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Gliese 581 d: A Water World? [Updated]

They're getting closer to finding another Earth out there. From a European Southern Observatory news release:

Well-known exoplanet researcher Michel Mayor today announced the discovery of the lightest exoplanet found so far. The planet, "e," in the famous system Gliese 581, is only about twice the mass of our Earth. The team also refined the orbit of the planet Gliese 581 d, first discovered in 2007, placing it well within the habitable zone, where liquid water oceans could exist....

With the discovery of Gliese 581 e, the planetary system now has four known planets, with masses of about 1.9 (planet e), 16 (planet b), 5 (planet c), and 7 Earth-masses (planet d). The planet furthest out, Gliese 581 d, orbits its host star in 66.8 days. "Gliese 581 d is probably too massive to be made only of rocky material, but we can speculate that it is an icy planet that has migrated closer to the star," says team member Stephane Udry. The new observations have revealed that this planet is in the habitable zone, where liquid water could exist. "'d' could even be covered by a large and deep ocean -- it is the first serious 'water world' candidate," continued Udry.

Personally, I'm not going to be impressed until I see actual images of exodolphins and exowhales.

And three-masted ships. Motorboats. I want to know if convergent evolution extends all the way to surfing techniques (goofy-foot = goofy-tentacle, etc.).

This is exciting stuff from Mayor et al and shows how rapidly the exoplanet field is advancing. The only catch is that, with the astrometric [*wrong word...see end of item] technique of Mayor, we don't see these planets directly, and their nature is entirely inferred from the wobble of starlight. Ultimately we need pictures of these things, ideally a movie with a soundtrack and sub-titles (for those of us not fluent in Gliesean).

Update, 4:50 p.m.: I've spoken to a few people today about this discovery, and they're pretty thrilled at what appears to be another milestone in the quest for finding an Earth out there. Their thoughts after the jump.

I asked Stephane Udry, part of the Mayor research team that made the discoveries, how likely it is that there's life on the planet. She told me over e-mail: "At this point we can just say that a small-mass planet is there at a good distance for water to exist on the surface and thus for life potentially to develop. Only observations will tell us if there is life there."

Sara Seager, professor of planetary science at MIT, told me: "I think it's extremely exciting. It's not a huge surprise, but it's taking us down the inevible path to finding planets like earth."

Alan Boss, of the Carnegie Institution said via e-mail: "[T]he real news here is that as a result of the discovery of this fourth planet in this system, combined with more data, there is now a good case that one of these four planets orbits in the middle of the habitable zone for an M dwarf star. This is big news, as it appears to mean that the major goal of finding other habitable worlds may have already been reached, albeit for a super-Earth-mass planet orbiting a low mass M3 red dwarf, rather than an Earth-mass planet orbiting a solar-mass star. Still, this is a remarkable discovery and bodes well for our eventual discovery of a true Earth-like, habitable planet."

When I asked Travis Barman, an astronomer with the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., about the likelihood of liquid water on the planet, he said: "You have to be careful when you make those claims. Just like on the Earth, the greenhouse effect contributes significantly to making the earth a comfortable place to live. You really need to know something about what the conditions are on this planet in order to know if liquid water is present, first of all, and whether or not it can remain liquid on the surface... There's a certain amount of conjecture there."

Update #2: Here's an email exchange with Stephane Udry for those of you who just can't get enough of Gliese 581 d:

JA: Whats the next step for your team?

Udry: We are involved in several projects related to exoplanets. Regarding
radial-velocity measurements and detection of very low-mass planets,
the next step will be to find a very low-mass planet (<3M_Earth) in
the habitable zone of an M dwarf. We already have the precision to do
it with HARPS. We are also developing a new super-HARPS spectrograph
(called ESPRESSO) for the VLT. With this instrument we expect to reach
the required precision/stability to detect Earth-mass planets in the
habitable zone of a Sun-like star.

JA: How is the habitable zone defined and to what extent are its boundaries clear?

Udry: The Habitable Zone is defined by the region around the star where
liquid water can exist. If you ask for planets that can have liquid water on their surface (habitable planets). This is a bit more complex, depending not only on the star planet separation but also on the local conditions on the planet as e.g. thickness and composition of the atmosphere (governing possible greenhouse effect). In practice
you need a complete modeling of all the effects. Several such studies were conducted after the detection of Gl581c and Gl581d in 2007 (e.g. Selsis et al. 2007 or Von Bloch et al. 2007). At that time we were talking about planets potentially habitable.
Similar studies ongoing right now on Gl581d show that the planet is indeed habitable. These studies will be published very soon.

[*In the boodle, ScienceTim corrects me: 'Mayor's technique is *not* astrometric. Astrometry is the technique of measuring star position, which has, to date, had zero successes in detecting exoplanets. Mayor is one of several investigators (and the first ever to go public with a result) using the radial-velocity technique, which measures the very modest Doppler shift created by a star's movement back and forth along the line of sight. Still a measurement of jiggliness in starlight, but measured by its color, not by its side-to-side motion.']

By Joel Achenbach  |  April 21, 2009; 10:33 AM ET
 
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Next: What Lurks Beneath

Comments

Waterworlds are kewl. With or without Kevin Costner.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 21, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

So does the "exoconsiousness coach" speak Gliesean?

:-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 21, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Not quite a true waterworld, but 'Stations Of The Tide' by Michael Swanwick was very cool.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 21, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

SCC: exoconsciousness

Pardon me.

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 21, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

My timing is wonderful, as usual. *sigh* Reposting:

BTW, happy birthday to you, Queen Elizabeth II (who still looks a lot like my Aunt Barbara).

Also, happy birthday, City of Rome (Italy, not all those also-rans and wannabes). Even though you are 2,762 years young today, but don't look a day over, oh, two grand or so. Maybe 21, 22 hundred, tops.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 21, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Wouldn't goofy-foot = goofy-tentacle only apply to critters that are bilaterally symmetrical AND have only two tentacles?

A person who is radially symmetrical and has 12 tentacles wouldn't have a "left" or "right" tentacle.

Posted by: wiredog | April 21, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

So we have a planet we can't see, with water we can infer, from wobbly starlight. Okay. Inference is good. I plan to infer the presence of giant sea creatures, which we also can't see, frolicking in giant sea forests. Perhaps even Godzilla. I think it depends on why the starlight was wobbly. If someone's been using the Milky Way as a mixer again I'm going to take these inferences with a big grain of salt.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 21, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

mudge,
If I had known Rome was having a birthday I would have bought a card while I was there. And there are some spots that are showing their age pretty bad.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3457471017/in/set-72157617063116364/

Those Vandals and Goths and their late night partying sure made a mess of the place. While a few things have been left standing it wasn't for lack of trying.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 21, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

"famous system Gliese 581"?

I think their PR man might have been thinking of Blink 182.

Posted by: engelmann | April 21, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Here's a prettier picture because it's two stitched together.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 21, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Belated howdy to wiredog, and from the last Boodle, all y'all new and occasional posters. Glad you delurked, tomsing, and very nice clarification.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 21, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Forgot the link:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/3457473107/in/set-72157617063116364/

Jeezy peezy!

Posted by: yellojkt | April 21, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

tomsing, re-posted from the last Kit: Sorry, man. I caught the part of your concerns about racism, and conflated it with the different thing that you were saying at the time about Robinson. I apologize.

I completely missed the meaning of the "McCentury" crack, where I certainly agree with you that McCain was unfairly misrepresented. His age was fair game for a position in which physical stamina is a part of the job (look at how all Presidents (except for W!) have been aged by the stress of the office), but he definitely did not state anything like a strategic goal of keeping US troops in Iraq for 100 years. That was an unfair hit by Robinson and others.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 21, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Tomsing-most excellent explanatory comment in the last boodle. I was in a fog of betwixt and between with your first post. With a new handle appearing it's so easy, for me, to use an inappropriate POV while reading. Hope this means you're fully out of delurk mode.

FWIW- I can't stomach Olberman for more than short bursts, and think Robinson et al are often diminished in their appearances there.

Now to jump back up to this here new kit. The title tells me it and the boodle will quickly turn to topics about which I know very little. Perhaps I'll learn a thing or two.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | April 21, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

A planet named "e"??? You realize how badly this is gonna screw up all us copy editors? Ya can't have a planet with a lowercase letter for a name. Jeezey, peezy, you'da thunk Mayor would had some consideration for us ink-stained wretches.

Just a few of the many headaches this is gonna give me:

What is a person from "e" called? An e-an? an e-ite? e-lusians? what is there principle seaport named, eBay?

What language do they speak? e? evian? e-lish? No hablo e-panole.

What is their national anthem? e-eye-e-eye-oh? O say can you e? From e to shining e? Rule, lowercase e? The Marseille e?

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 21, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Gliesean poet laureate: e e cummings

Posted by: yellojkt | April 21, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

We already know the Gliesean's favorite cooking oil...

e voo

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 21, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

I have to dispute the invalidity of the McCentury crack in either context. One of the primary subtexts of the election was Age and Experience against Youth and Hope. McCain was one of the oldest candidates for president ever and concerns over his health had to been one (of admittedly many) factors in his picking the inexperienced but easy(ier) on the eyes Sarah Palin.

As for troops in Iraq, one of the clear yet never publicly stated goals of the neocons was to use Iraq as a beachhead against Islamic extremism in the region, particularly for when, not if, Saudi Arabia falls into the hands of Wahhabists. Iraq's role was envisioned as something akin to our bases in the Philippines during the Vietnam War, a safe harbor from which we could assert power at close range.

Early plans for the occupation involved huge long-term military bases under US control. That this is not part of the current SOFA is a failure of our execution of the occupation and is probably the biggest long-term setback in our bungling of this poorly advised adventure.

Either way, 'McCentury' was apt and cutting. Nobody said Robinson had to be fair, but he was accurate.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 21, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

So which one of these planets spawned the Ancient Krull, and which one has Khan and the remnants of the Botany Bay? I keep getting them mixed up, and Monsters from the Id are way different from Creatures That They Put in Our Bodies.


But I digress.


The thing is, I don’t think there is anything intrinsically unsatisfying about indirect measurement. Heck, science-types do it all the time with bubble-chambers and their high-tech descendants. The number of interesting things we can see directly is pretty small.

My frustration is that the indirect measurements, thus far, really lack the ability to detect life. I’m still hoping we will see something like a big ring of space junk. Or billboards. Or at least fast-food wrappers. You know, something to suggest higher civilization.

For there is no doubt that we are far more interested in the possibility of life than anything else. While God might be a geologist, and Dr. Manhattan is cool with that whole antiseptic Mars scene, we crave biology. We have a voyeuristic yearning to detect respiration, or reproduction, or, if hard up, transpiration. Preferably organisms with whom we can have deep meaningful discussions, but without too much superfluous attitude.

Because, deep down, I think we’re kinda lonely.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 21, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Hey, the IAU controls the naming and nomenclature of astronomical bodies does it not? Even to the point of ratifying name proposals from those who may have actually discovered any given body, IIRC. Until someone with a good claim to the right proposes a name for "e" (presumably best backed up with the action of planting a flag there) that suits it better and it's accepted by the IAU, it's going to be "e" for a while I think.

Makes me want to buy a vowel (this is *not* a vowel movement).

Sadly, no one from the IAU has approached me about naming my physical self. It's possible that they're allergic to olive oil.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | April 21, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Why this world’s thermophilic
It's oxyphilic
It's hydrophilic
Why it's Gliese exciting (Gliese exciting)

We'll get some living space pods and a nuclear drive
oh yeah
(Keep talking whoa keep talking)
Submersible design with an observation port oh yeah
(NASA get ready, NASA get her ready)
The thought that makes me ache, it’s of swimming in that lake
Where’s there’s H2O we’ll be packing up to go
It’s Gliese exciting
Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go

Posted by: engelmann | April 21, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Will the court allow former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich to head to the jungles of Costa Rica to appear in a recycled NBC reality TV series,"I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!"?

http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2009/04/what-awaits-blago-in-the-jungles-of-costa-rica.html

Blago does a mean Elvis impression. So I was told. Sunday. Firsthand. From someone who knows.

Last week, an old friend contacted me out of the blue. After a flurry of e-mail between us at the end of the last week, we agreed to find a mutual time to talk by phone late Sunday morning. She's currently a lawyer on the East Coast, and she and I went to school together for six years, through both junior and senior high school. I hadn't heard from her in decades. I know that she got her undergrad degree, and after a first marriage that didn't work out, later enrolled in law school to get her law degree. Over the years, I had forgotten the particulars, the details.

Here's what she shared on Sunday. She had gone to law school in Malibu, completely on scholarship, a fact which put her on the bottom of the socio-economic totem pole at Pepperdine. However, she was able to participate in the first overseas study program, a semester in London, offered through Pepperdine. There were only 13 students in the first program, along with a professor or advisor from Pepperdine. Of her entire class at Pepperdine, she said that only 18 percent were women (so I imagine that she was among only one or two women in the London program).

The city had been scrubbed clean in '82 because of the Diana-Charles royal wedding early that summer, so the city looked sparkling when the small group arrived. They were housed in the crummy Cromwell Crown Hotel on Cromwell Street or Lane (not the nicer Best Western by the same name now on the same avenue). The rooms were dinky, holding small beds and desks and it was a shared bath situation for all, with the bathroom down the hall, a surprise to her.

My friend was a third-year-law student, Blagojevich a second-year. According to my friend, Blagovich was a nice guy, given that many in the class were real jerks then and real jerks after graduation (not her b-word, but I'm being mindful of the filter). Blago came from the working class, not a scholarship student like she was, but someone whom my friend found could at times be sensitive, but also brash and arrogant.

The pub opened in the hotel not too long after the students took up residence there, a place where the Pepperdine group soon congregated. My friend's birthday is in August and the group held a small birthday party in the pub, the occasion the opportunity for Blago to perform his good Elvis impersonation.

more

Posted by: laloomis | April 21, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Wondering if anyone had written about Blago's time in London, I found this article from the Huffington Post by Carol Felsenthal. I asked my friend by e-mail late Sunday if she also knew Alonzo "Lon" Monk. Her reply: "I don't think he said one word to me the whole time [in London.]"

Interesting that Monk, Blago's best friend from his time at Pepperdine, served as Roland Burris' backdoor to Blagojevich, according to the Huffington Post.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carol-felsenthal/when-burris-wanted-to-get_b_156993.html

We both agreed that Blagojevich's upcoming trial shall be interesting. It was great hearing from her after all these years!

Posted by: laloomis | April 21, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Mirages can provide very useful information about what lies over the horizon.

My guess is that we will find out more when they land. Not these guys, but someone. Seriously.

Posted by: kristopher1 | April 21, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

I'm having a great deal of trouble imagining Mr. Monk as the go-between between Blago and Burris. Monk would want to make sure the bribery money is all neatly ironed and pressed, and stacked in equal denominations. He'd want to make sure Blago's hair was combed both neatly and symmetrically instead of hanging over one eye. He wouldn't like Blago's telephone profanity, and I'm sure Mrs. Blago would drive him crazy.

And anyway he'd just tell Stottlemeyer everything that was going on. It'd never work out.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 21, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Well done, Mudge. My son is very fond of that show. But, to me, Tony Shalhoub will always be the taxi driver from Wings.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 21, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

From the Weingarten chat:

///Tampa, FL: Speaking of horoscopes, this insta-poll is on the CNN website:

Do you believe that extraterrestrial life has visited Earth?

Yes 61% 96,863 No 39% 61,748

Gene Weingarten: Many, many years ago, Achenbach did a brilliant book on the subject of the belief in extraterrestrials. His point, for those who got his point, was that the search for ETs parallels, and is identical to, everyone's search for God and meaning, and is, uh, equally valid.

The book was magnificent. It did not sell fabulously well, ebecause it was not what people wanted to hear. ///

Take that, Dan Zak.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 21, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

And Joel. Of course there will be sub-titles. Like, duh. I mean, have you ever tried to dub a Gliesean video? It's a lot trickier than you might think. What with them not having mouths and all.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 21, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Pedantry alert: the name actually is GJ531e, not just 'e'. 'e' is a nickname. GJ, of course, for 'Gliese' (pronounced 'Glee-zuh' -- how do I get a schwa on this thing?). No, I don't know where the 'J' comes from.

Technical correction: Mayor's technique is *not* astrometric. Astrometry is the technique of measuring star position, which has, to date, had zero successes in detecting exoplanets. Mayor is one of several investigators (and the first ever to go public with a result) using the radial-velocity technique, which measures the very modest Doppler shift created by a star's movement back and forth along the line of sight. Still a measurement of jiggliness in starlight, but measured by its color, not by its side-to-side motion.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 21, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

RD, to your comment about Universal Lonliness:

"Reposted from previous Boodling:

"*Tim, I've been keeping an eye on the Kepler launch, too. I don't think the conditions or the trajectory will permit viewing of the launch from this far up the East Coast, but I'll look anyway.

The Kepler mission's interesting to me in relation to that long-running Boodle theme I've kept up for years now; the idea that we're finding better ways to look into the universe, but what I think we'd be most happy finding Out There is ourselves -- and our place in it.

And Kepler has a huge mirror in it, too.

Mirror, mirror in the sky
Tell me of my world and -- why?

bc

Posted by: -bc- | March 6, 2009 2:26 PM"

More later, as I find the Universal topic of What It's All About and With Whom to Register Complaints of much import to my personal spiritual and intellectual growth.

bc


Posted by: -bc- | March 9, 2009 8:52 AM"

Something else I've often said is that the second best thing we could see when looking out in the unverse would be someone looking back at us.

Ideally, not through a gunsight.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | April 21, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

20 odd light years away, while not close, is encouraging. This puts its exploration within the lifetime of a human, if some very energetic technology is developed; no violations of relativity needed. (I'm thinking top speed .7 c)

But that gravity is making my knees hurt just thinking about it. Still, this is very exciting news. I predict a dedicated telescope for its further examination, and would support it's funding. Wow!

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 21, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

As a goofyfoot myself, I'd be happy to see another water planet. Surfing, at least in stand-up mode, is one of those non-obvious things that seems to have been invented once, unlike pasta, which was distinctly Italian and not derived from Chinese noodles (convergent evolution, there).

So I suspect the residents of planet e would need to see a surfing video.

Our local reef seems to be shedding a lot of finely-shredded underwater lettuce. Mostly, it seems, Caulerpa, which can grow pretty aggressively, but also some lasagna-noodle stuff and finely branched reds. The stuff looks so fresh on the morning beach, you wonder if anyone takes some home for lunch.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | April 21, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

FYI since it is on-topic from the previous kit, Robinson is being gracious and humble live right now.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/21/AR2008022102159.html

Posted by: yellojkt | April 21, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, wrong link. My ADD transcends into the number of tabs I keep open.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2009/04/20/DI2009042001668.html

Posted by: yellojkt | April 21, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

SciTim

The best I can give you is an upside down backwards capital E

sorry dude

Posted by: omnigood | April 21, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

You'll just have to take my for it that it is also upside down

Posted by: omnigood | April 21, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Breaking news alert!

First Dog Bo has a half sister living in Bemidji-more here
http://www.minnpost.com/cynthiadizikes/2009/04/21/8212/bos_bemidji_connection#103-8212

Posted by: frostbitten1 | April 21, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

You can tell it's upside down, omni. All the change has fallen out of its pockets.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 21, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Silly TV joke re: Monk.

Who is Alonzo Monk?

http://www.journal-topics.com/pr/09/pr090408.5.html

"When Blagojevich was first elected, I remember hearing about him, and that he was from here, but he never participated in any activities or events here, and never showed up at anything," said James Radermacher, former city alderman.

LL: So, maybe no surprise that Monk didn't talk to my friend while both were in London? Interesting ties: Monk to Rezko. Monk indicted April 16 on charge of wire fraud.

http://www.kwqc.com/Global/story.asp?S=10198187

Judge Zagel turns down Blago's request to go to Costa Rica for NBC reality series.

http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/blagojevich/1536865,blagojevich-reality-show-judge-costa-rica-042109.article

Posted by: laloomis | April 21, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

ǝ

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 21, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

$1.39, please. Or $1 / dozen.
ǝ ǝ ǝ ǝ ǝ ǝ ǝ ǝ ǝ ǝ ǝ ǝ

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 21, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Obama Bo bred in Boyd...Boyd, Texas, that is.

http://www.dreamdogs.co.uk/obama-dog-bo-was-returned-to-his-breeder-1125.html

Posted by: laloomis | April 21, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

And, of course, being thoroughly exo-ish, they use e-mail.

Posted by: rickoshea0 | April 21, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Monk to Rezko? Wasn't that the double-play combination for the '69 Mets?

Posted by: yellojkt | April 21, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

It's raining Tamils in Ottawa. http://parliamenthill.gc.ca/text/camera-eng.html
They protest about their folk allegedly being genocided back in Tamilia. I don’t know what Harper or Cannon could do about that.
Send a strongly worded e-mail or a stiff fax to the president of Singalesia?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 21, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Here it is (I think): ə

Posted by: omnigood | April 21, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Too late for virtual lunch?

There's 8 qts of chicken stock on the back burner, 2 whole simmered chickens plattered on the island. Ready to add to the stock: fresh ginger, baby spinach leaves, finely grated parmesan and pre-cooked tortellini.

Today? Celebrate the new stockpot day.

Posted by: -dbG- | April 21, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

*Tim, if the star is GJ581, then "e" is simply the indicator of the planet or other object orbiting it, correct?

So for lazy folks like me, if we're talking about objects orbiting said star, "e" is simply a convenient shorthand, kinda like "earth" for SolEarth.

Or SolE, if you prefer.

Which I would pronounce "soul," just 'cause.

On another note, inference astronomy is really cool, and astronomers have discovered how to extract lots of information from photons and other particles, but people prefer pictures over graphs representing spectral absorption lines.

And there are limits to human interpretation of images, be they pictures or graphs of data - just ask Colin Powell.

Sadly - as I've noted many times over the years here in the Boodle - in a universe where the smallest Quantum-Mechanical events (in the classical QM theories, anyway) may depend on observation and measurement, we humans are notoriously unreliable Observers.

Apologies for inadvertently wading into ontology and philosophy.

And, possibly, politics.

Jumper, accelerating and decelerating (you *did* want to get off at that stop, didn't you?) *anything* to .7c would indeed require some seriously energetic technology, though the Relatavistic time dialtion could be helpful.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | April 21, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

dang, I even amaze myself sometimes

& # 6 0 1 ;

just take out all the spaces

Posted by: omnigood | April 21, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Yello, I agree that McCain's age and policies were valid issues in the election. I just don't think Pulitzer winning journalists (or Pulitzer winning opinionists) ought to be glomming on to the latest insulting and distorting sound bite from their party of choice. Have an intelligent discussion - the Boodle prooves it's possible.

Anyway, hopefully that's enough of that. On kit, say you get up to a max of 0.7c. You're probably doing that via an engine with low thrust, but that can fire continuously - you'll average somewhere around 0.35c (relativity says you'll get more massive, which means it'll take longer to go faster, lowering your average speed, but your time will also slow down, so maybe it balances out). It's about a 60 year journey, each way. And don't forget that you have to slow down when you get there. So you're going to have to hit 0.7c at the midpoint of the trip, then flip around and decelerate for the second half. That doubles the necessary thrust. Anyway, hopefully you realize you left your toothbrush at home before you get much past Alpha Centauri.

Posted by: tomsing | April 21, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Even now, I have weirdly-colored Earths rotating on my computer screen...

Just in case the confusion is real -- the Tamils are an ethnic group on the island of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon, formerly Serendip), alongside the numerically and socially dominant Singhalese. I would guess that the reason they are demonstrating on this continent is (1) to drum up anger over strategies and practices of the Sri Lankan government among bigger countries; and (2) to avoid getting arrested and disappeared. Not all countries have the same generous attitude toward public dissent that we enjoy in Yankistan and Canuckistan.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 21, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Hi Tomsing. Come back with more of the same.

Bemidgi would be a good name for a frozen but friendly planet with saunas sprinkled liberally on the land masses.

dbG -- how about some fiddleheads sauteed in butter and sprinkled with Italian rock salt?

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | April 21, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

tomsing, glad ta have ya aboard.

I prefer my constructive conversation spiced with outright silliness, but that's the way I roll.

All about the ambiguity, I am.
I didn't earn those verbal splats as the Jackson Pollock of the English Language for nothing.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | April 21, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

What was it that DiFi was saying around noonish our time on Andrea Mitchell's MSNBC program...that the C.I.A. contracted out its torture?

So, who are these people? What outfit? Torture-R-Us? Blackwater? Blacksites-R-Us?

Posted by: laloomis | April 21, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Poul Anderson has a book (Starfarers) which postulates a plausible-sounding near-light-speed propulsion technique. The technology, of course, relies upon one of those physics-as-we-don't-know-it McGuffins, but otherwise works out the relativitistic consequences very well. Instantaneous acceleration to near-light-speed, followed by instantaneous deceleration, operating on external time scales measured in nanoseconds. Time does not pass within the ship during the brief moments of relativistic transit. Interstellar propulsion works by strobing the motor. A better motor is one that can spend less time resting between propulsion events.

It's a pity that we no longer are in the era of hard science fiction, when the McGuffin alone would be enough to carry a novel. Anderson's attempts at social science fiction and individual characterization (in a society in which individuals interact with society on time scales of centuries or millennia, plus one alien species) do not match his ability to characterize the technology and its technical consequences.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 21, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Sure, CqP. Sounds great.

Going to cut the lawn now (when have you heard that before?), so there may be salad before I'm finished.

Posted by: -dbG- | April 21, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

I am intensely curious as to how the IAU decides that something has been well-enough identified to name it. In general, I think it requires direct imaging. 6 exoplanets have now been identified by direct imaging, which seems to me that it would make them candidates for naming.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 21, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Science Tim, I'm thick and can act even thicker.
The Tamils have been the most annoying protesters of the last 11 years and that's saying a lot. Farmers are bad with their long parade of slow-moving equipment but they stay a day, two tops. These guys have been around nearly 2 weeks. They started in the hundreds, now they are in the thousands. The paper say 10000, I'm not sure about that. Amazing fact: everyone above the oge of 10 seem to have a cell phone.

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Travel/protesters+Parliament+Hill/1516471/story.html

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 21, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

If your peak speed is 0.7c and you reach that at mid-trip, your average speed will be considerably less. What the total time is (neglecting relativistic effects (which affect the occupants, not us observers on Earth)) and the needed acceleration is pretty simple calculus that I used to be able to do.

At 0.7c, your mass effect is double? Do I remember that correctly from freshman physics? To maintain a constant acceleration your thrust would have to be increasing. More likely the thrust remains constant and the acceleration, after taking into account relativistic effects, is a function of the velocity, probably to the inverse square. Makes the math just a tad harder, but not impossibly so.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 21, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

As for whether the star system is famous or not, a Google search for "Gliese 581" gets 115,000 hits while "Joel Achenbach" results in 56,900. Draw your own conclusions

Posted by: yellojkt | April 21, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

The Wikipedia entry for Gliese 581 says that it is a red dwarf. Smeg! I wonder if you can get decent curry vindaloo there.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 21, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Dropping in briefly with a completely off-Kit comment (I was on-Kit earlier, can't keep this up all day). This weekend i got to give a two-minute rant on the topic of my choice. I wowed the crowd with my exposition of why the designated hitter rule caused the moral decline of the country and the collapse of the global economy. Of course, as I explained, since I only had two minutes the audience had to fill in some of the logic steps, but I gave 'em the overall picture. It went very well. I invite you true baseball fans out there to support me. By the way, since the DH rule has been adopted in youth baseball, yea even unto Little League, it is also responsible for the corruption of our youth.

This is also why the National League historically does not as well as the American League in All-Star games. Only one of them plays real baseball.

Thank you.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 21, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, will you marry me?

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 21, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Of course, Mudge. Although perhaps it is better if we remain apart, in separate areas of the country, the better to spread the baseball gospel.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 21, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Ivansmom and Mudge, for that little diversion. Between heavy physics and fire apparatus design and safety (I'm editing a document for Mr. T), I was about ready to spin at great speed and collapse.

Posted by: slyness | April 21, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

*sigh* The nicest rejection I've ever received -- yes...but no.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 21, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

I just want to know, out of all the computers and browsers in the world, why did ə have to step into mine?

I loved Anderson's Tau Zero. It had a purity of myth and form reminding me of The Natural in its quality of distillation. Otherwise, one was about baseball and the other, Bussard ramjets.

I expect we will get some sort of unmanned craft to Gliese 581 d, if a closer look is warranted, before a manned mission. As I understand it, even a big laser would find it difficult to beam back a complex report we could decipher. (A heck of a lot of signal degredation in 20 light years of travel)

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 21, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

I don't normally SCC (degredation) but it reminded me I coined the Five Minute Rule of Blogging today: (it's different from The Press)

If the author corrects the typos within five minutes, the blog is safe to read. Joel comes pretty close to this usually. It does not apply to commenters. They, as we know, are a hopeless lot.

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 21, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I agree about the DH - on the other hand, in Seattle we were able to have the glorious Edgar Martinez play about 15 years longer than he would have otherwise. Sweet guy, great hitter (but toward the end he could hardly trot to first). Now Ken Griffey Jr is filling that role.

Posted by: seasea1 | April 21, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Hi Al! Don't know if someone already shared this, but I did have a minute today to read the (pretty cool) transcript from a member of the Maersk Alabama about the pirate attack...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2009/04/21/DI2009042101555.html?hpid=topnews

Posted by: -TBG- | April 21, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

In a moment I will add ScienceTim's correction on the astrometric thing. I just liked how that word sounded. I should know these things, I guess.

Also I have added some quotes and stuff from astronomer-types.

Posted by: joelache | April 21, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

ə

Posted by: bobsewell | April 21, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Just testing above. That's interesting!

Posted by: bobsewell | April 21, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

schwa

Posted by: -TBG- | April 21, 2009 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Just testing!

Posted by: -TBG- | April 21, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Hey all, I am now gall bladder free.

Been home around since three and saw Tomsings clarification and ment to post an apology if I misunderstood previous comments that were made. Welcome.


Unfortunately I keep falling asleep and am somewhat befuddled by the affects of the drugs.

Posted by: dmd2 | April 21, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

dmd, sounds like that went well. I hope the drugs do their job and that you're up and about soon.

Posted by: LostInThought | April 21, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, and happy to be here.

Why would you put a DH in Little League? The kids pitching on those teams likely have a better shot at college or the pros if they're not locked into pitching by an utter lack of ability to hit the ball, right?

Posted by: tomsing | April 21, 2009 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Thanks LiT, haven't had any pain medication since I left the hospital so think all is good.

Drugs seems to take a little while to work there way out of my system. The morphine given at the hospital will make me more dopey than normal for at least today.

Posted by: dmd2 | April 21, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Felsenthal's been busy at the Huffington Post, I see. Her latest, April 15, headlined, "What Do Blagojevich and Nancy Kerrigan Have In Common?":

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carol-felsenthal/what-do-blagojevich-and-n_b_187281.html

Besides both being invited to appear on the NBC's survivor series in the Costa Rican jungle? As Felsenthal asks, "Why not Tonya Harding?"

Posted by: laloomis | April 21, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Yay for having it all over, dmd! I trust you will sleep well tonight and feel better tomorrow. For heavens sake, use the drugs when/if you need them.

Posted by: slyness | April 21, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

dmd, I'm so glad it went smoothly; you sound pretty good for somebody who has opiates taken!

Posted by: Yoki | April 21, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, your yesterday warning about big thunder bumpers is now coming a-true in N. PG. Watch out, Moose. Duck. Squirrel, too. YellowJacket could be next in line.

dmd -- I'll fax the full fat dish of your choice when you holler.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | April 21, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

tomsing, the college teams and American League all use the DH rule, so the reasoning is that it doesn't hurt the young players since they won't have to hit anyway. Of course, players who become National League pitchers tend to be better hitters. I contend that this practice is particularly abominable, since it encourages young pitchers as children not to develop at talent they would otherwise have and enjoy, since chances are they won't need it (unless and until they get to tne National League). It is perfidious, I says. Insidious too. Invidious even.

Glad all went well, dmd.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 21, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

CP, you made me laugh. I was just thinking the same thing, what rich delicious dish could I offer dmd in celebration?

Posted by: Yoki | April 21, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse

My hairdresser canceled on me so I had a chance to go bike riding instead. Some really black clouds passed overhead and the headwind got a little tough but I made it back dry.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 21, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Here is weather news. It looks and feels, in my town, that it might actually rain tonight. It almost never does, here. We kind of look forward to it.

The last rainfall I remember was in June of last year. Of course, if the precipitation holds off for 48 hours and the temperature falls as far as is predicted, there will be snow and there is nothing novel in this

Posted by: Yoki | April 21, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Just got home a few minutes ago, CP, Moose, et al., too late to warn you about tonight's thunderbumpers, which I got caught in. It wasn't raining when I stepped off the bus, but the first thing I saw was a bolt of lightning, and the sky had that weird yellow look, and I knew it was coming any minute. Drove across town to the mall to pick up my daughter at her bus stop, and the first raindrops hit just as I pulled in. One minute later it was monsoon, thunder and lightning, and a few minutes later my daughter's bus arrived. She got drenched running to the truck, but a minute or two later it started to let up a little. Was still lightning and raining here when I got home, but has let up now.

Bob Ryan is now saying most of it is now out over the bay, but Anne Arundel still has a warning out.

Gotta go scout up some dinner.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 21, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Tracking the storm eastward. It's here and it's a doozey!

Posted by: rickoshea0 | April 21, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Stay dry, Maggie!

Coming on at 8 on PBS is an episode of Nova featuring Tom and Ray Magliozzi, a.k.a. the Tappit Brothers, Click and Clack, discussing "The Car of the Future." Even if you don't cvare about cars (or the future), it ought to be a fun show. Those guys are hilarious.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | April 21, 2009 7:57 PM | Report abuse

I ain't buying any of that-there "car of the future" bit lessen the cars fly.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 21, 2009 8:10 PM | Report abuse

I hope flying cars are preceded by much smarter, more responsible, drivers. It's hard enough guessing what some nimrods will do with the current dimensions available to them.

An early night home from work and watching the sun dip down below some very dark rain clouds, then the clouds seem to drop to catch the sun. The digital thermometer can't keep up with the swift alternations between gold and gray. Ah, here's the rain before I could hit submit.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | April 21, 2009 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Now on PBS there's a "Frontline" show hosted by Hedrick Smith about the damage done to the Chesapeake Bay and Pungent Sound out in RD's native grounds.

Posted by: -pj- | April 21, 2009 9:06 PM | Report abuse

"Pungent Sound? What's that, a bilabial fricative?

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 21, 2009 9:12 PM | Report abuse

No rain in Iowa...

Just steakhouses with vastly inflated impressions of themselves.

*on-the-road Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 21, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Billable fricatives? Dunno. I'm not a lawyer.

Posted by: -pj- | April 21, 2009 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Bilirubin fricasee?? What??

Glad to see yer on the mend, dmd!! :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 21, 2009 9:30 PM | Report abuse

Haven't had time to read any posts because I am exhausted from a 2-day prep course to help pass this stupid cert I eventually (ha) WILL pass.

I did muster the brain cells to at least read the kit...exciting! I wonder, though, could we be the oldest people-inhabited earth out there? Are we the true human trailblazers? Scary.

Posted by: Windy3 | April 21, 2009 9:44 PM | Report abuse

billabong friable

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | April 21, 2009 9:46 PM | Report abuse

dmd, so glad you are home and feeling good. You’ve done well to avoid further meds, I took them the day of and the day after. They do make one too sleepy tho.’

Scotty, you are quite the traveler lately. What the heck is in Iowa? I mean, besides those self-important steak houses.

I’m still fighting this back pain. I start out the day feeling pretty good and by nighttime I’m ready to collapse on the sofa with the heating pad. I have started some exercises, yoga type things, and hope to be better by the weekend. Getting old is very annoying!

Posted by: badsneakers | April 21, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Poor Peter Puget.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 21, 2009 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Okay, I just read a few posts--glad you are in recovery DMD. East coast folks--you are receiving the weather wrath we had over the weekend. Be glad it isn't snow. But carry lightning rods! We actually had a gorgeous day yesterday and today. Snow mostly a memory except in the really high country. The mountain peaks look spectacular...I was in Denver..the weather was crystal clear and many snowy peaks visible.

Now I'm really brain dead.

Posted by: Windy3 | April 21, 2009 9:57 PM | Report abuse

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Puget

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 21, 2009 9:57 PM | Report abuse

Work is in Iowa, Sneaks... *SIGH*

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 21, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Hee-hee, SciTim and PJ said "fricative."

Oh, wait, I guess that's something else...isn't it?

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 21, 2009 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Stay on the road to recovery, dmd.

Speaking of roads (I am the master of the segway), the next stop on the Yellojkt Photo Tour of Italy) is Pompeii.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/sets/72157617147539484/

If you look real close you can find a picture or three with the symbol marking the red light district.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 21, 2009 10:44 PM | Report abuse

A jarhead trashes the flyboys:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/21/opinion/21kane.html?_r=1

Posted by: yellojkt | April 21, 2009 11:16 PM | Report abuse

OK, I boodled for the first time in ages last week but tonight went through the equivalent of a virtual interrogation of my life 'til now. What gives? BTW, I bet Ivansmom knows what "AR" at the end of my new moniker means.

Posted by: billeverythingAR | April 21, 2009 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Drive-by skiing... soggy boodle today.

*SPPLAAASSHHHHHH*

Wilbrodog says hi, too-- HEY, YOU DOG, DON'T AIM THE BOAT AT TREES!!


&%&^%$&^dog%*%(^&%

(*the mike goes silent*)

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 21, 2009 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Met Nobel-Prize-winning economist Eric Maskin tonight. Maskin mentioned early in his talk--a personal sidebar--that his house at 112 Mercer Street is the only house in the United States to have housed three Nobel prize winners.

http://www.njjewishnews.com/njjn.com/110807/njNobelWinner.html

Living with them in their white frame house on Mercer Street is the spirit of none other than Albert Einstein. The father of modern physics lived in the house from the time he settled at the Institute for Advanced Study in 1933 until his death in 1955. ...

The Mercer Street house is said to be the only residence in America where three Nobel laureates have lived — Einstein; physicist Frank Wilczek, who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2004 while at the institute; and now, Maskin.

LL: A brief explantion about Maskin's area of expertise, which he explained at greater length tonight; these grafs below, however, are from the same reporting by New Jersey Jewish News Online:

"But what I do in mechanism design is, in a sense, the reverse of that [traditional economics]," he said. "We start with the outcome we want. Here's a social goal we want to achieve. The question is, how can we build a mechanism — a procedure, a mechanism, an institution, a game — which will lead to this outcome? That, in a paragraph, is what mechanism design is."

Mechanism design theory can be applied to a very wide range of disciplines, according to Maskin. It might be used to design an international agreement on clean air, or to devise an efficient health-care system.

Posted by: laloomis | April 22, 2009 12:06 AM | Report abuse

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtA7YIFapnY

Posted by: Yoki | April 22, 2009 2:45 AM | Report abuse

They name the planets “b”, “c”, “d”& “e”. What happen to “a”?

I look up at the sky every day, not to see if I can spot a planet or UFO but to see if it’s going to rain. If dark clouds are building up, I’d have to decide if I want to hang my clothes out to dry, or if the clothes are already out, whether to bring them in. In the evenings, I’d look at the sky, again. If it is going to rain, I won’t water the plants. Sometimes even with dark clouds in the sky, I’d still water the plants because the dark clouds could just be bluffing. One gust of wind, they disappear to somewhere else.

Posted by: rainforest1 | April 22, 2009 3:57 AM | Report abuse

I, too, think baseball should not have designated hitters. I also think football or soccer should not have penalty kicks to decide the winner.

Posted by: rainforest1 | April 22, 2009 4:07 AM | Report abuse

AR = Accounts Receivable

If you bill everything, you are going to have a big Accounts Receivable. Just makes sense.

Posted by: rainforest1 | April 22, 2009 4:45 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle. Looks like the rain has gone away in these here parts. Although I shall be here at Dawn Patrol muster, I'm not going to work today--took a leave day. It's Grandparent's Day at the school of grandsons #1 and #3, and my wife and I are going to school to be treated with the reverence and respect us old fogies have earned. #3 is in first grade, and they are putting on some sort of schoolwide program. Then a lunch with #1 dottir and her clan offsite, with a bunch of the grandkids, and then in the afternoon #1 GS has a lacrosse game, and he is said to be the start of his team even though he's only a freshman. (He was recruited for some kinda sopecial lacrosse camp this coming summer.)

So the upshot is I shall be up to my eyebrows in grandkiddies today. And that ain't a bad thing.

Haven't seen the WaPo yet although I read yello's link to the NYT op-ed about the Marine who wants to eliminate the Air Force. Yup. Good luck with that, fella.

***************
Today in Nautical and Aviation History

April 22, 1500: Portuguese explorer Pedro Cabral “discovers” Brazil and claims it for Portugal, three months after it was actually discovered and claimed by Spain’s Vincente Pinzon.
1774: Out-of-town tryout comes to New York: four months after the Boston Tea Party, the New York chapter of the Sons of Liberty dress up as Indians and board an English ship to throw tea into New York harbor. The first "copycat" crime?
****************

Hmm. Good smells coming from the Ready Rioom...

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | April 22, 2009 6:21 AM | Report abuse

Have a wonderful day Mudge, Grandparents Day what a great idea.

Posted by: dmd2 | April 22, 2009 7:17 AM | Report abuse

Biscuits are a little late this morning. Sorry about that, Mudge. I had to get up at 5:35 to take Mr. T to the airport. Nothing like starting the day with a 30-mile round trip before breakfast. At least it wasn't during the thick of rush hour.

So I'm on my own till Saturday evening. This is okay, I can always find plenty to do, even if it's just pulling weeks out of the periwinkle.

Posted by: slyness | April 22, 2009 7:25 AM | Report abuse

Iowa? My childhood home (for just a year) in Iowa City had been inhabited by a Serious Writer who, I think, had built a writing shed in the back yard (it had been removed).

The house was an intriguing 1930s split-level with something like 6 or 7 distinct levels and a semicircular dining room.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | April 22, 2009 7:32 AM | Report abuse

Fans of military aviation may want to snag a dead trees copy of WaPo today. There is a Special Advertising Supplement titled "100 Years of Military Aviation" Primary sponsors are Boeing and EADS. The six pages of advetorial content include articles on both historical and current aircraft. The ostensible newspeg is family day at the Udvar-Hazy this Saturday, April 25. Also put on your calendar Airfair 100 at the College Park Aviation Museum on August 29. I've been to both and they are well worth the visit.

My blog post about Udvar Hazy:
http://livebythefoma.blogspot.com/2005/12/plane-nuts.html

My pictures from the Udvar Hazy are some of my most viewed Flickr images:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/sets/1553268/

People particularly like the SR-71

College Park Aviation Museum:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/yellojkt/sets/72157617172886244/

I don't remember what any of those planes were so any help would be appreciated. Just leave comments on the pictures or in the boodle.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 22, 2009 8:13 AM | Report abuse

I must urge you to include University of Maryland in your weekend plans for April 25. I will be participating in the Department of Astronomy contingent at Maryland Day on the UMCP campus. Come one, come all, and look through a window into a live cow's stomach! Not a part of the Astronomy Department, but just one of many exciting things on hand.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 22, 2009 8:38 AM | Report abuse

While Portugal claimed Brazil in 1500, I subscribe to the conspiracy theory that the Portuguese knew of the New World before then. How else to explain the fortuitous adjustment of the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas demarcation line westward so as to include the Amazon River basin?

Methinks the folks in Lisbon knew more than they were letting on, pushing Columbus further back on the list of millions that had discovered the Americas before him.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 22, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

I went to Maryland Day many years ago and had a blast. IIRC, the College of Engineering had a whacky miniature golf course set up in front of the Slide Rule Building.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 22, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

New Kit!

Posted by: frostbitten1 | April 22, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

I once heard the suggestion that although a planet covered with water might be very likely to develop life; such life would most likely never evolve into a technological civilization. This argument was based on the assumption that all technology must naturally evolve from the ability to create fire. No fire, no technology.

I have also heard the supposition that an aquatic environment might not be conducive to the development of real intelligence at all. Interestingly, some versions of this argument are based on the assumption that oceans are too hostile, while others advance the premise that oceans are too benign. What unites these positions is the idea that intelligence only offers a real competitive advantage within an extremely narrow range of environmental conditions. Too many predators or too much prey and the freedom to develop a big brain might be lost.

I don’t know, of course, if any of these notions hold, um, water. I would like to think that a planet such as Gliese 581-d might have be home to a civilization of artistic cephalopods with a fondness for submersible open-top roadsters. But that might be hoping for a lot.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 22, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

New Kit!

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 22, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse


> We are also developing a new super-HARPS spectrograph (called ESPRESSO) for the VLT. With this instrument we expect to reach
the required precision/stability to detect Earth-mass planets in the habitable zone of a Sun-like star.

If I just did the arithmetic right, that means they expect to detect variations in the radial velocity of a star on the order of ten centimeters a second over the course of a year.

Pretty darned impressive.

Posted by: TexLex | April 22, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

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