November 29, 2020

We Live in a Society

...where there is a Hydraulic Press Channel.

"So cheer up everybody!"

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October 29, 2020

Finally, 2 Months Early, We Get to Discuss Something that is NOT a 2020 Headline

2068 is gonna be lit!

We've discussed Apophis before, but not recently...we were still on Blogspot back then. Basically Apophis is an Earth crossing asteroid that someone decided to tempt fate by naming after an Egyptian god of destruction. In late 2005 there was some speculation that it would impact the Earth in 2036, but subsequent calculations indicated that was not actually the case. 

 Computer model of Apophis from Wikipedia

Now, in 2020, astronomers looked at the space rock's most recent pass and amended their amendment to their calculations with the result that they think this dollop of deep-space detritus has a 0.00067% chance of impacting the earth with the force of 1.2 gigatons of TNT in 2068. 

This is not a high probability event, but if it comes to pass it is a very consequential, as a blast yield of 1200 megatons is a, shall we say, impactful, event no matter where on Earth it happens.  Furthermore, this asteroid tends to have close calls frequently, meaning that in the long term, an eventual impact is almost certain. 

The good news is that we've got plenty of time to mitigate this and try, fail, and try again to deflect the object and still have time to reflect upon and learn from mistakes made and lessons learned. 

The Brickmuppet's Crack team of Science Babes begin training to take care of business. 

For instance: The next time one discovers an Earth crossing asteroid, name it Fluttershy or Snorlax rather than after some ancient Egyptian god of chaos and death. 

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September 13, 2020

I Suppose Delta Airlines is Particularly Enthusiastic

We asked our Crackerjack team of Science Babes to report on the latest breakthroughs regarding the Flying V

However, due to poor communication there was some confusion, so I'll just link to this story at Ars Technica

Flying V is a type of aircraft that has been talked about for some years. In theory a Flying V aircraft with the same passenger capacity as a standard airliner would have about 20 percent less fuel consumption. The design has not been pursued until recently because that's only a theory and there were other theories that the design would just not get off the ground, or flip over and crash. Airbus rejected it, but the engineer who developed the concept hopped the border to the Netherlands and the idea was taken up by Dutch Airline KLM, who have built a scale model and successfully flown it. 

Theres a concept video on YouTube...

...which is WAY more impressive looking than the actual event. 

But the test is not CGI. It's actual engineering. There's more on this at New Atlas. Which notes that the baseline for the 20% fuel savings claim  is the Airbus A350-900 and that unlike most flying wing proposals, a Flying V would have the same or smaller wingspan. This would solve the achilles heel of most flying wing airliner proposals, the notion that airports would have to be massively rebuilt for the new planes. With this they wouldn't. 

All this assumes that the thing actually scales up well, which is far from a sure thing. Still, it's nice to see innovative and frankly futuristic looking designs being looked being the 21st century and all. 

I'm all for more Syd Mead and less Mad Max. 

Image via Slash-Gear

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July 28, 2020

The Solution to the Mess That is 2020

Is obviously to rename it U.C. 1. 

This is still a work in progress, it's not finished or untethered yet, but it is looking really impressive. 

There's more on this here.  

Once finished, the robot will feature an incredible 24 degrees of freedom, meaning this thing will be able to walk.

The thing is supposed to be fully operational by October, and while its schedule was thrown into chaos by CoronaChan, it appears that they have now caught up and an October debut is a real possibility. 

So the giant anthropomorphic robot is being rushed into Japanese service during a time of growing military tensions punctuated by cyberwarfare developments was temporarily delayed by a global pandemic, reporting of which is being stymied by megacorporations censoring the reportage of news that might cut into the profits of pharmaceutical companies. While there is additional worrisome news like urban riots and most young people in the developed world being addicted to a brain prosthetic. There is also a strong push to immigrate off planet, perhaps having the first settlers on Mars by 2024

Dude....the future we read about as kids is here!

"But it's not Olaf Stapeldon...It's Walter John Williams! "

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May 24, 2020

That Does It

I've gotta re-enlist in the Coast Guard now.

Hat Tip...Scott Lowther

It looks like the Royal Marines have figured out a technological replacement with the Jacob's Ladder and Grappling Hooks. 

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March 13, 2020

On This Day in Triskaidekaphobia

Friday the 13th does not necessarily bode ill.

For example, on March 13th 1781, William Herschel discovered Uranus!

"March 13, 1781 was a Tuesday, not a Friday, thus invalidating this whole post."

Besides, the seventh planet from the sun is actually quite interesting despite the tedious jokes revolving around its name. 

 The planet and its moons have surprising potential. In fact, here is a long post by Matter Beam on how to colonize Uranus!


The planet has an anomalously large percentage of helium 3 in its clouds and a bunch of cool icy moons which seem quite comparable to Ceres. 

The system is far enough out to keep the pesky tourists at bay. 
Interestingly though, Matter Beam's article has an idea for a potentially interesting "killer app" that could make the the two "ice giants" quite useful in the far future. 

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March 08, 2020

An Unusual Source of Protein

Scientists examining a meteorite think they have discovered a protein inside it. This is significant because, while amino acids have been found in space rocks, proteins had not. The researchers are reasonably sure that the protein is not due to terrestrial contamination due to its isotope signature and the fact that the protein is like nothing ever seen before. 

The hemolithin protein found by the researchers was a small one, and was made up mostly of glycine, and amino acids. It also had oxygen, lithium and iron atoms at its ends—an arrangement never seen before. 

"Hemolethin appears to be a new word invented just for this protein. but that's not NEARLY as important as the validating fact that one actually CAN find protein in space!"

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January 26, 2020

A Few Viral Videos (Updated)

Ben Kavanaugh, An English-teacher from Ireland goes to buy groceries in Wuhan.

The bit about the goggles is probably good advice.

This below seems to be the full version of "The Nurse's Video"; the video that caused much of the online hysteria yesterday. Epoch Times has a slant to be sure, but they don't (to the best of my knowledge) make things up whole cloth. It's unclear why she would give the interview in a hazmat suit. I don't know who she is and even if I did I've seen enough Downfall parodies to know that I'd want someone with a good knowledge of Mandarin I trust to translate this.

Nevertheless, the uncertain provenance notwithstanding, nothing she says is out of line with what we know about the bug and it jives well with the analysis of experts in the U.K. The wildly divergent numbers with respect to the ones provided by the C.C.P.
might not be remarkable either if the C.C.P. numbers are confirmed cases and the numbers 'Mystery Nurse' provides are of those estimated to be infected but not symptomatic yet.

Styxhexxenhammer has thoughts on the matter:

 As he notes above, It is reported here (via U.K.Channel 4)  this morning by the Chinese Government that the virus is getting "stronger" though it's unclear if that means in lethality or virulence (or both).

More here.

Regarding the suspicions in some quarters about the fact that there is a government bio-research lab studying the most .dangerous pathogens in the middle of 'City Zero' ; Well, it turns out that serious concerns were raised about the then-under-construction Wuhan lab in 2017. Note too that there were 2 earlier containment failures with the less dangerous SARS virus in a Beijing lab about a decade ago. One involved a protocol issue and one involved an attempted live virus vaccine that had not, in fact, been rendered fully safe. None of this is strictly relevant to the current situation, it doesn't matter if the virus came from a botched experiment, a snake, a bat, genetic recombination at the local bathhouse, or the crashed satellite from project Scoop. It exists and appears to be real despite some obvious hype.

The thing is, we don't know what we don't know, about the actual mortality rate, and transmissability, though the latter seems to be alarmingly high given the measures taken by the powers that be. These quarantines are not taken lightly after all. This could be, in ascending levels of undesirability: hype,  SARS, a bad flu season, 1918, or North America 1545-1610.

I'm betting on a bad flu season none of us has the shot for, so I'd suggest having a lot of canned goods and buying some mas....oh.

Via Instapundit, John's Hopkins University has put together a CoronaVirus tracking page, with a lot of data.

And now I've even included the links! 

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January 17, 2020

Well This Was...Not Expected.

One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes brings us news from the cutting edges of Materials Science.

"And Biology. And Architecture. And Structural Engineering. And Invasive Species Management."

Rio Futaba by RB2. Who is also on Twitter and accepting commissions on Skeb.

You see...Living Concrete has reportedly been created by an insufficiently supervised team of scientists at the University of Colorado

They have a paper.

As we approach the third decade of the 21st century we should not be surprised to see science fiction become science fact...but we at Brickmuppet Blog express our consternation that instead of flying cars, our scientists are pursuing Monolith Monsters.   

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December 29, 2019

Meanwhile, in the Constellation of Orion

One of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes takes time from whatever Ren-Faire she's attending to bring us some news from the intersection of astronomy and explodimology.

It seems that he colossal red-giant star Betelgeuse, the right shoulder of the constellation Orion and heretofore one of the brightest stars in the night sky, has, over the past 3 months started dimming and over the last few weeks dramatically so.

"Unless,being 2019 and all, the light from the shoulder of Orion is dimming due to smoke from the attack ships on fire."


If theories about these things are correct there is a possibility that the star will erupt in a supernova...soon.

A super Nova of Betelgeuse is not unexpected as the star has long been thought to be near the end of its life, though that being measured in millions of years the notion that we'd see it in our lifetimes was (and still is) considered remote.  However, if it does explode sometime in the next few months or years, the death of Betelgeuse could have profound effects on earth.

Such "profound effects" might include having every hysterical click-baity doomsayer prattling on about the end of the world ad-nauseum, as well as speculation in the media that the obliteration of Orion's shoulder is due to Russian collusion or global warming and celebrations in certain quarters of the replacement of the previous ableist constellation with a more diverse one.

However, at 430 light years away (give or take 100LY) Betelgeuse is far too distant to provide a radiation hazard from a super nova. The non-secondary effects are likely to be  limited to having the star be much brighter than a full moon for several weeks or months resulting in near daylight at midnight at certain times and presenting two suns in the daytime sky during others. If it transpired, we will notice it but on the off chance that it actually goes all 'splody the only dangers it would pose are likely to be people walking into trees while looking at it.

Of course, whatever transpires from this, it will have already happened...330-530 years ago.

That orange thing in the upper left (our left, not Orion's left )'s going away...someday.

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November 21, 2019

Great Discoveries are Sometimes Unacknowledged When They Happen

One of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes takes a moment to tell us that John Michael Godier has a 45 minute interview with  Dr. Patricia Ann Straat, who was in charge of the detect life experiment in the Viking Landers in '75/76.   She and her team thought they'd found life then but after some initial enthusiasm it was declared a false positive and then pretty much ignored after the new NASA leadership took over in '77. She and others have recently pointed out that the experiments alleged to debunk her team's claims were improperly done and she's got a very strong case that Martian life was detected in 1976. 

But wait. There's more!

"New evidence regarding organics and seasonal methane emissions seems to support her conclusions and if these pan out, it'll be important to remember that it was Dr. Straat and her team who first discovered life on Mars, probably before the first people who will first see it under a microscope were born. "

Time will tell but her argument seems compelling. Indeed, its looking more and more like she's right and that the decision to not put any life detecting experiments on the subsequent probes was ill-conceived at best. She has a book on the topic that is, for some reason, not available in the usual places but you can buy it here.

Full Disclosure: "Science Babe" is actually Makise Kurisu from Stein's Gate, but you know that, because you've seen it, unless you haven't in which case you're wrong.

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November 02, 2019

Follow-Up to an Earlier Post

A MUCH earlier post; see, back in November of 2007 we noted that archeologists had discovered a semi-mythical submarine that was claimed to have been all kinds of advanced but was believed to have been lost in 1869, 150 years ago this year.

The SUB MARINE EXPLORER did indeed exist and  was found 12 years ago. She was intended for underwater salvage, exploration and pearl diving and sallied forth to Panama to do the latter, where her entire crew died "of fever" after a long dive.

Examination of the wreck and what was known of the sub's design indicate that they died of the bends after staying down to long and not decompressing properly. Now, a dozen years later, the reports of the survey are available online as well as photos and schematics of the submarine itself derived from the wreck that confirm other reports about how advanced the vessel actually was. The SUB MARINE EXPLORER was remarkably advanced for its day and worked, achieving most of its design goals. It had the ability to equalize pressure like a diving bell allowing its crew to exit the vessel underwater.

From the set of plans drawn up from the wreck and historical records at the Library of Congress

Sadly, reliable dive tables were not available until the early 20th century and this condemned the crew to an early grave despite everything else being done right. Unknown unknowns are among the most dangerous of things, but are inevitable when exploring new frontiers.

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October 29, 2019

50 Years Ago Today

...The internet was born. around 9:00PM technicians at UCLA loaded up a program to allow two workstations to talk to one another across the country via phone line.

At 10:30 PM the log entry read...

"Talked to SRI, Host to Host.”

And ARPANET, the first crude iteration of the internet was operational.

This has led to a myriad of advances, some amazingly good and some with terrifying implications.


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October 01, 2019

Chariklo and the Importance of Reading the WHOLE Page Before Linking it

I was curious about that ringed asteroid/dwarf planet they found between Uranus and Saturn a while back. Chariklo is one of several asteroids in that region between Uranus and Saturn which have collectively been named the Centaurs. The objects in this small group are named after centaurs from Greek mythology and as there aren't many of those, any non-Centaur spouses/children from when the myths implied that the achievement "hybrid vigor" was unlocked...still they are likely to run out of names from Greek Mythology and will soon have to go to other sources.

Ms. Shianus by エルセン(Elsen?)

Etymology aside,  these objects don't represent a large field like the Main Belt, the Jovian Trojans, or Hildas, but are thought to be a few objects from the Kupier Belt tossed sunward like Triton and Pluto/Charon. The largest of these, Chariklo, (named after Chiron's wife) had caused some confusion due to uncertainty about its size and readings that indicated it was either big and icy or small and surprisingly not so. It turned out that the Chariklo is a largely spherical object with an icy ring system that may imply two or more shepherd moons as well.

Not enough is known about this object to know if it will ultimately qualify as a Dwarf Planet (it would have to be in hydro-static equilibrium) but there's a chance that it might.  It's certainly at the low end of the scale of such things as can be seen here.....

Because Ceres is not a common frame of reference, the below picture may be helpful.

Besides the general coolness factor of the rings, one thing appears curious from the perspective of a layman with a mere Bachelor of Arts degree. The rings were discovered in part because when viewed front on the object appeared to be an icy object, when viewed ring edge on the moon appeared to be ice free. Now, "ice free" might mean largely anhydrous like Psyche, or just covered in regolith like Ceres. If the former, Chariklo might be something even more interesting. If all it's water is baked out then this thing might be a differentiated object like Vesta and Psyche, with all the potential for mineral wealth that that would imply.

As of now I have not learned anything more along those lines.

However, while looking,  I did encounter the exact opposite of learning. Well almost. In my search I blundered onto this website and very nearly used it as a reference hyperlink...after all it linked to and had a nice overview of the object...the etymology of its name, and it then went on to discuss where the object can be seen in the sky at various times of the year which might be useful if one somehow has a ridiculously powerful telescope as this is a very dark object, (though the rings might be visible to some very well equipped amateur astronomers if one knows where to look).

Alas, this positional information was in reference to which HOUSES the object is in when viewed from Earth because the discovery of this object fills in some of the gaps in the predictive powers of...astrology.

Chariklo aspects seem to be prominent in individuals who take a step into the future. It may be through science (Pierre Curie, who studied the various types of energies, had a close Chariklo conjunct Sun...the greatest source of energy for this planet; Alexander Graham Bell, who studied ways to communicate with the deaf and who invented the telephone, had a close Chariklo conjunct Mercury....planet of communication).

Oh Lord.

Yes, the cray-cray is strong with this link. The author manages to tie in many of the cast and crew of Star Trek, Dr. Who, The Outer Limits and various other Sci-Fi authors to being born under the sign of this object, because this space-rock being forward thinking people is obviously linked to those involved in science fiction. Obviously.


Actually, there is a tremendous amount of research that went into this page. There is the equivalent of four typed pages that catalog when people of note were born when this asteroid happened to be in a certain arbitrary location when viewed from the Earth*.

There's an awful lot of numbers and charts.
So, (checks) I appear to be a Capricorn. If I were to apply this websites knowledge practically, what conclusions could be drawn about me?

Ms. Shianus by Okayado. Profound wisdom inspired by the Onion.


But wait.

This stupid actually gets worse.

Three out of the first five pages that came up on Chariklo in a web search were in fact astrology pages. None of them were the page that the Astrology page linked to.

The algorithms that are deciding who gets to speak and what is a credible source can't tell the difference between astrology and astronomy.

This is why we can't have nice things. 

We're doomed! DOOMED!

Of course, in a few million years Chariklo might be too, since it's likely to eventually join the Saturnian or Uranian system....perhaps catastrophically.

Green=Uranus  Yellow=Saturn  Unlikely Pink=Chariklo

*The third large object orbiting an unremarkable green dwarf in a big  empty bubble in the Orion arm of The Milky Way Galaxy, one of what is provincially known as The Local Group, a cluster of Galaxies which is somewhat removed from the apparent center of Lainekia.

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September 27, 2019

While We Weren't Looking

One of the things that comes up from time to time when discussing futurism and space travel is that there is a theoretical (if tenuous) basis for violating the generally accepted impossibility of superluninal travel.

Developed by an acclaimed Mexican scientist named Dr. Miguel Alcubierre, the  Alcubierre Warp Drive sounds superficially similar to the propulsion in Star Trek, but is based in real physics..albeit very theoretical physics.

You see, since the speed of light is very firmly established as an insurmountable obstacle Dr. Alcubierre was only able to develop a mathematically sound way of violating this by using negative values for certain this case, um, mass.

In the above interview, Dr. Alcubierre is quite up front that this is a dubious prospect as negative mass is not something that one is simply not forbidden to exist, we're not talking about anti-matter...we're talking about "stuff" with a value of less than nothing.

So unless someone invents/discovers "negative mass" this is basically at the intersection of physics, mathematics, special pleading and vapourware.


Now, one of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes points us to this post at Next Big Future which offhandedly mentions that scientists from The University of Rochester generated negative mass last year and further poking around reveals that Scientists in Washington did so in 2017.

Seems a rather LARGE thing to have avoided news coverage, but it does appear to be legit. This is not to say that the Alcubierre Drive is imminent, or even practical, but it is just a tad more possible.

The above link that started all this concerns research paths on various FTL proposals and discusses the humbling obstacles to being able to do this such as a million fold increase in the sensitivity of various sensors i order to observe adjustments in the warp fields. That is indeed a large hurdle...but for the first time scientists know what they need in the way of calibration and sensors to study the problem.

Scientists now know a little more of what they don't know and that is actually progress.

If negative mass can be produced in any quantity (and there are formidable issues with that)  then even if there is no practical result to the warp drive  research, the negative mass has some interesting (potential & theoretical) applications that border on Clarke-Tech.

And even if the Warp Drive is possible, it's likely that we'll never see anything like FTL in our lifetime, but the fact that scientists are discovering things like negative matter point to a very bright future indeed, if we can avoid some dystopian speedbumps on the road to tomorrow. 

* Science Babe by Tony Taka

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September 18, 2019

There Are Space Tomatoes For Sale!

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September 16, 2019

Borisov Intercept Proposal

In the recent post on the extra-solar comet Borisov, we used the rocketry and ballistics expertise bestowed by our liberal arts education to to recklessly speculate that it might be possible to launch a quick and dirty probe to get a close up look at this visitor from beyond.

Now one of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes has found a proposal to do just that, presumably after slogging through academic sites for many hours.

"Nah, I just checked out Centauri Dreams."

The paper is using the SLS as it's baseline launch vehicle, and not the  larger and more powerful and more or less existing Space-X Super Heavy.

However, this paper by actual rocket scientists, points out that the rather significant detail that the launch window for a conventional intercept of this thing was actually a bit over a year ago. Borisov is coming no closer to the Earth than Mars before it speeds off into the void.

Instead, the scientists are looking at a high energy, multiple slingshot trajectory and is proposing a launch in 2030, and an intercept in 2045, which gives plenty of time to work things out in a more conventional manner.

Interestingly, it also notes that a mission to Omuamua, using a New Horizons class probe is still possible. Which is quite awesome.

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September 14, 2019


 One of the questions that was left unanswered in the wake of the recent passing through the solar system of the interstellar object Omuamua was whether this was a vanishingly rare event, or if such interstellar objects pass through fairly frequently and we hadn't noticed them.

Well, there is now some evidence that it may be the latter.

While not yet officially confirmed to be an extrasolar object, C/2019 Q4 tentatively named Borisov, after its discoverer, is coming in at about solar system escape velocity and is expected to leave the solar system after doing a loop around the sun.

.gif via JPL

This is a rather larger object than Omuanua between 1 and 30 kilometers across and Astronomers will have time to examine it in considerable detail.

That's all we know now, but one of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes offers a bit of speculation....

"Given that its closest approach to Earth will be in December, it is also possible (albeit unlikely) that a very austere probe might be sent. Note that Elon Musk is planning a full up launch of his super rocket in October, some kitbashed probe might make a better payload than the water that normally acts as ballast on these things."

It should be noted as well that Mr.Gennady Borisov, the Russian amateur astronomer who discovered this comet, pulled off quite the impressive feat with his homemade telescope found what the algorithms had missed.

[quote] Aside from how prominent or not Gennady’s comet will become, the most amazing thing is that he beat the automated surveys to the punch. These days nearly all comets and many asteroids are found by professional astronomers using robotic telescopes hooked up to sensitive cameras and computers. Large areas of the sky are covered each clear night. If a fuzzy, moving object is detected by the computer, astronomers are alerted, follow-up observations are made and the new object receives a letter, number and the survey’s name.  That’s why there are a plethora of comets in the past 15 years with names like LINEAR (Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Survey), Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System), LONEOS (Lowell Observatory Near-Earth-Object Search) and others.

This one however, is named "Borisov".

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This is Pretty Epic

Specifically, it involves EPIC201912552 and even more specifically  EPIC201912552b a large terrestrial planet orbiting it.

One of The Brickmuppet's Crack team of Science Babes explains...

"Mercifully, the planet is also referred to as K2-18b and the rest is in this NASA press release"

With data from the Hubble Space Telescope, water vapor has been detected in the atmosphere of an exoplanet within the habitable zone of its host star. K2-18b, which is eight times the mass of Earth, is the only planet orbiting a star outside the solar system (or "exoplanet”) known to have both water and temperatures that could support life. Image credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

K2-18b was discovered some years ago and, despite being theoretically in the habitable zone, was viewed as unlikely to have water or life due to its star's mercurial nature. It orbits a red dwarf star quite close in and the dwarf in question is one that flares a lot, and emits considerible UV radiation.

However, Hubble has discovered that the planet is, in fact quite wet. This could mean it's a Neptune type planet that's boiling away or it might be a very large Earth like planet that has been able to retain its atmosphere due to high gravity and, perhaps, a strong magnetic field.

In either case, it's warm, wet ,and while quite unlike Earth in various ways it would seem now to have at least the potential for life of some kind....which is indeed pretty epic.

And logically, there ought not to be any downside.

Alas, it's 2019. There's always a downside. It seems that The Weather Channel has noted the clouds too and has begun running a story on K2 18b's weather, which means we can look forward to more weather reports of negligible relevance to us resulting in even LESS local coverage on the Weather Channel in the future.

In any event, such minor annoyances notwithstanding, that we're finding these things is pretty awesome.  While water vapor has not been found on an earth sized, habitable zone world before now, there are quite a few potential candidates for life-bearing planets. Here is a conservative list of the exo-planets currently thought to be potentially habitable, minus K2-18b which was on it some years ago but was removed and has not, as of yet, been put back.

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August 31, 2019

Meanwhile, At Stromboli

Erupting volcanoes are mercurial and as such are not the most advisable of tourist destination.

Pyroclastic flows can really take you by surprise. .

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