TRAPPIST1 Size Comparison Chart

Seven Earth-like Planets Found Orbiting Nearby Star

TRAPPIST1 Size Comparison ChartImage via Space.com

This morning NASA announced the discovery of seven Earth-like planets “that could harbor life” orbiting an ultra cool red dwarf star. Three of these seven newly discovered planets are in the Habitable Zone. The exoplanets circle the star TRAPPIST-1, which lies just 39 light-years (235 trillion miles) away — a mere stone’s throw in the cosmic scheme of things.

From Washington Post:

The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the first time astronomers have ever detected so many terrestrial planets orbiting a single star. Researchers say the system is an ideal laboratory for studying alien worlds and could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth.

“Before this, if you wanted to study terrestrial planets, we had only four of them and they were all in our solar system,” said lead author Michaël Gillon, an exoplanet researcher at the University of Liège in Belgium. “Now we have seven Earth-sized planets to expand our understanding. Yes, we have the possibility to find water and life. But even if we don’t, whatever we find will be super interesting.”

Here’s the paper in Nature: Seven temperate terrestrial planets around the nearby star TRAPPIST-1.

Novel Uses For (Rap) Genius

Genius started out as a platform for annotating clever rap lyrics but has since expanded to include more than hip-hop, and more than just lyrics. Over the last week I have stumbled across some increasingly novel uses for the Rap Genius website:

  • First was an annotation of Hamilton: An American Musical soundtrack. These annotations are filled with interesting tidbits and insights into the song lyrics, American history, and production plot.
  • Second was an annotation of the entire Great Gatsby. Wonderful.
  • Lastly, Travis Korte used the Genius Web Annotator to create an informative takedown of the GOP’s recent Mainstream Media Accountability Survey. The annotation exposes the confusingly worded questions, sample bias and leading questions used in the survey.
Casa Bonita: Skeleton pirate at the entrance to Black Bart's Cave

Why Did Pirates Wear Eye Patches?

This Wall Street Journal article from back in 2013 answers some important questions about whether reading in dimly lit conditions or reading on a device like an iPad or phone can actually cause damage to your eyes. It turns out there is no evidence of long-term damage or change in the physiology to the eyes but it may cause discomfort or fatigue.

However, the lead is buried in the last paragraph of the article and explains why pirates wore eye patches:

“Ever wonder why a pirate wears patches? It’s not because he was wounded in a sword fight,” says Dr. Sheedy. Seamen must constantly move between the pitch black of below decks and the bright sunshine above.

Smart pirates “wore a patch over one eye to keep it dark-adapted outside.” Should a battle break out and the pirate had to shimmy below, he would simply switch the patch to the outdoor eye and he could see in the dark right away—saving him 25 minutes of flailing his cutlass about in near blindness

Magic iPod

Magical Mashups

With The Magic iPod anybody can be a good mashup DJ. Simply drag the mid-2000’s hip-hop song across to an available saccharine pop song and you got yourself a bangin’ mashup. Below are few mashups that I liked. But really, this is so magical you’re going to struggle to make any horrible mixes.

Lose Control – Soul Meets Body Mashup

Country Grammar – Complicated Mashup

Laffy Taffy – Misery Business Mashup

(If you download then donate to the ACLU while you’re there)

Hubble eXtreme Deep Field

There Are At Least 10 Times More Galaxies In The Universe Than We Thought

The universe suddenly looks a lot more crowded.

Waaaaay back in 1995, the Hubble Deep Field images surprised the world by revealing how crammed the universe is with galaxies. At that time astronomers estimated there were about 200 billion galaxies in the universe. Recent estimates put that count closer to 2 trillion, at least 10 times as many galaxies as we thought. However, about 90% of the galaxies in the observable Universe are actually too faint and too far away to be seen or studied. Phil Plait explains:

Now, let me be clear. This doesn’t meant the Universe is ten times bigger than we thought, or there are ten times as many stars. I’ll explain — I mean, duh, it’s what I do — but to cut to the chase, what they found is that there are lots of teeny, faint galaxies very far away that have gone undetected. So instead of being in a smaller number of big galaxies, stars are divvied up into a bigger number of smaller ones.

And it doesn’t mean the Universe has 10 times more mass than we thought. The mass is the same, it’s just distributed differently than we thought. It’s like knowing there are 1 million people in a city, and finding out they live in 100,000 buildings when you thought they were only in 10,000. There are more buildings, but not more people

This discovery has also helped lead to explanations for Olbers’ paradox which states, “Why is the sky dark at night if the universe contains a multitude of stars?” NASA helps explain:

The team came to the conclusion that indeed there actually is such an abundance of galaxies that, in principle, every patch in the sky contains part of a galaxy. However, starlight from the galaxies is invisible to the human eye and most modern telescopes due to other known factors that reduce visible and ultraviolet light in the universe. Those factors are the reddening of light due to the expansion of space, the universe’s dynamic nature, and the absorption of light by intergalactic dust and gas. All combined, this keeps the night sky dark to our vision.

The sky is literally covered in galaxies! Mind boggling to be sure!