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Saturday, March 31, 2012

5 Amazing Astronomy Videos: Rockets, the Sun, Stars, and Saturn

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Here's footage from the (amateur) Qu8k launch.  Personal tests of whether or not a videos is share-worthy:  My jaw has dropped / My eyes are bulging / Expletives.... check, check, and check.
"Qu8k Rocket Launch Highlights - On-board GoPro HD at 22+ miles above earth"
"Qu8k (pronounced "Quake") launched from the Black Rock Desert in Nevada to an altitude of 121,000' before returning safely to earth. Above 99% of the atmosphere, the sky turns black in the middle of the day and the curvature of the earth is clearly visible. The rocket motor produced 4,000 lbs of thrust for 8 seconds accelerating the vehicle to over Mach 3 at over 10,000'. After that, momentum carried the rocket skyward for another 84 seconds to a peak altitude of 121,000.'"



Video Credit:




Via NASA/Goddard's Flickr.  A different, but similar video to the popular one going around right now.
"Auntie Em! It’s a Twister!"
"...NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded this eruption on the sun's surface that looks much like the tornadoes that appear on Earth. This tornado, however, swirled a thousand times faster, with whirling gases reaching speeds of over 186,000 miles an hour -- compared to tornadoes on Earth that are closer to 100 miles per hour."



 Video Credit: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center / SDO / AIA / NCAR



"Haunting Images from the Sun"
"In the last year, the sun has gone from its quietest period in years to the activity marking the beginning of solar cycle 24. SDO has captured every moment with a level of detail never-before possible."



Video Credit: NASA/SDO/AIA



 Off of Vimeo.  Quite impressive.


The Stars as Viewed from the International Space Station. from AJRCLIPS on Vimeo.



And finally, another gem from VimeoBeautiful, this one evokes a lot of emotion, for me at least.
"This is the perfect opportunity for a Carl Sagan quote: 'Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.'  The footage in this little film was captured by the hardworking men and women at NASA and The European Space Agency with the Cassini Imaging Science System."


CASSINI MISSION from Chris Abbas on Vimeo.



Thanks to Camilla SDO on G+ /

   
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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Footage of US / Russian Underwater-to-Air Missiles

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Absolutely stunning.  Search YouTube for titles such as these.  There are many unclassified videos of similar launches.


This first is from a Russian ship.
"Underwater Missile Launch"










This launch seems pretty serious.  It doesn't look at all like a test run to me.  It travels far off-screen.
"Submarine Cruise Missile Launch"






Here's the really wild one.  The missile fails, explodes, and pieces fall back into the sea.
"Trident II launch goes wrong"






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Monday, March 26, 2012

Baboons Kidnap Puppies, Successfully Integrate Them into Their Groups

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Saudi Arabian baboons have been videotaped kidnapping puppies and raising them as pets.
It's fairly emotional.  This behavior in humans is atrocious.  It rings of Stockholm Syndrome. 

"[Baboons] will sometimes 'kidnap' feral dog pups to raise as pets and keep for protection, eventually forming a symbiotic relationship." - emocliae

"The 'adoption process' is closer to kidnapping than rescuing, so be warned — the first couple of minutes make for some pretty rough viewing." -The Daily What




Video Credit:
Found first at Io9, who credits The Daily What, who credits Super Punch, who credits Reddit, who points to YouTube, who points to the HOMEPAGE for Cobb County.  The subject is nowhere to be found on Cobb County.  Good job people. 



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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

5 New Fun Sci Videos

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From URNScienceShow, fun and very visually impressive:
"The Vortex Cannon - Student Science"
"After weeks of pestering, we finally give in and let George build a vortex cannon - with surprisingly spooky cup flying results."



Video Credit: URNScienceShow



The Sagan Series, always moving, always inspirational
"THE SAGAN SERIES (part 9) - The Humans"
Join them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thesaganseries



Video Credit: The list is very long, see HERE



Icebergs have never looked so angry!
You'll have to fiddle with the sound during this.  The beginning rumbles of the fracturing iceberg is very impressive.  When the collapse really gets going, all the passengers on this small boat begin screaming in excitement... and don't stop.  It's a full 0db clip.
"Exploding iceberg in Antarctica!"
"The thing just exploded very close to our zodiac! Or should I say imploded. And it spat out big chunks of thousands year old ice to our heads... Crazy!"



Video Credit: Lex Coppoolse 2012



A new Neil deGrasse Tyson video!  He touches on The Most Astounding Fact once again.  This found via Huffington Post, transferred over to YouTube (now with a lack of commercials!)
"Neil DeGrasse Tyson: 'We Don't Know What's Driving 96% Of The Universe'"



Video Credit: Cara Santa Maria / Huffington Post / Neil deGrasse Tyson


In the world's best anechoic chamber, the BBC and scientists record some of the quietest sounds on Earth .  Great stuff for audiophiles or bug enthusiasts. 
Click Here for a larger version.






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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Drive Safe Tonight Everybody!

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(A Biologist's) St. Patrick's Day Song




Credit: YouTube User

 
Lyrics!
In the year of our lord eighteen hundred and eleven
On March the seventeenth day
I will raise up a beer and I'll raise up a cheer
For Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Here's to brewers yeast, that humblest of all beasts
Producing carbon gas reducing acetaldehyde
But my friends that isn't all -- it makes ethyl alcohol
That is what the yeast excretes and that's what we imbibe

Anaerobic isolation
Alcoholic fermentation
NADH oxidation
Give me a beer

[CHORUS]

My intestinal wall absorbs that ethanol
And soon it passes through my blood-brain barrier
There's a girl in the next seat who I didn't think that sweet
But after a few drinks I want to marry her
I guess it's not surprising, my dopamine is rising
And my glutamate receptors are all shot
I'd surely be bemoaning all the extra serotonin
But my judgment is impaired and my confidence is not

Allosteric modulation
No Long Term Potentiation
Hastens my inebriation
Give me a beer

[CHORUS]

When ethanol is in me, some shows up in my kidneys
And inhibits vasopressin by degrees
A decrease in aquaporins hinders water re-absorption
And pretty soon I really have to pee
Well my liver breaks it down so my body can rebound
By my store of glycogen is soon depleted
And tomorrow when I'm sober I will also be hungover
Cause I flushed electrolytes that my nerves and muscles needed

Diuretic activation
Urination urination
Urination dehydration
Give me a beer

[CHORUS]

CHORDS

Intro:
D DAG / bm A
D D A G / bm A G D
G D A G / G D G A
G D A bm / G D A D

Pre - chorus:
G D A bm / G D A

Chorus (Li-Diddly-I):
G D A bm A
G D A D

Verse:
D DAG / Bm A
D D A G / Bm A G D
G D A G / bm A
G D A bm / G D A D


Found via Io9


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Science Off The Sphere: An Astronaut's Own Experiments In Space

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Right now, in orbit around the Earth is the ISS, the International Space Station.  Aboard is a curious astronaut, Don Pettit, who in his spare time conducts zero-gravity experiments of his own creation.  His playful curiosity is endearing, and his experiments engaging.

Unfortunately, his Main Page doesn't have an RSS feed.  It's easy to get hooked on the series.  I'll make sure to post new episodes as they come out.


"Knitting Needle Experiment"
In episode 1 of Science off the Sphere, Don ionizes a knitting needle.  He squirts drops of water at it, which then fall into "orbit" around the needle.  Although it's electromagnetism at work here, the orbit is very similar to gravity.



Video Credit: NASA / Don Pettit / ISS


Episode 2 of Science off the Sphere: Bistronauts
Don demonstrates their counter-intuitive zero-g open beverages.  Straws are just too easy.  Astronauts can drink out of open containers too, just like on Earth.



Video Credit: NASA / Don Pettit / ISS


"Thin Film Physics"
In Episode 3 of Science off the Sphere, Don plays with liquid surface tension.  It normally takes a high speed camera on Earth in order to get some really intense fluid dynamics footage.  Up in zero-g however, Don easily shows us some really cool liquid movement.



Video Credit: NASA / Don Pettit / ISS



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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Caramel Color Carcinogens -- Bring Back Crystal Pepsi Part 2

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ResearchBlogging.org
4-MI (aka 4-MEI) is a byproduct of the caramel coloring classically used in Coke and Pepsi.  New articles on its effect on the public have people scared (again).  The new information being spread has reminded us that this chemical is a mild carcinogen.  Because the FDA could require cancer warnings on their products, these two soda giants are almost certainly going to change their formulas.

Crystal Pepsi!!
Image:Wikipedia

Quick definition: 
"4-Methylimidazole (4MI) is used in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, photographic chemicals, dyes and pigments, cleaning and agricultural chemicals, and rubber. It has been identified as a by-product of fermentation in foods and has been detected in mainstream and side stream tobacco smoke."
-PubMed [1]

 Statements of 4-MEI as a carcinogen:
"... 4MI is carcinogenic inducing alveolar/bronchiolar adenoma and carcinoma in male and female mice. 4MI may also induce mononuclear cell leukemia in female rats."
-PubMed [1]


"4-Methylimidazole meets the criteria for listing as known to the State to cause cancer under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Health and Safety Code Section 25249.5 et seq.)"
-California EPA [2]

How does this chemical byproduct get into soda?
Heating up sugar (specifically dextrose) is how this caramel coloring is created.  The caramel in itself is harmless.  However, ammonia salts are added specifically to intensify the color.  This reacts with the sugars as they degrade, creating 4-MEI!

University of Nottingham's Periodic Videos series explains it very well:

Video Credit: University of Nottingham / Brady Haran / Periodic Videos




An alternate view.  Is it all a scare?
"...this is on the extreme end of silly to me. You can take almost any chemical we're exposed to routinely, give rats or mice enormous doses of it, and see increased risks of cancer."
-Mark Hoofnagle's take after lengthy research [a PhD in physiology, a general surgeon, yet humbly admits that he's not an expert in toxicology]
-Via ScienceBlogs / Denialism Blog


As it turns out, drinking 1000+ cans a day puts you in danger.  That's a comically massive amount.


9 paragraphs down in ScienceBlogs / Denialism, Mark Hoofnagle explains specific dosages if you're interested.
CSPI overblows the cancer risk of caramel coloring in soda 


Nevertheless, the CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest-(Official site / Wikipedia) is calling for the mandatory removal of caramel color in our foods.


Coca Cola's response seems strange to me.  They don't point out the dosage-to-risk factor.  Instead they take on an arrogant tone and dismiss both the CSPI and the California EPA's evaluation.

"Unlike CSPI, The Coca-Cola Company deals in hard facts," said company representative Ben Sheidler in an e-mailed statement to Food Safety News. "Fact:  The body of science about 4-MEI in foods or beverages does not support the erroneous allegations that CSPI would like the public to believe.  The 4-MEI levels in our products pose no health or safety risks.  Outside of California, no regulatory agency concerned with protecting the public's health has stated that 4-MEI is a human carcinogen.  The caramel color in all of our ingredients has been, is and always will be safe. That is a fact."
-Ben Sheilder, Coca Cola Rep
via Food Safety News


In the news as early as Feb. 2011, CSPI pushed the topic:
"FDA Urged to Prohibit Carcinogenic "Caramel Coloring"


California did respond.  The FDA might jump in.
The state of California has banned 4-MI in any amount that could potentially lead to one cancer case in 100,000 people. However the levels found in these 4 leading Cola brands indicated a lifetime risk of 5 cancers out of 100,000, assuming that people drink one soft drink per day. That risk rises to 10 cancers out of 100,000 people who drink only soft drinks containing caramel coloring.
-ScienceBlogs / Denialism


Enter Crystal Pepsi!
Pepsi-Cola has not announced its comeback.  
However, this is why I think Crystal Pepsi needs to be resurrected: 

Conveniently, Pepsi-Cola already has a "formula" in their pocket, circa 1992, that could turn this negative media attention into a great opportunity.  It's the same ol' Pepsi, without caramel color or caffeine.

For round 2, they have, in my opinion an exponentially greater chance of success in the market.
1 - They have NOSTALGIA on their side, very strong in those old enough to remember its first run.
2 - The coloration change will not have the same effect on the public because we are already familiar with the product.
3 - This, as a response to 4-MEI news, shows responsibility and responsiveness.
4 - Coca-Cola's plan of action so far is no action.  Pepsi's action in itself (IF they respond to my plea) draws attention to this.  Thus, Pepsi would look like the good guys.
5 - To "sweeten" the deal, they save money by eliminating two ingredients.
6 - I have an irrational love for Crystal Pepsi.


The original rollout fell flat back in the early nineties, for reasons I describe in detail in my Crystal Pepsi sister post:

Why It Failed -- Bring Back Crystal Pepsi: Part 1


    

...Just stay away from the diet version...
"Daily diet soda tied to higher risk for stroke, heart attack"
-MSNBC

Or, for a much better source,

"Daily diet soft drink consumption was associated with several vascular risk factors and with an increased risk for vascular events. Further research is needed before any conclusions can be made regarding the potential health consequences of diet soft drink consumption. "
-PubMed [3]



[1]
Chan, P., Hills, G., Kissling, G., & Nyska, A. (2007). Toxicity and carcinogenicity studies of 4-methylimidazole in F344/N rats and B6C3F1 mice Archives of Toxicology, 82 (1), 45-53 DOI: 10.1007/s00204-007-0222-5

[2]
National Toxicology Program (NTP, 2007) (2007). Chemical Meeting The Criteria For Listing As Causing Cancer Via The Authoritative Bodies Mechanism: 4-Methylimidazole NTP Technical Report Series (535) Other: NIH: 07-4471

[3]
Gardener, H., Rundek, T., Markert, M., Wright, C., Elkind, M., & Sacco, R. (2012). Diet Soft Drink Consumption is Associated with an Increased Risk of Vascular Events in the Northern Manhattan Study Journal of General Internal Medicine DOI: 10.1007/s11606-011-1968-2




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Why It Failed -- Bring Back Crystal Pepsi: Part 1

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I look back with nostalgia at Crystal Pepsi.  Thinking back to '92-'93, can you remember the taste? To jog your memory, go grab a regular Pepsi.  It's the exact same flavor, sans coloring and caffeine.
Image:Wikipedia
Why was Crystal Pepsi a failure?
The answer can be found by looking at experiments we've done on consumers' taste, expectations, and satisfaction with beverages on the market.  What causes a positive or negative response in the consumer partly has to do with the psychological associations they have with the flavor they are expecting to taste either clashing or matching with what they actually get.  As it turns out, inferences we make due to a drink's color mean a lot.


Scientists from Appalachian State University and the University of Auckland worked together in a paper that explains the process:
"Effects of Food Color On Perceived Flavor"
"...food color affects the consumer's ability to correctly identify flavor, to form distinct flavor profiles and preferences, and dominates other flavor information sources, including labeling and taste.  Further, these results support the notion that food color is inextricably linked to expected flavor in the minds of consumers, making the selection of uncharacteristic food color problematical.  In the following, we present three possible strategies for making the introduction of a novel food color viable for marketing communication purposes.  The first is to teach consumers to accept a novel color as characteristic, or emblematic, of a particular food, as green is for peppermint or brown is for cola. [I interject - brown was long established by Pepsi/Coca-Cola]  This is a strategy that is self-defeating in some respects, but is useful under certain circumstances, as we shall discuss.  The second strategy is to celebrate the very incongruity of a novel food color, to announce to the consumer that its novelty is there to surprise and delight, and the proper response is to have fun and enjoy it.  [Interjecting again - Crystal Pepsi's marketing directly attempted this, as you'll see in the embedded commercial at the bottom]  The third strategy for the introduction of a novel food color is to sever the food color and flavor expectations connection, making it impossible for the consumer to connect the two..."
[1]

Breaking cola's brown "novel color" factor
"...A drawback to rendering a novel color no longer novel is that it loses its ability to surprise the consumer into attention, which was the prime reason for utilizing novel color in the first place..."
[1]

Backpedaling: no coloration is not vibrant
"...When the appearance of a food product is nondescript, then associating it with a new, more vibrant color can enhance its noticeability, its distinctiveness and its appeal..."
[1]


For a current example,  the marketing for a drink sold now, "The Green Machine,"  shows that the company (Naked) appropriately adjusted their marketing based on the insights we're talking about.  The product title rhymes, is intriguing, and directly addresses the odd color in a playful way.  Stamped on it is a catchphrase, "Looks Weird, Tastes Amazing."  There are many fruit juices in the ingredients, and they make sure not to be vague about it.



Pepsi, in trying to spice things up, took a step backwards.  I don't think that "clear" was necessarily perceived as a color in this situation, but as the lack of it.  Nevertheless, they severed the connection between the niche, classic brown color associated with cola, inviting the public to evaluate the taste without any preconceived notions.  As a result, the consumer initially pays more attention to the flavor.  The fact that the flavor is exactly the same as the brand's main product then lead to disappointment. 

There may be hope for Crystal Pepsi yet... 
In part 2 of this subject, I talk about 4-MI, cola's caramel color, in the news as a deadly carcinogen.

Caramel Color Carcinogens -- Bring Back Crystal Pepsi Part 2

  In the conclusion of Part 2, I make my argument
for the resurrection of Crystal Pepsi!


Here is a Crystal Clear Pepsi commercial from its launch back in 1992.  Tssst...AHHh!



ResearchBlogging.org
[1]
Lawrence L. Garber Jr., Eva M Hyatt, & Richard G. Starr Jr. (2000). The effects of food color on perceived flavor Journal of Marketing Theory And Practice, 59-75 Other: ISSN: 10696679



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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sonification: Listen To The Sun / Listen To CERN's LHC

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ResearchBlogging.org
I'm a huge fan of the practice of sonification.  As a musician and science lover, I find it captivating; so anytime I catch it in the news I get very excited.



This post was chosen as an Editor's Selection for ResearchBlogging.org

What is sonification?
"Sonification is the use of non-speech audio to extract information from data.  It represents the sound analogue to graphical visualization. The method is applied in several disciplines from economy to medicine to physics."  [1]

How is it useful?
I found a wonderful explanation of the potential of this technology in the same paper quoted above, published back in 2005.


"Sonification offers the chance to detect structures in the data sets that have been hidden to the methods applied so far. Data analysis through sonification might especially be useful for displaying results depending on multiple parameters and/or belonging to higher space-time dimensions."
[1]


Here is the relevant current event:
News out of University of Michigan applauds the new sonification efforts of doctoral student Robert Alexander.

"Listen to solar storm activity in new sonification video"
"The researcher who created it is Robert Alexander, a University of Michigan design science doctoral student. Alexander is a composer with a NASA fellowship to study how representing information as sound could aid in data mining."
-Nicole Casal Moore University of Michigan


Video Credit: University of Michigan / Robert Alexander
Released by University of Michigan found via Space.com


I really don't want to put the team down, but I think the presentation of information in this article is misleading.  The end product is both fascinating and useful, yes.  The article, however, seems to suggest that sonification as applied to current science is a novel thing.


The author quotes Jim Raines, a lead mission operations engineer in U-M's Space Physics Research Lab.
"Robert is giving us another research tool," Raines said. "We're used to looking at wiggly-line plots and graphs, but humans are very good at hearing things. We wonder if there's a way to find things in the data that are difficult to see."

This kind of talk is extremely dumbed-down, and seems very strange to me.  Human pattern seeking tendencies indeed allow us to spot some anomalies quicker than data crunching.

Alexander's methodology, or perhaps the application of the process to different subject matter may be a new development, but sonification has been around at least since the invention of the geiger counter, as the author of the article mentions.



In this video from late 2010, "ptolemy2000" shows us an animation set to the sonification of an LHC collision at CERN.  It's a very exciting crescendo.  All the sound is data translation, except for the filming of the control center in the beginning (which is a little high pitched.)
"Sonifying the LHC at CERN"


Video Credit: CERN/LHC/ ptolemy2000

Wonderful, isn't it?

CERN, in a paper released in 2010, reveals at great length the sonification used for the data analysis of experiments with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC.)

"...[The particle beam] oscillation frequencies range from a few tens of Hz to a few kHz, therefore they are audible without any further processing.  With this sonification, many details of beam dynamics can be monitored by listening, in parallel to standard observation usually done in the frequency domain by performing real-time Fourier analysis of the beam signals." [2]

(20Hz-20kHz is the audible frequency range of an undamaged human ear)

They later explain the setup as experienced by the scientists monitoring the audio signal.  Personally, this blows my mind.

This is a visualization for the following description:



Scheme of the Sonification
"The listener is virtually placed in the center, where the beams collide.  The two read-out chambers are situated to the left and right hand side.  The strings in the center of the read-out chamber are shorter and higher pitched.  The tracks start playing in the point of collision and evolve simultaneously to the left and right hand side.  The volume of the sounds represents the charge deposit of the electrons.  And finally, in order to not confuse tracks that are close to each other, they sound slightly different - as different instruments of an orchestra.  If more electrons are hitting wires within a short time, the sounds overlap and auditory grouping happens.  Thus we hear a continuous and coherent sound for each track rather than single tones for each single hit." [2]





Related to sonification is the processing of "infrasound" into audible signal.  Infrasound actually is audio signal, but we can't hear it.  This data is, as with the techniques shown above, processed in such a way for us to hear what we otherwise couldn't.
I've written about this technique a couple times before.  Once on infrasound resonating the eyeball to create visual artifacts reported as ghosts:

[ Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Vic Tandy on Ghosts and Infrasound ]

And another bit, more recently, here:
[ Audio: That's Not Thunder? The Seismic Waves of Japan's 9.0 Earthquake ]





[1]
Alberto de Campo, Natascha Hormann, Harald Markum, Willibald Plessas, & Bianka Sengi (2005). Sonification of lattice data: The spectrum of the Dirac operator across the deconfinement transition Proceedings of Science Other: PoS: LAT2005-152

[2]
Katharina Vogt, Robert H¨oldrich, David Pirr`o, Martin Rumori, Stefan Rossegger, Werner Riegler, & MatevĖ‡z Tadel (2010). A SONIC TIME PROJECTION CHAMBER. SONIFIED PARTICLE DETECTION AT CERN International Conference on Auditory Display Other: ISBN: 0-9670904-3-1

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The Scale of the Universe (Interactive)

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As seen on NASA's APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day)
I truly believe that, as often as possible, we should take notice of our everyday perspective in the universe, and remember the lesson in perspective as shown by Cary and Michael Huang. 

Click START
Then mouseclick and slide the bar at the bottom to the left or right.




Thank you so much, Cary and Michael Huang for creating this enlightening and humbling demonstration. Visit them at htwins.net


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Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Conspiracy Theorist's Goldmine: NASA to Launch Rockets Looking Like Missiles, Deploying Chemical Tracers (ATREX)

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Sometime this month, NASA's new high altitude study will blast off.  Five sounding rockets, designed for sub-orbital flight, will release chemical tracers at a high altitude; allowing us to gauge wind speeds, temperature, and pressure heretofore only very loosely estimated.  These are low weight, light payload rockets, and quite cheap in comparison to alternatives.


Video Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center


I muse that this might be prime bait for pseudoscience nuts.   

Chemical Tracers!?  "Erm.. Trimethyl Aluminum?"  Rockets, eh?  ...or are they missiles?  They sure look like missiles to me, and seeing is believing! 

The most important trick up a charlatan's sleeve is to pepper their farce with some truth.  This direct quote below is innocuous to the scientifically minded.  If you're looking to confirm an existing alarmist bias however, this might be perceived as a hardcore government slip up.

"The five sounding rockets, known as the Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment (ATREX), will launch from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia releasing a chemical tracer into the air. The chemical -- a substance called trimethyl aluminum -- forms milky, white clouds that allow those on the ground to "see" the winds in space and track them with cameras." 
-NASA [Scott Wiessinger (USRA) / Karen Fox (ASI)] NASA Release HERE

I'm calling it!  PSEUDOSCIENCE INCOMING!!!


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Here's How Wikipedia's Checks And Balances Work

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Today, I was looking up the ridiculous senator James Inhofe on Wikipedia.  I noticed, and commented to a friend, that the article was flagged...  Then I got curious.


Some people look at Wikipedia's self sufficiency as a fatal flaw.  In actuality, its system of self-regulation is quite robust.

There are plenty of online news sources that I don't trust one bit.  These I normally read for a laugh, or for insight on current strategies for the pushing of a specific pseudoscience.  The usefulness of a questionable information source, even to super-skeptics, really depends on what topic of information you're looking up, how you're going to use this information, and if you'll be researching the topic further.

Fake facts, false fibs CAN show up in Wikipedia.
However, there are plenty of measures in place to keep erroneous content in check.   


Combined, these mechanisms in place provide a good overall picture of the content management involved with Wikipedia.

Here's how it works:




Senator Inhofe's page is flagged, yet evolution is not?  This is partly because of the citations used and credibility of the information driving the content.  The system is more complex than just that.
If this confuses you, there are a number of good links a few paragraphs down (on Content Criteria) that ought to help you on your way. 





The Wikipedia page on evolution is "semi protected," a state invented for topics with frequent instances of tomfoolery.



Semi-protection enacts extra qualifications.
"Semi-protection prevents edits from unregistered users (IP addresses), as well as edits from any account that is not autoconfirmed (is at least four days old and has at least ten edits to Wikipedia) or confirmed."


Contributors could just be mistaken! 
Not all bad information comes from trickery or malice.  The best way to fight against honest incorrect contributions is to provide some up front crash course education for new editors.  There aren't any prerequisites.  By following the guidelines provided, a new contributor can gain a number of very important skills.  For example, being able to identify credible sources is a valuable skill unknown to a large percentage of the population. Before the need to regulate arises, content criteria is defined through a clear (and thorough) guide for any new editor. 


Content Criteria
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:About#Wikipedia_content_criteria

  1. Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not, which summarizes what belongs in Wikipedia and what does not;
  2. Wikipedia:Neutral point of view, which describes Wikipedia's mandatory core approach to neutral, unbiased article-writing;
  3. Wikipedia:No original research, which prohibits the use of Wikipedia to publish personal views and original research of editors and defines Wikipedia's role as an encyclopedia of existing recognized knowledge;
  4. Wikipedia:Verifiability, which explains that it must be possible for readers to verify all content against credible external sources (following the guidance in the Wikipedia:Risk disclaimer that is linked-to at the bottom of every article);
  5. Wikipedia:Reliable sources, which explains what factors determine whether a source is acceptable;
  6. Wikipedia:Citing sources, which describes the manner of citing sources so that readers can verify content for themselves; and
  7. Wikipedia:Manual of Style, which offers a style guide—in general editors tend to acquire knowledge of appropriate writing styles and detailed formatting over time.

Fringe Theories

Provided here is a very nice guide for teaching editors how to spot and deal with fringe theories.  Furthermore, I'd say that this is a pretty damn good guide on fringe for the public in general.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Fringe_theories




When a conflict does arise:
Here is a chart of links for managing each of a huge variety of conflict types:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Alert#Contacting_admins_about_help.2C_deletions.2C_abuse


On Alerts:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Alert
"However, realize the tag is only a request. Instead, if only 1 SAVE is made (by pre-combining all changes), then other editors will only be alerted to check that page when your entire edit is done."


Lets work this out.

This is one of the behind the scenes sections.  It's a place for editors to iron out what's going to be published on a given page:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Noticeboards



Before today, I had a very vague idea of how this was handled.  It's really quite impressive.  The rules themselves got (and get) modified, approved, and enforced all through the same basic style of regulation. (neat!)  They call these backbone pages "pillar articles"








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Friday, March 9, 2012

My Favorite Lecture of All Time: Lawrence Krauss - "A Universe From Nothing"

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I've watched a ton of debates and lectures over the years.  I really think that my favorite is this, by Lawrence Krauss.  An hour worth of highly entertaining and deeply meaningful science.
"A Universe From Nothing"
Enjoy!



Video Credit: Lawrence Krauss / Richard Dawkins 



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To Dream of Tomorrow - Neil dGrasse Tyson at Senate Commerce

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Inspirational and eloquent, this speech is Neil deGrasse Tyson at his best.

Video Credit: Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson / YouTube account CommerceRepublicans



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A Trick From 1680 Revisited In All Its Beauty

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Sand on the the surface of this table skitters in scientifically predictable patterns according to the resonant frequency.  I realised halfway through viewing this that my jaw had dropped.  It's quite a hypnotic ride. 



These patterns you see are called "Chladni figures."

These days, the technique is mostly practised with speakers and a sine wave generator. (electronic oscillator)  In this video though, the hands-on, careful rubbing to induce vibration makes the scene more personal I think.


Resonance effect shown for various input frequencies and damping coefficients.

"One of Chladni's best-known achievements was inventing a technique to show the various modes of vibration on a mechanical surface. Chladni repeated the pioneering experiments of Robert Hooke of Oxford University who, on July 8, 1680, had observed the nodal patterns associated with the vibrations of glass plates. Hooke ran a bow along the edge of a plate covered with flour, and saw the nodal patterns emerge."
-Wikipedia entry on Ernst Chladni

Found via Io9


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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Robots: 1940's Tortoise VS 2010's Roomba

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Late 1940's?  Made out of alarm clocks?
IMPRESSIVE!




Roomba!  ...not so impressive anymore.



Video 1 Credits: Io9's "The very first robot "brains" were made of old alarm clocks" through Rutherford Journal
Video 2 Credits: iRobot/Roomba



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Audio: That's Not Thunder? The Seismic Waves of Japan's 9.0 Earthquake

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The seismic waves of an earthquake are too low or "bassy" for the human ear.  This range, below 20Hz, is called "infrasound."  These frequencies can be shifted upward in range via pitch shift or sample rate changes.

This is what Georgia Tech scientists have done with the data gathered from last year's Tohoku-Oki, Japan earthquake.

The most compelling clip, "Movie S3", sounds almost indistinguishable from thunder.  This uncanny faulty recognition can cause a rather visceral reaction.  It is what I will remember most about this Georgia Tech paper.



"Movie S3  Example of the mainshock and early aftershock recordings during the 2011 Mw 9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake. (Top) Vertical-component velocity seismogram recorded at Hi-net station HATH. (Middle) 20 Hz high-pass-filtered envelope functions highlighting the mainshock and early aftershock signals. The envelope function is smoothed with a half width of 50 data points and is in base 10 logarithmic scale. The black lines marked the predicted P-wave arrivals of aftershocks around the mainshock slip region as listed in the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) earthquake catalog.  (Bottom) The spectrogram. The sound is generated by speeding up the seismic data by 100 times."



Read the paper HERE
Find all the movies HERE
Read Georgia Tech's release HERE
Read the Boing Boing Article HERE  
Listen to a Neil deGrasse Tyson interview and read more about Infrasound in my post on Ghost Sightings and Infrasound HERE


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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Best New Batch of Astronomy Vids EVER!

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Over the past couple days, there have been quite a few very interesting astronomy videos released.  I'm very excited at the wonderful content and quality of this batch.

Here they are, in order of digestibility, from pure layman to more advanced.

This really is, in my opinion, the greatest time-lapse video ever.
"All Alone in the Night - Time-lapse footage of the Earth as seen from the ISS"



Video Credit:
Images: http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/
Music: 'Freedom Fighters' by Two Steps from Hell
Inspiration: http://youtu.be/74mhQyuyELQ
Editor: David Peterson 


Symphony of Science has a brand new music video.  I'm very happy to see his musical techniques improve steadily over the years.  Titled strangely, I didn't know this was going to be a song in his classic style.  Wonderful work, John!
"TED2012 remixed: It's Time for TED"



Video Credit: John Boswell, of the "Symphony of Science"
Further, complete credits are listed in the description of the video HERE



This isn't brand new, but it's new to me, and I was floored.
Produced by TIME Magazine, AMAZING, check out:
"10 Questions for Neil deGrasse Tyson"
It seems to me that everything out of Neil's mouth is either eloquent poetry or wonderful humor.  This interview session holds a great amount of importance to me personally.  The significant question that matters to me is:
"What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the Universe?"  ( HERE is the isolated movie clip of this single answer.  Embedded below is the entire interview from which this is taken.)

Within, Neil provides the most elegant, poetic expression I've found on the specific subject of my tattoo sleeves on both of my arms.
You might recognize the saying.  It's in the main graphic at the top of this blog.

"Be Humble For You Are Made Of Earth" (on one arm)
( https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10100393153459792.2626036.68113125&type=3&l=f873276c20 )

"Be Noble For You Are Made Of Stars"  (on the other arm)
Additional art involved:
An SDO style sun and moon, ( https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10100825582303922.2682516.68113125&type=3&l=e924799036 )
A large Orion in negative space
And unfinished, the milky way is destined for my right bicep!

OH YEAH!  Here's Tyson's video: 



Video Credit: TIME Magazine / Neil deGrasse Tyson



Deep Sky Videos just released two very interesting vids.
The first, on Messier Object 33:
"M33 - Triangulum Galaxy - Deep Sky Videos"



Video Credit: Brady Haran / Additional editing in this film by Stephen Slater
Further, complete credits can be found in the description of the video HERE



Beyond the cliche "last but not least,"  here we have last, but most importantly.
Dr. Meghan Gray explains the technical specifics involved in the execution of an astronomer's current subject of research, from proposal on forward.  I learned more in this video than the last year's worth of pop-sci astronomy videos.
"Galaxy Study - Deep Sky Videos"


Video Credit: Brady Haran
Further, complete credits and be found in the description of the video HERE




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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Nassim Haramein of "The Schwarzschild Proton" Part 2

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Any shred of respect I had for this guy is now gone.

Three months ago, I wrote a "debunking" of Nassim Haramein's Unified Theory he titled "The Schwarzschild Proton."  I simply pointed out a tremendous amount of holes in his argument which he had very conspicuously not addressed. 

The post is here: http://astronasty.blogspot.com/2011/12/unified-theory-bs-i-debunk.html

Continued traffic and increasingly defensive comments made me curious.  Posted below is what I then found.  I've been laughing all evening!  Well!  Let's see some other works of his, shall we?


Nassim Haramein, sharing his vast knowledge of singularities:
"Then, you know, so then I was thinking about that, and like.. Huh! Ok, well, you know, if you were to travel through the universe... And everyone-everything in the universe is a singularity... Then you could, you know, build a ship that's able to go inside a singularity. That ship would have to have a drive at its center that's a singularity itself... OK? And you could enter a local singularity, and because you're in singularity, connected to all things, you could come out anywhere you want, anywhere else in the universe!"
 
Nassim Haramein on UFO's caught on video entering the sun:
"Now, the only comets that I know of that do that type of crazy movements are the ones that have little windows and little guys in the back, waving. OK? The size of the Earth."
"...And so, I was really amazed to find this video. And I thought, my god, you know, if you were a society that had ships the size of the Earth, you wouldn't be able to go into any small black holes like the Earth. That would be, your ship just would be too big for the... Earth. So, you'd go for the next fractal level of black holes. You'd go for the sun. But if you were using a smaller ship, and you wanted to go through the black hole of the Earth, then you would find that black hole by going through the sunspots of the Earth. The sunspots would be the volcanoes you find on Earth."



These are direct quotes from Nassim Haramein I typed out just now.  This from just one of many pseudoscientific lectures.

The above is from this.  See for yourself.
"Earth Sized Ufo's Using The Sun As A Stargate Video"


Video Credit: THE Nassim Haramein
I find it funny that votes up/down is disabled.  Comments are also disabled on this video.





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Friday, March 2, 2012

Thunderstorms Create Antimatter

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This just might be my favorite short that's ever come out of NASA.
"Antimatter Explosions"
In this video, a fascinating discovery made through NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is explained.




Video Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Created in late Jan. 2012, this was released shortly thereafter on Goddard Multimedia.


This is really just scratching the surface.
Here are some of the other discoveries we've made through this mission:

(This bit from Wikipedia.  See the article HERE)
Greatest GRB energy release
In September 2008, the gamma-ray burst GRB 080916C in the constellation Carina was recorded by the Fermi telescope. This burst is notable as having “the largest apparent energy release yet measured”.  The explosion had the power of about 9,000 ordinary supernovae, and the relativistic jet of material ejected in the blast must have moved at a minimum of 99.9999% the speed of light. Overall, GRB 080916C had “the greatest total energy, the fastest motions, and the highest-energy initial emissions” ever seen.

Cosmic rays and supernova remnants
In February 2010, it was announced that Fermi-LAT had determined that supernova remnants act as enormous accelerators for cosmic particles. This determination fulfills one of the stated missions for this project.

Background gamma ray sources
In March 2010 it was announced that active galactic nuclei are not responsible for most gamma-ray background radiation.  Though active galactic nuclei do produce some of the gamma-ray radiation detected here on Earth, less than 30% originates from these sources. The search now is to locate the sources for the remaining 70% or so of all gamma-rays detected. Possibilities include star forming galaxies, galactic mergers, and yet-to-be explained dark matter interactions.  -Wikipedia





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