Category: Art and Science
From my short story published in the limitless Visions VII: Universes anthology:
When I first saw the Professor, I thought he was a dingbatter, the kind of tourist who would come to our little Outer Banks Island, lean out the car window and shout, “Hey kid, what time does the 4 o’clock ferry leave?” But he wasn’t that way at all.
I met him when I was working behind the counter at Momma’s video store. My real job was to get on my bike and deliver videos, but Momma wanted to go out to lunch, so she said “Amelie, you’re on the register.” and I was stuck inside.
Luckily my best friend Jen showed up. Momma was gone, and when the cat’s away, the mice will play. We got a pile of returned videos from the Adult Section and tried to find the funniest titles. Jen very delicately put her long black hair behind her ear and presented C. Assablanca. I found Tom Dare, Crack Detective. We were already giggling ourselves silly when the Professor came up to the counter with Paper Moon. That sent us into hysterics. No one can laugh harder than thirteen year-old girls.
He brushed the sleeve of his jacket and said “Young ladies!”
I stopped laughing. The man had the whole professor look down, from the tweed jacket with elbow patches to the shock of white Einstein hair. His dark face was framed by a grey goatee and topped off with little gold-rimmed glasses. Why would such a respectable dude be renting porn?
A murmuration of starlings is a system that’s ready to be almost instantly and completely transformed, like metals becoming magnetized or liquid turning to gas. Each starling is connected to every other. When they turns in unison, it’s a phase transition (def. – when a substance changes from a solid, liquid, or gas state to a different state. Every element and substance can transition from one phase to another at a specific combination of temperature and pressure.)
At the individual level, the rules guiding this are relatively simple. When your neighbor moves, so do you. Depending on the flock’s size, speed and individual flight physiologies, the large-scale pattern changes. But we don’t know yet what physiological mechanisms allow this to happen almost simultaneously with two birds separated by hundreds of feet and hundreds of other birds.
The implications extend beyond birds. Starlings may be the most visible and beautiful example of a biological transition that operates in proteins and neurons, hinting at universal principles yet to be understood.
More about Murmuration (via Wired)
A comic about a Repo Lady I worked on years ago with Dean Esmay (he wrote it, I did the sketches)
NASA is taking a multistep approach to its ultimate goal of putting boots on Mars.
The journey begins in low Earth orbit aboard the International Space Station (ISS), which has hosted rotating crews continuously since November 2000. During this time, NASA and its ISS partners have been learning more and more about how to support astronauts on space missions.
This effort took a big step forward this past March, when NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko wrapped up an unprecedented 11-month mission aboard the orbiting lab that gave researchers new data about the physiological and psychological effects of long-duration spaceflight. (A Mars mission will be long-duration; it takes six to nine months to get to the Red Planet using currently available propulsion technology.)
In the next 10 years, NASA plans to extend the reach of human spaceflight out near the moon, to test spaceflight gear — such as the Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket and Orion crew capsule, both of which are in development — in a “proving ground” in deep space. For example, in the mid-2020s, the agency plans to send astronauts out to lunar orbit, to visit an asteroid boulder dragged there by a robotic spacecraft. (The boulder-snagging first part of this Asteroid Redirect Mission is scheduled to launch in the early 2020s.)
After the proving ground comes the journey to Mars itself. Current plans call for sending astronauts to Mars orbit in the early 2030s, with trips to the surface coming sometime after that. NASA officials have said they hope to eventually set up a small outpost on the Red Planet, where astronauts would search for signs of Mars life and perform other research.
What will we live in?
It’s long been suggested that Europa has an ocean underneath all of its ice. If there is water sprouting onto its surface, that could mean that not only is there an ocean, but also that the ocean could be far more accessible for measurements and scientific study than previously thought.
Why? Because the ice on Europa is 10 to 15 miles, or 15 to 25 kilometers, thick — a very long way for a drill or submersible to have to go. And who knows what’s waiting down there once they arrive! So catching these plumes of water on a flyby mission could be a far more feasible operation.
Plumes would provide a far easier way to detect the composition of this buried ocean, as well as to discover any signs of life. It’s much the same as with exoplanets, where space folks are used to learning a lot from a little in reading the signatures of these worlds.
Now, all we need is a mission to these plumes to see if we can change universal history!
Had to try this – my favorites:
I’ve still got my GoPro2, and despite the many times I’ve nearly crushed and/or drowned it, it’s still working. But this looks like a nice replacement
The Hero5 now incorporates the best features of both of those cameras. It captures 4K footage at up to 30 frames per second like the Black, while also incorporating the Hero4 Silver’s touchscreen, which allows you to frame shots without the use of a wirelessly-connected smartphone, and makes it much easier to tweak settings and options. Perhaps most shockingly, the action super camera comes with a dramatic drop in price, to just $399. It seems GoPro’s feeling the heat from the competition.
“The half heart glacier lying inside is a really massive glacier, which is not impacted by the seasonal changes. It probably formed when the basin formed, and will remain there in the future,” Bertrand said. “However, it probably flows and retracts over a few hundreds of kilometers (like a heart beating) with time, eroding and shaping the mountains surrounding it.”
By watching Pluto over decades to see if the model’s predictions come true, the researchers will either confirm the model or figure out ways to adjust it. It’s possible we’ll discover a more volatile world than we expected.
(the clothing company, not the place)
In 1957, frustrated by the expense and unremovability of European pitons, the spikes one pounds into the wall to secure a rope, Chouinard bought a used forge, an anvil, and some hammers and tongs and taught himself how to be a blacksmith. He began making his own, reusable pitons, out of chrome steel, and before long he was selling them to friends and strangers, at a dollar-fifty a pop.
Eventually, he borrowed eight hundred and twenty-five dollars from his parents and had Alcoa build him a drop forging die, with which he began to produce carabiners that, like his pitons, were superior to anything then available. He set up shop in the chicken coop behind his parents’ house in Burbank, but he often travelled with his equipment, so he could surf and blacksmith his way up and down the coast during the winter, return to Yosemite in the spring, and then, in late summer and fall, go on climbing trips to Canada, the Shawangunks, and the Alps.
They were lean years: dumpster diving, cat food, “porcupines assassinated à la Trotsky with an ice axe.” Home was an Army-surplus sleeping bag. (He claims not to have owned a tent until he was almost forty.) At one point, he and a climbing companion spent eighteen days in jail in Arizona; the charge was wandering around “with no visible means of support” and “without any lawful business.”
Drafted in 1962, he was sent to South Korea for more than a year. He was not what you might call Army material, but he cadged enough free time to bag a slew of first ascents with a cohort of Koreans, in the mountains around Seoul. An honorable discharge returned him to Yosemite, where, with the big-wall pioneers, Royal Robbins, Tom Frost, and Chuck Pratt, he completed a celebrated first ascent of the North American Wall on El Capitan, after nine nights on the face. Here now was fame, of a kind. He and his peers, colonizing the infamous Camp Four, called themselves the Valley Cong.
In 1966, he moved his blacksmith shop to Ventura, to a tin shed behind an abandoned slaughterhouse. He and his partners, Tom Frost, who was an engineer, and Frost’s wife, Dorene, called the business Chouinard Equipment, and, in due course, their hardware became the industry standard. (Their 1969 bamboo ice axe is now in the Museum of Modern Art.) Concerned about the degradation of rock, they stopped making pitons and instead came out with aluminum chocks that you could wedge into and remove from cracks without leaving any gear or scars behind. Their first catalogue, in 1972, opened with a clean-climbing manifesto, a rockhead’s version of leave-no-trace. A gambit for better gear had begun to extend into an argument for a better world.
By then, Chouinard had taken up with Malinda Pennoyer, an art and home-economics student, and Yosemite lodge maid. “We were hanging out in Camp Four one day when a car full of tough girls drove up and the driver threw out a beer can,” he recalled in his book. “Malinda ran over and told them to pick it up. They gave her the finger, so with her bare hands Malinda ripped off their license plate and turned them in to the rangers. I was smitten.”
In the early seventies, they started selling apparel. During a climbing trip in England, Chouinard came across a mill that made vintage corduroy, which he fashioned into heavy-duty shorts and knickers. Later, in Scotland, he found a rugby shirt that was also suitable for climbing. These caught on with climbers, and soon the Chouinards and their band of friends and metalworkers had turned the old slaughterhouse into a retail store that sold bivy sacks, wool gloves, and other workaday gear. They began sewing garments upstairs and adding new products: sweaters, rain gear, so-called standup shorts of stiff canvas.
As sales of such soft goods began to outpace those of the hard, it was determined that the concern needed a name of its own. Chouinard suggested Patagonia.