Archive for September, 2006

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Out for six weeks

September 23, 2006

Well, I’m out of here for the next six weeks or so. Posting will be very much light to variable. I’ll try to catch up via internet cafes.

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The sirens of Titan

September 23, 2006

I guess we all read Kurt Vonnegut’s 1959 novel when we were young. I have clearer memories of Slaughterhouse-5 and Mother Night.

But this is the real thing, the actual surface of Titan, filmed by the Huygens probe’s cameras over a year ago.

Clip commentary:

This movie was built with data collected during the 147-minute plunge through Titan’s thick orange-brown atmosphere to a soft sandy riverbed by the European Space Agency’s Huygens Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer on Jan. 14, 2005,

In 4 minutes and 40 seconds, the movie shows what the probe “saw” within the few hours of the descent and the landing. On approach, Titan appeared as just a little disk in the sky among the stars, but after landing, the probe’s camera resolved little grains of sand millions of times smaller than Titan.

At first, the Huygens camera just saw fog over the distant surface. The fog started to clear only at about 60 kilometers (37 miles) altitude, making it possible to resolve surface features as large as 100 meters (328 feet). Only after landing could the probe’s camera resolve the little grains of sand. The movie provides a glimpse of such a huge change of scale.

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Us from 1.5 billion km

September 23, 2006

Shaun at LP got there first with a better pic, but here is another image of the Earth as seen from Saturn, photographed by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft from a distance of 1.5 billion kilometers.

More astonishing, breath-taking images here.

There’s something truly awesome about these pictures from space. In a weird way they make your blood race. A favourite.

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Word of the day

September 23, 2006

Yclept.

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Not much hope for Darfur, then

September 22, 2006

Whatever it is, according to the government in Khartoum, it’s all the fault of — guess who? — the Jews and the Israelis.

(It occurs to me I’m getting a little shrill on this subject.)

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s new project

September 22, 2006

Expelled or exiled — perhaps “exhaled” would be a better word — Netherlands politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali has a new project.

Slender, elegant, stylish and articulate [*] (in English, Dutchali and Swahili), she has found an intellectual home here at theAmerican Enterprise Institute, where she is writing a book that imagines Muhammad meeting, in the New York Public Library, three thinkers — John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Hayek and Karl Popper, each a hero of the unending struggle between (to take the title of Popper’s 1945 masterpiece) “The Open Society and Its Enemies.” Islamic extremists — the sort who were unhinged by some Danish cartoons — will be enraged. She is unperturbed.

Rafe Champion will be intrigued.

[*Why do they have to keep saying that? I mean, I know she is and all, but….  Is it a boy thing?]

(Via Peaktalk.)

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Man marries goat

September 22, 2006

In February this year, in the Sudan, a man named Tombe was compelled to marry his neighbour’s goat, because…..

Well, read it for yourself.

You have to wonder if they’re still together.

Update: Via bonjour triteness in comments at Tim Blair’s — food for thought.