Category Archives: Brilliant Human Achievement

Targeting habitable worlds for exploration

Think of where we are, just now. The journal Nature reports on research that provides a testable model for analyzing and, ultimately, visualizing remote worlds for the potential habitability of Earth-like destinations for exploration. Basically, using multiple observations of a planet as large as the planet Uranus in our solar system in transit of its star, the team has built a model that, if confirmed by the James Webb Space Telescope when it is deployed in 2018, confirms the model accurately allows us to predict — and refine our analysis of — the planet’s ability to host life, assuming there is not something on a habitable planet more dominant than ourselves that will annihilate us on arrival, and support colonization by humans or their machines.

Think about that. Like the Dutch company that this week announced it has about one thousand candidates it will send to Mars on a one-way trip, humans can start to make long-term bets on distant colonies by banking the claim represented by a ship or fleet headed off in some direction once it leaves. Even if that ship is not the first to arrive from Earth, it would still represent the initial claim to the planet. So, if space travel could be speeded to or past the speed of light and a later flight arrived first, the initial pioneers’ ancestors would retain their share of the planet, which could even be adjusted for future value as the first travelers’ confidence is reinforced by later followers, even if the followers got their first.

For most of my life, punctuated by my childhood fascination with space travel and the Moon, as well as in the 40- to 90-minute portions of my attention devoted in their hundreds and thousands to Star Trek throughout the past 50 years, I have not believed that man could leave the immediate neighborhood of this planet and its Moon. Maybe it is passing 50 years of age with some advanced aircraft-grade titanium cervical disc replacements. But I’ve come to see that the pioneering of space is the next shitty, but necessary, stretch of road humanity needs to walk in order to take any larger place in the Cosmos than it already has had the audacity to imagine.

Or, perhaps, this exercise in futurism will merely make it clear that mining my neck for its titanium is less profitable, but also much less risky than traveling to a planet orbiting a distant star, and I’ve sealed my own fate by enabling the short-sighted to consume the hearty and spirited men of their times for scrap metal. For anyone missing that this is meant satirically, titanium is not a particularly valuable metal. Really.

Happy New Year, one and all.

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Why Game 3 of the ALDS 2001 tells the future

I’m watching Game Three of the 2001 ALDS between the A’s and the Yankees, which tells a lot about how teams win the World Championship (Hooray for the MBL Games on iTunes). The A’s are a superior team in retrospect. So many enduring (not necessarily great) players are on the Athletics squad, including Johnny Damon, Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez (I feel for his back injuries) and Jason Giambi, the future Yankee, as well as Barry Zito, the notoriously overpaid Giant. My Mariners got beat this same night to lead to the showdown with the Indians, after winning 116 games (oh, what a season to see!).

This is the game that made Derek Jeter a Yankee Great — the flip to home plate to get a key out Jason Giambi at home (see this incredible, ever-thrilling clip). This is the game that set the stage for the Yankees v. Indians, which led to the classic Arizona World Series.

Oh, I love this game.

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Van Gogh painting found under Van Gogh painting

2008-07-30t160222z_01_nootr_rtridsp_2_life-dutch-vangogh-dc That darned Vincent. A third of his paintings from his early period cover other paintings he did. Dutch scientists developed an X-Ray technique that discloses the color and contours of underlying layers of paint. In his “Patch of Grass” they found a portrait of a woman’s face.

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Another knick in cycling’s heavily damaged body

BBC SPORT | Boonen banned from Tour de France:

Former world champion Tom Boonen will not be allowed to compete at next month’s Tour de France after testing positive for cocaine.

With last year’s Tour winner, Alberto Contador, out of this year’s Tour because he rides for Team Astana, which was banned for doping after last year’s race, this year’s Tour de France is looking pretty frayed even before it begins. Contador won a classic Giro d’Italia last week and looks like the odd’s-on favorite to win in Paris in July, if only he were riding.

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Greenhouse spin: In fact, the air you breathe is less free and less clean

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Record productivity doesn’t mean record earning for workers?

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Process matters, it really does

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