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 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:
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.
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.
Posted in Peculiar Science
Tagged coronavirus, crisis, epidemic, humor, humour, leaves, paper or plastic, pine needles, rants, task force, toilet paper
I had to get one of the many and never ending house repairs done the other day. It demonstrated one of the immutable laws of nature – the fix it, break it phenomenon also known as the conservation of repairs. Newton’s third law states that for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. Inanimate objects follow this law with a perverse vengeance. If you are foolish enough to attempt your own electrical, mechanical or plumbing repairs and succeed in saving a hundred bucks, the objects in your house will rise up en masse, failing in rapid succession until you have spent ten times that amount on repairs and repairmen.
I unwittingly fixed a leaking toilet one day only to find a nearly flooded basement two weeks later because my ejector pump broke. After a panicked call, my plumber, Fast Eddy, shows up, explains how bad the problem is, fixes it and relieves me of enough cash so that I can stop worrying about my next car, my next vacation or newer underwear. In fact, Fast Eddy said that he had a similar problem in one of his houses. One of his houses? My plumber has more houses than I do! I fully expect him to show up the next time in a repair van that is a combination Hummer and pimpmobile wearing thousand-dollar Max Armani coveralls.
I am, suffice it to say, not mechanically inclined. The chances of me successfully conducting a major repair to my house are about as great as a dog reading a book. I feel that, if scientists can believe in black holes, dark matter and exploding galaxies, I can believe in the self-curative powers of inanimate objects by constant incantations, prayers and, in extreme circumstances, human sacrifice. Is it too much to ask them to break down during weekday hours when repairmen cost less? To wait until after all the guests at a party have departed? To agree upon a breakdown schedule that will not drain me of my life’s savings or require a second mortgage?
If only it were so. Inanimate objects have their own laws:
||An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion.
||An object at rest breaks when you put it in motion; an object in motion breaks anyway.
||The acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the magnitude of the net force.
||The acceleration of an object’s break is directly proportional to your inability to pay for it.
||For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
||For every fix, there is at least one break.
We have wants and desires that are far beyond our reach – that 100 foot (30 meter) yacht, that palace on the Riviera or winning the lottery.
None of these are going to happen but we keep wishing.
Yet, we overlook the simple but wonderful pleasures of everyday life:
- The sound of gentle rain in the early morning
- Watching a sunset on a mild fall evening
- The distant sound of a train whistle from the open window of your room
- Being awakened by a gentle caress on your cheek…
… unless you happen to be in jail at the time.
I have spent too much time on Facebook rather than blogging. Here is the result.