Reaction Wheels

Satellites Die, Visitors Speed Up
& Black Holes Rule the Milky Way

Paraphrasing Lady Michelle Obama, when reality goes low, lift up your eyesight at the universe. (It wasn’t really like that but we’ll stick with her wisdom anytime anyway.) Things are rough on the ground, but out there, they’re still stunning.
Was Uoumuamua, the rare interstellar object that’s just visited us, an alien ship? What about those two satellites that signed off almost simultaneously? Or the black hole at the center of the Milky Way? Will it ever bring back my silk socks?
We allow ourselves to be intrigued by the puzzling and the silly in equal matters. It may become impossible to hold on to our grip on an ever evolving set of circumstances. Life keeps tricking us but we always manage to keeping on coming back for more.
The unpredictable world of lately, what with changing climate conditions and unprepared leaders making stupid decisions, tempts the wisest among us, and it’s OK to seek refuge by just looking at the sky. Never mind most of what we see took place ages ago.
Except when it doesn’t. We count on predictability, even as we complain we’re bored. Thus our light take on the possibility we’ve just met a messenger from another world, the surprising synchronicity of two man-made machines, and, well black holes.

WHEN SATELLITES STARVE TO DEATH
When Dawn (2007) and Kepler (2009) started ‘running on fumes’ last week, within two days but far, far away from each other, it wasn’t a galactic sendoff for love-stricken robots. Their expiration dates had already been stretched by many years; it was time.
They were but exhausted; something to do with reaction wheels, as NASA would have it. Both Dawn, sent to probe the asteroid belt, and Kepler, hunter of exoplanets, ran out of fuel. Too much of it went to fire up thrusters and prevent them from spinning.

They’ve outlived retirement and outdone their missions, though. While Dawn became first to orbit multiple extraterrestrial bodies, Kepler‘s found 2,600 planets, a tiny sliver of them loosely resembling Earth. Now, who do you know that did at least one of those things?
MILKY WAY, YER HEART IS A BLACK HOLE
Lying on the wet grass of my backyard, I used to check the stars, track satellites, trace trajectories into the big beyond of our home galaxy. But I’ve never pictured a black hole staring right back at me. They eat everything. That kid wouldn’t be here had he known.
In fact, neither none of us would, if the hole that dares not having a name (Sagitarius A, NASA, really? Why not Black Hole Alley, then?) would exercise the same gluttony towards us as it’s doing to that poor star hanging off its mouth.
A thing about space, or what we think we’re seeing of it, is that its vastness is never bland, and permanent rebirth (more)
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Read Also:
* Gatekeeper of Outerspace
* Space Droppings
* Space Out

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Beautiful Bandit

Maria Bonita, Better Half of
Brazil’s Riskiest Love Story

It’s easy to romanticize about outlaws who fall in love, lead a trailblazing life, and burn out like shooting stars, leaving the holes in their story to be filled with awe by future generations. As legends recede, it’s ever harder to match them with reality.
But the life of Maria Déia and Capt. Virgulino Ferreira da Silva sure packs all the heat those landmarks evoke, placing them at the rarefied pantheon of anti-hero couples whose feats and memory still transfix the living, no matter how much time has passed.
As infamous leaders of a ragtag bunch, who terrorized the hinterlands of Brazil’s Northeast and entranced the nation in the 1930s, Maria Bonita and Lampião are at par with contemporaries Bonnie and Clyde, and after them, Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate.
They all rose quickly from the anonymity of underprivileged classes to news headlines by the way of the gun, leaving a trail littered with crime and death in their wake, but also, a surprising tenderness, represented by their mutual affection.
But while Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were not lovers, and Charles may have manipulated Caril Ann to follow him, Maria Bonita (Beautiful Maria) and Virgulino (lampião means oil lamp, but his nickname is a reference to his lethal firepower) did it all together.
They were equals and in synch in both love and killing skills, although she may’ve been demonized by the Brazilian press at the time, because she was a woman. How fitting then that today, March 8th, the International Women’s Day, also marks her 107th birthday.

QUEEN AND KING OF CANGAÇO
Lampião, 14 years her senior, was already a wanted bandit when he met and literally swept Maria off her feet, around 1930, in the arid Sertão of Brazil, in 1930. A kind of local Robin Hood, he’d avowed to avenge his parents’ deaths in the hands of government soldiers.
When she joined in, Maria became a de-facto co-leader of his gang, which certainly benefited from her charisma. They became folk heroes and it’s not hard to picture how the impoverished populace embraced their fight against enforcers of big landowners and corrupt politicians.
Lampião’s campaign lasted some 16 years, and even as Maria could have played Marian to his Robin exploits, the cangaceiros, as they were known, were closer, (more)
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Read Also:
* Women’s Day
* The Body of Choice
* Phony Outrage

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Extra Gulp

Counter to Anti-Obesity Efforts,
New Cup Tops Stomach Capacity

As the damaging effects of overeating and excessive calorie intake become a well established scientific fact, it’s always reassuring to see corporations big and small getting behind healthy nationwide initiatives to address the problem.
Not Starbucks, though. Once identified with Seattle’s grunge culture, alongside Nirvana and those infamous plaid flannel Continue reading