Hubble’s Advanced Camera Unveils a Panoramic New View of the Universe:

[Stunning new Hubble ACS photos]

‘Jubilant astronomers unveiled humankind’s most spectacular views of the universe, courtesy of the newly installed Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) aboard NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Among the suite of four ACS photographs to demonstrate the camera’s capabilities is a stunning view of a colliding galaxy dubbed the “Tadpole” (UGC10214). Set against a rich tapestry of 6,000 galaxies, the Tadpole, with its long tail of stars, looks like a runaway pinwheel firework. Another picture depicts a spectacular collision between two spiral galaxies — dubbed “The Mice” — that presages what may happen to our own Milky Way several billion years from now when it collides with the neighboring galaxy in the constellation Andromeda. Looking closer to home, ACS imaged the “Cone Nebula,” a craggy-looking mountaintop of cold gas and dust that is a cousin to Hubble’s iconic “pillars of creation” in the Eagle Nebula, photographed in 1995. Peering into a celestial maternity ward called the Omega Nebula or M17, ACS revealed a watercolor fantasy-world of glowing gases, where stars and perhaps embryonic planetary systems are forming.’ STScI

Wittgenstein’s Curse: how bad academic writing is these days is a function of how seriously academics take themselves, and the author of this Wilson Quarterly essay blames it, only semi-facetiously as he says, on Wittgenstein:

Wittgenstein’s early philosophy led him to the conclusion that we cannot talk rigorously or precisely about most things that humans deem of ultimate importance: truth, beauty, goodness, the meaning and ends of life. We can speak precisely and meaningfully only about those things that objective science can demonstrate. In his view, philosophy was to be a helpful tag-along of science: It can paint clear verbal pictures of what science divulges. But even Wittgenstein recognized that this understanding of the limitations of language was too limiting, and he became more and more interested in the provisional and social character of language, and in how the mystery of meaning emerges out of the shared play of making worlds out of words. He was struggling beyond scientism, and his final book, Philosophical Investigations (1953), posthumously assembled, seems to point suggestively away from the narrowness and inconsequentiality of his earlier position.

But if Wittgenstein struggled against the conclusions of his early work, I fear that the Western academic world increasingly succumbed to a desire for the kind of dubious seriousness that enticed the young philosopher.

The Origin, and the Sickening, of Our Species: “If one of your hominoid ancestors hadn’t gotten a viral infection millions of years ago, you might look really, really different today.

In the beginning, before the first landlubbers crawled out of the murky ocean depths, viruses were everywhere. These parasites infected our earliest ancestors, and today, many millions of years later, bits of their genes live on in our genes.

For three decades, scientists have wondered whether the viral DNA within us is more than merely a vestige of our lowly origins. Could these infectious organisms have assisted in driving our evolution-by helping, say, to turn a foraging ape into a more cerebral toolmaker?” Popular Science

Cellphone radiation ‘trapped’ in train carriages: a Japanese study finds that you could be exposed to levels of microwave radiation exceeding the maximum recommended by the International Committee for Non-Ionising Radiation (ICNIRP) [what’s the ‘P’ for? — FmH] just by being packed into a train with a reasonable number of cellphone-users. New Scientist [via boing boing]

Rats Turned Into Remote-Controlled Robots: implanted electrodes simulate sensory input from their whisker bundles and activate motor behavior directly. After training, the rats can be steered any which way in three dimensions via remote control. Washington Post

Why hasn’t the U.S. produced a Le Pen? asks New Republic editor Peter Beinart. “The answer is a happy and bipartisan story of political leadership by two men: Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.” I’ve always liked the Conan Doyle “curious incident” metaphor with which Beinart begins the essay.

Red Handed:

The deficit gets worse, and so does Bush: “The latest in what has become a steady stream of bad budgetary news arrived last Friday, when newspapers reported that this year’s deficit is estimated to be about $100 billion–twice as large as previous forecasts had suggested. President George W. Bush immediately offered a multilayered defense packed with jaw-dropping mendacity.” The New Republic

The Morning News‘ blistering take on two weeks in the Sun — the first two weeks of the much-anticipated New York Sun, that is: “Already in its third week of publishing, the Sun has yet to pass a single day without a major, basic-rules-of-journalism-violating mistake. Unsourced assertions, manipulated quotations and editorial infringement abound, not to mention the paper’s unrelenting support for charter schools, Israel, and Forgea, the dog trapped on an Indonesian freighter (a wire story that, inexplicably, ran front page for three consecutive days). It’s bad, and not simply in a beginner’s bad-luck sense of the word. We’re talking state-university-weekly bad.”

The Beat Movement as Lived by Ginsberg: “Allen Ginsberg was not only the Beat movement’s second-best-known luminary after Jack Kerouac; he was also its most assiduous visual chronicler. Ginsberg’s black-and-white photographs of Kerouac, Gregory Corso and others are definitive snapshots of an era.

Many photographs — as well as handwritten manuscript pages of Ginsberg’s poetry, audio clips, selected artwork, and video clips — are featured at, a Web site founded in March that is devoted to the life of the poet, who died in 1997 at age 70.


A work in progress, the site includes a Flash-enabled timeline that allows the user to click and drag on a picture of Ginsberg and take a guided chronological tour of his life.” NY Times