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It’s been a while since I got on my soapbox of how the 2012 Mayan calendar doomsday myth is, well… a myth. Let me begin by saying that there is no reason to believe that anything exceptional will happen when the Mayan long count calendar ends. Anyone that tells you otherwise is either totally full of shit, or is very gullible to fluff and hype (generated by the former). The descendants of the Mayans themselves have even said that the doomsday myth is bullshit. So, this thing is already completely blown out of the water by real science and reason, but just in case you needed another reason not to believe the doomsday hype, now the actual date of the end of the long count calendar is in question. The methods used to convert the Mayan calendar into our own Gregorian years has been shown to be unreliable, and this could throw off the date conversion by as much as 50 to 100 years. So in reality, the Mayan calendar might have already ended (and thus simply started over again)! I’ll keep an eye out for any updates and clarifications to this story, but let’s face it- the Mayan calendar doomsday hype is nothing more than fear-mongering and utter ignorance. (Via LiveScience)

Image via Wikipedia

I know I link to this blog all the time, but the Boston Globe’s Big Picture blog continually showcases some of the most amazing imagery you’ll find anywhere, and what’s best about it is the content. This particular series involves the National Ignition Facility in California. This massive experiment could literally solve all the world’s energy problems. What they’re attempting to do here is essentially create a miniature star right here on earth. Just recently they completed a successful test in which they fired 192 lasers simultaneously into one tiny frozen target capsule containing deuterium and tritium (isotopes of hydrogen). The ultimate goal is to create a nuclear fusion reaction- the same process taking place in the center of our Sun. As you can easily deduce, this would release enormous amounts of energy that is completely clean- the only by-product is helium, which is the element formed when hydrogen atoms fuse. The only hurdle is that it already requires a massive amount of energy to power the lasers that start the reaction in the first place, so the reactor must produce significantly more energy than it consumes in order to truly be a viable solution to the energy crisis. Another issue could be safety. With a reaction as powerful as nuclear fusion, things can get dangerous very quickly. Thankfully though, if an explosion were to occur, it wouldn’t involve the radioactive fallout danger associated with current nuclear reactors which use a different process- nuclear fission. (AKA the reaction used in the atomic bomb.) Click here to learn more about the NIF.

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The Colony/Apollo stuff

July 21, 2009

Discovery has a new series called “The Colony” that looks somewhat interesting. It debuts tonight at 10pm EDT/9pm CDT. It’s a twist on the reality TV genre, set on the outskirts of L.A. Ten people are put into an environment that simulates what it might be like right after a major world disaster. I’ve never been big on reality TV, but this could be interesting. Watch a scene here.

Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy posted a bunch of good links to various interviews related to the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It’s great to see this getting so much media attention. As I’ve said before, it’s quite possibly mankind’s greatest achievement thus far. It deserves the attention.

The tiny island nation of Tuvalu is hoping to set an example for the world by aiming to have 100% renewable energy by 2020. Obviously this is easy for a nation comprised of only 9 islands. A big portion of their power will come from the sun, since they kind of have an abundance of it there in the pacific ocean. But I’m just glad someone is taking such a strong stance. Hey world! Follow their example! (Via EurekAlert)

Just about everyone hates WalMart for various reasons. At least everyone with half a brain. BUT they’re beginning to redeem theirselves in my eyes with this new initiative to instate a universal carbon footprint rating for all retail stores to use. Different environmental groups have attempted to do this for years but failed repeatedly because it’s such a an enormous undertaking. But hopefully not too enormous for WalMart. If anyone has the power to get this kind of research done, it’s WalMart. Let’s hope this is a case of the giant with superpowers using them for good, not evil. This could have a huge effect if successful, because it will put real pressure on manufacturers to “green” their processes and products. More at the New York Times. (Via EcoGeek)

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Credit: NASA TV

Space Shuttle Endeavour did a fly-around of the ISS today and then successfully docked. They took many detailed photographs of the heat shields and will inspect them in the days to come. The shuttle engineers are intrigued by the 12-ish pieces of foam seen falling off the external fuel tank late in the launch footage. This is mainly because of how late it occurred. It happened at a time/height when atmospheric pressure is very low and thus there’s much less stress on the foam to cause it to fall off, so they aren’t really sure why it happened. Nonetheless, initial opinion is that the heat shield did not suffer any major damage that would threaten safety of the crew on re-entry, but that opinion can always change. (Via Space.com)

Today I found a smattering of random links worth posting.

Google announced that they’re going to be developing a “Google Chrome OS”… basically a whole new open-source operating system for notebooks. As a Mac user I’ve yet to experience the Google Chrome web browser (it’s not available for Mac), so I don’t really know what to expect here. (Via Yewknee)

yazoologo02Nashville brewers Yazoo are going to be re-locating to the Gulch neighborhood next year. The new facility will allow the company to produce 4 times as much beer, which means they’ll be able to expand distribution to several neighboring states. They’ll also have a taproom at the new location, with the same hours they have now plus the possibility of opening a full-on pub if the demand is there. I must say I’ll miss the charm of the current taproom in the old Marathon Motor Works building, but it’s good to see a local brewery doing so well. (Via Bites/Nashville Scene)

In other local news, Nashvillest has a sexy new look to their website. Go check it out. I also found some disturbing news while exploring said new look- even though GM rid itself of Hummer, the brand still exists and it was bought by a Chinese machinery manufacturing company, and thus the Hummer executives need a new HQ. Unfortunately it looks like Franklin could be it. Honestly though, they’d fit right in, what with Nissan HQ there and the GM plant just down the road in Spring Hill. Why won’t these things just die? More at the Tennessean article.

Science is getting closer and closer to making invisibility possible. A new breakthrough in metamaterial technology may soon allow one to see through solid steel, or even become invisible. Furthermore, one could make one object look like another. The example they use is making a cup look like a spoon. The cup is sitting there, but when you look at it through a layer of the special metamaterial, you would see a spoon. One of the biggest applications that I can see with this technology would be in spaceships. The scientists behind this research say that it would be possible to make an otherwise opaque material transparent. This would eliminate the need for traditional windows on a spaceship- you could just install one of these devices made of metamaterials on a solid aluminum (or other metal) hull, which is much safer than cutting a hole in the hull to install a glass window, which is much more susceptible to the inevitable impacts from micro-meteors and other space junk. (Via NewScientist)

It’s pretty obvious that hydrogen is fuel of the future. It’s the most abundant element in the universe, and when it’s burned the only byproduct is pure water. Even though it’s abundant, it’s still hard to make here on earth. Up until now the best way was through electrolysis of water, but that’s very expensive, so unfortunately most of it today is made from fossil fuels, which kind of defeats the whole purpose (to get away from fossil fuels!). But that may be changing. Researchers at Ohio University found a way to make it from urea, which is the main compound in urine. Crazy eh? It’s not the most practical idea, but it could be made practical eventually… (Via EcoGeek)

This is really one of the most random/bizarre things I’ve seen in a while. Apparently Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin joined with Snoop Dogg and some other rappers on a song called “Rocket Experience.” No, that’s not a typo. Buzz Aldrin collaborated with Snoop. On a song in which he actually raps. Well… I guess you could call it rapping… The video is up on Funny or Die. Be sure to watch the “making of” video too. I don’t even know what to make of it, but it’s entertaining to say the least. Grab the song off iTunes, because they’re donating part of the sales to the ShareSpace Foundation. Today’s kids need a lot more science in their lives. Via Universe Today.

Of Montreal does a lot of cover songs live, but this time they’ve taken it to the studio covering Prince’s “Computer Blue.” Grab it over at You Ain’t No Picasso.

The future of architecture is here. It’s extremely hard to believe, but bendable concrete has indeed been invented. Not only is the stuff bendable, but it heals its own cracks too! Basically it’s all in the chemistry- when a crack occurs, the newly exposed dry concrete then reacts with the CO2 and moisture in the air to create calcium carbonate which acts just like scar tissue on skin, and the crack fills. I can see this being used in earthquake-prone areas and literally making the buildings almost completely quake-proof. Absolutely ridiculous. Via EcoGeek.

Mountaintop removal mining is literally a crime. I applaud the 100’s of dedicated citizens who have made their way to the West Virginia and Kentucky mountains to stage civil disobedience sit-ins. Yesterday NASA climate scientist James Hansen was arrested in one of the sit-ins, along with actress Daryl Hannah. I hope more celebrity and other high-profile people are willing to be arrested to help save these beautiful mountains and the planet. This is only one small part of the over-arching coal problem. The sooner we can stop using coal to generate power, the better. It’s absolutely filthy and despite what the commercials tell you, there’s no such thing as “clean coal.” It’s an oxymoron and here’s why. That’s probably the only thing on which I disagree with Obama. No coal-burning plant in America is “clean,” even though lots of research has been done on the technology. That’s because it’s expensive and impractical. Coal is not renewable. We’ll eventually run out of it just like we’ll eventually run out of oil (it’s all dead dinosaurs afterall!), so why the hell waste money and time trying to make it “clean?” We need to be putting ALL of our efforts toward 100% renewable sources of energy NOW, and say goodbye to fossil fuels FOREVER.

So I had monday off this week. Hence the lack of posting yesterday. But I must say the weekend of photobooth insanity was quite a blast. The most enjoyable one was definitely the Moustache May party Saturday night. We found this absolutely ridiculous/hideous sheet to use as a backdrop and it worked perfectly. The rest of the MM pics can be found at the Moustache May website. The Bike For Branches photobooth pics can be found at the Soundforest website, and to my knowledge Johnny Kingsbury hasn’t quite gotten the Happy Valley pics up yet. But keep checking his website. They should be up in a few days. I must say though, I was getting tired of taking pictures of drunk people by the end of it all.

Former Nashvillian and ex-Be Your Own Pet singer Jemina Pearl got some blog love on Stereogum. She’s got 3 new solo tracks on her myspace. It’s really catchy, I must say.

Billboard.com reports that the Elektra Records imprint has finally been ressurected under the Atlantic umbrella. Amongst their first signings- Justice, Cee-Lo, and Little Boots.

A once-in-a-lifetime occurrence is upon us. At five minutes and six seconds after 4am on July 8th of this year, the time and date will be 04:05:06 07/08/09. Via dontstaylong.

Ever wanted to see a Blue Whale up close? They’re biggest animals in the world afterall… Well you can do just that here. And take their message to heart while you’re at it, too.

This wed. night I’ll be making an appearance as DJ Burgers at Foobar. I’ll be joining my friends Spice-J, fats, and Action Replay for their weekly series Totally DJ’s. Come on out and dance. I just might have some special surprises up my sleeve. That’s right, east side, I’m talking to YOU.

Just a few science-y tidbits today:

Launch pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center is now officially in the hands of the Constellation program. The last shuttle mission (the one that serviced the Hubble Space Telescope) was the last time that both launch pads would ever need to be used for space shuttles. From now on, the shuttle program will only use pad 39A. There will never be a need to have 2 shuttles ready for launch simultaneously because the few remaining shuttle missions are all to the ISS, which can be used as a lifeboat if the shuttle is severely damaged, thus alleviating the need for a 2nd shuttle to be ready for a rescue mission. Pad 39B will now be “remodeled” for tests of the new Ares rocket system.

If you were in New York City this past weekend you got a real treat at sunset. On both May 30th and 31st the sun set in perfect alignment with NYC’s cross-streets, an event nicknamed “Mahattanhenge” by astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson who calculates the events every year. The phenomenon will happen again on July 11th and 12th this summer. Via Live Science.

A London company called Solar Botanic, Ltd. has a great new idea for solar power. They want to make realistic-looking trees that are actually solar panels. This a wonderful idea and I hope it one day becomes reality. Via EcoGeek.

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