Archive for February, 2017

An American Reichstag Fire


(Alternet) – Peter Schrag:

On the night of February 27, 1933, less than a month after Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, fire gutted the central chamber of the Reichstag in Berlin, the nation’s parliament building.

Within hours of the fire, hundreds of people were arrested and put in “protective custody” or sent to concentration camps, and the next morning (in the words of the Cambridge University historian Richard Evans), “the cabinet, which still had a non-Nazi majority, met to draw up an emergency decree that abrogated civil liberties across Germany. Signed by President Hindenburg the same day, it abolished freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and association, and freedom of the press, suspended the autonomy of federated states, such as Baden and Bavaria, and legalized phone-tapping, the interception of correspondence, and other intrusions.” …

alternet reichstag-fire

Reichstag Fire 1933-02-27

Edge of Darkness


(Guardian Astronomy) – Robin McKie:

It would take a telescope as big as a planet to see the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. But a team of scientists think they know how to do it. …

theguardian 2017/feb/26 sagittarius-a

Black hole in 2014 film Interstellar

Proof of God


(FTB::Reprobate) – HJ Hornbeck:

I thought there was a hole in the atheist literature; while a decent number of books on apologetics existed, they struck me as shallow. No one seemed interested in gathering a comprehensive list of counter-proofs, and everyone assumed that Christianity was the only religion out there.

I think I was also trying to better understand religion. I thought society had long since shed those false beliefs and moved on.

It was only when I spent time with a true believer outside my bubble that I realised I’d been in one. Naturally that led to a desire to catch up on what I’d missed, and that led to the study of why people believed in their religion. And once my head had filled with arguments and counter-arguments, it made sense to start typing them out to clarify things. …

reprobate proof-of-god-context

xkcd 1505: Ontological Argument

HJ Hornbeck: Proof of God: Table of Contents

Why Arrival Should Win the Best Picture Oscar


(Guardian Film) – Catherine Shoard:

It’s possible. But to watch the movie is to barely care. Earthbound concerns such as success and silverware evaporate. Arrival has bigger squid to fry. …

theguardian 2017/feb/23 why-arrival

Arrival, 2016 film

An Extremely Faint Neighbour


(Syfy Wire::Bad Astronomy) – Phil Plait:

We can see galaxies billions of light years way, nearly to the edge of the observable Universe, but there can be galaxies literally orbiting our own that have gone unnoticed. Of course, the ones we see at fantastic distances are huge and bright, and the nearby ones small and faint. But still, it shows you that, sometimes, treasures can be found on your doorstep if you just look more carefully. …

blastr 2017-2-23 satellite

Milky Way and Virgo 1

No Habitable Super-Earths


(Starts With A Bang!) – Ethan Siegel:

Earth is pretty much the limit of how large you can get and still be rocky. Anything much larger, and you’re a gas giant. …

starts-with-a-bang 61f443c02de2

Planets discovered by Kepler space observatory

Who’s a Good Boy?


(FTB) – Mano Singham:

Apparently Donald Trump’s campaign advisors had supposedly ‘cracked the code’ for keeping him off Twitter and are passing on the idea to the White House staff. They believe that he feels compelled to tweet when he thinks he is being criticized for something, and so they seek out praise of him by looking on friendly sites like Fox, Breitbart, Daily Caller, Washington Times, and Infowars and feeding those comments to him. …

The president of the USA is a toddler who needs constant watching over so that he does not get into trouble. Reassuring, isn’t it? …

singham whos-a-good-boy

Grumpy Donald Trump

Romeo and Juliet: Act 1, Scene 4 (part 1)


(Good Tickle Brain) – Mya Gosling:

Let’s check in with our lovesick titular hero, his sensible cousin Benvolio, and his moderately unhinged friend, Mercutio. …

goodticklebrain romeo-and-juliet-1-4-1

Mya Gosling: Romeo and Juliet: Act 1, Scene 4 (part 1)

Redefining Planets


(Syfy Wire::Bad Astronomy) – Phil Plait:

What’s a planet?

That seems like an easy question to answer, but really it’s not. If it were, then we wouldn’t always be arguing if Pluto were a planet or not! …

blastr 2017-2-21 planets

Solar System

7 Earth-sized Planets Orbiting Nearby Star


(The Guardian Science) – Ian Sample:

Exoplanets found orbiting Trappist-1 raise hope that the hunt for alien life beyond the solar system can start much sooner than previously thought. …

theguardian 2017/feb/22 trappist-1

Trappist-1 illustration