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"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then—to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting."—T. H. White, The Once and Future King

The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.—Steven Weinberg

Learning has always been something of a drug for me.—Tim O'Reilly

I love to learn! It's one of my favorite things to do. Life presents so many fascinating new ideas and facts. I find something deeply satisfying in getting closer to the truth behind the world I experience. The tragedy of my short life is that I will never get to learn everything that I want to. Or maybe that's not such a bad thing: there's always something else to learn.

Please join me in my torrid love affair with reality.

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Bad Astronomy's Top Ten Astronomy Pictures of 2009

Bad Astronomy has come out with its list of Top Ten Astronomy Pictures of 2009, including this stunning beauty, a closeup of the surface of Mars:

There's also an even bigger version.

Cosmic Calendar on Hold

Real life has intervened, and the cosmic calendar will need to wait. :(

Most Distant Object Ever Seen

Astronomers have discovered the most distant object ever seen: a star that collapsed 13 billion years ago. The flash of light from the collapse reached Earth on April 23rd.

Demonstration of the Scale of Cells

The University of Utah has a wonderful demonstration of the scale of cells. (via kottke.org)

29 Oct—Oxygen Catastrophe

A catastrophe had been in the works ever since the discovery of oxygenic photosynthesis. The organisms who converted sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into food and oxygen were slowly poisoning their planet. About 2,400 million years ago—October 29th on the Cosmic Calendar—the buildup of oxygen in the environment led to a crisis for life on Earth.

18 Oct—Photo­synthesis

Many forms of life get their energy directly from the Sun in a chemical process named photosynthesis. They create their own food from sunlight. Cyanobacteria first learned this trick about 2,800 million years ago, the 18th of October on the Cosmic Calendar.

21 Sep—Life

How life began remains a mystery. The Earth began as a lifeless rock but ended teeming with life. How did life rise from non-life?1