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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘space travel

[BLOG] Some Sunday links

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  • Anthropology.net reports on the recent discovery in China of two skulls a hundred thousand years old, possible remnants of a hitherto-unknown hominid species.
  • blogTO reports on the boom in the Toronto tech community.
  • Language Log breaks down the linguistics, specifically word lengths, of audiobooks.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reports on the difficult position of indigenous peoples in Nicaragua.
  • Marginal Revolution reports on the potential health benefits of substances in the blood of the Komodo dragon.
  • The NYRB Daily reports on the modernist photography of Berenice Abbott.
  • The Planetary Society Blog reports on the adventures of the Mars rovers.
  • Supernova Condensate takes a quick look at Jupiter’s moon, Io.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at a new Russian film that transposes the superhero genre with the Soviet era, and argues that Russia is acting these days not as a constructive power but as a spoiler.

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

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  • James Bow calls for an end to the US-Canada Safe Third Country agreement prohibiting people coming from American soil from claiming refugee status in Canada.
  • D-Brief reports on the vast array of man-made minerals appearing in what is now being called the Anthropocene Era of Earth.
  • Dangerous Minds notes the efforts of the Disco Preservation Society to preserve DJ mixes from 1980s San Francisco.
  • Language Log takes issue with Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s argument that cryptographers, not linguists, would be needed in Arrival.
  • The LRB Blog notes impunity for murderers of civil society activists in Honduras.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen talks about Joyce Gladwell’s autobiography Brown Face, Big Master.
  • The NYRB Daily celebrates the work of Hercules Segers.
  • The Planetary Society Blog is skeptical of the Space X plan to send tourists past the Moon by 2018.
  • Supernova Condensate lists 8 things we know about Proxima Centauri b.
  • Towleroad reports on new walking tours being offered of gay London.
  • Arnold Zwicky engages with a California exhibition comparing paintings with movies.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • Dangerous Minds suggests that T-shirts with wildly offensive phrases in English are common in Asia. Asian friends and readers, is this actually true?
  • The LRB Blog makes the point that immigration restrictionism is hardly a policy that will aid hard-pressed workers, that only broader reform will do this.
  • Marginal Revolution looks at how the state bureaucracy in India can hinder the implementation of reforms.
  • The NYRB Daily reviews a grim play, Wallace Shawn’s Evening at the Talk House, set in a near future where cruelty is normalized.
  • The Planetary Society Blog talks about the intricate maneuvers of the Dawn probe in Ceres orbit.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw links to photos of a stunning home in Catalonia built in a slightly refurbished industrial plant.
  • Peter Rukavina talks about how he built an app for Charlottetown’s City Cinema.
  • Seriously Science reports on a study suggesting that most people would not wish to know the future, even if it was a good future.
  • Strange Maps links to an online map tool comparing different countries.
  • Supernova Condensate shares a fantastic chart showing how much delta-v one would need to expend to reach different points in the solar system from Earth orbit.
  • Transit Toronto notes that the Sheppard subway line will be closed this weekend.
  • Linguist Arnold Zwicky links to and reflects on a recent article looking at how gendered language for different jobs can discourage, differently, male and female job-seekers.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • blogTO notes a threat to some of Liberty Village’s historic buildings through development.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at planetary formation around close binary SDSS 1557, which includes a white dwarf.
  • False Steps’ Paul Drye announces a new book project, They Played the Game, which looks at how different baseball players overlooked in our history might have become stars had things gone differently.
  • Language Hat looks at the linguistic differences between the two Koreas.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the exploitation of Syrian refugees by Turkish garment manufacturers.
  • The LRB Blog examines the phenomenon of myth-making regarding Sweden.
  • The Map Room Blog links to a website sharing the stories of cartographers.
  • The NYRB Daily notes the chaos that Trump will be bringing to American immigration law.
  • Peter Rukavina talks about his experience as a library hacker.
  • Supernova Condensate is optimistic about the potential of Space X to actually inaugurate an era of space tourism.

[BLOG] Seven links on the TRAPPIST-1 system

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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.

Supernova Condensate provided a good outline of this system in the post “A tiny red sun with a sky full of planets!”.

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.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • blogTO notes an Instagram user from Toronto, @brxson, who takes stunning photos of the city from on high.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the limits of exoplanet J1407b’s massive ring system.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes evidence that the primordial Martian atmosphere apparently did not have carbon dioxide.
  • Imageo notes that the California rivers swollen by flooding can be seen from space.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that American intelligence agencies are withholding sensitive information from a White House seen as compromised by Russian intelligence.
  • Language Hat talks about the best ways to learn Latin.
  • Marginal Revolution links to a paper observing a decline in inter-state migration in the United States.
  • The NYRB Daily looks at the interesting failure of a public sculpture program in the United Kingdom in the 1970s.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw notes the remarkable heat that has hit Australia in recent days.
  • The Planetary Society Blog reports on the intersection between space technology and high-tech fashion.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks at how Argentina gave the Falkland Islands tariff-free access to Mercosur.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog looks at the countries likely to be vulnerable to rapid aging.
  • Transit Toronto notes the Bombardier lawsuit against Metrolinx.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that poor Russian statistical data is leading directly to bad policy.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • blogTO notes that a waterfront LCBO is set to become another Toronto condo development.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at the difficulties involving with slowing down a light sail launched at relativistic speeds towards an extrasolar destination.
  • Dangerous Minds looks at a 1972 mail-order catalogue from a German retailer, full to the brim with retro-ness.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on the discovery of a hot Jupiter orbiting T Tauri star V830 Tauri.
  • Language Log looks at Trump’s odd phrasing regarding Frederick Douglas, while Marginal Revolution notes the man’s opposition to racist immigration bars.
  • Marginal Revolution looks at how some children at Cambodian orphanages are not actual orphans, but are merely taking advantage of foreign funding.
  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at a proposal for a new probe to study Enceladus and Titan for signs of habitability.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes Trump’s command responsibility for a failed military raid in Yemen.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog shares a map looking at the word for “church” in different European languages.
  • Towleroad notes a court ruling in the United Kingdom barring an Orthodox Jewish transgender woman from interacting with her children in real time, and reports on a Russian website that purports to warn users how many gay people are in any given city.
  • Understanding Society describes the problems with implementing ideologies and even policies in a very complex world.
  • Window on Eurasia notes one Russian parliamentarian’s call for taking northern Kazakhstan, and reports on new border controls between Russia and Belarus.