The special effects are without equal. So is the Wheat Chex commercial.
And what kind of guy has a name like Happy?
The boundary where the pressure from the solar wind and the interstellar medium are at the same pressure, 16 billion kilometres from Earth, forms a giant bubble called the heliopause, and it's nothing like what scientists predicted it to be.
IBEX found that Energetic Neutral Atoms aren't coming from the heliopause in a uniform way, but are concentrated in a narrow ribbon. The ENA emissions from the ribbon are two to three times higher than the rest of the sky.
"We have discovered an arc-shaped ribbon of high-pressure material that looks to be piled-up material from the sun. The IBEX maps and the discovery of the ribbon are completely different from what we thought it should look like," wrote study author Herbert Funsten.
Skiffy Question of the Day: What is it piling up against? I say, the berm of a superluminal river in space, a Kransikov tube, a la The January Dancer. But then, I would say that....
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Chicxulub We Hardly Knew Ye
The enduringly popular theory that the Chicxulub crater holds the clue to the demise of the dinosaurs, along with some 65 percent of all species 65 million years ago, is challenged in a paper to be published in the Journal of the Geological Society on April 27, 2009.
The newest research, led by Gerta Keller of Princeton University in New Jersey, and Thierry Adatte of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, uses evidence from Mexico to suggest that the Chicxulub impact predates the K-T boundary by as much as 300,000 years.
So what killed the dinosaurs? Maybe it wasn't a homicide, er, a dinocide. Maybe they died a natural death. Dinosaur genera were vanishing from the fossil record long before the K/T boundary. How about the breakup of Pangaea progressively changed the eco-niches available until there were no more jobs for dinos. Or ammonites. Hmm. Ammonites always sound like ancient enemies of the Hebrews; but why did ammonites and dinos go extinct en masse while frogs and mammals came through fine?
Skiffy question: Well, there go all those dramatic Doom of the Dinosaurs story. It's harder to dramatize a long drawn-out recessional than a sudden whack upside the head with a celestial two-by-four.
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The Year of the Quiet Sun
This: spie.org/x37587.xml may explain the death of sunspots; but what explains the sluggish sun? And how did the Evil Overlord George Bush cause the sun to go quiet? Meanwhile, we just ended a hurricane season with zero hurricanes and only maybe a few mewling tropical storms. Well, you need a sun to still the pot. Experts had predicted 5 or 7 hurricanes.
The sunspot cycle is thought to arise from large-scale motions inside the sun: north-south and east-west flows (meridional circulation and torsional oscillation, respectively) and differential rotation in which the solar equator rotates faster than the poles. The combination of these flows and their interaction with the magnetic field set up by the moving, electrically charged particles in the solar plasma is believed to create the sunspot cycle through a dynamo mechanism. The advent of helioseismology has made it possible to probe the solar interior and watch these flows evolve as the cycle progresses.
Helioseismology is the study of the sound waves that fill the solar interior. The acoustic waves are trapped in the thermal gradient inside the sun, and measurements of their properties, in particular their temporal frequencies, can be analyzed to estimate the direction and magnitude of the flows as a function of depth, horizontal position, and time. Using data from the Global Oscillation Network Group (GONG) facility of the National Solar Observatory and from the Stanford University Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI) on NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft, we have constructed a map of the torsional-oscillation flow inside the sun over the past 14 years.
My fervent hope is that GONG hires a research scientist from China named Ging. Until then, the GONG show:
which is not nearly as exciting-looking as a comet striking the dinosaurs. Meanwhile, it's going to be a cold winter, and we seem to be heading into another 30-year cooling cycle similar to that from the 1940s to the 1970s. Button up your overcoat.
Skiffy question: What sort of book.... Wait. Already dealt with in Fallen Angels; but you knew I would say that, too.
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