2019 in science so far

This year in science so far (click to zoom). Clockwise from top left:


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Hello again, little tree-kangaroo


The Wondiwoi tree-kangaroo (detail of an illustration by Peter Schouten)

National Geographic recently reported an interesting story about the Wondiwoi tree-kangaroo (Dendrolagus mayri). Until recently, this arboreal marsupial was known only from a single specimen collected in the Wondiwoi Peninsula of West Papua in 1928. It was thought to be extinct, and was listed on the “25 most wanted lost species” at lostspecies.org. But when an amateur expedition visited the dense mountain forests of the Wondiwoi Peninsula, there it was, living happily in the trees. A good-news story from the animal kingdom, for once.

Surprised to find kangaroos living in trees? There are a number of related species that do this, in the rainforests of New Guinea and northern Australia. In fact, members of the kangaroo family live in a range of different habitats (the rock-wallaby would be a less dramatic example).


Support for Kavanaugh vs support for Trump

Brett Kavanaugh has been in the news rather a lot lately. The chart above shows support for his appointment to the US Supreme Court, for various demographic groups, as per a 1 October Quinnipiac University Poll. This is compared to the 2016 Trump vote for those same groups, as per CNN exit polls (in both cases, some missing information had to be inferred using the data provided plus census data). The area of the circles shows the size of the various groups.

Responses to Kavanaugh seemed largely to follow partisan lines. Democrats mostly went one way, Republicans the other. However, white women seemed to support Kavanaugh less than expected, perhaps because they were more likely to believe the accusations made against him. Minority groups, on the other hand, were more supportive of Kavanaugh than of Trump, perhaps because of concerns about evidence, corroboration, and due process. Overall, it seems to almost balance out, though – I must say that I can’t see any support here for a “blue wave” at the November elections.


New Horizons status check

The New Horizons spaceprobe, having given us some lovely pictures of Pluto in 2015, is on its way to the Kuiper belt. But what is the Kuiper belt? Named after Dutch-American astronomer Gerard Kuiper, the Kuiper belt is much like the asteroid belt, but much larger, about 15 times further out from the Sun, and far less well understood.

Initially, New Horizons is headed for the rock, or perhaps pair of rocks, (486958) 2014 MU69, which NASA has nicknamed Ultima Thule. The space probe is due to reach it on January 1st (which will be just short of 13 years after its launch). Currently, New Horizons is 6,360,000,000 km or 5.9 light-hours from Earth, and has recently completed a course-correction manoeuvre.


ASC 3: The Mountains

Continuing my coverage of the American Solar Challenge (ASC) this coming July, here is the race route again (click to zoom, or check out Google Maps):


Route map, coloured by elevation (from −110 to 4,351 metres or −360 to 14,275 feet)

Notice those mountains! Here is the elevation profile for the route (constructed using elevation data from team 42). The two highlighted sections have average slopes of 1 in 39, which will be a tough climb (click to zoom):

And this is what they look like. Here is Red Canyon Scenic Overlook, coming out of Lander:


Photo by Teddy Pollard (image credit)


ASC 2: The Race to the Start

Continuing my coverage of the American Solar Challenge (ASC) this coming July, it’s worth remembering that the real race has been to design, build, and test cars prior to scrutineering on Friday July 6th. This chart shows progress to date, combining social media reports with submission of pre-event documents (see my annotated team status list for the numbers). It can be seen that some teams are still working on completing their cars, while others are ready to rock and roll.

And here are some construction memories. The chassis for Polytech Solar, the Russian team (89):

Appalachian State University (Sunergy, team 828) display the molds for their Cruiser:

Georgia Tech (team 49) add some finishing touches to their car:

Poly Montreal (Esteban, team 55) test their completed car:

ETS Quebec (Eclipse, team 101) summarise their whole build process: