Lawyers, Guns and Money writes about the costs of law school. (They are significant, and escalating hugely.)
Marginal Revolution reports on the problems facing the Brazilian pension system, perhaps overgenerous for a relatively poor country facing rapid aging.
Neuroskeptic reports on the latest re: the crisis of scientists not being able to replicate evidence, now even their own work being problematic.
Personal Reflections considers the questions of how to preserve the dignity of people facing Alzheimer’s.
The Russian Demographics Blog notes a Financial Times article looking at the impact of aging on global real estate.
Spacing Toronto talks about the campaign to name a school after Jean Earle Geeson, a teacher and activist who helped save Fort York.
At Wave Without A Shore, C.J. Cherryh shares photos of her goldfish.
Window on Eurasia notes growing instability in Daghestan, looks at the latest in Georgian historical memory, and shares an article arguing that Putin’s actions have worsened Russia’s reputation catastrophically.
News of the remarkable density of planets, including potentially Earth-like planets, in the system of nearby ultra-cool dwarf TRAPPIST-1 spread across the blogosphere. This NASA JPL illustration comparing the TRAPPIST-1 worlds with the four rocky worlds of our own solar system, underlining the potential similarity of some worlds to the worlds we know like Venus and Mars and even Earth, went viral.
One interesting thing is that TRAPPIST-1 is tiny. Really tiny! It’s a class M8V ultracool red dwarf, which really is about as small as a star can get while still being a star. Much smaller and it wouldn’t be able to even fuse hydrogen. I’ve put it side by side with a few other familiar celestial objects in this image. As you can see, it’s a little bigger than Jupiter. It’s actually roughly the same size as HD189733b, a much studied hot jupiter, and noticeably smaller than Proxima, our friendly neighbourhood red dwarf. Lalande 21185 is on the larger end of the scale of red dwarfs, and is also one of the few you can actually see in the night sky (though you’ll need a dark sky to find it).
Ultracool red dwarfs really are tiny, but they’re also extremely long lived. Quietly burning stellar embers which exemplify the old saying that slow and steady wins the race. Because these little stars don’t burn their fuel too quickly, and because they’re low enough in mass to be fully convective, they can burn for trillions of years. Long after the Sun exhausts the fuel in its core, flares into a red giant and then cools silently in the darkness, TRAPPIST-1 will still be burning, providing warmth for it’s little planetary entourage.
Not much warmth, mind you. TRAPPIST-1’s handful of planets are huddling around their parent star as if it were campfire on a cold night. The entire star system would fit inside Mercury’s orbit and still have cavernous amounts of room to spare. So close are those planets, that they have years which pass by in mere Earth days. The shortest has a year which is just 1.5 Earth days long. The longest year length in the system is still less than a month.
aureliaOf course, I say Earth days, because these planets don’t have days as such. They’re so close to their parent star that they’re certain to be tidally locked. The gravitational forces are sufficiently different that they cannot rotate at all. One side constantly faces the tiny red sun in the sky, and the other side constantly faces outwards towards the cold night. It’s quite likely that the night sides of these planets may be frozen in a permanent winter night, never gaining enough warmth to thaw. Half a planet of permanent Antarctica.
Supernova Condensate was kind enough to produce an illuminating graphic, hosted at “Model Planets”, comparing the TRAPPIST-1 system to (among others) the Earth-Moon system and to Jupiter and its moons. The TRAPPIST-1 system is tiny.
The Planetary Society Blog’s Franck Marchis wrote a nice essay outlining what is and is not known, perhaps most importantly pointing out that while several of the TRAPPIST-1 worlds are in roughly the right position in their solar system to support life, we do not actually know if they do support life. Further research is called for, clearly.
Centauri Dreams’ “Seven Planets Around TRAPPIST-1” has great discussion in the comments, concentrating on the potential for life on these worlds and on the possibility of actually travelling to the TRAPPIST-1 solar system. The later post “Further Thoughts on TRAPPIST-1” notes that these worlds, which presumably migrated inwards from the outer fringes of their solar system, might well have arrived with substantial stocks of volatiles like water. If this survived the radiation of their young and active sun, they could be watery worlds.
The cultural implication of these discoveries, meanwhile, has also come up. Jonathan Edelstein has written in “We Just Got Our ’30s Sci-Fi Plots Back” about how TRAPPIST-1, by providing so many potentially habitable planets so close to each other, would be an ideal setting for an early spacefaring civilization, and for imaginings of said. If a sister world is scarcely further than the moon, why not head there? Savage Minds, meanwhile, in “The Resonance of Earth, Other Worlds, and Exoplanets”, hosts a discussion between Michael P. Oman-Reagan and Lisa Messeri talking about the cultural significance of these and other discoveries, particularly exploring how they create points of perceived similarity used as markers of cultural import.
Understanding Society engages in a sociological examination of American polarization, tracing it to divides in race and income.
The Volokh Conspiracy notes the many good reasons behind the reluctance of cities around the world to host the Olympics.
Window on Eurasia notes that where the Ingush have mourned their deportation under Stalin the unfree Chechens have not, reports that Latvians report their willingness to fight for their country, looks at what the spouses of the presidents of post-Soviet states are doing, and notes the widespread opposition in Belarus to paying a tax on “vagrancy.”
Arnold Zwicky looks at the linguistic markers of the British class system.
James Bow offers his prescriptions for a fix to thje issues of guaranteed minimum income.
The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting that, from the perspective of long-term habitability of exoplanets, stars slightly more massive than the sun are preferable.
Language Hat introduces the toponym of the “triplex confinium”, here the point where Serbia meets Romania and Hungary.
Language Log considers Trump’s particular rhetorical style, in relation to his claim of something terrible happening in Sweden: What is he actually hinting at?
Lawyers, Guns and Money argues that talk of a Turkish-style deep state in the United States is a fundamental misreading of the American situation that plays into Trump’s hands.
The LRB Blog looks at street-level community organization in Baltimore, suggesting that it points the way to the future of anti-Trump resistance.
Marginal Revolution reports on Noah Webster’s preference for Americans.
Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw considers the nature of Chinese-Australian trade in agricultural goods.
The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer argues that North American integration would continue even with the end of NAFTA, given the advantageous nature of American trade with Mexico.
Savage Minds talks about teaching in the era of Trump.
Supernova Condensate identifies eight important things about uranium that people should know.
Torontoist shares a photo from yesterday’s drag queen reading to children at Glad Day.
Window on Eurasia looks at Russia’s partial recognition of the Donbas republics and the handing out of Russian passports to their citizens, notes the potential for anti-Lukashenka protests in Belarus to trigger a Russian intervention in its sphere of influence and looks at minority languages threatened by Russian.