Space


I suppose not many of you have failed to notice that the very clever boffins and boffinesses at NASA did something fairly impressive this week. And within scant minutes of touching down on the Red Planet’s surface, the MSL rover, Curiosity, was sending us back snapshots like the true-colour image above. Ah yes, the ochre and dun hues so very familiar to aficionados of NASA’s exploration of the Martian landscape.

One of the great things about such science, I always think, is the wonderful inspiration that it has throughout the community. For example: so galvanized was coloured nail gel providore Gelicious by NASA’s adventure, that they even whipped up a special Curiosity Does Mars nail colour package.

Inspired by Colour? They sure were! Mostly by the colours they already had in their range – which weren’t exactly very Mars-true it has to be said. But no problemo! If you don’t have colours to match Mars, just change the colour of Mars to match your ‘inspiration’. Conundrum solved! Can’t have facts getting in the way of an advertising opportunity, can we?

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Thanks to Cissy Strutt for this gem.

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What do you get, Faithful Acowlytes, if you take one big frakking Pile of Stupid, and then multiply it by another big frakking Pile of Stupid? Give up? You get this article (kindly pointed out to me by dinahmow) called ‘Trituration Proving of the Light of Saturn’ on a website named Interhomeopathy. Or, to speak technically for a moment, you get a Great Mountain of Steaming Horseshit. What we’re talking here Cowpokes, is astrology meets homeopathy.

I know you just can’t wait.

In brief, the ‘Trituration Proving of the Light of Saturn’, provides a detailed account of a group of people chopping up lactose powder that has been exposed, via a telescope, to the light of Saturn, and then attempting to discover the ‘homeopathic effects’ of the substance so prepared.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The method employed to gather this data involves the process of homeopathic ‘proving’. In case you don’t know what that is (and why would you, really?), it involves a bunch of volunteers dosing up on the material in question and then writing down any and all kinds of shit that occurs to them. By processes unfathomable, that shit is then distilled into less shit, and whatever that shit is, the homeopathic remedy is the opposite of it. Got that? No? Well, I can’t say as I blame you, but there it is.

What we have here, in essence, is an outpouring of inebriated hogwash so profound as to make the documentation of Special One Drop Liquid look like Einstein’s ruminations on the Photoelectric Effect. Only I fear that unlike the SODL proprietor, the people behind TPLS could not be technically labelled clinically insane. Frighteningly enough.

To give you a flavour, from the convenor’s notes:

The trituration process began with lots of giggling and silliness; and throughout there was talk of getting high, stories about getting high. Senses were distorted.1 One prover kept seeing smoke rise from the milk sugar as she ground and scraped.

And to think some people say there’s no science in homeopathy!

The conversation kept circling back to pizza: “Any food in the universe can be better with cheese… One prover demonstrated a seductive way of eating a sandwich.”

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall.

The timekeeper had tremendous difficulty keeping track of the time for the grinding and scraping of the remedy throughout the entire process.

Yeah, I can see how this would be challenging. I’m experiencing something of a time-dilation effect just trying to follow it all.

Head pain over eyes. Sharp pain right temple. Pressive pain right temple.
Head ache over left eye.

I’m with you, provers! I’m getting a head pain just reading about it. That shit sure is powerful.

The female provers especially experienced a great deal of itchiness: Head, nose, eyes itchy. Head itchy. Back itchy, breasts itchy, thighs. Waves of itchiness in various parts of body, especially head.

YES! YES! I too have an itchy head. Right inside my head, where my brain is, specifically the part of the brain that tries to understand how a group of evolved hominids can be so mind-numbingly daft. It’s so itchy I want to stick a knitting needle through my eye cavity in an effort to scratch it.

And on, and on, and on it goes, in an elliptic waffle of hippie noodling that just makes me sad that these people were snorting the fumes of lactose rather than inhaling the spores of some kind of exotic fungus. From all this, it is concluded, somehow, that the Saturn-exposed milk sugar…

…might be effective for accident-related trauma, bone and nerve damage.

Yes, that’s right. Not that it might cure itching, or inhibit cheese cravings, or headaches or giggling, but that it might be effective for accident-related trauma. How they reached that conclusion, I have no fucking idea. It’s simply boggling that anybody can think there’s actual medical value in this whole process.

I know you’ll be right there with me, loyal Cowmrades, when we tune in next week for the next instalment of this astonishing adventure: Beneficial Effects of the Light from Uranus on Unicorn Rainbow Powder.

Please, someone wake me up.

  1. This is probably the most accurate assessment in the whole debacle. []

From today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

‘A large metallic ball has fallen out of the sky on a remote grassland in Namibia, prompting baffled authorities to contact NASA and the European space agency.’

The authorities in Namibia obviously are baffled easily, at least by technology. This is evidenced less by the fact that don’t know what this thing is, than that they don’t know how to use the internet. Within mere seconds of the above photograph appearing in the media the object had been identified1 by at least, oh, a thousand less-than-baffled people.

The best part of the AFP report, though, is this phrase:

‘It was made of a “metal alloy known to man” and weighed six kilograms, said police forensics director Paul Ludik.’

Is it just me, or is there a whimsical phantom ‘not’ lurking in that quoted description? To precis the whole event: a welded spherical object made by humans fell in the desert. Just how baffling is this, really, in an age where there are over three thousand satellites orbiting the earth and thousands of other flying craft ploughing through the atmosphere every day? Not very, is the considered TCA assessment.

Anyways, elsewhere in Namibia, a less-reported phenomenon occurred. This strange metal sphere, featuring a message in a language known to man (and woman, quite bizarrely) really has the experts baffled. I leave it with you to ponder its meaning.

Don’t be baffled for too long though. You’ll need all your wits about you come January 1.

Oh yes, my loyal Cowmrades. You didn’t really think I’d forget…?

  1. It’s a hydrazine propellant tank, commonly used on satellite launch vehicles. []


Image CSIRO

The Conversation is carrying an enormously insightful article by Dr Matthew Bailes, the Pro-Vice Chancellor of Research at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.

Dr Bailes was one of the discoverers of the ‘diamond planet’ that you can’t fail to have heard about recently if you follow any kind of science news. It even made a sizeable appearance in the mainstream media all across the world.

…the diamond planet has been hugely successful in igniting public curiosity about the universe in which we live… Our host institutions were thrilled with the publicity and most of us enjoyed our 15 minutes of fame. The attention we received was 100% positive, but how different that could have been.

How so? Well, we could have been climate scientists.

As Dr Bailes goes on to point out, the scientific process involved in discovering a diamond planet is exactly the same scientific process involved in gathering data on climate change. And yet, the media and the general public is happy to accept the scientific community’s assessment of one and not the other.

I highly recommend you read this article and Tweet it, Like it and otherwise recommend it to your friends.

(Oh, and seriosuly, make sure you subscribe – for free – to The Conversation. Real news, real journalism, no agenda. As it should be.)

♫ Everybody’s talks about a new world in the morning… new world in the morning so they say-ee-ay-ay… ♫ I myself don’t talk about a new world… Hey! WTF! What are you all doing here? Weren’t you killed by the earthquakes and the volcanoes and the asteroids? Goddamnit! Do you mean to say that I spent all that money on a Vivos Underground Fallout Shelter for nothing? You’re not going to tell me that noted astrologer Richard Nolle, who predicted apocalyptic events as the FULL moon approached perigee, and who was quoted on Space.com,1 was wrong? Son of a bitch!

Yes loyal Cowpokes, it’s true. Once again, the unhinged blathering of a woo personage turns out to be categorically and unequivocally wrong. I’ll just say that again:



WRONG.


You can read about Space.com’s embarrassing article (which tries to pretend it’s not really quoting an astrologer), here, but for the real meat of this sandwich you need to read what Mr Nolle said, in his own waffly words:

Of course you can expect the usual: a surge in extreme tides along the coasts, a rash of moderate-to-severe seismic activity (including magnitude 5+ earthquakes, tsunami and volcanic eruptions), and most especially in this case a dramatic spike in powerful storms with heavy precipitation, damaging winds and extreme electrical activity. Floods are a big part of the picture in this case, although some of these will be dry electrical storms that spark fast-spreading wildfires.2

No doubt Mr Nolle will do what all purveyors of this kind of nonsense do when they are shown to be WRONG, and start claiming everything in the vicinity as an endorsement of his prediction, including the recent tragic Japanese tsunami.

That makes this [the date of the ‘extreme supermoon’] a major geophysical stress window, centered on the actual alignment date but in effect from the 16th through the 22nd.

Geez. Even when he hedges his bets with the dates, he’s WRONG.3 The Japanese tsunami occurred on March 11. Of course, that won’t stop him!

The March 19 SuperMoon is by far the most significant storm and seismic indicator this month, but it’s not the only one. Lesser geocosmic shock windows also up the ante for unusually strong storms4 and moderate to severe seismic activity5 (including6 magnitude 5+ earthquakes, subsequent tsunami, and volcanic eruptions). These lesser windows include March 1-7 (surrounding the new moon on the 4th), March 23-26 (bracketing the lunar south declination peak on the 25th), and from late on the 31st on into early April.7

Hahaha. Look at all that risible equivocating (I’ve enumerated all the hedging for you in the footnotes). That covers just about every possible day in March and every possible earthquake above a magnitude 5. Since the planet experiences more than 1500 earthquakes of magnitude 5 and above every year (divide that by 12 months and you get over 125 magnitude 5+ earthquakes somewhere in the world every month) Nolle can make a prediction like this with complete impunity. When you include his dates for the Super Moon, Nolle has every day in March covered except March 8 – 15 and March 27 – 30! That’s predicting 20 whole days of March might possibly have an earthquake of magnitude 5+ somewhere in the world! And he still missed March 11! Whoopsy. I guess a fucking ginormous earthquake that causes massive tidal surges and kills thousands of people is easy to overlook with that extreme spike in electrical storms and amongst all the floods and volcanic eruptions. Oh wait. None of those happened on March 19 either.8

So, let’s just see what scientists predicted for the approach of the Super Moon. John Bellini, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey:

Practically speaking, you’ll never see any effect of lunar perigee. It’s somewhere between ‘It has no effect’ and ‘It’s so small you don’t see any effect.’

Oh, lookit that. Once again, science is…



RIGHT.


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Earthquake chart purloined from IRIS with thanks. I’m pretty sure that, in the interests of proper science, they will be OK with it.

  1. Who, I hope, are still sitting in the corner with their dunce cap on… []
  2. Gee, care to add anything else to that, Mr Nolle? Just in case that wide net misses something? []
  3. I’m posting this on March 20, Australian time, so there are are still three more fudge days to go, but you know what? I’m saying here and now that in those three days nothing at all of any geophysical significance will happen. I’m sure Mr Nolle is well on his way, though, to claiming that what he REALLY meant by his predictions was that the UN would endorse military strikes on Libya. That’s the way this stuff invariably works… []
  4. ‘Unusually strong’ could mean anything more than a bit of blustery wind. []
  5. Moderate to severe? That’s really narrowing it down. []
  6. Including??? There’s a weasel term if ever I heard one – the addition of ‘including’ actually means that this sentence says in effect: “Any earth movements of any kind” []
  7. Into early April…? When’s ‘early’? April 5th? April 10th? Fuck me. []
  8. I’ll just note here for the sake of amusement, the introduction to Mr Nolle’s pages which says in part “If you were expecting some kind of sun sign nonsense, forget about it. This is real astrology for the real world, not some mystical mumbo-jumbo word salad.” Got that? No mumbo-jumbo in this town, no way! []

Space.com is carrying a story about how, on March 19, we are all going to be thrashed to within an inch of our lives here on little planet Earth, due to what they are calling a ‘super moon':

Huge storms, earthquakes, volcanoes and other natural disasters can be expected to wreak havoc on Earth.

… they claim, quoting astrologer Richard Nolle, who goes on to say that… WHAT THE FUCK? Let me read that again… Yup, I wasn’t hallucinating: ‘noted astrologer Richard Nolle’. Space.com is taking an astrologer as an authority on what’s going to happen in the realms of science. That would have to be an all-time-low. Oh, wait, there is a qualifier:

It should be noted that astrology is not a real science, but merely makes connections between astronomical and mystical events.

You’re darn tootin’ that it should be ‘noted’ that it’s not a real science. If you had an ounce of grey matter, Mr Space.com editor, it should be noted instead that it’s a daft concoction of primitive magical thinking promoted by badly-educated people who don’t know their astronomical asses from their celestial elbows. So why the hell are you endorsing it on a website that’s supposedly about astronomy!? Furthermore, why are you carrying it as a scaremongering ‘we’re all gonna die!’ tabloid tract?

But do we really need to start stocking survival shelters in preparation for the supermoon?

No we don’t. You’re basing this entire story on the daft lunatic1 ravings of an astrologer you halfwits.

The question is not actually so crazy

Yes it IS. It’s entirely and utterly shit-crazy. You’re quoting an astrologer.2

Natalie Wolchover, the writer of this nutty piece of handwringing has added an additional embellishment which she may or may not have received from the wisdom of astrologer Richard Nolle:

On March 19, the moon will swing around Earth more closely than it has in the past 18 years, lighting up the night sky from just 221,567 miles (356,577 kilometers) away. On top of that, it will be full.

On top of that, it will be full. And that, Natalie, makes a difference HOW? Just because it has more light shining on it doesn’t mean it’s heavier or something…3

Predictably enough, some people are already puffing and waving their hands around and pointing at yesterday’s huge Japanese earthquake as ‘proof’ that this is happening. And yet the moon is nowhere near its closest point at the moment. That happens on March 19 you simplistic under-educated nitwits. At which time, I predict, NOTHING of any consequence will happen anyway, except maybe some good surf at Bondi. (If you should bother to read the entire article on Space.com, you will find that as it goes on, all the scientists – as opposed to astrologers – who are interviewed for this piece say things such as: “The moon’s gravitational pull at lunar perigee is not different enough from its pull at other times to significantly change the height of the tides and thus the likelihood of natural disasters” and “Practically speaking, you’ll never see any effect of lunar perigee. It’s somewhere between ‘It has no effect’ and ‘It’s so small you don’t see any effect.” Quite obviously, a bunch of sensible people saying ‘Don’t panic, nothing happened 18 years ago in 19934 when the same alignment took place, and nothing’s going to happen this time’ doesn’t make for as a good a headline as ‘We’re all going to die horribly in earthquakes and volcanic lava flows!!!’)

I have two suggestions. The first is for Space.com: sack Natalie Wolchover and find another writer who actually knows the difference between science and fairy tales.

The second suggestion is for you, Faithful Cowpokes. Be back here on March 19 for another End Times review. I’m going to bet my entire whisky collection that my predictions are better than Richard Nolle’s.

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Story found by Atlas. It really does look like I may have to get out my shelf building tools again…

  1. I use the word completely mindful of its roots. []
  2. You could visit Richard Nolle’s website, if you were to be so wild and crazy. It is one of the most annoying and badly designed sites I have encountered on the web in recent times. []
  3. There is the VERY faint chance that Natalie does know enough about science to understand that when the moon is full it means that the sun is directly behind the Earth, creating slight amplification in the tides due to the effect of gravity on wave dynamics, but somehow, given the fact that she can’t tell the difference between and astronomer and an astrologer, I figure that’s fairly unlikely. []
  4. March 8, as it happens. Go look it up. Earthquakes? Volcanoes? Plagues of locust? Not so much. []

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