Sunday Reader May 3, 2009  

Sunday, May 03, 2009

GRB 090423: The Farthest Explosion Yet Measured
An explosion so powerful it was seen clear across the visible universe was recorded in gamma-radiation last week by NASA's orbiting Swift Observatory. Farther than any known galaxy, quasar, or optical supernova, the gamma-ray burst recorded last week was clocked at redshift 8.2, making it the farthest explosion of any type yet detected. Occurring only 630 million years after the Big Bang, GRB 090423 detonated so early that astronomers had no direct evidence that anything explodable even existed back then. The faint infrared afterglow of GRB 090423 was recovered by large ground telescopes within minutes of being discovered. The afterglow is circled in the above picture taken by the large Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii, USA. An exciting possibility is that this gamma-ray burst occurred in one of the very first generation of stars and announced the birth of an early black hole. Surely, GRB 090423 provides unique data from a relatively unexplored epoch in our universe and a distant beacon from which the intervening universe can be studied.

Lyrid Meteor and Milky Way

Framed by Clouds

Bioware: only we can create gay Star Wars characters
Dealing with sexuality and religion in video games has become something of a tender subject, but Bioware seems to be the latest company to fumble in its dealings with the topic. It seems that the terms "gay," "lesbian," and even "homosexual" were stricken from acceptable words in the official Bioware forums, and threads talking about creating gay, lesbian, transgendered or bisexual characters were shut down.

The curt response from community manager Sean Dahlberg is telling. "As I have stated before, these are terms that do not exist in Star Wars. Thread closed." That's apparently all the discussion Bioware was willing to have on the issue.

But Bioware fans know that while the terms may not exist in Star Wars, gay and lesbian characters certainly do. It was a pretty open secret that Juhanni, a woman in Knights of the Old Republic, had a female lover. Juhanni would respond to your character romantically if you were a woman. So Bioware can create lesbian characters, but discussions of gay or lesbian characters are verboten? Classy.

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