Fire Season #poem #poetry #firefighter

Firefighter by Charles White

Sawmill, Arizona,
Was a target practice start.
At West Mims Fire in Georgia,
There lightning played a part.

All before the summer
Begins Memorial Day,
Before the weekend warriors
Come to the woods to play.

When living in a city
You look for weekend gigs.
Or if you’re in suburbia,
Fast food jobs are big.

But in the rural places,
In forests dry or desert low,
It’s during fire season
That you make extra dough.

By Kate Rauner

My spouse was barely home long enough to clean and repair his gear – now gone to the Baca Prescribed Burn – hoping to remove accumulated fuel so wildfires don’t turn deadly. You bloom where you’re planted! In you live on a shore, you fish and swim and maybe get a boat. In a city, I suppose there are clubs and entertainments. But in rural America you hunt, go 4-wheeling – and learn wildland firefighting.

Is Perception Reality? #psychology #science #education #WW2 #history

There’s a lot of discussion these days about how media influences people – both real and fake news. I ran across an interesting example that predates our current political mess by decades: Mad Gasser of Mattoon in 1944

Mrs. Kearney and Daughter First Victims
Both Recover; Robber Fails to Get Into Home

Even for a newspaper, that’s a lot of assumptions: first, that these were only the “first” victims; second, that the prowler was using some sort of anesthetic; and third, that he was a robber. But it was enough. Within days, several more people called police saying that they too had been attacked by the prowler they read about in the newspaper. Their stories were published in the paper on September 5, owing to no publications on Sunday and the Labor Day holiday.

And that’s when the real melee began.



[Then] the character of the newspaper reports changed dramatically. The headlines became: THE MANHUNT FOR MR. NOBODY

And as soon as that became the tone, suddenly there were zero more police reports.

No residue of gas or lasting symptoms were observed, no gas is known to cause all the symptoms reported, and no prowler was ever caught – though there is an anecdotal suggestion that the initial attack could have been real.

In 1945 the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology published one research article on the Mad Gasser.

Comparing newspaper space in square inches to the number of reports showed a very apparent causal effect. If the morning newspapers dedicated more space to the Gasser, more reports came in that day. And the Mad Gasser was as silent as the newspapers during that initial 2-day Labor Day publishing break.

The Mad Gasser of Mattoon became one of the most famous case studies in mass hysteria.

A tense and fearful public was primed during wartime to believe with little evidence.

Consider Americans today, reading and viewing stories over and over, day after day. Maybe a single story gets repeated a dozen times – it feels as if it happened a dozen times.

As individuals zero in on fewer outlets, they get caught in the echo chamber of their own fears, hopes, and biases. Depending on which rabbit hole each of us chooses to fall down, we end up in living in different worlds. With so much media available, one outlet abandoning a debunked story has little affect.

No one can save us from ourselves.

Podcast of Berserk, a Norse Fantasy #podcast #scifi #fantasy #shortstories

A short read from my new collection is coming to audio! Listen to the June 14th podcast of 600 Second Saga – episodes go live at 6pm CST US.

Eirik takes his first voyage with a Norse raiding party. He admires and fears the berserker warriors who lead them into battle, but the magic that makes them invincible is not what he expected.

Can’t wait? Read Eirik’s story and more – short stories, flash and microfiction, and excerpts from my Mars colony series. Available now on Amazon

There are plenty of short science fiction and fantasy pieces on 600 Second Saga, so visit today. Perfect for a break during your day, or anytime.

And watch this blog for a reminder when Berserk goes live.

Sometimes Astronomy is Jaw Dropping – maybe all the time #astronomy #space #exoplanet #astrophysics #spacetelescope #NASA

That’s the star – dead center. Looks a lot like any other star in visible light.

Astronomers have spotted water vapor and evidence of exotic clouds in the atmosphere of an alien planet [HAT-P-26b]… about 430 light-years away from Earth.

How’d they do that!?

Sing, Wakeford and their colleagues analyzed observations made by NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes when HAT-P-26b crossed its parent star’s face from the telescopes’ perspectives. The planet’s atmosphere filtered out certain wavelengths of starlight during these “transits,” allowing the study team to identify some of the molecules swirling in HAT-P-26b’s air.

I have to wonder how many photons that passed through HAT-P-26b’s atmosphere made it to Earth – to capture and analyze that tiny amount of data is awesome. The planet’s atmosphere is mostly hydrogen and helium, but it’s the trace elements that are most fascinating. The planet doesn’t fit the pattern we see in our own solar system regarding planet size, distance for the star, and composition.

There’s so much to learn, and our tiny sample size of one solar system isn’t nearly enough to figure it all out. If you’re wondering what difference it makes – well, it won’t change what I eat for breakfast tomorrow. I’ve never regretted learning something, even if it didn’t put a penny in my pocket. If we don’t look up at the stars how will we ever get out of the mud?

Here’s one description based on HAT-P-26b’s atmospheric composition to marvel at as you look up.

This would be a very alien sky… you’d see a kind of scattery, washed-out, gray sky.

Of course, when working on the edge of detection it’s easy to get things wrong. But a staggering amount of data is rolling in, many researchers are busy, and even more amazing telescopes are in the works – hypotheses will turn into theories.

It’s only getting better.

PS: Oddly enough, I had trouble finding an easy source to tell me where in Earth’s sky HAT-P-26b’s star is located – not that I expect to see it with my eyes, but it seems like a fun thing to know. I think I found the coordinates: RA = 14:12:37.5, DE = +04:03:36. Those are the coordinates I used to get the image above. And according to my trusty W. Tirion Sky Atlas 2000.0, that puts it in the constellation of Virgo. But I’m a bit rusty – can anyone confirm or correct me?

Controversial Bubbles Challenge Origins of Life #poem #poetry #evolution #originoflife

Bubbling Yellowstone mud pot

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble,
Over three billion years ago,
Volcanic heat met water
And something started to grow.

Perhaps deep in the ocean
Or perhaps in springs on land,
Bubbles found in rocks today
Are clues to understand.

by Kate Rauner

Searching for traces of Earth’s earliest life is hard and there are plenty of skeptics, because the signs aren’t bones or shells, but “blobs and knobs and something that they interpret as filaments.” People keep trying because “it would be incredibly exciting to find some sign of something that was living 3.8 billion years ago.”

For more on what that “spongy kind of gloopy soup” may have been, see NPR tiny fossils and

NPR Australian fossils

My apologies for mangling The Bard, but I needed the bubbles. Here’s Macbeth:

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

Does Swearing Make You Powerful? #citizenscientist #scienceiscool

I suppose I should post a picture of Dr. Richard Stephens, but this fair use image was easier to find 🙂

This is one of those fun articles on science: the power of profanity.

There were two studies – one used 29 people and the other used 52 people, so I’d guess the results point the way but are hardly conclusive.

The team isn’t sure the swearing is the cause of the strength. Other measurements they expected would be affected by the sympathetic nervous system did not show significant changes…

‘We know from our earlier research that swearing makes people more able to tolerate pain,’ said Dr. Richard Stephens from Keele University.

Ah ha! That last bit sends me to another resource – my favorite citizen scientists:

A 2009 study claimed that swearing comes with the positive side effect of improving your ability to withstand pain. Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage unleashed their potty mouths to find out whether the ‘grin and swear it’ theory holds true.

Spewing expletives indeed increases suffering stamina by an average of 30 percent (when done during the event.) mythbusters

We miss you Mythbusters. At least you’re archived.

Copernicus had a Simple Answer to Brightest Star #astronomy #Venus #poem #poetry

Venus over the Pacific – the other bright “star” above and to the left is Jupiter

Brightest star first shining
As the sun goes down
In the orange twilight
To horizon bound.

Lower every evening,
Following the sun,
Abandons us to darkness
When its reign is done

Reborn in the morning
Leading dawn to day,
A star that is a wanderer
Within the solar sway.

By Kate Rauner

Ancients figured out that Venus was the same object in the evening and morning sky – but its motion didn’t really make sense until Copernicus. Through observation, before the invention of the telescope, he realized that

  • The rotation of the Earth accounts for the apparent daily rotation of the stars
  • The apparent annual cycle of movements of the Sun is caused by the Earth revolving around it, and
  • The apparent retrograde motion of the planets is caused by the motion of the Earth we observe from.

Watch Venus’ movements for yourself – the planet is bright enough to observe even under city lights.