Happy Hump Day on October 21, 2020: National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day. Yuk! Why not just eat pumpkin pie or plain cheesecake (preferably from Junior’s)? Mixing them is a travesty. In the last decade we’ve seen the pumpkinization of many foods, with the nadir being the ever-popular pumpkin spice latte (380 calories in the Starbuck’s “grande” version, or the equivalent of more than 8 tablespoons of sugar). It’s also Apple Day, Garbanzo Bean Day, International Day of the Nacho, Hagfish Day, Reptile Awareness Day, and the second day of the two-day Baháʼí holiday, Birth of the Báb.
News of the Day: Yesterday NASA’s OSIRIS-REX mission landed on a small asteroid named Bennu (the size of a skyscraper) 200 million miles away. The probe collected a quick sample, and then took off. It will continue to orbit the asteroid, and then head back to Earth in mid-2021 (there is time for two more sampling attempts). As the NYT reported:
“The asteroids are like time capsules, floating in space, that can provide a fossil record of the birth of our solar system,” Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division, said during a news conference on Monday.
Many asteroids — including Bennu — cross the orbit of Earth and could collide with our planet someday. A better understanding of these space rocks, which come in many types, could aid humanity’s ability to divert one that might slam into Earth.
Here’s a tweet showing the jubilation at NASA when the mission seemed successful (we won’t know for sure for a few days).
"Sample collection is complete." "All right! We're on our way back!" After a TAG (Touch-And-Go) maneuver to capture a sample, our @OSIRISREx spacecraft fired its thrusters to back away from asteroid Bennu’s surface and navigate to a safe distance away. #ToBennuAndBack pic.twitter.com/skJPKlFRR3
— NASA (@NASA) October 20, 2020
Rush Limbaugh, who has lung cancer (I didn’t know) just announced that it was terminal.
Jeff Bridges also announced that he has lymphoma, though, depending on the type of lymphoma and how far it’s advanced, he may have a good chance of being cured.
The New York Times‘s series on religionists and their thoughts about death and the afterlife concludes with an interview with an atheist, philosopher and authorTodd May, a professor at Clemson. He takes special care—too much, in my view)—to avoid offending believers. For example:
[Todd] May: Whether atheists have committed wrongs in the name of atheism is a tricky question. The Soviet Union, for instance, persecuted Jews and other believers in the name of a doctrine that they at least saw as tied to atheism, and today the Chinese government is committing genocidal acts against the Uighurs for related reasons. Even if we lay those aside, the condescension that some prominent atheists display toward religious believers, although not nearly as grievous, is nothing to be particularly proud of. (Of course, historically we atheists haven’t fared too well at the hands of organized religion, either.)
That old canard that atheism helped create Russian and Chinese murders. No consideration that these governments constituted a secular religion, and didn’t want competition.
Of course we should respect believers—as we respect the humanity of all human beings. But we needn’t for a second respect their superstitious beliefs. A lot of what May has to say about death, though, is sensible, but he’s certainly a Tame Atheist. The NYT ain’t gonna get a Dawkins to represent nonbelievers!
Jupiter and Saturn are getting closer in the night sky, and, in mid-December, a “great conjunction” will occur, when the planetary images nearly merge. This won’t happen again until 2028. Reader Dawn sent this gorgeous image of this picture from yesterday’s Astronomy Picture of the Day, with the caption, “Pictured, the astrophotographer and partner eyed the planetary duo above the Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Three Peaks of Lavaredo) in the Italian Alps about two weeks ago.”
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 220,987, an increase of about 930 over yesterday. The world death toll is 1,130,496, a big increase of about 7,000 over yesterday’s report.
Stuff that happened on October 21 includes:
- 1512 – Martin Luther joins the theological faculty of the University of Wittenberg.
- 1520 – Ferdinand Magellan discovers a strait now known as the Strait of Magellan.
- 1797 – In Boston Harbor, the 44-gun United States Navy frigate USS Constitution is launched.
Old Ironsides is still with us. Here’s the USS Constitution, which lives in Boston Harbor, firing a 17-gun salute in 2014:
- 1854 – Florence Nightingale and a staff of 38 nurses are sent to the Crimean War.
Nightingale lived to be 90. Here’s a photo by Henry Hering:
And here’s the patent, granted in 1880:
- 1921 – President Warren G. Harding delivers the first speech by a sitting U.S. President against lynching in the deep South.
- 1940 – The first edition of the Ernest Hemingway novel For Whom the Bell Tolls is published.
Not my favorite Hemingway novel (that would be The Sun Also Rises), this one, in a signed first edition, will set you back about $17,500:
- 1945 – French women vote for the first time during the 1945 French legislative election.
- 1973 – Fred Dryer of the Los Angeles Rams becomes the first player in NFL history to score two safeties in the same game.
A “safety can be scored in several ways; the most common is when a player is tackled in his own end zone by the opposing team, which then is awarded two points. Besides this claim to fame, Dryer was almost cast as Sam Malone in the t.v. show “Cheers,” a role that went to Ted Danson.
- 1983 – The metre is defined as the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second.
- 2019 – In Canada, the 2019 Canadian Federal Election ends, resulting in incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remaining in office, albeit in a minority government. (Global) (CBC)
Notables born on this day include:
- 1772 – Samuel Taylor Coleridge, English poet, philosopher, and critic (d. 1834)
- 1877 – Oswald Avery, Canadian-American physician and microbiologist (d. 1955)
- 1914 – Martin Gardner, American mathematician and author (d. 2010)
- 1915 – Owen Bradley, American country music record producer (d. 1998)
- 1917 – Dizzy Gillespie, American trumpet player, composer, and bandleader (d. 1993)
Here’s Diz playing “A Night in Tunisia,” a song that he wrote:
- 1929 – Ursula K. Le Guin, American author and critic (d. 2018)
- 1949 – Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli captain and politician, 9th Prime Minister of Israel
- 1956 – Carrie Fisher, American actress and screenwriter (d. 2016)
- 1958 – Andre Geim, Russian-English physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate
Those who went to a Better Place on October 21 include:
- 1805 – Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, English admiral (b. 1758)
- 1969 – Jack Kerouac, American novelist and poet (b. 1922)
- 1980 – Hans Asperger, Austrian physician and psychologist (b. 1906)
- 2012 – George McGovern, American historian, lieutenant, and politician (b. 1922)
- 2014 – Ben Bradlee, American journalist and author (b. 1921)
I once wrote a letter to the editor of the Post (Bradlee) complaining about some poor evolution coverage. I got a withering reply from the “great man” himself, asking me why he should pay attention to an “Assistant Professor” (I was at Maryland at the time). What a jerk!
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is in a state:
Hili: I’m in a dreadful mood.A: Why?Hili: Does there have to be a reason?
Hili: Jestem w paskudnym nastroju.Ja: Dlaczego?Hili: A musi być powód?
Kulka is climbing on Andrzej again:
From Matthew, originally from Dan Piraro at Bizarro Comics:
From Jesus of the Day:
From Barry: Kitten rescue! (Sound up, though it’s in French and you’ll hear the guy say he can’t keep the kitty because he has allergies.)
— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) October 19, 2020
From Simon. Very clever response:
Oh. My. God. pic.twitter.com/8BnNL3l6Bl
— Chef Black Mantis (@KnivesandFire) October 19, 2020
Tweets from Matthew. Sound up on the second and most excellent tweet, but I couldn’t embed it by itself (the first tweet inspired the second):
can we please just go back this pic.twitter.com/SZN6yUfDo1
— Hannah Jane Parkinson (@ladyhaja) October 20, 2020
He’s right about the reelection of Trump:
— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) October 20, 2020
This caterpillar has a false head on its rear end (combined with scary pink tentacles) to distract and scare potential predators:
— 芋活.com【公式】 (@imokatsucom) October 20, 2020
Matthew himself on Darwin:
**cogs whirr in Charlie’s brain** https://t.co/c3hVOh8LBV
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) October 20, 2020
This is why kittens melt the heart:
The kitten, a fearsome apex predator, owes much of its success to the wide variety of prey species it hunts, ranging from flies to string to feather dusters, or in this case a mop, which tragically succumbs to the power of the beast after a brief chase. pic.twitter.com/zn0Gs7GsNW
— Dick King-Smith HQ (@DickKingSmith) October 20, 2020