Happy DNA Day!
X marks the spot where we uncovered the very chemical structure of life and heredity.
April 25th is the date in 1953 when James Watson and Francis Crick published their historic paper in Naturedescribing the double-helical structure of DNA. They figured all that out, of course, thanks to Rosalind Franklin’s groundbreaking x-ray crystallography work, including the legendary “Photo 51” above.
For more, check out this awesome rap battle between Rosalind Franklin and Watson & Crick, and Rosalind Franklin’s thoughts on the intersection of science and everyday life.
First photograph ever taken by phosphorescent light. The face is that of Mr. Tesla, and the source of light is one of his phosphorescent bulbs. The time of exposure, eight minutes. Date of photograph January, 1894.
Tesla was just a cool photo machine, eh?
Here he is with his friend Mark Twain:
And here he is with his friend electricity:
This is what almost four billion years of human evolution looks like when it’s condensed down to ten seconds, thanks to the fine folks behind the original Cosmos.
From self-replicating bags of chemistry to billions of bacteria to crude multicellular blobs to tiny swimming monsters to clumsily creeping fish to fuzzy proto-mammals to weird, naked, two-legged apes … every cosmic blink holds a beautiful story.
If you’d like to retrace your steps along the path of time that ends with you, I recommend this awesome Wikipedia page.
I throw my plumes up into space sometimes, sayin’ Io…
This has to be the most breathtakingly awesome eruption since Eddie Van Halen dipped the whammy bar down back in 1978.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft captured this blast spewing up from Jupiter’s moon Io back in 2007, as it passed by on its way to Pluto (which it will reach next summer … it’s really far away). That plume rises more than 330 kilometers (200+ miles) into space, nearly the altitude that the International Space Station orbits above Earth!
Io is the most volcanically active body in the solar system. So many eruptions take place on Io that no impact craters survive, they are constantly filled in by fresh material from the moon’s interior. In fact, Io holds the title for “most powerful eruption ever recorded in the solar system”, back in 2001.
So … Y-IO U SO MAD?
Next to the sun, Jupiter is the most massive object in the solar system. Jupiter’s gravity, combined with the gravitational influence of Io’s fellow moons Europa and Ganymede, tugs and pulls on Io, causing it to be squished and squeezed to the extreme during an orbit around its home planet.
This massive tidal force causes Io’s crust to distort by as much as 100 meters in either direction. Imagine a 100 meter-high tide! Made of land! This causes an extreme amount of friction and tidal heating beneath the crust, essentially cooking Io via squeezing and tugging. As a result, it regularly blows its top in spectacular fashion.
Just another day in the continuing evolution of our solar system!
Roll Them Bones
These amazing posed skeleton portraits of Patrick Gries breathe life back into stacks of bones.
Through a combination of careful photography with digital editing, Gries was able to breathe action into 300 of the Paris Museum of Natural History’s skeleton specimens (the bones are his, I added the actual photos to show how freakin’ amazing they are).
All (vertebrate) creatures great and small, no matter their shape, no matter than evolutionary history … they all have bones.
The solar eclipse of November 3, 2013, as seen from space.
Meteosat 10 captured the moon’s shadow as it traversed the eastern Atlantic and western Africa (hi-res version). You can see two distinct portions of the eclipse shadow. The dark area in the center is the umbra, where the sun is completely obscured by the passing moon. The intermediate shadow is the penumbra, where the sun is only partially eclipsed, a smoky gradient of fading light reaching out from the umbra. See Wikipedia for more umbrology, and check out Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy for more eclipse images.
This Is Mars … Trust Me
When I say “Mars”, what do you think of? You probably said “red planet” right? Or maybe “candy bar”. But what would it look like without the red?
That’s what we find in the book This Is Mars, from Xavier Barral. He compiled pictures from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE imager devoid of color and context, 3.7-mile-wide snapshots of the alien landscape that MRO has been chronicling for seven years. Shaped by brutal forces of extraterrestrial geology, it’s a feast for the eyes and full of more than a few “What the hell am I looking at?" moments.
It’s hauntingly beautiful without its rusty hue, eh? Check out the full book for more.
Bonus: Of course, you don’t have to go to Mars to see a planet transform into an art project. Earth as Art looks pretty grand, too.