Lighter than Air

'Oumuamua (1I2017 U1), artist's conceptionIn October 2017, astronomers using the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii discovered a small object passing relatively near the Earth (33 million km, 0.22 astronomical units (AU), or about 85 times farther away than the Moon).  Initial attempts to fit an orbit to its path, tracked by a series of observations failed.  It was realised that the object is on a strongly hyperbolic orbit and is not gravitationally bound to the Sun: dynamically, it is not a part of the solar system—it is an interstellar object, the first to be observed, just passing through.  It was first considered to be a comet, but extended observations by large telescopes failed to detect any of the emissions of dust and gas which one would expect from a comet, especially one making its first close approach to a star in many millennia, and perhaps ever.  It was then re-classified as an asteroid.  Finally, it was given the designation 1I/2017 U1 and the informal name `Oumuamua, which means “scout” or “messenger” in the Hawaiian language.

Further observations deepened the mystery: `Oumuamua was discovered after it had made its closest approach to the Sun on September 9th, 2017 at a distance of 0.25 AU (inside the orbit of Mercury), and as it receded from the Sun, careful tracking of its position indicated it was not following a trajectory as would be expected from Newton’s laws, but rather losing velocity slower than gravitation would account for (or, in other words, it had an outward acceleration added to the deceleration of gravity).  This is often the case for comets, whose emission of gas and dust released due to heating by the Sun acts like a rocket to propel the body away from the Sun.  But that conflicts with the failure to detect any such emissions from `Oumuamua by telescopes and instruments with more than adequate sensitivity to observe emissions which could account for the acceleration.... [Read More]

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This Week’s Book Review – Sparta’s First Attic War

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.... [Read More]

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Migration from Mac to Chromebook. How to?

Being parsimonious, I can’t see spending $1000 every 4 or 5 years (if I’m lucky) for new MacBook Airs for both my wife and for me. We use them for simple things. She: email, crossword puzzles, sudoku, jigsaw puzzles. Me: email, Ratburger, vast right-wing conspiracy perusal, word processing, household management via more websites than I can count (banks, utilities, memberships, Amazon, education, etc.) each with unknowable login credentials (which are now all different for obvious security reasons).

To help manage this, beyond Safari Keychain, I recently bought 1Password. Bottom line: I want to migrate all my user-created materials and login credentials to a new platform(s), either a new Chromebook and/or a soon-to-be shipped Raspberry Pi 4 (I am excited by the prospect of finally learning some programming and one of the Linux-based operating systems. Thanks to John, I am particularly curious about Ubuntu. As well, since I have a new iPhone Xr with face recognition, I am feeling more comfortable doing more of the above online tasks on this device. Until now, I have been loathe to put my credentials on a mobile phone.... [Read More]

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Charting the Narrative

“White Privilege” in New York Times articlesIn a number of comments on various posts here over the last year or so, and asides in main posts, I have discussed my conclusion that there is an organised mechanism, akin to a public relations firm, which is generating the “narrative” that seems to occupy the minds of the legacy media and politicians associated with them at any given moment.  I have no concrete evidence to back up this belief, but the existence of JournoList between 2007 and 2010 (which was shut down after its public exposure) indicates that prominent media figures are interested in and willing to co-ordinate their efforts in favour of the causes they advocate.

My conviction that the narrative of the moment is actively manufactured, disseminated among top-level figures in the media and “progressive” politics, and then passed down through the ranks by a mechanism akin to an old-time “phone tree” (in which most of the ultimate recipients are unaware of the origin of the themes and specific phrases they parrot), is that the way each new obsession simultaneously appears within hours to days on the lips and in the printed works of hundreds of supposedly independent players simply doesn’t fit the model of the organic diffusion of information.  Further, when precisely the same phrases are used by widely-separated speakers, and a neatly packaged interpretation of an unexpected event is presented a day or two after it happens, that doesn’t look like a bottom-up process.  And finally, when you observe this phenomenon again and again, with precisely the same pattern, that reinforces the suspicion that something is going on to make it happen.  As Ian Fleming had his supervillain Auric Goldfinger say, “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.”... [Read More]

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A Summer Ague

Paul Johnson in one of his books says summer wasn’t always regarded as the long, joyous FESTIVAL!  it is now.  It was a time of scarcity, after the last of the previous harvest had been consumed and the new one wasn’t in yet.  And it was a time of illness.  Mysterious fevers like the “sweating sickness” that killed all of Thomas Cromwell’s family within a day or so.

I just experienced one.  On Wednesday we went clay pigeon shooting, as is our wont.  I ate a good steak dinner with hearty appetite.  Then..I felt chilled, although it wasn’t a cool evening.  I did my chores at home and got into bed before 9!... [Read More]

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Cool!

Trump wants the US to buy Greenland!  I looove that!   We’re in Seward’s Folly, Louisiana Purchase , territory.    What if those deals hadn’t transpired?

This shows vision,  focus on the future.  Oh I hear Denmark is being coy, but:  the tremendous confidence, the unshaken faith in our country’s. expansionist future , demonstrated by even broaching this acquisition —Trump is one in a million, we’re so lucky to have him.

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