Science!Anything But Politics!

Whacking myself in the head with a ball-peen hammer* would be less painful than thinking about American politics at the present moment, so we turn to Science! for all our humor and entertainment needs…

1, Pluto Behaves More Like a Planet Than Thought. See, a planet is big chunk of rock wending its way through space, while thought, insofar as it can be said to do anything, just sort of sits there, wherever ‘there’ might be. So, Pluto, being a big chunk of rock, albeit perhaps not a planet-sized level of big but certainly really really big, by flying through space, is, insofar as it can be said to behave, behaving more like a planet than like thought, because exactly how thought can be said to behave is, at best, undefined…

Yea, that’s the ticket.The article goes on about solar wind or something, which stands even less chance of being funny than the above exercise in excruciating pedantry and headline mocking. Speaking of headlines of the Damned…

2. NASA News: Scientists Discovered Habitable Planets. And These Earth-like planets could harbor alien life. We have another couple of Inigo Montoya moments here: these words, ‘habitable’ and ‘earth-like’ – I do not think they mean what you think they mean.

Perhaps I shouldn’t pick on Science World Report, from which that first headline came, because a moment’s inspection reveals that the authors, in addition to having a most tenuous grip on science, are not native English speakers. For example:

They were shocked when they compared the sizes and temperature of these worlds to Earth and Venus; it was matchless, and highly known as the outstanding objective so far in researching outside the solar system. Then the results were directly issued today in the journal Nature.

I should work “Highly known as the outstanding objective” into my next bit of business writing to be directly issued. It would be matchless.

Likewise, Metro, from which the second headline was ripped in bloody tatters, seems to be an attempt to get hits from young city dwellers with disposable income, and can therefore hardly be expected to aim very high, science-wise or even English-wise. Both these articles are riffing off a paper published in Nature: Temperate Earth-sized planets transiting a nearby ultracool dwarf star. Here, you the reader are expected to know what ‘transiting’ is, and to have some idea what an ‘ultracool dwarf star’ is. For example, not this:

Nor this:

The abstract (everything else is behind a paywall – boohoo) to the published study says:
Core-accretion theory predicts that, given the small masses of these ultracool dwarfs, and the small sizes of their protoplanetary disks3,4, there should be a large but hitherto undetected population of terrestrial planets orbiting them5—ranging from metal-rich Mercury-sized planets6 to more hospitable volatile-rich Earth-sized planets7. Here we report observations of three short-period Earth-sized planets transiting an ultracool dwarf star only 12 parsecs away.** The inner two planets receive four times and two times the irradiation of Earth, respectively, placing them close to the inner edge of the habitable zone of the star8. Our data suggest that 11 orbits remain possible for the third planet, the most likely resulting in irradiation significantly less than that received by Earth.
Now, I’m a bit rusty, but I seem to recall that once stars get much smaller than the sun, any planet in their Goldilocks Zone was almost certain to be tidally locked. In such cases, barring some as yet unknown planetary process by which heat could be efficiently transferred from light to dark side over millions of years so as to average things out somewhat, the atmosphere, if any, would get boiled off on one side and freeze on the other. But, as economists are wont to say: on average, everything would be just ducky!
Anyway, the point, insofar as I have one, is that, yet again, making any claims about how habitable or earthlike such planets may or may not be is more than a bit premature, unless we mean ‘could possible live there  but never step outdoors without a spacesuit at least’ and ‘about the same size’. Which ain’t stopin’ anybody. And we can always hope.
3. 35 Tons of Dead Fish Appear in China Lake. Totally not funny, except that I was thinking this China Lake, down in Kern County, CA, near Bakersfield, out in the semi-desert. Imagining how 35 tons of fish could somehow show up in a dry lake not far from the Mojave Desert certainly worked as click-bait. Fish, bait – ha! But no, some lake in China – a China Lake, as it were –  got inundated in dead little fish because of water pumps or something – totally not funny.
Thinking and working too much to write – this must stop! Then there’s reading. Got a couple Mike Flynn stories to review, including one in the Analog that arrived in yesterday’s mail. And, because I’m a glutton for punishment, I’ve obtained a book of Mussolini’s early speeches, tracing his transition from an international socialist – a soviet commie – to a national socialist – a fascist. Note the continuity there, a connection studiously avoided unless it needs to be brutally shouted down by people who desperately need their socialist fantasies untainted by their crazy disowned fascist brother. But brothers they remain – the family resemblance is striking. Similarly, got a book of Gramsci’s thoughts – another Italian commie, except, after the fashion of the blood feud it most certainly is, the fascist socialist Mussolini locked up the soviet socialist Gramsci and let him rot in jail. Boys will be boys.  Anyway, on the theory that one should know what one’s enemies have to say in their own words, feeling like I should read at least some of these. Maybe I can put together a Who Said This? list – Mussolini, Gramsci or the Bern? Could be amusing.
* Comedy rule: if you’ve got to use a hammer, ball-peen is the way to go.
** Dude! Who’s up for a Kessel run?

Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

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