Friday Four

Friday, April 18, 2014

1. Kepler-186f, as scientists have recently announced, is the closest thing to another Earth found in the cosmos so far:

Kepler 186f is not a perfect replica, however. It is closer to its star -- a red dwarf that is smaller, cooler and fainter than our sun -- than the Earth is to its; its year, the time to complete one orbit, is 130 days, not 365. It is also at the outer edge of the habitable zone, receiving less warmth, so perhaps more of its surface would freeze.

"Perhaps it's more of an Earth cousin than an Earth twin," Dr. [Thomas] Barclay said.
At the end of the article is an interactive feature about the 950 exoplanets discovered so far by the Kepler mission.

2. Little Man has become quite the proficient crawler lately. He is now also an avid chaser, although he sometimes gets mixed up and crawls away when invited to play.

He is also, much to his father's delight and relief, an ardent napper. A day or so ago, I was washing bottles while Mrs. Van Horn and Pumpkin were out. Little Man crawled into the kitchen, as he often does, but continued over to me, and stood up, clinging to a pants leg for support. (Or was he tugging it?) When I picked him up, he yawned and put his head on my shoulder. He was out like a light in minutes.

3. Google has announced a modular smart phone, which Ars Technica says may be "the last one you'll need to buy":
... Ara, at least as a concept, is fantastic. Who wouldn't want the ability to some day print out new parts for their smartphone at home, expanding its life expectancy to six years and beyond? Google's willingness to try something so ambitious in public is energizing, particularly in the era of the get-rich-quick smartphone app. Project Ara's goals could transform the industry, give people greater control over their own devices, and free them from the annual cycles of obsolescence. It's flexible platform suitable for everyone, everywhere, from every walk of life.
It could also make it stupid-simple to take advantage of major hardware innovations, not to mention making certiain kinds of repairs  as painless as they should be. (I replaced my first smart phone after I determined that the cost through my carrier was about the same as repairing its power button. I was otherwise quite happy with it.)

It's about time.

4. The latest invasive insect species from South America is the "crazy ant".
... Tawny crazy ants and red imported fire ants share an evolutionary history since their native ranges overlap in parts of South America. Their arms race began there, with fire ants evolving venom to defend themselves and crazy ants evolving a detoxification mechanism as a counter-defense. Now the chemical warfare has been re-engaged here on a second continent, playing out across the Gulf Coast. And for a second time in the past century, a new invasive ant species is dominating and drastically transforming ecological communities.
The good news is that crazies beat the reds 93% of the time. The bad news is that crazy ants are attracted to electronics.

-- CAV


Steve D said...

It is interesting that of the thousand or so (well I guess 950) solar systems discovered so far, none look even remotely like our own.

Kepler? It doesn't seem that promising. I still think our first extra solar probe should target Tau Ceti. At 8 light years away, it's the closest G-class star to the sun.

Gus Van Horn said...

Heh. You're not the only one to notice that!