Thursday, September 30, 2010

dam goats

this is amazing!

not sure where the image originally came from, but according to tywkiwdbi, "They apparently traverse the wall of the dam to lick salt or other minerals from the stonework." despite looking so precariously perched, from a video of the goats, they frolic about on the dam quite easily!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

do physicists believe in god?

we are a small sample size, but the physicists of sixty symbols weigh in on the question... do you believe in god?

in addition, we also share our favorite "astronomical feature" in the video.

i havent written too much on my personal (lack of) belief in god on this blog, but here is something i wrote in 2006, if youre interested.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

jupiter of holst

here is a musical piece in honor of jupiter remaining so bright in our night sky for a while.

between 1914 and 1916, the british composer gustav holst wrote a seven-movement orchestral suite called The Planets Op.32. here is jupiter:

Monday, September 27, 2010

super scientist to the rescue!

check out this comic from saturday morning breakfast cereal:

superman asks "who do i punch?" hahaha!

wait superman! there's no need for violence! what you need is a super scientist!!


superman had a different idea.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

LHC mural

we recently learned about what might happen if one stuck one's hand in the beam of the large hadron collider (LHC), here's something completely different about the LHC.

artist josef kristofoletti just completed a mural of the LHC's ATLAS detector, located above ground at CERN, where the LHC is currently up and running!

the event depicted in the mural is the decay of a Z boson into two muons.

photos of scotland: part 1

here is round one of my favorite photos from my recent trip to scotland. i was amazed at how the landscape changed as rapidly as the weather. luckily, we survived my first time ever driving on the left side of the road and driving from the right-hand side of the car! and we were only harassed by the infamous midges on one occasion.

during our first night in scotland we stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast near loch lomond. the common room had an excellent view!

we drove thru the amazingly beautiful glen coe which has jumped up to be one of my favorite places!

i hiked to the top of the highest peak in the UK: ben nevis. the summit isnt terribly far above sea level, at 1,344 meters (4,409 ft), but i was still sore for a solid two days after the climb!

i walked across the path of a waterfall on the way to the top.

unfortunately, thick clouds hung about halfway down the mountain, completely blocking the view. this was one of the last shots i took before the clouds became so thick that i could hear people walking along the rocks before i could see them approaching!

we watched this lovely sunset along the loch until the tiny midges won the battle :( notice the light post that is submerged during high tide...

a peaceful moment with the loch's clear water.

the day after the hike, we drove a lot throughout the highlands. on the way to loch ness, we passed a lake whose name amused me: loch lochy!

we drove along most of loch ness. its incredibly long, narrow and deep! we stopped along its bank to see the remains of urquart castle. see any evidence of nessie in those dark waters?

me neither.

we then crossed the bridge to the isle of skye which was absolutely stunning - when you could see through the weather! part of the magic of scotland is that you dont always get to see its beauty, but when the clouds clear enough to send a beam of light shooting down to some distant patch of land, you feel as though you are witnessing a great secret of time.

and i must not forget one of my most favorite features of scotland: the scotch whisky!

more about the whisky in part 2. for now, you can look at the full set of photos from scotland: part 1.

Friday, September 24, 2010


i'm not sure what this is, but i saw it on fresh photons and think its awesome.

modern stained glass using x-ray images?

for some reason it reminds me of the images of humans suffering that i've seen in churches around the world, but i find this image really interesting, whereas i find a lot of the church images and statues rather creepy.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

the north star, polaris

this beautiful artwork shows you how to find the north star using ursa major, the big dipper.

Encyclopédie du livre d’or pour garçons et filles-livre 6 Adaptation américaine
(Editions des deux coqs d’or-1972, Illustrateur: inconnu)

(via fresh photons)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

the speedy peregrine falcon

the fastest animal on the planet is the peregrine falcon. it can reach speeds over 320 km/h (200 mph) and experiences up to 10 G's at the bottom of a swoop dive! in this BBC video, they strapped a camera onto a peregrine falcon so we can try to experience this level of speed for ourselves! i was most amazed by the second part, showing the bird's agility, as it speeds through a dense forest!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

jupiter's opposition, the equinox, and the full moon

tomorrow is the equinox, which means that the hours of daylight and darkness are very nearly equal. welcome to a new season (and hopefully lots of colorful leaves in the trees in ohio when i visit next week!).

the next few evenings will also be lovely for looking towards the sky. maybe you've noticed an incredibly bright object shining in eastern skies over the last couple months? that's the planet jupiter. wednesday, the harvest moon will be full, and the brightly shining, nearby jupiter will be hanging in the sky just below it.

last night jupiter was at opposition (when the earth passes between the sun and jupiter), constituting jupiter's closest physical approach to us on earth! every earth year, jupiter goes thru an opposition position, but its physically a little closer or farther each time. this time, it happens to be closer than it has been since 1963 and closer than it will be again until the year 2022, and as such, it looks especially bright in our sky! the jovian giant is about 368 million miles away.

you can see below how the planets of our solar system are currently aligned (the map is not to scale).

earth is just to the right of the sun, and you can see jupiter in a straight line farther out to the right. even farther out is the planet uranus. in fact, if you look to the upper left of jupiter in the (northern hemisphere's) sky with the aid of binoculars or a small telescope, you should easily be able to spot uranus, and maybe even the 4 galilean moons of jupiter! from the southern hemisphere, you'll find uranus to the lower left of jupiter.

be sure to go out, take a look, take a picture, and enjoy the changing of the seasons.

dirty space news: jets at all scales

i did not attend this conference myself, but a fellow astrophysicist pointed out to me that the poster for a recent IAU symposium obviously fits the criteria for being dirty space news:

its just an added bonus that they called the meeting jets at all scales.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

astro timelapse montage

i cant get enough of these landscape and sky-based timelaspe films! this one comes from mike flores on vimeo.

Timelapse Montage from Mike Flores on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

microscopic booze

a researcher at the university of florida shares some images of various types of booze, magnified about 1000 times (i think). so what does booze looks like under a microscope?

my favorite is white russian, which also happens to be a drink i very much like.

it looks like a painting by wassily kandinsky.

i also like the microscopic image of vodka, which appears to be much different even though vodka is a component of a white russian.

Friday, September 17, 2010

answers from sixty symbols: part 2

brady asked for my favorite symbol.... it has always been the same! watch below for more answers from your questions to the scientists of sixty symbols.

the answers: part 1.

the endocrine system

this image comes from a book called the human body - what it is and how it works, illustrated by cornelius de witt and published in 1959.

prof. michael stoll offers 200 images from the book in a nice flickr set.

(via fresh photons)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

four-leaf clovers

for some reason i've always had a talent for finding four-leaf clovers. i have no idea why.

while walking across the neighborhood to a friend's house when i was young, i glanced down and thought i saw, among the grass and clovers, a four-leaf clover! i stopped, took a slow step backwards, leaned down hopefully, and found it again!! i was so excited when i confirmed my find that i could hardly believe that just next to it... was another!?! woah!! then i saw another and another and another.... and wondered if i had found the luckiest patch of clovers on earth? i collected all the four-leaf clovers i could find in that little patch and ran back home to show my mom (and to show off to my sister ;)

during the summers of my childhood, i regularly brought home piles of not only four-leaf clovers, but five-leaf and six-leaf clovers as well! the four-leaf clovers were always more abundant than the five-leaf clovers, which were more numerous than the six-leaf clovers. i found a few seven-leaf clovers, but i don't remember ever finding an eight-leaf. apparently the world record is a 21-leaf clover!!

there's something about the abnormal symmetry of the four-leaf clover that is unique enough that my eyes seem to spot it instantly, even amid a huge patch of three-leaf clovers. i always thought, even as a kid, that i was finding the clovers with genetic aberrations, and wondered why it was only this particular genetic irregularity that we commonly consider "lucky."

the first time i observed with a big hands-on telescope, i recognized the benefit of my peculiar talent. a telescope is not usually pointing exactly where you want it to point at the beginning of the night. you have to adjust its position slightly in order to align it to exactly the correct coordinates. you usually have a reference image taken previously from some other telescope in the world, and then you take an image with your telescope and try to match the patterns found in the stars of each image until you find matching patters and can digitally nudge your telescope. depending on the instrument, you could be comparing two images with different orientations, rotations, flips, and/or flops.

the first time i had to do this, i found the process fascinating. i noticed that i was pretty good at the pattern matching bit and realized i had finally found a practical use for my four-leaf-clover-pattern-finding ability!

the point of all this is that i havent found many four-leaf clovers in the UK since i moved here two years ago. i've started wondering whether the four-leaf phenomenon is as environmental as it is genetic, because there are certainly lots of clover patches around here! i dont really know enough about biology to give any more information, but i do know that recently i've been finding a lot more four-leaf clovers in the UK, as you can see in the image above that i took in england's lake district!

i decided to leave that one growing in the ground for someone else to find again. good luck!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

england's lake district

a couple weeks ago i drove to england's lake district with some friends. the drive was gorgeous, if a bit strenuous for the vehicle!

obviously, lakes are plentiful.

another strikingly abundant feature of much of the british countryside is stone walls. they seem to meander randomly around many areas i've explored and are even identified on ordinance survey maps indicating places where crossings have been constructed!

the presence of the walls has something to do with the enclosure acts that started in the mid 1700s requiring farmers to enclose their fields. over 5000 acts of parliament were passed which covered almost 7 million acres of land, enclosing about 21% of england!

the greenest grass ever?

amazingly, the weather was pleasant throughout the entire weekend, but i must admit that plentiful showers bring lovely flowers!

we ended the weekend with a bit of fun at the beach!

"nottn'm woz 'ere"

Monday, September 6, 2010

black holes are out of sight!

i know this photo is classified as an "awkward family photo" and all, but i kinda want that shirt!

spotted at fresh photons

temporal gallery

this month's gallery for the royal observatory greenich's astronomy photographer of the year challenge was chosen by stuart, who writes the astronomy blog.

my favorite from his temporal gallery was this photo by thierry legault. aside from the necessary timing and technical skills required to capture the ISS just as it passes in front of the sun, the foresight to catch the ISS with the shuttle atlantis docked (on the left) is brilliant! this was the final space flight for atlantis before it was retired.

the clarity of the silhouette is stunning.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

fly to the moon

dangerous dive

this picture made my heart jump. it looks so exciting and refreshing and scary that it made me instantly anxious.

then i noticed the dark thing in the photo appearing to have jumped just after the long-haired man in sri lanka, and wondered if he had a pet mouse that simply couldnt live without him? unfortunately, i couldnt get any more information from the caption at the big picture.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

constrained ball

while its true that the name is unfortunate, this innovation is certainly very clever. the "constrained ball" is a drawing aid created by korean designer giha woo. you attach it to a pen and are then able to draw straight lines across a whole page without accidentally crossing out the neighboring couple lines, inevitably, by accident!

the downside is that you have to be using a flat surface for the constrained ball to produce a strait line, and i find i get a lot of paper reading accomplished on the bus these days, or leaning back in my chair with my feet up.