One of the strangest objects in the outer Solar System was classified as a dwarf planet last week and given the name Haumea. This designation makes Haumea the fifth designated dwarf planet after Pluto, Ceres, Eris, and Makemake. Haumea’s smooth but oblong shape make it extremely unusual. Along one direction, Haumea is significantly longer than Pluto, while in another direction Haumea has an extent very similar to Pluto, while in the third direction is much smaller. Haumea’s orbit sometimes brings it closer to the Sun than Pluto, but usually Haumea is further away.
It may be just a dwarf planet, but I think it’s interesting enough to visit on the Grand Tour. Who knows what we might find on that (probably) icy planet and its two little moons?
I haven’t had time to post any of the California marriage awesomeness lately, but I couldn’t pass this Union Tribune article up:
San Diego County issued a record 230 marriage licenses today and performed 144 wedding ceremonies on the first day gay and lesbian couples were allowed to marry in San Diego.
County officials did not break down the license requests or the ceremonies by whether the couples were same-sex or heterosexual, but many gay couples were seen getting married Tuesday by the media on this landmark day.
Congrats to the happy couples! Know anyone who’s getting married thanks to the new ruling?
“Almost every week I have to do chores and when I open the closet door, I have this avalanche of plastic bags falling on top of me,” he said. “One day, I got tired of it and I wanted to know what other people are doing with these plastic bags.”The answer: not much. So he decided to do something himself.
He knew plastic does eventually degrade, and figured microorganisms must be behind it. His goal was to isolate the microorganisms that can break down plastic — not an easy task because they don’t exist in high numbers in nature.
Daniel proceeded to use iterated experiments and the good old scientific method to extract the most effective bacteria and determine the optimal conditions for degrading polyethylene bags. The result was an amazing 43% degradation over six weeks, much better than the thousand years it would ordinarily take to break down the plastic. (Be sure to read the whole story for some inspiring bits of detective work.)
The best part?
Industrial application should be easy, said Burd. “All you need is a fermenter . . . your growth medium, your microbes and your plastic bags.”
The inputs are cheap, maintaining the required temperature takes little energy because microbes produce heat as they work, and the only outputs are water and tiny levels of carbon dioxide — each microbe produces only 0.01 per cent of its own infinitesimal weight in carbon dioxide, said Burd.
Well done, Daniel. I hope to see a plastic-bag compost bin on the market in a few years, or at least a Wired How-To on making one for myself. (via Mother Jones)
Domestic partnerships are not a good enough substitute for marriage, the justices ruled 4-3 in an opinion.
The cases were brought by the city of San Francisco, two dozen gay and lesbian couples, Equality California and another gay rights group in March 2004 after the court halted San Francisco’s monthlong same-sex wedding march that took place at Mayor Gavin Newsom’s direction.
“Today the California Supreme Court took a giant leap to ensure that everybody – not just in the state of California, but throughout the country – will have equal treatment under the law,” said City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who argued the case for San Francisco.
Let’s hope so. Even the Governator understands that continuing to fight progress isn’t doing anyone any good:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has twice vetoed legislation that would’ve granted marriage rights to same-sex couples, said in a statement that he respected the court’s decision and “will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling.”