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12 Dec 23:46

Year in Review

All in all, I give this year a C-. There were no aurora visible from my house and that comet evaporated. They'd better not cancel the 2017 eclipse.
15 Oct 18:20

October 12, 2013

Doing an emergency server swap, I'm afraid. We hope there will be a minimum of bugs, but please let us know if anything is funky.
14 Oct 22:08

Privacy is Impossible

Privacy is Impossible

Be sure to click here to check out more awesome stuff like this at Web Comics!

Submitted by: Unknown (via Off The Leash Daily Dog Cartoons)

Tagged: making out , dogs , web comics
10 Oct 16:29

Open Letter

Teresa Chandler

So, I'm told that Miley Cyrus is maybe one of the lizard people.

Are you ok?  Do you need help?
07 Oct 18:39

This Planetary Nebula Comes With a Twist

by Shannon Hall


Planetary nebulae imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope.

From the Cat’s Eye to the Eskimo, planetary nebulae are arguably among the most dazzling objects in the Universe. These misnamed stellar remnants are created when the outer layers of a dying star blows off and expands into space. However, they can look radically different from one another, revealing complicated histories and structures.

But recently, astronomers have argued that some of the most exotic shapes are the result of not one, but two stars at the center. It is the interaction between the progenitor star and a binary companion that shapes the resulting planetary nebula.

Read the rest of This Planetary Nebula Comes With a Twist (542 words)

© Shannon Hall for Universe Today, 2013. | Permalink | No comment |
Post tags: Planetary Nebula

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04 Oct 20:02


by Allie
Power is intoxicating. Everyone loves having the ability to make their decisions into reality — to think "this should be something that happens," and then actually be able to make that thing happen. 

It is also dangerous. 

And it is especially dangerous when applied to four-year-olds. 

Four-year-olds lack the experience to wield power responsibly. They have no idea what to do with it or how to control it.

But they like it.

The dinosaur costume was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me. The previous Halloween, which was the first Halloween I could actually remember, my parents had dressed me as a giant crayon, and the whole experience had been really uncomfortable for me.

But being a dinosaur felt natural.

And powerful. 

The feeling had been slowly intensifying ever since I put the costume on that morning, and, as I stood there in the middle of the classroom, staring off into the distance in an unresponsive power trance, it finally hit critical mass.

I had to find some way to use it. Any way. Immediately.

The other children screamed and fled. The teacher chased me, yelling at me to stop. But I couldn't stop.  I was a mindless juggernaut, a puppet for forces far greater than myself. I had completely lost control of my body. 

All I knew was that being a dinosaur felt very different from being a person, and I was doing things that I had never even dreamed of doing before.

Of course, I had always had the ability to do these things — even as a person — but I didn't know that. I'd just assumed that I was unable.  As a dinosaur, I didn't have any of those assumptions.  It felt like I could do whatever I wanted without fear of repercussions.

The repercussions were also exactly the same as they were before I became a dinosaur.

I just experienced them differently.

My parents had to come pick me up at noon that day.  The teacher explained that it must have been all the Halloween candy.  "Some kids really can't handle sugar," she said.  "It turns them into little monsters."

I suppose it was a reasonable enough conclusion, but it only served as a distraction from the real problem.

The thing about being an unstoppable force is that you can really only enjoy the experience of being one when you have something to bash yourself against. You need to have things trying to stop you so that you can get a better sense of how fast you are going as you smash through them. And whenever I was inside the dinosaur costume, that is the only thing I wanted to do.

The ban on sugar provided a convenient source of resistance. As long as I was not supposed to eat sugar, I could feel powerful by eating it anyway. 

I'm sure the correlation started to seem rather strong after a while. I'd find some way to get sugar into myself, and then — drunk on the power of doing something I wasn't supposed to —I would lapse into psychotic monster mode. To any reasonable observer, it would appear as though I was indeed having a reaction to the sugar.

My parents were so confused when the terror sprees continued even after the house had been stripped of sugar. They were sure they had gotten rid of all of it. . . did I have a stash somewhere? Was I eating bugs or something?

They still weren't suspicious of the costume.  

I lost weeks in a power-fueled haze. I often found myself inside the costume without even realizing I had put it on. One moment, I would be calmly drawing a picture, and the next I'd be robotically stumbling toward my closet where the dinosaur costume was and putting myself inside it.

It started to happen almost against my will.

Surely my parents made the connection subconsciously long before they became aware of what was really going on. After weeks of chaos, each instance punctuated by the presence of the costume, I have to imagine that the very sight of the thing would have triggered some sort of Pavlovian fear response.

They did figure it out eventually, though.

And the costume was finally taken away from me.

I was infuriated at the injustice of it all. I had become quite dependent on the costume, and it felt like part of my humanity was being forcibly and maliciously stripped away.  I cursed my piddling human powers and their uselessness in the situation. If only I could put on the costume . . .  just one more time.

But that was the costume's only weakness — it couldn't save itself. I had to watch helplessly as it disappeared inside a trash bag. 

There was nothing I could do.

And so my reign of power came to an end, and I slowly learned to live as a person again.

02 Oct 18:02


Teresa Chandler

Me, too!

And if clicking on any word pops up a site-search for articles about that word, I will close all windows in a panic and never come back.
25 Sep 18:57

How much science does Breaking Bad get right? Way more than you think.

by Robert T. Gonzalez

Breaking Bad is almost over. As the end grows nigh, let's take a few minutes to recognize some of the real science that's gone into making it one of the best shows on television. Donna Nelson – University of Oklahoma chemistry professor and Breaking Bad chemistry advisor – will be our guide.



25 Sep 18:44

The Greatest Out-of-Print Tabletop RPGs That We Still Love

by Ed Grabianowski
Teresa Chandler


The Greatest Out-of-Print Tabletop RPGs That We Still Love

A lot of our love for tabletop games comes down to nostalgia. A game we played in the 80s might have terrible rules and a hackneyed game world, but we love it all the same. Sadly, many of those classic RPGs are long out of print. Here’s a look at the best of these lost games.



25 Sep 18:40

Deep Impact probe down and out, ICE back for (maybe) more

by John Timmer
Deep Impact strikes.

Last Friday, NASA announced the end of attempts to contact the Deep Impact mission. Deep Impact got its name from its activity back in 2005: dropping a refrigerator-sized object into a comet at 37,000 kph and observing the debris that spewed out. This gave us an unprecedented view of the composition of comets. But the mission didn't end there; free to wander the Solar System, the probe turned its instruments on other comets, performed a close flyby of a second, and imaged a third.

This year, Deep Impact had turned its instruments on comet ISON and was observing from a distance when it suddenly went silent. After a month of attempting to reestablish contact, NASA officially gave up trying.

Deep Impact is not the only comet mission that's on people's minds, though. An even older bit of hardware started life as the International Sun-Earth Explorer back in 1978. But with that mission done, the spacecraft was maneuvered to where it could use the Moon's gravity to fling it on an orbit where it led Earth around the Sun. Renamed the International Cometary Explorer (ICE), it went on to observe comet Giacobini-Zinner in 1985.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments


25 Sep 17:25

The original Dungeons & Dragons makes its triumphant return

by Rob Bricken

The original Dungeons & Dragons makes its triumphant return

Speaking of The Greatest Out-of-Print Tabletop RPGs That We Still Love! Wizards of the Coast is re-releasing the legendary "White Box" in a deluxe edition — the very first Dungeons & Dragons set ever, back in 1974 — including the three original rulebooks, along with four classic supplements all in special packaging.



23 Sep 19:42

The life and death of Buran, the USSR shuttle built on faulty assumptions

by Amy Shira Teitel

Buran being launched on its only trip into space.
Just before dawn on the morning of November 15, 1988, the mood at Baikonur, the Soviet Union’s launch site, was tense and businesslike. It was a cold morning marked by low cloud cover, a persistent drizzle, and warnings of gale force winds. It was a terrible day for a launch.

But on the pad stood the Energiya rocket, fueled and ready to carry the Buran space shuttle orbiter on its maiden flight. A thin layer of ice coating both vehicles threatened to postpone the event, though no one on site wanted to see the spacecraft stay on the pad. A scrubbed launch could delay Buran’s debut until the spring—or even deal a death blow to the whole program. Weighing the odds, Soviet space officials decided to take their chances. At 8:00am local time, exactly on schedule, Energiya roared to life and Buran took flight.

The next morning, half a world away in the United States, American reports on the mission focused as much on Buran’s similarity to NASA’s space shuttle as on the flight itself. The Soviet design seems indebted to NASA, newspapers proclaimed, citing experts’ opinions that there were few, if any, fundamental differences between the spacecraft. This sentiment has persisted in the general public’s mind for the nearly 30 years since Buran flew.

Read 39 remaining paragraphs | Comments


23 Sep 17:33

Chaos Computer Club hackers trick Apple’s TouchID security feature

by Nathan Mattise

Germany's Chaos Computing Club claim to have tricked Apple's new TouchID security feature this weekend. In a blog post on the breakthrough, the CCC writes they bypassed the fingerprint-reader by simply starting with "the fingerprint of the phone user photographed from a glass surface."

The entire process is documented by hacker Starbug in the video above, and the club outlines it in a how-to. For this particular initiative, the CCC started by photographing a fingerprint with 2400 dpi. Next the image was inverted and laser printed at 1200 dpi. To create the fingerprint mask Starbug finally used, latex milk was poured into the pattern, eventually lifted, breathed on (for moisture), and pushed onto the sensor to unlock the phone. In this sense, it's hard to definitively state the hackers "broke" the TouchID precautions, because they did not circumvent the security measure without access to the fingerprint. (TouchID could similarly be cleared with a GTA V-like strategy of knocking the phone user unconscious and pressing finger-to-sensor.) However, the CCC did successfully trick TouchID into working as advertised for an individual who wasn't the phone user.

The CCC and Starbug in particular are well-known critics of biometric security systems. Back in 2008, Starbug even cloned the fingerprint of a German politician who advocated for collecting citizens' unique physical characteristics as a means of preventing terrorism.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments


23 Sep 17:22

Lovely Astrophotos: Aurora Among the Clouds

by Nancy Atkinson
Teresa Chandler

New desktop backgrounds!

Aurorae dance across the sky and among the clouds over Norway on September 28, 2013. Credit and copyright: Frank Olsen.

Aurorae dance across the sky and among the clouds over Norway on September 18, 2013. Credit and copyright: Frank Olsen.

Frank Olsen reports that the weather in arctic part of Norway has been fantastic lately. Even so, the aurora are starting to make nightly appearances.

“I was standing on the very tip of an island in Vesterålen with a spectacular view, looking out on the Atlantic ocean,” he said. “With the full moon behind me, the clouds were amazing.”

Clouds mixed in with the aurora made for some lovely views. In all, Frank said he nabbed almost 400 images on his memory card! See another shot, below.

Read the rest of Lovely Astrophotos: Aurora Among the Clouds (113 words)

© nancy for Universe Today, 2013. | Permalink | No comment |
Post tags: Astrophotos, aurora, Frank Olsen

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20 Sep 17:08

Google honors French physicist with interactive pendulum doodle

by George Dvorsky

Google honors French physicist with interactive pendulum doodle

Today marks the 194th birthday of Léon Foucault, the French physicist who used a pendulum to confirm the rotation of the Earth. Today's Google Doodle pays tribute.



19 Sep 17:17

And the Winners Are … Amazing ‘Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013′ Photos Revealed

by Nancy Atkinson
Teresa Chandler


The overall winner of Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013 photo from Mark Gee, titled 'Guiding Light to the Stars.' Credit and copyright: Mark Gee.

The overall winner of Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013 photo from Mark Gee, titled ‘Guiding Light to the Stars.’ Credit and copyright: Mark Gee.

Feast your eyes!! Every year of the “Astronomy Photographer of the Year” competition provides incredible images of our night sky — whether they are striking pictures of vast galaxies millions of light years away, or dramatic images of the night sky taken much closer to home — and this year is no different. The awards were just announced at a special presentation at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England for this fifth year of the competition, which is run by the Observatory in association with Sky at Night Magazine.

Above is the overall winner, from Mark Gee, which was the winner of the “Earth and Space” category, a gorgeous view of the Milky Way taken from Cape Palliser on the North Island of New Zealand.

Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013 has four main categories: (...)
Read the rest of And the Winners Are … Amazing ‘Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013′ Photos Revealed (368 words)

© nancy for Universe Today, 2013. | Permalink | No comment |
Post tags: Astronomy Photographer of the Year, Astrophotos

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18 Sep 21:08

Breaking Bad inspires George R.R.Martin to make an even worse villain

by Rob Bricken

Breaking Bad inspires George R.R.Martin to make an even worse villainA Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin is an avid viewer of Breaking Bad, but couldn't help but note on his blog after last weekend's episode "Ozymandias" that "Walter White is a bigger monster than anyone in Westeros." His next thought? "(I need to do something about that)."



17 Sep 17:51


Points to anyone who hacks the Flickr devs' computers to make their text editors do this when you click on anything.