It’s been waaaay too long since I had a good space/science post. So here are a couple of interesting things that have already been floating around the science blogs for a few days, but you may not have heard about unless you’re as big of a nerd as I am. 🙂

  • We have another interesting exoplanet discovery worth talking about. It’s another super-Earth that sits within the habitable zone of its parent star- that is- liquid water could exist on its surface. At least, provided there is sufficient cloud cover. This planet, which has the fascinating title of HD 85512 b, is near the warmer edge of the habitable zone, which means there would have to be sufficient cloud cover to reflect some of the incoming radiation from its star, lest it have a runaway greenhouse effect that would make it very Venus-like (scorching hot and covered in dense, toxic clouds). This world is about 3.6 times the mass of Earth, but it was detected using the radial velocity method rather than the transit method, so we only know its mass, not its size. But if it’s a rocky world and its mass is 3.6 times that of Earth, it’s bound be a good bit bigger than Earth. Granted, we don’t know anything for sure about the atmospheric makeup of this exoplanet because we don’t have any instruments capable of detecting that yet. The radial velocity method detects planets orbiting a star by seeing the tiny gravitational wobble the planet exerts on its parent star. If we eventually aim a telescope such as Kepler at this star, and the planet transits the star, we’ll then know its approximate size and may even be able to make a better judgment on its atmospheric makeup. Until then, though, we have to rely on computer models to speculate what the air might be like. For more info see: Universe Today or National Geographic.
  • You may recall Symphony of Science from back when Jack White’s Third Man Records released a 7″ vinyl single of the track “A Glorious Dawn ft. Stephen Hawking.” Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy mentioned in a post yesterday that John Boswell, creator of Symphony of Science, has put 11 tracks in a compilation on bandcamp for free (or name your own price). So go snag it now and throw the guy a few bones while you’re at it. It’s a pretty awesome idea, and I’m obviously a fan of anything that puts music and science in the same sentence.

I originally planned to resume posting yesterday, but we encountered some traffic issues on the way back from Austin which resulted in us not getting back till 6am monday morning. I had to be at work at 7. Needless to say, I did not feel like blogging yesterday. More on that later…

Mostly quick links today:

First of all, be sure to check all my slideshows of pics from SXSW over at Nashville Cream. I had a blast, even if I did catch the SXSW Cold Virus of Death on saturday.

Also on the Cream, round one of the Mercy Lounge’s Road to Bonnaroo 8 off 8th contest happened last night, and apparently the Features won by one single vote, edging out Kindercastle. Phew. I do like Kindercastle, but I have to say that the Features deserve it more, even if they do get stuck in some tiny side tent playing at noon while everyone’s still nursing their hangovers. They’ve been at this since 1994, and are probably the tightest, best live act in this city.

The New York Times has an interesting article about the extreme branding/marketing/advertising involved with SXSW.

Those Darlins did a Daytrotter session back in January. I guess they don’t always post these right after they’re recorded… I honestly never paid that much attention before though.

Local bloggers Janet Timmons (Out the Other) and Glenn Peoples (Coolfer.com) were both mentioned in a Reuters article about the blogging panel held on Thursday of SXSW.

Ok enough SXSW junk….

Kottke.org highlights a survey that reaveals the average American citizen’s ignorance of basic science. I find it absolutely pathetic and appalling that only 53% of Americans know how long it takes the earth to complete one revolution around the Sun. But it doesn’t surprise me.

Alaska’s Redoubt volcano finally erupted last night after weeks of rumbling. Seismologists have been expecting an eruption for at least a month now. It’s good to see that our prediction methods are at least somewhat accurate.

The entire Cosmos Series, hosted by Carl Sagan, is now available on Hulu. I will be watching them soon. It’s sad that I can only recall seeing one or two episodes…

I hate mosquitoes. They are the bane of my existence. In my opinion, the world would be a better place if they did not exist at all. They do nothing but reproduce uncontrollably and bite people… and animals. That’s why I was very pleased to read this article about a high-tech laser system that targets and kills them. Yes, you heard right- a mosquito-killing laser weapon. This will probably only be used in areas where mosquito-spread disease is a major problem, but we can hope for it, right?

The Space Shuttle Discovery has been attached to the ISS for several days now, and the astronauts have successfully attached the final set of solar panels, which will give the station enough power to support the new crew size of 6-7 astronauts. You can watch live coverage, including footage from onboard the shuttle and the space station, on NASA TV.

Finally, I have some sad personal news to report. My cat Sherman had to be put to sleep this morning. I know it seems lame, but to avoid having to explain the whole story over and over again, I posted a facebook note about it that read as follows:

I’m sad to say that my cat Sherman had to be put to sleep this morning. I’m telling this story on here so that I don’t have to do it 100 times for everyone I know.

We arrived back in nashville from my SXSW trip at 6am monday morning, just barely in time for me to get ready for work at 7. I found him lying on the floor unable to move. He was still yowling, however, so I rushed him to the vet. We discovered that he had a urinary blockage and had been unable to urinate for at least a few days. (Probably since friday, because that’s the day Megan checked on him & he was ok.) This caused his kidneys to malfunction and thus his body was unable to get rid of toxins. He was so near death when I found him that the vet told me there was little hope for him, but I had to at least try to save him. They put him on an IV, relieved the blockage, and put him on a heating pad. His condition improved slightly, but this morning he was unable to control his bladder, showed no interest in food or water, and was still unable to walk or stand. It was obvious that the odds of him recovering were too small for it to be worth the continued suffering it would put him through. So I made the decision to end his suffering. It was a hard choice but it gives me relief to know that he’s no longer suffering.

If you have a male cat 3 years or older, be wary of their urinary habits. This only occurs in male cats, and it’s due to the chemical makeup of cat urine and its tendancy to crystallize. When that happens in their urethra, it causes a blockage. When you can’t pee, it causes major problems VERY quickly. Can you imagine not being able to pee even for 12 hours? If your male cat constantly goes to the litter box but seems to just scratch around a lot, or you notice him squatting but not really doing much, that’s a sign that he might have a blockage problem, and it needs to be treated FAST.