Saturday Reads: Jupiter and the Moon, the Myth of the Dying PC, and the Strange Psychology of Barack ObamaPosted: April 13, 2013
If you have clear skies where you live this weekend, you might be able to see some spectacular views of Jupiter and the Moon. National Geographic reports:
Up first on Saturday, April 13, look towards the high western sky after local sunset for a waxing crescent Moon. Look to its far upper left and you will see a super-bright star – that is planet Jupiter- visible easily even from within heavily light polluted city limits.
As the sky darkens -about an hour after local sunset – look to the Moon’s immediate left and you will notice a distinctly orange-tinged, twinkling star. Aldebaran represents the red eye of Taurus, the bull constellation and is 65.1 light years from Earth. A true monster compared to our little Sun- Aldebaran’s diameter would reach beyond the orbit of Mars if it replaced our Sun at the center of the solar system.
Look carefully between Aldebaran and the Moon in a darkened sky and the Hyades star cluster will come into view. Binoculars may help make out the distinctive V-shape of this 250 light year distant star association – one of the closest to Earth.
Now scan to the lower right of the Moon and a tight hazy patch of little stars can be glimpsed even with the naked eye from suburban skies. Known as the Seven sisters, the Pleiades is one of the better known sky targets for backyard stargazers. This rich open cluster actually has more than 40 young stars as members – no more than 10 million years old – and most can be seen with binoculars and small telescopes, however with the unaided eye will pick out the brightest five to seven of its stars.
By Sunday night, April 14th, the Moon will have risen higher in the western evening sky for a striking visual pairing with brilliant Jupiter. The cosmic duo will appear to be separated by only a couple of degrees – less than the width of your two middle fingers held at arm’s length.
In addition, on Sunday, you might be able to see Jupiter in the daytime according to Science World Report.
Tomorrow, April 14, you could have the chance of seeing Jupiter during the daytime and join the ranks of people that have spotted the giant plant while the sun is in the sky.
During daylight, the sky can look like an unbroken swathe of blue on a clear, sunny day. This makes it difficult to pick out celestial features since there are no “markers” to go by. The night sky, in contrast, has the benefit of possessing constellations to navigate by.
Yet tomorrow, the moon will be up during the daytime, which makes all of the difference in the world. The day sky is, in fact, just as transparent in daylight as it is on a dark night. If you know exactly where to look and have something to focus your eyes on, you can see the brighter and larger planets in the blue sky.
So what planets can you see? You can spot Venus easily during the daytime. In fact, during Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration, large numbers of people in the crowd were able to see Venus over the Capitol Dome. Jupiter, which will be making an appearance tomorrow, is slightly more difficult to spot. It’s further from the sun, which means that it’s less well lit than Venus.
I’m hoping it will clear up here so I can try to spot Jupiter in the sky tomorrow. It’s supposed to rain today, so I don’t know if I can see the starts this evening, but I plan to give it a try.
I’m writing this post on a laptop computer that I bought in August 2008. It runs on Windows Vista. It used to be that I’d have to buy a new computer every couple of years, but I’ve had this one for more than four years and it’s showing no sign of breaking down or running out of memory. I do have a back-up laptop that is a bit newer, but I still like this one better.
The reason why I bring this up is that I’ve been seeing articles recently about the death of the PC and how pretty soon PCs will be replaced with other, more exciting gadgets. These rumors are based on sales data that shows people aren’t buying as many PC’s as they used to. This may be bad news for some corporations, but it’s good news for us customers.
At Slate, Will Oremus explains: “The Real Reason No One’s Buying PCs Anymore: They’ve Gotten Too Good.”
It’s certainly true that people are increasingly spending money on new tablets and smartphones rather than new computers. But reports of the PC’s demise are grossly exaggerated. If the PC is dead, what am I typing this on? If the PC is dead, what are office-workers all over the world sitting in front of all day while they work? The reason people aren’t buying new PCs isn’t that they don’t need a PC. It’s that, for the most part, they’re getting along just fine with the one they already have.
In the past, you had to replace your computer every few years or else it would become hopelessly bogged down trying to deal with the latest desktop applications, operating systems, and Internet technologies. But thanks to Moore’s Law, your average PC’s processing power now exceeds most people’s daily needs by a healthy margin. Meanwhile, the rise of the cloud has reduced the need for extra memory. And as ZDNet’s Simon Bisson explains in depth, a strategic shift by Microsoft in recent years has meant that you no longer need to buy a new machine in order to take advantage of each new operating system. The result is that PCs have become more durable than smartphones and tablets, which are still puny enough in their powers that you have to upgrade them regularly.
PC makers probably didn’t mean for that to happen, but there you have it. They’re a victim of unplanned non-obsolescence.
Joseph Cannon has also weighed in on the rumored death of the PC.
…the makers of desktop computers and laptops must learn that today’s machines have become really, really good — better than most people need. They do not require replacement every few years. Maybe once a decade. When you buy a high-quality raincoat, paintbrush, coffee table or carpet, you’re investing in something built to last. So too, now, with computers.
Here’s another reason PC sales have slowed: Windows 8 blows like a tornado and sucks like a black hole.
I’m not even that wild about Windows 7 myself.
Have you noticed I’m avoiding the political news this morning? I’m still flummoxed by James Carville’s comments yesterday on Morning Joe about President Obama’s priorities (courtesy of Talking Points Memo).
Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Carville said he thinks Obama relishes the commendation he’s received from deficit hawks like New York Times columnist David Brooks and host Joe Scarborough. Asked by co-host Mike Barnicle how the President will respond to the outrage from the left-wing of the Democratic Party, Carville was blunt.
“I think he likes that,” Carville said. “I don’t think he’s upset. He got a very favorable Washington Post editorial. ‘Morning Joe,’ very favorable commentary right here. I guarantee you if he’s up watching this right now. Got a good David Brooks column. He’s kind of excited this morning. This is kind of important to him.”
Folks at DailyKos interpreted this as Carville agreeing with Obama (see comments and prepare for some Hillary hate as well). I don’t think so. I think Carville sees this as idiotic. He doesn’t much care for Obama, and he’s outing the president as a pathetic media suckup.
The sad thing is that I believe Carville. I really think Obama is completely so much in thrall to the DC elite that he’s willing to hurt his own reputation in order to please them. Obama is the opposite of Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt reveled in insulting the establishment, especially the bankers. Obama releases a draconian austerity budget, celebrates the reviews from the Washington Post and David Brooks, and the next day he meets with Wall Street criminals Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein, among others.
I need to work out a new psychological profile of Barack Obama. What is his deal anyway? During the 2012 campaign, he began to talk like a liberal and a populist. The more he got out with real people, the more he seemed to be able to empathize with them a little bit. But as soon as he was reelected and went back to the Village bubble, he reverted to form. In the 1970s Obama would have been a Republican and considerably to the right of Richard Nixon.
The fascinating thing is that I think Obama actually understands that his policies are going to hurt the economy. He has said repeatedly that he thinks stimulating the economy is important. He also knows that health care costs are the real problem and that Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit. Back in January, John Boehner told the Wall Street Journal about a “frustrating” conversation he had with Obama.
What stunned House Speaker John Boehner more than anything else during his prolonged closed-door budget negotiations with Barack Obama was this revelation: “At one point several weeks ago,” Mr. Boehner says, “the president said to me, ‘We don’t have a spending problem.’ ” [….]
The president’s insistence that Washington doesn’t have a spending problem, Mr. Boehner says, is predicated on the belief that massive federal deficits stem from what Mr. Obama called “a health-care problem.” Mr. Boehner says that after he recovered from his astonishment—”They blame all of the fiscal woes on our health-care system”—he replied: “Clearly we have a health-care problem, which is about to get worse with ObamaCare. But, Mr. President, we have a very serious spending problem.” He repeated this message so often, he says, that toward the end of the negotiations, the president became irritated and said: “I’m getting tired of hearing you say that.”
Nevertheless, as we have seen, Obama’s budget would increase health care costs, wouldn’t raise much revenue, and would drastically increase income inequality. The only thing that is saving us from Obama’s folly is that Republicans are even nuttier in their obsession with avoiding tax increases on rich people.
There has to be a psychological explanation for Obama’s obsession with trying to win over people who hate and despise him and will never like him no matter what he does. I assume it at least partially goes back to his childhood and being abandoned by both of his parents. Obama even chooses advisers who will convince him to advance Republican policies!
At the moment, it looks to me as if Obama has made himself a lame duck with this budget, even if it never gets a vote (and it probably won’t). Democratic candidates will have to distance themselves from him if they want to be elected or reelected. Why would he do that to himself? And I reject the idea that he’s just evil incarnate as some people who drop in here occasionally seem to think.
I’m sure Obama must care about his legacy, but somehow he still can’t screw up the courage to buck the establishment that really doesn’t like and and never will. As of now, it looks like he could go down in history as a very bad President–maybe even as bad as George W. Bush. But we’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out over the next few years.