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Archive for the ‘Sky and Science’ Category

Pretty interesting. Facebook announced today that it tracks the aggregate mood of the country, based on the negative or positive words that millions of Facebookers use in their updates. The blog where I first read of it, ReadWriteWeb, does some interesting probing into possible ramifications of this and of the data that Facebook is NOT sharing.

Turns out, for example, we were happier on Thanksgiving than on Christmas, according to their chart. And other tidbits are in there. I assume we’ll start to see periodic references to this in news stories that already bandy about “the mood of the country,” though Facebook users cannot be a wholly representative sample.

I’m fascinated by the study of happiness — as carried out by this professor, for one, at Cal State-Long Beach, whose Web site offers a questionnaire to evaluate your condition and thoughtful words on what makes up happiness. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes.

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Of course the travel guide says it’s incredibly hot (2000C) on the day side and super-cold (-200C) on the night side, but it’s still the first rocky planet confirmed outside our own solar system. The planet, CoRoT-7b, orbits the star CoRoT-7 in the Monoceros, or Unicorn, constellation. The names all get more sensible when you learn the planet was detected in 2008 by the CoRoT satellite.*

Or you could just call it “the Lava Planet,” which is sexier and easier to type. Also cool: It’s so close to its sun and moving so fast that its year is 20.4 hours.  So dress in layers, and hang on tight.

The Knight Science Journalism Tracker has a dry little report on how various news sources have, or have not, irresponsibly inflated the finding’s relevance to the search for alien life. There’s a good roundup of links that show the spectrum of reaction, scientific and non-.

*The satellite’s name apparently stands for COnvection, ROtation and planetary Transits, but that tips back over towards unintelligibility.

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Super-heavy element 112 was created a decade ago in a particle accelerator, and only four atoms of it have ever been observed.  Yet high school science classes will still have to memorize it, no doubt. They temporarily named it ununbium, but are still searching for a real name.

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