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Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

Galactic Pyrotechnics on Display

A galaxy about 23 million light-years away is the site of impressive, ongoing, fireworks. Rather than paper, powder, and fire, this galactic light show involves a giant black hole, shock waves, and vast reservoirs of gas.

This galactic fireworks display is taking place in NGC 4258 (also known as M106), a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way. This galaxy is famous, however, for something that our galaxy doesn't have -- two extra spiral arms that glow in X-ray, optical, and radio light. These features, or anomalous arms, are not aligned with the plane of the galaxy, but instead intersect with it.

The anomalous arms are seen in this new composite image of NGC 4258, where X-rays from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory are blue, radio data from the NSF's Karl Jansky Very Large Array are purple, optical data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope are yellow and blue, and infrared data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope are red.

A new study of these anomalous arms made with Spitzer shows that shock waves, similar to sonic booms from supersonic planes, are heating large amounts of gas -- equivalent to about 10 million suns. What is generating these shock waves? Radio data shows that the supermassive black hole at the center of NGC 4258 is producing powerful jets of high-energy particles. Researchers think that these jets strike the disk of the galaxy and generate shock waves. These shock waves, in turn, heat some of the gas -- composed mainly of hydrogen molecules -- to thousands of degrees. As shown in our additional, composite image, part of the evidence for this heating process comes from the similarity in location between the hydrogen and X-ray emission, both thought to be caused by shocks, and the radio jets.

The Chandra X-ray image reveals huge bubbles of hot gas above and below the plane of the galaxy. These bubbles indicate that much of the gas that was originally in the disk of the galaxy has been heated to millions of degrees and ejected into the outer regions by the jets from the black hole.


NASA approves rocket for deep-space travel

NASA gave the go-ahead to start full production on the most powerful rocket ever.

The rocket, known as Space Launch System, is set to blast beyond low-Earth orbit this decade to explore the deep reaches of space, including near-Earth asteroids, the moon and, ultimately, Mars.

Boeing Co., prime contractor on the rocket, announced Wednesday that it had completed a critical design review and finalized a $2.8-billion contract with NASA. The last time the space agency made such an assessment of a deep-space rocket was the mighty Saturn V, which took astronauts to the moon.

If all goes well, the rocket's initial test flight from Cape Canaveral, Fla., is expected in 2017.



Fox News rips off BioShock Infinite logo, irony ensues

By Sam Barsanti Jul 2, 2014 8:19 PM

It’s like rain on your wedding day. It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid. It’s a strongly conservative news network blatantly copying the logo of video game in which the villain is a strongly conservative evil mastermind who wants to destroy the world. Not only is one of those things actually ironic, but it also actually happened earlier this week.

First, the backstory: BioShock Infinite is a game that takes place in a flying city run by a religious zealot named Zachary Hale Comstock. He has populated his city with racist assholes who literally worship America’s Founding Fathers, and he uses American iconography to rile up his citizens in support of a war with all of the heathens of the world that aren’t a part of his flying city.

Meanwhile, in the world of cable news channels, there’s a network called Fox News that is known for leaning a bit conservative. At the risk of saying something overtly political, we’ll just let you make your own connections between the flying city using patriotism to push people into war and the TV network that paired footage of the U.S. bombing Iraq in 2003 with a waving American flag.

With that established, we can all appreciate the humor in Fox News appropriating BioShock Infinite’s logo for some kind of “Defending The Homeland” segment

The above picture comes from Ken Levine, the creator of BioShock (via Nerdist), who seemed more tickled by it than annoyed. “Glad to help, Fox. Glad to help,” he posted on Facebook. You can see the original Infinite logo below and compare them yourself, but the funny part here isn’t that Fox News copied it—which it totally did—it’s that it apparently copied it without recognizing what the logo represents: A violent video game about killing right-wing crazy people. It would’ve been weird for Fox News to take any game’s logo like this, but for it take the one with a message that specifically diverges so strongly from its own? That’s irony, Alanis.


Toon: What did you do during the war?

Marijuana for sale on Tuesday July 8: High noon in Seattle, 8 a.m. in Bellingham

The first two-gram package of legal marijuana will be sold in Seattle at noon on Tuesday, says James Lathrop, owner of Cannabis City, which is expected to be the first state-licensed store to open in Seattle.

Call it High Noon in Seattle.

Go to Bellingham and you’ll have a shot at buying a joint, blunt and a gram or three at 8 a.m., said Tom Beckley, owner of Top Shelf Cannabis, also expected to be among the first weed shops to open Tuesday.

Call it, the early bird gets the bud …

Who will buy the first package of voter-approved marijuana in Seattle? Whoever is first in line, Lathrop said. So, if that’s going to be you, you’ll need to show up a little early. In Bellingham, said Top Shelf investor John Evich, they’re still working on getting a life-long marijuana advocate, possibly a celebrity, to be the first to buy from Top Shelf.



Thursday Toon Roundup 2- The Rest


The Issue







Thursday Toon Roundup 1- Pray to the almighty corporation

Space without the space


White House petition begun to rename Reagan Airport after Tim Howard

Tim Howard may very well be the most popular man in America at this moment. So much so, an official White House petition was started Tuesday night to rename the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport after Howard -- seriously.

Although the U.S. men’s national soccer team was defeated by Belgium 2- 1 in the knockout round Tuesday afternoon, goalie Tim Howard emerged a national icon for his amazing work between the posts.

Fans created a petition on the White House website asking that Reagan Airport be renamed after Howard.

“We politely request that we rename the airport to recognize his accomplishments, and meritorious service to the United States of America,” the petition states.


Works for me!

Noticed a "Hobby Lobby coming soon" sign in Savannah

Guess where I won't be shopping?
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