August 26, 2016

When Politics and Anime Converge

By far, my favorite cartoon as a child was a show called Star Blazers, the American version of Space Battleship Yamato. It was animated to 1974 standards and so does not have the following today that its story, characterizations and excellent soundtrack would normally warrant*. A remake was done a couple of years ago that was absolutely superb. However,  it really went full fan-service with some of the female uniforms  (or were they tattoos?) to such an extent that the show was not given the wide U.S. release originally intended.  

More importantly for the purposes of this post, the remake lacked this particular scene.

The background here is that the villain, Leader Desslock of the Gamilon Empire, has gotten tired of his galactic navy being roughly handled by the hero's spaceship, the Argo. When our plucky space adventurers (unwittingly) pass within tractor beam range of the Gamilon imperial capital, Desslock decides it's a really good idea to drag them into his home planet's sulphuric acid sea and pound them with all the planetary defense batteries one might expect to be set up at a galactic imperial capital. This is overkill to be sure, but not entirely unreasonable given that the Argo has been a preternaturally tough nut to crack. Obviously an epic battle ensues and umm...

Anyway, then this happened...

Which brought to mind this little on air bit of fun from Rush Limbaugh earlier in the week. 

Here Rush, who thought it was a really good idea to throw out a big swath of conservative principles to back a shifty real estate mogul who promised to never waver on one particular issue reacts to the morning paper and , ummm...

Anyway, then this happened...

I've been called a cuck, a fool, a traitor and a snob because I not only pointed out that Donald Trump is a dumpster fire of a candidate, an affront to reason and not someone we want the movement associated with, but that every promise he makes has an expiration date. 

This is not in any way meant to support the corrupt, totalitarian, corporatist harridan or carbon taxing, statist,  first amendment skeptical "Libertarian"(WTF!?) that captain comb-over is running against, but as I sit here in our smoldering national handbasket trying to ignore the ear-popping from our rapid decent, I am going to take a moment to savor the schadenfreude of this development...and ponder the admittedly silly notion that Trump may in some small way live up to at least one of his supporters hopes....

*Also: Get off my lawn.

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August 24, 2016


We advised skepticism earlier, but  it has now been confirmed that Proxima Centauri, the closest known star to our solar system, does indeed have a rocky "Earthlike" planet.

It get's better...

  Although Proxima is considered a moderately active star, its rotation period is about 83 days (ref. 3) and its quiescent activity levels and X-ray luminosity4 are comparable to those of the Sun. Here we report observations that reveal the presence of a small planet with a minimum mass of about 1.3 Earth masses orbiting Proxima with a period of approximately 11.2 days at a semi-major-axis distance of around 0.05 astronomical units. Its equilibrium temperature is within the range where water could be liquid on its surface5.

One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes has thoughts on the matter....


There is more here and here

This is still, an insanely long way out. An Orion drive (which involves propelling a ship by exploding atom bombs behind it) could get a crewed expedition there in about 100 years. More advanced nuclear pulse propulsion systems (that, unlike Orion would require considerable advancements to get working) could make a one way trip in around 45 years, as could the proposed laser sail designs. 

Ok, that's a littler silly given that one needs to be darned sure of a destination if one embarks on a one way trip.

Obviously an unmanned probe could get there faster little as 15 years for one design using near term technology and a very small probe. Well, that design now has a concrete goal. 

And IF there was something very interesting found there...well, assuming a 20 year lead time to build the ship (which would involve the equivalent of constructing 4-10 Nimitz class aircraft carriers in terms of mass) then we could still put a, flag, some footprints and a small town there in the lifetime of the people that set the project in motion.

This is, on the one hand, unspeakably extravagant and optimistic given the challenges our civilization faces regarding its health and even survival in the near term. However, given those difficulties and others peculiar to having all of our eggs in this pale blue basket, such an extravagant project is not quite as insane as it sounds at first blush, given that a successful implementation would mean that our civilization would be multi-stellar at that point and our species's survival far more likely. 

In any event, this is an awesome development in astronomy, for other reasons. The fact that the very closest star to our sun just happens to have one of these planets makes the odds of such things far more likely...especially since red dwarf's such as Proxima Centauri are the most common type of star in the galaxy. 

The implications for that are nontrivial indeed. 

UPDATE: This image, by ESO Calcada is, of course, pure speculation regarding the planet's appearance, but it gives a very good idea of the scale of space. Note that Proxima Centauri is generally considered to be a part of the Alpha Centauri System, Alpha Centauri A and B are both about the same size and brightness of our sun (A liitle larger and a little smaller respectively). Keeping in mind that they are in the same solar system as Proxima, note their distance from their little red companion in this picture.

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August 18, 2016

Historical Perspective

The U.S. shows up at 14:25. 

Note that during the time represented by nearly 15 minutes of this 15:56 minute video (which slows down a bit at the end), slavery was an ubiquitous institution except in isolated locations for fleeting seconds. The fruits of the enlightenment are an aberration in history that have survived as of now for a far shorter time than the vast majority of nations. This is far from mankind's natural state and we desperately need to grasp how precious and fragile this anomalous blossoming of knowledge and human rights is. 

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A Mere 4.25 Light Years Away....

One of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes brings us up to speed on potentially consequential news from the world of astronomy. 

"Take the following with a grain of salt."

A couple of things about that sentence: "Earthlike" in that context seems to mean a terrestrial planet, which is referring to rocky worlds like Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars...only one of which would be described by laymen as Earthlike. The habitable zone of a red dwarf is very narrow , so this is a very lucky happenstance if their figures are right. Note though, that we have three terrestrial planets in our solar system's habitable zone and only one of them had everything break just right. Finally, the actual paper has not been released yet, The article is based on an anonymous leak to Der Spiegel. 

Still, if a random planet has been found around a red dwarf, especially the closest star to our solar system, this is a big deal, if it IS in the habitable zone, it's an even bigger deal. 

It should be noted though that even this, closest of stars would take thousands of years to reach with our current fastest spacecraft. Nuclear pulse propulsion and laser sails however, both have the potential to reduce that to less than a century. 

"Science Babe" is Mercy from Overwatch as imagined by GGGG
Painting is an imagining of another planet orbiting a red dwarf in a trinary star system Gliese-667c and comes via ESO-Calcada

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August 15, 2016

Holeeeee Crap

4 brief posts ago I gave my impressions of the first 14 episodes of Re:Zero. Tonight, my schedule finally free, I started to catch up and as one might expect, this involved episode 15.


That was masterfully done and utterly horrific. White Fox has somehow fused Dario Argento with VP-16 to make 114 octane nightmare fuel.

One of the episodes more upbeat moments....

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