Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Some scientists say this blog doesn’t exist when no one is looking at it

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io_volcano.jpg
Volcano on Io. Credit: NASA

The top main stream news story today was about a certain radio announcer defending his racist name calling as “irreverent” and “controversial.” I think he’s one sick f**k and am not going to use his name or link to him in any way. I think the whole “shock jock” and related phenomena where “commentators” engage in name calling in order to titillate people and get ratings is disgusting. That people are getting paid big bucks for behaviour that is basically stupid grade school bully talk is a sad commentary on our times. So enough main stream news for today, here’s a science round up:

Natural Opening Surgery. Well, just what it sounds like. Doctors are experimenting, and succeeding, with new procedures that involved surgery via the body’s natural openings. Brain tumours removed through the nose, the appendix removed through the mouth. While on the one hand it sounds creepy, in actuality it is more natural and much easier on the body than cutting through skin and flesh to get to the surgical site. It still involves some slicing and dicing, but interior flesh has fewer nerves and heals better with less pain than surface tissue. Someday virtually all surgery will be performed through the body’s natural openings. All of them, it’s best not to think about it too much. And yes, the surgeons have to use long skinny surgical tools.

A Roman gladiator’s graveyard has been excavated in Turkey. This discovery has led to new insights into the lives and deaths of gladiators in ancient Rome. Gladiators were the sports stars of their day, successful ones retired after a few years in the ring to lives of wealth and acclaim. Unsuccessful ones died in the arena. While gladiators were slaves, they also were for the most part volunteers, since it was a shot at freedom if you were touch and strong. It was a pretty nasty business though, imagine if some players died in every pro football game. Yikes.

Good news for Mars explorers. Turns out there’s a lot more ice on the planet than had been imagined, all below the surface. It is also becoming clear that Mars has a lot more going on in the water department than was realized, and a lot of that ice turns to water and gas periodically. Mars has a more eccentric orbit than earth so it undergoes more extreme heating and cooling cycles. And of course, our understanding of the planet is in its infancy and many more discoveries lie ahead. In fact, NASA is thinking ahead about some of the unpleasant possibilities that a manned Mars mission might entail.

Speaking of NASA, they just released new images taken by the New Horizons Probe as it flew past Jupiter. In fact the probe flew closer to Jupiter than any probe before and captured stunning images of the giant planet. I love how scientists make full use of every probe that is sent out into space, in this case the probe is on its way to Pluto, but swinging past Jupiter to pick up speed it is both testing it’s cameras and instruments and providing us with stunning new data that scientists will study for years. Another curious tidbit is that the probe took about a year to get to Jupiter, where it will speed up considerably, yet it will take another seven years to get to Pluto! This illustrates nicely just how incredibly far away the outer planets are.

And in some final science news, a new experiment in quantum physics research has yielded some odd results. The results are so strange that some scientists are suggesting that they indicate that reality doesn’t exist when we aren’t looking at it. I’m not going to go into the details, because I don’t understand quantum physics. No one does, that’s the problem. In a nutshell, the science of quantum physics has proved that reality as we know it is more than just a giant three dimensional clockwork mechanism. Beyond that it gets sketchy for lesser minds such as mine to understand; suffice it to say that someday this research may lead to faster computers, instantaneous communication no matter what the distance (a big boon for space exploration,) and maybe even more exotic possibilities like transporters and wormholes a la Star Trek.

Not yet though, I still have to take a bus to work this morning. G’day everyone.

(The above NASA image is being used in accordance with NASA guidelines. Here is another cool picture of a volcano on Io.)

Written by unitedcats

May 3, 2007 at 8:11 am

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