“Meet Ultima Thule”


And Ultima and Thule, according to New Horizons' principal investigator Alan Stern at today's NASA press briefing, the informal names the team have given the two lobes of the red object out in the Kuiper Belt New Horizons spent New Year's encountering. The contact binary connected by a neck of material indicates two objects that came together and stuck sometime in the distant past when these kinds of interactions were leading elsewhere in the solar system to accretions that would eventually form the planets and their moons.

New Year, New Day, New Image of Ultima Thule

01 January 2019 image of Ultima Thule by New Horizons spacecraft and sketch of object and rotation courtesy James Tuttle Keane
During a morning press briefing aired on NASA TV on New Year's Day 2019, New Horizons mission team leaders revealed the latest best image of Ultima Thule. Still a blur, the Kuiper Belt body's shape is more apparent in this latest image. Still unclear: are the two lobes connected or are they in fact two separate objects orbiting each other? The pole of the object was pointed toward the spacecraft, meaning Ultima Thule rotates from that perspective like a propellor. Artist and planetary scientist James Tuttle Keane has helped visualize this geometry in his illustration included next to the image.

Book Review: The Economic Singularity by Calum Chace

The Economic Singularity: Artificial intelligence and the death of capitalism by Calum Chace My rating: 3 of 5 stars Much of The Economic Singularity by Calum Chace is devoted to supporting the argument that machines will take over many and eventually most jobs from humans. In fact, the first 60% of the book steps through … Continue reading Book Review: The Economic Singularity by Calum Chace

Now Humanity Feels the Tug of Proxima b, Too

It's good to be skeptical, but it's also nice to see rumors confirmed by real and exciting  announcements: the European Southern Observatory (ESO) announced today the detection of an exoplanet orbiting the nearby star Proxima Centauri. At a minimum mass 1.3 times that of the Earth's, Proxima b might be a rocky world. With an orbit of 11.2 … Continue reading Now Humanity Feels the Tug of Proxima b, Too

Frontier Channel 16 Years Later

I started posting online news and commentary about science and technology on January 18, 2000, and I eventually named that effort Frontier Channel. After a few weeks of short posts, I didn't get back to posting again until January 2002. Two years after that, I finally started posting in earnest, and Frontier Channel enjoyed a nice run with frequent articles through … Continue reading Frontier Channel 16 Years Later

Regarding Rumors of Earth-Like Planet Orbiting Proxima Centauri

We've been here before: the media gets wind of a possible discovery made by a long-running science project and before there is a peer-reviewed scientific paper published and a press conference, speculation runs wild. In the age of social media, gossip spreads at the speed of the share, and in this digital game of telephone, the … Continue reading Regarding Rumors of Earth-Like Planet Orbiting Proxima Centauri

Recent Article about Kim Suozzi, Cryonics, and Alcor in The New York Times

Three years ago this October, Kim Suozzi spoke at the Alcor 2012 Conference about her impending death due to brain cancer and her hopes in cryonics and technology for a second future. I remember it was a remarkable, difficult, and emotional talk and I also remember the applause when she finished speaking. She passed away a … Continue reading Recent Article about Kim Suozzi, Cryonics, and Alcor in The New York Times

Pluto and Charon in Color and in Tantalizing Detail

 [Post edited on Monday, June 22, 2015 to correct my misunderstanding about the provenance of the remarkable color image below.] Tonight I was browsing the latest raw images of Pluto and Charon taken by New Horizons today from only 27.7 million kilometers away and I realized that when you zoom in, Charon is just beginning … Continue reading Pluto and Charon in Color and in Tantalizing Detail

The Bittersweet Years

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0cXgr0QIN8 Susan Fonseca gave a talk last January at a TEDx event in San Jose, California about waiting for promising emerging technologies to arrive. Her father passed away for need of an organ despite promising advances in 3-D printing. Fonseca's experience is a poignant illustration of what I refer to as "The Bittersweet Years". Technological … Continue reading The Bittersweet Years

Udacity Pivots and Education Remains Difficult

While tens of thousands of people might sign up for a single massive open online course (MOOC), very few of them complete the course, and very few of those demonstrate competence  with and retain what they have learned. So Udacity - founded by MOOC proponent Sebastian Thrun - has pivoted, slightly, according to this article from … Continue reading Udacity Pivots and Education Remains Difficult