by Alexander Bastidas Fry
Imagine the closest star beyond the Sun has a planet orbiting it about the size of Earth. Visualize what your sunset would look like on this distant planet. Perhaps there would be two stars at the center of this solar system. Your sunset would be breathtaking. You could even visualize what the Sun would look like from this planet – just another unassuming star in the sky. You don't have to merely imagine that such a planet might exist. A planet like this really does exist – of course you'd still have to imagine the part where you are on the surface of this world. The Alpha Centauri star system, which is essentially a triple star system of Alpha Centauri A, Alpha Centauri B, and Proxima Centauri has just such a planet. There is a planet in the sky waiting for us at a distance that is just two hundred and seventy thousand times further than the Earth is from the Sun. This planet is near 1500 degrees on the surface, so we wouldn't want to be there, but nonetheless the fact is that astronomers are finding similar planets commonly. There may be a planet just the size of Earth at a nice temperature quite near us galactic speaking. We are searching.
Most planets don't seem to be much like Earth. In fact so far we haven't found a single planet that has a temperature and size similar to Earth, but part of the problem with finding planets is that finding big giant planets – like Jupiter is easy – while small rocky planets like Earth are elusive. But we are on the edge of discovery. All in all Earth-like planets likely abound. In fact with 95% confidence there is an Earth size planet in the habitable zone of a small star within 23 light years of us. The habitable zone is the place where a planet would not be too hot or too cold. A place where a planet wouldn't see its oceans boiled off or frozen into desolate ice tundra. Habitable planets are common in our galaxy and by galactic standards not very far apart. On average Earth-like planets are only 13 light-years apart.
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by Akim Reinhardt
It was 1996. I was 28. I had recently moved to Nebraska to attend graduate school. I was at a party. I didn't know a lot of people. Maybe I didn't know anyone. One woman was talking about palm reading. Apparently she read palms.
Laughable, of course. But I didn't say anything, just drank my beer. There was this other guy though, in his early twenties. He said some things. None of it nice. How stupid. Don't be ridiculous. Duh.
Sure, yeah, I agreed with him. It is stupid. But do you have to be such a dick about it? This woman seems like a perfectly nice person, maybe even nicer than most. What's the point of insulting and belittling her?
I guess it was one of those moments when I recognized a younger version of myself in someone else and I didn't like what I saw. It's good to have those moments, even if they make you uncomfortable. Especially if they make you uncomfortable.
I finally spoke up.
“Why don't you read my palm,” I said, looking to break the tension and succeeding. I offered her my upturned hand. She smiled and took it.
My memory of what she actually said while examining my extremity is virtually extinct. The exact words? I have no idea. But I'll never forget the epiphany I had as she spoke. After a minute or two it dawned on my why this ancient practice, so obviously ripe for charlatanism, had lasted all these years.
She held my hand and said nice things about me.
Who wouldn't like that? Who wouldn't, when feeling a little sad or lonely, pay a few bucks for that?
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by Alexander Bastidas Fry
Comets have long been portents of change. They challenge the rote repetition of our skies. An astute observer of the sky will perhaps have recently noticed a new object in the sky, a comet, present for the last few weeks (you would have had to look east just before sunrise near the star Spica). This was the comet ISON. But comet ISON, having strayed too close to the Sun, has been mostly annihilated. If there is a comet in the sky and no one sees it, was it ever really there?
William Carlos William's poem, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, captures the essence of comet ISON's elusive journey around the Sun. Brueghel, the Felmish Renaissance painter, carefully recorded the event like a faithful astronomer, but the worker is not keen on the sky and Icarus goes wholly unnoticed. It is just the same to the worker, for had they noticed Icarus or not it would likely make no difference to their toils in the field. And similarly ISON went largely unnoticed.
According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring
a farmer was ploughing
the whole pageantry
of the year was
sweating in the sun
the wings' wax
off the coast
a splash quite unnoticed
ISON made a brief appearance to the unaided eye for a few days before it grazed the sun and then uncoiled itself. But to the learned astronomer ISON is still interesting. Comets are rare objects in the inner solar system so even a dead comet is a chance to learn something, in fact, further spectroscopic observations of this dead comet's remains will continue to tell us exactly what it was made of. There is a legacy here.
Let us begin at the beginning. Some four or five billion years ago as the Solar System itself was forging its identity trillions of leftover crumbs were scattered into the outer solar system.
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by Sue Hubbard
When is a painting not a painting? When it’s a photograph. Many of Thomas Ruff’s images might, at first glance, be paintings by an American abstract expressionist. There is an irony that while so much contemporary painting aims to look hyperreal much current photography has the gestural appearance of painting. The old chestnut that the camera never lies is stood on its head by Ruff’s work. “A photo journalist has to be really honest. The artist does not”, he says. “The difference between my predecessors and me is that they believed to have captured reality and I believe to have created a picture.”
Ruff has been taking photographs for more than thirty years and is one of those responsible for photography’s enhanced status; its shift from the twilight zone of the art world to high priced commodity. His studies at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie in the 1970s coincided with the political terrorism waged by the anarchic Red Army Faction and his ensuing Portraits made during this period reflect a preoccupation with surveillance. It is as if his subjects had been shot by Big Brother’s camera. No emotion is shown, no flicker of a thought is revealed.
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