Attack on Titan

NASA announced last week that it had selected the Dragonfly mission to explore the prebiotic organic chemistry and look for signs of life on Titan. At 3,200 miles (5,150 km) across, Titan is the largest moon orbiting Saturn and the second-largest natural satellite in the Solar System. Larger than both the Moon and the planet Mercury.

Image result for Titan

Because it is so far from the Sun, about 886 million miles (1.4 billion km), its surface temperature is minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 179 degrees Celsius). Its surface pressure is also 50% higher than Earth’s.

Titan has a dense, nitrogen-based atmosphere like Earth. Unlike Earth though, it has clouds and rain made of methane. The moon’s weather and surface processes have combined complex organics, energy, and water similar to those that may have sparked life on our planet. Other organics are formed in the atmosphere and fall like light snow.

The Mars rover-size, drone-like vehicle will have eight rotors and will fly to dozens of promising locations on Titan looking for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth.

Dragonfly will visit a world filled with a wide variety of organic compounds, which are the building blocks of life and could teach scientists about the origin of life itself. The rotorcraft will fly for miles across the organic sand dunes of Saturn’s largest moon, investigating the processes that shape Titan’s extraordinary environment.

It will take advantage of Titan’s dense atmosphere to become the first vehicle ever to fly its entire science payload to new places for repeatable and targeted access to surface materials.

During its 2.7-year baseline mission, Dragonfly will explore diverse environments from the organic dunes to the floor of an impact crater where liquid water and complex organic materials key to life once existed together for possibly tens of thousands of years.

Dragonfly is scheduled to launch in 2026 and reach Titan in 2034.

Conspiracy of Inaction

In 1945, President Harry Truman campaigned for a national health insurance plan that was attacked as “socialized medicine” by the American Medical Association (AMA). Truman’s response was true then and continues to resonate now:

“Under the plan I suggest, our people would continue to get medical and hospital services just as they do now—on the basis of their own voluntary decisions and choices. Our doctors and hospitals would continue to deal with disease with the same professional freedom as now. There would, however, be this all-important difference: whether or not patients get the services they need would not depend on how much they can afford to pay at the time.”

The AMA capitalized on the public’s fears of communism and even accused Truman’s administration of being “followers of the Moscow party line.” Lobbying and marketing efforts by the AMA defeated Truman’s plans for universal health care.

Today, we can build Medicare for All and make health care a human right for everyone in the United States. The Medicare for All Act of 2019 would deliver care and peace of mind that patients desperately need. Under Medicare for All, your health care will not depend on whether your state expanded Medicaid; whether you earn “too much” money to qualify for federal help, or whether your employer-sponsored insurance decides to arbitrarily change its network of providers.

Rather than support Medicare for All and put patients before profits, the AMA has entered a new conspiracy of inaction: the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future (PAHCF). This group includes the most powerful profiteers in health care: the insurance industry, pharmaceutical corporations, for-profit hospitals, and patient advocacy groups funded by all of the above.

PAHCF follows the AMA’s longstanding traditions of using fear and misinformation to attack Medicare for All. PAHCF and the AMA say Medicare for All will create a “one size fits all” system of health care. This is total nonsense.

Doctors are neither so stupid nor so cruel as to abandon their knowledge, skills, and ethics to reduce the complexity of medicine into a uniform rubber stamp. Under Medicare for All, patients will continue to receive personalized care, without the anxieties over cost. What’s really “one size fits all” is the line of attack on Medicare for All and its predecessors. The AMA’s lobbyists and marketing have repeatedly deployed the same scare tactics about America’s “descent to communism.” They were wrong then and they’re wrong now.

Weaker expansions of health care like Medicare for America and Medicaid buy-in are also pilloried by PAHCF and the AMA. Led by Lauren Crawford Shaver, a former staffer from Hillary Clinton’s campaign, PAHCF has attacked Medicare X. That policy is sponsored by Senator Tim Kaine, Clinton’s former running mate.

If even the smallest tinkering with the status quo is unsatisfactory, then it becomes abundantly clear that the AMA and their corporate friends at PAHCF are determined to protect every single ill-gotten dollar of their profits, even at the expense of patients’ lives. Health justice, equity, and peace of mind for struggling families are nowhere on their agenda.

Everyday people must fight the injustices of profiteers in our health care. The AMA does not speak for the thousands of doctors who want high-quality, equitable, and just health care for patients through Medicare for All. Millions of families are demanding members of Congress stand up to the lobbyists, call out misinformation, and reject campaign contributions from the conspiracy of inaction thriving off patients’ misery.

Your Halloween PSA

noThere was a time when the safety tips you heard around Halloween were meant to keep you from eating razor blade-stuffed apples or getting jumped while trick-or-treating. But those quaint little concerns have given way to entirely new terrors in the age of social media and oversharing. Now if there’s any one warning you need to heed before heading out to celebrate Halloween, it’s this: be careful of the costume you’re wearing. It would be easy to say simply, “Don’t dress like an asshole,” but there are more than a few problems with a statement like that.

First of all, humor is subjective, so if you’re wearing a costume that’s supposed to push the envelope of good taste in the name of getting a laugh, it’s tough to tell what’s considered over-the-line and what isn’t (and no, the indignation of the easily offended isn’t necessarily a good barometer).

Second, it’s long been a Halloween tradition to reach for the most timely reference when trying to come up with a morbidly inappropriate costume, which means that at every Halloween event you’re bound to find at least a few people dressed as whichever celebrity died that year or whoever wound up in the news recently for dubious reasons. To this day I’m convinced that the real reason women starting dressing like witches is that it was the big gag costume the Halloween after the Salem witch trials and the idea just stuck.

The problem is that whatever you’re wearing for Halloween these days (tactful, tasteless or anything between) there’s a good chance it’s going to be seen by far more people than the small crowd at your office party.

A couple of years ago a 22-year-old Michigan woman named Alicia Lynch saw her life torn in two when the picture she’d tweeted of herself dressed as a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing went viral. An image that was meant for maybe a couple hundred followers was circulated to millions and in the resulting maelstrom Lynch received death threats (as is tradition on Twitter), was fired from her job and ultimately had to go into hiding. All of this because she’d worn a costume that people thought was offensive.

I’m not going to get into a debate about whether a Bill Cosby costume is innately despicable, given that it’s up to each person to decide what he or she finds funny and Halloween is by its very nature the one day of the year in which the reins are loosed on polite society.

You want to be that transgressive and aren’t worried about potential blowback, have at it. But know that not only are you pretending to be a (likely) serial rapist but if you happen to be a white guy (or girl) who slaps on blackface to try to pull off that kind of costume you’re gonna be called out for being a racist. And you’re probably going to deserve it.

That’s kind of what I’m getting at here: If you cross a line now, particularly if you revel in that line-crossing by posting a picture online, there’s a good chance your face and Twitter screen-name will wind up not only scattered to the farthest reaches of the internet but that lengthy blog posts and think-pieces will call you out personally and Keith Olbermann will officially dub you one of the worst people in the world.

I personally don’t have an much of an issue with tasteless Halloween costumes. While blackface is pretty racist and incredibly hard to justify, no one should have to worry that if they offend someone with their costume that person will threaten their life and basically destroy them. That’s a ridiculously disproportionate response. But by this point I’ve kind of given up and have just come to accept that nothing can be done to stop the Internet Outrage Machine on social media once it gets wound up.

In other words, if you want to dress as Bill Cosby for Halloween and decide to post a smiling photo of yourself in your full get-up on Twitter or Instagram, you need to expect what the response will probably be. Not saying you can’t wear a really tasteless gag costume; just saying that if you put it up online you should remember that it’s going out everywhere.

You’re going to get called on it. And you probably deserve it, if for no other reason than being stupid. And I guess that’s really what it comes down to, just try really hard not to be stupid.

There’s a Philae Comet Alien Conspiracy Theory, Because of Course There Is

As with everything from the moon landing to the death of Elvis, an alternative version of “what really happened” as the Philae probe landed on comet 67P did not take long to emerge.

According to an email published on the website, which does a regular trade in alien sightings, the mission was part of a European Space Agency and Nasa cover-up to disguise the comet’s true alien nature. The email, allegedly from a secret whistle-blowing employee of the ESA, accuses the agency of “blatant cover-ups” in wanting to land on the speeding comet and attaches photos which claim to reveal the “true inner workings of Comet 67P”.

It states:

Do not think for ONE MOMENT that a space agency would suddenly decide to spend billions of dollars to build and send a spacecraft on a 12-year journey to simply take some close-up images of a randomly picked out comet floating in space.

Some 20 years ago Nasa began detecting radio bursts from an unknown origin out in space. It would later be known that these had likely come from the direction of the now named comet 67P. It does show signs on its outside of machine like parts and unnatural terrain.

Ending on an ominous note, the letter adds: “Whatever this object is, it did not ask to be found or scrutinised.” (cue dramatic music sting)

This is far from the only extra-terrestrial conspiracy theory put forward about 67P and the ESA mission. In September, BPEarthWatch published a video showing “brand new, hi-res” images. Taken from the Rosetta spacecraft, they appeared to show two UFOs flying over the comet and a transmission tower-like structure built on the surface, potentially emitting the mysterious radio signals which have been picked by the ESA. “These images are not normal,” says the video voiceover.

The ESA’s confirmation that the comet had been emitting a “mystery song” has fuelled theories that it is in fact an alien ship and the warbling is an extra-terrestrial attempt at communication.

Sin Ribbon Etsy Sale

My good friend Sin Ribbon is running a 10% off all stock sale along with free shipping on any order of $40 or more [promo code: 40FREESHIP] on her Etsy shop . This is to help raise money after a recent house burglary.

So if you’re in the market for dark and cosmic illustrations, original comics, and/or handmade sketchbooks (her indie comic Persephone in Underland issue 1 comes highly recommended), then check it out!

Sale runs through Nov. 15th.