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Archive: January 21, 2008

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spaced out

Monday,  01/21/08  01:05 AM

Okay, time to get spaced out!

I have accumulated a number of juicy links about one of my favorite subjects - space, and especially planetary exploration - and here they are, for your clicking pleasure...

  • Hubble's Largest Galaxy Portrait Offers a New High-Definition View.  Wow.  The largest and most detailed photo of a spiral galaxy that has ever been released; it is composed of 51 individual Hubble exposures, in addition to elements from images from ground-based photos. The final composite image measures 16,000 by 12,000 pixels.  And is beautiful, too...
  • NASA's Cassini Discovers Potential Liquid Water on Enceladus.  NASA's Cassini spacecraft may have found evidence of liquid water reservoirs that erupt in Yellowstone-like geysers on Saturn's moon Enceladus.  The rare occurrence of liquid water so near the surface raises many new questions about the mysterious moon.
  • Cassini's View of Jupiter's South Pole.   Cassini took many photographs of Jupiter on the way to Saturn, including this unusual montage of its southern pole. This photograph was made up of 36 separate images, stitched together on computer.
  • Saturn's moon 'best bet for life'.  Saturn's tiny moon Enceladus may be the best place to look for life elsewhere in the Solar System.  That is the view of a senior scientist working on the Cassini spacecraft, which has been studying Saturn and its moons for nearly two years.
  • Titan Descent Data Movie with Bells and Whistles.  This movie, built with data collected during the European Space Agency's Huygens probe on Jan. 14, 2005, shows the operation of the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer camera during its descent and after touchdown. The camera was funded by NASA.
  • Lakes on Titan!  The Cassini spacecraft, using its radar system, has discovered very strong evidence for hydrocarbon lakes on Titan. Dark patches, which resemble terrestrial lakes, seem to be sprinkled all over the high latitudes surrounding Titan's north pole.
  • Marooned Mars rover returns stunning panorama.  The most detailed panoramic view ever obtained on Mars has been returned by NASA's Spirit rover in time to mark its 1000th Martian day, or sol, on the Red Planet.  A total of 1449 individual images representing 500 megabytes of raw data were acquired for the view, called the McMurdo panorama.
  • Image archive: the top 100 photographs taken by the Hubble space telescope.  Can you choose a favorite?  Mine would have to be the glowing eye of NGC6751.  Absolutely stunning.  And to think how large it is!
  • Mountain range spotted on Titan.  The Cassini spacecraft has spied the tallest mountains yet seen on Titan, Saturn's major moon.  The range is about 150km long (93 miles), 30km (19 miles) wide and about 1.5km (nearly a mile) high.
  • Cassini Finds Lakes On Titan's Arctic Region.  NASA's Cassini spacecraft has found lakes on Saturn's moon Titan.  The lakes are most likely the source of hydrocarbon smog in the frigid moon's atmosphere.  Finding the source of the complex soup of hydrocarbons in Titan's atmosphere has been a major goal for the Cassini mission and is a significant accomplishment.
  • Here's a gallery of the best images taken by Cassini of Saturn and its moons.  Can you choose a favorite?  It isn't easy, but I rather like the movie of Hyperion tumbling toward Cassini.  Totally looks like something from Star Wars.  Can you imaging actually looking out the window and seeing that?  I can...
  • Can Titan be our future home?  Titan is the largest moon of Saturn and the second largest moon in the solar system after Jupiter’s Ganymede.  Titan is also the only moon in the soar system with a dense atmosphere that is even denser than that at Earth.  Studies have demonstrated that the most important and advantageous target in the solar system for colonization is Titan.  Yes!
  • Pluto status suffers another blow.  Not only has it been demoted from planet to "dwarf planet", research now shows that it cannot even lay claim to being the biggest of these.  A study has confirmed that the dwarf planet Eris - whose discovery prompted Pluto's relegation from planet to dwarf - outranks it in mass.  So be it.
  • Here's more information about Hyperion, including some awesome high-resolution pictures.  New images of Hyperion taken by the Cassini Spacecraft on September 26, 2005 will forever change our understanding of this new world. These pictures show a surface dotted with craters and modified by some process, not yet understood, to create a strange, "spongy" appearance, unlike the surface of any other Saturn moon.
  • Though colder than Earth, Titan is tropical in nature.  If space travelers ever visit Saturn’s largest moon, they will find a tropical world where temperatures plunge to minus 274 degrees Fahrenheit, methane rains from the sky and dunes of ice or tar cover the planet’s most arid regions. These conditions reflect a cold mirror image of Earth’s tropical and subtropical climates, according to scientists.

You're welcome!

 

black women voting

Monday,  01/21/08  12:34 PM

Barack and HillaryI saw this headline on CNN this morning: Black women voters face tough choices.  This is about the South Carolina democratic primary, and the two leading candidates are of course Hillary Clinton, a white woman, and Barack Obama, a black man.  The implication is that if you're a black woman, you're torn between voting for someone of your gender, or someone of your race.  But when you take a step back, isn't that a little weird?

All other things being equal, people might favor a candidate who is of their race or gender.  But all things are definitely not equal, every candidate is a unique person with different experience, capabilities, opinions, etc.  Wouldn't those things be more important?  And why is it a good thing for a candidate to share your race or gender?  Is there an implication that they'll make decisions more favorable to you (to your race, or your gender) than other candidates?  There might be something to that, but not much.  Barack hasn't run on a platform of improving things for blacks, and Hillary hasn't featured women's issues in her campaign.  If either did they would risk alienating everyone else, not to mention policies which help one group at the expense of others generally aren't the best ones anyway.

At the highest level it seems shallow for CNN to think that black women voters face a tough choice between Barack and Hillary on account of race or gender.  It might indeed be a tough choice - it is for me, for example, and I'm a white man! - but not because of such a simple association.

 

Monday,  01/21/08  07:30 PM

Blogging I be...  Yoda I be not.

I saw where Ann Althouse had a similar (although more sarcastic) take to mine on the CNN story about black women voters.  This ties in nicely with Christopher Hitchens article in Slate: Huck's free pass (Why are the media ignoring Mike Huckabee's remarks about the Confederate flag?)  "In this country, it seems that you can always get an argument going about "race" as long as it is guaranteed to be phony, but never when it is real."  That really does seem to be the case.  Any real discussion about race is off the table as being too explosive.

Kind of like what happened with James Watson, the Nobel-prizewinning biochemist who discovered the structure of DNA; he told the inconvenient truth, and faced the consequences.  Even if you disagreed with him, you could have the debate, but in today's environment even having that discussion was impossible.

BTW, if I ever had any thoughts about voting for Huckabee, and I don't think I did, this would have killed them dead.  At this point he is just taking up bandwidth in the conversation, he's no longer a serious candidate.

Gary Kamiya thinks the Republicans are a Dead party walking.  "The GOP candidates are a feeble group of Bush imitators tied to his disastrous war. And unless the surge turns into a miracle, even front-runner McCain won't beat a Democrat."  This is reckless precelebration.  The Republicans might be the Dems best friends, but they are their own worst enemies.

Steven Dubner and Steven Levitt - of Freakonomics fame - consider Unintended Consequences in the NYTimes today.  "Does this mean that every law designed to help endangered animals, poor people, and the disabled is bound to fail?  Of course not.  But... if there is any law more powerful than the ones constructed in a place like Washington, it is the law of unintended consequences."  So very true, most of the time when the government tries to get involved, they don't help.  Ann Althouse notes: "Reading this terrific essay, I thought it should be necessary to acknowledge the famous Ronald Reagan line: "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'""  Absolutely, and well worth keeping in mind as we watch the Presidential candidates promise to get our government involved to fix everything.

One more political note, I often enjoy James Taranto's column in the WSJ.  Today he notes: "This column generally tries to avoid taking shots at Andrew Sullivan, on the theory that it would be unsporting to do so. But a post over the weekend is so crazy that it's worth noting.Here it is, and yes it is crazy.  I've come a long way on Andrew Sullivan, from liking him, to disliking him, to being rather disturbed by him, to ignoring him.  As James says, "Sullivan thus becomes the only person ever to suggest that there's a vast right-wing conspiracy working for Mrs. Clinton."  Blech.

Floyd Landis in yellowLongtime readers know, I'm a huge fan of Floyd Landis, disgraced winner of the 2006 Tour de France.  Velonews carries an interesting interview with him.  You might think he hasn't proven his innocence, I think he hasn't been proven guilty.  Either way it is too bad it lingers...

uncov: failSo this is rather sad: Ted Dziuba of Uncov posted about the Crunchies awards (Crunchies. Ingredients: Fail), and winds up "Oh, right. One more thing. This is the last Uncov. Ever. I have been getting tired of it, and this has been manifesting itself in my writing. After seeing the spectacle at the Crunchies, I think it's finally time to quit."  Noooo!!!!!!!  What will we do without Uncov?  Already "Fail" has become a part of my daily lexicon, and when I use it people know exactly what I mean.  Maybe the Crunchies hangover will wear off, we can only hope.

Cory Doctorow notes we have Wubi!  "It's an installer package that lets Windows users install Ubuntu Linux like any other Windows app, without worrying about disk partitions and whatnot."  Sounds cool, but I suspect it is a dancing bear; that is, the fact that it does what it does is cool, but not useful.  Still, might be worth a try as an alternative to real work some afternoon :)

 
 

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