14 May 2010


OIL SPILL. So why does it come as no surprise that the current Gulf of Mexico oil debacle, orchestrated by the geniuses who run British Petroleum, is turning into not merely an environmental train wreck, but also a political melodrama complete with corruption and ineptitude? On the corruption side, the Minerals Management Service routinely overruled its own staff biologists and engineers, not to mention Federal law, by allowing BP and dozens of other oil companies to drill in the Gulf of Mexico without first acquiring permits from an agency that assesses the threat to endangered species. Do I smell large sume of money changing hands? Trips to the Bahamas for MMS officials, perhaps? Or is that just the stench of crude oil being spewed into the Gulf from a monumentally bungled drilling operation?

Speaking of spewing, it turns out (on the ineptitude side, or is it the CYA side) that estimates of the size of the oil leak by both BP and government officials were wildly inaccurate. Their figure of 5000 barrels per day grossly underestimates the actual flow, according to both oceanographers and environmental groups. (For reference, a barrel of crude oil holds 42 gallons.) Those same oceanographers and environmental groups have made themselves available for consultation ever since the initial April 20 explosion which released the leak, but have not been approached for advice. Is it just me, or does it seem like we should be gathering all the information we possibly can, when the subsurface oil reservoir now gushing out of control holds at least 50 million barrels of oil?

David Letterman has suggested (sarcastically) that we simply drain all the water from the Gulf and allow it to fill with oil. Anyone who needs an oil change can simply drive to the beach.

MONSTER AIRPLANE. In one of those viral urban myths that take on a life of their own on the Internet, photos of the Kalinin K-7, an experimental aircraft developed by the Soviet Union in the 1930s are making the rounds. The actual plane (see image above) was 91 feet long with a 173 foot wingspan, and was designed primarily for carrying passengers within the capacious airfoil itself, even though the bus-sized landing gear were said to house machine guns.
In the urban legend (see image below, click to enlarge), the craft bristles with a wild assortment of cannons and machine guns. Aerodynamically speaking, the weight of the ammunition alone would have been prohibitive, since the plane was constructed of heavy steel and had poor handling characteristics -- essentially flying like a brick. Proof lies in the fact that the prototype crashed on its second flight, due to structural failure of one of its twin tail booms.

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