Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Sea Otters, Not Just Adorable

 I mean, if you don't think sea otters are cute, I do rather question your taste. No offense.

But it turns out they're also vital for the survival of eelgrass meadows. It goes like this:

  • Sea otter digs through eelgrass for clams.
  • Eelgrass responds to the disturbance by flowering and producing seeds.
Eelgrass, it turn out, only reproduce sexually when disturbed. And without sexual reproduction, the meadows have no chance of adapting to changes in ocean temperature and acidity. I also suspect that otters benefit the grass by aerating (water-ating?) the soil.

So, they're not just cute, but a key part of their environment and weirdly symbiotic with the grass.

But they're still adorable. That fur...

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Dear Russia

 A software bug causing thrusters to burn incorrectly while docking a brand new module to the ISS I'll give you.

Doing it with a Soyuz? What's going on over there? Where are all your good coders? Don't answer that.

(Yes, the Russians knocked the ISS out of orientation with a software bug on a test thrust. Yes, they did it again. They're almost as incompetent as the Washington Metro).

Monday, October 18, 2021

All These Worlds Are Yours...

 ...except Europa.

So, Europa has water vapor in the atmosphere. Only in one hemisphere (we don't know why but my guess is that it has something to do with the tidal effect of Jupiter).

We don't know where it's coming from. Well, we do, it's coming from the under-ice ocean somehow.

But it does make one wonder, doesn't it.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Friday Updates

 I have received an invitation to be on programming at Philcon, which is taking place slightly later this year (November 19-21). No further details yet, but I'm sure it's going to be amazing.

The con is requiring vaccination and masks.

My story, "Honor the Midwife," will be published on the Land Beyond the World Website on Monday. This story takes place in a very early version of Yirath, so note all the changes between it and Firewing. It's still a neat little story, though, that I'm quite proud of.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

James Webb Might Finally be Happening

 The James Webb Space Telescope has been shipped to its launch site in French Guiana. Now it needs to be checked again before it can be put on a rocket for launch.

As a note, I'm starting to get more and more in favor of a name change, but I don't have anything good to call it instead. Webb was apparently an asshole and homophobic. We need a nickname for this thing. Or maybe I can find the official designation under the name somewhere...

Either way, we might finally get this thing launched and on its way to L2...and we're going to do a heck of a lot of science.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

So, Here's One...

 Imagine that you're woken up by a loud crash and leap out of bed, look back and find a rock right where your head would have been.

Imagine calling the cops and having them investigate where it came from.

Now imagine that the answer is "Outer space."

Ruth Hamilton in British Columbia very nearly became one of the few people in recorded history to be killed by a meteorite. And I just used this as an example of things people shouldn't worry about...

(We shouldn't. The chances really are incredibly low).

(She's keeping it).

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Clouds are Plankton Breath

 No, seriously, they are. Plankton releases dimethyl sulfide, which turns into sulfuric acid, which then seeds clouds above the ocean.

Oh, and also, one cloud does not feel lonely. The more clouds there are already, the fewer clouds form, simply because the existing clouds attract the sulfur. Clouds are hungry and devour their young.

All of this could be useful for understanding cloud formation...and potentially mitigating climate change.