Archive for the ‘science’ Category

Life on a Mote of Dust

June 18, 2008

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

That was Carl Sagan.  This is me.  Sorry I been gone so long.  Forgive me.


Phoenix Rising

May 27, 2008

I feel bad. Really, I do. You’re out there — the huddled, blog-reading masses — waiting with baited breath for yet another FANTASMAGORIC entry from yours truly. And yet, nothing. Though I promise you, I have my reasons — namely, school and work. Y’know, real life stuff. You’re right, it sucks. Yet here I am. Why? Well, because the picture above was just too badass to avoid. It’s an image taken over the weekend by the Mars Orbiter which shows the Phoenix lander descending to the polar surface of the Red Planet. The Phoenix is on Mars to investigate the (currently) hypothetical existence of liquid water at (or near) the surface. The discovery of liquid water could lead to the discovery of simple life. And, quite frankly, there’s nothing more awesome than ETs, even if they are of the non-moving, petry dish variety.

That being said, I’m back to the grind. I’ll do my best to update this thing more frequently, but I can make no promises. You know me, straight hustlin’ hustlin’.

“Dirty Thunderstorm” is My New Nom de Plume

May 7, 2008

The above picture is of Chaitén, a Chilean volcano that erupted last week for the first time in over 9,000 years.  It began to spew lava and ash toward the empyrean, 12 miles up, which in turn commingled with approaching clouds, creating a little-understood phenomenon called a “dirty thunderstorm,” wherein it is believed that rock fragments and ash from the volcano collide within the thunderheads, creating static charges that produce lightning.  Seriously, how fucking rad is that?

I Am Evolving Laser Eyes

April 23, 2008

That little guy is an Italian wall lizard that was introduced to a small island off the coast of Croatia in the early ’70s. Since then, he and his wall lizard brethren have undergone “rapid physical changes that would normally take millions of years,” including new digestive structures and a stronger bite, thanks to a larger, elongated head. Duncan Irschick, a scientist studying the lizards, compared their evolution to “humans evolving and growing a new appendix in several hundred years.”

Which leads me to my point — this study is merely the latest in a long, long line of evolutionary proofs, and yet we’re still arguing for the inclusion of evolution in our science curriculum. We have people like Ben Stein, who is using his position of celebrity to actively attack the scientific community, with his only intention being to further muddle the public’s understanding of the difference between fact and fiction. To put it bluntly, this shit is fucked up. The fact that the education of America’s youth is being decided by people who don’t understand the definition of a scientific theory is nauseating. It’s akin to someone denying earth’s spherical nature because they themselves haven’t viewed it from space. Direct observation simply isn’t an available method for long-term theories, such as evolution. Why don’t we throw out plate tectonics, relativity, and dinosaurs while we’re at it?

I’m sorry, I didn’t really intend to rant when I began this post, but I am constantly confused and saddened by the bullheadedness demonstrated by certain sects of America. Growing up in Arkansas, I’m probably exposed to their idiocy more often than my coast-dwelling counterparts, and as a result I have long since given up debating the topic. It’s not worth the headache. Anyway, lizards are bad-ass, huh? (lizard via National Geographic.)

Wherein I Express My Anger Toward Inanimate, Celestial Objects

February 20, 2008

Well, tonight is the last lunar eclipse until 2010. Sadly, the forecast here in Arkansas calls for clouds and ice. A massive disappointment, if I do say so myself. Last night the weather would have been perfect, too. Way to be late to the party, Moon. We should have blown you up when we had the chance. And hey, Clouds — FUCK YOU TOO.


Lyre, Lyre

February 12, 2008

 This clip features the amazing Lyre Bird, a natural mimic that has not only mastered 30+ bird calls, but also camera shutters, car alarms, and chainsaws.  Better than that Police Academy guy, easy.


February 6, 2008
Incredible video of a rare, six-gilled shark off the coast of Hawaii. This thing is absolutely MASSIVE. What I’d give for a giant shark/giant squid showdown… (via Deep Sea News)

The Taming of the Elephant Shrew

February 1, 2008

Elephant Shrew

This little guy is a new species of elephant shrew (Rhynochocyon udzungwensis) recently discovered in the mountains of Tanzania.  Not actually a shrew (though they superficially resemble one another), it is more closely related to a group of African mammals that include aardvarks and elephants.  About the size of a small cat, it uses its long snout to hunt for insects.

I always find it exciting when scientists stumble across new species, especially mammals.  It’s like meeting a new cousin.  The only thing cooler would be a crypotzoological find — bring me a chupacabra, science! (via the BBC.)


February 1, 2008

The Spider

As the Messenger spacecraft passed Mercury a few weeks ago, it snapped a number of high-quality images that shed new light on the planet. Unlike our moon, to which Mercury had been previously compared, these new pictures show a number of ancient, dormant volcanoes; massive, sheer cliffs; and a network of fissures that indicate patterns of fault activity not unlike those here on Earth. Also discovered was the formation seen in the above image, which scientists have begun to call the Spider. It is a large, central depression with over 100 narrow troughs radiating outward — a geological curiosity never before seen in our solar system.

The Messenger will pass by the planet twice more before settling into orbit around 2011, and scientists hope that the coming years will reveal information about Mercury’s origin and its strong magnetosphere, a characteristic which is shared with Earth only. (via the Washington Post.)

Boom Goes the Nanowire

January 31, 2008


Scientist Fanny Beron captured the above image of nano-wires exploding by using an electron scanning micrograph to record an overloaded magnetic array.  The picture won first place in last Fall’s “Science as Art” competition.  (image via io9.)

The Science of Getting Hit in the Balls

January 29, 2008
(via Chase)

Hans “Naked” Moleman

January 29, 2008

Mole Rat

The little cutie-pie seen above is the naked mole rat, which is a cold-blooded, burrowing mammal from East Africa. And he has more to offer than his good looks — scientists have recently discovered that the naked mole rat is immune to the effects of both acid and capsaicin (the active ingredient in chili peppers.) The animals apparently lack the chemical Substance P, which causes the feeling of burning pain in humans (and other mammals.) This could have a great impact in the medicinal industry, as it could lead to breakthroughs in our understanding of chronic and inflammatory pain. So the next time you sprain your ankle, don’t forget to rub in a little mole-rat extract. (via LiveScience.)

In Space, No One Can Hear You Squeal Like a Girl

January 24, 2008

Virgin Galactic (which, incidentally, is a great brand name) has recently unveiled the (near)final build if its space tourism craft, the SpaceShipTwo and the WhiteKnightTwo. They have already received deposits from 200 customers, totaling a sum of over $30 million. For only $200,000, you too can experience the (presumably) unrivaled joy of sub-orbital space travel as soon as 2009. Me, I would probably murder a hobo for the opportunity, but then I’d murder a hobo for a veritable cornucopia of reasons. Here’s a CG image of what the finished ship(s) will look like. I think they resemble THE FUTURE.