It looks like a smash-and-grab burglary to me

This video of a deer crashing into a hair salon has been all over the internet.

My question is why the deer decided to do this. My initial idea was that it was angry about a bad haircut it had received earlier when its fellow deer started laughing and pointing at it. But this news report suggests a different motive:

The buck ran to the break room at the back of the shop, came back out and hit a mirror, then ran out with an iron caught on its antlers, Heredia said.

Although the buck ran through the shop thrashing its antlers, it caused little damage other than to the front door and window, Heredia said. “It’s crazy It didn’t break anything,” she said.

What that deer really wanted was that iron. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt, probably because deer do not have second amendment rights to own guns.

The 2019 Nobel prizes in physics

The awards for 2019 were announced today and half went to P. J. E. (James) Peebles for his theoretical work in physical cosmology and the other half jointly to Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for the first discovery in 1995 of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star. By now more than 4,000 exoplanets have been found.

Directly observing a planet orbiting a star other than the Sun is not easy since stars are distant and planets are ‘dark’ (i.e., not primary sources of light). We directly see stars but not planets. Mayor and Queloz tried to see if they could detect the existence of a planet by the fact that due to gravity, the star and the planet orbit around their common center-of-mass. As the star moves towards us during its orbit, the light is blue-shifted and when it is moving away it is red-shifted and it is this ‘wobble’ that they were looking for. But since stars are so much more massive than planets, this wobble is usually tiny. For it to be significant, the planet’s mass should be large but usually large mass planets have large orbital periods, making the detection of variations in light frequency hard. For example, the largest planet in our Solar System is Jupiter that has an orbital period of almost 12 years.
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Oral arguments today in an important LGBT case

[UPDATE: Amy Howe summarizes the oral arguments heard today.]

The US Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today on three cases brought by people who claim that the discrimination that they suffered in employment was due to them being either gay or transgender and that this is a violation of Title VII, the federal law that protects people from employment discrimination. The catch is that this statute does not explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity in its protected classes, listing only race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Thus people have to appeal to state laws and these vary across the country. It should come as no surprise that it is the traditionally Republican states who have not legislated any protections. If you happen to live in one of those states, you are out of luck.
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The tortured history of the US-Kurd relationship

The decision by Donald Trump to essentially wash his hands of the region that spans the Syria-Turkey border and is claimed by them as part of their proposed homeland has created a firestorm of protest from the political-military establishment and even from Republicans who up until now have been willing to support Trump in everything he has done, however outrageous. After a phone call with the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (who views the Kurds as terrorists), Trump reportedly decided to remove the 50-100 US special forces in the region. There have been strenuous White House denials that that he gave the Turks the green light to enter the region and go after the Kurds.
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Two interesting Rugby World Cup games

The Rugby World Cup group stage is nearing the end and the top two teams from the four groups who will qualify to become the eight quarterfinalists are almost determined. There were two games where the highlights are worth watching for a few things that distinguish rugby from American football.

One is the game between Japan and Samoa, which was not close (Japan won 38-19) but has certain features of interest. The game was a little ugly with many penalties but you get to see some excellent goal kicks where the skill of the kickers in drilling the ball between the uprights from acute angles is displayed at the 3:00, 3.25, 6:45, 9:06, 11:15, and 13:25 marks.
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This is a bit much, even for Trump

I thought I had long given up being surprised by Donald Trump’s tweets, that stream of nonsense that flows constantly from his account. But this one today, in response to the criticisms he is getting for giving the Turkish government control over the regions in Syria that are disputed by the Kurds and whom the US had been allied with up to now, took me by surprise.


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The enduring allure of near-death experiences

One of the most common arguments that are presented for the existence of the afterlife are the reported near-death experiences, where people say that they died, entered the afterlife, and then for some reason returned to life again and were able to report what they saw. I can’t count the number of times religious people have told me that such experiences are real and prove that their god and heaven exist.

There seems to be an inexhaustible desire for such stories and are eagerly lapped up by religious believers, even though no real evidence has been produced to substantiate them. This article by Arthur E. Farnsley II describes the case of one person who said he actually died (not merely that he was near death) and returned from the dead, not once but twice. Of course he wrote a book about his experience. The article explores how rationalists might respond to such claims.
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The private-public exploitation of the British colonies

Those who come from former colonies of the British empire will remember from their history lessons the way that the British government worked with private entities such as the East India Company (“an empire within an empire”) in exploiting those colonies. Historian William Dalrymple has written a book The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire about its role in what was the “military conquest, subjugation and plunder of vast tracts of southern Asia… almost certainly remains the supreme act of corporate violence in world history.”
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