Archive: March 4, 2005

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more Titan

Friday,  03/04/05  11:32 PM

While I took my little "blog holiday" in January important things were happening on the Titan exploration front.  First, on January 15th the little Huygens probe successfully entered Titan's atmosphere and made a crash landing, transmitting video and sound along the way (via Cassini).  The European Space Agency website has a bunch of great pictures, including the one at right, of a 440km crater.  Yes, that's big, imagine the object which created it!

One of the early and interesting discoveries: Titan has streams like Earth.  "There is liquid that is flowing on the surface of Titan.  It's not water -- it’s too cold -- but liquid methane.  And it flows in the same way it does on Earth."  Cool.  (Sorry :)

In other big news, SpaceX's Merlin rocket engine was fired for 160 seconds, the time required to boost their Falcon rocket into orbit.  They're in the hunt for "America's Space Prize", a $50M bounty for the first private spaceflight which takes five people into Earth orbit.  As I've pointed out before, it takes 25 times the energy to reach orbit as it does to reach "space", so this will be quite an accomplishment.  That's their engine test rig at left.  I think SpaceX or companies like them will be my best bet to visit Titan.

The companies which are vying for this prize have formed the Personal Spaceflight Federation.  How cool is that?  [ via Glenn Reynolds ]

Check out the Time Magazine cover at right, from December 1952, featuring a landing on Titan.  (Click for larger view.)  I love it.  The subtitle is "will man outgrow the Earth", a subject for speculation 50 years ago as it is today.  Here's the cover story blurb:

"The youngsters have already zoomed confidently off into the vast ocean of space; they can buy space suits, space guns and rockets in almost any toyshop.  In 50-odd science fiction magazines, space travel is a favorite theme.  Eight comic strips and at least two TV programs are flying through space.  "Scientific" space books are brisk sellers.  But not all members of the space cult are storytellers, crackpots or kids.  Some serious scientists believe that space flight will surely come, and perhaps soon...

Awesome!  [ via Mark Frauenfelder ]


Friday,  03/04/05  11:59 PM

More rain today...  Man, has this been a wet winter, or what?  And in Holland it is snowing.  Global warming, indeed!  Anyway, here's what's happening...

So what do you do during a long, cold, winter?  You make an ice sculpture, of course!  And then you climb it.  Wow.  Keep clicking through until you reach the part where it is 120 ft. high.  Excellent.  [ via Kehaar

Here's another possibility, you can make an ice pirate ship.  This one is 56 ft. tall and 52 ft. long.  Also excellent.  [ via Cory Doctorow

PhysicsWeb reports that the classic "double slit" experiment has been performed in a novel new way, by Gerhard Paulus, who separated the electrons in time.  Now this is even weirder than the original experiment.  You might know, light waves passing through adjacent slits in a wall will "interfere" with each other and cause a pattern of dark and light bands.  The original double slit experiment showed that electrons will do this, too, and in fact it only takes a single electron to do it, essentially interfering with itself.  That's a bit odd, but now in this new variation the "slits" are actually consecutive crests of a wave, separated in time.  I don't have any intuition for this, but it sure is cool. 

It looks like those small humanoid fossils discovered in Indonesia, and popularly dubbed "hobbits", might have been from a heretofore unknown homo species, homo floresiensis.  An article in Science, summarized in Nature, presents brain scan evidence.  Pretty cool, these little guys were around as recently as 18,000 years ago... 

Did you watch the Oscars?  I didn't, I never do; I don't have the patience.  I did read where Chris Rock apparently offended some people who subsequently tuned out.  So be it.  But did you know that the Academy also succeeded in offending the country of Uruguay?  Indeed, read all about it.  Whew. 

This is a classic: Queen to Rock Stars, Who are You?  Rock legends Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Brian May meet the Queen.  I'm sure I'm not the only one to think she's aged better than they have.  Eic Clapton looks like a philosophy professor, which I guess in some ways one might say he is :)  [ via Adam Curry

Wired ran a puff piece about Adam and podcasting.  If you're new to the idea of podcasting, this might be a decent introduction, although the history seems wrong; Dave Winer's key role in developing this technology seems to have escaped mention. 


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