Early evening astronomy for the late night moon bats

I am only warning you about this now because I don't want you to be scared as I practice some tricks from my "Merlin's Winter Solstice Magic for Dummies" tonight. Anyways...

Tonight (tomorrow morning?), from about one thirty am est until about five thirty am est, the moon will be completely swallowed by the shadows of the earth. The last time a total lunar eclipse coincided with the winter solstice was in 1638, but I was not around to cause that one.

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If you are too busy blogging, participating in NASA's live chat or just surfing the net and don't want to put down your iPad, iPod or iPhone to follow this eclipse, there is an app for that. However, if you would prefer to hunt some planets, instead of staying up in the middle of the night to see me magically paint the moon a reddish-orange with my eclipse, there is some less lunar loony news and information on planet hunting for the "citizen scientist" and "amateur scientist" below the fold.

A New Perspective On The Fermi Paradox


Ever heard of the Fermi Paradox? Essentially, it's this:

If there are intelligent civilisations elsewhere in the Universe with technologies that far surpass our own, why do we see no sign of them?

The article The Fermi Paradox, Phase Changes and Intergalactic Colonisation, posted June 26 online at the Technology Review, two gentlement from the National Technical University of Ukraine have come up with a new take that's yielding some interesting insights:

Their approach is to imagine that civilisations form at a certain rate, grow to fill a certain volume of space and then collapse and die. They even go as far as to suggest that civilisations have a characteristic life time, which limits how big they can become.

In certain circumstances, however, when civilisations are close enough together in time and space, they can come into contact and when this happens the cross-fertilisation of ideas and cultures allows them both to flourish in a way that increases their combined lifespan.

What's this mean? Well,

The result gives a new insight into the Fermi Paradox. Bezsudnov and Snarskii say that for certain values of these parameters, the universe undergoes a phase change from one in which civilisations tend not to meet and spread into one in which the entire universe tends to become civilised as different groups meet and spread.


Of course, this doesn't resolve the question definitively, but certainly provides some interesting additional sparks that could catch and burn brightly in a fertile imagination.

What do ~you~ think -- is there any intelligent life in the universe? (Outside of Earth, that is -- effectively avoiding whether or not you'd qualify humanity itself as "intelligent.")


Meet Roxy, the Lonely Hearts Penguin...and Other News

Leading off our eclectic collection of Valentine's Day stuff is this bit from Reuters about Roxy -- no, not the ePluribus Media webmistress, but in fact a penguin with a My Space page:

Girl Marries Dog
Rick Santorum shout-out)

Meanwhile... wonder Penguins are stressed.

That's how Roxy the webmistress keeps all of us in line, too.

In other news, ABC News is reporting that The International Criminal Court is preparing to issue a warrant for the President of Sudan for crimes against humanity. Such an action -- issuing an arrest warrant against a sitting foreign leader -- is unprecedented, and could have far-reaching implications. I wonder if George W. Bush, Richard B. Cheney and their former Administration's main players have any worries about what that could mean for them? Hat-tip to pmeldrum for the reference.

While our ability to track space-based debris could benefit from more data-sharing and the growing need for some type of Space Traffic Control grows, we're making some progress in our acceptance of reality-based thinking here on the ground:

More than 1,000 religious congregations around the world have signed up to give sermons on the theme of religion and science as part of the fourth annual Evolution Weekend.

And finally, Microsoft is planning to launch retail stores, even though analysts are skeptical about the potential efficacy of the move:

Skeptics questioned whether Microsoft's strategy would work in a dismal retail climate. They also wondered whether its stores could compete with Apple's, which seem to draw in passersby with the strength of the Death Star tractor beam in "Star Wars."

Apparently, we'll soon learn if being a behemoth that functions like somewhat impaired near-complete monopoly is enough to fly in the face of market practicality, barring any new and innovative way that these new retail outlets are introduced or in how they operate.

Microsoft isn't Apple, so the results could be ... interesting.