Latest / page 4

What we're talking about Monday, August 29, 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

Wildlife of Southeast Asia by Susan Myers, is a new pocket identification guide covering “wildlife” in Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, West Malaysia, and Singapore. It covers birds, mammals, reptiles, frogs, and invertebrates. Considering that there must be tens of millions of inverts in Southeast Asia, the coverage here is very minimal, just the highlights,…

It’s a quiet, lonely life for a squid in the deep, just drifting along, dangling a pair of lines, hoping to snag dinner. There are two videos of this squid, one from 2014 and another from 2013.

I suggest an unholy hybrid of the two.

Physical Science

“Because practical applications are so remote, many people assume we should not be interested. But this quest to understand the world is what defines us as human beings.” -Yuri Milner It’s been another big week here at Starts With A Bang, with stories covering the Universe near and far. First off, thanks to our generous Patreon supporters, we…

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” -H.P. Lovecraft There’s a unique relationship between everything that exists in the Universe today — the stars and galaxies, the large-scale structure, the leftover glow from the Big Bang, the expansion rate, etc.…

The verdict on whether electronic cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes is still very much out. However, a recent study found e-cigarette emissions contain a variety of concerning chemicals, including some considered to be probable carcinogens.

Environment

By one accounting, 90 companies. Richard Heede … …(pronounced “Heedie”) has compiled a massive database quantifying who has been responsible for taking carbon out of the ground and putting it into the atmosphere. Working alone, with uncertain funding, he spent years piecing together the annual production of every major fossil fuel company since the Industrial…

An image from the Economist’s Technology Quarterly. Interesting to me: I’ve been following the Space X (not to be confused with Force X) stuff with great interest. But I hadn’t realised that launch was such a tiny fraction of the overall spend. As a minor tie into the nominal subject of this blog, notice that…

There is, of course, a theory of law. As soon as you ponder the question, you realise there must be. But it had never occurred to me (in my faint defence I find, now I look, that whilst wiki has a category for theories of law, it doesn’t seem to have an overall article on…

Humanities

The verdict on whether electronic cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes is still very much out. However, a recent study found e-cigarette emissions contain a variety of concerning chemicals, including some considered to be probable carcinogens.

Several colleagues have told me this bizarre rumour that I hope is unfounded. Contract archaeologists at two sites on Öland and in Småland have found more Medieval coins than their conservation budget can cover. So they have to prioritise which coins to conserve. So far so good, and congrats on the lovely finds. But. According to this…

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…

Education

Classes start on Monday. I knew that intellectually, of course, but I had it brought home to me a few days ago when I innocently drove onto the campus, only to find a traffic jam and crossing guards directing the cars. Students were moving into the dorms, you see. Higher education is beset with problems…

A disproportionate percentage of Islamist radical actors, including suicide bombers, come from an engineering background. Why? Right wing and Islamist extremism seem to share this and other traits, while left wing extremism is more commonly associated with individuals from the humanities and social sciences. This is what we learn from “Engineers of Jihad: The Curious…

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

Politics

A disproportionate percentage of Islamist radical actors, including suicide bombers, come from an engineering background. Why? Right wing and Islamist extremism seem to share this and other traits, while left wing extremism is more commonly associated with individuals from the humanities and social sciences. This is what we learn from “Engineers of Jihad: The Curious…

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…

Medicine

Stem cells are magic. Stem cells cure everything. They are the next big thing in medicine. That’s the narrative one frequently hears about stem cells in the press and courtesy of offshore stem cell clinics in places such as Italy and direct-to-consumer marketing of stem cells in the US. Of course, stem cells aren’t mystical…

The verdict on whether electronic cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes is still very much out. However, a recent study found e-cigarette emissions contain a variety of concerning chemicals, including some considered to be probable carcinogens.

The EEOC alleges in a lawsuit against Wayne Farms, a poultry-processing company, that its attendance policy results in injured workers being fired. That’s a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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

The EEOC alleges in a lawsuit against Wayne Farms, a poultry-processing company, that its attendance policy results in injured workers being fired. That’s a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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.