Dear readers,

I’ve come to the hard decision that it’s time to put Steve Cross Loves Music and Science to rest. Don’t worry, I still love music and science! I just don’t have time to blog about it anymore. The natural progression of life, relationships, commitments, etc… has forced me to re-organize priorities. That’s not a bad thing, it just means that blogging has to take a backseat to more important things. So, this is the end of this blog! I’ll keep the domain for the foreseeable future, and everything will remain archived as-is. Everything has a a life cycle, and this blog has reached the end.

This is not the end of me sharing this type of content on the internet, however! I do intend to share more science articles, links, tidbits, etc… on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, so follow me there. This will allow me to still share my interests and love of music & science with whomever is willing to listen. I’m also on Instagram, so follow me there for more visual content.

I also have other blog ideas that I’ve been milling around for a while, but I’m keeping that under wraps until I officially decide what I’m doing. If and when that comes to fruition, it will be made public via my Twitter and Facebook.

Whether you’ve just started following me or have been for many years, I hope you learned something, gained something, or otherwise benefited from this blog!

Peace out.

-Steve

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Credit: Inspiration Mars

Credit: Inspiration Mars

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.

Ben and one of his best friends Bekah Cope at SXSW 2010.

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.

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.

And this:

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.

As a photographer who makes part of my living from photos and licensing their usage, I am hyper-aware of the copyright issues and legalities involved in photography and of how corporations, media, and other establishments are constantly trying to find ways to avoid paying for usage of creative work. I absolutely would not have continued using Instagram if the original policy change had gone into effect. I also had visions of the crumbling Instagram empire, as the backlash would’ve been pretty widespread, whilst other services such as Twitter and Flickr are launching their own photo-sharing apps/features, complete with Instagram-like filters. Hipsters everywhere would have cried a sea of vintage filtered tears until one of the other services (my guess would’ve been Flickr) took over as the king photo filter/sharing app. It remains to be seen what the new version of the policies & terms of use will look like, but I have a feeling it will keep everyone happy, and not rip off the user base. But Instagram/Facebook, be warned- I’ll be looking at the new policies & terms of use very carefully and if you try to pull anything remotely similar to this, SHAME ON YOU and I will be GONE.

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…

Image via Discovery News

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)

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.