Pentatonic scale in motion; New type of galaxies discovered, and a comet hits Jupiter

In parts of the world where people are not obsessed with their own gardens or how their county of residence is going down in flames, they apparently do other things, such as play music or perform amateur astronomy. I’m a fan of both, which makes these two web findings all the neater.

First, do you remember Bobby McFerrin? He’s best known for his early 90s hit, “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” The man is a musical genius, despite what you think of that song. His mastery of music is showcased in this brief video of Bobby McFerrin demonstrating the power of the pentatonic scale, using audience participation, at the event “Notes & Neurons: In Search of the Common Chorus”, from the 2009 World Science Festival, June 12, 2009. If the pentatonic scale sounds familiar, it is the scale best known in America as the basis of blues music. But it’s been known around the world long since before the blues began. What’s impressive is that if you play blues chords on an instrument, such as A7/D7/E7, they will roughly fit with what McFerrin and the audience were singing. (h/t to Helen!)

Second, there have been two striking discoveries in astronomy within the past few days. First, the new kind of galaxies. Word came out about a group of volunteer astronomers who have worke together to analyze data, and found that a small number of galaxies that were “between 1.5 billion and 5 billion light years away, are 10 times smaller than our own Milky Way galaxy and 100 times less massive. But surprisingly, given their small size, they are forming stars 10 times faster than the Milky Way.” [SpaceDaily.com] What that means is they existed when the universe was relatively young, and their small size was no deterrent from creating stars. And they have what I think is a fairly rare color in space — green. The galaxies appear to be little green peas, hence the name “Green Pea galaxies.” (To be fair, this has been in the works for some time, but I read about it today.)

Word of this newly discovered type of galaxy came out shortly after the story about a single amateur astronomer’s discovery of a hole in Jupiter’s clouds. Apparently, the gas giant took a direct impact by a comet. The aforementioned amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley of Australia watches Jupiter every night, and was stunned to see a prominent black spot that had not been there before. He soon alerted NASA, who had not seen this, and they concluded that it was likely that a comet that was about a kilometer wide and traveling at 135,000 mph (60km per second) smacked into the Jovian atmosphere. Let’s thank old Jupe for taking this one for us. I’m pretty sure that if it had hit Earth, I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this right now.

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Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.