Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Freaky Friday News: January 29, 2016

Barbie Gets a Makeover

From Glamour Magazine
After years of criticism and questions about the influence of Barbie, Mattel finally released a new set of Barbie dolls, including Tall, Petite, and Curvy as new body types.  While I applaud the toy company for updating this iconic doll, I wonder if they couldn't have done a bit more.  Why are Tall, Petite, and Curvy exclusive?  Why not have Tall and Curvy or Petite and Curvy?

Also, what happened to the Little People Barbie?  I know that Little People are not the majority in the country, but that doesn't mean that they don't want appropriately sized dolls.

A Vegan Butcher Shop?!??

No, I did not type that wrong.  A brother and sister team, Kale and Aubrey Walch, ran a successful Kickstarter campaign last year to raise money to open a vegan butcher shop in Minneapolis named The Herbivorous Butcher.  In their new shop, the Walch siblings will create meat-free sausages, pepperoni, jerky, and other typically meat-based products.

From The Herbivorous Butcher
I feel a bit divided over this new venture.  While I applaud them for offering meat-less proteins for vegans and vegetarians, I wonder about the name.  It implies that everyone needs meat, which seems contrary to what a lot of vegans I know think.   But I hope that they do well.

Cleaning the Oceans, One Bucket at a Time

Last month, a new-ish venture called Seabin launched an IndieGoGo campaign to raise money to help them clean the oceans.  Seabin creates special buckets that go into harbors, cleaning out the physical rubbish and oily residue from the water, as explained in the diagram below.

From the Indiegogo Campaign
Pete Ceglinski and Andrew Turton, two surfers from Australia, founded the Seabin project over four years ago.  Basing the bucket on skimming systems used to clean aquarium tanks, these men prototyped and perfected this idea in Spain, using local harbors to test out their invention.

Basically, these men want harbors and marinas to buy and use seabins to clean rubbish and oil out of the local water, thereby helping to keep the surrounding waters cleaner.  While this will not rid the Pacific Ocean of its plastic sea, I believe that seabins will make a difference.  And at the moment, I think we need to do all that we can.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Ninth Planet

Hello. I am Portal Pirate and I wrote the article for today.

The Ninth Planet
Source: Wikipedia

In the current issue of  Astronomical Journal, researchers Konstantin Batygin and Michael E. Brown released evidence pointing to the existence of a ninth planet! No, they are not debating Pluto’s status; Mike Brown is famous for being the man most responsible for the demotion of Pluto from planet to dwarf planet.  Instead, these men found evidence of a ninth planet that circles the sun every 1,000 to 2,000 years.  However, these researchers do not guarantee there is a ninth planet out there because they have not observed the planet directly.  But Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) with unusual orbits and groupings provide a plethora of indirect proof. When all known body effects are calculated for the orbits of these KBOs, the chance of them having their current orbits and groupings is 0.07%.  This low percentage argues for the existence of another planet.

This situation is like dark matter. We have never observed dark matter, but when when we look at planets, solar system, and galaxies, we can see there is a gravitational effect we can not account for; this phenomena is what we call dark matter.    

Possible orbit
Source: Caltech

The current problem is the distance of this planet from Earth.  At the closest point in its orbit, this new planet is 200 to 300 times farther from the sun that Earth’s closest point. Brown and Batygin estimate that the ninth planet is a Super-Earth type orbiting approximately 150 - 250 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun; this makes finding the planet a bit of a search for a needle in a haystack.   Regardless, at the moment scientists all over the globe are pointing their telescopes at the suspected orbit in hopes of picking up the dull glimmer of our farthest out neighbor.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Welcome to 2016

Okay, I know that it's almost the end of January, but the beginning of a year is a rather arbitrary concept.  Think about it:

1 month = 4 weeks
1 year = 12 months
1 year = 52 weeks 
12 months = 48 weeks
What happened to the extra 4 weeks?  I watched a video on YouTube where Dave Gorman proposes a 13 month calendar.  While he's doing a comedic routine, I have to agree with a lot of his reasoning.  I've always wondering why the names of the months don't match the number of the month in the year.
septem = 7                BUT           September is the 9th month
octo = 8                                        October is the 10th month
novem = 9                                    November is the 11th month
decem =  10                                  December is the 12th month
It turns out ancient Romans only had 10 months in one of their first calendars; when they realized that the year needed more months, they added January and February to the beginning of the year, thus displacing the rest of the months.

The thing is, throughout history people have changed the calendar when it becomes obvious that the standard calendar is incorrect.  The Romans changed the calendar; Julius Caesar changed the calendar; even Pope Gregory changed the calendar into what we use today - the Gregorian calendar.

So why don't we do the same?  Why not move the months back to their logical place according to their name and add another month?  Or maybe think of 13 new month names based on Arabic numbers?

I know that there are a myriad of problems in the world today that need help, from starving people to terrorism to wars to nuclear threats to racism.  But if we can get people to work together and agree on a new calendar, maybe we can use that effort as a diplomatic jump-off to start on the harder problems.