Way back in the late 1980s when the rocks were still cooling, I wrote a pair of novels, From a Changeling Star and Down the Stream of Stars, that proposed an interstellar highway (sort of a modified wormhole) created by the joining of two black holes with a long strand of cosmic hyperstring. That same starstream features prominently in my new work, The Reefs of Time / Crucible of Time.
Now, I read here that real scientists have proposed that one could create a real wormhole, using—are you ready?—two black holes and a couple of strands of cosmic string. Seriously, is that cool or what? God, I love science!
My bro has done it again. Charles S. Carver by name, and professor/research psychologist by trade, he’s earned another major award in his field—the American Psychological Association’s “Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award.” This award honors psychologists who have made prominent theoretical or empirical contributions to basic research in psychology. It’s regarded as one of the highest awards in the science of psychology.
That’s my brother Chuck they’re talking about. The guy who once ran around the Brown University football field in a mascot bear suit. (I subbed for him once, and got my head stolen for my troubles.) The guy who made it to the Ohio state finals in high school wrestling. The guy who’s been waging war against cancer for a year and a half, and holding his own.
The award also honors his colleague Michael Scheier at Carnegie Mellon University, who has worked with Chuck for over 45 years in the areas of personality, social, health, and motivational psychology. You can read more about it here.
They’ll be recognized at the APA convention this coming August.
The Cassini spacecraft is about to end its role in one of the most incredible scientific journeys in history. Launched almost twenty years ago on a billion-mile trip to Saturn, Cassini has been sending back astounding images and data ever since. An international collaboration of U.S. and European space agencies, Cassini has probably delivered more surprises to researchers on Earth than any probe before or after—ranging from pictures of the mist-shrouded surface of Titan with its methane lakes and rivers, to the water geysers and hidden ocean of Enceladus, to the stunning beauty and complexity of the rings, to the crazy giant hexagon* on the north pole of Saturn itself.
NASA has produced a breathtaking video summary of Cassini’s journey, which I would embed here if I could find the embed code. But click here, and watch it in full screen. It’ll be the best five minutes you spent today.
Cassini has been a workhorse of stellar quality. But it’s finally running out of fuel—years after the originally planned end date of its mission—and to keep it from accidentally colliding with one of the potentially life-hosting moons, it’s going out in a blaze of glory, burning up tomorrow morning in Saturn’s upper atmosphere. It makes me sad. I wish it could have been kept in a parking orbit somewhere safe, so that some future exploration crew could have docked with it, put placards on it, and turned it into the Saturn branch of the Smithsonian, to be kept in perpetuity. But caution ruled, and rightly so, I guess. We’re looking eagerly for extraterrestrial life, and it wouldn’t do for the field to be littered with bits of Earth life. Plus, she’ll be doing science all the way in as she augers into Saturn, where she’ll melt and burn and vaporize at the end. What a way to go.
I feel kind of weepy, imagining that. But you can watch it live right here, Friday morning at 7-8:30 a.m. EDT.
Do Swedish authorities have a better sense of humor than British authorities? Maybe. The British public, in an internet poll, voted to name a new oceanographic research ship Boaty McBoatface (which, for the record, I think is an excellent name for a serious new science platform.) The UK’s Natural Environment Research Council overruled the poll, though, and named the new ship the Royal Research Ship Sir David Attenborough . They didn’t discard the Boaty name, thank Heaven; that name went to the remote submersibles that would be working from the ship. The new Boaty has already gone to work, studying the abyssal currents of the Antarctic, as part of climate warming research.
Meanwhile, in a Swedish poll to name a new train, the spirit of Boaty rose up and won the name of Trainy McTrainface. And the Swedish train authorities said, “You got it!” The new name will go on this handsome train.
I think we all knew it, deep down inside: Those of us with desks that look like cyclone hits, who swear “too much,” whatever that is, and who stay up way too late and get up late, too… yeah, we’re smarter than you neatnik clock-watching do-gooders. Arwa Mahdawi says so in The Guardian, and why wouldn’t you trust her?
“I’m very intelligent. I’m also extremely creative and have a vocabulary that could be described as voluminous, venerable or very large. But don’t just take my word for it: science says so…” [read more]
Here’s proof of my own smartness. (I neatened it up some.)
The Boston branch of the March for Science drew a gratifyingly large and diverse crowd to Boston Common. I decided it was time to get out there and put my feet where my mouth is (not in my mouth; you know what I mean), and I’m glad I did. Here are some pictures to tell the story.
I don’t know who any of these people are, just that they cared enough to come out in support of science, clear thinking, and the welfare of our planet.
I have just finished our taxes, and in celebration I am toasting the tardigrade! This hardy little critter can survive the vacuum of space, the cold of near absolute zero, and temperatures up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. These little extremophiles are tough! All it asks is some moss to suck on. How can you not admire the tardigrade, who is sort of cute, in the same way certain breeds of dogs are cute.
MRI scans of dogs brains show them responding not just to a speaker’s tone of voice (right brain function), but to the meanings of spoken words (left brain function). Now, this is cool—if perhaps unsurprising to dog owners. Nice to see it confirmed by a brain scanner, though! And those are some adorable-looking dogs. Read more about it in Science News. (Update: This Washington Post article has more information, including some video of how they did the research.)
No, that’s not me I quoted in the title. But Prevention magazine, in an article titled, 9 Traits Optimists Have In Common, quotes extensively from noted University of Miami psychologist Charles S. Carver, who says that optimists, compared to pessimists, tend to be:
Less likely to quit
Quicker to forgive
and five other more or lesses than. Yay! (I tend to be pretty optimistic. Although I can’t vouch for the “sounder sleepers” item; I don’t sleep soundly at all. But I think a lot of the other traits quoted in the article fit.)