Ponder 2017, A Year In Space


On the cusp of 2017s last gasp, ponder a year of cosmic discovery. September 2017 marked the end of Cassini’s stoic 20 year, one billion mile journey to unlock mysteries of Saturn and its moons. A quest defined by exquisite images, unprecedented collection of data and a fiery death plunge into the heart of Saturn. We lost Cassini in 2017, but data collected on her death march will keep science busy for years. Great link to NASA Cassini timeline –

https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/resources/7757/

In April 2017 Harvard astronomer David Charbonneau published a study detailing LHS 114Ob, a Earth-like planet orbiting a red dwarf star 40 light years away.  “This is the one we’ve been hunting for all these years!” said Charbonneau. A rocky, temperate exoplanet with our best to date potential for finding alien life.

http://www.wired.co.uk/article/super-earth-40-light-years

Credit – M. Weiss/CfA

Speaking of exoplanets – In June 2017 NASA announced 10 of the most recent 219 planets catalogued by the Kepler space observatory, were Earth sized and potentially habitable.

Credit – NASA/JPL-Caltech

November 2017, science discovered the first documented interstellar object to enter our solar system. Object A/2017 U1 was noticed moving away from Earth at a staggering 15.8 miles per second. Now dubbed Oumuamuas, learn more at link below this image –

http://earthsky.org/space/oumuamuas-solar-system-trajectory-ottewell

Gravitational waves took October 2017 by storm, awarding the Nobel Prize in Physics to LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory). First theorized by Albert Einstein, conclusive evidence of gravitational waves is possibly the greatest cosmic discovery of 2017. Gravitational waves occur when mass accelerates, such as when two black holes rotate around each other. Moving at the speed of light, they spread outward filling the universe. Einstein didn’t believe they could be measured, LIGO proved him wrong. Astrophysicists won’t forget 2017, the year gravitational waves validated determination to understand disruptions in spacetime.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/nobel-prize-in-physics-goes-to-gravitational-wave-scientists-1.4318306

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Cosmic water rippled across 2017. From Cassini’s suggestion Saturn’s moon Enceladus harbored water, to exhaustive unraveling of ancient flowing liquid erosion on Mars and Moon research indicating a wealth of hidden water.

Saturn's moon Enceladus, photographed here by the Cassini spacecraft, has a subsurface ocean that also contains a chemical energy source that could be used by life-forms.

 

Saturn’s moon Enceladus, photographed here by the Cassini spacecraft, has a subsurface ocean that also contains a chemical energy source that could be used by life-forms.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

 

This image of an inner slope of a crater on southern Mars has several seasonal dark streaks called “recurrent slope lineae,” or RSL.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA/USGS

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Moon water theory stems from deposits of pyroclastic rock known as volcanic glass. Glass beads form when eruptions of magma crystallize as they cool on the surface trapping water inside. Until recently decades old samples of volcanic moon glass brought back by Apollo 15 & 17  were thought to be regional peculiarities. Closer modern scrutiny confirms wide total distribution of volcanic glass – a 2017 about face regarding hidden lunar moisture.
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 Perhaps the best way to embrace wonders of 2017 is with imagery. Start here – https://www.digitaltrends.com/photography/best-space-photos/ – move on to – https://www.popsci.com/best-images-outer-space#page-2 – spend a few minutes at NASA – https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/index.html
2017 catapulted cosmic foundations, science embraced unimaginable leaps toward unraveling the paradox of spacetime. Lack of understanding, dismissive frustration born of absent points of reference are no excuse to retreat from cosmic wonder. I won’t call it a resolution for the new year, but do hope more people open their minds to the cosmos. Start 2018 with links to http://earthsky.org/ or https://www.space.com/ in your news feed. Happy New Year.

 

 

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Life Coach


On the cusp of a new year, seasonal anomalies of obligatory resolution find me pondering “life coaches”. To be fair, life coaching has nothing and everything to do with seasonal aversion to empty personal promises. I’m all for personal reflection, but once a year because it’s expected is a tad tiresome. Proliferation of life coaching adds insult to injury. I personally know 3 people who peg their futures on successful life coaching endeavors. Each one a university graduate professing unique insight into the plight of millennials.

Words “life doesn’t come with a manual” form the thesis of this baby boomer’s approach to life. Seasonal resolutions however well intentioned or inane, always stemmed from personal reflection. Enter life coaching, a booming profession defined as –

“Life Coaching is a profession that is profoundly different from consulting, mentoring, advice, therapy, or counseling. The coaching process addresses specific personal projects, business successes, general conditions and transitions in the client’s personal life, relationships or profession by examining what is going on right now, discovering what your obstacles or challenges might be, and choosing a course of action to make your life be what you want it to be.”

Holy crap! If I know of three life coaches, how many more serve as millennial oracles? Am I alone in fearing for a generation of life coached dreamers whose seasonal resolutions stem from coached life plans rather than intrinsic motivation?

Image result for life coach

 

2018 Top Writer Nod


Fired up the laptop after work, a message from Quora politely delivered news I had been named a Top Question Writer 2018. Aw shucks Quora, you just made my day. Top Question Writer 2 years in a row? Yep, a click on my profile page confirmed the distinction.

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Most people haven’t heard of Quora, obscurity of being named a top writer isn’t lost on me. Personal satisfaction stems from recognition of content, not followers or views. Tomorrow I’ll forget about another top writer nod, tonight I’ll grin like a mad fool

Pondering Honey Fungus


What is the largest organism on Earth? Simple enough question, take a shot at the answer – giant sequoia, blue whale – not even close. Ponder a 5.5 kilometer across honey fungus in Oregon, our largest terrestrial organism.

Image via Factorialist.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/10/humongous-fungus-genome/544265/

Fungus inhabit the kingdom of Fungi. Neither plant or animal, science suspects member species of the fungal realm number in millions. Of 120,000 identified species –  300 are detrimental to humans, 8,000 attack plants, many more target animals. Before dismissing fungus as mushroom soup or nasty toenails, ponder a parasitic community boasting the largest organism on Earth.

Science defines individual life forms as organisms comprised of genetically identical cells, able to communicate and share a common purpose. Weighing an estimated 600 tons, Oregon’s behemoth Honey Fungus passes the single organism test with flying colours. Don’t go looking for a giant mushroom, most of this fungal monstrosity lurks below ground. A parasitic giant, entwined underground in colonized tendrils intent on dissolving roots of conifer forests above.

http://factorialist.com/fungus-tree-eating-machine/

http://earthsky.org/earth/largest-land-organism-honey-fungus

Fungi don’t photosynthesize, sustenance comes from absorbing nutrients dissolved by secretion of digestive enzymes. Science can’t say if it took two or eight thousand years for the world’s largest organism to occupy 2,384 acres, roughly the area of 1,665 football fields. It can say the largest individual organism on Earth is a fungal parasite named Honey. A mysterious, organic matter dissolving monster capable of sucking life from all it touches. Fungi freak me out.