X-planes have been the proving ground for innovative flight tech. From the first plane to break the sound barrier to high altitude, long endurance (HALE) tests, the 56 planes spanning nearly 60 years have captured the imaginations of aviation enthusiasts.
How the atom bomb shaped the Silver Age of comics.
I wrote this piece for The Appendix about the ways the atomic transformations of Silver Age Marvel heroes both reflected the scientific concerns of the time and turned the heroes into powerful atomic weapons.
Meet the first human-related species to be identified with more than fossil records.
My first piece for The Atlantic ran this morning. It’s about the Denisovans, a human cousin who lived alongside us in east and southeast Asia, and interbred with some Homo sapien populations. The fossil record is scant — two molars and a pinky toe — but we pieced together its lineage through DNA, and found a few more mysteries along the way.
Tiny skeleton from Indonesia’s Flores island is unique ancient species, insist researchers
I guess we’re learning to take any disputed news about the Homo floresiensis with a grain of salt. It seems that the many explanations offered over the years for it NOT being a new species originate with Kenneth Hsu, a geologist with no evolutionary training who happens to be a well known, oft-citedcreationist, and an adovocate for non-anthropogenic climate change. He’s the author of The Great Dying, which ties the death of dinosaurs in with a refutation of survival of the fittest in blatantly unscientific ways. So of course someone like that would want to deny that a species distantly related to humans (possibly a branching off of Homo erectus) would want to work to disprove it as another species.
Webster Cash’s Aragoscope would allow astronomers glimpses of faraway stars and galaxies in unprecedented resolution.
This is a really cool project. The number of stars we’ve resolved is small. If all goes according to plan with this (and it gets built) we could resolve stars and event horizons of black holes. That’s pretty great.
Stop. Just stop. There were specific reasons the IAU reclassified Pluto as a dwarf planet as opposed to a planet. This article, which keeps getting punted around the Internet as some grand new revelation: 1) fails to cite any concrete study, 2) lists reasons not exactly in line with the demarcating line between planet / dwarf planet, and 3) misrepresents some of the findings.
Let’s take apart this “article” that’s more “thought exercise” than “journalism.” Which is not to say it SHOULDN’T be written or said, but rather that it shouldn’t be misrepresented on the Internet as any formation of new facts. Which, as I’ve seen, it has been.
Poor little Pluto. In 2006 astronomers ganged up on it and voted to strip it of its planethood—but other astronomers signed a petition saying they’d ignore that vote.
Ganged up means “found at least four other objects that, while somewhat smaller, held similar characteristics to Pluto.”
Now Pluto itself seems to be fighting back. Thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope, we’ve learned that Pluto has at least five moons—pretty impressive for something that’s supposedly not a planet.
It’s fantastically fascinating that Pluto has five planets. It’s a record, so far as we know, for terrestrial worlds. Earth and Mars have moons. Venus and Mercury do not. But Pluto has five moons! That’s neat.
But the size of those moons is quite quant. The largest, Charon, has an estimated diameter of 1,205 km. The next largest, Hydra, drops to a diameter of 114 km. The smallest, Styx, has an estimated diameter of just 10 to 25 km. It’s slightly smaller than either Martian satellite, the probable captured asteroids Deimos and Phobos.
Now, another thing to keep in mind: the center of mass for the orbits is outside of Pluto. Charon is about half the size of Pluto, while the Moon is roughly a quarter the size of Earth. The center of mass for our system is within the mantle of the Earth. For Pluto and Charon, the center of mass is outside the either planet, rotating at a common point in the space between. The other satellites similarly orbit at the center of mass rather than AROUND Pluto. You could possibly, with some New Horizons data, make a case for a Pluto-Charon system wherein two dwarf planets rotate around each other, and the other satellites revolve around the system. A sort of icy Tatooine.
But it’s not the only dwarf planet system to have moons! Haumea, an egg shaped oddity in the distant Kuiper Belt, has two known moons.
Also, if having a moon or moons makes a dwarf or minor planet a candidate for full planetary status, consider 243 Ida. Its radius is a paltry 15 km, but it has a 1.4 km moon, Dactyl. It wouldn’t make it as a dwarf planet - it’s far too small and doesn’t achieve hydrostatic equilibrium. But it has a moon! Other small asteroids have objects in orbit around them. It’s how gravity works.
And new research suggests Pluto is just what we were taught long ago: the largest world orbiting the sun beyond Neptune.
In 2005 astronomers discovered Pluto’s greatest rival, Eris. It’s three times farther from the sun than Pluto. And Eris was thought to be bigger than Pluto, too. But that initial estimate may have been wrong.
Other astronomers have now analyzed methane in Pluto’s air. Yup, Pluto has an atmosphere—again, pretty impressive for something that’s supposedly not a planet—and the methane suggests Pluto is about 1,471 miles across, versus just 1,445 miles across for Eris. The new study appears in the journal Icarus. [Emmanuel Lellouch et al, Exploring the spatial, temporal, and vertical distribution of methane in Pluto’s atmosphere]
Largest known trans-Neptunian object, not the largest. We’ve only recently begun to accumulate evidence of trans-Neptunian objects, and have a small fraction of the likely-total catalog. While a WISE survey found no planetary mass bodies larger than Neptune in the Kuiper Belt, the possibility remains open for Mars sized bodies there, or Earth-to-Neptune sized bodies in the Oort Cloud, especially after the announcement of the dwarf planet candidate VP113, a.k.a. Biden. The dwarf planet candidate is small, just 465 km in diameter, but it hints at a possible Neptune sized body far, far out into the solar system. Possibly.
Also, the atmosphere of Pluto is a wisp of an atmosphere essentially made up of methane and water vapor. This isn’t, again, to discount the fascination with Pluto having an atmosphere, but Titan, a moon beyond debate, has a much thicker methane atmosphere.
We’ll find out its exact diameter in July 2015, when NASA’s first spacecraft to Pluto zips by. It’ll take lots of pictures, probably find more moons and hopefully tell us whether Pluto is indeed the king of the underworld—I mean, of the solar system beyond Neptune.
The exact calculations of its diameter likely wouldn’t thrust it back into planetary terrain. Pluto is still smaller than all the Galilean moons, our own moon, Titan and Neptune’s moon Triton. Triton, with a similar composition to Pluto, is likely a captured Kuiper Belt Object, much like Pluto.
New Horizons is sure to make some fascinating discoveries, giving us our first glimpses of the mysterious outer member of our solar system. It may discover an extensive mix of water and methane ice, more moons and features we couldn’t have predicted. But what it won’t discover is a world ready to be termed a “planet” again. That is in the realm of fantasists unwilling to accept the 2006 demotion.
Let Pluto be what it is: a fascinating dwarf planet that we have the opportunity to see up close in the next year, shedding light on a vast region beyond Neptune little understood.
In the few days since Craig Ferguson announced his departure from CBS’ The Late Late Show, a host of candidates have been suggested as possible replacements. CBS insists it’s not thinking about who will take over for Ferguson yet, while candidates like Aisha Tyler, John Hodgman, and Amy Schumer have
I hope I’m not alone in thinking that Norm Macdonald is a know-it-all jerk who defaults to juvenile humor. He’s said a lot of really problematic things like this about the Brandon Teena murder:
"In Nebraska, a man was sentenced for killing a female crossdresser [sic] who had accused him of rape and two of her friends. Excuse me if this sounds harsh, but in my mind, they all deserved to die."
Just as “integral” to his schtick on “Weekend Update” were a constant harping on black public figures like Marion Berry, OJ and Michael Jackson, who he constantly referred to as a “homosexual pedophile.” Which like, yes we get it. These people did not do very good things, but it was a repetitive animosity he exhibited toward them as part of his schtick was an odd fixation. His constant white targets aimed more at mediocrity: Frank Stallone and David Hasselhoff.
He ranted on and on about sex workers, stretching it from his “Weekend Update” schtick into Dirty Work, where of course they were racialized as Vietnamese prostitutes.
It’s all been juvenile humor at best, and he’s exhibited the sort of smart-ass personality that you later realized isn’t as funny when you view who he’s aiming at. It’s not that there wasn’t reason to joke in the public sphere about the transgressions of the time. Marion Berry, the mayor of our nation’s capital, was found smoking crack. OJ trial jokes were ubiquitous and unavoidable. Michael Jackson was all over the headlines. But it’s the way he zeroed in that reflected a reactionary undercurrent that, years later, you realize he wasn’t an irreverent comedian so much as a jerk with iffy politics.
I understand when, after a high in the 90s followed by a career mostly hocking marginal car insurance, you might want to drum up support for a bigger and better job. But Norm Macdonald’s career is not one in need of a renaissance.
I’m watching “Cosmos” with orbital-decay and we were thinking that, when the original came out, we didn’t know Pluto had four moons or a group of bodies just like it out there in the Kuiper Belt. We didn’t know there were other planets beyond our solar system yet. We didn’t know that there might be life on Europa, Enceladus or Ceres. We didn’t know the extent of water on Mars. We had never had a Hubble telescope.
By the time this “Cosmos” wraps up, we will still have more news out of the Kepler data, five to ten instances of the next earth like planet yet. A series of massive land based telescopes will give us unprecedented views of other stars and let us directly image exoplanets, something we’ve done fewer than a dozen times. James Webb Telescope will put Hubble to shame.
Basically, if we revisit “Cosmos” in 30+ years again, our understanding will have drastically changed again. If we even bother to still use TV at that point.
If you’ve been to a music festival in the last few years, you’ve probably noticed young, white people parading around in traditional Native American headdresses. It is a gross bit of cultural appropriation. Because the drummer for the Flaming Lips thought so, he was kicked out of the band after 12 years, in a controversy that involves the daughter of Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin.
I hate finding out what a waste Wayne Coyne has (publicly) become. I mean, the Erykah Badu thing, was step one in finding out about his awfulness, and here’s another chapter in that. It’s so strange to read about considering the role the Flaming Lips played during college for me. Hearing he laughed at protestors is disheartening to me.
I couldn’t help but notice something in this article. When they posted a picture of Mr. Cool DC Bro here with musician Dan Deacon, Dan Deacon (probably rightly) asked them to clarify that despite the looks of the picture, he was not, nor had he ever been, friends with Scott Greenberg, the new face of GOP astroturfing by appealing to the hip, young, edgy crowd. Which in and of itself reminds me of the joke on The Simpsons about cartoons trying to appeal to Gen-Xers, or maybe something closer to poochy.
But I digress. In Deacon’s clarification, via his manager Susan Busch, is this tidbit at the end:
Scott had Dan listed, with many many other bands he’s interviewed, as a client on his CV but removed his name upon request.
Now, there are a lot of ways to interpret “client.” As a freelancer, most of the time I go with “people I have written articles or other copy for” or occasionally, other projects I take on. Website migration, database research. Because that’s what most people would do, theoretically.
Now, I’ll try to give Greenberg a benefit of the doubt, as he appears to have some PR experience. However, there’s a difference between, say, having a consistent band or artist you work with on a contract basis creating press materials for, and someone you interviewed for Paste Magazine. The difference is huge.
Because an interviewee is not a client, and an article is not an endorsement. When I write about space technology for Popular Mechanics, I don’t think of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a client suddenly. Because I’m not reporting for them. I’m reporting about them. In no way has this created a client-contractor relationship. While lines between media coverage and PR may have been blurred with the rise of online media, surely it hasn’t obscured that far. I interviewed Ian MacKaye for Hear Nebraska. A 45 minute call talking about Fugazi playing in Lincoln 20 years ago didn’t suddenly create a rapport with him, nor constitute him being a client for me.
Let’s say, at some point, that Greenberg actually DID write a press release for Deacon, in fact creating that kind of relationship. 1) It was likely through the intermediary of a firm he was working for, and 2) if he was providing that same client with both press coverage and press promotion, that’s a big red conflict of interest flag.
So either he’s crappy at recognizing what does and does not constitute a client relationship, or he’s crappy at recognizing the line between journalism and PR. Either way, this is idiotic.
In 2003, I went to a Buzzcocks concert to review it for my campus newspaper. I asked the manager if I could interview them, he shut me down. Somehow, I got to talking to their then-bass player (Tony Barber, far from the original) and he was really awesome and said yes to the interview, whereupon he invited me to talk on the bus where it was quieter.
An interview with a non-original member of a band I love turned into an interview with the entire band, Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle included. As a bright-eyed 19 year old, the end of my for-the-age professional interview became my squeaking fandom moment. This is a bit of paraphrasing, because this is 11 years ago.
"So, umm, as a fan, I just have to ask: are you guys going to play ‘Why Can’t I Touch It?’"
Pete Shelley laughed, saying that they can’t play it anymore because he just can’t hit those notes. So I was a little disappointed, but who can blame the guy?
The band takes the stage of Omaha’s Ranch Bowl, a bowling alley backroom. They play a pretty fantastic set. They come back for an encore. The last song (I probably have the set-list buried somewhere in an old notebook, but don’t remember the song at the moment) slows down into a jam as the band sort of plays their way off the stage.
Then, the last few notes were the rhythm lines of “Why Can’t I Touch It?”
Hi all! My friend Laura and I are launching this blog, Sabbathing the Sabbath, wherein we’re doing a song by song analysis of the Black Sabbath catalog.
The entire Black Sabbath catalog.
We’re trying to post a song roughly every Sunday, and hopefully a bit more (maybe we could shoot for Friday at sundown too, for the Jewish Heshers out there.) But anyway, follow along. Especially when the going gets tough and we get to the real catalog dreck. (See also: Technical Ecstacy, Never Say Die, Seventh Star, Tyr, Forbidden.)
Because of the exorbitant cost, only a handful of missions—including the Apollo moon landings—have returned samples of extraterrestrial material to Earth. One scientist wants to change that with an idea for a spacecraft that could grab material
One proposal that recently won funding for NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Program: an idea to build a Super Ball Bot that could bound across the surface of another world, going where rovers fear to tread.
Kepler-76b is about 25 percent bigger than Jupiter and twice as massive. It orbits so close to its star that it goes around in 1.5 days. But what’s truly curious about this exoplanet is the way scientists found it. Their method is called BEER, or beaming,
I’m living a vicarious childhood dream: talking to someone who discovered a planet.