Man Rescues Old Drone with New Drone

“Make new drones, but keep the old…”

“Meet the new drone, same as the old drone…”

You know I can be found/sitting home all alone/

If you can’t come around, a least please send a drone…”

This reminds me of WALL-E:

more from Christine Linnell.

I know I don’t need to say this, but just a friendly reminder:  recreational drones = awesome.  drones that kill civilians = bad.


Planet Tolkien: Let’s Name J1407b, the New Exoplanet With Rings to Rule Them All, After J.R.R.

Christopher Cocca

It feels like astronomers are finding new exoplanets (planetary bodies outside of our native solar system) all the time in their quest for potential Earth-like worlds.  Just a few years ago, we’d only indirectly observed a handful, and, until 1992, as far as we knew, they existed only in theory.  According to the never-wrong stewards of Wikipedia, we’re now up to “1885 planets in 1184 planetary systems including 477 multiple planetary systems” as recently as yesterday.

Earlier this week, scientists reported discovering an exoplanet (J1407b) with Saturn-like rings for the first time ever.  Except these rings are so massive, if they were around Saturn, we’d see them dwarf the moon in Earth’s night sky.  They’re thought to be at least 200 times the sizes of Saturn’s banded system.

Truly, then, a Lord of the Rings.  I’d first thought we should name this planet Gandalf, but Tolkien, having created a marvelous literary world influencing the lives and work of millions, deserves a real world named for him.  Such a move is not without precedent:  the International Astronomical Union honored the literary giant (a Saturn for sure, if not a Jupiter) with Mercury’s Tolkien Crater.  In 1982, astronomer M. Watt named a newly discovered asteroid for Tolkien and a second after Bilbo Baggins.

People have talked for years about naming one of Pluto’s moons Mickey.  Fears of a dawning Starbucks Nebula mounting, a Tolkien namesake is so much less corporate than all of that.

Get it done, science.

Get it done, overlapping science and Tolkien fandom.  There should be a petition.  Like this one.

Why Do We Dream?

Hope is a tattered flag and a dream of time,” wrote Carl Sandburg.  We delight in, struggle with, are comforted, haunted, challenged, or vexed by these sometimes sweeping, sometimes simple arcs. Dreams are fleeting tapestries of memories, fears, hopes, doubts, unresolved problems, traumatic events, desires, things we could have should have would have done or said.  Why do we have them?  Where do they come from, really?  How is it even possible that our brains construct them in the first place?

Science doesn’t really know.  Researchers have linked the phenomenon of dreaming to memory-making, problem-solving, and the processing of information and emotion.  Renee Descartes, the 17th-century French philosopher famous for formulating the maxim cogito ergo sum (“I think, therefore I am”), warned that dreams prove the fundamental duplicity of our senses.  Lucid dreams (dreams in which we know we are dreaming) are rare, prompting Descartes to note that to a dreamer in the act of dreaming, the dreamed reality is experienced as reality.  Our senses are unable to properly distinguish the dream-time simulation from real-world experience.  Consider this an early formulation of the sensory anxieties inherent to various brain-in-a-vat scenarios or the Matrix films.

Can't_readMany people believe that left-brain functions, such as reading, are impossible while dreaming.  This concept was a key plot point in a 1992 episode of Batman: The Animated Series in which Bruce Wayne realizes he’s captured in an induced, idyllic dream (his parents are alive) when he repeatedly tries and fails to read newspapers and books.  This episode is so well-remembered that Google assumes you want to add “batman” to  the search phrase “can you read in dreams” (which of course you do).  Batman makes everything better, but it’s not as clear whether the no-reading meme is true.  Lots of people say they’ve read in dreams, but because that makes Batman a liar (more likely, they are lying, because Batman), I have my doubts.

Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the double-helix structure of DNA, held that dreams were essential to problem-solving, allowing the otherwise resting mind to sort through millions of inputs and establish patterns.  Crick’s research partner, James Watson, famously claims to have realized the double-helix structure after dreaming of a spiral staircase in the thick of their research.  Descartes himself claimed to created what become the basis of Western material philosophy, the scientific method, in a dream.

Although we still don’t really know for certain why we dream, scientific consensus seems to be with Crick.  Minus the inventory of mental needs that comprise our waking hours, in sleep, our minds are free to fire different neural paths and establish intellectual, emotional, and other connections we’re often kept from making otherwise.  In fact, with apologies to Fiona Apple, problem-solving isn’t just the reason for dreams, but for the very act of sleeping.

We sleep, it seems, to dream, and we dream to make sense of life, to better understand and experience our world, ourselves, and our relationship to everything between.  Here the spiritual experience of dreams as visions or prophetic words are not at odds with the likes of Descartes or Crick, and certainly not with Sandburg.  We are vessels of knowledge, hope, and time seeking understanding, clarity of purpose.  We seek better patterns, fairer systems, and, sometimes, we find them.





4 Extinct Prehistoric North American Species Encountered by the Continent’s Ancient Human Settlers

1. American cheetah:  North America used to have cheetahs, or more accurately, cheetah-like big cats with puma faces. Like the other species on this list, it survived in North America down to the time of human migration to the continent.



2. Speaking of which, it blows my mind to think of Paleoindian populations living alongside the mighty Glyptodon, but that’s apparently exactly what they did, at least for a while.  These armored tanks, relatives of armadillos, anteaters, and sloths, stood close to 5 feet high and 11 feet long.  They are thought to have been eradicated by humanity’s penchant for over-hunting. According to the never-wrong editors of Wikipedia, ancient peoples used Glyptodon shells for shelter.

3. In the 1840s, the U.S. Army thought camels would make good pack animals because deserts.  It didn’t work out because horses are apparently afraid of camels.  That’s not to say the idea was totally without historic or scientific basis.  The Camelops survived in North America until 10000 years ago.

4. Mastodon is often wrongly thought of as a synonym for mammoth, but it turns out the North American mastodon, though closely resembling both mammoths and elephants, is closely related to neither.

Can you imagine a world in which mastodons and glyptodons roamed the American plains down to recent history?  It’s a shame that didn’t happen.  So too the extinction of many other species since 1500.  Just the thought of human beings interacting with these creatures in the first place is outstanding.  I wish they would have left some.