Welcome to this week’s edition of our Friday Quality Linkage column. Please enjoy this week’s collection of interesting and entertaining links. Brew a fresh cup of coffee, find a comfortable place, and relax.
Sarah Kaplan of The Washington Post shares the story of one of the biggest astrophysical discoveries of the decade:
Some 130 million years ago, in a galaxy far away, the smoldering cores of two collapsed stars smashed into each other. The resulting explosion sent a burst of gamma rays streaming through space and rippled the very fabric of the universe.
On Aug. 17, those signals reached Earth — and sparked an astronomy revolution.
The discovery caught the attention of a good chunk of the astrophysics community:
Within 24 hours of the initial detection, it seemed as though half the telescopes in the world — and several more in space — were tilted toward SSS17a, recalled Stefano Valenti, an astrophysicist at the University of California at Davis who took part in the optical search. “We were calling colleagues to talk, saying, ‘I cannot tell you why, but can you observe this object?’” he said. “Everyone was working together, sharing everything they had as soon as the information was coming online. … I think this one was the most exciting week of my career.”
A funny tidbit also mentioned in the story (bold emphasis mine):
In the ninth image, postdoctoral researcher Charlie Kilpatrick saw it: a tiny new dot beside a galaxy known as NGC 4993, 130 million light-years away.
He notified the group through the messaging service Slack:
@foley found something
sending you a screenshot
Reddit user u/Andromeda321 lists why this is such a monumental discovery:
Well off the top of my head:
1) NS-NS mergers are where the far majority of heavy elements like gold and uranium are thought to be created. Huge to be able to study that
2) NS-NS mergers likely create black holes in many cases- we can actually study black holes being born!
3) It also proves that gravitational waves are going to be super important for finding these super rare astronomical events in the future
4) It solves the long-standing question of what creates short GRBs, which are some of the most energetic explosions we know of and are a third of all GRBs, but people haven’t had proof of where they come from for decades.
I’m probably skipping some, but that’s not a shabby starting list!
On the topic of space, mathemusician and virtual reality philosopher — her words, not mine — Vi Hart went to Atlas Obscura’s Total Eclipse event in Oregon a couple months ago, and she’ll never see the moon the same way again:
I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but this wasn’t it. I’d seen photos of coronas around suns, but this wasn’t that. And I’d expected that those photos, like many astronomical pictures, are long exposure, other wavelengths, and otherwise capturing things the naked eye can’t see. I thought there might be a glow of light in a circle, or nothing, or, I don’t know. What I did not expect was an unholy horror sucking the life and light and warmth out of the universe with long reaching arms, that what I’d seen in pictures was not an exaggeration but a failure to capture the extent of this thing that human eyes, and not cameras, are uniquely suited to absorb the horror of.
I protest the idea that the sun, or the moon, or the hole in the universe where the sun was ripped away from us, was black. It was not black. It was a new color, perceivable to the human eye only in certain conditions. I’ve read the literature on color perception and color philosophy. I’ve got the ontological chops. I feel qualified to make this statement, that this thing in the sky was not black. I could understand why people would describe it as black, just as without a word for red you might describe blood as black. But it wasn’t, and so no photograph could possibly capture what it’s like, and no screen can yet display it.
(via Jason Kottke)
Twitter, which was conceived and built by a room of privileged white boys (some of them my friends!), never considered the possibility that they were building a bomb. To this day, Jack Dorsey doesn’t realize the size of the bomb he’s sitting on. Or if he does, he believes it’s metaphorical. It’s not. He is utterly unprepared for the burden he’s found himself responsible for.
Twitter today is a cesspool of hate. A plague of frogs. Ten years ago, a group of white dudes baked the DNA of the platform without thought to harassment or abuse. They built the platform with the best of intentions. I still believe this. But they were ignorant to their own blind spots. As we all are.
It gets pretty political, so my apologies to readers who hate when I link such things, but I still think it’s worth your time.
So, I’ll just get it out of the way that I like this video and think it’s a nice calm way to pass 11 minutes. There you go.
The other, weirder thing I wanted to mention is that it wasn’t YouTube where I first came across this video. It was in the Japanese pagoda area of the “Global Cafe” exhibit at the Glazer Children’s Museum of Tampa, FL, which we visited a couple weeks ago during some horrible Daniel Tiger meet-and-greet event that turned the entire place into a madhouse. But I digress.
I stood and watched the video for a few minutes while my son played in an “African” drum circle a few feet away, thinking it was an interesting look into how this Japanese guy takes such pride in every aspect of his restaurant. Then, a few days ago, the same video showed up in my YouTube recommendations out of nowhere, for reasons I still can’t figure out.
1) I had never heard of the Life Where I’m From channel prior to this, 2) I haven’t watched any videos related to Japan recently — mostly random scenes from superhero movies and cartoons, tbh (don’t judge) — and 3) I don’t believe I ever mentioned anything about our visit to the museum on social media…? Honestly I don’t even really know why I’m sharing this story here because I doubt anyone else cares, but…dude.
Anyway, I’ll just be over there in the corner wearing my tinfoil hat for a while, thank you very much.
Part of what makes IKEA unique is their product names. Each name means something, often in a funny or ambigious way. When IKEA went international, they decided to use the same Swedish names everywhere. This makes sense from an organizational sanity standpoint, but it deprives most of the world of this particular joy.
My wife and I are in the midst of making over our travel trailer and have practically been living at the Orlando IKEA as we research and buy things in bursts — a dumb strategy I do not recommend to anyone and can only justify by the fact that we didn’t have an IKEA back when we lived in Oklahoma City and are inexperienced but we dived into this project headfirst anyway thinking it would be fairly straightforward and we were WRONG — so it was kind of funny that Jason Kottke linked to it right after we’d discussed what those weird product names might mean.
The latest Nerdwriter video examines director David Fincher’s use of camera movement to evoke character and emotion in his films. Something I hadn’t noticed before but will definitely take note of from now on.
Neat Stuff We Published This Week
- Captain Marvel-inspired Nike running shoes
- Make your home Wi-Fi woes melt away: AmpliFi Home Wi-Fi Mesh System
- A beast of a thermos: Miir 64oz Growler
- Unlock the power of sleep and dreams: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
- Minimal yet functional travel toiletries bag: Joshu+Vela Dopp Kit
- The contacts app you’ll actually want to use: Cardhop for Mac
Got any suggestions for articles, videos, stories, photographs, and any other links you think we should be posting in our weekly Quality Linkage? Please do let us know on Twitter.