June 21, 2015

The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown


Art by Sumashi


One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes takes a break from the heat to point us to a piece by Michael Flynn, who gives an interesting analysis of the scientific process by which geocentricism was discarded. It bears reading in full because one important fact, often overlooked is that we only have 20/20 hindsight going backwards. Things which seem blindingly obvious in retrospect were not nearly so at the time. 

UPDATE: an excerpt:
Before you laugh at your ancestors, TOF invites you to prove that the earth is, contrary to your senses, in wild and careening double motion: spinning like a top and whipping around the sun without (somehow) leaving the Moon and Air behind, and without everyone stumbling around like dunkards.  You are not allowed to appeal to authority or to the success of NASA, or suchlike things.  You've got eyeballs and armillaries, and that's pretty much it.  Go. TOF will wait here

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June 09, 2015

Space Stuff

One of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes brings us up to date on planetoid summer!



'Science Babe' by Moriyama Yuuki

With a probe in orbit around Ceres and another rapidly approaching Pluto, this summer promises to teach us a lot about Dwarf Planets (or planetoids, which just sounds better to those of us at Brickmuppet Blog).
First off, regarding Ceres, NASA has put together this retouched animation of the innermost Dwarf Planet.


I had NO idea hard vacuum sounded like that!

Ceres has the potential to be quite important in the future, since it is hypothesized to have more fresh water than the Earth. (This assumes that the two bright spots are not exhaust vents of course.)




MUCH farther afield. Pluto's system is going to be visited by New Horizons in July when that probe does a fairly precarious flyby.  In the process communications will be cut and hopefully resumed so it can beam the info back at 1 KBps. In the meantime thanks to Hubble, some neat things have been discovered about Pluto, which is actually a dual planetoid system  with its moon Charon.



The other moons in the system are really weird! They're elongated and rotate chaotically.  They're also vastly different colors. 

This video is an interesting  talk by DR. Mark Shoalwater on, amongst that and many other fascinating things, how his team discovered the "new" moons Styx and Kerberos.


Its an unusual story of bucking the bureaucracy, as his proposal was not just rejected, it was rejected with prejudice.  

Father afield still, in the vanishingly unlikely event this is not a mistake, it is significant!

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May 23, 2015

One of Them Thar 'Propane Accessories' I've Heard Tell of

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April 26, 2015

Right Time. Right Place.

"Wow." Indeed.

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April 16, 2015

Some Space News

The New Horizons probe is fast approaching Pluto, an astronomer has identified 50 objects that could well be Dyson spheres and the first color photos from Ceres seem to indicate that the dwarf planet has been, at least at one time tectonically active, though the mystery of the bright, shiny spots is still unsolved. 

We've asked one of our Crack Team of Science Babes to comment on these developments. 


"Wait...What was that middle thing again? 'Cause it sounded like there was somethin' crazy in there."

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March 11, 2015

In Orbit: 5x5



One of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes reacts to the successful insertion of the Dawn Probe into orbit around Ceres, the Solar System's innermost Dwarf Planet.


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March 03, 2015

Well. This is Intruiging...

One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes points us to this article on Lockheed Martin's concept for a fusion turbine about which there is more here and here....


She also has some reservations. 

"I'm not sure I can trust any scientist who isn't wearing a  proper science shirt."

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January 24, 2015

In 1986 I Would Have Been Unsurprised At Speculation That Such a Thing Would Be For Sale in 2015

Allow me to explain...

Suidobashi Heavy Industries has offered a 12 foot tall mech starter kit. (via)

It appears to be kit build rather than a complete vehicle. 

It's available on Amazon Japan.

One of the "Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes" has thoughts on this development...



    From Google Translate... 
  • Weight about 5 tons, height 3.8m engine driven human four-legged giant toy robot (weight, height, changes in both optional)
  • Unlike normal riding toy, safety and comfort is not guaranteed, you can guarantee the dream of mankind "consisting robot pilot".
  • It will be the starter kit without arms, forearms, please purchase separately option.
 
 
 
 
 So the arms, and hands are separate meaning that getting the full super robot experience and participating in the mechatronic gladiatorial combat (which will surely be the killer ap for this device) will take some time. Note however, that this is a tripod, which might facilitate going for a slightly different aesthetic. 

"Uuu Laaa!"

One hopes that a heat ray and Thunder Child RC target model will be forthcoming. 

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October 23, 2014

Somewhere, Thor Heyerdahl is Smiling

In the 1940s,  Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian anthropologist (and scourge of Nazi super science) postulated that there had been travel and trade between South America and some or all of Polynesia. 



He based this in large part on studies of artifacts and cultural aspects found on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Opinion of the day was that the Amerindians were incapable of such voyages and that Heyerdahl was a nut. The famous Kon Tiki expedition was intended to test the feasibility of Hyerdahl's theory and address his critics objections to it. 


April 28, 1947 Kon Tiki sets sail from Callao, Peru

Kon Tiki was a replica of an ancient Peruvian balsa raft and constructed with no metal aside from a radio in the hut. It sailed from Peru all the way to Ramoia in 101 Though the voyage was successful, (and a huge, international sensation) Dr. Hyerdahl himself was quite clear that the voyage did not prove his theory but did indicate that it was possible. 

Thor Heyerdahl's theory was widely criticized and fell out of favor, in part because it was misunderstood. He did not posit that Polynesia had been populated from South America, only that there had been some cultural exchange between the two.  


Well, it appears that Heyerdahl, was, at the very least, on the right track.
Recent genetic evidence has concluded that the inhabitants of Rapa Nui are indeed the product of interbreeding between Polynesians and Native Americans. 

 Genetic data on 27 Easter Island natives indicated that interbreeding between the Rapa Nui and native people in South America occurred roughly between 1300 and 1500.

"We found evidence of gene flow between this population and Native American populations, suggesting an ancient ocean migration route between Polynesia and the Americas," said geneticist Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas of the Center for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen, who led the study.  ['quote]

What's more, at least one Native American tribe was originally completely Polynesian. 

A second study, also published in Thursday's issue of Current Biology, illustrates another case of Polynesians venturing into South America. Two ancient human skulls from Brazil's indigenous Botocudo people, known for the large wooden disks they wore in their lips and ears, belonged to people who were genetically Polynesian, with no detectable Native American ancestry.
 

If this data pans out, then it sure looks like Thor Heyerdahl nailed it! 


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October 20, 2014

Congratulations to Nigeria and Senegal!

Astoundingly good news! Nigeria and Senegal seem to have licked Ebola for now. It still might flare up and refugees might reintroduce it, but both countries got on top of it by taking it seriously and acting diligently. 


Meanwhile, Ebola Tan discusses current events with a colleague .

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September 30, 2014

Ebola Arrives

This should not come as a surprise to anyone. Indeed, this is unlikely to be the only case like this we see. 

Ebola is a spectacularly nasty disease and causes much alarm. Given the spread in Africa it is certainly cause for concern. However, it is not terribly contagious. This isn't even a remarkable situation as other, similar diseases like Lassa Fever and Marburg have entered the US recently with little fanfare and no apocalypses. 

This situation is not to be taken lightly, but the greatest danger with this particular bug is panic. In the areas of Africa where panic has taken hold the outlook is quite grim . However, despite (and in some ways because of) its horrifying mortality rate, this disease can be brought under control much easier than, say, the flu. Indeed, the outbreaks in Senegal and Nigeria seem to have been brought under control even as the situation deteriorates elsewhere. 

Be aware. Don't be stupid. Above all don't panic.

Also: A sense of humor can help.

Ebola Tan by 地下室: Gallows humor that threatens to....go viral. 

As terrible as this disease can be if it gets out of control, I'm actually more concerned with a couple of other pathogens that are already becoming well established here. 

UPDATE
On the other hand there is this ray of sunshine:
 A former Food and Drug Administration chief scientist and top infectious disease specialist said that several people were exposed to the Ebola virus by the unidentified patient in Dallas, America’s first case, and it’s likely that many more will be infected. 

There is also this Politico piece, which is very detailed and paints a particularly grim picture of the situation in West Africa. 

Nevertheless, the best advice remains as follows...




...but stay informed

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September 28, 2014

The Limits of Knowledge

Don has some rather scary footage taken by via a cellphone on Mount Ontake when it suddenly erupted. As many as 30 other hikers may be dead. I gather that there was some festival going on and there were a great many hikers on the summit. Japan monitors their fire mountains quite closely for obvious reasons, and yet this mountain had not given sufficient warning to close it to the public.


I suspect that there will be some recriminations over this. Seismometer readings, temperature sensor records and the recordings of instruments monitoring gas discharges will be examined and someone will be found to have dropped the ball and not detected that which will be determined to be obvious with 20/20 hindsight. 

Decisions, however, are not made in hindsight. Nature is unpredictable and vulcanism in particular is a chaotic process that experts are constantly making discoveries about. It is highly likely that this was one of those discoveries. 

The unexpected can befall us at any time, and it is good to be prepared, but all the preparation in the world will do little good if the earth suddenly explodes under one's feet. 

As to how one might prepare for this...If there is any "lesson" to be learned here I think it would be to carry a few dust masks when climbing a volcano. They won't protect one from lava, asphyxiation or a pyroclasm, but the ash itself is quite deadly. 

A life worth living carries a certain amount of risk. It is, therefore good to live it well while one has the chance. 

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September 24, 2014

Do Want!




Of course this is likely to be rather more my realistic. 

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September 09, 2014

Tuesday 'Splody



One of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of SCIENCE! Babes sends us this video from her research into the effects of comparatively small volcanic eruptions upon merchant shipping.


The Hephestian hoopla was caused by Mount Tavurvur in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea on the 29th of last month. 

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August 21, 2014

Volcano Pr0n

No. Really....



One of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes seems rather embarrassed to report that Rule 34 applies to vulcanology.
You see, Carl over at Volcano Cafe has discovered two Icelandic volcanoes having sex under a glacier. Carl explains in graphic detail at the link below. 

TRIGGER WARNING! VOLCANO SEX! If you have ever been traumatized by pervy puking Plinian precipices procreating, then you should think long and hard about clicking here

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