Archive for October 21st, 2010

אסטרונומיה רעה

By Phil Plait | October 21, 2010 2:00 pm

I sometimes get requests from people asking if they can translate something I’ve written into a different language. The answer is usually yes, if they provide a link back to the original post. The funny part is not knowing if they’ve done a good job or not!

So there’s a certain trust involved, I suppose, because I don’t speak too many languages. And it’s even harder if they don’t use vowels! But that hasn’t stopped Yoav Landsman from translating some of my posts into Hebrew. He did three:

Just in case you need reminding how nice place to live Earth is
30 years, a half million asteroids
Do rainbow clouds foretell earthquakes? (also on Spinoza, the Israeli skeptics community website).

I can actually puzzle through some of the pronunciation of the words phonetically, but that’s about it; my knowledge of Hebrew is limited to probably fewer than two dozen words. But I’d like to thank Yoav for helping me reach a population that I might otherwise never reach. L’chaim!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: About this blog

UVa still fighting climate witch hunt, ups the rhetoric

By Phil Plait | October 21, 2010 12:00 pm

I’m happy to report that my alma mater, the University of Virginia, is not only fighting back against State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s witch hunt against climate scientist Michael Mann, they are also being pretty clear about their protest:

In its most strongly-worded court filing to date, UVA characterized Cuccinelli’s investigation as "an unprecedented and improper governmental intrusion into ongoing scientific research” and said that Cuccinelli is targeting Mann because he “disagrees with his academic research regarding climate change."

In other words, they’re saying this is a politically and ideologically motivated abuse of power, which I’ve been saying all along.

I’m thrilled to see the University standing firm. Cuccinelli’s actions, on purpose or otherwise, are sending out a message that academic research can be chilled due to political ideology, and that is something that must not be allowed. I fully support what UVa is doing, and hope they can stop Cuccinelli in his tracks.

The University’s court filing really is worth reading. Thomas Jefferson would be proud.

Related posts:

Cuccinelli warms to his task of climate change denial
Another climate scientist responds to Rep. Joe Barton’s false claims
UVa will fight climate change attack
Climate change followup

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Piece of mind, Politics

Two days to w00tstock (Presents)!

By Phil Plait | October 21, 2010 10:30 am

w00tstockJust a wee reminder: This Saturday night, October 23rd, at 7:30 p.m. in the Boulder Theater is "w00tstock Presents" with Paul & Storm, My Close Personal Friend Adam Savage™, and me! There will be laughter, singing, stories, nerdery, more singing, astronomical naughty bits, and then singing. I might even sing.

Ticket prices were just reduced to $20 for General Admission. If you live anywhere near Boulder or even somewhere between here and UDFy-38135539, you should come. Get tickets here or get marginally more information here, and/or read my overly long slobbering praise of w00tstock here.

Note: Wil Wheaton won’t be there, as he has to be in Canada to film "Eureka". We will raise a toast of blood wine to him, then eat gagh.


MORE ABOUT: w00tstock, Wil Wheaton

Sunburned planet turns hot face away from star

By Phil Plait | October 21, 2010 7:00 am

More exoplanet news, and yet another instance where the more we look at them, the weirder they get.

spitzer_upsandbSpitzer Space Telescope sees in the infrared, so in a way it can measure the heat from an object. The orbiting observatory was pointed at the star Upsilon Andromedae, one of the very first stars known to have exoplanets. One of those planets, Ups And b, orbits so close to the star that it makes a complete circle around it every 4.6 days.

That close to the star, the planet should be tidally locked: one side always facing the star, and very hot; the other facing away, and much cooler. As the planet goes around the star, from our vantage point we see first the hot face, then the cooler one, and back again, a cycle repeated every 4.6 Earth days.

Now, we can’t separate the planet from the star; it’s way too close for that. But the planet gives away its presence by the hot and cool faces. We expect to see the hot face when the planet is on the far side of the star from us: it’s then we see the lit, hot face of the planet pointed toward us (the orbit is tilted enough that the star doesn’t get in the way). That hot face gives off infrared light, which adds a tiny bit of infrared light to the total we see from the system. 2.3 days later, the back side of the planet is presented to us. It’s cooler, gives off less infrared, and we see a dip in that light.

By measuring the amount of light, and when we see it, we can infer quite a bit about the planet, like how hot it really is. But astronomers got a surprise…

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