Category Archives: Science

Far beyond Terra

There’s a nice opinion piece in the latest issue of Cosmos about why we should colonise other planets. Interestingly, Wilson da Silva, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, doesn’t talk about expanding beyond the solar system but rather highlights the possibilties within Sol: Mars, orbital habitats around Earth, the Moon, asteroids and worlds further out.

The article does tend to glorify our species of monkey men and women:

So what if humans pass into history? It’s not just a tragedy for us, but also one for nature. Without us, there is no one to witness its infinite beauty; no one to marvel at a sunset, revel in a view, or thrill to the breaking of a wave on a beach. As the late astronomer and author Carl Sagan once said, “we are a way for the universe to know itself”.

The comments are quite interesting too. One anonymous poster leads off with “The article is an astonish [sic] example of wishful thinking” to which someone else writes “Your reply is an astonishing example of doomsaying and defeatist attitude”… ah the internet.

Glorious articles

My post on the trip to Germany is taking longer than expected, largely because I’m sorting out a few photos to go with it. In the meantime, here’s more of what I’ve been reading over the last 24 hours, some of which has appeared in my feed.

BBC: Astronomers find a planet 70% larger than Jupiter. That would make it the biggest extra-solar world yet known.

CNet: Is a time machine possible? An Israeli professor is examining ways to curve space and time.

Ars Technica: Blogging to reach its peak in 2007. There are also 200 million ex-bloggers, apparently.

Scientific American: Guerilla wi-fi to put a billion more people online. A US firm plans to change the world.

That’s Ireland: Temptresses, winged frogs and Vatican demons. A deconstruction of the first issue of The Hibernian, a monthly magazine dedicated to “faith, family and country”.

International Herald Tribune: Wayward police officers must wear pink armbands of shame. If you’re a copper in Bangkok and you break the rules, you get to wear a Hello Kitty armband.

Slate: How “educational” baby videos stupefy kids. Children are better off watching things like American Idol, it seems.

Scholars and Rogues: Ending poverty means abandoning charity and accepting reality. Long-term charity is not the way out of poverty.

Mars attacks

A major dust storm is causing the Mars rovers Opportunity and Spirit to lose power.

It’s a few thousand miles wide and kicking up enough dust to deprive the brave little robot scouts of the sunlight they need for energy. The storm is the most severe since 2004 and means the rovers’ activities are being scaled back for the time being.

While Mars is on your mind, have a look at Reasic’s latest post. It debunks the theory that the planet is warming because of the Sun, which would imply Earth’s climate changes have the same cause.

Scientist becomes science

The man who helped discover the molecular structure of DNA has become the first person to receive his own personal genome map. It apparently shows that James Watson, 79, has variances that are cancer-inducing.

While the procedure cost E750,000, the price will probably plummet to about E750 in the fullness of time. This may still sound pricey, but seeing as it could show what illness you are predisposed — thus allowing you to anticipate and potentially catch such conditions early — it may be worth every cent.

No indication on when it’ll become a common part of healthcare, but definitely something to keep an eye on.