The Frontier Is Everywhere

I have to say: I love me some space. Give me high resolution imagery of some uninhabited sphere out in the cold, merciless void and I’m all over it. Reading the exploits of diminutive robots poking digging into alien soil leaves me tumescent with nerdy excitement. There are those who, of course, do not. There are many who feel that instead of looking up, we should instead be looking down, or forward, or even catty-corner. That the money being shot into the ether would be better off spent here. And like those who would extol the virtues of white chocolate or the musical stylings of the Violent Femmes, I simply allow my eyes to roll into the back of my head and drool profusely when those naysayers begin to pontificate their anti-NASA vitriol until they depart my company, confused and disgusted. It seems the only reasonable reaction. Also, I am exceedingly lazy.

It probably doesn’t help that, as of now, NASA doesn’t have anything as sexy as the moon landing going on at the moment. Smashing things into Jupiter is cool and all, but not as awe inspiring as watching humans traipse about on the surface of an orb hundreds of thousands of miles away. As such, the agency doesn’t have quite the media presence of, say, the armed forces. There are no images of astronauts flying spaceships or scientists doing complex math formulas while Keith David narrates over a pulsing, rap metal track.

This did not sit well with YouTube user damewse, who put together a video entitled “The Frontier is Everywhere” that features “narration” by the late Dr. Carl Sagan comprised of his reflections on the Pale Blue Dot photograph. It’s a stirring piece of video that, as admitted by damewse, borrows heavily from “EARTH: The Pale Blue Dot” by Michael Marantz, (see below), tailored with images of the space shuttle. Whether or not this is effective advertising is up for debate, but it’s certainly beautiful to watch.

Thanks, Evan!

Sean R. Heavey’s Otherworldly Weather Images

Storms can make for some surreal imagery but Sean R. Heavey’s photos, taken in his home state of Montana, are simply mind-boggling. It’s hard to believe that these were taken on this blue ball and not some far off planet.

Father of Fractal Geometry: Benoit Mandelbrot

“Clouds are not spheres, order mountains are not cones, order coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line.”
—Benoit Mandelbrot
The Fractal Geometry of Nature

The visionary, revolutionary mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot has died, aged 85. He was a genius in the truest and most passionate sense of the word. May he rest in peace. Several fractalicious, Mandelbrotastic clips are compiled below for your edification and viewing pleasure:

Homemade Spacecraft

Watch this and see if you don’t agree that Luke Geissbühler deserves to win some sort of Coolest Dad of the Year award:

This is footage that Geissbühler edited together after he and his young son Max attached a Go Pro Hero HD video camera to a helium-filled weather balloon “that rose into the upper stratosphere and recorded the blackness of space.”

After months of research, planning, and flight tests, the intrepid duo and their friends traveled from Park Slope, Brooklyn to a remote area of Newburgh in Orange County, NY with their camera and GPS system carefully wrapped in a homemade styrofoam capsule and fitted with a parachute. The balloon that carried this hand-crafted vessel skyward was rated to burst at 19 feet in diameter, and reached a height of nearly 20 miles above the earth before that happened.

This was all done within FAA regulations. This is awesome. Not just in the colloquial sense of the word, but by its dictionary definition: amazing, awe inspiring, and provoking wonderment.

Arthur C. Clarke’s 1964 Predictions for Today

BBC’s Horizon is a philosophical and scientific series that still runs today. Its opening episode in 1964 featured Coilhouse patron saint, Buckminster Fuller, along with the program’s mission statement:

The aim of Horizon is to provide a platform from which some of the world’s greatest scientists and philosophers can communicate their curiosity, observations and reflections, and infuse into our common knowledge their changing views of the universe.

Later that year, science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke was invited to share his visions of the future. Some are scary, warning us of the world becoming a giant suburb – right up there with the terror of Idiocracy, which still gives my nightmares. Some are encouraging, though yet-unrealized. My favorite speculations include: domed communities on icecaps, holidays under the sea, planetary engineering, and my top favorite remains recording directly onto the brain [please, yes?].

Though we’re running out of time to camp on either of the Poles, who’s to say at least some of us won’t be vacationing on the Moon in a fifty years? After all, Clarke’s prediction of us communicating instead of commuting was dead on, cryogenics are in full swing, and The Replicator exists, if only as 3D printing and spimes, for now. Watch the segment below in two parts, then see also:

[Thanks, Disinfo]

Mark Roth Talks About Suspended Animation

Oh dear! Nearly 6pm here in LA already, and we’ve left you without a Friday Afternoon Movie? Please accept this offering in its stead. Ease into the weekend with a chewy and lively [har har] lecture on suspended animation by cell biologist, Mark Roth. From TED:

Mark Roth studies suspended animation: the art of shutting down life processes and then starting them up again. It’s wild stuff, but it’s not science fiction. Induced by careful use of an otherwise toxic gas, suspended animation can potentially help trauma and heart attack victims survive long enough to be treated.


Goodbye, Jack Horkheimer

[photo via AP]

Jack Horkheimer, beloved TV personality and executive director of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium, has died, age 72. Countless legions of us grew up watching the gruff-voiced, wide-eyed astronomer hosting Star Gazer and Star Hustler on public television. Week after week, decade after decade, he’d walk in front of that green screen and excitedly tell us what we could expect to see in the evening sky. His enthusiasm was deeply infectious. He taught us all sorts of things about the universe, and he made us smile.

Farewell, farewell fellow star gazer. We’ll keep looking up.

Tom Henderson’s “Punk Mathematics” Book Project

We haven’t mentioned “punk rock mathematician” Tom Henderson here before, have we? Gotta fix that, pronto.

First, go here to read a fantastic interview at Technoccult to get a sense of Henderson’s deeply personal and accessible philosophy of mathematics. After that, if you find that your brainy bits are delightfully fizzy, go to the Mathpunk site to read MORE fizzmaking stuff, or listen to the Math For Primates podcast. And then, if you find Henderson to be just as badass, brilliant and MAXIMUMADORBZ as so many of us already do, head over to Kickstarter to watch his deeply endearing pitch video for the Punk Mathematics book project:

Punk Mathematics will be a series of mathematical stories. It is written for readers who are interested in having their minds expanded by the strange metaphors and implications of mathematics, even if they’re not always on friendly terms with equations. Better living through probability; the fractal dimension of cities and cancers; using orders of magnitude to detect bullshit; free will and quantum economics; and the mathematics of cooperation in a networked world on the brink of a No Future collapse.

It looks like Henderson’s more than reached his financial goal, but don’t let that dissuade you from tucking some more money into his punk-as-fuck fanny pack. Every little bit helps, and this book sounds unlike anything else that’s being published these days.

Better Than Coffee: ArcAttack!

Good morning, loves. How was your weekend? I spent most of mine stumbling around the San Mateo county fairgrounds, gaping at the endlessly astonishing/inspiring/overstimulating 2-day geextravaganza that is Maker Faire. Still feeling a bit fried. Pleasantly so. Speaking of getting fried at Maker Faire, here’s a glimpse of what the ArcAttack! performances on the appropriately named “Tesla Stage” looked and sounded like:

Yes. That’s what a man in chain mail wrangling pure lightning looks like. His name is Patrick “Parsec” Brown. He’s ArcAttack’s MC. I sincerely hope that dude gets hella laid. That goes for ALL the guys on the ArcAttack crew. Way more groupie worthy than the average rock band, if you ask me.

Based in Austin, Texas, ArcAttack’s been developing their tech and stage shows for the better half of a decade now. For their astounding audio/visual displays, ArcAttack has invented a completely original DJ setup:

HVDJ pumps music through a PA system while two specially designed DRSSTC’s (Dual-Resonant Solid State Tesla Coils) act as separate synchronized instruments. These high tech machines produce an electrical arc similar to a continuous lightning bolt and put out a crisply distorted square wave sound reminiscent of the early days of synthesizers.

ArcAttack performing the Doctor Who theme song at Maker Faire, 2010. Photo by darthdowney.

First and foremost, ArcAttack is all about putting on a show that is not just a concert, but an otherworldly experience. In doing so with the technology that we’ve created, we hope to inspire minds, the young and the old, to take up an interest in science, the arts, and their applications, to examine where they intersect, where they are going, and to re-examine the works of past researchers and performers such as Nikola Tesla and Delia Derbyshire in light of the ever evolving face of this amazing world. Maybe they’ll have as much fun as we have. But either way, we want them all to enjoy the show, and maybe, just maybe, be inspired to help to leave the world a little better than the way they found it.

Are you awake yet? Are you in love yet? Many more ArcAttack clips after the jump.

Shock Waves At Eyjafjallajökull

The Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull has received a fair bit of attention of late. Not unexpected, buy cialis considering that its insidious ash cloud momentarily brought air travel in the vicinity of Europe to a standstill. No doubt, advice this is some sort of evil, ailment Nordic plot, the ins and outs of which are of no concern here. What we wish to call attention to here is the footage above, a bit of geological geekery. As the volcano continues to erupt one can see the shock waves from each explosion of magma ripple through the plumes of smoke and debris. Such is nature that it can be so beautiful and fascinating in its destruction.