New exo-planet may have rings that dwarf Saturn

Artist’s conception of the extrasolar ring system circling the young giant planet or brown dwarf J1407b. The rings are shown eclipsing the young sun-like star J1407, as they would have appeared in early 2007. Credit: Ron Miller

Artist’s conception of the extrasolar ring system circling the young giant planet or brown dwarf J1407b. The rings are shown eclipsing the young sun-like star J1407, as they would have appeared in early 2007. Credit: Ron Miller

There are many beautiful sights to be seen in our solar system and more coming into view everyday. But when it comes to superstars, every child knows the answer: Saturn! It is hands down our most famous planetary celebrity and for good reason. Easily seen in a small telescope, the disk hangs in space like a gilded jewel cradled by spectacular rings of gold. With greater resolution the rings only improve, taking on features of a finely machined phonograph, first hundreds and then thousands of individual strands appear, each carefully etched into space over eons by Newton’s best legal work, some twisted by tiny, growing shepard moons into intricate braids of yellow and orange. You could spend a lifetime exploring the intricacies of those rings, and some scientists do! [Read more…]

2014: still the warmest year despite winter snowstorm in Northeast


Don’t be fooled by a winter blizzard this week! The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) rated 2014 as the hottest year in the global temperature record and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) promptly chimed in with the same finding. But there’s wiggle room for the dedicated energy shill to wiggle around in, because both organizations also give an error margin when they rate a year. Chris Mooney walks us through it: [Read more…]

Poor women taking painkillers? Sound the alarm!

Nothing helps fan the war on drugs like poor people getting high. It doesn’t matter if the high is authorized or not either; the poor are evil, they’re takers, they are despicable for being poor, and the idea that the despicable poor might be getting some relief from pain and suffering is not a feature, it’s a bug! If only hatred of the poor could be combined with hatred of women, better yet, hatred for affordable healthcare, better yet, in fact ideally, if only it could be linked to some good ole fashioned slut shaming and something to do with babies … hey, is there a new study we can use for that? [Read more…]

Palin offers up confusing word salad at Freedom Summit

I don’t say this lightly. This is the strangest speech I’ve ever seen Sarah Palin deliver.

My apologies for not posting much in the last few days. In the new writing job, I have to maintain a window of time between anything I offer up there and anything I post elsewhere. On FTB, the only thing standing between me and the public facing page is a button on my edit screen that says “publish.” On other sites it has to pass exec editor muster, then go through a copy editor and scheduler, all of which takes time. I’m still trying to get into the flow and work out the mechanics on that.

In the meantime, it’s congressman Steve King to the rescue, now with 100% more value voters tea-party anger! King thew himself a little jamboree over the weekend, in Iowa of course. Where DC city slickers and urban cowboys-in-costume auditioned to win the part of craziest wackjob to a carefully selected crowd of judges composed of legit whack jobs. There was the usual pandering, some did better than others — don’t under estimate governors Scott Walker (R-WI) or Chris Christie (R-NJ). These shysters are well versed in threading the crazy needle and subtly blowing the dog whistle while sounding halfway sane and reasonable to the average uninformed, undecided voter.

Sarah Palin, on the other hand was just flat out painful to watch. I actually found myself rooting for her out of something akin to pity:

[Read more…]

New Discovery Channel head says no more BS

The Discovery Channel is a business like any other and, some might say, they’ve fallen prey to those well documented pressures with less than admirable results in recent years. Airing vapid stunts and fake documentaries including the occasional program on deities, angels and demons, that tread awfully close to validation, and one treating mermaids as real possibility I recently stumbled across and watched in slack jawed horror for as long as I could stand it. Well, maybe there’s some good news afoot: [Read more…]

Terror attack on French magazine kills a dozen

There are religions that were never violent. There are religions that had their violent days, mostly behind them now. And then there are religions that have extremely violent members, for whom the violence isn’t just a one-off tactic by the occasional lone wolf, it’s fundamentally built into their version of that religion at an institutional level. Today, it looks like some assholes from that kind of faith struck a deadly blow against free press and basic decency: [Read more…]

Hubble marks 25 years with exquisite image


Hard to believe it’s been almost 25 years since the Hubble Space Telescope went up on Shuttle Mission 31. NASA is gearing up for the official April 24th anniversary and released a stunning new image of an old favorite: The Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula. Be prepared to wait if you click on that image, it’s linked to the huge NASA billboard version. This image at Bad Astronomy is a little easier to digest:

The pillars are these towers. The tops are pointing toward the onslaught of stellar radiation and are slowly being dissolved by the light. You can see small knots, clumps of material here and there; these are where stars are being formed and are being uncovered as the dust dissolves. You can see numerous finger-shaped blobs all over the region, too, being eroded by the same process. There’s also a near-infrared image, which detects light that can get through some of the otherwise-opaque dust, showing even more details, including baby stars.

Good news everyone!


I have been picked up as a part time free lancer. It’s not a lot of money, but I don’t spend a lot. One of the few silver linings in going through what I’ve gone through over the past few years is you learn to live cheap. The new gig, together with existing work, means I should have enough to get by. It’s work I’ve done in the past and the best part is it’s fun! It’s work I genuinely love to do. The big difference being it’s regular now, and I have some of what I guess you could call creative direction, much like I have here. My exec editor is giving me a lot of latitude in what topics and projects I take on, how it shake hands with the blogosphere and social media, and I’m just really looking forward to it. It’ll ramp up in January and I’ll be rocking and rolling by February.

It won’t interfere with FTB, in fact I’ll be able to write my brains out here. If it was not for you sweet, sweet skeptical guys and gals stuffing bills in my virtual stocking last month, my Internet might have been turned off.  Thank you all so much, you made Christmas 2014 very special for me! And you made this New Year the first one I’ve looked forward with any kind of hope and excitement in a long, long time.