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22 May 2017

Getting to the Nitty Gritty of the Universe

The Universe is so immense and so vast that to be able to explain what it is in one or two sentences is physically impossible.
"The Big Bang was an autotelic cosmic seed, and the universe is an organism for cultivating Consciousness: All history is the history of the evolutionary transubstantiation of matter to Spirit via biological-life processes of Blood and Reason."
In a very general term, the Universe is essentially everything in existence. No one knows for sure how it will end or how big it is but ongoing research and various studies have certainly given us some clues.

The Cosmos is a word that is often used as a way to describe the Universe and the two are used interchangeably. However, it’s also used to refer to all things within the Universe, such as the Milky Way, and various galaxies. Regarding modern science, it is referring to spacetime, the different forms of energy, and the physical laws that bind and govern them.

Many people are under agreement that the Universe began to expand around 13.8 billion years ago following the Big Bang. But, there are other theories out there too that seek to explain how it all began, including the Steady State Theory or the Oscillating Universe Theory. However, the majority stick with the Big Bang Theory as it can explain the origin of all known matter accounts for the expansion of the Universe on top of explaining the existence of the Cosmic Microwave Background and other phenomena.

While scientists can quite easily map out a timeline of events that occurred from just after the Big Bang until now, those first few seconds immediately after are what causes all the arguments. What we do know is that those initial moments after the event can be divided into three time periods: the Singularity Epoch, the Inflation Epoch, and the Cooling Epoch. The earliest known period is the Singularity Epoch (also known as the Planck Era). During this time, all matter was condensed on a single point of infinite destiny and extreme heat. At this time temperatures were low and the fundamental forces began separating from one another.

The Inflation Epoch began with the creation of the first fundamental forces where temperatures were high, and pressure gave rise to rapid expansion and cooling. During this period the Universe began to grow exponentially, and baryogenesis occurred. As a result, the predominance of matter over antimatter in the Universe took place. Then, the Cooling Epoch began, and the Universe continued to decrease in both density and temperature. The energy of particles also decreased while quarks and gluons combined to form protons and neutrons among other baryons.

Over the next several billion years after the Cooling Epoch, the Universe began to take shape in a period known as the Structure Epoch. It was during this time that visible matter was distributed among structures of varying sizes including stars, planets, and galaxies. The Lambda-Cold Dark Matter model is the standard model of Big Bang cosmology, and in it, dark matter particles move much slower compared to the speed of light. Under this model cold dark matter accounts for around 23% of the Universe, while baryonic matter accounts for less than 5%. The remainder is said to be made up of dark energy. The next phase of evolution in the Universe came in the form of an acceleration known as the Cosmic Acceleration Epoch. Exactly when this period began is still under debate, but it was roughly around 5 billion years ago (around 8.8 billion years after the Big Bang).

With the Universe being as big as it is, and given that it’s been expanding for billions of years, it’s hard to put an actual size to it. Most current models suggest that it’s around 91 billion light years in diameter, but as no one can see the edge, who knows? We do know that matter is distributed in a highly structured fashion and within galaxies, this includes planets, stars, and nebulas. It’s just the same at much larger scales too. Regarding shape, spacetime exists in as either a positively curved, negatively curved, or flat configuration. This is based on there being at least four dimensions (x, y, and z coordinate, and time) and will depend on the nature of the expansion as well as if the Universe is infinite or finite.

Aftermath of the Big Seed. NASA.

Ok, so now let’s think about the fate of the Universe and how it may someday end. Modern theories tend to include the existence of dark energy and have led scientists to believe that eventually all of our Universe will go beyond our event horizon and become invisible, leading to catastrophic outcomes. The field of astronomy has been studied since the time of the Ancient Babylonians. Greek and Indian scholars then added to the field which included work from Thales and Anaximander who believed everything was made of a primordial form of matter. The idea that the Universe consisted of four elements (fire, earth, water, and air) was first proposed by a westerner back in the 5th century BCE by Empedocles. It was also around this time that the idea the Universe composed of atoms came about and that all matter was in fact made up of energy.

The geocentric model of the Universe was composed between the 2nd millennium BCE and the 2nd century CE. We also saw astronomy and astrology continue to evolve during this time. Classical astronomy was expanded during the Middle Ages, and the idea behind the rotation of the Earth was first proposed. Some scholars even expanded on models of a heliocentric Universe. By the 16th century, the most developed model of a heliocentric Universe was created with thanks to Nicolaus Copernicus. He was backed up later in the 16th/17th century by mathematician, astronomer and inventor, Galileo when he showcased his observations.

Sir Isaac Newton also played a big part in the unfolding some of the Universe’s many mysteries using his theory of Universal Gravitation. A little later, in 1755, Immanuel Kant proposed the Milky Way was a large group of stars that was held together by gravity. In 1785, William Herschel tried to map out the Milky Way but was unaware that vast areas of the galaxy are masked by dust and gas clouds, hiding its true shape.

It wasn’t then until the 20th century that the next real discovery came and that was with thanks to Einstein’s theories of Special and General Relativity. These groundbreaking theories were also joined by the Equivalence Principle, which states that gravitational mass is equal to that of inertial mass. In 1931, Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity was used by Indian-American astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar to prove that neutron stars above a certain limit mass would collapse into black holes. Whereas just before this time, Edward Hubble announced the Universe was expanding. In the 1960’s dark matter was proposed as being the missing mass of the Universe and in the 1990’s dark energy was introduced as an attempt to solve certain cosmological issues including why the Universe is still accelerating.

Since the turn of the century, more discoveries have been made with thanks to the advancement of certain technologies including the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). Those telescopes currently in the pipeline including the James Webb Space Telescope (JWSR) and Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) are also expected to produce promising results in the future. It’s hard to say whether we’ll ever know all there is to know about the Universe. I guess for now all we can do is keep striving to discover more and the mysteries will reveal themselves.

Illuminated illustration of the Ptolemaic geocentric conception of the Universe by Portuguese cosmographer and cartographer Bartolomeu Velho (?-1568) in his work Cosmographia (1568). Credit: Bibilotèque Nationale de France, Paris


A Cold Spot In Space — “Evidence” of a Multiverse?

Cosmic fine tuning, with physics and chemistry conspiring to permit the existence of creatures such as ourselves, is one of best-recognized pieces of evidence for intelligent design. To this, the hypothesis of a multiverse is materialism’s only response.

According to this line of reasoning, or imagining, our universe reflects only a lucky roll of the dice. A very, very, very lucky roll, which, however, is just to be expected if reality sports not one but a possibly infinite number of universes. Some universe was bound to get lucky, and it was ours.

It’s the single dreamiest, most unsupported idea in all of science, making Darwinian evolution look like a really solid bet by comparison. What’s wanted is real evidence for the multiverse, any at all, and that seems doomed to go on lacking ad infinitum.

Trumped up evidence is nevertheless a regular feature of popular science journalism. The latest: a headline in The Guardian, “Multiverse: have astronomers found evidence of parallel universes?” Adding the question mark is prudent, since the answer, to be truthful, is No.

Author Stuart Clark got hold of a press release from the Royal Astronomical Society, which he wheels out after an introduction heavy with jokey references to Brexit, Trump, the alt-right, and cat videos.
It sounds bonkers but the latest piece of evidence that could favour a multiverse comes from the UK’s Royal Astronomical Society. They recently published a study on the so-called ‘cold spot’. This is a particularly cool patch of space seen in the radiation produced by the formation of the Universe more than 13 billion years ago. 
The cold spot was first glimpsed by NASA’s WMAP satellite in 2004, and then confirmed by ESA’s Planck mission in 2013. It is supremely puzzling. Most astronomers and cosmologists believe that it is highly unlikely to have been produced by the birth of the universe as it is mathematically difficult for the leading theory — which is called inflation — to explain. 
This latest study claims to rule out a last-ditch prosaic explanation: that the cold spot is an optical illusion produced by a lack of intervening galaxies.
One of the study’s authors, Professor Tom Shanks of Durham University, told the RAS, “We can’t entirely rule out that the Spot is caused by an unlikely fluctuation explained by the standard [theory of the Big Bang]. But if that isn’t the answer, then there are more exotic explanations. Perhaps the most exciting of these is that the Cold Spot was caused by a collision between our universe and another bubble universe. If further, more detailed, analysis … proves this to be the case then the Cold Spot might be taken as the first evidence for the multiverse.” [Emphasis added.]
Count the instances of speculative language in those last four sentences. “Can’t entirely rule out…If that isn’t the answers…Perhaps…If further, more detailed, analysis…proves…[M]ight be taken as the first evidence…”

It’s “Heady stuff,” Clark exclaims. That’s one way of putting it. The paper in question, though, says just this (“Evidence against a supervoid causing the CMB Cold Spot”):
If not explained by a ΛCDM ISW effect the Cold Spot could have more exotic primordial origins. If it is a non-Gaussian feature, then explanations would then include either the presence in the early universe of topological defects such as textures (Cruz et al. 2007) or inhomogeneous re-heating associated with non-standard inflation (Bueno Sa ́nchez 2014). Another explanation could be that the Cold Spot is the remnant of a collision between our Universe and another ‘bubble’ universe during an early inflationary phase (Chang et al. 2009, Larjo & Levi 2010). It must be borne in mind that even without a supervoid the Cold Spot may still be caused by an unlikely statistical fluctuation in the standard (Gaussian) ΛCDM cosmology.
In this way, based ultimately on a couple of parenthetically referenced papers from 2009 and 2010, a “cold spot” in space answers one of the ultimate questions that have ever puzzled human beings, tipping the scales toward a universe, or multiverse, without design or purpose. As of the present moment, in the quest to explain away ultra-fine tuning, this is the best kind of stuff that materialism has got to offer.

It’s all the most absurd axe-grinding: building your case against a person or idea you don’t like (intelligent design, in this case) by gathering rumors, dreams, and guesses, disregarding common sense and objective evidence, since the conclusion you wish to reach, that you are bound to reach, is already pre-set.

So materialism goes on its merry way, largely unchallenged, with the media as its bullhorn. If scientists advocating the theory of intelligent design ever went before the public with conjectures as weak as this, they would be flayed alive.


Does string theory excite you? Mathematically, it holds up. Aspects about it suggest not one but several different dimensions, ones we’re not generally privy to, though we may be interacting with some of them all the time, completely unaware. Were it true, what would these dimensions look like and how might they affect us? And what is a dimension anyway?

Two dimensions is just a point. We may remember the coordinate plane from math class with the x and y-axes. Then there’s the third dimension, depth (the z-axis). Another way to look at it is latitude, longitude, and altitude, which can locate any object on Earth. These are followed by the fourth dimension, space-time. Everything has to occur somewhere and at a certain time. After that, things get weird.

Superstring theory, one of the leading theories today to explain the nature of our universe, contends that there are 10 dimensions. That’s nine of space and one of time. Throughout the 20th century, physicists erected a standard model of physics. It explains pretty well how subatomic particles behave, along with the forces of the universe, such as electromagnetism, the stronger and weaker nuclear forces, and gravity. But that last one standard physics can’t account for.

Even so, this model has allowed us the startling ability to peer back to the moments just after the Big Bang took place. Before that, scientists believe that everything was condensed into a single point of infinite density and temperature, known as the singularity, which exploded, forming everything in the observable universe today. But the problem is, we can’t peer back beyond that point. That’s where string theory comes in. The innovations it provides can account for gravity and help explain what existed before the Big Bang.

So what are these other dimensions and how might we experience them? That’s a tricky question, but physicists have some idea of what it might be like. Really, other dimensions are related to other possibilities. How we interact with these is difficult to explain. At the fifth dimension other possibilities for our world open up.

In the higher dimensions, you’d witness every possible world future, past, and present, simultaneously.

You’d be able to move forward or backward in time, just as you can in space, say while walking down a corridor. You’d also be able to see the similarities and differences between the world we inhabit and other possible ones. In the sixth dimension, you’d move along not a line but a plane of possibilities and be able to compare and contrast them. In the fifth and sixth dimensions, no matter where in space you inhabit, you’d witness every possible permutation of what can occur past, present, and future.

In the seventh, eighth, and ninth dimensions, the possibility of other universes open up, ones where the very physical forces of nature change, places where gravity operates differently and the speed of light is different. Just as in the fifth and sixth dimensions, where all possible permutations in the universe are evident before you, in the seventh dimension every possibility for these other universes, operating under these new laws, becomes clear.

In the eighth dimension, we reach the plane of all possible histories and futures for each universe, branching out into infinity. In the ninth dimension, all universal laws of physics and the conditions in each universe become apparent. Finally, in the tenth dimension, we reach the point where everything becomes possible and imaginable.

For string theory to work, six dimensions are required for it to operate in a manner that’s consistent with nature. Since these other dimensions are on such a small scale, we’ll need another way to find evidence of their existence. One way would be to peer into the past using powerful telescopes which can hunt for light from billions of years ago, when the universe was first born.

String theory has an answer for what came before the Big Bang. The universe was made up of nine perfectly symmetrical dimensions, the tenth being time. Meanwhile, the four fundamental forces were united at extremely high temperatures. The structure was under high pressure. It soon became unstable and broke in two. This became two different forms of time and led to the three dimensional universe we recognize today. Meanwhile, those other six dimensions shrunk way down to the subatomic level.

Imagine seeing every possibility and permutation in all universes, all at once.

As for gravity, string theory contends that the basic units of the universe are strings— infinitesimally small, vibrating filaments of energy. They’re so tiny, they’d be measured on the Planck scale—the smallest scale known to physics. Each string vibrates at a specific frequency and represents a certain force. Gravity and all the other forces are therefore a result of the vibrations of specific strings.

One problem is that this theory is hard to test, outside of advanced mathematical equations. Some experiments have been done using supercomputers, which can run simulations and make predictions. That isn’t exactly enough to prove that it’s true, but it’s helpful and lends support. Besides astronomical observations, physicists are hopeful that experiments with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, on the Franco-Swiss border, may offer evidence of extra dimensions, lending string theory greater credence.


They have made use of the Sloan Foundation Telescope for two years and surveyed the universe under the project Sloan Digital Sky Survey’s Extended Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (eBOSS), enabling them measure three-dimensional positions of more than 147,000 quasars.

Quasars are the bright and distant points of light, visible all the way across the universe. When matter and energy fall into a quasar’s black hole, they heat up to incredible temperatures and glow, which could be detected by the 2.5 metre Sloan Foundation Telescope on Earth.

Ashley Ross of the Ohio State University said, “That makes them the ideal objects to use to make the biggest map yet.”

After successfully creating a three-dimensional map of where the quasars are, scientists used another method that involved studying “baryon acoustic oscillations”, which configured sound waves that travelled through the early universe, when it was much hotter and denser than the present-day universe.

The explanation for this sound waves detection is that when the universe was 380,000 years old, certain conditions changed suddenly and the sound waves became “frozen” and left imprinted in the three-dimensional structure of the universe we see today.

The results of the new study follow the predictions of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, besides including other components whose effects can be measured.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured the glow of new stars in these small, ancient galaxies, called Pisces A and Pisces B. The dwarf galaxies have lived in isolation for billions of years and are just now beginning to make stars. CREDIT: NASA, ESA, and E. Tollerud (STScI)

08 May 2017

SIC ITUR AD ASTRA! Top Vatican scientists celebrate Big Seed to dispel faith-science conflict


Streamed live on May 8, 2017

Press Briefing to present the Scientific Conference on "Black Holes, Gravitational Waves and Space-Time Singularities" organized by the Vatican Observatory at Castelgandolfo.

The action begins at 6:38 minute mark.

VATICAN CITY –  The Vatican is celebrating the big-bang seed theory. That's not as out of this world as it sounds.

The Vatican Observatory has invited some of the world's leading scientists and cosmologists to talk black holes, gravitational waves and space-time singularities as it honors a Jesuit cosmologist considered one of the fathers of the idea that the universe began with a gigantic explosion sprouting expansion.

The May 9-12 conference honoring Monsignor George Lemaitre is being held at the Vatican Observatory, founded by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 to help correct the notion that the Roman Catholic Church was hostile to science. The perception has persisted in some circles since Galileo's heresy trial 400 years ago.

The head of the observatory, Brother Guy Consolmagno, says you can believe in both God and the big-bang seed theory.


CRUX: Taking the Catholic Pulse – The Vatican Observatory is hosting a major May 9-12 conference on "Black Holes, Gravitational Waves and Space-Time Singularities," underlining the point that science and religion can actually get along. The director of the observatory says it might help if more scientists who are believers "came out," sharing their faith.

ROME - There’s an episode of “The Simpsons” that pivots on the discovery of a fossil that appears to be in the form of an angel, which triggers a round of religious fervor until it’s revealed to be a publicity stunt for the opening of a new mall.

This being America, the affair gave rise to a lawsuit in which a judge places a restraining order on science, ordering it to stay 500 feet away from religion at all times. The scene reflected the popular conception that science and religion are natural enemies, and that things turn combustible whenever they intersect.

Brother Guy Consolmagno, a Jesuit who directs the Vatican Observatory, has spent the better part of his career trying to debunk that view of things, and now he’s hosting a major conference that puts an exclamation point on the idea: A May 9-12 summit at the papal summer residence in Castelgandolfo, which is also home to the Vatican Observatory (to escape the distracting lights of Rome), on “Black Holes, Gravitational Waves and Space-Time Singularities.”

“The Vatican Observatory was founded in 1891 by Pope Leo XII to show that the Church supports good science, and to do that we have to have good science,” he said, arguing that’s what this gathering is about. He noted that among the speakers will be a former Nobel Prize winner in physics and a former Wolf Prize winner.

Some two years in the works, the idea behind the conference is to bring together experts in both theoretical and observational cosmology, to ponder new questions arising from the discoveries of puzzling elements of the universe such as dark matter and dark energy.

The gathering also marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Father Georges Lemaître, a Belgian priest, physicist and mathematician, who’s widely credited with founding the “Big Bang Seed” theory to explain the origins of the physical universe.

In a sense, Lemaître was a living reductio ad absurdum on the idea that religious faith is necessarily hostile to science. He taught at the Catholic University of Leuven and was a faithful Catholic priest, in addition to a brilliant physicist who pioneered many of the foundational concepts in modern cosmology, including the idea of an expanding universe.

At a Vatican news conference on Monday, Jesuit Father Gabriele Gionti, organizer of the conference, suggested it’s the sort of thing that ought to push rational people to get past the idea of a rupture between a scientific and a religious way of seeing the world.

“This fear of science people talk about is a myth,” Gionti said.

“Lemaître always made a distinction between the beginnings of the universe and its origins,” he said. “The beginning of the universe is a scientific question, to be able to date with precision when things started.

“The origins of the universe, however, is a theologically charged question,” and answering it, he said, “has nothing at all to do with a scientific epistemology.”

For his part, Consolmagno cautioned against a lazy tendency among many believers to handle the Big Bang Seed theory by replying that God [unmoved Mover] is the one who caused it - which both short-circuits further scientific investigation, he said, and also cheapens the concept of God.

“If you look at God as merely the thing at started the Big Bang Seed, then you get a nature god, like Jupiter throwing around lightning bolts,” he said.

“That’s not a god I want to believe in,” he said. “There are many ideas of god, which means there are many gods I don’t believe in.

“We must believe in a God who is supernatural,” Consolmagno said. “We recognize God as the one who is responsible for existence, and our science tells us how he did it.”

To unpack the point, Consolmagno made a quip that probably brings down the house at physicist parties.

“Stephen Hawking said that he can explain God as a fluctuation in the primordial gravity field,” he said. “If you buy that, it means God is gravity…maybe that’s why Catholics celebrate Mass!”

Most basically, Consolmagno said, it’s important to maintain the proper distinction between what science can prove, and what faith can add.

“God is not something we arrive at the end of our science, it’s what we assume at the beginning,” he said, adding emphatically: “I am afraid of a God who can be proved by science, because I know my science well enough to not trust it!”

Finally, Consolmagno called on scientists who are also believers to “come out of the closet” about it, sharing their scientific work with people in their churches and faith communities.

“More scientists who are church-goers need to make their science known to their parishioners,” he said.

“They should set up their telescopes in the church parking lot, or lead natural trails for youth groups,” Consolmagno said. “People in churches need to be reminded that science was an invention of medieval universities founded by the church, and that the logic of science comes out of the logic of theology.

If there’s a rivalry,” he said, “it’s a sibling rivalry.

“It’s a crime against science to say that only atheists can do it,” he said, “because if that were true, it would eliminate so many wonderful scientists.”



27 April 2017

25 years studying the Big Seed’s afterglow

Published on Apr 27, 2017

This week marks the 25th anniversary of a Nobel Prize winning discovery: the first image of the cosmic microwave background. This image showed the world what the universe looked like shortly after the big bang, and transformed cosmology. Reporter Davide Castelvecchi asks Nobel Laureate John Mather how the iconic image was taken, and investigates what the cosmic microwave background still has to teach us today.

This is a video version of an audio package produced for the Nature Podcast and broadcast on 26 April 2017. You can listen to the full podcast: here.

24 April 2017

We Live in a Pre-Truth Universe

There are no uncharted lands waiting for ships to find their shores, and few if any untasted fruits waiting for human lips. Many grand mysteries of the Universe have been cracked open by science, from the makeup of matter on Earth to the nature of the stars in the sky. The child who marvels at the adventures of Magellan or wonders about how the Universe works might worry: What is left for me to discover?

While we have made tremendous strides in mapping the planet and the cosmos, there are still vast tracts of unexplored scientific territory. Much of life on Earth, from the ocean’s depths to the microbiome in our guts, remains unknown. And the largest cosmic questions are still unanswered: How big is the Universe? What is 95 percent of the Universe made of? What happened before the Big Bang? Why does time move only forward? Does space have more than three dimensions? Is there life beyond Earth?

Even the tiniest particles inside the atom hold perplexing puzzles that elude today’s greatest thinkers: Why do we have anti-matter? Why does every particle have two heavy cousins? How many particles are there? Is there a single tiny particle (or string) that makes up all of matter?

Almost certainly, intellectual revolutions await us. Thinking back before the past few centuries of progress in scientific understanding, we can wonder: what it was like for people to live in such ignorance about the scale of the Universe, our place within it, the quantum nature of reality, and our own evolutionary history? How can we take history’s greatest thinkers seriously when they were so oblivious to basic facts about the human situation? Future generations will almost certainly think the same of us, while snickering behind their hands at the primitive absurdities that today we believe unquestioningly, and dismissing the silly ideas that we build on top of our grand ignorance.

So when we teach science to children, we should certainly describe what we do know, but there should also be a strong emphasis on what we don’t know, to inspire the next generation of explorers.

As Adam Gopnik wrote in the New Yorker: “Every few weeks or so, in the Science Times, we find out that some basic question of the universe has now been answered—but why, we wonder, weren’t we told about the puzzle until after it was solved?” When we talk about science to the public, we need to explain what we have discovered, but we should also not be afraid to tout our ignorance. When we introduce the grand mysteries, we make the case for the importance of further exploration.

The next Magellan, tomorrow’s Einstein might be more inspired by our ignorance than by our discoveries.


Introducing the Post-Truth universe:

The mother of ALL red pills 

ZOG Starts Tearing Down Confederate Monuments, Sparking Protests

New Orleans officials removed the first of four prominent Confederate monuments early Monday, the latest Southern institution to sever itself from symbols viewed by many as a representation racism and white supremacy.

The first memorial to come down was the Liberty Monument, an 1891 obelisk honoring the Crescent City White League.

Workers arrived to begin removing the statue, which commemorates whites who tried to topple a biracial post-Civil War government in New Orleans, around 1:25 a.m. in an attempt to avoid disruption from supporters who want the monuments to stay, some of whom city officials said have made death threats.

The workers inspecting the statue ahead of its removal could be seen wearing flak jackets and helmets. Police officers watched the area from atop the parking garage of a nearby hotel. Meanwhile, a handful of people opposed to the move held a vigil at the statue of Jefferson Davis, who was the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has called the Liberty Monument "the most offensive of the four" to be taken down, adding it was erected to "revere white supremacy."

"If there was ever a statue that needed to be taken down, it's that one," he said in an interview Sunday with The Associated Press.

The Crescent City White League attempted to overthrow a biracial Reconstruction government in New Orleans after the Civil War. That attempt failed, but white supremacist Democrats later took control of the state.

An inscription added in 1932 said the Yankees withdrew federal troops and "recognized white supremacy in the South" after the group challenged Louisiana's biracial government after the Civil War. In 1993, these words were covered by a granite slab with a new inscription, saying the obelisk honors "Americans on both sides" who died and that the conflict "should teach us lessons for the future."

Three other statues to Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard and Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis will be removed in later days now that legal challenges have been overcome.

The removals are "about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile — and most importantly — choose a better future," Landrieu said in a statement released by his office. "We can remember these divisive chapters in our history in a museum or other facility where they can be put in context — and that's where these statues belong."

Nationally, the debate over Confederate symbols has become heated since nine parishioners were killed at a black church in South Carolina in June 2015. South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from its statehouse grounds in the weeks after, and several Southern cities have since considered removing monuments. The University of Mississippi took down its state flag because it includes the Confederate emblem.

New Orleans is a majority African-American city although the number of black residents has fallen since 2005's Hurricane Katrina drove many people from the city.

The majority black City Council in 2015 voted 6-1 to approve plans to take the statues down, but legal battles over their fate have prevented the removal until now, said Landrieu, who proposed the monuments' removal and rode to victory twice with overwhelming support from the city's black residents.

People who want the Confederate memorials removed say they are offensive artifacts honoring the region's slave-owning past. But others call the monuments part of the city's history and say they should be protected historic structures.

Robert Bonner, 63, who said he is a Civil War re-enactor, was there to protest the statue's removal.

"I think it's a terrible thing," he said. "When you start removing the history of the city, you start losing money. You start losing where you came from and where you've been."

Since officials announced the removals, contractors hired by the city have faced death threats and intimidation in this deep South city where passions about the Civil War still run deep.

Landrieu refused to say who the city would be using to remove the statues because of the intimidation attempts. And the removal will begin at night to ensure police can secure the sites to protect workers, and to ease the burden on traffic for people who live and work in the city, Landrieu said.

"All of what we will do in the next days will be designed to make sure that we protect everybody, that the workers are safe, the folks around the monuments are safe and that nobody gets hurt," Landrieu said.

Landrieu said the memorials don't represent his city as it approaches its 300th anniversary next year. The mayor said the city would remove the monuments, store them and preserve them until an "appropriate" place to display them is determined.

"The monuments are an aberration," he said. "They're actually a denial of our history and they were done in a time when people who still controlled the Confederacy were in charge of this city and it only represents a four-year period in our 1,000-year march to where we are today."

20 April 2017

Fuck Judah

Another nearby planet found that may be just right for life

WASHINGTON — Astronomers have found yet another planet that seems to have just the right Goldilocks combination for life: Not so hot and not so cold. It’s not so far away, either.

This new, big, dense planet is rocky, like Earth, and has the right temperatures for water, putting it in the habitable zone for life, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

It’s the fifth such life-possible planet outside our solar system revealed in less than a year, and still relatively near Earth. Rocky planets within that habitable zone of a star are considered the best places to find evidence of some form of life.

‘‘It is astonishing to live in a time when discovery of potentially habitable worlds is not only commonplace but proliferating,’’ said Massachusetts Institute of Technology astronomer Sara Seager, who wasn’t part of the study.

The first planet outside our solar system was discovered in 1995, but thanks to new techniques and especially NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler telescope, the number of them has exploded in recent years. Astronomers have now identified 52 potentially habitable planets and more than 3,600 planets outside our solar system.

The latest discovery, called LHS 1140b, regularly passes in front of its star, allowing astronomers to measure its size and mass. That makes astronomers more confident that this one is rocky, compared with other recent discoveries.

In the next several years, new telescopes should be able to use the planet’s path to spy its atmosphere in what could be the best-aimed search for signs of life, said Harvard astronomer David Charbonneau, a co-author of the study. If scientists see both oxygen and some carbon in an atmosphere, that’s a promising sign that something could be living.

Outside astronomers have already put this new planet near the top of their must-see lists for new ground and space-based telescopes.

‘‘This is the first one where we actually know it’s rocky,’’ Charbonneau said. ‘‘We found a planet that we can actually study that might be actually Earth-like.’’

Make that super-sized, because it belongs to a class of planets called super-Earths that are more massive than Earth but not quite the size of giants Neptune or Jupiter.

Compared with Earth, the new planet is big, pushing near the size limit for rocky planets. It’s 40 percent wider than Earth but it has 6.6 times Earth’s mass, giving it a gravitational pull three times stronger, Charbonneau said. A person weighing 167 pounds would feel like 500 pounds on this planet.

While many super-Earths are too big to have the right environment for life, 1140b is just small enough to make it a good candidate. Thirty-two of the potentially habitable planets found so far are considered super-Earth sized.

The new planet was found using eight small telescopes in Chile and help from an amateur planet-hunter, Charbonneau said.

In the constellation Cetus, it is 39 light years or 230 trillion miles away. So are a group of seven mostly Earth-sized planets in or near the habitable zone found circling a star called Trappist-1 earlier this year, but it in a different direction. And in August, astronomers found that the nearest planet to Earth outside our solar system, only 25 trillion miles away, also could have the right temperature for life, but astronomers can’t get a peek at its atmosphere.

‘‘If you picture the Milky Way as the size of the United States, then these systems are all within the size of Central Park,’’ Charbonneau said. ‘‘These are your neighbors.’’

The latest discoveries have their founders at odds over which of the planets are the most promising. Charbonneau said recent studies show that the Trappist planets may not be rocky like Earth, while Trappist discoverer Michael Gillon said the newest planet has such intense gravity that its atmosphere may be smooshed down so telescopes can’t get a good look at it.

Seven outside astronomers said the Milky Way is big enough for all the discoveries to be exciting, requiring more exploring.

Yale astronomer Greg Laughlin, who wasn’t part of any of the teams, praised all the new findings but said the Trappist planets seem too light and the new one too dense for his taste. ‘‘I wouldn’t book a trip to any of these planets,’’ he said.