Google Parks Party Plane On NASA Runway

The Skinny is Keach Hagey's take on the top news of the day and the best of the Internet.


The story of how Google's founders got the right to use a NASA runway for their private jets - which began bubbling up from the blogosphere last week and finally hit the front page of the New York Times this morning - may seem to involve the common goals of two entities engaged in peering down on earth from above. (And indeed, that's the spin Google and NASA are giving the arrangement.)

But the Times suggests that the deal is more likely driven by more terrestrial concerns. Namely, the killer traffic between the suburbs where most Silicon Valley executives live and the San Francisco or San Jose airports where they keep their private planes.

Nestled between these two airports, only a few minutes' drive from Google's Mountainview, Calif. headquarters, is Moffett Field, a historic airport run by NASA that's generally closed to private aircraft.

Google and NASA's Ames Research Center signed a unique deal last month that allows the agency to "place scientific instruments and researchers on planes used by the Google founders." In exchange, Larry Page and Sergey Brin get to park their customized wide-body Boeing 767-200, as well as two other jets, on the federally managed airstrip for the low, low price of $1.3 million a year.

The extremely wealthy residents of the surrounding community, which has been powerful enough in the past to shut down any other talk of expanding the use of the airport, are fuming. Other execs are green with envy.

But the really big question must be where those "scientific instruments" are going to fit on the planes, which the Times says have been modified to include "California king-size beds" for the founders. The founders have reportedly also asked for hammocks to be hung from the ceiling. Eric Schmidt, Goggle's chief executive, described the jet as a "party airplane."

In Spite Of Her Vote For War, Clinton Appeals To Anti-War Voters

It seems Hillary Clinton's logical contortionism on the Iraq War has paid off. The Los Angeles Times reports that a plurality of Democratic primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina thought Clinton would be "the best at ending the war," even though she voted to approve it, according to a LA Times/Bloomberg poll.

The Times calls this a "paradox of the Democratic presidential nomination: Although a plurality of Democratic voters considers the Iraq war to be the most pressing issue facing candidates, the more hawkish Clinton has found a sweet spot in the debate."

Clinton won support for 36 percent of New Hampshire Democratic primary voters who said they wanted U.S. troops to be withdrawn "as soon as possible." By contrast, 14 of those voters backed Barack Obama and 12 percent favored John Edwards. Clinton also came out on top among those voters who supported a more gradual withdrawal.

The numbers were similar in South Carolina. In Iowa, where Clinton is essentially tied with Edwards, she still got 33 percent of the support from voters calling for immediate withdrawal, compared to Edwards 6 percent.

Analysts chalked up the mystery of Clinton's strength even among war opponents to "a perception that, as a senator and former first lady, she has the best experience to be president."

Several respondents told the Times that they supported her for reasons that trumped the war. However, the top two of these reasons - her husband and the idea of electing a woman to office -- are something of a paradox in themselves.

Oh By The Way, The Earth May Not Actually Be Doomed

Maybe it's just me, but I think it was just a bit myopic to have buried this news at the very back of the New York Times this morning: The earth may in fact survive the death of the sun.

Until now, scientists figured we were all going to be goners when, five billion years from now, our sun runs out of hydrogen fuel and swells temporarily more than 100 times in diameter, swallowing Mercury and Venus.

But astronomers published a story in Nature today announcing that they have discovered a planet that seems to have survived the puffing up of its home star. The planet's a gas giant about three times as massive as Jupiter. It orbits about 150 million miles from a faint star in Pegasus known as V 391 Pegasi. Before its star blew up, it was about as far from its star as Earth is from the Sun.

When doomsday finally comes to our solar system, scientists say earth's fate could really go either way - sucked into the sun's fireball or blown out to a safer, more distant orbit like the star in the study.

Mario Livio of the Space Telescope Science Institute explained our very existence is in a state of cosmic suspense. "Earth's fate is actually the most uncertain because it's at the borderline between being engulfed and surviving."

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  • Keach Hagey

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