This week in science: Fireballs and winged Suidae

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Geminid Meteor Shower over Dashanbao Wetlands

It’s cold as this is written, in much of the nation. Soon, I’ll be flying in to Washington, D.C., to tour some sites and talk about some science stuff with real, bonafide rocket scientists. But my early AM Sunday flight could be delayed by snow and ice. Speaking of climate … It’s too bad I’m not flying over the midwest, where I might look out at 10,000 feet and see pigs winging their way above the Hoosier State:

Jim Brainard, five-term Republican mayor of Carmel, Indiana, a fast-growing city of 80,000 outside of Indianapolis, spoke about some of the reasons that his constituents had acted locally to address issues of sustainability.  “Residents want good jobs and a good quality of life, that’s what motivates them,” Brainard said. “After World War II only twenty-five percent of Americans owned cars, since then we’ve thrown away 10,000 years of urban planning experience and expertise to build suburban sprawl.”

Brainard also took this opportunity to talk about climate change, a taboo subject for most with his political affiliation. “I believe that everything we do needs to be analyzed in terms of climate change,” he said. “Literally every function of city government.” Brainard said he didn’t believe climate change should be a political issue. “It’s important to point out that peer-reviewed science shows that the climate is changing. We shouldn’t shrink from this idea. People out there still deny the moon landing and think the earth is flat.”

  • Explosive evidence that Europa has oceans of liquid water beneath its icy crust. And completely unrelated, sky fireballs ahead this weekend!
  • Our genome appears to be bilingual: cue the immigration satire plays on right-wing paranoia … maybe a bill sponsored by the usual suspects stating English is the one and only official language for American genomes?
  • Taking a traditional media journalist to task over sloppy, pseudoscientific reporting: the glorious fisking of Katie Couric and her merry band of anti-vaxxers begins here.
  • I’ll be in DC, on Monday and Tuesday, weather permitting. Name a watering hole on Tuesday evening and maybe I’ll get to see some of you fellow nerds and associated pod people there!
  • Remember the essay I posted last week about some space/science programs being esspecially protected, which happened to benefit red states? Here is some context of what has happened to space science over the last decade. Below, an example of the sneaky language used in a specific bill: it looks like it’s preserving science from the GOP axe, when in fact it’s unilaterally singling out special “safe” programs and special covered aerospace-defense contractors that are exempt:

    Prohibits the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from reserving funds from amounts appropriated for a covered program, and instructs the Administrator to direct prime contractors not to reserve funds for potential termination liability costs respecting such a program. Declares void and unenforceable any provision in a prime contract entered into before enactment of this Act … Bars the Administrator from initiating termination of a prime contract on a covered program …

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