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Posts Tagged ‘asteroids

“Few things are more enjoyable than lingering over the atlas and plotting a trip”*…


atlas of outer space


I’m excited to finally share a new design project this week! Over the past year and a half I’ve been working on a collection of ten maps on planets, moons, and outer space. To name a few, I’ve made an animated map of the seasons on Earth, a map of Mars geology, and a map of everything in the solar system bigger than 10km…

Data visualizer extraordinaire Eleanor Lutz has announced “An Atlas of Space.”

Follow her progress on her blog Tabletop Whale, or on Twitter or Tumblr.

[TotH to Kottke]

* J. Maarten Troost


As we see stars, we might spare a thought for Daniel Kirkwood; he died on this date in 1895. Kirkwood’s most significant contribution came from his study of asteroid orbits. When arranging the then-growing number of discovered asteroids by their distance from the Sun, he noted several gaps, now named Kirkwood gaps in his honor, and associated these gaps with orbital resonances with the orbit of Jupiter.  Further, Kirkwood also suggested a similar dynamic was responsible for Cassini Division in Saturn’s rings, as the result of a resonance with one of Saturn’s moons.  In the same paper, he was the first to correctly posit that the material in meteor showers is cometary debris.

Kirkwood also identified a pattern relating the distances of the planets to their rotation periods, which was called Kirkwood’s Law. This discovery earned Kirkwood an international reputation among astronomers; he was dubbed “the American Kepler” by Sears Cook Walker, who claimed that Kirkwood’s Law proved the widely held Solar Nebula Theory.  (In the event, the “Law” has since become discredited as new measurements of planetary rotation periods have shown that the pattern doesn’t hold.)

Daniel_Kirkwood source


Odds are…

On the heels of the cosmic coincidence of a flaming fireball over Russia and a close approach by a larger asteroid, The Economist offers a comparative chart sketching the mortal risks one faces this year…

Of course, as astronaut Rusty Schweickart reminds us, the odds of an asteroid strike over a materially-longer period are much higher; over the next 100,000 years…

– There’s a 10% chance of an asteroid causing planet-scale damage with 100,000 megatons of energy released.

– There’s a 50-50 chance of a 500-meter asteroid that could destroy an area the size of Texas with a 6,000 megaton explosion—100 times the USSR’s biggest bomb.

– There will be about TEN 200-meter asteroid impacts, good for 400 megatons.

– There will be about A HUNDRED 70-meter-diameter asteroids, each causing 15 megatons of damage (i.e. worse than the Tunguska explosion, which would have wiped out all of London if it had hit there instead of the remote wilderness).


As we struggle to keep this all in perspective, we might send grateful birthday greetings to the man who wrote the book on perspective, Leon Battista Alberti; he was born on this date in 1404.  The archetypical Renaissance humanist polymath, Alberti was an author, artist, architect, poet, priest, linguist, philosopher, cartographer, and cryptographer.  He collaborated with Toscanelli on the maps used by Columbus on his first voyage, and he published the the first book on cryptography that contained a frequency table.

But he is surely best remembered as the author of the first general treatise– Della Pictura (1434)– on the the laws of perspective, which built on and extended Brunelleschi’s work to describe the approach and technique that established the science of projective geometry… and fueled the progress of painting, sculpture, and architecture from the Greek- and Arabic-influenced formalism of the High Middle Ages to the more naturalistic (and Latinate) styles of Renaissance.

from Leon Battista Alberti, Della Pictura



Written by LW

February 18, 2013 at 1:01 am

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