The newfound planet, called Kepler-186f, was first spotted by NASA's Kepler space telescope and circles a dim red dwarf star about 490 light-years from Earth. While the host star is dimmer than Earth's sun and the planet is slightly bigger than Earth, the positioning of the alien world coupled with its size suggests that Kepler-186f could have water on its surface, scientists say. . . .The planet's diameter is 1.1 times that of Earth's, so its mass and gravity will be about 30% more than Earth's. It would also receive slightly less solar radiation than Earth does, so it might be much colder, although that, of course, depends on the details of the atmosphere.
"This is an historic discovery of the first truly Earth-sized planet found in the habitable zone around its star," Geoff Marcy, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, who is unaffiliated with the research, told Space.com via email. "This is the best case for a habitable planet yet found. The results are absolutely rock-solid. The planet itself may not be, but I'd bet my house on it. In any case, it's a gem."
Friday, April 18, 2014
have announced the discovery of what they say is the most earthlike planet yet:
Those who are constantly talking about their children, their wives or their nursemaids, are equally at fault. 'Yesterday my boy made me laugh so much. Listen to this...You have never seen a more lovable son than my Momo...' No-one has so little to do that he has the time to answer or even to listen to such nonsense and so it irritates everyone.Via Ask the Past, this is a nice reminder of how timeless our parenting instincts are.
Giovanni della Casa, Galateo (1558)
by stealing genes from other plants:
The scientists found that roughly 100 million years ago, ferns exploded into a number of new lineages. Eighty percent of today’s fern species can be traced to that evolutionary burst.But Li could not find any precursor for the neochrome gene in any species of fern; all their neochrome genes were pretty much the same. Frustrated, he turned to a new database of plant DNA. There he found what he was looking for, a neochrome gene with the sort of variability one expects closer to the evolutionary root of anything new. It was not in ferns, though, but in a distantly related group of plants called hornworts:
Intriguingly, these successful ferns also evolved a new kind of light-sensing protein. Known as a neochrome, it makes ferns sensitive to dim levels of light. These neochromes may have enabled ferns to thrive on shady forest floors.
In 2011, one of Dr. Pryer’s graduate students, Fay-Wei Li, set out to discover the origin of neochromes. It was possible, he speculated, that an older light sensor that was sensitive to brighter light became adapted to dim forest shade.
Comparing all the data, Mr. Li and his colleagues came up with an unexpected hypothesis for how ferns got their neochromes. Neochromes did not gradually evolve in ancient ferns. Instead, a single lineage of ferns picked up the neochrome gene from hornworts about 180 million years ago.This discovery is another triumph for the now deceased Lynn Margulis, who always argued that the key stages of evolution happened more by the sharing of genes than by Darwinian natural selection. It is also a reminder of the risks involved in inserting genes for things like herbicide resistance or insecticides into crop plants, since there is a small but real chance that those genes will jump to weed species.
The heroes of Homer’s Iliad were engaged in petty achievements when compared with the work of the men who wrestled a vast wilderness from savages and wild beasts and made it the seat of twenty great commonwealths in a single century.
Considered the carnival side of the Fair, Pike visitors could enjoy fifty different amusements, including contortionists, reenactments of the Boer War, babies in incubators, the Dancing Girls of Madrid, Jim Key the Educated Horse, and Hagenbeck’s Zoological Paradise and Animal Circus—which featured an elephant water slide.Above is the design for the Creation Pavilion, which looks grand and sinister, but since it as on the Pike, I have to wonder.
have tried. Ambivalent, seems to be the answer; some complained about being used and not paid all the money they were promised, others were pleased to see something of the world at government expense. Some were fascinated by the notion of electing the President, so a voting booth was set up for them -- although their votes weren't part of the official count.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1927-2014) wrote many books, but for me he will always be the author of only one: One Hundred Years of Solitude. It begins:
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Col. Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of 20 adobe houses built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.For me, nothing else he ever did comes close. But for me, only a dozen other books by anyone come close, and to have written one such masterpiece is more than enough for one life.
Thursday, April 17, 2014
The two marmosets—small, New World monkeys—had been a closely bonded couple for more than 3 years. Then, one fateful day, the female had a terrible accident. She fell out of a tree and hit her head on a ceramic vase that happened to be underneath on the forest floor. Her partner left two of their infants alone in the tree and jumped down to apparently comfort her, until she died an agonizing death a couple of hours later.Biologist Bruna Bezerra calls this "caretaking of his dying partner" and "mourning" and says it is the first clear evidence of mourning behavior in wild primates other than chimps. But then she adds:
that some of his behaviors—such as emitting alarm calls and trying to mate with her—might have been signs of stress rather than compassion.If you're trying to have sex with a dying mate, does that count as compassionate mourning?
and for high holidays they bring out this wonderful Edward Burne-Jones tapestry of the Adoration of the Magi.
I can't decide how I feel about this. Fifteen years ago I would have been all on Tesla's side, and if I had had a blog I would have written a rant about selfish car dealers driving up prices for everyone so they can be sure to take their cut. Plus I just hate car dealers.
But now that ever-growing inequality dominates my thinking about economics, I have to wonder. Car dealers say they create lots of middle-class jobs. Are they right? Is this the sort of inefficiency that ends up redistributing money from investors to regular people, or at least capturing some of what people pay for cars and turning it directly into jobs? The lesson of the past 25 years seems to be that ever greater corporate efficiency leads to lower prices by squeezing out lots of jobs; the most efficient possible arrangement seems to be the one that pays out the least in salaries and returns the most to billionaire investors. In the long run, do those lower prices come out of the future of the middle class?
Or does most of the money actually flow to a few thousand dealership owners who are themselves in the 1 percent? Are laws protecting dealers actually just helping one class of millionaires stiff another?
I really don't know. But I am sure that if we want to preserve the middle class and limit inequality, we have to get used to balancing other things against greater efficiency and lower prices.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Two South Dakota girls on their way to an end-of-school-year party at a gravel pit in May 1971 drove off a country road and into a creek where their remains lay hidden until last fall when a drought brought their car into view, authorities said Tuesday.
State and local officials held a news conference Tuesday afternoon confirming that the 1960 Studebaker unearthed in September included the remains of Cheryl Miller and Pamella Jackson, both 17-year-olds who attended Vermillion High School.
The investigators showed dozens of photographs of well-preserved clothing, Miller's purse and even her driver's license complete with a smiling photograph. Those personal items and DNA were used to identify the girls, said Attorney General Marty Jackley. Jackson didn't have her purse along.
British Library. Made in a British monastery, possibly in Norfolk. It seems to be unfinished, since only about half the pictures are colored.. Above, the first day of creation.