National Geographic July 2013, Part 1

I still can’t access the text version of these issues on-line. I wonder why they even have that functionality if you can’t get to it.

While digging around I found that they do have an Android app finally.  I wonder if I’d be able to read the issues on my phone, or if the text would be too small. Maybe I’ll try it tomorrow.

Field Trip on Mars, by John Grotzinger

Grotzinger is a geologist who was the project scientist on the Curiosity rover for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Grotzinger still works on the project, but stepped down as project scientist in 2015.  In Field Trip on Mars, we get to see how Curiosity does its geology work.  Curiosity drills through rocks and analyzes what’s inside them.  The scientists with the project were able to see that Mars once had water capable of sustaining life with the very first rock it drilled through.

As the magazine went to press, Curiosity was heading into a crater towards Mount Sharp, a mountain that, according to Grotzinger, looks more Earthlike than other places that rovers have been sent to.  Curiosity reached Mount Sharp on September 11, 2014.

It All Began in Chaos, by Robert Irion, photographs by Mark Thiessen, Art by Dana Barry

Kind of off-topic, but every time I look at the credits for this article, I see “Diana Barry” as the name of the artist.  Diana Barry, for those who aren’t Anne of Green Gables fans, was Anne’s raven-haired childhood friend from that series.

It All Began in Chaos is about the early formation of the solar system and our evolving understanding of it.  We start with Newton’s idea that the planets move in perfectly circular orbits and then to the idea that orbits are elliptical and the to the idea that orbits are elliptical right now and are likely to stay that way, but that no one can know for certain what will happen in the future because there seem to have been unexpected events in the solar system’s past (for example, Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn apparently used to be much closer to the sun than expected, then something happened to move them).

As to the future of the solar system, all scientists can do is speak in percentages like with meteorology because things are still moving and drifting and something like the event that may have moved three of our four largest planets to the outside of the solar system could always happen again.  We just don’t know.

This article was also one of the first times I’ve felt the passage of time from when the article was written (aside from the few articles I’ve read from the 19th century, of course). Irion tells us that in July 2015, New Horizons will fly past Pluto and take pictures of the dwarf planet and its satellites. This flyby happened almost a year ago now.

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