Category Archives: Peculiar Science

How’s Uranus?

Never one to shirk from gutter humor in times of stress and anxiety, I was amused to read a recent article from Popular Science that “…our image of Uranus hasn’t advanced substantially beyond the featureless blue beachball captured by Voyager 2’s vintage instruments in 1986.”

Uranus blog

Uranus is an odd planet. Where others spin, Uranus rolls, tipped on its side with its poles pointing generally toward or away from the sun. Its magnetic field is bonkers too, offset from the planet’s center and tipped at a wild 60 degrees to the side. Planetary astronomers are blind to that magnetic field from Earth, although the Hubble Space Telescope can occasionally catch an indirect glimpse via Uranus’s auroras—which can shine far from the poles.

Last year, while combing through NASA’s archives of the Voyager 2 mission, two planetary scientists noticed something earlier analyses had overlooked—a blip in Uranus’s magnetic field as the spacecraft cruised through a magnetic bubble of sorts.  They spotted a special 60-second long section of Voyager 2’s 45-hour flyby where the magnetic field rose and fell in an instantly recognizable way.

They deduced that it might be a plasmoid.  Plasmoids are charged globs of atmosphere blown out into space when the solar wind whips around planets. Losing such blobs can dramatically transform a world over a long period of time, and studying them can provide insight into how planets live and die.

The Voyager team initially assumed the magnetic wackiness was linked to the Uranus’s belly flop position, but when the spacecraft flew by Neptune (which stands up straight) three years later it saw the same apparent mismatch between the planet and its field. Now researchers assume that something about the worlds’ inner workings must set their magnetic fields apart.

The article was titled:

“Uranus blasted a gas bubble 22,000 times bigger than the Earth.”

In other words:

Uranus farted!

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

I see that our ‘crack’ U.S. Government, after its leader, President Rump, proclaimed coronavirus to be a hoax, has reversed itself and declared a national emergency.  A task force, under the superlative direction of cardboard cutout Vice President Mike Dense, gives us reassurance that everything is under control provided we take safety precautions through abstinence and prayer.

coronavirus image

Nonetheless, despite consulting the world’s foremost experts on diseases and epidemics – people like Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson and Rush Windbag – the government’s task force has a glaring omission in getting citizens through this crisis:

What do I do when run out of toilet paper?

Well, I am here to help.

First, that usual question – paper or plastic?  My own preference is paper.  Plastic has a number of issues, not the least of which is slipperiness.  Besides, aren’t you environmentally concerned and using paper or your own bags to cart items from the grocery store?

So, paper.  And where do we get unused paper?  Most of us have stopped reading the daily newspaper and few of us use writing paper.  And, truth be told, your environmental concerns do not rise to the level of replacing plastic bags.  On the other hand, we tend to order online and get delivery by – cardboard paper!  Yes, I know that it does not have the silky-smooth quality of your store-bought ultra-smooth Charmin’ or the plushness of Quilted Northern but – hey – we’re in a crisis here so we have to accept these challenges.

And what happens when we have neither plastic nor paper?  Nature, in the form of trees, provides us with an abundance of leaves.  I would seek out large leafed hardwoods – Sycamore or Red/White Oak – over small leafed varieties or softwoods.  And I really don’t want to tell you about the experience one poor fellow had when reduced to using pine needles.

Autumnal Equinox

Looking for a brief explanation of the autumnal equinox on Saturday, September 22nd?

Autumnal equinox

For an instant, the plane of the equinoctial colure will be perpendicular to the earth’s orbital radius vector.

Simple as that!

 

More Per Capita

While I am off thinking of more items to grouse and complain about, I realized that you should have something other than The Donald’s statue to contemplate.

Those of you in Canada or Mexico can choose a state comparable to your province.

MorePer Capita

Taking our Health for Granted

Carrie Rubin recently wrote a post – It’s Easy to Take Our Health for Granted until It’s Taken from Us – describing her mother’s unfortunate ongoing health issues.  Unlike me, Carrie’s mom has retained a sense of humor through all this adversity.  In comparison, I would bitch, moan and complain about every insignificant problem – ingrown toenail, flea bite, that zit that always arises at the end of my nose – in the vain hope that it would ward off more serious problems.

As Carrie points out “Many ailments like [her] mother’s aren’t due to our poor behaviors, and many of our poor behaviors aren’t due to a lack of willpower. Our health is such a priceless commodity […] and yet we humans purposely do things we know aren’t good for us.”

So why do we systematically take our health for granted?

Faulty logic – Many of us don’t like going to the doctor. We argue (I argue) that the results are the same:  Either the doctor tells us that we are fine in which case we did not need to go or the doctor tells us that we have a problem in which case we wish we had not gone.

Avoidance part 1 – We avoid the obvious, men in particular. The fact that we can no longer stand up straight or bend our knees or that we donate blood whenever going to the bathroom is of no significance.  If a man loses his arm, he will still not want to go to the emergency room saying “It’s okay; it will grow back.”

Avoidance parts 2 – Studies have shown that daily exercise increases longevity by three years. Of course, most of that extra longevity was spent exercising.  Take out the extra time exercising and you only increase your longevity by three days.  In the words of www.despair.com , “Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.”

Pleasure seeking part 1 – I was touring Yosemite National Park a number of years ago and watched what I thought were bugs crawling up the side of El Capitan, the granite monolith extending about 3000 feet from base to summit. With strong binoculars, I realized that there were several teams of climbers scaling a shear face of rock.  It was far easier for me to watch than to participate.  Thrill seeking activities come with the risk of injury, sometimes fatal injury.  On the other hand, if you are going to die of something, make it something you like. ***

Pleasure seeking part 2 – Why do we consume in excess items that are injurious to us like cigarettes, alcohol or drugs? Because, we argue, they make us feel good.  If one of these is good, then two, three or forty-nine of these must be better.  Besides, they create jobs for the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives and the Drug Enforcement Administration as well as stimulate the economy.  If we collectively stopped consuming these items that are bad for us, we would send the financial system in a tailspin.

So, put up your feet, sit back on your fat butt, take a swig of rotgut, a drag on your cigarette, and watch endless reruns on the TV knowing that you are doing your part for the health of the economy.  Sacrificing your own health was never easier.

Taking health2

 

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***Registered trademark, watermark, patent and copyright of Curmudgeon-at-Large. If you use this phrase without my permission and without sending me big bucks, a million fleas will infect your armpits.  I point out that it is not easy to train a million fleas to attack and infect armpits.