Tag Archives: Environment

Boom On The Moon

You dudes know that I like to look at the night sky and talk about all the cool stuff up there.

Well, you should know that. If you’ve been around here more than once or twice. You have, haven’t you? Please say yes. I’m feeling very alone and scared now. I. . .


Never mind. All better now. Minor disturbance in the equilibrium As if no voices cried out and then vanished.

Which, depending on whether or not you believe in the theory of tiny little MoonMen living on the Moon is what happened just a week or so ago.

A meteoroid struck the surface of the moon recently, causing an explosion that was visible on Earth without the aid of a telescope, NASA reported Friday. But don’t be alarmed if you didn’t see it; it only lasted about a second.

“It exploded in a flash nearly 10 times as bright as anything we’ve ever seen before,” said Bill Cooke, of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office.

Yep. We’ve been keeping an eye on the moon for the last eight years or so, looking for exactly what happened up there on May 17. We’re looking at the moon, because it presents a big, old target without all that pesky atmosphere. Because, you see, said atmosphere has this actually quite beneficial habit of burning up a lot of the little rocks that are headed right at your head.

Scientists are watching the moon so they can get a better handle on when the Earth travels through debris clouds that we might need to worry about.

NASA says the meteoroid was about 40 kilograms and less than a meter wide, and it hit the moon’s surface at 56,000 mph. It glowed like a 4th magnitude star, NASA says, thanks to an explosion equivalent to 5 tons of TNT.

“It jumped right out at me, it was so bright,” said Ron Suggs of the Marshall Space Flight Center.

Cooke says Earth was pelted by meteoroids at about the same time, but they hit the moon because it has no atmosphere to protect it.

If you’re like me and you were wondering how there could be a visible explosion since, with no atmosphere there can be no oxidation and no flaming explosion like we’re used to seeing here on Earth. . . Well, worry no longer.

Turns out the visible reaction seen by astronomers wasn’t an explosion, but was, instead, a flash from the suddenly molten Moon rock meeting a meteoroid at approximately a gazillion miles an hour.

Science fact for the day.

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A Universe Of Worlds, Each Separate And Alone

To look at a child with severe autism from the outside, is to see a child fully immersed in a world that can be shared by no one else. It is a world of one, a universe of one. No matter how many people surround and love the child, there can be no response.

Across a gulf of infinite space, the child’s mind drifts alone, unconnected, unreachable.

Or is it?

According to Dr. Robert Melillo, founder of the  Brain Balance Achievement Centers, an internationally recognized expert on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and author of the recent book,  Autism: The Scientific Truth About Preventing, Diagnosing, and Treating Autism Spectrum Disorders–and What Parents Can Do Now, it is completely possible to cross that gulf and bring connections to that child’s isolated mind.

“There’s nothing preventing change. There’s nothing damaging his brain (if he has an ASD). So, why can’t he get better?”

I sat down with Dr. Melillo recently and asked him about this. Well, I sat down at my desk and he was at his desk and we were both talking on the phone. But we were sitting down. It counts.

Before we get any further, let’s define a few things. It’ll make for a slightly easier discussion later on. Autism isn’t a binary disorder. That is, it’s not a question of you either have it or you don’t. Unlike pregnancy, you can have a little bit of autism. That’s the reason for the Autism Spectrum Disorder bit up above.

Think of it as a sliding scale. On one end, you’ve got your completely neurotypical individual who performs within the norms on all tests. On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got a person with very severe autism, a person who might exhibit symptoms like complete withdrawal, rocking back and forth, head banging on walls, everything most laymen think about when they consider autism.

Those are the outliers, though, dudes. Most of the people on the spectrum (which is what it’s called these days) are somewhere in the middle. Think of it as a classic bell-shaped curve with neurotypical on one end and completely withdrawn autism on the other.  Included on the spectrum are disorders such as Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder, Specific Learning Disabilities, Asperger’s Syndrome and others.

So, you see, saying someone has autism just doesn’t work. For a diagnosis to do any good, you’ve got to do a lot more testing and find out where on the spectrum that patient is, what kind of symptoms present and the rest. It is, as you might guess, a delicate task that involves a lot of work. And, to make it even more difficult, we don’t know what causes ASDs. We think there’s a genetic disposition and, probably, environmental triggers, but we don’t know.

Despite the difficulty in correctly placing people with ASD on the spectrum, we’ve seen an amazingly steep growth curve in the number of diagnosed cases in just the last decade.

“People think that autism’s cause is purely genetic,” Melillo said, asking how, if the cause is genetic are we suddenly experiencing such an upsurge in cases? “There is no such thing as a genetic epidemic. But look at the prevalence of autism. We’ve gone from one in 10,000 to one in 50, as of last week.”

Now, when something like this shows up in such huge numbers, my first thought is that it’s not an actual increase in cases, but, rather, doctors simply are doing a better job of recognizing and diagnosing the disorder. Melillo, though, said that just doesn’t cover what he’s been seeing.

Melillo said that is one of the reasons he wrote his first book. “People are completely unaware that you can prevent it.”

We’ll talk more about that one tomorrow.

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Descent To An Alien World

I have one regret: That I will never be able to set foot on an alien world.

I will never walk under altered gravity, stars burning brightly colored pinpoints in a stygian black sky. I will never see the sun as a small bright spot in the sky.

If it’s possible to miss something you’ve never experienced, then I miss this. Which is why I’m always on the lookout for bits of video like this. It’s amazing is what it is, dudes. Simply amazing. A little background first.

Titan is a moon orbiting Saturn and it’s the cloudiest moon in our solar system. It is seriously strange. It’s large enough to have collected an atmosphere and the mix of chemicals is volatile enough that it causes a roiling cloud bank to form across the whole of the planet/moon. Of course, we hairy apes are curious.

There’s only one thing that will make us want something more than we already do: And that’s to have something blocking us from getting it.

We want to know what’s happening on the different planets and moons. With Titan’s cloud cover, that’s just not going to happen.

Or at least it wasn’t going to happen until the European Space Agency got into the act and decided to send the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft and probe out to the Saturn system to have a look around. Huygens  detached from the Cassini spacecraft in late 2004 and began its approach to the cloud-covered worldlet of Titan.

In 2005, Huygens arrived at Titan and immediately began its descent. One tiny probe, about the size of a truck tire, against an entire environment. Probe wins.

As Huygens began its descent, it took picture after picture and faithfully relayed the images to Cassini and, from there, on to earth. And then, and this is where I start liking this more and more, someone here on earth decided to get a little fancy with the pictures.

This unknown person stitched together all the still images and made an amazing time-lapse video of Titan. Huygens comes to rest on the surface of the moon in a dry, shallow sea bed and survived for approximately 90 minutes, all the while snapping pictures.

This, then, is the result. And it’s marvelous. It feels like your eyeballs are actually there. Now if only the rest of my body could follow along.

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