Thing Explainer book review

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Amid lots of blog posts about dark forces controlling society, the seismic flaws at the heart of orthodox science, the tragic underbelly of human behaviour and the future collapse of civilisation, it's good to talk about something fun. I've recently finished reading Randall Munroe's 'Thing Explainer' hardback science book and I heartily recommend it. Munroe's filled his book with lovely diagrams of important devices (e.g. the Curiosity Rover, a skyscraper) and has followed the neat plan of only using a lexicon of one thousand popular words. This way, he never burdens and confuses the reader with technical jargon and also gives us a fresh view of familiar devices by describing them in simple terms. Munroe is known through his xkcd website which is also lots of fun, especially for those who like Dilbert and think Unix is an elegant and quite beautiful operating system (which I personally do).

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It's available from all good bookshops and is a delight. Buy it, read it from cover to cover, laugh and be fascinated. After that, give it to someone you love, while downplaying the fact that you've actually read it first, all the way through, and pretend instead that you always had them in mind when you bought the book [Note: To do this effectively, do not read it in the bath].

Planet Nine and the end of our last ice age

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Today's Guardian newspaper reports on a new twist in the theory that a massive ninth planet exists in our solar system, travelling in a very long (17,000 year) orbit around our sun. At the beginning of this year, astronomers put forward the idea that a massive planet, a little smaller than Neptune, was causing the strange orbits of objects in our Kuiper belt; the remote region at the edge of our solar system (only beaten by the even more remote Oort Cloud).

This week, the researchers explained that the existence of such a planet also explained the strange tilt of our sun in relation to our known planets. This new supporting fact makes the 'Planet Nine' hypothesis (not planet ten as pluto is officially no longer a planet) much more convincing. Here's the video explaining what they've found:



The reason I'm blogging about this, apart from it being really interesting new science, is that it could be the missing piece in the strange events at the end of our last ice age. About 12,000 years ago, according to the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis, our planet was showered with a large number of meteorites. These meteorites caused huge wildfires, threw up a lot of soot and dust into the atmosphere and cooled the planet for many years. In my book, 'how science shows…', I point out that Plato's ancient dialogues ‘Timaeus’ and 'Critias' - the source of the legends about Atlantis - also talk about a 'declination of the bodies' in the sky and a corresponding conflagration on the Earth in very ancient times. In one passage, the Ancient Egyptian priest states:

“There have been, and will be again, many destructions of mankind arising out of many causes; the greatest have been brought about by the agencies of fire and water, and other lesser ones by innumerable other causes. There is a story, which even you have preserved, that once upon a time Paethon, the son of Helios, having yoked the steeds in his father’s chariot, because he was not able to drive them in the path of his father, burnt up all that was upon the earth, and was himself destroyed by a thunderbolt. Now this has the form of a myth, but really signifies a declination of the bodies moving in the heavens around the earth, and a great conflagration of things upon the earth, which recurs after long intervals.”

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Up until now, the reason that our planet was bombarded by asteroids in 10,000 BC was unknown. I therefore had to speculate in the book as to its cause, but this latest research about Planet Nine could be the missing piece of the jigsaw.

It is likely that Planet Nine, if it does exist, is currently at the far side of its orbit, which would explain why astronomers haven't spotted it. If this is correct, then Planet Nine would have entered our solar system around 10,000 ago (approximately), the period of the Younger Dryas impact event. What's more, the arrival of a massive planet in our solar system, travelling through our Kuiper Belt, would understandably throw a lot of planetoids and asteroids out of their normal orbits. These objects could then have plunged into the inner solar system and bombarded our planet. It all fits together very well. If the evidence is correct, then the Younger Dryas Impact Event did happen in 10,000 BC and it was caused by Planet Nine's arrival in our solar system.

This theory also leads to a very strange possibility; that Zechariah Sitchin's theory about a mysterious extra planet, Nibiru, that he states is written about in the Ancient Sumerian records, may not be as far-fetched as it seems. I haven't studied his work in detail so I can't comment further, but it is another possible area of interest.

Fascinating stuff! :-)

Recreating the solar system in the Nevada Desert

Two film makers recreate an accurate scale model of the solar system in Nevada’s sandy Black Rock Desert. It's a wonderful way to show how tiny the Earth is, even in its own solar system. Heartily recommended.