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Scott Stuart
Lives in Lexington, MA
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Abstract from paper just released about new planet:

"We present the detection of Kepler-186f, a 1.11 ± 0.14 Earth-radius planet that is the outermost of five planets, all roughly Earth-sized, that transit a 0.47 ± 0.05 solar-radius star. The intensity and spectrum of the star’s radiation place Kepler-186f in the stellar habitable zone, implying that if Kepler-186f has an Earth-like atmosphere and water at its surface, then some of this water is likely to be in liquid form."
Starry Brightness The high photometric precision of NASA's Kepler observatory has enabled the detection of many planets because they cause slight dimming of their host stars as they orbit in front of them. From these data, Quintana et al. (p. 277) have spotted a five-planet system around a small star. Here, the outermost planet is only 10% larger than Earth and completes its 130-day orbit entirely within the habitable zone, where liquid water cou...
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If understand it correctly, the detection technique requires that the Earth happen to lie in the plane of the distant solar system. Seems like there could be many planets like 186f that are much closer, but we will not know until we develop a different way of detecting them.
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Happy Pi day! These are hazelnut (we are out of pecans) and mashed-potato-bacon-cheese. I guess I should consider this practice for tau day (June 28).
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Pi of death!
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Apparently the belt I just ordered from Amazon is quite a bit wider than I thought.  It will be interesting to see how they deliver it.  It may be usable as a space elevator.
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"Dickies: We Hold Up the Stars"
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The NYT has put together a very engaging way to look at what Curiosity has been up to on Mars.
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This is awesome.  I'll have to explore it more thoroughly when I get back.
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There is a spacecraft launch tonight that will likely be visible from the Boston area.  I saw the previous Minotaur that launched from VA and it was pretty impressive to watch, even from as far away as Mass.  Likely launch time is 7:30pm, though it could be delayed as late as 9:30 pm.  You'll need an unobstructed view to the South and Southeast.
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Scott Stuart

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Tonight is probably the night for salamanders and wood frogs in New England to congress and reproduce.  I went looking for them, and found a few.  In trying to photograph one under the water, I got what I think is a pretty good picture of ripples from rain drops.  The salamander is there, too.  Look for the yellow spots near the most prominent set of ripples at the center of the image.
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Sunspot!  The sun is currently sporting a sunspot that is big enough to see by eye without magnification.  I just saw it from my window at work.  Of course, you need eclipse glasses or similar filter. 
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What to do if you have access to a large centrifuge capable of producing an effective 9g?  Why, make french fries of course!

Abstract
This work extends our previous studies on crust thickness evolution and evaporation front propagation during deep fat frying of potato sticks (French fries) by incorporating the effect of increased gravitational acceleration. Scaling of gravitational acceleration allows scaling of buoyancy forces which control the heat transfer from hot oil to potato surface. For this, a special device is constructed which permits (a) temperature recording at specified positions below the potato surface (i.e. 0.5, 1.0 and 1.5 mm), (b) exposure of only one surface of a potato stick to hot oil, (c) rotation of the exposed surface at orientations 0° (horizontal, top), 90° (vertical, side) and 180° (horizontal, bottom), and (d) execution of deep fat frying experiments at increased gravity levels (i.e. 1.8, 3.0, 6.0 and 9.0 · gearth). The latter is achieved by means of a large diameter centrifuge (European Space Agency). Temperature recordings and crust thickness evolution indicate that heat transfer during frying depends on gravity level but differently at different potato orientations. Most significant variations with gravity are found up to 3.0 · gearth and for 0° orientation. Moreover, crust thickness evolution diverges from the evaporation front propagation in all times supporting the notion of a wide evaporation zone rather than a sharp evaporation front.
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Learn how to do arithmetic in mixed decimal/binary, like a Mangarevan.  Don't forget to change your base units depending on whether you are counting turtles (which come in groups of 1), fish (groups of 2), coconuts and breadfruit (4), or octopuses (which, of course, come in groups of 8 when presented as gifts to a king).
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Us independent scholars can't get the full text PDF, and will never learn to count.
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Comet ISON is screaming toward the sun at around 360 km/s (~0.001c).  Its closest point to the sun will occur tomorrow (Thanksgiving in the US) at only 2.7 solar radii away from the center of the sun that's only about 1.2 GM (gigameters) or about 3 times the distance between the Earth and the moon.

There is no way to know whether any significant chunk will survive the heat, and if part of the comet does survive we don't know if the remnants will remain bound to the solar system or be ejected into interstellar space.  Using the same input observations, JPL is currently computing an eccentricity of .999998 wheras the Minor Planet Center gets e = 1.0000019.  So the question of whether the orbit is bound or not comes down to fine points of how you weight the observations in the fit, which observations are rejected from the fit, and how you model non-gravitational perturbations such as outgassing from the comet.


The link below has some very nice graphics showing the orbit of the comet and how it passes the sun and Earth as well projections of where the comet will go through the fields of view of the various spacecraft that stare at the sun all day.
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Well, reports of the death of ISON may have been premature!  It seems that something survived passage by the sun:  http://www.planetary.org/blogs/guest-blogs/2013/11281948-schroedingers-comet.html
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Hissing Cockroach Birth - Pt. 2
www.youtube.com

Part 1 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhOGQINu0lk Madagascan hissing cockroach giving birth. This video was featured on Animal Planet'