15,560 Days

March 27, 2020

15,560 days ago, Elvis Presley had been dead four days and Groucho Marx for one; Jimmy Carter was into the eighth month of his presidency and serial killer Son of Sam had just been captured. On that day, August 20 1977, Voyager 2 was launched into space.

This morning, 15,560 days later, she is about 17 hours 8 light-minutes away from earth, still heading out. She left the Solar System 508 days ago, heading into the Interstellar Medium, and is still sending us valuable data every day.

Voyager 2 was built in 1976-1977 with tools that we would consider archaic today, and yet these days we have trouble keeping a toaster alive for more than six months!

It has been a glorious and useful and enhancing project and I hope it has many more thousands of days to chat with us.


Temporary Mini-Moons

February 26, 2020

Every since elementary school, at least, most of us have understood that the earth has a moon — just one.  Old farts like me even remember when humans walked on that moon, that it was important that we had been there. But it seems we have to revise our knowledge of this singularity.

For the second time in a few years, astronomers have discovered a second — albeit tiny — moon;

“The mini-moon appears to have been orbiting our planet since it was first captured by Earth’s gravity three years ago. Early observations also suggest it is small enough to fit in just about any garage or shed, with an estimated diameter between 2 and 3.5 meters (about 6 – 11 feet).”

It is, in fact, a captured asteroid and its stay with us might be quite brief:

A “previous asteroid … did time as a mini-moon … which did just a few trips around our planet in 2006 and 2007 before being ejected back out into the solar system. [The current asteroid] may be ejected as well later this year.”

So now I don’t feel so short-changed when I read that Jupiter has 80 moons.


Why 2020 02 02 Is Special

February 2, 2020

Today’s date is a rare eight-digit palindrome (reads same, forward and backward) — 02/02/2020 — the only one of its kind this century.

The previous eight-digit palindrome was 11/11/1111, 909 years ago.

We have to wait another 101 years for 12/12/2121.


Exercise For the Lazy

January 18, 2020

A couple of weeks ago I had to undergo some tests on my heart.  Part of the examination took place while I was “at rest” and a second part involved a “stress” test to see how my heart was working after exercise.  In my case, probably because I am an old fart, I didn’t have to do any real exercise (such as using a treadmill); instead, they inject you with a drug that apparently simulates the effects of exercise. It certainly felt odd.  Anyway, I joked with the technician that they should market the drug to lazy non-exercisers.

Today, I was looking up something else and happened to find that scientists are actually working on a drug to do that very thing.

“Michigan Medicine researchers studying a class of naturally occurring protein called Sestrin have found that it can mimic many of exercise’s effects in flies and mice …  [W]hen they overexpressed Sestrin in the muscles of normal flies, essentially maxing out their Sestrin levels, they found those flies had abilities above and beyond the trained flies, even without exercise … The beneficial effects of Sestrin include more than just improved endurance. Mice without Sestrin lacked the improved aerobic capacity, improved respiration and fat burning typically associated with exercise.”

A different “independent study again highlights that Sestrin alone is sufficient to produce many benefits of physical movement and exercise,” says [professor Jun Hee] Lee.”

Ain’t science wonderful?  I can see a huge black market potential for beefing up couch exercisers like myself!


Glowing In The Dark

January 7, 2020

I spent most of today at VGH having my heart checked out.  This involved being injected twice with radioactive dye.

When I got home, I stood in the closet with the door closed but I didn’t glow in the dark, which was a great disappointment.


Why Time Flies

December 31, 2019

The other day I blamed Einstein for why time seems to go faster by as one gets older.  However, a neuroscientist has another idea:

 

The four minutes will fly by!


Small World Video Winners

December 21, 2019

The following are the finalists of the Nikon Small World competition for 2019. Fascinating stuff!