Category: Science

Meet Ultima Thule: Cosmic Snowman

As readers know, I totally geek out with NASA missions and this week is no exception. This is the long awaited image of Ultima Thule (“beyond the known world”) and it is provided by the most distant ever exploration of a Solar System object. The previous record was the New Horizons image of Pluto in 2015.  Ultima Thule is 1.5 billion km further out. Thought to be the shape of a bowling pin, it turns out to be a 4.5 billion-year old, brick-colored cosmic snowman in the cold of deep space. Closer to home: this week saw China land the first probe on the dark side of the Moon.

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And Now The Sound Of The Martian Winds . . .

As many on this blog know, I am something of a geek and particularly love the NASA website.  Having watched the moon landing on a tiny black and white television (at another family’s house because we did not have a television), I still marvel at seeing images from space.  I found the latest posting by NASA thrilling: the actual sound of winds on Mars.

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Meet Ryugu: Close Up And Personal

_103600101_mediaitem103600100Japan’s space agency (Jaxa) has released incredible images from its robot rovers of the asteroid Ryugu. I know that I go all squealy over NASA and space pictures, but this is amazing.  It is difficult to get one’s mind around the fact that we are looking at the surface of an asteroid that has been moving through space since before the advent of mankind.

 

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Trump Versus George Washington: GW Stands By Mortality Findings From Puerto Rico

donald_trump_president-elect_portrait_cropped150px-GWUlogoGeorge Washington University has found itself in the eye of the storm over Hurricane Maria after President Donald Trump has lashed out at its findings that roughly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico rather than a couple dozen cited by President Trump.  Trump has called the widely cited GW study “inflated” but the university (where I teach) is standing by its findings. Top Republicans have distanced themselves from Trump’s remarks and leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan went public to say that there is no reason to doubt the GW findings. Even Trump supporter Florida Gov. Rick Scott who is running for the Senate tweeted “I disagree with @POTUS

 

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Roundup The Academics? Monsanto Verdict Raises New Troubling Questions About Professors Working Under Corporate Sponsorship

Roundup_herbicide_logoFor a growing number of critics, the breakthrough verdict against Monsanto for $289 million over its Roundup weedkiller is an indictment of the company’s corporate culture but also of academics who were used by the company to discredit scientific studies linking the herbicide to cancer.  Former groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson, 46, reportedly has only months to live but he just delivered a body blow to one of the largest corporations in the world. It is not that $289 million is a crippling fine for Monsanto, but the verdict of guilt based on a finding of actions taken “with malice or oppression” will likely trigger tens of thousands of such claims.  Not surprisingly, Monsanto is now ditching its name in favor of Bayer after its recent acquisition. Continue reading “Roundup The Academics? Monsanto Verdict Raises New Troubling Questions About Professors Working Under Corporate Sponsorship”

Survey: BBC and FOX Are Most Trusted TV News Brands In U.S.

200px-bbcsvg180px-Foxnewslogo.svgA survey  by Research Intelligencer by Brand Keys found that BBC, Fox News and PBS are the most-trusted TV news brands in the U.S.  The survey covered over 4,000 news viewers.  It is most interesting that BBC can in first in the United States — a well-deserved distinction for the venerable news organization but a bit of an embarrassment for U.S. media.

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Cosmic Whale Music: Listen To What Cassini Picked Up Near Saturn

 

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Credit: NASA

NASA has released an extraordinary tape of the sound picked up by the Cassini spacecraft as it plunged into Saturn on its final mission in 2017.  The craft captured plasma waves from Saturn to its rings and into one of its moons, Enceladus. It is mesmerizing. It has been describing as Saturn singing and it is strangely beautiful.

 

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Just When You Thought You Had Enough To Worry About . . . Lunar Hay Fever

apollo moon photos-1033716704_v2.grid-6x2If you are planning to join the first Moon colony, you might want to read the latest report from NASA which found that moon dust is actually quite harmful to humans.  A recent study published in the April issue of the journal GeoHealth found that moon dust produces what some described as “lunar hay fever.” Indeed, it might give you Moon Lung if you live there long enough.

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Indian Minister Claims Ancient Hindus Invented The Internet

Kurukshetra

Biplab Deb, who is the chief minister of the north-eastern state of Tripura, has become an international clown after claiming that the Internet was invented thousands of years ago by ancient Indians.   He now competes as the world’s least intelligent person with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan who claimed that Muslims discovered America.

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Federal Court Permits Emoluments Challenge To Move Forward

1600_executive_branchA federal judge issued a surprising decision that allowed part of an emoluments challenge to proceed toward trial.  The opinion has been widely misreported, but still represents a rare win for those arguing that President Donald Trump is accepting prohibited payments from foreign governments at the various Trump properties.  However, the decision is only on the threshold standing question and did not address the merits of the constitutional claim.  Moreover, United States District Judge Peter Messitte dramatically narrowed the action to only claims related to the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.  These is considerable debate over the meaning of the Constitution’s “emoluments” clause.  There are clearly good-faith arguments that such payments fall within the meaning of the language, but I remain highly skeptical.  Even with the much reduced action, I think Messitte is wrong and that the action should have been dismissed in its entirety.  Previous actions have been dismissed.

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Study Criticizes Engineering Programs For Focusing On Math and Science Rather Than Political Concerns

One_of_Diamonds_Mathematical_instruments_1702We recently discussed how University of Illinois math professor Rochelle Gutierrez triggered a national controversy over her work “Building Support for Scholarly Practices in Mathematics Methods” in which she criticized math classes as a “tool of whiteness.”  Then we discussed CUNY Professor Laurie Rubel’s publishing of a peer-reviewed article in the  Journal of Mathematics Education arguing that the concepts of meritocracy and “color-blindness” are ideological precepts that work against minorities.  Now four professors denouncing the “hegemony of meritocratic ideology” and the “masculine culture” in engineering courses as hostile to women. University of California (Irvine) Professor Carroll Serron’s March 1 study insists that merit-based advancement in engineering is harming women and fails to consider political factors in recognizing engineers.  The professors criticize the focus on “empirical science, technical thinking, merit, and individualism” as the cause for the isolation of female engineers.

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