Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Book of Life - Your 23 Chromosomes

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Astronomy Photo of the Day: A Volcanic Eruption of Galactic Proportions: 1/12/2014

Most of us have probably heard about super eruptions, but for those of us who aren’t familiar with them, these are massive volcanic explosions that make ordinary eruptions look like nothing more than a bit of steam. So, what happens with a super eruption? In essence, the volcano erupts; people are drowned beneath mountains of lava; a looming cloud of sulfur dioxide gets carried over the globe; the Earth plunges into a volcanic winter; countless species die.

Fun times.

Of course, not all super eruptions are this catastrophic, but the basic point remains the same: A super eruption is a natural disaster of monumental proportions. And for whatever reason, humans are obsessed with annihilation. We love to witness the awesome power of a tornado, the havoc brought by earthquakes, and the explosive power of meteoroids. This drive has made “Storm Chaser” an actual job title.

This image by photographer Yuga Kurita shows an eruption that is just as awe inspiring as ordinary eruptions, but is (thankfully) far less destructive. In Japan, many individuals traverse the side of Mt. Fuji after sundown in order to see the sunrise from the volcanic peak. In order to avoid an undesirable tumble, the travelers use flashlights to guide them.

Kurita explained the creation of the image, writing that, “when I arrived at Fujiyoshida in Yamanashi Prefecture, I saw people climbing up Mt. Fuji with flash lights and I thought they looked like lava streams. Then I came up with this composition, since nowadays, the Milky Way appears vertically in the sky so probably I could liken Mt. Fuji to an imaginary galactic volcano, that is, people climbing up with torches are lava streams and the Milky Way is the volcano smoke.”


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Faster Than Light Neutrinos? No thanks.

In science, there is a saying that goes something like this: It is very hard to unprint something. This saying speaks towards the inevitable fact that, once something goes to print, it is hard to change it. Because of this, there are a lot of public misconceptions of science – I’m going to put one of them to rest today.

Allow me to set the stage for you. It was September 23, 2011 when the world woke up to impossible news; scientists have measured neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light. Headlines around the world read ‘Was Einstein Wrong?’, ‘Faster than Light Neutrinos Could Disprove Relativity’, ‘Physicists Worried about Relativity’ and the like. All of the sudden, it appeared as if a century’s worth of physics and advancements began crumbling all around us. Most of these stories (and the first one I read) left you under the impression that this result was all but certain, what they didn’t say is that this result was a one-time occurrence and it hadn’t been confirmed. (As a comparison, NASA lands a rover the size of a small car on another planet in one of the most technologically advanced and ambitious Mars missions of all time, not a mention of it in my newspaper. This story was on the front page – and it isn’t even confirmed.)

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Dark Flow: A Mysterious Force From Outside of our Local Universe

When physicists were studying the signature of the cosmic microwave background radiation, which was thrust into existence when our universe was still in diapers, they noted something strange and very unexpected. Clusters of stars were seen traveling at exceptional speed into a narrow expanse of space (about 20 degrees). Indicating that something, but we are not sure of what, is tugging on the galaxies from beyond the scope of the observable universe. Leaving some VERY interesting questions, with equally interesting implications. Could this so-called "dark flow" be evidence of a sister universe, tugging at our own?

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Ada Lovelace – The Prophet of the Computer Age

Not many people know that Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852), otherwise known as “The Enchantress of Numbers”, was the daughter of the poet Lord Byron.

Even fewer know that Ada Lovelace would become one of the most important mathematicians in recorded history. Her work would prove instrumental in developing modern computers.

Read all about her here:

Image Credit: Getty Images

Potentially Hazardous Asteroids:

The most underrated threat to our planet might be impact events that threaten our small world. Most meteors and asteroids may be incredibly small; however, even the largest are discreet and almost undetectable until it"s too late to do anything about them -- a situation that played out just last year, with the Chelyabinsk Meteor in Russia. If that impact didn"t open your eyes to the danger of these objects, perhaps this newly released image will.

Learn about the significance of this image at

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Solar Tsunamis:

Do you love diving into the crisp, salty waters of the ocean? Love to feel the sand rolling beneath your feet as you plod through the surf? Do you like the smell of your skin being scorched from your bones, and the feel of your blood as it is boiled from your body?

If you answered “yes” to the first two, you’d probably enjoy catching a few waves on some of California’s exquisite beaches. If you answered “yes” to all three, you’d probably enjoy catching a few solar waves on the Sun’s surface (and you might be a teensy bit crazy, but who am I to judge?).

We all know about the tsunamis that crash across our planet. And we know about the destruction that they can cause. Who can forget the horrifying 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, with its waves reaching some 95 feet (30 meters) in the air? If tsunamis on Earth are so unspeakably powerful, what can be said about solar tsunamis?

Find out:

Image Credit: NASA