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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Science Art: Hubble Views Stellar Genesis in the Southern Pinwheel

6 April 2014 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen This is a galaxy named M83, which is usually a faint smudge in the constellation Hydra. Up close, however, Hubble Space Telescope was able to see that it’s “ablaze with star formation.” The image is also cool for another reason: This image is being used to support a citizen science project titled STAR DATE: M83. The primary goal is to estimate ages for approximately 3,000 star clusters. Amateur scientists will use the presence or absence of the pink hydrogen emission, the sharpness of the individual stars, and the color of the clusters to estimate ages. Participants will measure the sizes of the star clusters and any associated emission nebulae. Finally, the citizen scientists will “explore” the image, identifying a variety of objects ranging from background galaxies to supernova remnants to foreground stars. Want to find out more? Go here:

Science Art: Portrait of John Kepler, 1854

30 March 2014 // 0 Comments

This is the face of the man who was ROBBED by the third episode of Cosmos. Planetary motion? Elliptical orbits? Not Newton’s ideas – this guy’s. And the story of how he figured them out is pretty darn interesting. See, Kepler was a divinity student with a really fascinating theology…. This image comes from The Illustrated Magazine of Art, Volume 3. No idea who the artist was, but possibly Alexander Montgomery himself. He published the magazine.

Faster computers will find aliens.

26 March 2014 // 0 Comments

If you never thought cosmic loneliness was a computing problem, think again. In Popular Mechanics, SETI leader Seth Shostak says Moore’s Law means we’ll find aliens in the next 20 years: If you’re trying to determine when we’re going to succeed with SETI, that really depends on only two questions. First, how many societies are out there broadcasting signals strong enough for you to find? And second, how quickly are you examining these star systems to find them? My guess that we’ll succeed in the next two decades is based on the fact that with improvements in digital electronics and computers—which are getting better and cheaper, following Moore’s law—we will be continually sifting through the sky faster. And you can extrapolate how fast we’ll be able to search, assuming we have the money, in the next decade or two. As for the number of civilizations out there—how many needles are we looking for in this […]

Science Art: Nebulae in the Pleiades, by the Yerkes Observatory

23 March 2014 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen This is an old photograph taken through the largest refracting telescope (no mirrors, just a really big lens) in the world, the Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin. Edwin Hubble, Albert Einstein and Carl Sagan all looked at the sky through the observatory’s huge lenses. This image was taken sometime before 1919, when it appeared in National Geographic magazine. The telescope is still being used today. [via National Geographic]

Darker than Nemesis: Was it dark matter that killed the dinosaurs?

18 March 2014 // 0 Comments

Nature tries to see what was behind the comet that killed the dinosaurs – and other mass extinctions that seem to happen every 35 million years. One guess: Our solar system passes through a disk of dark matter that knocks meteors and comets into our planet: Meteorites regularly pepper Earth’s surface. Thirty years ago, physicists suggested that this bombardment intensifies cyclically, pointing to some underlying cosmic cause. One proposed explanation is that the Sun has an as-yet-undetected companion star, dubbed ‘Nemesis’ or ‘Death Star’, that regularly swings by, sending comets from the remote Oort cloud flying into the inner Solar System. In the latest paper, theoretical physicists Lisa Randall and Matthew Reece, of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, reignite another proposal, which puts the supposed periodicity down to the way the Sun — and the Solar System with it — move inside the Milky Way. As the Sun follows the swirling motion of the Galaxy’s […]

Science Art: An X-class Solar Flare, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

2 March 2014 // 0 Comments

A scientific visualization from NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio, who have this to say about it: An X-class solar flare erupted on the left side of the sun on the evening of Feb. 24, 2014. This composite image shows the sun in ultraviolet light with wavelength of both 131 and 171 Angstroms. “X-class” means as powerful as solar flares get. This pot has come to a rolling boil. [via]

Largest space telescope is ready to… observe.

27 February 2014 // 0 Comments

PhysOrg has the skinny on ESA’s Gaia telescope and its quest to catalogue a billion stars: Gaia will be able to discern objects up to 400,000 times dimmer than those visible to the naked eye. The positional accuracy of its measurements are akin to measuring the width of a human hair at a distance of 500 km. The process will involve scanning each part of the sky an average of 70 times over its five-year mission lifetime, which means scanning the entire sky twice every 63 days, once through each of the two telescopes, making it a powerful tool for spotting time-evolving phenomena such as binary systems, supernovae, and exoplanets. Compared to Hipparcos, Gaia will be able to measure 500 times the number of stars, extending to objects 1000 times dimmer than the dimmest that Hipparcos could catalogue. The technology that makes this possible is the largest camera ever launched into space – 940 million […]

SONG: “The Impossible One”

23 January 2014 // 0 Comments

SONG: “The Impossible One” [Download] (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “Earth-mass exoplanet is no Earth twin,” Nature, 6 January 2014, as used in the post “Earth-like planets might not be so Earth-like… as gassy Earth shows” (with a dash of “The impossible planet” sprinkled on for seasoning). ABSTRACT: Singing in 7/8 is really hard. Planets are really weird. Earth-like isn’t really Earth-like. Unpredictable. Lyrics: V1 There are 40 billion planets They’d describe as Earth-like About the right size The right length from their suns But on close inspection All 40 billion planets Each of them different Each impossible one — V2 Let’s take one would-be sister the right size and distance Look for islands and oceans Instead it has none Only clouds on the surfaces Clouds all the way down An Earth made of clouds Seems like an impossible one. — V3 We like to think of ourselves […]

Earth-like planets might not be so Earth-like… as gassy Earth shows.

17 January 2014 // 1 Comment

Nature examines he implications of a planet that *should* be a twin to Earth, but isn’t – because it’s a gassy Earth-sized planet: Not only is the planet too warm for liquid water to exist on its surface, but it also has a radius 60% larger than Earth, suggesting a vast, puffy atmosphere of hydrogen and helium. “You’ve got a very small planet that is probably not rocky at all, and that’s frightening,” says Jacob Bean, an astrophysicist at the University of Chicago in Illinois. What is scary, he says, is how the finding challenges the assumption that an Earth-mass exoplanet would have an Earth-like composition. With its thick atmosphere, the exoplanet is more like a scaled-down Neptune or Uranus, he notes. Its surprising density suggests that it will be even more important in future campaigns to measure both the size and the mass of exoplanets. Density, the ratio of mass and size, is known […]

Science Art: The Kepler Orrery II

12 January 2014 // 0 Comments

Click to view animation. A visualization of every solar system discovered by the Kepler Space Telescope as of February 2012 – that’s 885 plaents in 361 systems. There’s a longer version of the animation at NASA’s Kepler site.

The impossible planet.

8 January 2014 // 0 Comments

SEN has us baffled by a recently discovered planet that shouldn’t be there: The new world is the farthest out from its home star of any previously found. It is 11 times more massive than Jupiter and orbits the single, Sun-like star at 650 times the distance that the Earth circles the Sun, or 20 times the orbit of Neptune. A further twist is that the remains of a massive debris disk that provided the material to make the star and planets can still be detected too. The system lies 300 light-years away in the southern constellation of Crux. The exoplanet, labelled HD 106906b, is only 13 million years old and still glowing from the heat of its birth, at a temperature of around 1,500 C (2,700 F). This glow was detected in the infrared part of the spectrum by adaptive optics and a thermal camera on the 6.5-metre Magellan telescope in Chile’s Atacama Desert. […]

Exomoon spotted. Maybe. (And, well, it probably won’t happen again.)

26 December 2013 // 0 Comments

Nature celebrates (sort of) a discovery that makes it just a smidge more likely that there’s life somewhere else out there – a little blip that probably means there’s a moon orbiting a faraway planet just like ours orbits Earth: On a June night two years ago, a telescope in New Zealand captured a momentary brightening of a star in the constellation Sagittarius. It was an occurence of a rare phenomenon known as microlensing, in which a star or planet or other celestial object passes directly between Earth and a more distant star, gravitationally magnifying the light of the faraway star. After sifting through detailed observations of this event, astronomers proposed that the intervening object could be either a smallish star with a Neptune-sized planet orbiting it, or a largish planet with a moon orbiting it. If the latter possibility is confirmed, it would be the first ever detection of an exomoon. The problem is […]

Science Art: Theoria Lunae from Harmonia Macrocosmica by Andreas Cellarius.

15 December 2013 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen In 1660, Dutch-German cartographer Andreas Cellarius created an atlas of the stars. This map shows how people thought the moon moved in 1660 – in epicycles. Before we knew planets had elliptical orbits, these circles-within-circles explained why heavenly bodies seemed to speed up and slow down as they moved across the sky. Now, we know it’s because they were at the long end or the short end of their egg-shaped paths. It’s a little simpler than this elegant, arcane geometry.

Wet planets – we’ve got their names.

4 December 2013 // 0 Comments

Science Daily has Hubble’s latest clue to finding life elsewhere in space. The telescope has found five distant, watery worlds: The five planets — WASP-17b, HD209458b, WASP-12b, WASP-19b and XO-1b — orbit nearby stars. The strengths of their water signatures varied. WASP-17b, a planet with an especially puffed-up atmosphere, and HD209458b had the strongest signals. The signatures for the other three planets, WASP-12b, WASP-19b and XO-1b, also are consistent with water. “We’re very confident that we see a water signature for multiple planets,” said Avi Mandell, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and lead author of an Astrophysical Journal paper, published today, describing the findings for WASP-12b, WASP-17b and WASP-19b. “This work really opens the door for comparing how much water is present in atmospheres on different kinds of exoplanets, for example hotter versus cooler ones.”

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