The Cosmos on Canvas
Steve Gildea’s paintings are part space journey, part whimsical dream. Just the kind of thing I need today. And every day.
"There is only an infinitesimal chance that the plaque will ever be seen by a single extraterrestrial, but it will certainly be seen by billions of terrestrials. Its real function, therefore, is to appeal to and expand the human spirit,and to make contact with extraterrestrial intelligence a welcome expectation of mankind."
- B.M. Oliver, vice president of R&D for Hewlett-Packard, capturing the true essence behind the Voyager golden records.
Head over to Brain Pickings to read Maria’s wonderful summary of Carl Sagan’s Murmurs of Earth, the story behind the records. It’s got enough power to slingshot your curiosity well out into interstellar space. Best thing I’ve read all week.
Hey, you feel like going to Mars today? Climb on top of a dune in Gale Crater’s “Dingo Gap” with Mars Curiosity, via Andrew Bornov’s latest interactive Mars panorama. Adam Mann has more info on what you’re looking at over at Wired.
If you’re on a non-mobile device, I’ve embedded it below. If you ARE on a mobile device, click here, and you’re in for a special augmented reality treat!
Sunspot Loops in Ultraviolet
You’re looking at arcs of million-degree plasma, rendered in ultraviolet, the tendrils of a magnetic field made visible, and very hot. Just, uh, you know … think about that.
On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after its launch, killing six astronauts and one school-teacher before the eyes of millions of spectators nationwide. In a tragic instant, NASA’s succession of successful space missions crumbled into disastrous public mistrust in the face of this devastation. To investigate the cause of the atrocious accident and recommend steps for preventing such tragedies in the future, the government assembled a commission, chaired by Secretary of State William P. Rogers and consisting of politicians, astronauts, military men, and one scientist. That scientist was Richard Feynman, known as "The Great Explainer," a celebrated champion of scientific culture, graphic novel hero, defender of integrity, and holder of the key to science.
As a no-bullshit science crusader, Feynman flew all over the country to NASA engineers who had become unsettled by how propaganda had eclipsed care and safety in the shuttle program. The report he published made the Commission so uncomfortable and NASA so embarrassed that it was almost suppressed. Feynman fought hard for its survival and in the end it was relegated to an appendix.
At the live press conference the Commission held to answer questions about the disaster, Feynman did his iconic tabletop experiment with one of the shuttle’s O-rings and a cup of ice water to dramatically demonstrate how those crucial gaskets had failed because managers dismissed engineers’ warning that it was too cold outside for the launch.
Feynman’s historic report can be found in the excellent The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman, which also gave us Feynman’s timeless wisdom on the meaning of life, the universal responsibility of scientists, the role of scientific culture in modern society, andgood, evil, and the Zen of science
This is a scientific investigation I would wish on no man or woman, but if someone had to do it, I’m glad it was RPF.
A Voyager Duet
Voyager 1 and 2 are mankind’s most distant scientific instruments. And now, they are our most distant musical instruments.
Dominic Vicinanza, a musician with a Ph.D. in physics, has taken almost 37 years (320,000 hourly data points!!) worth of readings from each spacecraft’s cosmic ray detector and converted them to a classical duet using Europe’s Géant data network.
What you’re hearing are cosmic protons, hitting the detectors with different amounts of energy, a scientific duet on piano and strings played by two spacecraft separated by billions of kilometers of cold, quiet space. That raw data is then converted to notes on a scale and set to a tempo using hours as its notes. Sonification like this can help human brains pick out patterns in complex data that might be overlooked, literally, if we only used our eyes.
Previously: This isn’t the first musical creation Vicinanza has created from Voyager’s data. Check out a previous one here.
Double bonus: Want more space sonification? I did a video about that last year. Here’s some music that’s out of this world.
Source: SoundCloud / GEANT-Sounds
Do not adjust your screen. You are not under the influence of psychotropic drugs (as far as I know anyway).
This is the actual cover of this week’s NYT magazine… and it makes no scientific sense whatsoever.
I'm Joe Hanson, Ph.D. biologist and host/writer of PBS Digital Studios' It's Okay To Be Smart.
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