Monday, March 16, 2015

LSU Tigers in the NCAA Tournament!

LSU Tigers Basketball - no. 35 overall seed in 2015 NCAA Tournament

LSU Tigers Basketball - no. 35 overall seed in 2015 NCAA Tournament

LSU Tigers Basketball - no. 35 overall seed in 2015 NCAA Tournament

LSU Tigers Basketball - no. 35 overall seed in 2015 NCAA Tournament

LSU Tigers Basketball - no. 35 overall seed in 2015 NCAA Tournament

LSU’s upset loss to Auburn in the Southeastern Conference tournament Friday begat 48 hours of hand wringing and rampant speculation, bracketology dissection and bubble watching, and probably in at least one corner, an exorcism for the Tigers’ free-throw shooting.

As the hours ticked away until the 5 p.m. NCAA selection show, LSU guard Josh Gray had to go on Twitter to relieve his jitters.

“I(‘ve) never been this nervous in my life,” Gray said.

Turns out, Gray and the rest of the Tigers had no need to strain their giblets. The butterflies could wait until the next time they toe the free-throw line.

LSU, despite its eccentric mood swings, its ability to come within a contested 3-pointer of toppling the best team in the nation, and its knack for losing to the SEC’s cellar dwellers, was in the NCAA tournament with room to spare.

Lace up some fresh Nikes and get ready to go dancing, fellas.

It’s been a long time coming.

It was not, apparently, a long time debating for the NCAA selection committee.

The committee seeds the entire tournament 1-68. LSU came in just about in the middle, as the No. 35 overall seed, ninth in the East Regional, taking on No. 8 North Carolina State on Thursday night in Pittsburgh.

I participated in the NCAA mock selection exercise last month in Indianapolis. Judging by that experience, LSU was a fairly easy pick.

The selection committee starts by choosing a bunch of teams that are absolute locks as at-larges, 20 or so squads like Kentucky and Kansas and Oklahoma and, most likely, Arkansas.

Then comes a series of votes as teams are transferred over into the tournament, like layers of a cake, a few at a time. My guess is LSU, despite the Auburn loss to fall to 22-10 overall and a No. 56 RPI, made it into the field sometime Saturday.

Why the huge disparity between the Tigers’ RPI and their overall seeding, the speculation and the rather secure seed LSU wound up with?

The reason, NCAA selection committee chairman Scott Barnes said, basically came down to quality wins and the look of the Tigers as a quality team.

“They had two great road wins against Arkansas and West Virginia, plus a sweep of Ole Miss,” Barnes said after the bracket was unveiled. “Then there’s the eye test. As you think about LSU, that really came up often among the committee members.”

“The eye test.” The Tigers look the part of an NCAA tournament participant. They play an exciting, up-tempo, fun-to-watch brand of basketball. The kind of ball that gets you noticed. The kind of ball that had the TV folks set LSU up with a prime-time game on TBS against N.C. State.

“I think we’ve been an exciting team to watch all year long with what we’ve been able to do on the road at West Virginia and Arkansas,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “And we’re still the only team in the country to play Kentucky to a two-point game. Although we’ve had some setbacks because of the inexperience of our team, our guys have done a tremendous job of bouncing back.”

The slow but steady progress LSU has made in three years under Jones — from sitting at home with 19 wins two years ago to 20 wins and winning a game in the NIT last year — begs the question: Can the Tigers do more than just earn an NCAA bid?

In North Carolina State, LSU gets a team much like itself, one that beat a No. 1 seed in Duke (not that the Tigers have a win that good) and had a close loss to ACC champ Virginia but also stumbled against ACC lowlights like Wake Forest, Boston College and (like LSU) Clemson. Awaiting the winner of their game is East Regional top seed Villanova on Saturday.

No NCAA tournament path is going to be an easy one, but for LSU, winning a game or two is at least doable. N.C. State has 13 losses. And Villanova (32-2), for all its success, has at least been tested a couple of times lately by Providence (63-61), Creighton (76-72) and Butler (68-65). And it stands to reason: If the Tigers can come within a contested 3-pointer of ending Kentucky’s unbeaten dream, they can play with anyone.

There’s no telling with this LSU team. Could be one-and-done, could be in the Final Four (the former being more likely, of course).

But whether or not the Tigers belong in the NCAA tournament? That’s not worthy of debate.

Check out the article at The Advocate.

Congratulations Tigers on your 21st appearance in program history in the NCAA Basketball Tournament!!!

Check out the History of LSU in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament


Friday, March 06, 2015

NASA Dawn Probe Enters Orbit Around Dwarf Planet Ceres

NASA Dawn Probe Enters Orbit Around Dwarf Planet Ceres - March 6, 2015

NASA Dawn Probe Enters Orbit Around Dwarf Planet Ceres - March 6, 2015

NASA Dawn Probe Enters Orbit Around Dwarf Planet Ceres - March 6, 2015

NASA Dawn Probe Enters Orbit Around Dwarf Planet Ceres - March 6, 2015

The year of the dwarf planet has begun.

NASA's Dawn probe arrived at Ceres today (March 6) at about 7:39 a.m. EST (1239 GMT), becoming the first spacecraft ever to orbit a dwarf planet. Dawn's observations over the next 16 months should lift the veil on Ceres, which has remained largely mysterious since it was first spotted more than two centuries ago.

"Since its discovery in 1801, Ceres was known as a planet, then an asteroid and later a dwarf planet," Dawn mission director and chief engineer Marc Rayman, who's based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. "Now, after a journey of 3.1 billion miles (4.9 billion kilometers) and 7.5 years, Dawn calls Ceres 'home.'"

NASA officials got a signal from Dawn confirming that it's healthy and in orbit at about 8:36 a.m. EST (1336 GMT) today.

The milestone comes just four months ahead of another highly anticipated dwarf-planet encounter: On July 14, NASA's New Horizons probe will zoom through the Pluto system, giving scientists their first good looks at that faraway dwarf planet and its five known moons.

Dawn of the solar system

The $473 million Dawn mission launched in September 2007 to study Vesta and Ceres, the two largest objects in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Vesta's diameter is 330 miles (530 km), while Ceres is about 590 miles (950 km) wide.

Both Vesta and Ceres are leftovers from the solar system's early days, planetary building blocks that would likely have kept growing if not for the interfering influence of Jupiter's immense gravitational tug.

The two bodies are "intact protoplanets from the very dawn of the solar system," Dawn Deputy Principal Investigator Carol Raymond, also of JPL, said during a news conference Monday (March 2)." So they're literally fossils that we can investigate to really understand the processes that were going on at that time."

Dawn orbited Vesta from July 2011 through September 2012, when the probe departed for Ceres. So today's arrival made history in another way as well: Dawn became the first spacecraft ever to orbit two objects beyond the Earth-moon system.

The mission's spaceflight feats are made possible by Dawn's innovative propulsion system, which accelerates xenon ions out the back of the spacecraft. This process generates tiny amounts of thrust; it would take Dawn four days to go from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h), team members have said.

But Dawn's ion drive is about 10 times more efficient than traditional chemical systems. So the engines can keep firing for weeks, months and years, accelerating Dawn to tremendous speeds.

"With the 1,000 lbs. [454 kilograms] of xenon propellant that was loaded on board, Dawn has already accomplished more than 24,000 mph [38,624 km/h] of velocity change," Dawn project manager Robert Mase of JPL said during Monday's news conference. "To put that in context: That's more than it takes to get a vehicle from the surface of the Earth up to the International Space Station."

Thanks to ion propulsion, Dawn crept up on Ceres slowly and gradually. The probe eased into orbit today without the need for any harrowing make-or-break maneuvers.

The Mysteries of Ceres

Ceres is an intriguing world that in many ways looks more like the icy moons of the outer solar system, such as Jupiter's satellite Europa and the Saturn moon Enceladus, than its rocky neighbors in the asteroid belt.

For example, the dwarf planet is thought to consist of 25 to 30 percent water by mass, mostly in the form of ice. Ceres may also once have had (and might even still possess) an ocean of liquid water beneath its surface, as Europa and Enceladus are thought to. Indeed, some researchers believe Ceres may be capable of supporting microbial life.

"It's really going to be exciting to see what this exotic, alien world looks like," Rayman told in late January. "We're finally going to learn about this place."

Dawn is not equipped to search for signs of life. But the probe might be able to spot evidence of an underground ocean (if it exists), if it burbles up in places to interact with surface rocks, Rayman said. Measurements of Ceres' surface temperatures, when coupled with models of heat transportation through Ceres, could also shed light on the question of underground liquid water, said Dawn principal investigator Chris Russell of UCLA.

Dawn will also investigate two Ceres mysteries that have cropped up in the past year or so. Mission scientists will try to figure out just what is producing Ceres' mysterious bright spots, and they'll attempt to confirm and characterize a tenuous water-vapor plume spotted recently by researchers using Europe's Herschel Space Observatory.

Overall, Dawn will characterize the dwarf planet in detail, mapping out its surface and determining what Ceres is made of, among other tasks.

"We'll do typical planetary geology, more similar to what we do on Mars than what we did with Vesta," Russell told

This work will not start immediately; Dawn will spend the next six weeks spiraling down to its initial science orbit, getting there on April 23. The probe will then begin taking Ceres' measure from an altitude of 8,400 miles (13,500 km). Dawn will study the dwarf planet from a series of increasingly closer-in orbits until the mission ends in June 2016.

Sizing up Dwarf Planets

While Ceres and Pluto are both dwarf planets — a category created by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 2006, when it demoted Pluto from a full-fledged planet in a decision that remains controversial today — they're quite different from each other, Russell said.

"Pluto formed differently, formed at a different time and formed out of different materials" than Ceres, he said.

Pluto is also more than twice as wide as Ceres and lies more than 14 times farther from the sun than the queen of the asteroid belt does. So the data returned by Dawn and New Horizons will likely not paint a unifying picture of just what it means to be a dwarf planet, Russell said.

"The legacy [of the two missions] is freeing these bodies from arbitrary labels based on their size or their ability to scatter other objects, or whatever the IAU had going through its head," he said. "These bodies are being liberated from classification, and we now can understand them in their own right."

Check out the article at

I can't wait to see the new photos!!! Check out the live updates: