Diamond Planet

Here’s one for your imagination: A planet that may be basically a big diamond has been discovered by astronomers. (It should be noted that Arthur C. Clarke, in 2010: Odyssey Two, speculated that the core of Jupiter was an earth-sized diamond. So once again, Clarke got there first.)

An exotic planet that seems to be made of diamond racing around a tiny star in our galactic backyard in an undated image courtesy of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.

LONDON (Reuters) – Astronomers have spotted an exotic planet that seems to be made of diamond racing around a tiny star in our galactic backyard.

The new planet is far denser than any other known so far and consists largely of carbon. Because it is so dense, scientists calculate the carbon must be crystalline, so a large part of this strange world will effectively be diamond.

“The evolutionary history and amazing density of the planet all suggest it is comprised of carbon — i.e. a massive diamond orbiting a neutron star every two hours in an orbit so tight it would fit inside our own Sun,” said Matthew Bailes of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.

Lying 4,000 light years away, or around an eighth of the way toward the center of the Milky Way from the Earth, the planet is probably the remnant of a once-massive star that has lost its outer layers to the so-called pulsar star it orbits.

Pulsars are tiny, dead neutron stars that are only around 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) in diameter and spin hundreds of times a second, emitting beams of radiation.

In the case of pulsar J1719-1438, the beams regularly sweep the Earth and have been monitored by telescopes in Australia, Britain and Hawaii, allowing astronomers to detect modulations due to the gravitational pull of its unseen companion planet.

The measurements suggest the planet, which orbits its star every two hours and 10 minutes, has slightly more mass than Jupiter but is 20 times as dense, Bailes and colleagues reported in the journal Science on Thursday.

In addition to carbon, the new planet is also likely to contain oxygen, which may be more prevalent at the surface and is probably increasingly rare toward the carbon-rich center.

Its high density suggests the lighter elements of hydrogen and helium, which are the main constituents of gas giants like Jupiter, are not present.

Just what this weird diamond world is actually like close up, however, is a mystery.

“In terms of what it would look like, I don’t know I could even speculate,” said Ben Stappers of the University of Manchester. “I don’t imagine that a picture of a very shiny object is what we’re looking at here.”

Tholian webbed

Okay fellow Trek nerds, allow me to expose my Trek geekiness.

Yes, I am a Trekkie. Have been one since I was a wee lad. And when I grew up, I fell in love with The Next Generation. But I’ve always had a soft spot for the original series, what we Trekkists refer to as ‘TOS.’

TOS, as anyone familiar with television lore knows, only lasted for three seasons, and most Trekkers agree that the third season was, well, kind of awful. It had some outright howlers, and I never held it high regard. Gene Roddenberry had removed himself to the back office and given the show over to Fred Freiberger who, apparently, had some of his cliché action ideas he wanted to force onto the show.

But as I’ve been streaming the “remastered” version of the third season on Netflix, I came across probably one of the better episodes of the whole series – “The Tholian Web.”

Everything about this one was good. The story was compelling, the acting top notch, and all the little bits and pieces added up to an episode that made up for every bad thing about that particular season.

We Trekkers know this story, and all other episodes, by heart, of course.

The remastered special effects are sumptuous. But the little bits – a “ghost” Kirk floating around the ship, sufficiently spooky even though it’s one of the cheapest special effect that can be done – McCoy erupting into a near war of insubordination against Spock – Spock taking it coolly and calmly (like Obama with the tea partiers) – Spock saying, “I’m sure the captain would have said, ‘Forget it, Bones.’” – the lovely moment where McCoy finally calls Spock “Captain” – and the perfect epilogue as Spock and McCoy refuse to admit to Kirk that they listened to his final taped orders because they’d given up on him – all these little bits made it one of the standout episodes in all of Trek.

Oh sure, the writer in me can find some nitpicks to make, tiny little things I might have done differently if it were my story. But it wasn’t. And what’s there is a shining moment for the show. No, I really wouldn’t change any of it.

But there’s another reason why I’m particularly fond of this one. When I was a kid, all geeked out in my love for Trek, I finally got to attend one of those storied Star Trek conventions I’d heard about. Yes, I got to see lots of strange grownups, even geekier than I, wearing costumes they’d made themselves. But the highlight was a screening of this episode on a movie-size screen. At that time (the mid 70s) I’d never seen Star Trek on anything other than a 19-inch screen of questionable color balance. Seeing it there, big as life, made an impression.

So here I am, a lifetime later, with four, count ‘em, four other Trek series in, and eleven feature films, enjoying a pristine, high-definition viewing with new CGI special effects, on my 50-inch TV.

Progress is good. But so is the old stuff.

Human beings are just so… wonderful!

Mom tries to sell son for $2000.

A Florida mom with an alleged prescription drug addiction was accused by police of trying to sell her 5-year-old son for $2,000.

Police said that Jessica Marie Beers, 28, offered to sell her boy to a couple that befriended her in a Tampa Bay-area church, My Fox Tampa reported. The husband, James Gardner, alerted Pinellas County sheriff’s deputies about Beers’ proposed trade on Saturday, The St. Petersburg Times said.

Sheriff’s deputies had Gardner proceed with a phony deal to buy the kid. When Beers showed up at a prearranged meeting point to make the swap, they arrested her, booking her for sale of parental rights. She also allegedly violated the terms of probation for a prior grand theft arrest, ABC News said.

For years, Gardner and his wife had given money to Beers so she could pick up food and basic necessities, ABC News said. The couple eventually realized that Beers had a prescription drug habit.

The Herald Sun, of Australia, reported that Beers was homeless until the Garnders allowed her to move in with them.

Recently, she’d been relying on them to look after her son more frequently and finally, last week she allegedly offered to sell him. Gardner assumed she’d use the cash to buy drugs, news reports said.

Her son is in protective custody.

An addition to the household

My neighbors moved, and since their outdoor cat Lionheart adopted me and spent almost all his time at my place, they decided to leave him with me. Cecil likes hanging out with him too, so no cat fights.

The last time I had two animals one of them was a dog, my boy Orson, rest his soul… I’d been planning to adopt another puppy but plans change. Besides, who could say no to this guy? He’s a total lap animal, and I think he’s got a little bit of puppy in him.

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[Click to emfelinify]

We knew this was coming

All of us in the radio biz knew this was coming. In an endless quest to eliminate jobs, this is the next logical step for our industry.

artificial dj

A non-human DJ will take to the airwaves next week in San Antonio, Texas, in what may mark another step on the path that puts flesh-and-blood radio personalities out of a job.

The DJ is an artificial intelligence program called Denise, who was built by Guile 3D Studio to serve as a virtual assistant to answer phone calls, check email, conduct Web searches and make appointments, among other tasks.

Dominique Garcia, a radio personality in San Antonio, purchased Denise for $200 and programmed the AI to serve as a DJ. Denise will hit the airwaves on Aug. 24 from 1 to 4 p.m. CST on KROV.

Potential drug treatment for tinnitus

A drug that potentially eliminates drug-induced tinnitus in animals is being demonstrated.

Buffalo, NY – State University of New York at Buffalo (UB) researchers are highlighting a new drug therapy that eliminates tinnitus with a single dose in animal models, as well as other advances, at the Fifth Tinnitus Research Initiative Conference.

Sponsored in part by UB’s Center for Hearing and Deafness, the reportedly sold-out conference is titled “The Neuroscience of Tinnitus,” and is being held August 19-21 in Grand Island, NY.

A UB press release stated that top tinnitus researchers and clinicians from the United States, Europe, Canada, and Asia will attend the conference, which is co-sponsored by the Tinnitus Research Initiative at the University of Regensburg, Germany.

Edward Lobarinas, PhD, assistant research professor of communicative disorders and sciences, will present work showing that two potassium ion channel modulators, called Maxipost and R-Maxipost, completely eliminated behavioral evidence of tinnitus in animals with drug-induced tinnitus. However, further research is needed to determine if these compounds suppress other forms of tinnitus.

Other UB researchers will present work on how hearing loss early in life affects sound tolerance, how the amygdala in the brain may influence the generation of tinnitus, and how the auditory cortex in the brain of animal models is affected by the disorder.

Other topics to be covered include evaluating effective strategies for assessing tinnitus; various treatments, such as cochlear implants, electric acoustic stimulation, and sound therapy; how light affects tinnitus; as well as scientific advances on the physiological, neurochemical, and biological mechanisms that cause tinnitus.

“The best tinnitus investigators in the world will be here,” said Richard Salvi, PhD, chief conference organizer and head of UB’s Center for Hearing and Deafness. He also said that the growing number of combat veterans with tinnitus will be a significant topic at the meeting.

In addition to the Office of Naval Research, the conference is sponsored by the Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences in the UB College of Arts and Sciences, as well as the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Corporate and foundation sponsors include the Tinnitus Research Initiative, the American Tinnitus Association, Merz Pharmaceuticals, Auris Medical, Med-El Corp, General Hearing Instruments Inc, Widex International, Tucker-Davis Technologies, and Sleep Pillow.