At some point, we will probably settle on the red planet. In a fascinating article from 2018, The Atlantic wondered how we'll police it:
Consider the basic science of crime-scene analysis. In the dry, freezer-like air and extreme solar exposure of Mars, DNA will age differently than it does on Earth. Blood from blunt-trauma and stab wounds will produce dramatically new spatter patterns in the planet’s low gravity. Electrostatic charge will give a new kind of evidentiary value to dust found clinging to the exteriors of space suits and nearby surfaces. Even radiocarbon dating will be different on Mars, [UC-Davis archaeologist Christyann] Darwent reminded me, due to the planet’s atmospheric chemistry, making it difficult to date older crime scenes.
The Martian environment itself is also already so lethal that even a violent murder could be disguised as a natural act. Darwent suggested that a would-be murderer on the Red Planet could use the environment’s ambient lethality to her advantage. A fatal poisoning could be staged to seem as if the victim simply died of exposure to abrasive chemicals, known as perchlorates, in the Martian rocks. A weak seal on a space suit, or an oxygen meter that appears to have failed but was actually tampered with, could really be a clever homicide hiding in plain sight.
Imagine a criminal armed with a knife has been cornered on a Martian research base, near a critical airlock leading outside. If police fire a gun or even a Taser, they risk damaging key components of the base itself, endangering potentially thousands of innocent bystanders. Other forms of hand-to-hand combat learned on Earth might have adverse effects; even a simple punch could send both the criminal and the cop flying apart as they collide in the reduced Martian gravity. How can police overpower the fugitive without making things worse for everyone?
And then there's the surveillance....
Finally, looking at dating like a marketplace doesn't make a lot of sense in practice.
Longtime readers will no doubt find joy in their hearts that the semi-annual sunrise chart for Chicago is up. Share and enjoy.
Summer ends in about two hours here in Chicago, after a kind of perfect late-summer day. The day is ending with a cool, gentle rain, which will clear up before dawn.
The end of August being the end of summer infused art and music for millennia before meteorologists set September 1st as the first day of autumn for statistical convenience. Maybe this is happy alignment of science and art?
Here's Dar Williams with the verdict:
Apparently the morning people haven't let up in their assault on us night people:
[S]o far, legislation to go on year-round daylight saving time has passed in at least seven states, including Delaware, Maine and Tennessee this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Oregon was the most recent, approving year-round daylight saving on June 17.
“After the 2018 time change, I don’t know what happened, but people got grouchy,” Oregon state Rep. Bill Post, a Republican who sponsored the bill, toldthe Oregon Public Broadcasting network.
The grouchiness is not just in Oregon. A month earlier, Washington legislators adopted year-round daylight saving time. California voters have approved the same, and sometime as early as next month, the California state Senate is expected to review the matter, according to state Assemblyman Kansen Chu, a Democrat and the bill’s author.
OK, let's review: clock time is completely arbitrary. It has no relation to the iron-clad astronomical motion that determines when the sun comes up and when it sets.
I think the permanent DST idea attacks the problem from the wrong side. Maybe the problem is that so much of our life requires people to get up and go to sleep when their bodies don't want to. Changing wall-clock time twice a year just shuffles the furniture.
But, hey, let's apply our energy to this anyway. It's easier than fixing real problems.
Just a few for my commute home:
- New York Times reporter James Stewart interviewed Jeffrey Epstein on background a year ago, and it was weird.
- The Post analyzes temperature records to find which parts of the US have warmed faster than others.
- Chemist Caitlin Cornell may have discovered an important clue about the origin of life on Earth.
- The site of the city's first Treasure Island store, just two blocks from where I lived in Lakeview from 1994-1996, might become an ugly apartment tower unless residents can block it.
- Seva Safris digs into the differences (for good and ill) between JSON and XML.
- Timothy Kreider delivers a stinging rant against gun-rights advocates: "The dead in El Paso and Dayton, whether they were shopping for back-to-school backpacks or just out having beers and hoping to get laid on a Saturday night, gave their lives so that you might continue to enjoy those freedoms."
I will now return to my crash-course in matrix maths.
Including sitting with a lost dog for 45 minutes this morning, I've had a pretty lazy Sunday. Here are some of the articles I might read if I decide to do anything productive today:
Finally, in part because of the proportion of depressing things listed above, I want to post a photo of this dog:
Why? Because she's just that adorable. And not at all troubled by the newspapers.
The semi-annual Chicago sunrise chart is up. Enjoy.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing Saturday afternoon, CityLab asks the obvious question:
Many experts say there was nothing stopping humanity from following the Apollo missions with a permanent settlement. We had the technology to do it. But given the huge expense involved in such an endeavor, humans opted to spend limited resources solving (and, well, creating) problems here on Earth.
“The bottom line why we’re not there is there hasn’t been political will for it,” said Joanne Gabrynowicz, a professor emerita of space law at the University of Mississippi.
A range of experts agreed that technology was never the primary obstacle to establishing a permanent presence on the moon after humans had proven the capability to travel there and back. Instead, it was a cost-benefit analysis that settling the moon didn’t have enough payoff for the cost.
“It’s kind of like asking, ‘Why don’t we have condos in Antarctica?’” said Darby Dyar, a professor of astronomy at Mount Holyoke College who has worked on lunar geology for decades. “We could get stuff there. We have the technology to build structures there. But it would be incredibly expensive to heat them. And why would anyone want to live there?”
Still. It would be great to see a permanent settlement up there.
While we're on the subject, where the hell is my flying car?
Scientists will soon have access to samples from a box of moon rocks that no one has opened since Neil Armstrong sealed it on the moon 50 years ago:
The upcoming experiments, on vacuum-sealed cores and a long-frozen rock, can be performed only once, at the precise moment the samples are opened. That’s why the materials have been held back since they were retrieved from the moon, said Ryan Zeigler, who curates the Apollo rocks collection. NASA was waiting for the right scientists, with the right technologies, at the right time.
With Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary this year and renewed interest in the moon ahead of a proposed return mission, Zeigler said, the right time is now.
Before the Apollo 11 mission, scientists couldn’t agree on where the moon came from. It’s a misfit in the solar system — much larger relative to its planet than almost any other moon. Some speculated that it was once an independent object that was “captured” by Earth’s gravity. Others proposed that the satellite formed in orbit alongside Earth when the planets were coalescing out of a primordial dust disc. Many grade-school textbooks taught that it was, in fact, a blob of Earth that had been flung away by our planet’s spin; the Pacific Ocean was thought to be a scar from this ancient loss.
All of those theories had to be discarded as soon as scientists saw the first Apollo rocks.
About 4.5 billion years ago, the theory goes, a long-gone giant planet called Theia, named for the mother of the Greek moon goddess, smashed into the newly formed Earth. The impact shattered both Theia and the proto-Earth and splashed millions of tons of material into space. Some of the rock coalesced in orbit around the Earth, and our satellite was born. The heaviest bits sank to the moon’s center, while the light minerals floated to the top of the worldwide magma ocean and crystallized, forming the thin anorthosite crust. The rocks and dust retrieved by Armstrong and Scott are relics of this long-ago tumult.
How cool! And how loony, in a sense. I can't wait to see whether they get evidence in support of the hypothesis.