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  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait investigates a mysterious streak on a photo of Messier 77. Asteroid, satellite, something else?

  • Centauri Dreams reports on the latest attempt at a census estimate of brown dwarfs in the Milky Way Galaxy.

  • Crooked Timber's John Quiggin considers the diminishing role of the pundit, displaced by the expert.

  • D-Brief is one of many sources to note the deadly, ubiquitous perchlorates of Mars. Mars is dead for good reasons.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money links to a tweetstorm by one Kate Antonova arguing that the ideological labels of the long 19th century no longer speak to our issues.

  • Language Hat notes how early Tsarist mappers were confused by confusing, often shared, placenames.

  • The LRB Blog reports on the recovery of a Bloomsbury Wedgwood service features the images of notable women.

  • Marginal Revolution shares opinions that Macron is overrated, not least in terms of the distinctiveness of some of his policies from those of Trump.

  • Window on Eurasia argues that projected shrinkage of the workforce of Russia means either economic decline or controversial immigration.

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  • Roads and Kingdoms shares Dave Hazzan's reflections on the yougurt-type (but non-yogurt) Icelandic foodstuff skyr.

  • VICE reports on the scene from Glasgow after the launch of the city Tim Horton's in Scotland.

  • Bloomberg features Javiera Quiroga's take on the migration of Chilean vintners south ahead of climate change.

  • VICE notes that climate change will wreck the favourite coastline locations of surfers.

  • Dave Rothery describes at The Conversation how protecting against space probes' environmental contamination challenges exploration.

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  • Bad Astronomy's Phil Plait notes that the Curiosity rover is detectable from Mars orbit.
  • blogTO shares some of the vintage 1980s photos of gritty Toronto in a new book by Avard Woolaver.

  • The Big Picture shares photos of tea from its homeland in China.

  • Imageo shares stunning photos of Jupiter originally taken by the Juno probe.
  • Language Hat links to the new online version of the Australian National Dictionary.

  • The LRB Blog shares an appalling story of a British university that wants to hire an academic to develop a course for 10 pounds an hour.
  • The NYR Daily looks at the films of Romanian director Cristian Mungiu.

  • Starts with a Bang's Ethan Siegel examines the Pillars of Creation of the Eagle Nebula. How long will they last?
  • Torontoist shares photos from the Toronto Pride parade.

  • John Scalzi at Whatever talks about being a late convert to the joys of Harry Potter.

  • Window on Eurasia reports on Stalin's desire to drain the Caspian Sea, the better to exploit offshore oil and irrigate Kazakhstan.

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  • The New York Times' Michael Wilson tells the sad story of how a woman murdered in Harlem was only identified 47 years later.

  • In NOW Toronto, Gelek Badheytsang writes about the complexities surrounding the visit of the 17th Karmapa to Tibetan-heavy Parkdale.

  • Novak Jankovic writes in MacLean's that there are real declines in the Toronto real estate market, but not enough to set a trend.

  • The Toronto Star's Jackie Hong reports that protecting Bluffer's Park from the waves of Lake Ontario could also wreck an east-end surfing haunt.

  • The National Post reports on how the Ontario NDP claims, probably correctly, that the Wynne Liberals are stealing their ideas. Good for them, I say.

  • Universe Today's Matt Williams notes a study reporting that life on Mars' surface is a much greater risk factor for cancer than previously thought.

  • Seth Miller argues that efficient electric cars will push Big Oil through the trauma of Big Coal in the 2020s.

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  • The CBC u>notes the consensus that the new Ontario minimum wage will not hurt the economy, overall, but provide a mild boost.

  • The Toronto Star notes that, from 2019, analog television broadcasts will start ramping down.

  • The Toronto Star notes that high prices in Ontario's cottage country are causing the market to expand to new areas.

  • Gizmodo reports on one study suggesting that Proxima Centauri b does have the potential to support Earth-like climates.

  • Gizmodo notes one study speculating on the size of Mars' vanished oceans.

  • Quartz reports on how one community in Alaska and one community in Louisiana are facing serious pressures from climate change and from the political reaction to said.

  • CBC notes an oil platform leaving Newfoundland for the oceans.

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  • D-Brief considers if gas giant exoplanet Kelt-9b is actually evaporating.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper that considers where to find signs of prior indigenous civilizations in our solar system. (The Moon, Mars, and outer solar system look good.

  • Joe. My. God. reveals the Israeli nuclear option in the 1967 war.

  • Language Log shares a clip of a Nova Scotia Gaelic folktale about a man named Donald.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the ongoing deportations of Hispanic undocumented migrants from the United States.

  • The LRB Blog notes the brittle rhetoric of May and the Conservatives.

  • The NYRB Daily mourns the Trump Administration's plans for American education.

  • Savage Minds considers the world now in the context of the reign of the dangerous nonsense of Neil Postman.

  • Strange Maps shares a map documenting the spread of chess from India to Ireland in a millennium.

  • Window on Eurasia argues that the Russian government needs to do more to protect minority languages.

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  • Anthropology.net reports on the recent discovery in China of two skulls a hundred thousand years old, possible remnants of a hitherto-unknown hominid species.

  • blogTO reports on the boom in the Toronto tech community.

  • Language Log breaks down the linguistics, specifically word lengths, of audiobooks.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reports on the difficult position of indigenous peoples in Nicaragua.

  • Marginal Revolution reports on the potential health benefits of substances in the blood of the Komodo dragon.

  • The NYRB Daily reports on the modernist photography of Berenice Abbott.

  • The Planetary Society Blog reports on the adventures of the Mars rovers.

  • Supernova Condensate takes a quick look at Jupiter's moon, Io.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at a new Russian film that transposes the superhero genre with the Soviet era, and argues that Russia is acting these days not as a constructive power but as a spoiler.

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  • blogTO notes that the redevelopment of Toronto's Port Lands is continuing.

  • Crooked Timber argues that climate denialism exposes the socially constructed nature of property rights.

  • D-Brief notes the reburial of Kennewick Man.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes there is no sign of a second planet around Proxima Centauri.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at life in Texas.

  • The LRB Blog analyzes Milo's stumble.

  • Marginal Revolution considers the levels of disorderliness different societies, like Sweden, can tolerate.

  • The NYRB Daily reports on the poisoning of a Russian dissident.

  • The Planetary Society Blog suggests Voyager 1 picked up Enceladus' plumes.

  • Peter Rukavina writes of his mapping of someone's passage on the Camino Francés.

  • Supernova Condensate looks at the United Arab Emirates' plan to build a city on Mars in a century.

  • Torontoist reported on a protest demanding action on the overdose crisis.
  • Towleroad describes the plight of Mr. Gay Syria in Istanbul and reports on the progress of same-sex marriage in Finland.

  • Understanding Society considers the complexity of managing large technological projects.

  • Window on Eurasia links to one Russian writer arguing Putin should copy Trump and links to anotehr suggesting the Russian Orthodox Church is overreaching.

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  • blogTO notes an Instagram user from Toronto, @brxson, who takes stunning photos of the city from on high.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper examining the limits of exoplanet J1407b's massive ring system.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes evidence that the primordial Martian atmosphere apparently did not have carbon dioxide.

  • Imageo notes that the California rivers swollen by flooding can be seen from space.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that American intelligence agencies are withholding sensitive information from a White House seen as compromised by Russian intelligence.

  • Language Hat talks about the best ways to learn Latin.

  • Marginal Revolution links to a paper observing a decline in inter-state migration in the United States.

  • The NYRB Daily looks at the interesting failure of a public sculpture program in the United Kingdom in the 1970s.

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw notes the remarkable heat that has hit Australia in recent days.

  • The Planetary Society Blog reports on the intersection between space technology and high-tech fashion.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer looks at how Argentina gave the Falkland Islands tariff-free access to Mercosur.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog looks at the countries likely to be vulnerable to rapid aging.

  • Transit Toronto notes the Bombardier lawsuit against Metrolinx.

  • Window on Eurasia argues that poor Russian statistical data is leading directly to bad policy.

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This news comes from the end of 2016, but it's still quite good. May China continue to progress in space travel, for the benefit of us all.

China vowed Tuesday to speed up the development of its space industry as it set out its plans to become the first country to soft land a probe on the far side of the moon, around 2018, and launch its first Mars probe by 2020.

"To explore the vast cosmos, develop the space industry and build China into a space power is a dream we pursue unremittingly," read a white paper setting out the country's space strategy for the next five years. It says China aims to use space for peaceful purposes and to guarantee national security, and to carry out cutting edge scientific research.

The white paper released by the information office of China's Cabinet points to the growing ambitions of China's already rapidly advancing space program. Although the white paper doesn't mention it, China's eventual goal is the symbolic feat of landing an astronaut on the moon.

While Russia and the United States have more experience in manned space travel, China's military-backed program has made steady progress in a comparatively short time.

Since China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, it has staged a spacewalk and landed a rover on the moon in 2013 -- the first time humans had soft landed anything on the moon since the 1970s.
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  • Bad Astronomy shares a photo of the Earth and Moon taken by a Mars probe.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money responds to a baffling claim by a New York City policeman that stranger rape is more of a concern than acquaintance rape.

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw, returned from Denmark, wonders
    about the extent to which social happiness is maximized by stability and security.

  • Progressive Download's John Farrell argues that scientists should approach the theory of evolution in a less mechanistic light.

  • Window on Eurasia reports on the transformation of United Russia into a parallel structure of government akin to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and engages with the possibility of a pro-Russian Ukrainian government-in-exile.

  • Alex Harrowell of Yorkshire Ranter looks at the problems of an independent central bank, finding that failings attributed to these are actually faults of government.

  • Arnold Zwicky looks at the highly evolved fashion sense of faggots, in the context of Italy's divides and celebrities.

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  • Centauri Dreams looks at the advanced microelectronics that might last a space probe the two decades it would take to get to Proxima Centauri.

  • Dangerous Minds links to a 1980 filmed concert performance by Queen.

  • The Dragon's Gaze reports on the discovery of potassium in the atmosphere of WASP-17b.

  • Language Hat looks at the Carmina of Optatianus, an interesting piece of Latin literature.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reports on the shameless anti-democratic maneuvering of the Republicans in North Carolina.

  • The LRB Blog reflects on the shamelessness of the perpetrators of the Aleppo massacres.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at what Charles Darwin's reading habits have to say about the man's process of research.

  • North!'s Justin Petrone looks at the elves of Estonia.

  • The NYRB Daily praises the new movie Manchester by the Sea.

  • The Planetary Society Blog shares a recent photo of Phobos.

  • Peter Rukavina argues that the Island's low PISA scores do not necessarily reflect on what Islanders have learned.

  • Savage Minds shares an essay by someone who combines academic work with library work.

  • Torontoist notes the city's subsidies to some major water polluters.

  • Window on Eurasia notes the anniversary of some important riots in Kazakhstan.

  • Arnold Zwicky reflects on the penguin-related caption of a photo on Wikipedia that has made the world laugh.

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  • Apostrophen's 'Nathan Smith writes about Christmas cards and memory.

  • blogTO notes the impending expansion of the Drake Hotel.

  • The Broadside Blog describes a documentary, The Eagle Huntress, about a Mongolian teenage girl who becomes a hunter using eagles, that sounds spectacular.

  • Crooked Timber asks readers to help a teenager who has been arrested by the LAPD.

  • Dangerous Minds notes some weird monsters from Japanese folklore.

  • The Dragon's Tales suggests that the Hellas basin hides the remnants of its ocean.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the finding that Russia was trying to get Trump elected.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy considers the issue of hate speech and immigration.

  • Window on Eurasia quotes a former Ukrainian president who argues Russia does not want to restore the Soviet Union so much as it wants to dominate others.

  • The Yorkshire Ranter notes how the Daily Telegraph is recommending its readers use tax shelters.

  • Arnold Zwicky looks at the language of side-eye and stink-eye.

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MacLean's' Mike Doherty has an interview with two authors, Amanda R. Hendrix and Charles Wohlforth, who argue that if humankind is ever to embark in on an expensive program of colonization in space (something much more expensive than fixing our world, they argue), Titan not Mars should be the target.

Q: Why is humanity so fixated on travelling to Mars?

AH: It’s always been fascinating because back in the earliest observations, it looked like there were canals on Mars and some sort of greenery, [as if] there could be aliens. It remains a good option for looking for past life, and more accessible than some of the places in the outer solar system that might have current life. So it’s interesting as a target scientifically, but for long-term human settlement, it’s not the place to go.

CW: We’re a very long way from being able to put humans safely on Mars. The issues with [brain damage from] galactic cosmic rays, or GCRs, are serious, and in the past year, NASA has really come to recognize them: an internal document says you only have 150 days of safe travel unprotected—which won’t get you anywhere near a Mars-and-back mission with current technology. It’s probably time to level with the American people, and setting a farther-out human habitation goal is a better way to start solving those problems, rather than thinking about a short-term trip to Mars that’s probably not going to happen.

[. . .]

Q: Why specifically is Titan the place to go, and can we realistically get people as excited about Titan as we have been about Mars?

AH: Titan is a much more interesting place just visually; in terms of the landscape and the opportunities there, Titan offers so much more. It’s really Earth-like: it’s the only other place in the solar system that has any liquid on the surface. It’s not water, but it’s ethane and methane, and there’s a nice atmosphere. It’s one-and-a-half* the [atmospheric] pressure that we feel here on Earth, so it’s not too much and not too little. The main benefit, of course, is that people will be shielded from a lot of the the GCRs that are so damaging. It takes a long time to get there, and it’s cold, but there are ways around that.
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Scientific American's Leonard David describes the noteworthy ongoing improvement of China's reach in space.

Floating back under parachute from outer space to Inner Mongolia on November 17, China’s Shenzhou-11 astronauts brought to a close the nation’s longest piloted space trek, which lasted 33 days. The mission capped off a year that saw a series of noteworthy successes in China’s blossoming space program, including the country’s sixth manned space mission, the launch of a new space lab module and the inaugural use of a new spaceport. China also opened a world-class radio telescope this year, signaling the country’s growing involvement in space science. These advances, experts say, establish China as one of the top-tier spacefaring nations on Earth and the one with perhaps more momentum than anyone—a status that excites scientists and could inspire other nations to step up their own plans.

Most of the Shenzhou-11 mission had the two crew members, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, safely tucked inside the live-in space lab Tiangong-2, which just launched in September. The duo’s work was dedicated in large part to honing expertise required to develop China’s own large space station. That station is due to come online by the mid 2020s—around when the International Space Station is due for retirement—a fact that Chinese space planners have emphasized.

The year’s Chinese checklist also included the first use of a new Kennedy Space Center-like spaceport, the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island off China’s southern coast. The sprawling facility saw the maiden liftoffs of two rockets this year: the Long March-7 and a heavy-lifter, the Long March-5. Both boosters are essential to an expansive space agenda, with the latter dedicated to lofting the nation’s multi-modular space station and possibly, quite literally, shooting for the moon.

China is building upon earlier robotic lunar exploits, including unmanned orbiters and a lander that dispatched the nation’s Yutu moon rover in December 2013. Now their multi-pronged plan calls for the robotic spacecraft Chang’e 5 to launch in the second half of 2017 atop a Long March-5 rocket, land on the moon and collect several pounds of lunar samples, then hurl the specimens back to Earth. And on tap in 2018 is the launch of a lander headed for the far side of the moon, which would be a space first for any country. Looking beyond the lunar landscape, China is also busy at work on a Mars rover that is slated for a 2020 liftoff.
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  • blogTO notes that retail space on Bloor Street in Yorkville is not only the priciest in Canada, but among the priciest in the world.

  • Centauri Dreams notes how fast radio bursts, a natural phenomenon, can be used to understand the universe.

  • Dangerous Minds looks at a Kate Bush music performance on Dutch television in 1978.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to an analysis of the asteroids disintegrating in orbit of WD 1145+017.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes evidence from meteorites that Mars has been dry and inhospitable for eons.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog looks at the way we construct time.

  • Language Log highlights a 1943 phrasebook for English, Spanish, Tagalog, and Hokkien.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the resistance of the Tohono O'odham, a border people of Arizona and Sonora, to a wall.

  • The LRB Blog looks at a curious painting claiming to depict the cause of England's greatness.

  • Marginal Revolution notes the sheer scale of mass tourism in Iceland.

  • Strange Maps shares an interesting map depicting support for Clinton and Trump, showing one as a continental landmass and the other as an archipelago.

  • Towleroad praises the musical Falsettos
  • for its LGBT content (among other things).
  • Window on Eurasia looks at controversy over ethnonyms in Russian, and argues Putinism is a bigger threat to the West than Communism.

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  • Beyond the Beyond shares an early 17th century Catholic Church communication doubting the Earth went around the sun.

  • blogTO notes the sympathy cards placed outside the American consulate in Toronto.

  • Crooked Timber argues that liberal progressivism hasn't been tried in recent years and so can't have failed.

  • The Dragon's Tales shares one model explaining the contradictions between the faint young sun and a warm early Mars.

  • Far Outliers reports on the roles of different types of British servants in India.

  • Language Hat shares a history of Canadian English.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes Richard Rorty's prediction of a Trump-like catastrophe and argues that economics do matter.

  • On the anniversary of the Bataclan, the LRB Blog reflects on the music of France.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes the grim predictions of Hans-Joachim Voth as to the degeneration of American life likely under Trump.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog notes the relatively low population growth of France in the 19th century.

  • Towleroad notes Trump's statement that gay marriage is settled.

  • Window on Eurasia notes that Belarus will have less maneuvering room under Trump.

  • Arnold Zwicky considers the colours of the pride rainbow.

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  • blogTO recommends some Toronto-related Vine clips.

  • Centauri Dreams notes a SETI study of Boyajian's Star.

  • Crooked Timber criticizes one author's take in the politics of science fiction.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper examining the auroras of hot Jupiters.

  • The Dragon's Tales links to a paper finding that atmospheric methane did not warm the early Earth.

  • Joe. My. God. reports on how a Scottish hotel owner's homophobic statements led to his inn's delisting.

  • Language Log links to a linguist trying to preserve dying languages.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money takes issue with Nate Silver's polling and prediction methods.

  • The LRB Blog notes the background behind Wallonia's near-veto of Canada-EU free trade.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at how economic issues do not correlate with support for Trump.

  • The Planetary Society Weblog shares photos of the Schiaparelli crash site.

  • pollotenchegg notes the degree to which economic activity in Ukraine is centralized in Kyiv.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes a poll suggesting conservative views are unwelcome at Yale.

  • Both Window on Eurasia and the Russian Demographics Blog note a projection that Chinese will soon become the second-largest nationality in Russia.

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  • Bad Astronomy notes that a NASA probe has photographed the site on Mars where the ESA's Schiaparelli lander crashed.

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly writes about being an immigrant, of sorts, in the United States.

  • C.J. Cherry announces that work on her history of the Alliance-Union universe is continuing.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper looking at the ionization of protoplanetary disks by cosmic radiations.

  • The Dragon's Tales finds evidence for Planet Nine in the orbits of Kuiper Belt objects and the inner Oort cloud.

  • Far Outliers looks at the culture of addiction in Appalachia.

  • Joe. My. God. notes how a Russian embassy has mocked the European Union for defending GLBT rights.

  • Language Log looks at the sounds made by speakers of English, native and Chinese-language mother tongue both.

  • The Map Room Blog links to a map of the river basins of the United States.

  • Torontoist looks at the history of clowns in Toronto.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at how Central Asia is non-Muslim, reports a call for a historical reorientation of Azerbaijan, reports on a Tatar dramatist's fear that Russia is trying to assimilate non-Russians, and looks at how a court in Sakha has defended the constitutional rights of the republic and its titular people.

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