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Remember Star Trek IV? That was the movie where they ended up time traveling back to the 20th Century and got stuck there, needing some transparent Aluminum to create a holding tank for a humpback whale. Some scientists have now created just that, if only for about 40 femtoseconds. They say it’s an entirely new state of matter, because they used a high-powered laser to remove one of the core electrons from each atom in a tiny area of Aluminum. This allowed X-ray and ultraviolet radiation to pass through uninhibited, effectively making the Aluminum transparent. (Via LiveScience)

Astronaut Koichi Wakata

Astronaut Koichi Wakata

There are many common luxuries that we take for granted on Earth, such as being able to wash our clothes. Unfortunately, in space you don’t have that luxury. Just going to the bathroom requires a highly sophisticated and technologically advanced toilet system. When astronauts wash their bodies they use special soap and shampoo that doesn’t require water. But in a microgravity environment where droplets of water can float around and destroy sensitive equipment, washing their clothes just isn’t an option. Unfortunately dirty clothes must be simply discarded. But apparently some Japanese scientists are working to fix that by inventing clothes that clean themselves… or don’t get dirty in the first place, depending on how you look at it. Astronaut Koichi Wakata, who just left the ISS on Endeavour, tested these new clothes during his 4 1/2 moth stay. It sounds utterly disgusting, but he never changed his underwear while he was there. The high-tech material actually kills odor-causing bacteria and absorbs moisture. He says that even after 4 1/2 moths of wear, they didn’t smell at all. This is yet another great example of how manned space exploration drives innovation and ultimately leads to technologies that are very applicable here on the ground. This could one day lead to clothes that literally clean themselves, eliminating the need for washing machines and dryers, which are energy and water hogs. (Via Universe Today)

In a related note, Universe Today also posted a set of great photos from Endeavour’s mission. Check it out.

That’s all I have time for today!

I agree with Yewknee- Day. Made.

I agree with Yewknee- Day. Made.

Ok, now that you’ve been properly entertained by that photograph thanks to Yewknee’d, let’s get on with the good stuff.

Rumors have been spreading like wildfire for months that Apple will be releasing a new tablet device that could revolutionize mobile entertainment. According to this article on Financial Times, (via Kottke) it’s looking like the device will be released this fall, just in time for the Holiday shopping season. If this thing is as good as it sounds, Apple’s REALLY gonna cash in, and if it flops, their public image will be severely tarnished. But I have no doubt they will succeed with this in the same way they succeeded with the iPhone, save for that minor pricing debacle when it first came out. It seems to me that this thing will be an iPod Touch on steroids. Having just bought a new Macbook Pro, I sure as hell won’t be able to cough up the cash for one of these, but I can’t wait to go play with them at the Apple Store!

Space Shuttle Endeavour undocked from the ISS today after successfully installing the newest Japanese component. The shuttle is scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center this Friday at 10:47am EDT, weather permitting. (Via Space.com)

There’s been a lot of speculation about the possibility of life on Mars and more recently, life on Saturn’s moons Titan and Enceladus, and Jupiter’s moon Europa. But not since the 50’s have we ever thought that life could exist on Venus. People used to think Venus might have a climate somewhat like a tropical paradise, but that notion came to a screeching halt when scientists discovered that its surface is basically a good approximation of hell. Its surface temperature is over 860 degrees Fahrenheit, the atmospheric pressure is 92 times greater than Earth’s and made of mostly CO2 and laden with sulfuric acid clouds. But recent research has shown that it’s possible that microbial life could thrive in conditions found in the upper atmosphere of Venus. We continually discover life in places on Earth once thought to be utterly inhospitable, so it’s no longer such a stretch to imagine life surviving in such extreme environments as are found in Venus’ upper atmosphere. Scientists think that Venus was once much more Earth-like, and even had oceans. But what’s commonly referred to as a “runaway greenhouse effect” took over and caused the planet to heat up enough to boil away all water on the surface and create the hellish environment we see today. It’s possible that primitive life may have emerged during the planet’s more hospitable past and had time to evolve, adapt, and escape to the planet’s outer atmosphere where it could survive. (Via Daily Galaxy)

South Park may have pulled off the impossible: putting Kayne West’s ego in check. This Billboard.com article reports that last Wednesday’s episode “skewered the famously self-important rapper… painting him as a narcissistic figure so out of touch with reality he couldn’t even take a (very politically incorrect) joke.” Well done, South Park. Check out Kayne’s blog post here.

Stephen Colbert is a smart guy. The most brilliant thing he’s done recently is rally his fans to vote on an open NASA poll for the name of their next node to be added to the International Space Station. They had some suggestions- Serenity, Earthrise, etc… very typical-sounding names for stuff like that. But they had an write-in option, which Colbert exploited. The result was that the name “Colbert” won the contest for naming the node, and NASA has been scratching its head as to what to do about it ever since. Tomorrow night we’ll find out their decision in a clever way- astronaut Sunita Williams will be on the show to unveil the name. Will it really be Colbert? Only time will tell. It’ll be an interesting episode for sure…

The CIA and USAF have finally declassified a project that was based at the mysterious Area 51 base in Nevada. The LA Times interviewed 5 former employees of the facility who disclosed details on a top-secret spy plane code named OXCART. This plane allegedly has an odd shape, and was capable of flying at Mach 3. This could explain a HUGE number of the UFO sightings in that area, because according to this article there were 2,850 test flights of this thing, all conducted from Area 51. This is a bigger deal than it may seem, because up until now, the government didn’t even acknowledge that Area 51 existed. By declssifying this project they’re now admitting that it does exist. A big step forward if you ask me. I’ve always been fascinated by the place, and really want to go out there just to walk up to the signs telling you that you’ll be shot if you try to break in. I’m quite sure that there are some crazy things going on there involving technology that we haven’t even dreamed of yet, but I won’t say or believe that they’re reverse-engineering UFO’s and keeping aliens in freezers until proof of such a claim exists. Via io9.

Friday’s tornado outbreak was pretty devastating, though the vast majority of the damage was from an EF3 twister that hit nothern Murfreesboro. The official NWS survey has determined that a total of 4 tornadoes hit middle TN on friday- three EF1’s and one EF3. The report actually says “at least EF3,” so there’s a chance it may be upgraded to an EF4. One of the things that made this particular tornado so devastating was the fact that it was a multiple-vortex tornado. I will leave you with this absolutely amazing video footage shot from a tall building in Murfreesboro. (Probably the bank building.) You can easily see the smaller funnels inside the main vortex. The first few seconds are jittery but he sets the camera down and you get a long, clear look at this monster. Watch closely at about :45, 1:15, and 1:30 where you can clearly see a smaller vortex to the right of the main one.

Click image to see bigger version

This has been popping up in a few places around the interwebs for a couple days now, and I should’ve posted about it earlier, but I’ve fallen victim t0 post-SXSW sickness and laziness. A team of physicists have discovered a brand new subatomic particle, which they’re calling “Y(4140).” Ironically this particle was not discovered at the Large Hadron Collider, which is still not operational due to repairs from the catastrophic helium leak last fall; it was discovered at Fermilab, right here in the USA. This new information will be valuable in future mathematical models of the universe, as well as in the experiments conducted at the LHC later this year. You’d think they could come up with a cooler name for a completely new type of subatomic particle… something like “megaquark” or “quarktron.” Lazerquark…

The space shuttle undocked from the ISS yesterday and did a fly-around, capturing the first images of the fully symmetrical, full-length ISS. Universe Today has the space porn, including video of part of the fly-around.

According to Space.com, NASA has decided to go ahead with the Hubble repair mission, despite the increased risk of debris impact due to the satellite collision on Feb. 10th. I’m glad, but kinda scared for the crew. The danger is heightened by the fact that they won’t have the ISS as a lifeboat. Instead, NASA will have Space Shuttle Endeavour on a different pad, ready to launch and be used as a lifeboat should Atlantis be damaged.

Several different time-lapse videos of plants growing. These things are always fun to watch. Via kottke.org.

This has been showing up on almost every blog I read, but it’s definitely worth posting- the first trailers for the Spike Jonze-directed, Arcade Fire-loaded, live-action version of Where the Wild Things Are has been posted. The best place to view it is on apple.com. They have gorgeous HD versions that are true eye candy.

Camera Obscura @ SXSW 2009 Photo: Steve Cross

Camera Obscura @ SXSW 2009 Photo: Steve Cross

I was quite pleased yesterday to find out that Camera Obscura will be kicking off their north American tour in Nashville at the Mercy Lounge on May 27th. To my knowledge, they have never played here, and they’re one of my favorites. Even though I just saw them at SXSW, I will be there enthusiastically. Their new album My Maudlin Career drops April 20th via 4AD. Check out the rest of their tour dates at their myspace.

Another upcoming show I’m looking forward to is The Pains of Being Pure at Heart @ the End on May 2nd. Like C.O., I saw this band at SXSW and they did not dissappoint. But I really look forward to seeing full length sets from both bands, as all the shows at SXSW are showcases with 5 or so bands, thus each band has less time to setup and a shorter set length than normal. POBPAH are definitely one of those “blog-buzz” bands, but I honestly think they will have more staying power and are on an entirely different level than say, Vampire Weekend or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

You’ve probably already seen this by now, but the astronauts on the International Space Station had to prepare for a possible emergency evacuation yesterday as a piece of space junk flew with 3 miles of the station. It was all over by the time it hit news headlines. It did not hit, thankfully, and everything is back to normal. Apparently the debris was about 5 inches, and traveling at over 20,000 mph, and was part of spent satellite rocket motor, not a piece of the two satellites that collided a few weeks ago. The crew has a Russian Soyuz capsule constantly attached to the station that they can use as a lifeboat should they need to evacuate the ISS.

Well-known music blog Largehearted Boy mentions Nashville’s own The Non-Commissioned Officers today, and has a link to download their free EP, which is part of the soundtrack to the locally-made film Makeout With Violence, which has 3 showings at SXSW this year. (None of which I can make, unfortunately…)

Another cool link via Largehearted Boy is the Top 10 Most Overlooked Band members on Spike.com. This is probably the only thing I’ll ever read on that website, as it’s mostly geared towards douchebag bros.

It’s friday. The weekend is upon us. Here’s where I’ll be:

Tonight: King Khan & the Shrines at Exit/In. I saw KK with BBQ show back in Nov. and it was amazing. Can’t wait to see him with “big” band. There’s also a lot of other shit going down tonight. Too much to mention here.

Saturday: Superdrag album release for Industry Giants at Exit/In. The 90’s powerpopsters are back in full effect, original lineup and all!

Sunday: I’m DJing (as DJ Burgers) at the Rock Swap in East Nashville. I’m doing the “after party” segment starting at 6pm after the official events/bands are over.

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