BAN #105: 0g dancing, Coal crossing over

April 15, 2019 Issue #105

[Saturn image credit: NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute / Gordan Ugarkovic]

Subscribers dance among the stars.


About this newsletter

Ooo, meta

Hey, last week I asked if y’all could “like” the newsletter using the little heart icon at the top of the page, and holy wow did you come through! Thank you so much; it means a lot to me to get feedback — especially positive stuff, because duh — on this. I hope you continue to enjoy the newsletter, and let me know what it is you like or don’t or what else you’d like to see. Thanks again!

As a thank you, here is a photo I took of a new bird to me: a yellow-headed blackbird. I spotted this guy on a seed feeder my wife installed, and it turns out with a good telephoto you can get a decent shot from 3 meters away. :) I posted a couple of pix on Instagram and Twitter, but this is one only here on the newsletter.

Thanks again!


Apropos of nothing

Not everything needs to be themed

I saw this and I’m not sure what to make of it: French choreographer Kitsou Dubois is training dancers to perform their art in microgravity! This is a very interesting idea, and I wish the website had more information. I’d love to know when this is planned for, how they’re doing it (no doubt on board an airplane that makes a series of parabolic arcs to give passenger a few minutes of microgravity at a time), and how they’re training.

All they have up is this video, which is lovely, but cryptic:

I’d also like to know what music they’ll be dancing to. Clair de Lune, perhaps?

Ah well. I’ll have to peek in on their Twitter feed every now and again to see if anything new has happened. I’d really like to see this when it’s done!



Is it hot in here, or is it just anthropogenic global warming?

Climate change is real, y’all

This is a fascinating — and quite honestly tremendously exciting — stat: Solar and wind power have dropped in price so much that we could replace nearly 75% of all coal-fired power plants and immediately save money for consumers. For most of the U.S., just operating and maintaining coal plants is now more expensive than installing solar/wind from scratch.

This comes from Energy Innovation Policy and Technology, and they have the references to back this claim up. They call it “coal cost crossover”, which makes sense. At that link they provide maps to show just where it would be cheaper to simply replace coal given the cost per kW, assuming you do so within 35 miles of a given coal plant. It’s amazing.

Of course it’s not that simple. Deniers gonna deny, so there’s that, especially when these head-in-the-sand folks are politicians. But on a practical side wind and coal aren’t 100% reliable all the time, so there needs to be backup by other energy generation ideas (even using coal for that is not the worst idea, since it’s sporadic and less important every day). Energy storage is always the big speed bump, but batteries are getting more efficient and dropping in cost all the time.

This comes at a time when Trump is loathsomely lying about wind power, too, intimating the noise causes cancer. My friend and climate scientist Michael Mann wrote an OpEd in Newsweek just tearing apart Trump’s vile lies about all this. You should read it. And also read this at Climate Nexus, about the health costs of fossil fuels. As usual, Trump’s lies are always projection; he attacks others for what he himself does (or his allies do).

To end this on a better note, via my friend Zach Weinersmith, you can look at a site that tells you how well solar is doing in any state in the US. As you might think, with something 300+ sunny days a year, Colorado does very well indeed. We’re ranked 12th overall and 9th in growth. We also have lots of wind here, and sadly oil too. But I strongly suspect that soon, given all this, we’ll see fossil fuel use drop even more. I sure hope so.


Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI

[From Wednesday’s article: The very first image of the event horizon of a supermassive black hole. This shows the silhouette of a black hole with a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun, located at the core of the galaxy M87 55 million light years away from Earth. Credit: NSF ]

Monday April 8, 2019: Incredible satellite image of aurora over Canada with city lights… and something else

Tuesday April 9, 2019: Hubble's view of the globular cluster M2: It's full of (weird) stars

Wednesday April 10, 2019: Peering down the cliff of infinity: The first image of the event horizon of a black hole

Thursday April 11, 2019: Help astronomers name a Trans-Neptunian Object! (225088) 2007 OR10 just doesn't cut it

Friday April 12, 2019: Hubble lights up Saturn’s aurora


Et alia

You can email me at thebadastronomer@gmail.com (though replies can take a while), and all my social media outlets are gathered together at about.me. Also, if you don’t already, please subscribe to this newsletter! And feel free to tell a friend or nine, too. Thanks!