Curiosity may have killed the cat, but hopefully it won't kill itself. The Mars Science Laboratory, the car-sized rover that will eventually become the largest one sent to Mars, has just been renamed "Curiosity". Congratulations to 6th grade student Clara Ma for suggesting the winning name!

Clara Ma receives award certificate from mission engineer Suparna Mukherjee
Clara Ma receives award certificate from mission engineer Suparna Mukherjee

No terrorists for US prisons

Senate Democrats have promised to prevent detainees in the Guantánamo Bay facility from being transferred to prisons within the US. The ostensible reason is that they do not want the detainees to be released within the United States, which is patently ridiculous on its face: there is no way they could confuse transfer of prisoners to another detention facility with releasing them. There has got to be another reason.

In fact, I can think of two possible reasons. One is that Senate Democrats are very soft on terrorism: it would be very hard on alleged terrorists to be detained along with other violent and psychopathic criminals. How long do you think an alleged terrorist would last inside a maximum security prison? For that matter, Republicans must also be worried enormously about the safety of the alleged terrorists, given the same "not in my backyard" responses.

Or maybe Senate Democrats have something entirely different in mind: if the detainees can't be moved to the United States or any other country in the world, where can they be moved to? The answer should be pretty obvious: space! They must be taking a leaf from Britain and Australia, and they must be planning to ship them to a colony in orbit, the Moon, or even Mars. The prospect of a space colony really excites me, even if it is going to be filled with the psychopathic or the very unlucky rather than the best and the brightest.

Launch of Herschel and Planck

Launch of Herschel and Planck
Launch of Herschel and Planck

The Herschel and Planck spacecraft have been successfully launched from the same rocket. Herschel is the largest infrared and submillimeter space telescope to date and is intended to observe the far infrared portion of the cosmic background, which should reveal details of how galaxies and stars formed in the earliest periods of the universe. Planck will observe the cosmic microwave background in unprecedented detail, which will let us check out several theories for the origin of the universe such as how inflation may have occurred or the shape of our universe.

It's great to see the successful launch of two spacecraft that will both study the early universe. Given that two spacecraft depended on this successful launch by the ESA, it's a huge relief.

A surgeon recused

Richard Wiseman has an interesting Friday puzzle that I have never heard of but is supposed to be a classic. It is mentioned that there are at least two logical solutions:

A man and his son are involved in a car crash. The father dies on the scene and the son is rushed to hospital. On arrival the surgeon on duty says “I can’t operate on this boy, he is my son!” How is this possible?

Continue reading "A surgeon recused"

Killing the firstborn

If you're trying to help your chosen people move out of a country by killing the firstborn of everyone else in the country, you might have a small conundrum:

You have promised your chosen people that you would kill all the firstborn except their own. You know that you will not have to kill a child in every family because of high mortality rates: there are not as many firstborn alive as would be expected. And you know that you will be sparing the firstborn of those other than your chosen people: some of your chosen people will convince their neighbors to put blood on the door frames, and you are willing to overlook this exploitation of a loophole.

However, there are certain people whom some argue that you should kill and others argue that you should not. These people had a father or mother who had children before, but are the first child of their other parent. Some of them are the result of men taking in multiple wives, some are the result of remarriages, and others are the result of adultery. They can be argued to be either firstborn or not, which ties in to whether you should kill them or not.

What should you do?