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Posts Tagged ‘satellite

“Every day above ground is a good day”*…

 

Beijing Airport

 

”Google Earth is marvelous and changed the way we live more than we imagine,” [artist Federico Winer] writes. “We use it as a tool to travel, to find addresses, to explore our world, so the next level was to convert that tool into an artistic expression.”

That’s what his Ultradistancia project is all about. Winer infuses Google Earth landscapes with vivid color—distorting them and making the shapes, contours, and patterns on the planet’s surface pop. As the project’s name suggests, the idea is to become intimate with these mini-portraits of Earth, from afar…

Dallas, TX

 

More at “One Artist’s Vivid Distortions of Google Earth Images.”

* “Mel Bernstein” (Haris Yulin), Scarface

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As we mind the gap, we might send lofty birthday greetings to Glenn Hammond Curtiss; he was born on this date in 1878.  While it’s generally accepted that the Wright Brothers made the first powered flight, Curtiss took the plane from its wood, fabric, and wire beginnings to the earliest versions of the modern transport aircraft we know today.  Curtiss made his first flight on his 30th birthday (this date in 1908), in White Wing, a design of the Aerial Experiment Association, a group led by Alexander Graham Bell.  White Wing was the first plane in America to be controlled by ailerons (instead of the wing-warping used by the Wrights) and the first plane on wheels in the U.S.  Curtiss went on to found the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company (now part of Curtiss-Wright Corporation), and to make dozens of contributions to the technology of flight.  Perhaps most notably his experiments with seaplanes during the years leading up to World War I led to major advances in naval aviation; indeed, Curtiss civil and military aircraft were predominant in the inter-war and World War II eras.

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Written by LW

May 21, 2015 at 1:01 am

“I believe alien life is quite common in the universe, although intelligent life is less so. Some say it has yet to appear on planet Earth”*…

 

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If the range of habitable radii is sufficiently broad, most inhabited planets are likely to be closer in size to Mars than the Earth. Furthermore, since population density is widely observed to decline with increasing body mass, we conclude that most intelligent species are expected to exceed 300kg…

From the summary of University of Barcelona cosmologist Fergus Simpson‘s paper, “The Nature of Inhabited Planets and their Inhabitants” (which can be downloaded as a PDF here).

* Stephen Hawking

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As we phone home, we might recall that it was on this date in 1960 that the first weather satellite, TIROS I, was launched from Cape Kennedy (or Canaveral, as then it was) and sent back the first television pictures from space. The first in a long series of launches in the TIROS program (Television Infrared Observation Satellite), it was NASA’s initial step, at a time when the effectiveness of satellite observations was still unproven, in determining if satellites could be useful in the study of the Earth.  In the event, TIROS I and it successors proved extremely useful in weather forecasting.

TIROS I prototype at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

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Written by LW

April 1, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Listen now for the sound that forevermore separates the old from the new!”*…

 

Telstar

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Newton Minow, famed Chairman of the FCC during the Kennedy Administration, recalled visiting NASA with the President, who asked him about a satellite they were shown:

I told him that it would be more important than sending a man into space. “Why?” he asked. “Because,” I said, “this satellite will send ideas into space, and ideas last longer than men.”

Greg Roberts, a retired astronomer and ham radio operator (ZS1BI in Cape Town) has been observing and recording the sounds broadcast by satellites since 1957.  He’s collected his recordings so that one can hear “ideas traveling through space,” for example, Telstar.

Hear them all at “Sounds from Space.”

* NBC News, introducing the “beep-beep” chirp transmitted by the Sputnik satellites

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As we look to the skies, we might recall that it was on this date in 1781 that English astronomer William Herschel detected every schoolboy’s favorite planet, Uranus, in the night sky (though he initially thought it was a comet:; it was the first planet to be discovered with the aid of a telescope.  In fact, Uranus had been detected much earlier– but mistaken for a star:  the earliest likely observation was by Hipparchos, who in 128BC seems to have recorded the planet as a star for his star catalogue, later incorporated into Ptolemy’s Almagest.  The earliest definite sighting was in 1690 when John Flamsteed observed it at least six times, cataloguing it as the star 34 Tauri.

Herschel named the planet in honor of his King: Georgium Sidus (George’s Star), an unpopular choice, especially outside England; argument over alternatives ensued.  Berlin astronomer Johann Elert Bode came up with the moniker “Uranus,” which was adopted throughout the world’s astronomical community by 1850.

Uranus, photographed by Voyager 2 in 1986.

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Written by LW

March 13, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from outside, is available… a new idea, as powerful as any in history, will be let loose”*…

 

10/2/2014  L’Eixample.  Valencia, Spain (39°27′53″N 0°22′12″W)      The urban plan of the L’Eixample district in Valencia, Spain is characterized by long straight streets, a strict grid pattern crossed by wide avenues, and square blocks with chamfered corners.

Plato suggested that “man must rise above the Earth —to the top of the atmosphere and beyond—for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.”  Benjamin Grant and his colleagues at Daily Overview mean to help.

Our project was inspired, and derives its name, from an idea known as the Overview Effect. This term refers to the sensation astronauts have when given the opportunity to look down and view the Earth as a whole. They have the chance to appreciate our home in its entirety, to reflect on its beauty and its fragility all at once. That’s the cognitive shift that we hope to inspire.

From our line of sight on the earth’s surface, it’s impossible to fully appreciate the beauty and intricacy of the things we’ve constructed, the sheer complexity of the systems we’ve developed, or the devastating impact that we’ve had on our planet. We believe that beholding these forces as they shape our Earth is necessary to make progress in understanding who we are as a species, and what is needed to sustain a safe and healthy planet.

As a result, the Overviews (what we call these images) focus on the the places and moments where human activity—for better or for worse—has shaped the landscape. Each Overview starts with a thought experiment. We consider the places where man has left his mark on the planet and then conduct the necessary research to identify locations (and the corresponding geo-coordinates) to convey that idea.

The mesmerizing flatness seen from this vantage point, the surprising comfort of systematic organization on a massive scale, or the vibrant colors that we capture will hopefully turn your head. However, once we have that attention, we hope you will go beyond the aesthetics, contemplate just exactly what it is that you’re seeing, and consider what that means for our planet…

9/30/2014  Erosion.  Betsiboka River, Madagascar  (15°48′55″S 46°16′13″E)       Dramatic evidence of the catastrophic erosion in northwestern Madagascar is seen at the rapidly expanding Betsiboka River Delta. Deforestation of the country’s central highlands for cultivation and pastureland has resulted in the most significant erosion recorded anywhere in the world (approximately 112 tons/acre), which transforms the river to this vivid orange color.

Tour the Earth from above at Daily Overview.

* astronomer Fred Hoyle

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As we put perspective into purposeful practice, we might send insightful birthday greetings to Lewis Mumford; he was born on this date in 1895.  A historian, sociologist, philosopher of technology, and cultural critic, Mumford is probably best remembered for his writings on cities, perhaps especially for his award-winning book The City in History.  (See also The City— the extraordinary film that Mumford made with Ralph Steiner and Willard Van Dyke, from an outline by the renowned documentarian Pare Lorentz, with a score by Aaron Copland.) 

Mumford’s approaches to technology, its history, and its roles in society were acknowledged influences on writers like Jacques Ellul, Witold Rybczynski, Amory Lovins, E. F. Schumacher, Herbert Marcuse, Thomas Merton, and Marshall McLuhan.  In a similar way, he was an inspiration for the organicist and environmentalist movements of today.

Unfortunately, once an economy is geared to expansion, the means rapidly turn into an end and “the going becomes the goal.” Even more unfortunately, the industries that are favored by such expansion must, to maintain their output, be devoted to goods that are readily consumable either by their nature, or because they are so shoddily fabricated that they must soon be replaced. By fashion and build-in obsolescence the economies of machine production, instead of producing leisure and durable wealth, are duly cancelled out by the mandatory consumption on an even larger scale.

– Lewis Mumford, The City in History

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Written by LW

October 19, 2014 at 1:01 am

The secret, revealed…

By Alex Koplin (Typcut) and David Meiklejohn; Alex explains here. (Thanks, Flowing Data)

As we reengage with our inner Bobby McFerrin, we might recall that it was on this date in 1962 that the first communications satellite, Telstar I, was launched.  An ATT project, it was a collaboration among Bell Laboratories, NASA, the British General Post Office, and the French National PTT aimed at communications over the Atlantic Ocean.  And indeed, it relayed the first television pictures, telephone calls and fax images through space and provided the first live transatlantic television feed.

Telstar I

It’s a Dirty Job, Redux…

The good folks at PopSci have poked through “the hard, dangerous and downright grody work involved in truly audacious science,” and compiled a list that, even in a time of near-10% unemployment, one might consider cautionary:  “The Ten Worst Jobs in Science.”

By way of example, beware…

Bad Dance Observer

It’s no chore to watch supermodels shake it in a nightclub. But Peter J. Lovatt, a former professional dancer and a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire in England, must examine the often unflattering gyrations of everyone from preteens to the elderly in search of the influences and motivations behind human dancing. Lovatt and his team record videos of the dancers and then quantify their groove thang using a special movement-analysis technique and software. Other times, observers rate traits such as the overall attractiveness of the dancers’ movements on video, or the observers wear a visor that tracks what elements of the dancer they are looking at. Findings suggest that young women rate the dancing of middle-aged men as less attractive than the dance moves of younger men, perhaps an evolutionary trait that discourages women from choosing older mates—middle– aged men tend to use big, uncoordinated movements, and women typically find complex movement most attractive. But don’t lose hope. Above age 60, men dance with more complexity. They also exhibit their highest dance confidence at that age. No wonder grandpa thinks he works it so good.

Other employment opportunities one might skip at “The Ten Worst Jobs in Science.”

As we wonder what became of Mr. Wizard, we might recall that it was on this date in 1962 that the first American satellite to reach the Moon surface, the Ranger IV, was launched from Cape Canaveral, impacting the Moon three days later.  The spacecraft was designed to drop a scientific package on the back side of the Moon that would return seismic, radar and television information to Earth. Instead, the probe had a computer failure; the solar panels did not extend, and the satellite crashed on the Moon. Still, though it failed its full mission, it was the first US object on the Moon.

Ranger IV

They Came from Outer Space!…

source:  NASA, via IEEE Spectrum

For years, scientists have known that satellites and astronauts are vulnerable to “space weather,”  more specifically to  geo-magnetic storms that generate “killer electrons” powerful enough to penetrate shielding, damage spacecraft, and injure spacemen.  But no one has been able to explain just how these nefarious particles are produced… so there’s been no trustworthy ability to predict– and avoid– them.

Now, as IEEE Spectrum and the European Space Agency report, scientists affiliated Los Alamos National Labs and a separate team at the ESA have begun to explain the phenomenon.   The details are referenced in the cited reports; here suffice it to say that the electrons (originating in the Van Allen Belt) are accelerated– to velocities approaching the speed of light– by a combination of Very Low Frequency and (higher amplitude) Ultra Low Frequency electromagnetic waves, themselves excited by the impact of solar storms on the earth’s protective electromagnetic bubble.

And not a moment too soon:  As Philippe Escoubet, an ESA scientist remarks, “These new findings help us to improve the models predicting the radiation environment in which satellites and astronauts operate. With solar activity now ramping up, we expect more of these shocks to impact our magnetosphere over the months and years to come.”

As we re-fit our tin foil helmets, we might recall that it was on this date in 1845 that Stephen Perry patented the rubber band. The milk of the rubber tree had been long used by folks who lived where the trees were native to make shoes, clothes, and “bottles”– which were brought back to England by returning sailors.  In 1820, Thomas Hancock sliced up one of the bottles to create elastic garters and “belts.”   Perry, who owned a rubber manufacturing company was sufficiently taken with Hancock’s idea to file a patent on the rubber band– the first of which were made from vulcanized rubber.  (They are now commonly made of a combination of rubber and latex.)

rubber bands

(It was also on this date in 1950 that Glenn Seaborg and a team of colleagues at UC Berkeley announced a new element, number 98– Californium– a radioactive element the isotopes of which have important medical and industrial uses, as they are powerful point sources of neutrons.)

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