of interest this week: 17 April 2016

Sharpest ever view of the Andromeda Galaxy

I have actually been doing quite a bit of online reading in the past couple of weeks, but I haven’t logged too many of them—there have been a lot of in-depth product reviews, author message boards, and the like that I figured not to many others would be tremendously curious about. But here are a few other stories, mostly science.

  • Stephen Hawking and a Russian Billionaire Want to Build an Interstellar Starship
    By Maddie Stone

    By directing that much energy at an object weighing just a few grams, we can theoretically accelerate said object up to 100,000,000 miles per hour—a thousand times faster than the fastest spacecraft today. The idea is to launch a small fleet of craft toward Alpha Centauri, allowing us to perform many, many New Horizon-like flybys of our nearest neighbor’s potentially habitable real-estate.

    The article I read indicated that most of the technology needed for this project is already existent or nearly there, and that the first of these nanocraft might be deployed “within a generation.” Given that estimates would have the nanocraft reaching Alpha Centauri about twenty years or so after they are launched, I’d say this is intriguing news. My nieces and nephews may well be among the generation of engineers who make this happen and the bystanders who observe (and wait) in awe.

  • A Giant Galaxy Orbiting Our Own Just Appeared Out of Nowhere
    By Ria Misra

    It turns out that, despite being large and close, Crater 2 is also a pretty dark galaxy. In fact, it’s one of the dimmest galaxies ever spotted in the universe. That, along with some much brighter neighbors, let the galaxy that researchers have nicknamed “the feeble giant” escape detection until now.

    So it’s like discovering that long-lost sibling you never even suspected you had, and they’re massive, so you wonder why you never noticed them before.

  • 8 Ways You Can Survive — And Thrive In — Midlife
    By Barbara Bradley Hagerty

    After two years of research and more than 400 interviews about midlife, former NPR reporter Barb Bradley Hagerty received dozens of insights about how to live well in the middle years.

    I particularly like Number 4 here: “At every stage of life, you should be a rookie at something.” As it so happens, I’ve recently taken up the ukulele and have also started gaming (table top and RPG) for the first time. It’s fun and focusing to have a couple of new activities, especially those that present creative challenges.

  • NASA finds cosmic dust speeding through our solar system
    By Jareen Imam

    The Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn since 2004, has detected alien dust that came from outside our solar system.

    You wouldn’t think that studying dust would be all that interesting—even if it’s “alien dust”—but the more we can learn about the makeup of interstellar dust allows us deeper understanding about the evolution of the universe and everything in it.

  • Me & my meds
    By Rosemary Donahue

    When the medication you take is to soften the edges of your anxiety, or to make the dips of your depression a little less severe, you’re often accused of taking the easy way out, especially if you’re one of those people with mental health issues who can put on a really good face.People understand medicating if you’re visibly falling apart, but if you seem “pretty okay” for the most part, it’s hard to understand why you need any extra help. You’re often told, “Life is hard, suck it up.” Your strength becomes a weakness, a thing to criticize. But the thing is, that strength, that good face that you put on, that’s a survival technique—a coping mechanism?—?not a way to live, day after day. Medication helps so many of us do more than just survive.

    I know many people who struggle with the stigma not only of having to take daily medication but of the underlying diagnosis as well. As a whole I think we’re improving as a society in terms of accepting mental illness as real illness—and not the fault of the person who has it. But we’ve obviously got a long way to go.

Creative Commons photo: “Sharpest ever view of the Andromeda Galaxy” by Hubble ESA.

Posted in astronomy & science, thoughts from the spiral.

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