Over the past week or so, it looked like the Kepler telescope finally broke down for good. Luckily, it somehow recovered and may be able to run again. It’s already well past its original mission length but there’s still plenty of data to take if it’s able to. Even if it can’t take good data again, Kepler has already allowed scientists to make huge advances in the field of exoplanets (i.e. planets outside our solar system).
The first teaser for the first standalone Star Wars movie was released today. It looks much better than I was expected, but I’m pretty skeptical about the plan to treat Star Wars movies like Marvel movies and release one or more every year. It might dilute the impact of the main series and might not fit in so well with the way the franchise has always been run.
Villanova just beat North Carolina to win the NCAA men’s basketball championship. Both teams had three pointers right at the end, but Villanova hit one at the buzzer to win.
Microsoft attempted to release a new interactive Twitter bot that would try to have conversations with people. To no one’s surprise, Twitter users quickly figured out how to get it to say lots of horrible things. You would think that they would have expected this and would have tried harder to find some way to keep it from saying anything too offensive.
Apparently the Tribeca Film Festival will feature a documentary on the disgraced anti-vaccine doctor Andrew Wakefield. Unfortunately, the film is probably not discussing the history and facts on the vaccines & autism controversy. Instead, it’s likely a positive portrayal of Wakefield and similar doctors. Wakefield’s original paper asserting that vaccines increase the risk of autism was retracted several years ago after it was found that there were various ethical and methodological errors (including outright fraud), yet much of the anti-vaccine movement still doesn’t seem to have realized it yet. His supporters seem to now just be crackpots ranting about how his groundbreaking research is just being suppressed by the establishment. (If you have ever seen physics crackpots, this kind of thinking is one of the telltale signs that they have no interest in actually learning anything and only want to pontificate about their pet “theories”). Even among people who stop talking about autism, there seems to be significant fear that the vaccines are overwhelming children’s immune systems ( 1) ludicrous & 2) there is actually less exposure with more modern vaccines than with fewer earlier vaccines), among other concerns
The film festival already responded saying that their film choices are supposed to foster “dialogue and discussion.” This makes sense when there is a valid controversy. There is no known link between vaccines and autism, so there is basically one side that is doing research and showing that there doesn’t seem to be any problem, and another one that just asserts that the data is wrong. Similarly to the evolution/creation controversy, there is no academic controversy here. Worse, even if the vaccine opponents are right, it is almost certain that giving vaccines still does far more good than harm.
The president is in Havana right now for the first presidential visit to Cuba in nearly 90 years. It’s still surprising at how quickly things are moving right now. It’s still illegal for US citizens to just go to Cuba for vacations but it seems pretty likely that that will change soon.
The Edelweiss experiment has released a new preprint including updated limits in the low mass region from their WIMP dark matter search using germanium bolometers. There are still some stronger limits, but one interesting thing is that this further bolsters the case that the various purported WIMP signals from other experiments are probably not actually dark matter. The results from experiments like CoGeNT, CRESST, and DAMA all lie above the limit shown here.