On NASA’s Discovery: Are They Really Planets?

Lost In Transits

TNG_LaPalmaFor 3 months a year, the TNG telescope on the island of La Palma turns its high-precision spectrometer (HARPS-N) towards the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra. This is the field of view that NASA’s Kepler space telescope stared at for more than 3 years, detecting thousands of potential new exoplanets using the transit method. There the TNG scans hundreds of Kepler’s potentially planet-holding stars looking for tiny changes in their radial velocity. If detected, this signal will indicate the presence of a real planet, confirming once and for all what Kepler first hinted at many months before. This is the process that, up until now, has been used to definitively find the majority of Kepler’s 211 planets.

exoplanetdiscoverieshistogram New ‘discoveries’ in context

That appeared to change in the blink of an eye this week with the confirmation of 715 new planets using a new catch-all statistical technique. But how did…

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Marlo Thomas: Free to Be… All These Years Later

TIME

It was only a giggle and five words, but it told us our work was cut out for us.

The year was 1974, and my friend, producer Carole Hart, and I were deep into creating a TV special based on our children’s LP that celebrated gender and racial equality. Filled with songs and stories and poems, the project encouraged kids to realize that their dreams were not only boundless, but achievable. Our title for the project: Free to Be…You and Me.

For one scene in the special, we’d decided to interview children about how they envisioned their lives one day. This segment, we felt, would underscore that people had to be taught to be sexist; and that little children had not yet been socialized with gender stereotypes.

“What would you like to be when you grow up?” we asked one precious, curly-headed preschooler, the tape rolling as we waited…

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The Value of the Blank Canvas

Principals in Training

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From the Brooklyn studio of artist Nathan Dilworth.

The title of this post isn’t meant to be symbolic – I literally mean the value of standing in front of a blank canvas, ready to be painted.  It is a wonderful feeling to sense the potential of the untouched space – the untrodden field of newly-fallen snow.

It is also a bit (quite?) scary to begin something from nothing.  Why?  Because the process that ensues from the first brushstroke (or the first sentence of a book, or…) can feel like walking over coals – or quicksand.  We can’t help but have a vision for what we want this blank space to look like, but we know from experience that what we envision in our heads is virtually never what results – it is simply a starting point.  Getting to the completed product takes work; it takes slogging through cruddy, muddled thinking and…

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A Celebration of Irish Women Poets

Poethead

Rebecca O’Connor

Domestic Bliss

 
I place a jug of lavender on the table
to mask the smell of mould from under the fridge
 
while you draw nails to hammer with your fist.
Then I draw a hammer , and watch
 
as you try to lift it from the page.
by day it’s Mr Men, Mad Men, by night,
 
your father and I wishing we could be so bold.
you have no such wants, though sometimes I wonder
 
as you try to peer into Jack and Jill’s well
or climb the tiny ladder of your toy farm
to mend the roof of your miniature barn.
 

–  Rebecca O’Connor

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Rebecca O’Connor edits The Moth Magazine and organises the Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize. She worked as a commissioning editor of literary fiction at Telegram Books in London before returning to Ireland with her family in 2008…

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I have a voice.

Yes, those who know me know that I sing, and that I love to sing, and will usually sing whenever I get the chance. That is probably what came to mind with the title by way of introduction as to why I wanted to start my own blog. The voice I am referring too however, is the ‘other’ one. You see I am tired of holding my tongue. It hurts. So, this blog will be about a number of things: my passions and pursuits, yes! That’s it.