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Cosmic Log reloaded

You're looking at the first Cosmic Log redesign in four years, incorporating new features adapted from Newsvine, one of our cousins in the MSNBC Digital Network. This reloaded log has all the features you're used to on msnbc.com's Weblogs, plus added options for presenting video and images.

You can sign up for e-mail alerts when new items are posted, something we've been struggling to offer for the past eight years. There's also a "Share" feature for each item that lets you pass along Cosmic Log links to your friends via e-mail, Twitter or Facebook.

To see more of any item, just click the "Show More" label (which I hope you've figured out already). To read comments, just click on the link in the blue box at lower right. We've converted the past four years of posts and comments to the new system, and because of the transfer process, those items have to be frozen in time. But if you have any lingering thoughts about past posts, feel free to leave them on this inaugural new-look item.

To get the ball rolling, here are some of the comments that fell into the gap between the old and the new:

On the BP oil mess:

Mespilus, 5/24/2010, 11:18 p.m.: How does the idea of cooling off on a nice oil soaked beach with dead birds, fish, and petro fumes sound? BP executives likely live in London. In common with their big corporate and banker cadres, they have already been massively paid out as a reward for cutting corners. They could care less if they destroy a fixed asset like BP, or the Gulf of Mexico for that matter. If you have been to London recently, you may notice a baby boom . The CEOs and bankers made huge bonuses of late, and went home like stallions. Meanwhile, the rest of us were too busy arguing whether the earth is flat to notice we were being robbed.

Les Auckland, New Zealand, 5/25/2010, 4:47 a.m.: Have an inflatable seal attached to the out side of a hollow tube. Insert the tube into the leaking pipe, inflate the seal. The oil can then flow up the new tube to be pumped or capped off. Use high pressure air line and compressor to inflate the seal. Once a permanent solution is found the seal can be deflated and removed. I wish them good luck.

Gaetano Marano, ghostNASA.com, 5/25/2010, 7:44 a.m.: Why doesn't the US government send their US NAVY to do the right job quickly and STOP this "American Chernobyl"??? the FAST and EASY ways to STOP the oil spill: http://bit.ly/c8y9GX

On the supernova with a blue bullet:

Lots of Cosmic Log correspondents noted that the supernova remnant N49 is 14,000 light-years away from Earth, and that implies that any photons we're seeing from that locale began their trip 14,000 years ago. When I said that "the blast as we see it today was created by the collapse of a massive star 5,000 years earlier," I glossed over the light-travel-time angle. I thought I was being clever in my sentence construction, but it looks as if I should have addressed the 14,000-year factor anyway. Some of the comments refer to Steve Smyth's questions about what is happening to all the objects in the exploding cloud:

John F., 5/24/2010, 11:57 p.m.: So much for the speed of light, eh?

Patrick Bishop, Caldwell, NJ, 5/24/2010, 11:57 p.m.: Looks kinda like a cube.

Larry Williams, San Bernardino, Calif., 5/25/2010, 12:05 a.m.: ... The statement reads a little bit confusing. Since the blast is 14,000 light years away shouldn't it read '19,000 years earlier', otherwise how could we see it?

Jim D. in WPB, FL, 5/25/2010, 12:28 a.m.: Alan ... always interesting. Thanks.

Greg Manning, 5/25/2010, 12:49 a.m.: Steve, while it does kindle the imagination wondering if such a widespread event would be felt locally, it really most likely was not even noticed by any one of those stars or the orbiting planets, if any. Blast force from the expanding gases would have dispersed within a few light-years of the blast itself to an almost negligible amount.

As those gases passed through most of those systems, it was so widespread, and simply riding on momentum at that point, that the particles themselves may be quite distant from one another. But when viewed from this kind of distance, the whole can be seen. Much like the "forest for the trees" saying.

While the visible gases probably passed fairly harmlessly through the star systems in its expansion, the picture's depicted X-ray radiation wouldn't have even had that much effect on the objects it encountered in its expansion. Of more concern to nearby stars that may have been in a straight line on whatever axis it happened: The gamma burst of the supernova would have been devastating to any life-bearing planets in the path.

Steve, 5/25/2010, 1:07 a.m.: If the Earth were ever in the path of a gamma-ray burst from such a source, the planet would be bathed in a blindingly intense light that would basically vaporize everything in very short order. Given the vast distances in our galaxy, let alone in the universe, this particular cosmic event, cosmically speaking, is almost in our back yard.

Sanescience, 5/25/2010, 2:11 a.m.: Alien civilizations shooting at each other.

Michael Makris, Los Angeles, 5/25/2010, 2:39 a.m.: Steve, I think the bright spots you're referring to are stars in the background just shining through the cloud.

Doug Baker, 5/25/2010, 3:12 a.m.: Well, first you have to understand you watching something that happened 14,0000 years ago, that is based on the distance away and how fast x-rays and other wavelengths can travel. both travel about at the speed of light, c, or about (3 x 10 8 m/s). These these don't just happen in a very short time. So the next time, it should look very much the same. We really can never see what is happening now, which is a bit of a mind bender.

Nelson, Fort Lauderdale, FL, 5/25/2010, 9:41 a.m.: So, these ionized gases are moving away from the rest of the cloud at just under 1 percent of the speed of light. Are there other anomalies like this already traveling around, pushed forth by supernovae that occurred millions of years ago? If this is more common, this could be a great way to hitch a ride to the stars, or at least to get a heck of a boost along the way. The old solar sail back in action!

Tom, Warner Robins, GA, 5/25/2010, 10:17 a.m.: Do the math. If the star collapsed, and it is 14,000 light years away, the collapse has to be at least 14,000 years ago, not 5,000 years ago. Remember, whether it is light or X-rays, its travel speed is "c," the speed of light.

Eric, Salinas, CA, 5/25/2010, 12:14 p.m.: Awesome article, Alan! Wow, what great new discoveries our astronomers are making with our space telescopes. Really interesting how there's a neutron star or magnetar inside that supernova remnant that's shooting out those X-rays and gamma-rays. A really beautiful picture for sure. I'll be waiting eagerly for more eye-popping cosmic eye candy!

David, Boston, 5/25/2010, 12:29 p.m.: Are the gamma rays heading our way? How much time does planet Earth have? Are there caves deep enough to protect us? This is some scary stuff, this could be what happened to Mars.

MikeyMike, 5/25/2010, 2 p.m.: "Bullet the blue sky-y, bullet the blue!" - U2

David Bush, 5/25/2010, 3:04 p.m.: This thing is moving at 44.7 percent of the speed of light? How large is it and what is it composed of?

On the planets gone wild:

ccAudi, 5/25/2010, 12:02 a.m.: 44 light years away with a wobble here and a wobble there, we infer a bizarre planetary system with gigantic planets orbiting and amazing velocities. It's Ptolemaic, if you ask me.

General Omar Windbottom, 5/25/2010, 1:06 a.m.: If most planets are captured rather than "born" in situ, then these results would be the expected phenomena. We suffer from addiction to the Laplace formation scenario. Hard to move on from old paradigms.

Aurelian, Bidulescu, Atlanta, GA, 5/25/2010, 9:06 a.m.: So, Alan, in the end maybe we will conclude that Earth might very well be the center of the universe (or, at least, of our planetary system) if we consider Venus a dwarf star from a different planetary system that interacted long time ago with ours. It will become evident that the Earth is kind of in the middle between the Sun and this "initial Sun" - Venus, isn't it? Is my rationale/speculation correct? Venus has an odd (inverse) rotation around the Sun. If the astrophysics specialists will agree on this (in 300 years?!), it will help explain better the evolutionary biology, and finally reconcile Science and Religion, ha. Your thoughts?

BigDog, 5/25/2010, 9:06 a.m.: We think we know everything, but we do not know, what we do not know, just a thought about what do we really know, really very little.

Dan Hines, Concord, NH, 5/25/2010, 10:06 a.m.: So is it possible we have a similar object in our solar system on a highly inclined orbit which from time to time will cause ice ages, pole shifts and mass extinctions?

Scott, Scottsdale, AZ, 5/25/2010, 12:10 p.m.: Actually, the current model for what constitutes a planet only applies to our own solar system, so when you hear talk about exoplanets they are sticking with the old model of "if it orbits around a star but isn't a star." When we can know more about them and image them better we will be able to come up with a standard definition of what constitutes an exoplanet.

AG, Raleigh, NC, 5/25/2010, 12:53 p.m.: [You say,] "But in recent years, more off-kilter worlds have been discovered in our own solar system." What new worlds have been discovered in our solar system?

I should have provided a link to more information about the off-kilter dwarf planets in our own solar system, including Eris, an icy world that is bigger than Pluto, with a more eccentric orbit and a higher inclination (44 degrees, compared with Pluto's 17 degrees).

John Moorefield, Ohio, 5/25/2010, 2:49 p.m.: Ahh, poor Pluto, forever misunderstood.

On Atlantis' "last mission" and the future of America's space effort:

Frank Glover, Rochester, NY, 5/25/2010, 11:43 a.m.: [Responding to comment:] "I'm really surprised that someone like Bill Gates hasn't just bought up Lockheed/Martin and Boeing and McDonnell/Douglas and started his own private Space Industry."

Why? Assuming they're for sale, or that he could afford a controlling interest in both (even his pockets aren't infinitely deep, and he has his own stockholders to answer to) Bill Gates is not an aerospace guy. He's sticking to what he knows...

(Yes, I know Elon Musk and John Carmack weren't either, they also come from the software/Internet world. But they [especially John] were also willing to take the time to dig in and learn, and do it themselves. If Bill's not interested, that's okay. It *takes* people who really want to see it happen, even if their return is way down the line.)

A long follow-up on evolution and the volcano:

Sunni Poptart, Simi Valley, CA, 5/25/2010, 11:36 a.m.: @Joseph, sorry, but your reasoning of a day as 24 hours is plain wrong. If the earth and the sun were not formed how, can there be 24 hours in a day? Based on this cold hard fact your reasoning is flawed. If God doesn't live on the earth how can his day be 24 hours, just some common sense, a day is 24 hours because it takes the earth 24 hours to rotate on its axis. There are 265 days in the year because that is the amount of time it take for the earth to circle the sun. A day is the amount of time it takes for a planet to complete a full rotation on its axis, a year is the amount of time it takes for a planet to rotate around its sun. How else are we supposed to interpret a day, I certainly don't know of another way, do you? For you to claim my interpretation of a day for God to be loose is pure stupidity and a convenient denial of plain cold hard facts.

And just to clarify, Jesus' death and resurrection is symbolic in my belief. Like I said, I don't believe in the Bible. You may, but I don't. I believe in cold hard facts, the Bible is full of magic. I don't deny that there is a historical basis for some of the stories in the Bible but like any story written by man it is embellished for reaction and the masses.

You don't understand my train of thought because I go by facts, I reason things out. I cant believe in magic. I cant apply humanistic emotion to a supposed super being. My interpretations are based on reading the Bible and breaking what is in the Bible down to fact in the real world. You can warn me all you want but I will continue to believe as I do, I will continue to break down what's in the Bible and point out all the contradictions, how facts of the real world do not support the Old Testament's creation of the earth.

I do have a question for you. Since you believe that God is all knowing and Omnipotent and doesn’t have to follow any rules, how can we as his "Children" have free will? We cannot have free will if he is Omnipotent and all Knowing, because he will already know what we will do, what sins we will commit and if we will end up in the proverbial Fire and Brimstone Pit. Can you explain that to me?

@Darrah, Actually I do understand why they post here, they think they have an obligation to "Save" people and bring them to God, I was raised in a Christian Household so I have read the Bible and I know all about the stories, beliefs, etc. What turned me off to religion finally was a cultlike church that was more concerned with Tithing then your salvation. That and the fact when you analyze the Bible's version of God to be this vengeful God that will smite you if you don't join his club and follow the rules seems way too humanistic to me. How can a being that is supposed to be omnipotent and so far above us have petty human emotions? The Bible is all about Control through fear, and if history has taught us anything this is manmade and the method mankind has used to enslave and control other humans all through history.

For myself, I wish I could be deluded to believe in a fairy tale but I can't. I am the type of person to face the facts and not bury my head in the sand. If one were to truly analyze the Bible and ask hard questions, much of the Bible's scripture starts to make no sense. And the kicker is that "Christians" believe that any other religion and its followers are heretics and that their religion is a false one. The is in the face of the fact that there are religions that predate Christianity and Judaism (Old Testament Bible) Which is another reason why the Bible is a book written by man. What happened to all the people that were around before Judaism?

Why did it take God so long to "Write" the Bible? Why couldn't God get the Bible right the first time (as in New Testament being geared more toward a peaceful God)? Anyway, I just wish people could leave religion out of Science, but then again I wish I would win the lottery, but that isn't going to happen anytime soon.

To wrap all this up, Gaetano Marano is already getting nostalgic about the old look:

Gaetano Marano, ghostNASA.com, 5/25/2010, 2:19 p.m.: Why change? The current look is the best on the Web!

What do you think? One thing about the new commenting system is that I'm going to have to rely on all of you to help flag comments that are out of bounds. Are there other improvements we can make, or fresh glitches we can fix? Let's hope we all have the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the technical capability to change the things we can ... and the wisdom to know the difference.