Posts Tagged ‘Science’

India-Pakistan Border from Space

Today I learned that the heavily fortified border between India and Pakistan, a fenced-off no-mans land lit at night by arc lamps, is visible to the naked eye from space.

The above was taken from the ISS.

Via NASA →

What If?

Speaking of XKCD, Randall Munroe also just launched a short video about the technical limits of using the Hubble Space Telescope to take pictures of the earth.

Podcast: Learn Real Good

This is a great science podcast made by the charming pair of Katie (trained biologist), and Vinny (trained in physics). Using their combined science backgrounds, speaking skills honed via improv theatre, and natural chemistry, they’re excellent hosts and interviewers of scientists working on all sorts of subjects. They just launched a new season, and it continues to be a very informative and fun listen.

Each episode consists of general science banter centred around recent science news or fact, followed by a more in-depth interview with a research student about their current work.

Learn More →

Montreal Solar System

Incessantly curious Montrealer Trevor Kjorlien, aka Plateau Astro, has a scale model of the earth and the moon on his front-yard fence. His photo of it from his Patreon looks like this:

This is a great little guerrilla educational tool already, but, he says it leads to a common question: “How big is the Sun? Where is it?”.

This prompted me to contact him and ask if Montréal’s own Buckminster Fuller-designed geodesic dome, formerly the Expo 67 American Pavilion and now ‘The Biosphere’, would make a suitable sun. Not at the scale of his front-yard models, it turns out. At his front-yard scale, the sun would be about 6 meters across, and about 900 meters away from his tiny earth. The Bucky-ball would be a lot larger than his front yard would allow, at a 76 meter-diameter.

Trevor then sent me a map made with the aptly-named Solar System Scale Model Calculator with the 76-metre Biosphere at its sun, and the results are fascinating, largely because by scaling to a known size, it makes it clear just how utterly empty the solar system actually is.

It’s also satisfying to zoom in and see the solar system scaled onto something more familiar to people, like a city (click to explore):

I also feel obligated, when mentioning the Biosphere taking the place of a star, to also mention that the biosphere was once covered in clear plastic panels, which caught fire in maybe the most heavy metal way.

Which brings us to the other obvious sun substitute in Montréal, the rather sunny-looking Orange Julep. At 12 meters across, the Orange Julep is about exactly double the size the sun would be compared to his front-yard earth and moon, and also too far away. He was nice enough to generate a map of the solar system scaled to the Orange Julep sun.

Visit Plateau Astro for much more fun space content.

A Radical Distrust in Certainty

I’m a bit too snowed-under these past few days to post much. So here is something from the archives, a quote from Carlo Rovelli’s Reality Is Not What It Seems, a book about quantum gravity, which I thought was a great summary of science:

Though rooted in previous knowledge, science is an adventure based on continuous change. The story I have told reaches back over millennia, tracing a narrative of science that has treasured good ideas, but hasn’t hesitated to throw ideas away when something was found that worked better. The nature of scientific thinking is critical, rebellious, and dissatisfied with a priori conceptions, reverence, and sacred or untouchable truth. The search for knowledge is not nourished by certainty: it is nourished by a radical distrust in certainty.

The Impossible Map by Evelyn Lambart

For the second day in a row I’m posting an old favourite by NFB legend Evelyn Lambart. This time it’s The Impossible Map, one of my favourite explanations of how map projections work using fruit and vegetables. Simple but effective.

Moon Museum

An art project was commissioned as part of the Apollo 12 program, which included pieces of art by notable contemporary artists, including a penis drawn by Andy Warhol. The tiny ceramic wafer was said to have be covertly attached to one of the lander’s legs and flown to the moon, though there is no (easy) way to determine if it made the trip, or if it is still in place.

The penis was famously covered by a thumb when the piece was covered in the New York Times. None of the drawings are particularly ground-breaking or even interesting, but they did have a tiny 13mm × 19mm of total space to work with.

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Book: How to Take Over the World

This is a fun entry into a genre I sometimes think about as dumbsmart. It’s a collection of dumb ideas analyzed in a smart way. The book takes the idea of taking over the world (very, very loosely) and seriously analyzes what it would take to actually pull some of it off.

To be clear, all of the activities author Ryan North looks at are really more “vaguely supervillain-esque” than a series of instructions for how to actually take over the world. Chapters include Starting Your Own Country, How to Become Immortal, and How to Live Forever. The chapter Drilling to the Centre of the Planet to Hold the Earth’s Core Hostage is the closest he gets to actually taking over the world, but the task turns out to be essentially impossible, so he settles for digging a slightly shorter path between stock exchanges to make money by trading stocks a fraction of a fraction of a second faster that surface-based connections can.

To echo on some recent themes of Elsewhat, there is even a sequence about creating a floating geodesic sphere hot air ballon base inspired directly from ideas by Buckminster Fuller.

Canadian Friends can get it here →

Orcas Sinking Boats?

Scientists think a traumatized orca initiated the assault on boats after a “critical moment of agony” and that the behavior is spreading among the population through social learning.

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Via One Foot Tsunami

El Niño is Coming, and It's Going to Get Hot

That one-two punch from El Niño and climate change is expected to “push global temperatures into uncharted territory,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a press release today. “This will have far-reaching repercussions for health, food security, water management and the environment. We need to be prepared.”

Read More at The Verge →