicist, I am here to tell you that the sky is not the limit," she continued. "When something is important, we need to raise our hand and say, 'Yes, I am here! I want scientific research to continue. I want to learn truths about nature, and my environment, in a self-correcting scientific way, because that is the American way.' Let science be in service of humankind."
   “ GOP is the Only Political party in the World to Deny Climate Change”
   “Heat Melting Ice is Not Just a Theory”
   “Ice has No Agenda, it Just Melts”
   “Let’s Make America Smart Again! Vote in 2018“
   Other speakers included celebrity seismologist Lucy Jones, billionaire climate change activist Tom Steyer and Oscar-nominated “Hidden Figures” screenwriter Allison Schroeder.
   I would watch “Hidden Figures,” later that evening and be inspired.
   The Trump Administration released a statement insisting his administration was committed to preserving the “awe-inspiring beauty” of America, while protecting jobs.
   “Rigorous science is critical to my administration’s efforts to achieve the twin goals of economic growth and environmental protection,” Trump said. “My administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of our environment and of environmental risks.
   As we do so, we should remember that rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.”
   Number one, you just know Trump didn’t write that himself as it’s coherent and to the point.
   It’s filled with lies of course.
   Yesterday Trump signed an executive order calling for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review national monuments created by Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama. These monuments were set aside as public land under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gives presidents the power to limit use of public land for historic, cultural, scientific or other reasons.  
   Why is he doing this?
   To open this land up for oil and gas exploitation.
   “Today on Earth Day, we celebrate our beautiful forests, lakes and land. We stand committed to preserving the natural beauty of our nation.” Trump tweeted on the day of the march. He is filled to the brim with bullshit.
   The television host Bill Maher tweeted this last Friday:
   "There is a #MarchForScience tomorrow. Republicans have a competing march for ignorance that's going on." – @BillMaher - 21 April 2017
    “Attacks on science don’t just hurt scientists, they hurt scientists’ ability to protect the people, and climate change epitomizes that,” said Dr Geoffrey Supran, an expert in renewable energy at Harvard University.
   “When politicians cater to fossil fuel interests by denying the basic realities of climate science and pursuing anti-science climate policy, they endanger the jobs, justice, and livelihoods of ordinary people everywhere.”
   “Not since Galileo was condemned by the Inquisition have science-deniers had such powerful friends,” said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Porter Ranch) at a rally before the march began at Pershing Square.
   Tom Steyer, president of the environmental advocacy organization NextGen Climate, was even more pointed.
   “There is a force coming out of Washington, D.C., called the Trump administration that is out to deny truth and bury science,” he said.
   The actor Jim Parsons from “The Big Bang Theory,” got up to speak. Unfortunately, for everyone, a sun demon dived down from the upper atmosphere, swooped him up, and carried him away.
   Everyone was suitably shocked.
   The march itself began just after 11:00. Like last week’s Tax March it would end at City Hall.
   We filed out of Pershing Square to Hill St. It took a real long time due to the amount of people involved.
   “Trump Report Card: Golfing C, Drama A, Science F”
   “Not a Paid Protestor”
   It was pretty straight forward.
   We walked north on Hill, Still slow moving.
    Former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman drove a battery-powered Hummer at the front of the march and discussed his concern for how well humans are taking care of the Earth.
   "I'm here because I'm a former astronaut, I'm a former scientist and I'm an engineer, but most importantly I'm a dad," Reisman told "I really want to make sure that my 6-year-old son has fresh air, that he has clean water to drink and … that we leave him a legacy of a livable planet. And I want him to grow up and be able to see coral reefs and glaciers, and all the things I was fortunate enough to do in my lifetime. And I'm afraid that we're messing that up.
   On my first mission, I looked out at the horizon and what I was really astounded by — what really left a much bigger impression on me than anything else I saw — was how thin the atmosphere was," he said. "When you look at that with your own eyes and you see this tiny, tiny, thin blue line which is all the air we have to breath — I mean it looks incredibly fragile. It looks like a gust of wind could come by and strip it away. It looks so incredibly tenuous. And it was terrifying [to see that].
   We think of the planet as this big, enormous thing but it's really mostly a big, dead rock," he said. "The part that sustains us is really much smaller than we believe. And … when you see it with your own eyes, you understand that we can mess it up. It's certainly within our capacity to harm it badly. And in fact we have been doing that for a while, and we have to stop that. This is our spaceship. That’s our life support system. We're the crew, and we really, really, really need to take care of our spaceship. Because if we just trash it, we're all in a lot of trouble."
   “Russia cannot Rig the Ozone Layer!”
   One person held up a sign with a picture of Carl Sagan via The Simpsons, with the following caption: “If it can be destroyed by the truth it deserves to be.”
   “There Are No Jobs On a Dead Planet”
   Marchers chanted “Science is the way to go, hey, hey, ho, ho!”
   The crowd opened up a bit as we passed 4th St. We continued north until 1st St, at which point we turned right, or east.
   “Without Science Federal Prisons Wouldn’t have cable T.V.”
   We made a left, or north on Spring to the steps of City hall.
   I sat down on a nearby sidewalk and ate a turkey and cheese sandwich I happened to have with me.
   “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.” Big Al Einstein
   Then I left.
   There would be more speakers at City hall, and a science expo back at Pershing Square at 1:30, but I was assured everyone could get by without me.
   Yesterday, April 26th at around 2am my time, Cassini began a series of dives into the space between Saturn and its  rings.
   After using a final flyby of Titan to boost its speed, the spacecraft was flung by the moon's gravity into a trajectory that sent it diving through the 1,200-mile (76,032,000 inches) gap between the planet's upper atmosphere and innermost rings.
   Cassini would would make 21 more dives between the rings and Saturn before delving into the dense atmosphere of the huge gas giant.
   It would continue to make measurements all of the way down.

Addendum: 5-1-17, Cassini finds "The Big Empty' close to Saturn
Addendum: 5-2-17,  Listen In! Saturn Probe Hit with Very Few Particles in Daring Dive
Addendum: 5-3-17, Movie shows Cassini's first dive over Saturn