by Alex Autin


SEFT-1, Crossing Mexico In A ‘Spacecraft’


Meet SEFT-1, Sonda de Exploración Ferroviaria Tripulada (or Manned Railway Exploration Probe)

In the latter part of the 19th Century, the Mexican government partnered with British companies to build a railway line connecting Mexico City with the Atlantic Ocean. Since that time the passenger railways have fallen out of use, leaving thousands of kilometers of disused track snaking across the country and cutting rural communities off from larger cities.

Enter artists, and brothers, Ivan Puig and Andres Padilla Domene, aka Los Ferronautas (Railway Astronauts), who decided, in sort of an ‘art meets research’ project, to build a vehicle capable of exploring the country’s abandoned railway lines. The vehicle had to not only be capable of traveling by rail as well as land, but also had to provide a living space and research lab along the way.

Following the completion of the probe, the brothers spent a year traveling across Mexico in the SEFT-1 to explore the disused railways as a starting point for reflection and research into the notion of Modern Ruins: places and systems recently left behind, not necessarily because they weren’t functional, but for a range of political and economical reasons.

Along the way the artists interviewed people they met, often from communities isolated by Mexico’s passenger railway closures, and shared their findings online at the project’s website –, from which people could also live-monitor the probe’s status, location, and routes.

Last month the SEFT-1 probe vehicle was on display at a Modern Ruins Exhibition at the Furtherfield Gallery in London.

Along The Railway:



About SEFT-1: The DIY Probe Vehicle

All Images Credit: Ivan Puig and Andres Padilla Domene


Images Of The Week (W32-14)

The Better To See You!


According to a report this week in the science journal, PLOS ONE, deep in the twilight zone of the ocean, small, glowing sharks have evolved special eye features to maximize the amount of light they see. Scientists mapping the eye shape, structure, and retina cells of five deep-sea bioluminescent sharks, which live 200 to 1000 meters deep in the ocean, noted that the eyes of these sharks possess a higher density of light-sensing cells known as rods than those of their nonbioluminescent cousins. Some species also have a gap between the lens and the iris to allow extra light in the retina, a feature previously unknown in sharks. In the eyes of lanternsharks, pictured above, scientists discovered a translucent area in the upper socket. Researchers suspect this feature might help the sharks adjust their glow to match the sunlight for camouflage. Image Credit: Dr. J. Mallefet /FNRS/UC via Science


…And I’ll Huff And I’ll Puff


On Aug 5, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) sensor on NASA’s Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite captured natural-color images of both Iselle and Hurricane Julio en route to Hawaii. The bright shading toward the center-left of the image is sunglint, the reflection of sunlight off the water and directly back at the satellite sensor. Image Credit: NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response


Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick

This, very cool (hot?), image of a flame generated in space for the BASS-II combustion experiment on the International Space Station was tweeted on Aug 5 from orbit by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst along with the comment: “This is a flame we generated in space. It  helps to increase fire safety on Earth.”  Image Credit: ESA/NASA


On A Beam Of Light

STEM Education Day

Photographed through a pair of prismatic glasses over the camera lens, insanely cool physics professor Dr. Dan Bruton is surrounded by a rainbow of refracted light during a Aug 6 demonstration at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) program at the college hosted local Cub Scouts to introduce them to the multidisciplinary program. Image Credit: AP Photo/The Daily Sentinel, Andrew D. Brosig


Once Upon A Time…


The 3 Little Bears, pictured above, named Ema, Oska and Ron, are now adjusting to life in a bear sanctuary after a group of animal activists in Kosovo freed them from captivity in March. As of 2010 it is illegal to keep wild animals privately in Kosovo, especially brown bears, who are endangered in the country. According to the Associated Press, authorities were alerted about the cubs after citizens sighted photos of them on Facebook. The international animal charity group, Four Paws, on Friday relocated the cubs to Bear Sanctuary Prishtinaa, a fifteen hectares forested enclosure in Kosovo’s wilderness.  The cubs will remain at the bear sanctuary until March of next year when they will be released in the wild.



Comet, meet Rosetta!

Hello, Comet!

Following a thrilling decade-long chase, The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta has become the first spacecraft to rendezvous with a comet. Congratulations to ESA and the entire Rosetta team, well done!

“We’re in orbit!”

Rosetta fired its thrusters on its final approach to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (in the insanely wee hours of my Wednesday morning!). Half an hour after the burn, Rosetta scientists announced the craft had entered into the orbit of the streaking comet.

“After ten years, five months and four days traveling towards our destination, looping around the Sun five times and clocking up 6.4 billion kilometers, we are delighted to announce finally ‘we are here’,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA’s Director General, in a press release this morning from the ESA.


The above animation comprises 101 images acquired by the Navigation Camera on board The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft as it approached comet 67P/C-G. The first image was taken on 1 August at 11:07 UTC, at a distance of 832 km. The last image was taken 6 August at 06.07 UTC at a distance of 110 km. Image Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Navcam

Comet 67P/C-G and its world-famous stalker, Rosetta, are now about 405 million kilometers from Earth, about half way between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars, and hurtling towards the inner Solar System at nearly 55,000 kilometers per hour. Rosetta will now accompany the comet for over a year as they swing around the Sun and back out towards Jupiter.

Currently, Rosetta is just 100 kilometers from the comet’s surface, and will edge closer still. Over the next six weeks, the craft will navigate two triangular-shaped trajectories in front of the comet, first at a distance of 100  kilometers and then at 50 kilometers. At the same time, Rosetta’s suite of instruments will provide a detailed scientific study of the comet while scrutinizing the surface for a target site for the Philae lander.

Eventually, Rosetta will attempt a close, near-circular orbit at 30 kilometers and, depending on the activity of the comet, perhaps even closer. As many as five possible landing sites will be identified by late August, before a primary site is selected in mid-September. The final timeline for the sequence of events for deploying Philae, currently expected for November 11, will be confirmed by the middle of October.

Postcards From Rosetta!


Taken from a distance of 130 km, this jaw-dropping close up of 67P/C-G focuses on a smooth region on the ‘base’ of the ‘body’ section of comet. The image shows a range of features, including boulders, craters and steep cliffs.


 This image, taken from a distance of 120 km, shows the comet’s ‘head’ at the left of the frame, which is casting shadow onto the ‘neck’ and ‘body’ to the right.

Images taken August 6 by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera. Image Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA


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