Nov 2011

Countdown to a Real Countdown, 11/25/11


4. Why won’t Phobos grunt? Despite a flicker of hope a couple of days ago, the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft was frustratingly silent once again last night.

3. Climate science. While anonymous hackers take a second crack at making political mountains out of email mole hills, scientists working in the open advanced our knowledge this past week. First, a paper in Nature presented evidence that the current rate of loss of Arctic sea ice is anomalous compared to the pace of the past half century millenium. Second, a paper in Science reported a new assessment of climate sensitivity to CO2 since the Last Glacial Maximum, based on a synthesis of paleoclimate records and climate models. The study finds a sensitivity at the low end of the previous range of estimates (1.7 – 2.6 K per CO2 doubling, at 66% confidence). If that sensitivity holds for the future then it’s (relatively) good news.

2. Not a shopping list. Fascinating insight into the mind of a genius comes from Leonardo da Vinci’s “to do” list, excerpted from a soon-to-be-published book described in a preview by NPR. Apparently, he wanted to learn about many different things from many different people. Is that the essence of creative genius?

1. Put this on your to do list: Watch the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory, still on track for tomorrow, 11/16, at 10:02 a.m. EST. That’s T-minus 12 hours from now. Leonardo wouldn’t have missed it. Why should you?


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