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September 20, 2010 [LINK / comment]

Jupiter is rising, getting "closer"

While walking outside a few evenings ago, I was startled to see a very bright object close to the eastern horizon. I correctly surmised that it was the planet Jupiter, which has been concealed by daylight for the past several months. I learned there are actually two reasons why it appears brighter than usual: it has been getting closer to the Earth lately, and in fact today the two planets are the closest they have been to each other since 1963; they won't get this "close" again until 2022. Right now it is 368 million miles away from us, or about four times as distant as the sun. The other reason Jupiter is getting brighter is that its "South Equatorial Belt ... has been hidden under a layer of bright white ammonia clouds" for about a year. For more details, see; thanks to Angela Nebel for alerting me to this astronomical event. Jupiter will get higher in the east-southeastern skies for the next few months. You can't miss it.

New fangled periodic table

New! I have just added a colorful, interactive Periodic table of the elements to the Science & Technology blog page, for which there have been no posts for some time. All that table shows right at present are the atomic numbers, the atomic weights, and the groups of elements. Eventually it will include information on the valences and electron shells as well.

One thing I learned while putting together that table is that there are nine more named elements than there were when I was in high school. I also learned that the standard classification of elements now includes two new groupings: "Metalloids" such as Silicon, found along the diagonal borderline, and "Light earth metals" such as Calcium, somehow distinguished from regular Light metals such as Potassium. I got that information from Periodic Table by Chemicool. But wait, there's more: the metal Gallium has a melting point of about 85 degrees Farenheit, which means that, like a chocolate bar, it literally melts in your hands. You can even watch a video demonstrating the bizarre phenomenon. Cool!

Healthy skepticism

I always make an effort to see both sides of an issue, especially with regard to big controversies such as global warming. I tend to be a skeptic on that issue, so I found this article interesting: "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic: Responses to the most common skeptical arguments on global warming" at

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 20 Sep 2010, 1: 10 PM

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Blog highlights have been compiled for the years 2010-2012 thus far, and eventually will be compiled for earlier years, back to 2002.


The "home made" blog organization system that I created was instituted on November 1, 2004, followed by several functional enhancements in subsequent years. I make no more than one blog post per day on any one category, so some posts may cover multiple news items or issues. Blog posts appear in the following (reverse alphabetical) order, which may differ from the chronological order in which the posts were originally made:

  1. Wild birds (LAST)
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  3. Science & Technology
  4. Politics
  5. Latin America
  6. Culture & Travel
  7. Canaries ("Home birds")
  8. Baseball (FIRST)