Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Interlude: Two SRS-style stories and the regretted loss of cache:

 It's been busy here at the SRS rancho... 

Search interlude. P/C DallE-3. 

... and so today is an interlude with a few stories you'll want to read.  

1.  First up, a story by Latif Nasser of RadioLab (the brilliant podcast) about his research quest.  In a longish Twitter/X thread, he tells the story of how he noticed a small, just slightly wrong detail in his young son's poster of the Solar System.  He noticed a moon orbiting Venus that was labeled "Zoozve."  A quick search told him that, as he thought, Venus doesn't have any moons.  He then "... googled “Zoozve” and got no results, literally zero results in English. Only results were in Czech and they were about zoos. Not what I was looking for." 

Close up of the original Solar System poster by Alex Foster.

After calling a NASA friend (Liz) and learning the same thing (yeah--no moons around Venus), he contacted the artist directly (Alex Foster), who said that he saw it on a list of moons... but he couldn't find that list any longer. 

Then, in a dramatic turn of events, Liz, the NASA friend called back saying "I think I figured it out."  Turns out there IS an object near Venus called "2002-VE"... could the artist have misread this as "Zoozve"?  

To be sure, 2002-VE isn't a moon, it's more of a wandering asteroid--a big rock that's currently orbiting Venus. Maybe you can call it a moonlet, or the more technical term, a quasi-satellite.    

Latif then called Brian Skiff at Lowell Observatory in Arizona--he's the guy who found it in 2002 as part of the LONEOS project--a very large-scale asteroid hunt for asteriods near Earth than could potentially smack into our planet causing a terminal event.

Along the way, Latif also found 2 astronomers who kept watching 2002-VE: Seppo Mikkola in Finland and Paul Wiegert in Canada. They told him that Zoozve is NOT a moon of Venus. But it’s also NOT really a moon of Venus. It’s both of Venus and not of Venus. 

A little more digging led Latif to a paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.   In their paper Asteroid 2002 VE68, a quasi-satellite of Venus, the authors point out that this moonlet has been in orbit around Venus for around 7,000 years, and will probably leave that orbit in 500 years (or so) until it's captured by another planet, or just wanders around the sun.  

As they write in the paper, "From the evolution of the orbit of this object, we conclude that it may have been a near-Earth asteroid, which, some 7000 yr ago, was injected into its present orbit by the action of the Earth."  

Latif then went on to learn that these quasi-satellites are complicated beasts, following extraordinarily complex orbits, and sometimes (as in the case of 2002-VE) moving their orbits between planets.  

SearchResearch Lessons:  

I love Latif's story here: it all started when he noticed a small detail that didn't fit in with what he knew ("there's no moon around Venus!"), so he started a research project to figure out what was going on.  I like that he failed in his Google search, but he kept at it, even contacting the artist and an astronomically learned friend.  

Liz, the NASA friend, had the key insight--maybe this was a misreading of something very similar!  Once you had the correct name for the thing, search gets a lot simpler.  


(Postscript: Latif and Brian Skiff proposed that the quasi-satellite be called Zoozve... and the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group for Small Bodies Nomenclature (who keeps track of these things), ended up adopting the name, thereby making Alex Foster's poster correct retroactively.  Link to the paper that officially adopted the name.)  

Official announcement in the IAU's working group

2.  A story by Henk van Ess: Research into why planes sometimes travel faster than expected

On a recent flight, Friend-of-SRS Henk van Ess was puzzled: why did the flight's arrival time show as a full hour ahead of schedule?  What would cause that to happen?  

In his blog post at (which I recommend to you), he gets to the bottom of this question through a conversation with ChatGPT and some sharp reasoning to determine that biggest factors for the faster times are:  (a) it's not tailwinds; (b) it's not the jet stream; (c) it's not having a light load with fewer passengers onboard.  

It IS primarily due to buffer times built into their schedule.  (But they did have a lack of headwinds, which also helped.) 

But his article points out that there's a big difference between ChatGPT 3.5 and ChatGPT 4 with the Data Analyst option turned on.  Your choice of LLMs really matter--understand which one you're using and be aware of the differences. 

SearchResearch Lessons:  In the end, Henk says that "... if you don't ask the right questions, you won't get the answers you need. Being clear and specific is key."  

We've talked about exactly this point many times here on SRS.  Understand your tools and be clear--very clear--about what you're asking.  

3. The loss of the cache:  

Most SRS Readers know that the cache: operator lets you pull up the last cached version of a web page.  (See the SRS discussion of cache: from 2018.)  

Alas, Google has deprecated this feature, so we can't use it any longer. (See Danny Sullivan's Twitter post about this.) 

In the meantime, I HIGHLY recommend that you get the browser Wayback Machine extension for your preferred browser.  Here's the list: 

     Chrome Wayback Browser Extension 

     Safari Wayback Browser Extension 

     Firefox Wayback Browser Extension 

     Edge Wayback Browser Extension 

Note that Bing still supports the cache: operator, so you don't really need it if you're an Edge user.  

FWIW, I suspect more features will be deprecated in the future, but I don't know what / when / or why.  It's just gonna happen as Google tries to save money and reduce the overall complexity of the search system from their side (and, presumably, invest those savings into Bard, or whatever they're going to call their GenAI LLM).  

SearchResearch Lessons:  Things change... even operators.  Stay tuned because this will continue to happen.   

Back to our regular program tomorrow with an answer to the "How to summarize" Challenge from the previous post. 

Keep searching! 

1 comment:

  1. quasi/queasy-satellites - who knew?
    seem to recall you have a thing for typewriters…here's one with a Lowell Observatory connection.

    with the passage of time…was Janet Jackson/Justin Timberpond in your Mom's garage?

    who would guess Goo's orbit would decay so rapidly?
    Google SearchLiaison@searchliaison·Jan 30Great meeting up with @googlesearchc in Zürich today.
    from 2018

    new search modes…