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Trump family can’t vote properly

Why Evolution is True Feed - 2 hours 24 min ago

Grania found this tweet about the Trump family’s vote in last month’s New York City mayoral election. (They’re all officially New York residents.)

Trump family tried to vote absentee in the NYC mayoral election:

MELANIA: Didn't follow directions to sign envelope so her vote didn't count

IVANKA: Sent it on election day, too late

JARED: Never sent ballot

DONALD: Got his own b-day wrong by a month

— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) December 12, 2017

And if you go to the article in the New York Daily News, you’ll see that these claims are substantiated (click on screenshot below), though I have no idea how the press could get access to voting information that should be confidential. If this turns out to be “fake news”, I’ll let you know.

If it is true, it’s not clear if The Donald’s vote will count yet, since he got his own birthday wrong.

Categories: Science

Poll: Who will win in Alabama?

Why Evolution is True Feed - 3 hours 9 min ago

It’s a referendum on progressivism versus hidebound conservatism in Alabama today, as Republican Roy Moore (yes, you know all about him) faces off against Democrat Doug Jones to fill Jeff Sessions’s Senate seat.  Moore is, if that’s possible, worse than Trump (for one thing, he’s always spouting off about God and Jesus), but, you know, this is America. And Moore has been endorsed by Trump, which in Alabama may count in his favor.

Predict the election! (And comment below if you want.) Please vote, and, as usual, I’m not representing this as anything other than opinions of WEIT readers.

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Categories: Science

Three beefs

Why Evolution is True Feed - 4 hours 25 min ago

I belief the correct term for the plural of beef is actually “beeves”, but if I put it above nobody would read this.  Anyway, Jerry Has Three Beeves (a good title for a children’s book).

1.)  Toothpaste prices.  One of the biggest ripoffs you can experience in American merchandising, besides bottled water and Starbuck’s Fancy Drinks, is toothpaste.  When I was taking a walk yesterday, I realized that I was almost out of toothpaste in my office (I brush there twice a day), and so stopped by the local CVS to buy a big tube.  I was shocked to see the prices: even “regular” toothpaste like Crest cost from $3.50 to $5.00 per tube, and if you want toothpaste with “extra whitening power” or for sensitive teeth, expect to pay six bucks or so. I couldn’t find anything cheaper on the shelves.

For years I bought Pepsodent (also with fluoride) for $1.00 per tube at my regular grocery store, but that closed a while back.  If Pepsodent can sell its toothpaste for that little (and it still does in stores that carry it), you can imagine that the other, pricier brands are ripoffs, garnering huge profits. There is, after all, no substantial difference between Crest, Aim (another inexpensive brand, a gel), and the high-priced brands.  Peeved and beeved, I passed on the Crest and walked on, encountering and entering a local Target store that recently opened in Hyde Park. And there, on the shelves, I found big tubes of Aim toothpaste for $1.02 per tube! Naturally, I loaded up. So, advice to readers: do not get ripped off on toothpaste. Aim is available at even lower prices in some places, and if you’re paying three or four times as much for Pepsodent or some other regular toothpaste, you’re wasting your dosh.  Now I know people are wedded to their regular brands, but there’s no need to spend three times more than you need to get the same thing. 

2.) Bad car drivers.  I am usually a good pedestrian and obey the lights, and I almost always use crosswalks.  Two days ago I was crossing the crosswalk a block from my office, and was obeying the light (i.e., I was walking when oncoming traffic had a red light). Suddenly a car turning left onto the street I was crossing was too impatient to let me cross. The drive just speeded up and turned left into the left lane (Brits: we drive on the right side) making his turn right in front of me and nearly hitting me. Here’s a diagram of the situation:

Naturally I said something to the driver, but he didn’t hear me (yes, it was a man). This kind of behavior, in which Type As can’t wait three seconds till I get across the street, is reprehensible—and illegal. Guys, don’t do that!

3.) Bad bicycle riders.  I’ve complained about this before, but will do so again. It’s against the law in Chicago to ride bicycles on the sidewalk, or to disobey stopsigns and stoplights. But cyclists almost ALWAYS ignore the law. The result is that people are constantly in danger of getting hit, and that includes the miscreant cyclists themselves. Having learned bicycle commuting as a postdoc in Davis, California, a place where you get a ticket if you don’t stop at a stop sign or light, fail to signal a turn with your arm, or ride at night without a light, I am a very considerate bike rider.

Yesterday while walking home, I was ambling along the sidewalk and for some reason veered toward the right. It turned out that there was a student on a ten-speed bike riding really fast behind me on the sidewalk, without alerting me to his presence. I veered right into his path, and was veryt nearly knocked down (I could feel the wind from his bike as it missed me by inches). He was riding so fast that I suspect I would have been badly hurt had he hit me.

I’ve complained several times to the University of Chicago Police about this, as this is about the third time I’ve nearly been hit by a miscreant cyclist, but of course our cops don’t enforce the laws. A cop can be standing right on the street corner, and yet just looks on placidly as bike after bike speeds through stop signs.

If I get hit or killed, please send the link to this post to the U of C Police, just so they’ll know I’ve talked to them.

If you’re a cyclist commenting below, you can defend breaking the law if you want, but I won’t agree with you.

And you can add your own beeves below.

Categories: Science

Toughen up, Republicans!

Pharyngula Feed - 4 hours 31 min ago

A Republican insider giving advice to Democrats…are you going to trust him? Bruce Bartlett thinks Democrats need to toughen up, because we shouldn’t have asked for Franken’s resignation.

I’m torn about it, too — he was a good senator. But he was also flawed, and I’m glad that the issue of sexual harassment has become an important topic within the party I best identify with (but don’t wholly agree with, by a long shot).

However, can we just tell Republicans giving such advice to simply fuck off? Until they have enough fiber to repudiate the scumbags, who are far, far worse than Franken, I don’t think any of them have the privilege to give anyone advice. When you’re strong enough to strip your support from Roy Moore, and when you’ve got the moral integrity to reject King Asshole who’s occupying the presidency, then maybe your advice will be worth listening to.

Categories: Science

Are you happy? Or delusional?

Pharyngula Feed - 4 hours 43 min ago

A poll has determined where to find the good life, state by state. Do you live in a madly grinning state, or a kind of glum state?

How nice, I thought, I live in Minnesota, where we’re very pleased with ourselves. But then I noticed that Texas is also pretty smug, and how could anyone bear to live there?

These results are from a self-assessment poll, which means it probably utterly meaningless. It’s kind of telling that there is a great band running up the center of the country, the Miserable Middle, but I don’t know what it’s telling me. Midwesterners are realistic? They’re mostly self-effacing and modest? Life really sucks in Ohio? Or maybe some of the Trump states are feeling kind of embarrassed?

Categories: Science

The Good Country Index

Why Evolution is True Feed - 6 hours 24 min ago

HuffPo (occasionally they do have decent stuff) describes a recently compiled “Good Country Index,” which uses data from the UN, WHO, and the World Bank to rank countries on a number of axes: science and technology, culture, world order, international peace and security, planet and climate, prosperity and equality, and health and wellbeing (there are subrankings as well—35 in total). As HuffPo reports:

The index is the work of Simon Anholt, a policy adviser who has worked with governments across the world for the last 25 years. He told HuffPost his aim was to move away from traditional performance measurements such as GDP and army size, and to stop looking at countries in isolation from one another.

“In the age of advanced globalization … we’re all part of a massively interconnected system,” he said. “And what goes on in one country invariably has an impact on people in other countries. It’s a closed system, it’s a zero-sum game. … I just thought: Who’s measuring that? Who’s measuring the interconnections?”

Below are the overall rankings of 163 countries, “designed to rate countries on the effect they have on humanity and on the planet,” with the most “positive” countries at the top. The U.S. slipped from 20th to 25th place over the last year, but the data come from the period of the Obama and not the Trump presidency.

I’m presenting screenshots of the results (you can see a neater figure and some sub-rankings here), hoping that a diligent reader might correlate these standings with religiosity—a statistic available for most countries. For if you look at the top countries like Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, and Finland, they are decidedly less religious than the lowest countries like Yemen, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. The relationship won’t be perfect, of course (fairly religious Ireland is #7), but I suspect there will be a negative correlation: the least religious countries will rank highest in their ability to create “positive effects” and vice versa.

A correlation isn’t a causation, of course, but it may mean something, and I’m thinking of the thesis that the well being of a country is negatively related to the religiosity of its inhabitants. That theory isn’t mine, but has been suggested by many sociologists. The underlying premise is a Marxist one: that people turn to religion when their circumstances are bad and they can’t get much succor from their government. In countries that take care of their citizens, like the ones at the top of the list, people don’t need a god to importune for help.

At any rate, a negative correlation among nations between position on the Good Country Index and religiosity would at least help dispel the old canard that religion in general tends to make countries healthy, moral, and viable.

Categories: Science

Readers’ wildlife photographs

Why Evolution is True Feed - 7 hours 39 min ago

The readers came through with more photos for me, so please hold off with further photo contributions until after New Year when I return. Today’s arthropod photo odyssey comes from reader Mark Sturtevant, whose words are indented.

The first two pictures are of one of the large jumping spiders that I can generally pick up from my shed. This is the tan jumperPlatycryptus undatus. The name refers to the flattened shape which allows it to hide under things. These spiders are fairly mellow for a Salticid, and so are pretty easy to catch and work with.


The next two pictures are of another common jumping spider with a decidedly different personality. This is of course the bold jumping spider (Phidippus audax), a species that is pretty familiar to anyone in the U.S. This handsome male was living in a watering can on our front porch, and it would always dash into the spout when I would try to retrieve it for pictures. As is typical of its kind, it was not in the least interested in sitting still, but the ‘ol give-them-a-fly trick works every time.

Temporarily moving on to a different spider family, we see in the next picture a rather warty looking crab spider. This looks to be in the genus Xysticus, according to overall appearance, proportions of the legs, and various features of the carapace and front legs that are shown and described in the amazing web site known as BugGuide.

More jumping spiders are in the next two pictures. This lovely but very small species is Tutelina elegans. I had seen a couple of these in the early summer in my #2 favorite park. This is a female, and I’m on the lookout for a male which is shown in the link.


The next two pictures are of luna moth caterpillars (Actias luna). The story behind this is that we have a local ‘nature’ store that sometimes has batches of caterpillars of various kinds for the kiddies (and for me, of course). It’s from here that I got my start raising Saturniids. Last summer they had a large batch of young luna moth caterpillars, and so I bought some. This species is very easy to raise, but these were being fed on hickory leaves which is not a tree that I have used before. So I scouted around and found a nice neighbor with a hickory tree and she let me drop by regularly to gather fresh leaves for my brood. In these pictures I was trying to record the fact that these juicy little (well, not so little) gummy worms are fairly translucent. When slightly backlit with the sun one can see their slowly pulsing gut. I don’t think I succeeded showing that here, but the colors are still pretty striking.

The larvae made their cocoons at about mid-summer, but unfortunately they all eclosed to adults while I was dragged away on a vacation. They were then in the care of a friend, but when I returned, the moths, which do not feed, had all eclosed and were either too old or too dead to photograph. I will have to try again some other time, as I’ve never photographed the adults of this species. 

Finally, I add a weird Hemipteran which is a long-necked seed bug (Myodocha annulicornis). These insects are common pests on strawberries.


Categories: Science

Space Policy Directive 1 – Return to the Moon

neurologicablog Feed - 8 hours 24 min ago

Yesterday President Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1 (SPD1), an executive order that will shape NASAs priorities going forward. Essentially the directive states that NASA’s primary mission is human space exploration, with a specific goal of returning to the moon.

The Directive is the result of recommendations made by the National Space Council (NSC) – a council of experts that advises the executive branch on all matters dealing with space. According to NASA, in June of this year:

President Trump has signed an executive order reestablishing the National Space Council. The council existed previously from 1989-1993, and a version of it also existed as the National Aeronautics and Space Council from 1958-1973. As such, the council has guided NASA from our earliest days and can help us achieve the many ambitious milestones we are striving for today.

The NSC recommended to the White House that NASA’s priority should be the Moon, and SPD1 is the result of that recommendation.

I think the core vision for SPD1 is solid, and something I have supported for years. Specifically, our human exploration priority should be establishing an Earth-to-Moon infrastructure, including a permanent presence on the moon. We should only set our sights on Mars after we have a stable moon base. There are several reasons for this.

First, colonizing the moon is much easier than Mars. The moon is three days away from Earth, while Mars is 9 or more months. We don’t even have the technology at this point to protect martian astronauts from the radiation they would be exposed to on the trip. Going to Mars is a logistical and technological problem perhaps an order of magnitude more difficult than going to the Moon.

Being close to Earth also means that resupply and rescue missions would be much more feasible. If something goes awry on Mars, good luck to you. Don’t expect help anytime soon. For a moon base, however, we could theoretically have a rocket on standby, something that could launch within a week, and be on the moon in another three days.

All of the main issues we would confront on a Mars colony would also exist on a moon colony, and so once we developed the knowledge and technology to have a self-sustaining base on the moon, we could use that knowledge to then build bases and colonies on Mars. A moon base would need proper shielding, an energy source, and sources of food, water, and oxygen.

We are currently eyeing possible lava tubes as locations for permanent bases on the moon.  These are caves carved out by ancient lava. They could be geologically stable locations under ground, which would provide natural shielding from radiation and micrometeors. The same is true on Mars.

So walk before you run. It is likely hubris and folly to set our sights on Mars when the moon is much closer and more feasible.

But further – the moon could be a stepping stone to Mars. A trip to Mars could have two stages. The first is getting to a way station on the moon. This will get you largely out of the gravity well of Earth. You can also optimize ships and other infrastructure for getting from the Earth to the moon, and then have a separate infrastructure for getting from the moon to Mars or elsewhere.

SPD1 mentions a Deep Space Gateway – this is a station that would be in lunar orbit. The Gateway would be the transfer point to Mars and other distant destination in the solar system. NASA describes how this might work:

“This spacecraft would be a reusable vehicle that uses electric and chemical propulsion and would be specifically designed for crewed missions to destinations such as Mars,” agency officials said. “The transport would take crew out to their destination [and] return them back to the gateway, where it can be serviced and sent out again.”

One advantage to this kind of system is that you don’t have to lift all the fuel it takes to get to Mars with you out of Earth’s gravity. You just need the fuel to get to the Moon, and then take a separate ship to Mars. This all comes from the rocket equation – you need enough fuel to carry the fuel to carry the fuel, etc. So making one big trip with all the fuel is inherently inefficient. Any way we can break it up into stages, or refuel along the way, is highly useful.

Ideally we would produce the fuel on the moon, which is entirely possible. NASA is already working on ways to extract oxygen, water, and volatiles from the lunar regolith.

The new directive also has a loser, however. It ends NASA’s goal of sending a mission to an asteroid – the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). This is unfortunate. Asteroids are also a potentially very useful resource. Developing the technology to mine asteroids could have a massive economic impact on our planet. Asteroids could be a source of fuel, water, oxygen, and enough metals to dwarf existing supplies of gold, platinum, and other precious metals.

While I know we can’t do everything, and we need to have priorities, I do lament the missions we must forgo. Of course, I would much rather see just a net increase in our investments in space. I think these are likely to be worthwhile investments which will pay for themselves many times over in the long run.

But there is another aspect to SPD1 that is encouraging – in addition to establishing NASA’s goals, the directive discusses optimizing how NASA will collaborate with the growing private space industry. I am perhaps even more encouraged by the development of private space companies in the last decade than by any NASA directive. Once we cross the line where going to space can be profitable, then space exploration will really take off.

There is, for example, a company called Planetary Resources, Inc. Their goal is to mine the solar system. If they manage to get their hands on one asteroid with platinum group metals, they will potentially net trillions of dollars. That is a big risk, but also a huge potential payoff. We may see a future with space mining corporations more wealthy and powerful than most nations.

I did not see any mention in the coverage of SPD1 of robotic exploration. I presume that NASA will continue this core mission as well. Robots are still the most efficient way to explore space. While I support human exploration and colonization, I recognize that humans are fragile. We are not built for space. Keeping people alive and healthy in space is a major part of the expense of human space travel. I still think it is a worthy endeavor for our species.

But we should ride on the backs of our robotic servants. Robots don’t need food, water, oxygen, or atmospheric pressure, and are much more tolerant of a wide range of temperature and exposure to radiation. If we just want to send a pair of eyes to a location to explore, robots are the way to go. Robots can even pave the way for our travel to new locations, like Mars. Let them do all the hard and dangerous work, and create an infrastructure for us to inhabit.

Overall I think the SPD1 is a good thing. I like that it shifts the focus away from Mars and towards the moon. That puts things in its proper order. I would much rather have a successful moon mission, that establishes a long term lunar presence, then a one-off or failed Mars mission.

Categories: Skeptic

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

Why Evolution is True Feed - 8 hours 55 min ago

Good morning on a very cold Tuesday, December 12, 2017: the temperature in Chicago right now is 18° F  (-8° C). It’s National Cocoa Day, and I think I may make myself a warming mug of hot chocolate. It’s also Kanji Day in Japan, in which a Japanese character (a written one, not a person) will be chosen to symbolize the day.

I’m quite busy finishing up preparations and talks for India, so this may be today’s only post. Like Maru, I do my best.

On December 12, 1787, Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the United States Constitution (you may remember that Delaware, the first, ratified it five days before). On this day in 1901, in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic radio signal—the letter “S” in Morse Code.  Exactly a decade later, Delhi replaced Calcutta as the capital of India. On this day in 1941, Hitler “declared the imminent extinction of the Jews” at the Reich Chancellery. As usual, there were no official records of this, but Joseph Goebbels recorded Hitler’s declaration in his diary:

Bezüglich der Judenfrage ist der Führer entschlossen, reinen Tisch zu machen. Er hat den Juden prophezeit, daß, wenn sie noch einmal einen Weltkrieg herbeiführen würden, sie dabei ihre Vernichtung erleben würden. Das ist keine Phrase gewesen. Der Weltkrieg ist da, die Vernichtung des Judentums muß die notwendige Folge sein.

Regarding the Jewish Question, the Führer has decided to make a clean sweep. He prophesied to the Jews that, if they yet again brought about a world war, they would experience their own annihilation. That was not just a phrase. The world war is here, and the annihilation of the Jews must be the necessary consequence.

On December 12, 1963, Kenya gained independence from the UK, and in 1991 the Russian Federation became independent from the USSR. Finally, on a day that will live in infamy—December 12, 2000—the U.S—Supreme court released its decision in the case of Bush v. Gore. Voting along ideological lines, the court allowed Katherine Harris’s Florida vote certification to stand, making Bush the President.

Notables born on this day include Gustave Flaubert (1821), Edvard Munch (1863), Edward G. Robinson (1893), Frank Sinatra (1915), Buford Pusser (1915), Connie Francis (1938), Dionne Warwick (1940), Dickey Betts (1943), Jennifer Connelly (1970), and Mayim Bialik (1975).

In honor of Dionne Warwick’s birthday, here she is with Whitney Houston, singing the hit “That’s what friends are for,” written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager. Note that Bacharach is at the piano:

And in honor of Munch, here’s his drawing “Die Katze” (The Cat):

Those who died on this day include Robert Browning (1889), Tallulah Bankhead (1968), Mo Udall (1998), Joseph Heller (1999), and Ike Turner (2007).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is, as usual, kvetching about the paucity of noms:

Hili: Providence didn’t provide. A: Oh, I’m sorry.  In Polish: Hili: Opatrzność nie zaopatrzyła.
Ja: O przepraszam.

Speaking of cats and providence, here’s a cartoon about cat religion from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin, sent by reader Diane G.:

Most of the tweets below were found by the ever reliable Matthew Cobb. Be sure to watch the video.

Bank loan officer: why are you borrowing money, and what is your product name?

Entrepreneur: I want to make cows happy, and the name of my product is 'happy cow'

Categories: Science

Freud Was a Fraud: A Triumph of Pseudoscience

Science-based Medicine Feed - 13 hours 25 min ago
Frederick Crews has written a reassessment of Freud based on newly available correspondence and re-evaluation of previously available materials. He shows that Freud was a fraud who deceived himself and succumbed to pseudoscience.
Categories: Science

How errors affect credibility of online reviews

Computers and Math from Science Daily Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 4:27pm
Shoppers increasingly consult online reviews before making holiday purchases. But how do they decide which reviewers to trust? Consumer trust in online reviews is influenced by spelling errors and typos, research shows. But how much those errors influence each consumer depends on the type of error and that consumer's general tendency to trust others.
Categories: Science

Breakthrough Listen is Going to Scan ‘Oumuamua, You Know, Just to be Sure it’s Just an Asteroid and Not a Spaceship.

Universe Today Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 3:55pm

On October 19th, 2017, the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System-1 (Pan-STARRS-1) in Hawaii announced the first-ever detection of an interstellar asteroid, named 1I/2017 U1 (aka. ‘Oumuamua). Based on subsequent measurements of its shape (highly elongated and thin), there was some speculation that it might actually be an interstellar spacecraft (the name “Rama” ring a bell?).

For this reason, there are those who would like to study this object before it heads back out into interstellar space. While groups like Project Lyra propose sending a mission to rendezvous with it, Breakthrough Initiatives (BI) also announced its plans to study the object using Breakthrough Listen. As part of its mission to search for extra-terrestrial communications, this project will use the Greenbank Radio Telescope to listen to ‘Oumuamua for signs of radio transmissions.

Observations of ‘Oumuamua’s orbit revealed that it made its closest pass to our Sun back in September of 2017, and has been on its way back to interstellar space ever since. When it was observed back in October, it was passing Earth at a distance of about 85 times the distance between Earth and the Moon, and was traveling at a peak velocity of about 315,430 km/h (196,000 mph).

This indicated that, unlike the many Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) that periodically cross Earth’s orbit, this asteroid was not gravitationally bound to the Sun. In November, astronomers using the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile were also able to determine the brightness and color of the asteroid, which allowed for precise calculations of its size and shape.

Basically, they determined that it was 400 meters (1312 ft) long and very narrow, indicating that it was shaped somewhat like a cigar. What’s more, the idea of a cigar or needle-shaped spacecraft is a time-honored concept when it comes to science fiction and space exploration. Such a ship would minimize friction and damage from interstellar gas and dust, and could rotate to provide artificial gravity.

For all of these reasons, it is understandable why some responded to news of this asteroid by making comparisons to a certain science fiction novel. That would be Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama, a story of a cylindrical space ship that travels through the Solar System while on its way to another star. While a natural origin is the more likely scenario, there is no consensus on what the origin this object might be – other than the theory that it came from the direction of Vega.

Hence why Breakthrough Listen intends to explore ‘Oumuamua to determine whether it is truly an asteroid or an artifact. Established in January of 2016, Listen is the largest scientific research program aimed at finding evidence of extra-terrestrial intelligence with established SETI methods. These include using radio observatories to survey 1,000,000 of the closest stars (and 100 of the closest galaxies) to Earth over the course of ten years.

Breakthrough Listen will monitor the 1 million closest stars to Earth over a ten year period. Credit: Breakthrough Initiatives

Listen’s observation campaign will begin on Wednesday, December 13th, at 3:00 pm EST (12:00 PST), This 100-meter telescope is the world’s premiere single-dish radio telescope and is capable of operating at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths. It is also the mainstay of the NSF-funded Green Bank Observatory, located in West Virginia.

The first phase of observations will last a total of 10 hours, ranging from the 1 to 12 GHz bands, and will broken down into four “epochs” (based on the object’s rotational period). At present, ‘Oumuamua is about 2 astronomical units (AUs) – or 299,200,000 km; 185,900,000 mi – away from Earth, putting it at twice the distance between the Earth and the Sun. This places it well beyond the orbit of Mars, and over halfway between Mars and Jupiter.

At this distance, the Green Bank Telescope will take less than a minute to detect an omni-directional transmitter with the power of a cellphone. In other words, if there is a alien signal coming from this object, Breakthrough Listen is sure to sniff it out in no time! As Andrew Siemion, Director of Berkeley SETI Research Center and a member of Breakthrough Listen, explained in a BI press statement:

“‘Oumuamua’s presence within our solar system affords Breakthrough Listen an opportunity to reach unprecedented sensitivities to possible artificial transmitters and demonstrate our ability to track nearby, fast-moving objects. Whether this object turns out to be artificial or natural, it’s a great target for Listen.”

Even if there are no signals to be heard, and no other evidence of extra-terrestrial intelligence is detected, the observations themselves are a opportunity for scientists and the field of radio astronomy in general. The project will observe ‘Oumuamua in portions of the radio spectrum that it has not yet been observed at, and is expected to yield information about the possibility of water ice or the presence of a “coma” (i.e. gaseous envelop) around the object.

During the previous survey, data gathered using the VLT’s FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph (FORS) indicated that ‘Oumuamua was likely a dense and rocky asteroid with a high metal content and little in the way of water ice. Updated information provided by the Greenbank Telescope could therefore confirm or cast doubt on this, thus reopening the possibility that it is actually a comet.

Regardless of what it finds, this survey is likely to be a feather in the cap of Breakthrough Listen, which already demonstrated it’s worth in terms of non-SETI astronomy this past summer. At that time, and using the Green Bank Radio Telescope, the Listen science team at UC Berkeley observed 15 Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) for the fist time coming from a dwarf galaxy three billion light-years from Earth.

Still, I think we can all agree that an extra-terrestrial spaceship would be the most exciting possibility (and perhaps the most frightening!). And it is very safe to say that some of us will be awaiting the results of the survey with baited breath. Luckily, we’ll only have to wait two more days to see if humanity is still alone in the Universe or not! Stay tuned!

Further Reading: Breakthrough Initiatives

The post Breakthrough Listen is Going to Scan ‘Oumuamua, You Know, Just to be Sure it’s Just an Asteroid and Not a Spaceship. appeared first on Universe Today.

Categories: Science

Joke Christmas medical journal papers make unfunny bad science

New Scientist Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 3:30pm
Respected medical journal the BMJ has a long history of publishing silly papers at Christmas, but the joke is wearing thin - and actually harming science
Categories: Science

Watching this newborn island erode could tell us a lot about Mars

Science News Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 2:48pm
The birth and death of a young volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean may shed light on the origins of volcanoes in Mars’ wetter past.
Categories: Science

Saturn’s rings mess with the gas giant’s atmosphere

Science News Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 2:38pm
Data from Cassini’s shallow dives into Saturn’s ionosphere show that this charged layer in the atmosphere interacts with the planet’s rings.
Categories: Science

Trump directs NASA to send astronauts to the moon and then Mars

New Scientist Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:47pm
The US space programme has a new focus on an old destination. President Trump has directed NASA to focus its efforts on crewed missions to the moon before Mars
Categories: Science

Christian Alexa!

Why Evolution is True Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:30pm

This isn’t real, but just wait a few years. . . . .

h/t: Vernon

Categories: Science

Social media trends can predict tipping points in vaccine scares

Computers and Math from Science Daily Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:28pm
Analyzing trends on Twitter and Google can help predict vaccine scares that can lead to disease outbreaks, according to a study from the University of Waterloo.
Categories: Science

The force is strong: Amputee controls individual prosthetic fingers

Computers and Math from Science Daily Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:16pm
Luke Skywalker's bionic hand is a step closer to reality for amputees in this galaxy. Researchers have created an ultrasonic sensor that allows amputees to control each of their prosthetic fingers individually. It provides fine motor hand gestures that aren't possible with current commercially available devices.
Categories: Science

The force is strong: Amputee controls individual prosthetic fingers

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:16pm
Luke Skywalker's bionic hand is a step closer to reality for amputees in this galaxy. Researchers have created an ultrasonic sensor that allows amputees to control each of their prosthetic fingers individually. It provides fine motor hand gestures that aren't possible with current commercially available devices.
Categories: Science


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