What could possibly be more awesome than a TORNADO MADE OF FIRE?!? Not much. This is a spectacular natural phenomenon that occurs in wildfires. It’s the same atmospheric process that causes dust devils- the difference here is that the strong updraft is from the heat of the fire, so it’s much more intense than a normal dust devil. The hot air rises rapidly and the surrounding winds happen to be flowing into the updraft at just the right angles so that the rising column of air gets a twist. From there the law of conservation of angular momentum takes over and the vortex becomes self-sustaining. This one was captured recently in Australia.

Also from the department of TOTALLY AWESOME: Warp Drives (like the ones they used in Star Trek) may actually be much closer to reality than ever thought. NASA physicist Dr. Harold White has recently done some tweaking of the theoretical design of the famous Alcubierre Warp Drive, originally proposed in 1994 by physicist Miguel Alcubierre. The original design, while theoretically possible, was completely impractical because it required more energy than a human mind can comprehend. But with Dr. White’s tweaks, the amount of energy required to run this thing suddenly became more plausible. Essentially the ship would be able to travel much faster than light, without actually traveling faster than light. It does this by literally compressing a region of space-time ahead of it and expanding a region behind it. The ship itself is in a bubble in which it never breaks the speed of light relative to the space-time it’s in. Think of it like surfing a wave of space-time. Granted, the amount of energy require to run the Warp Drive is still roughly equivalent to 1.5 million Hiroshima bombs, but with a little antimatter (about 500 kilograms) that number is not out of reach. The problem is that the idea hasn’t been tested in real life. So Dr. White and his team are currently attempting to actually warp space-time on a microscopic scale in their lab. Take a moment to digest that. Right now, we are attempting to warp space-time in a lab. It doesn’t get much more awesome than that. For more info on how the drive actually works check out this article on Extreme Tech or this article on Discovery News.

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The bad news (for you at least): No more posts this week because this afternoon I’m embarking on my yearly SXSW jaunt. I’m back in the world of the badgeless this year, and currently have no obligations or assignments from the Scene, so this year should be interesting. Also, my band Scale M0del is playing the Red Gorilla Festival on Friday at 3pm at the Dizzy Rooster on 6th St. So if you’re down there, try to stop by! It’s totally free and doesn’t require a badge or wristband of any kind. Actually that may not be bad news for you at all, because it’s probably of little significance to you whether I post the rest of the week.

But, I do have good news! Wormhole travel is slightly less inconceivable now thanks to some research by a team of physicists from Germany and Greece! In short- those convenient things called wormholes that made intergalactic travel possible in science fiction such as Stargate, Contact, etc… are actually pretty tricky business, and were once thought to require unfathomable amounts of negative energy to keep stable enough for a person to travel through. All the while, the very existence of negative energy isn’t even a sure thing. BUT, this new research pulls from elements of string theory, quantum theory, and other far-out theories to get around that massive negative energy requirement. This New Scientist article explains it all, so head over and check it out. It’s a long one, but well worth the read. Unfortunately the idea of traveling through a wormhole is still pretty inconceivable, because according to these new calculations, the wormhole would have to be tens to hundreds of light years across in order for a human to travel through it without getting ripped apart by tidal forces. I actually LOL’d at the line “…our galaxy’s stars are crowded together within a few light years of each other. While this doesn’t prevent the existence of a wormhole with a mouth tens of light years across, it makes it hard to position it so that star systems don’t accidentally fall in. Fallen stars would surely disrupt the timetable and so users might avoid our galaxy altogether.” (Emphasis mine.)

This is one of those articles which requires you to create an account through New Scientist, but it’s free, and all you’ll have to endure is a few email newsletters full of fascinating discoveries and other tidbits from the science world. Not bad if you ask me.

I shall see you back here sometime next week, whenever my brain and liver have fully recovered from SXSW. Till then, cheers!

In case you’ve been living under a rock, or not had access to the internet for the past few days, the first full Tron Legacy trailer hit the web. Go watch it here and get excited. I really think/hope this movie will use new special effects technology in a tasteful way, and be generally awesome. (Via Yewknee’d)

Another item that’s been circulating the blogosphere for a few days but is still worth posting: Popular Science magazine now has its archives online, dating all the way back to their very first issue. You can also browse them in Google Books. Some of those covers from the early to mid 20th century are quite hilarious.

If you watched the Oscars sunday night and are still wondering WTF was up with that crazy woman in the purple dress getting all Kaye West on Roger Ross Williams during his acceptance speech for Best Documentary Short, go read this article. In short, her name was Elinor Burkett, and she was a co-producer of the film. Apparently she and RRW have been in a battle over who’s idea the movie was, and who deserves the credit.

Some other Oscar-related goodness: Honest Best Picture Move Titles on CollegeHumor. My favorite: Up. Honest title- Suck It Dreamworks! 2nd favorite: Up In the Air. Honest title- George Clooney On Autopilot. (Via Kottke.org)

Buzz Aldrin continues his reign of utter awesomeness by being a contestant (participant?) on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. He’s doing it as part of an overall effort to keep the US space program on the public’s mind. He also recently taped an upcoming appearance on NBC’s 30 Rock. I can only hope I’m that badass at 80. (Via Space.com)

In the past 10 years or so, I’ve become more and more of a skeptic. Especially in the last 5 or so years, the American public has become increasingly susceptible to scaremongering and inflated fears about health issues, doomsday nonsense, and other junk science that has no basis in reality. The myth about cell phone radiation causing brain cancer is one example of this. The flat truth is that there had been no proven link between cell phone use and brain cancer. In fact, according to Christopher Wanjek’s column on LiveScience there has been no significant increase in brain cancer that correlates in any way with the increase of cell phone usage. We all know how much cell phone usage has risen in the last 2 decades… if they cause brain cancer, why the hell hasn’t there been a corresponding increase in the disease? Because there’s no connection. That being said, this article on NewScientist is one of many covering research into the effects of cell phone radiation on the brain, and in fact it does affect brain tissue, and there have been some hints that extremely prolonged exposure could cause some degree of tissue damage, but tissue damage is not the same thing as brain cancer. Furthermore, another recent study actually showed that cell phone radiation reversed the effects of Alzheimer’s disease in mice! (And if you look at the bottom of that article, you’ll see that the study wasn’t funded by any cell phone companies…) We might even soon be seeing cell phone radiation used as a treatment for the disease. So, the jury may still be out on whether it causes tissue damage or has therapeutic effects on memory, but with as many studies as have been done on the link between the radiation and brain cancer, it’s pretty obvious that cell phones don’t cause brain cancer. Unfortunately some companies have tried to capitalize on the scaremongering by marketing products that are supposed to “protect” you brain from the radiation. These don’t work, and several have been shut down by the FTC.

Now that I’m off my skeptic soapbox, something actually interesting:

Biologists have discovered a species of sea slug that is the first know organism to be able to produce chlorophyll. This creature actually has aspects of both plants and animals, and thus sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi movie. But it’s real. Scientists have determined that it somehow “borrowed” the plant genes that allow chlorophyll production from the algae that it consumes. Exactly how it did that in it’s evolutionary path is still a mystery. It still can’t produce the actual chloroplasts (the cells that are responsible for the conversion of sunlight into energy) without consuming algae, but it apparently can produce chlorophyll entirely on its own.

And just for kicks: How the main LOST characters would each make a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. (Via Yewknee’d)

Photo by Steve Cross

Photo by Steve Cross

I’m slowly getting back enough will power to blog again. I was so drained by Bonnaroo that I just didn’t feel like posting yesterday. You can see all of my photo slideshows at the Scene’s website. There are a ton of them, so plan out some time if you want to actually see them all. I guess the best parts of it for me were getting approved to photograph Springsteen (only 20 photogs out of the 100 or so got approved), and also getting to photograph the last Nine Inch Nails show in the U.S. Ever.

Honestly though, I must say the biggest surprise for me came from Raphael Saadiq. The former member of Tony! Toni! Tone! released a solo album late last year called The Way I See It and you can bet that I’ll be grabbing it a soon as possible. His music is nothing like the early 90’s jock-jams that TTT was known for. This is a throwback to the R&B sounds of the 60’s. I haven’t heard the full album yet, but as my friend and fellow Scene freelancer Sean Maloney put it during our drive back, “…it sounds like it could’ve come straight outta Detroit in 1967.” Their cover of the Stooges’ Search & Destroy officially blew my mind.

On to some non-Bonnaroo stuff:

Conor Oberst, Jim James, and M. Ward have finally released details of their collaborative album called Monsters of Folk. Yea, the named is kinda weird, but let’s hope the actual songs are better. It would be hard to go wrong with such a powerful combination of musicians, but it wouldn’t be the first time a “supergroup” failed to even equal the sum of its parts. Via A.V. Club

Apparently Steven Spielberg is taking his love of aliens to the networks. I read in this io9 article that he’s currently working on the new unnamed T.V. series and has tapped ER’s Noah Wyle for the star role. Check the article for more deets.

Ironic Sans isn’t updated very often, but when it is, it’s almost always something clever and intriguing. His latest post details an idea for solving the problem of that pesky mess of cables behind your T.V./entertainment center. Answer- make the whole wall out of outlets.

This is old news, but NASA delayed the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour on Saturday due to a Hydrogen leak. They’ve rescheduled the launch for tomorrow at 5:40am EDT. UGH. That’s 4:40am my time. If you’re crazy and want to get up early enough to watch the coverage, you can do so at NASA TV.

Not much time today, but here’s the skinny for the weekend:

Tonight the Armed Forces play the first installment of the Poolapalooza series at the Opryland Hotel. This could be an interesting one… but I’ll be heading to Exit/In to photograph Black Moth Super Rainbow. I love the band name, but I’m honestly not that familiar with them. Also, How I Became the Bomb will be releasing the last installment of their 3-song digital EP series called Through Adversity to the Stars! at Mercy Lounge. They’ll be joined by Chattanooga’s Coral Castles and Pineapple Explode. Wait… what? Yes I agree, P.E. is by far the odd-man-out on the bill. But I’m really glad those guys/girl are getting to play for such a big crowd as opposed their usual basement shows.

Tomorrow I’m photographing Coldplay/Snow Patrol at the Sommet Center. Whatevs on the bands…. it’s always fun to shoot big stadium sized tours though. Snow Patrol is also doing a free in-store show at Grimey’s at 2pm. Sorry Grimey’s but I won’t be anywhere near your store tomorrow. I have a feeling the resulting clusterfuck on 8th Ave will rival that of Record Store Day.

Be sure to pick up a copy of the Scene before next week’s edition hits the stands and read Tracy Moore’s feature article “Almost Famous.” The article follows the story of 4 local-ish bands/artists who essentially got ground up and quickly spit back out of the major label music industry, and it’s damn good. Bands beware indeed. I honestly hadn’t a clue that Eureka Gold had come so close to a major record deal. Makes sense they kept it kinda quiet though.

I’m somewhat excited about a new sci-fi movie coming out called Moon. It’s set in the future where humans have a mining outpost on the Moon to extract Helium-3, which will solve the answer to earth’s energy crisis. The mining base is run by one solitary man, and the film follows him through his last 2 weeks of a 3-year stint working on the base. For a more detailed synopsis, check out the IMDB page. I’m not quite convinced it’ll really all that good, but it certainly shows promise. It comes out July 17th.

Speaking of moons, I came across this article on the Daily Galaxy about Saturn’s moon Titan. Astronomers are very interested in Titan because it’s one of the few places in the solar system that has the potential for life. The others being Mars, Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and Jupiter’s moon Europa. Titan is basically a much colder analog of earth. It has oceans, land, clouds, mountains, and even a nitrogen-rich atmosphere. The difference is the temperature. Obviously it’s much colder than earth because it’s so much farther away from the Sun, which means the oceans and clouds are mostly made of liquid methane, not water. But still, even with the extreme cold and all the methane/nitrogen, it still could harbor microbial life. We even have a few pictures of the surface of Titan, thanks to the Huygens probe which was part of the Cassini mission. I highly suggest reading the Daily Galaxy article. The surface of Titan:

Have a great weekend!