Tag Archives: Space

“The engine that lights up the stars”

At last! A new music video from John Boswell of Symphony of Science, and it’s one of his catchier tunes:

More Symphony of Science videos here.

The clips of Michio Kaku are taken from his video for The Floating University, which offers free online lectures by leading scholars and thinkers on a wide range of subjects — from astrophysics to political philosophy, from finance to population studies, from linguistics to the psychology of sex. It’s a wonderful online resource and I highly recommend checking it out.

Here’s Kaku’s full lecture:

More Floating University videos on YouTube (via BigThink) here.

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A full moon rising, gloriously

Yes, we’ve been there. But sometimes it’s enough to take your breath away just to see it from afar:

Astrophotographer Mark Gee explains:

Full Moon Silhouettes is a real time video of the moon rising over the Mount Victoria Lookout in Wellington, New Zealand. People had gathered up there this night to get the best view possible of the moon rising. I captured the video from 2.1km away on the other side of the city. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to photograph for a long time now, and a lot of planning and failed attempts had taken place. Finally, during moon rise on the 28th January 2013, everything fell into place and I got my footage.

NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day emphasizes that the moonrise was filmed in real time, not as a time-lapse. And io9 offers an explanation of the “enormous moon” illusion here. (Update: Phil Plait says it’s not the moon illusion, but simply an effect of the magnification of the lens.)

Sometimes, to be blown away by the sheer astonishing richness of reality, all you have to do is look up.

(h/t io9)

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The moon landing and “the fate of knowing”

S.G. Collins provides an excellent takedown of the “moon hoax” argument. Watch it through to the end: Collins not only dismantles this particular theory but shines a much-needed light on the difference between knowledge and belief, the nature of paranoia, and the utmost importance of distinguishing between imagined conspiracies and very real government shenanigans.

Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy offers lots more debunkery here and here.

(h/t Bob Cesca)

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What we lost when we lost Neil Armstrong

From John Scalzi’s essay on the first man on the Moon:

I don’t mind too much the future we’ve gotten so far. I like the Internet, and my cell phone, and my television bouncing to me from space, and all the other things that have come from what has essentially been the less expensive path of least resistance. I think the things that NASA has done with its robotic craft, which are now on Mars and over Mercury and pushing through the heliopause at the very edge of interstellar space, are nothing short of miraculous. This future has been pretty good for me. But I don’t think this future had to be exclusive of the future that Neil Armstrong seemed to herald, and for which he was our icon; maybe we could have had both, had our will to go to the moon been matched by a will to stay and build there.

We can still go back to the moon, of course. We can still go and build and stay and use the moon as our first stepping stone to other worlds. Anything is possible. But for me Armstrong’s death forever closes the door on a certain possible path the we could have taken, the one where that first small step and giant leap was not essentially taken in insolation, but was followed by another step and another leap, followed by another, and so on, one right after another, without pause and without interruption. Even when or if we return to the moon, we will never live in Neil Armstrong’s future.

Yes. (Sigh.)

Meanwhile, back on Earth, the sound and fury of the US presidential campaign goes on, and Armstrong has inevitably been praised and invoked by both sides. Mitt Romney isn’t wrong to hail Armstrong’s character and accomplishments. But I’d remind Romney and his party that it wasn’t an unassisted, bootstrap-pulling individual who flew himself to the moon through sheer gumption and will; it was a massive, taxpayer-funded government agency that put him there. Armstrong’s accomplishment was huge, but he was also — like Isaac Newton — standing on the shoulders of giants: of political leaders with vision, of a government backed by the purse and permission of its people, of centuries of scientific discovery and research (some of it government-funded), of a society pulling as one.

Armstrong said it himself: a man took a small step on the Moon, but it was mankind that made that giant leap — together.

It’s not too late to remember how to do it.

(Photo by Buzz Aldrin)

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“Dreaming is hard. It requires risks. It requires you to own the fact that you are capable of something great.”

If you’ve got a spare 35 minutes, this fantastic talk by astrophysicist Pamela Gay is absolutely worth your time. Delivered at the annual Amazing Meeting, the speech touches on many things — the future of American crewed spaceflight (Gay is more optimistic about this than Neil deGrasse Tyson is), some cool Citizen Science projects, and the importance of standing up against sexist bullshit, at professional conferences and everywhere else. But underlying it all, Gay lays out a powerfully compelling case for optimism as a stance toward society’s problems — optimism not just as idle wishful thinking, but (as “No Impact Man” Colin Beavan and Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim have explained) as a basis for courage and action.

From the transcript:

It’s a lot easier to do nothing… easier to lose hope that anything can even be done. And there are people out there who would encourage despair.

If, like me, you’re a child of the 80s, you may remember a movie called “Neverending Story”. It came out when I was a dorky little kid. This movie contained a certain giant wolf who totally understands trolls and their effect of creating their own great nothing in the world. (link) When asked why he is helping the great nothing destroy their world, this wolf responds, “It’s like a despair, destroying this world. … people who have no hopes are easy to control.”

Looking around the internets, I see a lot of people sitting around trolling, and a lot people experiencing despair. There are YouTube videos of people complaining, and blog posts of people expressing their hurt, and in many cases there are legitimate reasons for people to be upset. There are people dying because we’ve lost herd immunity (link). There are lesbian teens in texas being killed for falling in love (link). There are so many cases of abuse that it hurts to read the news. There are lots of real reasons to be frustrated about the world we live in and it is easy to complain… and it is easy to lose hope.

It is dreaming that is hard.

The Neverending story, in its childhood tale of morality, addresses this too. Through the voice of the Childlike Empress, the boy outside the story is asked, “Why don’t you do what you dream, Bastian?” Bastian replies the way I think so many of us reply when when asked why we don’t follow our wildest dreams, “But I can’t, I have to keep my feet on the ground!” (link)

Dreaming is hard. It requires risks. It requires you to own the fact that you are capable of something great.

A few years ago, I came across a powerful quote that was attributed to anonymous.

“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? ” (link to old blog post on this quote)

I’d challenge you to let your feet fly off the ground and I’d challenge you to dream big and let your light push away the darkness of dispair in the world.

I challenge you to change the world.

There’s much more, and you can read the entire thing here.

More reasons for optimism here.

(via Bad Astronomy)

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Quarks to quasars, cont’d: Zooming in on the universe

Click on the image to start zooming around (be sure to view it in full-screen). It’s fantastic.

Number Sleuth’s interactive universe graphic one-ups the Hwangs’:

While other sites have tried to magnify the universe, no one else has done so with real photographs and 3D renderings. To fully capture the awe of the vastly different sizes of the Pillars of Creation, Andromeda, the sun, elephants and HIV, you really need to see images, not just illustrations of these items. Stunningly enough, the Cat’s Eye Nebula is surprising similar to coated vesicles, showing that even though the nebula is more than 40,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times larger, many things are similar in our universe.

Read more and click around here.

(via The Dish)

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There’s a little black spot on the sun today

To mark tonight’s once-in-a-century transit of Venus, King of Pain seems uniquely and utterly appropriate:

Adam Frank reflects:

The next Venus transit will be in 2117. That is 105 years from now. It’s unlikely that anyone reading this today will still exist then. Think about that: The next time the orbits of Earth and Venus align just so to create a transit, the world will be entirely populated by an entirely unborn generation. That essential point about time is really what makes this transit worth a moment of your own. […]

While the astronomy behind Venus transits might not be news, the celestial mechanics of our own trajectories through life and the universe are an ongoing story. The transit of Venus reminds us of something essential. We are so busy worrying about getting the kids to school before homeroom, getting to work before the shift starts or getting to the gym for spin class that we completely forget time spins on many different cycles. While our heads are down waiting for a Facebook page to update on our cellphones, the solar system continues relentlessly on in its steady, stately dance of gravity, matter and motion.

(Image via Citizen Scientists League)

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