Maps of the Universe

14 October 2016

Abysses beyond imagination… and beyond.

One of my great discoveries on the early Internet was the amount of information about the Milky Way. I hadn’t come across anything that really described its size, behaviour, composition, and our place in all of that. However, back about 2005 or so, I devoured information about it, and as I did so, more and more new discoveries were made.

I recently discovered this love site, Pics About Space, where much of what I had been learning has been visualized. Now that we have 1-2 trillion galaxies in mind, I look forward to new images.


It’s Full of Stars

13 October 2016

The more we know, the more we know we don’t know, y’know?

Apparently, a census of the visible universe has been collated, tabulated, and our earlier estimates of the number of galaxies was off. A bit.

via Gizmodo:

The observable universe—that is, the part of the universe that’s visible to us on Earth—contains 10 to 20 times as many galaxies than previous estimates. That raises the total to somewhere between one and two trillion galaxies, which is up from the previous best estimate of 100 billion galaxies. Consequently, this means we also have to update the number of stars in the observable universe, which now numbers around 700 sextillion (that’s a 7 with 23 zeros behind it, or 700 thousand billion billion).

Here’s a now under-dense image of the galaxies (Southern skies btw) mapped out prior to this new estimate:


Why Everybody’s More Crazier

12 October 2016

or, how our global economics contributes to the spread of mental illness

image by Derek Hess

from the Article over at the Guardian:

What greater indictment of a system could there be than an epidemic of mental illness? Yet plagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness now strike people down all over the world. The latest, catastrophic figures for children’s mental health in England reflect a global crisis.

There are plenty of secondary reasons for this distress, but it seems to me that the underlying cause is everywhere the same: human beings, the ultrasocial mammals, whose brains are wired to respond to other people, are being peeled apart. Economic and technological change play a major role, but so does ideology. Though our wellbeing is inextricably linked to the lives of others, everywhere we are told that we will prosper through competitive self-interest and extreme individualism. Read the rest of this entry »


More Details about CRISPR

9 October 2016

New gene-modifying technology powerful yet misunderstood

See: CRISPR human trials to begin

In the talk, Ellen Jourgensen clarifies the way CRISPR works and is used by professionals, which helps to cut through the distortion of public voices and widespread platforms from which to spread part of the greater whole with little context.

Despite this, Ellen Jorgensen, doesn’t address my chief concerns, which is with the safeguards against abuses. Unfortunately, this wasn’t her chief aim the talk, however, she does mention in passing:

This type of science is moving much faster than the regulatory mechanisms that govern it.

Which was true of firearms, automobiles, and drones as well. They were regulated after they had been in use. CRISPR isn’t the only new technology that has evolved faster than the means of evaluating the best means of safeguard. Should research be backlogged until properly assessed? Does this not put lives at risk over bureaucratic pacing?

I don’t have a solution to offer, however, given the risks (which I’m not qualified to define or measure) which strike me as dire, would it not do us better to err on the side of caution?

As with so much of our current research, how much of it is serving our pragmatic needs, and how much serves other, less radical urges? An example in the talk that struck me were modelling diseases, however, what Ellen Jorgensen claimed she was approached with were requests from people who wanted to edit their own genome.

I’m just not sure what to think.


CRISPR – human trials to begin

23 July 2016

I don’t know about you, but I’m properly terrified.

the TED talk on CRISPR was welcomed with muted applause, I expect due to the power of this new technology, and what we have, historically, done with greatly powerful technologies (see: plutonium). It seems rather quick to jump to human trials, considering how little we know about the technology, and its potential to spread out of our control.

From the Guardian

Crispr: Chinese scientists to pioneer gene-editing trial on humans

A team of Chinese scientists will be the first in the world to apply the revolutionary gene-editing technique known as Crispr on human subjects.

Led by Lu You, an oncologist at Sichuan University’s West China hospital in Chengdu, China, the team plan to start testing cells modified with Crispr on patients with lung cancer in August, according to the journal Nature.

Crispr is a game-changer in bioscience; a groundbreaking technique which can find, cut out and replace specific parts of DNA using a specially programmed enzyme named Cas9. Its ramifications are next to endless, from changing the color of mouse fur to designing malaria-free mosquitoes and pest-resistant crops to correcting a wide swath of genetic diseases like sickle-cell anaemia in humans.

Read the rest of this entry »


Leaving the Sun at the Speed of Light

19 May 2016

Albert Einstein imagining himself riding lightning.

And here we have a clever representation by  Alphonse Swinehart

 


15-Year Old Discovers Mayan City (updated update)

8 May 2016

 Using astronomy. So, what’s your excuse?

Updated Update: This story isn’t all it has been cracked up to be. Not to knock William Gadoury, as he was testing a theory, more with the “experts” who confirmed his findings, as they may not be “lost” or “a city”.  We can’t confirm mayan constellations, since we don’t have a definitive list of them, and the mayan region was likely heavily developed and populated.

the Long-Lost Mayan City Teen Found Isn’t Lost…Or a City

william gadoury

Un ado découvre une cité maya (So, yes, it’s in French (le journal de Montreal, after all).

Un Québécois de 15 ans a découvert une nouvelle cité maya jusque-là méconnue grâce à sa théorie selon laquelle cette civilisation choisissait l’emplacement de ses villes selon la forme des constellations d’étoiles.

William Gadoury, un adolescent de Saint-Jean-de-Matha dans Lanaudière, est devenu une petite vedette à la NASA, à l’Agence spatiale canadienne et à l’Agence spatiale japonaise, alors que sa découverte est sur le point d’être diffusée dans une revue scientifique.

Essentially, a 15-year-old Quebecois lad discovered a heretofore (they have that word in French, y’know) unknown Maya city thanks to his theory that the Mayan civilization chose the locations for its settlements according to the constellations.

Pretty clever stuff. Good on him, and for showing that this type of creative thinking is really valuable.

map K’ÀAK’ CHI’

UPDATE: as one intrepid commenter on the original site noted: the coordinates provided in the article put the city in Guatemala, whereas the map above shows the city in Belize. I have more faith in William Gadoury than I do the fact-checkers at le Journal de Montreal. Also, Montreal is spelled Hochelaga.