2004 BL86 Has a Moon!


Vancouver fog obliterated any hope of catching a glimpse of asteroid 2004 BL86. No worries, NASA had me covered. Radar images from NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California revealed BL86 has its own moon. Yep, its very own little moon about 70 meters across. Oh man, I’m grinning like a fool. Check out the earthsky link below NASA’s video clip…

http://earthsky.org/space/asteroid-that-flew-past-earth-january-26-2015-has-a-moon?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=bbd0eaf8a0-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-bbd0eaf8a0-393970565

The Plague


As a kid I never lost sleep over ghosts or monsters under the bed; clowns were another matter, they gave me nightmares. Not fooled by grease paint and oversized shoes, I was quite convinced clowns were a secret army of malevolent  soldiers, with an agenda of unspeakable horrors, I avoided them like the plague.

Oddly enough, my sleepless nights stemmed almost exclusively from unstoppable diseases or unfortunate calamity. Ebola, a haemorrhagic virus lurking in the darkest of jungles, dissolving your body until death mercifully took you when nothing was left of your former self but a puddle of dissolving mush. Spontaneous human combustion couldn’t be “caught”, nor could it be avoided – night terror central. Tapeworms, black widow spiders,  all delivered gut churning worry. Corners of my mind gathered the dust of circumstance beyond my control – monsters and goblins could be defeated using clever strategy and wits, but try as I might defence against perils of our natural world eluded me. When I learned about Smallpox and how it eradicated indigenous people in the Americas I nearly lost my mind. Since my sister had eczema doctors advised against immunizing our family for Smallpox. My mother’s assurance there hadn’t been a case for years did little for my sleepless nights; I wasn’t buying it – if everything was sunshine and roses, then why were children still being immunized?

As I grew older anguish faded; common sense replaced secret hysteria, maturity delivered me from the curse of night panic. It wasn’t until the early 80’s dropped the AIDS bomb, and friends started dropping like flies that dread invaded my thoughts again. Then came bird flu, SARS, and H1N1.

Now reports of Bubonic Plague identified in Los Angeles squirrels has me thinking – holy crap. Three campgrounds in the Angeles National Forest were evacuated and closed as a precaution after routine tests turned up a plaguey squirrel. It surprised me to learn on average seven people are infected with “the plague” in the U.S. every year, since 1984 four cases of plague have been diagnosed in LA County and none were fatal. Bubonic plague is a bacterial rather than a viral infection. Properly identified and treated with antibiotics the “black death” appears treatable – apparently far more manageable than the black death responsible for the deaths of 25 million people in the middle ages. Transmitted by flea bites, rats were the medieval carriers – squirrel couriers freak me out.

http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/07/26/bubonic-plague-infested-squirrel-shuts-down-los-angeles-county-national-park/

North Americans twenty years ago had never heard of West Nile Virus, Dengue Fever or Bubonic Plague outside fictional stories or the occasional National Geographic magazine in the doctor’s waiting room. Black Death lived in medieval history classes, Malaria and Typhus only happened some place else.

No longer that child, and thankfully not an obsessive compulsive adult with handwashing or germ phobias, I welcome a little  bacteria in my life. Avoiding antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, washing my hands with soap and water rather than hand sanitizer, and playing it cool with “antibacterial” everything. A few germs help build immune systems – saving antibiotics for dire situations gives us a fighting chance when nature rolls out the big guns.

The Spanish Flu epidemic began in 1918 and is credited with 50 – 100 million funerals depending on whose report you read. Unlike Bubonic plague, flu is a virus, meaning antibiotics are useless. Thanks to the AIDS epidemic medicine has come a long way in developing anti-viral drugs;  anti- bacterial remedies for the most part can handle assignments, anti-viral drugs work to suppress or minimize symptoms – a huge difference.

The microscopic world constantly mutates and evolves – viruses are nasty business, nastier even than “plague squirrel” that set this ponder in motion. The “holy crap” moment I experienced when hearing the story served as a reminder – I would rather face zombies, a scenario with a fighting chance than be at the mercy of unseen organisms.

Space Bobble


The same California high school science class that launched “space chicken” – a rubber chicken fitted with sensors, sent to the edge of our atmosphere to measure solar radiation – sent Obama to the brink of space after his re-election.

Post election bobblehead Obama followed the helium balloon trail blazed by space chicken. Unlike space chicken, Mr. Obama was “just for fun”. Although no sensors were attached Barack Obama proudly bobbles 120,000 feet above Earth.

A comforting thought. Thank you students of Bishop, California.

http://spaceweather.com/

Time to Ponder Protest Songs


Long ago in America without internet or cell phones, song moved a generation to take action. Music united generations, gave people a voice and served as a undeniable call to action. Vietnam war protests of the 60s and 70s, Mississippi blues of the 20s and 30s, civil rights marches in the 50s,  great depression in the 30s – all were defined by songs of protest. Protest music served to comfort and unite, it was a call to action, a rallying cry, a means of letting us know we were part of something.

Muddy Waters, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Woodstock, fade into obscurity. The power of protest songs lost on a generation of gamers and tweeters. Ponder outcomes of the “occupy movement” if they were able to put rage into song. Music has become an obsolete tool for change. I’m not saying political music /artists don’t exist, but  state with conviction – tweets will never touch the soul. Facebook posts, comments on reddit can’t match the power of music. The world is a different place from the era when thousands of voices sang in unison, not hoping for change, but expecting it.

http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/music/article/828049–where-have-all-the-protest-songs-gone

Pete Seeger