#533 Automator to Sequence Images, Tear Down a MacBook Air, Nomorobo, Bart & Steve Talk Pluto

Pluto!Remember no live show next week, and send in your audio contributions so Allister Jenks doesn’t have to work so hard! (Send them to me at allison@podfeet.com.) There’s a new Mac Roundtable at macroundtable.com episode #228. I created an Automator Service to generate sequenced images from Apple Photos – download from Dropbox if you want a play with it. I walk you through how much fun I had tearing apart a 2012 MacBook Air. A fantastic service called Nomorobo from nomorobo.com will cut way down on robocalls to your house. In a fantastic Chit Chat Across the Pond, Bart and I are joined by Steve Sheridan to talk about the exciting developments in our understanding of Pluto. We even try to explain why it’s not feasible to call Pluto a planet.


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Hi this is Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast Mac Podcast, hosted at Podfeet.com, a technology geek podcast with an EVER so slight Macintosh bias. Today is Saturday July 25, 2015 and this is show number 533. Man we have a HUGE show today. I’ve got some great tech stories for you – an Automator Script I wrote all by myself, the fun I had tearing apart a MacBook Air, and a terrific service Steve found that helps stop robocalls. In Chit Chat Across the Pond, Steve joins Bart and me to talk about all of the exciting information we’re learning about Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft. It’s a great conversation and I know you’re going to love it.

Remember next week we will NOT have a live NosillaCast show on August 2nd because Allister Jenks has kindly agreed to do the show for me while I’m on vacation. If you’ve got a review you’ve been thinking about doing, please send them along to me and I’ll forward to Allister for inclusion in his show. I really appreciate him doing this for me and I hope you’ll help him out. And remember, if you pay the whole $2 for Donald Burr’s amazing iOS app, you can always see when the next live show is, you can listen in and chat with folks in the live chatroom and if you have an Apple Watch, you can even get notifications on your wrist!

One more thing before we get started, this week we recorded a new episode of the Mac Roundtable. I had a great time with Don McAllister, Chuck Joiner and Victor Cajiao. We talked about the earnings call this week, how we feel about Office 2016 for the Mac and even a little bit on Apple Music. Go check it out over at macroundtable.com episode #228. Ok, let’s dig into the show!

Blog Posts

Automator Script Creates Sequenced Images from Photos

Can I Fix a Shorted Power Button On a MacBook Air?

Slow Down RoboCalls with Nomorobo

Chit Chat Across the Pond

Security Light

Security Updates:

More Hacking Team Fallout:

Important Security News:

Notable Breaches:

Suggested Reading:

Main Topic New Horizons at Pluto & Charon

  • Start with why Pluto isn’t a planet (get it over with)
    • I’ve heard people saying that it was redefined as a planet – why would they say that?
  • Charon is as important as Pluto – why? dual planetoid?
  • How was Pluto discovered and when
  • How long did it take to get there
  • What have we learned
    • H20 icy mountains
    • giant canyons
    • Mountains have been found on moons and assumed to be formed by tidal forces by orbiting their planets, but Pluto doesn’t have a planet, so how formed?
    • Smooth planes imply a new surface, a new surface means the impact craters must have been smoothed over which means it’s “active” – what’s that mean?
    • How about them moons? Methane on Charon?
  • Why does it matter to learn this stuff?

Pluto History

  • Background
    • Pluto is a rocky dwarf planet that was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh. At the time of its discovery it was classified as a planet.
    • Pluto was named after after the god of the underworld in classic Greek mythology.
    • Pluto is quite a bit smaller than our moon, about two-thirds the diameter and only 18% the mass.
  • Position in solar system
    • Pluto lies within the Kuiper belt, which is a large, squashed doughnut shaped collection of small objects that orbit our sun. Neptune (the farthest full-fledged planet from our sun) has an orbit lies within the hole of the Kuiper belt doughnut.
    • Kuiper belt’s existence was first confirmed by the discovery of the first Kuiper belt object (KBO) other than Pluto in 1992
    • Kuiper belt is an undisturbed area left over from the formation of our solar system.
    • Learning more about Pluto and its moons gives us more information about what the early solar system was like
  • Reclassification
    • In 2005, several additional bodies were discovered in the Kuiper belt that had roughly the same size as Pluto. In fact, at least one other Kuiper belt object, Eris, was found to be more massive than Pluto, although slightly smaller in size.
    • Rather than greatly expanding the list of full-fledged planets in our solar system to accommodate these new found worlds, in 2006 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) created a new classification for planets and dwarf planets that relegated Pluto and several other newly discovered small bodies to the status of dwarf planet.
    • A dwarf planet is defined by the IAU to be
      • A celestial body that is in orbit around the Sun,
      • Has sufficient gravity to assume a roughly spherical shape,
      • Has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit (Pluto’s orbit lies in the Kuiper belt along with many other objects so it has not cleared out its own orbit),
      • And is not a moon of another planet or dwarf planet.
    • A full fledged planet has the same definition as above but does clear the neighborhood around its own orbit.
    • So far the IAU has recognized five bodies as dwarf planets, in order of their discovery: Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake and Eris. There are likely many more to follow.
    • Scientists estimate there are up to 200 dwarf planets in the Kuiper belt, most of which are much smaller than Pluto and Eris.
  • Pluto system
    • Pluto has five known moons: Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra, all of which are named after characters or places related to the underworld in Greek mythology.
    • Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, are sometimes considered to be a binary system because the center of their rotation about each other does not lie within either body. This is because Charon is so large and massive, with a diameter over half the diameter of Pluto. But because the IAU has not formalized the definition of a dwarf binary planet, Charon is still officially classified a moon of Pluto.

New Horizons History

  • Built by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and Southwest Research institute
  • Mission is to study Pluto and its moons as well as the Kuiper belt by performing flybys of the Pluto system and one or more Kuiper belt objects (KBOs).
  • NH is powered by a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) which originally provided 250 W of power – this power level decreases about 5% every 4 years. The RTG uses plutonium as its fuel. Ironic that the fuel that powers New Horizons is named after the planet it was built to explore.
  • Launched from Cape Canaveral on January 19, 2006 with an Earth relative speed of 58,500 km/hr, the fastest launch speed of any human-made object
  • About 1 ounce (30 g) of Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes are on board NH to commemorate his discovery of the planet.
  • New Horizons took 9.5 years to reach Pluto. That was fairly fast after having a gravity assist acceleration from Jupiter which increased its speed by 14,000 km/hr.
  • NH’s closest approach to Pluto was 12,500 km (7,800 miles) on July 14

Recent Findings from New Horizons

  • Pluto Terrain Appearance
    • Pluto terrain is much more diverse than expected with mountains and large plains with polygon shaped features surrounded by troughs
      • Some of the mountains are 11,000 ft (3,500 meters) high, probably made of very cold water-ice (to be confirmed)
      • Large and bright craterless plain (shaped like a heart or Pluto the dog’s head) is named Tombaugh Regio. It’s named after the discoverer of Pluto and is the size of the state of Texas.
        • High res photos show ice flows, similar to glaciers on Earth but these are made of nitrogen ice.
        • Other ices identified are from methane and carbon monoxide
    • Contrasting dark and light regions on Pluto’s surface appear to be due to the seasonal transport of ices from its equator to its pole (to be confirmed).
  • Pluto’s size was originally over-estimated because it is so far away it could not be directly measured. The best scientists could do was assume it to be about as reflective as the other outer planets, and estimate it’s sized based on the amount of sunlight reflecting from it. It turns out that Pluto is a lot more reflective than the outer planets, so it is in fact much smaller than first thought – less than one fifth the diameter of Earth at just under 2,400km across (for context this Skype call, from near Dublin Ireland to near LA, USA, covers a distance of about 8,300km!).
  • Pluto Surface Age
    • With some moons in our solar system (e.g. Io and Europa moons of Jupiter) gravity from the parent planet cause tidal forces that stretch and contract the moon
      • This heats up the interior of the moon and makes it geologically active, providing energy for the moon’s surface to renew itself
    • However, there are no tidal forces that could cause the heating of Pluto’s interior
      • This is because Charon is tidally locked with Pluto and is always located above the same spot on Pluto’s surface (so no stretching/contracting of Pluto’s interior)
    • Even so, many regions of Pluto’s surface are relatively young (<100M years) as evidenced by no craters. Pluto has one of the youngest surfaces in our solar system – it could be due to
      • active geology (internal heat source, possibly radioactive),
      • or atmospheric effects (e.g. methane, nitrogen or carbon monoxide snow filling in features),
      • or both
  • Pluto Atmosphere
    • Although thin, Pluto’s nitrogen-rich atmosphere extends up to 1000 miles above the surface which is quite large compared to planet’s size
      • Atmosphere appears to be escaping to space. More data on this is has been collected and is expected to be received
    • Looking back at Pluto while it eclipses the sun shows the significant haze surrounding the planet
      • Theory is that the haze is created by the sun’s ultraviolet light breaking down methane in Pluto’s atmosphere and creating complex hydrocarbons (in LA we call that smog)
      • Ultraviolet light further converts some of the hydrocarbons to tholins which fall onto the Pluto’s surface leaving a reddish color
  • Charon
    • Not much imagery of Charon yet available
    • Charon has more craters than Pluto, but not as many as expected
    • Surface is mostly grey and not as varied in its surface features as Pluto
    • Has a mountain in a mote

Follow-on Plans for New Horizons

  • New Horizons did not slow down as it whizzed by Pluto at 49,600 km/hr (30,800 mi/hr) and collected its data – it is now traveling deeper into the Kuiper belt.
  • Even so, many more discoveries related to Pluto and its moons are still to come
    • Only a small percentage of data (~2-3%) that New Horizons has collected has been downlinked to Earth
    • At only 1-2K bits/sec, the full resolution and other data will take ~16 months (until late 2016) to complete downlinking to Earth
  • In a nut shell, New Horizons next/final job is to explore other (yet to be identified) primordial Kuiper Belt objects
    • First NASA mission that of which I am aware where NASA launched a space probe without having identified its final target.
  • It’s wonderful to think of all the new science and discoveries that are still ahead of us with this storehouse of data yet to be analyzed.

Links to recent NASA articles regarding New Horizons discoveries

That’s going to wind this up for this week, many thanks to our sponsor for helping to pay the bills, the makers of Clarify over at clarify-it.com. Don’t forget to send in your Dumb Questions, comments and suggestions by emailing me at allison@podfeet.com, follow me on twitter @podfeet. Check out the NosillaCast Google Plus Community too – lots of fun over there! If you want to join in the fun of the live show, head on over to podfeet.com/live on Sunday nights at 5pm Pacific Time and join the friendly and enthusiastic NosillaCastaways. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.

7 thoughts on “#533 Automator to Sequence Images, Tear Down a MacBook Air, Nomorobo, Bart & Steve Talk Pluto

  1. Frank - July 31, 2015

    I was busy this week, but today I had some time to listen to the podcast. Thanks to Bart and Steve for the interesting topic about Pluto.

  2. Don Squires - August 3, 2015

    Sorry to be a pedant, but the name of Pluto’s moon, Charon, is pronounced as if it started with the letter “k.” Charon is the name of mythological character who ferried souls across the river Styx to Hades, the realm of Pluto. The “ch” of Charon is the English transliteration of the Greek letter chi (X). English words from Greek words containing chi are almost always pronounced with a “k” sound, e.g., Christ, chaos, chasm, etc.

  3. podfeet - August 3, 2015

    Thanks, Don! We spent 10 minutes debating how to pronounce it before we started the show. We finally decided to go with the pronunciation we heard the head of the New Horizons mission use. Figured he’d know! Not pedantic at all, interesting and helpful. My solution will be to refer to it as “that big old moon/dual planet thingy next to Pluto the non-planet planetoid dwarf planet.” How’s that?

  4. Steve Davidson - August 7, 2015

    Regarding Bart’s note from Security Light: ‘Google’s new TimeLine saves your movements and maps them for you. Thankfully you can disable this creepy feature’

    I followed the links to my Timeline page , and was pleasantly surprised to see no ‘breadcrumbs’ and instead a blue ‘Enable Location History’ button.

    So either Google is doing the right thing by having it off by default (unlikely) or I’m more paranoid than I realize because I turned it off sometime in the past and don’t remember (likely).

  5. Allison Sheridan - August 7, 2015

    I noticed the same thing too, Steve. I was confused why it didn’t have any data on me since I often use Google Maps to navigate.

  6. Steve - August 10, 2015

    Found a good animation in Wikipedia of Charon and Pluto’s rotation about their barycenter which lies outside the surface of Pluto, causing some to call Pluto/Charon a binary dwarf planet system.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pluto#/media/File:Pluto-Charon_System.gif

  7. Steve - August 10, 2015

    I hear you Don and your logic is sound, but Charlene might take exception as described in this article from Wired:

    http://www.wired.com/2015/07/really-heres-pronounce-charon-probably/

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