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Earlier this year, Encyclopedia Britannica announced that it was shedding the fear of paper cuts and turning itself over solely to anxiety over internet access cuts. The now online-only encyclopedia of record further noted recently that they were looking to adapt a communal, almost wiki form of a community for it’s publication.
For those who grew up with one of their multi-volume sets, it marks an extraordinary end of an era. Despite the wonderment of Encarta95 and wikipedia, itself, the Encyclopedia Britannica was, at worst, one heck of a beauty on your bookshelf. My family still has our circa 1985 set at my parents home.
Nostalgia also struck one of my favorite TED speakers, the poet Rives. Below is his reaction to EB 2.0.
I’ve been busy of late and not keeping up with my blogging duties. Nevertheless, this morning I came across two things which I decided needed a place on this blog.
The first (found at The Awl) is a collection of images from Voyager and Cassini/Huygens which would make both Carl Sagan and Carolyn Porco proud. Note that all of the pictures interlaced in this video are raw image data from the missions… including the brilliant ice geysers of Enceladus. Ungh.
The song is The Cinematic Orchestra -That Home (Instrumental).
Click through to follow up with some fun NdGT adaptations. Read more…
I recently finished reading Lawrence Krauss’ A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing while on vacation. A quick and easy read for those with a decent level of scientific literacy, it was graced by an afterward from Richard Dawkins. It’s unfortunate that Christopher Hitchens’ planned forward for the book was derailed by his illness; nevertheless, a book featuring two of the four prominent American scientist-atheists (joining Neil de Grasse Tyson and Dan Denntt) still provided quite a bit of umph to it.
I still intend to get around to doing a review of the book, but in the meantime I thought I would share this outstanding talk between the two authors. It was hosted by the Origins Project headed by Krauss at Arizona State University and featured a fine discussion on science in general, atheism and a bit on American politics.
This is no debate, as these two scientists share a similar world view and the audience also trended toward the science-focused, areligious types. Perhaps as a result, Krauss tends to earn some cheap laughs at the expense of the Republican leadership. That doesn’t prevent the video being well worth the viewing time for an intelligent discussion on abiogenesis, evolution and the exciting quantum physics discussed in “A Universe From Nothing.”
When I first came across this video, my reaction was much like some others: utter astonishment and a few questions as to whether or not it might have been photoshopped. Well, it wasn’t, it just is the majesty of the Earth from just beyond the thin blue line.
It’s also a stark reminder that while the Hubble may get the majority of the press for opening our eyes to both the visible and non-visible beauty of the electro-magnetic spectrum, sometimes the best images are self portraits. Last February, I posted my favorite still self portraits. After the jump, I’ve embedded a video that shares the beauty of that still imagery with the majesty of the time-lapse video.
"Blue Marble" by Apollo 17 crew. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. December 7, 1972
Sometimes after a rough week, a round night or seeing your beloved Commodores choke against the Volunteers, you need a little reminder to keep things in perspective. One easy way to do so is by revisiting the mastery of photography that reveals the wonders of the universe. While the Hubble images are often the most powerfully beautiful and the images of Jovian moons from Galileo or Saturnial satellites (particularly Enceladus) by Cassini are awe inspiring, there’s nothing quite like a few images of this world we call home to keep one grounded.
After the jump, I’ve linked three of my favorites and one which I wasn’t previously aware of, posted in chronological order. You’ll likely want to click on at least the first three images to get a bigger view, otherwise you might just miss out on spotting Earth altogether.
A rendering of Cassini's six-plus year voyage from Earth to Saturn.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory based out of Cal Tech has been one of the most successful of NASA’s divisions, particularly the team that has handled the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn. Although perhaps the most prominent scientist to emerge from the mission is imaging team leader Carolyn Porco (on Twitter), the Cassini probe itself is a huge star.
Cassini is a space probe in orbit around Saturn and was joined in its launch by the Huygens probe, which landed on the moon Titan. Huygens is named for Christiaan Huygens, the Dutch scientist who first proposed that Saturn had a ring system and who also was the first to observe Titan, its largest moon. Cassini is named for Giovanni Domenico Cassini, who discovered several other moons of Saturn.
Cassini has been in orbit and operation around Saturn since July 2004, while Huygens’ mission ended with its insertion on Titan in January of 2005. They have provided discoveries of immeasurable importance, such as the observation of guysers and tiger stripes on Enceladus, the direct observation of methane lakes on Titans and the finer understanding of Saturn’s ring system and the impact of the gravity from moons on such rings.
After the jump, I’m posted images of the five “latest news items” from the JPL mission site. Each of the items, individually, would be huge news. That the Cassini team can roll those out as a matter of course is truly remarkable and reflective of the mission’s successes.
I rarely just operate as a bookmark to a blog post that I really like, but a gent named Darryl Cunningham put together an incredibly accessible and concise discussion (in cartoon form) of a topic that is dear to me: climate change. To be more precise, I’ve been fascinated by Americans (and, more recently, the Brits) and their ability to be engrossed in climate change denial.
Click the image below to be taken to Cunningham’s blog post and the full, multi-cel journey through the ridiculousness of deniers. For further reading, see the below links.
Click the image to go to http://darryl-cunningham.blogspot.com/2010/12/climate-change.html
Happy Winter Solstice everyone and a premature Saturnium (Christmas, for you non-pagan believers).
So I haven’t posted an online lecture in a while. I was very tempted to simply post the excellent Munk Debate on the place of religion in modern society that was hosted in Canada a few weeks ago and featured Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair, but I figured that the copyright status of those files are a little less than, well, certain.
Instead, I’ve decided to post a couple of recent TED lectures that struck me as truly enthralling. The first is Denis Dutton’s Darwinian Theory of Beauty. This lecture not only passes science muster… it’s also one of the most truly beautiful presentations I can recall, incorporating animation into its powerpoint.
Books one through six have been released, with seven soon to come.
This Sunday, AMC will debut their brand new series The Walking Dead, based on the Robert Kirkman comic book series of the same name. I don’t actually know if you’re supposed to call them graphic novels or comics. It is more sophisticated that the cartoon books of my youth and it is easily closer to literature than one would associate with an Archie or X-Men book, so I’ll go with graphic novels.
I don’t quite recall what drove me to pick up TWD for the first time. It may have been on a recommendation from G4TV’s Blair Butler or some interweb publicity, but I’m darn glad I did. I’ve had a long-time fascination with the zombie genre of film-making that has extended beyond the George Romero staple to be highlighted by recent movies (be they comedies such as Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland, or action thrillers such as 28 Days Later) and even the under-exposed Max Brooks tome World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.
The Walking Dead is a tale that starts off a bit like your typical zombie fare, but it evolving rather quickly into something more akin to literature. That is not a knock on any of the movies in the genre (particularly 28 Days Later, which film’s beginning is quite aped by Kirkman in Book 1), nor is it a hack at World War Z, which very much so is a piece of unique literature, trading the oral history motif from the documentary to the sci fi. The key, distinguishing element of TWD is that it doesn’t focus on the zombies. The story is, instead, about the humans in their endeavor to survive.