Thursday Throughput for 3/14
[ThTH1] This could really be a blog post of its own, but the latest massive study has shown no connection between the MMR vaccine and autism. This is happening at a time when measles is breaking out all over and Oregon had its first tetanus case in thirty years.
Here’s the thing though: even if vaccines did cause autism, even if they caused other injuries (which they don’t, but many anti-vaxxers are moving away from the autism thing), it would still be worth it. Penn and Teller made this case beautifully over a decade ago. It’s still true (language warning)
[ThTh2] It turns out that blowing up an asteroid might be a lot harder than we think. The good news is that if we ever discover a doomsday rock that will hit the Earth, we don’t have to blow it up (terrible Bruce Willis movies notwithstanding). Nudge its orbit even a little bit early on and it will miss the Earth by millions of miles. We have the technology to land on asteroids. Developing a deflection mission should be one of NASA’s highest priorities.
[ThTh3] Trump’s budget proposal has basically zero chance of becoming law. But a fellow Siegel breaks down just how aggressively his budget proposal attacks basic science. One of the myths about Republicans — well, mostly a myth — is that they don’t like science. But having met Republican politicians and operatives, I have not found that to be the case. And science funding under Republican Presidents and Congresses has been just as good (or bad) as under Democratic ones. This is one area where I break with my conservative-libertarian brethren. Funding basic science, to me, is something government should do. It falls into the category that Adam Smith described as things that benefit the public generally but are too broad to benefit any business particularly.
[ThTh4] What killed the dinosaurs? Asteroids? Volcanos? How about both.
[ThTh5] We’re still a few millennia into this whole astronomy thing and we’re still just discovering the neighbors.
[ThTh6] I can never get enough of basic astronomy. Will absolutely have to check this out if I’m ever near the dam.
[ThTh7] Astronomy grad student Alysa Obertas put together this fantastic animation showing how we discover planets around other stars. To explain what you’re seeing: the upper left panel shows the orbit of the two bodies in the system seen from above. The lower left shows what they look like “edge on”, from the side. The bottom right panel shows a spectrum with the dark lines (absorption of the light by chemical elements in the star’s atmosphere) shifting red and blue as the star’s velocity changes. The top right shows how the radial velocity changes in the orbit as the star moves toward and away from us. The gravitational tug of a planet is tiny but we can measure it down to extremely high precision — a few parts in a million.
I made this gif for a talk last week because I couldn't find any existing radial velocity gifs that I liked. Please feel free to use it (but please attribute it to me/don't remove my name). 💫 pic.twitter.com/PPiNPo9Kxu
— Alysa Obertas (@AstroAlysa) March 10, 2019