Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Short Takes – 2-20-24

Toxic Brucine-Laced Letters Spark Alarm in Brussels Government Offices. BNNBreaking.com article. Purple prose lives. Pull quote: “The day unfolded with an ordinary rhythm until the ordinary turned ominous. Employees at the Palais de Justice, among Brussels' most iconic buildings, were the first to encounter the hazardous letters. Their discovery prompted an immediate response, drawing in specialists to contend with the potential danger. As the news spread, similar findings were reported at the office of Belgium's Justice Minister and the State Security Building. Each letter carried the same deadly cargo: brucine, a white powder known for its toxicity. The substance, dangerous when ingested, became the centerpiece of a mystery that had law enforcement and the public on edge. Despite the alarm, authorities were quick to clarify that skin contact with brucine posed no immediate danger, a small relief amidst the growing concern.”

Giant, invasive Joro spiders with 6-foot webs could be poised to take over US cities, scientists warn. LiveScience.com article. Click-bait title, but interesting. Pull quote: “It is unclear what long-term effects Jorō spiders will have on the ecosystems they invade. Last year, researchers revealed that the spiders are unusually shy and non-aggressive toward other spiders. However, without a natural predator seeking them out, their numbers will likely continue to rise, which could help them outcompete other species for resources.”

Can Astronomers Use Radar to Spot a Cataclysmic Asteroid? NewsWise.com article. Pull quote: “How does ground-based astronomical radar expand our understanding of the Universe? By allowing us to study our nearby Solar System, and everything in it, in unprecedented detail. Radar can reveal the surface and ancient geology of planets and their moons, letting us trace their evolution. It can also determine the location, size, and speed of potentially hazardous Near Earth Objects, like comets or asteroids. Advances in astronomical radar are opening new avenues, renewed investment, and interest in joint industry and scientific community collaborations as a multidisciplinary venture.”

Russia Threatens Moldova With ‘Military Scenario’ Over Transnistria. BalkanInsight.com article. Pull quote: “Meanwhile, the Institute for the Study of War, ISW, a US non-profit, has issued an analysis that says the Kremlin is preparing a hybrid operation in Moldova, similar to the one it used before its invasions of Ukraine in 2014 and in 2022, which could justify a possible escalation of the conflict in the region.”

Chemical Plants, Terrorism and Regulations May Be Back on the Agenda. SEJ.org article. Pull quote: ““These companies can reduce their holding or change the concentrations or opt for a safer alternative and get out of the regulatory system,” Murray said. “When CFATS was in operation, we had conversations every day about this, but we left it to the companies to make those decisions.””

Assessing the Need for New Regulatory Standards for Automatic and Remote-Control Shutoff Valves on Existing Liquid and Gas Transmission Pipelines. NationalAcadamies.org press release. Pull quote: “The report says the varying conditions and circumstances of existing pipeline systems mean that retroactive installations of rupture mitigation valves can differ greatly in feasibility, complexity, cost, and the benefits they confer. For these reasons, a broad-based requirement for rupture mitigation valves on existing pipelines is not currently advisable. The report offers recommendations for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Agency aimed at bolstering the use of quantitative models for evaluating risk, improving integrity management and verification processes, and increasing the body of technical guidance for industry.” Ensuring Timely Pipeline Shutdowns in Emergencies: When to Install Rupture Mitigation Valves

Starliner’s first crewed test flight a step closer after crucial upgrade. DigitalTrends.com article. Pull quote: ““Data analysis shows the two-parachute test … was a success, and all test objectives were met, clearing the way for the Crew Flight Test,” Boeing Space said in a post on social media, adding that the enhanced parachute design “improves the system’s soft links, reinforces its main parachute suspension, and strengthens its radial line,” compared to the previous iteration.”

The search for extraterrestrial life is targeting Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. TechnologyReview.com article. Pull quote: “Pappalardo has been at the forefront of efforts to send a craft to Europa for more than two decades. Now his hope is finally coming to fruition: later this year, NASA plans to launch Europa Clipper, the largest-­ever craft designed to visit another planet. The $5 billion mission, scheduled to reach Jupiter in 2030, will spend four years analyzing this moon to determine whether it could support life. It will be joined after two years by the European Space Agency’s Juice, which launched last year and is similarly designed to look for habitable conditions, not only on Europa but also on other mysterious Jovian moons.”

FCC Proposes Licensing Framework or In-Space Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing Operations. FCC.gov press release. ISAM refers to a set of capabilities used on-orbit, on the surface of space objects and celestial bodies, and in transit. The “servicing” aspect of ISAM includes activities such as the in-space inspection, life extension, repair, refueling, or alteration of a spacecraft after its initial launch. The term “servicing” is also used to describe transport of a spacecraft from one orbit to another, as well as debris collection and removal. “Assembly” refers to the on-orbit construction of a space system using pre-manufactured components, and “manufacturing” is the transformation of raw or recycled materials into components, products, or infrastructure in space.” FCC NPRM.

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