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Submission + - Planet 9 (or is it 10?) causing mass extinctions every 27 million years? (

Lawrence Bottorff writes: While the jury is still out on whether or not an undiscovered ninth planet is lurking on the outer edge of our Solar System, a new hypothesis suggests that this potential extra planet could be responsible for mass extinctions here on Earth — including the one that wiped out most of the dinosaurs.

Though Planet Nine has seen a resurgence in the media recently, researchers have actually been looking for a ninth planet in the Solar System for over 100 years. In fact, Daniel Whitmire, a maths instructor from the University of Arkansas, first published a paper in Nature on his own version of a ninth planet called Planet X, back in 1985, and has now suggested that the hypothetical planet could be responsible for catastrophic comet showers all the way over here on Earth.

Comment Python for Cons? Why not Racket or Scheme? (Score 1) 173

Why Python? Why not Racket or Scheme? If they're cons, then they should have a language with some name appeal. But seriously, it's time to go functional. I've always considered Python as a stop-gap emergency replacement of Perl. Good. Now we need to find a more permanent solution.

Comment MIT OCW-MOOC should go live/big-time (Score 1) 112

"Elite" is BS, IMHO. MIT-Homeworld could take on ten times the students and not see a drop in performance. That is to say, they're running way under capacity. So are many other "elite" universities. I think a healthy number for a STEM U should be at least 100k -- a veritable city of STEM maniacs. So that's not physically possible, realistic? Go MOOC, MIT. And to weed out the accomplished cheaters, have the student come to MIT-Homeworld for a semester or a year and work on "projects" that would require having mastered the material supposedly done online. (No final exam/oral defense pressure, anxiety necessary.) Once a proven ace, then the MIT sheepskin.

Submission + - "Voices from Chernobyl" author Svetlana Alexievich win Lit Nobel (

Lawrence Bottorff writes: The author of Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, Svetlana Alexievich, has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Somewhat surprising is the fact that she is an investigative journalist and not a fiction writer/novelist. And yet her "novels in voices" style has, as the Nobel jurists believe, clearly a literary impact. Here's what Wikipedia says about Voices from Chernobyl:

"Alexievich was a journalist living in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, at the time of the Chernobyl disaster. She interviewed more than 500 eyewitnesses, including firefighters, liquidators (members of the cleanup team), politicians, physicians, physicists, and ordinary citizens, over a period of 10 years. The book relates the psychological and personal tragedy of the Chernobyl accident, and explores the experiences of individuals and how the disaster affected their lives."

Although the Nobel lit prize is awarded based on "lifetime work" rather than an individual book, Voices... is her best-known and most celebrated work.

Submission + - 2015 Physics Nobel: Takaaki Kajita, Arthur McDonald for Neutrino work (

Lawrence Bottorff writes: The Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to the Japanese Takaaki Kajita and the Canadian Arthur McDonald (72) for evidence that neutrinos have mass. This was announced by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Tuesday in Stockholm.

"For over half a century we thought that neutrinos have no mass," Nobel jurist Olga Botner said. Neutrinos are extremely small and light particles, most come from the sun. They are very difficult to measure, which is why they are also called ghost particles. Billions of them pass through the human body every second, without that they react with our bodies.

Neutrinos come in three types, called generations. Kajita and McDonanld showed that a neutrino can convert to another independently of its original type. They change their identity regularly.

This phenomenon physicists call neutrino oscillation. It is only possible if neutrinos have mass. By detecting the oscillation of the ghostly particles, this year's prize winners were able to answer the long-standing question whether neutrinos have mass or not.

"This year's award is about state changes of some of the most abundant inhabitants of the universe," said Göran Hansson, Secretary General of the Academy.

"Incredible," was Takaaki Kajitas first comment. Kajita examined the neutrinos at Super-Kamiokande Detector, a massive tank in Japan full of ultrapure water. There he was able to show that neutrinos can change their identity from the atmosphere.

Arthur McDonald showed that neutrinos change their identity on their way from the sun to Earth .

Comment Re:Correction (Score 1) 27

The Der Spiegel article has details of his times in Berlin and all the things he did there. I think he was around Conny Plank in Duesseldorf as well. But again, Krautrock was never any sort of rock as we knew it. I remember hearing about Kraftwerk's first American tour (after the "hit" "Autobahn") and how audiences were frustrated with them not playing anything to "boogie" to.

Submission + - Dieter Moebius, electronic music pioneer, dead (

Lawrence Bottorff writes: Dieter Moebius, who is credited as a founder of the late-sixties Berlin "Krautrock" scene, has died at age 71. Krautrock, of course, was hardly rock music, but the protoplasm of a uniquely German avant-garde industrial ambient electronica. Probably his best-known work was with Brian Eno on their famous Cluster collaboration albums. Many believe Cluster (Moebius, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Conny Plank) cemented Eno's path on his laconic, melancholic, New-Age-free ambient sound back in the mid- to late-seventies.

Submission + - Hans Ruedi Giger is dead (

Lawrence Bottorff writes: Hans Giger died May 12, 2014 in a Zurich, Switzerland, hospital from injuries sustained from a fall. The Oscar-winner for the Aliens films was 74 years old. He is known mostly for his nightmarish, quasi-fetish sci-fi themes in sculpture and painting. He lived most of his adult life in Zurich, his adopted home town after a childhood in Chur, the seat of the far easter Swiss canton of Graubünden. As the bios say, his father didn't want him to do art, calling it a "breadless profession." And yet he proceeded in 1962 to study industrial design and architecture. Personally, I remember walking into a high-end stereo shop in Zurich and seeing Giger orginals on the wall. The saleman said Giger loved audiophile gear and we love his art. His many achievements and awards include induction into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2013.

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