Archive for April, 2009

Planetary Systems Around White Dwarves

April 20, 2009

Here are two brief articles outlining the basics of a recent study of white dwarf stars in the Milky Way, suggesting a minimum figure of 1% to 3% for the main sequence stars that harbor planetary systems; one from Science Daily, the other from BBC News. The upshot is that “In our galaxy, a very rough estimate would be that there are five million white dwarfs with left-over rocky planetary material.”


Neanderthals & Human Rights

April 13, 2009

Reason’s Ronald Bailey offers an interesting but incomplete analysis of the human rights of hypothetically cloned Neanderthals in Neanderthal Rights.

Food for Thought

April 8, 2009

“If we . . . ask Nature: ‘who are the fittest: those who are continually at war with each other, or those who support one another?’ we at once see that those animals which acquire habits of mutual aid are undoubtedly the fittest.”

Prince Peter Kropotkin
Vzaimopomoshch (Mutual Aid), 1902

Evil Rampant

April 7, 2009

Viewing the two-minute video of barbarity accompanying this article from the UK newspaper The Guardian will require that you have a very strong stomach.

The “punishment,” which is to say torture, being meted out to this seventeen-year-old girl — “on suspicion of having had an illicit relationship with a married man” and without a trial — is being circulated widely throughout Pakistan as a positive (!) example of Taliban justice. It is, instead, pure and simple evil.

Ice Nine

April 7, 2009


Do you, too, find this reminiscent of ice-nine in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle?

Got an Itch? Scratch It.

April 6, 2009

Got an itch? Scratch it.

(Itching to learn more? See this New Scientist article.)

Blotting Out the Sun

April 6, 2009
The Sun Today (SOHO, NASA)

The Sun Today (SOHO, NASA)

It simply isn’t going to happen, but just suppose that the sun were suddenly to vanish, or be extinguished. It takes roughly 8 minutes for the light from the sun to traverse the distance to the earth, so it would take us about that long to realize that something was terribly awry. The New Scientist’s Last Word blog poses that very question in Put That Light Out. Check out the disparate array of interesting responses from readers.