This morning something kinda small but absolutely extraordinary happened. We took our first step towards landing a human being on Mars.
A Delta IV Heavy rocket system carrying the brand-new Orion Spacecraft launched on at 07:05 (Florida Time).
This was the very successful first step in a multi-stage plan (see the image at the top of this post) that ends with human beings setting foot on Mars sometime in the 2030s. Right about the time my daughter will be old enough to buy Alcohol. Perfect timing!
Actually, one of the most exciting parts of this whole plan is the middle step, where we launch a robot rocket into an asteroid and then push it into a stable orbit around the moon. How cool would that be!? Shoving mineral-and-ore-rich asteroids into stable orbits could be the future of heavy metal mining.
I must admit I got a wee bit emotional watching that launch video. By the time I was born we had long since stopped going to the Moon, so I’ve never actually been alive for any human being touching any celestial object. Tons and tons of robots, yes, but no people. So to have people land on an asteroid and then Mars within my lifetime (hopefully). Is a tremendously exciting prospect after more than 40 years of drought.
Fools Play’s very own mostly-retired Jade Fool, Taisha McFall, has had a rather grueling Fall quarter at college. But for Winter quarter she’s been accepted into a very prestigious program called “Animal Behavior and Zoology.” This is some awexome science.
But six weeks of the quarter will take place in Ecuador. Getting everything one needs to spend six weeks in Ecuador ain’t cheap.
So Taisha has created a GoFundMe campaign to help her with her substantial financial burden. EVERYONE should help her as much as possible this holiday season, whether by chipping in a few dolla-dolla-billsz or by sharing this campaign, because Taisha is awexome and works hard and is awexome. And this is the opportunity of a lifetime for her.
If you have a wet washcloth here on el planeta Tierra and you want to get rid of a lot of the moisture in a very short amount of time, you can simply wring it and much of the water will drip away.
But have you ever wondered what would happen if you did that in a microgravity environment? WHO HASN’T!?
Well, a couple of Canadian high school students wondered. And so they asked the Canadian Space Agency, which asked Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who is currently aboard the International Space Station. And here’s what happened:
Chris Hadfield, by the way, is one of the coolest astronauts around right now. This isn’t the first question he’s answered via YouTube. He periodically uploads answers to various questions as part of SPACE.com’s YouTube Channel. Scroll through and you’ll see some here and there among the uploads. WATCH ALL OF THEM.
He also has an excellent twitter feed that he uses live from the ISS. Because SCIENCE IS THE BEST THING EVER. He periodically tweets photos of some amazing things. Like this:
A few years ago some researchers from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders did a study where they hooked some jazz musicians into fMRI machines and had them do some musical improvisation to see what their brains looked like when they were improvising as opposed to when they were playing rehearsed, learned musics. The results were interesting.
Interesting enough that it caught the attention of hip-hop artist Mike Eagle and hip-hop “enthusiast and producer” Daniel Rizik-Baer1. They contacted one of the researchers with an interesting proposal: the original study had been about improvising music. What about improvising lyrics?
Soon twelve hip-hop freestylers including Mike Eagle were hooked up (one at a time) to fMRI machines to see what happened in their brains when they went off-script and started improvising rhyming lyrics.
Researcher Ho Ming Chow uses an fMRI machine to scan the brain of hip-hop artist Mike Eagle. Daniel Rizik-Baer
THIS IS SCIENCE! And it’s completely awexome. There are tons of ramifications for studies like this; seeing how the creative process happens in the brain can lead to all sorts of applications for developmental disabilities and brain damage.
This is an amazing film of the landing of the Mars Curiosity, from the expulsion of the heat shield until touchdown, from the point of view of the Mars Curiosity itself!
From the YouTube notes:
This is a full-resolution version of the NASA Curiosity rover descent to Mars, taken by the MARDI descent imager. As of August 20, all but a dozen 1600 x1200 frames have been uploaded from the rover, and those missing were interpolated using thumbnail data. The result was applied a heavy noise reduction, color balance, and sharpening for best visibility.
Since this is a series of still frames that have been compiled into a film, the video is about three times as fast as the landing actually took. And you can see the heat shield thud into the Martian surface!
On a completely unrelated note, I’m off to an Open Mic night right now! It’s at the Olive Branch Café inside the Hidden Treasures Antique Mall, across the street from where the Mandolin Café used to be.