In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.
A viral image in its own right, the Hubble Deep Field image has been passed around by scientists and stargazers alike as a symbol that (given the enormous probabilities) we are probably not alone in the universe. Some estimates put the total number of stars in the universe at around 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (1 sextillion).
But what's not readily apparent to most viewers is how incredibly small the field of view is relative to the entire night sky. According to Hubble, the field of view is 4.6 square arcminutes (arcminutes are used to measure angular size). With the entire sky coming in at 148,510,800 square arcminutes, that means the Hubble Deep Field photos make up about 0.000003% of the entire night sky!!!1 That is very small!!
A star known by the unassuming name of KIC 8462852 in the constellation Cygnus has been raising eyebrows both in and outside of the scientific community for the past year. In 2015 a team of astronomers announced that the star underwent a series of very brief, non-periodic dimming events while it was being monitored by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, and no one could quite figure out what caused them. A new study from Carnegie’s Josh Simon and Caltech’s Ben Montet has deepened the mystery.
Simon and Montet’s findings caused a stir in August, when they were posted on a preprint server while their paper was being reviewed. Now their work is now accepted for publication by The Astrophysical Journal.
The researchers analyzed further Kepler observations of the puzzling star and showed that in addition to its rapid unexplained brightness changes, the star also faded slowly and steadily during the four years it was watched by Kepler.
Speculation to explain KIC 8462852’s dips in brightness has ranged from an unusually large group of comets orbiting the star to an alien megastructure. In general, stars can appear to dim because a solid object like a planet or a cloud of dust and gas passes between it and the observer, eclipsing and effectively dimming its brightness for a time. But the erratic pattern of abrupt fading and re-brightening in KIC 8462852 is unlike that seen for any other star.
Spurred by a controversial claim that the star’s brightness gradually decreased by 14 percent from 1890 to 1989, Montet and Simon decided to investigate its behavior in a series of Kepler calibration images that had not previously been used for scientific measurements. “We thought that these data could confirm or refute the star’s long-term fading, and hopefully clarify what was causing the extraordinary dimming events observed in KIC 8462852,” explained Simon.
Simon and Montet found that, over the first three years of the Kepler mission, KIC 8462852 dimmed by almost 1 percent. Its brightness then dropped by an extraordinary 2 percent over just six months, remaining at about that level for the final six months of the mission.
The pair then compared this with more than 500 similar stars observed by Kepler and found thata small fraction of them showed fading similar to that seen in KIC 8462852 over the first three years of Kepler images. However, none exhibited such a dramatic dimming in just six months, or a total change in brightness of 3 percent.
“The steady brightness change in KIC 8462852 is pretty astounding,” said Montet. “Our highly accurate measurements over four years demonstrate that the star really is getting fainter with time. It is unprecedented for this type of star to slowly fade for years, and we don’t see anything else like it in the Kepler data.”
"This star was already completely unique because of its sporadic dimming episodes. But now we see that it has other features that are just as strange, both slowly dimming for almost three years and then suddenly getting fainter much more rapidly,” Simon added.
Astronomers were already running short of good ideas to account for the dips in KIC 8462852’s brightness, and the new results will make that task even harder. Simon and Montet think that the best proposal so far for explaining the star’s drastic six month dimming might be a collision or breakup of a planet or comet in the star’s system, creating a short-term cloud of dust and debris that blocks some starlight. However, this wouldn’t explain the longer-term dimming observed during the first three years of Kepler and suggested by measurements of the star dating back to the nineteenth century.
“It’s a big challenge to come up with a good explanation for a star doing three different things that have never been seen before,” Montet said. “But these observations will provide an important clue to solving the mystery of KIC 8462852.”
Revisiting the currency question will not be a problem for the SNP. Or for that part of the independence movement which doesn’t simply accept the media’s version of events. The currency thing was never a real issue anyway. The Scottish Government's position was perfectly sensible. But the media were steadfast in refusing to inform people of that position. And even more steadfast in their refusal to question the British parties' joint threat to abolish the currency union.
Maintaining the currency union, at least as an interim measure, was always the best option for both rUK and Scotland. Arguably not the ideal option for either. But the most acceptable compromise for both.
There would almost inevitably come a point where economic divergence would make currency union infeasible. But that point was almost certainly years, and erhaps decades, down the line. In the meantime, the priority for both governments should have been the avoidance of massively disruptive changes.
Why do the media never ask why the British parties' chose to ignore that imperative?
Why were they never asked what priority was so great as to supersede the need to maintain some measure of economic stability?
Why was the UK Government never asked exactly when the decision to threaten abolition of the currency union was made?
Why were they never asked whether such a hugely important decision was discussed in cabinet?
Why were they never asked whether the Bank of England had been consulted?
Why were they never asked whether business organisations such as the CBI were consulted?
Why were they never asked who actually took the decision to threaten abolition of the currency union?
Why were they never asked about the findings of an impact assessment - assuming one was even carried out?
If no impact assessment was carried out, why wasn't the UK government quizzed regarding this failure?
As ever, Alex Salmond knows exactly what he is doing. The British establishment will be keeching its breeks at the prospect of an open and informed debate about currency. They will be dreading the possibility that, this time around, the awkward questions will be asked.
NOTE: THE BBC PERSISTS IN PROHIBITING COMMENTS ON ITS SCOTTISH NEWS AND POLITICS STORIES IN AN ACT OF BLATANT CENSORSHIP, INEXCUSABLE DISCRIMINATION - AND COWARDICE.
Are we alone in the universe? To answer this question, astronomers have been using a variety of methods in the past decades to search for habitable planets and for the signals from extraterrestrial observers.
The first part of this venture has been highly successful: More than 2,000 planets around distant stars — so called exoplanets — have been found so far. The second part, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), has not yet been successful.
Maybe the search strategy has not been optimized until now, said researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Göttingen, Germany, and from McMaster University in Canada. They suggest that future searches focus on that part of the sky in which distant observers can notice the yearly transit of Earth in front of the Sun.
Observers in this zone could have discovered Earth with the same techniques that are used by terrestrial astronomers to discover and characterize exoplanets. According to the researchers, the probability that extraterrestrials are already deliberately sending us signals is much higher in this part of the sky.
This strategy reduces the region that needs to be searched to about two thousandths of the sky, drastically reducing the amount of data to be analyzed.
When a planet passes in front of its host star, it causes a small transient dimming of the star. This so called transit can be measurable, depending on the size on the planet and the sensitivity of the instrument. In fact, the majority of the exoplanets known to us today have been discovered with this transit method. A similar technique, called transit spectroscopy, might enable astronomers in the future to scan the atmospheres of exoplanets for gaseous indicators of life.
In a first step, the two researchers identified the region in the sky from which one sees the transits less than half a solar radius from the center of the solar disk. The possible exoplanetary systems that offer this perspective are all located in a small strip in the sky, the projection of Earth’s orbit around the Sun (the ecliptic) onto the celestial sphere. The area of this strip amounts only to about two thousandths of the entire sky.
“The key point of this strategy is that it confines the search area to a very small part of the sky. As a consequence, it might take us less than a human life span to find out whether or not there are extraterrestrial astronomers who have found the Earth. They may have detected Earth’s biogenic atmosphere and started to contact whoever is home,” said René Heller from MPS.
Not every star is equally well suited as a home of extraterrestrial life. The more massive a star, the shorter is its life span. Yet, a long stellar life is considered a prerequisite for the development of higher life forms. Therefore the researchers compiled a list of stars that are not only in the advantageous part of the sky, but also offer good chances of hosting evolved forms of life, that is, intelligent life. The researchers compiled a list of 82 nearby Sun-like stars that satisfy their criteria. This catalog can now serve as an immediate target list for SETI initiatives.
The Tully Monster, an oddly configured sea creature with teeth at the end of a narrow, trunk-like extension of its head and eyes that perch on either side of a long, rigid bar, has finally been identified.
A Yale-led team of paleontologists has determined that the 300-million-year-old animal — which grew to only a foot long — was a vertebrate, with gills and a stiffened rod (or notochord) that supported its body. It is part of the same lineage as the modern lamprey. “I was first intrigued by the mystery of the Tully Monster. With all of the exceptional fossils, we had a very clear picture of what it looked like, but no clear picture of what it was,” said Victoria McCoy, lead author of a new study in the journal Nature. McCoy conducted her research as a Yale graduate student and is now at the University of Leicester.
For decades, the Tully Monster has been one of the great fossil enigmas: It was discovered in 1958, first described scientifically in 1966, yet never definitively identified even to the level of phylum (that is, to one of the major groups of animals). Officially known as Tullimonstrum gregarium, it is named after Francis Tully, the amateur fossil hunter who came across it in coal mining pits in northeastern Illinois.
Thousands of Tully Monsters eventually were found at the site, embedded in concretions — masses of hard rock that formed around the Tully Monsters as they fossilized. Tully donated many of his specimens to the Field Museum of Natural History, which collaborated on the Nature study along with Argonne National Laboratory and the American Museum of Natural History.
The Tully Monster has taken on celebrity status in Illinois. It became the state fossil in 1989, and more recently, U-Haul trucks and trailers in Illinois began featuring an image of a Tully Monster. “Basically, nobody knew what it was,” said Derek Briggs, Yale’s G. Evelyn Hutchinson Professor of Geology and Geophysics, curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, and co-author of the study. “The fossils are not easy to interpret, and they vary quite a bit. Some people thought it might be this bizarre, swimming mollusk. We decided to throw every possible analytical technique at it.”
Using the Field Museum’s collection of 2,000 Tully Monster specimens, the team analyzed the morphology and preservation of various features of the animal. Powerful, new analytical techniques also were brought to bear, such as synchrotron elemental mapping, which illuminates an animal’s physical features by mapping the chemistry within a fossil.
The researchers concluded that the Tully Monster had gills and a notochord, which functioned as a rudimentary spinal cord. Neither feature had been identified in the animal previously.
“It’s so different from its modern relatives that we don’t know much about how it lived,” McCoy said. “It has big eyes and lots of teeth, so it was probably a predator.”
Some key questions about Tully Monsters still remain unanswered, however. No one knows when the animal first appeared on Earth or when it went extinct. Its existence in the fossil record is confined to the Illinois mining site, dating back 300 million years.
In constructor theory, physical laws are formulated only in terms of which tasks are possible (with arbitrarily high accuracy, reliability, and repeatability), and which are impossible, and why – as opposed to what happens, and what does not happen, given dynamical laws and initial conditions. A task is impossible if there is a law of physics that forbids it. Otherwise, it is possible – which means that a constructor for that task – an object that causes the task to occur and retains the ability to cause it again – can be approximated arbitrarily well in reality. Car factories, robots and living cells are all accurate approximations to constructors.
For constructors that survive for long, information in the recipe must be digital, to make reliable error correction possible after copying: if not, there would be a fundamental limit to how well an error can be detected, which would lead to a build up of errors and a limit to the accuracy and resiliency achievable. A self‑reproducing cell must do all this, too. The parent cell contains a recipe – DNA – with all the instructions to construct a new cell (recipe excluded). This means that accurate self‑reproduction can occur only in two steps. Using letter-by-letter replication and error-correction, the parent cell makes a high-fidelity copy of the recipe to be inserted in the new cell; then it constructs the copying mechanism plus the rest of the cell afresh, following the recipe. It was the Hungarian-born physicist John von Neumann who first discovered this logic in the 1940s. He was exploring cellular automata – discrete computational models used, for instance, in Conway’s Game of Life, which rely on unphysical dynamical laws. Constructor theory shows that this is the only possible logic for accurate self-reproduction given any no-design laws.
Constructor theory gives the ‘recipe’ an exact characterisation in fundamental physics. It is digitally coded information that can act as a constructor and has resiliency – the capacity, once it is instantiated in physical systems, to remain so instantiated. In constructor theory, that is called knowledge – a term used here without the usual connotation that it is known by someone: it merely denotes this particular kind of information with causal power and resiliency. And an essential part of the explanation of all distinctive properties of living things (and of accurate constructors in general) is that they contain knowledge in that sense.
Moreover, it is a fundamental idea of constructor theory that any transformation that is not forbidden by the laws of physics can be achieved given the requisite knowledge. There is no third possibility: either the laws of physics forbid it, or it is achievable. This accounts for another aspect of the evolutionary story. Ever better constructors can be produced, without limit, given the relevant knowledge, instantiated in digital recipes.
The early history of evolution is, in constructor-theoretic terms, a lengthy, highly inaccurate, non-purposive construction that eventually produced knowledge-bearing recipes out of elementary things containing none. These elementary things are simple chemicals such as short RNA strands, which can perform only low-fidelity replication, and so do not bear the appearance of design, and are therefore allowed to exist in a pre-biotic environment governed by no-design laws.
Thus the constructor theory of life shows explicitly that natural selection does not need to assume the existence of any initial recipe, containing knowledge, to get started. It shows that, whatever recipes we might find in living things, they do not require ad‑hoc, biocentric or mysterious laws of physics in order to come into existence from elementary initial components. They need only the laws of physics to permit the existence of digital information, plus sufficient time and energy, which are non-specific to life. This adds another deep reason why a unification in our understanding of the phenomena of life and physics is possible. Whatever the laws of physics do not forbid us, we can do. Whether or not we will, depends on how much knowledge we create. It is up to us.
Welcome to Asgardia! Today, an international group of researchers, engineers, lawyers, and entrepreneurs announced the creation of a nation in space, named after the city of the skies ruled over by Odin in Norse mythology. Although Asgardia does not yet have any land, it is attracting citizens. Anyone can sign up on the nation’s website. Asgardia would allow space entrepreneurs to flourish, and protect Earth, too.
The idea behind the initiative, organizers say, is to create a new legal framework for the peaceful exploitation of space free of the control of Earth-bound nations (governance by Norse deities being preferable, obviously). The nation-building effort is led by Igor Ashurbeyli, a Russian space scientist and engineer who in 2013 founded the Aerospace International Research Center (AIRC) in Vienna, known mostly for publishing the space journal Room. Ashurbeyli told a press conference in Paris today: “The scientific and technological component of the project can be explained in just three words—peace, access, and protection.”
The protection component comes in the form of a satellite, scheduled to be launched in 2017, which will provide a “state-of-the-art protective shield for all humankind from cosmic manmade and natural threats to life on Earth such as space debris, coronal mass ejections, and asteroid collisions.” A bold plan, because the combined might of the world’s space agencies and military have yet to figure out how to prevent their own satellites colliding with each other, let alone protect Earth from a rock the size of a city. And it is not clear whether the organizers have the financing or technical capability to launch their own satellite.
The initiative appears to be an effort to sidestep the oversight of the United Nations’s Outer Space Treaty, which gives nations the duty of overseeing any space activities undertaken from its territory, whether by government bodies, commercial companies, or nonprofit organizations. The nation then takes responsibility for any damage that launchers and satellites may cause both in space and anywhere on Earth. “By creating a new Space Nation, private enterprise, innovation and the further development of space technology to support humanity will flourish free from the tight restrictions of state control that currently exist,” the project said in a statement. It’s not yet clear, however, what kind of governmental oversight, democratic or otherwise, is provided for in the Asgardian constitution—or whether the nation even has one.
Asgardia is not yet recognized by any other nation, nor by the United Nations, and it is not clear how, not having its own territory to launch from, it will be able to loft a satellite without it coming under some other nation’s control as described by the Outer Space Treaty.
There was a hashtag trending on Twitter yesterday, #WeAreScottish. It was Scotland’s response to the xenophobia, racism, and British exclusionism of Thrasher May and her government of pygmy minds. Ordinary Scottish people took to social media to state our rejection of the inward looking Brits-first ideology of the Conservatives and to affirm that our Scotland is accepting, tolerant, and multicultural. We are Scotland says that a Scot isn’t just a person who was born in Scotland, a Scot is someone who makes Scotland their home, who chooses to be Scottish, who chooses to identify with Scotland. A Scot isn’t just a person who is Scottish by the accident of birth, it’s also a person who is Scottish by design and Scottish by adoption.
Double-helix molecules are frequently encountered in biological and synthetic organic systems, where they typically provide improved strength and better electrical properties relative to materials containing linear chains or single helices. DNA is the defining example. A purely inorganic double helix has been hard to come by, until now.
A team of some 20 researchers led by Tom Nilges of the Technical University of Munich has prepared the first completely inorganic substance, SnIP, featuring a well-defined double-helix structure. This semiconducting material consists of a twisted tin iodide (SnI+) chain intertwined with a twisted phosphide (P–) chain. The team prepared gram amounts of SnIP by heating tin, red phosphorus, and tin tetra-iodide together (Adv. Mater.2016, DOI: 10.1002/adma.201603135).
Chemists have been seeking out inorganic double helices for decades. Researchers have reported X-ray crystal structures of bulk LiP and LiAs containing spiral and coaxial chains, but it remained unclear as to whether they should be called double-helix structures. More recently, researchers have attempted making metal or metal salt double-helix materials using nanotubes or DNA as templates. But a non-templated, carbon-free example with a fully characterized double-helix structure had remained elusive.
An image of a gold chip that traps ions for use in quantum computing has come first in EPSRC's third science photography competition.
‘Microwave ion-trap chip for quantum computation’, by Diana Prado Lopes Aude Craik and Norbert Linke, from the University of Oxford, shows the chip’s gold wire-bonds connected to electrodes which transmit electric fields to trap single atomic ions a mere 100 microns above the device’s surface. The image, taken through a microscope in one of the university's cleanrooms, came first in the Eureka category as well as winning overall against many other stunning pictures, featuring research in action, in the EPSRC competition – now in its third year.
Doctoral student Diana Prado Lopes Aude Craik, explained how the chip works: “When electric potentials are applied to the chip’s gold electrodes, single atomic ions can be trapped. These ions are used as quantum bits (‘qubits’), units which store and process information in a quantum computer. Two energy states of the ions act as the ‘0’ and ‘1’ states of these qubits.
Slotted electrodes on the chip deliver microwave radiation to the ions, allowing us to manipulate the stored quantum information by exciting transitions between the ‘0’ and ‘1’ energy states. “This device was micro-fabricated using photolithography, a technique similar to photographic film development. Gold wire-bonds connect the electrodes to pads around the device through which signals can be applied. You can see the wire-bonding needle in the top-left corner of the image. The Oxford team recently achieved the world’s highest-performing qubits and quantum logic operations.”
The development of the ion-trap chip was funded jointly by the EPSRC and the US Army Research Office.
The competition’s five categories were: Eureka, Equipment, People, Innovation, and Weird and Wonderful. Winning images feature:
A spectacular 9.5 meter wave created to wow crowds at the FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility at the University of EdinburghAn iCub humanoid robot learning about how to play from a baby as part of robotics research taking place at Aberystwyth UniversityThe intense, blinding light of plasma formed by an ultrafast laser being used to process glass at the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Ultra Precision at the University of CambridgeA beautiful rotating jet of viscoelastic liquid water resembling a spinning dancer that demonstrates the effect of adding a tiny amount of polymer to water and an example of fluid dynamics research at Imperial College London
One of the judges was Professor Robert Winston, he said: “This competition helps us engage with academics and these stunning images are a great way to connect the general public with research they fund, and inspire everyone to take an interest in science and engineering.”
George Osborne, a man of no fixed common sense, delivered another of his lame budgets telling the nations of the United Kingdom that disabled people are to lose some benefits.
Emotionally disabled Tories shocked the population by punching the air in triumph, and leaping for joy as a way of showing what the disabled cannot do, those in our society who supposedly exploit reserved parking bays, wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs, crushed spines, and crutches for sympathy.
Resident evil Tory, Iain Duncan Smith, resigned over the cuts, but no one knows why exactly because it is assumed he has a brick where his heart should be.
Three trillion: the latest estimate of the planet’s tree population, published in this issue of Nature (201), exceeds the number of stars in the Milky Way.
At more than 7 times the previous estimate of 400 billion, the figure is impressive, but it should not necessarily be taken as good news. The forest-density study — which combined satellite imagery with data from tree counts on the ground that covered more than 4,000 square kilometrers — also estimated that 15 billion trees are cut down each year. And in the 12,000 years since farming began spreading across the globe, the number of trees on our planet has fallen by almost half.
What created these bright spots on Ceres? The spots were first noted as the robotic Dawn spacecraft approached Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt, in February, with the expectation that the mystery would soon be solved in higher resolution images. However, even after Dawn arrived at Ceres in March, the riddle remained. Surprisingly, although images including the featured composite taken in the last month do resolve many details inside Occator crater, they do not resolve the mystery. Another recent clue is that a faint haze develops over the crater's bright spots. Dawn is scheduled to continue to spiral down toward Ceres and scan the dwarf planet in several new ways that, it is hoped, will determine the chemical composition of the region and finally reveal the nature and history of the spots. In several years, after running out of power, Dawn will continue to orbit Ceres indefinitely, becoming an artificial satellite and anenduring monument to human exploration.
Previous ground-based spectra suggested that water ice, hydrated or NH4-bearing clays and brucite, as well as ammoniated mineral species, could account for Ceres’ 3.05-3.1 micrometer spectral band.
The best fit of Ceres’ spectrum, however, was obtained by supplementing magnetite, antigorite and carbonate with ammoniated phyllosilicates, inferring that this type of mineral indeed composed the Ceres’ surface. Additionally, researchers further postulates that ammonia may have incorporated into Ceres’ clays during its formation.
Since ammonia ice is only stable at very cold temperatures characteristic of the outer Solar System, this suggested that Ceres formed either outside of the Solar System, or that small objects were transported from that region and incorporated the main asteroid belt.
So there will be another war. Last night, the House of Commons decided, by 397 votes to 223, to carry out airstrikes in Syria. After the result had been announced, after the morbid spectacle as hundreds of overstuffed suits cheered the news that people would shortly be dying at their hands, the Speaker and a few MPs congratulated each other on an orderly and decorous debate, on being sensible and well-mannered as they discussed whether or not to throw dynamite at people from out of the sky. We will bomb Syria, not because it'll make anything better, but for purely symbolic and autotelic reasons: to be seen to be bombing, to kill for the sake of having killed. (Who else behaves like this?) So it's not surprising that as the eternal war continues to spin out forever, all anyone wants to talk about is how great Hilary Benn's speech was.
When our solar system was born 4.6 billion years ago, only eight percent of the potentially habitable planets that will ever form in the universe existed, according to an assessment of data collected by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescopeand Kepler space observatory and published today (Oct. 20) in an open-access paper in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
In related news, UCLA geochemists have found evidence that life probably existed on Earth at least 4.1 billion years ago, which is 300 million years earlier than previous research suggested. The research suggests life in the universe could be abundant, said Mark Harrison, co-author of the research and a professor of geochemistry at UCLA. The research was published Monday Oct. 19 in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The data show that the universe was making stars at a fast rate 10 billion years ago, but the fraction of the universe’s hydrogen and helium gas that was involved was very low. Today, star birth is happening at a much slower rate than long ago, but there is so much leftover gas available after the big bang that the universe will keep making stars and planets for a very long time to come.
Based on the survey, scientists predict that there should already be 1 billion Earth-sized worlds in the Milky Way galaxy. That estimate skyrockets when you include the other 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. Kepler’s planet survey indicates that Earth-sized planets in a star’s habitable zone — the perfect distance that could allow water to pool on the surface — are ubiquitous in our galaxy. This leaves plenty of opportunity for untold more Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone to arise in the future — the last star isn’t expected to burn out until 100 trillion years from now.
The researchers say that future Earths are more likely to appear inside giant galaxy clusters and also in dwarf galaxies, which have yet to use up all their gas for building stars and accompanying planetary systems. By contrast, our Milky Way galaxy has used up much more of the gas available for future star formation.
A big advantage to our civilization arising early in the evolution of the universe is our being able to use powerful telescopes like Hubble to trace our lineage from the big bang through the early evolution of galaxies.
Regrettably, the observational evidence for the big bang and cosmic evolution, encoded in light and other electromagnetic radiation, will be all but erased away 1 trillion years from now, due to the runaway expansion of space. Any far-future civilizations that might arise will be largely clueless as to how or if the universe began and evolved.
Peter Behroozi and Molly Peeples. On The History and Future of Cosmic Planet Formation. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2015 DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stv1817 (open access)Elizabeth A. Bell, Patrick Boehnke, T. Mark Harrison, and Wendy L. Mao. Potentially biogenic carbon preserved in a 4.1 billion-year-old zircon. PNAS, October 19, 2015 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1517557112 (open access)
The one part of the speech that grated, of course, was the disingenuous, rabble-rousing attack on the SNP. The Labour left, to their intense discredit, appear to have settled on the 'Big Lie' approach to taking on Nicola Sturgeon - they think they can somehow convince people that she opposes the living wage, is plotting the privatisation of CalMac, and was responsible for the privatisation of ScotRail (even though the latter took place in the 1990s under John Major, and before the Scottish Parliament even existed!). Most voters don't pay attention to the detail, so it's not totally inconceivable that they might fall for some of this garbage. But the snag is that they won't buy into the headline summary, namely that the SNP are pro-austerity or austerity-neutral (implied by McDonnell's assertion that Labour are now the only anti-austerity party in Scotland). Who, seriously, is going to believe that claim after the events of the general election campaign? If your main attack line doesn't ring true to people, it's simply not going to get you anywhere.
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