Pens…in…SPAAAAAAAACE!! Had one of these when I was a kid. ‘Bout time I got another one. Thanks Field Notes!
There’s an urban legend that this pen, able to write in zero-g, at extreme temperatures, and underwater, was designed for astronaut use after of years of Apollo-era NASA testing and large sums of government money, while the Soviets solved the same problem by using pencils.
It was actually designed solely by Paul C. Fisher and the Fisher Pen Company, and both the US and Soviet space programs used pencils extensively in the pre-Apollo missions. But pencil graphite can break and create dangerous dust in the spacecraft cabin, and eventually, NASA (and the Soviets) included these pens in the mission gear.
So while these pens did help chronicle our trip to the moon, NASA didn’t drop billions on them. More like $1,200.
Needless to say, though, I’m ready for launch.
Beyond Earth Stephen Di Donato
"After recently finding old science fiction magazines dating back from the 1980’s, it reignited my childhood memories of my curiosity of our solar system and of limitless imagination. I began researching heavily on NASA missions and came to the realization that the late 1950’s to mid-1970’s were exciting times for new discoveries, for real photographic images of planets and for limitless possibilities. This gave me the incentive to start a personal project named Beyond Earth."
Out of this world.
Strike a match, light a rocket, and travel into the Golden Age of the Soviet space program with these vintage matchbox labels.
It’s important to remember that the USSR was first to most early milestones in space, and they celebrated their accomplishments with some amazing art. Some of that was in the form of classic Eastern bloc propaganda posters, and some was … matches, I guess.
Via an amazing Flickr gallery full of all subject matter of matchboxes, my favorites feature (from top) Laika the space dog, a couple commemorating the three-year anniversary of Sputnik 1, a trio celebrating the Luna 2 moon mission, and finally the museum/home of pioneering rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky.
Lots more vintage art, space-age and otherwise, here.
Previously: Want more vintage science goodies? Tour the best pocket protector collection on the web.
Scientifically Accurate Gifts
A quick note since gift-giving season is right around the corner! The folks at Cognitive Surplus sent me over a box full of science-themed home goodies to check out. A Fibonacci t-shirt, soap that describes its own chemistry, DNA wine glasses, science/art cards … this is some really cool stuff! If you’re looking something a little out of the ordinary that might engage your giftee’s higher brain functions, this fits the bill.
I like the vintage flair to it, too. You didn’t ask, but some friends of ours are having a baby, and I have my eye on this little mitosis-themed outfit. Of course, I know that “smart” sodium chloride tastes the same as regular sodium chloride, but there’s something wonderful about filling your home with beautiful bits of science. Who knows, maybe when you win that Nobel prize, you’ll look back and say “It started with the soap.”
Thanks to Cognitive Surplus for sending this stuff over! I really like their philosophy: Home goods can be intelligent and well-designed at the same time.
*Carl Sagan not available for purchase. That one’s mine.
I want to know what else you’ve got your eye on! Leave me a comment or reply below: What little-known, cool science gift ideas are you thinking about this year?
Fifty years of space exploration. Well, American space exploration at least. Originally published by National Geographic back in 2008, a few things have changed:
- Several new missions have embarked to our Moon since 2008, including the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, GRAIL (mission complete, RIP) and LADEE, just launched last week.
- The Mars Curiosity rover, duh!
- Juno, launched in 2011, is only halfway to Jupiter today. That big planet is far away.
- The Solar Dynamics Observatory has given us beautiful solar spectra to stare at.
- New Horizons is set to be the first spacecraft to fly by Pluto and its moons in 2015. It rode on the fastest launch vehicle ever in order to begin its epic journey.
- And Voyager has left the building …
The Periodic Table As Underground Map
The periodic table is really a wonderful thing. So simple, yet so dense with information. At the moment it was thought up by Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869, even though a majority of the elements that we know of today hadn’t been discovered, their place was already set at (or rather on) the table. The arrangement of periods and groups immediately relates like with like, and illustrates atomic differences in a simple table.
But it doesn’t illustrate all the relationships, which is why many alternative periodic tables have been proposed. Mark Lorch’s periodic table Underground map is the latest artistic entry into that category.
New relationships come to light: Life depends mostly on the downtown turquoise line, and there’s a new connector train between the metals mercury and gallium, thanks to their liquid properties at certain temperatures.
Mathematical Figures - Art by Rare Minimum.
Figure 1: an illustration of a plane parallel to the base passing through a cone.
Figure 2: shows the Earth, whose diameter is 7,912 miles, represented by the globe, or sphere.
Figure 3: an illustration of the intersection of lines between a circle and its polar points.
Figure 5: demonstrates aberration - in optics, a deviation in the rays.
Figure 10: shows a number of curves belonging to the family y = Cxn.
Figure 11: shows the cardioid - it’s polar equation is r = 2a(1-cos0), “A” being the pole and “OA” the polar axis.
Figure 12: shows the refraction of light through a prism.
Paint by numbers.