Category Archives: History

On the Outskirts of our Solar System

NPR Science: Voyager 2 Bids Adieu To The Heliosphere, Entering Interstellar Space.

“Just a few months after celebrating its 41st birthday, the Voyager 2 probe has left its familiar environs and entered interstellar space — only the second human-made object in history to do so, after Voyager 1 did it in 2012.
[…]
The moment they were waiting for arrived early last month, when Voyager 2 left what’s known as the heliosphere — the vast bubble of plasma and particles generated by the sun and stirred in solar winds. This bubble ends at a boundary called the heliopause, where the sun’s magnetic field peters out and solar winds give way to interstellar space.
[…]
By one definition, that also means Voyager 2 — now more than 11 billion miles from the sun — has achieved another, much simpler-to-say feat: leaving the solar system.

It’s not the only definition, though. And the JPL itself marks the end of the solar system at the edge of the sun’s gravitational influence, on the outer boundaries of the Oort Cloud. By that measure, the lab explained, both Voyager probes “have not yet left the solar system, and won’t be leaving anytime soon.”

“It will take about 300 years for Voyager 2 to reach the inner edge of the Oort Cloud,” it said, “and possibly 30,000 years to fly beyond it.”

A picture-perfect Hebridean island

The Economist: Scottish islanders are buying out their lairds. “But remote settlements will need more than new owners to survive.”

“In June Ulva was bought by its residents, a result of sweeping land reform by the Scottish government. “For the first time, the people who live on the island will get to decide what happens to it,” declared Rebecca Munro, an islander.

When Ulva was put on the market last year, Mrs Munro and her family feared that a new landlord might terminate their tenancies. A brochure portrayed the island as a private playground, they said, listing the dates when tenants could be evicted. Community ownership, by contrast, suggests security and self-determination. But the fate of fragile and marginal places depends on more than land changing hands.

Who owns what, and why, has a particular emotional pull in Scotland. Half the country’s private land is owned by fewer than 500 people. Nationalists view this as a legacy of English colonialism, which saw the appropriation of land that under the clan system had been mutually owned. The clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries, when rich landowners forcibly evicted poor tenants to make way for sheep farming, loom large in the cultural imagination.”

Huffington Post: Meet The Island Communities Fighting Back Against Wealthy, Absent Landlords. “These tiny Scottish communities are taking control of their own destinies.” (Includes a 10min video worth watching.)

“Eigg is one of the Scottish Small Isles, an archipelago of islands a few miles off the country’s west coast, and when Fyffe arrived, the population was at an all-time low of 39.

The island was owned by businessman and former Olympic bobsleigher Keith Schellenberg. Schellenberg had bought Eigg in 1975 for the equivalent of $360,000 (274,000 pounds), and despite some initial investment, things had progressively declined. In an interview with the West Highland Free Press in 1991, he enthused that under his ownership the island had kept its “slightly rundown … Hebridean feel.”

Fyffe and her neighbors saw it differently. “We were in extreme circumstances,” she says. “With no security of tenure, no one was investing; the community hall was falling apart; the only shop was in a corrugated shed with no water or electricity.”

Fed up and desperate for change, the community decided to do something about it. When Schellenberg’s divorce led to the island being put on the market, Eigg passed briefly to a German artist, before the newly formed Isle of Eigg Trust raised $1.97 million to buy it ― one-third from hundreds of small donations and two-thirds from a woman who has remained anonymous to this day. Last year, Eigg celebrated its 20th anniversary of community ownership.”

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“Was in der gedruckten Welt nicht erlaubt ist, sollte auch in den sozialen Medien nicht erlaubt sein”

Deutsche Welle: Jüdischer Kongress warnt vor wachsendem Juden-Hass. “Die Warnung ist deutlich: Es sei nicht fünf vor zwölf, sondern fünf nach zwölf. Auf einem Kongress in Wien haben Experten über den wachsenden Antisemitismus in Europa gesprochen. Vor allem im Netz tobt der Hass.”

“Mit drastischen Worten wurde vor zunehmendem Juden-Hass gewarnt. Es sei nicht fünf vor zwölf, sondern fünf nach zwölf, sagte EJC-Vizepräsident Ariel Muzicant. “Wir stehen an einem Scheideweg.” Die Situation für die rund 1,5 Millionen europäischen Juden werde schlimmer und schlimmer. Auch in Deutschland nähmen die Vorfälle zu.”

“We’re changing a mass realization system that we’ve had for 129 years”

NPR Science: Say Au Revoir To That Hunk Of Metal In France That Has Defined The Kilogram.

“The world is about to say au revoir to Le Grand K, a cylinder of platinum and iridium that has long reigned over the world’s system of weight measurement.

Le Grand K was forged in 1879 and is held in a locked vault outside Paris — revered and kept under lock and key because its mass, a little over 2 pounds, is the official definition of the kilogram.

But this is will soon change. On Friday, the international General Conference on Weights and Measures will meet in Versailles, France, to vote on whether to redefine the kilogram.

The vote is expected to be unanimous, a mere formality after years of work. Going forward, the world’s system of mass measurement will not be based on some special hunk of metal, but rather on unalterable features of the universe — such as the speed of light, time and Planck’s constant, a number that helps scientists figure out the energy of a photon of light, given its wavelength.”

“[T]he president’s proposal … exceeds the scope of his authority”

The Washington Post: Trump’s proposal to end birthright citizenship is unconstitutional. Opinion by George T. Conway III (counsel at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz) and Neal Katyal (partner at Hogan Lovells and former acting U.S. solicitor general in the Obama administration).

“Sometimes the Constitution’s text is plain as day and bars what politicians seek to do. That’s the case with President Trump’s proposal to end “birthright citizenship” through an executive order. Such a move would be unconstitutional and would certainly be challenged. And the challengers would undoubtedly win.
[…]
The fact that the two of us, one a conservative and the other a liberal, agree on this much despite our sharp policy differences underscores something it is critically important to remember during a time marked by so much rancor and uncivil discourse: Our Constitution is a bipartisan document, designed to endure for ages. Its words have meaning that cannot be wished away.”

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