M Thomas Apple Author Page

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

Think small

December 3, 2022
MThomas

On Tuesday as I was walking back from work, much later than usual, my shoes were bothering me.

They felt stretched, loose, especially irritating on a rainy day.

I had spent too much time polishing them, I thought.

Too much effort making them “waterproof.”

Too much money on these damn useless things.

I resolved to throw them away and get a new pair.

But of course it would take time, and money, and effort to go get them.

Damn shoes. I would have to rearrange my entire week because of you.

The next morning, as I put my shoes on, I realized that the laces were loose.

So I re-tied them, and instantly they felt better.

Sometimes, when a small, insignificant problem arises, there is a simple fix.

Think small.

Astronomers found a black hole in our cosmic backyard!

November 9, 2022
MThomas

Only 1600 light years away!

And it’s a binary system. Very odd.

It’s also “dormant.” Even stranger.

Ten times the size of our Sun, as far away from its companion star as the Earth is from the Sun.

Announced just in time for Halloween…

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/05/science/astronomy-black-hole.html

DART did it! 🎯

October 12, 2022
MThomas

“For the first time ever, humanity has changed the orbit of a planetary body,” said NASA planetary science division director Lori Glaze.

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/dart-mission-deflected-asteroid-for-planetary-defense

A change of 32 minutes in orbit — but only 4% of the total orbital period. To deflect an asteroid away from Earth, it’d better be done several years in advance. 🌏

Still, it can be done. An amazing first.

We could live together / crystals on the Moon…

September 18, 2022
MThomas

Half of a dilithium crystal? (It’s a new type of crystal called “Chang’esite” (after the ancient Chinese moon goddess).

I should be posting another chapter from Bringer of Light, but I don’t feel like writing that right now, what with a humongoid typhoon slowing churning its way here.

So here’s an article about what Chinese scientists found in Moon dirt.

Also H3. Yay. Let’s make fusion reactors and walk on the Moon together…

Looking for aliens in all the wrong places?

August 12, 2022
MThomas

Our search for alien life is getting serious. With better telescopes and a growing scientific consensus that we’re probably not alone in the universe, we’re beginning to look farther and wider across the vastness of space for evidence of extraterrestrials.

But it’s possible we’re looking for too few signs in too few places. Having evolved on Earth, surrounded by Earth life, we assume alien life would look and behave like terrestrial life.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/alien-hunters-need-to-start-rethinking-the-definition-of-life?

I agree that we are biased, simply based on the basics of what we understand as (carbon-based) life (i.e., ourselves).

And I agree — in principle — that scientists need to keep an open mind when looking for other life forms on exoplanets.

However, they also need to retain a sense of skepticism.

Continue Reading

Attack of the Killer Drones — Non-fiction not fiction?

July 26, 2022
MThomas

These aren’t the drones that deliver your online order. Loaded with cameras, sensors, and explosives, their mission is to drive themselves to a target with an algorithm in the driver’s seat. They destroy themselves along with the target, leaving behind just a pile of electronic detritus.

https://m.dw.com/en/killer-robots-will-they-be-banned/a-62587436

Oh, joy. I can’t wait to see what happens when we program 3D printers to churn them out.

Or just simply make them self-replicating. What could possibly go wrong?

Plants can grow in lunar soil (barely)

May 16, 2022
MThomas

Doesn’t look too terribly attractive…

The samples were extremely hydrophobic, and repelled water as if it were the most disgusting thing ever invented. Researchers labored to get the lunar soil to gradually soak up water. They also added a nutrient solution.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2022/05/12/plants-grow-in-lunar-soil/

Turns out that it is possible to grow plants on the Moon…

…although you might want to wear gloves while farming, since the “soil” contains tiny pieces of glass from constant bombardment.

Continue Reading

Super Flower Blood Moon coming soon

May 15, 2022
MThomas

I love the “illustrative diagram” note for people who might complain this is not scientifically accurate due to scale.

…if you are lucky enough to live Western Europe, parts of northwestern Africa, and some of the Americans…

As for why the Moon appears red…

“You’ll actually be seeing every sunrise and every sunset occurring around the Earth at once. All of that light will be projected on to the Moon.” (Dr Gregory Brown, Royal Observatory

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-61423765

And if you happened to be standing on the Moon at the time, you’d see a blood ring encircling the Earth in front of you (ah, assuming you were not on the other side of the Moon).

Come on. Somebody has got to figure out how to get a picture of that.

FB censorship, here we go again…

May 8, 2022
MThomas

Right. So I quit Facebrat a couple years ago after I got fed up with the self-righteous, arrogant attitude of its founder Mark Zuckerberg and its blatant stealing and selling of personal information of its users.

And also because I was wasting hours and hours each week reading meaningless Facebark posts on my smartphone (so I deleted the app, which I strongly recommend you all do to prevent the company from tracking your location, then selling that info to the spam industry…although you’re probably going to be tracked via BlueTooth anyway if you keep it on).

But after my mother passed away, and while I was still away from family, friends, and colleagues and living in Montréal, I couldn’t take the isolation.

And also a teacher’s group based at the McGill University (William Shatner’s alma mater!) named BILD asked me to join a FB Group.

So I rejoined and vowed to avoid posting anything about religion and politics, and to focus on the things that matter – food, family, and occasional humorous events.

Until I foolishly wrote a casual comment on my brother’s post:

Continue Reading

When planets align! Eh. Again.

April 24, 2022
MThomas

https://www.nj.com/news/2022/04/parade-of-planets-4-planets-to-line-up-in-sky-this-weekend-joined-by-moon-next-week.html

(Note: You won’t be able to see the planets actually looking like these photoshopped images…unless you happen to have a really powerful telescope in your backyard.)

Not sure why I first got this info from a site based in New Jersey. The info about what time of day and in what part of the sky is only relevant to people living in the NJ_NYC area.

Still, it’s an interesting phenomenon that occurs once every few years…

2005. 2016. 2020. And 2022. Not exactly a regular pattern, it seems.

And, no, there is no “spiritual significance” to a planetary alignment. It’s an illusion, an imaginary lining up of the solar system that doesn’t affect you personally. Sorry.

But it’s still fun to watch. Er, if you enjoy getting up before dawn (I don’t).

According to nj.com, “The planetary parade of sorts will occur when Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Saturn all appear to be lined up in a row above the horizon during the pre-dawn hours — starting Saturday morning, April 23. The alignment will also be visible during the next few mornings, and April’s crescent moon will soon join the parade, according to experts from LiveScience and AccuWeather.”

Yeah, lots of web sites are covering this. At least the one I linked above doesn’t have automated videos, flashing ad gifs, and other random pop-ups that drain your smartphone battery.

Click here for more info about the next great alignment (not as impressive as the so-called “Great Conjunction” a couple years ago, but we’ll see more planets in June and July): https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2022/04/17/planets-align-april-venus-mars-jupiter-saturn/7351117001/

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