M Thomas Apple Author Page

Science fiction, actual science, history, and personal ranting about life, the universe, and everything

Light from behind a black hole

July 31, 2021
MThomas

…while light cannot escape a black hole, its extreme gravity warps space around it, which allows light to “echo,” bending around the back of the object. Thanks to this strange phenomenon, astronomers have, for the first time, observed the light from behind a black hole.

https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/einstein-right-researchers-see-light-echo-black-hole-rcna1553

Einstein has been proven right. Again.

Automated killer machines? Here already, but not what you think

June 5, 2021
MThomas

Diving into the topic doesn’t reveal that the world quietly experienced the opening salvos of the Terminator timeline in 2020. But it does point to a more prosaic and perhaps much more depressing truth: that no one can agree on what a killer robot is, and if we wait for this to happen, their presence in war will have long been normalized. It’s cheery stuff, isn’t it? It’ll take your mind off the global pandemic at least.

https://www.theverge.com/2021/6/3/22462840/killer-robot-autonomous-drone-attack-libya-un-report-context

Actually, the truly scary “killer robots” would be much less like Terminator and more like the self-replicating ones in PDK’s “Second Variety” (or Screamers for those who haven’t read the original short…my recommendation? forget the B movie, read the story).

But there are already plenty of “semi-automated” machines that kill. It’s relatively easy to program a device to wait until someone approaches, and then shoot/radiate/explode. Strictly speaking, even basic landmines fit this definition.

What would help is the media stopping sensationalistic yellow journalism that throws around fear-mongering hyped-up headlines to sell copy.

Yeah, right. Like that’ll happen any time soon.

Machines killing without a human operator? Already here.

Machines seeking out and killing humans without pre-programmed responses and of their own accord?

We’re a long way away from that.

For now.

Maybe we just need to take away their control stones…

China doesn’t care about the rest of the world — except when the rest of the world criticizes it

May 4, 2021
MThomas

“When they did that design, they should have stopped and thought, ‘you know, that’s going to leave a big chunk of debris in orbit, we should change the design of the engine’,” McDowell says. “But they didn’t. This is real negligence.”

https://www.inverse.com/science/long-march-5b-uncontrolled-reentry

Four years ago, China’s first space station landed in the Pacific Ocean between Australia and Chile, after an uncontrolled reentry. China didn’t care.

Last year, pieces from a Long March 5B rocket landed in Cote d’Ivoire. They damaged buildings in two villages. China didn’t care.

This launch of the same rocket design could land anywhere from New York to New Zealand, covering a wide range of habitation. China doesn’t care.

On the other hand, once somebody in their government reads about the criticism by the scientific community, they’ll petulantly whine that this often happened in the 1960s, so that makes it OK for them to ignore rocket safety designs known for the past 30 years.

Maybe it’s technology they haven’t yet stolen from other countries.

As the self-acknowledged center of the known universe, the Middle Kingdom only cares what others think of it. Like a spoiled child that thinks it knows everything but fears it does not, China only reacts to its own mistakes by lashing out at others and disclaiming responsibility.

If you want to be respected as a superpower, you need to learn how to respect other countries and stop dumping your trash on them. Respect is not given, it is earned. China has done little to earn any respect by the scientific community.

Sorry, Venus is just a lot of gas

February 4, 2021
MThomas

There’s a reason I didn’t post a while ago about the supposed “there’s life in the clouds of Venus” finding.

It was just a big load of gas.

Sorry, folks. Venus is a big rotten egg. 🥚

https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/signs-life-venus-might-just-be-ordinary-sulfur-gas-n1256739

All-civilian space flight? Uh. Don’t sign me up.

February 1, 2021
MThomas

The CEO of an online payment company is the perfect leader for an emergency in outer space.

OK, hands up who thinks this is a really super dumb and risky idea but isn’t terribly surprised by the super dumb and risky things Musk continually blurts out? 🤷‍♂️

https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/spacex-announces-first-mission-space-all-civilian-crew-n1256390

Shooting star above Tokyo

July 4, 2020
MThomas

“I thought a person living (in the condo) above knocked down a shelf,” wrote one Twitter user, while another said, “I thought my child sleeping on the second floor fell out of bed.”

Granted, the embedded video is only understandable to those who speak Japanese, but even if you don’t, the footage is still cool.

(The sound people heard was likely the result of a small meteorite — about 1 meter wide —  breaking the sound barrier as it disintegrated.)

https://japantoday.com/category/national/shooting-star-seems-to-have-exploded-above-tokyo?

The Eagle has landed. Um. Again. Sort of.

February 18, 2020
MThomas

Apollo11-reflection

‘As far as audio recordings, we previously had only 48 minutes of off-air audio of the BBC coverage from another source. Now thanks to you we have over eight hours!’

It’s been 50 years since The Eagle landed. There are plenty of existing video and audio recordings from US media sources (like this one on YouTube, clocking in at over 3 hours).

It’s been considerably less time since news recordings of Apollo 11 from *outside* the US were discovered. Just over half a year. Audio only. Bummer. But at least you get a different perspective (always a good thing when it comes to news).

Check it out (and download it, if you like), thanks to Steve Hurley at explainingscience.org/2020/02/17/british-coverage-of-apollo-11/

New “habitable” Earth? 🌍

January 10, 2020
MThomas

The newly discovered exoplanet, called TOI 700 d, is located about 100 light-years away from us and is roughly 20% larger than Earth.

Okay, not exactly close, but looking good…

A year on TOI 700 d takes 37 days.

Um. Wait. What?

One thing astronomers have discovered though is that TOI 700 d is tidally locked to its star, which means that one half bathes in eternal sunlight, and the other half always exists in darkness.

Oy.

And even better…

One of the burning questions is whether the planet has an atmosphere or not.

Is this really the best way to phrase this? 😂

I vote we pass on this one

https://www.universal-sci.com/headlines/2020/1/8/nasa-discovered-a-potentially-habitable-earth-sized-exoplanet

PS I’ve been trying futilely to get WordPress not to screw up the formatting. To no avail.

No, it’s not actually an iPhone. Yes, please stop the sloppy reporting, thanks

January 9, 2020
MThomas

AncientIPhone

This is already a few months old, but I thought I’d finally get around to blogging about it: The “ancient iPhone” of “Russia’s Atlantis.”

Spoiler alert: it’s not one, and there was no such place. But that didn’t stop the “news” from spreading. Continue Reading

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