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Plasma Rockets, Killer Asteroids, and Fat Bears

Oh, the things you'll know!

I have a love/hate relationship with the internet.

Mostly love.

Before the Google age, if I wanted to know something and didn’t have the resource on hand, by pure reflex my thoughts turned to getting bundled up for a trip to the library and battling it out with the card catalogue. It took years for the reflex “just google it” to kick in.

Now, instead of making that trek, I can just sit on my ass and click that green, red, and yellow icon. And the universe of knowledge explodes under my fingertips.

The universe at my fingertips. Parallels and multiverses, too.

Don’t get me wrong. I love libraries, the smell of old bookbinding and paper, the sense of time suspended. But if the weather is icy, dank, and downright miserable, I’ll just hole up inside my ADHD-decorated office and smell the heat radiating from my computer, thank you.

So. I stumble across the most amazing stuff when I start poking through the world’s biggest library. Take this one. Like Jeff “Rocket Dick” Bezos, a physicist thinks she’s found a way to build a better mousetrap.

Plasma-based rocket thrusters have been around almost as long as I have, and that’s quite a long fucking while. Problem is, existing thrusters use electricity to push plasma particles out of a rocket’s ass and that’s fine, but you don’t get speed. This one uses magnetic fields, or more accurately, magnetic reconnection, and ejects plasmoids. Like solar flares. Bottom line though, is speed, speed, speed! 310 miles per second. Pretty peppy, if you ask me. Okay, it’s not exactly lightspeed, but I’ll get to Disneyland faster than the SR-71 Blackbird. BB can cross the U.S. coast-to-coast in 68 minutes. I’ll make in just over 3. Seconds, that is.

How do you save Earth from a killer asteroid? Throw a DART at it! In September NASA slammed a small spacecraft moving at over 14,000 per hour into an asteroid, shortening its orbital period around a larger asteroid by 32 minutes. Will 32 minutes save the planet? Don’t know, but don’t see why not. Earth’s got it’s Nikes on too, you know.

There’s a catch, though. You gotta spot the asteroid in time. Like the surprise baby that passed by in August. It wasn’t going to hit, but it was discovered just a few days before it waved at us from the passing lane. Or the one that zipped by us in 2019, and just 40,000 miles away. And it wasn’t spotted until the day it appeared. That’s like not finding out about a visit from your dreaded Cousin Ed until you peek through the curtains to see him walking up the driveway.

Playing DARTS with fat bears.

This has to be my favorite stumble. We all know bears have to eat up before taking that long winter sleep, right? They hang out by rivers and chow down on salmon. Well, in Alaska — the Brooks River in the Katmai National Park and Preserve, specifically — there’s a yearly competition where people vote for which bear is the fattest before it goes down for its shut-eye. And it’s a THING, you know? They’ve been doing this for 8 years, now.

Fat Bear Week 2022, over a million votes were cast. The 2022 winner, going by the monikers Bear Force One, Bearplane, and Bear 747, also won in 2020. That year, his weight was estimated at 1400 pounds. This year, he’s even bigger. And get this: Somebody didn’t want Bear Force One to win, so they stuffed the website’s ballot box for their favorite. I thought, “fuck, this sounds like the Hugos!”

I’m entering the contest in 2023. I luuuurve me some salmon. I know, I know. I won’t win, you don’t have to tell me.

But I’ll damn sure give dem critters a run for their money.

After all…

Fat Bottom Bears Make the Rockin’ World Go ‘Round!   

 

 

 

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