The two faces of JE Brandenburg

Brandenburg is a physicist who submitted a paper to the 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference a few years ago. It’s way outside my area of expertise, but it postulated an interesting scenario from the ratios of rare isotopes in the atmosphere of Mars: that there was evidence of a natural nuclear reactor, like Oklo on Earth, that had exploded over 180 million years ago. He makes a good case, at least to this biologist’s eyes, and it seems reasonable.

Natural Nuclear Reactors formed and operated on Earth, there is no reason this could not have happened on Mars. Conditions on Mars: lack of plate tectonics, and nearness to the asteroid belt, may have favored such occurrences in larger size and duration than on Earth. Changes in groundwater distribution, due to either climate change of loss of geothermal heat, may have triggered this event. The occurrence of such a large natural reactor may explain some puzzling aspects of Mars data, such as the superabundance of K and Th on the surface and the large inventory of radiogenic isotopes in the Mars atmosphere.

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I thought it was football that caused the brain damage

So what’s with all the nutty baseball players? First there was Curt Schilling, raving creationist, and now it’s Jose Canseco, space cadet. Fresh off the embarrassment of shooting off one of his own fingers in an accident while cleaning his gun, he’s now twittering about taking over the entire galaxy by riding on comets, and Galactic Beings have used comets as star taxis for eons.

I don’t think he knows much about comets.

I get email

Do you ever get that kind of email that makes you want to compulsively wash your hands? The kind that makes you think, “Well, this computer is completely soiled, time to get a new one”? I do. Here’s an example, and this is how it starts:

Rape is a controversial topic, i get that. But we need to keep a sober mind and try to analyze rape in a way that is rational and objective.

A lot of people are against rape and the reason why they are, are well-known to almost anybody. But i have to offer a different perspective on this controversial topic

You’re probably done already. Just that announcement that they’re going to “analyze rape in a way that is rational and objective” is puke-inducing…you know they’re not, but are instead going to try rationalizing abusing human beings. You are excused if you have no desire to read further, because I guarantee you, it gets worse. Much worse.

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I welcome my neighbors on their new path to full citizenship

Obama announced some changes to immigration policy. Like everything Obama, it’s a mess of compromise, but at least it’s a step in the right direction. It’s also all dressed up in religious language, which drives me a little nuts: I don’t consider Scripture a source of racial and ethnic tolerance. But he also shows a little spine.

Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of bill a simple yes or no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties. And today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote. Now I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as president, the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican presidents before me, that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.

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The American Astronomical Society statement on that shirt

It’s crystal clear.

The past few days have seen extensive international discussion of an incident (known online as #shirtstorm or #shirtgate) in which a participant in a European Space Agency media conference wore a shirt with sexualized images of gun-toting women and made an unfortunate remark comparing the featured spacecraft to a woman. Viewers responded critically to these inappropriate statements, especially jarring in such a highly visible setting (one in which very few women appeared), and the scientist apologized sincerely. But in the meantime, unacceptable abuse has been directed toward the critics, from criticism of “over-active feminism” to personal insults and more dire threats.

We wish to express our support for members of the community who rightly brought this issue to the fore, and we condemn the unreasonable attacks they experienced as a result, which caused deep distress in our community. We do appreciate the scientist’s sincere and unqualified apology.

The AAS has a clear anti-harassment policy, which prohibits “verbal comments or physical actions of a sexual nature” and “a display of sexually suggestive objects or pictures.” Had the offending images appeared and comments been made under the auspices of the AAS, they would be in clear violation of our policy.

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Feces & vaginas: Two stinky things that need fixin’

Silicon Valley must really hate women. First, Peter Thiel thinks the world went to hell in a handbasket when women were given the vote (they are insufficiently ardent about libertarianism), and now a couple of guys have created a startup to make probiotic supplements that make your vulva smell like peaches. Along the same lines, they want to sell a probiotic for your pets that will make their poop smell like bananas.

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