A composite of images captures “Steve” (Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement) over Manitoba, Canada. / NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Thanks to collaboration between citizen scientists and astronomers, a strange phenomenon in the night sky, dubbed “Steve,” has finally been explained.
In 2017, a glowing purple-and-green ribbon across the heavens mystified sky-watchers because it showed up much further south than the famous northern lights, or aurora borealis. These observers decided to call it “Steve,” echoing the woodland creatures in the children’s movie “Over the Hedge.”
For a time, nobody knew what Steve actually was or what caused it. Now there’s a bona fide scientific explanation, according to NASA space scientist Liz MacDonald.
“Steve is a new type of aurora structure that can be seen in the northern or southern sky further south than the usual aurora,” MacDonald explains. “What we now know from the satellite observations is that this structure is associated with a very strong flow of the charged particles in the upper atmosphere that you can actually see when you’re looking at Steve. That signature from the satellite observations — this very narrow, long, purple arc — is actually something that scientists know and have studied for a long time. It’s something called a sub-auroral ion drift.”
EXCLUSIVE:PBS is bringing back an iconic property after nearly two decades. The pubcaster said today that a new version ofFiring Line, the William F. Buckley-hosted public-affairs show it aired from 1966-99, will premiere in June. The new host is political strategist and commentator Margaret Hoover.
Produced by WNET/Thirteen, the weekly series will bring together the brightest minds and freshest voices from across the political spectrum to engage in a contest of ideas about important issues confronting our nation, PBS said. Firing Linewith Margaret Hoover will launch at 10 AM Saturday, June 2, on New York’s Thirteen, which will air the first three episodes before the series bows on PBS stations nationwide.
The pubcaster said the show will maintain the character of the original Buckley-fronted series, providing a platform that is diligent in its commitment to a balanced exchange of opinion. The series, PBS notes, comes at a time when meaningful discourse in needed more than ever.
Theorem of everything: The secret that links numbers and shapes
For millennia mathematicians have struggled to unify arithmetic and geometry. Now one young genius could have brought them in sight of the ultimate prize
By Gilead Amit
IF JOEY was Chloe’s age when he was twice as old as Zoe was, how many times older will Zoe be when Chloe is twice as old as Joey is now?
Or try this one for size. Two farmers inherit a square field containing a crop planted in a circle. Without knowing the exact size of the field or crop, or the crop’s position within the field, how can they draw a single line to divide both the crop and field equally?
You’ve either fallen into a cold sweat or you’re sharpening your pencil (if you can’t wait for the answer, you can check the bottom of this page). Either way, although both problems count as “maths” – or “math” if you insist – they are clearly very different. One is arithmetic, which deals with the properties of whole numbers: 1, 2, 3 and so on as far as you can count. It cares about how many separate things there are, but not what they look like or how they behave. The other is geometry, a discipline built on ideas of continuity: of lines, shapes and other objects that can be measured, and the spatial relationships between them.
Mathematicians have long sought to build bridges between these two ancient subjects, and construct something like a “grand unified theory” of their discipline. Just recently, one brilliant young researcher might have brought them decisively closer. His radical new geometrical insights might not only unite mathematics, but also help solve one of the deepest number problems of them all: the riddle of the primes.
Cheerleaders for the Carolina Panthers, known as the TopCats, must arrive at the stadium on game days at least five hours before kickoff. Body piercings and tattoos must be removed or covered. Water breaks can be taken only when the Panthers are on offense. TopCats must leave the stadium to change into their personal attire.
Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders were subject to regular weigh-ins and are expected to “maintain ideal body weight,” according to a handbook from 2009. The Cincinnati Ben-Gals were even more precise in recent years: Cheerleaders had to be within three pounds of their “ideal weight.”
Some cheerleaders must pay hundreds of dollars for their uniforms, yet are paid little more than minimum wage. Cheerleaders must sell raffle tickets and calendars and appear at charity events and golf tournaments, yet they receive none of the proceeds. Cheerleader handbooks, seven of which have been reviewed by The New York Times, include personal hygiene tips, like shaving techniques and the proper use of tampons. In some cases, wearing sweatpants in public is forbidden.
The Exorcist director returns to his demonic roots with a new documentary, but he’s not interested in discussing your skepticism
A video clip featuring William Friedkin recently experienced a small level of virality among online film circles, in which the film-maker dresses down Nicolas Winding Refn after the younger director declares his own film Only God Forgives to be a masterpiece. Friedkin repeatedly calls for a medic, compares Refn’s film unfavorably to Citizen Kane, and most memorably, uses a vivid metaphor that puts the “anal” in “analogy”.
Friedkin, speaking on a drizzly afternoon in his suite at New York’s Carlyle Hotel, wants to make it clear that he bears no ill will to Refn. “I like him! He’s a nice guy. I like him very much.” But the larger truth underlying their charged exchange persists: William Friedkin simply does not give a damn.
He’s aged 82 now, and seven years out from the release of his last film. (That was 2011’s chicken-fried neo-noir Killer Joe, a classically Friedkinian work in its marriage of extreme, lurid material with tightly controlled aesthetic rigor.) He’s on the press circuit once again because he’s finally got a new film to promote, an entirely self-funded documentary titled The Devil and Father Amorth. The project dips back into Friedkin’s past as the man behind The Exorcist, chronicling the real-life purging of a demon by a Vatican higher-up. Skeptics will be tempted to place the words “real-life” in scare quotes, and the film doesn’t mount a particularly convincing case as to why they shouldn’t have that caveat. It’s here that Friedkin’s blithe disregard for what the general public thinks emerges as the source of all his power; believe him or don’t believe him, it’s all the same as far as he’s concerned.
On a cold Berkeley morning early in December 1968, I cut class and joined a queue on Telegraph Avenue, waiting for Discount Records to open. The line wasn’t as long as the one I’d joined for the Beatles’ White Album a week or two before, but it was sizable and included many of the same fans. This time our impatience was for the first recording of Terry Riley’s transformative “In C.”
“In C,” which had premiered in San Francisco four years earlier, would ultimately be credited with formulating the Minimalist movement in music that Steve Reich (who performed in the “In C” premiere), Philip Glass and later John Adams would further pioneer and eventually make mainstream. Minimalism would herald an unexpected inventive return to consonance, traditional harmony and pulse, all of which had little appeal to modern music, academic or avant-garde.
I later carried the LP, which came with the score of the piece (a first) into a class on fugue writing. I hadn’t known at the time that Riley had taken the same class with the same professor, composer William Denny, a dozen years earlier when he was a student at the University of California.
Denny was a refined and mild-mannered musical conservative who could bring himself to teach in the afternoon only after he had a few cocktails with lunch. He required us to write only in ink using fountain pens equipped with music nibs. We studied the same 19th-century French textbook that Debussy railed against at the turn of the 20th century.
Riley’s “In C” violated all that Denny held holy. It is simply a collection of 53 melodic motives, all in or around the key of C. Any instrument or vocalist — and any number of them — can play or sing. Each motive is repeated, over a pulse, as long as each performer wants before moving on.
When he saw my recording of “In C,” Denny became startlingly apoplectic. Riley, he said, had been a brilliant student, and now look what he had done! Centuries’ worth of contrapuntal development that led to Bach’s sublime fugues and Bartok’s wondrous string quartets was seemingly discarded by the stroke of a musical anarchist. I was told not only that I couldn’t bring that sacrilege into the classroom, but to get it out of the music building and that the only place for it on campus was the trash can.
Inside the Black Market Hummingbird Love Charm Trade
By Rene Ebersole
There’s a witch in San Diego who casts spells to “trap a man” and “dominate him” so “he’ll always come back.” She has a shop on San Ysidro Boulevard, one mile from the busiest Mexico border crossing in the United States, near a pawnshop, a liquor store, a furniture market, and the Smokenjoy Hookah Lounge, where DJ music thumps on Friday nights.
But you don’t need to go to her shop for magic—you can join the tens of thousands watching her on YouTube. Like a wicked Martha Stewart creating potions instead of potpourri, she provides step-by-step instructions for her spells.
“This is the honey jar,” she tells viewers while introducing the ingredients on her workbench: photographs of two would-be lovers, a piece of paper with their names written on it three times, a small glass jar—and a dead hummingbird. She rolls the tiny animal inside the photographs and wraps the cigar-shaped bundle with hot-pink yarn nearly the same shade as her long, fake fingernails.
Showing only her arms and lower body on camera, she shields her identity as she swaddles the package in a sarcophagus of tacky flypaper, dips it in cinnamon spice, squeezes it into the jar, and spritzes it with perfumes and oils—pheromones—“so he’ll stay sexually attracted.” Restless balm “so he’ll be like, ‘Oh my God, I need to call her.’” Sleep oil “so he’ll be like a zombie.” Attraction oil “so he’ll be like, ‘Goddamn, you so beautiful, you so fine.’” Dominating oil “so you dominate his thoughts.”
Finally she fills the jar with a thick pour of golden honey and tops it with a sprinkle of rose petals. “I love this,” she says. “I’m already getting a really good vibe.”
China hopes to create a ‘mini biosphere’ on the dark side of the Moon, with flowers and silkworms sustaining each other as they grow on the lifeless lunar surface.
The unprecedented plan to create life in outer space is the most intriguing part of China’s lunar probe mission later this year, and could be a major boost for dreams that humans will one day live on the Moon.
They will be placed in an 18cm tall bucket-like tin made from special aluminum alloy materials, together with water, a nutrient solution, and a small camera and data transmission system.
A small tube will direct natural sunlight into the tin to help the plants and potato seeds grow. Although known figuratively as the “dark side” as it is unseen, the far side of the moon receives almost equal sunlight to the near side.
The next stage of the mini-econlogical system will see the plants emitting oxygen, which will feed the silkworms hatching from their cocoons.
The silkworms will them create carbon dioxide and produce waste that will allow the plants to grow, Chinese scientists say.
Miloš Forman, Oscar-winning Czech director of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ dies at 86
By GINA PICCALO
Miloš Forman came of age as a filmmaker under the watchful eyes of the Soviets in postwar Czechoslovakia. And though he blossomed in exile in 1970s America, his memory of totalitarianism would forever be his muse.
In every one of his films, from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Ragtime” and “Amadeus” to “The People vs. Larry Flynt” and “Man on the Moon,” Forman celebrated real-life outsiders and eccentrics who challenged the establishment with heroic self-expression.
Forman died Friday at age 86 at Danbury Hospital, near his home in Warren, Conn., according to a statement released by his agent. A winner of two Academy Awards for directing “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975) and “Amadeus” (1984), Forman was nominated again in 1997 for “The People vs. Larry Flynt.” His earlier films “The Fireman’s Ball” and “Loves of a Blonde” were nominated for best foreign language film.
Born Feb. 18, 1932, outside Prague, Forman was the youngest of three brothers. His father, a Jewish army reservist from World War I and university teacher, was arrested for disseminating banned books to his students. His Protestant mother was arrested after shopping at a local grocery where anti-Nazi propaganda was found. Both died in concentration camps, making Forman an orphan at age 10.
Students awoke to what they thought was the murmur of children playing. They awoke to what they assumed was a pesky classmate banging on the door to borrow a textbook. They awoke from a lifelike dream that they were at a barbecue, could even smell the smoke. There was smoke. It was just after 4 in the morning. The dorm was on fire.
It had ignited in the basement lounge of the Cornell Heights Residential Club, a repurposed motel on the northern fringe of the expansive Cornell University campus in Ithaca, N.Y. Its principal residents were in the initial class of an experimental program inviting gifted students to earn a Ph.D. in six years. There were 50 of them (a few were elsewhere that night), and they called themselves Phuds or Fuds. The building also housed two dozen women on the second floor who were seniors or graduate students, plus three faculty counselors, a student adviser and a cook.
Bleary students scrambled to escape, some barefoot and one hobbling on crutches. Blinding smoke made it virtually impossible to reach the front doors, and few did. Students used shoehorns and grapefruit knives to detach screens and squirm out windows, or stumbled out a basement exit into the stabbing cold. A few jumped or knotted sheets together to shimmy down. Those on the second floor mostly backed down the ladders of firefighters or ones Phuds appropriated from a fraternity house. The cook was carried out unconscious by a muscular fraternity member and a Phud. John Finch, an associate English professor, got out, then sprinted back in to alert students, smacking furniture and screaming for them to run.
Afterward, many of the residents assembled at a nearby sorority. The mood darkened when the unimaginable news filtered in. Eight students died from asphyxiation. So did the heroic Mr. Finch. Three students were Phuds — Martha Beck, Jeffrey Smith and Peter Cooch — while the others were women from the second floor: Jennie Zu-wei Sun, Meimei Cheng, Anne McCormic, Carol Kurtz and Johanna Christina Wallden.
FRANKFURT, Germany — It’s a testament to the lasting influence of Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which turns 50 this week, that the disc-shaped card commemorating the German Film Museum’s new exhibition on the film is wordless, but instantly recognizable. Its face features the Cyclopean red eye of the HAL-9000 supercomputer; nothing more needs saying.
Viewers will remember HAL as the overseer of the giant, ill-fated interplanetary spacecraft Discovery. When asked to hide from the crew the goal of its mission to Jupiter — a point made clearer in the novel version of “2001” than in the film — HAL gradually runs amok, eventually killing all the astronauts except for their wily commander, Dave Bowman. In an epic showdown between man and machine, Dave, played by Keir Dullea, methodically lobotomizes HAL even as the computer pleads for its life in a terminally decelerating soliloquy.
Cocooned by their technology, the film’s human characters appear semi-automated — component parts of their gleaming white mother ship. As for HAL — a conflicted artificial intelligence created to provide flawless, objective information but forced to “live a lie,” as Mr. Clarke put it — the computer was quickly identified by the film’s initial viewers as its most human character.
This transfer of identity between maker and made is one reason “2001” retains relevance, even as we put incipient artificial intelligence technologies to increasingly problematic uses.