When I was a kid, I used to love looking up at the stars through whatever telescope I could find. Eventually I stopped, because, like many other things in my life, I figured if I couldn’t see farther than anyone else, there wasn’t much of a point to it. This is obviously why I’m writing this story instead of the subject of it. Maybe there’s someone just like me on HD 40307 g. A team of researchers from the UK’s University of Hertfordshire Centre for Astrophysics Research, led by Mikko Tuomi, have located what may be a planet with life-sustaining similarities to our own.
Have you ever found a hole in the ground, and wanted to stick your hand in it, but you were advised not to by your parents, lest you get bitten by something? If the answer is yes, then I ask you, “What did you find in the hole?” Because I’m pretty sure you did it anyway. And if so, you have something in common with Brian Cox, keyboard player (with the band D Ream) turned particle physicist and BBC television host.
The popular and entertaining Cox, along with comedian and amateur astronomer Dara Ó Briain, hosts the BBC’s Stargazing Live, an obviously live three-night broadcast where each night is dedicated to a different aspect of outer space, sometimes with a guest. For an episode that aired in January, Cox wanted to focus on a newly discovered planet, Threapleton Holmes B, on the extreme off chance of communicating with alien life. He wanted to use the radio telescope in Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire to listen in on the planet.
On Wednesday morning’s BBC Radio 6 Music breakfast show, Cox told presenter Shaun Keaveny that the BBC tried shooting his plans down, saying impromptu contact with aliens would go against health and safety guidelines. They told him they would “need to go through the regulations and health and safety and everything in case we discover a signal from an alien civilization.” Ó Briain says, “The BBC doesn’t even have an ET policy. Neither did the UN. Only the Vatican did.”
What do we want? Firefly! When do we want it? All the time, but it’s complicated! Next month marks the tenth anniversary of the date that Firefly ended its initial run on FOX. People were disappointed for a while, but thought, “Hey, that’s what happens sometimes.” And then FOX put Family Guy back on the air a couple of years later and people realized, “Wait, fuck FOX.” (There’s probably more to it than that.)
Well, after years of prequel/sequel comic books, fan-made tributes, winking nods on Fillion’s Castle, Joss Whedon’s international fame, and numerous comic-convention cast appearances, the Serenity crew will finally be reuniting en masse for the first time for a television audience. The reunion special, titled Firefly: Browncoats Unite, was filmed during the Firefly panel at Comic-Con this past summer, and it will air this Sunday, November 11, at 10 p.m. (eastern) on the Science Channel, after an all-day marathon airing the entire series run. But you already knew about that, being a fan and all. However, you may not know that more footage comes to those who wait. And tweet.
Like the weather report from George Carlin’s hippy dippy weatherman Al Sleet, some information you run across just looks you right in the eye and says, “I am the most obvious piece of information you could ever imagine hearing today.” For example: evolution. But for today, that information is coming from Lisa M. Powell and Binh T. Nguyen, professors from the University of Chicago’s School of Public Health and Department of Economics, respectively. Their 2003-2008 data, pooled from the National Health and Nutrition Survey, pulls the metaphorical curtain back, uncovering the mind-shattering information that children who have a meal at any kind of restaurant end up eating and drinking crappier food than they would at home, and more of it.
Understand that my mocking tone is in no way judgmental of Powell and Nguyen’s efforts, nor to say that the information they gleaned is at all without a necessary use. The study, published online by Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, draws a bold circle around something we all knew was a frightening problem to begin with: Stay-Puft Marshmallow Children. Taking soda machines away from schools is a great lean forward in the right direction, but the major inlets for calorie consumption will always be fast food joints, followed by traditional restaurants. I don’t think there’s anything in there about the moronic choices to take playgrounds away from some fast food places, but that isn’t helping.