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Bacteria are "in"

Market "healthy" bacteria. Skin bacteria, stomach/mouth bacteria, large intestine bacteria.

Spray some bacteria on your socks and no more stinky feet.
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When you have a chemical reaction, you start out in one energy state and end up in a lower energy state. However, there is an "energy barrier" between the states. This means that you can mix, for example, hydrogen and oxygen gasses without them reacting, until something adds enough energy to go over the barrier. You get that energy back as part of the reaction; it just keeps the reaction from starting. Catalysts work by lowering the energy barrier, usually by providing a bunch of intermediate states that have lower energy barriers than the original reaction. In quantum mechanics, there are two ways of getting past a barrier. You can go over, which requires adding enough energy to climb over the barrier. However, you can also "tunnel" through the barrier *without* adding energy. The probability of tunneling depends on the area (integral) of the barrier, and not on its height. So theoretically, a catalyst could work by reducing the *width* of the barrier instead of its height.
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Analog Science Fiction, March 1966.  Painting by John Schoenherr 
Greg Bear talks about meteorites.

I get a kick out of the fact that the definitive article on very large oceanic meteorite impacts was published in "Analog Science Fiction". (The picture with the CNN article above is the cover of that issue of Analog.)

Also, it seems that all the attention goes to "asteroids". Asteroids are hunks of rock orbiting the sun, in the ecliptic, just like planets. As such, their orbits can be predicted for decades or centuries in advance. If we sight one that's going to hit us, we have a lot of time to figure out what to do about it.

If you want something to *really* worry about, think about long-period comets. They come in from a long way out, moving effectively at solar escape velocity, and can come in at any angle, not just in the ecliptic. If one of these came in on a collision course, how much warning would we have? I've poked at it a bit; my calculus is no longer up to it. My guess is no more than a couple of years, depending on how far out it was sighted. That isn't enough time to set up committees to talk about it ...


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October 2016

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