I make films. I'm also a nerd.

Posts in science:

Blue Exoplanet Is Not Like Earth At All

USA Today :

Data from the Hubble Space Telescope has helped determine that a planet orbiting a nearby star likely shares Earth’s deep-blue tones, but the similarities stop there, astronomers report.

It’s a Jupiter-sized planet 372 trillion miles away, and it’s likely colored blue because of an atmosphere full of melting glass particles.

The fact that we’re able to observe this sort of thing is pretty amazing. It’s too bad we seem to have no time or money for the good things we have learned to do.

DARPA Creates Another Totally Non-Evil Evil Robot

Will Knight writes, for the MIT Technology Review:

The latest innovation from the U.S. Defense Department’s research agency, DARPA, is a humanoid robot called Atlas that looks as if it could’ve walked straight off the set of the latest Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster.

In fact, Atlas is designed to eventually take on some of the most dangerous and high-stakes jobs imaginable, such as tending to a nuclear reactor during a meltdown, shutting off a deep-water oil spill, or helping to put out a raging wildfire. And if Atlas proves itself at such daredevil tasks, then one of its descendants might one day be allowed to do something just as important: help take care of the elderly and infirm.

Actual Truth: This thing will come and kill you, in the night. Just look at this thing, and then look at some of DARPA’s other monstrosities, and try to convince me—with a straight face—that you aren’t terrified.

Amazing Animated .Gifs of Saturn And Its Moons

These animations from the Cassini probe—which has been orbiting Saturn since 2004—are strange and beautiful, and not unlike something from a Guy Maddin film.

HT Rodney Ramsey.

Head Transplant, Anyone?

Jeff Blagdon, The Verge:

An Italian neuroscientist believes he’s figured out how to do a full human head transplant. Or body transplant, depending on your perspective.

Finally, a way for rich people to live forever.

Voyager 1 Finds Weirdness At Edge of Solar System

Adam Mann writes for Wired:

Not content with simply being the man-made object to travel farthest from Earth, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft recently entered a bizarre new region at the solar system’s edge that has physicists baffled. Their theories don’t predict anything like it.

The Voyager probes’ exits of the realm of our sun’s influence continue to be fascinating to watch. There’s no telling what we’ll be able to learn from all of this. Maybe we’ll make some kind of breakthrough that will give humanity hope again.

It’s nice to dream about it, anyway.

Supreme Court Decides DNA Isn’t Patentable

From the Court’s Opinion:

[W]e hold that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible[…]

It’s sad that one feels such surprise when the Supreme Court of the United States of America makes a decision in favor of what is obviously the right thing for anyone other than a corporate attorney. Profit always matters more than people, period. It feels exhilarating when someone powerful challenges that fact.

Ultraviolet Maps of the Magellanic Clouds

Here’s a beautiful assemblage of high-resolution imagery from NASA:

Astronomers at NASA and Pennsylvania State University have used NASA’s Swift satellite to create the most detailed ultraviolet light surveys ever of the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, the two closest major galaxies. […] To produce the 160-megapixel LMC mosaic, Swift’s UVOT acquired 2,200 snapshots for a cumulative exposure of 5.4 days. The 57-megapixel SMC image comprises 656 individual images with a total exposure of 1.8 days.

Check out the source link for more context and a ton of images.

We are so exceedingly tiny, and our silly problems are tinier still.

NASA Decommissions Nuclear Vehicle Research Facility

Bryan Bishop, The Verge:

In 1961, NASA’s Plum Brook Reactor Facility in Sandusy, [sic] Ohio went live, with a focus on researching nuclear-powered vehicles — first airplanes, and then rockets. It was shut down 12 years later, and in 1998 NASA finally decided to begin the process of decommissioning the site. Wired has published a photo tour of the facility, taken before its final demolition on May 31st this year, and when paired with NASA’s own site on the decommissioning process it provides a haunting look at the last days of the 27-acre installation.


Paralyzed Woman Completes Marathon

Once every six thousand years, something happens which makes this whole human experiment seem worthwhile, for about five minutes.

Fake Life is Finally Real

I’m not sure whether this excites or terrifies me. Quoth National Geographic:

[N]ew synthetic compounds called XNAs can also store and copy genetic information, a new study says. And, in a “big advancement,” these artificial compounds can also be made to evolve in the lab, according to study co-author John Chaput of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University.

On the one hand, it’s unquestionably a triumph of human effort. On the other, it’s what Frankenstein warned us of. On one hand, it provides categorical evidence of the truth of evolution. On the other hand, Christians don’t give a shit about evidence and will now be forced to behave with even less recourse to logic than before.