31 August 2006

Pluto, Dark Matter, and Might-Have-Beens

So, Pluto's not a planet. It always did seem like a straggler out there on the edge of the solar system, a little out of place in the diagrams they showed us in school. But that makes it charming, right? The re-defining of what exactly is a planet is pretty interesting reading. I enjoyed Newsweek's article: Of Cosmic Proportions, and I will probably go look at some other articles on the IAU's decision. But of far more interest is the realization that I'd missed out on some other interesting developments in our understanding of the solar system. I think that I'm going to have to look up this Kuiper Belt, and learn a little about what they're saying about Ceres. That sort of thing is pretty interesting.

Burried on the 5th page of Newsweek's article about Pluto is a mention of a discovery that's probably a great deal more important than deciding what exactly is Pluto. Researchers at the University of Arizona have discovered direct proof that Dark Matter really exists. Fascinating. The article on UANews.org has all kinds of semi-technical information about the laws of gravity, gravitational lensing techniques used to make the discovery, and of course, dark matter.

I once chickened out of being an astrophysicist, scared off by all the math that I anticipated. I sometimes wonder what I might have learned about myself and about the universe, had I given it a shot. In any case, my curiosity these things has lead me to read (and enjoy) Stephen Hawkings's A Brief History of Time, and to question the decision that the high-school-me made, out of fear of too much math. And it draws my attention and curiosity to the sky and beyond what you can see from my backyard in the city. Jack O'Neal - of Stargate SG-1 - seems to have a great setup, with that telescope on the roof. Might have to get me one of those one day.

06 August 2006

Article: Children and the Social Interest in Marriage

Meridian Magazine: Children and the Social Interest in Marriage
She [Barbara Whitehead] thought the media’s reaction [to Dan Quayle] illustrated broader efforts to depict “the married two-parent family as a source of pathology.” All of this, she explained, is part of an attempt to “normalize what was once considered deviant behavior,” such as divorce and out-of-wedlock birth. She then shared extensive research describing the harmful effects of single-parent households on children, at both the individual and the social levels. In general, despite some admirable exceptions by single parents who succeed valiantly despite the risks, children in single-parent or step-parent families are more likely than children in intact families to be poor, to drop out of school, to have trouble with the law — to do worse, in short, by most definitions of well-being than children in two-parent families.

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