Physical Sciences

After two percent of astronomers threw out one arbitrary definition of planet and replaced it with another arbitrary definition of planet, our solar system went from nine planets to eight. Pluto became instead a dwarf planet because the the International Astronomical Union said a planet must have "cleared its neighborhood" of other orbiting bodies and since Pluto did not clean out the entire Kuiper Belt full of asteroids it did not qualify.

In the previous post I discussed, among other things, a purely empirical observation on the mass spectrum of elementary particles, which I summarized in a graph where on the vertical scale I put the year of discovery, and where I only cared to plot particles with a mass above a keV - in fact, we know that neutrinos have non-zero masses, but we have not measured them and they are of the order of an eV or below. Okay, for simplicity I will re-publish the graph below.

I have long been of the opinion that writing about science for the public requires the writer to simplify things down to a level which is sometimes dangerously close to mislead the uninformed readers. I think is a small price to pay if you want to keep open the channel of communication with the general public, but it is indeed a narrow path the one you sometimes find yourself walking on, and fallacy is always a possible outcome.

Oumuamua the object which passed through our solar system in October 2017 with a trajectory that indicates it was not of this solar system was never photographed.  We only saw a point of light that that changes in brightness as it rotates.   There could be many reasons a natural body might change greatly in brightness, trajectory, and velocity as it rotates.  In all the randomness of collisions between bodies in the heavens almost anything is possible.  However, when it comes to alien life, we have to be careful.  No one or two things can give us reasonable certainty.   


As the well-informed readers will realize, I am hat-tipping Hank Campbell and the catchy title of his best-selling book "Science Left Behind" with the title of this post, for lack of more imagination. What I want to discuss is, however, something only partly in line with the interesting topics of Hank's book. It is something that I see happening around these days, and which I ache for: the dumbing down of our decision making in science.
Tomato plants emit a volatile compound named hexenyl butyrate  which can be used for closing the stomata, key in protecting plants from bacterial attacks.

But Center for Science in the Public Interest and Environmental Working Group don't need to mobilize the trial lawyers, this volatile compound is all natural. That means is could be a new strategy for protecting crops from biotic and abiotic stress and improving yields, all without sound like scary science to their attorneys.

It's also easy to yes because it is a volatile compound. It can be applied by spraying onto plants and also by using diffuser devices, it has zero toxicity and its use is already approved in food.

2002 NT7 is closest at 16.50 today, UTC time. It will be 61 million kilometers away and they know the distance exactly to within 127 kilometers, and the time of the flyby accurate to the nearest minute. It is no risk to Earth.

It is already well above our orbit though, it crossed the orbit of Earth several days ago on the 8th. And 61 million kilometers is further away than Mars at its closest. It is not very close.

Earth's orbit in blue, 2002 NT7 in white.

More details here

It actually crossed our orbit already on the 8th. It is already moving upwards away from our orbit. Earth is catching up on it from behind and is closest on the 13th at 61 million kilometers. That's further away than Mars at its closest, and much further away than Venus at its closest.

The red top tabloids and other sensationalist press and YouTube videos are going wild about this, in many different languages too. It is my most often asked question at present from scared people, whether their lives are at risk because of this asteroid. It doesn't matter if they say it or write it in Russian, Spanish, or whatever language it is, or enlist the services of clairvoyants or astrologers to pronounce about it - it is still utter nonsense.

Given the use that people do of Google searches nowadays, and the rather special nature of my usual readership, I feel I may need to first of all apologize for the deceiving title of this post to the 80 to 90% of the visitors, who came to this page by searching for ways to become a member of a selection committee of miss Universe.  Sorry, you had it wrong - we are going to discuss parametric models here, not top models. But if you are happy to hear about the issues of fitting data with different functional forms, you are welcome to read on.
Traveling to Mars is a ridiculous idea outside anything but "adventure" yet the U.S. administration under President Obama scrubbed his predecessor's return to the moon and replaced it with a program bearing his name, going to the red planet.

Whether or not that actually happens, science and technology are using that potential to experiment with growing food in space.