Let’s start with the Good. Astronomy Magazine has a year-end wrap-up of the top ten stories of the year. Ordinarily I feel pretty jaded about lists like that, but 2005 really was an extraordinary year in astronomy. Here are a few of the highlights:
- An outburst of energy from a magnetar (highly magnetized neutron star) on the far side of the Milky Way galaxy.
- Space shuttle Discovery returns to space. (If temporarily.)
- The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity—designed to work for 3 months—are still exploring, almost two years into their mission.
- We got to play cosmic Whack-a-Mole as Deep Impact smacked Comet 9P/Tempel and brought back tons of information about comet structure.
- A tenth planet? Maybe—it’s up to the astronomical semanticists. I’m pulling for tenth planethood and the name Xena for 2003UB313.
- Titan! We had ringside seats for Huygens’ landing on Saturn’s cloudy moon. Fantastic!
Still with the Good, but closer to home, my local paper just ran a nice story about my soon-to-appear novel, Battlestar Galactica: the Miniseries. You can even read it online. (By the way, if any of you sees the book in a store, please post and let me know. The writer is usually the last to know that his book is out.)
All right. The Bad.
What else? Bush. This time it’s news of his almost-certainly illegal wiretap spying on American citizens following 9/11. And he’s still claiming it’s within his constitutional powers! I guess, if you believe you’re anointed by God, you think these things. Like you think it’s okay to be free to torture people, even though you of course would never actually do it.
Did I say that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was safe for the moment? Only a moment, as it turns out. They’re at it again, and this time they might sleaze it through—by attaching it as an amendment to a military bill, which will probably be voted on in the next two days. If you oppose this drilling, as I do, call your senators!
There is Good in all of this, however. Increasingly, moderate Republicans are stirring, recognizing that the radical right has gotten out of control. Kudos to Senator McCain for sticking to his guns on the ban on torture! Thank God for people of integrity on both sides of the aisle. And kudos to the Iraqi people for turning out in record numbers for their election. Despite my criticism of the war, I do want to see things turn around for that embattled nation.
Manufacturers have been putting lead in vinyl lunch boxes made for children. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (quoted at snopes.com), the amount is small. But why should there be any?
So go back and read the Good part. No reason to end this on a downer.