Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘technology’

25 APRIL, 2012

The Sky Is Calling Us: A Cinematic Love Letter to Space Exploration

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“…if we ignore the calls of the sky, who then will draw the maps of the universe?”

Our voyage into space, propelled by equal parts curiosity and awe, is among humanity’s bravest quests and most rewarding leaps of the imagination. Carl Sagan knew it. Neil deGrasse Tyson knows it. We believe it. And yet the future of space exploration is more precarious than ever. From University of Oregon copywriter Nickolaus Sugai and interaction designer Lauren Geschke comes this poignant, poetic piece of video poetry, a kind of love letter to NASA posing a difficult question that we as a culture and a society must answer.

…because if we ignore the calls of the sky, who then will draw the maps of the universe?

Visit theskyiscalling.us to tell Congress you want more of your taxpayer money diverted to space exploration. For a deeper look at the politics of the issue and just what’s at stake, see Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Space Chronicles.

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24 APRIL, 2012

Happy Birthday, Hubble: Celebrating More than Two Decades of Stunning Space Images

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From black holes to star births, or what decades of cosmic awe have to do with the future of space exploration.

It’s a bittersweet time for space exploration. On April 24, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was carried into orbit by the Space Shuttle Discovery. Discovery recently rolled into its “new home” — a polite way to say it’s become space taxidermy — but Hubble’s legacy endures, having engendered some of the most spectacular space images humanity has ever glimpsed, and there’s hardly a better way to celebrate it than with National Geographic’s Hubble: Imaging Space and Time, the most glorious collection of space images since Michael Benson’s Far Out. With more than 120 breathtaking photographs that take us to the very edge of known space, contextualized in the Hubble’s history, the lavish tome looks back on two decades of the telescope’s service in orbit and sets the stage for its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled launched in 2013.

From black holes to star births to giant galaxies cannibalizing smaller ones, the images capture the thriving ecosystem of the cosmos, with all its magnificent nebulae, dazzling stars, and majestic planets.

Here are some of my favorite Hubble gems of all time.

The Cat's Eye Nebula, one of the first planetary nebulae discovered, also has one of the most complex forms known to this kind of nebula. Eleven rings, or shells, of gas make up the Cat's Eye.

The Crab Nebula is a supernova remnant, all that remains of a tremendous stellar explosion. Observers in China and Japan recorded the supernova nearly 1,000 years ago, in 1054.

Taken within minutes of Mars' closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years, on Aug. 27, 2003, this image captures the red planet some 34,647,420 miles from Earth.

A mountain of dust and gas rising in the Carina Nebula. The top of a three-light-year tall pillar of cool hydrogen is being worn away by the radiation of nearby stars, while stars within the pillar unleash jets of gas that stream from the peaks.

A ribbon of gas, a very thin section of a supernova remnant caused by a stellar explosion that occurred more than 1,000 years ago, floats in our galaxy. The supernova that created it was probably the brightest star ever seen by humans.

Saturn's dynamic auroras

Section of M51 with Progenitor Star

Saturn's rings in ultraviolet light

The Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud

Star birth in Galaxy M83

New red spot appears on Jupiter

Hubble/Subaru Composite image of star-forming region S106

Face-on Spiral Galaxy NGC 3982

The Egg Nebula

Saturn with rings tilted towards the Earth

At a time when the future of space exploration is hanging by a thread, Hubble: Imaging Space and Time is a magnificent living manifesto for just what’s at stake.

Images courtesy of NASA

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11 APRIL, 2012

It Started with Muybridge: Vintage Short Film by the U.S. Department of Defense, 1965

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What galloping horses have to do with nuclear reactors and supersonic missiles.

This week marked the 182nd birthday of photographer Eadweard Muybridge, who conducted some of the earliest experiments in chronophotography and whose locomotion studies shaped early animation. In 1965, more than half a century after Muybridge passed away, the U.S. Department of Defense commissioned It Started with Muybridge — a fascinating short documentary, currently in the public domain, tracing how Muybridge’s motion studies contributed to the science and technology of the Atomic Age, from testing the safety limits of nuclear reactors to measuring the speed of supersonic missiles.

Towards the beginning of the film is also a fine addition to this omnibus of famous definitions of science:

Discovery begins with observation. The scientist studies forms, movement, patterns — the commonplace with the unusual.

For some ownable Muybridge, see Eadweard Muybridge: The Human and Animal Locomotion Photographs and grab a print of his most iconic work from 20×200.

The Atlantic

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