NASA’s Dragonfly to Explore Titan, a Really Weird Moon #NASA #dragonfly #Saturn #explore

NASA's Dragonfly spacecraft, composit artist's image

Artist’s image of Dragonfly as it lands and explores Titan

If you’re a fan of exploring the solar system, you’ve heard of the nuclear powered, $1 billion dollar spacecraft, Dragonfly.

Elizabeth Turtle, the mission’s principle investigator at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, insists that this is actually a pretty tame space probe, as these things go. “There’s not a lot of new technology.”

If Dragonfly sounds like a crazy spacecraft, consider that Titan is a crazy moon, unlike any other moon or planet in the solar system. Though a little bit like Earth. It has lakes and rain.

The largest moon of Saturn, it has dunes, mountains, gullies and even rivers and lakes — though on Titan, it’s so cold the lakes are filled with liquid methane, not water.

Titan has one more feature that’s worth noting: Although its mainly nitrogen atmosphere is denser than Earth’s, its gravity is far lower. That makes it the perfect place to take to the skies.

Launch is still years away, but you can travel to Titan today, in scifi. I couldn’t resist sending a colony to the sold, deadly moon. But Fynn’s fellow colonists may be the greatest danger. Read it today.

Titan scifi book covers, ebook and paperback

Fynn learns the Kin’s secret when he’s shoved into a stasis pod. He’s going to colonize Titan with his father’s cult. Can they build a paradise? Not likely! Click now to find the book at Amazon. Kindle Unlimited too!



Weird Deep Sea Jellyfish – It’s Hard to Come Up With Weirder Scifi

Real life is a great inspiration. My colony on Saturn’s moon Titan has it’s own ghost. Maybe Deepstaria will inspire more ideas in upcoming Book 2. Visit the deadly-cold moon for a read.

Cover of scifi book Titan - Kate Rauner

Fyn learns his father’s secret when he’s shoved into a stasis pod. They’re going to Saturn’s moon, Titan – Click now to go to Amazon for a preview

What Happened to the Boys? In Fossilization, That Is #fossil #nature #unexpected

Wooly mammoth skeleton This is a weird discovery. In museum fossils of ancient megafauna, males outnumber females by at least two to one. Assuming ancient mammals are pretty much like mammals today, the ratio at birth should be close to 50/50, so why do paleontologists dig up more boys than girls?

Bison, mammoths, bears. Museums hold more male bones than female (something determined by measuring bones and sometimes by sampling DNA)

They found the same bias in all but a few mammalian orders, with bats, sloths, and anteaters among the exceptions.

No one set out to study sex discrepancies in fossil collections, but there it is. One hypothesis suggests that males are driven out of herds or forced to hunt over a larger area than females, end up dying in a wider variety of places, and that would favor preservation. But, since 100% of mammals die, it’s still kinda weird.

Thanks to the Swedish Museum of Natural History paper in Current Biology and to a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Chandrayaan is Proof that We’ll See India on the Moon Soon #rocket #chandrayaan2 #spec #india #indiaonthemoon

Graph of Chandrayaan's descent

The red line is perfectly on target. About a mile above the surface something went wrong.

I want to both console and congratulate the team behind Chandrayaan 2. Congratulations because they’ve achieve so much, and condolences because, right now, none of that feels like it matters.

India is making great strides in space and this lander was so, so close. It looked so, so good right up to the last few seconds. I haven’t forgotten that the path to the moon was not smooth for America.

Good luck in the future. We’ll see you on the moon.

Dropping Nuclear Bomb into a Hurricane is a Bad Idea #hurricane #hurricaneseason

Do you have a sneaking suspicion that dropping a nuclear bomb into a hurricane is a bad idea? Why did we ban above ground testing? Fallout!

Since the 1950s, the idea has come up often during hurricane season. Could we mere humans change the course of a hurricane?

If you want our greatest and scariest tool to seem small, consider that

The heat release of a hurricane is equivalent to a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes… Attacking weak tropical waves or depressions before they have a chance to grow into hurricanes isn’t promising either. BBC

But both regular folk and scientists have considered this idea. Maybe nuking hurricanes isn’t such an obviously bad idea. An above-ground nuclear blast lifts a massive column of air and debris many many miles into the air.

Because the “nuke a hurricane” myth won’t die, NOAA maintains a web page exclusively devoted to debunking this proposal. NatGeo

Sincere people with honest questions have asked about this. Thank you, NOAA, for your response. Science ought to answer questions from regular people. If you’re interested, take a look at the NOAA web page.


The Most Important Thing You Know About Wealth in the 20th Century Is Wrong

dollar symbolWhatever you believe about how profits should be shared, capitalism is the undisputed best way to create wealth. But nothing exists in a social vacuum, and capitalism may have had a big boost from unexpected trends.

Global wealth surged starting in the 19th century. What is less publicized is that the explosion was accompanied by similar breakout in population, and economists connect the two — when population grows, GDP has tended to rise with it.

World Population Growth ProjectionsWe may not deserve as much self-congratulations as we think. Advances in manufacturing, technology, and finance made possible a new economy. I recall reading a book by a South American economist that said, America’s ability to turn everything including the family home into capital allowed its people to surge ahead of traditional cultures.

But advances also occured in public health, understanding of disease, vaccines, and food production and safety. Human lifespans increased and infant mortality plummetted in the “First World.”

It’s easier for any economic system to grow when the population grows, and when workers become healthier and more plentiful. Now populations are shrinking in many wealthy countries, or growing only where immigration is embraced (with whatever mixed emotions) and in the poorer areas of the world.

Our “western” economic miracle assumes constant growth. What about when growth slows and reverses? What ya gonna do now, capitalism?

Oh, the world will coast along for a while, but success seems to breed – or rather, not breed… Hmm, you see the issue? Endless increases in the number of humans might doom the planet, so I’m not complaining, but our falling numbers means something has to change.

I’m not worried. I may not be able to imagine an economy with falling GDP, but GDP isn’t the only measure of success. People with new ideas will come forward. Humans are a resourceful species. A hundred years from now, people will pity us backwards sods. But someone is in for an interesting ride.

I usually post about science, and economics is called “the dismal science.” That’s a term from the 19th century when we were beginning our climb. Don’t spend a lot of time looking into the author who coined the term – he wanted to bring back slavery to increase sugar production. Eek!

Any of you with fresh new ideas, with visions of a society that I, a flat-footed engineeer, can’t imagine… get to work. The future needs you.

Coral in Devastated Florida Reef Hovering at Extinction – Breakthrough May Save the Species #coral #Florida #marinelife #aquarium

A heathy cluster of pillar coralFlorida’s coral reefs are in big trouble. Pillar coral has been reduced to a single male and single female cluster that are too far apart to breed.

Atlantic corals have never been bred in captivity, so when the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, Florida, decided to try, hopes weren’t high.

But they did it!

It’s pure excitement to be the first to achieve a breakthrough in the world,” CEO of the Florida Aquarium Roger Germann told CNN. “Our team of experts cracked the code…that gives hope to coral in the Florida Reef Tract and to coral in the Caribbean and Atlantic Oceans.”

Coral reefs take a beating world wide.

Runoff, pollution, overfishing, blast fishing, disease, invasive species, overuse by humans and coral mining and the digging of canals and access into islands and bays are localized threats to coral ecosystems.

Broader threats are sea temperature rise, sea level rise and ocean acidification, all associated with greenhouse gas emissions. wikipedia

Even air pollution can stunt corals. Yikes! Maybe corals and some of the fishes, crustaceans, and other marine life they support can exist in aquaria while we figure out how to create protected areas in the oceans. At least now, there’s a better chance.