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Armageddon – For real this time March 17, 2010

Posted by psmc in America, Armageddon, astronomy, Comets, Enviroment, Evolution, Explosions, history, Mayan Prophecy, Mayans, Moon, Science, Sun.
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There has been a lot of Doomsday talk lately.  Actually there has ALWAYS been a lot of Doomsday talk. I’m pretty sure there were some early cavemen were convinced the Ice Age was the end of the world. However, it WAS for the end for Neanderthals, so they had a point back then. But ever since then, all the Doomsday talk has never seemed to have panned out. After all we are all still here, more or less. 

I am fairly certain, that on the date in question nothing will happen. Except that my godson Jacob will turn 21. Especially after a Mayan elder stated he was fed up with all those questions about 2012 http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/10/12/ap/strange/main5378465.shtml . Apparently, present-day Mayans are unaware the world is to end in 2012. When questioned, most Mayans will have no idea what you are talking about. They have more concrete concerns like their crops and the rain. But then one should be suspicious since it is only Westerners, usually ones that have expensive books to sell or pricy workshops that need attending, that talk about it.

However new evidence has come to light there is an Apocalypse coming. But it has nothing to do with the Mayans or any prophet climbing out of a well.

The satellite Hipparcos recently identified that a star, Gliese 710, is on a collision, or near collision, with the Solar System. Current estimates state the closest approach it will be .15 light years away. This is extremely close in terms of stellar distances. It is as if you were standing on a road and a large truck sped past you and missed you by 6 inches.

An actual collision is extremely remote, however there will be the gravitational effects to deal with. Gliese 710 will pass through the hypothetical Oort cloud. The Oort cloud is a sphere of comets and other debris left over after the Solar System formed. It is thought to extend out to 2 light years. We could be talking about a lot of comets being disturbed. If they are there, then there could be hundreds, if not thousand, of comets sent hurtling towards the Sun, and by extension us. And we all know what happened to the dinosaurs when something similar struck the Earth.

However there is no need to get into a panic just yet. First, the Oort Cloud is only hypothetical, it may not even exist. Second, some astronomers have models that indicate that if the Oort cloud does exist the chance of impact increases by only 5%. And third, and most importantly, this won’t occur for 1.5 million years. So we have some breathing room. This should give us some time to figure what, if anything, we should do. However if our descendents are anything like us, they probably won’t do anything at all until it is too late.

Up in the sky…It’s a bird..It’s a plane…It’s 17/P Holmes 2007 !! October 31, 2007

Posted by psmc in astronomy, Comets, Explosions, Science.
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Nature is putting on an impromptu and impressive display for us to enjoy.  Well, for us in he Northern Hemisphere.  Sorry Lisa, Lou and the rest of Australia.  Comet Holmes, first seen in 1892, has suddenly brightened from a visual magnitude 10 to a visual magnitude 3.  For those of you not familiar with astronomical magnitudes, this means the comet suddenly brightened  630 times.   In astronomy the SMALLER the magnitude number the brighter it is, for example the Sun has a magnitude of -27.  Also visual magnitude refers to how bright it seems to us.  Comet Holmes is now on the part of its orbit that will carry it away from the Sun, so it will get progressively dimmer, eventually fading from view.

Finding this comet is relatively easy.  Look for Casseiopeia, it appears as a misshapen W, M, E or 3 depending on its orientation. Once you find it, look at the two stars that form the second leg of the W.  Then continue the is leg DOWN from the W.  The next group of stars you will come to is the Constellation Perseus.  In fact line will pass right by Comet Holmes, at it will for the next week or so.  It will appear starlike to the the naked or  perhaps a bit fuzzy depending on how dark and clear you location is.  It will also have a yellowish tint to it.  It is more impressive in even a modest pair of binoculars.  It will appear a large fuzzy, yellowish dot.  The comet rises early and is visible throughout the night.

Comets are ephemeral by nature so its appearance can and most likely will change as time goes on.  If you get a chance, go out and look for it.  It should be visible and relatively easy to find for the next month or so.  If you like what you saw or didn’t get a chance to see it it will be back in August 0f 2013.  Hopefully it will be brighter on its return than it was this time. Since there is a good chance that most of the material placed into its coma by this recent outburst will still be present on its return.

Siberia Farts September 19, 2007

Posted by psmc in Al Gore, biology, Carbon Emissions, Enviroment, Global Warming, greenhouse gases, mammoths, methane, permafrost, Science, siberia.
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Paleontologists believe that prehistoric hunters, along with climate changes, led to the extinction of the mammoth and the mastodon. It now looks, according to one Russian scientist, that these shaggy cousins of the elephant are going to have the last laugh on us.

There is one threat to the environment that has been overlooked by Al Gore and the others, Mammoth Dung. Apparently Siberia is covered in it. Well that and other organic matter from the Ice Age.

Currently all this pachyderm poop is safely ensconced, frozen into the tundra. However, it is warming up. When it does thaw out it will start to decay. This decay could potentially release vast amounts of greenhouse gases, primarily methane, into the atmosphere. Methane is the combustible gas in flatulence. Basically, Siberia will be farting.

How much is estimated to be there? Current estimates state that the activities of man release approximately 7 billion tons of carbon annually. The amount of carbon that is locked up in the tundra is approximately 500 billion tons. That is equivalent to 71 years 5 months and 4 days of man’s activities.

We are not in immediate danger though. A recent report published by Dr. Norman Page of the British Climate Research Unit, indicates that the warming may not be as drastic as previously thought and has questioned the validity of climate models used by more alarmist members of the environmental community. Dr. Page’s report is NOT based on the fact that there was a spike in 1998 and that the warming since then has been less than the 1998 peak. Nor does Dr. Page make any claim of that global warming stopped. The study’s results question previous models and the role CO2 plays in global warming.

However, we are still warming and eventually those massive melting mounds of mammoth manure will decay. If you should happen to notice a rather pungent odor wafting in on the North Wind, you may want to rethink your trip to Vail or Aspen. Also, be careful with open flames.


Dragon Will Devour the Moon August 20, 2007

Posted by psmc in astronomy, Moon, Science, Sun.
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On August 28 there will be a total lunar eclipse. For those living in the eastern US the eclipse begins at 3:54 AM EDT.  But you really won’t notice anything until the Moon starts to enter the umbra, or main shadow at 4:50 AM. Totality starts at 5:52 AM EDT. This will last for nearly 90 minutes. Which means that for people on the East Caost the moon will set still undergoing eclipse.

For those who like to rise early in the Central Time zone for an early morning jog will be treated to seeing eclipsed moon. During totality the color of the moon darkens to a deep blood red, but in some years it has darken even more.  Each eclipse is slightly different.

For people in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Hawaii will be able to see the entire eclipse.  Provided the weather cooperates.  For those in the UK, Europe and Africa will not see it.  Sorry Kathy.

Two weeks later, on September 11 there will be solar eclipse.  However it will be a partial solar eclipse and will be visible from western South America and Antarctica.

Evolution on Talk Radio August 14, 2007

Posted by psmc in biology, Coast to Coast AM, Evolution, paranormal, religion, Science, Society, Uncategorized.


Before I continue, a disclaimer. I am not a Biologist nor am I an Anthropologist. My degree is in Mathematics with extensive coursework in Physics and Computer Science. And for most of my career I have been working with computers. Needless to say, I have a firm grasp of the principles Logic and of the Scientific Method. I have taken courses in Biology and Anthropology and have been very fortunate to have good friends and a few roommates who were anthropologists and have had many discussions with them on this subject. Sometimes, the best education one can get is having a lively discussion with knowledgeable people in a field over beer and pizza. The point I am making however is that one need not be a PhD candidate in a field in order to understand concepts that are fundamental to that field.

The other night I was listening to an overnight national radio show that specializes in the Paranormal, UFOs and other things that go bump in the night. They had a small piece on new hominid fossil finds that seem to put the time lines of the emergence of certain hominid species into question. The host was interviewing an individual while a biologist, did not seem to be one that agreed with Sir Darwin. The host seemed very excited and was eager to know if this discovery signaled the final death knell for Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. To be honest, he never used those words, but the tenor of hos voice iimplied he was hoping it was so. He also wanted to know that since this discovery totally invalidates Evolution (which it doesn’t) does it mean that Intelligent Design is the only theory left that makes any sense.

Normally, I try to ignore these comments and questions. I understand that they are frequently made out of ignorance and are usually designed to generate interest amongst the listeners which leads to higher ratings (ie more money). But for some reason, this interview was, for me, the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Is it so hard for a nationally broadcast program with one of the largest listening audiences in US and Canada, if not the world, to find an accredited expert in the field of Biology to explain WHAT Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is? Especially when they like to make the claim they are trying to enlighten the minds of the listening audience. I also wished that they would interview their guests more aggressively.

This scientist they were talking to made a statement that was patently false and it went unchallenged. He claimed we have NEVER seen new species evolved. Well, where the heck are all these drug-resistant strains of bacteria coming from? How did AIDS arise? Is it just a coincidence there’s a similar virus that affects the other species of primates?

It’s clear that there are many critics and doubters of Darwin and his theory. It’s also clear that many of these people have no idea what his theory is, yet they oppose it just the same. And a lot of these people vote as well. Although I am sure that they decide ballot issues with more thought than they oppose Evolution.

I just find it particularly, well, immoral, for this radio program to do this. They claim that they want to inform and educate their listeners. (How is educating a person different than informing them?) Yet, they don’t seem to educate themselves on what they are talking about. I don’t care if they support Evolution, Intelligent Design or full blown Creationism. They can say and support any theory or no theory. All I ask is that they get reasonably informed on a subject before they attempt to trash it.

Star Light Star Bright….. August 11, 2007

Posted by psmc in astronomy, Enviroment, Science, Uncategorized.
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During the next three weeks, we will be treated to, hopefully, two rather impressive meteor showers.

First are the Perseids. This is one of the two most prominent and dependable meteor showers of the year. This year the peak of the Perseids, Aug 12-13, corresponds to a New Moon. This means the moon will not interfere with the observing of any meteors since it wont be in the sky. The rate at which metewros are expected tofall will build over the weekend: 30 per hour on Saturday morning; 45 per hour on Sunday morning and 80 per hour on Monday morning.

Best results are in the dark skies after midnight. Don’ t be discouraged if you can’ t stay up past midnight. They will be observable all night long. The hourly rate won’t be as high as it is before midnight as it is after midnight. But it should be higher than a typical night. If you are clouded out on these nights, the Persieds are a meteor shower that persists for a week or so so you should be able to see some decent displays for the whole week.

The second meteor shower, however is not as dependable. It is called the Alpha Aurigids an will peak on September 1. This is a rather sporadic, ie unpredictable, meteor shower that has only made an three impressive showings in the last century, in 1935, 1986 and 1994. The scientist who has studied the comet from which these meteors come from has determined this should be a good year for them, in fact the best for the next 50 years. It is expected they will appear at a rate of 200 per hour and will be green in color.

It turns out the pre-dawn skies of North America on September 1st will be the best place to see them. So if you live in a place with dark skies, like rural Alabama or some such place, then you can expect a nice show on this night, as well as on the Aug 12-14.

Is it warm here? July 19, 2007

Posted by psmc in Al Gore, America, Enviroment, humor, Politics, Science.
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Yes, another blog on the ever-changing climate. I’m not going to concentrate on who is right and whose science is valid. Rather my major concern is that the politicians aren’t doing anything other than making political hay, though this probably indicates that both sides realize their arguments are based on not-so-certain conclusions facts.

It seems certain that, at least in the short term, the climate is getting warmer. This will cause changes, if only in the short run, mainly the raising sea levels and changing weather patterns. Instead of working on plans to mitigate the inundation of major cities or where we will put populations of displaced people our illustrious political leaders would rather argue who or what is at fault and/or how we can reduce our carbon footprint.

No, they rather put on global rock concerts, tell us to use one sheet of toilet paper and have us buy carbon credits. They should be thinking of ways to protect cities like New York and Miami. Or where to put the people who now live on the coast when their homes are gone. Or how we will get water when droughts become more common. Let alone talk to other world leaders of what to do when entire countries like, Bangladesh virtually disappear.
At least the polar bears have a plan.