Posted inInspirational / Science

Celebrating Apollo 11

The always terrific has come up with a fitting tribute to the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission

Inspired by the ApolloPlus40 Twitter account and We Choose the Moon, both of which are tracking the Apollo 11 mission as it happened 40 years ago, I’ve built a page where you can watch the CBS News coverage of Walter Cronkite reporting on the Moon landing and the first moon walk, 40 years to the second after it originally happened.


Here’s the one-time-only schedule (all times local/CDT)…

  • Moon landing broadcast start: 3:10:30 pm on July 20
  • Moon landing shown: 3:17:40 pm
  • Moon landing broadcast end: 3:20:15 pm
  • Moon walk broadcast start: 9:51:27 pm
  • First step on Moon: 9:56:15 pm
  • Nixon speaks to the Eagle crew: approx 10:51:30 pm
  • Moon walk broadcast end: 11:00:30 pm

Of course, a celebration of anything this huge wouldn’t be complete without including the unique perspective of The Onion. (NSFW)

Posted inScience


The following video was transmitted from a Japanese satellite named SELENE (SELenological and ENgineering Explorer), as it crash-landed into the lunar surface a couple of weeks ago.

Unfortunately, we don’t quite get to see the money shot as the satellite enters the shadow of the crater that is the planned crash site, but the foreplay is pretty impressive on its own.

(Although I’ve embedded it here, I would highly recommend that you watch the larger HD version directly on YouTube instead.)

SELENE had been studying the moon from close orbit for twenty months before its mission ended in the controlled crash we (almost) see here.

It’s like science-fiction, but its real! Science-reality? Sci-Re? Whatever it is, I like it.

Posted inScience

A Real-Life “Ten Second Tom”

Remember Ten Second Tom from the movie 50 First Dates? The character was an amnesiac who could only keep events in short term memory for about ten seconds at a time.

Although Tom was a very funny character, reality isn’t nearly as amusing. Today, New Yorker Magazine published an article about a real-life case even worse than Ten Second Tom…

In March of 1985, Clive Wearing, an eminent English musician and musicologist in his mid-forties, was struck by a brain infection – a herpes encephalitis – affecting especially the parts of his brain concerned with memory. He was left with a memory span of only seconds – the most devastating case of amnesia ever recorded.

Although Ten Second Tom was very funny in the movie, Clive’s reality sounds absolutely terrifying.

Posted inScience

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice…”

I have no idea who this guy is, but he presents an extremely thought provoking argument regarding global warming and the choices we will make. Either we decide to do something, or we trust business as usual (so eloquently captured by Rush in the “Free Will” lyric I used as the title of this post). Either option is pretty scary.

Check it out and discuss amongst yourselves…

Yes, this will be on the test at the end of the semester.

Posted inScience

What’s the Matter?

Herbertsmithite - A new form of matter?If you answered “a string-net liquid” you might just be right. (And you are a much bigger geek than me! ;-))

New Scientist is reporting that researchers may have discovered a new form of matter. They call it a “string-net liquid” and even have speculated that the vacuum of the whole universe may be made from it.

Herbertsmithite (pictured) was found by geologists in the mountains of Chile in 1972.

It is unusual because its electrons are arranged in a triangular lattice. Electrons normally line up so that their spins are in the opposite direction to that of their immediate neighbors, which is impossible in a triangular configuration. The scientists’ new model shows that such a system would be a string-net liquid, so-called because the electrons in this material appear random like in a liquid, but they also move in well-defined (“entangled”) steps.

They were able to create and test a pure version of the herbertsmithite (originally named after a famed geologist) in the lab. Simulations of this new state of matter produced consistent predictions for the behavior of elementary particles like electrons, quarks, gluons, and the W and Z bosons. The scientists also found something even more surprising. As the net of strings vibrated, it produced a wave that behaved according to a very familiar set of laws – Maxwell’s equations, which describe the behavior of light. This has lead the researchers to speculate that the universe might be modeled in a similar way as the string-net liquid, where these “elementary” particles are a result of the deeper structure of the non-empty vacuum of space-time.

Are we getting close to the mythical Theory of Everything? Probably not, but it’s an interesting topic to consider late at night under a starry sky.

Of course, it probably still won’t answer the question of what happens when you are driving in a car at the speed of light and you turn your headlights on. :-O