Walt’s Meteor and Twittering Cats

A couple of cool articles that have been tweeted today (yes, I used the word ‘tweeted’. I feel dirty). The first covers something I kind of knew existed, forensic astronomy, but always saw it as something that dealt with, well, astronomical timescales – thousands of years, not 150. Turns out that at least one scientist, Donald Olson of Texas State University, has been using the discipline to figure out the phenomena behind various works of art. The latest is identifying the event that inspired Walt Whitman’s Year of Meteors 1859-60. The 1860 Meteor Procession seems to be largely forgotten today (the first few pages of Google results were about the Olson story), but was a big deal back in the day – the New York Times have posted one of their contemporary articles on events over at their archive. The article makes a snarky comment about "portents dire", but considering 1860 was the year in which the debate between Wilberforce and Huxley over The Origin of Species took place and Abraham Lincoln won the presidential election, maybe Whitman’s meteors were heralding the birth of a different world, even if by accident…

Meanwhile, do you have a cat? Does your cat look bored sometimes (don’t answer that – cats always look bored, it’s a psychological tactic)? Well, maybe your cat can start twittering. What’s the worst that can happen? Cats can probably spell better than some of the people on Twitter, and chances are they’re not going to start talking about Justin Bieber, so free your cat, let them tweet!

(Seriously though, as the article points out, the technology could be useful to zoologists. I may be a sadist, but I hope one day we see a tiger tweeting "lol, maimed a poacher, am eating manburger". But maybe I’m just weird…)

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