Part of Wright brothers’ 1st airplane on NASA’s Mars chopper

“Wilbur and Orville Wright would be pleased to know that a little piece of their 1903 Wright Flyer I, the machine that launched the Space Age by barely one quarter of a mile, is going to soar into history again on Mars!” Amanda Wright Lane and Stephen Wright said in a statement provided by the park. Orville Wright was on board for the world’s first powered, controlled flight on Dec.…

A computer scientist urges more support for the humanities (opinion)

“Lior Shamir, a computer scientist who’s actively participated in efforts to increase participation in STEM fields, now wonders if she’s been on the wrong side.” The theme of those academic meetings has been rather consistent: we must reach out to those lost souls who chose to study the humanities or social sciences and show them the light of STEM. But as time has passed, and the deeper and more sophisticated…

Infrared photo confirms Munch wrote “madman” inscription first noticed in 1904

“Kan kun være malet af en gal Mand!” (“Can only have been painted by a madman!”) appears on Norwegian artist Edvard Munch’s most famous painting The Scream. Infrared images at Norway’s National Museum in Oslo recently confirmed that Munch himself wrote this note. The inscription has always been visible to the naked eye, but the infrared images helped to more clearly distinguish the writing from its background. Comparing it with the artist’s handwriting…

Mars Is a Hellhole: Colonizing the red planet is a ridiculous way to help humanity.

Some of Elon Musk’s stunts have caught my attention. He was involved in founding the company that became PayPal (which I use from time to time, to accept freelance payments and to pay other freelancers), and I can see a lot of people would benefit from the high-speed train systems he has advocated, but I have never been inspired by anything he says. In The Atlantic, Shannon Stirone does a…

NASA’s Perseverance lander brought some Easter eggs with it to Mars

It’s a bit of a stretch to call this Teddy Roosevelt quote “encoded,” but it’s still fun to notice. We’re told to be on the lookout for more surprises as the mission develops. Systems engineer Ian Clark used a binary code to spell out “Dare Mighty Things” in the orange and white strips of the 70-foot (21-meter) parachute. Only about six people knew about the encoded message before Thursday’s landing,…

NASA! Mars!! Panorama!!! Video!!!! Audio!!!!!

New video from NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover chronicles major milestones during the final minutes of its entry, descent, and landing (EDL) on the Red Planet on Feb. 18 as the spacecraft plummeted, parachuted, and rocketed toward the surface of Mars. A microphone on the rover also has provided the first audio recording of sounds from Mars. From the moment of parachute inflation, the camera system covers the entirety of…

Fact check: You can safely ignore that “HOW TO FIGHT COVID AT HOME” meme

I noticed this meme a few days ago. I recognized the “friend of a friend who has insider knowledge” formula that makes people want to share a memes. I know better than to trust anonymous online sources that claim to have special knowledge, so I just re-read what the CDC says and moved on. Here are links to what the CDC says: Symptoms of coronavirus How to protect yourself How…

Swiss cheese metaphor for fighting the pandemic: “Multiple Layers Improve Success”

The anti-maskers are right when they say masks aren’t 100% effective. The pro-face-touchers are right when they say not touching your face isn’t enough. The bar-hoppers and close-talkers and eaters-in-crowded-diners are right when they say social distancing alone won’t stop the spread of a pandemic. The “98.2% survival rate” crowd is right that most people who get COVID-19 don’t die. But the more steps each of us takes (staying home;…

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First Contact (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season Four, Episode 15)

Rewatching ST:TNG This flipside episode, told entirely from the viewpoint of a civilization on the verge of discovering warp drive technology, documents a visit from members of a federation of space-faring aliens who wear brightly colored pajamas. An ER team with serious forehead bumps admits a patient with serious head injuries. They are first confused, then shocked at how different he is from them. (It is a bumpy-headed Riker, in…

We Had the Vaccine the Whole Time

You may be surprised to learn that of the trio of long-awaited coronavirus vaccines, the most promising, Moderna’s mRNA-1273, which reported a 94.5 percent efficacy rate on November 16, had been designed by January 13. This was just two days after the genetic sequence had been made public in an act of scientific and humanitarian generosity that resulted in China’s Yong-Zhen Zhang’s being temporarily forced out of his lab. In Massachusetts,…

NASA finally makes contact with Voyager 2 after longest radio silence in 30 years

I was thrilled as a middle-schooler to stay up late watching PBS coverage of science types poring over printouts of the images arriving from Voyager 1 and 2’s visits to Jupiter and Saturn in 79-81, and visits to Uranus and Neptune in the late 80s. The Star Wars and Star Trek movie franchises were in high gear, Carl Sagan became a household name, and everywhere NASA was hyping how the…

Scientists thought only male birds sang – until women joined the research

For more than 150 years, scientists have considered bird song to be an exclusively male trait, but female scientists have changed that. Americans often idealize scientists as unbiased, objective observers. But scientists are affected by conscious and unconscious biases, just as people in other fields are. Studies of birds’ vocal behavior clearly show how research approaches can be affected by the people who do the work. —theconversation.com

What is a COVID-19 compliance supervisor? What to know about Hollywood’s newest job

In the wake of the pandemic, the entertainment industry created a new position on set to help keep outbreaks at bay. […] The demands of the job are big: sanitization, testing, safety equipment and distancing. Cast and crew are split into different zones, based on the frequency of testing and ability to wear masks. The compliance supervisor is responsible for making sure these groups don’t mix and has to intervene…

COVID-19 Becoming Less Deadly

Bits and pieces from a news article that summarizes recent scholarly studies. Some  moderately good news, and a reminder that increased testing means finding more cases, and finding them earlier, which means people get medical treatment sooner. (More testing means less suffering and fewer deaths. For those of us who care about such things.) Over the course of the pandemic the death rate in people diagnosed with COVID-19 (the case-fatality…

Destroying trust in the media, science, and government has left America vulnerable to disaster

From The Brookings Institution (non-profit, deeply sourced factual writing; has been accused of both conservative and liberal bias; is cited in Congress about equally by conservative and liberal politicians; leans a bit left in terms of loaded language): American institutions are not perfect, of course. We all should want to improve scientific practices, remove bias from news coverage, and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of government. But a crisis like…

Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs broke the story of Hope Hicks’s COVID-19 Infection

Those darned reporters. Always publishing newsworthy facts of national importance that powerful people would rather keep silent. When Hicks tested positive, she worried about others around her who might be infected, too, but the White House sought to keep that information from the public. Without Jennifer Jacobs, a dogged Bloomberg reporter who broke the story about Hicks’s illness, the world might still be in the dark about the sickness sweeping…

NINE officials have COVID-19 after ‘superspreader’ SCOTUS event

So negative! Why does the lying America-hating fake news media keep publishing stories that make Trump look bad? Where are the reports about superspreader events in the Obama White House? Where are the stories about Obama’s family members and staff ostentatiously refusing to take precautions that their own medical experts recommended that all Americans take? Were are the annotated photos of Obama standing in front of a cluster of unmasked,…

Here’s How the Pandemic Finally Ends

This is the end of the coronavirus pandemic. And this is how it could happen in the United States: By November 2021, most Americans have received two doses of a vaccine that, while not gloriously effective, fights the disease in more cases than not. Meanwhile, Americans continue to wear masks and avoid large gatherings, and the Covid-19 numbers drop steadily after a series of surges earlier in the year. Eventually,…