June 18th, 2011

fucking magnets!

one in a hundred million

i said before that wikipedia seems to be following me around, but didn't mention in may when the feature article was douglas adams' hitchhiker's guide, which author i've been relentlessly promoting of late whilst rereading some of his works. anyway, today's feature article is on gamma-ray bursts (grb), the editorial selection of which might have been prompted by this recent bit of news which i'd already been planning on sharing here (along with a variation at space.com). either way, the wiki article on grbs hasn't been updated to reflect this news yet, in which a grb has lasted for more than two months when they typically last a matter of seconds. one thing i especially love about space-related articles (and other science news articles) is you constantly hear about highly unlikely and unusual and unexpected occurrences. for example:

"this is a really, really unusual event," study co-author joshua bloom, assistant professor of astronomy at university of california, berkeley, told space.com. "it's now about two-and-a-half months old, and the fact that it just continues on and is only fading very slowly is the one really big piece of evidence that tells us this is not an ordinary gamma-ray burst."

"a rare sight that astronomers say likely happens only once every 100 million years"



what i especially like about this particular phenomenon is summed up in a sentence in the (separate) wiki article on this particular grb (110328a):

"the beam of radiation appears to be pointed directly toward earth."

or, as it's summed up at space.com:

astronomers were even luckier to have been able to witness the event with such detail and clarity, since the jet of x-rays and high-energy gamma rays were punched out along a rotation axis that placed earth in the eye of the beam. "this is part of the special nature of the event," bloom said. "what we have is a geometrical rarity on top of an already rare event. i would be surprised if we saw another one of these anywhere in the sky in the next decade."

the astronomers suspect that the gamma-ray emissions began on march 24 or 25, at a distance of about 3.8 billion light-years away. and while they are still detecting activity from this event, bloom and his colleagues estimate that the emissions will fade over the next year.



oh, and the picture of grb 110328a at the wiki article is courtesy of hubble, cuz hubble got you.
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    supermassive black hole
time flies like an arrow.

why i can't write great fiction

i never ever watch carson daly's show which has been following conan and now jimmy for years now on nbc (carson daly is a massive tool). but it happened to be on, muted, in the background tonight, and i looked up, and there's an old favorite, sarah vowell, chosen to be part of some brief spotlight on storytellers they're doing all week. terrific. and at one point she says:

i think what makes a great story is different in fiction and nonfiction. made up stories have to actually seem true. the thing i love about nonfiction is: it does not have to be plausible. i mean, great nonfiction is all about coincidences and things that don't seem like they really happen. when i was writing the assassination book, one of my favorite stories was about edwin booth, who was john wilkes booth's older brother. he was at a party once, in new york. the host of the party had this plaster cast of a hand on the mantelpiece. and edwin booth picks it up and asks the host "whose hand is this?" and the host says, "uh... lincoln...you know, like, that guy your brother murdered..." stuff like that. if you put that in a novel it would just be so hamhanded and ridiculous, but because it happened, it was allowed.




and yes, i did have an entry earlier this year on the booth family and synchronic coincidences.
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    everybody's got a little light under the sun
it's the sun

term of art

maunder minimum

another example of what i recently mentioned:

"this is highly unusual and unexpected," said frank hill, associate director of the nso's solar synoptic network, as the findings of three recent studies were presented which showed that the familiar sunspot cycle may be shutting down and heading toward a pattern of inactivity unseen since the 17th century.

three years ago, nasa solar physicist david hathaway said the extended minimum didn't herald the second coming of the maunder minimum, but now...

who's up for a little ice age?


*"curiously, the duration of the maunder minimum (1645–1715) coincides very closely with the reign of king louis xiv of france (1643–1715), known as the sun king."







diurnal sunshine of the spotless sun:

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    ,
daft as jack

on stranger tides?

saturday ccxxix

the card second from the top of the staff represents your hopes, fears, or an unexpected element that will come into play. ten of poetry (prophecy), when reversed: being swept away by a feeling of spiritual intervention. profound existential awe. bondage to elemental forces and divine will. predetermination. the burden of prophecy and commitment to serve the greater good. awakening to the full scope and indifference of the universe.

the card at the bottom of the cross represents the foundation on which the situation is based. eight of poetry (swiftness), when reversed: time accelerated beyond control. momentum that cannot be diverted. being swept off your feet by uncontrollable lust. information overload. the internet. forces aligning and assembling around their perception of what you mean.

this avarice
sticks deeper, grows with more pernicious root
than summer-seeming lust, and it hath been
the sword of our slain kings: yet do not fear;
scotland hath foisons to fill up your will.
of your mere own: all these are portable,
with other graces weigh'd.



it is given to us to try and harmonise states which are at war with one another: it is given to us to reconcile the differences of rival factions within those states themselves, wherever existing.



ne dansez pas, ma fille.

ma fille, ne dansez pas.
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