## Merry Christmas, to the “right” people (not you, Mr. President)

December 25, 2009

You can’t make this stuff up.

Merry Christmas.  “We dare you,” the Right Perspective says.

Make the right wing extremely angry today:  Have a good and merry Christmas.  Be tolerant.  Think.  Smile.  Act kindly.  It’ll make ’em crazy.

Also:

## While I was wrapping: Christmas science

December 25, 2009

"Construct complex fractals out of light using a few shiny Christmas tree ornaments. Who says the holidays aren't exciting?"

All you need is a camera and some imagination — oh, and some Christmas ornaments. In this case, four silver ornaments (\$5 at Target, the guy says), a piece of Scotch tape, and the colored lights.  The photo above comes from four ornaments, stacked.  Go see how he does it (lots of photos), and check out his Flickr stream.

While your kids ponder the pretty lights and stars on the Christmas tree, why not add a little science in?  According to Carlos Hotta, at  Brazillion Thoughts, “The Universe in a Christmas Tree”:

How about looking at the Christmas tree through the light of this knowledge? Here is some food for thought:

• We know more planets beyond the solar system than there are Christmas balls on your tree. The current count is at 358 exoplanets, and growing;
• If the planet was [shrunk] to the size of a Christmas ball, it would be the smoothest ball of the tree. The Mount Everest (8 km) or the Marianas Trenchr (11km) are small imperfections relative to the planet’s 12,000 km diameter. It’s an imperfection of less than 0,01%;
• “Earth is not spherical, it’s an oblate spheroid”, some Grinch may say. Indeed, our planet wider in the equator, but even this deviation from a perfect sphere is of less than 0,04%;
• If an 8 centimeters Christmas ball represented Earth and the nearest ball represented the nearest known exoplanet – Epsilon Eridani b, 10.5 light-years away – then the distance between them should be around 630,000 km. Almost twice the actual distance from Earth to the Moon. Epsilon Eridani b is quite far from here
• Now, if the star at the top of the tree represented our Sun, 1,392,000 km in diameter, and the star at the top of your neighbor’s tree – say, 50 meters away – represented the nerest star system, Alpha Centauri at 4 light-years of distance; then the size of our Sun-star to be on the same scale it would have to be 0,74 micrometers large. From 1,4 million kilometers to more than 100 times smaller than the width of a hair, that’s how small the star should be for it to be in the same scale as the distance between it and the neighbor’s Christmas star.

There’s more — plus the original at 100 Nexos (in Portuguese).

## Great news for biology teachers: Neil Shubin released illustrations from Inner Fish for your classroom use

December 25, 2009

Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish reads well, and it reveals evolution as easy to understand from a morphological view of life as revealed by fossils and modern animals.

Shubin released the illustrations from the book for teachers to use — a rather rare and great contribution to evolution.

Here’s where you can download the slides, at the Tiktaalik roseae website: Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion Year History of the Human Body – Teaching Tools.