Chinese rocket tumbling uncontrolled back to Earth

A large segment of a Chinese rocket is expected to make an uncontrolled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere on the weekend, but Beijing has downplayed fears and said there is a very low risk of any damage.

A Long March-5B rocket launched the first module of China’s new space station into Earth’s orbit on April 29. Its 18-tonne main segment is now in freefall and experts have said it is difficult to say precisely where and when it will re-enter the atmosphere.

Re-entry is expected to be around 2300 GMT on Saturday, according to the Pentagon, with a window of nine hours either side.

Chinese authorities have said most of the rocket components would likely be destroyed on re-entry.

“The probability of causing harm… on the ground is extremely low,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters on Friday.

Although there has been fevered speculation over exactly where the rocket—or parts of it—will land, there is a good chance any debris that does not burn up will just splash down into the ocean, given that the planet is 70 percent water.

“We’re hopeful that it will land in a place where it won’t harm anyone,” said Pentagon spokesman Mike Howard.

Howard said the United States was tracking the rocket segment but “its exact entry point into the Earth’s atmosphere cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its re-entry”.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier said that the US military had no plans to shoot it down, and suggested that China had been negligent in letting it fall out of orbit.

“Given the size of the object, there will necessarily be big pieces left over,” said Florent Delefie, an astronomer at the Paris-PSL Observatory.

“The chances of debris landing on an inhabited zone are tiny, probably one in a million.”

In 2020, debris from another Long March rocket fell on villages in the Ivory Coast, causing structural damage but no injuries or deaths.

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said that although there was no need to worry “too much”, the rocket’s design needed a re-think to stop such a scenario happening again.

“There is a real chance of damage to whatever it hits and the outside chance of a casualty,” he said.

“Having a ton of metal shards flying into the Earth at hundreds of kilometres per hour is not good practice, and China should redesign the Long-March 5B missions to avoid this.”


Charles Darwin’s Death

Famed British biologist Charles Darwin died 139 years ago on April 19. Often dubbed as the “Father of Evolution,” Darwin provided the world with explanations on the origin and evolution of living things on Earth.

Darwin was born on Feb. 12, 1809, in Shrewsbury, England, and was homeschooled with his sister Caroline until the age of 8. He was sent to a boarding school after spending a year at a day school. His father enrolled him to the University of Edinburgh to study medicine. There, he began collecting, hunting, and naturalizing rather than studying medicine, according to Charles Darwin Online.

After graduating in 1831, Darwin accepted a job on the HMS Beagle, a vessel that mapped South America’s coast over a span of two or three years. During the job, he took notes and sent samples and specimens to botanist John Henslow in England. After returning to England after five years on the vessel, Darwin found that his specimen collection amazed Henslow and geologists, zoologists, and botanists.

Darwin’s research during his job on HMS Beagle contributed to the development of theory of evolution and natural selection. He, however, took over 20 years to publish the revolutionary theory — in 1858. He was apparently concerned about the acceptance of his idea. However, the theory turned out to be groundbreaking and was eventually widely accepted in mainstream science.

A few quotes:

“The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic.”

“We can allow satellites, planets, suns, universe, nay whole systems of universes, to be governed by laws, but the smallest insect, we wish to be created at once by special act.”

“False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness.”

“At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace the savage races throughout the world.”

“A man who dares to waste one hour of his life has not discovered the value of life.”

“The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts.”

“It is a cursed evil to any man to become as absorbed in any subject as I am in mine.”

“A man’s friendships are one of the best measures of his worth.”

“A scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections, – a mere heart of stone.”

“False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness.”

#CharlesDarwin #EvolutionByNaturalSelection #FatherOfEvolution

Emile Durkheim

On this date in 1858, one of the most significant founders of sociology, David Emile Durkheim, was born in Epinal in Lorraine, France. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were prominent rabbis. Durkheim spent time in rabbinical school but broke with Judaism early in life (Emile Durkheim: An Introduction to Four Major Works by Robert Alun Jones, 1986). Durkheim excelled in school, earning his bachelor in letters and sciences in 1875, two years earlier than normal, from College d’Epinal. He was admitted to the prestigious École normale supérieure in 1879 and passed examinations to become a philosophy lecturer in 1882. He was appointed to the Faculty of Letters at Bordeaux to lecture on the “Science Sociale,” marking the first time sociology officially entered the French university system.

Durkheim founded the Année Sociologique in 1898, the first French social science journal, still in existence. In 1902, Durkheim was appointed chair of education at the Sorbonne in Paris. For a time, his courses were the only lectures required at the Sorbonne. Durkheim believed religion served a unique role in human life, and indeed shaped many social structures, but that its origins were in human society, not from a divine source (“Reasons people choose atheism,” BBC, Oct. 22, 2009). “Frequently described as a ‘secular pope,’ Durkheim was viewed by critics as an agent of government anti-clericalism” (Jones, 1986). Some of his greatest contributions to sociology include: The Division of Labour in Society (1893), Rules of the Sociological Method (1895), On the Normality of Crime (1895), Suicide (1897), Sociology and Its Scientific Domain (1900) and The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912). Published posthumously were other important works including Education and Sociology (1922), Sociology and Philosophy (1924) and Pragmatism and Sociology (1955). Overwork and the death of a beloved son in war (in 1916) had severe repercussions on Durkheim’s health. He suffered a stroke and died at the age of 59. He is buried in Paris. D. 1917.

“Religious force is nothing other than the collective and anonymous force of the clan.”
~ Emile Durkheim in The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 1912.

Nicolaus Copernicus‘s book “On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres” is added to the Index of Forbidden Books

Today in Science:

1616 – Nicolaus Copernicus‘s book On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres is added to the Index of Forbidden Books 73 years after it was first published.

Here’s Copernicus’s heliocentric model in the book’s manuscript. Note the Sun in the center with seven planets around it. The Index Librorum Prohibitorum was finally abolished as church law in 1965

Cosmological considerations in the general theory of relativity

Today in Science history —> On this day 104 years ago, Albert Einstein presented the paper “Kosmologische Betrachtungen zur allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie” (“Cosmological considerations in the general theory of relativity”) at the weekly meeting of the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin. The pivotal research, often overlooked amid Einstein’s many accomplishments, applied his newly minted general theory of relativity to the universe as a whole. The study of cosmology would never be the same again. Despite the shortcomings of Einstein’s model universe, the paper was a major advance at a time when many astronomers believed that the Milky Way constituted the entire universe.

#Science #Einstein

Apollo Disaster

Today in Space History —> On January 27, 1967, tragedy struck the Apollo program when a flash fire occurred in command module 012 during a launch pad test of the Apollo/Saturn space vehicle being prepared for the first piloted flight, the AS-204 mission. Three astronauts, Lt. Col. Virgil I. Grissom, a veteran of Mercury and Gemini missions; Lt. Col. Edward H. White, the astronaut who had performed the first United States extravehicular activity during the Gemini program; and Roger B. Chaffee, an astronaut preparing for his first space flight, died in this tragic accident.

Above are the charred remains of the capsule interior after the bodies were removed:

Earth Rotation Day

It’s Earth Rotation Day, in honor of Foucault, who did this:

On January 8, 1851, Foucault performed an experiment in the cellar of his home, in which he swung a five-kilogram weight attached to a two-meter-long pendulum. He put sand underneath it to mark the pendulum’s path, allowing him to see any changes in it. He observed a slight clockwise movement in the plane—the floor, and thus the earth, were slowly rotating; the pendulum kept its position. His experiment showed that the earth rotated on its axis. No longer was it just a hypothesis.

Today in Science —> Galileo’s Death

Today in Science –> In 1642 Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei dies in Italy at age 77. Born February 15, 1564, Galileo has been referred to as the “father of modern astronomy,” the “father of modern physics” and the “father of science” due to his revolutionary discoveries. The first person to use a telescope to observe the skies, Galileo discovered the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, sunspots and the solar rotation. After Galileo published his confirmation that the Earth orbits the Sun, in favor of the Copernican system, he was charged with heresies (ideas that ran counter to teaching of the church) by the Inquisition—the legal body of the Catholic church. He was found guilty in 1633 and sentenced to life imprisonment but due to his age and poor health he was allowed to serve out his sentence under house arrest.

Today in Science —> Stephen Hawking

Notable born on this day in History —> On this date in 1942, cosmologist Stephen Hawking was born in Oxford, England, “300 years after the death of Galileo,” as he points out at his Web site. He attended Oxford, studying physics, then earned his Ph.D. in cosmology at Cambridge. Hawking is celebrated for his work on unifying General Relativity with Quantum Theory.

“There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”

“All that my work has shown is that you don’t have to say that the way the universe began was the personal whim of God.”

~ Stephen Hawking