First Light, Last Light

 

lor_0298959350_0x630_sci_1Take a look at the image on right: that’s the surface of Pluto, as rendered by the New Horizons probe earlier this week. In less than 24 hours, the probe will zip past the diminutive little world, snapping pictures that will put this one to shame (though, sadly, of only one of its sides). Already, we’ve nicknamed features on Pluto that we didn’t know existed and found new mysteries to uncover. Best of all, we’ll have new data to pour over and marvel at for months, if not years, because of the incredibly slow bandwidth available to the probe. So while that image will never be among the best taken of Pluto, it will always be special because it was among the first.

Lion_in_the_garden_of_Palmyra_Archeological_Museum,_2010-04-21Now, contrast that never-before-seen-by-human-eyes image with the one to the left. That is the Lion of al-Lat, a 1st century statue that had survived 2,000 years of war and history — until being intentionally demolished by the Islamic State last month. This is just one example of IS’s spree of destruction, which follows the similar iconoclasm of the Taliban, who famously destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan. That picture is important because, sadly, it is among the last ever taken of it.

It’s worth noting that the Islamic State is destroying icons that have not only survived under Islam for more than a millennia, but that were largely cared for and cherished until these atavistic barbarians arrived on the scene. When modern Islamists, however, find themselves with excess explosives and a desire to make headlines, they demolish ancient artifacts, stealing them from history and ensuring they are never again seen by human eyes. Given the same resources, however, we send a piano-sized computer and camera to see things never before viewed by human eyes — and to share those pictures with every human being on the planet.

Cultivating an advanced society is about much more than tending to artifacts and exploring the heavens, of course. But if anyone has need for a quick reminder of the traits that distinguish civilization from barbarism, he need look little further.

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  1. Gödel's Ghost Inactive
    Gödel's Ghost
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    There is good and there is evil.

    Good reduces entropy. Evil increases it.

    There. That’s the law and the prophets. All the rest is merely commentary.

    /me drops mic

    • #1
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: When modern Islamists, however, find themselves with excess explosives and a desire to make headlines, they demolish ancient artifacts, stealing them from history and ensuring they are never again seen by human eyes.

    Modern? What happened to the nose of the Great Sphinx? This is nothing new.

    • #2
  3. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    Discussion question: How is this impulse different from the current mania to remove ALL traces of the Confederacy (not just flags from public spaces)?

    • #3
  4. user_6236 Member
    user_6236
    @JimChase

    History is erased every day, sometimes by design, sometimes by neglect.

    History is made every day, in much the same way, although less by neglect than by the simple passage of time.

    There are plenty of modern Westerners about the business of erasing history.

    One does not need to be sanguine about the cycle or the proclivity, but neither should one be surprised.

    • #4
  5. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @OmegaPaladin

    Arahant:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: When modern Islamists, however, find themselves with excess explosives and a desire to make headlines, they demolish ancient artifacts, stealing them from history and ensuring they are never again seen by human eyes.

    Modern? What happened to the nose of the Great Sphinx? This is nothing new.

    To the best of my knowledge, the story about it be demolished or shot off with a cannon is apocryphal.

    The Bamiyan Buddhas and Palmyra survived being under the rule of Muslims for centuries.  ISIS is something even more totalitarian that the Turks defeated at Vienna or Lepanto, even worse than the Caliphs who conquered these areas to begin with.  They are totalitarian fanatics equal to the Nazis.

    ISIS must be ground down and crushed, or they will be at our throats.

    • #5
  6. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Nick Stuart:Discussion question:How is this impulse different from the current mania to remove ALL traces of the Confederacy (not just flags from public spaces)?

    Answer: It is not. Both are being conducted by movements of the Left, where total governmental immersion is desired. In one case, the group claims to be on a Mission from God.

    • #6
  7. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    This is why I will forever be grateful to General Al-Sisi in Egypt. They may not have said it out loud, but I have no doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood would have set its sights on the pyramids eventually.

    • #7
  8. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    As happy as I am about the Pluto pics (I’ve been looking forward to this since New Horizons launched), I’m still disappointed that it’s only a flyby and not a dedicated Pluto mission. NASA cheaped out on this one. This should have been two separate missions. One for a dedicated probe for Pluto that drops into orbit and gives us really good pics… akin to the kind we got from the gas giant probes… and monitors Pluto ’till the fuel runs out. Considering that Pluto’s orbit takes nearly 250 years to complete (and that it’s heading away from the sun and will freeze over), these are opportunities we won’t have again for centuries. The Kuiper Belt stuff should have gotten their own probe.

    • #8
  9. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @OmegaPaladin

    Umbra Fractus:This is why I will forever be grateful to General Al-Sisi in Egypt. They may not have said it out loud, but I have no doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood would have set its sights on the pyramids eventually.

    I’m not entirely certain on that.  They are fanatics and evil, but I’m not sure they would go after the pyramids.  I’m still glad he’s cracking down on them.

    • #9
  10. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    OmegaPaladin: To the best of my knowledge, the story about it be demolished or shot off with a cannon is apocryphal.

    Shot off with a cannon by Napoleon’s troops is certainly more than merely apocryphal, it is calumny.

    From what I have seen, many of the early depictions were fanciful and out of all proportion. The few done by engineers showed the nose gone in the early Eighteenth Century. Whether it was a Sufi extremist, as reported by a long-ago scholar may be apocryphal, but it certainly was done before European control of the area.

    • #10
  11. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    anonymous: Unfortunately, you can’t just “drop into orbit”.  New Horizons arrives at Pluto with a velocity of 13.8 kilometres per second.  This is almost twice the low Earth orbital velocity of 7.8 km/sec.  In order to cancel this velocity and go into orbit, New Horizons would need to burn more than twice the fuel it would take to place it into Earth orbit (because space storable propellants are not as efficient as those used for launches from Earth), and this would require an enormous spacecraft which the U.S. (nor any country) lacks a booster to launch from Earth.  I haven’t worked it out from the rocket equation, but you might be able to do it with a Saturn V, but the U.S. hasn’t had that capability since 1973.

    Would it be significantly easier to orbit either of the Ice Giants? I presume their greater mass and gravity wells — and significantly closer distances to earth — would mean you could use a lot less fuel.

    • #11
  12. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    anonymous: The distance from Earth doesn’t make much difference except for mission duration …

    Yikes! That’s what I was thinking, but I realize now it came out quite differently.

    Also, I forgot that Pluto is near perigee.

    ::facepalms:

    • #12
  13. Herbert E. Meyer Contributor
    Herbert E. Meyer
    @HerbertEMeyer

    If only our President would stand at a podium and — with a global audience only he can command — point out the difference between our efforts to see Pluto and ISIS’ destruction of ancient artifacts like the Lion of al-Lat.  It’s the sort of comparison that stops you dead in your tracks and makes you think — clearly.  It would have an enormous impact on young people in the Islamic world; these are precisely the people for whose loyalty we are competing with ISIS and the other radical Islamists.

    Alas……

    • #13
  14. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Nick Stuart:Discussion question:How is this impulse different from the current mania to remove ALL traces of the Confederacy (not just flags from public spaces)?

    Douglas:As happy as I am about the Pluto pics (I’ve been looking forward to this since New Horizons launched), I’m still disappointed that it’s only a flyby and not a dedicated Pluto mission. NASA cheaped out on this one. This should have been two separate missions. One for a dedicated probe for Pluto that drops into orbit and gives us really good pics… akin to the kind we got from the gas giant probes… and monitors Pluto ’till the fuel runs out. Considering that Pluto’s orbit takes nearly 250 years to complete (and that it’s heading away from the sun and will freeze over), these are opportunities we won’t have again for centuries. The Kuiper Belt stuff should have gotten their own probe.

    Well if we gave them more money they would do more stuff. Frankly I’m most excited about future Europa missions, along with our Planet finding telescopes.

    • #14
  15. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    anonymous:

    The above image of the face of Pluto which always faces its moon Charon (the two are tidally locked) is the highest resolution image of this face of Pluto we will probably see for decades. The closest approach to Pluto will be on the other side of the body, which rotates so slowly (once every 6 days and 9 hours), its rotation will be negligible during the fly-by. Nobody knows what the curiously shaped dark regions toward the bottom are, nor why the white regions that separate them are so evenly spaced. Unless we can make inferences from what we see on the other side, we won’t know for a long, long time.

    Well on the Moon the dark regions (or seas as Galileo described them) are areas where lava flows covered the surface. Could they not be the same for Pluto? Or is it that we believe Pluto is all ice? I thought it was a terrestrial world which would mean at one time near its formation it had molten rock. Though I don’t know much about Pluto (I guess few people do). I have always assumed it was sort of like our moon  in a way. Just really far away.

    • #15
  16. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Pluto’s average density is somewhere in the neighborhood of twice that of water. In comparison, ours is more than five times that of water. The Moon is about three times that of water.

    • #16
  17. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    anonymous:

    Unfortunately, you can’t just “drop into orbit”. New Horizons arrives at Pluto with a velocity of 13.8 kilometres per second. This is almost twice the low Earth orbital velocity of 7.8 km/sec. In order to cancel this velocity and go into orbit, New Horizons would need to burn more than twice the fuel it would take to place it into Earth orbit (because space storable propellants are not as efficient as those used for launches from Earth), and this would require an enormous spacecraft which the U.S. (nor any country) lacks a booster to launch from Earth. I haven’t worked it out from the rocket equation, but you might be able to do it with a Saturn V, but the U.S. hasn’t had that capability since 1973.

    Wasn’t it proposed to do Pluto Fast Flyby on a Russian Proton? Couldn’t that have done it?

    • #17
  18. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    new_horizons

    • #18
  19. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    anonymous:

    Douglas: Wasn’t it proposed to do Pluto Fast Flyby on a Russian Proton? Couldn’t that have done it?

    The Proton could have launched a fly-by mission, as was proposed for Pluto Fast Flyby, but it lacked the capacity to launch an orbiter. Pluto Fast Flyby would have launched two spacecraft, which would have allowed photographing both sides of Pluto and Charon at high resolution, while New Horizons will only be able to image one side of each world close-up.

    The payload capacity of the Proton (20.7 tonnes) and Atlas V 551 (18.8 tonnes) eventually used to launch New Horizons are essentially equivalent. (Payload capacities are for a launch to low Earth orbit, but scale directly to the escape trajectory used by New Horizons.)

    Jeb woulda found a way.

    • #19
  20. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    anonymous:

    The above image of the face of Pluto which always faces its moon Charon (the two are tidally locked) is the highest resolution image of this face of Pluto we will probably see for decades.

    It looks awfully familiar:

    Pluto_Charon_Side

    ;-)

    • #20
  21. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    anonymous:

    Misthiocracy: Jeb woulda found a way.

    I’m not so sure….

    That’s an unkermanned probe! If Jeb was onboard, there’d be no problem.

    ;-)

    • #21
  22. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Pluto_by_LORRI_and_Ralph,_13_July_2015

    One of the last shots before the actual flyby, which just happened a moment ago.

    • #22
  23. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    The engineers were shouting “USA! USA!” at the moment of closest approach. I’m getting annoyingly sentimental.

    • #23
  24. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    One of the last shots before the actual flyby, which just happened a moment ago.

    Thank goodness! I was very disappointed when John claimed that previous photo was the best we’d be getting from this sucka.

    (According to the news reports I’m reading, this one really is the closest, if not the final, photo of Pluto we’ll be getting from New Horizons.)

    • #24

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