Return of the Aurora Borealis

August 4, 2010

Aurora Borealis, by Wiciwato (Yahoo Flickr compilation) - July-August 2010

Aurora Borealis, by Wiciwato (Yahoo Flickr compilation) - July-August 2010 - notice the Big Dipper in the photo?

A storm on the Sun last Sunday launched a wave of cosmic particles toward the Earth — the particles whose striking of the upper atmosphere causes ions to glow, creating the Northern Lights.

And so the Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis, returned to the planet in spectacular fashion this week, after more than a year of relative solar dormancy.  According to the Christian Science Monitor, outstanding displays of the lights may continue through this week.

Yahoo’s Flicker editors put together a collection of photos from Flickr, from which the photo above is taken — there are a lot more spectacular shots there.

Resources, more:

Pictures of the coronal mass ejection from the Sun dazzle, too:

Caption from NASA: On August 1st, almost the entire Earth-facing side of the sun erupted in a tumult of activity. There was a C3-class solar flare, a solar tsunami, multiple filaments of magnetism lifting off the stellar surface, large-scale shaking of the solar corona, radio bursts, a coronal mass ejection and more. This extreme ultraviolet snapshot from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) shows the sun's northern hemisphere in mid-eruption. Different colors in the image represent different gas temperatures ranging from ~1 to 2 million degrees K. Credit: NASA/SDO

Help someone else find the sky:

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Books dead? Barnes & Noble for sale

August 4, 2010

News of the death of books panicked some stockholders in Barnes & Noble.  Responding to those concerns, the company put itself up for sale (Wall Street Journal article).

The pen didn’t kill the book.  The typewriter didn’t kill the book.  The pencil didn’t kill the book.  Radio didn’t kill the book.  Movies didn’t kill the book.  Television didn’t kill the book.  Telephone didn’t kill the book.  Personal computers didn’t kill the book (much to the chagrin, perhaps, of the designers of the Apple Lisa — and if you remember that, and it’s coming with all the works of Shakespeare loaded on the harddrive, you’re older than your colleagues think you are).

In “A Dangling Conversation,” recorded in 1966 by Simon and Garfunkel, Paul Simon’s lyrics say, “We speak of things that matter/With words that must be said./’Can analysis be worthwhile?/Is the theatre really dead?'”  Some other questions are similarly and equally unstuck in time, and I think “Is the book dead?” is one of them.

So long as there are books, and readers who demand books, there is a need for a bookstore.  They may move to our libraries, but we’ll still need and want them.

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Republican fear tactics driven by cowardice?

August 4, 2010

Soon-to-be former-Representative, Bob Englis, R-South Carolina, has a story to tell about Republican politics going off the rails, told in Mother Jones magazine:

For Inglis, this is the crux of the dilemma: Republican members of Congress know “deep down” that they need to deliver conservative solutions like his tax swap. Yet, he adds, “We’re being driven as herd by these hot microphones—which are like flame throwers—that are causing people to run with fear and panic, and Republican members of Congress are afraid of being run over by that stampeding crowd.” Inglis says that  it’s hard for Republicans in Congress to “summon the courage” to say no to Beck, Limbaugh, and the tea party wing. [emphasis added]  “When we start just delivering rhetoric and more misinformation  . . . we’re failing the conservative movement,” he says. “We’re failing the country.” Yet, he notes, Boehner and House minority whip Eric Cantor have one primary strategic calculation: Play to the tea party crowd. “It’s a dangerous strategy,” he contends, “to build conservatism on information and policies that are not credible.”

Tip of the old scrub brush to Sara Ann Maxwell.

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