Photo of the day

Wow.  This Phil Plait gallery of astronomical images of the year is amazing.  (Can’t wait to look at them all with my astronomy-loving son, Evan).   Here’s just your every day picture of a dying star.Hubble snaps NGC 5189

Photo by NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

When stars die, they do it in style. This is NGC 5189, a glowing gas cloud seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. At the center is a white dwarf, the remains of what was once a star probably about twice the mass of the Sun. As it ran out of fuel, it expelled huge quantities of gas into space, exposing its dense core. White hot, spinning rapidly and possessed of a killer magnetic field, the white dwarf spewed out twin jets of energy and matter from its poles, energizing the surrounding material. However, the star is wobbling, so these lighthouse-like beams appear to carve out a gigantic S shape in the star’s former outer layers. At least, we think that’s what’s happening: This object isn’t completely understood, though that’s is the most likely explanation for this dramatic and lovely object.

Quick hits

Your belated Christmas eve version of quick hits.  Enjoy.

1) Snooze buttons are bad for you.  Always seemed that way intuitively to me.  Never really used one.

2) How humans created cats.  Short version– agriculture.

3) Surprise, surprise, white middle class people get treated differently in our justice system.  A first-hand account of a middle-class white guy trying, but largely failing, to get arrested is always nice.

4) Should you be physically blocking your webcam from spying on you?

5) The NCAA is more evil than you think.  And that’s saying something.

6) An Israeli security expert outlines 7 reasons the TSA is horrible.

7) You’ll never look at plants the same after reading this amazing Michael Pollan New Yorker article about the intelligence of plants.  That’s right– the intelligence of plants.  Stunning stuff.

8) Right to remain silent?  We don’t need no stinkin’ right to remain silent.  

9) The thirteen most-read New Yorker articles of the year.  You know that’s going to be some damn good stuff.

10) Too  my everlasting shame, I somehow never blogged about Sarah Stillman’s phenomenal and phenomenally disturbing piece on civil forfeiture (in the list above).  If you follow just one of these links, make it this one.

11) A magnum opus on all that goes into making the perfect chocolate chip cookie.  It’s amazing how long this is.  Yet I read most all of it.  And can’t wait to try the recipe.

12) Kevin Drum on the fraud that is pretending voter fraud is a real problem.

13) Not actually surprised to learn that when properly tested in a comparative effectiveness design, exercise is often just as effective as drugs in treating medical conditions.



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