NASA’s Solar Fleet: Capturing the Awesome
Here’s a fantastic video showing a May 1, 2013 solar eruption from four different NASA solar observation spacecraft. You can appreciate the different perspectives and filters that are offered by SDO, SOHO and the STEREO twins, and why the big picture is always more informative than any alone.
(More at Bad Astronomy)
Home Movies From A Place That Didn’t Exist: A Human Look At Life Before The Bomb
(I’ve posted this previously, but the video has been updated with even more footage from the Manhattan Project, and I wanted to bring it to everyone’s attention!)
What if the fate of the free world was depending on you, and they didn’t even know it? How would you deal with that weight?
According to this video time capsule recently unearthed at Los Alamos National Labs, you’d relax by skiing, swimming, hiking and drinking cold Coors beer. In other words, you’d act human.
Hugh Bradner, a physicist working on the Manhattan Project’s weapons testing program Project Y (and who later invented the neoprene wetsuit!), was given informal permission from the U.S. Army to shoot this collection of home movies. The hour of footage that exists was spliced down to 10 minutes for this video, and it represents our only look at what life was like for these physicists and staff during their quest to harness the atom for war.
We see them enjoying the outdoors, hiking with their adorable dogs, basking in the sun next to cool, clear watering holes (the bathing suits!), enjoying an ice-cold Coors (I like their style!), visiting the pueblos, exploring the mountains from the saddle of a horse, and even the Bradners’ wedding (featuring a cameo by J. Robert Oppenheimer).
I’m struck by how young they are, and how they are striving to enjoy the simple parts of life just as we would. These images are nearly 70 years old, but they show that even though these men and women were about to change the world in ways they couldn’t imagine, they are not so different from us.
It’s a true treasure of science history.
Bonus: Browse the I.D. badge images of Los Alamos Manhattan Project scientists! From Enrico Fermi to a very young Richard Feynman! Notice any other gems?
Math + 80s glamrock = Angle Dance. The rock group “Plane Geometry” singsplains angles in this clip from Children’s Television Workshop’s Square One Television, a show dedicated to teaching math. It ran from 1987 to 1992 (if that timeframe wasn’t already very, very clear from the video).
There’s more math in the archives.
I’ll just leave this here.
Math would be more fun to learn if we had more Glam/New Wave lessons … just sayin.
If you couldn’t see an animal, and only learned what they look like by touch, sound, and a verbal description, what might you imagine? In this clip from the BBC’s Zookeepers, Donna, who has been blind since birth, gets to touch and interact with the elephants at the Paignton Zoo.
So cool! This made me think deeply … or what felt deep to me:
This is like a real-life telling of the “blind men touching the elephant” tale. In that old parable, several blind men are each allowed to touch one part of an elephant and then try to describe what an elephant is. And with only a partial sensory experience to guide any of them, they aren’t able to describe an elephant that any of us would recognize as Loxodonta africana or Elephas maximus.
But this leads us to a question of just what is it to describe an elephant? Those of us with the complete toolbox of senses can call on five dimensions with which to describe an elephant. Although why anyone would try to taste a pachyderm, I can’t imagine. So we paint our five-sensed picture and create the mental imprint of an elephant to match.
But what is an elephant to someone with only four senses? Imagine creating an internal image something like an elephant if you’ve never seen one. And not only have you never seen one, you’ve never seen anything. Not even the color gray. And that’s where our shared experience breaks down.
You can’t think of an elephant without picturing an elephant. It’s not just that we have access to an input that the blind-from-birth don’t have. They just don’t have the perception. It leads you to questions like “Whose elephant is more representative of an actual elephant?” and “Is my elephant the same as her elephant?” and other deep questions that get philosophers all tingly in their tweed.
I think it’s a socially enlightening point of view to remember that the blind see the world the same way that we see out of our elbow. By trying (and inevitably failing) to put ourselves in the shoes of someone who has ears for feet, or some other such empathic non sequitur, we can start to appreciate the multitude of perspectives that exist on Earth about a great many things. That’s always a Good Thing™.
And for what it’s worth, the elephant doesn’t care a lick about any of this. Which is interesting in its own right.
Idea Channel + It’s Okay to Be Smart Madness! Our boys team up to teach you about music!
It’s true, it happened, I was there. I saw the whole thing(s).
This was tons of fun, even though I’m right and Mike’s wrong :)
Really, though, as is always the case … the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Hopefully everyone enjoyed seeing both sides of such a complex issue. We are products neither strictly of our biology nor strictly of our culture. The mixture is what makes this human thing fun.
What happens to mercury when it is exposed to various sound frequencies? This does.
Nick Moore placed a blob of quicksilver in the path of various sound waves between 10 and 120 Hz and then pressed record. What you’re seeing here, in slow motion, are three-dimensional standing waves forming in the mercury. The higher the frequency, the more “nodes” that form.
Visit Mental Floss to see the equally awesome full-speed version.
Carl Zimmer, an elegant peacock among science writers, delivers this lesson on where bird feathers came from. The shared anatomy between dinosaurs and birds extends beyond the wishbone to their equally functional and extravagant plumage. Recent fossil finds give us hints about the colors and forms that adorned some prehistoric reptiles, from frilly crests to fuzzy proto-wings.
Dinosaurs didn’t take to the air for tens of millions of years after the first feathers showed up, and we don’t yet know exactly how that happened. But we know that the evolution of these delicate, beautiful and functional forms carried some dinosaurs aloft to a higher branch on the tree of life, and from that branch lept the first bird.
(view the full lesson at TED-Ed)
A Boy And His Atom: The World’s Smallest Movie
Scientists are known for loving their work. Biologists tend to their cultures and animals. Physicists polish their exquisite machines like sports car entusiasts treat vintage Ferraris. So do chemists love atoms? Apparently they do. At least enough to write a love story with, and about them.
IBM scientists have created the world’s smallest movie using individual atoms. It’s the story of a boy and his playful atom buddy, drawn in stop motion and with each quantum pixel positioned using a scanning tunneling microscope. Every frame is magnified a stunning 100 million times!
This amazing feat was accomplished by using a charged atomic needle to drag single carbon monoxide molecules (the individual atoms we see are one side of that two-atom molecule) around on a copper substrate. I’ve posted a little bit about these feats of atomic art before, with these “quantum corrals” and “ferrous wheels”.
See those ripples around each atom? They remind me of pebbles being tossed into a still pond. They are actually ripples in the electron field of the copper surface below! It’s a reminder that, contrary to many textbooks, electrons behave more like waves than particles following an orbit. And like any other wave, they can form intricate interference patterns. Check out this previous post for more on that.
The hope is that manipulating atomic structures like this may lead to even greater information storage capacity. Imaging all the world’s books and movies on your mobile phone at once!
Here’s a “making of” movie from IBM, featuring the sound of atoms being moved as well as the encouraging sight of several female team members.
This makes me as happy as atom boy there.