Little-known feature of the GPS constellation

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a constellation of twenty-one primary satellites, and three spares, in near-circular orbits 11,000 miles above the earth at an inclination of 55 degrees to its equator. While the satellites are best known for their role in allowing the precise location of individuals and objects, by 1995 they had been performing an important secondary mission for over a decade. Every GPS satellite since GPS-8, launched in 1983, had carried a Nuclear Detonation (NUDET) Detection System (NDS) package on board. The NDS includes x-ray and optical sensors, bhangmeters, electromagnetic pulse sensors, and a data-processing capability that can locate a nuclear explosion to within one hundred meters. Data is reported on a real-time basis directly to either AFTAC or ground stations at Diego Garcia, Kwajelein Atoll, Ascension Island, or Keana Point, Hawaii. See Jeffrey T. Richelson, The U.S. Intelligence Community, 4th Ed. (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1999), pp. 218-219.

Richelson, Jeffrey T. Spying on the Bomb: American Nuclear Intelligence from Nazi Germany to Iran and North Korea. W.W. Norton and Company; New York. 2007. p. 403-4 (paperback)

The Vela double flash

During the readout of Vela 6911, AFTEC personnel watched as a stylus drew a figure representing the variations in light intensity, as monitored by the two satellite bhangmeters. There was no data from a third optical sensor, whose mission was to provide the geographic origin of any noticeable flash of light, because it was out of commission. Nor would there be any reading from the satellite’s electromagnetic pulse sensors, which were no longer functioning. But what the technicians saw was sufficient cause for concern. The stylus drew a figure with a double hump, indicating a brief intense flash of light, a dramatic decline in intensity, and then a second, longer-lasting flash. Such double flashes had always been associated with nuclear detonations, where the fireball’s surface is rapidly overtaken by the expanding hydrodynamic shock wave, which acts as an optical shutter and hides the small but extremely hot and bright early fireball behind an opaque ionized shock front which is comparatively quite dim. The initial flash normally lasts only a millisecond and emits about only 1 percent of the total thermal energy, although it is the point of maximum intensity. It appeared that some nation or nations, in some part of the world covered by Vela 6911, had detonated a nuclear device in the atmosphere.

Richelson, Jeffrey T. Spying on the Bomb: American Nuclear Intelligence from Nazi Germany to Iran and North Korea. W.W. Norton and Company; New York. 2007. p. 285 (paperback)

Trudeau and Suzuki

Justin Trudeau apparently dislikes being reminded about the science of climate change and the implications for Canada’s bitumen sands:

The environmentalist advised Trudeau about accepting the internationally agreed target for a two-degree rise in global temperature means that 80 per cent of the oil sands would have to stay in the ground.

Suzuki said Trudeau didn’t take the criticism lightly and the conversation turned sour.

“He said: ‘I don’t have to listen to this sanctimonious crap.’ I proceeded to call him a twerp. But I realized that he’s playing politics.”

We are eventually going to need politicians who are willing to say that exploiting any significant portion of Canada’s remaining fossil fuel resources would have intolerable global consequences, and that it is simply unethical to proceed along that path. Even if you ignore ethics, the global community ultimately isn’t going to allow Canada to be a rogue carbon state, so major new investments in fossil fuel production will prove to be wasted.

Ultra-processed foods

New dietary guidance from the Heart and Stroke Foundation warns against “ultra-processed foods”, those that are “nutritionally unbalanced foods high in sugar, fat and salt manufactured in a way to promote over-consumption and are associated with weight gain and high blood pressure”. They include “soft drinks, packaged fruit juices, cookies, ice cream, salty snacks, ready meals and bottled sauces”.

With money tight and limited access to food storage and cooking facilities on campus, I have definitely been eating too much of this sort of stuff.

The machinations of the food and flavour industries are fairly disturbing: