Breathtaking Goodbye to an Amazing Mission #Cassini #Saturn

Cassini's Grand Finale - artist's conceptionCassini’s last transmission arrived on Earth at 1146 GMT on September 15 as it plunged to a fiery end in Saturn’s atmosphere. The spacecraft had run out of fuel, but only after orbiting the ringed planet for an incredible 13 years. NASA sent it to burn up in Saturn’s atmosphere rather than risk contaminating any of the moons – which may harbor life.

We know more about Saturn than ever before – its storms, hexagonal jet streams, rings, and a seemingly endless supply of moons. We also know that an American agency can cooperate with the European Space Agency, the Italian Space Agency, and astronomers around the world for two decades on a single mission (more if the design phase is included.)

Cassini’s mission lasted over twice as long as expected. The Huygen probe that piggybacked along made the first landing ever accomplished in the outer Solar System and the first landing on a moon other than our own.

Along the way, Cassini confirmed Einstein’s general theory of relativity, measured the length of Saturn’s day, studied its fantastic rings, and discovered the amazing variety of its moons – including water geysers from warm water oceans and lakes of liquid methane. It showed scientist and citizen alike that the Saturn system is beautiful – a beautiful pinpoint in a beautiful universe.

If you think the money could have been better spent – tell me, do you believe humanity’s problems come from a lack of money? More likely, they arise from a lack of heart – or maybe from a lack of soul. Cassini gives us wonder, joy, and beauty. It feeds our souls. If you don’t feel that, if you don’t look up in wonder, I’m sorry for you.

One of the greatest legacies of the mission is not just the scientific discoveries it makes, and what you learn about, but the fact that you make discoveries so compelling, you have to go back.

Read more at wikipedia, watch for ongoing discoveries as scientists study Cassini’s data, and hold your metaphorical breath until we return.


Science has Answers But What’s the Question? #energy #technology #science #psychology

Steam enginer, powered by coal, museum piece

Early steam engine – powered by wood or coal – now historical display

Coal powered the Industrial Revolution and gave us our modern lives.

The core concept of factories was embraced by the mid-1800s but throughout the 20th century the revolution spread through steel, chemicals, petroleum, automobiles, and beyond. Oil rose in importance but coal remained a vital source of power.

Unfortunately, coal is dangerous to life and health. While its benefits are shared across the nation, impacts are local. Mining districts are permanently blighted and scarred, and miners are sickened and injured. We’ve made a deal with the devil in some ways, but who wants to return to a feudal agrarian world? Not me.

Natural gas is replacing coal to fuel power plants because it’s cheaper. While there are also issues around gas production, it’s better than coal. Renewable energy is also surging. There may always be some coal used as a chemical – in certain steel production for example – but bringing back coal is like bringing back film or horseshoes.

Mining towns bore the brunt of coal’s problems and they bear the brunt of  coal’s demise. And not just lost wages. Working hard as part of a team, developing skills, admiring and being admired by your friends – all good for the soul despite the hazards, and lost to many coal miners. Due to the nature of mining, these displaced miners often live in remote rural areas where finding new jobs, new homes, and new communities is hard.

Can technology save coal? Can it burn “clean,” can workers be protected, and can landscapes be reclaimed? Probably, but no one wants to pay for it.

President Trump recently touted a ‘brand-new coal mine, where they’re going to take out clean coal — meaning, they’re taking out coal, [and] they’re going to clean it,’ referring to a Corsa Coal Corporation mine that is projected to open in 2018.

What does that mean? Rock and soil are washed out of coal at the mine, but “clean coal” usually means contaminants and carbon are captured at the power plant stack and sequestered somehow, locked safely away from our environment.

Politicians get away with fuzzy words because “clean coal” has no universal definition. But there are a handful of technologies under development that generally fit the phrase.

  • Grabbing CO2 from flue gas to use elsewhere or inject underground – that’s one idea.
  • Reacting CO2 with some other waste chemical like hydrogen sulfide to make a stable compound – there’s that.
  • Converting coal into “syngas” removes nasty contaminants for later disposal and cleaner burning – also possible.
  • More at livescience

All these technologies use costly equipment and you may need to burn thirty percent more coal to power the “cleaning.” None of them compete economically with natural gas or, increasingly, renewable energy.

Even politicians who make speeches about clean coal quietly propose to reduce the funding to develop these technologies – and government funding is necessary because “clean coal” isn’t ready to go yet and private companies don’t see it as profitable.

The insanity of politics aside, real problems exist for real people. What will happen to ex-miners, sons and daughters who expected to work in and around mines, and their dying towns? We could provide pensions, pay for schooling, and move people away for less money than “clean coal” would cost. If this were China that might happen. It would take a dictator to accomplish because culture is very hard and slow to change. We can deal with bodies easily enough, but what about spirits?

Science may provide an answer, but through psychology rather than chemistry.

Going to Amazon today? Click over there now on my link.

Turkeys Tell the Tale #history #archeology #nativeamericans

Turkeys were kept by Native AmericansYou may have heard that ancient North American people of Southwest Puebloan cultures, such as found at Mesa Verde, disappeared, but actually they moved and assimilated into other cultures. New evidence of where they went comes from a surprising source: turkeys.

Native American people had long kept turkeys and when they moved the turkeys traveled with them.

Severe drought in 1277, coupled with resource depletion and social upheaval, is thought to have triggered a massive migration… ‘What we found was good evidence of a substantial influx of turkeys into the northern Rio Grande region that had the same genetic composition as turkeys from the Mesa Verde region.’

Scientists extracted mitochondrial DNA from turkey bones found at various historical sites to track these ancient people. The trails people leave behind them can be surprising.

Thanks to

Lead Dawn to Day #haiku #port #moon #sun #astronomy

Moon seen from Earth orbit

Ancient crescent Moon
Leads the Sun into the sky
And the dawn to day

We call it “new” when the Moon stands between Earth and Sun and the side turned perpetually towards Earth is in darkness. Because of the bobbles and eccentricity of orbits, this configuration doesn’t often  give us earth-bound observers a solar eclipse. But on August 21st 2017 it will – across mid North America. It’s just a footnote to orbital mechanics, but still a thrill 🙂

And this morning the brilliant planet Venus led the Moon – an especially lovely morning.

Eclipse Hits New Heights [lol] at the Nifty Back Road Cafe #eclipse #poem #poetry #ThursdayThoughts

Kate Rauner - poet inspired by science

That’s me! A picture of a picture – t-shirt from one eclipse, projecting another

It’s my pleasure to be hosted at The Back Road Cafe where you’ll find a range of writers’ fiction and fact, poetry and prose, short stories, and quotes – and musings from host Dale Rominger. Click on over and see if it becomes one of your favorites.


Another Assault on Our Job Oriented Society #jobs #job #work #USA

I recently wrote that automation is targeting the most plentiful

Latte art

type of job in America: drivers will be replaced by self-driving vehicles. Before the day was done I posted an update – Amazon is beta-testing a store with no cashiers – the second largest job. Now I see that Amazon is aiming to make retail clothing stores obsolete. Order what you want in a few sizes, received them to try at home, and return what doesn’t fit.

Big names are already signed up including Adidas, Calvin Klein, Levi’s and Hugo Boss amongst others. The real kicker is the discount gamification/nudge mechanic – it’s beautiful. Every Prime Wardrobe order is granted 20% off should he or she keep five or more items but only keep three or four items and that halves to a 10% discount. Nice touch, Amazon. forbes

Of course, you’ll miss the social aspect – you’re not out with your friends or even around other people. Some stores may be able to hang on by reducing their square footage. Imagine displays of clothing with samples of the fabrics and finishes available. Once you know your size (fashion industry – you’ve got to do something about standard sizes) you and your friends can still go out for the day to shop, lunch, and enjoy yourselves. No hassles with crowds or wriggling into clothes in those little rooms with fisheye mirrors so clerks can watch you. You’ll save a lot of time – but will that matter?

Because chances are you’ll be one of those people with no job filling your days.

Which makes me wonder… how’s anyone going to afford to shop at all?

Our jobs structure our lives as well as provide money. As I’ve asked before, what will bring us satisfaction, freedom, and a sense of community in the post-work era? I hope we’ll have time to worry about such lovely problems. Is utopia coming? Or a dystopia where most people barely survive in squalid conditions while a fortunate few find work and prosperity?

Going to Amazon today? Click over there now on my link.

In my new story, the Mars colony has settled into a post-work society where robots provide the necessities of life. There’s both utopia and dystopia. Catch up now starting with Glory on Mars – the first settlers arrive on Mars in our near-future. Something is terribly wrong in the colony – settlers are dying. Emma takes the one-way trip hoping to explore and build a new home. She may live to regret her decision, if she survives.

Hopefully my new book will be out fall of 2017. Join my readers’ club to stay in touch and receive occasional flash fiction stories.

Einstein was Right and Continues to Enlighten Understanding of Universe #physics #maths #science

I’m fascinated by cosmology and quantum physics. Although I don’t speak Expanding universe since the Big Bangenough math to truly follow the science, I ran across a post that actually gives me an intuitive feel for Dark Energy – the almost mystical stuff that makes up a large part of the universe if we accept measurements of mass density wave-patterns. This post has tons of views – leave a comment – what do you think? Here’s the proposition”

Relativistic effects explain the observations evidencing the existence of Dark Matter around galaxies and galaxy clusters. When energy passes closer to galaxies it “slows down” due to gravitational time dilations.

The accumulative effect is a substantial increase in energy density when seen… far from the center of galaxies and that… is imperceptible for an observer within the galaxy. Gregorio Baquero

Visit Baquero to see the math, or just to read his narrative. He concludes:

There is no need for particularly special particles forming Dark Matter substance or even parallel universes’ escaped gravity to account for the extra gravity existing around cosmic structures. In a way, Dark Matter is just traveling energy.

I can get that – it makes sense to me. The speed of light is constant but the shape of space varies with mass. Gravity is the shape of space, thanks to energy interactions.

He doesn’t post his credentials or name collegeues, and I’m not competent to judge the math, but I admit I’m emotionally draw to Baquero‘s concluding sentence, which I paraphrased to title this post. Einstein hasn’t been left behind by quantum physics – not yet.

I’ve tried to capture my feelings in rhyme: Gravity Fights Dark Energy

On a completely different topic: Going to Amazon today? Click over there now on my link.