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Tag: Science (page 1 of 2)

Watching light at a trillion frames a second.

This is amazing. Amazing! I don’t even know what else to say. In 30 years this is going to seem so primitive, but right now I am amazed.

However, I do think it is funny, though not surprising, that he ignored any military application for this tech. Honestly, who do you think is going to make this a practical tool? The military.

What happens when astronauts get heartburn at zero g?

Why, they take Alka-Seltzer of course!

And this is what it looks like.


Quantum levitation

I know, I know. You’ve seen this. I’m slow to the party. But you know what? You can go to hell. This is too awesome not to put on The Black Laser.


It’s Okay to Be Smart has a description of how it works:

What you start with is an inert disc, in this case a crystal sapphire wafer. That wafer is then coated with a superconductor called yttrium barium copper oxide. When superconductors get very cold (like liquid nitrogen cold) they conduct electricity with no loss of energy, which normal conducting materials like copper can’t do.

Superconductors hate magnetic fields (when cold enough), and normally would just repel the magnetic force and float in a wobbly fashion. But because the superconductor is so thin in this case, tiny imperfections allow some magnetic forces through. These little magnetic channels are called flux tubes:

The flux tubes cause the magnetic field to be “locked” in all three dimensions, which is why the disk remains in whatever position it starts in, levitating around the magnets.

Drier explanations here and here.

Charles sent me this video the other day and the thing we started talking about immediately was whether or not the floating would decay over time or if the super cooled slug would just fall when it warmed up so much that it was no longer able to maintain the quantum lock. And then we recognized that we were total nerds, but you knew that already, didn’t you?

Oh, HI, snow! I didn’t see you there.

If you haven’t heard, New Yorkers were supposed to get blasted with yet another massive snow storm that was going to lock down the world and destroy families and kill all children under 6 and freeze reservoirs and slaughter puppies and coat everything we know and love in a mile high sheet of ice. Except we didn’t. All we got was a couple of days of my most hated euphemism, the dread “wintry mix” which is a pleasant way of saying “freezing fucking rain and slush and huge murky poisonous puddles and ice and slipping and broken wrists.”

Where New Yorkers didn’t get completely ass fucked by mother nature, the central part of the US did. Fucked big time. There’s a cloud (seen in the photo above) covering ONE THIRD of the United States. Holy shit balls. That’s a wicked huge cloud, as they would say in the parlance of New England which is, incidentally, not covered by the cloud.

Another part of the image above that I like so much is how the state lines are clearly visible from space, as if tattooed on the landscape by some inescapable alien (or divine, perhaps Freddie Mercury) force. Who knew you could see state lines from space?! Astronauts probably, but not me. Fucking astronauts and their dehydrated food.

Get more info on the storm (you know, with like actual science) here: HuffPo: U.S. Snowstorm Seen From Space: Wild Weather Captured By NASA (PHOTOS)



What did NASA find?!?!

As Space Pope, I am privy to all that takes place in the universe. It’s my job to be aware of goings on and such like, but I have made an arrangement with your humble earth scientists at NASA (so primitive!) not to reveal what they’ve discovered until they have a chance to wow the human race on Friday afternoon (afternoon! How parochial! There’s no afternoon in space!).

They’ve sent out this press release.

Dwayne Brown
Headquarters, Washington

Cathy Weselby
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Nov. 29, 2010


NASA Sets News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery; Science Journal Has Embargoed Details Until 2 p.m. EST On Dec. 2

WASHINGTON — NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.

The news conference will be held at the NASA Headquarters auditorium at 300 E St. SW, in Washington. It will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency’s website at

Participants are:
– Mary Voytek, director, Astrobiology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington
– Felisa Wolfe-Simon, NASA astrobiology research fellow, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif.
– Pamela Conrad, astrobiologist, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
– Steven Benner, distinguished fellow, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Gainesville, Fla.
– James Elser, professor, Arizona State University, Tempe

Media representatives may attend the conference or ask questions by phone or from participating NASA locations. To obtain dial-in information, journalists must send their name, affiliation and telephone number to Steve Cole at or call 202-358-0918 by noon Dec. 2.

For NASA TV streaming video and downlink information, visit:

For more information about NASA astrobiology activities, visit:

– end –

What can it mean, humans!? What did they find out there in the dark nether regions of the void, which is, of course, not a void, but filled with dark matter and the Great Destroyer’s consciousness?

Tune in Friday at 2 (-5 GMT!) to find out! And remember, this is the year we make contact.

The Brain and the Cosmos

You can’t read the text on this image, but, if you click it, you’ll be able to see the full sized thing.

It’s a photo of a slice of a mouse’s brain and a computer simulation of the present universe. It’s amazing, yet totally unsurprising, how similar they appear. We are all made of stars.

Stolen from The New York Times.

Stephen Hawking to Humanity: You Idiots, I’ll Show You How To Build A God Damned Time Machine.

It’s science Monday, Black Laserites, and I have another super sweet science thing to ramble on about! A few days ago Stephen Hawking wrote a piece for the Daily Mail about building a practical time machine. I’ve always liked Hawking’s writing; he has a tremendous strength for explaining seemingly bewildering scientific theories with examples helping them make sense to lay people such as myself. If you’ve ever read A Brief History of Time you know what I mean. The part where he explains why we experience time the way we do? Wild!

So, the jist of the article is that to time travel, we’d need to be moving at relativistic speeds and that time moves more quickly in space and that you could never travel backward but with a wormhole you could travel forward and that a black hole would do it or a space train and that science is fucking wild, man. But you should read the article for yourself. He’s smarter than I am and does a better job of explaining it.

Anyone out there want to help me build a Large Hadron Collider to get this whole time machine business off the ground? Of course, anyone hoping for a flux capacitored DeLorean to travel back in time and hang out with your dad who is Crispin Glover is going to be a little disappointed. Hawking isn’t really talking about science fictiony time machines (damn), but about time dilation caused by moving through space at nearly the speed of light which is still pretty cool. Not AS cool, though.

Still, the article is worth a read. Check it out.

Another thought: “quantum foam” is an awesome band name.

Has it ever occurred to you that we live in the future?

I was reading an article on Ars.Technica about some progress being made in the methods by which data are written to a hard disk. Currently, hard disk manufacturers have hit a plateau in data density on a disk. That is, because hard drives are physical objects, data require physical space on them. There’s a reason you can’t fit hundreds of billions of petabytes on the 2.5″ hard disk in your laptop: there just isn’t enough physical space. A few years ago, they developed perpendicular writing which resulted in a jump in hard drive capacities as manufacturers figured out how to work with it and to utilize it fully. But things have slowed down again, so science is looking for the next thing.

Some super smart scientists recently published a paper outlining various methods that could increase data density on a hard disk from a few hundred gigabits per inch to a terabit per inch. That’s a hell of an increase, with the assumption that “few” is more than two but less than five. And remember, bit ≠ byte. 8 bits is 1 byte. So a terabit is really only 128 gigabytes. Powers of 2 for the win.

I know this is all riveting stuff for you guys, and, really, I’m not going to spend time explaining how a hard drive works or what the methods they’ve described are. You can read the article if you want that.

No, the whole point of this arose when I read the next passage.

The next front runner in data storage density and type is far from clear—for example, a method that involved electron quantum holography was able to store 35 bits per electron, and various solid state technologies continue to vie for attention—but this combined bit-pattern and thermally-assisted magnetic recording seems sufficiently close to current hard disk drives to be viable.

What the holy hell? Electron Quantum Holography? Thermally-assisted Magnetic Recording? Storing bits of data as ELECTRONS? If you have ever wondered before, we live in the future. It is now and it is awesome! It makes me think of Clarke’s Third Law that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”