Habitable Worlds

HabitableWorlds03_phl_1920
Click to enlarge

Is Earth the only known world that can support life?

In an effort to find life-habitable worlds outside our Solar System, stars similar to our Sun are being monitored for slight light decreases that indicate eclipsing planets. Many previously-unknown planets are being found, including over 700 worlds recently uncovered by NASA’s Kepler satellite.

Depicted above in artist’s illustrations are twelve extrasolar planets that orbit in the habitable zones of their parent stars. These exoplanets have the right temperature for water to be a liquid on their surfaces, and so water-based life on Earth might be able to survive on them. Although technology cannot yet detect resident life, finding habitable exoplanets is a step that helps humanity to better understand its place in the cosmos.

If you’re thinking about leaving town, escaping whichever nutso nation you find yourself encapsulated within – consider a truly long-range journey.

I have no idea how to get there.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Help draft a global “bill of rights” for the Web


Tim Berners-LeeReuters/Vincent West

Tim Berners-Lee, the British scientist who effectively invented the web with a proposal 25 years ago, has used the anniversary to establish a campaign called Web We Want. He wants people to sign up to this campaign and help draft a global “Internet Users’ Bill of Rights” to cover the next 25 years.

Berners-Lee kicked off the Web We Want drive with a series of interviews, in which he argued that the web is under threat from both corporations and governments, leaving its openness and neutrality in doubt.

“Unless we have an open, neutral internet we can rely on without worrying about what’s happening at the back door, we can’t have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture,” he told the Guardian. “It’s not naive to think we can have that, but it is naive to think we can just sit back and get it.”

On the government side, Berners-Lee is worried about surveillance in the wake of Edward Snowden’s NSA and GCHQ revelations, as well as the fragmentation this may cause. On the corporate side, he is concerned about the abuse of net neutrality and copyright law (which he described as “terrible”), as well as the prevalence of proprietary ecosystems such as Facebook.

The principles behind Web We Want, which is coordinated by the World Wide Web Foundation, are as follows:

Affordable access to a universally available communications platform

The protection of personal user information and the right to communicate in private

Freedom of expression online and offline

Diverse, decentralized and open infrastructure

Neutral networks that don’t discriminate against content or users

I’ve been online since 1983. Even in early Internet days folks understood the risk of abuse by Government probably more so than by corporate scumbags. I recall one BBS I belonged to that had to become a fundraising center because one of the members was arrested and thrown into jail in the great state of Louisiana because of his gender identity.

Like most experienced geeks, I haven’t had a problem with most corporate access to my data because generally that access was granted by my own decision. Though, again, there always are those who see a chance to make a disreputable buck by selling illegally-acquired info.

But, courtesy of George W Bush and Barack Obama, we’re back to government snooping big time. The best of tech companies are working their coneheads off trying to build more secure systems, better encryption, means and methods we haven’t even heard of – yet – to protect us from Big Brother. Tim Berners-Lee’s proposal for a Web Bill of Rights makes a lot of sense, too. And I heartily endorse it.

Israeli teenagers say NO to army draft

A group of Israeli teenagers have told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that they will refuse to serve in the military because of its role in the occupation of Palestinian land…

The group referred to “human rights violations” in the West Bank, including “executions, settlement construction, administrative detention, torture, collective punishment and unfair distribution of water and electricity”.

“Any military service perpetuates the current situation, and therefore we cannot take part in a system that carries out these deeds,” read the letter posted on the Facebook page of Yesh Gvul.

Haaretz reported that Yesh Gvul, which advocates conscientious objection, said on Saturday evening in response to the letter’s publication that “refusal is a personal decision by every person in a democratic society”.

According to Haaretz, Yesh Gvul added: “We support anyone whose democratic and humanist values drove him to refuse to take part in occupation and repression of the Palestinian people.”

Yesh Gvul (There is a limit) describes itself as a “peace group campaigning against the occupation by backing soldiers who refuse duties of a repressive or aggressive nature”…

Military service is compulsory in Israel, with men serving three years and women two.

Right on.

Progressives often support reinstitution of the draft in the United States. Surely that would provide motivation for some of our Congress-critters to oppose one or another of our useless wars.

Pic of the Day

relatives wait
Click to enlargeAlexander F. Yuan/AP

Relatives of Chinese passengers aboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 watch a TV news program about the missing flight as they wait for official updates from Malaysia Airlines at a hotel ballroom in Beijing, China.