March 1, 2013
Billionaire Dennis Tito, who is known as the first-ever space tourist, unveiled on Wednesday Inspiration Mars, a plan to launch two people, likely a married couple, on mission to Mars in 2018. The best part: the spaceship in which they travel will be lined with the couple’s own shit! This whole idea sounds incredibly far-fetched, and I even mentioned my doubt of its feasibility last week when the “teaser” press release about the press release made some headlines. It still sounds kinda crazy because of the part about the shit (I’ll get to that in a minute), but they left out one really important detail last week- the couple won’t actually be landing on Mars, just flying around it once in a spacecraft. Actually landing on Mars is really, REALLY, REALLY hard in terms of engineering and feasibility, but just sending a couple of people on a slingshot around it? Not quite as hard. Tito is very committed to making it happen, and is even prepared to fund the first two years of mission development, so this could work. More details on the project can be found in this New Scientist article.
Now, as far as the shit goes… it’s really not as crazy as it sounds. One of the biggest challenges to deep space exploration like this is that the crew members will get bombarded with genetic mutation-inducing cosmic radiation. We’re talking X-rays and Gamma rays, along with the ever-present solar wind of ions. It’s practically a death sentence if you can’t shield the crew from all that, and as it turns out, dried up human waste is actually pretty good at just that! Rather than just jettison it into space, why not seal it up in (fully sanitary, of course) bags and line your spaceship with it to add to the shielding of your spaceship? Astronauts onboard the ISS are already using a reactor system that recycles the water from their urine, and gross as it may seem, this mission will do that AND recycle the moisture from their poop. When you’re going on a 500 day mission to Mars, you have to be very resourceful. For more on the poop shield, see this other article on New Scientist.
In other Mars-related news, unfortunately the Curiosity Rover has suffered a computer glitch which has forced the team to switch everything over to the rover’s backup computer. In short, they will slowly reboot all the rover’s systems from the backup computer, make sure everything checks out, and continue with normal operations. Meanwhile, another team will investigate the problem with the primary computer and attempt to fix it so that it’s operational and can be used in case the backup computer fails. For more, check out this post on Universe Today.
February 13, 2013
It is a tragic, horrible day for the Nashville rock scene. Ben Todd, founder of Nashville’s Dead, bassist of D. Watusi, and main force behind the Freakin’ Weekend has died at age 24. Read more about it at the Nashville Cream, as they are far more talented writers than I.
I’ll just say a few words from my own experience with Ben. He was one of hundreds of acquaintances I know primarily through shows. I would always see him and briefly say “hey man how’s it going?” and unfortunately that was pretty much the extent of our interactions. But just through those interactions I could tell how passionate he was about the Nashville rock scene. That passion was very evident in his creation and the content of Nashville’s Dead. He was also the driving force behind the Freakin’ Weekend. Since we’re only about a month out from the 4th installment of the annual festival, I wonder how it will proceed. I’ve no doubt that it will, though, in his honor.
I just can’t help but think it ironic that his whole mantra seemed to be centered around eternal positivity, kindness, and keeping a youthful outlook on life. His blogging moniker was Forever Young, and Forever Young he shall remain. My condolences and deepest sympathy go out to his friends and family. Actually, I’ll just say family. Because Ben was the kind of person to whom friends ARE family. Rest in peace.
Hear that? It’s hipsters everywhere breathing a sigh of relief- Instagram won’t sell your photos afterall
December 19, 2012
I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the big stink being raised over Instagram’s new terms & policies set to go into effect on Jan. 16th. If you haven’t, please familiarize yourself. In short, as the policy is currently written, Instagram would have the right to sell any photos you upload to their service without paying you anything or even letting you know that your photo was being sold or used.
When I first heard about this my initial reaction was utter disgust, and indeed I planned on deleting my account if the policies weren’t changed from what was written. But I also felt pretty confident that it must have been simply some overzealous and greedy lawyers and executives from Facebook writing blanket statements into the policies, and that it wouldn’t be long before they responded by changing the proposed policy. Thankfully, Instagram responded to the outcry today in a blog post titled “Thank you, and we’re listening.” It seems that most if not all of the clauses that pissed everyone off will be removed. The most important thing to take from their statement is this:
Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. Nothing about this has changed. We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos. Period.
Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.
October 30, 2012
First of all allow me to direct you to my girlfriend’s blog, and her post about Hurricane Sandy. In short, her parents live a few blocks from the bay on Long Island, and her childhood home flooded with about 2 feet of water last night. So if you’re the praying type, keep her family in your prayers. If you’re the thinking type, keep them in your thoughts.
I discovered this jaw-dropping, mesmerizing US wind map this morning via Discovery News. This fascinating animation is created by streaming realtime wind speed and direction data from the National Digital Forecast Database and feeding it into software that then generates the animation, graphing out the wind as lines across a map of the U.S. The image at the top of this post is a screenshot of the remnants of Sandy. When you visit it, be sure to click on the map and zoom in on the center of circulation. Get really close- it’s truly mesmerizing. Things like this have always fueled my fascination with weather.
And what would any major event, good or bad, be without some sort of meme coming from it? Please direct your browser toward the hilarity of NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s sign interpreter Lydia Calas. I was watching the weather channel last night when this address was airing live, and her face, coupled with Bloomberg’s pathetic attempt at Spanish, provided us some much-needed comic relief in the midst of all the bad news. Literally within minutes of that airing, there was a joke “Miguel Bloombito” twitter account created. I recommend following…
September 27, 2012
From the department of “Is This Guy Totally Insane or Totally Badass or Both?” daredevil Felix Baumgartner is finally ready to attempt the world-record breaking skydive for which he’s been training and planning for many years. The Red Bull sponsored event is scheduled to take place Oct. 8th in New Mexico, weather permitting. Statistically early fall is the best time of year for balloon launches and other such experiments and atmospheric shenanigans. If successful, Baumgartner will become the first human to freefall faster than the speed of sound. He will also set the record for the highest skydive, jumping from an altitude of 120,000 feet. This is high enough that his capsule must be enclosed and pressurized, and his suit must be pressurized as well, all while being able to withstand the stresses of supersonic freefall. Just sit back and let that sink in for a while. The guy is jumping out of a balloon capsule at 120,000 feet and will freefall at roughly 700 mph or even faster.
On the surface the whole thing seems like a really expensive adrenaline rush, but it’s really much more. The technological advances required to build his dive suit, and the medical knowledge gained by the close monitoring if his body and vital signs during the freefall, all will contribute to future spacesuit designs and other areas of space exploration and human spaceflight. I’m really looking forward to October 8th, and hope the weather is good for them. (Via Discovery News)
May 4, 2012
I’m sure you’ve heard me mention the awesome non-profit group Youth Empowerment through Arts and Humanities (YEAH) here before. That organization started 10 years ago with the first annual Southern Girls Rock & Roll Camp. This year to celebrate their 10-year anniversary they’ve really pulled out the big guns, so-to-speak. They’ve just announced that one of the guest performers at this year’s SGRRC will be none other than the queen of rockabilly: WANDA JACKSON. I’m floored. Talk about knocking it out of the park… can you imagine being a teenage girl and getting to spend a week making new friends, learning to play a rock & roll instrument, forming a band, AND getting to see one music’s greatest female legends perform AND getting to ask her questions at the end?!?!? My mind is officially blown. Katie, Rachel, Lizzie, Kelley, and everyone involved- well done.
This is as good a time as any to say that if you have any time or talent to donate, this is the most worthwhile cause I can POSSIBLY think of. I’ve volunteered almost every year for the past 6 years and I promise it will change your life. I can sit here and go on about how awesome it is till I’m blue in the face, but you just have to do it to truly understand. So go to the YEAH website and sign up to volunteer. There are summer camps and after-school workshops/activities in both Nashville and Murfreesboro.
April 19, 2012
Two videos which share a common theme of absurdity and awesomeness. Absurdly awesome? Awesomely absurd? You decide.
Exhibit A: Ridiculous/dumb/terrible things happening in super slo-mo. As in, 2500 frames per second slo-mo. It never ceases to amaze me how super slow motion can turn just about anything, no matter how gross or messy, into a captivating and beautiful spectacle. My favorite is the rocket-powered clothes drying rack. Why didn’t I ever think of that? Seriously though, this is one that simply MUST be seen in full HD, so set that shit on 1080p, pop it on fullscreen, and sit back. (Via Devour)
Exhibit B: The new video for Diarrhea Planet’s “Warm Ridin’.” This is a band that is not afraid of over-the-top absurdity or awesomeness, and this video is all of the above. Complete with rooftops, bare chests, flaming guitars, American flags, and jumping jacks. These dudes know how to party. If you haven’t checked out their debut album on Infinity Cat yet, go fix that right now. And if you can’t get around the name, you’re just missing the point altogether.
Rant warning: I’m about to go on a major rant. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
There’s simply no way else to put it, science classrooms in Tennessee’s public schools are fucked. It’s clear that our Republican Governor Bill Haslam didn’t actually like the so-called “monkey bill” that will allow teachers in TN public schools to teach creationism and climate change denialism under the guise of “scientific weaknesses,” but unfortunately he proved to be a coward by finding the political equivalent of “having your cake and eating it too”- allowing it to pass without his signature. The bill is nothing more than Bible-thumping socially conservative legislators trying to create a seemingly politically correct path for religious-based ideas to be taught alongside thoroughly proven scientific principles in our public schools. Honestly the state Board of Education is who should be making decisions like this, not state lawmakers. The separation of church and state is made crystal clear by the US Constitution, and teaching pseudoscience that is solely based on religion- creationism and intelligent design- should never EVER be allowed in public schools. Climate change denialism, while not religiously motivated per se, is very politically motivated and not supported by scientific evidence. Both evolution and climate change are overwhelmingly supported by rock-solid scientific evidence. Both are large and complex topics, the minor details of which are constantly going to be debated/improved/clarified, but the overall facts of both are very certain. They are not “scientifically controversial,” they are only politically controversial. It’s times like these that I’m quite ashamed of my home state. Dr. Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy Blog has much better and more professional commentary on this than I, so I suggest reading his blog post about it.
However, things like this Elon Musk interview from last night’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart bring me right back up when I’m down. Watch part 1 here and part 2 here, because you can’t embed Comedy Central videos on a wordpress hosted blog. It’s awesome and inspirational to see people like him be successful. People who have both the money and the vision to do great things and push the boundaries of mankind’s knowledge and capabilities. Elon Musk is one of many who are pushing the human race forward. The religious right pandering morons in the TN legislature and our coward of a Governor are among those pulling the human race backward.
End of rant.
This is so cool I had to share- OMG Space. I just love things that really put the vastness of space and the unfathomable sizes of objects like the sun (which is literally a tiny spec compared to some stars) into a perspective/scale that our feeble human brains can comprehend. OMG Space does just that. Start at the top and just scroll. And scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll until you get to Mercury. Then you realize “holy shit, I’m only at the first planet!” Then keep doing that. Resist the urge to just click on the planet at the bottom. The point isn’t getting to each planet, it’s the vast space between. If you’re not utterly amazed by that sense of scale and size, then you must not have a pulse. Seriously.
April 1, 2012
Boom. After waaay too many years I’ve finally updated to a new theme/skin and made a couple other minor adjustments. It’s cleaner and lighter overall. I hope your eyes are thanking me right now.