Goodbye Cassini

The Cassini spacecraft is scheduled to plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere tomorrow ending its 13 exploration of Saturn. Here’s a picture (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute), it’s not the best but it is one of the last:

For better views you can get a short movie here (WordPress doesn’t allow me to put it in this post) or there’s a nice book here.

It’s been a great ride Cassini, thanks for the great pictures and videos over the years.

Trump administration out to cut contraception

It seems that Trump officials in Health and Human Services lie as much as he does (via here):

Secretary Tom Price, who has claimed that “there’s not one” woman who can’t afford birth control on her own (despite the high up-front cost of the most reliable contraceptives).

She (Teresa Manning) insists that contraception is ineffective, despite evidence that hormonal methods are 91% effective and long-acting reversible contraceptives such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

She (Charmaine Yoest) asserts that condoms (whose use reduces the risk of HIV transmission by at least 70%) do not protect against HIV or other sexually transmitted infections. Yoest also claims contraception does not reduce the number of abortions and says that to accept this argument “would be, frankly, carrying water for the other side to allow them to redefine the issue in that way.”

Yoest and Manning are joined by Katy Talento, who has been named to the Domestic Policy Council, in claiming that the most effective types of contraceptives cause infertility and miscarriages. Talento has published some particularly outlandish articles on this topic, mis-citing a 2012 study whose author disavowed her description of his work in asserting that contraceptives are “breaking your uterus.”

Even worse, Yoest continues to cite long-discredited studies that used retrospective reporting to support her assertion that abortion causes breast cancer, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary from properly constructed prospective studies. … Nor, as she has claimed, does abortion cause mental illness; in fact, a long-term study that compared women who were denied abortions with those who were able to obtain them revealed that it is being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term that is associated with near-term adverse psychological outcomes.

Perhaps the most insidious and politically potent assertion by these appointees is that common forms of contraception are actually abortifacients.

Hormonal contraceptives work primarily by preventing ovulation and thereby preventing fertilization. Even in cases in which they affect the endometrium, studies more recent than those used for the initial Food and Drug Administration–approved labeling have shown they do not interrupt an established pregnancy.

These people are against contraception but they know that a large majority of Americans support the use of contraception:

More than nine-in-ten adults think using birth control is either morally acceptable (36%) or not a moral issue at all (57%); just 4% say using contraception is morally wrong.

so they try to bend the definition of contraception to claim it’s abortion. It’s not and they’re lying to try to get rid of contraception.

Trump doesn’t exercise and doesn’t think you should either

President Trump never ceases to amaze me, this is the latest:

Trump himself says that he is “not a big sleeper” (“I like three hours, four hours”) and professes a fondness for steak and McDonald’s. Other than golf, he considers exercise misguided, arguing that a person, like a battery, is born with a finite amount of energy.

That’s stunningly misinformed. Really, in what century was he born? Vox points us to other links, such as this:

Trump said he was not following any special diet or exercise regimen for the campaign. ‘‘All my friends who work out all the time, they’re going for knee replacements, hip replacements — they’re a disaster,’’ he said. He exerts himself fully by standing in front of an audience for an hour, as he just did. ‘‘That’s exercise.’’

And they include this quote:

After college, after Trump mostly gave up his personal athletic interests, he came to view time spent playing sports as time wasted. Trump believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted. So he didn’t work out. When he learned that John O’Donnell, one of his top casino executives, was training for an Ironman triathlon, he admonished him, “You are going to die young because of this.”

So add personal health to the things that Trump is completely wrong about.

Cassini flies close to Saturn

Here are some pictures that Cassini took a few days ago (Credit: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech):

As you can see, they’re not all that impressive … except:

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is giving earthlings their closest-ever views of Saturn’s swirled atmosphere and its massive hurricane, beaming a trove of images and data back to Earth after the craft made its first dive between Saturn and its rings Wednesday.

This is part of Cassini’s Grand Finale and the first of its dives close to Saturn. The pictures aren’t impressive but they give new information on Saturn.

The March for Science

The March for Science (you should go if you believe that science is important) is today and so we get stories like this:

That is why, Michel said, he plans to take to the streets (and play his accordion) Saturday at the March for Science in Boston, an offshoot of the main event in Washington and one of hundreds of such marches across the country that aim to celebrate science and champion its role in advancing the health, safety and well-being of society.

The marches are nonpartisan, but have generated criticism that they threaten to turn scientists into another political interest group protesting the new administration, thereby undermining the credibility of scientific research and one of the organizers’ key messages: that science is apolitical.

Science is apolitical, but when one party consistently denies the science when it goes against their beliefs it becomes political. Many, and sometimes most, Republicans don’t believe in global warming or evolution or the problem with certain pesticides (going all the way back to Rachel Carson) or how abortions are performed (and how they affect the woman–it does not cause them to be depressed). And when a man gets elected President who specifically denies global warming, wants to cut money going to all kinds of scientific research, wants to make it harder for scientists to come to the US (either to work or just to come to a conference) and cuts scientists out of the decision making process in multiple departments, then you’re going to get push-back from the scientific community.

President Trump and Republicans have made parts of science political and this should hurt them politically. It hasn’t, partially because of articles like this.

Tour the solar system

These tour guide like posters are pretty good, like this one of Europa (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech):

europa

Ok, I’m off to Europa. Have fun on stuffy old Earth.

It’s in the stars

This is more than a little funny:

The kerfuffle began in September, when Cosmopolitan cited a NASA Web post about the origins of the Western zodiac. In the 3,000 years since the Babylonians drew up the zodiac, the post noted, the Earth’s axis has shifted slightly, and thus, so have the astrological signs.

For those who check their horoscopes alongside their morning e-mails — and avoid making big decisions when Mercury is in retrograde — this was no small thing. Those born in, say, late February through mid-March went to bed thinking they were a gentle, compassionate Pisces only to awake the next day a temperamental, uncompromising Aquarius. Perhaps more disconcerting, those born between Nov. 29 and Dec. 17 learned they were no longer Sagittarius, but the strange and little-known Ophiuchus, “the Serpent Bearer.”

Oh dear, Astrologists claim that the star you’re born under affects you so they I guess they’re going to have to recalculate everything:

Many fans have simply vowed to ignore it. And Eugenia Last, whose internationally syndicated horoscope column appears in various publications, including the Globe, has no intention of tailoring her work to the new dates outlined by NASA (“Absolutely not,” she writes in an e-mail).

Now that’s real science–if new information comes up, just ignore it. I guess the star we weren’t born under is what really affects us … or, ok I’m just confused.

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