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  • The Big Picture shares shocking photos of the Portuguese forest fires.

  • blogTO notes that, happily, Seaton Village's Fiesta Farms is apparently not at risk of being turned into a condo development site.

  • Centauri Dreams notes a new starship discussion group in Delft. Shades of the British Interplanetary Society and the Daedalus?

  • D-Brief considers a new theory explaining why different birds' eggs have different shapes.

  • The Frailest Thing's Michael Sacasas commits himself to a new regimen of blogging about technology and its imports. (There is a Patreon.)

  • Language Hat notes the current Turkish government's interest in purging Turkish of Western loanwords.

  • Language Log's Victor Mair sums up the evidence for the diffusion of Indo-European languages, and their speakers, into India.

  • The LRB Blog notes the Theresa May government's inability post-Grenfell to communicate with any sense of emotion.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen wonders if the alt-right more prominent in the Anglophone world because it is more prone to the appeal of the new.

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw wonders if Brexit will result in a stronger European Union and a weaker United Kingdom.

  • Seriously Science reports a study suggesting that shiny new headphones are not better than less flashy brands.

  • Torontoist reports on the anti-Muslim hate groups set to march in Toronto Pride.

  • Understanding Society considers the subject of critical realism in sociological analyses.

  • Window on Eurasia notes how Russia's call to promote Cyrillic across the former Soviet Union has gone badly in Armenia, with its own script.

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  • Centauri Dreams looks at two brown dwarf pairs, nearby Luhman 16 and eclipsing binary WD1202-024.

  • D-Brief notes a study suggesting panspermia would be easy in the compact TRAPPIST-1 system.

  • Far Outliers notes the shouted and remarkably long-range vocal telegraph of early 20th century Albania.

  • Language Hat links to a fascinating blog post noting the survival of African Latin in late medieval Tunisia.

  • The LRB Blog notes the observations of an Englishman in Northern Ireland that, after the DUP's rise, locals are glad other Britons are paying attention.

  • Marginal Revolution notes a study suggesting that refugees in the US end up paying more in taxes than they receive in benefits.

  • Spacing reviews a fascinating-sounding new book on the politics and architecture of new libraries.

  • Understanding Society examines the mechanisms through which organizations can learn.

  • Window on Eurasia talks about the progressive detachment of the east of the North Caucasus, at least, from wider Russia.

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  • blogTO reported that York University plans on opening a satellite campus in York Region's Markham. This is a first.

  • Dangerous Minds notes a new, posthumous release from Suidide's Alan Vega.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper considering the detectability of Niven ringworlds around pulsars. (Maybe.)

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers burnout among sociology students, and suggests that engagement with issues is key to overcoming it.

  • The Great Grey Bridge's Philip Turner photoblogs his recent Rhode Island vacation.

  • Joe. My. God. reports on the arrest of a Christian activist protesting outside of the Pulse memorial in Orlando.

  • The LRB Blog shares considerable concern that the Democratic Unionists of Northern Ireland are now national powermakers.

  • Spacing Toronto shares the ambitious plan of Buenos Aires to make the city better for cyclists, pedestrians, and mass transit
  • Transit Toronto notes that starting Friday, Metrolinx will co-sponsor $C25 return tickets to Niagara from Toronto.

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  • Centauri Dreams notes new studies suggesting the flares of red dwarf stars damage potentially habitable planets.

  • The Crux notes that the wild apple is going extinct.
  • D-Brief notes that recent high winds in Europe helped push energy prices there to negative territory.

  • The Frailest Thing considers Neil Postman's thoughts on the intersection of mass media and childhood.

  • Inkfish argues in favour of accidental wetlands in urban areas.
  • Language Log looks at the trope of the repeated character in some recent Chinese advertising.

  • The LRB Blog considers the costs, environmental and otherwise, to the United States' leaving the Paris climate agreement.

  • Marginal Revolution wonders what assumptions about deep history the news of Homo sapiens' longer history overturn.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that, in the area of energy costs, mid-20th century Uruguay was worse off than New Zealand.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog looks at polling on Russian opinions about the Russian Far East and its future.

  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell is skeptical about Jeremy Paxman's claims about privacy in modern journalism.

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  • D-Brief notes the first-ever use of Einsteinian gravitational bending to examine the mass of a star.
  • Language Log announces the start of an investigation into the evolving rhetoric of Donald Trump. Something is up.

  • The LRB Blog reports from Tuareg Agadez in Niger, about rebellions and migrant-smuggling.

  • Marginal Revolution wonders what is the rationale for the extreme cut-off imposed on Qatar.

  • Maximos62 wonders about the impact of Indonesia's fires on not just wildlife but indigenous peoples.

  • Personal Reflections notes the irrelevance of the United States' withdrawal from Paris, at least from an Australian position.

  • Savage Minds points to a new anthropology podcast.

  • Window on Eurasia
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  • The Dragon's Gaze looks at what, exactly, is going on at Boyajian's Star. Does KIC 8462852 have a large ringed exoplanet with Trojans?

  • The Frailest Thing considers modernity as something that has its own sort of enchantments.

  • Language Hat examines how Arkansaw was mutated into Arkansas.

  • Language Log looks at the etymology for "coral reef" in Chinese.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes Krugman's subtweet.

  • Neuroskeptic considers ketamine as an anti-depressant.

  • Torontoist describes two local startups, Partial and Wandervoic, that are trying to connect local artists with non-traditional art buyers.

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  • Language Log reports on the transliterations of "Trump" into Chinese and Chinese social networks.

  • Marginal Revolution shares Jill Lepore's argument that modern dystopian fiction deals with submission to the worst, not resistance.

  • At the NYRB Daily, Tim Flannery notes how Trump's withdrawal from Paris is bad for the environment and for the American economy.

  • Peter Rukavina's photo of stormclouds over Charlottetown is eye-catching. (I have not heard of "dark off" myself.)
  • Savage Minds announces a MOOC ANTH 101 course starting tomorrow.

  • Window on Eurasia argues that Putin can afford to be aggressive because he is not constrained by Communist ideology.

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  • Centauri Dreams remembers Ben Finney, this time from the angle of a man with an interest in space colonization.

  • Crooked Timber wonders what will happen to the Anglo-American tradition of liberalism.

  • Dangerous Minds imagines the VHS tapes of Logan and Stranger Things.

  • Far Outliers notes the Soviet twist on Siberian exile.

  • Inkfish notes that Detroit is unique among cities in being a good place for bumblebees.

  • Marginal Revolution wonders if modern Germany really is a laboratory for innovative politics.

  • The NYRB Daily looks at José Maria de Eça de Queirós, the "Proust of Portugal".

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw updates his readers on his writing projects.

  • Torontoist reports on how Avi Lewis and Cheri DiNovo have advocated for the NDP's Leap Manifesto.

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  • D-Brief shares rare video of beaked whales on the move.

  • Dangerous Minds notes that someone has actually begun selling unauthorized action figures of Trump Administration figures like Bannon and Spencer.

  • Language Log looks at a linguistic feature of Emma Watson's quote, her ending it with a preposition.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen considers, originally for Bloomberg View, if Trump could be seen as a placebo for what ails America.

  • The New APPS Blog takes a Marxist angle on the issue of big data, from the perspective of (among other things) primitive accumulation.

  • The Search reports on the phenomenon of the Women's History Month Wikipedia edit-a-thon, aiming to literally increase the representation of notable women on Wikipedia.

  • Towleroad notes the six men who will be stars of a new Fire Island reality television show.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy finds some merit in Ben Carson's description of American slaves as immigrants.

  • Window on Eurasia argues that Belarusians are beginning to mobilize against their government and suggests they are already making headway.

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  • James Bow calls for an end to the US-Canada Safe Third Country agreement prohibiting people coming from American soil from claiming refugee status in Canada.

  • D-Brief reports on the vast array of man-made minerals appearing in what is now being called the Anthropocene Era of Earth.

  • Dangerous Minds notes the efforts of the Disco Preservation Society to preserve DJ mixes from 1980s San Francisco.

  • Language Log takes issue with Neil DeGrasse Tyson's argument that cryptographers, not linguists, would be needed in Arrival.

  • The LRB Blog notes impunity for murderers of civil society activists in Honduras.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen talks about Joyce Gladwell's autobiography Brown Face, Big Master.

  • The NYRB Daily celebrates the work of Hercules Segers.

  • The Planetary Society Blog is skeptical of the Space X plan to send tourists past the Moon by 2018.

  • Supernova Condensate lists 8 things we know about Proxima Centauri b.

  • Towleroad reports on new walking tours being offered of gay London.

  • Arnold Zwicky engages with a California exhibition comparing paintings with movies.

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  • Antipope's Charlie Stross wonders if the politics of Trump might mean an end to the British nuclear deterrent.

  • Centauri Dreams shares Andrew LePage's evaluation of the TRAPPIST-1 system, where he concludes that there are in fact three plausible candidates for habitable status there.

  • Dangerous Minds shares the gender-bending photographs of Norwegian photographers Marie Høeg and Bolette Berg.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog takes a look at the 1980s HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States.

  • The Extremo Files looks at the human microbiome.

  • Language Hat links to an article on Dakhani, a south Indian Urdu dialect.

  • The LRB Blog looks at policing in London.

  • The Map Room Blog notes that 90% of the hundred thousand lakes of Manitoba are officially unnamed.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at the remarkable Akshardham Temple of New Delhi.

  • The Planetary Society Blog notes how citizen scientists detected changes in Rosetta's comet.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer provides a visual guide for New Yorkers at the size of the proposed border wall.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog links to a paper taking a look at the history of abortion in 20th century France.

  • Torontoist looks at the 1840s influx of Irish refugees to Toronto.

  • Understanding Society takes a look at the research that went into the discovery of the nucleus of the atom.

  • Window on Eurasia reports on Belarus.

  • Arnold Zwicky shares photos and commentary on the stars and plot of Oscar-winning film Midnight.

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News of the remarkable density of planets, including potentially Earth-like planets, in the system of nearby ultra-cool dwarf TRAPPIST-1 spread across the blogosphere. This NASA JPL illustration comparing the TRAPPIST-1 worlds with the four rocky worlds of our own solar system, underlining the potential similarity of some worlds to the worlds we know like Venus and Mars and even Earth, went viral.



Supernova Condensate provided a good outline of this system in the post "A tiny red sun with a sky full of planets!".

One interesting thing is that TRAPPIST-1 is tiny. Really tiny! It’s a class M8V ultracool red dwarf, which really is about as small as a star can get while still being a star. Much smaller and it wouldn’t be able to even fuse hydrogen. I’ve put it side by side with a few other familiar celestial objects in this image. As you can see, it’s a little bigger than Jupiter. It’s actually roughly the same size as HD189733b, a much studied hot jupiter, and noticeably smaller than Proxima, our friendly neighbourhood red dwarf. Lalande 21185 is on the larger end of the scale of red dwarfs, and is also one of the few you can actually see in the night sky (though you’ll need a dark sky to find it).

Ultracool red dwarfs really are tiny, but they’re also extremely long lived. Quietly burning stellar embers which exemplify the old saying that slow and steady wins the race. Because these little stars don’t burn their fuel too quickly, and because they’re low enough in mass to be fully convective, they can burn for trillions of years. Long after the Sun exhausts the fuel in its core, flares into a red giant and then cools silently in the darkness, TRAPPIST-1 will still be burning, providing warmth for it’s little planetary entourage.

Not much warmth, mind you. TRAPPIST-1’s handful of planets are huddling around their parent star as if it were campfire on a cold night. The entire star system would fit inside Mercury’s orbit and still have cavernous amounts of room to spare. So close are those planets, that they have years which pass by in mere Earth days. The shortest has a year which is just 1.5 Earth days long. The longest year length in the system is still less than a month.

aureliaOf course, I say Earth days, because these planets don’t have days as such. They’re so close to their parent star that they’re certain to be tidally locked. The gravitational forces are sufficiently different that they cannot rotate at all. One side constantly faces the tiny red sun in the sky, and the other side constantly faces outwards towards the cold night. It’s quite likely that the night sides of these planets may be frozen in a permanent winter night, never gaining enough warmth to thaw. Half a planet of permanent Antarctica.


Supernova Condensate was kind enough to produce an illuminating graphic, hosted at "Model Planets", comparing the TRAPPIST-1 system to (among others) the Earth-Moon system and to Jupiter and its moons. The TRAPPIST-1 system is tiny.



The Planetary Society Blog's Franck Marchis wrote a nice essay outlining what is and is not known, perhaps most importantly pointing out that while several of the TRAPPIST-1 worlds are in roughly the right position in their solar system to support life, we do not actually know if they do support life. Further research is called for, clearly.

Centauri Dreams' "Seven Planets Around TRAPPIST-1" has great discussion in the comments, concentrating on the potential for life on these worlds and on the possibility of actually travelling to the TRAPPIST-1 solar system. The later post "Further Thoughts on TRAPPIST-1" notes that these worlds, which presumably migrated inwards from the outer fringes of their solar system, might well have arrived with substantial stocks of volatiles like water. If this survived the radiation of their young and active sun, they could be watery worlds.

The cultural implication of these discoveries, meanwhile, has also come up. Jonathan Edelstein has written in "We Just Got Our ’30s Sci-Fi Plots Back" about how TRAPPIST-1, by providing so many potentially habitable planets so close to each other, would be an ideal setting for an early spacefaring civilization, and for imaginings of said. If a sister world is scarcely further than the moon, why not head there? Savage Minds, meanwhile, in "The Resonance of Earth, Other Worlds, and Exoplanets", hosts a discussion between Michael P. Oman-Reagan and Lisa Messeri talking about the cultural significance of these and other discoveries, particularly exploring how they create points of perceived similarity used as markers of cultural import.
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  • At Antipope, Charlie Stross wonders--among other things--what the Trump Administration is getting done behind its public scandals.

  • blogTO notes a protest in Toronto aiming to get the HBC to drop Ivanka Trump's line of fashion.

  • Dangerous Minds reflects on a Talking Heads video compilation from the 1980s.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reflects on a murderous attack against Indian immigrants in Kansas.

  • The LRB Blog looks at "post-Internet art".

  • Lovesick Cyborg notes an attack by a suicide robot against a Saudi warship.

  • Strange Maps links to a map of corruption reports in France.

  • Torontoist reports on Winter Stations.

  • Understanding Society engages in a sociological examination of American polarization, tracing it to divides in race and income.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the many good reasons behind the reluctance of cities around the world to host the Olympics.

  • Window on Eurasia notes that where the Ingush have mourned their deportation under Stalin the unfree Chechens have not, reports that Latvians report their willingness to fight for their country, looks at what the spouses of the presidents of post-Soviet states are doing, and notes the widespread opposition in Belarus to paying a tax on "vagrancy."

  • Arnold Zwicky looks at the linguistic markers of the British class system.

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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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At Demography Matters, I have a brief note noting the sad death earlier this week of Gapminder's Hans Rosling. 68 was too young for anyone, certainly too young for someone so dedicated to helping the world know itself through the truth. Scott Gilmore's article in MacLean's is one I recommend.




What can I say but that I wish that his vision be continued?
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  • blogTO tries to pit the west side of Toronto against the east side.

  • Centauri Dreams describes an inventive plan to launch a probe to rendezvous with Proxima Centauri.

  • Crooked Timber looks at the idea of civil society in the age of Trump.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper that aims to explore why Neptune-class exoplanets are so common.

  • Marginal Revolution notes an interesting history of Singapore.

  • The New APPS Blog links to a report suggesting that big data may have created President Trump.

  • The Planetary Society Blog reports on the latest plans for exploring Ceres.

  • Towleroad notes a rumoured plan to legalize anti-LGBT discrimination under Trump.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy has one take on Supreme Court obstructionism.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests Russians may accept pension reforms which will place the minimum age for qualifying for a pension for men above the average male life expectancy, and reports from St. Petersburg about a dispute over the ownership of a church.

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  • The Crux makes the case that, for too long, modern homo sapiens have underestimated the genius of the Neanderthals.

  • D-Brief looks at the efforts of some scientists to develop brewing standards for the Moon.

  • Language Hat examines different languages' writing standards--Turkish, Greek, Armenian--in the late Ottoman Empire.

  • Language Log deconstructs claims that Japanese has no language for curses.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen looks at the standards of truth by which Trump's supporters are judging him.

  • The NYRB Daily looks at the hollow Styrofoam aesthetics of the Trump Administration.

  • Savage Minds considers the idea of personhood.

  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell considers key mechanics of populism.

  • Arnold Zwicky meditates, somewhat pornographically, on a porn star of the last decade and public sexuality.

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  • Bad Astronomy shares photos of the ripple made by moon Daphnis in the rings of Saturn, as does the Planetary Society Blog.

  • The Broadside Blog questions whether readers actually like their work.

  • Centauri Dreams notes evidence for the discovery of a Jupiter-mass planet in the protoplanetary disk of TW Hydrae.

  • Dangerous Minds links to the 1980s work of Lydia Lunch.

  • Far Outliers reports on how the Afghanistan war against the Soviets acted as a university for jihadists from around the world.

  • Kieran Healy looks at some failures of Google Scholar.

  • Language Hat reports on a fascinating crowdsourced program involving the transcription of manuscripts from Shakespeare's era, and what elements of pop history and language have been discovered.

  • The LRB Blog compares Trump's inauguration to those of Ronald Reagan.

  • The Map Room Blog links to an exhibition of the maps of Utah.

  • Understanding Society reports on a grand sociological research project in Europe that has found out interesting things about the factors contributing to young people's support for the far right.

  • Window on Eurasia reports on instability in the binational North Caucasian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, describes the spectre of pan-Mongolism, and looks at the politicization of biker gangs in Russia.

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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly calls on journalists to stand up to Trump.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at exocomets.

  • Language Log shares an ad from the 1920s using the most vintage language imaginable.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money talks about globalization as a mechanism for concentrating wealth at the top of the elite.

  • The LRB Blog talks about the ghosts of the Cold War in the contemporary world.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen argues that Germany has its own responsibility in transatlantic relations.

  • The New APPS Blog looks at the importance of administrative law.

  • The NYRB Daily celebrates John Berger.

  • Savage Minds proposes a read-in of Michel Foucault in protest of Trump's inauguration on the 20th.

  • Towleroad reports on the latest statistics on the proportions of LGBT people in the United States.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at the continuing depopulation of the Russian Far East and examines the shift to indigenous naming practices in Kyrgyzstan.

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  • 'Apostrophen's 'Nathan Smith describes his writing projects for this year.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper examining exomoon formation.

  • The LRB Blog worries about Trump's hold on the button.

  • The NYRB Daily looks at Rex Tillerson, an oil company diplomat to autocrats.

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw shares the rediscovered mid-19th century painting by Legros, L'Angelus.
  • Towleroad looks at the Russian tradition of kompromat, the gathering of compromising information for blackmail.

  • Transit Toronto notes that TTC surveying in Scarborough is beginning.

  • Understanding Society looks at path dependency in the formation of academic disciplines.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at Russian tensions regarding gastarbeiter migration and suggests Russia is set to actively sponsor separatism across the former Soviet Union.

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