Which one, if any, would you like to discuss?
This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?
I had never heard of the Wellcome Image Awards before, but when I saw “Stunning Science Pictures”, I had to check them out. According to the accompanying article,
“The 13th Wellcome Image Awards took place on March 11, 2014, and recognized some truly remarkable feats in scientific image creation. The contest honors “the creators of the most informative, striking and technically excellent images” that have been recently added to the Wellcome Images collection. Wellcome Images are part of UK-based charitable foundation the Wellcome Trust, who are dedicated to achieving improvements in human and animal health.”
Some of the images really are “Stunning”; others range from (what I would call) ‘delightful,’ to ‘disturbing,’ to ‘gross,’ to ‘frightening.’ Here’s a sampling of the 19 images:
Since you may view them with a different ‘eye,’ judge for yourselves: here’s the complete 19-image slideshow, definitely view them full-screen.
This is our daily open thread–go ahead and talk about, well, anything!
I’m sure that I’m not the only one among us Critters and Zoosters who received this email survey from Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) asking, “What should Congress focus on in 2014?”
Which issue matters most to you in 2014?
__Keeping Our Promise to Seniors by Protecting Social Security & Medicare
__Strengthening Our Manufacturing Economy
__Raising the Minimum Wage
__Protecting Women’s Health and Freedom
__Tax Reform That Rewards Hard Work
__Working to Lower Healthcare Costs
__Supporting Small Business Startups
__Investing in Innovation, Science, Research and Technology
I went with “Other”, more or less:
While most of the above are important issues in my view (“Protecting Women’s Health and Freedom” and “Investing in Innovation, Science, Research and Technology” in particular), I believe that the single most important issue that impacts the future of this country is EDUCATION. We need children who are taught critical thinking, in order to have the ‘Innovation, Science, Research and Technology’ in which to invest. Stressing the basics in: reading (especially reading comprehension); spelling (because words are spelt the way they are for good reason); vocabulary (because words mean what they mean due to their evolution through history); math skills; and the basics in the sciences and technologies, are all paramount. Investing in the future means investing in schools, teachers, and (most importantly) young citizens’ minds.
Really, with all of the problems that our country faces, there are so many important issues to be addressed that it’s impossible to say which is MOST important. And some issues which I would have thought were important are not even on the list, i.e, gun control, environmental issues (climate change, fossil fuel pollution of several sorts, etc.), our failing infrastructure…(sigh) I could go on, but you get the idea.
How would you respond to Senator Baldwin’s survey?
This is our daily open thread–you can answer the survey if you wish, or talk about whatever you want!
My personal astro-physicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, just told me that the awesome and amazing show Cosmos is returning in 2014!
Are you all as excited as I am? :)
This is our daily open thread — Discuss!
Western Australia is the world’s deadliest region for shark attacks. In an effort to make it safer for surfers and swimmers to go into the water, officials have set up a Twitter feed (Surf Life Saving WA) that notifies followers when a tagged shark enters the area. Scientists outfitted some 400 sharks with transmitters that send warnings to the Twitter feed. Here is an example of the kind of tweet the system might send. A tweet like this about a tiger shark had been sent every four or five minutes for about an hour and forty-five minutes before this one.
Fisheries advise: tagged Tiger shark detected at 2km off Scarborough receiver at 09:14:00 PM on 30-Dec-2013—
Surf Life Saving WA (@SLSWA) December 30, 2013
I think this is a brilliant idea and a fantastic way to do something useful with social media. Now you can take your cell phone to the beach and see if it’s safe to go in the water. Of course, most of us don’t live in Western Australia, so unless scientists working near our shores can tag us a bunch of sharks this innovative way to use Twitter won’t directly benefit us in North America.
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about sharks, Western Australia, or anything else you wish to discuss.
A few weeks ago, NASA released eight new photographs taken by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, a telescope launched in 1999. According to information from the Chandra website:
“This collection of images represents the thousands of observations that are permanently stored and accessible to the world in the Chandra Data Archive (CDA). This sample showcases the wide range of objects that Chandra has observed during its over 14-year mission, including the remains of exploded stars, cosmic nurseries where stars are being born, and galaxies both similar to our Milky Way and those that are much different. In each of these images, the Chandra data are blue or purple and have been combined with those from other wavelengths.”
The Chandra “Photo Album” offers hundreds of other amazing views into space courtesy of the Chandra telescope. A website that I ran across has more technical information on Chandra’s X-Ray photography, as well as more photos from other space-traveling and land-based telescopes. Images such as these, along with the glorious wonders opened to our view by the Hubble telescope and other sources, give me a vestige of hope that there is, somewhere in all that vastness, at lease one race of intelligent beings who are living in harmony with each other and their planet. I’d hate to think that Terran humans are the pinnacle of Nature’s creations.
This is our daily open thread, say anything!
Sometime over this weekend, or early next week, a one-ton satellite will come crashing to Earth. Where it will land is unknown right now. It could be in the middle of Central Park in New York City, or maybe it will come down onto an elementary school in Los Angeles, or maybe it will come down on your house. Despite how frightening any of those scenarios may sound, I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you. It’s only a ton. And it’s not like the whole thing is going to come down on any one spot. It’s going to come down on 35 spots, give or take ten. Still, a whole ton and there’s nothing to worry about? Yes.
You see, in the grand scheme of things, a ton of something crashing down towards Earth really is nothing. According to Cornell University’s Ask an Astronomer webpage, a total of anywhere from 37,000 to 78,000 tons of materials fall from thje sky every year in the form of meteorites. That’s roughly 100-200 tons per day! One more ton on top of that would just be adding about 0.5-1% more. Like I said, nothing to worry about.
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss satellites, meteorites, the Tea Party, or anything else that might come crashing down to Earth. This is your open thread.
History.com is an interesting place, full of fun facts to know and tell.
For instance, on September 7th, 1776, the first submarine was employed in warfare. It is amazing to me that “submarines were first built by Dutch inventor Cornelius van Drebel in the early 17th century…” Naturally, it was an American who first thought of using a submarine in naval combat:
“David Bushnell, an American inventor, began building underwater mines while a student at Yale University. Deciding that a submarine would be the best means of delivering his mines in warfare, he built an eight-foot-long wooden submersible that was christened the Turtle for its shape. Large enough to accommodate one operator, the submarine was entirely hand-powered. Lead ballast kept the craft balanced.
Donated to the Patriot cause after the outbreak of war with Britain in 1775, Ezra Lee piloted the craft unnoticed out to the 64-gun HMS Eagle in New York Harbor on September 7, 1776. As Lee worked to anchor a time bomb to the hull, he could see British seamen on the deck above, but they failed to notice the strange craft below the surface. Lee had almost secured the bomb when his boring tools failed to penetrate a layer of iron sheathing. He retreated, and the bomb exploded nearby, causing no harm to either the Eagle or the Turtle.
During the next week, the Turtle made several more attempts to sink British ships on the Hudson River, but each time it failed, owing to the operator’s lack of skill. Only Bushnell was really able to competently execute the submarine’s complicated functions, but because of his physical frailty he was unable to pilot the Turtle in any of its combat missions. During the Battle of Fort Lee, the Turtle was lost when the American sloop transporting it was sunk by the British.
Despite the failures of the Turtle, General George Washington gave Bushnell a commission as an Army engineer, and the drifting mines he constructed destroyed the British frigate Cereberus and wreaked havoc against other British ships. After the war, he became commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stationed at West Point.”
120 years later, another engineering first occurred: an electric car became the first automobile to win the first auto race in the United States:
“On September 7, 1896, an electric car built by the Riker Electric Motor Company wins the first auto race in the United States, at the Narragansett Trotting Park–a mile-long dirt oval at the state fairgrounds that was normally used for horse racing–in Cranston, Rhode Island. Automobile companies sponsored the race to show off their newfangled electric-, steam-, and gas-powered vehicles to an awestruck audience. The carmakers’ gimmick worked: About 60,000 fairgoers attended the event, and many more people read about it in newspapers and magazines.
Seven cars entered the race. Along with the Riker Electric, there were five internal-combustion cars and one other battery-powered machine, this one built by the Electric Carriage and Wagon Company. The race began slowly (“Get a horse!” the spectators shouted as the automobiles wheezed at the starting line), but the Riker soon pulled ahead and won the race easily, finishing its five laps in about 15 minutes. The other electric car came in second, and a gas-powered Duryea took third.”
Considering the fact that electric cars have been around since 1896, one has to wonder what our world would have been like now if electric cars became the standard of the automobile industry. Unfortunately for all of us, the internal-combustion engine eventually prevailed, and we – humans, the environment, the planet – are all suffering because of it.
This is our Open Thread. Wonder what will happen today that will eventually become “This Day In History”?
Just when you thought you knew what your planet looked like, along comes a surprise – there’s another canyon on our planet that rivals our own Grand Canyon. It’s in Greenland, and it was discovered by scientists using ice-penetrating radar and decades of data.
The canyon has the characteristics of a winding river channel and is at least 460 miles (750 kilometers) long, making it longer than the Grand Canyon. In some places, it is as deep as 2,600 feet (800 meters), on scale with segments of the Grand Canyon. This immense feature is thought to predate the ice sheet that has covered Greenland for the last few million years.
The scientists used thousands of miles of airborne radar data, collected by NASA and researchers from the United Kingdom and Germany over several decades, to piece together the landscape lying beneath the Greenland ice sheet.
As beautiful as I’m sure it looks, my fear is that we’ll be able to see what the canyon looks like, with the naked eye, in our lifetimes. Well, not the people living on the Eastern coast.
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss canyons are any other topic you wish. And if you’re currently enjoying a three-day holiday weekend, you can thank Unions for that.
Way back when Comedy Central was just starting out as The Comedy Channel, The Higgins Boys and Gruber was one of the fledgling comedy shows (along with Short Attention Span Theater, hosted by a very young Jon Stewart, and Mystery Science Theater 3000* aka MST3K, with the inimitable Joel Hodgson.) [*FYI, good news for MST3K fans at this link.]
One of the sketches on The Higgins Boys and Gruber that Wayne and I always remembered – well, besides the “Sex Survey” sketch – was their game-show spoof “$99,000 Pyramid.” They’re down to the last category in the Pyramid, and the clock is ticking down while one contestant is giving the other clues like “stars”, “suns”, “comets”, etc. The clock runs out while the contestant sputters without an answer. The host says to the disappointed contestant, “Now wait, before you turn around…what if I said…“Chad Everett“?” The contestant, who obviously had a light bulb go on inside his head, nods and responds with the correct answer, “Things in the Universe?“
So here’s a fabulous photo of another one of those “Things in the Universe”, the “Cinderella’s Slipper Galaxy”, part of a ‘space photo of the day‘ series [scroll down past the picture on the link for hundreds more amazing photos, as well as commentary about the photo] from wired.com. Slate’s Phil Plait wrote about it back on April 2nd, and apparently one of Plait’s Twitter followers suggested the “Cinderella’ Slipper” name.
I like what Phil Plait says at the end of his article:
“I find it fascinating that the Universe is so accommodating to our inquisitive nature. It leaves clues everywhere about itself, and all you need to learn about it is a bit of math and physics, technology, and above all curiosity. With those features in combination, the entire cosmos can be revealed.”
This is our daily open thread — talk away now, don’t be shy!
While searching for a topic for this week’s post, I happened across a fascinating collection of weird spiders. Some of them are jaw-droppingly amazing. One has evolved to look just like a ladybug, not known for being tasty. Another could easily be mistaken for a common red ant. (Count the legs.) All of the spiders in that particular gallery are small, below five centimeters (two inches) in diameter. Many times, the writers say they wish the spider in question were bigger. Other times they’re grateful the spider isn’t one the size of your face. I recommend you check out the link. The writers have a great sense of humor and the pictures, the work of Nicky Bay, are incredible.
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss spiders or any other creature with whom you may have once inadvertently spent a night.
Over the past seven years there have been at least sixteen studies done on the differences, if any, between the brains of self-described conservatives and those of self-described liberals. The results show many substantial differences, not simply in physiology but in the framework within which we view things. The studies began with a Sept 2006 report which showed Continue reading
Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has been in the news a lot lately, in part for having been one of the select few Republicans who were invited to the recent dinner meeting with President Obama. In an appearance yesterday on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Senator Johnson stated,
“If we’re going to really get to an agreement, this is a good step…You have to start meeting with people. You have to start developing relationships. You’ve got to spend a fair amount of time figuring out what we agree on first.”
[Especially when the Republican "leaders" won't tell their flock the truth about what the President has offered, and the flock and the media are too dumb or brainwashed to lift a couple of fingers and check whitehouse.gov!]
The same “This Week” appearance also saw Paul Krugman, in his inimitable manner, school Senator Johnson on the Social Security program.
Prior to that, in the debate over authorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Senator Johnson was one of a group of “…Republicans [who] have objected to new provisions in the law, including one allowing tribal courts for the first time to prosecute men who aren’t American Indians when they’re accused of abusing an American Indian woman on a reservation. . .”, according to ThinkProgress, which also quotes Senator Johnson as saying:
“the Senate has approved a piece of legislation that sounds nice, but which is fatally flawed. By including an unconstitutional expansion of tribal authority and introducing a bill before the Congressional Budget Office could review it to estimate its cost, Senate Democrats made it impossible for me to support a bill covering an issue I would like to address.”
Coincidentally and fortuitously (or not), when searching for a link on a completely different topic, I ran across this one about Ron Johnson from 2010. It includes a video of Johnson, demonstrating the average conservative’s love of fetuses but not actual children, while “…testifying against the Wisconsin Child Victims Act, which would have eliminated the statute of limitation on lawsuits brought by victims of abuse by priests against the Catholic Church.”
Okay, as a palate-cleanser, I believe that there’s something for everyone in these photo slideshows from The Weather Channel.
For all of us who love space science and/or who have experienced various types of mind-enhancement, here’s (now think Muppets “Pigs in Space” voice) “Light Trails from Space.”
Staying in space for the moment, the Comet Pan-STARRS is in the ‘hood, and should start to be visible to the naked eye tomorrow. The chart shown in this article indicates where the large comet can be located (in the western sky at sunset) over the next two weeks or so.
Last from TWC (and getting back to ‘trails’…you’ll see): unusual (and occasionally claustrophobia-inducing) tunnels are highlighted in this feature. Although the first tunnel shown only has the one photo – see below – the rest of them have some amazing shots. Tunnel #18, Shanghai’s Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, described as “senseless, yet fabulous“, could likely induce trails even for persons who have never seen trails before. A youtube video of the entire ride is linked to under the description of the Shanghai tunnel, but I haven’t had the chance to watch it yet. Who’s gonna go first? :)
This is our Open thread – what topic would you like to discuss?
The Food and Drug Administration has determined genetically engineered salmon won’t threaten the environment, clearing it of all but one final hurdle before it shows up on shelves throughout the nation — and igniting a final 60-day debate on whether it poses health risks before it’s officially approved.
Although it’s been nicknamed “Frankenfish” by critics, health professionals say they aren’t worried the lab-engineered salmon will cause more allergies or other harmful effects than any other breed of fish.
While labeling of genetically modified food of any type is not guaranteed and so we won’t know if we’re buying it. And we certainly won’t know if it is harmful to ingest. There is always a chance that it will interfere with indigenous species. Should we have learned a lesson from the destruction the common carp has created since it’s introduction?
A Fish once Prized, Now Despised
By the turn of the century, the introduction of the carp was such a “success” that both public agencies and sportsmen had come to regard the fish as a nuisance. While tons of free-swimming carp were being harvested from area waters, they were comparable in taste to neither the selectively bred pool-cultivated carp of Europe nor, it was believed, to many of the native “game” species, and were thus useless as a food source. Moreover, their rapid spread appeared to threaten both water quality and native species, as commissioners nationwide noted a deterioration of formerly clear and fertile lakes and waterways upon the arrival of carp.
While not on anyone’s dinner table just yet, genetically engineered salmon are just a pen stroke away. GE salmon are being developed by a U.S. company called Aqua Bounty Farms and are preferred for their ability to grow two to four times faster than other farmed salmon…
Research at both Purdue University and The National Academy of Sciences points to the “considerable risks” that genetically engineered (also called “transgenic”) fish pose to nearby populations of native fish:
“Purdue University researchers have found that releasing a transgenic fish to the wild could damage native populations even to the point of extinction.”
Sigurdson, C. (2000). Transgenic fish could threaten wild populations, Purdue News.
There is little doubt that transgenetic fish will, if raised, escape to the surrounding waters. Estimates of farmed salmon escapees in British Columbia total at least 400,000 fish from 1991 to 2001:
“According to the Canadian government, in the past decade nearly 400,000 farm-raised Atlantics escaped into British Columbia waters and began competing with wild species for food and habitat. (That number relies primarily on escapes reported by fish farmers; environmentalists put the actual figure closer to 1 million.)”
Barcott, B. (2001). Aquaculture’s Troubled Harvest, Mother Jones, November/December.
There is much more on the dangers to our waterways at Salmon Nation. Although you’d think common sense would be enough to know that this is a very bad idea.
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about salmon, genetically-modified foods, or anything else you wish to discuss.
Yesterday, and be thankful to Whomever or Whatever you believe in that we can start with that word, a large asteroid given the ever so endearing name 2012 DA14 (don’t you want to adopt one?) passed within about 17,000 miles of the Earth. We have satellites orbiting at about 22,237 miles (approximately 35,787 km) above mean sea level. [Thank you, Arthur C. Clarke, for figuring that out for us.] This asteroid passed (yes, past tense!) closer to us than that. It didn’t hit anything as it passed by, but that is really just a matter of luck, no matter how you believe the Universe works. You may be thinking, “So what? It missed us, right? What’s the problem?” Think of it this way: It missed us by fifteen minutes. As famed Science Guy Bill Nye explains, that’s not the one you should be worried about. For every one of these large asteroids that they’ve been able to find, it is estimated there are 99 that that haven’t been found yet.
But just as much a matter of luck was the meteorite that came crashing down in Chelyabinsk, Russia that same day. [BTW, that link you just passed has some fascinating information in it, including an explanation of the difference between a meteor and an asteroid. Check it out.] Due to some kind of fad or obsession among the Russian people (official motto, “Screw you, Life, we’re still here!”), there are a lot of people driving around with dashboard cameras. It has something to do with insurance claims, or maybe encounters with the police, or maybe even to catch a meteorite flashing across the sky in front of you.
And, because it crashed into Russia, there were the inevitable comparisons to the Tunguska Event. And that’s where I start to get worried. Because they’re talking about a once-in-a-hundred-years event that hasn’t happened in more than one hundred years!
Good night, now. Go to sleep. ;)
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss asteroids, meteorites, conspiracy theories, or any other topic you wish.
Good Morning, All. And shhhhhh… them wolfies are asleep, so read in silence and tell us what you think in comments, but shhhhhh…
WITH the financial crisis over and the recovery gaining momentum, one big piece of unfinished economic business hangs over Barack Obama’s second term: arresting the relentless rise in America’s already sky-high debt. He is turning to the task with what seems an improbable claim: that the job is closer to completion than people appreciate. (read on)
Do we have a solid economic recovery underway? (read more)
The debt crisis is finally catching up with wind energy, once a fast-growing sector in Europe. After more than a decade of double-digit growth, austerity, rapidly changing energy policies and skittish investors are putting a damper on the industry. (read more)
We’ve only just wiped the sweat from our brow following the averted Mayan apocalypse, but already news is spreading of another impending doom; and this one even has actual science behind it. (read more)
Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.Benjamin Franklin
This is our Open Thread, Add your wisdom!
First of all, I have great respect for any species that can live and survive in the desert environment. It must be a tough existence.
Here’s a link to a story about a mouse that lives in the desert, eats scorpions, and then howls at the moon. Be sure to click on the link to the audio track that is embedded in the story.
Scientists are interested in this mouse. It seems that there is a genetic component that prevents this mouse from experiencing pain.
In humans, Rowe says, mutations in Nav1.7 cause a syndrome called erythromelalgia. In this disease, a characteristic burning pain in the feet and hands crops up spontaneously. The researchers are now attempting to figure out exactly how the mouse’s mutation in Nav1.8 blocks pain signals, to see if it could help design a new kind of pain killer.
Our pain receptors are a means by which our body tells us that something is dangerous. In some cases, it’s best not to feel the pain because it is “phantom pain” and it serves no purpose other than to annoy us.
UPDATED: I found a video about this mouse. We can hear it “howl at the moon”.
Guess who has a dinosaur named after him? You’re right — President Obama! Wow, you’re good guessers.
In the picture, Obamadon is the cute one in the foreground. I think the other one is John McCain, screaming at Obamadon to get off his rock.
The lizard sized dinosaur is thought to have lived on insects, and was small in stature in comparison to other known behemoths. Researchers say that the dinosaur’s size is not in anyway a political reference. The name Obamadon was chosen due to the lizard’s tall, straight teeth. According to sci-news.comPaleontologist Nick Longrich said, “Obama has these tall, straight incisors and a great smile.”
Interestingly enough, our President has a fish and a fungus named for him as well:
It’s nice to have a President who is so well-respected, although George W. Bush also had something named after him…
You had to see that one coming. :)
This is our daily open thread — It’s Friday, Obamadonbots!
I could listen to Alan Rickman speak for the rest of my life, and I think it’s safe to say most of the
ladies women of the Zoo would concur. Rawr…
I enjoy my nerdy geeks, but this clip is a bit nerdy geek heavy, and Alan Rickman light. Boo. I almost used my standard Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves tactic of fast-forwarding through everything that isn’t Alan Rickman or Morgan Freeman, but I resisted. :) Anyhoo, I love Alan all the more, because he can talk and think about things other than his latest film. Who’s with me on this one?
HT to someone on the Zoo who posted this clip in comments earlier this week — sorry I don’t remember who!
This is our daily open thread — How is it Friday again…?
I’ve always enjoyed metaphor, particularly when discussing politics. Today, with the 2012 General Election still wafting in the illume of its afterglow — and given its rather profound and popular (well, profoundly UNpopular to some) assertions — the notion came to me that it might be fun, maybe even worthwhile, to ponder the concept of light and dark as they have come to define today’s American political system. As is readily apparent to the enlightened mind, the Republican Party has come to define, for all practical purposes, the darkness implicit in the regressive side of the human persona. Meanwhile and in starkest possible contrast, a Black (of all things!) American Democrat(!) was stunningly reelected to the office of President of the United States! Out of Darkness . . . comes Luz? The Light?
Far out! Right?
Well, not really. ‘Tis a fairly common phenomenon, actually, both in scientific reality and in the human persona, in human existence/occupation. Common, yes, but still intriguing, interesting to explore. So, without further ado . . .
Luz: The Light Fantastic
Red — is the Fire’s common tint –
But when the vivid Ore
Has vanquished Flame’s conditions,
It quivers from the Forge
Without a color, but the light
Of unanointed Blaze.
Light is, quite literally, the stuff of life.
Around the globe and especially in its more arid reaches, light is ubiquitous, and light is defining. The common clarity of overhead sky allows the light of both day and night to constantly illuminate by degree, and illumination refines the activities of life.
The first time one encounters severely illuminated aridity, the impression is likely to be strong, seldom tentative. There is the landscape – typically rugged, jagged, harsh, angular, never overtly delicate or soft. The endless dome of blue overhead is very often without a single cloud, or sometimes it’s masked by roiling, dark, and fearsome clouds and storms – or, by gentle cumulus, or high and giddy cirrus streaks. But always, no matter the conditions, there is something magical in the interplay of light and landscape, in pockets or splashes of intense color in rock, or sky, or springtime wild flowers sprinkled across an otherwise drab, tan, and often convoluted surface.
After a time, either of two possible outcomes seems inevitable: one is a wish to leave, quickly; to escape the heat, the thorns, the always sharp edges of aridity, and the blinding light of the midday sky. The other is to seek the unerring beauty intrinsic to form, to subtle color, and to ponder the sheer paradox of a land where everything genuinely is harshly delicate, to become captive to the realization that in the unique, there is no equivalent anywhere. The urge to explore the subtleties soon can overwhelm, demand immersion. How can it be? Why is it thus? What is it that underlies the mystique of the land, the mystery of the soul — the light — of life itself? How can either be best explored? Where to begin?
On the nature of light
To the physicist, light is a wave, a photon which races through the cosmos at constant speed, a speed which, in and by itself, establishes limits on all relationships of mass and energy. The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has located a distant dot in deep space, and each time its orbital coordinates intersect with the coordinates which mark the precise location of that dot, the Hubble gathers another photon or two which have traveled from that source. With each encounter, the ‘image’ of the dot becomes more refined. It’s now been calculated that those occasional photons which the Hubble detects emanating from that source have been traveling from that source for approximately 13.5 billion earth-years, or from a time when the universe itself had existed only a scant 300 million years beyond its moment of origin, the so-called Big Bang.
Much closer to earth, approximately 9000 light years distant, lies the Trifid Nebula, a gigantic cloud of gas surrounding a massive star which is hundreds, possibly thousands of times the size of our own tiny sun. The Trifid Nebula is a place where new stars are being created even we speak – as if a fundamental testimony to the endless ‘life’ of light intrinsic to the universe.
The photons that scald and illuminate the earth’s arid regions originate much closer to the earth, of course, but aside from that little detail they’re identical to those already traveled 13.5 billion light years, or 9000 light years, and, in a simple sort of way seem less mysterious. ‘Our’ photons – generated in the nuclear furnace we call the sun – have a relatively short travel time of seven minutes, give-or-take, and collectively their impact on earth-bound light is a lot more predictable, more useful by sheer weight of numbers. Sun-generated photons continuously bathe, at any given moment, half of the earth’s surface, with intensities dependent upon both the angle of attack and the migrating atmospheric patterns which stand between the earth’s surface and the sun-weather patterns.
Overall, the temptation amongst the modern throng is to assume things skyward have always been as they are today, that we have a sun, and a moon, and at night, stars arranged in connect-the-dot patterns descriptive of bears, bulls, hunters, etc. But that which we observe today is far from constant. True enough, eclipses and comets, though relatively rare, are generally predictable because they are also predictably cyclic, as are the annual migrations of constellations across the night sky.
But there are, sometimes, unexpected and unpredicted perturbations in the observable cosmic ‘norm’. On July 4 of the year 1054, C.E., people in Asia and in the Americas – including the indigenous peoples of what is today the American Southwest – duly recorded their observation of the sudden appearance of a new ‘star’, a star bright enough to be seen, at first, even at midday. What they witnessed was not the ‘birth’ of a star, however, but rather the sudden death – an explosive supernova and gravitational collapse – of a star perhaps ten times the mass of our sun, situated nearly 7000 light years distant from earth. The supernova initially blazed with the light of 400 million of our suns and, had our solar system been positioned within fifty light years of the explosion, it would have been burned to a crisp. Today, the Crab Nebula has tamed substantially but can still be observed as a glowing mass of gas and dust.
At it’s core is a neutron star which has a diameter of approximately six miles, a mass at least as great as that of our sun, and rotates 30 times each second. In so doing it unleashes pulses of intense radio emissions – 30 pulses per second – and this “pulsar” acts as a cosmic generating station which produces enough electromagnetic energy that the nebula today shines brighter than 75,000 of our suns. It is dim to us only because of its distance from the earth, and though it no longer contributes substantially to the light which today blankets the American Southwest, when it was ‘new’, in July of 1054 C.E., the Anasazi were impressed enough to depict the event in pictographs in at least two separate locations including Chaco Canyon and a cave at White Mesa. Follow the ‘instruction’ in those pictographs today, and each time in each 18½ year lunar cycle that the moon is positioned as it was on July 4th or 5th, 1054 C.E. point a telescope toward the spot in the heavens relative to the lunar crescent as indicated in the Anasazi rock inscriptions, and the Crab Nebula will come into view.
The ancients understood light, that it was central to life itself. They understood and measured the lunar cycle, and knew how to predict exactly the moments in the solar cycle we now call the equinoxes and solstices, and they understood, precisely, the impact each had on life, on their lives.
Over the entire course of human civilization, light – as it emits from the great darkness – has been understood to enable survival and persistence of not only humankind itself, but of the entire spectrum of life. Over the billions of elapsed years since life first appeared on planet earth, light has been its primary source of energy, the energy which enables the one primary event upon which all life depends for success, i.e. reproduction of kind, and in persistence which, ever present, accepts myriad modification to allow the incredible variety of form and species present today, each and all of which share an interdependence with all of life, hence with light.
It’s generally agreed amongst astrophysicists that the overwhelming percentage of mass which makes up the known universe is matter that cannot be observed directly, appropriately designated as “dark matter.” Dark matter itself emits no light, but its mass and resultant gravitational effect enables the formation, evolution, and ‘functions’ of galactic clusters, of galaxies themselves, and components therein/thereof. In that sense, it is dark matter – that metaphoric eternal darkness – which enables the formation of light-emitting sources, stars of every description and which in turn enable the formation and function of life itself.
From the Dark, Luz: Light, Life, and Vision
Light enables life, and life enables vision. Vision is bifurcate: there is the record of that which exists in the immediate surround, evidenced by ‘sight’, and there is the intellectual extension of sight, often called ‘insight’ which is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “Internal sight, mental vision or perception, discernment; in early use sometimes, Understanding, intelligence, wisdom.” John Ruskin spoke of insight when he noted that “Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see.”
Ruskin was very concise as he pointed to one of humankind’s most common shortcomings, i.e. an inability to ‘see’ beyond the moment because of an overall lack of insight – or at least an overall resistance to practice same. Today, we sometimes refer to that dilapidation of vision, that darkness of purpose, as Politics.
Nevertheless, the truism remains: to ‘see’ allows comprehension and understanding. The ancient peoples scattered around the globe understood, and used their intellectual vision to enable their survival – even to prosper – for thousands of years, often in harsh and unforgiving lands. One could hope, perhaps should hope, that across the breadth of humankind, illumination, not darkness, serves to reveal, to light the way of life on journey toward its own ultimate destiny. And still, the pages of human history are crowded with evidences of fluctuation: from the light of Ancient Greece to the darkness of the Crusades; from the light of the Renaissance to the Black Hole of German death camps; from the victory over tyranny by the Great Democracies to the impending darkness of a new Imperial age set amidst the unenlightened clash of Capitalist and Cleric; the lessons seem all too difficult to learn, to obey. But always, when the light dims and when, as the poet Dickinson describes, “. . . the vivid Ore Has vanquished Flame’s conditions, / It quivers from the Forge / Without a color, but the light / Of unanointed Blaze,” the black hole of shallow intellect shatters and life persists, even in, or perhaps because of “. . . the light Of unanointed Blaze.”
Perhaps this “unanointed Blaze” is the light which emanates from that which astronomer Carl Sagan commonly referred to as “star stuff,” and is not encumbered with or otherwise distilled through the faculty of intelligent examination?
In any case, it should be noted that when the “Red of the Fire’s common tint” of the star stuff which defines the gas cloud at the center of the Crab Nebula (Fig. 2) is vanquished by the vivid ore of the neutron star called the Crab Pulsar, the result might become not an unanointed Blaze, but instead a black hole from which no light can e’er escape again. The choice well may, in that instance and in fact, have already been made – we’ll not know till some 7000 years have passed after the conclusion of the event, because it will take that long for the message to arrive, even as it travels at the speed of light itself.
It could thus be that the lesson we might learn is more simple, i.e. better we rely on the illume from our own sun to show us the way and to provide us with the illume to proceed accordingly. On the earth, the rocks, the plants and flowers, the animals, the mountains and clouds all know how to deal with illuminations and make them work appropriately. Only the human animal has, it seems, the tendency to move away, to migrate instead toward the intellectual darkness his fragile ego portends — a phenomenon which today seems to have reached a zenith of sorts, particularly within the realm of Politics, American-style.
So perhaps it would be the wiser course to pay heed to the natural world, to the grand universe itself. When darkness seems pervasive it is, after all, the wise person who recalls the wisdom as (again) was perfectly expressed by the Poet Dickinson:
Those — dying then,
Knew where they went –
They went to God’s Right Hand –
That Hand is amputated now
And God cannot be found –
The abdication of Belief
Makes the Behavior small –
Better an ignis fatuus
Than no illume at all –
Better *any* light, even the glow of swamp gas, than the darkness — the black hole — of unenlightened blaze.
Someone — anyone — please feel free to pass said tidbits on to the Grand Old Party (assuming a remnant of it still exists . . . somewhere . . . in its self-imposed darkness). Meanwhile, a final personal (hopefully poetic) tribute to intellectual illumination, to Luz itself:
Luz: The Light
A thread of light persists as darkness falls;
Luz, life’s subtle flame, shines forth as beam cast
Sharp through reality’s ere darkened pall,
Revealing hints of living soul’s repast.
In darkness, too, the whispers of the muse –
Silent intonations, though heard before,
Evoke reflections of lives lived — a ruse?
Fires sensed by those who live become as cores,
Pure shafts of light. Collections of past times
Not readily dispelled arouse the Source —
The Souls of those long gone returned as mimes,
Intoning memories of Luz, a force
No darkness can conceal, nor dare it try
Extinguish light — with shadow, or with cry.
The most astounding fact is the knowledge that the atoms that comprise life on Earth — the atoms that make up the human body — are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core, under extreme temperatures and pressures. These stars, the high mass ones among them, went unstable in their later years. They collapsed and then exploded, scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy. Guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself. These ingredients become part of gas clouds that condense, collapse, form the next generation of solar systems, stars with orbiting planets, and those planets now have the ingredients for life itself. So that when I look up at the night sky, and I know that yes, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but, perhaps more important than both of those facts, is that the Universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up – many people feel small because they’re small and the Universe is big – but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars. There’s a level of connectivity; that’s really what you want in life, you want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant, you want to feel like a participant in the goings on of activities and events around you. That’s precisely what we are, just by being alive…
I know I’ve posted this before, but lately it’s been running through my brain, so y’all get to enjoy it again!
I find Dr Tyson’s words to be astonishingly beautiful. Especially since they apply to all of us on this planet: Democrats, Republicans, the rich, the poor, old, young, Tea Partiers, Occupiers, atheists, the faithful, flat-earthers, the enlightened, flora, fauna, and the Earth itself.
No matter our circumstances in life, or how our brains are wired, we are all made of the same stuff — “carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself” — the guts of exploded stars.
The Universe is in all of us, and I think that’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard in my life.
This is our daily open thread — We’re all in this together.
Photo by Zooey
I took this photo on my recent trip to Glacier National Park, having taken a detour down to the National Bison Range. Over 13,000 years ago, this lush farmland was the site of a huge glacial lake; today we refer to it as Lake Missoula.
The lake was the result of an ice dam on the Clark Fork caused by the southern encroachment of a finger of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet into the Idaho Panhandle (at the present day location of Clark Fork, Idaho at the east end of Lake Pend Oreille). The height of the ice dam typically approached 610 metres (2,000 ft), flooding the valleys of western Montana approximately 320 kilometres (200 mi) eastward. It was the largest ice-dammed lake known to have occurred.
Approximately forty times over a 2000 year period, the glacial ice dam ruptured, and the contents of Lake Missoula went screaming across the Idaho Panhandle, Eastern Washington (creating the Scablands), and the Columbia River Gorge. You can see that the flood even reached my little corner of the world on the Snake River.
The cumulative effect of the floods was to excavate 210 cubic kilometres (50 cu mi) of loess, sediment and basalt from the channeled scablands of eastern Washington and to transport it downstream. These floods are noteworthy for producing canyons and other large geologic features through cataclysms rather than through more typical gradual processes.
If you drive across Eastern Washington, you’ll see that even today it looks like a virtual wasteland. Being in the rain shadow of the Cascades has something to do with it, but the main culprit was flood after flood after flood scouring off the land. It’s really quite fascinating to imagine the raw and determined power of WATER.
This is our daily open thread — Hey, you learned something new today!
Rep. Paul Broun, M.D. (R-GA) is member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. At a recent banquet in Georgia, Rep. Broun had this to say: [WARNING: The following transcript and video may precipitate an episode of irritable bowel syndrome.]
From Rep. Paul Broun’s (R-GA) remarks at the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet on September 27, 2012, in Hartwell, Georgia:
BROUN: God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.
And what I’ve come to learn is that it’s the manufacturer’s handbook, is what I call it. It teaches us how to run our lives individually, how to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all of public policy and everything in society. And that’s the reason as your congressman I hold the Holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I’ll continue to do that.
Rep W. Todd Akin (R-MO), a candidate for the U.S. Senate running against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), is another member of this committee. Rep. Akin rose to national attention when he brought the phrase “legitimate rape” into the political conversation. One could call it a public service since it helped bring attention to the well-documented Republican War on Women. [In Arizona, Gov Jan Brewer signed into law a bill that could declare a women pregnant before she even had intercourse.]
This is just a sampling of the way Republicans approach their Constitutional responsibilities to govern. They choose people to write legislation on topics they deny need regulating, in order to to solve critical life-threatening problems they deny exist. They refuse to accept the facts as proven by scientists and prefer to write scientific legislation based on their Biblical beliefs. These people are, by definition, unqualified to sit on any committee with the word “Science” in its name. Until the Republican Party begins choosing qualified people to sit on committees overseeing various areas of our lives, they should have no voice on any legislation writing body. They can vote against the bills when they come to a floor vote, but they should be the authors of none of them.
This is our Daily Open Thread. Feel free to discuss this or any other topic you’d like to bring up. It’s okay. We’re open-minded people here. :)
[Cross-posted at Pick Wayne's Brain.]
A thread posted at ThinkProgress on Saturday discussed how a man named Michael Farris, a “highly influential social conservative in Virginia” apparently impressed the Romney/Ryan campaign enough for them to send out the above mailer to potential Virginia voters. Mr. Farris “believes that people can contract “chronic Lyme disease” that must be treated with long-term antibiotics. The Center[sic] for Disease Control says there is no such thing as “chronic Lyme disease” and “long-term antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease has been associated with serious complications.” Farris claims that his wife and seven of his children all suffer from “chronic Lyme disease”
Whether one agrees or disagrees with Mr. Farris’s opinion – and the comments following TP’s article are quite mixed** – one has to question both the purpose and the content of the Romney/Ryan mailer.
Why would anyone running for the office of the Presidency take one person’s unconfirmed story and run a campaign mailer on it? A March 2012 article from realloudoun.com provides some insight, as does roanoke.com. A few excerpts from roanoke.com articles:
“I believe that anybody who’s dogmatic about any side of the kind of controversies around Lyme is speaking prematurely,” said Farris, the chancellor of Patrick Henry College in Loudoun County. “We’re in the early scientific stages of a very important disease that’s affected a lot of people, and I think we need more science.”
“Appointed to lead Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Lyme Disease Task Force, Farris is challenging the state’s medical establishment to take a hard look at the way it diagnoses and treats acute Lyme and its chronic, long-term counterpart — a condition that most infectious disease experts refute outright.
Long a champion of creationism — to the point that several Patrick Henry professors left the college in 2007, claiming his views limited their academic freedoms — Farris is now traveling the state with his task force, seeking input and stirring up doctors.”
Here’s a couple of links to the Task Force’s “final report”.
(Note: A member of the panel as listed in the second link appears to have been misidentified as Michael Cameron MD of Mount Kisco, NY (a few towns south of us.) A google search found a Daniel Cameron, MD, listed as a Lyme Disease expert, with a website called lymeproject.com, which mentions an article published by Dr. Cameron called “Proof That Chronic Lyme Disease Exists.”
Okay, so Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell allowed his old pal Michael Farris, who has no background whatsoever in medicine, to appoint himself as head this “Task Force”.
Now let’s look at what the mailer actually says (of course, you have to enlarge the photo to read the damn thing):
ROMNEY AND RYAN WILL DO MORE TO FIGHT THE SPREAD OF LYME DISEASE – how? See below.
“It’s a serious problem that demands immediate attention.” – Um, Lyme Disease has been given “immediate attention” since the first case was diagnosed a few DECADES AGO.
“As President, Mitt Romney will ensure that real action is taken to get control of this epidemic that is wreaking havoc on Northern Virginia.”
IMPROVE SYNERGY Ensure that government agencies have an open line of communication and work with patients, researchers, doctors and businesses in an objective, comprehensive manner. – Buzzwords, totally meaningless.
INCREASE AWARENESS Work with federal and state health agencies to support Lyme Disease awareness efforts to help prevent further spread of the disease. Seriously, Federal Health agencies have been supporting awareness efforts since the 1980s. Virginia seems to be lagging quite a bit behind; but then again, Virginia Republicans think that it’s a conspiracy promulgated by the CDC.
(And here’s the real kicker): SUPPORT TREATMENT Encourage increased options for the treatment of Lyme Disease and provide local physicians with protection from lawsuits to ensure they can treat the disease with the aggressive antibiotics that are required.
This is the part that Michael Farris really, really wants. Apparently the doctor who had been treating Farris’s family with long-term antibiotics, Dr. Joseph Jemsek, lost his North Carolina medical license and is now practicing in Washington, DC. Obviously, Mr. Farris couldn’t find a doctor in Virginia who would agree to treat Farris’s family with the non-standard, possibly dangerous treatment that Farris wanted.
The upshot is that Mitt Romney is more than willing to take the word of one nutjob, simply because that nutjob happens to be an influential conservative Republican and friend of Governor McDonnell. This appears to put Romney just one step above Batshit Crazy Michele Bachmann when it comes to believing a single person about a complicated medical issue. Republicans and science simply don’t mix.
This is our daily open thread — have at it!!
**Something weird happened to the thread at ThinkProgress: as of Sunday morning, there were over 100 comments; suddenly, after refreshing the page, all comments were completely gone. I don’t know what Judd did, but people were really pissed off.
Fear. What does it mean to you? What does it mean in your life? Is your life influenced by fear? Even just a little bit?
1. a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.
2. a specific instance of our propensity for such a feeling: an abnormal fear of heights.
3. concern or anxiety; solicitude: a fear for someone’s safety.
4. reverential awe, especially toward God: the fear of God. Synonyms: awe, respect, reverence, veneration.
5. something that causes feelings of dread or apprehension; something a person is afraid of: Cancer is a common fear.
My biggest fear is speaking in public. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell myself to picture the audience naked, or that I don’t know these people and I’ll never see them again in my life. My brain gets it, but my body does not. No matter how confident I feel walking into the room, as soon as I begin speaking, my knees will begin to shake, my face goes beet red, and I start talking a mile a minute so I can get the fuck out of there.
Fear is an emotion induced by a perceived threat that causes animals to move quickly away from the location of the perceived threat, and sometimes hide. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger. In short, fear is the ability to recognize danger leading to an urge to confront it or flee from it (also known as the fight-or-flight response) but in extreme cases of fear (horror and terror) a freeze or paralysis response is possible.
Yep, that’s me moving out of a public room in which I have spoken. I know what causes it: I have a fear of being perceived as stupid. It doesn’t matter if it’s reasonable or not, that’s why it’s a fear, all y’all!
The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear.
What we fear comes to pass more speedily than what we hope.
Courage is not the lack of fear, but the ability to face it.
~Lt. John B. Putnam Jr. (1921-1944)
That’s it in a nutshell, isn’t it? Fear keeps you alive; we create what we fear; and fear cannot rule over us if we face it.
Like an old friend once asked me, “What’s the worst that can happen?”
This is our daily open thread — What are you afraid of?