Critical Section


Sunday,  07/31/05  10:56 AM

In which your intrepid blogger attempts, futilely, to post the interesting doings of the day, the week, and the month...  Most likely just the news of the day will make it, along with some interesting tidbits :)

Deep Impact animationSaturn from CassiniI have to start with space, there is some exciting news as you know.  First there was Deep Impact, which fired a missile into comet Tempel 1 and then filmed the results.  (Great animation of the process here, by Dan Maas.)  There were also some amazing pictures taken by Cassini, which is orbiting Saturn.  (Including one entitled "Titan's true color", which I hope to see for myself someday.)

The latest cool news?  Planet X!  Actually, planet Xena!  A Kuiper belt object which is 1.5 times larger than Pluto has been found.  First there was Quaoar, then Sedna, now Xena.  Either there are a bunch more planets out there, or Pluto really isn't a planet.  It's orbit and other factors actually suggest the latter.

ice on Mars! via the ESA's Mars ExpressWhat's next, ice on Mars?  I guess so.  Not even that surprising, after all the evidence found for water on Mars by the Mars Rovers, but still quite exciting.  What if - just think - there was a little Martian bacterium living in that crater?  What if?

And if you want to hear something creepy from outer space, check out this eerie recording of Saturn's radio emissions.  Couldn't be any better if it was in a scene from 2001 or Twilight Zone.  (Seriously, click through to listen, I promise it will be worth it :)

Oh, and construction has started on Magellan, [which will be] the world's largest telescope.  When completed in 2016 it will have a resolution 10 times higher than the Hubble.

Meanwhile, Clive Thompson wonders Why We're Still Alone.  "Various SETI efforts -- the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence inside our galaxy, bien sur -- have been ongoing for thirty years, with no success yet.  If there's intelligent life out there, we haven't been able to detect it with our arrays of radio telescopes and funky parallel-processing screensavers.  But what if we're simply looking in the wrong place?"  Excellent blogage from Clive, as usual...

Solomon explains why Peaceful Aliens must be Destroyed!  "We are seriously in trouble if aliens visited our planet in peace."  Hey, maybe it has already happened?  I've met some awfully strange earthlings :)

mammatus clouds over Hastings, NevadaAnd check out these weird clouds over Hastings, Nevada.  Seem kind of alien, don't they?  [ via Mark Frauenfelder ]

Google Moon ExplorerDid you see Google's Moon Explorer?  Pretty cool, including waypoints for all the Apollo landings.  Glad to see their corporate sense of humor is still intact, be sure to zoom in all the way :)

And sadly, James Doohan, aka Scotty from Star Trek, has died.  Not only a cool actor with a cool role ("beam me up" has definitely entered the lexicon, as has "we need more dilithium crystals!"), but in a little known twist of fate he was actually PayPal's first and only celebrity spokesperson.  Back when "beaming" money from one Palm to another was the company's primary product!

The various disciplines of medicine continue to barrel forward.  I was so happy that Bill First, Senate Majority Leader and a physician, has broken with President Bush on the stem cell issue.  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]  You just cannot put these genies back in their bottles.  I like Bush but definitely not on every issue.

Related; Wired: How to Save Stem-Cell Research.  "Embryonic stem-cell research advocates are currently faced with a tough decision.  They can continue to push pending legislation that would open up more embryonic stem-cell research, but which also faces a likely veto from President Bush; or they can face up to the current political climate in Washington, and back a different bill, which would fund alternative types of stem-cell research."  It is so strange that so many politicians are afraid of medical technology.  Maybe they're just reflecting the views of their constituents, but I actually don't think so; I think most people don't have a strong opinion, and their leaders are afraid to stick their toes into this water.

FuturePundit reports Replacement Human Muscles With Blood Vessels Grown In Rodents.  Sounds like a headline from some science fiction novel, doesn't it?  "What's even more exciting than being able to make skeletal muscles for reconstructive surgery or to repair congenitally defective muscles, for instance, is that this a generic approach that can be applied towards making other complex tissues.  It could allow us to do really wonderful things."  How long before genuine human replacement parts are grown?  Soon, I think.

In another vein (so to speak), Randall Parker wonders Should Pregnant Drug Abusers be Institutionalized?  My answer: of course!  This hits at the very core of Unnatural Selection.  The last thing we need is society picking up the tab for a bunch of drug abuser's children.  Read it, for it is good...

hurricane!CNN reports: Study: Hurricanes getting Stronger.  "Is global warming making hurricanes more ferocious?  New research suggests the answer is yes."  The empirical evidence is definitely there; when I was a kid thirty years ago we didn't have three or four big hurricanes every year, right? 

Good thing we're doing something about global warming; Powerline notes A Stroke of Genius.  "What distinguishes this plan from the Kyoto protocol is that it will actually lead to a major reduction in carbon emissions!  This substitution of practical impact for well-crafted verbiage stunned and infuriated European observers."  Not that this is "the whole solution", but it is a good start.

Live 8 concert in Hyde Park, LondonThere's been a lot of blogospheric discussion about aid to Africa, in the wake of the Live 8 concerts.  I kind of agree with Hrairoo, who notes There's No Such Thing as a Free Concert, in an informative Q&A on the events.  The core question is whether aid actually helps economies improve.  Personally I'm skeptical, the track record is crummy.  I think you have to fix the political systems in poor countries first.

Max Boot is pretty skeptical, too.  "In the last 50 years, $2.3 trillion has been spent to help poor countries.  Yet Africans' income and life expectancy have gone down, not up, during that period, while South Korea, Singapore and other Asian nations that received little if any assistance have moved from African-level poverty to European-level prosperity thanks to their superior economic policies."  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]  In some ways this situation reminds me of Child Tax Credits and the Mutilated Beggar Effect.

Anita Sharp considers Trade or Aid?  "What's the best way to help impoverished Third-World countries -- give them money or help make it easier for them to sell their products competitively?  'People think more aid will help, but it won't,' actor Minnie Driver told the New York Times. 'Trade is the surest way of decreasing the savage amount of poverty in our world.  These countries have got to be able to trade fairly.'"  I sort of agree - free trade is important - but the tone of this quote suggests that the problem with fair trade is external; in actuality most of these countries are horribly protectionist, on top of being amazingly corrupt.

Did you see that Longhorn will officially be called "Windows Vista"?  No word on whether they considered Shorthorn instead :)  Although they keep cutting back content, I really doubt I'm going to get what I want; less "application" features, more low-level functionality like better paging and improved networking.  There's a beta available, I'm trying to decide whether it is worth installing.  The original "PDC bits" from 2003 was a joke.

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