Credit: NASA

First of all, I must make the point that these solar flares and coronal mass ejections we’re talking about will NOT harm us. At most, these can cause disruptions with satellite communications, but nothing more. On Sunday the sun belched forth an M-class (medium) solar flare with earth in the crosshairs. The stream of charged particles from the eruption is expected to reach earth sometime late tonight, and could create auroral displays visible as far south as the great lakes area. The sun is capable of flares much more powerful, that would create auroras visible all the way down here in TN, but they’re rare. I do expect there to be one or two of that magnitude in the next few years, however, as the sun is climbing toward its next period of maximum sunspot activity, known as solar maximum. It is possible that tonight’s flare could be more powerful than expected, and the resulting aurorae visible this far south, but it’s highly unlikely. If you’re in Canada or the northern US, however, I recommend going outside and looking north tonight. You just might get a treat. (Via space.com and spaceweather.com)

UPDATE: Apparently this same sunspot region produced another, more powerful flare last night. This time it was an X-class flare, though still not powerful enough to cause aurorae visible this far south. (Via Bad Astronomy)

Obama’s proposed budget for 2012 is basically in direct opposition to the Republicans’ ideas. The biggest area of contention will no doubt be science and education spending. Obama wants to boost funding for most everything science-related, which I applaud of course. But of course, Republicans want to make huge cuts in most everything science-related. It’s incredibly sad that most Republicans these days take such anti-science, anti-reality stances on issues. These proposed budgets are simply the beginnings of what will likely be a long, knock-down drag-out battle between the White House and Congress, and I hope there can be some concessions that will allow us to continue to grow in the areas of education and technology without vastly increasing the national debt. Granted, even a modest cut in the defense budget would probably take care of all these problems, but will that ever happen? Hell no. (Via NewScientist) Also, check out this nice infographic created by LiveScience.

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What I’m saying here has been said many times already since the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, but it bears repeating as many times as possible: stop pointing fingers and end the bitter and hateful climate of politics that’s taken hold of this country. The most important thing is to refrain from automatically associating this shooting with the famous graphic on Sarah Palin’s website and/or the violent rhetoric that’s been tweeted and otherwise shared by prominent right-wing figures. The authorities still don’t know exactly what motivated Jared Loughner to do what he did. The only thing that seems to be certain is that he was mentally ill in some regard. In times like these, rampant emotion and kneejerk reactions are just the kind of things that can snowball and lead to even more violence. Logic and reason are absolutely critical. Until there is factual evidence that Loughner was incited to this violence by the right-wing rhetoric, we cannot make that claim. We must also refrain from blaming Sarah Palin or any other political figure. The only answer to this problem is reconciliation and compromise between the major political parties of this country. Both parties must open their minds and listen to each other, make some compromises, and work together to extinguish the flames of hatred rather than fan them.

My love for Camera Obscura is endless. You can imagine my delight when I found an email from their listserv in my inbox yesterday containing info about their brand-spanking new website and FREEEEE mp3 of the title track from the new album, My Maudlin Career. Oh thank you Tracyanne & Co. for finally giving me something new to latch onto. If this song is a good indication of what the rest of the album will sound like, then it will be everything I hoped for. This track is full of fluttering piano runs drenched in cavernous reverb that flirt with Tracyanne’s beautiful Scottish croon in the most perfect way. GET IT. LOVE IT.
Camera Obscura-My Maudlin Career

I don’t know how I missed out on Fruit Tree Music, the blog of my old college friend Jon Arnold for this long…. He does a lot of great audio production work with one of my all-time favorite electronic musicians, Matt Pusti, as well as the Protomen and many other great locals. The cool thing about it is that he posts clips from almost everything he works on. Check it out.

I’ve recently discovered the blog Hipster Runoff. Their coverage of the Grammys is priceless. Just go. Apathy and snark. Snark and apathy.

Looks like Abe decided to get a punk rock hairdo not long before his assassination. The image links to the Library of Congress’ flickr stream. Yes, the Library of Congress has a flickr. How cool is that? Via Kottke.org.

Speaking of politics, unless you’ve been living under a rock, or aren’t from TN, then you know that the TN House of Representatives has been through some turmoil lately. Well, the Republicans finally decided to kick out Kent Williams, the guy who upset their plans for Jason Mumpower to become Speaker of the House, and an extreme conservative takeover. So we now have 49 democrats, 49 republicans, and Kent Williams. It could be worse? Via Nashville Is Talking.

Now for some national political humor…. Clips taken out of context from Obama’s self-narrated audiobook version of Dreams From My Father. Via Yewknee.

Just in case you didn’t know how incredibly unhealthy soft drinks are, read this article from Mercola.com. I don’t agree with everything this guy posts… in fact some of it is a little too “conspiracy theory” for me. And he’s somewhat of an antivaxxer (people who claim that vaccines cause autism- read more about them here), which is appalling, but some of the stuff on his website is good.

Good news on the Large Hadron Collider. They expect it to be operational again in September and hopefully will start collisions in October. I really hope some ground-breaking discoveries happen as a result of this enormous and fascinating piece of technology.

Bush’s last stunt

January 20, 2009

In an unprecedented move, President Bush signed his last executive order- repealing the English language. Via Andy Borowitz, via Kottke.org.

Now, go watch the Inauguration. CNN.com has a live stream, along with Hulu, and all the major networks. I hope everyone else isn’t having as hard of a time as I am getting used to the idea of actually liking the president.