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What we're talking about Friday, August 26, 2016

Planets, Planets Everywhere

The Pale Red Dot project has found a planet. It is a terrestrial planet, orbiting in the formal habitable zone of Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to the Solar System. Proxima Centauri is a low mass red dwarf, and is part of a triple system, the other two stars being α Centauri A and B,…

The star that is nearest our own has a planet that could be habitable by Earthlings. This is very important news. The news comes to us from this research paper in Nature: A terrestrial planet candidate in a temperate orbit around Proxima Centauri by Guillem Anglada-Escudé, Pedro J. Amado, John Barnes, Zaira M. Berdiñas, R.…

“Our existence in this place, this microscopic corner of the cosmos, is fleeting. With utter disregard for our wants and needs, nature plays out its grand acts on scales of space and time that are truly hard to grasp. Perhaps all we can look to for real solace is our endless capacity to ask questions…

The European Southern Observatory made headlines this week with their discovery of an Earth-like exoplanet orbiting our nearest neighboring star. On Dynamics of Cats, Steinn Sigurðsson writes: "ESO researchers, using the radial velocity variability technique, have detected a quite robust signature of a planet with a mass of 1.3 Earth masses, or more, in a 11 day orbit around Proxima Centauri." The planet is within the red dwarf's habitability zone, but we don't yet know if it harbors an atmosphere or liquid water. Greg Laden writes "now that we have an Earth-like planet in our sights, perhaps there will be impetus for both funding and effort to squint really really hard at it and see if any life is there." Ethan Siegel says "we can use giant ground-based telescopes for high-resolution spectroscopic images of these worlds. We can use space-based telescopes with coronagraphs or starshades to image these worlds directly over time. Or we could undertake a journey across space." Reflecting on the number and quality of exoplanets discovered in the last few years, Steinn Sigurðsson concludes "What a nice Universe." Amen.

Channel Surfing

Life Science

I suggest an unholy hybrid of the two.

Check out this new YouTube video of an adorable baby baboon with leucism, not to be confused with albinism as discussed in the video:

Researchers from Friedrich Schiller University (Jena, Germany) and Heinrich-Heine-University (Düsseldorf, Germany) teamed up to test whether a heart failure medication that is currently being tested might also improve blood flow in the brain. Their findings were published last month in the American Journal of Physiology, Heart and Circulatory Physiology. According to the study authors, the small blood…

Physical Science

“Our existence in this place, this microscopic corner of the cosmos, is fleeting. With utter disregard for our wants and needs, nature plays out its grand acts on scales of space and time that are truly hard to grasp. Perhaps all we can look to for real solace is our endless capacity to ask questions…

“To consider the Earth as the only populated world in infinite space is as absurd as to assert that in an entire field sown with millet, only one grain will grow.” -Metrodorus of Chios Later tonight, the European Southern Observatory is expected to make an announcement, and the smart money is on the discovery of…

The star that is nearest our own has a planet that could be habitable by Earthlings. This is very important news. The news comes to us from this research paper in Nature: A terrestrial planet candidate in a temperate orbit around Proxima Centauri by Guillem Anglada-Escudé, Pedro J. Amado, John Barnes, Zaira M. Berdiñas, R.…

Environment

Michael Mann has a specialty or two. Climate simulation modeling, analysis of proxy data, the study of global teleconnections, Northern Hemisphere surface temperatures over historic time scales, etc. A while back, Mann’s research interests and activities converged, I assume by some combination of design and chance (as is often the case in Academia) with a…

Check out this new YouTube video of an adorable baby baboon with leucism, not to be confused with albinism as discussed in the video:

Andy Skuce, in On and against method and process is (to me) bizarrely keen on Paul Feyerabend (though presumably he discards the numerous cites to Lenin, denigration of modern medicine, and all the really wacko stuff). I kinda tend to mix F up with the other out-of-their-depth French folk like Latour that Sokal and Bricmont…

Humanities

Have you ever wondered how “Dick” became short for “Rick”? Probably not. But it turns out that the reason, if the following video is accurate, is interesting. I have two questions for the historical linguists in the room. First, is there a name for this rhymification effect? Is is common? Is it confined to certain…

On the question of whether a soda tax can actually reduce the amount of sugary drinks people consume, a new study finds the resounding answer is “yes.”

Check out this new YouTube video of an adorable baby baboon with leucism, not to be confused with albinism as discussed in the video:

Education

Check out this new YouTube video of an adorable baby baboon with leucism, not to be confused with albinism as discussed in the video:

Researchers from Friedrich Schiller University (Jena, Germany) and Heinrich-Heine-University (Düsseldorf, Germany) teamed up to test whether a heart failure medication that is currently being tested might also improve blood flow in the brain. Their findings were published last month in the American Journal of Physiology, Heart and Circulatory Physiology. According to the study authors, the small blood…

I recently went on a trip to visit the Endeavour space shuttle currently on display in Los Angeles. Seeing the shuttle up close brought back memories of watching the space shuttle launches on TV and the childhood dream of visiting other planets…a dream that also inspires Hollywood to continue to produce movies and TV shows about space exploration. Turns out, The…

Politics

On the question of whether a soda tax can actually reduce the amount of sugary drinks people consume, a new study finds the resounding answer is “yes.”

The AP is breathlessly reporting that 85 out of 154 people coming from private interests (as opposed to governmental functionaries) who met with Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State were also donors to the Clinton Foundation. The headline: “Many Donors To Clinton Foundation Met With Her At State.” Perhaps you are wondering why…

This explains a lot of things: Boy, do we ever need campaign finance reform.

Medicine

Even as Michael Phelps piled a 23rd gold medal onto his stack, he also drew attention at the Rio Olympics for circular bruises on his shoulder resulting from a pseudoscientific medical treatment called cupping. Several ancient cultures practiced variants of cupping in order to reduce pain or heal injury. On Respectful Insolence, Orac writes “even…

There’s an old saying that basically asks the question, “With friends like these, who needs enemies? or, as Voltaire (or Marshal Villars, depending on the account) said, “May God defend me from my friends: I can defend myself from my enemies.” The point, of course, is that friends or allies can sometimes be as infuriating…

On the question of whether a soda tax can actually reduce the amount of sugary drinks people consume, a new study finds the resounding answer is “yes.”

Brain & Behavior

On the question of whether a soda tax can actually reduce the amount of sugary drinks people consume, a new study finds the resounding answer is “yes.”

Researchers from Friedrich Schiller University (Jena, Germany) and Heinrich-Heine-University (Düsseldorf, Germany) teamed up to test whether a heart failure medication that is currently being tested might also improve blood flow in the brain. Their findings were published last month in the American Journal of Physiology, Heart and Circulatory Physiology. According to the study authors, the small blood…

I was checking out the award-winning American Physiological Society’s I Spy Physiology blog and came across a couple of really interesting posts about animals: “If Only Birds Could Compete in the Summer Games” This post reported a study of how frigatebirds manage to sleep during flights out at sea that can last for weeks. By measuring brain activity, the…

Technology

Want to make your own robot? You can do this the easy way, or you can do this the hard way. Or, both, if you like. The basic home made robot is a robot because it moves around, and the way that is usually achieved is with two independently powered wheels, a third wheel (or…

This is a blog rant. But first, a bit of blog appreciation to the select number of individuals who suggested to us that the Shark was the best vacuum cleaner for us, in a recent Facebook Discussion. I have to say, that when I saw S.H. suggest the Shark, I figured that the chances were…

Huxley and I like to make Arduino projects. If you know what that means, your geek cred is good. If not, I’ll explain briefly. Arduino is an Italian based project that produces circuit boards that are controllers. A controller is a small highly specialized computer thingie that can be programmed to have various inputs and…

Information Science

I have a son who will be finishing up his undergrad in physics this coming school year with an eye towards possible graduate work in math. As you can imagine, I occasionally see a link or two on the web that I think he might particularly interesting or useful. Thinking on that fact, I surmised…

Are We Feeling Collective Grief Over Climate Change? Astrophysicist wins Twitter burn of the year with her reply to climate change skeptic The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here Dazzling blue lakes are forming in Antarctica — and they’ve got scientists worried The Galileo gambit and other stories: the three main…

I had been utterly unengaged with with TV about the time that I met this particular cute girl, and she told me that she love the West Wing and watched it every week. There was, if I recall correctly, one more episode showing in the penultimate season, and we watched it together. I liked it.…

Jobs

This week’s snapshot of just one work-related fatality in the US. This one occurred on Tuesday, August 9, in Denver, CO

A closer look at the latest available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that injury and illness stats for California show the state has worse, not better, rates of worker injuries and illnesses than national levels or the performance of other major industrial states. The “but we have better stats” response from state officials cannot be used to justify the failure of the Department of Industrial Relations and Cal/OSHA to fill 38 vacant field compliance officer positions that have been fully funded since July 2015.

Farmworkers in south Texas continue to struggle 50 years after historic worker strike; Illinois governor signs Domestic Workers Bill of Rights; Samsung Electronics accused of withholding deadly chemical exposure information from workers; and OSHA fines a Tyson chicken plant after a worker loses a finger.