Daily Archives: June 28, 2012

How old does a toddler have to be before it stops trying to kill itself?

This looks like one of those questions that pops up when you start typing a query into a Google Search Box, but it is really a question asked rhetorically by Claudia Sawyer on my facebook status where I made mention of the fact that toddlers will put anything you give them in their mouth (even after that “putting everything in their mouth” phase is over … they still do it enough that you can’t give them knives or sandpaper, believe it or not).

And there actually is an answer to this question and it comes from science. The answer is about five years old, and here’s why: Continue reading How old does a toddler have to be before it stops trying to kill itself?

Sirens of Titan Less Impossible than Previously Thought

Just so you know, scientists do not seem to be able to detect the difference between a 3 foot and a 30 foot deformation of the surface of a planetoid body that is about one and a half billion kilometers away, and we know this because NASA’s Cassini space ship had to actually go all the way to one of Saturn’s moons, Titan, to discover that the tidal deformation of the surface is more like 30 than 3 feet in magnitude. This, in turn, strongly suggests that Titan has an ocean of some kind under its surface. Thus, the Sirens. The Sirens of Titan.

NASA provides us with the following artists reconstruction of what they think Titan would look like if it was a slice of watermelon: Continue reading Sirens of Titan Less Impossible than Previously Thought

Waldo Canyon and Other Colorado Fires

We expected increasing wildfire activity with global warming, and we’ve got it.

The Waldo Canyon Fire has been burning since June 23rd and as of this writing is essentially out of control, with about 5% of it “contained.” Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated. A friend of mine is on house watch as we speak, as various members of her family and her friends from the region have fled the area and are scanning news images for evidence of anything standing (or not) in their neighborhood. Approximately 300 homes are reported to have been burned down yesterday, I have not herd any reports from today. Continue reading Waldo Canyon and Other Colorado Fires

Antonin Scalia pulls a cdesign proponentsists goof

Antonin Scalia wrote a dissenting opinion for today’s Obamacare decision; the majority opinion upheld the Affordable Care Act. But, it appears that Scalia thought he was in the majority at the time he wrote the opinion, used terminology appropriate to that situation (referring to the other opinion as the dissent) and then forgot to change the text.

This is a little scary for two or three reasons. One, it looks like this may have been a very close decision. If Romney is elected, the USA might as well fold up shop. Two, Antonin Scalia and his staff are on drugs or something. Three, if the Supreme Court can mess up the language of documents that control the law like this, cats will soon be sleeping with dogs.

The astonishing details are here at Brad DeLong’s blog.

Really scary thing seen in space

This is like an episode of Dr. Who. A star erupted and vaporized the atmosphere of a nearby planet. Holy crap. Details:

JUNE 28, 2012: An international team of astronomers using data from the NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has made an unparalleled observation, detecting significant changes in the atmosphere of a planet located beyond the solar system. The scientists conclude that the atmospheric variations occurred in response to a powerful eruption on the planet’s host star, an event observed by NASA’s Swift satellite. This artist’s rendering illustrates the evaporation of exoplanet HD 189733b’s atmosphere in response to the powerful eruption from its host star on Sept. 7, 2011. Hubble detected the escaping gases, and Swift caught the stellar flare.


photo of outer space by write_adam

Obama Care Was Not Trashed By SCOTUS

UPDATE: Here’s the full text of the decision.

Amy Howe of the SCOTUS Blog writes:

In Plain English: The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters. Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn’t comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding.