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Posts Tagged ‘Milky Way

Period, Full Start…

Computersherpa at DeviantART has taken the collected wisdom at TV Tropes and that site’s “Story Idea Generator” and organized them into an amazing Periodic Table of Storytelling

click here (and again) for a larger image

[TotH to Brainpickings]

Along these same lines, readers might also be interested in the “Perpetual Notion Machine” (which includes, as a bonus, the story of Dmitri Mendeleev and the “real” Periodic Table…)  See also the Periodic Table of Typefaces (“‘There are now about as many different varieties of letters as there are different kinds of fools…’“) and the Periodic Table of Visualization Methods (“Now See Here…“).

As we constructively stack our writers’ blocks, we might wish a thoughtful Happy Birthday to Immanuel Kant; he was born on this date in 1724 in Königsberg, Prussia (which is now Kaliningrad, Russia).  Kant is of course celebrated as a philosopher, the author of Critique of Pure Reason (1781), Critique of Practical Reason (1788), and Critique of Judgment (1790), and father of German Idealism (et al.).

But less well remembered are the contributions he made to science, perhaps especially to astronomy, before turning fully to philosophy.  For example, his General History of Nature and Theory of the Heavens (1755) contained three anticipations important to the field: 1) Kant made the nebula hypothesis ahead of Laplace. 2) He described the Milky Way as a lens-shaped collection of stars that represented only one of many “island universes,” later shown by Herschel. 3) He suggested that friction from tides slowed the rotation of the earth, which was confirmed a century later.  Similarly, Kant’s writings on mathematics were cited as an important influence by Einstein.


Stepping on the scale(s)…

In their introduction to the book version of Charles and Ray Eames’ Powers of Ten, Philip and Phyllis Morrison wrote elegantly of the importance of the evolution of the tools of science to scientific progress.  It’s the continuous improvement in these “instruments of vision” that pushes back the frontiers of knowledge, and allow us to know, and ultimately to understand, more and more of the universe around us.

The frontiers of this vision are at the extremes of scale– the very small and the very large.  Readers have recently visited the territory of the tiny, where the Large Hadron Collider is at work finding the smallest (at least for now) of the small.  Today we turn to the very large– and the very distant…

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) was the most ambitious astronomical survey ever undertaken.  Over an eight-year period, an array of the world’s most sophisticated astronomical resources have been devoted to mapping and imaging the cosmos.  In the first five years, Phase One,

SDSS-I imaged more than 8,000 square degrees of the sky in five bandpasses, detecting nearly 200 million celestial objects, and it measured spectra of more than 675,000 galaxies, 90,000 quasars, and 185,000 stars. These data have supported studies ranging from asteroids and nearby stars to the large scale structure of the Universe.

Phase Two is addressing “fundamental questions about the nature of the Universe, the origin of galaxies and quasars, and the formation and evolution of our own Galaxy, the Milky Way.”

While we wait for those answers (peer-reviewed journals take their time :-), we can share the wonder…  an extraordinary gallery– SkyServer— is available online.  Our SDSS hosts:  “We would like to show you the beauty of the universe, and share with you our excitement as we build the largest map in the history of the world. ”

See them all (or as many as time allows… it is, after all, the biggest map in history) here.  And check out the Hubble Space Telescope’s peeks into deepest space here.

As we crane our necks, we might wish a stylish birthday to Edith Head, Hollywood wardrobe mistress and costume designer extraordinaire; she was born (Edith Claire Posener) on this date in 1897, in Searchlight, Nevada.  Ms. Head, who was nominated for the Oscar 35 times, and won eight (more than any other woman), had this sensible advice: “Your dresses should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to show you’re a lady.”


Edith Head and Pixar’s homage: Edna Mode in The Incredibles (source)

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