Wacko Birds

John McCain is not too happy with Rand Paul’s filibuster, especially since it took attention away from his dinner with Barack Obama. Here is an article about it in the Washington Examiner.

Elder Sen. John McCain, who this week engaged in friendly fire when he launched his “maverick” missiles at fellow Republicans seeking clarification on the administration’s drone policies, has upped the ante, deriding Tea Party-backed GOP lawmakers as “wacko birds.”
McCain, who hit the Senate floor Thursday to belittle Sen. Rand Paul‘s filibuster, which succeeded in getting an answer from President Obama that drones won’t be used to kill Americans on U.S. soil, even suggested that the Kentucky senator and his allies, like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, don’t represent the GOP mainstream.

“It’s always the wacko birds on right and left that get the media megaphone,” McCain told Huffington Post’s Jon Ward in a story titled “John McCain: Getting Back To Maverick, With An Eye On Retirement.”

He added, “I think it can be harmful if there is a belief among the American people that those people are reflective of the views of the majority of Republicans. They’re not.”

Ward wrote: “I asked McCain to clarify who, specifically, he was talking about.”

McCain said, “Rand Paul, Cruz, Amash, whoever.”

Despite McCain’s view, several GOP leaders, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, praised Paul’s efforts. McConnell even said he was “proud” of Paul, further proof of a growing divide in the Senate Republican caucus.

Conservatives have expressed outrage at McCain’s hit on Paul, raising anew the charges in the 2008 presidential campaign that he is too much of a maverick for the GOP.

“He showed his true colors. He has now attacked Senator Cruz and Senator Paul for basically leading and keeping promises they made to their constituents not too mention their oath to uphold the Constitution,” said one activist.

But the clash also put on display the fight between the old bulls and the new turks for control of the party, other said.

So, who does reflect the views of the majority of Republicans? “Maverick” John McCain, who stabs his fellow Republicans anytime he thinks it will get him good coverage in the New York Times? If actually standing up for conservative principles instead of being defensive and apologetic makes one a “wacko bird”, than we need more wacko birds out there. Maybe the Republicans can start winning elections for a change.

Ion Propulsion

Improved designs in ion engines may be the ticket for making trips to the outer solar system quicker and more feasible both for unmanned probes and (I hope) manned spacecraft. I haven’t been keeping up with space exploration as much as I used to, so I am glad to find this article in Gizmag which explains a little about ion engines and how scientists have been making them better.

The phrase “engage the ion drive” still has the ring of a line from Star Wars, but these engines have been used in space missions for more than four decades and remain the subject of ongoing research. Ion engines have incredible fuel efficiency, but their low thrust requires very long operating times … and therein lies the rub. To date, erosion within such an engine seriously limits its operational lifetime. Now a group of researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has developed a new design that largely eliminates this erosion, opening the gates for higher thrust and more efficient drives for manned and unmanned missions to the reaches of the Solar System.

There are many varieties and more proposals (the VASMIR engine comes to mind), but the operating principle is quite simple. There are two basic styles of ion engines, electrostatic and electromagnetic.

An electrostatic ion engine works by ionizing a fuel (often xenon or argon gas) by knocking off an electron to make a positive ion. The positive ions then diffuse into a region between two charged grids that contain an electrostatic field. This accelerates the positive ions out of the engine and away from the spacecraft, thereby generating thrust. Finally, an neutralizer sprays electrons into the exhaust plume at a rate that keeps the spacecraft electrically neutral.

An electromagnetic ion engine also works by ionizing a fuel. In this case a plasma is created that carries current between the ionizing anode and a cathode. The current in turn generates a magnetic field at right angles to the electric field, and thereby accelerates the positive ions out of the engine via the Lorentz force – basically the same effect on which railguns are based. Again a neutralizer keeps the spacecraft electrically neutral.

There are many varieties and more proposals (the VASMIR engine comes to mind), but the operating principle is quite simple. There are two basic styles of ion engines, electrostatic and electromagnetic.

 

There is a lot more in the article.

Even Scotty would be impressed by this.

Though, what we really need is warp drive. Anyone doing research on that?