Two scientists, Tom Westby and Christopher J. Conselice, have published in the Astrophysical Journal that they have calculated the mathematical odds that their are other intelligent alien civilizations out there in the Milky Way. They made the assumption that such life would need a planet very similar to Earth in order to provide the necessary ingredients for life to evolve. This means the proper distance from a star, the proper size, the proper chemical composition, the right type of star, and the proper planet age. They assume that if these factors are reached then it is likely that life would evolve on that planet. So taking these characteristics together the scientists figured out that there are probably about 36 such planets like that in our Milky Way galaxy based on what we have been finding with our exoplanet hunting endeavors in the last several years. Based on the idea of 36 planets, they then calculated that the nearest of those planets would probably be around 17,000 light years away, assumming roughly uniform random locations of these planets throughout the galaxy. This is way too far away for us to have any hope of contacting them under our current understanding of physics.
The Astrophysical Journal: The Astrobiological Copernican Weak and Strong Limits for Intelligent Life
Here is an interesting article written in Discover about research showing that hobbies have positive psychological effects on people. People doing their hobbies tend to enter a state of mindfulness while doing them. This provides a temporary escape from stressful thoughts and allows the hobbyist get some mental rest. When a hobbyist finishes her hobby activity she tends to feel rested at the conclusion. This is definitely the case for me when I finish reading, or painiting, or playing tabletop games.
Discover Magazine: The Psychological Benefits of Picking up a Hobby
"There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind."
"Love is at the root of everything, love or the lack of it."
The movie "Won't you be my neighbor?" was a stunning documentary released last year. This year saw the dramatized version of Mr. Rodgers's life with Tom Hanks, "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," which was another exceptional movie. Last year the biography “The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers" came out, which I am just starting to read. Many people are enthralled with Mr. Rodgers right now it appears. And perhaps it is easy to see why. In America right now, the reality of our schisms are constantly being thrust in our faces. We are learning the hard way that people just aren't very talented, on the whole, at dealing with the religious and philosophical differences between them. And so, many people are pining for a Mr. Rodgers in their lives right now. Someone who holds at bay their own inner turmoil, in order to kindly and compassionately deal with theirs, is what so many crave. A physical, non-mystical, loving parent or caretaker for those who never had one, or a strong friend (neighbor) with an unerringly kind heart for the rest... Too often when we research the lives of past people who have been held up as heroes we find that they had more than just feet made out of clay. This is one of the most fun aspects of history for many middle and high school students. They love to learn that Washington, Edison, or Newton had serious issues and weren't all that nice. This attitude is pervasive within society as a whole right now. We are so quick to pounce and tear at the first signs of a crack in the image of anyone believed to be good. But that's why Mr. Rodgers has become such a topic of conversation now. For once there appears to be someone who just can't be dragged down. The rumors about him turn out to be false. He really did simply put others, not just children, before himself, day after day after day. And by sacrificing himself in that way he gave so many something they are desparate for right now: an actual hero. A soft-spoken, truly kind hero.
Another asteroid just missed us on July 25th it appears. This one was only 1/5th the distance to the moon away. One of these days we're going to have a serious one aimed straight at us. This is why real money needs to be dedicated to protecting the planet from these possible extinction level events. We have the technology to protect ourselves from the majority of asteroids, it's just a matter of building what needs to be built and funding its ongoing maintenance.
Link: Washington Post
The American Association for the Advancement of Science is running an initiative right now to increase the inclusion of underepresented groups within the professional science community. The organization is the United States's main organization supporting science. They publish the journal Science, which is one of the two most prestigious science journals in the world (Nature being the other).
They are running a deal on membership right now through July 31 which gives you a nice t-shirt along with your membership. You get a subscription to the journal for the year along with your membership.
Link: AAAS Membership
Here's a fascinating science discovery about humanity's oldest companion. Dogs have been found to have two extra eye muscles that their ancestors, gray wolves, don't have. These eye muscles allow them to shape their eyes into the well-known sad puppy dog stare when desiring human attention. The muscles allow dogs to widen their eyes and raise their inner eyebrow area. These muscles appear to exist for the sole purpose of generating human connection. It makes them appear more like human babies in their facial appearance and people usually describe the look as meaning that the dog must be sad. The dogs use them when they desire human eye contact. Dogs will turn to humans and make eye contact when they are faced with a problem they can't solve. Wolves will not. Dogs closest to their wolf ancestors in form, like Siberian Huskies, only have one of the muscles developed. Wolves do have some sparse muscle fibers, that have not developed into full blown muscles, where dogs have these muscles. So wolves can not generate the full expression, even if they wanted to. Scientists believe these dog muscles evolved through selection pressures unwittingly exerted by humans. Dogs that could appear the most expressive facially were selected for preferential treatment by humans, which meant that overall these dogs were cared for better and thus had better chances at healthy offspring. There are only two other animal groups that have these muscles besides dogs and humans: apes and horses. In horses, however, the muscles do not achieve the same look that they do in the other three animal groups due to horse facial structure.
Very few people understand how this issue works in Science. The misunderstanding of statistical significance is endemic to the education field. It's one of the many reasons educators should be suspicious when someone in a staff development workshop uses the phrase "Research says..."
Link: Vox article
KiwiCo is a company that ships out monthly crates to children which feature STEM or Arts and Crafts activities. They have different crates for different age groups starting at newborn and going up to later teens. My own children are 10 and 12. So they are trying out the Doodle Crate and Tinker Crate subscriptions. My daughter loves art. So the Doodle Crate, which features arts and crafts activities goes to her. Then the Tinker Crate, which has STEM activities, goes to my son. The crate subscriptions currently cost $19.95 a month, although we started for a lower cost due to a Christmas sale. So what do we think? Read On!
The kids and I got to attend Central Florida Comic Con in Lakeland this weekend. This is the con’s first year. It was a very small con compared to the others we have gone to. It was probably only about 200 to 300 attendees. It was centered around geek culture. It had a small exhibit hall with local artists and comic venders.
Bob Layton, who was a cocreator of Iron Man and a founder of Valiant Comics, was there. Marina Sirtis, the actor who played Deanna Troy on Star Trek: The Next Generation, was there as well. There was also one of the Power Ranger Actors and a pro wrestler. Not much in the way of guests all told.
A woman, who has the largest Pikachu collection in the world (including a Pikachu car) was there, and we attended her Pokemon trivia panel. The children answered a few of her trivia questions. My son later got one of her hand made stuffed animal pokemon characters for his con souvenir.
We also got to play a game of Dungeons and Dragons at the con. We converted our characters that we are going to use in the Pathfinder Version 2 playtest into D & D characters and brought our miniatures we had just started painting and dice to the con on the second day. Our DM was very good, and we had a great time. We ended up playing with a gentleman at our table that we had played Starfinder with at MegaCon, which was a nice surprise.
All in all, it was a very relaxed con that was a fun experience. We’ll be back next year more than likely if they continue it. It will be interesting to see if it grows in the following years.
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