Time Delay: Stephen Colbert interviews Neil deGrasse Tyson

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“There is no shame in not knowing. The problem arises when irrational thought and attendant behavior fill the vacuum left by ignorance.”
― Neil deGrasse Tyson

One of the most enjoyable videos that I’ve seen is watching is Stephen Colbert interviewing Neil deGrasse Tyson. It’s a delightful romp through the mind of one of our most engaging scientists.

At one point, Colbert asks Dr. deGrasse Tyson about discoveries that have changed our point of view about the universe without us being aware of it. While he doesn’t actually answer Stephen’s question, Neil relates the incredible impact of what many today would classify as useless theoretical discovery that is little more than scientific masturbation: quantum mechanics. While the science was almost totally useless in the 1920s, it’s the foundation of our computer/smartphone/technological age.

His lesson: don’t believe that research is useless … because it isn’t.

Click here for that conversation but really watch the whole thing!

Sidewall skiing

Saudi Stunts

CAPTION: Saudi youths demonstrate a stunt known as “sidewall skiing” (driving on two wheels) in the northern city of Hail, in Saudi Arabia. Performing stunts is a popular hobby amongst Saudi youths. Mohamed Al Hwaity/Reuters

I don’t really even know what is is I want to say about this photo, but it made me think a lot about Saudi culture.

Here’s another shot of sidewall skiing.

Hind’s Crimson Star

Hinds Crimson Star

On one of my favorite blogs – the Earth Science Picture of the Day – has this photo today of Hind’s Crimson Star, discovered in 1845 by  John Russell Hind. Photographer Greg Parker (with links by blog host Jim Foster of NASA) explains:

The image above features Hind’s Crimson Star, a well-known carbon star in the constellation of Lepus. Carbon stars have stellar atmospheres that contain more carbon than oxygen. Hind’s star is too dim to see with the unaided eye except from very dark locations. It lies southwest of Rigel, the bright white star that represents Orion’s left knee. From my location in southern England, Hind’s star is pretty low in the sky. In fact, in order to view it from my observatory, I have to wait for it to move into the gap between two sets of trees on my southern horizon.

Hind’s Crimson Star is a variable type star. It fluctuates in brightness between an apparent magnitude of about +5.5 to +11.7 — with a period on the order of 418–441 days. Note the blue stars in close proximity to the red carbon star. Oddly, there always seems to be at least one bright blue star near a carbon star. Image taken on January 20, 2013 and processed by Noel Carboni in Florida.

Click to see it big as the sky. If you want to happy up your inbox, I would strongly suggest signing up for the EPOD email or twitter!

 

People, Hell and Angels

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While looking for a photo to go with this great concert video of Jimi Hendrix I wanted to share, I synchonistically discovered that Jimi apparently has a “new” album that you can listen to right now: People, Hell and Angels.

Reuters explains that the songs on People, Hell and Angels were to be the follow-up to Electric Ladyland:

“After the huge success of the (Jimi Hendrix) Experience and those first albums, he wanted to branch out more, and the blues sound on this is just different from the others,” said Janie Hendrix, Jimi’s step-sister and president and CEO of Experience Hendrix, the company founded by the musician’s father to oversee the star’s estate.

…Feeling constrained by the limitations of the Jimi Hendrix Experience trio (which included drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding), the guitarist had already started working with an eclectic group of musicians.

They included the Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills, drummer Buddy Miles, saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood and bassist Billy Cox, with whom Hendrix had served in the U.S. military.

The resulting sessions, culled from 1968 and 1969, form the basis of “People, Hell and Angels,” co-produced by Janie Hendrix, original engineer and mixer Eddie Kramer and long-time Hendrix historian John McDermott.

Click to listen to the album – it’s a genuine treat. The photo is by Brian T. Colvil and (speaking of treats) here’s the FIFTY-SIX AND-A-HALF MINUTE video of Jimi Hendrix live in Stockholm, 1969.

Meanwhile, in the cosmic shooting gallery…

Asteroid Crater

From Asteroid Apocalypse at the Daily Beast:

The city of Chelyabinsk in Russia bore the brunt of the celestial fireworks. A piece of rock, about 50 feet across and weighing more than 7,000 tons, came crashing to Earth. Traveling at a blinding speed of over 40,000 miles per hour, it created a sonic boom and shock wave that shattered windows across the city: 1,200 people were injured, mainly by the flying pieces of glass, and 52 were hospitalized, 2 of them in serious condition. Chelyabinsk, once known as one of the most polluted places in the world due to its storage of nuclear waste, will now be known as “meteor city.”

The asteroid packed a huge punch, the power of 20 Hiroshima bombs. It was a “city buster,” capable of flattening a modern metropolis and reducing it to rubble. It was a miracle that the asteroid exploded roughly 10 to 15 miles above ground: had there been a ground burst, it would have caused tens of thousands of casualties. If that asteroid had hit just a few seconds later, it would have created a tragedy on Earth.

…Lurking in space are asteroids even bigger than the city busters—to wit, “nation busters” big enough to destroy Germany or England. The most dangerous one is called Apophis, which is 1,000 feet across and will come dangerously close to Earth in 2029 and again in 2036. The most recent calculations show that Apophis will barely miss Earth in 2029, but will actually graze our atmosphere. But because of the uncertainty of its path as it whizzes past, there is a small possibility that its orbit may be perturbed so it might actually hit Earth in 2036. NASA scientists are reasonably confident it will still miss Earth in 2036, but the head of the Russian space agency takes the threat of a collision seriously, stating that we have to prepare for the worst. If Apophis hits Earth, it would have the force of approximately 20,000 Hiroshima bombs.

Read on for more about this frightening subject that is also one of the most compelling arguments for a strong space program that I know of.

Steve Jurvetson took this shot at the massive Meteor Crater in Arizona. Click that link for info from NASA and check out Hiking to the bottom of Meteor Crater for more shots from Steve’s journey! His Quarries, Mines & Holes slideshow is really cool too!

Just looked at Meteor Crater and wondered how big it was. Wikipedia says that Meteor Crater aka Barringer Crater got its names from the nearby town Meteor and Daniel Barringer. From there I wandered off to read about Barringer’s actions in the early 20th century and the list of the world’s largest impact craters (this one’s just a little guy!) and the curiously tiny impact craters of the United States.