Thursday, August 25, 2016

Proxima B: Another Earth?

An artist's illustration of Proxima B showing her sun, Proxima Centauri
As the search for life outside planet Earth continues relentlessly, the Huffington Post reports the discovery of yet another exoplanet that might be able to support life!

An Earth-like planet is orbiting the sun closest to ours, scientists announced Wednesday.

The planet, called “Proxima b,” orbits a star called “Proxima Centauri” and has a temperature that would allow liquid water to exist there, according to a statement released Wednesday by the European Southern Observatory. That means the world is possibly habitable, but scientists don’t know yet whether there’s anything living there.

“This rocky world is a little more massive than the Earth and is the closest exoplanet to us ― and it may also be the closest possible abode for life outside the solar system,” ESO said. 

Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf star, lies just 4.25 light-years away from Earth. While that’s pretty far away by astronomical distances, it’s just a drop in the cosmic bucket. Other Earth-like exoplanets that have been discovered are much farther away from Earth, which makes the revelation of Proxima b more exciting.

Earlier this year, researchers in Chile looked at Proxima Centauri using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher, or HARPS, a high-resolution instrument that specializes in the search for extrasolar planets. They were searching for a wobble in the star that would indicate the gravitational tug of a potential orbiting planet.

What they found amazed them.

“The first hints of a possible planet were spotted back in 2013, but the detection was not convincing,” Guillem Anglada-Escude of Queen Mary University in London, who led the Chile team, said in the ESO statement. This year, the team checked every day during the 60 nights of their scans of Proxima Centauri. “The first 10 were promising, the first 20 were consistent with expectations, and at 30 days, the result was pretty much definitive, so we started drafting the paper!” he said.

The researchers will publish their scientific paper detailing the astronomical finding on Aug. 25 in the journal Nature.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Donald J.Trump: Categorically Unfit To Rule

Republican Presidential Nominee: Donald J. Trump
When I said sometime in the past that Donald Trump is the most idiotic, most clueless buffoon to ever run for president of the US, some people thought I was being hyperbolic. The truth is that this man is worse than just an embarrassment. He is a monumental joke. He is an incompetent, callous, greedy, self-absorbed, thin-skinned, racist demagogue but amazingly he has managed to con a lot of people into believing he is an agent of true positive change. Just take a look at the shambolic freewheeling public relations nightmare/disaster that is his campaign for president - it is at once hilarious, shocking and dangerous. In fact, in the bizarre fact-free bubble in which Trump and his campaign staffers operate, it is quite possible they see his conduct, utterances, and twitter fulminations thus far as the trappings of a well-coordinated campaign!

To add to it, he is an inveterate flip-flopper - and does not have any true position on any political issue at all. The man's mind is a basket or sieve, and whatever position he adopts in the morning, he is going to change or reverse in the evening. Donald Trump is just a big petulant child LYING and saying absolutely anything that comes to his head in order to deceive the simple-minded. Isn't it amazing that he still has the large following he has despite these? Is it simply that his base/supporters are immune to facts and clear, logical reasoning OR is it just that they are even more scared of the possibility of Hilary Clinton getting elected? Well, for a brief reminder of his thoughtless and now predictable waffling on the issues, watch the clip below:

Republicans are having a major case of "buyer's remorse" now. Many republicans have now - so late in the game - discovered that this man is not even really conservative, but alas there is nothing they can do about stopping him from representing the party at the November general elections. All they can now do is run from the Trump ship in droves while pointing out to anyone who cares to listen that they do not support the imposter who has managed to hijack their party. It is a pity that too many people have allowed themselves to be taken in (fooled) by this ignoramus sporting some "amber waves of grain" on the top of his skull. 

At any rate, by writing this, I am not asking or suggesting that you should support Hilary Clinton either, because she has her own issues, but she is managing to present herself as a better choice to the general public despite her own shortcomings. You really have to weigh these two candidates based on the issues and make an informed choice. But guess what? If you are dissatisfied with both, don't forget that there are also two other candidates out there that could use your vote. Have you discovered who they are and what their positions are on the issues?

Monday, July 25, 2016

When A Rogue Challenges A Thief

In what can only be described as a theater of the absurd, President Muhammadu Buhari is now challenging former President Ibrahim Babangida.

One cannot help but chuckle at Buhari's temerity for demanding accountability from President Babangida. I had always suspected that the two were not exactly the best of friends, but I have to say I was more than a little amused at the cheekiness of it all. You know, maybe Buhari is actually beginning to believe his anti-corruption charade. Perhaps, he imagines that Nigerians are really impressed by the barefaced spin, the selective prosecutions and his largely incompetent leadership as far as the economy is concerned. 

But pray tell, why does Buhari―an illiterate, incompetent soldier cum religious zealot―who overthrew the  democratically elected government of Shehu Shagari, expect the ire or at least, the righteous indignation of the average Nigerian for Babangida who subsequently overthrew his illegal and anti-democratic regime? Are we supposed to ignore his anti-democratic precedent because he claims he was fighting corruption at the time? This would be laughable coming 31 years after the fact, if not for the painful fact that Nigeria has continued to regress since Buhari's coup d'├ętat. 

Nigerians do not particularly care about his disaffection for the equally corrupt thief called Babangida. As far as many Nigerians are concerned, they are both guilty of the sort of malfeasance, ineptitude, nepotism, and clannish mindset that has hindered Nigeria. Yes, Babangida might have been the bigger thief, but no one, who is not rabidly pro-Buhari, assumes for one second that Buhari is squeaky clean in Nigeria's messy corrupt politics. He was deposed, I suspect, not just because he was an authoritarian blowhard who visited inhuman and extrajudicial cruelty upon the populace in the name of fighting indiscipline. It was partly because his administration was ridiculously inept and squandered resources. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Countering Anti-#BLM Lies

I saw a post on Facebook by one of my Facebook friends in Canada regarding the Black Lives Matter (#BLM) movement which pleasantly surprised me because of how accurately she was able to capture the essence of the movement especially now that we are noticing a concerted effort to de-legitimize the movement. I simply clicked the "like" button for that Facebook post and left not realizing that some serious discussions were raging down in the comments box. Somehow my attention was drawn to it, and upon reading the comments that followed, I realized that there were certain claims or lines of arguments that were being trotted out to silence the movement which needed to be countered. 

First of all, since I have now read them, I have to confess that I am baffled as to how people in other parts of the world can truly understand or empathize with the severity of  the terrible legacy of slavery and institutional racism in the US—especially how it has manifested in the lopsided or disproportionate incarcerations or killings of the black minority population—WHILE some people just across the border in Canada completely fail to recognize this. Are they truly that insulated, that aloof, that disconnected from these sad realities? Or is this just a case of intentionally turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the issue? I loathe to dismiss some with contrarian views as fundamentally comprehension-challenged, however it seems to be the most charitable characterization if one does not simply want to label them closet racists.

Now let's review some of the false claims now being leveled in arguing against the Black Lives Matter movement (claims which anyone with a functioning internet connection can check up on and refute):

Consider this quote:
…. If 6 months ago I started wearing a shirt that said White Lives Matter. Do u not think that would be offensive? Do u not think if I wore that around Regina or the University people would think I was a racist? I honestly find the entire black lives matter movement to be racist. It discriminates against all other races and perpetuates hate and disconnection.

White Lives have always mattered in the US and I suspect in Canada as well. Printing "White Lives Matter" on your t-shirt, if you are white, is just redundant. To use a terrible example, it would be like clamoring for a "Straight Pride Parade" day after witnessing a "Gay Pride Parade" day. Or for a "White History Month" after witnessing a "Black History Month". Anyone with any firing neurons would readily recognize that these days, parades etc are simply for recognizing and supporting minorities whose interests and vital contributions have not always been recognized. The unstated but obvious fact is that "Straightness" has always been the norm, the recognized, the celebrated. Or in the other case, that month was marked out to recognize and celebrate Black contributions—not because Whites did not contribute meaningfully, but that as the majority population, the rest of the months are, without explicitly stating it, already recognizing White contributions. As a matter of fact, you could argue that most of what passes for American history is "White American" history in this corner of the globe—even though there was significant contributions by people of other "races". 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Black Lives Really Do Matter

There are lots of spurious, demeaning and harmful lies circulating in some aspects of the media, and in many exclusively or majority white enclaves/establishments, about the Black Lives Matter movement. Only the irredeemably obtuse, or shameless contemptible racists would, after being reliably and factually informed on what ‪#‎BLM‬ is truly all about, would continue to believe or speak such revolting drivel. 

Unfortunately, many people you may see on TV purveying opinion that could potentially influence millions of ordinary Americans, and who realistically ought to be aware of the real facts regarding #BLM, are annoyingly or shockingly ignorant. A real disgrace. 

#BLM is not a hate group; it does not preach violence against cops or against whites. #BLM does not preach that ONLY black lives matter or that black lives should matter MORE. These are some of the disgusting false tropes being spread to de-legitimize the movement. #BLM is the simple realization that historically, economically and otherwise, black lives have not mattered in this country-- a country which purports to be guided by the proposition that all men possess certain inalienable rights and should be treated equally under the law; it is a protest against a corrupt and unfair criminal justice system that disproportionately targets and punishes or incarcerates black people; and finally, it is a cry for justice and redress for what has become glaringly apparent--the internal prejudice and bias possessed by many cops which have now manifested its ugly head in the rising spate of needless shootings and deaths for black people even when unarmed or when complying with the police. 

 All good men and women of conscience, whether they be black, brown, yellow or white, who have seen these injustices and disapprove, must now speak clearly to condemn these unnecessary police killings and intimidation perpetrated in their name and join together to seek for reform. Clearly, a militarized, trigger-happy police bodes well for no one because this is not a police state. If you keep quiet because you are white and feel that this issue should be tackled by black people alone because you are not directly affected, do not be surprised when some of these power-drunk, authoritarian and trigger-happy cops, are used to brutalize you or strip you of some these freedoms you hold dear--a reality which is now being lived and felt by many of your black fellow citizens. 

 Speak up NOW. Demand accountability. Demand change. Demand justice and fairness. Black lives also matter.