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Posts Tagged ‘Pluto

Tweet! Tweet!…

From Foreign Policy, “Even Better Than the Real Thing: The 10 best fake Twitter feeds on global politics.”

@KermlinRussia

The bizarro-world Dmitry Medvedev (in Russian)

“Governors need to have more children so that the country will have more successful young entrepreneurs.”

As we grab our laughs in 140-character hunks, we might recall that it was on this date in 1930 that news flew (by radio and cable) around the world that astronomer Clyde Tombaugh had discovered (what was then considered) the ninth planet in our solar system.  The Lowell Observatory, Tombaugh’s site, had naming rights– and received over 1,000 recommendations.  They finally settled on “Pluto,” the suggestion of an eleven-year-old school girl from Oxford, Venetia Burney, who proposed the name of the god of the underworld (as appropriate to such a cold, dark place) to her grandfather, Falconer Madan, Librarian at the Bodleian Library; Madan passed it on to Professor Herbert Hall Turner, who in turn cabled it to colleagues in the U.S.  It was formally adopted on March 24…  each member of the Observatory staff voted on a list of three finalists:  Minerva (which was already the name of an asteroid), Cronus (which suffered for being the nominee of the unpopular astronomer Thomas Jefferson Jackson See), and Pluto. Pluto received every vote.

 Clyde Tombaugh (source)

 Venetia Burney (source)

 Pluto (source)

The Tao of Dow…

When a PR firm for Dow Chemical asked Diet for a Hot Planet author Anna Lappe to produce a 60 second film for the Future We Create Conference, she didn’t exactly supply the “greenwashing” video Dow had hoped for…

Instead, she submitted this surprise video stating the following: “The future we should be creating is one in which everyone has access to clean water. No one should worry whether their water is tainted with endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, or neurotoxins — produced by Dow or any of the country’s other biggest chemical manufacturers. Dow has the power, and resources, to do more than create a faux “inclusive conversation” about water sustainability. The company should discontinue its most toxic products and pay to clean up communities it has contaminated. Until it does, I will not be complicit in its greenwashing.”

Dow, the world’s second largest chemical manufacturer, is notorious for their greenwashing campaigns.  Despite an atrocious environmental record as one of the top polluters of air and water, they take pains to sponsor such events like Earth Day and Blue Planet Run.  After the deadly leak of chemicals in Bhopal, India killed more than 20,000 people in 1984, Dow Chemical abandoned the site, refusing to clean it up.

Lappe is respected for her work on sustainability, food politics, globalization, and social change. She has been named one of Time‘s “Eco Who’s-Who,” and is a founding principal of the Small Planet Institute and the Small Planet Fund.

More in Reality Sandwich’s “Dow Chemical Got Punked.”

As wax poetic about justice, we might recall that it was on this date in 2006 that Pluto’s two most recently discovered moons named Nix and Hydra.  But astronomers give and they taketh away:  two months later the International Astrophysical Union demoted Pluto from a “planet” to a “dwarf planet.”

Pluto and its three known moons (source)

 

Pictures worth a million words…

In his great opus De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium published shortly before his death in 1543, Copernicus takes 405 pages of words, numbers and equations to explain his heliocentric theory. But it is the diagram that he draws at the beginning of the book that captures in a simple image his revolutionary new idea: it is the Sun that is at the centre of the Solar System, not the Earth.

A diagram has the power to create a whole new visual language to navigate a scientific idea. Isaac Newton’s optics diagrams [Opticks, 1704] for example transform light into geometry. By representing light as lines, Newton is able to use mathematics and geometry to predict the behaviour of light. It was a revolutionary idea.

Mathematicians had been struggling with the idea of the square root of minus one. There seemed to be no number on the number line whose square was negative. Experts knew that if such a number existed it would transform their subject. But where was this number? It was a picture drawn independently by three mathematicians at the beginning of the 19th Century that brought these numbers to life. Called the Argand diagram after one of its creators, this picture… was a potent tool in manipulating these new numbers [Imaginary Numbers] since the geometry of the diagram reflected the underlying algebra of the numbers they depicted.

Although better known for her contributions to nursing, Florence Nightingale’s greatest achievements were mathematical. She was the first to use the idea of a pie chart to represent data.  Nightingale’s diagrams were designed to highlight deaths in the Crimea. She had discovered that the majority of deaths in the Crimea were due to poor sanitation rather than casualties in battle. She wanted to persuade government of the need for better hygiene in hospitals. She realised though that just looking at the numbers was unlikely to impress ministers. But once those numbers were translated into a picture – her “Diagram of the Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East” – the message could not be ignored.

Read more (and find links to enlarged versions of the images above) at BBC.com, in “Diagrams that Changed the World,” a teaser for new BBC TV series, Marcus du Sautoy’s six-part The Beauty of Diagrams (on air now, and available via iPlayer to readers in the U.K… and readers with VPNs that can terminate in the U.K.)

As we marvel at the power of pictures, we might recall that it was on this date in 1997 that eight planets in our Solar System lined up from West to East– beginning with Pluto, followed by Mercury, Mars, Venus, Uranus, Neptune, Saturn and Jupiter, with a crescent moon alongside– in a rare alignment visible from Earth.  Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn were visible to the naked eye; the small blue dots that are Uranus and Neptune, with binoculars.  Pluto was visible only by telescope (but has subsequently been demoted from “planet” anyway…). The planets also aligned in May 2000, but too close to the sun to be visible from Earth.

Readers who missed it have a long wait for the reprise: it will be at least another 100 years before so many planets will be so close and so visible.

source

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