Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Space Exploration’ Category

STRANGE GREEN ROCK FOUND ON MARS, OTHER SCIENCE NEWS, AND #DEARMOONCREW

leave a comment »

NASA scientists have found a six inch long green rock on Mars. (inset above.) As most of the rocks on Mars are, well, rather drab dusty red colored (above,) this is definitely unusual. Tests are underway to figure out what it is. Since Mars had all sorts of water once, there are any number of possible minerals formed in hot springs and such. A meteor origin is possible too, a number of meteorites have been spotted on Mars. That’s because Mars gets more meteors, more of them make it to the surface because of the thin atmosphere, and then they just sit there waiting to be found because erosion and such is a slow process on Mars. This made me wonder if “shooting stars” can be seen on Mars, I checked, and I’m happy to inform the gentle reader that Mars certainly has enough atmosphere to burn up incoming meteors and make shooting star displays visible from the surface of the planet.

While researching this particular rock I found out that the Chinese Yutu-2 Moon rover also discovered mysterious “gel like” green rocks on the Moon about a year ago. That mystery was solved though, the rocks were glass. IE rocks probably melted in a meteorite impact. Or maybe melted when they were testing Jewish space lasers. Sigh. Yes, Marjorie Taylor Green, the GOP’s “hold my beer” response to “Well, at least the GOP can’t elect anyone stupider than Sarah Palin;” actually blamed California wildfires on “space lasers.” Well, there’s one advantage to giving up science and reason, you can imagine whatever you want!

Sorry, slipped into politics for a moment there. Speaking of odd rocks found in far away places, I recall from my childhood that astronauts on the Moon announced they had found “green crystals” on the lunar surface. Turned out later they were joking. I was unable to confirm this on the Interweb though, so as it’s a fifty year old memory, I can’t vouch for it being accurate. Apollo 17 astronauts did indeed find unexpected orange soil on the Moon. Turns out it was volcanic in origin, created by an ancient fire fountain back when the Moon had active volcanoes. Interestingly enough scientists still can’t explain the origin of some of the unusual elements found in the soil samples after they were returned to Earth. That’s one of the wonders of science, if anything the things it can’t yet explain gets larger with every new discovery. No shortage of things for budding scientists to cut their teeth on.

Speaking of the Moon, I did apply for the #dearMoonCrew. This is a project to send eight passengers on board a spacecraft that will circle past the Moon in a few years. It was launched by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. I signed up mainly as a lark and for a bit of fun blog fodder. I waited until the last moment to actually fill out and send in my application. It was then I discovered I had made a horrible mistake. This is not a publicity stunt or such, the goal of the mission is actually incredibly cool.

Mr Maezawa is recruiting artists of all stripes (if one calls oneself an artist he’s good with it, and I sure as sheet think writing and blogging is an art,) who want to go to the Moon for inspiration, to inspire others, and to express themselves artistically. I mean, how cool is that? I could be the first blogger to circle the Moon! One better believe that would be the blogging opportunity of a lifetime. The mistake I made was not looking into it further, so my application was filled out at the last minute and wasn’t nearly as inspired and well written as it could have been. Oh well, missing opportunities is a long honored family tradition.

Still, I do want to go. They sent John Glenn up at 77 years old, so it’s not completely out of the picture. And I’ve been tagging #dearMoonCrew all over the place hoping my application at least gets passing attention. So gentle readers, if any of you are friends with Elon Musk (he’s supplying the spaceship) or the inestimable Mr Maezawa, please put in a good word for me!

Stay safe everyone, hope all are having a good week. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula #dearMoonCrew

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(NASA images the perseverance rover on the surface of Mars. NASA images are public domain so long as they aren’t used to indicate NASA endorses a product or service. No, NASA doesn’t endorse Doug’s Darkworld, although it would be cool if they did.)

Written by unitedcats

April 6, 2021 at 4:19 pm

TEXAS FOX LUNACY, WHY AMERICA IS BROKEN ILLUSTRATED. AND MARS.

leave a comment »

The modern GOP is pretty easy to predict, if something bad happens, the liberals engineered it. MAGA mob storms capitol? Antifa false flag operation. A terrible plague ravishes the land? Democratic hoax. The Texas power grid fails in a severe winter storm, those damn liberals and their green power! Fox repeated this particular lie endlessly. ‘Simply laughable’: How a lie about the Texas energy crisis dominated Fox’s coverage. It’s not really that laughable, because people believe the lies. No, GOP deregulation is why their power grid failed, it’s not even debatable. And people have been pointing out for a decade that the Texas power grid wasn’t ready for a storm like this: Beto O’Rourke said Texas was warned for years about power grid.

And Texas Senator Ted Cruz is really taking flak for fleeing with his family to Cancun while Texas suffered its worst natural disaster in decades. Millions without power, and he flies to Mexico for some sun. His excuse(s) aren’t flying well: People Can’t Help But Mock Ted Cruz’s Absurd Excuse For Cancun Trip. He blamed his daughters. Presumably they are liberals? It’s all just weird these days. But yeah, more evidence that more than just America’s infrastructure is rotten to the core, our ruling class is about the same. At least he’s getting fire from some fellow Republicans, but not most of course. If Obama had done something like this, the GOP outrage would have reverberated through the ages.

Gets weirder too. It’s becoming a thing in Evangelical circles to predict Trump is coming back. Not in 2024, but this year, 2021. The Christian Prophets Who Say Trump Is Coming Again. Somehow God is pissed that Trump is no longer president, and he’s going to reinstate him pronto. Because, Trump has God’s blessing or something. Yes, foreign and future readers, a lot of American evangelicals are, well, out of touch with reality. There’s no Constitutional way to change the election results. And boy, on the Evangelical fringe, the Texas winter storm was “scientifically impossible” and therefore caused by “weather manipulation:” Christian Activist: TX Freeze Was Weather Manipulation. Tens of millions of Americans believe this stuff, not promising for a healthy debate.

In many ways, all not that surprising. The GOP spent Obama’s administration pumping birther nonsense, claiming he wasn’t really the president, and doing everything in their power to demonize and obstruct him. It’s a logical extension to “Biden cheated so Trump really won.” Gotta remember, the GOP can’t win on popularity. Twice this century they “won” a presidential election even though they lost the popular vote, and Trump almost pulled it off again. The GOP right led by Evangelical extremists (people that want to turn the USA into a “Christian Nation,”) has moved considerably to the right in recent decades. Only maybe a third of America has followed them, the rest of us actually want to live in a secular democracy where Americans of all stripes are welcome. That’s why Obama got elected twice, the majority of Americans didn’t care that he was black.

I’m of course no Obama fan. While I think it’s a good thing Americans elected him twice, God bless em, their hearts were in the right place … Obama was true to his voting record. He was a complete tool of corporate America, Wall Street, and the pentagon. He normalized forever war and erased what remained of the Democrat’s actual progressive wing. Peace and actual economic justice are off the table, but LGTB rights! Couldn’t we have both? Not with Obama, and sure not looking like it with Biden.

My father is still alive, but very weak. Take care gentle readers, hopefully this is the last cold weekend in North America. Maybe. More likely than God putting Trump back into the White House. And if somehow Trump does get back into the White House in the near future, woo boy, blogging heaven! I’ll be back Monday, shares, comments, likes, follows, patrons, donations as always appreciated. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: The Mars Perseverance Rover two meters above the ground. Amazing Public Domain image.)

Written by unitedcats

February 19, 2021 at 8:43 pm

A COLD MONDAY EVERYWHERE

leave a comment »

Cold in Iowa, but much colder in yesterday’s mystery picture above. Those are sand dunes … on Mars. The stripes though, scientists aren’t exactly sure what’s causing them. Stuff is always happening on Mars now, a Chinese robotic mission arrives in a few days. If all goes well it will deploy a lander and a rover to the surface. A week later NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will land on Mars, it’s the one that will deploy the first helicopter drone on another world. Boy, when I was a kid Mars was just a fuzzy image seen from Earth based telescopes. Now, wow, a Golden Age of Mars exploration. Sooner or later they will find life, I just hope it’s sooner.

Back on Earth, Yes, I’ve launched another web site, to try and sell some of my photos: Doug Stych. Just thought it would be nice to earn a bit of extra money, my retirement income is very modest. And as a way for Doug’s Darkworld readers to make one time donations to keep me blogging. I suppose if the donation was big enough, I could be persuaded to stop blogging as well. I’m nothing if not responsive to my loyal readers’ desires.

So today, various tidbits and links. One reader expressed concern that my coverage of the Trump follies might decrease. No worries, as long as Trump is still making the news, I’m sure I’ll find time for him. Watching him turn the GOP into a Trump personality cult was endlessly entertaining. (In a morbid sort of way.) Watching him destroy what’s left of the GOP is even more entertaining. He is getting more pushback though, there actually are perfectly reasonable conservatives who have had enough of Trump and his fantasies. This fellow for example: Message to Nebraska GOP State Central Committee. I can and do respect a conservative like that.

An interesting read, the Dems are not exactly completely innocent in America’s descent into fantasy: Trump May be on Trial, but System That Produced Him Will Be Acquitted. And another neat link: How The US Legalized Corruption. White people use funny words for bribes. I mean, people think, whoah, you can give a cop $20 in other countries to get out of a ticket, but boy, US cops aren’t corrupt like that. No, no, they aren’t, asset forfeiture and the war on drugs has made penny ante corruption like that not worth the bother.

Two examples: A friend was busted buying a tiny amount of weed. It cost his family over $10K to keep him out of jail! Yes, safe bet that money didn’t go into funding drug rehabilitation programs. Then my favorite. A waitress found a customer had left a paper bag at her table, she caught her in the parking lot, the customer said: “Oh, wow, well, you just keep it!” There was like $15K in cash in the bag. Well, deciding to be on the safe side, she took it to the police. They said, “OK, if no one claims it, yes, it’s yours.” A week later the police called her: “Oh, we’ve determined it was drug money, so it’s been confiscated.” The woman was like, how did they determine that? So she got a lawyer, and the judge asked the same question of the police. She got to keep the money.

And in today’s “Yes, I predicted this” file: Republicans target Rep. Ilhan Omar after Dems try to oust Marjorie Taylor Greene. Granted I am sure lots of people predicted it, since it was about as predictable as the Sun coming up tomorrow. Which reminds me, I once had a big misunderstanding about the Sun coming up tomorrow with some people. Well, it wasn’t a misunderstanding, they were simply wrong. Some folks were claiming science could predict some things with 100% accuracy. I accurately pointed out that no, science never predicts anything with 100% accuracy. Granted in many cases the accuracy is such that it’s 100% for all practical purposes, but they were like “No, the Sun will come up tomorrow, period.” Yeah, more than likely; but if during the night the Earth or the Sun gets hit with a black hole travelling at relativistic speed, there will be no sunrise. It’s religion and ideology that often claim 100% accuracy, science never makes such claims.

Lastly, a link that made me think. So of course, a link to share: Woman Lists 18 Disturbing Facts Showing That Our World Wasn’t Built For Women. It just shows how insidious sexism is in the modern world, it really is a man’s world on levels most people never even recognise. A white man’s world too. Another great link for those that want to see: The Invisible Backpack. How does one get through to white people who think everything’s fine, racism and sexism are a thing of the past, that anyone has equal opportunity in modern America? Beats me, but I’ll keep trying.

Stay safe and warm everyone. Likes, comments, shares, patrons, and donations appreciated. I really am a poor artist living in a cold garret. I wouldn’t have it any other way, keeps me humble, but more beer and pizza money always helps. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Sand dunes on Mars. Credit: NASA, image used legally, IE NASA does not support or endorse Doug’s Darkworld in any way.)

Written by unitedcats

February 8, 2021 at 8:57 pm

TRUMP PROMISES ‘BIG THINGS’ WILL OVERTURN ELECTION JUST DAYS BEFORE ELECTORAL COLLEGE MEETS, PLUS GIANT ROCKS IN THE SKY

leave a comment »

Yes, yes he did: Trump promises ‘big things’ will overturn election just days before Electoral College meets. He didn’t say what they were, and frankly I’m not too worried. For those who haven’t been paying attention the past four years, empty promises are one of Trump’s mainstays. I don’t think there’s any real chance he could overturn the election, his efforts to do so have been farcical failures so far. He’s also expanded his claims, he’s now claiming that all sorts of elections were rigged, not just the election for POTUS. No evidence for this of course, but all based on his belief that Trump supporters are in the majority in America. No, no they aren’t. Most Americans are actually fairly tolerant and live and let live types, not MAGA evangelicals living in fear of libtards and mythical communists conspiracies.

Covid is ripping right along. 9 out of the top 10 world Covid hotspots are US states. Mind numbing, nu? This is a foreign article about how America turned into an ungovernable mess, makes some good points: Why Freedom Became Free-Dumb in America | by umair haque | Nov, 2020. Depressing as hell. Then this, basically claiming McConnell is going to do whatever he can to kneecap the Biden administration. Mitch McConnell’s dark pivot: Wreck the economy — and sabotage Biden’s presidency. We’ll see, unfortunately the election plotters somehow forgot to steal McConnel’s Senate seat. This also has an interesting take on the mess: Opinion | How the ‘stolen election’ myth will swallow the GOP.

Well, some science for a bit. The Japanese probe Hayabusa2 has returned a sample of an asteroid safely back to Earth.  The second time ever this has been done, the first Hayabusa mission brought back the first sample from a different asteroid. When I was a kid all the sci fi stories and movies were about sending astronauts everywhere. Nope, as dead as flying cars. Robots will explore the Universe, not people.

Speaking about our universe: Here’s what an astronomer who believes aliens may be out there thinks about UFOs. Not much, in fact he points out a really amazing thing about UFOs which I had never known. The vast majority of global UFO sightings … are in America. Frankly more proof that our whole freaking country has gone insane, but I digress. The article has some good learned speculation on aliens, the Fermi paradox, etc. Fun read for those so inclined.

Moving right along: An Astronomer Has Searched The Universe For a Potential Message From Its Creator. No, not a joke post. Can’t hurt I suppose, looking to see if there’s any messages from a creator somehow woven into the fabric of reality. Spoiler alert: He hasn’t found any yet. The big question I have about something like this is, if he finds something, does it mean the Universe was created by a creator? Couldn’t it also mean we are living in a simulated universe? Or that advanced aliens are screwing with him? I just don’t see what it would prove. On the plus side, he does find the old testament woven into the background of the Universe, fun blog posts.

Still no snow in northern Iowa. I am going to have to put metal plating on the new kitchen door to prevent the cat from destroying it. One of those sentences I thought I would never write. My fault though, if I’d known I was going to survive cancer surgery I would have slipped the cat sitter an extra $20 to arrange an “accident” while we were gone. Missed opportunities, the story of my life.

Stay safe and sane everyone, only three more weeks of 2020  to go. Looking forward to 2021 saying, “You thought 2020 was bad? Hold my beer!” #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula #spaceexploration

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Near Earth Asteroid 162173 Ryugu, whence the samples returned from. Well under a mile wide, it has a surface area smaller than New York’s Central Park, only about 600 acres. A person walking on the surface would weigh less than a penny. In other words, one could commit slow suicide anywhere on 162173 Ryugu simply by jumping upwards vigorously and sailing away into space.)

Written by unitedcats

December 7, 2020 at 5:16 pm

THROUGH THICK AND THIN

leave a comment »

Good news, bad news, horrifying news, just another day in 2020. This was in the small “good news” pile: Opinion | The Deep State Is on a Roll The article doesn’t mean the traditional understanding of ‘Deep State,’ the author is talking about all the judges, election officials, representatives etc across the country who decided protecting the institutions of democracy across the land was more important than any loyalty to Trump. The people that did their jobs, did their jobs well, and are sticking by them. Yes, Mr Trump, it was a fair and honest election, you lost. Trump’s chances of overturning the results of the election, never good to begin with, are getting slimmer every day. That’s a big national win.

In a local lose: Insane Christians Convinced a South Dakota City to Water Down Its Mask Mandate. And they are insane, wearing a mask is neither a political nor a religious issue, just a matter of public safety. You know, saving lives? In dark irony, I’m betting most of these people would call themselves “Pro Life.” I guess they should change it to “Pro life so long as I don’t have to lift a finger or inconvenience myself in any way to save lives.” I particularly liked the lady claiming “God didn’t intend for us to wear things on our faces!” … while wearing a pair of glasses. I guess she got a special dispensation from God for those? If one out of 800 South Dakotans dying of Covid-19 didn’t make these people see reason, nothing will.

In bigger bad news, or future bad news: What South Korea Can Teach Us About Vaccine Hesitancy. Basically, while it looks like vaccines will become widely available in the US over the next few months, there are real fears that resistance to taking the vaccine will be so high that vaccination rates will be well below the threshold for herd immunity. In fact I fully expect the GOP to politicize vaccines just like they’ve politicized everything in recent decades. If Biden and the Democrats are for vaccines, then by God vaccines are a communist plot to turn Americans into gay transexual socialists! So Democrats will line up to get vaccinated, Republicans won’t. We won’t get herd immunity, but at least there will be far fewer deaths among the vaccinated.

In foreign bad news, a prominent Iranian scientist was gunned down in the street. Almost certainly by Israel. Almost certainly in an effort to scuttle any chance Biden has of getting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) back in force, the humiliating agreement Iran signed to allow intrusive western monitoring of its nuclear program. Israel more than any other nation needs a scary Iran to distract from its own aggressive foreign policy, mistreatment of its Palestinian citizens, and utter failure to persue peace with its neighbors. We’ll see, maybe I’ll write a dedicated post on the Middle East mess. “Bad actors, acting badly” or some such horror.

In space news, China is about to collect the first moon rocks since the 1970s. Better yet, they are collecting them from a never before sampled part of the Moon, the Mons Rümker formation (photograph above,)  an isolated volcanic formation. It’s believed to be only about a billion years old, while the Apollo Missions landed in regions where the rocks were 3 billion years old or more. Apparently these new samples will help estimating rock ages throughout the Solar System. China has quite an ambitious Lunar program planned. The next step is a permanent robotic base, followed up by a manned base in the 2030s. Humans may well return to the Moon in my lifetime, I’d get a kick out of it.

In other space news, a new mystery: Astronomers Are Mystified by These Ghostly, Unexplained Circles Seen in Space “Seen” is not quite the word, these are only visible in radio frequencies. Big fuzzy rings of radio emissions in space, lots of them, found because we have a new super sensitive radio telescope mapping the heavens. Astronomers have no idea what is making them, we don’t even know how big they are or how far away they are. IE we could be seeing local things in our galaxy all the way up to giant chunks of the Universe itself.

They are however natural, no reason to believe otherwise. I just love as we explore the Universe, we’re constantly finding things no one expected. Pretty safe to say we always will, the Universe is complicated and unexpected in any direction we look. We’re nowhere near understanding it all, nor is it likely we ever will be in anything resembling the near future. On the other hand, our modern scientific understanding of the Universe and the world around us is amazingly accurate compared to most of human history.

On the gripping hand, modern science may well usher in a nightmare world. Until the late nineteenth century, people were more or less evenly matched when it came to dishing out violence. If ten people attacked, ten people could defend. Obviously there are codicils, an armed trained knight could take on a bunch of peasants, but it still basically boiled down to one on one. The invention of gunpowder even more smoothed the odds if both sides had gunpowder.

Then, in the late 19th century, smokeless gunpowder was invented. One person could fight ten people, even 100. Guerrilla warfare suddenly became a viable strategy. And the trend has accelerated since then, small numbers of people with advanced weaponry can kill huge numbers of people. This scary article looks into this. Basically, it’s just around the corner possible to fill a semi truck with millions of mini-drones that can be programmed to seek out, say, human heads, and set off a one gram shaped charge that will, well, blow the brain in that head to bits.

That’s right folks, we are the cusp of an era where OBL could kill millions of New Yorkers, not just a few thousand. This article goes into some of the thought and speculation about how this will play out: Omniviolence Is Coming and the World Isn’t Ready. Best not to even think about what governments could do with this technology. This is why I think intelligence such as ours is an evolutionary dead end, sooner or later some Hitler/Jeffrey Dalmer will kill us all.

Stay safe and sane everyone. Comments, likes, shares, etc appreciated. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #Omniviolence

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

Written by unitedcats

December 2, 2020 at 8:32 pm

THE WORLD TURNED TO ICE, THE LAST WEEKEND

leave a comment »

The world turned to ice for me tonight. Only the second time in my life that’s happened. Let me explain, I’m sure others have experienced the same. Time slowed down is another way to put it. I was out by the lake waiting for the sunset. A woman with her two toddler children was to my left. One of the kids made a run for the lake. Across the road. I was like, whoa, hope no car is coming … glanced to my right, oh yeah, there’s the car moving right along … And that’s when the world froze. I was paralyzed for a moment, I was not close enough to get to the kid, so I started moving towards the car. No thought involved.  It screeched to a halt, the driver saw me or the kid. Everyone was very upset, but we all went our ways. Halloween night, guess being scared is on point so to speak.

Still calming down. Good to know I’m still alive actually. I’m guessing that my body fired off a spurt of adrenaline and other chemicals. I wasn’t exactly calm before either. So there’s a limit to how far I can calm down. I have, as they say, the anxiety. The election is three days away, and I am not sanguine about the outcome. As in, I fear it’s going to be ugly. Republic changing ugly. Trump is no Caesar, but he might be the end of the republic nonetheless. His followers are capable of anything.

This for example: Biden Team Cancels Texas Event After Highway ‘Ambush’ by MAGA Cavalry. Yes, the Biden campaign bus was ambushed and surrounded on its way to a campaign event. This isn’t “protest.” In any previous election year this would have pretty much been a campaign destroying scandal. Now, it’s the new normal. Trump is not exactly known for his efforts at reconciliation and compromise. What’s going to happen if he openly encourages armed revolt? What will his followers do? I hope we don’t find out.

The few Trump supporters I know think Trump’s going to easily win reelection, and the whole left wing media hoax that is Covid-19 will fall apart having failed to dislodge Trump, and things will get back to “normal.” And Trump’s second and third terms will be even better! The libtards will finally be put in their place! And America will be great again. I would call this a reality testing issue. On the left, we have the flip side to Covid-19 denial. Trump denial. Still a lot of leftists claiming Trump and Biden are equivalent, and support for either is selling out. Well, good for them, vote for your candidate of choice. They’re wrong though.

There’s a class of people in history whose gravitas or whatever one wants to call it sucks in huge numbers of, well, supporters? It’s more than that though. There are people who just are shining stars in their age, movers and shakers, people who had a vision and compelled others to follow. Washington. Joan of Arc. Lincoln. Mussolini. Ghenghis Khan. Jackson. Hitler. Julius Caesar. Churchill. Mao. Caesar Augustus. Many others, but still, once in a generation leaders. Trump is one of those, Biden isn’t. Trump and Biden are not the same.

If Trump was a Lincoln or even a Caesar Augustus, I’d be “Go Trump!” No, he’s a Jackson or Mussolini at best. Trump lives in a world where science is fake news. That disqualifies any leader, and makes messianic leaders like Trump even more dangerous. Biden may be a corrupt Washington insider, but he still lives in the real world. This election comes down to a vote between reality and fantasy. Or look at it this way. Our house is on fire. Trump says it’s too expensive to fight the fire, it’s no big deal. Biden says letting the house burn down is going to be a lot more expensive than fighting the fire. Seems like a no brainer decision to me.

Vote Biden. Or vote green or whatever, vote for your candidate. Don’t vote for Trump, his rejection of a science based response to Covid-19 has killed tens of thousands of Americans already. Hell, the man is trying to spread Covid-19, not fight it. Stanford study estimates that 18 crowded Trump rallies ultimately resulted in 30,000 coronavirus cases.

Image above is an artist’s impression of a view from the surface of Titan, a moon of Saturn. The only moon in the Solar System with a significant atmosphere. Clouds, rain, weather, lightning, rivers, lakes, seas. Must be freaking beautiful. Would require one hell of a space suit, hundreds of degrees below zero. A world turned to ice.

Stay safe everyone, enjoy the last weekend. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Artist’s impression of a view from Titan’s surface. Credit: unknown, used without permission, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

October 31, 2020 at 8:12 pm

NO, THERE IS NO DEBATE ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING. PLUS VACCINE THEATER AND LIFE ON VENUS.

leave a comment »

America, land of denial. Trump has visited the fire ravaged West coast: US West Coast fires: Row over climate change’s role as Trump visits. Western governors are pointing out that global warming is a big part of the fire problem now raging across the west. Trump claims it’s poor forest management. Both are right and wrong, though as usual Trump is wronger. (Is that a word? It is now.) Yes, poor forest management is definitely a big part of the reason. Apparently Trump is overlooking that over half of forest land in the west is under federal management. So Trump is literally admitting to a big share of the blame. Since Trump is never wrong and never takes blame, only credit, I doubt that will get much mention in the circus that passes for the mainstream media in the US.

And no, the debate about global warming ended decades ago, Earth is rapidly warming up, and human activity is the cause. While we’re on the topic, the debate about evolution ended around 1870, the debate about creationism ended around 1830. I digress. This is America though, where if a powerful interest finds some scientific finding might hurt its profits, the science of science denial has made great progress in recent decades, and they are quite capable of creating “debate” where there is no debate. That American politicians are basically for sale to the highest bidder doesn’t hurt either. Welcome to Global Warming World, Northern Hemisphere summer was hottest on record, scientists say, where it’s just going to get worse and worse while Washington fiddles.  

Oh, wait, Trump is going to save us all. I missed this, but he declared he’s the greatest environmental president since Teddy Roosevelt! Trump Declares Himself “the No. 1 Environmental President” Well, he’s consistent at least. He’s also declared he’s been the best president for blacks since Lincoln, and the best president for LGTB rights ever. Basically, he’s the best at everything. The fact that all three claims are not only wrong, they are in complete opposite of the facts of his record is irrelevant. Some close to him say Trump apparently can’t tell the difference between the truth and a lie. Psychotic is a term one acquaintance used. Beats me, but someone who literally spent his term gutting and cancelling every environmental law and regulation he could is not an “environmental” president. If he actually believes it, then it’s partially true, he’s mental. 

Trump officials rush to introduce untested vaccine tracking system. Yes, Trump’s gonna be distributing a vaccine just before the election! What a guy! Trump’s gonna save the day! Sigh. No, this is pandemic theater. The date was chosen for political reasons, the chances a safe and effective and well tested vaccine will be available then is almost zero. You’d think that the fact that Trump keeps saying everything is going to come up roses … and it doesn’t … might cost him support. No, at this point Trump followers are committed, they’ve built their whole world view and identity around Trump, there’s nothing so blinding as deciding a leader is the Messiah. Look at Jim Jones and his followers.

An interesting article: Why Are Right-Wing Conspiracies so Obsessed With Pedophilia? Short version: “They’re baby killers!” is really effective propaganda, has been throughout history. They go into the McMartin preschool case, where one obviously not-quite-right-in-the-head mother claimed her son had been abused. (The fact that she kept her kid in the center even after making the allegations should have tipped people off.) The police interviewed a bunch of preschoolers, and oh my, the stories they told. Underground tunnels, animal sacrifices, satanic rituals, the whole works. They even sacrificed a giraffe! (Again, someone should have said, wait, what? Where would they get a giraffe?) 15 millions dollars of investigation later, multiple lives ruined, and it was all so much nonsense. Turns out preschoolers are easily encouraged to make stuff up to please the friendly policemen questioning them. A giraffe? Oh well, interesting read.

In some good news, life on Venus! Well, that came out of the blue. However, let’s not get carried away, like so many headlines: A gas found on Earth that signifies life has been detected in the clouds on Venus. So no, actual life detected, not quite. Phosphine, a nasty smelling swamp gas produced by anaerobic bacteria has been detected in Venus’s atmosphere. Entirely by surprise I might add. The reason scientists think this discovery might signify  life is because no one knows of any other way Phosphine could be produced. We’re likely not talking surface life, the surface of Venus is hellishly hot and unlikely to support life. Some of the cloud layers are quite temperate though. In fact it’s been seriously suggested that Venus is one of the best colony spots in the Solar System: Our Future in Space. Why pray tell? Because Venus has Earth normal gravity, unlike anywhere else in the Solar System but Earth. It’s the one thing that can’t be easily artificially created, and at this point it’s pretty clear for long term habitation, Earth normal gravity is likely essential for healthy human life.

I digress. It is exciting news, Venus is close, much closer than Mars. No doubt sample return missions are already being sketched out, don’t even need a lander, just a probe that swoops through the atmosphere and then returns samples to Earth. The discovery of life elsewhere in the Solar System would be a huge leap in our understanding of life. Essentially there are two possibilities. It’s related to life on Earth, which means panspermia is possible and life is likely all over the Solar System. Or more exciting, it’s not related to Earth life, which means life arose independently in two places in the Solar System. Which pretty much means life is all over the Universe.

Which then brings us back to, if life is everywhere, where are the aliens? Good question, hope there’s an answer in my lifetime. Stay safe everyone as we spiral into an insane election. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #InsanusTempora

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved. 

(Image: Facebook image of unknown attribution, used without permission. Claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

September 14, 2020 at 8:27 pm

IN OTHER NEWS …

leave a comment »

Well, the Super Tuesday Primary is over, and the fawning corporate media is falling all over itself proclaiming Biden the victor. And I can only agree. It will be Biden vs Trump in the fall, and Biden will more than likely lose. It’s almost as if the establishment doesn’t give a rat’s ass about anything other than corporate profit. And the loss will be blamed on Russians and Bernie supporters, further dividing the party and making sure that true progressive issues never get off the ground. Baring some big change, that’s my prediction for the 2020 POTUS election. God help us all.

Trump and the Taliban signed a peace deal. On the one hand, anything that smacks of the US backing away from its colonial wars is a good thing. On the other hand, it’s hard for me to see this as anything but an election year stunt. The agreement was reached and signed without the participation of the Kabul government, America’s ostensible ally, even though they were required to abide by its provisions. So predictably enough, it’s already falling apart. Basically Trump can now say he tried to get the US out of Afghanistan, but the Taliban wouldn’t hold up their end of the deal! Right. Mr Trump, you can pull American troops out of Afghanistan any time you want, the Taliban’s permission is not required.

Scientists have spotted the remains of the largest explosion ever detected. The “crater” (a bubble really)  it left in space could fit fifteen of our own Milky Way galaxies. Ginormous doesn’t begin to cover it, this explosion could have destroyed our own galaxy. Fortunately it’s nearly 400 million light years away, so no worries. Best guess is that it was produced by a, well, ginormous black hole somehow. Matter falling into a black hole can get really hot as it spirals towards it, and if enough matter gets hot enough, kaboom. Still stay tuned, astronomers still have a lot to discover. The doctor has a good post discussing various aspects of this discovery.

And in India, pogroms! Yes, Muslims are being targeted and murdered by Hindi mobs. So Trump wasted no time praising Mr Modi, the man whose policies inspired the violence. Mr Modi basically is trying to legally turn India’s Muslims into second class citizens. Who would have thought that a national leader stripping a minority of their rights and demonizing them might lead to violence? Oh, right. Sadly, it’s not just academic, religious extremists are working hard to turn the United States into a “Christian” theocracy where non Christians are second class citizens. I find that a lot scarier and more likely than Trump turning into the next Hitler. And I say “Christian” theocracy because the idea that Jesus would have been down with this is questionable at best. Christ taught love and inclusion, not hatred and exclusion.

In another Trump fail (aren’t you glad this isn’t another Covid-19 post?) Trump said that wait staff making $2.13 an hour are overpaid! Trump has always claimed American workers are overpaid, claiming that somehow that hurts America’s international trade. It’s all a crock of bull of course, American workers have been getting it in the shorts for decades, while the rich grow ever richer. Despite Trump’s lies, the situation for American workers hasn’t improved at all under Trump, as this site chronicles. America, land of duelling fantasies.

Greta Thunberg is still in the news. You would think someone trying to rally the planet to deal with a freaking planetary emergency would be universally popular, but no. Sadly the fossil fuel industry, the most insanely profitable industry the world has ever seen (supertankers are the Spanish treasure galleons of our time) has the money to buy entire political parties and whole governments. So Greta gets lots of death threats, and such things as this lovely little incident where a Canadian oil company gave its workers stickers portraying Greta being raped. She points out that oil companies stooping so low is a sign of desperation. Well, when you’re destroying the planet to keep a tiny handful of people ever and ever richer, I guess desperate measures are all they have. The global warming deniers love to claim the issue of human caused global warming isn’t settled … so what. (It is settled.) There’s people claiming evolution or the age of the Earth aren’t settled, hell, the planet is filled with people denying various scientific issues. Again, the doctor has a good post on them.

In local news, it looks like winter is over in Iowa. Nothing but nice weather in the pipeline for the next few weeks. Woohoo! Of course I still can’t walk more than 20 feet without excruciating pain, but at least I can look out the window and not see a sub arctic wasteland. Hope everyone is having a good week, comments and shares appreciated.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Facebook meme. Credit: Unknown, used without permission. I will happily attribute or remove it should the copyright holder come to light.)

Written by unitedcats

March 4, 2020 at 8:30 pm

BETELGEUSE IS UP TO SOMETHING

leave a comment »

Betelgeuse, the 11th brightest star in the night sky, may explode. Wait, what? Yerp, Betelgeuse, the left shoulder of the constellation Orion, is acting very strangely indeed. Over the past few months it has dimmed to less than 40% of its normal brightness, and is now the 24th brightest star in the sky.  The next clear night I’m going to go out and look for myself, Orion is one of the most noticeable constellations in the sky. Never thought it would change in my lifetime. This is, by the way, essentially unprecedented. While there are a few variable stars in the sky including Betelgeuse, never has a super bright star such as Betelgeuse suddenly dimmed this much, at least in recorded history. What the hell is going on here?

Short answer, astronomers don’t know, but it could mean Betelgeuse is about to explode. Betelgeuse is a very unstable and active star, it’s likely just blown a dust cloud or such our way. Still, a supernova? This is because Betelgeuse is a red giant star nearing the end of its red giant phase. And sometimes such stars go supernova. Betelegeuse is maybe 10-20 times the mass of the Sun, and large enough to encompass the orbit of Mars and maybe Jupiter. It’s about 700 light years from Earth, right next door astronomically speaking. Most astronomers think it’s unlikely the dimming means Betelgeuse is going to explode anytime soon, but it is within the realm of possibility. Only eight such explosions have been observed in history, so it’s not like scientists have had much opportunity to study them.

If it does go supernova, it will be quite a sight. Betelgeuse will be the brightest star in the sky, rivalling the Moon in brightness, and so bright as to be visible during the day. And it will last for months. Hopefully the skies here will clear long enough for me to look. Cloudy with sleet today, oh joy. On the plus side, 700 light years away means it probably poses no danger to Earth. We know this mostly because we have a pretty good idea of how common supernovas are, so we can calculate how often Earth has been close to a supernova. Fairly often in cosmic terms, and the planet hasn’t been sterilized yet. Losing the ozone layer would be the biggest danger, the effects would be bad, but life would go on. Phew. We have enough on our plate at the moment.

So two thoughts about this. First, boy, in the pre electric light world this would be a much bigger deal. If one of the stars in Orion had dropped to less than half its brightness in 1800, everyone on Earth would have known about it pretty quickly. And in many eras, it would have been considered an omen or such, the heavens were supposed to be immutable. People wouldn’t have known what to make of it. Pre 1700 or so, before outer space was discovered, people would have been really perplexed. Might have even caused witch burnings or wars. So, good thing it’s happening now, when people don’t believe in superstitious nonsense. Snort. No, the evangelicals who are waiting for Jesus to come back see this as another sign of the End Times. Stay tuned.

Which leads to my second thought, a somewhat eccentric thought trail. This Betelgeuse dimming event is the fourth odd and unprecedented event in the sky since Tabby’s Star dimming in 2015 suggested (albeit unlikely) alien megastructures. The second being Oumuamua and Comet Borisov. Tabby’s Star suggesting aliens, the next two being the first two confirmed interstellar visitors to the Solar System. And now an interstellar event visible to the naked eye, that rarely happens. One might even include the recently discovered repeating FRB, though that’s a stretch.

Connecting these events is no doubt pareidolia on my part. Seeing patterns where none exist. Thinking aliens might announce their presence by making changes in the sky isn’t an original idea. In fact the whole “the aliens are coming” trope seems pretty clearly to be the modern version of “Jesus is coming.”  Still, if the aliens suddenly arrive, I will become a famous blogger. The guy who saw the signs that the aliens were coming! The Nostradamus of our time! Fame and fortune would surely follow. And what a nightmare that would be. Fortunately it’s about as likely as Betelgeuse going supernova in our time.

On a more serious aliens vein, a case has been made to mainstream SETI (The search for extraterrestrial intelligence.) There are excellent reasons for doing so, both SETI and astronomy in general will benefit. The reason SETI has been left out in the cold is because it’s easy for science deniers and evangelicals to ridicule. Humans just love to shoot themselves in the face, we’re an odd species for sure.

I’m sorry this post is a day late, still helping a friend convalesce from an operation. She flies home soon though, and I will resume posting on a more regular basis. Take that as a threat or a promise I suppose. Have a great week everyone!

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Remnant of Cassiopeia Supernova of 1572. Credit: Pixabay, free for commercial use, no attribution required.)

Written by unitedcats

February 18, 2020 at 8:17 am

THINGS THAT GO POOF IN THE NIGHT

leave a comment »

Another week gone, poof. And another theory of planetary formation gone, poof. Actually, theories don’t go poof very often, and when they do it’s generally because a theory that better explains the evidence comes along. In this case, the original theory of planetary formation posited that planets were formed by violent collisions between clumps of matter in the disk of dust surrounding the Sun after it formed. It was never a super strong theory, because other star systems where planets are now forming are way too far away to get a good look at. The theory was largely based on computer modelling.

Well, about 15 years ago an astronomer came up with a new theory, that the collisions that formed planets during the Solar System’s formation were gentle, not violent. Computer modelling suggested this. Until recently we had no solid evidence one way or t’other, until January 2019. That’s when the New Horizons probe flew by Arrokoth, a trans-Neptunian object in the Kuiper Belt. Arrokoth is the furthest object yet visited by a probe, it’s basically leftover junk from the formation of the Solar System. And after a year of study, some scientists say it’s clear that Arrokoth supports the gentle collision theory of planetary formation.

Granted I suspect the issue isn’t fully settled, since we’ve only examined one object like Arrokoth. Still, this is how science works, it changes as evidence and understanding evolve. It’s just annoying now how Religious Right in their anti-science crusade always uses stuff like this to claim all sorts of science is unsettled, and if scientists were wrong about this, they could be wrong about anything! As if improving our understanding of the Universe is some sort of flaw in science. It’s the opposite, that science can and does correct our understanding of the Universe is one of science’s great strengths.

Speaking of things that go poof, 75 years ago today the Allied revenge bombing of the German city of Dresden was under way. The city of Dresden wasn’t a military target, and about 25,000 civilians were killed. Though at the time much higher estimates were floating around, encouraged by German propaganda. It was the first time there was serious criticism of the war effort against Germany, I mean, the Allies were claiming to be the good guys. How does one justify such an action? In February 1945 the war was over, organized German resistance was collapsing, the bombing of Dresden didn’t bring the end of the war any closer.

I say revenge bombing because if anything it was vengeance for the Nazi bombing of Coventry early in the war. Plenty of German cities had been carpet bombed already, seriously hampering Germany’s war effort. So it wasn’t a unique event, but the timing and the fact that Dresden was mostly known for its cultural heritage made it tricky to explain. And since war is the gift that keeps on giving for generations, today’s Nazis and Hitler apologists have seized on Dresden as a cause celebre for their efforts to demonize the Allies and make out Hitler and the Nazis as victims. History may be written by the winners, but the losers often manage to rewrite it anyhow. Like a certain nineteenth century armed rebellion in the US that is still glorified in some quarters.

Lastly, no going poof, but definitely in the night. On this day in 1990 the Voyager 1 probe took the famous “pale blue dot” photograph of Earth. Earth is a single pale blue pixel in the photo. It was taken from beyond the orbit of Neptune, part of a series of photos taken of the Solar System that day, the Family Portrait photos. There was no scientific reason for these photos, they were taken after Carl Sagan proposed the idea and campaigned for it for years. I agree with him, it was a great idea to inspire wonder at our place in the Universe, and to highlight the amazing progress science has made.

In an era of growing and increasingly sophisticated science denial, looking back at the 70s is sad. I never suspected Americans would go backwards and celebrate ignorance in my lifetime. At least not without a nuclear war or some such. Yet here we are, one of the loudest voices driving us back into superstition gets the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Go figure.

Have a great weekend everyone. Shares and comments appreciated.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: “Dresden, partial view of the destroyed city center on the Elbe to the new town. In the center of Neumarkt and the ruins of the Frauenkirche.” Credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1994-041-07 / Unknown / CC-BY-SA 3.0 This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license. You are free:

  • to share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work
  • to remix – to adapt the work

Under the following conditions:

  • attribution – You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
  • share alike – If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same or compatible license as the original.)

Written by unitedcats

February 14, 2020 at 2:44 pm