Saturday, March 20, 2010

the fairy scientist

the fairy scientist is an interesting four and a half minute video created by skeptical bob for the project reason video contest.

"Children are natural scientists - filled with wonder and curiosity, they yearn to know about the world around them. Join Fairy Scientist, Lydia as she sets out to discover the secret world of Fairies."

the fairy scientist says "A scientist is someone who looks very carefully and tries to discover new things and stuff"

life, like science, is a process of exploration and discovery, not a challenge of blind faith.

large hardon collider

sadly, they've fixed the typo now, but yes, the telegraph actually displayed this headline for several hours today.

thanks to all who informed me of this cock-up!

Friday, March 19, 2010

food that doesn't rot

i applaud nonna joann for her experimental efforts! she bought a happy meal from mcdonalds and let it sit on her shelf for an entire year to see what would happen to the food inside the box, and to contemplate the reality of our fast food society.

she writes, "It smelled delicious for a few days. I’d get a whiff of those yummy French fries every time I walked into my office. After a week or so, you could hardly smell it. My husband worried that when the food began to decompose, there would be a terrible odor in our home. He also worried the food would attract ants and mice. He questioned my sanity."

the photo below is the happy meal ONE YEAR AFTER it was purchased. the results of her experiment have disturbed me.

the contents DID NOT DECOMPOSE or mold or change appearance in any appreciable way. seriously, this is scary!

except for honey, ALL things classified as "food" should decompose. the truth of our species is that everything we eat was once living, from plants to animals. i know its easy to remove ourselves from this fact when so much food at stores is offered in processed forms and comes to us in boxes and cans, but that doesnt change where our natural food sources come from or how our bodies use it.

nonna goes on: "Food is broken down into it’s essential nutrients in our bodies and turned into fuel. Our children grow strong bodies, when they eat real food. Flies ignore a Happy Meal and microbes don’t decompose it, then your child’s body can’t properly metabolize it either. Now you know why it’s called “junk food.”

I think ants, mice and flies are smarter than people, because they weren’t fooled. They never touched the Happy Meal. Children shouldn’t either."


get ready for cute.

toddler giggles while playing with kitten!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

the white mountain

this is the extended version of a very nice timelapse video shot on top of the extinct volcano mauna kea, hawaii.

The White Mountain (extended) from charles on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

romantic circles by kandinsky

i see a lot of eclipses in this painting by wassily kandinsky, although he called it several circles.

i think it would be cool to have a first name like "wassily."

his work reminds me of my grandmother's paintings. i like the bold geometric forms and colors.

he manages to express the romance of a circle.

i went to the lenbauchaus in munich, germany one time and was mesmerized by the shapes in this massive painting...

... and the colors of this one.

Friday, March 12, 2010

dirty space news

we can't always take ourselves too seriously, and the universe likes to remind us of this sometimes.

which is why i'm sharing with you one of the best astronomical follies i've come across in recent times. today someone brought to my attention a recently-submitted research paper on hickson compact group 31, a group of small galaxies gravitationally interacting with each other. the paper shows an image of the galaxies in a way i've not seen before:

hahaha! and if that wasnt blatant enough, they changed the color scale and showed the image again later on in the paper!

this is not the only unintentional astronomical knob gag i've seen... the radio image below of the well-studied galaxy, M87, reveals "spectacular and complex structure" in the galaxy that is 50 million light years away.

and last but not least, this is an artist's impression of the XMM-Newton telescope:

amazing(ly detailed!)!

i guess i'll never be too old or "professional" to enjoy a good knob gag! do you know of any others?


a fellow astronomer, who writes at dark matter sheep, shared with me his image of the cone nebula. here is the published pretty picture, which is pretty good:

here is the version my friend accidentally created in an attempt to make a mosaic. the image caused them to rename the cone nebula: the "knobula!"

telescoper peter coles, who writes at in the dark, has kindly contributed this image of the actual XMM telescope (most phallic design ever?):

"You'll be interested to see these massive space cocks known by astronomers as Herbig Haro objects... this one's even animated!" according to the wiki page, herbig haro objects "are formed when gas ejected by young stars collides with clouds of gas and dust nearby at speeds of several hundred kilometres per second." couldnt have said it better myself!

"no list is complete without Smolčić et al. 2004." indeed. this isnt an actual telescopic image of an object in the universe, but it certainly fits in with today's phallic friday theme! the graph shows the "colors" of thousands of stars. a color is the difference between the light output in one imaging filter compared to another.

we've had an entry from an astrochemist, which i'm going to allow. he explains "Seemingly, these two large molecules experience strong interactions between each other. In solution, they like to pair up and... self organise. To quote the paper, one of these molecules requires "the presence of suitable partners.""

"There is also the Planetary Nebula Spectrograph, or PNS. The logo looks phallic enough but they actually call it the P-N-S just to make sure..."

andy lawrence writes, "The only suitable reply I feel is John Peacock's redshift space correlation function, which you can find at this link. I think you will agree that it reminds one of something that goes nicely together with those cosmic phalli."

this is science people! and i'll point out that most of the contributions to this post have been made by professional astronomers, well beyond graduate school levels of academia. this post also brings a whole new connotation to the slogan of astropixie which has always been "i prefer the hard truth, not a comforting fallacy."

reflection nebula: m78

the astronomy picture of the day recently featured an amazing image of M78, the 78th object in the messier catalog.

M78 is a stellar nursery; a large cloud of gas and dust where new stars are born. the bright regions of blue and white show surfaces of gas clouds that are being illuminated by young stars. there are probably only a couple newborn stars that the produce enough light for the clouds to glow. the dark patches show dense dust clouds that block this light from our view.

M78 is about five light-years across - it takes light five years to go from one side to the other! you can view M78 through a small telescope, but remember that the image you see is what this reflection nebula looked like about 1600 years ago because M78 is about 1600 light years away from us and it takes that long for light to travel from there to here!

Friday, March 5, 2010

how genetics works


via flowing data


the london sperm bank has pretty much the best logo. ever. (thanks for bringing this to my attention, marcos!)

the bad astronomer, phil plait, has been teasing us for ages with his i-cant-reveal-it-yet new tattoo, but now you can watch the video clip from his appearance on LA Ink where he gets his tat. looks great!

sixty symbols has its own facebook page now, so go ahead and join if you enjoy the series: sixty symbols facebook page.

if you havent yet seen the rube-goldberg-inspired video by OK Go, take a couple minutes to enjoy!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

are you vajazzled?

i will always be a vajazzle virgin.

to witness this weird spectacle, here's a NSFW-ish video.

i'm still feeling traumatized by the discovery of this uncomfortable-looking phenomenon that must be ridiculously expensive.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

forced perspective

this forced perspective image by alexandre duarte from the patagonia region of argentina is one of the better ones i've seen.

who needs photoshop?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

london in color in 1927

color film was very rare in 1927, which is partly what makes this silent color film of london so great! the film was created by Claude Friese-Greene who gives written commentary on the many common landmarks of london he shows. the one that made me laugh starts at minute 1:40 when he shows the greenwich observatory, and describes who astronomers are and what they like to tell you!

also, i wish more people wore hats on a regular basis today.

earthquake in chile, telescopes seem undamaged

during the wee hours of the morning, a magnitude 8.8 earthquake hit chile southwest of santiago. there are several major observatories in chile which house some of the largest telescopes on earth. the gemini-south telescope lives at the southern-most observatory, which is about a 7 hour drive north of santiago. a friend has reported that he could feel a rumble at the telescope, but no damage occurred as a result of the earthquake and observations will carry on as normal tonight! i havent heard news from the other observatories, but they all live several hours farther north of the earthquake epicenter.

the earthquake generated a tsunami that is currently propogating across the pacific ocean. it is set to hit hawaii at 11 am local time. i have several friends using telescopes on mauna kea right now, and some in airplanes traveling there, so i'm sending positive thoughts their way! i'll keep you posted on any news as i hear it.

the big picture has an early set of photos from chile.

UPDATE: aside from some power outages and lack of communication soon after the earthquake, no major telescope facilities have suffered damage. the ESO facility in santiago reports no damage. the university in concepcion is another story... news from colleagues is that people they know working in concepcion have relocated to stay with friends in other cities (mainly santiago) until the infrastructure is fixed a bit. read more at SarahAskew.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

facebook friends

i just received the strangest and best facebook friendship request from a complete stranger that i could imagine. ever.

So here's the story... All of our dogs (Bernese Mountain Dogs) are named after astronomers... First was Tycho, then Zoey had "Galileo" in her registered name. Next was Ptolemy, shortened to Ptolli. Then Jago was registered with "Bernoulli" as her name is Welsh for Jacob... Then we took in a rescue whose name was Brandy. Giving Brandy a new start in life, we transitioned her name to Mandy and then 'Manda and then Amanda... After Amanda, came Tosca, named for Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli. So, just thought you might like to know that "somewhere out there" is a dog named after you! ;-).

i accepted.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

mental calculation

the looks on the faces of the students in this 1895 painting by n. bogdanov-belsky are wonderful. i love moments when everyone is really focused on trying to figure something out. they are counting in their heads and feeling hopeful and confident that they can solve the puzzle shown on the board if they just think a little more...

try it - no calculating aids allowed!

via dark roasted blend

ps. the answer is discussed in the comments, so have a go at solving it before you peak!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

rockin' electron microscope

scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) were developed in the 1950s and are widely used in medical science. SEMs have the power to magnify objects hundreds of times more than regular optical microscopes because they monitor the way electrons react with a surface instead of focusing photons of light through lenses to form an image.

below is an image created by chris supranowitz using an SEM. can you guess what the long path is?

its the groove in a vinyl record. awesome!

in an SEM, an electron beam is carefully focused down to the sample. when the beam hits the sample surface, various electrons bounce back in different directions and x-rays are produced. these data are converted into a signal that maps the sample surface, and we see an image as a result.

you can also put your 3D glasses to use and check out the anaglyphs of many different objects featured in the study mentioned above!