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Posts Tagged ‘astronomy

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”*…

 

From the good folks at Chrome Experiments, a wonderfully-informative interactive map of the stars in our corner of the universe.  Readers can zoom around our galaxy at “100,000 Stars.”

* Oscar Wilde

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As we pause to celebrate the birth of the archetypical “Renaissance man,” quite possibly the greatest genius of the last millennium, Leornardo da Vinci (born on this date in 1452), we might also send starry-eyed birthday greetings to Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve; he was born on this date in 1793.  A renowned astronomer, Struve is known both as the founder of the modern study of binary (double) stars, and as the second in a five-generation-long dynasty of great astronomers: he was the son of the son of Jacob Struve, the father of Otto Wilhelm von Struve, the grandfather of Hermann Struve, the great-grandfather of Otto Struve.

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Written by LW

April 15, 2014 at 1:01 am

Like a big pizza pie, that’s amore…

 

As October, National Pizza Month, draws to a close, Flowing Data offers a rigorous examination of pizza chains across the U.S. and the relative proximity of their outlets in different areas.  It’s the handiest of guides– and one to use:  surely Americans can improve on last year’s statistics; surely we can do better than 251,770,000 pounds of pepperoni consumed…

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As we ask for extra crushed red pepper, we might recall that it was on this date in 1937 we– the entire population of the earth– narrowly avoided (by twice the distance of the Moon… but that’s only three seconds) obliteration as the 500,000 ton asteroid/planetoid 69230 Hermes failed to collide with our planet. (In 1989, the earth had an even closer approach, but by the smaller 4581 Asclepius.)

69230 Hermes

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Written by LW

October 30, 2013 at 1:01 am

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog…”*

 

Brian and Peter, the keepers of Plurib.us, have gifted us with perspective:  Explore our solar system and its environs– planets, dwarf planets, and moons– comparing each celestial body’s size as it might appear from earth, as it is in “true” scale (as above)… and as it routinely appears n a child’s play set…

Check it out at Planet Resizer.

* Mark Twain

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As we boldly go, we might recall that it was on this date in 1947, after 11 years of grinding and polishing, that what had begun as 20 tons of molten glass finally became a 200-inch diameter telescope lens for Cal Tech’s Mount Palomar Observatory.  It was mounted in the Hale Telescope (named in honor of the late Dr. George E. Hale who had initiated the project).and was first used on February 1, 1949 to capture pictures of the Milky Way.

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Written by LW

October 3, 2013 at 1:01 am

It’s not too early to think about *next year’s* Fathers Day…

From the silly…

The Cabana Islander holds up to 6 people. Impractical in a swimming pool, it’s really only useful in a big body of water, like an ocean, where you might fall asleep and drift out to sea.

The only good thing about this $364 piece of inflatable plastic is that when you do, inevitably, wake up somewhere over the horizon, you’ve got up to five other family members or friends to eat. Just make sure you bring someone weak when you set sail for disaster, since you’ll need to conserve as much energy as possible in the process of overpowering them to eat their body.

…through the sillier…

This computer mouse hides a digital scale inside and has a little compartment to stash a tiny amount of weed. This would be more practical if a desktop computer wasn’t a big square box with a ton of empty space where you could put a full-sized scale and several ounces of weed.

Customers who bought this also bought a plastic bic lighter that you can store an even tinier amount of weed in. Who are all these customers and what are they doing with their tiny pieces of weed?

… to the tasteless…

 “I have a clean!”  Thanks once again, capitalism, for reminding us that one of the greatest Americans in history can be reduced to a joke for a few thousand bucks. We laugh and destroy the few people willing to put their lives at stake to ensure a better future for the next generation. One day the sun will swallow the Earth, and the rest of the universe will breathe a sigh of relief.

…and the downright insulting…

“Unless your the worlds most fuckable man, you need Sure Fuck Cologne!” (sic) says the manufacturer.   They also brag it “drives women into a Hot Sexual Frenzy!”  If that’s true, it must smell an awful lot like having a full-time job.

… it’s all at The Worst Things for Sale.

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As we contemplate commercial creativity, we might recall that it was on this date in 1178 that “The upper horn of the moon split in two … a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out fire, hot coals & sparks”: an asteroid or comet collided with the moon resulting in a violent explosion that created the Giordano Bruno crater.

The upper horn [of the moon] split in two.  From the midpoint of the division a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out, over a considerable distance, fire, hot coals and sparks. Meanwhile the body of the Moon which was below writhed, as it were in anxiety, and to put it in the words of those who reported it to me and saw it with their own eyes, the Moon throbbed like a wounded snake. Afterwards it resumed its proper state. This phenomenon was repeated a dozen times or more, the flame assuming various twisting shapes at random and then returning to normal. Then, after these transformations, the Moon from horn to horn, that is along its whole length, took on a blackish appearance.
- Gervase, Friar and Chronicle at Canterbury, who witnessed the event

NASA photo of the Moon’s Giordano Bruno crater

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Written by LW

June 18, 2013 at 1:01 am

The Eternal Auditorium…

Guglielmo Marconi, one of radio’s early pioneers, believed  that sound never dies; Nate DiMeo, of the podcast The Memory Palace, explains…

In his 60s, having suffered a series of heart attacks, Marconi dreamed “of a device that would let him hear lost sounds, let him tap into these eternal frequencies. He would tell people that if he got it right, he could hear Jesus of Nazareth giving the Sermon on the Mount…”

At the end of his life he could sit in his piazza in Rome, and hear everything that was ever said to him or about him. He could relive every toast and testimonial. And we all could — hear everything: Hear Caesar. Hear Shakespeare give an actor a line-reading. Hear my grandmother introduce herself to my grandfather at a nightclub in Rhode Island. Hear someone tell you that they love you, that first time they told you they loved you. Hear everything, forever.

There’s more in Rebecca Rosen’s appreciation at The Atlantic, “The Museum of Lost Sounds,” where she links to the Cornell Ornithology Lab’s sound archive.  You can hear the whole of DiMeo’s Marconi piece, “These Words, Forever,” here, and more of his wonderful podcasts at The Memory Palace.

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After we candle our ears, we might send both birthday greetings and notes of condolence to Johannes Hevelius; he was born on this date in 1611, and died on this date in 1687.  A councilor and mayor of Danzig (Gdańsk), Hevelius was an avid– and important– astronomer who worked from observatories he built across his city’s rooftops.  From four years’ telescopic study of the Moon, he compiled Selenographia (“Pictures of the Moon”, 1647), an atlas of the Moon with some of the earliest detailed maps of its surface.  A few of his names for lunar mountains (e.g., the Alps) are still in use, and a lunar crater is named for him. In Prodromus Astronomiae (1690), Hevelius catalogued 1564 stars, discovered four comets, described ten new constellations (seven of which are still recognized by astronomers), and was one of the first to observe the transit of Mercury.

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Written by LW

January 28, 2013 at 1:01 am

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