Time to catch up on some Solar System news!
Saturn is the gateway drug for an addiction to the night sky.
Alas, in a mere 300 million years from now, it maybe less of an astronomy evangelist than it is now, assuming that our lineage has left any descendent species to kvell at the cosmos:
Saturn’s icy rings are among the most iconic features in the solar system. But they’re raining so much water onto the planet…they could rain themselves nearly out of existence, leaving Saturn startlingly ringless.
“What we’re seeing is something on the order of about a ton and a half per second,” said James O’Donoghue of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Md., who reports the conclusions Monday in the journal Icarus. [links in the original]
This is, to be sure, a first estimate, and it is one made in the face of substantial unknowns:
Assuming a constant rate of ring rain — which Dr. Spilker said is a substantial unknown — the team calculated that Saturn’s rings could mostly shed themselves into oblivion within 300 million years.
“It’s not out of the question,I would say, that the rings might degrade on this kind of time scale,” said Jeff Cuzzi of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., who was not involved in the research.
But, he added, “it doesn’t mean that if you come back, there would just be nothing there.” The rate at which the rings might waste away depends not only on how much material is still in the rings, but on other physical forces, Saturn’s shifting seasons and the way in which ring material is replenished.
There is some evidence pointing towards a yet more swift destruction of the rings, but the basic message is that beauty is ephemeral, no matter where you look.
In other news, the outer solar system is growing ever more crowded, and some of those who study it may be showing their age, or at least the timing of the acquisition of their formative vocabulary:
A newly discovered object is the most-distant body ever observed in the solar system — and the first object ever found orbiting at more than 100 times the distance from Earth to the sun…
Formally, this new solar companion has a very prim an proper name:
…Its provisional designation from the International Astronomical Union is 2018 VG18.
The new dwarf planet is distant enough that very little is known about it besides its existence.
“All that we currently know about 2018 VG18 is its extreme distance from the sun, its approximate diameter, and its color,” David Tholen, a researcher at the University of Hawaii and part of the discovery team, said in a statement. “Because 2018 VG18 is so distant, it orbits very slowly, likely taking more than 1,000 years to take one trip around the Sun.”
It’s a blank canvas, in other words, on which its observers allowed memories of perhaps well-misspent youths to play:
The discovery team nicknamed the object “Farout”…
…which is appropriate, given the borderlands location in which it abides:
Farout is 120 astronomical units (AU) from the sun — one AU is the distance between Earth and the sun, which is about 93 million miles (150 million kilometers). The object is more than 3.5 times the current distance between Pluto and the sun (34 AU), and it outpaces the previous farthest-known solar system object, the dwarf planet Eris, which is currently about 96 AU from the sun. NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft recently entered interstellar space at about 120 AU, leaving the sun’s “sphere of influence” called the heliopause, where bodies experience the solar wind.
I can think of some American political actors for whom this would make an ideal vacation destination. As the saying goes…I’ve got a little list.
Anyway, despite the best efforts of our Republican friends and the MAGAt apocaplyse, humankind, and the US government, are capable of some great things, as above. There are days when I cling to that thought.
Open thread, y’all.
Images: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute, Saturn eclipse mosaic, 2013
Aokokoro Mandelbrot set image number 8, 2009 — going for the feeling, ya know?
Saturn is indeed mesmerizingly beautiful @200x in a good-quality 4-inch refractor; even better in a 12-inch reflector. I am an amateur astronomer, and during public outreach sessions, it’s the one object that is guaranteed to elicits gasps of pure joy and astonished disbelief from folks seeing it for the first time…and even the tenth time. Visually, it has the same quality as a celluloid still from a Walt Disney cartoon drawing of Saturn, except what you’re seeing is stunningly real.
I’ve seen it over a thousand times now (actually, I have no idea how many, but countless times) – and it’s a celestial object I never tire of seeing when it’s up and I have my telescope out. Nor will I ever tire of seeing it.
BC in Illinois
Farout – – wasn’t he the King of Egypt?
I got my publisher to take down my books from Amazon. Hopefully they will hand over my contract release forms promptly. They have no reason to keep those, since they’re not making any more money they could fail to pay me. I’m going to start agent shopping the books as soon as I get the legal documents. Wish me luck.
Saw Saturn through a high powered telescope once many years ago. There was something unspeakably awesome about actually SEEING those rings.
J R in WV
Back in about 1985 I was working with a crew of experienced IT guys, and we got news that we were being laid off. The next day I brought in a Scientific American with a math column about Mandelbrot set images and how they were computed. This was long before PCs were common, obviously… but we were all geeks, and one of us was an uber-geek with a double major in math and art.
Before very long we had combined to be able to compute a Mandelbrot in COBOL on an IBM mainframe, although without a graphics printer we didn’t do much output work.
But Steve had an early computer with a heat-transfer printer, and he transferred our code to his little PC, which took about 40 hours to compute a small Mandelbrot image, and they printed layers onto transparent film more often used for overhead projectors with markers or grease pencils. The name of that V early pc escapes me at the moment… oh yeah, it was a Commodore IIRC. We were working with a 4×5″ image at 36-48 hours per page of computation.
It distracted us from being unemployed in 2 weeks! I was kept on as I was the least paid member of the team. Long ago.
from cole’s twitter feed:
i’m tempted to ask if he put mustard on it first, but that might drive john over the edge.
Dorothy A. Winsor
@Frankensteinbeck: Good luck to you. I hope you get all this straightened out so you can get on writing your great books.
@Dorothy A. Winsor:
I’m pausing writing a chapter to type this. I had to switch away from the Supervillain series until I got the contracts canceled, but I think Vanity Rose’s cyberpunk adventure will be a big hit.
not so well written there, space.com, the heliopause is the surface of the heliosphere, the latter of which is the volume in which bodies experience the solar wind. generally speaking.
still waiting for planet IX to make itself known to science. that’s gonna be a red letter day in astrophysics.
wha happen? you and the publisher have a falling out? they found out you were a supervillain?
Astronomers expect to find several hundred dwarf planets orbiting out past Neptune by the time we finish mapping the Kuiper Belt.
Farout is at 120 AU? Ho hum. I’m waiting for confirmation of Planet Nine, which may be another Neptune in our solar system, but a very distant one. There is growing evidence that Planet Nine exists based on the highly anomalous orbits of a number of known dwarf planets. It’s projected to have 10 times Earth’s mass and be two to four times Earth’s diameter, with its closest approach to the Sun of about 200 AU and a perihelion of as much as 1200 AU. Four times the diameter of Earth is the same size as Neptune.
I had seen all sorts of high quality photos of Saturn, stunningly beautiful pictures. But the first time I saw the actual planet through a telescope I gasped. It seems like such an odd reaction but somehow seeing it in real time was shocking.
@chopper: Sometimes I think about what a hellion boy/teen Cole must have been, and then I wonder if his parents think of Thurston as some sort of karma.
I know that when my sister complained about her high-strung oldest, my mother would chuckle knowingly, with a little twinkle in her eye. My mom died relatively young and I appreciate that she lived to see my sister go through what she put our mother through.
On another note, Ohio Son just accepted a very part-time job with Instacart — he’ll be an hourly in-store shopper, no driving. Curious if anyone has had any experience with them.
@J R in WV:
way back before my dad died he, among other things at his high school, ran the computer lab. every so often i would go in with him on a weekend and dick around with the computers. he taught at a private catholic school outside of chicago (wheaton) so they had better, more modern computers than the public school i went to. even then we’re talking about 386-level stuff.
i was big into math and fractal stuff back then, so i’d work on various mandelbrot/julia sets on rendering algorithms on the computers. of course, back then, it would take a hell of a lot longer for them to render. i’d go from computer to computer punching in formulae and coefficients – i’d slowly loop my way through and by the time i’d made my way around back to the first computer it’d usually start being done, since it would take about a half hour for each one to work itself out.
nowadays i can make one of those calculations work through a website on my cheap-ass chromebook in like a half second. mindblowing.
Donald Westlake got into it with a publisher and was concerned he was about to lose ownership of his ‘Dortmunder’ characters. He wrote a story where the characters all had to assume names and was prepared to write all the future novels using those names. FOrtunately the publisher lost & he was allowed to keep his creations. I seriously do not understand how a company could steal may original creation, I guess I have never worked with a publisher
Judge is placing travel restrictions on Flynn as of Jan 4. He has to stay within 50 miles of D.C.
They’re months behind in paying me royalties. This isn’t new, and I have doubts they will ever pay me what they owe. In any case, it’s not worth continuing with them, so I asked for my contracts back. I kept my mouth shut about this problem for a year and a half, but they’ve worn out professional courtesy.
It’s complicated. I own the books, but they have the rights to publish them. Those rights would wear out in a couple of years, but I’d rather have them back immediately, and my publisher agreed without argument.
@chopper: There is no mustard, the mustard is a myth.
Penny Marshall has died.
this is why i agree with the decision to change the definition of a planet such that it has to have ‘cleared its neighborhood’. yes, it demotes pluto, but otherwise, 50 years from now we’d be looking at a solar system with 200 planets. that’s a hell of a mnemonic to try to teach grade school kids.
my very earnest mother cold just served us nine pizzas how mad enough do wizards’ punk-ass kids fight cockatrices in a garden…
dang! i believe it was voltaire that said “well, then fuck them.”
@Frankensteinbeck: If one wanted to purchase your books now, say for Christmas gifts, would that be possible?
No. I’m sorry. I take it a child is involved? Would the books have been physical or ebook copies?
Glad to hear that part of what sounds like a pretty shitty deal for you
In other science news, a newly discovered slippery snake-like blind creature that burrows in the dirt has been named for the President.
However, the resemblance ends there, as the animal is not slimey and does not defecate over every other creature it encounters.
I’m guessing that they’re being amenable because they don’t want you sue them since you would probably win and they don’t have the money to defend themselves anyway. I would still have an attorney read over whatever agreement they want you to sign to make sure they didn’t slip any poison pills into it that mean they can still make money off your work.
Also, as a published author with a track record, it should be (relatively!) easy for you to find an agent. Look for one who’s located in LA if you think you might want to sell the movie or TV rights — New York agents usually don’t have the connections for that. Good luck!
Hopefully we can get some answers from the Space X/Blue Origins expeditions later this century. Or maybe from the folks at Weyland-Yutani.
Mary’s “Virgin” Explanation Made Joseph Suspect Upstairs Neighbor.
@Schlemazel: It’s in the contract. Anything you create while working for these companies belongs to them.
Just as an example, the woman who created and still performs the voice of Bart Simpson can’t perform it in public- she doesn’t own it.
Book publishing is a little different than acting or filmmaking. Frankensteinbeck still owns the copyright to his books, but his publisher had exclusive publication rights for X number of years. He did not create a “work-for-hire” as an employee of the company.
People get confused because entertainment (film and TV) works totally differently than book publishing. When a movie company buys a screenplay or TV script, they also buy the underlying copyright and become the legal copyright holders. Also, staff writers on TV shows don’t have copyright on their scripts because it’s a work for hire.
Note: IANAL, but I did get an A in my “Law for Entertainment Professionals” class in grad school.
??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??
That reminds me of a radio advert in GTA 5 for a reality tv show, called “Race to Pluto”
And, yes, Nancy Cartwright can’t perform the voice of Bart Simpson without permission because that character and his voice are owned by 20th Century Fox. At this point, he’s probably been registered as a trademark rather than being covered under copyright law.
The voice thing I understand, it is not her character it should be Groening’s or maybe the production companies.
I find it shocking to think I could write the great American novel and not own the people I made to populate it
@Frankensteinbeck: Yes a child. Physical copies, I think. Oh well. Hopefully you’ll find another publisher.
So 300,000,000 years huh? Our solar system has only been here 4,500,000,000 years so…what did Saturn look like before? Rings must have been even huger.
@Mnemosyne: Well, that’s a bit better I guess, but for X number of years you’re still pretty much locked in. Or out.
??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??
Do you have physical copies available? You could make scans of the pages and sell them that way. In a limited sense to a few people only who really want them.
@??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??:
I have my electronic author copies. What I don’t have are more than five physical copies of any book, and only one of the fifth. I’ll try to get a real publisher as soon as possible. There was just no point in continuing when I wasn’t getting the money from my sales.
Though the standard WGA contract grants writers residuals.
It’s a little more complicated than that — it’s not that Westlake didn’t own the characters, it’s that the books those characters were in were under an exclusive contract to that publisher, and he wanted to break that contract early. He was a moneymaker for that publisher, so they didn’t want to let him, so the characters were being held hostage.
The Writer Got Screwed (but didn’t have to) explains all of this stuff in a very accessible way and should be on every aspiring writer’s bookshelf:
You could look for a used copy.
??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??
Couldn’t you just sell the physical copies you have to Yarrow? Or perhaps you don’t want to let go of them? I admit I don’t know how any of this works. It would probably be difficult to price anyway and it may not be legal considering your contract with your publisher
Oooh…I’ve been meaning to re-watch seasons 1-4 before the 5th season premieres. Def a holiday binge worthy show. Oh and Alice is back for Season 5!!!!
@lamh36: Speaking of Ruth Wilson…Oooh…so I’m watching Graham Norton…cause I had to see Michael B Jordan. Well Ruth Wilson was also on the show. She talked about a mini-series she acted in where she gets to play her own grandmother!
So apparently the husband, had been an MI6 spy and come to find out… the full truth: that Alec had four wives, none of whom knew about each other, and seven children!!
Wow…that’s a real life Lifetime movie I HAVE to see! I’m gonna need popcorn for this one!
Mrs Wilson: Trailer – BBC https://youtu.be/ffrL2rPCc_k via @YouTube
Looks good. I think I saw Fiona Shaw in there. I’m not crazy about Iain Glen because of how he treated Lady Mary, though. But I guess if he’s playing a creep it’s okay.
Yep. It’s not uncommon for authors to try and buy the rights back from publishers who they feel are not doing the books justice, but it’s a pain in the ass and it’s usually better to wait for the rights to revert back to you if there’s not a long wait. In Frankensteinbeck’s case, he doesn’t want his books to go out of print because the publisher went bankrupt but still legally holds the rights for another 3 years (or whatever).
True, but that doesn’t give the writers ownership of their movie or TV work. It’s a royalty for additional use of their work, just like actors get paid X amount in salary for the initial film plus a royalty for letting the company sell their image/voice in other formats.
Remember the Lone Ranger/Clayton Moore kerfluffle?
@??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??:
I literally only have my own copy of the fifth book. As for the others, shipping is an expensive pain. They are not small. And a partial series? Oy.
@Ohio Mom: I have started using them. They are cheaper than the delivery service I was using, but apparently make the drivers depend on tips, which are ridiculously low. I increase it to 20%, which might explain why their performance has been excellent! It is so helpful to disabled people. I worry that it seems to be Uber for groceries and corporate America’s latest union busting tactic, but I only shop at Costco and Stater, which both treat their workers to a living wage, so I rationalize it.
??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??
In film and TV production, who has more power/importance? The screenwriter or the director?
??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??
Yeah, it probably wouldn’t work. Forget I suggested it.
@??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??:
TV: Writer who gets the “created by” credit and/or the showrunner (not always the same person)
Short version: each of those people is the one in their respective job who sees the project through from beginning to end.
A Ghost To Most
Was his face in it?
@Mnemosyne: “Luckily, Alfalfa was an orphan and owned by the studio…”
The way I read it he was not going to be able to write a new book with those characters, that to my limited imagination means they were not really his
@Mnemosyne: This is like how Stephen Colbert, the character, is owned by Comedy Central so Stephen Colbert, the actor, can’t do the character of Stephen Colbert without permission. So he created a new character, also named Stephen Colbert, who is related to the other character Stephen Colbert. And now Stephen Colbert can be the other character Stephen Colbert on the Late Show.
But he can’t do a segment called “The Word”.
@lamh36: I adore Ruth Wilson in Luther.
@VOR: Or as Wikipedia puts it: “Following Colbert’s segment on the July 18 program, CBS’s legal team was informed by Viacom that the character Stephen Colbert is their intellectual property and cannot appear on The Late Show. As a result, on the July 27, 2016 episode of The Late Show, the real Colbert announced that the character “will never be seen again”. He then immediately introduced Stephen Colbert’s “identical twin cousin” (a possible allusion to The Patty Duke Show), Stephen Colbert, as a new member of The Late Show team. Colbert stated the difference between him and the other Colbert is they have birthmarks of the opposite Olsen twins.”
Oh, the lying pos is aware, she is just hoping that the thug’s ignorant base isn’t.
@Mary G: I can see grocery delivery being a lifesaver for some — as you mentioned, people with mobility disabilities, also elderly people who don’t want to brave winter weather, single moms with sick kids, people who work long hours, and so forth.
Though I do wonder how big a market it really is. It does add to the bill. Once in a while, in a pinch, okay, but as a steady habit, it would get expensive. I am thinking it might be a bit of a bubble — lots of people will try it out and then figure out it’s not worth it.
It’s not going to be a career for Ohio Son, it’s just a part-time job while he goes to community college. It’s interesting to me, seeing an example of the gig economy up close.
Good luck! And I hope you can squeeze the money you’re owed out of them—as painfully as possible (for them, of course).
Damn. He can just reach my house. Where should I hide?
Yay! The rings of Saturn will last longer than the Trump administration!
I was lucky enough to see Saturn through a telescope at the visitor’s center on Mauna Kea. The whole view was tiny, but precise and still took my breath away.
My nephew’s group (he’s almost 10) just won a class presentation contest on the planets – they had Saturn and won. (God loved Saturn so much he put 9 rings on it, with a gif of Beyonce flipping her hand, lol). Plus, Mars has a long history of earth-hating, see: Marvin the Martian (I am going to blow up the earth!), among many other examples.
Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald is really great (it’s more a travel-history thing).
“You’ll Know When You Get There,” Herbie Hancock
Not to worry about Saturn’s rings. There is speculation that Mars’ moon Phobos (which is getting closer and closer to Mars) will, in about 40 million years, cross the Roche Limit. Large objects within the Roche Limit of a planet are subjected to sufficient tidal forces to be torn apart and, it is thought, create rings from the myriad much smaller pieces. A smaller ring system, to be sure, but also much closer.
@BC in Illinois: You may be thinking of Iry-Hor (mouseover for title text).
@Schlemazel: Many years ago I was working for a late lamented technological megacorp (whose name began with a W) when they issued an Intellectual Property Agreement that all employees were ordered to sign.
I read through it, & refused. My managers for several levels up went ballistic.
I patiently explained to them (& followed up with an e-mail to the same effect) that the Agreement was at best badly written & at worst predatory. It claimed for the Corp the rights to any form of intellectual property created by their employees that had to do with any of their corporate activities. I noted that one of the Corp’s far-flung activities was television – they owned a number of stations & occasionally produced content for same. I noted that I was a Senior Engineer for Corp W but a creative writer by avocation in my spare time.
I pointed out that under the Agreement the Corp would have the right to expropriate anything I might write (fact or fiction), turn it into a TV production, & pay me nothing – whether or not it had anything to do with the work they kept me on staff to do.
“That’s ridiculous!” said the bosses, “they’d never do that!” Then why, I asked, was the Agreement written so that they could? In order to sign it, I would at minimum need a signed statement from Corporate counsel, on Corporate letterhead, that the Agreement was not intended to apply to any work that was not specifically related to my duties in their employ..
They grumbled but sent it up the chain – & in a couple of weeks I had the requested letter, & signed the Agreement…& the Corp went belly-up long before it might have applied to me. I never did establish whether the Corporate leagle-beagles were craftily venal or simply stooopid.