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Let It Snow February 20, 2009

Posted by Mike Trudeau in Space, What?.
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Before I talk about China’s power to control the weather, I have an update on the space junk situation.
Nasa is currently considering if it will be safe enough to send the shuttle up for Service Mission 4 to the Hubble Telescope after the satellite collision earlier this week. Scientific American has some good speculation about ways of clearing the skies, and says that the mission will go ahead as long as there is seen to be less than a one-in-sixty chance of debris hitting the shuttle. Cosmic Variance bets that if the mission is cancelled, Nasa might try sending robots instead. I’m not so sure…why wouldn’t they have just sent robots in the first place?
They also link to a webcomic letter to the notorious Higgs Boson, which Large Hadron Collider hopes to find when it’s powered up later this year. Apparently the gloves are off and the Tevatron at Fermilab in the States is saying they’ve got a 50% chance of finding the Higgs first if the LHC can’t power up soon enough. Any bets?

In other news, China claims to have triggered a snowfall over Beijing by firing iodide sticks into the clouds. According to the Chinese Weather Modification Command Centre (I kid you not), the iodide sticks give below-freezing water droplets something to freeze around, resulting in snowfall. I get the impression that the effectiveness of this method hasn’t been proven yet…also, the press seems to be misrepresenting it a little bit because in order to create the snowfall, the moisture needs to already exist in the clouds. So, it looks like the drought might have been coming to an end anyway. There’s some funny video footage at the Times (Oh, communists!) and Reuters has an article about how the government had to close twelve highways due to the snow.
Here’s an interview with an expert at Scientific American, as well as this REALLY hokey youtube video where some babbling weatherman tries to explain it.

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