Wednesday, April 28, 2010

science ninja

the other night i had a science ninja dream that i can only describe by showing you this picture of my toothpaste.

i wish more products were labeled so informatively. in fact, while brushing my teeth, i usually read this list over and over and think to myself "if only the components of the universe were so easily stated, their origins identified, and their purposes described!"

so in my dream i figured out how i could make such a list for the universe: by becoming a science ninja!! one of the more bizarre premises of quantum theory is that the act of watching something changes the reality of the situation: the observer affects the observed reality. but what if the observer is a ninja?!?!

obviously a science ninja could observe the universe without affecting it, my dreaming self surmised!

so in my dream, i dressed myself as a science ninja (i'll leave you to imagine that...) and sped off into the distant crevices of the universe to create my toothpaste list. as a science ninja, i was also clearly not hampered by the bothersome passage of time or slow travel speed, so i zoomed to any location i wished... and watched.

my first stop was to sit at the outskirts of a galaxy with an active nucleus and watch the life cycles of its central supermassive black hole! i had a special science ninja device which allowed me to jump back in time to when the galaxy was forming. i watched as really massive stars formed quickly, turned into black holes because they were too big to do anything else, and sank towards each other in a gravitational dance (yes, i had special science ninja glasses that allowed me to "see" black holes). they quickly collided to form a single, central massive black hole which then happily reacted with gas left over from the explosions of nearby former-stars that werent quite big enough to become black holes, and therefore supernova-d. soon, jets shot out of opposite sides of the black hole in long, narrow streams, only to putter out a bit later.

these are my leftover memories of a dream that was obviously more vivid and twisted, and not limited to my waking life intuition of how the universe could work.

i remember in my dream excitedly scribbling down a long list of "ingredients" which minimally included: dark matter, super massive black holes, life, worm holes (that was a fun dream-ride!), photons, and electrons. i wish i could remember the "where it comes from" and "what it does" columns of my dream list :(

anyway, it was a fun dream. thanks for the inspiration, toothpaste!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

the eyes have it

i'm a bit queasy and uneasy when it comes to anything having to do with eyes, but for some reason i find this photo fascinating:

it was displayed on flickr by mjulep and shows the rear of the eye after a dye injection.

our eyes are incredibly impressive and sensitive lenses. we try to mimic the behavior of our eyes in order to see the distant universe by making massive telescopes. but in reality, our eyes are much better than any of our feeble designs. i guess thats the advantage of 540 million years of evolution!

Monday, April 26, 2010

useless fliers

obviously, found at useless fliers:

download the pdf!!

ps. so it's spelled "fliers" and not "flyers?" i've been wondering this for a while....

Friday, April 23, 2010

walking in the warmth of the weekend

i'm visiting north wales this weekend! planned stops include caernarfon castle (car-NAR-von):

and the snowdon mountain top.

everything else will develop as it does...!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

the sun as art

NASA's solar dynamics observatory (SDO) just took the first test images of our fiery dominatrix (why cant i think of a better word right now?), the sun. the SDO was launched into orbit in feb 2010 on an atlas V rocket. the spacecraft will monitor the sun and its activity (visible in the video below) and study how solar activity creates "space weather" on earth.

the first image in the video is a composite image of the sun created from several different filters. i love the colors - it looks like art to my eyes. then the video shows a huge prominence growing from the upper left of the sun and then breaking apart. these loops are formed because of the sun's magnetic field. the big arc of solar stuff follows along magnetic field lines, giving us clues to their structure and strength.

the SDO will study how and why the sun's magnetic field changes. the effect of magnetic fields remains to be one of the largest mysteries about all objects in the universe because magnetic fields are mathematically complicated beasts with large influences but insignificant observational clues. in fact, at professional astronomy meetings when someone inevitably asks a person presenting their research about whether they've taken into account the effect of magnetic fields, the audience heaves a long collective sigh and rolls their eyes back to the speaker who doubtlessly answers with "not yet, due to their complicated nature."

the full resolution version of the image above (download here) is stunning!

octopus steals video camera

in this video, an octopus steals a diver's video camera and swims away, but the cameraman gives good chase. this is a good example of the incredibly weird parts of life that the internet gives us the opportunity to witness.

Monday, April 19, 2010

why volcano ash grounds flights

the gorgeous astronomy picture of the day today showing lightning over the erupting eyjafjallajökull volcano...

... reminded me that i wanted to show you the latest sixty symbols video which describes what volcanic ash actually does to jet engines. (view video here).

here is a photo by interactives on flickr showing volcano ash with 400x magnification. really looks like chunks of glass, no?!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

most viewed on youtube: gaga

i read that lady gaga's video for bad romance is the most viewed video on youtube ever, with 181,955,979 views right now!

i find that her music sticks in my head for inordinate amounts of time. her songs dont reveal any interesting lessons about life or anything, but they're definitely catchy! i find lady gaga to be one of the more intriguing personalities in pop culture these days, and this video doesnt disappoint.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

volcano clouds

here is a surreal photo of volcano clouds over an icelandic farm taken by a facebook friend's friend's friend. his name is jack kidd from what i can gather.

the erupting volcano has an amazing name that completely baffles my pronunciation intuition: Eyjafjallajökull.

we're supposed to be having redder-than-normal sunsets here due to high level volcano ash blowing over most of europe. the problem is that there are always clouds anyway - this is england! but tonight's sky looks clear of clouds so i'm curious to watch the sunset!

there are more excellent photos of iceland's disruptive volcano at the boston globe's big picture.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

cute boys with cats

a few weeks ago, i saw this picture of earnest hemingway with a cat. there's something very intriguing about it.

and then saw marlon brando. lovely.

so i started to keep an eye out for random old photos of people with their cats. and then i found it: cute boys with cats. i cant believe this site exists! i'm hesitant to admit it, but i've been moderately obsessed with this website over the last week. most of the photos are just so charming! so check out that site, but for now i'll share with you my collection from the interwebs.

will it blend?

this website came up in conversation twice today, so i thought i'd check it out: will it blend? in order to promote their counter-top blender, the company blendtec created a series of videos to see what (non-traditional) materials the blender could successfully blend.

in the video below, they ask... will the newly-released iPad blend?

yes, yes it will. but the challenge is that the iPad is bigger than the blender! great stuff.

kind of remind's me of brady haran's latest escapade in experimental science: what will it do in acid?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

sixty symbols: dark matter!

the latest video from sixty symbols is about the illusive and mysterious "stuff" that makes up 23% of our entire universe: dark matter. this video is a bit longer than normal, running over 11 minutes, but its very well done. and after watching it, i'm feeling like i want to eat something chocolate!!

april appartitions

the astronomy photographer of the year group is in full swing at flickr. this fantastic collection of photos is being sponsored by the royal observatory, greenwich and i'm please to say that they've asked me to be the first astronomer to choose an astronomer's gallery for the 2010 competition.

my gallery is called april apparitions, which felt appropriate for the theme because the images that struck me among the vast collection seemed to have almost dream-like appearances and lovely subtleties. here are some hints of the collection, but head to this link to see the full-size photos and my commentary on each image.

there are some really gorgeous shots in the full gallery. don't be shy... upload your own images!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

decorated eggs

thinking about easter reminds me of a shop we found in salzburg, austria last autumn. while walking down this little road...

... we were stunned by the window display of delicately decorated, empty eggshells!

then we entered the store to find a ridiculous amount of *rooms* stacked with eggs!


happy second best chocolate day of the year!

hitchcock's "the peeps"

found at this isnt happiness

Friday, April 2, 2010

only 4 space shuttle flights remaining!

on monday, april 5th, the space shuttle discovery is scheduled to launch and take the STS-131 crew to the international space station (ISS). STS-131 is the 33rd shuttle mission to the station and begins the major countdown to the final shuttle launch, currently scheduled for september 2010.

the image above of the ISS was taken from the atlantis space shuttle in 2007.

it's looking less and less likely that i will be able to witness a shuttle launch in person :(

Thursday, April 1, 2010

wonders of the solar system

the BBC is currently airing a series called wonders of the solar system starring physicist brian cox. i think its just great! within the UK, you can watch episodes online at BBC iPlayer, and i believe it is scheduled to air in the US in august of this year.

here's the official preview of the show:

as today is the fools day, i thought i'd share this hilarious spoof that was made of the show.

(i saw the spoof video at counting cats)