keep up with astrophysics news
and improve your cultural literacy 
.... now in its 7th year
feedback, questions, broken links, and what not:

last updated:  1 a
m  October 17, 2019

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

solar system


(and ET life)

galaxies &

relativity, quantum, & particle physics


science & tech

late October 2019

Whence the ice at the Moon's south pole?
(Earth & Sky)
multiple sources?
multiple ages?

yes, there is a  climate crisis 🔥

how we know the planet is warming
the big picture

The climate crisis
(The Guardian)
the most important
story to be covered

The 4 worst countries on climate
(American Prospect)
the U.S., China, Russia, & Saudi Arabia
worst-behaving and least-prepared for consequences


$12 trillion and counting: the cost of the world's broken food system

Physical cosmology was overdue for a Nobel Prize
(Starts with a Bang)

Avoiding (thinking about) wormholes
since they don't exist

read with caution

Dark matter and the nightmare of


Incoherence and

(Washington Post)
in the White House

Lucky that American nuclear bombs are still in Turkey
(New Republic)

American workers

It's back to The Jungle
(New Republic)
in the meat industry
'The Jungle' of Sinclair Lewis fame

It's not the robots. it's the oligarchs
(American Prospect)
coming for our jobs

Why GM workers are on strike
it's not complicated:
corporate greed

Survival of the fittest cells
the secret battles fought inside your body

Boosting inclusivity in the Nobels
after this year's science prizes are all won by men

The first all-female spacewalk
(Earth & Sky)
Friday, 10/18/19,
7:50 EDT
watch it here
with Christina (Hammock) Koch, NCSSM '97

bad tech

Google continues to support climate deniers
(The Guardian)

limited time?  read the most important stories from  early October 2019:

1)  2019 Nobel Prizes

exoplanets & cosmology; lithium batteries;
how cells use and adapt to oxygen

2)  American inequality grows

and so does whining by the rich

3)  a variety of climate solutions

will we choose any of them?

4) does the universe still make sense?  Hubble constant, again 

a cosmic controversies conference doesn't make much news

5)  Dems debate.....  Trump destroys

6) physics teaching enters a new era?

7)  bad tech gets worse

colleges spy on applicants with hidden cookies

Fbook allows lying in political ads

8)  is it really OK to eat meat?

early October 2019

2I/Borisov: making
Oumuamua look weirder

(Science News)

but it's like the solar system's comets

Preparing for a CME
a coronal mass ejection is inevitable

nearly life?

"We found life on Mars in 1976"
(Scientific American)
in the Viking labeled-release experiment

New organic compounds found in Enceladus' ice grains
(Earth & Sky)
are ingredients of amino acids

& nearly water

Sutton Island: a former oasis on Mars
(Earth & Sky)
found by Curiosity

Nirgal Vallis: running water
and a lake

found by Mars Express


20 newly-discovered moons for Saturn

now with 82, more
than Jupiter

How did water get on Earth?
(Scientific American)
it's still comets vs. asteroids
the never-ending question

yes, there is a  climate crisis 🔥

how we know the planet is warming
the big picture

How fast will seas rise?
a dying Greenland glacier holds the clues
read it while it's still free

Where Earth stores its carbon
(Science News)
mostly in the mantle

but beware of asteroid impacts

measuring climate change

Frozen into the Arctic
(Scientific American)
to study climate change

Dramatic glacier melt in Peru
(Earth & Sky)

Radical warming in Siberia
(Washington Post)

An island breaks up with Antarctica
(NY Times)
is this global warming unhinged or just the normal flow of things?

Some NC birds in trouble due to global warming
(Raleigh N&O)

climate solutions

The economic case for taking on global warming now
unfortunately, the author's attempt at an attention-grabbing title demeans the actual story -- and not for the first time

The problem with net-zero emissions targets
(Carbon Brief)
they need to be net-negative

How millennials are killing climate-change denial

What you can do for burned Amazon forests
give up hamburgers; donate $5 to Amazon conservation

The climate problem: it's not just cars
low-carbon steel and concrete
options are scarce & expensive

Do we have the carbon tax backwards?

published article:
Declining CO2 price paths

Living in a geo- engineered world

Is geoengineering worth the risk?

(Science News)

Why climate change won't be solved by individuals
only by voting for people who will reduce emissions
but that shouldn't prevent individuals from doing their share

The most effective
climate tax

for Switzerland
lessons for the US?

Where to buy 'Impossible Foods' and 'Beyond Meat'

climate disasters

The worst human side of fossil fuel extraction
(Scientific American)
violence against and trafficking of Native women


A detailed map of
auto emissions for every road in America

(NY Times)
find your metro area

in Durham-CH, emissions up 74% since 1990

Plastic waste is

in grocery stores
can/will  we get rid of it?

Why does Duke Energy get to be a monopoly?
(Raleigh N&O)

Uncertainty in the solar opacities?

Are magnetars the result of stellar mergers?

published article

Are pulsars responsible for too much antimatter?
(AAS Nova)
hitting Earth in cosmic rays

Are repeating FRBs neutron-starquakes?

(New Scientist)

The matter of molecules
(Scientific American)

Tidal disruption of a star by a black hole
(Sky & Telescope)
10,000x rarer than a supernova
with a short simulation

When black holes shred sun-like stars
(AAS Nova)
a short summary

What keeps stars from eating their newly-born planets
(Max Planck)

Why just being in the habitable zone doesn't make an exoplanet livable
(Science News)

What we can learn from hot Jupiters

An exoplanet that orbits in 18 hours
(Universe Today)
a new record

The giant planet orbiting a dwarf star
(Earth & Sky)


Intelligent ways to search for extraterrestrial life
(New Yorker)

Are we prepared to discover extraterrestrial life?
(Seth Shostak, NBC)

The most suitable galaxies for life?

large spirals and dwarfs with high metal content

Has the universe stopped making sense?
yes, H0, again

and with a nice Ωm-H0 constraint diagram

by Katie Mack et al., NCSU

who gives intro talk at next NC-AAPT meeting
@NCSSM, Nov14-15

Milky Way:
galaxy kidnapper

(UC Riverside)

Milky Way:
gas raider


Did universe's structure grow from the top down -- or from the bottom up?
(Starts with a Bang)
spoiler alert:
some of both

but SMBHs stunt dwarf galaxies'  growth
(UC Riverside)

Cosmic Controversies

(U Chicago)
October 5 - 8
day 1: panel on esolution of the H0 discrepancy

day 2: panel on explanation of cosmic acceleration

day 3: panel on explanation of dark matter

day 4: panel on what we can learn about cosmology from particle physics

A galaxy's size and SMBH-mass are correlated
how they grow in size together

3.5 Myr ago, the
Milky Way's center exploded

(Earth & Sky)
and it lasted for 0.3 Myr

How the cosmic web fuels the growth of galaxies and SMBHs

a 3-D view
(Science News)

Probing a galaxy's halo via an FRB
(Sky & Telescope)
the halo is 'calmer' than expected
low turbulence & magnetization;
thin gas content?

The violent history of Andromeda
( via ANU)
multiple bouts of galactic cannibalism

The violent history of the Milky Way

from a sausage to a splash -- a head-on crash 10 Gyrs ago

Massive galaxies in the early universe
(Physics Today, October 2019 issue)
hiding in plain sight

Can the neutrino's tiny mass solve big mysteries?
or not

Discovery of hidden info in the Hall effect constant?
but discussable in an intro physics class?
uh, no.

published paper
free to read, but not to save

7 more black-hole-merger candidates found by not-LIGO
(Sky & Telescope)
LIGO silent
of course

But is it science?
Jim Baggott on separating real science from pseudodscience
(viz., multiverse crap)

and Sabine Hossenfelder on the same in particle physics

and Do we need a more powerful particle collider?
(Inside Science)

2000-atom olioporphyrins placed in quantum superposition
(Scientific American)
but writers should stop saying that the molecule was in 2 places at once!... that's nonsense!

read-only published paper
(Nature Physics)

IceCube neutrino traced back to
BL Lac object

(Max Planck)

more details

The hunt for useful quantum computers
beyond quantum supremacy

10-cubit register breaks new ground in quantum computing
(Physics World)

read with caution

The tantalum crystal that mimics an some axion properties
but no, we're not closer to finding dark matter

What the quark?
(New Scientist)
why quarks may not exist

read with disbelief

Looking for a wormhole through the Milky Way SMBH

(Scientific American)

Dem debate #12

winners: Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg;
losers: Gabbard, Biden

Washington Post
winners: Warren, Sanders, Klobuchar;
losers: Biden, Steyer

winners: Buttigieg, Samders, Warren, Klobuchar
fading: Biden

NY Times
stood out: Buttigieg, Klobuchar;
reassuring: Sanders, Warren;
uneven: Biden

Dems continue to
defend the American empire

(The Intercept)

but the debates -- and the Dem primary  --  is now a sideshow
(The Atlantic)

and then there were 5?
(New York)
is Joe Biden one of them?


 What Dan McCready learned in losing NC-9
(NY TImes)
lead with values;
promote common- sense policies; don't give up on rurals

A Nobel for poverty-fighting (economics)

(Science News)
when did economics become a science?

Columbus Day

Who really discovered
(ZME Science)
not Columbus

Columbus Day: a whitewashed  history
(USA Today)

Indigenous peoples and Columbus Day


American inequality

Consequences of Americans not sharing a common lived experience
(Washington Post)
are not good

We should tax our way to equality
(NY Times)
not the other way 'round, which is what we're currently doing

How American CEOs got so rich
stock buy-backs aren't the only way

the perils of being rich

Yes, billionaires pay lower taxes than the rest of us
(NY Times)

for the first time ever
(Washington Post)
billionaires pay a lower tax rate than the working class

The triumph of injustice
(Washington Post)
the richest Americans paid the lowest tax rate of any other income group
and yet they want more (tax cuts)

Why the IRS audits poor people more than the rich
it's cheaper & easier

and now the rich want our pity, too
(NY Times)


Why Trump voters stick with him
(NY Times)
unexpectedly revealing
or maybe not?

Why Republicans  aren't turning on Trump
(The Atlantic)

All the President's crimes
(The Intercept)
a collection

the damning texts

'the smoking texts'


Inside story at the border war
(NY Times)
'shoot them in the legs"
... moats with snakes & alligators, electrified fences, and much more

Baseball: does it matter if no one sits in the seats?
(NY Times)
or afford to?

Jamal Khashoggi
(Washington Post)
one year later

A missing voice,
a growing chorus

His final seconds

1 year later, Saudi clampdown still exists

Still owed justice
(NY Times)

Where is justice for Yemen?

undone by the
Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia
(PBS Frontline,
2-hr documentary)



Deep State
(NY Times)
how the FBI made a mess of the 2016 election

2 new books confront climate change:

On Fire
by Naomi Klein

The Green New Deal
by Jeremy Rifkin


Where is da Vinci's
Salvator Mundi?

(The Guardian)
a no-show for
the Louvre exhibit?

William Blake at the Tate Modern
(The Guardian)
is not my idea of art

(NY Times)
wildlife & volcanoes

The Bungle Bungles
(The Atlantic)
a photo tour of the beehive domes of western Australia

The true cost of being a teacher
94% of U.S. teachers spend their own money on  their classrooms
7 teachers on what they buy and how much it costs


2019 Nobel Prize


James Peebles for 'physical cosmology'
Maynor & Queloz for 'exoplanet discoveries'

press release

New perspectives on our place in the universe
popular info

advanced scientific background
pp. 1 - 14
pp. 15  - 24

The 3 exoplanet encyclopedias

from France

from NASA Goddard

why does NASA need 2?



Goodenough, Whittingham, & Yoshino for development of lithium batteries
press release  developing

the world's most powerful batteries

popular info

advanced scientific background

Quanta comments

How lithium batteries work
(How Stuff Works)
in multi parts



Kaelin, Ratclifffe, & Semenza
for how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability
press release

advanced scientific background


Nobel Prize, misc.

Humans, humility, and Nobel Prizes

(Washington Post)
there are more things, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy...

2019 Nobel Prize predictions for the sciences
(Inside Science)
goes 1 for 3

What wins a Nobel Prize
(Chemistry World)
the data behind 100 years of prizes

Should the press be covering the Nobel Prize?
(Ars Technica)

the biggest injustice in NP history
(Starts with a Bang)


other science

Copernicium is strange
element 112

as its P.T.- predecessor mercury

The danger of a single study
exoplanets & life

Lab-made primordial soup yields RNA bases
support for RNA-world?

(some) Pigs conquer tools

Woolly mammoths' last stand?
(Earth & Sky)
on Wrangell Island

Federal attack on government science research reaches breaking point

China: how science made a superpower

Simplest parking strategies
(J Statistical Mechanics)
just the math, please

Language and the brain
a special issue
entirely paywalled,
of course

Abdus Salaam, the first ****** Nobel Prize winner
in Physics (1979)

a review
(Physics World)

9 things parents should do to raise successful kids
(INC via getpocket)

nearly science

Infinities, equalities & equivalences


Mark Meadows (NC-R) and the dinosaur caper
(New Yorker)


College students just want normal libraries

(The Atlantic)
it's glitz vs. physical texts


Teaching Physics for tomorrow
(Physics Today, October 2019 issue)
equipping students to change the world

The coming revolution in physics education
Physics Teacher,
October 2019 issue)

Teaching at the university level should not be a hassle
if it is, perhaps you shouldn't be at university

Paying for your neighbors' kids' Christian indoctrination
(The Atlantic)


diet and health

A new theory of obesity
(Scientific American,
October 2019 issue)
it's the processed food

Red meat is now OK?
(NY Times)
but mixed messages aren't ok

Is eating beef healthy?
or not harmful?

The actual reason meat is not healthy
(The Atlantic)

In defense of meat: we're all gonna die sometime
who knew there was right-wing take on meat?


bad tech

Colleges hide tracking cookies on applicants' computers
(Washington Post)
surreptitously during college visits

trying to match Fbook's criminality?

Fbook will allow Trump to lie in his ads
Popular Info)
and anyone else, for that matter

The lies that Fbook tells
Washington Post)
jail them!

Fbook vs critics,
competitors, & the government

(The Verge)
the leaked audio

bad sports


California did the right thing... in allowing pay for athlete endorsements
(Washington Post)
don't buy into NCAA propaganda

NCAA rejects recommendations to stop academic fraud
(Raleigh N&O)


NBA capitulates to China
(Washington Post)

instead of exporting democratic values, it's importing dictatorial ones

For the NBA, it's all about the Benjamins
(Houston Chronicle)
money defeats democratic values every time

NBA collides with China, retreats with bruised spine
(NY Times)

limited time?  read the most important stories from  late September 2019:

1)  climate news reigns

new IPCC report: Ocean and Cryosphhere

global warming is accelerating

melting ice: not just the Arctic

climate policy:
  many roads to take, but none chosen

2)  new limits on neutrino mass

3)   bird loss: a cause for concern?

4)  the Ukraine, Trump, Biden mess:

a turn toward impeachment

5) a new focus on Venus

6)  a new black-hole visualization

7)  has Google reached quantum supremacy?

late September 2019

An alternative to Planet X:
a primordial black hole?



Still no solution in Hawaii telescope protest


How bad can a cataclysmic solar superstorm be?
(Scientific American)

How worried should we be about an asteroid collision



Super-rotation of Venus's cloudtops
(Earth & Sky)

Why we need to go back to Venus

The clouds of Venus
(Sky & Telescope)
are still puzzling

Was Venus once habitable?
(Europlanet Society)

Yes -- and for 3 Gyr


Autumnal equinox:
Monday, 9/23/19,
3:50 am EDT

9 things to know

Why Earth has 4 seasons
(Earth & Sky)
just in case you didn't go to grade school

The spectrum of
interstellar comet

(Inst. Astro. Canarias)
but don't expect to actually see the coemt... it will be fainter than Pluto at peak brightness

CN in the spectrum

The age of Saturn's rings
(Earth & Sky)
is still being debated

Euro Planetary Society
meets in Geneva

Day 4 summary
science at Venus;
ocean worlds & icy moons

Day 3 summary
planetary defense;
upcoming missions

Day 2 summary
asteroid missions

Day 1 summary
50 years after Apollo; exploring Kuiper belt; completing solar system's  inventory

The snow-cannon Enceladus
why Saturn's inner moon are so radar-bright


yes, there is a  climate crisis 🔥

how we know the planet is warming
the big picture

A new IPCC report:
Oceans & Cryosphere


The evidence for accelerating sea-level rise
(Carbon Brief)
a relatively short

IPCC: humans are turning oceans into warm acid basins, hostile to life

IPCC: big risks for coastal cities and food supplies
(NY Times)

The ocean is the key
to achieving climate and societal goals

IPCC: intense storms and loss of marine life are inevitable
(The Guardian)
once-per-year extreme sea-level event by 2050

IPCC: extreme coastal flooding yearly
(Washington Post)
massive changes are already here

and the actual reports:
Summary for Policy Makers
(45 pages)

Full Report
(1170 pages)


The melting, drying, and flooding Earth 
global warming in pictures

Global warming is accelerating
report prepared for the UN summit this week
(which Trump won't be attending)

The climate crisis
(The Guardian)
explained in 10 charts

Summer 2019: hottest on record for N. Hemisphere
(Earth & Sky)
tied with 2016
and 2nd warmest winter in S Hemisphere

NOAA has even more charts
and the
August 2019 summary

 Dramatic sea ice melt caps a tough Arctic summer
the top of the world is screaming for help

What Arctic warming means for the rest of us
(Earth & Sky)

Trapped: why 300 scientists are locking themselves into Arctic ice

Earth's 3rd-largest ice sheet (Hindu Kush-Himalaya)
is melting quickly

(The Guardian)
an IPCC report preview

climate solutions

How to shop, eat, and cook in a warming world
(NY Times)

Getting to 100% renewables requires cheap energy storage
(aka batteries)
how cheap?

12 excuses for climate inaction
and how to refute them

climate reporting

Listen to the scientists!
(Starts with a Bang)
what Greta Thunberg has taught us
(or should have)

12 more years to climate disaster?
(NY Times)
true and not true

Climate change:
about to alter the
face of global conflict

(New Republic)
looking back from 2100

The climate policy with the most potential is the one most neglected
green energy R&D to spur innovation is overlooked and underfunded

Act now and avert a climate crisis
Covering Climate Now:
250 organizations band together

Most U.S. teens are frightened by climate change

(Washington Post)
maybe they should spend some time convincing their parents

climate policy

How the Trump administration tried to bury climate science
(IndyWeek via
The Guardian)

The hard truths of global warming: how little progress is being made
in charts and graphs

The human imperative of stabilizing global warming at 1.5

A new scenario logic for the Paris agreement long-term temperature goal

money & climate

How money fuels global warming
(Bill McKibben,
New Yorker)

from banking, insurance, and asset management

Where cash to solve global warming is flowing
and why it's not enough

The billions behind the climate-denial movement
Donors Trust, Mellon-Scaife, Koch, Bradley, & more
from 2013, but still telling


Trump admin tries to kill cleaner air, better cars
(NY Times)

Climate Action summit
(United Nations)
is September 23

Making travel to conferences climate-sustainable
7 steps


Dumping chemical and nuclear waste
is a warning enough?

The Sun's corona and its connection to the solar wind
(Annual Reviews of Astronomy and

Uniting short
γ-ray bursts and neutron star mergers
(AAS Nova)

Pinning down the spins of black holes in mergers

Most massive neutron star measured
(West Virginia U)
2.17 Msun

VPLanet: a virtual planet simulator for modeling pllanets across Gyrs of time
(U Washington)
VPL website

pre-published article

A new method of finding exoplanets

by using the gaps in the protoplanetary disk

A follow-up to the
first H2O-vapor detection on an exoplanet: K2 18-b

(Earth & Sky)

pre-print of paper 1

abstract of paper 2
(Nature Astronomy)
paywall for entire article

but no, we didn't find liquid water
on K2 18-b

(Starts with a Bang)
proving water is liquid is much harder

A new explanation of Tabby's star dimming
(Columbia U)
the capture and slow annihilation of an exomoon?


What life might be like in alien oceans

crazy stuff?

Where ET might be lurking
(Earth & Sky)
in the solar system

Planets made of quarks?

A new visualization of a black-hole accretion disk
has a nice explanatory diagram

  Earth & Sky
has a short video

The oldest cluster of galaxies  (so far)
or, more properly,
a galaxy protocluster

Milky Way's SMBH is eating more
(Earth & Sky)
it's now at maximum recorded brightness

The delayed-choice quantum eraser
(Preposterous Universe)

Has Google achieved quantum supremacy?
(MIT Tech Review)

is it true?
(Starts with a Bang)

what it means
(IEEE Spectrum)

Neutrinos: the Standard Model's greatest puzzle
(Starts with a Bang)
based on first results from KATRIN

KATRIN pre-print
released 9/16/19

Constraining dark matter by using the Milky Way's satellite galaxies
(AAS Nova)

Constraints on the constancy of G
in time

from a pulsating star

Chasing Einstein
opened in theaters
(it's in Franklin, NC, but not in Durham,
Raleigh, or CH)

a review
(Not Even Wrong)

and the trailer

LEP -- the greatest lepton collider ever built
(CERN Courier)
its run ended in 2000

The main trouble
with Many Worlds

it doesn't solve anything

read with caution

Again, yes.  We have no idea what goes on inside a black hole
(Live Science)

Can time travel survive a theory of everything?
(Science News)
let's hope not

Universe as hologram?

read with disbelief

Did a strange Higgs particle steal antimatter from the universe?

Dark matter made before the Big Bang?
(Science Daily)

and how it might
have happened?

(Starts with a Bang)

U.S. prepares to shut the door on refugees
(Daily Kos)
an end to what made America great

It's the environment,

(NY Times)
the biggest 2020 campaign issue

Trump, Ukraine,

just the facts

The Trump-Ukraine

(Washington Post)
as of now

Trump and the Ukraine call
what happened?
what's next?

Bidens in Ukraine
(Wall Street Journal)
an explainer

Will Biden's son
jeopardize his father's campaign?

(New Yorker)

the Biden/Ukraine accusations

The Ukraine facts are clear
(Washington Post)
but does the truth matter any more?


Donald Trump v. the USA
(NY Times)
in 40 sentences

American politics is broken
how to fix the gridlock, misinformation, polarization, corruption, & inequality
some interesting,
some crazy

Edward Snowden reminds of how he stopped an unconstitutional conspiracy by the US government
(Fresh Air, 1-hour podcast)
recording every citizen's phone calls, texts, & Google searches  without ever asking or even telling us
a violation of the 4th Amendment

Trump's clown
(The Guardian)
yep, Giuliani

NC elections

New NC maps pass legislature
(Raleigh N&O)
but judges still get to approve
GOP unanimous;
Dems split

New House maps are half as GOP-biased as previous ones
(Election Law Blog)
Senate maps are
⅓ as biased
with graphs showing where the district-drawing falls in terms of bias

A longer analysis of the likely result of the new district drawings

(Old North State Politics)
by Michael Bitzer,
political scientist,
Catawba College

NC Election Board voting-equipment decision didn't follow the law
(Carolina Public Press)
election security experts send complaint to NCEB

New districts still favor the GOP
(Raleigh N&O)

primary election endorsements

Indy Week

People's Alliance

Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People


thoughts, words, actions

American migration patterns
(The Atlantic)
terrifying -- or good
-- for the GOP?


Imagined life
(Science News)
imagining the odd critters elsewhere

After Geoengineering
(Penguin Random House)
climate tragedy, repair, & restoration

an excerpt:
The desperate race to cool the oceans
(MIT Tech Review)
before it's too late

100 best books of the century
(The Guardian)
Wolf Hall at #1

Waters of the world
(Nature review)
the roots of climate science

the story of the the scientists who unraveled the mysteries of the seas, glaciers, & atmosphere

what not to read

The Number of Heavens
(Not Even Wrong review)
the worst of multiverse propaganda


Francis Bacon:
deep, dark, & bleak

(NY Times)
in Paris


Pterosaurs: monsters of the Mesozoic skies
(Scientific American)

Is CRISPR the only hope left for the banana?

Why we don't shoot our garbage, nuclear waste, etc. into the Sun
(Starts with a Bang)
it's dangerous (think launch explosion)... not to mention prohibitively expensive

the vanishing of
the birds

3 million birds lost in N American since 1970
(Science News)

Grassland habitats and sparrows fared the worst

With a map of bird loss
(NY Times) 

Extinction is for the birds?

(The Guardian)

7 simple actions to help birds

by the authors of the scientific paper

False alarm?
There is no impending bird apocalypse

what happens when marketing gets more attention than the science

bad tech

Uber: drivers are not central to our core mission
explaining why they don't have to pay drivers as employees
'tech is our mission'


NC gets an F for unsafe drinking water

(Raleigh N&O)
time to get the lead out

limited time?  read the most important stories from  early September 2019:

1)  solar system news & speculation

  life elsewhere in the solar system?

a return to Venus (the living?)

Jackrabbit on the far side of the Moon

2)  proton news

3)  an end to partisan gerrymandering in NC?

and more election news

4)  general relativity

GR passes another test -- this time with a pulsar wind

and overtones in gravitational waves supporting the no-hair theorem

5)  a climate 'town hall'


Democratic candidates' climate policies  (with grades!)

6)  first water detection on an exoplanet

7)  EdWeek rates K-12 schools

8) bad tech:

the states go after Google

California goes after Uber/Lyft

  early September 2019

What Yutu-2 has found on the far
 side of the Moon

(Earth & Sky)

Another interstellar visitor?
(Sky & Telescope)

Saturn's history is written in its rings
(Sky & Telescope)

Viewing Saturn
images & videos

Titan's lakes:
craters formed by underground explosions?

(Universe Today)

What Ryugu told us
(Earth & Sky)

Venus is alive
resurrecting interest in a dead planet

and Why we need to go back
(The Conservation)

Venus: a laboratory
for exoplanetary science


are microbes controlling the albedo?
(Earth & Sky)
when in doubt, blame it on aliens?

Roadblocks still in Hawaii ...and now at the back-up site in the Canary Islands

yes, there is a  climate crisis 🔥

how we know the planet is warming
the big picture

Beyond the 2 °C limit
(Washington Post)
large parts of the globe have already passed the threshold
including most of Canada, Alaska, Europe, & Russia

6 takeaways
extreme climate change arrives in America
annual temperature rise in Durham =
°C since 1895

West Antarctica's ice loss is due to humans
(Physics Today)

A new 'heat blob' arises in the Pacific
rivaling the one 5 years ago

Flight shame
(NY Books)
 the climate hazards
of air travel

climate policy

Fracking: best cases 'for' and 'against'

4 inconvenient
facts about
climate change

(This Week)

climate town hall

Climate Crisis
Town Hall:
10 candidates,
40 minutes each

happened 9/4/2019

7 takeaways
(Scientific American)
candidates are not afraid of big ideas, but some key differences emerge

6 winners, 3 losers
in CNN townhall
Joe Biden: incoherent as usual

other 2 losers: meat and fossil-fuel companies

10 questions to ask at a climate townhall

and suspiciously in time for the CNN event:

Kamala Harris's climate plan
(Kamala Harris)

Julian Castro's
climate plan

(Julian Castro)

Pete Buttegieg's climate plan
(Pete Buttigieg)

Elizabeth Warren has a climate plan, but not on her web site -- rather on one you have to register to see

yet she's very good pouting about others' lack of  transparency ...  
what a hypocrite


Grading the candidates' climate plans
(The Guardian)
only Sanders,  Warren, & Booker get As

A summary of Dem candidates' climate plans


climate solutions

Global Commission on Adaptation delivers
90-page report

(Global Commission on Adaptation)
claims $7.1 trillion in benefits are possible with investment in climate-resilient infrastructure et al.

the Adapt Now report

The real news about electric vehicles
(The Conversation)
countering the fake news

Is nuclear power a viable solution to global warming?


climate apocalypse?

read with disbelief

The climate apocalypse is coming
(New Yorker)
what if we stopped pretending?

instead, believe
the following responses to it

Ban rich white guys from writing about climate change

Should The New Yorker have published it
if it's wrong on the science?

not to mention wrong on the politics and wrong on the psychology... not to mention he's a novelist, not a scientist

It's a choice -- not a foregone conclusion
(Scientific American)
a climate scientist responds


the Amazon fires
contradicting claims

So why is the Amazon burning?
(Washington Post)

Fires mostly set by farmers
to clear land

what happens next?

4 reasons it's burning
(Earth & Sky)

The real data on Amazon fires
(Global Fire Data)
highest rate of fires since record-keeping began in 2013

More dangerous than WMDs?
(The Atlantic)
one person shouldn't have the power to doom the planet

Brazil's Bolsanaro
finally responds

military deployed after threat from Macron

or Everything you're reading about the Amazon is wrong?
well, not everything

Do the Amazon fires justify environmental interventionism?
(The Guardian)

long-term Amazon

Rainforest on fire
(The Intercept)
on the front lines in the Amazon
: conservation, agribusiness, & ranching

Increasing wildfires threaten carbon release from boreal soils

but the Amazon is *not* the 'lungs of the world'
(The Atlantic)
its contribution to the oxygen atmosphere is pretty much zero

Unrecoverable -- once it's gone
(The Atlantic)

Is the Amazon near a tipping point?
(Science Advances)

How the Amazon could self destruct
(NY Times)
the threat of dieback

The risk of Amazon forest dieback
a scientific review


Mapping the strain on our water
(Washington Post)
NC is in the top 10 of water use per day and has medium/high risk of water stress

more on the First pair-instability supernova?

maybe pulsational,
maybe not

A mass gap between neutron stars and (stellar) black holes?
(Starts with a Bang)
and is LIGO about to fill in the gap?
and with a nice diagram of supernova type as a function of mass and metallicity

It's raining sun
(Scientific American)
null-point topologies are the solution to solar


First detection of H2O in an exoplanet atmosphere
(Earth & Sky)

of a habitable super-Earth
but not necessarily liquid water of clouds

ET life

How life could
start in interstellar space
(Science Alert)

Life on Europa?
(Starts with a Bang)

Can we avoid harming alien life?
if we find it

life on Enceladus?

Enceladus -- the best hope for life beyond Earth?
(Starts with a Bang)

What life would look like an ocean moon?
in cartoons
humor... I think

prospects for life in the solar system
all from September 2019 issue of Astronomy

on Mars

on Europa
beneath the crust

on Titan

on Enceladus

on Triton
beneath the ice

on Pluto

Why is a SMBH periodically flaring?
(Earth & Sky)
in x-rays

Galaxy collisions and star formation
not as big a bump as once thought

Formation and evolution of star clusters in the LMC
nice pictures, little else
typical Hubble

Radio-emitting bubbles found near galactic center
(Earth & Sky)
like the hourglass-shaped Fermi bubbles, but smaller

Dark matter in
DF2 and DF4?

still no definitive answer

What's going on inside those 2 Fermi bubbles?

A very short history of the Milky Way

read with caution

An expanding controversy
an update on H0
... with a summary of a new method, albeit with large (10%) uncertainty

Starts with a Bang
claims it requires new physics
at least we get a summary of recent results

First overtones heard in the ringing of a black-hole merger
in first black-hole merger discovered, but belatedly noticed

and supporting the no-hair theorem
(Science News)

A new confirmation of General Relativity
(Science News)
  using a pulsar's winds

Time flies: the 4th anniversary of the first gravitational-
wave discovery

(Scientific American)

The evidence for dark matter
(The Conversation)
it's not about 'belief'

Quantum mechanics is fine
(Starts with a Bang)
it's human bias about reality that's the problem?
with a summary table that displays differences between quantum-interpretation theories

the proton

Has its centennial
(Physics Teacher)
and it's not the simple particle you thought

New measurement favors smaller proton size
(Science News)
rP ~ 0.83 fm

and hope dies for new physics
but apparently a proton's size depends on the context


Physicists don't want to understand quantum mechanics?
(NY Times)
no, just a thoroughly embarrassing article
if, like Sean Carroll, it means accepting non- falsifiability and
the multiiverse , that's a good thing!

Not Even Wrong
exposes the Carroll's silly claims in

Quantum Reality II
Regarding Papers about Fundamental Theories
which remembers the time when papers on GR were not wanted

read with caution

5 (most promising) ways to quantize gravity

Where's the quarkonium?
and the tetraquarks, and the glueballs, ...?

Are we all wrong about black holes?
given how little we know about black holes, it's hard to take this question seriously...
although deleting the silly pictures of surfer-philosophers (is there possibly a lower life form?) would help

read with disbelief

Where quantum probability comes from
more multi-universe nonsense from one of its lead purveyors

and worse
Splitting the universe

A quantum of life?
(Scientific American)

The 3rd Democratic debate
in 7 charts
O'Rourke &Warren impress;
Castro & Biden do not

Time for Joe to go
(Rolling Stone)

NC's legislature embarrasses itself
(Raleigh N&O)
again and again

The Presidency and the Lost Generation Z
(The Atlantic)
is Kamala Harris their only chance?
warning: The Atlantic now limits you to reading 5 free articles/month

or maybe it falls to
The heir
(The Atlantic)
Ivanka or Don, jr?

Supreme Court disses asylum seekers
acting like an arm of the GOP


Happy birthday, 9/11
(Washington Post)
welcome to war without end

Has the 18-year war in Afghanistan been worth it?
(Washington Post)
what it got right and wrong... and the consequences

When luck meant everything
(The Atlantic)
to life or death

NC GOP override budget veto while Democrats attend 9/11 ceremony
(Washington Post)
tricked again


NC district drawing

Judges appoint referee, give legislature until 9/19
(NC Policy Watch)

why they're likely to ask Nathan Persily to draw new maps?
(Election Law Blog)
and bypass the NC legislature

Watch NC district- drawing live on-line
(Raleigh N&O)
but only because the judges made them do it in public
Off to a bad start on Day 1?
(Raleigh N&O)
the lottery ball

The Hofeller affair was the prelude to

(Indy Week)

The end of partisan gerrymandering
in NC?
(Raleigh N&O)
pardon us if we're skeptical...
of an end to GOP trickery

3 NC judges embarrass
CJ Roberts

(NY Times)

Are NC Democrats backing away from non-partisan redistricting?
(Raleigh N&O)
they'd better not

NC's 9th district

A Democratic defeat or a GOP wake-up call?
HB2-author Bishop wins special election

Two Dans, two elections, and now winners
(New Republic)

Or are Dems going in reverse?
(NY Times)

Trump makes unfounded voter fraud claim while campaigning for a House seat opened by GOP cheating

oh, the irony


Michigan's smart idea for fixing gerrymandering
conservatives want to crush it

The legless armless FEC
(Washington Post)
just when a robust one is needed most

Information gerrymandering and undemocratic decisions
bet you hadn't been thinking about that

An all-hands-on-deck moment for American democracy

(Washington Post)
O'Rourke, Bullock, Castro, Abrams, etc.:
stop wasting out time

Protecting elections from social media manipulation
we can't understand
it if we're not measuring it

NC Election Board chooses not to have secure voting
(Raleigh N&O)
until 2020 or maybe even beyond

and elections past

Impact of NC

(Raleigh N&O)
dividing races, cities, and a campus



Permanent Record
(Washington Post)
Edward Snowden explains how he did it... sort of

they wanted him gone
(The Guardian)
'they' is us, the USA

The Economist's Hour
a generation of economists got us into our present mess...can a new one get us out of it?

proving again that economics is NOT a science, not even a social one

The Guarded Gate
(NY Books)
keeping southern and eastern European immigrants out of America

Quantum Mechanics:
the graphic novel

(Physics Today)
a review

She Said
(The Guardian)
bringing down Harvey Weinstein

 Einstein's War
(Physics Today)
Einstein & Eddington ... war heroes?

No shadow of a doubt
(Physics Today)
the significance of the 1919 total solar eclipse

An autumn reading list


Remembering Robert Frank
the photographer who chronicled the alienation and heartbreak in America

36 hours in Geneva
(NY Times)
but no CERN?

Portugal's Alentejo
(NY Times)

Labor Day thoughts

The case for a 4-day work week
32 hours of work,
3-day weekends

Uber & Lyft:
fighting to keep their employees poor

(NY Times)
will Californians let them?

It's 'Labor Day',
not 'Contract Employee' day!

(LA Times)

What working Americans deserve
(Pete Buttigieg)

Bargaining for more
(American Prospect)

Unions for all:
a new plan to save American Labor

'sectoral bargaining' is the future?

The jobs most threatened by machines
(American Prospect)
cashiers, not truckers


America, the gerontocracy
old in leaders, old in voters, old in system of government

The last 5 Navajo code talkers
(USA Today)
share their story

fools rush out

(NY Books)

guns & shootings
yet again

Mass shootings:
both increasing and increasingly deadly

(LA Times)

Texas gun laws loosened after 2nd mass shooting this month
because it's Texas
:, where guns are more important than people

American gun madness
in 16 maps & charts

K-12 schools

EdWeek rates the states

NC ranks 37th overall
on achievement, financing, & chance for success

NC 23rd in K-12 achievement
with an average grade of C-

NC 30th in 'chance of students success'
with a grade of C+

NC ranks 46th in per-pupil spending
NC spends $9,367,
~$3400 below US average... and gets
a grade of F

Raleigh N&O

but We're getting what we pay for
(Raleigh N&O)
and it's not good
57% of students passed reading tests .... and 60% of schools with a majority of low-income students were rated D or F

A failing grade for NC's top 'educatpr'
(Raleigh N&O)
taking away resources from public school education

A surge in the number of integrated schools
(Washington Post)
but not in the big cities


How to end the PhD problem?

(Policy Options)
end the PhD bashing

17 questions colleges should be asking
(Sen Ben Sasse, R-KS,
The Atlantic)

When did college become so cruel?
(NY Times)

Why college became so expensive
(The Atlantic)

Why dorms are so nice now

(The Atlantic)



The ISS is more valuable than people realize?
(Scientific American)
only if you care about space effects on human biology.... not if you actually care about science

Can spaceflight save the planet?
(Scientific American)
just pie-in-the-sky

human origins continued

When was America first occupied by humans?


Light from dark
(Science News)
how this thermoelectric generator works

The delusion of
scientific omniscience

(Scientific American)

Death by diet soda?
(NY Times)

mass extinctions

A long-ago mass extinction
2 Gyr ago, when life was microbes

A 6th major mass

(Historical Biology)
the end-Captinian
although perhaps unnoticed because it preceded the Permian one by only 8 Myr

no, the end-Captinian wasn't 'major'
(Paleogeography, Paleoclimatology, Paleoecology)
with rankings of the top 10 extinctions
now that's a journal title!

A reversal of the biological clock?


How capitalism created dinosaurs

'Fundamental Physics' Prize for first SMBH image
(Breakthrough Institute)
another 'Breakthrough'  prize for underachievement and hype?

bad tech

Has 'Science' let radiation scare us to death?
no, but this bogus article (transparently pro-nuclear) is pretty scary in trying to get us to think it's safe

50 states/territories start antitrust investigation of Google
(Washington Post)
or why the Internet is far from being free
every state but CA & AL

or Google's very bad day

Uber/Lyft 'contract workers' about to become employees

(LA Times)

in CA at least

Uber/Lyft say they won't

MIT Media Lab

Hype vs. reality
(Chronicle of Higher Education)
Harper & the food computer

The moral rot of the MIT Media Lab


Epstein and the moral bankruptcy of the techno-elites
(The Guardian)
solutions: close MIT's Media Lab; disband  the TED talks; boycott John Brockman


How social networks can be used to bias voters

Protecting elections from social media manipulation
we can't understand
it if we're not measuring it

limited time?  read the most important stories from  late August 2019:

1)  upper limits to neutrino masses  

2)  gravitational-wave rumors

another ns-bh merger?
the least-massive black hole?
the most-massive (stellar) black hole?
an unnoticed kilonova (pre-LIGO-upgrade)?

3)   climate change news

methane regulations removed

new solutions for solving climate change
and talking about it

4)  origins of American slavery: 400 years ago

5)  Ryugu news:  little dust, despite violent origin

6)   First Americans:  in Idaho, by sea from Japan?

7) first observed pair-instability supernova?

8)  climate policy

Bernie Sanders climate plan

Andrew Yang's climate plan

9)  good and bad news for Earth-like exoplanets

learn more about
neutrinosdark energy, the multiverse,   climate change,
exoplanet biosignatures (1) and exoplanet biosignatures (2),
Hubble tension

previous astro/culture updates

from 2019:

july-august 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