September 6, 2010

Space nerd alert II.

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The larger Rhea looms over its sibling moon Epimetheus with Saturn and its rings in the background. The two moons are actually about 250,000 miles apart. Rhea is Saturn’s second largest moon at 946 miles across and Epimetheus is only 70 miles across. This image was taken in visible green light on March 24, 2010.

The next time you're feeling blasé about human achievement, consider this: in 1997 we shot a very complicated machine the size of a school bus out into space. It flew past Venus (twice), then the Earth, then Jupiter—all in very precise ways that caused it to accelerate to the fantastic speed required to arrive at Saturn, 888 million miles from the sun, less than seven years later.

Once there, it split off part of itself and successfully sent this bit to land on a cloud-covered moon called Titan. Yes, we successfully landed a spacecraft on the fucking moon of a distant planet; we've got the photos to prove it. The mechanical engineering, software programming, and orbital calculations behind this achievement should make your brain melt like butter on a hot biscuit.

Now, nearly 13 years after shooting this insanely complex device into space, it's still orbiting Saturn in ridiculously complicated paths while sending back photos of what it sees. Wired magazine has collected a bunch of great ones from just the last few months, and they are amazing.



August 20, 2010

Space nerd alert.

The fact that these point-of-view videos from Space Shuttle launches have as few views as they do on YouTube is totally bizarre to me.

This is teh awesome.



August 12, 2010

Please visit the concession stand.

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Via Boing Boing.



August 10, 2010

The next time you're stumped by a crossword puzzle...

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...consult my wife. She has an answer for you.



August 7, 2010

Terror from the skies.

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Back in our Seattle days, each August brought Seafair—a massive orgy of petroleum consumption via hydroplane races on Lake Washington and flyovers by the Blue Angels overhead.

When a McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet passes a hundred feet or so above you, there's an explosively pants-soiling blast that shakes windows, terrifies pets, and triggers every fight-or-flight hormone available. And for anyone living on the perimeter of downtown Seattle during Seafair, there's virtually no warning of the blasts that recur throughout the day, because these marvels of American technology are flying so god damned fast and low to the ground.

But I'd never thought about how that insane roar might affect people who've been exposed to something far more real:

Last Seafair, I was assigned to work the inpatient psych unit at the Seattle VA. The Blue Angels tastefully used the VA building as a landmark on their strafing aerobatic runs over I-90. The psych unit is on the top floor. My ambivalence about the Angels was spent by the end of the long weekend of close passes...

A typical patient on that weekend had gone camping—deep into the woods if possible—on the preceding July 4th weekend. Combat memories and fireworks don't mix. But, you're new to Seattle. You don't know of the Blue Angels and Seafair. This is one trigger of the memories you didn't plan for. The horror starts to rise. You panic.

This sounds wishy-washy; it isn't. There is real neuroscience behind shell shock. The sound of the F/A-18's F404 engines is more than enough trigger for those struggling to put away their demons. So, no, I'm not the biggest fan of the Blue Angels.

Working Inpatient Psych at the VA with the Blue Angels (Jonathan Golob on Slog)



August 6, 2010

Welcome to the monkey park.

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Over on Boing Boing, Mark Frauenfelder writes about his family's trip to Kyoto's Iwatayama Monkey Park:

After paying the 500 yen admission, we started up the hill. Signs warned us along the way about not interacting with the monkeys. Here, a map has the warning, "Entrance office. Please put paper bag here. Some monkey want to get it."

...As we got near the top, we saw our final warning sign: "Please push this button if you are scared to walk up because of the monkeys. Staff will be coming." There was no button. Maybe the monkeys took it.

A visit to Iwatayama Monkey Park in Kyoto Japan (Mark Frauenfelder, Boing Boing)



August 4, 2010

Good bad guy? Bad good guy?

How can this thoughtful, decent, articulate crusader for minority rights and equal protection under the law also be one of the central players in foisting George W. Bush on our country just ten years ago? This complexity hurts my brain.