Science Art: Five of Spades, from Playing Cards: Engineering


This is one of a whole deck of… well, they’re practically a technological tarot, really. They’re playing cards illustrating concepts in engineering. (The two of diamonds is also beautiful, though some might prefer the human figures in cards like the seven of clubs.)

They were originally collected by William Barclay Parsons, the chief engineer of the New York City subway. He was on the library board from 1911 to 1932, when he died. More importantly, he also donated a set of mechanics pla…

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Science Art: Red White Blood Cells, by NCI-Frederick.


The one carries oxygen around, the other keeps the system clean. They’re teeny tiny.

Image from the Electron Microscopy Facility at The National Cancer Institute at Frederick (NCI-Frederick).

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SONG: Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)

SONG: “Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE:Based on “Lasers used to levitate glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum”, Science Daily, 7 Sep 2015, as used in the post “A laser levitating glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum..”

ABSTRACT: I really wanted to use “A laser levitating nanodiamonds in a vacuum” as a lyric, because it’s got such a great rhythm, but no, it didn’t happen.

Musically, things fell together well – I came up with chords on a guitar, and t…

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SONG: One (is the Loneliest Number) (penitential cover)

SONG: “One (Is The Loneliest Number)”.

ARTIST: grant, featuring Sebastian Balfour. (Originally by Harry Nilsson.)

SOURCE: It doesn’t have a research source. It’s a penitential cover of a haunting song by Harry Nilsson that Three Dog Night turned into a prog anthem, which Aimee Mann turned into stunning reclamation project. Nilsson still wins.

ABSTRACT: I’ve been a penitential cover* behind for months and months. I first had the idea of doing this song in something like this way …

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Science Art: To Scale: The Solar System by Wylie Overstreet.

To Scale: The Solar System from Wylie Overstreet on Vimeo.

I like the desert in Nevada already because of the sense of perspective – such wide, flat spaces (wider and flatter even than Florida’s water-level wet prairies), sometimes flanked by mountains just big enough to provide a frame of reference. This is how small you are. This is how far you have to go.

That’s the ideal landscape for this kind of project. How big are we really? How far away is the place next door?

This far away. …

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Science Art: Aequorea Forbesiana by Philip Henry Gosse.

Click to embiggen

This is a jellyfish drawn by Philip Henry Gosse, a naturalist and Creationist (!) who gave us the word “aquarium” as a place to see marine creatures. Before Gosse, an aquarium was a place to water cattle.

He built the very first public one as the “Fish House” of the London Zoo in 1853.

A few years later, he published a book trying to prove that fossils couldn’t disprove Genesis because of course the act of creation would make things appear to be older than they are. …

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How do you say “Hubble” in Hindi? “Astrosat” – sort of.

28 September 2015 // 0 Comments

First Post shows how NASA’s not the only one with big space news today. India has just launched their own space observatory from Sriharikota spaceport: PSLV-C30 is carrying Astrosat, along with six other co-passengers, one satellite each from Indonesia and Canada, and four nanosatellites from the US. With the successful launch of Astrosat, India gained an entry into the select club of nations having its own space observatory after the US, Japan, Russia and Europe. … While ASTROSAT with a five-year life span weighed 1,513 kg, the six foreign satellites (four from the US and one each from Indonesia and Canada) together weighed 118 kg. According to an official of Antrix Corporation – the commercial arm of India Space Research Organisation (ISRO) – a deal has been signed to put into orbit nine American nano/microsatellites by the end of 2016. … Just over 22 minutes into the flight, the rocket slug ASTROSAT at an altitude […]

Science Art: To Scale: The Solar System by Wylie Overstreet.

20 September 2015 // 0 Comments

To Scale: The Solar System from Wylie Overstreet on Vimeo. I like the desert in Nevada already because of the sense of perspective – such wide, flat spaces (wider and flatter even than Florida’s water-level wet prairies), sometimes flanked by mountains just big enough to provide a frame of reference. This is how small you are. This is how far you have to go. That’s the ideal landscape for this kind of project. How big are we really? How far away is the place next door? This far away. This small. [via jawtry]

Science Art: Experience the Gravity of a Super Earth, NASA/JPL Exoplanet Travel Bureau

9 August 2015 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen Apparently, since last December at least, NASA has been creating vintage-style travel posters for exoplanets – the planets we’ve been discovering around faraway stars. This one, HD 40307g, is eight times Earth’s mass, and might be either a really large rocky planet (like Earth) or a really small ice giant (like Neptune). Either way, base jumping would definitely be different there. There are quite a few other potential destinations at the Exoplanet Travel Bureau, all of which have their own unique charms.

SONG: “How the Moon Began”

24 April 2015 // 0 Comments

SONG: “How the Moon Began.” [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE:Based on “Puzzle of Moon’s origin resolved”, Nature, 8 April 2015, as used in the post “Scientists: The moon was formed when Earth smacked her twin sister.” ABSTRACT: Once again, Allison said this was the story that needed a song, and she was right. At around the same time, I was listening to “Cruel Sister” and thinking about murder ballads, but somehow, this didn’t come out folksy at all. I mean, except that it’s about ancient sisters getting into some kind of deadly fight. And has finger picking in it. I also kind of set out to write a *gushi* again, but that didn’t happen either – it kept wanting to rhyme, and then slant or else kind of extend past the rhyme (what’s the name for when that happens? Cole Porter does it all the time…). The thing that sounds like an accordion, isn’t. It’s a […]

Scientists: The moon was formed when Earth smacked her twin sister.

8 April 2015 // 0 Comments

Nature reports on a new way of looking at lunar formation that almost reads like a myth. The moon came to be when Earth collided with a near-identical sister planet: The ‘giant impact’ hypothesis, first proposed in the 1970s, suggests that the Moon was formed from the debris scattered when a Mars-sized planet slammed into the early Earth some 4.5 billion years ago. This fits well with what we know about the Moon, including its mass and lack of any significant iron core. But the theory also implies that the Moon is made up mostly of impactor material. Since lunar and Earth rocks have such similar compositions, this suggests that Earth and the planet that smacked into it resembled each other too. They would have needed to be sister planets, with a relationship much closer than that of any other planetary bodies we have studied in our Solar System.

Science Art: Artist’s Impression of the GX 339-4 Black-Hole Binary System, by ESA/ATG medialab

8 March 2015 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen vastly The European Space Agency was watching the jets: Astronomers using ESA’s Herschel space observatory have detected emission from the base of black-hole jets for the first time. While studying the black-hole binary system GX 339-4 in a multi-wavelength observation campaign, they noticed changes in the source’s X-ray and radio emissions signalling the onset of powerful jets being released from the black hole’s vicinity. This prompted the astronomers to observe the source at far-infrared wavelengths with Herschel. As the first observation of emission from jets in a black-hole binary system at these wavelengths, the data have allowed the astronomers to probe the jets down to their base, where the far-infrared emission originates.

One supernova in four different places

6 March 2015 // 0 Comments

Popular Science takes a wide-eyed look at gravitational lensing, the phenomenon responsible for splitting this supernova into four different images in the night sky: But in between this supernova and Earth, there happens to be a massive galaxy, within a cluster of galaxies, which has had an interesting effect on the path of the light coming from this exploded star. Using the Hubble Space Telescope, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley observed the galaxy’s gravitational lensing effect on the supernova’s light. Because the galaxy is so massive, it warps space-time around it, which bends the light as it travels to Earth. As a result, the galaxy creates four separate images of the supernova it its edges—a phenomenon called an Einstein’s Cross. Since four images arise, it means the supernova is almost exactly behind the galaxy in relation to us. When light from a distant object passes by an extremely massive object, the warped space-time […]

Unknown Pleasures: The story behind the cover.

28 February 2015 // 0 Comments

Scientific American digs into one of the most recognizable, most influential records (and cover images) – the astronomical story behind Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album art: …[T]he cover is directly linked to a figure in The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Astronomy (1977 edition)—a stacked plot of radio signals from a pulsar. My interest was piqued. I’m far from a music and album art expert but visualizing astronomical phenomena is part of my job description. Although I jotted down notes, my intention to look further into things faded. Then, nearly two years later, when chatting with artist Philippe Decrauzat about his influences, my jaw hit the floor. His collection of favorite 1960s and 1970s Scientific American graphics included the stacked plot. It had been printed as a full-page figure in the January 1971 issue; white radio pulses on a field of cyan. My interest was piqued anew, to say the least. When folks refer to the Unknown […]

“Sorry, but your new home is a cosmic burp.”

4 July 2014 // 0 Comments

Science Daily has us imagining that message being broadcast to an an interstellar ship full of would-be colonists, thanks to new research that’s found some so-called “Goldilocks planets” are actually star-belches: “This result is exciting because it explains, for the first time, all the previous and somewhat conflicting observations of the intriguing dwarf star Gliese 581, a faint star with less mass than our Sun that is just 20 light years from Earth,” said lead author Paul Robertson, a postdoctoral fellow at Penn State who is affiliated with Penn State’s Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds. As a result of this research, the planets now confirmed to be orbiting this dwarf star total exactly three. “We also have proven that some of the other controversial signals are not coming from two additional proposed Goldilocks planets in the star’s habitable zone, but instead are coming from activity within the star itself,” said Suvrath Mahadevan, an assistant […]

The biggest particle accelerator in the *universe*… is made of galaxies.

11 June 2014 // 0 Comments

Nature writes so calmly about shockwaves of such epic proportions: Four massive clusters of galaxies are plowing into one another at a crash site about five billion light-years from Earth. The conglomeration is creating one giant concentration of thousands of galaxies. “This is really one of the most massive clusters we know of and one of the most complex mergers we know of,” said Reinout van Weeren of the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Boston, Massachusetts…. Such naturally arising particle accelerators have been observed before, most commonly in the remnants of supernovae. But MACS J0717+3745 may turn out to be one of the most powerful particle accelerators known. The observations suggest the particles there are reaching energies up to a million times those in Earth-bound atom smashers, such as the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

Meet the Mega-Earth

3 June 2014 // 0 Comments

Harvard researchers have found a whole new kind of planet. It’s just like ours, only way bigger: Astronomers announced today that they have discovered a new type of planet – a rocky world weighing 17 times as much as Earth. Theorists believed such a world couldn’t form because anything so hefty would grab hydrogen gas as it grew and become a Jupiter-like gas giant. … “This is the Godzilla of Earths!” adds CfA researcher Dimitar Sasselov, director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative. “But unlike the movie monster, Kepler-10c has positive implications for life.” … The newfound mega-Earth, Kepler-10c, circles a sunlike star once every 45 days. It is located about 560 light-years from Earth in the constellation Draco. The system also hosts a 3-Earth-mass “lava world,” Kepler-10b, in a remarkably fast, 20-hour orbit.

Farewell, Spitzer telescope?

30 May 2014 // 0 Comments

Nature covers the hard decisions that NASA faces in its latest budget… which may include shutting down a great space telescope (and an asteroid watchdog) to keep some other great telescopes running: he infrared Spitzer Space Telescope, however, may be deactivated due to lack of funding. And a bid to convert data collected by the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) into a format usable for astrophysics was also deemed too expensive. The decisions come at a time when Congress is tightening NASA’s budget, and about half of what astrophysics funding the agency does have goes to the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is being readied for launch in 2018. In 2014, for example, the total astrophysics division funding was about $1.3 billion, of which $658 million went to JWST. Spitzer received $16.5 million this year, and was requesting even less for 2015, but NASA still judged even that amount to be too […]

Howdy, neighbor!

18 April 2014 // 0 Comments

Universe Today celebrates a Goldilocks discovery. The Kepler mission has found a planet just the right size and in just the right place to have life on it: The newly-confirmed extrasolar planet has been dubbed Kepler-186f. It is the fifth and outermost planet discovered orbiting the red dwarf star Kepler-186, located 490 light-years away. Kepler-186f completes one orbit around its star every 130 days, just within the outer edge of the system’s habitable zone. … “This is the first definitive Earth-sized planet found in the habitable zone around another star,” says lead author Elisa Quintana of the SETI Institute at NASA Ames Research Center. “Finding such planets is a primary goal of the Kepler space telescope. The star is a main-sequence M-dwarf, a very common type. More than 70 percent of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy are M-dwarfs.” … But, being cooler stars, M-dwarfs have long lifespans, offering planets in their […]

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