Thursday Throughput

[ThTh1] On Sunday night, we had the last lunar eclipse until 2021. For once, the skies were clear here in Central Pennsylvania and I got to see the spectacular event. I’ve been doing astronomy since 1992 and I will never get tired of these. During the eclipse, there was a lunar impact, most likely from a meteor. Here’s a beautiful picture capturing the moment.

[ThTh2] There’s a new book out trying to make the case that marijuana legalization is incredible dangerous. It got heavily referenced by the always wrong Malcolm Gladwell in the NYT. Dave Levitan expands on his Twitter thread here to completely demolish their arguments. The gripping hand here is that we don’t actually know a lot about marijuana because … it’s illegal. Legalizing research into it would be a big step toward understanding the long-term effects of use.

[ThTh3] I’ve done a Throughput before on the contention that Oumuamua is an alien artifact. At some point, I’ll do a longer post on the subject (I still have to chat with a few people who know more about this than I do). The paper has now been published and is getting some attention. While I think it is interesting, I don’t think we can rule out much more mundane explanations (if an interstellar asteroid can be called mundane).

[ThTh4] The Chinese probe that landed on the far side of the moon returned video of the descent. Its sped up but is quite amazing because it’s difficult to get a sense of scale until it lands.

[ThTh5] Exploding cows! Ok, not really. I was part of the research into the newest class of exploding star. It was fascinating ride in real time. Phil’s detailed explanation is about as good as you’ll find. I’ll just add: there’s more like this coming. We are just beginning to explore the transient universe.

[ThTh6] One of the most spectacular sights in a telescope is the planet Saturn. Any time we put it up for public night, someone insists that it’s not real — that we put a sticker on the end of the telescope. Even a small telescope, you can see the rings encircling it. Unfortunately, the may not last. The shepherd moons are keeping it together but the ice is slowing raining down on the planet and not being replenished. So be sure to take a look some times in the next … well, 100 million years.

[ThTh7] Particle physicists are making plans for an even bigger supercollider. But the proposal comes with some controversy. A lot of people are dubious that it will add much to our knowledge. And $20 billion is a lot to spend for a “well, let’s build it and see what happens.” It does, however, gives me an excuse to run this oldie-but-goodie from XKCD.

[ThTh8] In global warming news, Greenland’s ice is melting much faster than previously thought and the ocean is warming faster than previously thought.

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Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He is on Twitter, blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

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5 thoughts on “Thursday Throughput

  1. ThTh7: When I was in college I saw a cartoon about particle physics that I wish I had saved. I’ve been unable to find a copy in recent years — I should recreate it. Anyway…

    The first frame is a square, with a caveman type standing in one corner, labeled “The inhabitants of the paper square universe have no idea of the true nature of their world.”

    The second frame has a Victorian-looking scientist standing in one corner, a diagonal line splitting the square, and is labeled “The inhabitants of the paper square universe discover it can be split into upper and lower triangles.”

    The third frame has a 1930s sort of scientist and two diagonal lines and is labeled, “The inhabitants of the paper square universe split the triangle, creating upper, lower, left, and right half-triangles.”

    This goes on with finer and finer lines being drawn, including things like “The inhabitants of the paper square universe discover the square, the rhombus, and other shapes. The existence of the hemi-demi-semi-half-triangle, from which those can be constructed, is theorized. Two years later the hemi-demi-semi-half-triangle is observed.”

    The final square has extremely puzzled science types standing in the corner. The background is a uniform gray. It is labeled, “The inhabitants of the paper square universe have no idea of the true nature of their world.”

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  2. ThTh2: I saw the same thing decades ago from medical professionals about medical marijuana, dismissing it because there are no studies showing it to be effective. To which I respond of course there are no such studies, as studying marijuana is illegal. What we have is a large volume of anecdotal evidence from patients to get relief from it. Were it not for reefer madness stupidity, academics and big pharma would have jumped on this long ago. Well, perhaps not big pharma, unless they can figure out a way to patent it. But still… I don’t know if we have had these studies since, and yes, from a scientific perspective the way medical marijuana as gone is kind of ridiculous. But it is less ridiculous than formerly.

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  3. [ThTh3] Avi Loeb says that the possibility of other hypotheses is not the point. The point is that if you never test the unusual hypotheses, you will never discover unusual phenomena. I endorse this view. Do science, by all means. Gather evidence, perform experiments, and so on.

    Loeb believes there is more evidence for his hypothesis (Oumuamua is of alien origin) than there is for the existence of dark matter (though with extremely recent discoveries, this might no longer be true). But that’s a hypothesis nobody has much trouble embracing.

    The truly difficult part of the Oumuamua dataset is the object acceleration, which does not appear to be consistent with the behavior of meteors.

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  4. [ThTh7] – 20 billion seems amazingly cheap to me for this. The list price for the Texas supercolider back in the day was something like 5 billion in Bush Senior dollars, (with parts of the internet saying the cost overrun projections were as high as 12 billion at time of cancelation)

    Ignoring whatever Musk is peddling these days, it’s seem impossible to build just the 60 mile tunnel itself for 20 billion anywhere in the US.

    edit: also oblig

    edit 2: also also

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