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.”
"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.
Earlier today I noted a few tweets from America’s astrophysicist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson. NDGT has been excited over a spectacular night for viewing Jupiter both tonight (Tuesday) and tomorrow (Wednesday).
Well, as I was walking home amongst the stop lights, the red was emphatically stated with the LED flashes and the red planet glaring down at me. I was discussing recently how amazing it is that New York’s air quality has improved so much that you can now actually see the stars on a regular basis. When I was growing up, the incinerator smoke and smog choked out the stars. No more. Now we get a real light show and never more so than tonight with Jupiter’s stark clarity and brightness.
OK, so the Leonid meteor shower may be better, but this night still has me yearning for a telescope (and rural living).
Click on through to see a couple of photos I snapped. Note that you can actually see the red tint of the planet. Read more…
I was a bit busy last week and wasn’t able to do one of the things I really wanted to: write about space and a few extraordinary developments that have been announced or released lately. Namely, there’s been more fun with exo-planetary systems, Europa and asteroids.
F-Yeah Exo-Planetary Systems
A few months ago I wrote about the discovery of a hot “near-Earth” named GJ 1214b. The rocky planet measuring about six times the mass of the Earth was discovered at about 40 light years distance using the Radial Velocity method of exo-planetary detection (measuring red-shift of a star to determine slight wobbles caused by a star — in this case, GJ 1214 — orbiting along with exo-planet(s) around their common center of gravity).
Scientists at a conference in France announced this week the discovery of two new exciting sets of exo-planetary systems, each distinguishing in its own way. The first, which has been observed primarily using Radial Velocity is the discovery of the stellar system with the most known planets outside of our own solar system. HD 10180, a Sun-like M-Class star sitting about 128 light years away hosts a whopping seven planets.
NASA released the above animation of the planetary system around HD 10180.
Click through for more discussion and discovery.Read more…
If Calvin and Hobbes is my favorite print cartoon (and it is), then its online counterpart is xkcd. The brainchild of former NASA robotics engineer Randall Munroe, it is a webcomic that mixes romance, sarcasm, math, and language. Most of all, it speaks to the sense of humor of the internet and geek culture in general. Some of it is obscure and flies over my head, but a good number of the comics just hit home and tickle the funny bone. And, in the case of my favorite all-time comic ever (Spirit, featured in this post), tugs at the heart-strings.
xkcd also features a great online store with some cool posters, pins and apparel. I rock the “Science: It Works….” t-shirt in my wardrobe (though it admittedly gets less use than it should). Munroe operates under a solid creative commons license, so I’m hosting several of my favorite comics here, though I encourage everyone to visit xkcd.com and to buy the xkcd: volume 0 book on Amazon.