Daily Archives: September 22, 2011

Minnesotans: Save the Planet Saturday!!!!

Ride your bike to the state house on Saturday for MN 360

2 to 7pm on the State Capitol Lawn – St. Paul, MN
Inspiring Minnesotans to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis:
to create a new sense of urgency and possibility for our planet.

On September 24th, millions of people all around the world are joining together for Moving Planet–a worldwide rally to demand solutions to the climate crisis. In Minnesota we’ll gather on the State Capitol lawn to send the message: It’s time to move beyond fossil fuels.

We’ll come on bikes. We’ll process with Heart of the Beast puppets. We’ll rally with our neighbors. And we’ll send a strong message that we stand for climate justice.

For those not in Minnesota, click here!

Should Scientists Date People Who Believe in Astrology?

I remember, when I was getting to know Amanda, carefully exploring certain key issues such as this. It actually didn’t take long to find out that we had almost identical political views, and perspectives on science, rational thinking, religion, and so on. (I say “almost” only because there is room for variation, but I can’t think of any actual differences in perspective … only differences in level of attention to various issues).
Continue reading Should Scientists Date People Who Believe in Astrology?

Aquarius Yields NASA’s First Global Map of Ocean Salinity


The first global map of the salinity, or saltiness, of Earth’s ocean surface produced by NASA’s new Aquarius instrument reveals a rich tapestry of global salinity patterns, demonstrating Aquarius’ ability to resolve large-scale salinity distribution features clearly and with sharp contrast. NASA/GSFC/JPL-Caltech

One of NASA’s newest Big Sci machines has generated a high quality map of ocean salinity. It is still preliminary and a few months of calibration is needed, but soon enough Aquarius will start monitoring ocean salinity on an ongoing basis.

Ocean salinity is important because it is linked to the overall climate system. For instance, where evaporation is high, owing to atmospheric conditions, salinity goes up. Salinity is related to ocean currents … saline water sinks, drawing nearby water to itself. This can drive major ocean currents.

You can see the map and get various downloads here.

Your Inner Fish

Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body is a book you should read. With one small caveat I’ll give you below, it can be used as a behind-the-desk supplement for teachers of anatomy or any kind of organismic biology in High School or Intro College. It can be assigned in some classes. Or, it is just plain excellent bedtime reading.

It is interesting to look at how and why the book came about to begin with. In the author’s words:

Continue reading Your Inner Fish

Death, Dating, Doubting, and More Death

A few items over on The X Blog that you may not want to miss: “Our Generation Has The Power To End It” regarding the tragic death Jamie Rodemeyer (feel free to spell that “Jamey”); We address the question “Should Scientists Date People Who Believe in Astrology?“; Huxley got called a sissy by some guy but he still has the coolest shoes this side of Stillwater, Minnesota; a little bit of Death Penalty Philosophy; and my thoughts on Troy Davis.

Huxley: It is possible that he is a sissy

Huxley, imprisoned by Western heteronormative values.

Huxley is barely able to say the word “shoe,” does not yet know the word “pink,” has no clue what “gender” is, but last weekend somebody called him a sissy. He is not yet two years old.

This is interesting and it is a little complicated. And it involves multiple waves of offensive idiosity, so get ready for a longish story…
Continue reading Huxley: It is possible that he is a sissy

UARS Satellite Crashing Into Earth Update: North America LEAST Likely Spot

i-6cd9a4ef18feaead0f28dd845b0a84dc-UARS_1-thumb-300x256-69356.jpgAs you know, the UARS (Satellite) is in the process of de-orbiting. It is a bit more like a death watch (have you ever done one of those?) than a technological procedure. The satellite was pushed into a dangerous orbit that would drag it down within several days, and it is now losing its grip on orbital inertia as it plows ungracefully through thicker and thicker regions of the upper atmosphere. One wonders what might affect UARS’s orbit. Would a powerful weather front with tall thunderheads, or a hurricane cause enough extra molecules of air to be pushed up a bit farther, to cause the satellite to slow slightly as it plummet through a bump in the atmosphere? Does it take a hit whenever it passes over the Tibetan Plateaux? Is there enough of a difference in friction on the sunny vs shady side of the earth to matter? What about lunar tidal forces, will they start to count? I know nothing of these things so this is all conjecture. For all I know there are Leprechauns riding on the damn thing that at some point will tip it over and make it fall to Earth.

In any event, NASA does have a software model to calculate the likely time of death of UARS, and the time equals, in turn, the location of where whatever debris is left of the trolley-sized space-machine hits the planet. And this morning, NASA has put out a new estimate.

UARS will likely re-enter tomorrow, September 23rd, during the afternoon, US Eastern Daylight Time. It will NOT be passing over North America during that time. Remember that the field of debris is expected to be quite long and narrow.

What this means is that you should keep an eye on Twitter. The hashtag is #UARS. The moment you start to see tweets of fireworks or debris, plot it on a map. Two points is all you’ll need to predict the downstream end of the debris field.

You should have a pair of gloves and several different size bags ready, as well as some stick-on labels, a Magic Marker, and a notebook and pencil to label the bits and take notes on where you found them.

Good luck, Astro-litter-bugs!

[Photo from Wikipedia]

How to be against the death penalty and keep the kids off the lawn at the same time

People need to realize it is natural to want someone to die for a horrible deed they have done, just like it is natural to want to Rule the World or to get a Pony, but then also live with the fact that you don’t get the pony, world domination, or to snuff out a life because that life frightens or annoys you.

Ideally one might avoid the hateful emotion to begin with, but without the appropriate affective pathologies in place, or years of training, that’s rather difficult.

I often think of what Mike Dukakis should have said when asked what he would do if Kitty was raped and murdered by Willie Horton. He should have said “I’d want to kill the guy. But long before I had the chance the Criminal Justice System would kick in and there’d be due process.”


Thanks to Ruth Gaul Schleissmann for suggesting I change “OK” to “natural” … a natural substitution that is quite OK.

Charles and Willie

The Kennedy School of Government had banned all smoking within the building, but had not yet banned smoking just outside the doors facing the Charles River, to the south of the complex. An African American woman, about fifty years of age, took a light from me, and we stood in the falling snow enjoying our smokes. That was a heavy year for snow. It seemed that every day about the same time the two of us would be standing here in a blizzard.
Continue reading Charles and Willie