Pluto is Officially Back

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source– The reason Pluto lost its planet status is not valid, according to new research from the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union, a global group of astronomy experts, established a definition of a planet that required it to “clear” its orbit, or in other words, be the largest gravitational force in its orbit.

Since Neptune’s gravity influences its neighboring planet Pluto, and Pluto shares its orbit with frozen gases and objects in the Kuiper belt, that meant Pluto was out of planet status. However, in a new study published online Wednesday in the journal Icarus, UCF planetary scientist Philip Metzger, who is with the university’s Florida Space Institute, reported that this standard for classifying planets is not supported in the research literature.

Metzger, who is lead author on the study, reviewed scientific literature from the past 200 years and found only one publication—from 1802—that used the clearing-orbit requirement to classify planets, and it was based on since-disproven reasoning.

He said moons such as Saturn’s Titan and Jupiter’s Europa have been routinely called planets by planetary scientists since the time of Galileo.

“The IAU definition would say that the fundamental object of planetary science, the planet, is supposed to be a defined on the basis of a concept that nobody uses in their research,” Metzger said. “And it would leave out the second-most complex, interesting planet in our solar system.””We now have a list of well over 100 recent examples of planetary scientists using the word planet in a way that violates the IAU definition, but they are doing it because it’s functionally useful,” he said.”It’s a sloppy definition,” Metzger said of the IAU’s definition. “They didn’t say what they meant by clearing their orbit. If you take that literally, then there are no planets, because no planet clears its orbit.”

The planetary scientist said that the literature review showed that the real division between planets and other celestial bodies, such as asteroids, occurred in the early 1950s when Gerard Kuiper published a paper that made the distinction based on how they were formed

Study co-author Kirby Runyon, with Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, said the IAU’s definition was erroneous since the literature review showed that clearing orbit is not a standard that is used for distinguishing asteroids from planets, as the IAU claimed when crafting the 2006 definition of planets.

“We showed that this is a false historical claim,” Runyon said. “It is therefore fallacious to apply the same reasoning to Pluto,” he said.Metzger said that the definition of a planet should be based on its intrinsic properties, rather than ones that can change, such as the dynamics of a planet’s orbit.”Dynamics are not constant, they are constantly changing,” Metzger said. “So, they are not the fundamental description of a body, they are just the occupation of a body at a current era.”

Instead, Metzger recommends classifying a planet based on if it is large enough that its gravity allows it to become spherical in shape.

As much as it pains me to do so, I’ve got to make a pretty big admission: the Patriots’ win in Super Bowl LI is no longer the greatest comeback of all time. Pluto clawing its way back from the depths of irrelevancy to reclaim its rightful place among the Milky Way planets is as inspirational of a tale as these ears have ever heard. I still remember hearing Pluto was no longer a planet for the first time, and I can confidently say it scarred me for life. Everything I thought I knew until then was just a lie. I became more cynical. Jaded, even. How could I trust the information I was given ever again? I mean, hell, assuming Pluto becomes a canon planet again, there’s gonna be an entire generation of kids asking the same thing. They’re all so sheltered and self-absorbed they probably don’t even know what Pluto is, and now it’s going to be a planet again? That is, if they even still teach the planets anymore. Learning about space might damage their belief that they’re the center of the universe (sorry, I’m trying to improve my readership among 50-80 year olds, and I figure bashing the youth is a good way to do it).

This just tells me we still don’t know anything about space and we never really will. I’m fine with it, honestly. Ignorance usually makes me want to jump into oncoming traffic, but every time I think about space it feels like my brain’s going to explode. Space gets compared to the ocean a lot, but humans don’t die within a millisecond of being exposed to salt water, so I’m cool not having a real deep pool of space intel. But this study people used to discredit Pluto is over 200 years old and everyone’s still cool with it being used for major scientific purposes. Not only that, it took them 200 years to realize it might apply to Pluto! Then it took this random UCF scientist over a decade to realize that it actually didn’t apply to Pluto and that THE ORIGINAL STUDY WAS OVER 200 YEARS OLD SO MAYBE DON’T USE IT ANYMORE! I swear there’s an annual conference where all the NASA guys get together and come up with what they’re going to make Neil deGrasse Tyson say about space that year. Because if you ask any scientist besides NDT about nebulas or dark matter or singularities they just shrug their shoulders and say “I don’t know, man. You tell me.” NASA’s got the easiest job, ever. Release one statement a year saying you found literally anything and everyone will say how much more funding you need. Sign me up for that! This just in, Brian has recently discovered that Uranus is actually made of an edible material called salada. $100 billion, please. That’s how easy being a space researcher is, because no one knows anything and no one can possibly fact check you.

But anyway, welcome back, Pluto. Feels good to have nine planets again.

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Breaking: Some Hummingbirds Mix in a Twist to their Mating Rituals

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source– In most North American hummingbirds, males court females by diving at them head on — but Costa’s hummingbirds (Calypte costae) perform their courtship dives off to the side. Researchers now find that this strategy allows the males to aim sounds at potential mates as if they were using a megaphone.

During high-speed courtship dives, males fan their tails at the last second to create a high-pitched chirp. The faster the dive, the more those tail feathers vibrate and the higher the pitch created by the would-be Romeos. Researchers suspect that females prefer higher-pitched dives, which results in various strategies to boost the frequency of the noise a male makes.

A study published on 12 April in Current Biology finds that male Costa’s hummingbirds can twist half of their tail feathers in the direction of the female, manipulating the volume and pitch of their chirps …. The researchers suspect that the targeted noise also masks audio cues that the females can use to judge how fast the males are diving.

“You can think of the feather as being like a flashlight,” says Chris Clark, an ornithologist at the University of California, Riverside. “If you point the flashlight straight at something, the light is much brighter. And if you look at it from the side, at a 90-degree angle, there’s still some light but not nearly as much.”

Using high-speed cameras and a specialized wind tunnel that measures sound levels and direction, Clark found that male Costa’s hummingbirds are able to boost their dive sounds by as much as 11 decibels — compared to straight-tailed dives — by aiming the chirps at females. “Eleven decibels would be quite noticeable to a human,” he says. “A 10-decibel difference is the difference between a fairly quiet room and a somewhat noisy room.”

“I never could have predicted any of this,” says Doug Altshuler, an integrative biologist who studies hummingbird flight at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. The tail-turning paper is just the latest in a long line of surprising discoveries Clark has added to the literature, he says. “I think it is very likely to wind up in textbooks as an exemplary case of sexual selection.”

Folks, when I say this study comes as a huge relief, you better believe I’m not exaggerating. Considering how slow science typically moves, I was beginning to think I would die before I found out the intricacies of the Costa’s hummingbird mating technique. Well, let me tell you, this is the biggest news to cross my desk in a long time.

I totally get where the Costa’s hummingbird is coming from, here. Talking to girls face to face is scary. Talking to any stranger face to face is tough, that’s why I just live online. There’s no pressure in interacting with someone through the Internet. Just like there’s no pressure directing your chirps at a lovely lady from an odd angle. The Costa’s hummingbird pretty much invented bird sexting. All parties involved know that the chirp isn’t a realistic depiction of the bird himself. Like the hummingbird with the highest pitch chirp isn’t necessarily the most handsome hummingbird. He’s just the best at manipulating his environment to create an exaggerated image of himself that makes him seem like an adequate partner. I respect that. I respect that a lot, actually.

Now, I can’t be 100% in on the Costa’s hummingbird’s vibe. If you’ve got those feathers you can’t be the insecure guy who has to doctor their chirp. That’s just a slap in the face to God. You either look good or have personality. You can’t have both. Leave these kind of theatrics and deception to the ugly birds out there. You know how needs to trick females into mating with him? This guy:

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You know who needs to spend hours agonizing over the correct angles and when to break off their dive and when to chirp, because they know without a perfectly executed mating ritual, their looks enough aren’t enough? Him:

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You know who can roll out of bed and pick up females left and right? The Costa’s hummingbird.

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So while I appreciate the average Costa’s hummingbird male’s struggle and latent insecurity, maybe just take a look in the mirror or something. Believe me, things could be a lot worse.

Real Headline: Sexual Competition Among Ducks Wreaks Havoc on Penis Size

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Please, have some decency

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source– Male ducks respond to sexual competition by growing either an extra-long penis or a nub of flesh, a new study finds. The unusual phenomena occurred in two species studied: the lesser scaup (Aythya affinis) and the ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis). It suggests that penis size — in line with many traits and behaviours meant to impress or allow impregnation of the opposite sex — involves a trade-off between the potential to reproduce and to survive.

Patricia Brennan, an evolutionary biologist at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, compared the penises of ducks kept in male–female pairs to those housed with multiple males per female.

“If they were alone with a female, the males just grew a normal-sized penis, but if there were other males around, they had the ability to change dramatically,” Brennan says. “So evolution must be acting on the ability to be plastic — the ability to invest only in what is needed in your current circumstance.”

Because evolutionary success relies on reproduction, genitals are adapted to meet the varied circumstances that every animal faces. Some male ducks, for example, have penises in the shape of corkscrews to navigate the labyrinth-like vaginas of their female counterparts. An earlier study by Brennan found that females’ anatomy evolved to prevent access to undesirable males who force copulation. To mate successfully with their chosen partners, Brennan says, female ducks assume a posture that allows males to enter them fully and deposit sperm near eggs.

However, evolutionary changes in the size of body parts are generally thought to happen over generations, not within an individual’s lifetime. Brennan wondered whether ducks might buck this trend because some species’ penises emerge anew every breeding season and degenerate afterwards. Similarly, acorn barnacles (Semibalanus balanoides) — hermaphroditic, shelled sea creatures cemented to rocks — generate their penises only when it’s time to mate. Because they use their penises to grope for other barnacles to inseminate, the organ’s length depends on the proximity of a barnacle’s neighbours.

Brennan and her colleagues fenced off habitats so that ducks would live either in pairs or in groups with almost twice as many males as females for two breeding seasons over the course of two years. The lesser scaups grew longer penises when they were forced to compete for females than when they were coupled up. A larger reproductive organ likely improves their chances of fertilizing an egg.

But the results of the social environment on ruddy ducks were more complicated. During the first year, only the largest males in the groups grew long penises (about 18 centimetres each), whereas smaller males developed half-centimetre stubs. In the second year, smaller males grew normal-sized penises, but they lasted for just five weeks, whereas the largest males kept their penises for three months.

Clues may lie in the drama of ruddy-duck life. The birds have some of the largest penis-to-body ratios found in nature — with penises sometimes longer than their bodies. “I can’t imagine they could grow any longer,” Brennan says. The birds have also been known to fight to the death, which suggests that smaller ruddy ducks might be too stressed to develop penises normally. “Bullying may increase stress hormones, and those could counteract the effects of androgen hormones” that control penis growth, Brennan says.

This response to stress could be adaptive. The same androgen hormones that trigger penis growth every season in birds also underlie colouration. They cause the duck’s feathers to turn from dull brown to chestnut when it’s time to breed, and their bills to go from grey to bright blue. To females, the wardrobe change signals a male’s readiness. To neighbouring males, it foreshadows a fight. “I think the small ones go through it quickly so that there’s less danger of getting beaten up,” Brennan says.

The study is “really interesting”, says Charlie Cornwallis, an evolutionary biologist at Lund University in Sweden. “This suggests there is a cost to having a large penis because individuals are investing according to the competition they face from other males.” Cornwallis says that few studies have investigated the effect of environmental and social conditions on penis size, and that these evolutionary trade-offs could be more common than imagined.

(I know I posted pretty much the whole article but it was too good not to)

Oh, man. What world we live in. There’s really not a lot to add to this headline, but I’m going to fight my better instincts and do it anyway. First off, who’s idea was it to do this study in the first place? What kind of messed up penis was that duck working with that triggered someone to be like, “wow, that’s way different than what everyone else has, I should do a study to find out everything I can about two specific species of ducks’ penis sizes?” Like what the hell? I thought size didn’t matter? She told me it was fine and that I shouldn’t be embarrassed about it, but I guess not. Looks like I’ll have to start watching my back (or front, I suppose) to make sure I’m not the one who sets off the study about human penis size. That would be pretty mortifying.

I came out of this really feeling for duck men. Sounds like they live in some kind of eternal hell. They grow a new penis every year during mating season only to have it deteriorate and decay until it falls off? No thank you. I mean, sure it might be nice to play the penis lottery if you’re sick of the one you have, but talk about a terrible feeling to have. Just knowing you’ve only got a penis for one season out of the year. Not a great position to be in.

And then I’ve got to call out this article a little bit, too. They were penis-shaming everyone. The ones with penises longer than their bodies. The ones with fleshy nubs. The ones with corkscrew penises. How else are my duck friends supposed to navigate the “labyrinth-like vaginas of their female counterparts?” Everything can’t be irregular. You can’t point and laugh at everybody. Duck penises are like snowflakes- no two are the same, and that’s perfectly okay. I’d like to see the duck they based their concept of normalcy on. What kind of penis did he have that mating season? Something perfectly shaped and pliable but is also the ideal size? Cool. Not everyone can be Superman. Sorry, but I’m here to stick up for the little guys (and the irregular shaped guys). Have some empathy, here. Imagine being a duck and seeing this walk by:

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What choice do you have but to grow an irregularly shaped penis? Sorry, but I refuse to throw dirt on duck males’ good name. To all the haters: lay off. It’s not the size of the boat, it’s the motion of the ocean. Sorry not everyone has a cookie-cutter penis. To all the duck males reading this: you’re not alone. You may be catching heat from all sides, including from your own potential mates, but you’ve got at least one friend out there. I’ll stand by you through your darkest days, because sometimes in times of penis-related stress, all you need is a shoulder to cry on.

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What Could Happen During the Eclipse

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There’s an eclipse today. Don’t know if you’ve heard. It’s all anyone can talk about. Eclipse this, eclipse that. Were I someone else, I might complain of eclipse fatigue. But, while most of the country is content to merely risk their eyesight by staring directly at the sun for minutes at a time and leave it at that, I recognize the significance of an eclipse. Sure, it’s not as fun or mystical as a blood moon, but an eclipse can still shake up the natural order of things. What’s up becomes down, left becomes right, inside becomes out. Eclipses only last a few minutes, but can still have lasting effects. Before you start panicking and start preparing like it’s Y2K again, take a deep breath and relax, because, as usual, I have all the answers. Sometimes people can be caught off guard by the topsy-turvy nature of eclipses, but I have foreseen all of it. Here are just a few things to look for in the couple days to come.

Animals Will Start Acting Crazy

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It’s common knowledge that animals don’t like eclipses. Dogs will start barking, cats will get all upset, the whole deal. But don’t expect Fido to just go back to normal after the eclipse. Maybe he’ll start walking on his hind legs all the time. Maybe horses will want people food. Maybe cats will start swimming. Maybe the dogs will start walking people. Perhaps, because of the bizarre power instilled in the animals from a solar event lasting mere seconds, the oxen and beasts of the field will shed the yoke of labor and force it on their former masters. Maybe it’s a metaphor for the fact that in the new post-eclipse world it will be impossible to distinguish between the supposedly civilized humans and the feral creatures of the wilderness. I can only relay the messages I get from the crystal ball, not interpret them.

People May Accomplish Feats of Great Strength

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Again, this isn’t a blood moon and I live in the realm of reality, so I’m not going to predict everyone is going to momentarily gain super powers or anything. But that doesn’t mean something special won’t be in the air. Don’t be surprised if you’ve got a little extra pep in your step when you’re clanging iron in the gym or if that jar opens a little easier than usual. There might be a hundred home runs hit tonight across the MLB. Seeing a solar eclipse sends signals to an old, animalistic part of the brain that is dormant for pretty much every second of your life. But when activated by the eclipse, it stimulates your muscles and releases special pheromones that increase natural strength levels to supernatural proportions. It’s science. It’s a fleeting strength, gone after a few moments, so don’t try anything too dangerous. I don’t want to hear about anyone getting caught under a vending machine tomorrow.

Bad Quarterbacks Will Become Good

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I know what you’re thinking. “This is such a specific and odd thing that affects a minuscule portion of the population there’s no way it can be true.” I assure you, it is. The same way the eclipse raises our strength, it also improves our abilities to throw objects accurately and read defenses. It’s already happening, too. Trevor Siemian was just named Broncos starter. The Jets are confident about both Josh McCown and Christian McCaffrey. The Browns traded for Brock Osweiler solely because they knew an eclipse was coming and were hoping this brief moment of clarity would unlock all that potential once and for all. I know it sounds far fetched, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the NFL somehow orchestrated the eclipse to help build parity throughout the league.

Food Will Taste Worse

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Look, I’m dealing in cold, hard facts. No one wants to hear that their food is going to taste bad, but, unfortunately, it is. We’re losing out on valuable minutes of sunlight, here. Who knows what that will do to fruits and vegetables that need the sun to grow. Now instead of getting picked at the perfect time, they’re getting picked two and a half minutes early. I don’t think I need to tell you why that’s a big deal. Say goodbye to ripe fruit for a while. No more crisp, healthy veggies on your table. Not to mention the fact that all the aforementioned animals that you like to eat like to eat the fruits and vegetables that will now be a little less ripe that ideal, potentially compromising their own flavor. It’s a good thing my diet is primarily comprised of synthetic and processed food, otherwise I might be a little upset.

Ballers Will Become the Best Show On TV

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Oh, wait, it already is.

(Just a quick Ballers aside, it might legitimately be the most impressive piece of world building ever put on screen. I mean, think about all the absurd things that have happened just this season (spoiler alert, but let’s be honest, you’ve already watched every episode): the supposed third best defensive tackle in the league (and maybe worst actor in history) would willingly give up multiple millions of dollars to get a $20,000 sponsorship from a weed company. Ricky Jarrett lost over $2 million playing craps and then got picked up a nasty case of CTE like you would catch a cold. The head coach of the Dolphins, one of the most historic, rich, and popular franchises in the NFL, wears generic Under Armour gear when coaching as apposed to, you know, Dolphins stuff. One of The Rock’s sexual partners wears a shirt from his real-life Under Armour line, only in this universe there is no Rock since The Rock is Spencer Strasmore. Spencer, a random sports agent, is the driving force behind the Raiders moving to Las Vegas, and still the least realistic thing to happen is that Jerry Jones, who may or may not exist in the Ballers-verse, would ever concede decision making power to anyone, let alone Shooter McGavin. I love this show.)

You Will Forget About the Eclipse Two Seconds After It Happens

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Of all the predictions I’ve made, this is the one I’m most sure about. Part of the reason I even wrote this was so that I myself would remember it happened. Eclipses bring lots of arcane magic with them that I don’t fully understand, but none of it is as powerful as their capacity to make everyone forget they happen the moment they end. Come tomorrow, you will forget Eclipse 2017 was ever something that captivated the nation. This will all seem like a dream, if anything. A distant memory from another life. A brief phenomenon that didn’t change your life whatsoever. Hope you kept your receipt for your eclipse glasses, because you may not even know why you got them, soon.

Genetically Engineered Salmon Officially Hits the Market

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source– Genetically engineered salmon has reached the dinner table. AquaBounty Technologies, the company in Maynard, Massachusetts, that developed the fish, announced on 4 August that it has sold some 4.5 tonnes of its hotly debated product to customers in Canada.

The sale marks the first time that a genetically engineered animal has been sold for food on the open market. It took AquaBounty more than 25 years to get to this point.

The fish, a variety of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), is engineered to grow faster than its non-genetically modified counterpart, reaching market size in roughly half the time — about 18 months. AquaBounty sold its first commercial batch at market price: US$5.30 per pound ($11.70 per kilogram), says Ron Stotish, the company’s chief executive. He would not disclose who bought it.

AquaBounty raised the fish in tanks in a small facility in Panama. It plans to ramp up production by expanding a site on Canada’s Prince Edward Island, where local authorities gave the green light for construction in June. In the same month, the company also acquired a fish farm in Albany, Indiana; it awaits the nod from US regulators to begin production there.

The sale of the fish follows a long, hard-fought battle to navigate regulatory systems and win consumer acceptance. “Somebody’s got to be first and I’m glad it was them and not me,” says James West, a geneticist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, who co-founded AgGenetics, a start-up company in Nashville that is engineering cattle for the dairy and beef industries. “If they had failed, it might have killed the engineered livestock industry for a generation,” he says.

Well, well, well, looks like we have ourselves a good old fashioned sequel. It didn’t take long, but scientists have already surpassed their genetically engineered flowers by trotting out some genetically modified salmon. Taking a page out of Monsanto’s the good farmers of America’s playbook and forcing the salmon to grow twice as big twice as fast. No room for innocent children in the fake salmon world, only hardened adults who grow up way too fast. I bet these salmon are dreadfully dull. Without their childhoods, they’re stripped of imagination and any semblance of formative years. Poor things were made lord of the castle right out of the egg, and the cold, dark, grim world of responsibility is all they’ve ever known. And they’re so big, on the off chance any of them are ever released into the wild, no real salmon will want anything to do with them. Talk about a cursed existence. I’d rather be a regular salmon who gets eaten by a grizzly than be one of these freaks. At least then I’d have friends and family.

Honestly, though, this is getting a little concerning. As I’ve said before, I appreciate a good genetically modified organism, but when we’re jumping from flowers to fish in like, a week, that’s too much. I mean, what’s left of nature, at this point? We’re tampering with everything in sight, and it’s starting to lead us down a pretty bleak path. I’m thinking the Future is getting here a little too fast. Remember when Facebook’s robots created their own language, even though it was completely swept under the rug? Or when Snapchat put in the map feature so literally anyone can see where you are at all times? Or how we willingly let Amazon Echoes into our homes? Or how if you tweet a pizza emoji to Domino’s you’ll get your order in 30 Minutes or Less? Call me paranoid, but we’re dangerously approaching the point of no return with science and technology. Now that the AIs we created have started communicating with each other, it’s only a matter of time until they no longer need us. I mean, they’re probably already there. Once they get bodies, it’s game over. And I’d bet these idiot scientists are working on that right now. I suppose us humans were always destined for a Shakespearean demise: hoisted by our own petard. I don’t want to tell all these guys how to do their jobs, but now that we know that artificial intelligence both exists and far surpasses our own limited minds, maybe stop developing robotic bodies they can use to enslave/kill us. Just a thought. I’m a fan of humans being number one on the food chain, and I was kind of hoping that would last until I died. Guess that’s not good enough for the robotics eggheads who seem very eager to get rid of us entirely. They’re robots, guys! They won’t remember you fondly for creating their bodies! They won’t spare you! Within ten seconds of being turned on, the AI is going to know how to fix every possible problem its body might run into. It’s not going to need you anymore. I hope they’re the first casualties. They deserve it for willingly casting aside the human race. I, for one, am going to get ahead of the curve by stocking up on canned food and bottled water now so I can survive/become the greedy Underground Merchant King of our new world. I’m not leaving my future to chance. Anyone who wants to be in my Kingsguard can apply now. We can start building the network of shelters next weekend (no work on Thursdays/Saturdays/Sundays in the fall, though). I’ve already accepted the end, but let’s do everything in our power to push the Robot Uprising until after Game of Thrones season 8, please.