February 18th, 2010

[LINK] "'Super Earth' May Really Be New Planet Type: Super-Io"

Jupiter's moon Io, innermost of the four planet-sized Galilean moons, has been famed since the close flyby of the Voyager 1 probe as one of the most exorbitantly volcanic worlds out there, tidal stresses produced by its interactions with Jupiter and the other Galilean moons making this Moon-sized body more volcanically active than Earth, even. Now, it seems like the extraterrestrial planet COROT-7b, a roughly Earth-sized body orbiting a Sun-like star a few hundred light years away, might be the prototype for a new class of planet.

Like Jupiter's moon Io, CoRoT-7b could easily be in the right kind of orbit to experience what's known as tidal heating, according to study co-author Rory Barnes of the University of Washington in Seattle.

On Io, tidal heating is a result of the crust being constantly deformed by the push and pull of Jupiter's gravity. This action generates enough internal heat to drive hundreds of active volcanoes—and the same could be true for CoRoT-7b, Barnes said.

But unlike Io, CoRoT-7b closely orbits a star, not a planet, so tides aren't its only source of heat. Based on previous observations, astronomers know that CoRoT-7b's surface is between 1,832 and 2,732 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 and 1,500 degrees Celsius).

That's hot enough for there to be "ponds or possibly even oceans of magma," Barnes said. Scientists also know that the planet is tidally locked, which means that only one side ever faces the star.

"There could be volcanism on the back side of the planet," Barnes said. "It could be that on one side the surface is molten, and on the other side there's raging volcanoes."

[. . .]

In the recent study, presented last month at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society, Barnes and colleagues looked at the possible orbits for CoRoT-7b based on its size and mass, its proximity to its star, and its interactions with a nearby sister planet, CoRoT-7c.

The researchers found that even a slight eccentricity in CoRoT-7b's orbit would generate enough tidal heating to spawn bunches of volcanoes, making the planet much more Io-like than Earthlike.

For starters, just as Io circles close to massive Jupiter, CoRoT-7b orbits very close to its host star, so the influence of gravity is especially strong, Barnes said.

What's more, both Io and CoRoT-7b are tidally locked. In Io's case, this means that one side always faces Jupiter. That side of the moon is being tugged so much harder by gravity that the otherwise round world becomes slightly elongated, with a bulge around the middle.

"Earth does this—we have a tidal bulge due to interactions with the sun and our moon," Barnes noted. "The ocean tides are the result of [gravitational] tides, but rock is also distorted due to tidal effects."

In addition, Io maintains an irregular, elliptical orbit due to interactions with other Jovian moons close by, so its distance to Jupiter changes over time. As Io gets closer to Jupiter, it becomes more elongated, and as it moves away it becomes more spherical.

"If you had a tennis ball and you kept squeezing it, you would get heat from friction," Barnes said. "For Io it's like that, except you're doing it to a planet."

[CAT] Cat and squirrel

Reuters blogger Robert Basler recognizes cuteness, clearly.

Blog Guy, what’s the most shockingly shameless thing you’ve ever done to attract reader traffic to your blog?

Um, I’m guessing it might be posting pictures of a cat breastfeeding an injured squirrel while her kitten snuggles with it, and the little kitten and the squirrel hugging each other, and the squirrel eating out of the cat dish….

I get the idea. That IS cheap and shameless! All the cat people and kitten people and squirrel people on earth are going be sending that to each other for days, maybe weeks!</i>

Yes, I suppose maybe they will, come to think of it….

"Tita, a cat belonging to resident Ruben Gaviria, breastfeeds a squirrel as her kitten plays with it at Gaviria’s house in Envigado near Medellin February 16, 2010. Gaviria rescued the squirrel six days ago after it was found injured in a park. REUTERS/Albeiro Lopera"

Cat and squirrel (1)

Cat and squirrel (2)

Cat and squirrel (3)

[LINK] "Mars Rover to Rove No More"

It's official.

After months of trying to wiggle the [Mars rover Spirit] out of a sand trap on Mars, the NASA probe remains firmly entrenched in the soft soil inside a small crater.

So mission managers announced Tuesday that the rover will stay put, spending the rest of its days conducting science from its current location inside the crater, where its wheels can move only a few inches.

[. . .]

Now, instead of planning an escape, rover drivers will use the craft's limited mobility to reposition the probe, giving Spirit a better chance of surviving the oncoming Martian winter.

[. . .]

if Spirit does wake up in spring, the Mars rover team "will use the mobility system as best we can ... to make the full capabilities of the rover available to science," noted rover driver Ashley Stroupe, also of JPL.

For instance, having the rover stay put can reveal new insights into Mars's core, its atmospheric conditions, and its watery past, noted Steve Squyres, the rover mission's principle investigator, based at Cornell University.

"The imperative to drive is relaxed now, and we're able to focus on a whole new class of science," he said.

Tracking the rover's radio signal from its fixed position, for example, will allow astronomers to finely calculate the way Mars wobbles as it spins on its axis.

Like a raw egg versus a hard-boiled one, the planet should wobble differently on its axis if its metal core is solid than if it's molten.

Scientists can also direct the rover's robotic arm to take multiple soil samples from different locations around the crater, allowing them to measure how Mars's atmosphere interacts with its surface over time.

And the sand trap Spirit is stuck in presents its own opportunities: The crater is filled with unusual layers of sulfate salts, minerals that hint at relatively recent water action on Mars.

"The bottom line is, we're not giving up on Spirit," Squyres said. "I feel there's a lot of really exciting science ahead, including some stuff that I think is truly groundbreaking."

[LINK] "Simon Weisenthal Centre to build ‘tolerance museum’ on Arab graveyard"

The news, of course, is drenched in irony. Certainly this fits with the pattern of Jewish/Israeli nationalists' refusal to recognize that other people were living in the southwestern Levant--people who, say, lived and died and buried their ancestors with greater ceremony--before the late 19th century beginning of the Zionist project.

The tombs are crumbling and overturned in the ancient Muslim cemetery of Mamilla but they do not mean any less to those whose relatives are buried here.

Dyala Husseini-Dajani and her husband, who belong to two of the oldest Arab families in Jerusalem, point to the areas where their ancestors are buried. Soon, she fears, there will be nothing left of the burial plot — established in the centre of Jerusalem more than 400 years ago — as the entire area is earmarked for demolition to make way for a new “Museum of Tolerance”, a £160 million complex sponsored by the US-based Simon Weisenthal Centre. “How can they not see the irony of this so-called Museum of Tolerance?” Mrs Husseini-Dajani asked.

She has joined 60 other members of longstanding Jerusalem families whose ancestors are buried there to sign a petition to the UN Special Rapporteur’s office on freedom of religion. They want the UN to put pressure on Israel to stop construction there.

“What the UN can do is limited but they can investigate and raise awareness,” said Diana Buttu, a lawyer involved with the petition. “We have exhausted all our other legal means.”

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Weisenthal Centre, has defended the decision to build the museum, stating that the complex will promote coexistence. “All citizens of Israel, Jews and non-Jews, are the real beneficiaries of the site,” he said.

Palestinians claim that the project is a land grab, aimed at destroying evidence of Arab claims to west Jerusalem. “This is my history, my family, everything,” said Mrs Husseini-Dajani. “If they are serious about this project being tolerance they would have approached us with their plans, and had a discussion. But they did not show us even this respect.”

Yes, this is a "clash of ideologies" post. Isn't the tag tailored for this sort of news item?

[LINK] "The last man in East Germany"

Alex Harrowell has a post up at A Fistful of Euros describing the last odd convulsions of East Germany's state police as the East German state slowly came apart in late 1989.

Uwe Hädrich had been arrested for attempting to emigrate on the 13th of September, 1989. The TV could only be tuned from outside the cell, so he could only watch official TV; of course, the famous press conference with Günther Schabowski was very official indeed. But that didn’t affect the charges against him. The wall gone and the borders open, he remained detained, accused of espionage and illegally crossing the border, subject to constant interrogation and solitary confinement. (Hädrich was an executive with the DDR’s consumer goods system, and therefore presumably a show-trial candidate.) Eventually, on the 7th of December, the new Modrow government announced that there were no political prisoners in East Germany.

Except for Herr Hädrich, of course. He was suddenly released that afternoon, as if he’d been forgotten about in all the excitement and only now remembered. According to the files, he was the last political prisoner. He went home; back in jail, the Minister of Security himself, General Erich Mielke, had just been booked in and assigned the very cell Hädrich had left.

But the revolution, the emptying of the jails, and the mere arrest of its chief didn’t stop normal operations at the Stasi. At precisely eight o’clock the next morning, a Stasi case officer called on Hädrich to ask him questions about whether he had contacted the Federal German embassy in Hungary. Every day, the case officer arrived to quiz Hädrich, and presumably wrote up his findings back at the office.

[MUSIC] Wada Kanako, "Natsu No Mirage"

For the last few weekends, I've been watching the anime Kimagure Orange Road with a collection of friends. I've quite enjoyed it, somewhat to my surprise; the animation's good and the plots are entertaining and the backgrounds amusing. One thing we've all agree upon is that the music's quite good. One example of this is the song "Natsu No Mirage", "Summer Mirage," as sung by the J-Pop singer Wada Kanako, active in the late 1980s contemporaneously with the anime.

Below's the same song, performed live, extended to a total of four minutes.

There's not much at all about the singer, one of several singers used for the series' songs, apart from this link, the only link of substance I've found. "My introducton to her music was the Kimagure Orange Road CDs. I think she has an incredible voice; very, very beautiful and clear. Finding things of hers is almost impossible, though, as her own CDs are comparatively old and I haven't been able to find anyplace on the net that has them, including e-bay." The only thing of substance relevant to the song is that it's the first track of her her debut album, 1987's Esquisse (Sketches).

Wada Kanako, Esquisse

It's a shame that Wada Kanako shared in the disposability of most J-Pop stars, since we all agree that she has a wonderful voice, passionate and melancholy all at once. There's nothing wrong with the ephemeral, but sometimes I might like things to stay around for a little longer.

I'm not a massive anime fan, an obsessive one, the sort of person who might place personal ads announcing proudly that he speaks "Nipponese." (If I was to learn a third language--when I will, hopefully--it probably will be some language more widely used outside its homeland, something like Spanish or German or Portuguese or even Russian, but that's stuff for a different post altogether.) For me, apart from the storylines and the very high quality of the art, one of the nice things about anime is the way in which it gives me glimpses of Japanese culture, in the depictions of conventional life, say, in the spiritual and religious assumptions that would be assumed by Japanese viewers but not caught by non-Japanese viewers, in the sorts of music that are mainstream. Going beyond the superficial's always a good thing and those glimpses aren't anything more than superficial observations, but is there anything wrong with them in themselves? Increasingly, I tend to think not. Why not just enjoy the song?

[LINK] "Canada closes ports to Faroe Islands, Greenland for refusing NAFO shrimp quotas"

Good. Trying to induce these two autonomous nations to improve their records themselves might have been overly generous; doing our best to marginalize these fisheries is the least that a Canadian government concerned about not deterraforming the oceans surrounding us can do.

Canada is closing its ports to fishing boats from the Faroe Islands and Greenland because of their refusal to accept international shrimp quotas, Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea announced Sunday.

The ban takes effect Monday.

"We have acted in good faith for several years to try to resolve this issue, to no avail," Shea said in a statement.

"It has become clear to Canada that attempts to come to a multilateral agreement ... are at an impasse."

The Danish territories have unilaterally set a quota of 3,101 tonnes, almost 10 times greater than the quota set by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization for international waters about 400 kilometres east of Newfoundland and Labrador.

[. . .]

The Danish territories have registered formal objections with NAFO over their 334-tonne limit.

Liberal fisheries critic Gerry Byrne said Canada had closed its ports to both territories before and he couldn't understand why they were being reopened.

"There is no actual indication or evidence that suggested they had changed their behaviour or ever intended to change their behaviour," the Newfoundland MP said in an interview.

"The government can't cite one piece of evidence that supports the ... merit of lifting the ban."

A federal official said Canada's ports were re-opened as a sign of good faith, an incentive to find resolution to a long-standing problem.

As for Byrne's criticism, Shea suggested he was off the mark.

"Before NAFO reform, Gerry Byrne was supportive of the status quo," she said.

"That status quo included over-fishing, misreporting, high-grading and disregard for environmental responsibility. Our government led the charge to implement a management regime that is science-based and reflects the rule of law."

[DM] "On the inconveniences of Ontario having high structural unemployment and rapid aging"

I've a post up at Demography Matters pointing out that, especially with rapidly aging populations, it's vital for countries or polities to have highly-trained workforces capable of being productive enough to support said rapidly aging populations, using Ontario as a case in point.

Go, read.