31 March 2017

Look at Saturn's North Pole

From Gizmodo, an article by Maddie Stone about Saturn:

Recently, Gizmodo space writer Rae Paoletta called Saturn “the golden retriever of the solar system,” and I’m not here to dispute that characterization. But it was a lot easier to think of Saturn as a golden retriever when the planet’s defining hue was, y’know, gold. Not blu, and especially not electric, alien proto-molecule-blue.
Some incredible new shots of the atmospheric vortex at the center of Saturn’s north polar hexagon were captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft this week, and brought to our attention in a tweet by space enthusiast Jason Major. The images were snapped during the latest of Cassini’s ring-grazing orbits, which have so far yielded stunning glimpses of Saturn’s rings, and its delightfully pasta-shaped moons. And now this.
Major compiled the image from raw data that was posted to Cassini’s image archive yesterday. “If I see something interesting and it also happens to have been captures in visible-light color channels, I assemble a color version in Photoshop to see what the awesome level is,” Major told Gizmodo over Twitter. “That vortex pic was a ten.”
In case you were wondering, below is what the same polar vortex— a twelve-hundred mile-wide hurricane that sits at the center of a much larger six-sided jet stream, often referred to as Saturn’s hexagon— looked like last October. There’s a hint of cerulean toward the center, but if the new image (which has not been validated or calibrated by NASA) is to be believed, things have gotten a tad more dramatic up north over the past few months. Major has been documenting some of the recent changes to the vortex on his blog.
This wouldn’t be the first time Saturn has displayed uncanny, chameleon-like abilities. In fact, the image above is pulled from a press release NASA issued last October, which noted a striking color change across the entire north polar hexagon from 2012 to 2016. NASA has hypothesized that the color change between 2012 to 2016 was due to “increased production of photochemical hazes in the atmosphere as the north pole approaches summer solstice in May of 2017.” In other words, as Saturn’s north pole tilted sunward, interactions between sunlight and atmospheric compounds that produce haze started increasing, changing the hexagon’s overall hue. As Kunio Sayanagi of the Cassini Imaging team noted in 2013, the hexagon acts as a particle barrier “like Earth’s ozone hole”. It’s difficult for bits of the atmosphere to cross in and out, so any chemical changes within the hexagon tend to stay within the hexagon.
At least, that’s the best explanation scientists have come up with so far. It could also be aliens, judging from the level of excitement on space Twitter.
At a talk I attended at the American Geophysical Union’s annual conference in San Francisco, California last December, Hampton University planetary scientist John Blalock reaffirmed that, while Saturn’s north polar vortex is indeed blue, the rest of the hexagon is definitely yellow these days.
“When we look from 2012 to 2016, the hexagon is maybe a little brighter, but the interior and especially the doughnut region at the center looks brighter,” Blalock said, adding later in the talk that the “brightening is consistent with an increase in the production of photochemical haze products in the upper atmosphere.”
I’ve reached out to Blalock and Sayanagi to see if their thinking on this matter has evolved since December, and I’ll update this post if and when I hear back. I’ve also reached out to NASA to see if the agency has any fresh thoughts on Saturn’s electrifying shade.
In the meanwhile, buckle up, Earthlings, because Cassini still has another six and a half months of daredevil maneuvers left, which promise to bring us some of the most stunning planetary portraits humanity has ever seen.
Rico says the Universe continues to amaze...

Could Michael Flynn turn on Trump?

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Ghosts of Time: Normandy then and now UF

From War History Online, photos of Normandy, France in 1944 and now, from Ghosts of Time:


Rico says the fascination with World War Two ain't over... (And, speaking of which, we're still driving cars from the Forties:




Blade Runner 2

Blade Runner is getting a remake:

Rico says he'll see it, especially since Harrison Ford makes an appearance...

Flight of the Phoenix, the original


Rico says it's a classic.

History for the day: 1968: Johnson won't run

On 31 March 1968, President Lyndon Johnson stunned the country by announcing he would not run for another term of office.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX makes history by launching a ‘flight-proven’ rocket

From The Washington Post:


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In Mexico, a man was cleared of raping a girl because he acted without ‘carnal intent’

From The Washington Post:


Rico says he's heard a lot of ludicrous justifications before, but this takes the cake...

30 March 2017

Colbert knows why Trump won't throw out the first pitch on opening day

From Esquire:

Rico says that Colbert is, rightfully, relentless...

High-tech hope for the hard of hearing

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Not slaves, just poor

The New York Times has an article by Liam Stack about how our Irish immigrants were different from our black slaves:
It has shown up on Irish trivia Facebook pages, in Scientific American magazine, and on white nationalist message boards: the little-known story of the Irish slaves who built America, who are sometimes said to have outnumbered and been treated worse than slaves from Africa. But it’s not true.
Historians say the idea of Irish slaves is based on a misreading of history and that the distortion is often politically motivated. Far-right memes have taken off online and are used as racist barbs against African-Americans. “The Irish were slaves, too,” the memes often say. “We got over it, so why can’t you?”
A small group of Irish and American scholars has spent years pushing back on the false history. Last year, eighty Irish scholars and writers signed an open letter denouncing the Irish slave myth and asking publications to stop mentioning it. Some complied, removing or revising articles that referenced the false claims, but the letter’s impact was limited. 
A meme made from a 1908 Barbados photograph (above) uses several false claims about Irish-American history to criticize African-Americans.
The Irish slave narrative is based on the misinterpretation of the history of indentured servitude, which is how many poor Europeans migrated to North America and the Caribbean in the early colonial period, historians said.
Without a doubt, life was bad for indentured servants. They were often treated brutally. and not all of them entered servitude willingly. Some were political prisoners. Some were children.
“I’m not saying it was pleasant or anything— it was the opposite— but it was a completely different category from slavery,” said Liam Hogan, a research librarian in Ireland who has spearheaded the debunking effort. “It was a transitory state.”
The legal differences between indentured servitude and chattel slavery were profound, according to Matthew Reilly, an archaeologist who studies Barbados. Unlike slaves, servants were considered legally human. Their servitude was based on a contract that limited their service to a finite period of time, usually about seven years, in exchange for passage to the colonies. They did not pass their unfree status on to descendants.
Contemporary accounts in Ireland sometimes referred to these people as slaves, Mr. Hogan said. That was true in the sense that any form of coerced labor can be described as slavery, from ancient Rome to modern-day human trafficking. But, in colonial America and the Caribbean, the word “slavery” had a specific legal meaning. Europeans, by definition, were not included in it.
“An indenture implies two people have entered into a contract with each other, but slavery is not a contract,” said Leslie Harris, a professor of African-American history at Northwestern University. “It is often about being a prisoner of war or being bought or sold bodily as part of a trade. That is a critical distinction.”
The memes sometimes pop up in apolitical settings, like history trivia websites, but their recent spread has mirrored escalating racial and political tension in the United States, Hogan said. Central to the memes is the notion that historians and the media are covering up the truth. He said he has received death threats from Americans for his work.
“These memes are the number one derailment people use when they talk about the slave trade,” he said. “Look in any race-related or slavery-related news story from the last two years and someone will mention it in the comments.”
The memes often have common elements: the false claim that Irish people were enslaved in America or the Caribbean after the 1649 British invasion of Ireland led by Oliver Cromwell; the false claim that Irish slaves were cheaper and treated worse than African slaves; the false claim that Irish women were forcibly “bred” with black men.
Some of them are easy to disprove. Many of the memes use photographs, including of Holocaust victims or twentieth century child laborers, to illustrate events they claim happened in the seventeenth century, long before the invention of photography. Many reference a nonexistent 1625 proclamation by King James II, who was not born until 1633.
They often hijack specific atrocities committed against black slaves and substitute Irish people for the actual victims. A favorite event to use is the 1781 Zong massacre, in which over a hundred African slaves were thrown to their deaths from a slave ship.
InfoWars, the far-right conspiracy site favored by President Trump, is one site that has falsely claimed Irish people were the victims of the Zong massacre, whose death toll it inflated by adding a zero to the end.
“It almost becomes a race to the bottom of who suffered more,” Reilly said, adding that the memes are “an effort to claim a certain ancestry of suffering in order to claim a certain political position.”
The white slavery narrative has long been a staple of the far right, but it became specifically Irish after the publication in 2000 of To Hell or Barbados: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ireland, a book by the late journalist Sean O’Callaghan, which Hogan and others have said was shoddily researched. It received positive reviews in Ireland, however, and was widely read there.
In America, the book connected the white slave narrative to an influential ethnic group of over 34 million people, many of whom had been raised on stories of Irish rebellion against Britain and tales of anti-Irish bias in America at the turn of the twentieth century. From there, it took off.
O’Callaghan’s work was repeated or repackaged on Irish genealogy websites, in a popular online essay, and in articles in publications like Scientific American and The Daily Kos. The claims also appeared on IrishCentral, a leading Irish-American news website, where many of the Facebook comments were critical of African-Americans.
The memes became popular on white nationalist message boards, neo-Nazi websites and far-right sites like InfoWars. On social media, they are primarily a creature of Facebook, where they have been shared millions of times.
Ireland has a long history of verifiable tragedies: centuries of British occupation, famine, emigration and sectarian violence. Three decades of armed conflict in Northern Ireland ended only in 1998, and paramilitary violence has intermittently flared ever since.
Hogan said it was upsetting for many Irish people to see that history “used as a weapon” by Americans who claim a connection to the country. He said that for some people, it seemed like the meme was “replacing the actual history of their Irish heritage”.
It is true that anti-Irish sentiment was present in the United States until well into the twentieth century, but that is a separate issue from seventeenth century indentured servitude, Harris said. The descendants of indentured servants, Irish or otherwise, did not face a legacy of racism similar to the one faced by people of African descent, she said. Nevertheless, she called the meme’s existence unsurprising. “There has been a huge backlash against talking about slavery that continues to this day,” she said, not to mention Jim Crow and other forms of discrimination against blacks that “grew out of enslavement.”
“This continued misuse of Irish history devalues the real history,” Hogan said. “There are libraries filled with all the bad things that actually did happen. We don’t need memes and these dodgy articles full of lies.”
Rico says his friend Kema (who is black) sent him this article; Rico says he loathes memes....

Trump's lucky

Rico says that Trump is lucky that Rico's mother is dead, because she'd be tempted to whack him over his cancellation of Meals on Wheels; she was a founding mother of the organization when we lived in California...

Not yet

Rico says it was someone else's wedding, but some day...

Who is ‘Source D’? The man said to be behind the Trump-Russia dossier’s most salacious claim.

From from The Washington Post:

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