I have a very long to-do list today (including a delayed post for Double X Science, which I mention publicly to force myself to finish it), so I don’t know if I’ll have a regular post here or not. However, I do have some links for you, and a cat picture, ’cause that’s what the Internet is all about.
- Today is the Northern Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s also the Southern Summer Solstice, and we are close to perihelion, the closest Earth gets to the Sun during its elliptical orbit. However, our orbit is nearly circular, so the difference between perihelion and aphelion (the farthest from the Sun, occurring during the northern summer) is small. Not so for many exoplanets, as Caleb Scharf explains.
- I wrote about the discovery of two Earth-sized exoplanets yesterday; Emily Lakdawalla lays out exactly what scientists know, what they think are good guesses, and what is pure speculation about the Kepler-20 system.
- Deborah Blum (author of The Poisoner’s Handbook) and Jennifer Ouellette (AKA Jen Luc Piquant) have written about the science hiding in my favorite series of detective novels, the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy L. Sayers. Deborah’s post is on Strong Poison and Jennifer’s is on The Nine Tailors. My cat Harriet is named for Harriet Vane, Lord Peter’s love interest and occasional detecting partner in the series.
- General relativity may be a complicated theory mathematically, but it explains a beautiful phenomenon known as gravitational lensing, shown in today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day. (Here’s something I wrote and recorded on the subject earlier this year.)