Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Beauty of Pendulums

My friend Frank let me know about this cool video showing pendulums oscillating in and out of sync with each other. Watching phenomena like this one shows how some of the simplest things in nature -- heavy weights swinging from a cord -- contain magic and wonder. And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the Exploratorium has long had a similar device, called Pendulum Snake.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Beautiful Sand

Here's a cool story about sand, courtesy of Wired. I love articles that explore the wonder behind everyday things. Next, I would love to see a story on the magic of dirt. Wait: the Exploratorium already produced a dirt site. Good for them!

[Image courtesy of Martyn Gorman]

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

35th Anniversary of Viking 1

Andrew Tarantola wrote a beautiful piece on Gizmodo about the landing of Viking 1. There must be few thrills as
exciting as being a NASA engineer and seeing the first photos taken by a craft you designed, now perched on a distant world.

You can find more information about the Viking mission here.

Photo courtesy of NASA

Friday, July 15, 2011

Space Ballet

Now that the final space shuttle mission is underway, the science journalism world is buzzing with thoughts about Atlantis and the end of this particular era of space exploration. Some people lament the passing of the shuttle age: I know I do. The space shuttle missions have been a part of my life since I was a child. I have a fuzzy memory of having a space shuttle toy -- or maybe it belonged to a friend -- and loving the opening cargo doors and its resemblance to a jet fighter. There was even Astrotrain, a Transformer that turned into a space shuttle (as well as into a train: I love the mixing of transportation technology). There was even an article in the Economist about how the end of the space shuttle meant the fading of man's aspirations to leave Earth's gravity and explore the great beyond.

Later in my life, space shuttle missions became routine, but they still inspired me. Even though a shuttle launch would be relegated to the back pages of the local newspaper, it would still inspire wonder. And, despite the tragedies of Challenger and Columbia, the shuttle mission managed to make me believe that mankind could achieve great things.

Perhaps that wondrous time is passing. But I am holding out hope that the adventure of space flight will prove too hard to resist. After watching the video above -- posted by Phil Plaitt, who maintains the Bad Astronomy blog -- I am captivated by the ballet of orbital craft, the rhythm of discovery, and the majesty of mankind's dreams.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Antikythera Mechanism Watch!

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I am fascinated by the Antikythera Mechanism, a 2,000-year-old device found off the coast of an island in the Mediterranean that was used by the ancient Greeks to calculate the future dates of eclipses (among other functions). I recently learned that a watchmaker had created a small version of the Mechanism that could be worn on the wrist. Sign me up!

[Watch the video to learn about the watch.]

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Quantum Parallelograph

Here's a cool artwork I found on the website of Fast Company that incorporates the weirdness of quantum mechanics:

The Quantum Parallelograph, by Patrick Stevenson-Keating, plays with the idea of a person being able to learn about his parallel self in another world. I'm not yet sure how accurately this artwork reflects quantum mechanics, but the basics seem right. At the very least, this kind of artwork is helpful because it makes abstract physics tangible, in a way. Like the hands-on exhibits in San Francisco's Exploratorium, the Quantum Parallelograph makes science accessible, and conveys the notion that every person has the ability to understand abstruse thought.