WARNING! The Following Post Contains Earworms.
It’s now Day 10 of my ‘House-Sitting in the Middle-of-Nowhere Mississippi Adventure’. Ten days of little to no face to face contact with other humans. Isolation does things to the mind (wicked things!). I do have the dogs to keep me company. I mean, when they’re not biting me or peeing on things. They also, apparently, find it completely hilarious to bark frantically at 3am at absolutely nothing. (What is it guys? What are you barking at? Is it….Bigfoot? It’s gotta be Bigfoot!!) I’m certain this is some sort of country-dog joke intended to freak out the city-slicker house-sitter. There’s also 2 chickens here on the farm, but they’re not really good company. That might be because I keep eating their attempts at reproducing….
Chicken #1 (lets call her Rhoda): Damn it, I know I left an egg right here earlier this morning.
Chicken #2 (we’ll call this one Diana): So did I! What’s going on here?
Chicken #1: Probably Bigfoot…
Meanwhile, in the kitchen….
I might not ought to mention that I’ve eaten 2 entire watermelons in the past 10 days….single handedly. I plan to go out later today in search of another. I’m also thinking about eating this….
…if only I could figure out what it is. Oh, and I’ve been eating a lot of these too….
Yep, I’m foraging, baby! So far, no sign of Bigfoot…..apparently he (it?) doesn’t care for blackberries. This only means more for me!
Being in isolation, with no one to converse with, doesn’t stop me from talking. Though the dogs are fair conversationalists (I mean, when they’re not trying to freak me out), I find myself singing – WAY too much. And I’m a terrible singer, but who cares, right? There’s no one around to hear me – except maybe…Bigfoot!
So, what am I singing? Well, there are a couple of pretty awesome songs which have been kinda stuck in my head the past few days:
This entirely addictive song by the awesomely cool folks at AsapSCIENCE is one of my favorites. (Warning: Listen with the full knowledge that you WILL find yourself singing this – over, and over, and over….)
The Elements of the Periodic Table! AND! In order! In order?! Are you kidding me?! Nope, I kid you not. In order! (Notice how I just talked to myself there? Uh huh, I’m doing that a lot lately….)
Another song stuck in my head is this incredibly cool Thunderstorm Song by one of my newest heroes, Mr Parr, of Mr Parr’s Science Songs! Mr Parr is a 6th grade teacher who’s made a TON of really awesome music-science videos for his students, all parodying popular songs. THEY ARE AMAZING! And so is Mr. Parr!
Here, in south Mississippi, we (I say ‘we’ as I’m sure that there are other humans in the area….somewhere) get those afternoon storms Mr Parr mentions. We’ve absolutely no shortage of ‘hot and humid’ here. And… thunderstorms just happen to fall squarely into the category of …things I LOVE! They can also provide for some damn dramatic sunsets….
I’m hoping Mr. Parr would approve!
All Photographs: Alex Autin (somewhere in Mississippi (not Mars!))
***Disclaimer: Bigfoot is a fictitious creature with absolutely no scientific evidence is to its existence. (Don’t try to convince the dogs of this at 3am!) This said, if Bigfoot does show up here I will attempt to engage it in conversation (I’m desperate!). However, if it goes after my watermelons I will open up some Texas-style whoop-ass on his hairy Mississippi butt!
End of an Era
The Sagan Series is a brilliant and quite powerful collection of short videos dedicated to the late astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator Carl Sagan. The series is a project by science promoter, public speaker, and time-lapse photographer Reid Gower of Victoria, Canada. Today I present Part 6 of the series, titled End of an Era: The Final Shuttle Launch
The Sagan Series is a brilliant, and quite powerful, collection of videos dedicated to the late astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator, Carl Sagan. The series is a project by science promoter, public speaker, and time-lapse photographer Reid Gower of Victoria, Canada.
Utilizing breath-taking cinematography and a hypnotic soundtrack as a backdrop to narration from Sagan’s TV series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, Gower manages, very nicely, to convey Sagan’s message of awe and wonder at the world, and universe, in which we live, as well as his message of inspiration and hope towards the human race, while at the same time humbly reminding us of our relevant insignificance in the scope of the universe. A message which, for better or worse, places the future of mankind squarely into the hands of mankind. To some this message may be a frightening one, to myself it is an inspiring one.
The Sagan Series is presented in a collection of 10 videos with the 10th being Gower’s TEDxVancouver talk titled Defining The Frontier in which he discusses the development of his video series as well as his passion for promoting scientific literacy in the general population. The 1st video in the collection is titled The Frontier Is Everywhere -
I will be featuring the entire collection of Gower’s Sagan Series videos, 1 video each Friday for the following 9 weeks.
How do you enjoy your tequila? If you’re anything like me you enjoy it with triple sec, lime juice, and a little salt. (A glass in the shape of a cactus is COMPLETELY optional!) However, if you’re anything like the folks at BevShots you enjoy your tequila crystallized on a slide and photographed under a Polarized Light Microscope. And what would that mix of tequila, triple sec, and lime juice (traditionally referred to as a margarita!) look like through a microscope? It looks something like this:
BevShots was founded by research scientist Michael Davidson who, while looking for novel ways to fund his Florida State University lab, decided to take his micro-photographs to businesses for possible commercial opportunities. BevShots is licensed from Florida State University and Michael Davidson, but apparently the main party man is Lester Hutt, president of BevShots MicroArt, LLC. Hutt, while working on his graduate degree in chemistry from UC Berkeley, according to the Bevshot website, also worked on NASA’s Mars probes searching for evidence of past life on our neighboring planet. And that’s just damn cool!
A BevShot Vodka and Tonic! This, and other equally amazing micro-photograped beverages, alcoholic and non, are available on giclee canvas or metallic prints at the BevShot site (where hours can be lost just going through their vast catalog of completely interesting images). Check them out!
Postcards to Tassie
A recent call out was issued to excite the life of one particular post office worker in Australia. Apparently, Kelly in Woodbridge, Tasmania (population 271) is trying to fill the walls of her office with postcards from around the world. And how COOL is that?!
I became aware of this Postal Project via a post by Heather (aka Kanerva) of A Taswegian in Finland in her Feb, 26 post titled Let’s Get Postal! And apparently Heather was made aware of the project by a post by Jennifer of Coffee, Camera & Kids in her post of the same day titled Postcards for Kelly. Exciting? No doubt! I love how these projects spread like wildfire!
If you’d like to get involved, and I know that you do, just pickup a postcard from your hometown, or when you’re on your Spring Break road trip, or during your summer travels, or preferably all of the above, and post them over to Kelly!
C/- Woodbridge Post Office
Woodbridge, Tas, 7162
Also, it’ll be really cool if you jot a few words to Kelly, not mandatory, but I’m sure she’d love to hear about you in addition to the places you live and visit! My postcard from ole San Antone is sitting on my desk right now waiting for me to make the trek down to the post office….which I’ll do, right after my 3rd cup of coffee. It’s only a couple of blocks away, but — you know — it’s TEXAS sized blocks so caffeine is required. I’ll probably need my hiking boots too….
Has The Future Arrived?
with Neil deGrasse Tyson
In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. ~ Lord Alfred Tennyson, Locksley Hall
I’m thinking Tennyson’s words do not only apply to men, and certainly not esclusively ‘young’ men. I think we’ve all experienced that rush of springtime ‘I’m in LOVE!‘ euphoria. There are many different explanations of why this happens in spring. According to Dr Frank Bronson, a biologist from The University of Texas at Austin, in his book Mammalian Reproductive Biology, spring fever in mammals is, in part, regulated by sunlight. (Sound damn romantic, doesn’t it?!) Bronson goes on to say there are both direct and indirect photoperiodic cues which increase the amorous air this time of year. Simply put, the change from winter to spring brings more sunlight, longer days, better moods, (less clothing!), and a better all-around climate for romance in mammals, including humans. The change in season also means plants and insects will begin to do their thing again, which has a positive effect up the food chain and creates an environment suitable for procreation. In us humans the procreation part is, of course, purely optional. (And, in my opinion, highly over-rated.)
So this explains why we do it, and why it seems to happen more often in spring. But, why does it make us feel so freaking amazingly good? For this I turned to the guys at AsapScience, a weekly updated YouTube channel featuring fun, interesting, and informative science on a variety of scientificy topics. Here’s what they had to say on the subject…..
Well, THAT certainly explains a lot! And it, without question, puts a wide smile on my face. What’s more — what science CAN’T explain, Louie Armstrong has no problem at all in doing so!
I agree with Louie, let’s do it! Get out there and fall in love!
The mission of NASA’s Earth Observatory is to share with the public images, stories, and discoveries about climate and the environment which emerge from NASA research, including its satellite missions, in-the-field research, and climate models. The images are not only amazingly interesting and informative, but they also illustrate not only the absolute beauty and awe of the planet we all call home, but also its — at times — undeniably powerful brutality.
Clicking on the image itself will present a larger view. Clicking on the highlighted title below each image will take you to more info about that particular image. Clicking on the highlighted image credit will take you to more information on the technology used to create the image.
‘”Internal waves” off the northern coast of Trinidad. – Photograph taken Jan 18, 2013, from the International Space Station (ISS).
The Sundarbans, stretching across southwestern Bangladesh and southeastern India, is the largest remaining tract of mangrove forest on the planet. - This image was created by merging Landsat 7 satellite observations from Nov 24, 1999, and Nov 17 and 26, 2000.
Intense bushfires in Dunalley, a fishing village on the eastern coast of Tasmania, Australia. – This image of the charred landscape was captured Jan 14, 2013, by The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite.
Polar mesospheric clouds over the Tibetan Plateau. These clouds, also known as noctilucent or “night shining” clouds, form between 47 to 53 miles above the Earth’s surface, near the boundary of the mesosphere and thermosphere, a region known as the mesopause. – Image taken Jun 13, 2012 by astronauts aboard the ISS.
Hurricane Sandy moving north along the East Coast of the United States, its waves churning up sediments from the continental shelf and leaving turbid water in its wake. – Image captured Oct 30, 2012 by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite.
Swirling sea water off the east coast of Greenland. – Observed by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite on Oct 17, 2012.
For this stunning image, taken during its 174th orbit around the gas giant and while the spacecraft was in Saturn’s shadow, Cassini’s cameras are purposely turned towards both the planet as well as the Sun giving us this beautifully back-lit view of Saturn and its rings. In addition to its visual splendor this very-high-phase viewing geometry allows scientists to study ring and atmosphere phenomena not easily seen at a lower phase. This view looks toward the non-illuminated side of the rings from about 19 degrees below the ring plane.
Also nicely captured in the image are two of Saturn’s 53 known moons; Tethys, and one of my personal favorite of ALL moons, second only to our Moon, Enceladus! Both moons can be spotted on the left side of the planet, below the rings. Enceladus is closer to the rings; Tethys is below and to the left.
Images taken using infrared, red and violet spectral filters were combined to create this enhanced-color view. The images were obtained with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Oct. 17, 2012 at a distance of approximately 500,000 miles from Saturn. Image scale at Saturn is about 30 miles per pixel. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit
Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope photographed this quite festive nearby planetary nebula called NGC 5189. Planetary nebulae represent the final brief stage in the life of a medium-sized star like our sun. While consuming the last of the fuel in its core, the dying star expels a large portion of its outer envelope. This material then becomes heated by the radiation from the stellar remnant and radiates, producing glowing clouds of gas that can show complex structures, as the ejection of mass from the star is uneven in both time and direction. This amazingly beautiful complexity is seen here in the bluish lobes of NGC 5189.
This awesome, in the true sense of the word, image was taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 on October 8, 2012, in filters tuned to the specific colors of fluorescing sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. Broad filters in the visible and near-infrared were used to capture the star colors.
For more detailed information about NGC 5189, as well as a video, visit NASA.
In the spirit of the holidays it should NOT go without mention that both Cassini as well as Hubble are the combined efforts of international space agencies working together towards a better understanding of not only the reaches of our solar system, the universe and its origin, but also life immediately surrounding us. The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA, the European Space Agency, as well as a diverse group of hundreds of scientists, engineers, and technicians around the world.
Also in the spirit of international cooperation and space advancement this morning witnessed a flawless launch of Soyuz TMA-07M from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the ISS at 7:12 a.m. EST. Expedition 34‘s crew; NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield, and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko are now safely in orbit and will dock with the station’s Rassvet module at 9:12 a.m. Friday, Dec. 21. Congratulations to everyone involved in this mission, and a great big Thank You to Johnson Space Center for keeping those of us on this side of the planet, and who woke early to witness the event, informed via live coverage on NASA TV. Live coverage of Friday morning’s docking begins at 7:30 a.m. And I KNOW where I’ll be at that time!
Expedition 34 Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), top, NASA Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn and Soyuz Commander Roman Romanenko wave farewell from the bottom of the Soyuz rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. Their Soyuz TMA-07M rocket launched at 7:12 a.m. EST. Image Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi
The Cassini Solstice Mission consists of an international effort involving NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), Italy’s Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI), as well as other European academic and industrial contributors. Through the Cassini partnership some 260 scientists from 17 countries are gaining a better understanding of Saturn, its Rings, its Magnetosphere, as well as Titan and Saturn’s other icy moons. This exploration and discovery is made possible through shared investment and participation.
Cassini, with it’s 12 orbiter instruments, launched in October 1997 carrying the ESA’s Huygens probe, on it’s 7 year journey to Saturn. In Januaray 2005 the probe, equipped with six instruments to study Titan, the largest of Saturn’s 62 known (so far!) moons, was landed via 3 sets of parachutes on Titan’s surface. The Huygens probe plunged into a planetary atmosphere farther away from Earth than any other deep space probe had gone before. In the meantime Cassini has returned a daily stream of data from the Saturn system.
Along with Titan, one of the more important targets of the mission is another of Saturn’s moons; the small, icy, and surprisingly active Enceladus. Icy plumes shooting from this moon led scientists to observations which revealed the spray contains complex organic chemicals. With warmth from tidal heating, organic chemicals, and potentially liquid water, Enceladus’ astrobiological potential is fueling many investigations.
A few days ago a friend mentioned to me a research study he had heard about done with monkeys. It was called the Monkey and Ladder experiment, or something to that effect. As it was told to me a group of 5 monkeys are placed in a room, then a ladder is also placed in the room with a banana on top of it. Naturally the monkeys all attempt to go for the banana. However, each time one of the monkeys would try to climb the ladder the researchers would douse the entire group with a spray of icy cold water. In time the monkeys learn to not go after the freaking banana.
Once the monkeys were conditioned to not climb the ladder, the researchers then removed one of the group and replaced it with an entirely new monkey. Again, naturally, the new guy went for the banana straight away, and when he did the 4 conditioned monkeys attacked him, giving him a beat down, and preventing him from climbing the ladder. In time this new monkey learned to not climb the ladder, though he knew nothing about the icy spray of water. Next, a second monkey is substituted for another of the original conditioned monkeys, and when he went for the banana he too was issued a beat down from the others, with the first substituted monkey taking part in the beating though he had no idea why. A third monkey is then exchanged with the same results, a beat down each time he went for the banana and with the newer monkeys taking part. Then a fourth monkey is switched in, then finally a fifth. Both, in turn, receiving an attack from the others when attempting to climb the ladder. Now there is a group of 5 monkeys in the room, none of them part of the original group or knowing about the icy water, and none of them daring to climb the ladder.
I thought this study to be interesting, of course, and wanted to write about it. However, after spending only a little time in trying to find the actual data I, somewhat like the monkeys, quickly learned there is no actual data on this study. Or at least, none that I could find. Apparently, the Monkey and Ladder Experiment is nothing more than a myth, an allegory used to illustrate not only how negative conditioning can trigger powerful antisocial behavior, but also how easily entire groups are made to perform ritualistic behavior without questioning why. Sort of like how you guys absolutely KNOW that if you don’t drop a week’s paycheck on Valentine’s Day you will receive a beat down of massive proportions, and how us women KNOW that if we are not showered with chocolate, cards, flowers, and insipid helium-inflated balloons it means that deep down in your heart of hearts you don’t really, truly, love us. I have no idea which of the two groups, men or women, are more silly in this aspect, and much respect to the men who don’t fall for this entirely fabricated notion that love requires proof which can only be purchased at the nearest Walmart.
While I didn’t find any actual data on the Monkey and Ladder Experiment, and if anyone does have proof of this study please link me in the comments below, I did, however, find several examples of actual research done with primates and other animals which are equally interesting. Actually, I should say MORE interesting because they are factual. If the Monkey and Ladder Experiment shows us anything it’s that reality is far more interesting than myth. Myth requires blind belief and general ignorance to survive, and neither are very flattering traits.
Franciscus Bernardus Maria “Frans” de Waal, PhD is a Dutch primatologist and ethologist. He is the Charles Howard Candler professor of Primate Behavior in the Emory University psychology department, and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center.
Get out and enjoy tonight’s Blue Moon, enjoy your 3 day weekend, and Happy Labor Day!
This video is a segment of Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s March 26 talk on Cosmic Quandaries in St. Petersburg, Florida. Though the entire talk is well over an hour long, I found this particular segment, featuring Tyson delivering some incredibly interesting thoughts on the nature of the universe and our place within it, to be both engaging and exciting. I recently finished reading Dr. Tyson’s Space Chronicles in which he goes into greater detail on some of the subjects mentioned in this video, as well as his views on NASA, the future of space travel, and America’s role in that future…all subjects I find very interesting. If you enjoy the video, I highly recommend Space Chronicles.
Earlier this week while making one of my habitual visits to Kyle Hill’s Science-Based Life blog I came across this completely amazing, completely fun, interactive Scale of the Universe ….which can be found here.
After playing around with it for just a bit, and being entirely blown away, I knew I wanted to share it. I asked Kyle for his permission to do so and loved his response….‘Absolutely, spread the science!’.
The scale is entirely interactive, not only can you slide along the various scales of the Universe…from the ‘I can’t wrap my head around it’ tiniest, to the ‘wow, are you shitting me’ largest …but you can also click on the various images to get very cleverly written information on each. I could easily kill several days with this, and never stop being amazed. Also… I fully agree with Kyle in that you should turn the volume WAY up to get a full immersing effect! Enjoy!!!