Tuesday, July 27, 2021

RIP Steven Weinberg

 So, science lost another great. Steven Weinberg shared the 1979 Nobel Prize for contributing to the Standard Model (with Sheldon Glashow and Abdus Salam).

He was a scientist and a science educator, who wrote books that helped explain the most esoteric aspects of particle physics. He received numerous prizes and awards.

"The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts a human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy"-Steven Weinberg in The First Three Minutes.

He inspired many, many people to go into science and is a great loss to the field.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

How Many Moons does Jupiter Have?

 We can actually confidently say:

We don't actually know!

That might seem unbelievable, but an amateur astronomer just found one more. It's not that exciting, it's in a moon cluster called the Carme group.

But it does show that we haven't found all of them yet, and that's kind of neat.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Life After (Solar) Death

 Eventually...long after we've likely become extinct or evolved into something else, the sun will turn into a red giant and then shrink into a white dwarf.

This will destroy Earth. But it might not be the end of the solar system's story. The math allows for the possibility that planets in the outer system might be pulled inwards as the sun collapses...into the habitable zone.

And then the sun will stay that way for billions of years. There's a plotbunny to tease out here...

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Jeff Bezos' Space Jaunt

 Okay, so the billionaire space race is rather dick comparing (and esp. Bezos because, all offense, that rocket ship looks like a giant dildo).

Ahem.

But the little trip into space did, in fact, go well. While I think SpaceShip Two is more immediately useful than New Shepard, I'm very intrigued by the technology they're using to make the capsule touchdown no more of a bump than a hot air balloon landing. It involves compressed air, so I don't know how well it would work in a vacuum, but it might end up being very useful for landing people and fragile things on Mars.

Also, the spaceport looks like it belongs on Tatooine or some other backwater planet, just saying. I think they should lean into that and make it all rugged and frontier-y.

Monday, July 19, 2021

We just found Borg in California...

 ...but don't worry, all they assimilate is DNA from other organisms. While studying environmental DNA, scientists found long strands of DNA that contained genes from microbes and other stuff. They were looking for viruses.

The borg are about a million base pairs long and exist outside cells. They might tell us something about viral evolution.

But they're also associated with microbes that oxidize methane, and could be involved in that process...and we really need microbes that oxidize methane.

Unfortunately, they can't be studied in the lab because without other organisms they can't do their thing. Which means, are they real or just some kind of bizarre contamination?

For that matter, does it matter what they are. If we can work out how to grow their hosts, then maybe we'll find out...and it might help us come up with ways to get methane out of the atmosphere. Like, say, introducing these bacteria to the manure heaps at dairy farms...

Friday, July 16, 2021

Friday Updates

 And...this has been a really quiet week. I do have plenty of stuff in the works, but nothing ready to announce just yet.

Give it time...

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Man or monkey?

Okay, definitely monkey, but imagine a lemur that weighs as much as you do!

Koala lemurs were five feet long, averaged 187 pounds, and ate mostly leaves. And yes, they still lived in trees. (Un)fortunately these giants have been extinct for at least 500 years. Possibly our fault, possibly not. There are no longer any giant lemurs on Madagascar.

They were apparently a close relative of the red-fronted lemur. And it's kind of a shame they aren't around any more. (They're called koala lemurs because they had hands similar to koalas).