14 May 2019

The Southern Crab Nebula


Photo from the Hubble Space Telescope (cropped for size from the original)
In celebration of the 29th anniversary of the launch of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers captured this festive, colorful look at the tentacled Southern Crab Nebula.

The nebula, officially known as Hen 2-104, is located several thousand light-years from Earth in the southern hemisphere constellation of Centaurus. It appears to have two nested hourglass-shaped structures that were sculpted by a whirling pair of stars in a binary system. The duo consists of an aging red giant star and a burned-out star, a white dwarf. The red giant is shedding its outer layers. Some of this ejected material is attracted by the gravity of the companion white dwarf.

The result is that both stars are embedded in a flat disk of gas stretching between them. This belt of material constricts the outflow of gas so that it only speeds away above and below the disk. The result is an hourglass-shaped nebula.

The bubbles of gas and dust appear brightest at the edges, giving the illusion of crab leg structures. These "legs" are likely to be the places where the outflow slams into surrounding interstellar gas and dust, or possibly material which was earlier lost by the red giant star.

Opening a clogged drain



It looks like the technician pushes in 10 feet of cable and pulls out 30 feet, but the attachment at the head of the cable has a jet shooting water backward that propels the cable forward.  A second explanatory video is at Neatorama, plus a link to more drain-cleaning videos.

World's shortest international bridge


Located hereVia.

European locations with over 1,000 inhabitants


Best viewed after zooming larger.  Via the Europe subreddit.

Interesting quote from Voltaire

"Mais, monsieur, en étant persuadés par la foi, des choses qui paraissent absurdes à notre intelligence, c'est-à-dire, en croyant ce que nous ne croyons pas, gardons-nous de faire ce sacrifice de notre raison dans la conduite de la vie. Il y a eu des gens qui ont dit autrefois: Vous croyez des choses incompréhensibles, contradictoires, impossibles, parce que nous vous l’avons ordonné; faites donc des choses injustes parce que nous vous l’ordonnons. Ces gens-là raisonnaient à merveille. Certainement qui est en droit de vous rendre absurde est en droit de vous rendre injuste. Si vous n’opposez point aux ordres de croire l’impossible l’intelligence que Dieu a mise dans votre esprit, vous ne devez point opposer aux ordres de malfaire la justice que Dieu a mise dans votre coeur. Une faculté de votre âme étant une fois tyrannisée, toutes les autres facultés doivent l’être également.

"Once your faith, sir, persuades you to believe what your intelligence declares to be absurd, beware lest you likewise sacrifice your reason in the conduct of your life. In days gone by, there were people who said to us: "You believe in incomprehensible, contradictory and impossible things because we have commanded you to; now then, commit unjust acts because we likewise order you to do so." Nothing could be more convincing. Certainly anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices. If you do not use the intelligence with which God endowed your mind to resist believing impossibilities, you will not be able to use the sense of injustice which God planted in your heart to resist a command to do evil. Once a single faculty of your soul has been tyrannized, all the other faculties will submit to the same fate. 
 - Translation from Norman Lewis Torrey: Les Philosophes. The Philosophers of the 
Enlightenment and Modern Democracy. Capricorn Books, 1961, pp. 277-8Via Wikiquote.

Judge accepts eyewitness testimony from a legally blind person

Dexter Saffold took the witness stand more than five years ago and described the chaos he saw at a South Side gas station in 2011. Saffold told Cook County Circuit Judge Nicholas Ford that he watched a man shoot and kill one man there and badly wound another.

And he pointed out who did it — the defendant, Darien Harris, the man in the courtroom wearing the jail jumpsuit.

There was no physical evidence linking Harris to the shooting that left Rondell Moore dead and Quincy Woulard badly hurt.

Still, the judge, hearing the case without a jury, found Saffold persuasive. Ford called him an “honest witness” and said he’d given “unblemished” testimony. Largely based on that testimony, he found Harris guilty and sent him to prison for 76 years for murder.

But what the judge — and the accused — didn’t know was that Saffold had been deemed legally blind years earlier by his doctors and the U.S. government, the result of advanced glaucoma.

Now, Harris, 26, is trying to get his conviction overturned, citing the eyewitness’s previously unrevealed vision problems and also that, when asked about his vision, Saffold testified he had no problem seeing.
More at the Chicago Sun-Times.

13 May 2019

You think this is funny?


Photos of Great White Sharks, viewed "upside down" from underneath.

Monarchs departing the mountains of Mexico



The video title wants to draw attention to the sound, which is frankly unimpressive (or incompletely captured by the film crew).  What is impressive is the superabundance of the natural world and the impressively high resolution of the video images (compared to what is usually displayed from tourist cameras).  For videos like this I always recommend clicking the fullscreen icon (lower right).

According to Journey North monarch map, migrating adults have now been seen as far north as Illinois and Iowa.  None reported yet at the Wisconsin Butterflies site.  I expect them in our yard probably toward the end of next week, because our milkweed spikes have already appeared.

Yours for $2,850


Holey shirt

Why planets go "retrograde"


Via Neatorama.

Reposted from 2016 to add this convenient diagram:


Planetary orbits as viewed from the earth look like patterns drawn with a Spirograph.  Image via.

See also this very interesting mathematical analysis: The Pentagram of Venus (with a hat tip to an anonymous reader).

Three-banded armadillo


The word means "little armoured one" in Spanish.  Image via.

Advanced science = magic


This man became angry when a pediatrician tweeted that exemptions from vaccines put children at risk.
In response to a Hotez tweet that the latest increase in vaccine exemptions in Texas shows its children have been "placed in harm's way for the financial gain of special and outside interest groups," Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, let loose.

"You are bought and paid for by the biggest special interest in politics," tweeted Stickland. "Do our state a favor and mind your own business. Parental rights mean more to us than your self enriching 'science.'"

When Hotez replied that he doesn't take a dime from the vaccine industry and that as a Texas pediatrician-scientist who develops neglected disease vaccines for the world's poorest people, it is "most certainly my business," Stickland dug in even deeper.

"Make the case for your sorcery to consumers on your own dime," tweeted Stickland. "Like every other business. Quit using the heavy hand of government to make your business profitable through mandates and immunity. It's disgusting."
He is Jonathan Stickland, a legislator who participates in making laws for the state of Texas.  He's a Republican.

There is more at Chron (photo credit Tom Reel), via BoingBoing.

Arthur C.  Clarke's "Third Law": Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

$150 college textbook


Doesn't come with a cover or a binder.  Or even rings.

 Image cropped for size from the original at  ABoringDystopia.

Satire as prophesy


The discussion thread at ABoringDystopia explains for the younger generation that the prisoners are in fact unconvicted "suspects" who have now lived there almost twenty years.

Trailer for "The Bookshop"



This 2017 film received little U.S. attention, but was nominated for and won multiple awards from European film societies.   This is not a "Hollywood" movie - it has no explosions, no nudity or eroticism, no special effects, and - notably - no "storybook ending" (which might have contributed to a mediocre Rotten Tomatoes score).

What it does have is fine performances by Emily Mortimer and Bill Nighy, and a compelling narrative storyline.  Well worth a watch, IMHO, especially if you love books. 
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