Think you know the night sky like the back of your hand? Around the year 2022 some astronomers are pretty certain a new star will join the firmament after two stars collide near the constellation of Cygnus.
A new paper submitted to The Astrophysical Journal concerns KIC 9832227, a contact binary, and how it will brighten ten thousandfold sometime in the near future. What's happening is this pair of stars are spiralling in towards each other, becoming so close that they now share the same stellar atmosphere. Lawrence Molnar and his colleagues reckon we'll witness this spectacular collision, and subsequent nova, within our lifetimes.
Right now KIC 9832227 is a magnitude 12 star, too faint for the naked eye, in the neighborhood of Delta Cygni. Even with perfect stargazing conditions, an observer will need at least an 8 inch / 203 mm telescope to catch its light. When KIC 9832227 finally explodes it will be as bright as Polaris, or Alpha Hydrae for our Australian friends, burning at second magnitude. While that brightness is hardly remarkable, unlike the immanent Eta Carinae supernova, keep in mind this pair is ~1,800 light years from us. KIC 9832227's aftermath as a luminous red nova will glow in our skies for only a few weeks, or months, before fading away. Best of all, it will be visible from both hemispheres.
For more details, check out the preprint for the Prediction of a Red Nova Outburst in KIC 9832227.
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Humans have taught gorillas to communicate with sign language, why not cats? Here's a gem that's been bouncing around the internet for a while and worth a watch.
For those who know American Sign Language, this cat is spot-on with her gestures asking for food. While kitty can't make a squished 'O', her gesture of putting food in her mouth is unambiguous. Just watch the following video.
One can argue the cat's conditioned to act in a certain way to beg for food, but people who are owned by cats certainly know there's something more behind their inscrutible countenances.
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When do we offically start using "Thanks Trump" instead of "Thanks Obama"? Asking for a friend...
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Quote of the Day:
What do sad people have in common? It seems they have all built a shrine to the past and often go there and do a strange wail and worship. What is the beginning of Happiness? It is to stop being so religious like that.
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Quote of the Day:
The truth may be out there, but the lies are inside your head.
(Image by Chris Barker)
One year ago today, I was in Amboise, France, as part of the trip of a lifetime around Europe with my wife and children. Upon waking that rainy, gloomy winter's day, I absent-mindedly checked my Twitter timeline, and was snapped out of my daze when I read the shocking news that David Bowie had sadly passed away, after turning 69 just a couple of days previous.
It turned out to be a day filled with death. Our itinerary for the day began with a visit to Château du Clos Lucé, a small château that is famous for being the residence of Leonardo da Vinci in his final years - with one of the main 'attractions' being a viewing of the actual bed that the great Master was lying in when he took his final breath.
From Amboise we then drove to our next stay, an absolutely wonderful historical chateau not far from Rennes that we booked through AirBnB. On arrival, however, we were met not by the owner, but instead by their neighbour. As it turns out, the owner's husband had died that very day after suffering a heart attack, and yet she had amazingly taken the time and consideration to organise for her neighbour to come and greet us and make sure we settled into the place comfortably.
This 'day of death' finished with a bang as well - as we were eating dinner in the dining room of the old chateau that night, my wife suddenly swung her head around to look behind us. Nothing was there, despite, she recounted, the fact that she had seen someone walk behind us in the reflection from the window.
A year on, and it turns out not to have been so much a 'death day', but an entire year. From Bowie, to the massive loss of Prince in April, through to George Michael and Carrie Fisher at year's end - and a cavalcade of departed stars and personalities in between - 2016 as serial killer became a meme that many could relate to, along with the fervent hope that 2017 would be better.
The thing is though, I'm not sure that's going to be the case. In actual fact, I think 2016 might just be the herald for a new period that I (perhaps hyperbolically) refer to as the 'Great Dying'.
The 'Great Dying' arises from the confluence of three factors:
- In the 1950s and 60s the amount of 'famous people' increased dramatically with the advent of television, 'pop' music and mass-marketed professional sport. People who became stars at a yound age in those and following decades are now 60 to 90 years of age.
- Furthermore, the pressures of reaching and maintaining that celebrity status - especially in the last few decades, have pushed some performers and sportsmen to the limits physically and psychologically. Witness for instance the painkillers required by Michael Jackson and Prince, which ultimately resulted in their premature deaths. And both living with that celebrity status, and the emotional valley of slipping from that status, also have their deleterious effects on the human psyche and body. So there will always be a portion of stars who die at an earlier age than expected.
- Lastly, in the modern era of 24-hour news cycles and social media, we are hyper-aware of every celebrity's passing and 'grieve' as a community when that happens, sharing thoughts, quotes and tributes, and meditating on that person's passing more thoroughly than in the past.
Without wishing to start a dead pool, to illustrate point one consider the following list of movie stars who are house-hold names: Clint Eastwood and Sean Connery are 86; James Earl Jones and William Shatner are 85; Judi Dench and Brigitte Bardot are 82; Donald Sutherland is 81 and Robert Redford is 80; Morgan Freeman, Jane Fonda, Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson are 79. In music, the (surviving members of) The Beatles, Stones and Led Zep are in their 70s, while Tina Turner is 77 and Aretha Franklin is 74. For the SF&F geeks out there, Ursula Le Guin is 87; Tom Baker is 82; Ian McKellen is 77 and Patrick Stewart is 76; Ridley Scott is 79. Anthony Hopkins is 79; Al Pacino is 76; Harrison Ford is 74; De Niro is 73. David Attenborough is 90.
That's just a quick listing off the top of my head, so you can only imagine how many well-known people are in what would be expected to be the final decade or two of their lives. And that doesn't include all those who might pop off earlier than expected, from cancer, heart attack, accident, suicide or other assorted causes (I've personally almost checked out after being stung by a wasp, of all things). This is perhaps what made 2016 seem so shocking - losing the likes of David Bowie at 69, Carrie Fisher at 60, Prince at 57, George Michael at 53 and Phife Dawg at 45. But given the number of celebrities out there, is this the new normal?
The Great Dying has begun. So it might be about time we addressed our in-built aversion to dealing with death and loss head-on.
The guys running our Simulation appear to be re-using old code...
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KLFJustified Ancients of Mu Mu are back.
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Quote of the Day:
Heathenism is a state of mind. You can take it that I'm referring to one who does not see his world. He has no mental light. He destroys almost unwittingly. He cannot feel any Gods presence in his life. He is the 21st century man.
We've waited a long while for a high profile UFO case, but on the weekend a new story broke and has since received plenty of coverage across the intarwebs. Unveiled by journalist Leslie Kean - author of the bestselling UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record - this latest UFO (or as they're now known, UAP...'Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon') report originated from two experienced officers in the Chilean Navy - and it was caught on video, notably infrared (see video above, object is first seen around 40 seconds in).
The sighting was made in November 2014, when the two naval officers were carrying out a routine daytime patrol aboard an Airbus Cougar AS-532 helicopter:
On board were the pilot, a Navy Captain with many years of flying experience, and a Navy technician who was testing a WESCAM’s MX-15 HD Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR) camera... The aircraft was flying at an altitude of approximately 4,500 feet on a clear afternoon with unlimited horizontal visibility...
...At 1:52 pm, while filming the terrain, the technician observed a strange object flying to the left over the ocean. Soon both men observed it with the naked eye. They noticed that the velocity and the altitude of the object appeared to be about the same as the helicopter, and estimated that the object was approximately 35 to 40 miles (55-65 km) away. It was traveling W/NW, according to the Captain. The technician aimed the camera at the object immediately and zoomed in with the infra red (IR) for better clarity.
Shortly thereafter, the pilot contacted two radar stations - one close by on the coast, and the other the main DGAC Control system (Ground Primary Radar) in Santiago - to report the unknown traffic. Neither station could detect it on radar, although both easily picked up the helicopter. (The object was well within the range of radar detection.) Air traffic controllers confirmed that no traffic, either civilian or military, had been reported in the area, and that no aircraft had been authorized to fly in the controlled air space where the object was located. The on-board radar was also unable to detect the object and the camera’s radar could not lock onto it.
The pilot tried several times to communicate with the UAP, using the multi-national, civilian bandwidth designed for this purpose. He received no reply.
The unidentified object was filmed for almost 10 minutes by the crew, and upon returning to base and reporting the encounter the Navy immediately turned over the footage to the CEFAA - the Chilean government agency consisting of military and technical experts that investigates UAP sightings. According to Kean "none of them have been able to explain the strange flying object", ruling out bird, flying insect, drone, parachute or hang glider as possible explanations.
One facet of the video that has received plenty of attention is that “in two instances [the UAP] discharged some type of gas or liquid with a high thermal track or signal”, according to the infrared camera technician. You can see this occurring around 8 minutes into the video above.
According to French experts who examined the case, however, the object may have a simple explanation: the peanut-shaped infrared signature is an aircraft with twin-jet engines (as the shape was “consistent with the standard distance between the two jet engines of a medium-haul aircraft”), and the odd trails probably result "from dumping some cabin waste water, forming a plume oriented along the local wind blowing from the west.”
Kean says, however, that Chilean experts ruled this idea out for a number of reasons:
This plane would have been seen on primary radar; it would have had to be cleared for landing in Santiago or at another airport; it would likely have responded to radio communications. Airplanes do not throw out water when landing...[and] if - hypothetically - water was expelled, it would have immediately plummeted to the ground given the warm air temperature.
Reddit-detectives however seem to side with the French analysts, although a number suggest the jet may have been a military-grade aircraft, actually a fair distance from the helicopter and moving away from it on a slight angle, while the plumes are the thermal signature of the jet putting on its afterburners.
I'm a pilot. I've seen a few weird things in the air myself from time to time but the most interesting thing for me in this video is the plume it leaves behind at the end of the video.
What do I think it is? I think it's a fast jet of some kind running hot that's quite far away. The exhaust heat from it's engines is balling up behind it and the IR bloom from that heat is making it appear like a round ball in the sky and masking its shape.
The material it squirts out? It's basically igniting its afterburners and the hot exhaust heat is blooming from behind it in the line you see. If you look at a jet aircraft with afterburner like the F18 or something like that through FLIR, you will see the exact same thing.
...The object in question looks more like two orbs or circles pushed together which would what you would expect to see from a military twin engine jet aircraft like an F18 or similar style. Also as soon as the plume appears that thing speeds up really fast which is what you would expect from a jet that's just entered reheat.
Again though, the questions remain about the lack of radar ID from the ground (unless the jet was a looong way from the helicopter), and the lack of reply when asked to identify itself.
For these reasons, Chilean officials are sticking with the 'unidentified' designation. General Ricardo Bermúdez, director of the CEFAA during the investigation, told Kean...
The CEFAA is well regarded partly because there is full participation from the scientists of the academic world, the armed forces through their representatives, and the aeronautic personnel from the DGAC, including its Director. I am extremely pleased as well with the conclusion reached which is logical and unpretentious... [T]he great majority of committee members agreed to call the subject in question a UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon) due to the number of highly researched reasons that it was unanimously agreed could not explain it.
A summary of all the stories and news briefs posted on The Daily Grail over the past week. Feel free to share anything interesting!
- News Briefs 02-01-2017 (Monday)
- Watch Acquired Savant Stephen Wiltshire Use Google's Tilt Brush to Draw a Car in Virtual Reality
- News Briefs 03-01-20176 (Tuesday)
- News Briefs 04-01-2017 (Wednesday)
- Spirits of Place
- The Acquired Savant Who Sees Maths in Everything
- News Briefs 05-01-2017 (Thursday)
- New Research Suggests Mysterious Fast Radio Bursts Could Be a Sign of Alien Civilisations
- News Briefs 06-01-2017 (Friday)
Have a good weekend!
“Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.”
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- “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”
- Slow motion.
- This week’s evidence of the looming robot uprising… Pepper & Lynx.
Quote of the Day:
“Television has done much for psychiatry by spreading information about it, as well as contributing to the need for it.”
The origin of so-called 'Fast Radio Bursts' has remained a cosmic mystery since the first 'FRB' was detected in 2007. But while explanations have included phenomena such as colliding black holes and dark matter-induced collapse of pulsars, a new theory suggests that FRBs could, perhaps, be a sign of intelligent alien life.
In the newly posted arXiv.org paper "Fast Radio Bursts from Extragalactic Light Sails", distinguished physicist and cosmologist Abraham (Avi) Loeb and co-author Manasvi Lingam put forward the suggestion that FRBs could be "artificial beams which have been set up as beacons, or for driving light sails".
Currently, only 17 FRBs have been recorded... Despite the diversity of explanations advanced for FRBs, the possibility that they may be of artificial origin has not been investigated, except for a brief consideration in Luan & Goldreich (2014).
...[The idea that extraterrestrial civilizations may be using radio beams is certainly not a new one, as it dates back to the pioneering paper by Cocconi & Morrison (1959). This idea was quickly picked up and extended by researchers engaged in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)
...[S]ome of the major observables for FRBs are consistent with the idea that they may be manifestations of extragalactic beams. However, this still fails to answer the important question of why they exist in the first place.
The authors firstly consider the idea that FRBs might serve as ‘beacons’, meant to broadcast the presence of alien civilizations. However, given the massive power expenditure involved in creating the beam, they then suggest that perhaps it is more likely such high-powered beams might instead be employed to propel spacecraft to "mildly relativistic speeds" using light sails.
Entertaining this idea and working through the relevant equations, the researchers were surprised to find that the beam frequency that would be optimal to power a light sail falls within the range of FRB frequencies. Thus, they note, "it seems quite reasonable to hypothesize that the beams are being used to power light sails".
(Another conclusion was that the likely size of a light sail using Fast Radio Bursts for propulsion would have a mass of approximately 1 million tons - a value "extremely high by human standards" - suggesting that the spaceship involved would likely be an “interstellar ark” or “world ship” of sorts.)
If the theory sounds familiar, it might be because we humans are currently working on a similar idea (though on a much smaller scale). The Breakthrough Starshot project, funded by Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner's $100 million investment in 2015, aims to send tiny space probes to our nearest star system at a fifth the speed of light, using light sails propelled by Earth-based lasers.
So it's perhaps worth noting that the research on this new FRB paper was "supported in part by a grant from the Breakthrough Prize Foundation for the Starshot Initiative", and also that Abraham Loeb is the Chair of the Advisory Committee for Breakthrough-Starshot.