Friday: Hili dialogue

Can it be Friday already? Time flies when you’re retired and facing the Dirt Nap. It’s Friday, April 12, 2019, and National Gumbo Day. It’s also International Day of Human Space Flight, marking the one-orbit mission of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in the Vostok 1 on this day in 1961. You may not know this, but Gagarin ejected from his capsule at an altitude of 7 km and parachuted safely to the ground. Here’s a brief video about the flight:

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) is an animated homage to the Bauhaus school: the opening of the school, founded by Walter Gropius, took place exactly 100 years ago in Weimar, Germany.

And today’s extra-site reading: Heather Hastie has a Kiwi’s take on American politics in her new post “Is the Democratic Party nicer than the Republican Party?” I won’t give the answer away, but you can guess it.

On this day in 1204, during the Fourth Crusade, the Crusaders got through the walls of Constantinople, entered the city, and occupied it the following day.  But the Byzantine Empire was restored 57 years later. On this day in 1861, the opening shots of the American Civil War were fired when Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.  On this day in 1928, according to Wikipedia, “The Bremen, a German Junkers W 33 type aircraft, takes off for the first successful transatlantic aeroplane flight from east to west.” That was one year after Lindbergh did it solo in the other direction.  It took the crew of three Germans a day and a half to make the crossing, landing in a peat bog on a Canadian Island.

On this day in 1945, Franklin Delano Roosevelt died in office, making his Vice-President, Harry S. Truman, the new President. FDR was with his mistress Lucy Mercer Rutherford when he had a cerebral hemorrhage at his “Little White House” in Warm Springs, Georgia, and the woman was hustled out of the house before Eleanor arrived from Washington.  Here are three photos I took when I visited the house in 2013, now a National Historic Site:

The House:

The bed in which FDR died:

A poignant note scrawled on the wall by FDR’s cook. It’s now preserved under glass:

On April 12, 1955, Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine was declared “safe and effective” after a large public trial.  Exactly six years later, Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space (see above). And exactly two decades after that, in 1981, the first launch of a Space Shuttle took place: the STS-1 mission with the space shuttle Columbia.

On this day in 1983, my favorite mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington, was elected. He was our first black mayor, lived in Hyde Park, and loved the feral monk parrots that nested outside his apartment building.  Sadly, he loved his food, weighed nearly 300 pounds, and died in office of a heart attack the year after I arrived in Chicago (he died in 1987). Finally, it was on this day twenty years ago that President Bill Clinton was cited for contempt of court for giving false statements in a civil lawsuit. His punishment was a fine and being disbarred as a lawyer.

Notables born on this day include Imogen Cunningham (1883), Benjamin Libet (1916), Tiny Tim (1932), Montserrat Caballé (1933), Herbie Hancock (1940), Roy M. Anderson, David Letterman, and Tom Clancy (all 1947), David Cassidy (1950), Clair Danes (1979), and Tulsi Gabbard (1981).

Those who took the dirt nap on April 12 include Clara Barton (1912), Franklin D. Roosevelt (1945, see above), Josephine Baker (1975), Joe Louis (1981), Abbie Hoffman and Sugar Ray Robinson (both 1989), George Wald (1997, Nobel Laureate), and William Sloane Coffin (2006).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is looking for

A: Where are you going?
Hili: I’m looking for something grey.
In Polish:
Ja: Dokąd biegniesz?
Hili: Szukam czegoś szarego.

From Facebook (appropriately):

I love ducks, I love watermelon, and ducks love watermelon. I can’t watch this often enough!

Reader Nilou finds Wisdom in the center of that black hole, courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

Grania proves once again that cats control the Earth:

. . . and the Universe as well:

Grania also sent this, but I’m a bit dubious about its reality. Why wouldn’t they just correct the first sign rather than leave it up?

I love this one:

Some tweets from Matthew. Katie Bouman, a pivotal figure in the black-hole imaging, gives a TEDx talk about how they combined telescopes, and created a picture-analyzing algorithm to get the crucial photograph. Do watch the video:

And the moment Bauman first saw the reconstructed image. Like all good scientists, she’s using a Macintosh.

I’ll post on this new hominin finding soon, but here’s a take that I largely agree with after having read the Nature paper quickly, though I disagree with Stringer that it should provisionally be called a new species of Homo. The “diagnostic” traits are morphological, there’s no indication of reproductive isolation (nor could there be), and it could be in the same species as H. floresiensis.

Finally, what the deuce is this picture all about?:


  1. Posted April 12, 2019 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    You missed the Mice in Space! 🙂

    • rickflick
      Posted April 12, 2019 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      The mice seem to have adapted well to weightlessness. One odd behavior observed in the mice is running around the walls of the cage as if in an exercise wheel. The reason is unknown, but I’d suggest that the action creates a gravity-like centrifugal force which the mice find Earthy.

      • Dominic
        Posted April 12, 2019 at 11:18 am | Permalink

        My buddy Jez was hoping they would have tiny space suits!

        • rickflick
          Posted April 12, 2019 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

          The will once they are trained for EVAs.

  2. garman
    Posted April 12, 2019 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    I toured the homes of Presidents. I’ve been surprised to see that so many of them were born in museums.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 12, 2019 at 9:18 am | Permalink


    • David Coxill
      Posted April 12, 2019 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      Yes ,and isn’t it strange the way people die in alphabetical order in the newspapers obituaries .

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 12, 2019 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    On this day in 1945, Franklin Delano Roosevelt died in office, making his Vice-President, Harry S. Truman, the new President.

    My dad was on the deck of a US destroyer in the western Pacific at the time. He was 20 years old and standing with a group of his shipmate buddies, all about the same age, admiring a Pacific sunset, when the ship’s public address system came on and made the announcement about Roosevelt’s death. FDR had been in office since the sailors in my dad’s group were little kids; he was the only US president any of them had ever known.

    My father said none of the sailors in his small group could recall at that moment who the vice-president was (since Harry Truman was FDR’s third VP and had been a surprise nomination at the convention the year before, when they were all overseas). Plus, although they had all been at war for a couple years by then, none of them was yet old enough to vote.

    • BJ
      Posted April 12, 2019 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      What was that moment like for your fellow seafarers? FDR was such an imposing figure in the public imagination and he must have loomed large as not only a leader, but sort of the nation’s conscience throughout the war. I’ve always had the impression that he was sort of like our Churchill in that he imbued both the army and the nation’s other citizens with a sense of hope and a dedication to victory.

    • BJ
      Posted April 12, 2019 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      Sorry, I meant your dad’s fellow seafarers, if he ever told you.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted April 12, 2019 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        Shock, I think. Roosevelt had just been elected to his fourth four-year term. He had been in office since 1933. He seemed as permanent as the faces on Mt. Rushmore (and his illnesses and disability due to polio had been carefully kept secret from the public). Those sailors certainly expected him to be there with them through the end of the War.

        Also, I imagine it was like losing a family member. Roosevelt had gotten the nation through the Great Depression. He gave weekly “fireside chats” from the White House on the radio (the only mass electronic medium of the time), so they wee all familiar with his distinctive voice, and knew his visage from newsreels.

        But, hey, they were can-do GIs, so got on about their business. There was no doubt the War was almost won. (The final battle in the Pacific, the Battle of Okinawa, had begun a couple weeks before.) The only real question left was whether they would have to invade the Japanese mainland.

        Like the assassination of JFK for my generation, so was the death of FDR for “the Greatest Generation” — everyone alive at the time can tell you precisely where they were when they heard the news.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted April 12, 2019 at 9:43 am | Permalink

          And this was true except in republican country where they were in celebration when FDR died. Do not forget this part. One of our greatest president dies and the republicans are almost dancing in the streets. My dad mentioned some of this to me many years later in the small town we were in which was republican country.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted April 12, 2019 at 10:01 am | Permalink

            Right you are, Randy. The rich bankers and business tycoons considered him “a traitor to his class.” They wouldn’t even utter his name, referring to him only as “that man.”

            • BJ
              Posted April 12, 2019 at 10:09 am | Permalink

              It’s not as if it was only the upper classes. We can’t pretend that a great deal of what FDR did seems undemocratic and nigh-authoritarian in hindsight. FDR was as close as a country like the US can get to a democratically elected philosopher-king. He packed the Court, increased his powers vastly, grew the Federal government’s power and bureaucracy by an amount that was unthinkable. Thankfully, most of what he did turned out well, but I can certainly see why people at that time would consider him to be nearly a tyrant. The growth of Federal and Executive power, as well as bureaucracy, has turned out to be not only irreversible, but a march that continued once it was started. For those who believe in a more state-oriented government, it makes sense to consider this disastrous. There are other, far worse reasons for which some Republicans hated him, but there are many legitimate ones from a policy and philosophical perspective.

              P.S. If Trump died today, we would see a celebration by the Left the likes of which no sitting President’s death would ever evoke.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted April 12, 2019 at 10:27 am | Permalink

                FDR tried to pack the Court. He abandoned that effort when many in his own Democratic Party, including his then-VP John Nance Garner, threatened revolt.

              • BJ
                Posted April 12, 2019 at 10:35 am | Permalink

                Yes, you’re right, it’s an important distinction that he failed in his plan. I regret that mistake.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted April 12, 2019 at 10:38 am | Permalink

                “P.S. If Trump died today, we would see a celebration by the Left the likes of which no sitting President’s death would ever evoke.”

                Even Lincoln’s among the former slave-holders of the South?

                There was also a lot of celebrating in the Jim Crow south when JFK got shot. There had been “wanted for treason” posters in Dallas (and a similar ad in a Dallas morning newspaper) on the day he was assassinated.

                Matter o’ fact there was celebration in the South when both “those nigger-loving Kennedy boys” got offed.

              • BJ
                Posted April 12, 2019 at 10:44 am | Permalink

                Hmmmm, that’s a good question. Maybe equal celebration?

            • Posted April 12, 2019 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

              I see nothing wrong with this, everyone is entitled to an opinion. But the celebration reports are disappointing to me.

              • E.A. Blair
                Posted April 12, 2019 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

                To this I agree with the late Mr. Ellison:

                “Everybody has opinions: I have them, you have them. And we are all told from the moment we open our eyes, that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Well, that’s horsepuckey, of course. We are not entitled to our opinions; we are entitled to our informed opinions. Without research, without background, without understanding, it’s nothing. It’s just bibble-babble. It’s like a fart in a wind tunnel, folks.”

                — Harlan Ellison

                What good is an opinion unless it’s supportable?

        • BJ
          Posted April 12, 2019 at 9:50 am | Permalink

          Yes, I knew all those things from your second paragraph, as well as how his illness was kept secret (a remarkable achievement, even just physically). Unlike JFK, FDR was a President who seemed to move mountains with his policies and leadership, but also speak to the nation’s heart. I imagine that, if I had been alive at that time, it would have been like losing a father and a leader all at once. Meanwhile, I find it strange how JFK is remembered because, when I look at what he did in office, it seems to me that he was a terrible President. Good speaking and looks sure do go a long, long way.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted April 12, 2019 at 10:23 am | Permalink

            JFK was in office just a thousand days. The programs he envisaged for the nation were eventually pushed into law by Lyndon Johnson as “the Great Society.” He started the push to put an American on the moon, and gave the nation a confident, energetic outlook. And there are indications he had begun efforts that would have avoided the debacle LBJ ran into in Vietnam.

            JFK got blindsided by the Bay of Pigs shortly after taking office, and he was outmaneuvered by Nikita Khrushchev at their summit in Vienna. But he rose to the occasion during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I think historians hold him in reasonably high regard.

            • BJ
              Posted April 12, 2019 at 10:32 am | Permalink

              “I think historians hold him in reasonably high regard.”

              I think they do as well, but I don’t think they’re right. He wasn’t blindsided by the Bay of Pigs; he approved the plan, even if it was one that was drawn up by his predecessor’s intelligence services. In his own words, he wanted “direct, overt” action against Castro to remove him from power, which he thought would show the Soviets America’s might and scare the bejeesus out of them. He brought us to the brink of nuclear war. A thousand days is quite a long time in office, and I think he did much less good than bad. Regardless, he certainly doesn’t deserve to be revered in the manner he is.

              • Posted April 12, 2019 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

                He was blind sided in the sense that he believed what his advisors told him about the chances of success.

                That’s one of the reasons why he ignored the hawks who told him the best thing to do in respect of Cuba was to bomb the missile sites.

              • BJ
                Posted April 12, 2019 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

                That’s not really being “blindsided” and, furthermore, not all his officials agreed with that. I would also say that he wanted to believe it, as he wanted a plan to take out Castro and show the USSR America’s might. As President, it’s his job to make the right decision, but he made an absolutely disastrous decision that, combined with other poor decisions he made regarding foreign policy, led to the Cuban Missile Crisis in the first place.

            • BJ
              Posted April 12, 2019 at 10:43 am | Permalink

              Also, I wouldn’t say he “rose to the occasion” during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I would say he likely caused it in the first place and then fumbled his way through it.

              • Randall Schenck
                Posted April 12, 2019 at 11:13 am | Permalink

                Maybe we could agree on one thing. He turned out to be, even for a short time, a hell of a lot better president than Nixon turned out to be. And FDR took many experimental steps during a terrible time in our history, the depression, while the republicans did nothing, except cause it. He stepped on lots of toes as he should have. Saying FDR was not a great president is about like saying Trump was.

              • BJ
                Posted April 12, 2019 at 11:30 am | Permalink

                At what point did I say FDR was not a great President? I spoke extremely highly of him in my initial post. All I did was point out in another why many Republicans had legitimate gripes with some of what he did.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 12, 2019 at 11:27 am | Permalink

            “I find it strange how JFK is remembered because, when I look at what he did in office, it seems to me that he was a terrible President.”

            He (inadvertently) had the political savvy to get himself assassinated at the optimum moment.
            That is an unbeatable tactic.

            (There was an episode of Red Dwarf where the crew, in possession of a time-travel device, visited Dallas in search of a pizza and inadvertently knocked the gunman out of the window, thus changing history; Kennedy was indicted and disgraced, the country crumbled. Seeing this, the crew rescued Kennedy from jail, transported him back to the grassy mound and handed him a rifle, whereupon he redeemed himself and restored history by shooting himself.)


            • Posted April 12, 2019 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

              Don’t you just love Red Dwarf?

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted April 13, 2019 at 9:56 am | Permalink

                For a lowbrow sci-fi comedy, they came up with some remarkably innovative and fresh ideas. And mostly well-thought-out, with fewer plot holes than was often the case in sci-fi.


  4. Michael Fisher
    Posted April 12, 2019 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    The planned ejection must have been a lot gentler than the 19g or so typical of Soviet military jets of the era or Yuri wouldn’t have walked away from his parachute the way he did. I read in Starman that if an ejection proved necessary on the launchpad, before the launch rockets fired, the ejection seat would hurl Yuri away from trouble – into a huge array of netting on the ground 1,500 metres away. Not kidding…

    Interesting graphic of Yuri’s Vostock 1:

    08-09 04 09 hv.indd

    • rickflick
      Posted April 12, 2019 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      19 gs sound like a miserable experience. I think typical reentry forces are around 9 s.

      “The record for peak experimental horizontal g-force tolerance is held by acceleration pioneer John Stapp, in a series of rocket sled deceleration experiments culminating in a late 1954 test in which he was clocked in a little over a second from a land speed of Mach 0.9. He survived a peak “eyeballs-out” acceleration of 46.2 times the acceleration of gravity, and more than 25 g for 1.1 seconds, proving that the human body is capable of this. Stapp lived another 45 years to age 89 without any ill effects.”

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 12, 2019 at 10:37 am | Permalink

        Thank you. What an interesting, brave & loony chap.

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 12, 2019 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    And your father and the rest of the Navy were just getting started in the battle of Okinawa, with the worst loses the Navy experienced in WWII.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted April 12, 2019 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      Have no idea what is causing this. Was suppose to be in reply to Ken #3

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 12, 2019 at 8:28 am | Permalink

        I clicked “Reply” under one of your comments & then wrote this. If this page reloads before I click “Post Comment >>” then the comment would appear as it should, but as a new numbered comment rather than threaded. Maybe your browser is set to reload tabs after some interval or it reloads a tab when you go away from it & return.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted April 12, 2019 at 8:50 am | Permalink

          I know almost nothing about this stuff but looked at advanced setting on the Google Chrome. One item showed: use a prediction service to load pages more quickly. This is turned on. Have no idea if this has something to do with it?

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted April 12, 2019 at 9:12 am | Permalink

            On the face of it probably not, but Google Chrome isn’t my bag as I use Waterfox. What I do to avoid problems is – for short comments I type & publish without leaving the tab in between.

            For longer comments I type them in notepad then when I’m ready to publish I… reload the WEIT tab, then click on the relevant “Reply” link, copy, paste & publish all in one visit to the tab.

            • Randall Schenck
              Posted April 12, 2019 at 9:38 am | Permalink


          • BJ
            Posted April 12, 2019 at 10:37 am | Permalink

            It’s very unlikely that this is part of the problem. That feature basically pre-loads pages so they load faster when you open them. It does this for pages you visit often. It’s done for the same reason your browser caches images and other features of websites.

            So long as the comments to which you’re replying are showing up, I don’t see how it could be part of your issue, but I don’t know what might be causing it either.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted April 12, 2019 at 11:00 am | Permalink

              Reloading of a tab containing a typed, but unpublished reply comment ‘breaks’ the “Reply” connection while preserving the comment itself [at least in my Waterfox it does]. Thus should I click “Post comment” after a reload the reply comment becomes a new numbered comment instead. BUT this doesn’t happen every time – I think that if someone else publishes a comment in the interval it buggers up the numbering of the comments upon a reload, WordPress becomes confused between using the previously assigned “#comment-1723562” [for example] when “Reply” was first clicked or should it assign a new number. It’s a theory…

              • BJ
                Posted April 12, 2019 at 11:32 am | Permalink

                Yeah, I honestly have no idea what’s causing this issue and I haven’t experienced it myself.

              • Posted April 12, 2019 at 11:42 am | Permalink

                Strange that there’s a browser that would save a typed comment over a reload. Makes me wonder what other parts of the page’s state it saves. People do a reload to clear the browser’s wonky state. Saving the state is anathema.

                Your comment made me wonder if I had imagined it in Chrome so I checked. It doesn’t save the typed but unpublished comment as I expected.

                I wonder if your browser offers several levels of reload. There might be friendly reload that saves user-entered data and Really Reload™ which doesn’t.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted April 12, 2019 at 11:52 am | Permalink

                My Waterfox 56.2.8 [64-bit] is pretty inscrutable now that I’ve had a year to play about in about:config – enough time to forget what I’ve done & why.

        • Posted April 12, 2019 at 11:19 am | Permalink

          A reload in any browser discards the page’s local, in-browser state. After all, that’s really the whole point of doing a reload. While a reload doesn’t discard everything, it certainly would discard a half-typed comment.

          As has already been suggested, when commenting it is best to be sure that the page was loaded recently and the right “reply” link was clicked. If there’s any doubt, copy your comment text to the clipboard before doing the reload so you can paste it back after. Write longer, more important comments in Notepad or equivalent.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted April 12, 2019 at 11:24 am | Permalink

            Typed, but unpublished comments do not disappear upon a reload – it depends on one’s browser & browser settings. Mine sit there in the comment box even if I close & reopen the tab. What does change for me is the connection in the thread can break, but not always. Incidentally the person who mentions notepad further up is myself [I think you’re replying to me here].

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted April 12, 2019 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

        I can’t determine if my explanation and solution have been covered already because I find some of the replies confusing.

        That said, that problem occurs for me because I must fill in the name and email fields whenever I post. If I am responding to another reader’s comment (as I’m doing here to yours) and neglect to enter that information before I hit “post comment,” I get the “Error” notice requesting me to fill in the proper fields.

        However, I when I return to the comments section to fill out the fields, the secondary reply box has closed, and the message then appears at the bottom of the thread, as if it were a stand-alone, numbered. statement. But the reply has not been erased from its original place, just shifted down. I’ve learned to return to the place in the thread where I first wrote the comment and click “reply.” When I do that, my comment moves disappears from the lower template and reappears in its proper place; the error can be corrected in either place, just be sure to return to your original place and click ‘reply’

        I think this can occur for other reasons but the solution is the same.

        I am going only from trial and error. This may or may not be helpful and may or not be comprehensible.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted April 12, 2019 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

          Close to my experience – the bit I typed switching between the box at the bottom & the box in the thread. That’s while I’m logged in though with no need to fill in name & email fields.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 12, 2019 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      Exactly, Randy. (Though I think you meant to say “costliest wins” for the Americans. It was an even more costly defeat for the Japanese, of course, and a terrible price was paid by the native civilians of Okinawa, many of whom committed suicide near battle’s end by jumping off cliffs, out of a misplaced fear over how they would be treated by the victorious Allies.)

      • BJ
        Posted April 12, 2019 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

        I don’t actually know this part of the history, so I’m not questioning the fact that you’re right, but are you sure this wasn’t out of the sort of Bushido code that Japan still lived by back then? As an example of that code, Japanese soldiers regularly committed suicide rather than be caught and never surrendered. For the Allied Forces, there was one surrender for every three deaths. For the Japanese military, there was only one surrender for every 100 deaths because being taken prisoner was seen as dishonorable.

        In fact, now that I’m looking it up, this website gives the same explanation I have and describes some of the philosophy and methods behind the suicides, as well as the possible punishments for not dying or committing suicide in battle:

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 12, 2019 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

          The Bushido code was the reason many of the Japanese soldiers killed themselves after the battle was lost. The civilian Okinawan natives, including parents with their children, jumped off the cliffs rather than face the raping and pillaging that the Japanese military had assured them was coming from the conquering Americans.

          • BJ
            Posted April 12, 2019 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

            It seems to me it was both. For example, I’ve read a lot about the planned invasion of Japan (the alternative to dropping the nukes), and the Emperor demanded that every citizen fight to the death with whatever they had, be it a butter knife or a broomstick. Anything less was dishonorable.

      • BJ
        Posted April 12, 2019 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        Ah, I missed the word “misplaced” in your comment. Sorry.

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 12, 2019 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    And your father and the rest of the Navy were just getting started in the battle of Okinawa, with the worst loses the Navy experienced in WWII.

  7. darrelle
    Posted April 12, 2019 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Yesterday evening SpaceX successfully launched their 1st Falcon Heavy commercial mission, 2nd ever launch. And they successfully landed all 3 F9 cores, 2 on land and one on a barge at sea. Congratulations to SpaceX!

    • darrelle
      Posted April 12, 2019 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      And the good news keeps coming in. I just learned that for the 1st time ever they successfully caught the payload fairings, both halves. They’ve been trying for many launches but this is the first success. That means that 92% of this launcher, cost-wise, will be reused.

      • BJ
        Posted April 12, 2019 at 8:23 am | Permalink

        Watching that first launch last year was one of the most remarkable moments I’ve ever witnessed live. What an amazing achievement.

        • darrelle
          Posted April 12, 2019 at 10:49 am | Permalink

          I’m with you on that. I haven’t been this excited about space activity since the first couple of years of STS launches. That side by side touch down was like a scene right out of the science fiction stories I read all the time in grade school.

          • BJ
            Posted April 12, 2019 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

            I actually became just a bit teary-eyed when the video cut to the rocket flying over the Earth, with Bowie’s Space Oddity playing.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 12, 2019 at 11:12 am | Permalink

        I don’t think they “caught” the payload fairings [ie using nets on Mr. Steven] – I read that the fairings were recovered from the ocean. My source could be wrong of course.

        • darrelle
          Posted April 12, 2019 at 11:31 am | Permalink

          Nope, you are absolutely correct. Thanks for inspiring me to double check. The first source I saw on fairing recovery was very brief, stating that they recovered both fairings, and I assumed.

          Turns out they didn’t even attempt to catch these fairings. Mr. Steven wasn’t even deployed. Seems like they may have settled on simply hardening the fairings as best they reasonably can against saltwater and fishing them out of the ocean rather than trying to catch them.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted April 12, 2019 at 11:38 am | Permalink

            They’re around $6M each those fairings. I’m going to see if I can find a vid of the steerable parachute for the fairing in action from one of the missions.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 12, 2019 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      I just watched the launch film. It worked perfectly…and the payload fairings! That’s amazing. I think I remember they would save something like 35 million by reusing a core. That’s more than pocket change.

      • darrelle
        Posted April 12, 2019 at 10:45 am | Permalink

        Yep! About the only remaining unknown is if these block 5 F-9 boosters can indeed be used 10 times before major overhaul. SpaceX has already changed the game, routine ten time reuse and more with overhauls will kick it up another notch. Just need more time to tell the tale. So far it’s looking quite good.

    • Posted April 12, 2019 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Yes, it was a great launch. Now they need to figure out how to recover the second stage!

      • darrelle
        Posted April 12, 2019 at 10:40 am | Permalink

        Yes, that is the last bit to figure out. Very tough problem though. I wouldn’t be surprised if they decide to forego 2nd stage recovery. The performance penalties may be too high to make it worthwhile cost-wise. It might become an easier problem in the future when there is enough off Earth infrastructure that refueling in orbit might become relatively cheap. This would enable either easier return to Earth or making use of the 2nd stages off Earth.

        • rickflick
          Posted April 12, 2019 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

          I can see maybe designing the 2nd stage to transmogrify into a winged vehicle like the space shuttle. I suspect the most valuable component is the engine. maybe that could be flown back inside a heat shield somehow.

      • Posted April 13, 2019 at 10:27 am | Permalink

        By the way, here’s Elon Musk from two years ago on a completely reusable Falcon rocket:

        “We didn’t originally intend for Falcon 9 to have a reusable upper stage, but it might be fun to try like a Hail Mary. What’s the worst that could happen — it blows up? It blows up anyway.”

  8. Michael Fisher
    Posted April 12, 2019 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    “Grania also sent this, but I’m a bit dubious about its reality. Why wouldn’t they just correct the first sign rather than leave it up?”

    Because the two messages are SMS alerts sent to parents from St. Mary’s Primary School [Catholic school in Victoria, Australia] on 22nd March 2016. Going to church the next day in the afternoon is a bit weird, but upon checking – it’s Ash Wednesday which makes sense – messages are probably real.

  9. Posted April 12, 2019 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    … the opening of the [Bauhaus] school, founded by Walter Gropius, took place exactly 100 years ago in Weimar, Germany.

    And we’ve been suffering with the hideous architecture it inspired ever since.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted April 12, 2019 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      And the deadly Bauhaus Brno chair. Those springy tubes that serve as legs are kind of fun to bounce on, but because of that the chair can easily slip out from under a person, with a little spring increasing the velocity and determining the trajectory of the ejection, causing the person to pitch forward, and maybe ram their face (especially the lower jaw) onto a table or be pitched onto the floor and sustain possibly severe, even fatal injuries.

      I’ve had some close calls and have seen people slip out of the chairs; fortunately, nothing serious, but the potential is obvious to e.

  10. jpetts
    Posted April 12, 2019 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Don’t forget t zoom out:

  11. Posted April 12, 2019 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    The image of a black hole is amazing though after watching Bouman’s talk, I worry that their algorithms for combining the data from all the telescopes may give them exactly the image they were looking for. I realize this was not a technical talk so details are lacking but it sounded like she said that combining everyday images of people and things would still produce the same black hole image. Surely not. It will be interesting to see what scientists not involved in the project have to say. There may be other teams using the same telescope data, but different algorithms, to produce an image. Finally, there is always the possibility of gathering more data or imaging a different black hole. Perhaps I’m being too skeptical.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 12, 2019 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      Yes, I agree. I hope she was massively oversimplifying the statistical aspects of the algorithm for a lay audience – I didn’t quite believe her explanation as she presented it & her analogies confused the issue for me.

      BUT there is a good MIT News article HERE from three years ago that I think is a better presentation of the principles. I understood some of it. 🙂

      • Posted April 12, 2019 at 10:57 am | Permalink

        Michael, thanks for the link. It helps a bit but I find I am still skeptical. Any time data is massaged by neural networks, we should be on the lookout for hidden biases as there is an inherent mystery as to what the algorithm is actually doing. In this case, the scientists are hoping that the net is learning how to adjust for noise, atmospheric interference, etc. rather than some other, less desirable, regularity in the data.

        I am happy to find that Katie Bouman was regarded as a significant contributor to the project 3 years ago, before all the current hype surrounding her.

    • Posted April 12, 2019 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      Image or depiction? I found this article by Matt Strassler useful.

      • Posted April 12, 2019 at 11:30 am | Permalink

        Right, but the author of this article shares my skepticism:

        “Even that’s not quite enough: to do this, you need to have a pretty good guess about what you were going to see. That is where you might go astray; if your assumptions are wrong, you might massage the image to look like what you expected instead of how it really ought to look. [Is this a serious risk? I’m not yet expert enough to know the details of how delicate the situation might be.]”

    • darrelle
      Posted April 12, 2019 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      I haven’t seen this talk yet but I can say that they used multiple teams to process the data into an image. There are many different algorithms for combining data from the individual elements of a VLBI array. They formed 4 (I think?) different teams that each started out with the raw data and let each team independently process the data into an image using whatever algorithms they deemed best at each stage of the processing. After the teams independently produced images they met and compared images. They were all closely matched.

      In general terms this kind of work is not new. It was the scale and the use of telescopes that were all different from each other that made this such a challenging endeavor. But the actual VLBI image processing is something for which there is an experience base.

      • Posted April 12, 2019 at 11:27 am | Permalink

        Right, I am familiar with the image processing concepts involved but the articles all talk about it being a new algorithm. Of course, even if part of the algorithm is new, it almost certainly involves old, proven algorithms.

        In thinking about this, I realize there is another source of my skepticism. The black hole image is lacking in detail. If it had more detail, we would be more certain that we are seeing the real thing as faking a detailed image would require deliberate fraud not merely bad science.

        • darrelle
          Posted April 12, 2019 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

          In absolute terms I suppose the image is lacking in detail but for what it is, it is exactly what would be expected.

          1) Messier 87 is approximately 53 million light years away from us.

          2) The target, M87’s central supermassive blackhole, is “only” about the size of our Solar System out to the Heliopause.

          3) The observations were in the radio frequency range, sub-millimeter.

          4) The image is derived from a VLB virtual array the size of the Earth.

          Given all that I think the image is amazingly detailed. Of course that was the entire point, to achieve an angular resolution that allowed a high enough resolution image to see and measure the “shadow” of the blackhole to see if its shape and size matched theory and other existing observational data.

          No question though that the data should be, and certainly will be, worked with by other groups to verify these initial results. I will be quite surprised if these initial results turn out to be significantly inaccurate.

          • Posted April 12, 2019 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

            I would be interested to know if there are other black holes they can observe with greater apparent size than this one in M87. I assume that they chose this one for that same reason but there are likely many unknown black holes. Perhaps there is one closer at hand. Not too close, of course!

            I also wonder if their technique can be adapted to an even longer baseline, that of the earth’s orbit around the sun.

            • darrelle
              Posted April 12, 2019 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

              I’m sure they are considering other targets! From what I understand they plan on imaging our very own Milky Way’s central blackhole. They chose M87’s to be the first because even though it’s 53 million light years away it’s blackhole is so much bigger than the Milky Way’s (6.5 billion solar masses vs 3.6 million) that its apparent size is larger!

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted April 12, 2019 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

              The known largest [apparent] sized black holes in micro-arc-seconds [or μas] are

              1st: Central Milky Way SMBH [Sgr A*] @ 50 μas
              2nd: Central M87 SMBH @ 42 μas

              Sgr A* SMBH is 4×10^6 solar masses @ 26,000 light years from Earth. I did the sums & if there is a nearby ‘normal-sized’ black hole in our galaxy of 100 solar masses it would have to be closer than 0.65 of a light year from us to be apparently bigger than Sgr A*. Half a light year is comfortably within our solar system’s Oort cloud & we’d know it was there [even if not ‘feeding’] because it would be playing merry havoc with our comets.

              From what I’ve been reading of late there may be 100 billion totally invisible brown dwarfs [failed stars] in our galaxy & multiples of that number of rogue planets unassociated with their mother sun just wandering about in the night jobless & bored breaking into kebab shops. So if there’s a bigger apparent SMBH than 1st or 2nd above I hope it’s some gravitationally lensed beast that’s very far away.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted April 12, 2019 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

            [3] 1.3 mm 🙂

  12. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted April 12, 2019 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    “Like all good scientists, she’s using a Macintosh.”

    PCC is pleased to jest. She’s using the Mac simply as a terminal. Given the sheer volume of data and computation required, I would bet the teams used supercomputers to process the algorithms. (That’s a guess because I can’t find any information on this by Googling).

    Which means, almost certainly running Linux and not supplied by Apple (check out, specifically ‘Vendors’ and ‘Operating Systems’). My Thinkpad running Debian would bear a (infinitesimally) closer resemblance… 😎


  13. E.A. Blair
    Posted April 12, 2019 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    That zoo cartoon is a little off; the lion isn’t “king of the jungle”, but the “king of beasts. If I’m not mistaken, that appellation goes back at least to Roman times. In fact, the lion’s size and coloration makes a heavily forested habitat unsuitable.

    “Typically, the lion inhabits grasslands and savannas but is absent in dense forests.”

    • Posted April 12, 2019 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      Well, in India, where of course Jungle Book takes place, lions live in pockets of forest like the Gir forest. I’m not sure whether that habitat is newly adopted, but in India the lion and tigers are kings of the jungle!

      • E.A. Blair
        Posted April 12, 2019 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        Yes, but the Hindi word “jungli” just means “uninhabited place”. It could, concievably, refer to a desert as well. However, I am addressing the popular notion of “jungle” as an impassible forest. If you want a jungle cat, the jaguar is your #1 choice – lithe and well-camouflaged. As with many mangled metaphors, I think that cartoons are to blame.

        • Jonathan Wallace
          Posted April 12, 2019 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

          Are you not in danger of spoiling a perfectly good joke with a misplaced insistence on ecological accuracy?

  14. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted April 13, 2019 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Quite an eventful week; black hole imagery, the Luzon find, Falcon Heavy Block 5 successful (including fairing ocean recovery for reuse).

    Just a note, the brouhaha over Brouman’s facebook posted joy does not mean her algorithm from the TED talk got used. The paper, the team and herself maintain it was a team effort based on four different image processing groups.

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