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Bob Toy
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Bob Toy

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Resembling an opulent diamond tapestry, this image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope shows a glittering star cluster that contains a collection of some of the brightest stars seen in our Milky Way galaxy. Called Trumpler 14, it is located 8,000 light-years away in the Carina Nebula, a huge star-formation region.
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At Space Launch Complex 4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stands ready to boost the Jason-3 spacecraft into orbit for NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the French space agency and EUMETSAT, the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites. Follow along with live coverage of launch activities on NASA TV or the Jason-3 blog at http://go.nasa.gov/1OqnMOB
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NASA and NOAA satellites are tracking a large winter storm that is expected to bring heavy snowfall to the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region on Jan. 22 and 23. Learn more here: http://go.nasa.gov/1RWlOtm
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I like this photo. It was taken, if I'm not mistaken, while rehearsing a scene where Alan clipped me and Rupert round the back of a head with a book. We all, apparently, found this hard to do without laughing.
- Dan
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Among my oft-repeated topics is the usefulness of pessimism, when done well... but the utterly vital importance of optimism.  I explore this apparent contradiction (and it is only apparent) in today's posting. Which also looks at Ted Koppel's book about a potential super-blackout: Lights Out.  And I'll show you a weird hypothesis about why humans are different.

http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2016/01/the-value-of-pessimists-necessity-of.html
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Wondering what to spend your lottery winnings on?
Historian Grégory Gardinetti shares key periods in history of time-keeping, and a stellar collection of astronomical timepieces.
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Someone in comments under my blog about sci Fi films and TV raised the issue of Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome.  You can read my response there.  I deem it to be an amazing film, filled with aspects that not one viewer in a thousand got, but that trigger thinking and argument.  The film infuriated me, when I wasn't fascinated or delighted.

http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2016/01/a-science-fiction-tsunami-on-television.html

OTOH I have revised my posting to include a partial list of Kick Ass Ladies (KALs) in sci fi who were vastly, vastly more empowering than those in Fury Road.  A very very long list.  And you sci fi fans should be proud of our genre.  It is the tip of the spear of revolution and liberation, and girls will find no greater font of encouragement than in science fiction.
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New video from +Tech Insider & StarTalk Radio - Neil deGrasse Tyson has a message for moon landing conspiracy theorists:
http://www.techinsider.io/neil-degrasse-tyson-moon-landing-conspiracy-theories-2016-1
"Where do you think they were going... to the local Piggly Wiggly?"
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I have some doubts about Bernie Sanders.  But in several topics he is the only guys talking about core problems.  Like the concentration of economic power into pools and piles so immense they are "too big to fail."  Have a look here. How 37 banks become four megabanks over the last two decades.  This is not healthy.  A few bad choices by hal;f a dozen secretive moguls and the rest of us will be left, holding the bailout check.
http://realitieswatch.com/37-banks-became-4-just-2-decades-one-astonishing-chart/
This chart shows us how, over the last couple of decades, 37 banks have became just 4 mega-banks.
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Here it is, folks: the end. In our final episode of Crash Course Astronomy, Phil gives the course a send off with a look at some of his favorite topics and the big questions that Astronomy allows us to ask. (From PBS Digital Studios)
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Most galaxies possess a majestic spiral or elliptical structure. About a quarter of galaxies, though, defy such conventional, rounded aesthetics, instead sporting a messy, indefinable shape. Known as irregular galaxies, this group includes NGC 5408, the galaxy that has been snapped here by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

John Herschel recorded the existence of NGC 5408 in June 1834. Astronomers had long mistaken NGC 5408 for a planetary nebula, an expelled cloud of material from an aging star. Instead, bucking labels, NGC 5408 turned out to be an entire galaxy, located about 16 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur).

In yet another sign of NGC 5408 breaking convention, the galaxy is associated with an object known as an ultraluminous X-ray source, dubbed NGC 5408 X-1, one of the best studied of its class. These rare objects beam out prodigious amounts of energetic X-rays. Astrophysicists believe these sources to be strong candidates for intermediate-mass black holes. This hypothetical type of black hole has significantly less mass than the supermassive black holes found in galactic centers, which can have billions of times the mass of the sun, but have a good deal more mass than the black holes formed when giant stars collapse.

Text credit: European Space Agency
Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt
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I have oft marveled at the greatest gift of the Apollo Program -- not from the landings but from the earlier Apollo 8 mission, the first in which humans broke the bonds of Earth. It happened in 1968 - twelve crazed and frenetic months that brought most Americans -- and most of the world -- to the brink of exhaustion and despair. Yes, great music washed over us in a veritable tsunami... as did tragedies, war, invasions, assassinations, riots, betrayals, and fed-up demands for transformation.

Only then, at the very end of that awful year, a final token arrived -- like a gleam of hope shining at the bottom of Pandora’s Box...when the Apollo 8 astronauts brought home that first perfect image of the Earth, floating as a blue marble in the vast desert of space. A picture that moved all but the most cynical hearts and changed forever our outlook towards this fragile oasis world.

Now that image has been surpassed in beauty (an we can hope – effectiveness.) Even more gorgeous in contrast — and almost the final space news of a spectacular year — is the composite image that NASA released on December 19, taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, as it passed about 83 miles above a lunar crater. Same theme, but a timely reminder.
http://www.chron.com/about/article/NASA-releases-stunning-new-image-of-Earth-taken-6713006.php.
It seems appropriate that NASA's newest gorgeous Earth photo has come out in late December, in the same time frame as earlier iconic images of our planet.
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Have him in circles
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Victoria Sundquist's profile photo
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Disguised as a normal person--come with me if you want to live.
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Army veteran; one-time con vice chair; rescue specialist; CERT instructor.
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