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Why do firms like Uber and Citymapper keep reinventing buses?

New Scientist Feed - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 9:17am
Apps want to disrupt public transport by creating “innovative” services that look suspiciously like buses, but real-time data could make for a better ride
Categories: Science

UoC President Bob Zimmer talks about free speech on campus

Why Evolution is True Feed - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 9:00am

The Wall Street Journal has a week-old interview with University of Chicago President Bob Zimmer (a mathematician); the topic is free speech and Steve Bannon. The piece below (click on the link) is paywalled but judicious inquiry might yield a copy—if you really want it.As I’ve noted before, Luigi Zingales, a professor at the Business School, invited Bannon here for a debate, and Bannon accepted. (Note: the WSJ says that Bannon is scheduled to speak “early next month,” but I don’t think that’s true, as I haven’t heard anything about that.) Students objected (not all of them), to their eternal shame, 100 faculty signed a petition asking for Bannon’s invitation to be rescinded, and (to more shame) a large number of alumni did likewise (see my coverage here).

Calls to de-platform Bannon run contrary to the University’s speech code—probably the most liberal in the U.S. Any professor or group who invites someone to speak, and that person accepts, has a right to have the person speak on campus, and a right that the speaker be neither de-platformed by others nor disrupted.  Last year the faculty voted to impose sanctions on those students who try to disrupt speakers or keep them from talking.

Zimmer is a model of calm rationality, and I’ll just give a few statements he made in the interview with Tunku Varadarajan. At many universities, someone like Zingales would be called into the President’s or Provost’s office for a “chat.” Not here!

Mr. Bannon was invited to the university by Luigi Zingales, a finance professor. Would Mr. Zimmer ever contemplate having a quiet word with the prof and asking him to withdraw his invitation to Mr. Bannon? “I wouldn’t even think of it,” Mr. Zimmer answers, in a mildly but unmistakably indignant tone. And no, he won’t be attending the Bannon event. “We have many, many talks,” he says. “I’m really pretty busy.”

Mr. Zingales’s attitude is consistent with the norm Mr. Zimmer seeks to uphold. When I asked the professor by email why he extended the invitation, he replied that Mr. Bannon “was able to interpret a broad dissatisfaction in the electorate that most academics had missed. Remember the shock on November 9, 2016? Regardless of what you think about his political positions, there is something faculty and students can learn from a discussion with him.” Mr. Zingales, too, welcomed peaceable protests as a healthy exercise of free speech. “I admire the way our students have conducted their protests,” he wrote. “It speaks very well to the values that our university shares.”

Our antecedents:

In recent years, as colleges across America have censored unfashionable views, Chicago has also come to be known for setting the gold standard for free expression on campus. Mr. Zimmer, who became president in 2006, deserves much credit. He has been outspoken in defense of free speech and in 2014 even set up a committee—under the constitutional law scholar Geoffrey Stone —that produced the Chicago Principles, the clearest statement by any American university in defense of uninhibited debate.

Mr. Zimmer, a mathematician, says Chicago’s intellectual and moral strengths are “totally tied together.” He’s also quick to point out that its commitment to free debate precedes him, naming virtually every one of his predecessors as a guardian of openness. Mr. Zimmer created the Stone committee, he says, after watching free-speech struggles at other schools: “People were starting to be disinvited from campuses—speakers of some stature, in fact. You started to see this pattern.”

I don’t know much about our President (I met him once), but suspect that he’s a liberal (the odds favor this even if you know nothing about him); he makes a strong statement about not impeding immigration because it attracts talented people who improve the U.S. The WSJ being a conservative paper, the interviewer tries to get Zimmer to talk about identity politics. That’s a bit of a hot-button issue for a college president (but not for an emeritus professor!), so he handily deflects the question:

One could argue, perhaps paradoxically, that today’s campus activists are much more atomized as well. Identity groups push for their own particular agendas, often in absolutist terms: It matters to me more than anything else in the world that you call me “they,” not “she.” That’s not exactly a broad-based concern.

When I put this argument to Mr. Zimmer, he gently deflects: “Again, I’d go to the point that the main issue is—whether everybody is focused on one thing, or whether there are multiple groups focused on multiple things—that you get the same . . . kind of fervor, which says certain ideas should not be discussed and thought about. And that’s what the problem is.”

Well, to me this is politically astute, but a distinction without a difference. For it’s the very hierarchy of oppression associated with identity politics that makes those higher up on the ladder able to declare that some ideas (i.e., the ones they don’t like) shouldn’t be discussed or pondered.  But censorship is the crux of the problem of identity politics, so Zimmer got it right.

At the end of the piece, the President discusses a new initiative he has: having conversations with high-school teachers about how to prepare college-bound students for an atmosphere of free speech.

. . . it would be very healthy, [Zimmer] thinks, for high-school teachers “to actually be thinking about this in a kind of systematic way.” He’s observed that “a lot of students are not prepared for this environment.” Some of that is inevitable, Mr. Zimmer believes, because “free expression doesn’t come naturally for most people. It’s not an instinctive response.” Young people need “to be taught it”—and it’s better if universities don’t have to start from scratch.

Categories: Science

Bats spread Ebola because they’ve evolved not to fight viruses

New Scientist Feed - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 9:00am
Bats can carry viruses like Ebola and Marburg that are lethal for humans. This may be because, in order to fly, their bodies have given up on fighting such viruses
Categories: Science

There’s an alt-right alt-Twitter and it’s filled with hate

New Scientist Feed - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 8:06am
An analysis of a social media site called Gab, set up as a champion of free speech, reveals that one in 20 posts uses hateful language
Categories: Science

Building a bright future for science journalism

Science News Feed - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 7:46am
Editor in Chief Nancy Shute is ready to produce top-quality science journalism and investigate digital innovations.
Categories: Science

Whatever happened to the Furbies of yesteryear?

Pharyngula Feed - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 7:39am

They’ve been enslaved and wires shoved into their brains and shackled to a machine to make nightmare music.

This is the end result of all that biohacking, you know.

Categories: Science

Readers weigh in on human gene editing and more

Science News Feed - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 7:39am
Readers debated feeling morally obligated to edit their kid's genes and had questions about exoplanets.
Categories: Science

Astronomers discover S0-2 star is single and ready for big Einstein test

Space and time from Science Daily Feed - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 7:36am
A team of astronomers has found that S0-2 does not have a significant other after all, or at least one that is massive enough to get in the way of critical measurements that astronomers need to test Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. Up until now, it was thought that S0-2 may be a binary, a system where two stars circle around each other.
Categories: Science

Histology in 3-D: New staining method enables Nano-CT imaging of tissue samples

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 7:36am
To date, examining patient tissue samples has meant cutting them into thin slices for histological analysis. This might now be set to change, thanks to a new staining method. This allows specialists to investigate three-dimensional tissue samples using the Nano-CT system.
Categories: Science

Are we all contaminated with chemical toxins?

Science-based Medicine Feed - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 7:30am
Are we all being gradually poisoned by environmental toxins? And what is the evidence for detoxification kits and cleanses?
Categories: Science

Once again the Left dines on its own: the demonization of Gal Gadot

Why Evolution is True Feed - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 7:15am

When Gal Gadot starred in the enormously successful movie “Wonder Woman,” Leftists at first saw it as a moment of women’s empowerment. Here we had a strong and independent superhero who was a woman—much like “Black Panther” is praised for empowering black children. But it didn’t take long for the approbation to wane. After all, Gadot is Israeli and, like nearly all Israelis, she had to serve in the IDF, the Israeli military. That’s a national requirement. Gadot didn’t kill anybody; she was a combat instructor.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t long before her nationality and service in the IDF eroded her status as feminist hero, for in the pantheon of intersectionalist Leftism, Israel lies at the bottom of the heap—just above old cis white males. Her luster (and that of “Wonder Woman”) among Leftists began to fade (see here and here).

Now, it seems, Gadot, since she’s way low on the Oppression Hierarchy, isn’t allowed to decry last week’s school shootings in Florida.  One would think that her tweet below would have garnered approbation, and it did according to the hearts and retweets. But not everyone was happy.

— Gal Gadot (@GalGadot) February 15, 2018

Yes, the termites gnawed their way in, and, according to Everyday Antisemitism, the new social editor of Allure magazine, Rawan Eewshah, issued the following hateful response. “Child murderer”—seriously?

(I think this tweet has now been deleted. Good call!)


Eewshah wasn’t alone:

I wonder if you ever heard about what happens to Palestinian children, wait a second .. you were in the Israeli army

— اشر (@cocofishpen) February 16, 2018

Gal Gadot tweeting about protecting children is the ultimate act of hypocrisy and the biggest joke of 2018

— Ayatollah Rukaia (RA) (@Luzde_laluna) February 16, 2018

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the same person who relishes watching Israeli army massacre Palestinian children.

— J'accuse (@moi_artiste) February 17, 2018

There are many more such reactions, but I needn’t go on. This reprises the old “blood libel” fiction of anti-Semites, and in my view reflects anti-Semitism. Does anybody think that Gadot endorses the targeting of children? Apparently some of the people above do, and they’re simply lying for the cause.

Let’s get this straight. Gal Gadot didn’t kill anybody when she was in the IDF. She did not kill any children. I highly doubt that she “relishes” watching children killed.  The Israeli Army has killed Palestinian children in military operations, but it does not do so deliberately, despite the claims of the ignorant. It would be a public-relations disaster in the eyes of the world if Israeli solders were under orders to kill children; in fact, the opposite is true. Children do get imprisoned in Israel for terrorist acts or attempted murder or injury. Gadot had no part in this; her crime was solely to be Jewish, to be Israeli, and to be in the IDF. To Intersectionalists, that makes it hypocritical for her to react in horror when a shooter kills 17 people in a Florida school.

Well, let’s look at the shoe on the other foot. Hamas and Hezbollah, and other Palestinian terrorists, deliberately target and kill Israeli children.  Want examples? Here are some:

  • The Itamar Attack in 2011(even in Wikipedia!): An Israeli civilian, his wife, and three of their children (aged 11, 4, and 3 months), were slaughtered by two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The baby was decapitated and the children stabbed. The IDF tracked down the murders, who were tried. Many Palestinians celebrated the murders, even handing out candy and sweets in the street.
  • The murder of Hallel Jaffa Ariel, a 13 year old girl, in 2013. Mohammad Nasser Tra’ayra, the Palestinian killer who wished to be a martyr, stabbed Hallel to death in her bed. (You can see photos of the girl and the gruesome murder scene here.) Tra’ayra was killed when attempting to evade capture. He, too was celebrated for his deed; as Wikipedia reports:

The attacker’s mother praised her son as a martyr defending Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa Mosque and hoped others would follow in his path. A banner with pictures of Tra’ayra and the late Yasser Arafat was hung outside a building in the West Bank village of Tra’ayra’s family, and the family is eligible for $350 a month from a Palestinian fund for martyrs.

  • Here’s a long list of Israeli children killed by Palestinian terrorists; some were deliberately targeted, others were killed in suicide attacks, which of course are aimed at civilians. I suspect that if people take issue with this, Malgorzata can provide more examples in the comments.

The killing is bad enough, but when the murder of children is celebrated by Palestinians, as they so often do, that makes it doubly disgusting. Do Israelis shoot off fireworks and hand out sweets in the street when a Palestinian child is killed? Think again.

Now here is a Palestinian father taunting and daring Israeli soldiers to shoot his 3-year-old son. He even goads the kid to throw rocks at the soldiers. Note how the soldiers behave. I can’t help but think that the father, his comrades, and the person making the video actually wanted that child shot—so they could use it for propaganda. What kind of father would do this?

Who are the hypocrites? It is the intersectional Leftists who support Palestine (and their child-killing practices) and yet decry the shootings by Nikolas Cruz. What Cruz does resembles what Hamas, Hezbollah, and the terrorists named above do: they all deliberately target children. ‘

It is those who support Palestine, not those (like Gadot) who support Israel, who tacitly endorse the targeting of innocent children. If somebody lacks the moral standing to criticize what Cruz did in Florida, it is those who defend the actions of Palestinians. When was the last time you heard them complain about the murder of civilians, much less children?

Categories: Science

James O’Brien sees right through them

Pharyngula Feed - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 6:13am

Hate solves nothing, but as it fails, its proponents can only respond by escalating the hatred.

Florida school shooting survivors are being abused on social media. @mrjamesob's response is a must-watch.

— LBC (@LBC) February 22, 2018

Just to add the cherry on top, there’s Marco Rubio pretending he hasn’t been bought.

Then the student closed in. “So, Senator Rubio,” he said casually, “can you tell me you won’t be accepting a single penny from the NRA?”

The crowd cheered like it was a slam dunkfest.

“People buy into my agenda,” insisted Rubio, ignoring the public disgust with buying and selling politics.

“So you won’t take more NRA money?” Kasky pressed on.

“That’s the wrong way to look at it,” Rubio said. “People buy into my agenda.”

OK, Rubio, so your agenda aligns with that of a radical terrorist organization, the NRA.

Categories: Science

Readers’ wildlife photos

Why Evolution is True Feed - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 6:00am

From Switzerland, one of the world’s happiest countries (and champion in 2015), reader Jacques Hausser sends orthopterans. This is the second installment in a three-part series (the first is here), and it’s CRICKETS! Jacques’ notes are indented:

Like bushcrickets, aka katydids (infraorder Tettigoniidea), the crickets proper (Gryllidea) belong to the suborder Ensifera. Like bushcrickets, they have long threadlike antennae, and stridulate by rubbing one of their forewing (elytrae) on the other. But contrary to bushcrickets, they rub the right wing over the left one. And their feet consist of three tarsal segments only, instead of four.

May I introduce you to the real Charles Dickens’  “cricket on the hearth” ? The house cricket, Acheta domesticus, is mostly a commensal species across most of Europa, living in houses – traditionally in well warmed kitchen or in bakeries under the baking oven. However, in mediterranean regions and other warm places (in Switzerland, typically at the vineyard level), it can maintain wild or feral populations. Here is a male. Note the rolled hindwings protruding at the rear between the two cerci. The species is well known to herpetologists, being bred to feed various reptiles and amphibians – and recently it became a fashion food for humans too. I haven’t tried it.

A female of the same species. The ovipositor of crickets looks like a spear rather than like the sword of bushcrickets. Both pictures were shot in a white bowl, what allows to get the insect almost without background.

Like bushcrickets – and contrary to the grasshoppers (Caelifera)—crickets hear with their forelegs – thus the old joke is not entirely wrong. You can see the eardrum just under the knee.

Gryllus campestris, male, the field cricket. A flightless species with a big black rounded head. The male digs a burrow and in the warm summer afternoons and evenings, sits in front of it and sings to attract females. Like most species, they are very aggressive toward other males. In China, another species, Velarifictorus aspersus, is used in very popular cricket fights. Usually the animals are not wounded: the fight stops as soon as the loser retreats and the winner sings his victory song. Champions can reach several thousands of dollars, which is astonishing for pets living only up to three months. But of course champions are naturalized with due reverence after their short career.

A sad end… I don’t know the reason for the death. The animal looked intact, and the wasp (Vespula vulgaris) was certainly not the killer, only a scavenger.

The life span of field crickets run on two years – another difference with the bushcrickets in which only eggs survive the winter period. In autumn, old larvae or late born adults look for warm places to overwinter, and frequently try to go inside houses. Here’s a female larva of G. campestris; you can see the not-yet-grown ovipositor.

The smaller wood cricket, Nemobius sylvestris, shows the same behavior: I found this adult female in my workshop. A good opportunity to take a picture of an usually very active, very fast and very camera-shy species. The thin yellow mark on the head is diagnostic.

Categories: Science

I could take up surfing!

Pharyngula Feed - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 5:59am

I believe that the University of Minnesota, Morris is an ideal learning environment: small classes, good teachers, a real commitment to education. But I also have to be honest and tell you that it has one flaw — location. We really are on the edge of nowhere. I suppose I could spin it and say it has a kind of monastic atmosphere, free of distractions, but I often pine for a place that is a little closer to a real airport, maybe has some public transportation that can take me to someplace other than a grocery store, and has some of the amenities of a larger city.

Now I discover there is a solution. Invent a place! Alireza Heidari is an amazingly prolific ‘scientist’ who has published hundreds of papers and is on the editorial board of countless journals, and he does it all from his institution, California South University.

What? You’ve never heard of it? It’s just down the road from UC Irvine; it takes up 50 city blocks, has 39,000 students, and is one of the top 50 universities in the United States! I don’t know how you missed it.

Well, actually, Heidari has carried out the most extreme job of résumé padding ever. He invented a whole fictitious university, and built an entire web site to document its existence. Although, really, he simply stole the University of Alberta’s website, and through the power of search and replace, changed “Canada” to the US, and “Edmonton” to southern California. It’s a good trick. I’m sure Edmontonians are confused and uncertain whether to celebrate the better climate or be horrified to find themselves under President Trump.

I’m going to suggest to the administration that we edit our web page to say we’re the University of Hawaii, Morris, and relocate the campus to Kauai. I’m tired of being so cold all the time, and we could also fix up our ocean beach deficit at the same time.

Categories: Science

I guess I just can’t be happy with bad data

Pharyngula Feed - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 5:34am

I used to be a fan of Steven Pinker’s work. He speaks fluent academese, he just sounds so reasonable, and his message of optimism is something I want to be true. I’d love to be able to go to my grave thinking the world was going to be a better place for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren and all the children of the world. I wanted to believe.

O sweet irony, that an atheist could be tempted by hope and faith.

But as I read more, I became disenchanted. Hope is great, but it has to be backed by reason and evidence, and as I read more, it became obvious that Pinker is kind of the Norman Vincent Peale of atheism, and that there wasn’t any substance to him — he starts with a happy belief and works to fill in the gaps in the evidence with cherry-picked data and his own indefensible interpretations.

So now he’s written a book about the Enlightenment, reviewed by Peter Harrison. It is not a good review.

The Enlightenment may seem an ambitious topic for a cognitive psychologist to take up from scratch. Numerous historians have dedicated entire careers to it, and there remains a considerable diversity of opinion about what it was and what its impact has been. But from this and previous work we get intimations of why Pinker thinks he is the person for the job. Historians have laboured under the misapprehension that the key figures of the Enlightenment were mostly philosophers of one stripe or another. Pinker has made the anachronistic determination that, in fact, they were all really scientists – indeed, “cognitive neuroscientists” and “evolutionary psychologists.”

In short, he thinks that they are people like him and that he is thus possessed of privileged insights into their thought denied to mere historians. The latter must resort to careful reading and fraught interpretation in lieu of being able directly to channel what Enlightenment thinkers really thought.

Uh-oh. This reminds me of that ghastly essay Pinker wrote that made me recoil in horror, it was so bad, so egocentric, so ignorant of the humanities and social sciences, I bet it was the foundation of his new book. The book that gets this summary:

For the sceptical reader the whole strategy of the book looks like this. Take a highly selective, historically contentious and anachronistic view of the Enlightenment. Don’t be too scrupulous in surveying the range of positions held by Enlightenment thinkers – just attribute your own views to them all. Find a great many things that happened after the Enlightenment that you really like. Illustrate these with graphs. Repeat. Attribute all these good things your version of the Enlightenment. Conclude that we should emulate this Enlightenment if we want the trend lines to keep heading in the right direction. If challenged at any point, do not mount a counter-argument that appeals to actual history, but choose one of the following labels for your critic: religious reactionary, delusional romantic, relativist, postmodernist, paid up member of the Foucault fan club.

For their part, historians have found the task of tracing the legacy of the Enlightenment more difficult, not least because even characterising what the Enlightenment was has proven challenging. It is now commonplace to speak of multiple Enlightenments and hence multiple and sometime conflicting legacies. Obviously, moreover, not everything that came after the Enlightenment has been sweetness and, well, light. Edmund Burke and G.W.F. Hegel, for example, drew direct connexions between the French Enlightenment and the reign of terror. In the twentieth century the German-Jewish philosophers Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer described what they called “the dialectic of the Enlightenment” – a mixed inheritance that included the technical mastery of nature along with a conspicuous absence of the moral insights that would prevent that mastery being turned to barbarous ends. In their view, this led ultimately to the horrors of Nazism.

That bit about picking things you like and stuffing them into graphs reminds me of someone else: maybe Pinker is actually the hybridized clone of Norman Vincent Peale and Ray Kurzweil.

I think, to be a good honest atheist and scientist, I have to respect the work of philosophers and historians and all those people who have deep domains of expertise that I lack, and recognize that when people who say things I wish were true, yet disrespect and don’t even acknowledge the historical breadth of humanity’s thought, they are probably full of shit. Or at least the living personification of the Alexander Pope poem:

A little learning is a dang’rous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

A little humility would help, and you don’t approach the Pierian spring with a sippy straw.

Categories: Science

Almost every antidepressant headline you’ll read today is wrong

New Scientist Feed - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 5:01am
A review of the evidence on antidepressants has been hailed as the final word on these drugs, but questions remain for people with less severe depression
Categories: Science

Thursday: Hili dialogue

Why Evolution is True Feed - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 5:00am

Good morning: it’s Thursday, February 22, 2018, National Sticky Buns Day. That means you have to sit in molasses! It’s also the Christian Feast Day of Eric Liddell, whom you might remember from the movie “Chariots of Fire.” Liddell, who became a missionary after college, died on this day in 1945 in a Japanese prison camp in China, malnourished and afflicted with a brain tumor. By all accounts, he was a metaphorical saint, even if he was religious. Remember that he wouldn’t run the 100 m race in the 1924 Olympics because it was on the Lord’s Day (Sunday)? But he won gold in the 400 m race on another day. Here’s that win:

On February 21, 1632, Galileo’s heliocentric book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was published. He got in trouble with the Church for that, but of course it had absolutely nothing to do with religion—just ask Ronald Numbers. On this day in 1856, the Republican Party had its first national convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. How it’s changed since then! On February 21, 1889, President Grover Cleveland signed a bill that admitted four states to the Union: North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington.  In 1924, “Silent” Cal Coolidge became the first U.S. President to broadcast a radio address from the White House.  On this day in 1980, in the Lake Placid Winter Olympics, the underdog U.S. ice hockey team defeated the Soviet Union 4-3, a feat called the “Miracle on Ice.” I remember watching it live. The rivalry was keen; as they say: “Sports is war without weapons.”

Here are the game’s highlights:

On this day in 1997, British scientists announced the cloning of the sheep Dolly. Finally, exactly seven years ago today, New Zealand’s second deadliest earthquake struck Christchurch, killing 185 people.

Notables born on this day include George Washington (1732), Arthur Schopenhauer (1788), Robert Baden-Powell and Heinrich Hertz (both 1857), Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892), Edward Gorey (1925), Ted Kennedy (1932), Steve Irwin (1962, killed by a stingray in 2006), and Drew Barrymore (1975). Those who died on February 22 include Stefan Zweig (1942), the “White Rose” trio of Christoph Probst, Hans Scholl, and Sophie Scholl (1943, beheaded by the Nazis), Felix Frankfurter (1965), Andy Warhol (1987) and Chuck Jones (2002).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Cyrus are inadvertently making trouble. Malgorzata explains:

Well, it was an “animal blockade”: one (Cyrus) is barring Andrzej’s access to the desk chair, and the other (Hili) is occupying the chair. Cyrus can be bribed (by a pat) so he will go away, but Hili just couldn’t believe her ears – she has no intention to vacate the chair. I hope you can see one Andrzej’s leg in the picture – he is trying to gain access to his computer.

A: May I sit down at my computer? Cyrus: Pat me and then I’ll go on the sofa. Hili: What did you say? In Polish: Ja: Czy mogę usiąść przy moim komputerze?
Cyrus: Pogłaszcz mnie, a potem pójdę na sofę.
Hili: Co mówiłeś? Yesterday was Gusiversary: four years to the day when the young cat (estimated at 10 months old) was brought home from the vet after his frostbitten ears had been trimmed. His staff and he celebrated the day with porkchops and wine (as did I). Here’s Gus at the celebration, eyes fixed on the chop.

And a video of him playing with his food before eating it (apparently he always does this):

A tweet from Grania, showing once again that medieval artists couldn’t draw cats:

And now a musical interlude
[Beinecke, MS 662, 15th c.]

— Damien Kempf (@DamienKempf) February 20, 2018

A lovely cat aphorism:

“God made the cat to give man the pleasure of stroking a tiger.” Joseph Méry #catnews #catstories #cat

— philosophic cat (@cat_philosophic) February 20, 2018

Periscope up!

Snow Cat Submarine

— Land of cuteness (@landpsychology) February 20, 2018

This cat likes water instead of snow:

omg u ever see a cat at the beach

— no (@tbhjuststop) February 20, 2018

I’m always puzzled about how cats can find balls under cups:

This cat's got skills

— Words Posts (@Words_Posts) February 20, 2018

Okay, I hope you understand the next two tweets:

Rare Roman boxing gloves found near Hadrian's Wall

— The Guardian (@guardian) February 20, 2018

Hadrian! HADRIAN!

— Emo Philips (@EmoPhilips) February 20, 2018

From Matthew, a greedy moggie:

There was one last piece of sausage on my plate aND MY CAT SNATCHED IT OUT OF MY HAND U SAUSAG THIEF

— pepper@CFX C16-17ab (@pepperfetiish) February 20, 2018

A spiritual moggie:

When you have flashbacks to your past life as an Egyptian God.

— Nathan Kraemer (@kraen0044) February 21, 2018

Also from Matthew, showing that raccoons’ status as Honorary Cats goes only so far (watch the video):

Some species are incredibly adept at making human habitats their own, such as bobcat, raccoon, & coyote. These animals that not only survive but thrive in suburbs and cities will be honored in the URBAN JUNGLE Division! #2018MMM

— Prof. Katie Hinde (@Mammals_Suck) February 20, 2018

Finally, Matthew has crabs:

What happens when hundreds of thousands of crabs gather together on the sea floor? It's a shell shedding soirée! #BluePlanet2

— BBC America (@BBCAMERICA) February 20, 2018


Categories: Science

50 years ago, early organ transplants brought triumph and tragedy

Science News Feed - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 4:00am
In 1968, the liver transplant field had its first small successes. Now, more than 30,000 patients in the U.S. receive a donated liver each year.
Categories: Science

Cycling in later life makes you less likely to have a bad fall

New Scientist Feed - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 3:00am
Riding a bike into your older years means stronger legs, better balance and a lower risk of falls that injure and kill millions of elderly people
Categories: Science

Here’s How SpaceX is Planning to Recover Rocket Fairings: a Boat With a Net Called Mr. Steven

Universe Today Feed - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 6:34pm

When visionary entrepreneur Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002, he did so with the intention of rekindling human space exploration and sending humans to Mars. Intrinsic to this vision was the reduction of costs associated with individual launches, which has so far been focused on the development of reusable first-stage rockets. However, the company recently announced that they are looking to make their rocket’s payload fairings reusable as well.

The payload fairing is basically the disposable shell at the top of the rocket that protects the cargo during launch. Once the rocket reaches orbit, the fairings falls away to release the payload to space and are lost. But if they could be retrieved, it would reduce launch cost by additional millions. Known as “Mr. Steven”, this new retrieval system consists of a platform ship, extended arms, and a net strung between them.

Mr. Steven is not unlike SpaceX’s Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ships (ASDS), which are used to retrieve first stage rocket boosters at sea. SpaceX has two operational drone ships, including Just Read the Instructions – which is stationed in the Pacific to retrieve launches from Vandenberg – and Of Course I Still Love You, which is stationed in the Atlantic to retrieve launches from Canaveral.

The first ten IridiumNEXT satellites are stacked and encapsulated in the Falcon 9 fairing for launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Ca., in early 2017. Credit: Iridium

Recently, Teslarati’s Pauline Acalin captured some photographs of Mr. Steven while it was docked on the California coast near Vandenberg Air Force Base, where it preparing to head out to sea in support of the latest Falcon 9 launch. Known as the PAZ Mission, this launch will place a series of Spanish imaging satellites in orbit, as well as test satellites that will be part of SpaceX’s plan to provide broadband internet service.

Originally scheduled for Wednesday, February 21st, the launch was scrubbed due to strong upper level winds. It is currently scheduled to take place at 6:17 a.m. PST (14:17 UTC) on Thursday, February 22nd, from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at the Vandenburg Air Force Base. After the cargo is deployed to orbit, the fairings will fall back slowly to Earth thanks to a set of geotagged parachutes.

These chutes will guide the fairings down to the Pacific Ocean, where Mr. Steven will sail to meet them. The fairings, if all goes as planned, will touch down gently into the net and be recovered for later use. In March of 2017, SpaceX successfully recovered a fairing for the first time, which allowed them to recoup an estimated $6 million dollars from that launch.

At present, SpaceX indicates that the cost of an individual Falcon 9 launch is an estimated $62 million. If the payload fairings can be recovered regularly, that means that the company stands to recoup an additional 10% of every individual Falcon 9 launch.

SpaceX’s fairing grabber, Mr. Steven, a couple days ago preparing to ship out for Wednesday’s launch at Vandenberg. @Teslarati #paz #Starlink

— Pauline Acalin (@w00ki33) February 19, 2018

This news comes on the heels of SpaceX having successfully launched their Falcon Heavy rocket, which carried a Tesla Roadster with “Spaceman” into orbit. The launch was made all the more impressive due to the fact that two of the three rocket boosters used were successfully recovered. The core booster unfortunately crashed while attempted to land on one of the ASDS at sea.

At this rate, SpaceX may even start trying to recover their rocket’s second stages in the not-too-distant future. If indeed all components of a rocket are reusable, the only costs associated with individual launches will be the one-time manufacturing cost of the rocket, the cost of fuel, plus any additional maintenance post-launch.

For fans of space exploration and commercial aerospace, this is certainly exciting news! With every cost-cutting measure, the possibilities for scientific research and crewed missions increase exponentially. Imagine a future where it costs roughly the same to deploy space habitats to orbit as it does to deploy commercial satellites, and sending space-based solar arrays to orbit (and maybe even building a space elevator) is financially feasible!

It might sound a bit fantastic, but when the costs are no longer prohibitive, a lot of things become possible.

Further Reading: Teslatari, TechCrunch

The post Here’s How SpaceX is Planning to Recover Rocket Fairings: a Boat With a Net Called Mr. Steven appeared first on Universe Today.

Categories: Science


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