The Watering Hole, Monday, September 29th, 2014: Intelligent Life…Please?

Although I’ve only been back online since the beginning of the weekend (my home computer crashed early last week, and access from the office was hit-or-miss, too), my search for intelligent life in American politics found little. So for today’s post I’m turning to the infinite wonder and majesty of “space, the final frontier”, in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, there could be a civilization out there that isn’t aiming to destroy itself through its own arrogant stupidity.

The following are just a few of the more recent Hubble Deep-Space images from a photo gallery that I found at space.com:

"All-sky-view of Magellanic Stream"

“All-sky-view of Magellanic Stream”

"A Selection of Hubble's planetary nebulae"

“A Selection of Hubble’s planetary nebulae”

"...two galaxies interacting. NGC 2936, once a standard spiral galaxy, and NGC 2937, a smaller elliptical, bear a striking resemblance to a penguin guarding its egg."

“…two galaxies interacting. NGC 2936, once a standard spiral galaxy, and NGC 2937, a smaller elliptical, bear a striking resemblance to a penguin guarding its egg.”

This is our daily open thread – feel free to discuss intelligence, life, whatever you want.

The Watering Hole, Monday, June 9th, 2014: Thank you, Carl Sagan

Illustration by Kate Gabrielle

Illustration by Kate Gabrielle


earth_moon

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space
carl sagan_cosmos25_02

And thank you, Neil deGrasse Tyson, for bringing Carl Sagan’s Cosmos back to life.

from Cosmos Season 1 Finale

from Cosmos Season 1 Finale

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 5th, 2014: Hubble, 24 and Going Strong

Last Thursday marked the 24th year in space for the Hubble telescope. After its inauspicious start, when it became obvious from the blurry images sent back that something was wrong with the telescope’s huge mirror, who’d have thought that we’d eventually be treated to beautiful and breathtaking images of star nurseries, a huge variety of nebulae, and glorious galaxies. The Weather Channel has a photo gallery of the top 100 images from the Hubble Telescope; here’s just a few from this amazing gallery:

Carina Nebula (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)

Carina Nebula (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)


Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1672 (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)

Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1672 (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)


Antennae Galaxies merging (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)

Antennae Galaxies merging (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)


Centaurus A, Taken with Hubble Wide Field Camera 3

Centaurus A, Taken with Hubble Wide Field Camera 3)


Orion Nebula, taken by Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)

Orion Nebula, taken by Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) (NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team)

The mind-boggling size of these formations and their unimaginable distances from our tiny corner of the universe makes me feel about the size of a dust mote, and totally inconsequential.

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind today?

Sunday Roast: Remember How We Forgot

Shane Koyczan.  If you’ve never heard of him, you need to find him on the interwebs ASAP.

…Once upon a time, we were young.
Our dreams hung like apples
Waiting to be picked and peeled
And hope was something that needed to be reeled-in
So we can fill the always empty big fish bin with the one that got away
And proudly say that “this time, impossible is not an option”
Because success is so akin to effort and opportunity that it could be related
So we took chances
We figureskated on thin ice
Belief that each slice of live was served with something sweet on the side
And failure was never nearly as important as the fact that we tried
That in the war against frailty and limitation
We supplied the determination it takes to make ideas and goals the parents of possibility
And we believe ourselves to be members of this family
Not just one branch on one tree
But a forest whose roots make up a dynasty
So when I call you sis or bro
It’s not lightly
And when I ask you to remember
It’s because the future isn’t what it used to be…

 

This is our daily open thread — We were here.

 

Sunday Roast: For Some Folks, Life is a Hill

Trail_to_Red_Hill_Summit

Having been off for a week, listening to crashing Pacific waves, breathing salt air, reading, reading, more reading, and getting my head straight (kinda, sorta, pretty much), Mr Blow asked me, via facebook, to read his column for tomorrow.  I agreed to do so, and, for me, this column is very powerful.  What do you think?

Charles M. Blow, The New York Times

I strongly reject the concept of respectability politics, which postulates that a style of dress or speech justifies injustice, and often violence, against particular groups of people or explains away the ravages of their inequality.

I take enormous exception to arguments about the “breakdown of the family,” particularly the black family, that don’t acknowledge that this country for centuries has endeavored, consciously and not, to break it down. Or that family can be defined only one way.

I don’t buy into the mythology that most poor people are willfully and contentedly poor, happy to live with the help of handouts from a benevolent big government that is equally happy to keep them dependent.

These are all arguments based on shame, meant to distance traditional power structures from emerging ones, to allow for draconian policy arguments from supposedly caring people. These arguments require faith in personal failure as justification for calling our fellow citizens feckless or doctrinally disfavored.

Those who espouse such arguments must root for failures so that they’re proved right. They need their worst convictions to be affirmed: that other people’s woes are due solely to their bad choices and bad behaviors; that there are no systematic suppressors at play; that the way to success is wide open to all those who would only choose it.

Any of us in the country who were born poor, or minority, or female, or otherwise different — particularly in terms of gender or sexual identity — know better.

Please read the rest of the article here.

(photo source)

This is our daily open thread — How is everyone?

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 18th, 2013: Profit Contest to Photo Contest

Even though most of the people who need Obamacare have not yet taken advantage of it, other interests are poised to board the Obamacare money train. The Wall Street Journal’s Howard Gold is encouraging investment in the health care industry. A few snippets:

“This diverse sector, which includes red-hot biotechnology, Big Pharma, medical device makers, hospitals, health insurers, and other services, is profiting from structural shifts far beyond the changes brought in by the Affordable Care Act…In fact, health care stocks may have entered a new secular bull market, which is why you should take some profits on cyclicals and other market-sensitive stocks and reinvest the money into this group.”

“We’re clearly in a favorable environment,” said Andy Acker, manager of Janus Global Life Sciences fund since 2007. “I think this is a question of when this gets resolved, not if,” Acker said. “Millions of people will sign up for health care.”

In an earlier (March 2013) article from conservative moneynews.com, entitled “How Companies are Cashing in on Obamacare”, author Michael Kling wrote:

“Although its critics say Obamacare will increase business costs, some companies are cashing in on the healthcare reform law…CNNMoney reviewed six companies that might reap huge benefits from Obamacare.

Take, for instance, Health Recovery Solutions, a New York City-based start-up that helps hospitals avoid Medicare penalties for readmitting patients. To decrease preventable return visits by Medicare patients, Obamacare levies high cuts to Medicare reimbursements to hospitals that have a certain percentage of these return visits.

Health Recovery Solutions furnishes tablets full of educational videos and information patients can use to care for themselves. Using the tablet, patients send information, such as medications they are taking, to the hospital care team for review.

Eligible, another start-up, takes care of the complex wiring insurers need to quickly answer customer questions about coverage and eligibility, one of the many Obamacare requirements.

GoHealth offers an online tool that enables people to compare health care insurance plans. Consumers can use the platform to enroll in plans or just compare plans before contacting an insurance broker.

QuantiaMD offers a website where doctors can offer presentations, hold private discussions with each other and hold virtual consultations. Pharmaceutical and insurance companies and hospitals sponsor the content on the site.

Obamacare limits the proportion of premium revenue insurers can spend on salaries, overhead and marketing. That’s where Connecture comes in. The Brookfield, Wisc., company provides software that helps insurance companies cut costs through automation. It also helps states with technology needed to create insurance exchanges, another Obamacare requirement.

Another company getting involved with the state exchanges is hCentive, which has built a platform the exchanges can use.

Many of the companies saw their sales jump after the elections. Healthcare companies were not sure Obamacare would be enacted, and state officials were not sure they would still be required to create exchanges by this October…“Many states were waiting to decide to set up their own exchanges — they kept thinking maybe this wouldn’t happen,” Sanjay Singh, an hCentive partner, told CNNMoney.

“they kept thinking maybe this wouldn’t happen” No, they kept HOPING this wouldn’t happen. Because despite their hatred of all things Obama-related, despite all of the conservative hyperbole about “job-killing”, “bankrupting businesses”, “the end of freedom as we know it”, “it’s socialist Obama’s anti-capitalism agenda”, etc., ad nauseum; and despite the 40+ failed efforts by Congressional Republicans to kill Obamacare, every single one of those nay-sayers HAD to realize, deep down, that Obamacare is a boon to the private, capitalistic, for-profit healthcare “industry.” (spit!)

Okay, since you were all good enough to put up with the above drivel, here’s your justly-deserved palate-cleanser…

It’s that time of year again: the National Geographic Photo Contest is open, but only ’til the end of November. I know quite a few of our Critters and Zoosters who should submit a few entries! Here’s last year’s “Nature” category winner, photographed by Ashley Vincent:
busaba-indochinese-tiger_62797_600x450
Here’s two ways to view some or all of the current entries: The Atlantic picked 39 of the photos, and you can just scroll through them. Note that you can also switch from 1024 pixels to 1280 (I chose 1280.) Or you can go directly to the National Geographic 2013 Photo Contest webpage, where there are links to the photos entered to date, as well as links to 2012 winners and other photo galleries. Here’s one of the 2013 entries, by Sam Morris:

Photo Copyright Sam Morris, 2013 National Geographic Photo Contest entry

Photo Copyright Sam Morris, 2013 National Geographic Photo Contest entry

This is our daily open thread, what do you have to say today?