Monday night must’ve been a slow news night in California, and everywhere really… but what most media has been calling a “mystery missle launch” was probably just a jet airliner contrail. It’s all a matter of perspective, really.

The footage came from a news helicopter that was flying off the coast of Orange County, CA, Monday night. The footage is shot looking westward and the object appears to be a rocket rising from the ocean. But if a jet airliner is flying directly toward you from over the horizon, and leaving a contrail behind it, it will look as though it is rising from the ground going straight up. If the atmospheric conditions are right, the contrail will quickly get widened by upper-level winds, and vortexes left by the plane’s wings can cause a spiral-like appearance. The bright light at the tip of the plume is only visible for a short time, which would indicate that it’s simply the glint of the setting sun reflecting off the plane’s underbelly. After some blog-reading I found that in fact, contrails have been mistaken for missles from this very same area before, and the culprits are planes traveling from Hawaii to Phoenix. There’s also a small possibility that it was a small target rocket from an island west of LA and used to test the military’s new airborne laser defense system, but the company that conducts those tests has said that it did not have any launches that day.

I think what we have here is a case of sensationalist media capitalizing on the mistake of a helicopter news team. Normal people probably see contrails from this same flight path almost every night and may think it’s interesting, but they forget about it and move on. Because it happened to be a news helicopter team who were fooled by the illusion this time, it instantly became a media blitz and got blown waaaay out of proportion. I’m saying I’m 100% sure it was a jet airliner contrail, but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t. More detailed info on this particular incident’s explanation can be found at NewScientist. Also, a detailed explanation and comparison of this incident to other contrail incidents can be found at the Contrail Science blog.

I’ve been loving the Morning Benders for at least a year now, and it’s good to know that they’re working on new material. Their debut record Talking Through Tin Cans is absolutely excellent and this demo for Hand Me Downs on their myspace page shows promise for the follow-up. Let’s hope they don’t have a sophomore slump. I enjoyed their live set quite a bit at SXSW, though I’d like to see them do a full-length set eventually. (Via You Ain’t No Picasso)

Brooklyn Vegan posted several photographs of Michael Jackson taken by Kevin Mazur during one of his last rehearsals prior to his death last Thursday. Kind of creepy… I can’t imagine being that photographer. Obviously he will profit greatly from the licensing of those images. It’s certainly an ethical dilemma that I would struggle with, were I in his shoes. The value of those images went way up due to his death, but if I were the photographer, I would want to sell those licenses at a “normal” going rate, even though publications would obviously be willing to pay an inflated amount for them because they’re essentially the last images of him alive. I would definitely feel guilty for “cashing-in” on someone’s death.

From Yale University comes some good news in the world of computing. They’re testing the first version of a quantum processor that could potentially offer a way around Moore’s Law. At least for a while. This team of scientists has their quantum processors already doing basic algorithms, so hopefully it won’t be long before these amazing pieces of technology start showing up in personal computing devices. With this type of processor, I’d surmise that a device the size of an iPhone could potentially have the processing power of today’s supercomputers. I won’t get into exactly how quantum processors work (mainly because I have a hard time grasping it myself) but if you’re really into it, check out the original article on Science Daily. (Via io9)

It’s been a while since we really learned anything cool/crazy about the moon, but now that interest in our only natural satellite has been renewed due to NASA’s plan to put a base there, we’re starting again to uncover interesting things. One such discovery is that there is Uranium there. And it’s even on the surface. Scientists made the discovery after seeing the tell-tale signature of gamma radiation in the data from the recently-crashed Japanese Kaguya Probe. (Via Bad Astronomy)

Also from Bad Astronomy comes this insanely cool optical illusion video that utilizes your eye’s natural blind spot (where the optic nerve connects to your retina). It works best if you view it full screen.

Last night one of my favorite musicians/artists of all time, Matt Mahaffey (of sElf), played a last-minute show at the Boro Bar & Grill in Murfreesboro. I already was planning to attend the benefit show he’s playing this saturday in Johnson City for his late brother Mike’s kids/family, and to see him play twice in one week was all the more awesome. His fans, especially the old-school ones from around middle TN, are all just great people. It’s amazing how his music seems to only attract the best of people as fans. The show was really just a “warmup” for saturday’s show, which he said will include his longtime friend Seth Timbs of Fluid Ounces collaborating on some songs. I was fortunate enough to catch last year’s benefit for Mike, also in Johnson City, and I can only imagine how this one will be even better with Seth’s contributions. It’s amazing how last night’s show was announced at 1pm yesterday, and in about 8 hours word got around enough for 80-100 or so people to cram into the Boro. I won’t get into how that place has gone downhill in the last few years, but Matt and the crowd that showed up definitely made it cool again at least for one night. I was doing some videotaping, but I doubt I will post anything from last night since I’m also taping Saturday’s show. However, Jess McKelly was also recording with her pocket video camera, so check out her YouTube page in the next couple of days for some clips.

Nashville Cream has been doing some cool ticket giveaways lately. They’ve been posting some absurd photos and giving the tix to whoever comes up with the wittiest/snarkiest caption in the comments of the thread. Just go over and read some of the hilarity, or even post one yourself for a chance to win.

This has seriously got to be one of the coolest optical illusions I’ve ever seen on the web. Drag the lines slowly for the best results. Link via Bad Astronomy.

Nicole Kidman apparently loves Nashville, and is a little worried about the “secret getting out.”