Water, Water Everywhere?

i-45d7ed3212056a6dd4ec3fa4da224b2e-moonbuzz.jpgOn Friday, NASA scientists confirmed the discovery of water on the moon. Using spectral analysis to determine the composition of the plume resulting from last month’s LCROSS rocket collision, they found more than 100 liters of water. Steinn Sigurðsson on Dynamics of Cats calls the presence of water on the moon “amazing,” but cautions that at these concentrations, it’s “dry by Earth standards.” Razib Khan on Gene Expression considers the implications of water on the moon: “Since humans are mostly water by weight, this is very important when assessing the practical difficulties of colonization or settlement.” In other NASA news, Greg Laden reports on his blog that after idling on the precipice of a Martian dust bowl since April 23, while engineers on Earth assessed the best way to make a break for it, the long-lived Spirit rover will risk movement again tomorrow, in a bid to continue its incredibly successful mission.

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Out of Sight

i-b8047228588ef795da385f34ec6b4d97-sightbuzz.jpgIn Ethan Siegel’s ongoing treatment of dark energy on Starts With A Bang!, he considers a number of alternative explanations for the dimming of redshifted supernovae. Could photon-axion oscillations be to blame, or does a “grey dust” pervade our universe? In another post, Siegel appreciates that our galaxy smells like raspberries and rum, and not, for example, Uranus. His diss to Andromedans: “I bet you stink compared to us!” For more things unseen, Greg Laden on Collective Imagination points us to Kameraflage, a technology that writes secret messages and draw pictures only visible to a digital camera. Finally, open your eyes for a stellar image of our galactic center on Dynamics of Cats, courtesy of Steinn Sigurðsson.

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Step On a Crack…

i-449865279b8a04c7fecc67d805ef626f-crackbuzz.jpgWhen it comes to geologic phenomena, the difference between renewal and cataclysm can walk a fine line. On All of My Faults Are Stress Related, Kim Hannula elucidates the distinction between causes and triggers. Citing an article about the Zipingpu Dam that concludes that the weight of the reservoir might have triggered an earthquake, Hannula notes that “the ultimate cause of the earthquake was the collision of India with Asia, and the resultant tectonic mess.” Elsewhere, Erik Klemetti on Eruptions dresses down Popular Science alarmism, concluding that the chance of exploratory drilling causing a “game-ending eruption” in the Campei Flegrei is minimal. In another post, Klemetti reports that the Mayon volcano in the Philippines may be “headed towards a significant eruption,” with evacuation of nearby villages already underway.

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In With the Old

i-5f5a9e6c4788dd04817f9562463ff1b6-dinoman.jpgShakespeare wrote that “past is prologue,” but it’s not always that easy to read. Brian Switek on Laelaps tells the tale of P. H. Gosse, a man who tried to reconcile the fossil record with the Book of Genesis, at the same time Darwin was writing his Origin of Species. Convincing no one, Gosse estranged even the faithful with his image of God as “a trickster who planted gags to fool geologists.” But given the ample evidence that dinosaurs were once alive, the debate continues: were they warm-blooded? On Not Exactly Rocket Science, Ed Yong shows us a new study which says yes, based on the “hip heights of 13 species of dinosaur including Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor and Archaeopteryx.” Finally, in the realm of sheer speculation, Richard Dawkins has thrown some weight behind the what-if evolutionary concept of a “humanoid dinosaur.” As Darren Naish writes on Tetrapod Zoology, “our body shape clearly works well for an intelligent, tool-using, sentient animal, but where is the convincing evidence that it is the only possible body shape for such a creature?”

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Now and Later

i-8cbf5e1a26d518767613df7de58c8f1e-metastasis.jpgSometimes, present circumstances can belie the uncertainty of the future. On Not Exactly Rocket Science, Ed Yong discusses experiments on “restraint bias” which show that many people overestimate their powers of self-control. He notes that “we’re generally bad at predicting the future,” arguing that those who feel the strongest are the most likely to risk temptation and defeat. On Respectful Insolence, Orac critiques the latest “kerfuffle over screening for cancer,” which questions the value of routine screening. While early detection may seem like a no-brainer for an improved prognosis, the equation is more complicated and the margins slimmer than one might think. Greg Laden also warns in his blog against mistaking the present trend for the bigger picture. While swine flu may be peaking, he says, it’s no time to let down our guard. In other words, once the cop car passes, “don’t just wander blissfully out into the middle of the street like it is all over, because you will be flattened by the firetruck that you illogically assume is not coming next.”

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Believe It or Not

i-2a3fa094858972d2fdacc1af837b5f04-lion.jpgHumans believe a lot of things, for a lot of reasons. Confronted by a student who had learned lions’ manes are an expression of their testosterone level–and not just a bit of claw-catching fluff–Greg Laden observes that when someone finds you wrong on one count, they will assume you are wrong about everything. He calls this “a known feature of student thinking in early development,” a true-or-false mentality which sooner or later must reconcile itself with the complexity of our universe. Elsewhere, Razib Khan theorizes on Gene Expression that organized religion arose to meet the needs of our agricultural ancestors. He says that over the last 200 years, industrialization has allowed Westerners to achieve income equity more reminiscent of hunter-gatherer societies, resulting in the “unwinding” of institutional and interpersonal hegemonies. Finally, Eric Michael Johnson in The Primate Diaries explores different kinds of human reciprocity, from ritual gift-giving to organ transplant.

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House Passes Health Care Bill

i-a74d1fb7c0344a4332446d69d44d2924-health.jpgAfter hours of deliberation late into Saturday night, the US House of Representatives passed the long-awaited health care reform bill. While many Americans are elated at the new bill’s passing, others are questioning the controversial amendment added that prohibits insurance coverage for abortions. Ed Brayton from Dispatches from the Culture Wars examines the compromise many Democratic Representatives made with Catholic bishops local to their constituencies in adding this amendment. Later on, Ed also criticizes what he calls “unruly behavior” exhibited by some House Republicans to delay the passing of the bill. On Effect Measure, Revere expressed disappointment and outrage at what he calls a “neutered industry-friendly cup of weak tea with a Draconian anti-choice amendment,” emphatically stating, “a woman’s right to choose is not negotiable.”

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