Many years ago, astronomer Carl Sagan said that Earth, viewed from other solar systems, would look like a pale blue dot. Now astronomers think they've found a habitable planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our solar system. They're calling their campaign to explore this new celestial body, "Pale Red Dot".
Guillem Anglada-Escude of Queen Mary University of London, who heads up a team of 30 scientists around the world at work on the campaign says, "We're talking about a planet that has very similar properties to Earth." But there are some very striking differences.
First, the planet is more massive than Earth and orbits its star every eleven days, making for a super short "year" in Earth terms.
Second, if you were able to stand on the planet, it would definitely look like an alien world because only one side of the planet ever faces its star, making it seem as if the star is stationary in the heavens.
Third, though the official name of the planet is the dry and boring "Proxima Centauri b" the planet is so orange that its atmosphere would give the impression of a perpetual "autumn sunset". Which is why everyone calls it the Pale Red Dot.
The Pale Red Dot is about 4.25 light years away, which might seem like a long distance to you and me, but to astronomers, it's a short trip down the cosmic street. Villanova University astronmer Edward Guinan says with our current technology we can travel at about one tenth of the speed of light. Which means humans could be there in about 50 years.
It might be a bit early to start packing your bags for the half-century trip, but according to Guinan, a trip to the Pale Red Dot is totally "feasible". Which is why 'visit the Pale Red Dot' is the newest Thing on my Bucket List.
Treasure hunters in Poland are looking for the famed Nazi Gold Train. Andreas Richter and Piotr Koper are convinced the train is buried under the city of Walbrzych, claiming that they located it with radar equipment. Adding to the hysteria and ensuing 'gold rush' to the city, one government official even said he was 99% sure that the train was there.
Despite the fact that many researchers say the Thing never existed, the treasure hunters press on. Despite the findings of geological experts from a Krakow university who used magnetic detection equipment to basically prove there was no train there, they press on. Despite the fact that it makes absolutely no sense for the the Nazis to try to smuggle gold, art and weapons from Walbrzych to Waldenburg, where the approaching Soviet Army would be almost sure to find it, they press on.
That's the Thing about treasure. It's all about the hunt. It's about the off chance that you might hit someThing with your shovel. And that Thing might just turn out to be the best Thing ever.
From pollsters to pundits to statisticians, everyone is trying to predict the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Given the history and accuracy of previous predictions, I don't hold out a lot of hope for accuracy. You might get a better read on the whole Thing from your local neighborhood psychic.
Polls and stats aside, I recently stumbled on three weird and wacky ways people are trying to predict the unpredictable.
What Did Oscar Say? Jacopo della Quercia of Cracked Magazine says the prediction is as simple as popping popcorn. If the movie that wins the Oscar for Best Picture in the election year has a happy ending, the sitting party wins. The other party only wins if the movie has a sad ending. This year's winner is a bit of a toss-up since it's hard to tell if the end of Spotlight was happy or not.
Olympic Incumbents. I'm not sure who came up with this one, but it is true that every year since 1968 (with the exception of '88), incumbents held on to the Oval Office if the country who hosts the summer games has hosted before. This doesn't bode well for Dems since Brazil is an Olympic first-timer.
How Did the Los Angeles Lakers Play? Since 1960, Republicans have won the White House if the Los Angeles Lakers played in that year’s NBA Finals. It doesn't matter if the Lakers win — they just have to make the finals. If you're a hoops fan, I don't have to tell you that the Lakers' abysmal performance last season isn't a good Thing for GOP hopefuls.
Me, I don't know who will win. But I have one very happy prediction that I know will come true: it will all be over when we vote in 87 days.
An outbreak of UFO sightings all over the world has conspiracy theorists talking, ufologists salivating and skeptics snorting with their usual derision. But a deeper look might lead you to believe that someThing really is going on here. Or rather, up there.
First, a gold UFO was spotted orbiting above the clouds on NASA's own high definition cameras aboard the International Space Station. The video seems to show an enormous Thing hovering over the earth before the camera suddenly "cuts out". Watch:
Next, a huge city (roughly the size of the supposed gold UFO) was seen in the clouds in several locations in China. The phenomenon was witnessed by hundreds of Chinese citizens in the provinces of Guangdong and Jiangxi. And other "cloud cities" have been witnessed across the globe. See for yourself:
Right here in Florida, there's been at least five sightings over the last week by one person alone. The man (who wishes to remain anonymous) reported his sightings to the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON). After making his report, the witness says he got a visit from the Men in Black. The men described themselves as “government agents" and ordered him to stop telling his story. The MIBs returned twice more, using "threats and intimidation" against the man and his family. But countless others saw and filmed similar events. And everyone is talking about it. Check out this video from a different source:
Now, I'm not sure what those Things really are. But given the state of our earth right now, I wouldn't be surprised if a race like Star Trek's Vulcans decided to intervene and help us clean up our act. Of course, that's the best case scenario. The worst case? That's someThing I don't want to think about...
Keep your eyes to the skies and I'll see you next week,
Finally, it's time to start writing about my favorite holiday, Halloween! This is when I start my series of blogs to help you find all the Things you need to haunt your yard and your house, plan your costume and make the most of the Spookiest Day of the Year.
So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite Things for Halloween so far:
Zombie Things: Yes, zombies are still a Thing. You know The Walking Dead isn't going off the air any time soon and zombie movies World War Z, Warm Bodies and Wyrmwood are box office home runs. Which means more zombies, more zombies, more zombies. Mess up your table with this set of zombie-fied salt and pepper shakers.
Makeup Things: You can't be convincing in any costume without super realistic makeup. Learn to use "paints, molds, silicone, and hair to age, mutilate, rot, and mutate" from the Hollywood experts. From gaping head wounds, to burns, to zombie-fied flesh, this book is a Halloween must-have.
Nerdy Costume Things: At the risk of basically going as myself this year, I'm considering picking up these nerdy Things. The blue suspenders flash or blink at the press of a button and, when you add one-size-fits all braces to the ever-popular nerd glasses, what a great costume!
If you don't like any of my favorite Things, you could always go as one of the political beasts this year.
It's that time of year again — it's Comic-Con in San Diego! And, if you were lucky enough to get a ticket (I wasn't) you'll be treated to early releases new movies like Star Trek: Beyond and the horror flick Lights Out.
But here's what's really stirring up the nerd set: three brand new TV shows scheduled to debut at the convention. Since I couldn't go to San Diego to see the previews, I thought we'd take a sneak peak into what all the hoopla is about.
People of Earth (TBS): This isn't Conan O'Brien's first Comic-Con. He's broadcast his late-night show from the 'Con many times. But this year he'll be previewing his new TV series about a support group where members write about their alien encounters.
Son of Zorn (FOX): A blend of live action and animation, this comedy series centers on an animated warrior named Zorn from Zephyria who's been away for 10 years and now has to try to re-acclimate to the mundane reality of life on earth.
Powerless (NBC): This is a first-of-its-kind workplace comedy. Set in the DC Comics universe, it tells the stories of regular people who work at an insurance company. The twist? These 'regular people' are powerless in a world of superheroes and supervillians, who of course possess superpowers.
All three sound like great shows to me. Of course, my nerdy friends are in agreement. We can't wait to see them, but since none of us made it to the 'Con, we'll have to bide our time until this fall when the new TV season opens.
This is apparently a Thing now, according to Christianity Today — if you tithe 10% of your income to the church, but feel like the blessings you receive don't add up to the amount you give, several churches will give you your money back.
It seems to have started with Pastor Perry Noble of the NewSpring megachurch. It's his version of a money back guarantee and it's inspired by a passage in the Old Testament:
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. ~Malachi. 3:10
According to Pastor Noble, "God literally says, ‘Test me out, see if I’m God,’ You and I cannot out-give him.” And so far he seems to be right. Of more than 7,000 parishioners who took the pledge, only 20 have taken advantage of the money back guarantee.
So maybe it really works. In any case, it has to be better than giving a percentage to the government. I never feel like I get my money's worth with them. And there are no refunds.