keep up with astrophysics news
and improve your cultural literacy 
.... now in its 7th year
 
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last updated: 
9 am  November 22, 2019

November guide to the bright planets   or the   This Week's Sky-at-a-glance



solar system


stars and in
between them

exoplanets
(and ET life)

galaxies &
cosmology


relativity, quantum, & particle physics

cultural
literacy

teaching/education,
science & tech

late November 2019



A meteor burst?
(Earth & Sky)
Thurs night,  11/21, 11:30 pm ET - 12:10 am
the alpha Monocerotids


Interstellar intruders
(Nature)
upending astronomy?

but 2 is not nearly enough


Water vapor on Europa
(Astronomy)
detected spectroscopically, but less than thought



The first global map of Titan
(Nature)

shows dunes, lakes, plains, labyrinths,
craters, hummocks
(Sky & Telescope)


What drives plate tectonics
(CNRS)


First detection of sugar in a meteorite
(NASA)
in Murchison and NWA801








🔥 
yes, there is a  climate crisis 🔥




how we know the planet is warming
the big picture

How much do you know about climate change?
(Washington Post)
a 10-question quiz on which  reasonably-informed people should not expect a perfect score
sample idiocies: some responses are in
°C, some in °F, some without units;
what kind of person knows the combined ice loss rate in Greenland/Antarctica off the top of their heads?



Iceless in Alaska
(Scientific American)


What if all that flying is good for the planet?
(NY Times)
or, a life without tourism



climate solutions

How Dem candidates want to decarbonize transportation
(Scientific American)
ever hear of tables, SA?


economics

Economic risks of climate change underestimated
(Yale Climate)

published paper
(Earth Institute,
Columbia U)




energy

A breakthrough in solar technology?
(Ars Technica)
in solar energy collection efficiency


The future of energy storage:  nanomaterials
(Science)
free for the moment


record
γ-ray bursts
& first ground detection

The most extreme 
γ-ray bursts
(Nature)
a summary of 3 published papers
see bottom link for papers

γ-ray secrets revealed
(Scientific American)
radiation produced by inverse Compton scattering

Record breaking
γ-ray bursts
(Science News)

Breaking the limits
(Max Planck)

and even Smithsonian has something to say

paper 1
paper 2
paper 3
free to read, but not save
courtesy of Smithsonian & Scientific American

How large can a planet be?
(Universe Today)
20 Earth radii,
13 Jupiter masses
but the most massive aren't necessarily the largest size


ET life

A PhD in SETI
(Scientific American)
at Penn State U

The direction of galactic spin depends on mass?
(Science in Public)


Star ejected by Milky Way's SMBH
(Earth & Sky)
first ever observed


The strong CP problem
(Starts with a Bang)
physics' most underrated puzzle?


read with skepticism

Fifth-force particle seen in helium?
(Big Think)
the X17


read while smirking

Fate of black holes?
(Quanta)
holograms within
a hologram?

The next decade will be just as bad
(NY Times)
2010s: a grifter's paradise
or worse?


an election a year away

Winners & losers:
Dem debate #5

(Vox)
wasn't family leave also a winner?
it's only #5?
bottom line: there is no front-runner

Winners & losers,
take 2

(Washington Post)
why are Gabbard and Biden still here?

candidates' stands on 50 issues
(Politico)

----------------------

Why a new NAFTA is pointless
(NY Times)
without a Mexican guarantee of workers' rights



Against economics
(NY Books)
it's not a science
will it ever be?


Highway to hell
(The Guardian)
rise and fall of the car



Why billionaires don't like capitalism
(Alternet)


Does it matter if Stephen Miller is a white nationalist?
(NY Times)


books

25 National Book Award fnalists
(Vox)


Money and Government:
The Past and Future of Economics

(NY Books)
repeat after me:
economics is not a science

will it ever be?



art/trips/museums

Troy: myth and reality
(British Museum)
the exhibition:

11/21/2019 - 03/08/2020


Superstrings, Runes, the Nunes, the Gordian knot
(Not Even Wrong)
Anselm Kiefer at White Cube, London
until 1/26/2020

and The Guardian review


The world's most dangerous garden
(Smithsonian)
the poison garden at Altwick



Advice for grad students, part 2
(Nature)
on mentors & careers


NC legislature fails democracy
(Raleigh N&O)
they adjourn rather than address the budget and teacher raises



NC-AAPT meeting
@NCSSM, Nov14-15



Science & religion are 'gifts to each other'?
(Aeon)
new age idiocy


bad tech

Dinner with Trump, Zuck, and Thiel
(New York)
'the most excruciating dinner possible'
is there a worse trio?




limited time?  read the most interesting & important stories from  early November 2019:


1)   Ukraine & impeachment

2)  climate warnings:

ban emergency, say 11,000 scientists

a year of bad reports

it's not normal


3)   a rare Mercury transit

4)  new NC congressional districts

like 2 seats to turn over from R to D in 2020?

will Courts approve?


5)  a smaller proton?

6)   Medicare for all, explained






early November 2019



Hayabusa heads home
(JAXA)
with samples of Ryugu
Earth arrival: late 2020



Does Io have a magma ocean?

(Eos)


Nov 11 transit of Mercury
(Sky & Telescope)
only 13x a century


watch it live here
or
do citizen science

or
, if you missed it,
see images from 11/11/19
or
 watch the whole transit in 1 minute


Transits from the past
(NY Times)

Last chance till 2032
(Washington Post)


The view from Voyager 2
(Sky & Telescope)
of interstellar space


Extant life on Mars
(USRA)
program of 4-day conference
(11/5 - 11/8, 2019)

with links 1-page summaries of each talk



The asteroid that came within 1 Earth-radius of Africa
on Halloween

(Earth & Sky)
and the high price it paid


Ultima Thule renamed 'Arrokoth'
(Earth & Sky)
to avoid Nazi link






🔥 
yes, there is a  climate crisis 🔥




how we know the planet is warming
the big picture

The year of devastating climate reports
(Scientific American)


World scientists deliver 'climate emergency' warning
(Bioscience)
it's a moral imperative


Global warming is not part of normal climate variability
(Scientific American)
science with graphs
paywall


climate consequences

Global warming: and a chain reaction in the Pacific
(Washington Post)


The U.S. betrayal of the Marshall Islands
(LA Times)
an impending nuclear disaster caused by rising seas

1-meter sea-level rise by 2300 is now inevitable
(Ars Technica)
based on Paris pledges for 2030

published paper
(PNAS)


Global warming is already destroying New England fisheries
(New Republic)


Restoring nature is the key to limiting climate change
(Vox)


Even the dead can't escape climate change
(Scientific American)
floodwaters will make the dead to rise again


climate solutions

How to cut U.S. carbon emissions by 38% in 10 years
(The Atlantic)
a carbon tax
so why are 70 of 71 sponsors Democrats, and the 1 Republican is retiring?


How to remove atmospheric CO2 and make money
(Vox)


Ocracoke: time to abandon it?
(Washington Post)
permanently, due to rising seas


The technological and economic prospects for CO2 utilization & renewal
(Nature)
an 11-page review
free



Why carbon capture hasn't saved us from climate change
(539)
yet


Trump admin files paperwork to leave Paris climate accords
(
Vox)


climate writing

Democratic Presidential candidates: very different paths to clean energy
(Scientific American)
Republican candidates: no paths?


How did scientists get climate change so wrong?
(NY Times)
few thought the effects would arrive so quickly...now we face once-fringe scenarios


Climategate: 10 yrs on... have we learned anything?
(The Guardian)

Climagate: Science of a Scandal
(BBC)
premieres on 11/14 on BBC4



environment

EPA to limit science used to write public health laws
(NY Times)


How California leaks global-warming methane
(Science News)


Plastics outnumber baby fish in (some)
coastal nurseries

(Science News)
by 7 - 1


published article
(PNAS)

The changing face of the Sun
(Earth & Sky)
from Solar Max (2014) to almost Solar Min (2019)


A record X-ray burst
(Earth & Sky)
a thermonuclear flash on a
pulsar
putting out more energy in 2 seconds than the Sun does in 1 day


The Harvard computers
(Astrobites)
the women who jump-started astronomy



The new science of novae
(Physics Today,
Nov. 2019 issue)



A possible trigger for type IA SN explosions
(U Connecticut)


Tracing interstellar H2 with HF
(SRON)
scroll down for English


A new class of black holes?
(Ohio St. U)
a stellar-mass black hole in a binary that is not emitting x-rays

published article
(Science)
free for the moment



read with caution

Is there a mostly-undiscovered population of low-mass black holes?
(Starts with a Bang)
does finding 1 object justify such a claim?

A bonanza of exoplanets orbiting multiple- star systems
(MNRAS)
free


Lessons from 4 newborn planets
(AAS Nova)
insight into how planetary systems form and evolve 



ET life

Has ancient Earth life escaped the solar system?
(Earth & Sky)
estimate: likely multiple times

preprint
(arXiv)

Why Li, B, & B are so (relatively) rare
(Starts with a Bang)
with a nice diagram
of which-element-originated-where



A correlation of galactic rotations and motions of near neighbors
(Vice)
over scales of megaparsecs



Another day, another H
0 measurement
(Clemson U)
using background  γ-rays:
H0 = 67.5 km/s/Mpc



Interstellar C60 formation solved?
(U Arizona)
buckeyballs come from supernovae-produced SiC


Yes, distant galaxies are receding from us faster than light
(Starts with a Bang)


Does a leaky galaxy help solve the problem of the reionization of the early universe?
(Science News)


Galactic fountains and carousels: order emerging from chaos
(Royal Astronomical Society)
simulating galactic evolution



Dark energy: the biggest unsolved problem in the universe?
(Starts with a Bang)


An 850-Myr A.B. shows traces of 'metals'
(Max Planck Institute)
at least one generation of stars existed before




read with caution

Hunting for a dark matter wake
(AAS Nova)
from the LMC as it plows throught Milky Way's halo


Have we got the shape of the universe wrong?
(Quanta)
maybe it's
Curved, not flat?
(The Conversation)
by the authors of the
preprint
(Nature Astronomy)
based on Planck data

masking a cosmological crises?



Objective reality
doesn't exist?

(The Conversation)

published paper
(Science Advances)


Have neutrinos taught us new insights into matrices?
(Quanta)
a new, quick method of getting eigenvectors from eigenvalues


Fusion: inching toward planet-saving reality?
(Washington Post)
yeah, definitely inching...
in 2040? or 2050?  or?
and only with much more government funding... you know, like Trump supports


Einstein's entanglements
(Inference)
quantum theory,
black holes,
& Michele Besso



Progress on the
proton-radius puzzle

(Nature)
tipping the scales toward a smaller proton

has the puzzle been solved?
(Physics Today)


100 years of
General Relativity

(Smithsonian)
it baffled the press and the public, but made Einstein a celebrity


Nuclear fusion:
when not if?

(BBC)


Have we detected gravitational waves?
(BackReaction)
and why this question lingers


The 'mindless speculation' of theoretical particle physicists
(BackReaction)
but that crisis is not only happening in physics



Nobel prize, redux

Paul Dirac's Nobel Prize

(Physics Today,
Nov. 2019 issue)



read with extreme caution

Defending the indefensible:
multiverse theory

(Slate Star Codex)
by "building intuitions on non-empirical arguments in science"
aka 'by freeing science from experimental evidence'


3 talks on supergravity
(Breakthrough Prize)
from the Breakthrough Prize Symposium
but keep repeating "there
is zero evidence for supergravity"


Space and time:
discrete or continuous in a quantum universe?

(Starts with a Bang)


Is an unseen axion messing with dark energy?
(Space)

Ukraine & impeachment

Impeachment hearings: Day 2
(Vox)
4 takeaways



Impeachment Hearings Day 1
(Vox)
4 takeaways


What you learned depended on which TV channel you watched

(Washington Post)
duh


What Biden really did in Ukraine
(NY Times)

What Trump really did in Ukraine
(The Guardian)

Who's who in the impeachment hearings on Ukraine
(Vox)


Fact-checker guide to impeachment hearing spin
(Washington Post)

-----------------------

Is there no 2020 Democrat for all seasons?
(NY Books)


How Latinos saved many American cities
(Washington Post)



Cancel student debt?
(American Prospect)
or almost all of it
a pardon for bad behavior?


The 2020 election calendar
(Vox)
and you thought it hadn't even begun
or maybe you thought it began years ago?


Warren's Medicare4All

How it's pay for
(Simon Johnson,
via OnPoint)

2 'expert letters'
from the Warren camp

the plan to play,
explained

(Vox)

does Warren's plan add up?
(Washington Post)

Election day 2019:
5 winners;
3 losers

(Vox)


Americans have questions about Medicare4All...
Canadians have answers

(Washington Post)

--------------------

entertainment

Yet another 'Midway' movie:
is this one a true story?

(Smithsonian)
codebreakers,
sailors, & pilots


Marvel movies aren't cinema
(Martin Scorsese, NY Times)
a tempest in a tiny teapot



Declining football participation
(NY Times)

How to save football?
(Raleigh N&O)

-----------------

not entertainment

How American ends
(The Atlantic)


American billionaires
rise again
(Washington Post)
Bloomberg, Gates, Z-berg et al. vs. the populist Democrats


5 better uses for Bloomberg's money
(Washington Post)


The damage done to the nation will outlast Trump
(The Atlantic)


The betrayal of the Kurds
(NY Books)


The defeat of General Mattis
(NY Books)


Slander: the last refuge of the scoundrel
(Washington Post)

The GOP defense against impeachment
(Washington Post)
falsehoods
now there's
a surprise

-----------------

voter suppression

New GOP plan for NC congressional districts: 8/5  GOP majority for equal Dem-Rep votes
(Raleigh N&O)
and GOP leaders think it's fair


Is American a democracy?
If so, why does it deny millions the vote?

(The Guardian)


voter unsuppression

NC legislature approves new congressional districts
(Raleigh N&O)
on party line vote...
will Courts approve?
plaintiffs to appeal...
GOP: 'we did our best'

"it isn't about 'fair'"
ok, GOP: what is it about?


7 non-partisan redistricting bills have been filed in NC this year
(NC NonProfits)
although you wouldn't know it from the lame reporting


NC GOP throws in towel: accepts non-partisan redistricting
(Raleigh N&O)
finally, the end of NC partisan gerrymandering?

Re-draw starts Tuesday 11/5
(WRAL)
or Wednesday 11/13?


Will now-in-charge-of-VA Dems ban gerrymandering by constitutional amendment?
(Washington Post)


books

The Man Who Solved the Market
(Not Even Wrong)
why James Simons gave up studying math and found $23 billion on Wall Street



Don't Be Evil
(WBUR OnPoint, 1-hour audio)
here's looking at you Big Tech


Lessons in survival
(NY Books)
moving inland, due to climate change


Blowout by Rachel Maddow
(NY Times review)
how Western bankers and fossil-fuel companies paved the way for Putin's power
uh, that would be the fossil-fuel industry




art/trips/museums

Apollo 12 flew
50 years ago:
the photos

(The Atlantic)


Venice underwater
(The Atlantic)
highest tide in 50 yrs



King Tut leaves Egypt again

(Saatchi Gallery)
Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh,
in London,
until May 2020



Paris and its bridges
(NY Times)


Take down the Mona Lisa?
(NY Times)
a security hazard and educational obstacle?

or
7 other suggestions
(Washington Post)
e.g., make finding it a scavenger hunt


Is Salvator Mundi really on a yacht?
(Art Newspaper)


Searching for the rectangular Sun
(NY Times)
above the Arctic circl
e



No raises for you,
NC teachers

(Raleigh N&O)


Still waiting on the NC legislature to do the right thing
(Raleigh N&O)
more money for education and higher teacher salaries


Is college worth it?
(Washington Post)
some surprising results


physics

Astrophysicist Virginia Trimble:
the interview

(Quanta)
on big discoveries, modeling for Feynman, and sexual harassment in science



Physics tops Finance in economic impact
(CERN)
in Europe at least


Fluid dynamics of wildfires
(Physics Today,
Nov. 2019 issue)


The 4th state of water
(Inference)


math

Why writing a number as the sum of 3 cubes is a
hard problem

(Quanta)
but high-school math helps


nature

The end of Florida orange juice?
(Washington Post)
it's coming

90% of groves infected;
70% drop in growers since 2004


The importance of sleep
(Scientific American)
sleep power-washes the brain


The intelligence of trees
(Nautil.us)
should not be underestimated


none of the above

How the medieval Catholic Church's ban on incest made the modern world
(Science News)


Nature at 150
blasts from the past

Detection of a strange partilcle
1947

The structure of DNA
1953

The discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole
1985


First exoplanet around a sun-like star
1995


bad tech

Yes! Robots are stealing your jobs

(Andrew Yang, via
NY Times)

good for GDP;
bad for people



Health records of 50 million Americans at risk
(The Guardian)

says the the Google whistle-blower


Uber fined $650 million for saying its drivers are not employees
(NY Times)
and that's just by New Jersey


Elon Musk & co.:
destroying the night sky

(NY Times)
a threat to astronomy


Facebook: not just allowing lies
(NY Times)
it's prioritizing them


Digital Disaster
(Issue One)
the failures of the political-ad transparency policies at Fbook, Google, and Twitter
a 22-page report


bad media

The media's big bias: centrism
(Vox)


The right-wing bias of the media
(New Republic)


bad billionaires

Bill Gates et al. warn that higher taxes would lead to lower growth
(NY Times)
they have their facts backward





limited time?  read the most interesting & important stories from  late October 2019:


1)   a(nother) epic Facebook fail

assaulting the truth while pretending to defend free speech


2)  climate news

rising seas will endanger 3x more people than thought

the dinosaur-killing asteroid lowered ocean pH drastically
and likely was the trigger for mass extinction
bad news for our warming climate?

the 4 worst climate criminal countries

another impact-caused climate event?


3)  do neutron stars explain everything?


4)  another interstellar comet visitor?


5)  voter suppression still


6) millennials vs. boomers


7)  Google claims quantum supremacy
.... others disagree





learn more about

climate change

 neutrinos

exoplanet biosignatures (1) and exoplanet biosignatures (2)


dark energy

Hubble tension

the multiverse


previous astro/culture updates

from 2019:

july-august 2019          
september-october 2019
 
january-february 2019          march-april 2019          may-june 2019


from 2018:

july-august 2018           september-october 2018           november-december 2018
 
january-february 2018         
march-april 2018            may-june-2018


from 2017:

july-august 2017          september-october 2017          november-december 2017

january-february 2017         march-april 2017          may-june 2017           


 from 2016:

july-august 2016          september-october 2016             november-december 2016

                  may-june 2016          march-april 2016          january-february 2016  


 from 2015:

november-december 2015          september-october 2015          july-august 2015

may-june 2015          march-april 2015         
january-february 2015


 from 2014:

november-december 2014          september_october 2014          july-august 2014

may-june 2014          march-april 2014          january-february 2014


from 2013:

november-december 2013         
september-october 2013         july-august 2013