Archive | July 2011

Earth has a Trojan asteroid!

NASA’s WISE telescope has spotted a Trojan asteroid near Earth.

No, this isn’t an astronomical “Trojan horse”, but an asteroid that describes the same orbit as Earth, but in front of it. This makes them valuable targets for future manned space missions. This particular one keeps jumping above and below the plane of Earth’s orbit, requiring more fuel to travel to. Because of this, it won’t be a great one, but there could be more that are easier to reach.

Somebody hasn’t heard of “Godwin’s Law”

Somebody has liked Enda Kenny to Hitler following his criticism of the Vatican. One of the corollaries to Godwin’s Law is that once you use a reductio ad Hitlerium, you should concede defeat because you have nothing better to say that attacking the person instead of the ideas.

One line that was quoted in this article is this:

“Is this the new Ireland? Is this the fulfilment of the dreams of the founding fathers? ‘No Pope here’. Is this the way forward for a new and better Ireland?”

In order of the questions asked there:
1. Yes. More people are leaving the church because of all the child abuse scandals, and comparing anyone to an absolutely despicable monster just for criticising a secretive society that looks after it’s own skin rather than it’s charges won’t help.
2. I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer. However, I have downloaded a PDF of our Constitution, and in 1973 the “special position” of the Catholic Church was removed and other denominations finally recognised (for the record, this was the Fifth Amendment, not to be confused with the Americans’). Also, Article 44.2.2° states

The State guarantees not to endow any religion.

3. YES! Sometimes the truth hurts. Especially when a church that almost ran the country in the 50s and still controls most of the schools has proven that it cares only about it’s own power.

One final note: some priests and bishops have come out in support of Kenny’s speech. That alone should tell you something.

Breaking the seal of “confession”

For anyone who isn’t in Ireland, as a result of the recent Cloyne report into the Catholic church’s handling of child abuse, some people have suggested that priests who hear somebody confess to a crime should be obliged to report it to the Gardai. One of the columnists in The Irish Times has written this tongue-in-cheek article on how to go about it, this proving that no matter what happens, the Irish cannot resist making fun of it.

Visiting Chernobyl

An article on field trips to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Exclusion Zone. The zone is quite a mismatch, caused by the fact that dust from the disaster didn’t settle evenly. There are guided tours available to Pripyat – if anyone’s interested.

Extreme tourism…

A nuclear power plant in the Philippines is now open to tourists, partly to pay for the costs of running a $2bn power plant that hasn’t generated a watt of electricity. The main reason it hasn’t is because it was built while Marcos was in charge, finished just after he was deposed, and because it’s right next to a fault line – wrong place, wrong time!

Law of Physics broken!!

No, it isn’t any of the laws of thermodynamics – a group in Bristol has broken the “Wiedemann-Franz Law”. This law states that the ratio of the electronic contribution – how much is contributed by the electrons – to the thermal conductivity and the electrical conductivity of a metal is proportional to the temperature. The original article ishere.

A potential application of this, going by the Physorg article and the comments on it, is as an insulator OR in transporting heat – i.e. as a heat sink – especially with more heat-intensive machinery such as supercomputers. I have no idea, however, when this will happen.

Hints of the Higgs boson

After some recent events, I need to blog about something different.

A lab in America has seen more hints that the Higgs boson exists. Now, the physicists who got these measurements said they could disappear after further analysis – but if they don’t, then we’re a step closer to finding the elusive particle.

Of course, why do they care? The Higgs boson is supposed to explain why any particle that has mass actually does, through something called the Higgs field. If this is not found, the Standard Model will probably need to be adjusted or discarded, which is going to cause a bit of a mess.