Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Short Takes

Negotiations are going on to try to keep the Syrian ceasefire going.

Two suicide bombs in Iraq killed over thirty people.

Feds foil plot to bomb synagogue in Aventura, a suburb of Miami.

U.S. cruise ship arrives in Havana for the first time in more than fifty years.

Telescope spots three Earth-sized planets orbiting ultracool dwarf star.

The Tigers had the night off.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Making Cosmic Waves

This is amazing.

A team of scientists announced on Thursday that they had heard and recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light-years away, a fleeting chirp that fulfilled the last prediction of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

That faint rising tone, physicists say, is the first direct evidence of gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago. (Listen to it here.) It completes his vision of a universe in which space and time are interwoven and dynamic, able to stretch, shrink and jiggle. And it is a ringing confirmation of the nature of black holes, the bottomless gravitational pits from which not even light can escape, which were the most foreboding (and unwelcome) part of his theory.

More generally, it means that a century of innovation, testing, questioning and plain hard work after Einstein imagined it on paper, scientists have finally tapped into the deepest register of physical reality, where the weirdest and wildest implications of Einstein’s universe become manifest.

Conveyed by these gravitational waves, power 50 times greater than the output of all the stars in the universe combined vibrated a pair of L-shaped antennas in Washington State and Louisiana known as LIGO on Sept. 14.

If replicated by future experiments, that simple chirp, which rose to the note of middle C before abruptly stopping, seems destined to take its place among the great sound bites of science, ranking with Alexander Graham Bell’s “Mr. Watson — come here” and Sputnik’s first beeps from orbit.

“We are all over the moon and back,” said Gabriela González of Louisiana State University, a spokeswoman for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, short for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. “Einstein would be very happy, I think.”

Members of the LIGO group, a worldwide team of scientists, along with scientists from a European team known as the Virgo Collaboration, published a report in Physical Review Letters on Thursday with more than 1,000 authors.

“I think this will be one of the major breakthroughs in physics for a long time,” said Szabolcs Marka, a Columbia University professor who is one of the LIGO scientists.

“Everything else in astronomy is like the eye,” he said, referring to the panoply of telescopes that have given stargazers access to more and more of the electromagnetic spectrum and the ability to peer deeper and deeper into space and time. “Finally, astronomy grew ears. We never had ears before.”

From Close Encounters of the Third Kind after the aliens return people who haven’t aged after being gone thirty years:

Scientist 1: Einstein WAS right!

Team Leader: Einstein was PROBABLY one of them!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Short Takes

France and Belgium tighten security measures and restrict civil liberties in response to the Paris attacks.

Veto bait: The House voted a bill to restrict admission to Syrian and Indonesian refugees.

Mexican immigration to the U.S. is actually in the negative; more are leaving than arriving.

Protesters and city leaders plead for calm in Minneapolis in the wake of another unarmed black person killed by police.

Catch of the Day: GMO salmon is approved by the FDA.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Short Takes

Russian missiles bound for Syria landed in Iran.  Oops.

The CEO of VW of America got grilled by Congress.

Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize for Literature; a first for non-fiction.

Researchers believe they found the gay gene.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter suspended for 90 days.

R.I.P. Paul Prudhomme, 75, celebrity chef who popularized Cajun cooking.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Short Takes

President Obama apologized to MSF and Afghanistan for the attack on the hospital in Kunduz.

U.S., Russian aircraft have close encounter over Syria.

Coast Guard ends the search for missing ship lost in Hurricane Joaquin.

Hillary Clinton came out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Floods still endanger South Carolina coastal towns.

Nobel Prize for chemistry goes to three for DNA repair.

R.I.P. Kevin Corcoran, 66, actor known as “Moochie” in Disney films.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Short Takes

President Obama says U.S. will accept 10,000 Syrian refugees.

Senate Democrats block GOP attempt to scuttle Iran nuclear deal.

Feds and Duke Energy reach settlement of pollution from coal-fired plants.

New species of human ancestor discovered in South Africa.

Tropical Update: TS Henri heads for Newfoundland.

The Tigers lost 7-5 in Cleveland.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Phoned Home

New Horizons called and said “Made it!”

After a long day celebrating the arrival of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft at Pluto and wondering about its fate while it was out of radio contact, mission controllers finally received confirmation Tuesday night that the spacecraft had performed its scientific tasks.

On schedule, at 8:52:37 p.m. Eastern time, a message from the spacecraft arrived at Mission Control here at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

“We are in lock with carrier,” said Alice Bowman, the missions operations manager. “Stand by for telemetry.”

And a few moments later, when she confirmed that data was coming down, cheers erupted on Tuesday for the second time.

Yay!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Far Encounter

Today is the day that the New Horizons spacecraft will pass by Pluto.

New Horizons Trajectory 07-14-15

It’s worth noting, that when Pluto was first discovered, we had no idea what it was really like and speculations ran wild. We still don’t know a lot about it, but we’re already discovering exciting things like the chaotic shapes and orbits of its moons, there’s nitrogen at its north pole, and it’s bigger than we thought.

All seven instruments aboard New Horizons will be actively collecting data during the flyby, but we won’t hear anything from the spacecraft about its encounter until just before 9:00 p.m. ET. This is because New Horizons can’t take and send data back simultaneously. So in order to learn as much as possible about Pluto and its moons, the spacecraft will focus solely on the flyby for a period of 24 hours (tonight through tomorrow night).

“Following closest approach, on Wednesday and Thursday, July 15 and 16, there will be a series of “First Look” downlinks containing a sampling of key science data. Another batch of data will arrive in the “Early High Priority” downlinks over the subsequent weekend, July 17-20. Then there will be a hiatus of 8 weeks before New Horizons turns to systematically downlinking all its data.” – Emily Lakdawalla

Within that 24 hour period, the images New Horizons captures of Pluto will go from having a resolution of 15 km/pixel to 100 m/pixel. So get ready to hold on to your hats when those images start coming in.

It will take months for all the data to come in, so this will be a gift that keeps on giving.  And then it’s heading out, following the Voyagers into the rest of the universe.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Short Takes

U.S. airstrikes in Libya go after leader of Algerian attack.

Marriage equality comes to Mexico.

Comet lander wakes up after hibernation.

United Airlines passengers get an unscheduled stop in Canada for 20 hours.

Tropical Update: Invest 91L could head towards the Texas Gulf Coast.

The Tigers beat Cleveland 8-1.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Monday, April 6, 2015

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Whole New World

Thanks to the Hubble telescope, scientists are finding more potentially habitable planets outside of the solar system.

WASHINGTON—Calling it an unprecedented finding that fundamentally reshapes how humankind views its place in the universe, astronomers from NASA announced Wednesday the discovery of a planet that makes Earth look like absolute shit.

The space agency’s researchers told the media that the recently identified planet, HD 904790 b, wipes the floor with Earth in every possible way, pointing to the celestial body’s larger size, unblemished terrestrial surface, diverse and verdant landforms, and abundance of natural resources, all of which indicate that Earth is a festering pile of garbage in comparison.

“This is a thrilling and scientifically vital discovery that has substantially furthered our understanding of how much Earth truly sucks,” said lead researcher Lisa Shapiro, emphasizing that Earth appears to be “straight-up dogshit” when contrasted with HD 904790 b’s exceptional terrain and climate. “Just taking into account this new planet’s flawless spherical shape, not to mention its pristine atmosphere free of methane and other toxic gases, reveals that our home world is pretty fucking pathetic when it comes down to it.”

“HD 904790 b has an extensive ring system that dwarfs Saturn’s, zero tectonic plate activity, and more fresh water in just one of its massive, unpolluted oceans than we have on our entire worthless shitstain of a planet,” she continued. “God, it makes me angry just to think of how much nicer it is there.”

Can we go there now?  Please?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Short Takes

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report will be released today.

A huge fire burned down an apartment complex under construction in L.A.

Ron Klain, the Ebola czar, is done with his job.

The White House says it “does not regret” the failed raid in to rescue the hostages in Yemen.

The Mars rover found evidence of large lakes and mountains on the red planet.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Why I’m A Dog Person

I don’t have any pets now — except my stuffed animals — but when I did, I preferred having a dog.  Why?  Because I never felt as if Sam was plotting to kill me.

Madam 07-24-14House cats often appear aloof and indifferent toward their human companions. But it’s not just an act — they actually don’t care. A recent study of the domestic cat genome reveals why.

Scientists from the Genome Institute at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis sequenced the first house cat reference genome, and discovered that house cats may not be that genetically different from wild cats. This may explain why house cats seem to ignore their human companions and instead behave like they have their own agenda. Maybe they’re acting like wild cats.

Generally house cats are quite adept at hunting, sharing many of the same genetic traits that make wild cats such effective predators. The genetic adaptations highlighted in the study indicate that house cats still retain many of the characteristics of wild cats, including acute vision, fast reflexes, and an innate desire for murder. Many of the behaviors house cats engage in are thought to be predator learning behaviors – pouncing, kicking with the hind limbs, and chasing prey (laser pointers) and can be seen in wild cats.

These behaviors emerge in house cats within the first 52 days of life before any prey is encountered. This supports evidence of a strong genetic link between house cats and wild cats. Even if given sufficient food, house cats will still pursue prey — though they won’t eat it.

[…]

Cats retain more similarities to their wild counterparts than dogs do. The domestication process in cats more than likely started with increased docility, making it easier for cats to interact with humans. These changes would have been a result of ‘self-domestication’, where animals selectively breed to encourage or discourage traits.

Interestingly this is somewhat similar to early genetic modifications in dogs. Some of the first genetic changes in dogs were thought to involve reduced hostility and changes in social cognition. Evolutionarily speaking, cats may still be early in the domestication process — especially when compared to dogs. Over time, as the domestication process continues, it would not be unreasonable to expect cats to become more like dogs.

I wasn’t going to wait for evolution to take its course.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Spacial Delivery

The truth is out there…

The Philae lander has detected organic molecules on the surface of its comet, scientists have confirmed.

Carbon-containing “organics” are the basis of life on Earth and may give clues to chemical ingredients delivered to our planet early in its history.

The compounds were picked up by a German-built instrument designed to “sniff” the comet’s thin atmosphere.

So that’s how we got here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Short Takes

Big banks face new round of charges from Justice Department.

Nobel in medicine goes to brain reserachers.

Nurse in Spain infected with Ebola.

Arrest made in Miami shooting that left 15 injured.

Kid brings over 400 bags of heroin to daycare.

R.I.P. Marian Seldes, stage star, and Geoffrey Holder, actor/dancer.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Short Takes

Secret Service chief Julia Pierson resigns over security lapses.

Beijing warns Hong Kong of “chaos” from protests.

Questions arise over initial response to Ebola patient in Texas.

Guilty verdict in trial of Florida man in shooting of an unarmed man over loud music.

New Moon — Image forces change in theory of the moon’s formation.

The Tigers take on Baltimore in the opening game of the ALDS tonight.

Monday, September 22, 2014