Michael Eades mentioned this yesterday, but I didn’t get a chance to check it out fully until today. The makers of Google Chrome are doing some very cool experiments with their browser, pushing the limits of what’s possible. This scalable, true-to-scale visualization of our home galaxy, centered on our own Sun, is simply phenomenal. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve seen on the internet in quite some time. Bravo, Chrome-people. Bravo. Do yourself a favor and check it out now.

I don’t announce many non-music events on this blog, but this is one big exception: Neil deGrasse Tyson will be speaking at Vanderbilt University’s Langford Auditorium next Tuesday, Nov. 13th. This guy is a total badass. He is one of the few true “real science” celebrities, and he’s also one of my personal heroes. He’s been on TV countless times- hosting shows on PBS, Discovery Channel, Science Channel and more, as well as guest appearances on The Daily Show and Colbert Report many times. I have no idea what he will talk about, but mark my word it will be entertaining and informative. The guy always manages to succeed in convincing the masses that nerd stuff is cool, and is thus an invaluable ambassador of science to the public. I strongly suggest getting your ticket now via any Ticketmaster outlet. They’re only $5 for non-Vandy students, and $10 for general public. (And free if you’re a Vandy student, staff, or faculty member!)

UPDATE: I didn’t realize this event was already sold out! So, still awesome and I hope you got tickets in time!

Here’s the official Vanderbilt link for more info.

See you there!

This video clip shows some of the amazing footage from Felix Baumgartner’s chest and head cameras during his successful supersonic skydive attempt Sunday. I’m sure you’ve heard most of this by now, but the preliminary numbers are 9 minutes & 3 seconds jump to landing, top speed of 833.9 mph or Mach 1.24, jump height of 128,100 feet, and freefall time of 4 minutes & 20 seconds. He broke all the records previously owned by Col. Joe Kittinger (who was a consultant on the mission and coached Felix through the whole jump) except for one: longest freefall. Presumably this is because he fell so fast. The faster you fall the shorter your freefall time will be. Felix entered a terrifying spin during the first part of the dive, but he managed to regain control and did not have to deploy the emergency stabilization chute, which would have prevented him from breaking speed of sound.

In other science-related news, photographer and videographer Christopher Malin created a surreal new type of timelapse that I’ve yet to see used on space station footage- a stack. Stacking involves blending each frame of the footage into the next, creating a blurred effect with light trails and star trails. Just watch it, it’s kind of a head trip:

Artist interpretation of Kepler 47c. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

It’s been a while since we had any juicy exoplanet news. That changed yesterday as a new breakthrough was announced in exoplanet science. For the first time astronomers have confirmed multiple planets orbiting a binary star. The star is about 5,000 light years away and what really makes this discovery interesting is that one of the two planets orbits in the habitable zone, where liquid water could exist on its surface. The catch is- the planet is a gas giant, similar to Jupiter and Saturn, but more the size of Uranus. However, planets like that almost always have many moons, some of which could have an atmosphere and even support life, just like the Forest Moon of Endor, home of the Ewoks in Star Wars. Pretty exciting stuff! Read more about it at NewScientist.

In other news, if you’re anywhere in the southeast and looking for some nerdy fun this Labor Day, look no further than Rocket Fest at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. This event just popped onto my radar today via Bad Astronomy, and low & behold Dr. Plait himself will be one of the guest speakers! It should be no secret that I’m a big fan of him and and his blog. This is a fundraiser open to anyone, any age, and the proceeds go to the scholarship fund for Space Camp, and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center Foundation. Honestly what excites me the most about it (besides seeing Phil Plait speak) is the fact that you can get a signed print of that AWESOME poster for a mere $20 donation. I’m not sure yet if I’ll be there, but I had to mention it because it’s all sorts of awesome!

From the department of Holy Fucking Shit Nature Is Awesome: Scientists have hooked up squid skin to an iPod and made its pigment cells dance in time to Cypress Hill. They took the electronic waveform of the music and turned it into tiny electric impulses that caused the pigment cells, called chromatophores, to react in time with the music. The result is utterly fascinating:

(Via Kottke.org)

The MSL team at NASA has been as busy as ever testing, calibrating, and tweaking Curiosity’s cameras and instruments. A lot of great things have been accomplished over the last week or so, but two things are most interesting to me. The first recorded song ever to be beamed back from another planet was a song specially composed and recorded by will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas. The song was called “Reach for the Stars.” While I’m not really a Black Eyed Peas fan, I’m really happy that such a big-name pop culture figure is trying to get kids more involved and interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). The other bit of news from Curiosity that really impressed me is this new image from the rover’s 100mm MASTCAM:

Click to enlarge. Seriously, you want to see this full size! Credit: NASA/JPL

This photo, to me, is much more interesting to look at than the other, wider images taken thus far. The reason is that it’s using a 100mm telephoto lens, which makes the scale and depth of the scene more prominent. Also, the photo was taken near sunrise or sunset when the angle of sunlight was low, which makes the jagged rock formations on Mt. Sharp more prominent and dramatic. Notice how there are many flat layers of rock exposed on the side of the mountain? They look just like the layers of bedrock along the sides of canyons and mountains here on Earth! The layers you see on Earth were formed by water, when sediments collected on the floor of oceans and lakes and eventually hardened into rock over millions of years. Therefore, scientists are pretty sure the rock layers seen in this photo on Mars were formed the same way, at the bottom of bodies of water on the surface millions of years ago. The big question we still have to answer is, what caused the water to disappear? Also, was there any life in or around that water millions of years ago? I can’t think of anything more exciting than answering those questions about Mars’ past.

It’s a busy summer. Tomorrow is the 4th of July, then I’m heading out of town for a few days for some desperately needed time off. So, this will be the last blog post for about a week and a half. But before that, here are some musical goodies/tidbits:

  • California steeldrumwave artist Viceroy has just released “Chase You Around,” a new single featuring vocals from Nashville’s own Madi Diaz, via Vitalic Noise. Seriously, I think there’s enough poolside-summer-vibe-fueled slow disco with steeldrums out there now that we can just call it steeldrumwave. It’s got a bit of a 90s influence, but that should come as no surprise given Viceroy’s knack for throwing his tropical twist on 90s jamz. Check it:
  • JEFF the Brotherhood just released a very summery video (though NSFW) for their new single “Sixpack.” It features a lot of local pals such as members of Birdcloud, Heavy Cream, Ri¢hie, and some very brief male nudity (I think it’s Cy Barkley, but it’s hard to tell). It also features the only tasteful/non-annoying use of those laser pointer splitter effects I’ve ever seen. Gotta hand it to these guys- they’ve made some awesome music videos, and this one is no exception- it just makes you wanna jump in a canoe and go camping and get drunk. (Via Nashville Cream)
  • Finally, I’ll link back to my post from last year about how to make homemade smoke bomb from sugar and saltpeter. Reminder- please be very careful if you do this and observe all safety precautions! I am not responsible for any injuries or other harm that may come to you as result of reading this blog post and carrying out the instructions contained within. If you observe all safety precautions, however, this is a safe recipe/method for making a very impressive homemade smoke bomb. It’s done very commonly by pyrotechnics hobbyists everywhere. Be sure to check your local ordinances and laws to determine whether doing this is legal where you live!

Have a great 4th of July and I’ll be back late next week!

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.

I haven’t posted anything about beer on here in a while. If you know me or have read this blog for a while, you know that I’m a homebrewer. I also love to evangelize craft beer as much as possible, because the typical American palate for beer is pitifully narrow and ignorant of all the amazing styles the world has to offer. The mass-produced, cheap style known to most Americans is known as “American adjunct lager.” The style uses a lot of corn and rice to cut down on the amount of barley used, and very minimal hopping. (Budweiser, Miller Lite, Coors Light, etc…) It’s way too fizzy, watered down and bland for anyone who’s been introduced to the world of craft beer to enjoy. Once you taste REAL beer, you’ll never go back. So my message is this: go forth and find craft beer. It’s everywhere, even in convenience stores. It’s WELL worth the money. Here’s a quick, well-illustrated video that gives you a rundown of the history of brewing in America.

NASA is making strides in their publicity and education efforts with a set of new games- Space Race Blastoff and Sector 33. Space Race Blastoff is a Facebook app that lets you compete with other players in quick, 10-question science trivia rounds. The topics range from general science to NASA missions and astronauts. Of course, I signed up immediately and became addicted for about 10 games, then I started getting repeat questions. BUT, this game is still a beta version, so I’m sure the database of questions will be ever-expanding. Also, I’d like to see a feature where you can directly compete with a friend. All in good time, I’m sure.

I haven’t tried Sector 33 yet because it’s only for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. (I’m an Android user.) But you can read all about it in this post at Universe Today. Basically, it lets you try your hand at being an air traffic controller- widely considered to be one of the most stressful jobs. If you start playing Space Race Blastoff, however, lookout- my name on there is Disco Science, and I dare say I’m a force to be reckoned with.

#nergasm

A Few Good Shows: 1/13/12

January 13, 2012

Before you do anything else, go watch the trailer for Wes Anderson’s new film Moonrise Kingdom, if you haven’t already. It looks decidedly Wes Anderson. I can’t wait to see it on a big screen.

This weekend offers a lot more than last in terms of good shows to see in Nashville. Check it:

FRIDAY:

D. Striker, Ri¢hie, Birdcloud, and Mystery Twins @ The Basement. 9pm $5

The Paperhead, D. Watusi, Feral Beat @ Dino’s. 9pm FREE

SATURDAY:

The Features, Evan P. Donohue, Kingston Springs @ Mercy Lounge. 9pm SOLD OUT

John Langworthy, Fly Golden Eagle, Majestico, Chrome Pony @ fooBar. 9pm $???

Useless Eaters, D. Watusi, El Fossil, Spanish Candles @ The Other Basement. 8pm $3

SUNDAY:

Crybaby, Fox Fun, King Karl, White Pages @ The End. 9pm $5

Have a great weekend!!