Remembering Carl Sagan

If only Sagan were around today to learn of the fascinating insights we have discovered since his untimely death. Since his death we have discovered more than 4,000 exoplanets, we have discovered numerous candidates for harboring extraterrestrial life in our solar system alone (*cough* Europa *cough*), coinciding with that we have discovered that numerous minor planetary bodies have oceans of liquid water inside them, with some (*cough* Europa *cough*) even possessing the right chemical mix for complex life to occur on them, not merely simple life, but complex life, I`d be willing to bet that there are fully fledged animals inside Europa’s oceans.

Sagan would be amazed by what we have discovered since his death. He would be 83 years old today. The work he had done in popularizing science to the masses remains uncontested, he inspired millions of future scientists with his works, he was truly a gift from the gods. Rest in peace, Carl, you have earned it.

Population III stars and solar systems

On Usenet recently someone brought up the possibility of solar systems forming around Pop III stars even though, being huge, they would’ve lived only a few million years. Giant stars have short lifespans of only a few million years, a few tens of millions of years at most, and I am incredulous that any substantial planetary system could develop around stars with such short lifespans.

Pop III stars were the first stars in the universe, none are around today, and thus they’ve never been directly observed because they are so old. (They’ve been indirectly observed tho, including by means such as detecting supermassive black holes.) One is better off looking for solar systems around main sequence and dwarf stars, especially if one is looking for ones with life in them.

Said poster also brought up that only gas giants could’ve presumably been found orbiting Pop III stars, but I would like to point out that the cores of gas giants are still metallic, and so would’ve required heavy elements for the gas to accrete to, which would’ve existed long after the Pop III stars went supernova, since they would’ve lacked the heavier elements in their makeup necessary for even gas giants to form.

Evidence for complex projectiles in Middle Paleolithic Ethiopia

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0216716

Abstract: Complex projectiles—propulsion via mechanical aid—are considered an important technological innovation, with possible relevance for the successful Out-of-Africa dispersal of our species. Conclusive evidence for the beginning of this technology, however, is lacking from the early Late Pleistocene (ca. 130 to 70 thousand years ago; ka). Given the extremely limited applicability of relatively robust methods for validating stone-tipped projectile use, such as through fracture propagation velocity, converging lines of circumstantial evidence remain the best way to examine early complex projectiles. We assess here suggestions for an early Late Pleistocene origin of complex projectiles in Africa. Results from both previous and present independent approaches suggest a trajectory in which complex projectiles were likely adopted during the early Late Pleistocene in eastern Africa. At Aduma (Middle Awash, Ethiopia), morphometric, hafting, and impact damage patterns in several lithic point assemblages suggest a shift from simple spear technologies (thrusting and/or hand-cast) to complex projectiles. Broadly dated to 80–100 ka, lithic points from later phases of the Aduma succession represent a particularly strong candidate for projectile armatures most comparable to ethnographically known spearthrower darts, lending support for previous suggestions and warranting further investigations.
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Notes: This is interesting, very interesting, because it pushes back the date of the invention of the atlatl back to the Middle Paleolithic, long before modern humans spread out of Africa, and also long before the earliest evidence for the atlatl in the archaeological record, which AFAIK is from Aurignacian Europe, it’s also telling because Native Americans lacked the atlatl until the advent of the Archaic period, so either the ancestors of the Native Americans lost the atlatl sometime prior to the peopling of the Americas or the atlatl wasn’t as common as previously believed. The Tasmanians also lacked the spearthrower or atlatl, despite ultimately coming from the same population that left Africa as the rest of us did, while the Australians *did* possess the spearthrower, called the *woomera* there, although it was of recent (Holocene) derivation.

Fetal heartbeat bills

Recently there has been a trend among red states to outlaw abortion after six weeks, when the first fetal heartbeat occurs. Of course this is before many women are aware of their pregnancies, but since when did old, white conservative males ever gave a fuck about what women want in relation to their own bodies? Never. The ultimate end goal of this seems to be to get to the Supreme Court, where abortion was legalized up to twenty weeks after conception in the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v Wade (1973).

The timing to pass these bills is especially suspicious given that we now have a conservative majority in Congress, including the rapist and perjurer Brett Kavanaugh, who is also very conservative. Chief Justice Roberts is now the swing vote ever since Justice Kennedy retired, hopefully he sees the light of reason and votes against this blatant attempt at denying women of their rights to bodily autonomy. Keep your fingers crossed, folks, it’s going to be a long ride.

Remember, if conservatives were really concerned with small government, they wouldn’t try restricting the rights of women to have the final say over their own bodies, but they aren’t, they never were. It’s blatant hypocrisy, after all, as Ted Haggard once infamously said, “as Christians we have a right to treat certain people differently.” Mr Haggard then went on to be caught having sex with a gay prostitute. Classy.

Anti-vaxxers

The stupidity of my fellow humans never ceases to amaze me. Vaccines, the bulwark of our key defenses against such terrible diseases that have plagued humanity for eons such as measles, are now the victim of their own success. People forget what it was like in the era before vaccinations were around, your grand parents can tell you, assuming they are Boomers or Silent gen in reference to, say, fucking POLIO. Look, the supposed “link” between vaccines and autism is complete and utter horseshit refuted as soon as the claims by that charlatan Andrew Wakefield were released.

I`m going to say this outright, people who don’t vaccinate their kids should lose custody of their children. They’re committing child abuse, as well as endangering the people around them, by enabling these unvaccinated kids to contract measles and other dangerous diseases. There are obvious civil liberties issues that comes with this of course, but at some point you gotta draw the line between the common good and individual rights. In cases like this, with measles, once declared eradicated throughout the US and Canada, having returned due to dipshits not vaccinating themselves and their children, we should honestly collectively say “to hell with this” and do something about it.

Your religious beliefs aren’t as important as your child’s fucking life. Vaccinate your FUCKING kids, or else.