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Jan 26 2015

TBC: Morning Musing 1.26.15

I have 3 articles for your perusal this Monday morning.

First, some necessary tempering about this “new” person the president has seemingly morphed into since the midterms:

He’s not suddenly Paul Krugman: Let’s not morph Obama into Elizabeth Warren quite yet

So what’s not to like? The bad news is there’s quite a bit. The problem is that Obama’s deeds so often contradict his words. Indeed, examine his actions over these same two months and one could also construct a compelling counter-narrative to this tale of populist transformation.

Jump!

Next up, an article on the coming problems:

The Oceans Are On the Verge of Mass Extinction. Here’s How to Avoid It.

We land-based creatures live in the midst of a massive extinction crisis, just the sixth one over the past half billion years. What about the oceans? A much-discussed, wide-ranging recent Science study (paywalled) has good news: Sea critters are currently faring much better than their land counterparts, which are going extinct at a rate 36 times higher. (That number is likely exaggerated, the authors note, because scientists have done a much better job of cataloging land critters than sea critters.)

But the report also brings horrible news: Between over-fishing and habitat destruction (think acidification, coastal development, warming, coral destruction, dead zones from fertilizer runoff, etc.), the oceans may be on the brink of their own extinction catastrophe. (The New York Times’ Carl Zimmer has more details here; Vox’s Brad Plumer has a good analysis here.) Today’s marine extinction rates look eerily similar to the “moderate” land-based ones just before the Industrial Revolution, the authors warn. “Rates of extinction on land increased dramatically after this period, and we may now be sitting at the precipice of a similar extinction transition in the oceans.”

Lastly, an article about a large asteroid that will pass earth tonight:

Huge Asteroid To Pass By Earth On Monday

On January 26/27, the asteroid 2004 BL86 will sweep past the Earth at a distance of 1.2 million kilometers, three times the distance of the moon. Closer asteroid approaches are common, but this one is gaining attention because of the size and brightness of the object involved.

The website Lunar Meteorite Hunters lists 41 close asteroid approaches in January alone. However, some are as small as 24 meters across. The larger representatives, such as the 1.1 kilometer 2062 Aten, will pass at least ten lunar distances (LD) away; 73 in Aten’s case.

What makes 2004 BL86 (also known as 357439) stand out is the combination of closeness and size. With a length somewhere between 400 and 900 meters, its passage at 3.1LD will be the closest approach of anything this size until 2027, unless an undetected object is waiting to give us a scare.

So how you doin’?  😀

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