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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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  • 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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  • Anthropology.net reports on new evidence that Homo naledi may have used tools, buried their dead, and lived alongside Homo sapiens.
  • Centauri Dreams remembers an abortive solar sail mission to Halley's Comet.

  • Dangerous Minds shares photos of the "Apache" dancers of France.

  • Cody Delistraty writes about Swedish futurist Anders Sandberg and his efforts to plan for humanity's future.

  • At the Everyday Sociology Blog, Karen Sternheimer talks about her day as a sociologist.

  • Joe. My. God. notes the good news that normal young HIV patients can now expect near-normal life expectancies.

  • Language Hat looks at a recent surge of interest in Italian dialects.

  • Language Log looks at the phenomenon of East Asians taking English-language names.

  • The LRB Blog considers the dynamics of the United Kingdom's own UDI.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at the existential issues of a growing Kinshasa still disconnected from the wider world.

  • Steve Munro notes that Metrolinx will now buy vehicles from France's Alstom.

  • The New APPS Blog uses Foucault to look at the "thanatopolitics" of the Republicans.

  • The NYRB Daily looks at Trump's constitutional crisis.

  • Out There considers the issues surrounding the detection of an alien civilization less advanced than ours.

  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at the United States' planetary science exploration budget.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer looks at Argentina's underrated reputation as a destination for foreign investment.

  • Progressive Download shares some thinking about sexual orientation in the context of evolution.

  • Peter Rukavina looks at the success of wind energy generation on the Island.

  • Understanding Society takes a look at the dynamics of Rome.

  • Window on Eurasia shares a lunatic Russian scheme for a partition of eastern Europe between Russia and Germany.

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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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  • Centauri Dreams reports on asteroid P/2016 G1, a world that, after splitting, is now showing signs of a cometary tail.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers outrage as a sociological phenomenon. What, exactly, does it do? What does it change?

  • Joe. My. God. reports on a new push for same-sex marriage in Germany, coming from the SPD.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money examines the Alabama government's disinterest in commemorating the Selma march for freedom.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at Oxford University's attempt to recruit white British male students.

  • At the NYRB Daily, Masha Gessen warns against falling too readily into the trap of identifying conspiracies in dealing with Trump.

  • pollotenchegg maps the distribution of Muslims in Crimea according to the 1897 Russian census.

  • Savage Minds takes a brief look at ayahuasca, a ritual beverage of Andean indigenous peoples, and looks at how its legality in the United States remains complicated.

  • Elf Sternberg considers the problems of straight men with sex, and argues they might be especially trapped by a culture that makes it difficult for straight men to consider sex as anything but a birthright and an obligation.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy considers how the complexities of eminent domain might complicate the US-Mexican border wall.

  • Window on Eurasia reports on protests in Russia and argues Belarus is on the verge of something.

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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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  • blogTO reports on how a trespasser at track level disrupted subway service today.

  • Crooked Timber argues Trump's migration ban is best under stood as an elaboration of existing Western immigration policies, taking them to their logical conclusion.

  • Dangerous Minds looks at 1980s New York City industrial rockers Missing Foundation.

  • The Dragon's Gaze examines the orbit of Proxima Centauri around the A-B pair.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog profiles four millennial students to attack the idea of their generation as lazy.

  • Language Log and Strange Maps look at how the list of countries whose citizens are banned from the US does not map onto the list of countries which have provided terrorists who have attacked the United States.

  • The LRB BLog looks at the first ten days of the Trump Administration.

  • The NYRB Daily looks at the scale of the popular mobilization against Trump.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer looks at how modest immigration controls in Argentina are overshadowed by the US.

  • Transit Toronto reports on streetcar line repair on Queen Street.

  • Window on Eurasia wonders if Trump will allow Russia to do as it will in most of the former Soviet Union, and <a href="http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.ca/2017/01/moscow-now-taking-seriously-that-russia.html'><U>looks</u></a> at the prospect Russia might lose out in international sporting events.</li> </ul>
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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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  • '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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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly considers the quiet power of the candle.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper examining horseshoe patterns in protoplanetary disks.

  • The Dragon's Tales looks at the impact of human civilization on the Amazonian rain forest and looks at the negative impact of a 6th century volcanic eruption on the Maya.

  • Language Log notes that "dumpster fire" is the American Dialect Society's word of the year for 2016.

  • Towleroad notes Kiesza's new single.

  • Transit Toronto notes service changes for the TTC.

  • Understanding Society looks at the Black Panther movement.

  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell examines the irresistible force of negative campaigning.

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Over at his blog The Frailest Thing, Michael Sacasas has reposted a thought-provoking essay. What will it mean for us if the things that we want require significant change on our part, indeed demand significant change?

It is perhaps a symptom of our disorder that we seem to believe that all can be made well merely by our making a few better choices along the way. Rarely do we imagine that what might be involved in the realization of our ideals is something more radical and more costly. It is easier for us to pretend that all that is necessary are a few simple tweaks and minor adjustments to how we already conduct our lives, nothing that will makes us too uncomfortable. If and when it becomes impossible to sustain that fiction, we take comfort in fatalism: nothing can ever change, really, and so it is not worth trying to change anything at all.

What is often the case, however, is that we have not been honest with ourselves about what it is that we truly value. Perhaps an example will help. My wife and I frequently discuss what, for lack of a better way of putting it, I’ll call the ethics of eating. I will not claim to have thought very deeply, yet, about all of the related issues, but I can say that we care about what has been involved in getting food to our table. We care about the labor involved, the treatment of animals, and the use of natural resources. We care, as well, about the quality of the food and about the cultural practices of cooking and eating. I realize, of course, that it is rather fashionable to care about such things, and I can only hope that our caring is not merely a matter of fashion. I do not think it is.

But it is another thing altogether for us to consider how much we really care about these things. Acting on principle in this arena is not without its costs. Do we care enough to bear those costs? Do we care enough to invest the time necessary to understand all the relevant complex considerations? Are we prepared to spend more money? Are we willing to sacrifice convenience? And then it hits me that what we are talking about is not simply making a different consumer choice here and there. If we really care about the things we say we care about, then we are talking about changing the way we live our lives.
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I was not the only person on my Facebook friends list stunned by the above photo, taken in Ankara by Associated Press photographer Burhan Ozbilici in the seconds after the assassination of Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov. Ozbilici's photo--he took multiple photos, but this is the most famous one--of the killer, Mevlut Mert Altintas, caught in his delivery of his manifesto with gun raised, is striking. It might even be iconic.

One early reaction of the media, as seen at Slate and Petapixel and Mashable, was to congratulate Ozbilici on his nerve, on his ability to take these photos while he was justified in fearing for his life. The Los Angeles Times carried an interview with interview with Ozbilici, explaining what he was thinking at the moment he took this and the other photographs.

I was, of course, fearful and knew of the danger if the gunman turned toward me. But I advanced a little and photographed the man as he hectored his desperate, captive audience.

This is what I was thinking: "I'm here. Even if I get hit and injured, or killed, I'm a journalist. I have to do my work. I could run away without making any photos…. But I wouldn't have a proper answer if people later ask me: 'Why didn't you take pictures?' "

I even thought about friends and colleagues who have died while taking photographs in conflict zones over the years.

As my mind raced, I saw that the man was agitated — and yet, he was, strangely, in control of himself. He shouted at everyone to stand back. Security guards ordered us to vacate the hall and we left.


I myself am impressed by his skill. Ozbilici deserves something.

I was also wondering what Susan Sontag, writer and commentator on all things including philosophy, would think of this. As noted at Brainpickings, Sontag's writing was astonishingly prescient, noting the ability of the photograph to fix an audience's understanding of what happened with an event. What would she have thought about this photo, memorializing this moment and this event for all time, shared instantaneously across the Internet?

I was also reminded of an article I read in 2012, by sociologist Zeynep Tufekci, noting how images of atrocity can be fixed and preserved and used to actively maintain memory and a desire for vengeance for far longer than we think. What will this photo be taken to signify in the longer haul, I wonder and fear?

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