Well That’s Weird…

The South Pole-Aitken basin, the largest crater in the Solar System, is a gigantic impact structure on the far side of the Moon. Data from NASA’s lunar spacecraft points to the existence of a large excess of mass of about 2.18*1018 kg (about five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii) in the lunar mantle underneath the basin. According to new research, this mass anomaly may contain metal from a massive asteroid that crashed into the Moon and formed the crater.

The South Pole-Aitken basin is oval-shaped, as 1,600 miles (2,500 km) wide and 8.1 miles (13 km) deep. Despite its size, it cannot be seen from Earth because, you know, it is on the far side of the Moon.

Researchers measured and analyzed small changes in the strength of gravity around the Moon, using data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. When they combined that with lunar topography data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, they discovered the unexpectedly large amount of mass hundreds of miles underneath the South Pole-Aitken basin.

The dense mass, whatever it is, wherever it came from, is weighing the basin floor downward by more than half a mile.

Computer simulations of large asteroid impacts suggest that, under the right conditions, an iron-nickel core of an asteroid may be dispersed into the lunar upper mantle during an impact.

The findings appear in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

All Glory to Dear Leader

Well, it’s happening. The Washington, D.C., mayor and U.S. Park Police have confirmed that Donald Trump will be commandeering the 4th of July to give his own speech at the Lincoln Memorial. The formerly nonpartisan and blessedly uncontroversial holiday celebration, featuring one of the most-watched fireworks displays in the nation, is going to get a big ol’ dose of Trump’s comb-over crammed into it.

This isn’t going to go well…

This has been an obsession for Lord Dampnut. He wanted to have a gargantuan, North Korea-style military parade of tanks and missile launchers and whatnot. Once dissuaded from that, it was going to be a Veterans Day military parade, and since that, too, has proved to be a tough sell, he’s now settled on borrowing Washington, D.C.’s, Fourth of July celebration for his own purposes.

The fireworks display will be moved, because he wants it moved. There may or may not be additional “entertainers” added. The crowd control measures have to be completely redesigned to accommodate the moves, and law enforcement and the Secret Service will have to add as-of-yet-unknown restrictions and closures in order to allow The Gröpenführer to give an open-air speech in front of one of the nation’s most famous monuments.

And this all has to be ready by (checks notes), yup, July 4, less than a month from now.

A couple of obvious questions remain. 1) With Trump personally in charge of the details, will it be a very public wrecking of an event previously lauded for its organizational competence and widespread appeal? And 2) is there even the slightest possibility Trump can refrain from turning his supposed speech about America into a speech about the glory of Donald Trump and the vicious un-Americanness of his enemies?

The answers are 1) probably, and 2) not bloody likely.

If you plan on drinking that evening, start early.

Could Moons Contain Life?

According to new research, exomoons (natural satellites of planets outside our Solar System) could offer another clue about the pool of alien worlds that may be home to life.

Only a small proportion of exoplanets are likely to be able to sustain life, existing in the habitable zone of their stars. But some planets, especially large gas giants, may harbor moons which contain liquid water.

These moons can be internally heated by the gravitational pull of the planet they orbit, which can lead to them having liquid water well outside the normal habitable zones of systems that scientists are trying to find Earth-like planets in.

Researchers looked at the possibility of exomoons orbiting J1407b, a large gas giant believed to have an enormous ring system. J1407b circles a 16-million-year-old Sun-like star approximately 434 light-years away from Earth. The planet’s mass is thought to be in the range of about 10 to 40 Jupiter masses.

The rings of J1407b are shown eclipsing the young Sun-like star J1407. Image credit: Ron Miller.

J1407b

Scientists ran computer simulations to model the rings around J1407b, which are 200 times larger than those around Saturn. Gravitational forces between particles were calculated and used to update the positions, velocities, and accelerations in the computer models of J1407b and its ring system. They then added a moon that orbited at various ratios outside of the rings to test whether this caused gaps to form where they expected.

The findings revealed that while the orbiting moon did have an effect on the scattering of particles along the ring edge, the expected gaps in the ring structure were unlikely to be caused by the gravitational forces of a currently unseen moon orbiting outside J1407b’s rings.

The paper was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The Battle of El Paso Part II

The city of El Paso, TX has sent Donald Trump’s reelection campaign an arrears notice for a $470,000 rally bill, ABC News reports. Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, on the other hand, has already paid his $28,630 tab to El Paso for a city event to officially launch his campaign six weeks later.

El Paso charged Donald J. Trump for President Inc. $470,000 for his February 11 “Make America Great Again” rally. The bill was due April 24, but the campaign hasn’t paid a dime. Some city costs incurred for Trump’s rally included $381,000 for extra police and $61,000 for fire department services.

Trump and the Trump Organization have a long history of not paying their bills and have been the target of several lawsuits in bids to collect money. Trump Organization properties have declared bankruptcy six times.

The city has threatened to tack on a late-payment penalty that could result in another $100,000 in costs. Late penalties are probably something contributors aren’t thrilled to absorb. If the debt is unpaid, Trump could also be blocked from holding another campaign rally in the city.

The Trump campaign has insinuated it’s being overcharged, a common tactic Lord Dampnut uses to try to get out of paying bills. Michael Glassner, Trump Campaign CEO, told ABC: “We are reviewing” the bill.

Workers Unite

Americans are not happy. And for good reason: We continue to suffer financial stress caused by decades of flat income. On top of that, every time we make the slightest suggestion that the system might be working in our favor, the rich and powerful tell us to shut up because it’s actually all our own fault.

The one percenters tell us to just work harder, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and stop bellyaching. Just get a second college degree, a second skill, a second job. Just send the spouse to work, downsize, and take a staycation instead of a real vacation. Or better yet, don’t take one at all, just work harder and longer and better.

The barrage of blaming has worked, workers believe they deserve censure, and that’s a big part of the reason so many are unhappy. If only, they think, they could work harder and longer and better, they would get ahead. They bear the shame. They don’t blame the system: the Supreme Court, the Congress, the president. And yet, it is the system, the American system, which has conspired to crush everyone who isn’t already rich and/or powerful.

Sure, unemployment is low and the stock market is up. But skyrocketing stocks benefit only the top 10 percent of Americans who own 84 percent of stocks. And while more people are employed now than during the Great Recession, the vast majority of Americans haven’t had a real raise since 1979. Forty years ago!

But if Americans would just work harder, everything would be dandy, right?

No. Not right. Americans already work really, really hard. A third of Americans work a side hustle, driving an Uber or selling crafts on Etsy. American workers take fewer vacation days. They get 14, but typically take only 10. The highest number of workers in five years report they don’t expect to take a vacation at all this year. And Americans work longer hours than their counterparts in other countries.

Americans labor 137 more hours (almost 3 ½ weeks) per year than Japanese workers, 260 (6 ½ weeks) more than Brits, and 499 more hours (12 ½ weeks!) than the French, according to the International Labor Organization.

The longer hours aren’t because American workers are laggards on the job either. They’re very productive. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates that the average American worker’s productivity has increased 400 percent since 1950!

If pay had kept pace with productivity, as it did in the three decades after the end of World War II, American workers would be making 400 percent more. But they’re not. Wages have flatlined for four decades when adjusted for inflation.

That means stress. Forty percent of workers say they don’t have $400 for an unexpected expense. Twenty percent can’t pay all of their monthly bills. More than a quarter of adults skipped needed medical care last year because they couldn’t afford it. A quarter of adults have no retirement savings.

Despite the right-wing’s attempts to pound that into Americans’ heads, it’s not the solution. Americans are clearly working harder and longer and better. The solution is to change the system, which is stacked against workers.

Workers are bearing on their backs tax breaks that benefit only the rich and corporations. They’re bearing overtime pay rules and minimum wage rates that haven’t been updated in more than a decade. They’re weighted down by U.S. Supreme Court decisions that hobble unionization efforts and kneecapped workers’ rights to file class-action lawsuits. They’re struggling under U.S. Department of Labor rules defining them as independent contractors instead of staff members. They live in fear as corporations threaten to offshore their jobs.

The administration, the Supreme Court, and right-wingers in Congress grovel before corporations and the rich. Look at the tax break they gave one percenters in 2017. Corporations got the biggest cut in history, their rate sledgehammered down from 35 percent to 21 percent. That doesn’t even take into account loopholes and other dodges that corporations use. Last month, it was widely reported that dozens of the largest American companies paid zero taxes on their profits.

The White House Council of Economic Advisers predicted the corporate tax cut would put an extra $4,000 in every worker’s pocket. They claimed that corporations would use their tax cut money to hand out raises and bonuses to workers. That didn’t happen. Just as many critics of the tax bill predicted. It was an easy prediction because corporate tax cuts have never led to increased wages for employees outside of the executive officer tier. Workers on average received a big fat extra $6.21 in their paychecks, for an annual total of a whopping $233. Corporations actually spent their tax breaks on stock buybacks, a record $1 trillion worth, artificially inflating their stock prices, which put more money in the pockets of rich CEOs and shareholders.