Posts Tagged ‘space’
Posted by mattusmaximus on August 26, 2012
Neil Armstrong died today. The first human being to ever set foot on another world – the Moon – died today. It is with more than a hint of nostalgia that I write this, because as I reflect back upon my 40 years of life I have to marvel at the fact that humans walked on another world before I was even born!
Let’s hope we can get back “out there” even more, for the sake of Neil’s memory and the future
In closing, I can think of no better way to close than by referencing this amazing obituary for Neil Armstrong from The Economist Magazine:
Aug 25th 2012, 20:38 by T.C.
ASTRONAUTS do not like to be called heroes. Their standard riposte to such accusations is to point out that it requires the efforts of hundreds of thousands of backroom engineers, mathematicians and technicians to make space flight possible. They are right, too: at the height of its pomp, in 1966, NASA was spending about 4.4% of the American government’s entire budget, employing something like 400,000 workers among the agency and its contractors.
But it never works. For Neil Armstrong, who commanded Apollo 11, the mission that landed men on the moon on July 20th 1969, the struggle against heroism seemed particularly futile. The achievement of his crew, relayed live on television, held the entire planet spellbound. On their return to Earth, the astronauts were mobbed. Presidents, prime ministers and kings jostled to be seen with them. Schools, buildings and roads were named after them. Medals were showered upon them. A whirlwind post-flight tour took them to 25 countries in 35 days.
As the first man to walk on another world, Armstrong received the lion’s share of the adulation. All the while, he quietly insisted that the popular image of the hard-charging astronaut braving mortal danger the way other men might brave a trip to the dentist was exaggerated. “For heaven’s sake, I loathe danger,” he told one interviewer before his fateful flight. Done properly, he opined, spaceflight ought to be no more dangerous than mixing a milkshake. …
Read the rest of the obituary here
Posted in space | Tagged: Apollo, Apollo missions, astronaut, Cold War, death, Earth, engineering, exploration, farwell, landing, Moon, NASA, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Neil Armstrong, obituary, one small step, rocket, science, space, technology | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on August 6, 2012
I, like many of my fellow humans on planet Earth, am simply bursting with joy, excitement, pride, anticipation, and (pardon the pun) curiosity after the successful landing of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory on the Red Planet. This was a big deal, for a number of reasons outlined at this link, but for me this remarkable acheivement can be summed up in one quick phrase:
Science – It Works!!!
Image source and caption: In this image from NASA TV, shot off a video screen, one of the first images from a second batch of images sent from the Curiosity rover is pictured of its wheel after it successfully landed on Mars. The video screen was inside the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California August 5, 2012.The rover landed on the Martian surface shortly after 10:30 p.m. Pacific time on Sunday (1:30 a.m. EDT Monday/0530 GMT) to begin a two-year mission seeking evidence the Red Planet once hosted ingredients for life, NASA said. REUTERS/Courtesy NASA TV/Handout
Image source and caption: Aeolis Mons (unofficially Mount Sharp), as seen from Curiosity.
And if that isn’t cool enough, check out this Youtube video of the descent of the MSL towards the surface of Mars taken from the lander itself!
**Note: I want to give a shout out to my FB friend Rob for inspiring the title of this blog entry
Posted in scientific method, space | Tagged: astronomy, curiosity, descent, engineering, landing, life, mars, Mars Science Laboratory, MSL, NASA, Red Planet, rover, science, space, technology | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on July 21, 2012
One of the most rewarding things I did at TAM2012, which was full of rewarding things, was to help run and staff the Hug Me! vaccination clinic. Hug Me! is a campaign by the Women Thinking, Inc to educate women and parents (and pretty much anyone else) on the importance of vaccinating their children and themselves. While at TAM2012, we gave 161 free TDaP – that’s Tetanus, Diptheria, and Pertussis (whooping cough) – booster shots to attendees of the conference. If you are interested in learning more and possibly supporting our work, by donating or buying a Hug Me! shirt, click here :)
**Update: if you want to buy a Hug Me! shirt (as pictured below) send an email to marsmattus [at] yahoo [dot] com
The volunteers from the Women Thinking, Inc posing with James “The Amazing One” Randi (note our mascot, the sloth)
Posted in medical woo, skeptical community | Tagged: anti-vaccination, anti-vax, anti-vaxxers, astronomy, booster shot, CDC, Centers for Disease Control, clinic, conference, convention, diptheria, hug, Hug Me, Hug Me I'm Vaccinated, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, Las Vegas, medicine, meeting, pertussis, public health, science, Skepchick, skeptic, skepticism, space, TAM, TAM2012, Tdap, tetanus, The Amaz!ng Meeting, The Amazing Meeting, vaccination, vaccines, vax, whooping cough, Women Thinking, Women Thinking Free, Women Thinking Free Foundation, Women Thinking Inc, WT Inc, WTFF | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on May 12, 2012
Astrophysicist and science/skeptical activist Neil deGrasse Tyson is working on a re-release of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, and this nicely autotuned Youtube video clip from melodysheep clearly shows why he is the right person for the job
Posted in scientific method, space | Tagged: astronomy, astrophysicist, astrophysics, autotune, autotuned, Carl Sagan, Cosmos, music, Neil deGrass Tyson, science, space, star stuff, stars, Symphony of Science, Tyson, universe, video, We are star stuff, youtube | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 8, 2012
I came across this Youtube video recently of time-lapse footage from the International Space Station’s low-light camera, and it was so awesome I just had to share it. This video is breath-taking in its artistry, beauty, and it also speaks to the power and utility of science to illustrate our world to us in a manner inaccessible otherwise.
Enjoy the show!
Posted in space | Tagged: aurora, camera, Earth, Earth HD, free fall, International Space Station, ISS, LEO, low earth orbit, low light, Mir, night, northern lights, orbit, orbital, Skylab, southern lights, space, space station, time lapse, video, weightless, youtube, zero g, zero gravity | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on September 7, 2011
We’ve been here before, and I’m sure we’ll be here again, folks. NASA has just released a set of even higher resolution images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera of the Apollo 17 landing site (see my previous blog entry on earlier images here), which shows – yet again – more evidence that human beings really did go to the Moon! Here are the images…
Clearly visible are equipment left on the Moon’s surface (such as the base of the lander which is casting a clear shadow) and numerous tracks left by the astronauts’ footprints in the lunar regolith. And here is a magnified version of the above image, centering on the base of the lunar lander itself:
[**Aside: Bad Astronomer Phil Plait has an excellent analysis and specific breakdown of these newest images here.]
Sadly, this probably won’t stop conspiracy-minded Moon hoax theorists from spinning their usual nonsense denying the fact that we sent humans to the Moon (see this excellent analysis by Bad Astronomy of the Moon hoaxer claims). That’s because, no matter what evidence is provided (even including high-resolution images of the landing sites and human footprints on the Moon), these conspiracy theorists will attempt to rationalize it away, such as by invoking the all-powerful Conspiracy (i.e., all the images are faked, except – of course – the very images the hoaxers use to claim the Moon landings didn’t happen). Case in point, just today I received the following comment on an earlier blog post on this matter:
Haha – your photo’s prove the fake – look closely at the image of the Apollo 14 landing site and you can see the the LM has no height profile compararive to it’s shadow – thankyou for the proof – hahahaha. Also the eagle landing module has a shadow the shape of a christmas tree. Why would that be?
Of course, one can see clearly in the higher resolution photos above of the Apollo 17 landing site that there is an obvious height profile compared to the shadow of the lander base. As for the Eagle lander having a “shadow the shape of a christmas tree”, one should note that what was left behind on the Moon was the base of the lander, not the entire lander structure with the descent module attached (because, duh, that part brought the astronauts back). It’s details like this the conspiracy theorists overlook in their zealous attempts to simultaneously deny reality and spin some kind of fantasy world where they are clued in to what’s really going on.
I’m content to allow these whackjobs to continue spinning their tall tales that fly in the face of mountains of evidence, including their utterly abyssmal understanding of physics (see the Bad Astronomy link for more on that). Meanwhile, the rest of us can sit back and enjoy the fact that we still have the right stuff
Posted in conspiracy theories, space | Tagged: Apollo, Apollo 11, Apollo 17, Bad Astronomy, Buzz Aldrin, conspiracy, conspiracy theory, exploration, LRO, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Moon, Moon hoax, Moon landings, NASA, Neil Armstrong, Skeptics Guide to the Universe, space, The Apollo Hoax | 4 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on July 20, 2011
Once again, I would like to toot my own skeptical horn This past weekend at The Amaz!ng Meeting 9 a group of organizations – the Women Thinking Free Foundation, the James Randi Educational Foundation, Skepchick, and the Southern Nevada Health District – worked to bring a free vaccine clinic to the conference. And boy did we kick all kinds of ass! Look, I have photographic evidence…
Me and Bad Astronomer Phil Plait, kicking ass with our official Hug Me gear (T-shirts and teddy bears for sale via the WTFF)!
Photo Credit: Jamie Bernstein a.k.a. The Original Skeptical Ninja
Like the WTFF’s previous clinic at Dragon*Con last September, we offered free TDaP vaccinations for anyone who came into the clinic (TDaP stands for “tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis”) and it was also part of the WTFF’s “Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated!” campaign to reach out to the general population, and parents in particular, about the need for vaccines and how anti-vaccinationist propaganda can be deadly.
At the Dragon*Con clinic, we vaccinated over 200 people in two days, which was – according to the clinic workers – a massively successful clinic. But we aren’t satisfied with that success, which became apparent when our clinic at TAM9 blew that record away by vaccinating a whopping 306 people in 5.5 hours! W00t!!!
A lot of people came up to me during the clinic and thanked me and my skeptical colleagues at the WTFF and JREF for doing this work, but I have to say that one of the biggest reasons why we can do this at all is because of the generous support from people like you. We want to keep doing these clinics, and we’re planning to do another one at Dragon*Con 2011 – but we cannot do it without your support. So please consider making a donation to this worthy cause…
Thanks again for all your support – YOU kick ass!
Photo Credit: Jamie Bernstein a.k.a. The Original Skeptical Ninja
Posted in medical woo, skeptical community | Tagged: anti-vaccination, anti-vax, anti-vaxxers, astronomy, booster shot, CDC, Centers for Disease Control, clinic, conference, convention, DC, diptheria, Dragon Con, Dragon*Con, hug, Hug Me, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, Las Vegas, medicine, meeting, Mug Me I'm Vaccinated, pertussis, public health, science, Skepchick, skeptic, skepticism, Southern Nevada Health District, space, TAM, TAM9, TAM9 From Outer Space, Tdap, tetanus, The Amaz!ng Meeting, The Amazing Meeting, vaccination, vaccines, vax, whooping cough, Women Thinking Free, Women Thinking Free Foundation, WTFF | 7 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on July 8, 2011
As most people within the skeptical community know, next week The Amaz!ng Meeting 9 will be coming to Las Vegas. It will probably be the biggest gathering of skeptics ever, and the lineup of speakers and workshops (one of which I’m helping to run) promises to be quite illuminating and informative. Something else which will be taking place at TAM9 is a vaccine clinic, held in conjunction with the JREF, Skepchick, and the Women Thinking Free Foundation as part of the WTFF Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated! campaign; this will be very similar to the highly successful clinic held at Dragon*Con last year. The clinic will be giving away free vaccinations for TDaP (tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis) to anyone who wishes to receive one – so if you’re at TAM9 and you’re not sure you have had your vaccinations updated, come on by the clinic!
In addition, even though these vaccines are free for those obtaining them, they still cost money, so we are looking for donations to help us facilitate future clinics. If you are interested in donating to this worthy cause, click here…
And here’s more general information about the Hug Me campaign. Who doesn’t like good health AND hugs? What a deal…
Posted in medical woo, skeptical community | Tagged: anti-vaccination, anti-vax, anti-vaxxers, astronomy, booster shot, CDC, Centers for Disease Control, clinic, conference, convention, DC, diptheria, Dragon Con, Dragon*Con, hug, Hug Me, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, Las Vegas, medicine, meeting, Mug Me I'm Vaccinated, pertussis, public health, science, Skepchick, skeptic, skepticism, space, TAM, TAM9, TAM9 From Outer Space, Tdap, tetanus, The Amaz!ng Meeting, The Amazing Meeting, vaccination, vaccines, vax, whooping cough, Women Thinking Free, Women Thinking Free Foundation, WTFF | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on June 7, 2011
According to this story over at Space.com, there is an amateur astronomer claiming that he has discovered what he calls a “Base on Mars” in the following image that he downloaded from Google Mars…
All I can say is… are you kidding me?! A grainy, fuzzy, and heavily pixelated image from Google Mars shows… what exactly? Why couldn’t this be some kind of geological feature on Mars, or couldn’t some of the features be artifacts of the imaging process? Why the rush to jump to “alien base on Mars” without any supporting evidence? This sort of thing is on par with people using similar crappy-quality images to claim they’re looking at Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, or seeing Jesus in the clouds. Folks, it all boils down to that well documented phenomenon called pareidolia, because if there were decent high-resolution images available then it would be harder for people to see what they (consciously or not) want to see in the pictures.
Some more reasonable possibilities are suggested by some experts in the Space.com article:
“It looks like a linear streak artifact produced by a cosmic ray,” said Alfred McEwen, a planetary geologist at the Lunar and Planetary Lab at the University of Arizona and the director of the Planetary Imaging Research Laboratory. McEwen is the principal investigator of the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), a powerful telescope currently orbiting Mars.
Cosmic rays are extremely energetic particles emitted by the sun and other stars. For the most part, the Earth’s protective magnetosphere blocks them from hitting the planet’s surface, McEwen explained. “But with space images that are taken outside our magnetosphere, such as those taken by orbiting telescopes, it’s very common to see these cosmic ray hits. You see them on optical images and a lot of the infrared images too,” he told Life’s Little Mysteries. …
… The digital compression software that converts the image into a JPEG file then “sort of smears out the image, giving it that pixelated look,” McEwen said. What started as a clear streak in high-resolution turns into a streak that, in the armchair astronaut’s words, looks like it is “made up of cylinders.”
That, or this guy actually did discover an alien base on Mars. I think you’d have to have a particularly dull Occam’s Razor to accept that conclusion, however.
Posted in aliens & UFOs, space | Tagged: aliens, base, Bigfoot, cosmic ray, digital, Google, Google Mars, image, Loch Ness Monster, mars, Martian, NASA, Nessie, pareidolia, picture, pixelation, pixels, space, UFO | Leave a Comment »