Posts Tagged ‘science’

Need to take a quick break, maybe get off the planet for a bit? Now’s a great time to visit the Moon!

Send your name to the Moon with NASA’s Artemis mission!

Send Your Name to Space

Add your name here to have it included on a flash drive that will fly aboard Artemis I.

You could even do a little public service and cleanup litter once you’re up there, because Space Junk Just Crashed Into the Far Side of the Moon at 5,800 MPH.

While we’re talking space, you can also check out the current Location Map for Perseverance Rover.

Because sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of the good that humans can do, too.

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Photo by Silas van Overeem on Unsplash

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I feel more relaxed already.

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Photo by Chris Curry on Unsplash

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I accumulate a lot of random facts. Here’s one I found interesting: Spiders can’t spidey so well when they’re on drugs.

Just say no, spiders, just say no!*

* Unless you have a constant source of delicious insects supplied by your organization’s graduate students and no pressing engagements, in which case, you do you, spideys.

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NASA Tech Briefs, April 1995 – NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS), file p. 106, document p. 82

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Today is the winter solstice, marking the Northern Hemisphere’s shortest day.

Why solstice? It’s science so there must be a Latin connection, right? Right.

During the course of a year, the subsolar point—the spot on the Earth’s surface directly beneath the Sun—slowly moves along a north-south axis. Having reached its northernmost point at the June solstice, it starts moving southward until it crosses the equator on the day of the September equinox. At the December solstice, which marks the southernmost point of its journey, it stops again to start its journey back toward the north.

This is how the solstices got their name: the term comes from the Latin words sol and sistere, meaning “Sun” and “to stand still”.

December Solstice 2021: Longest & Shortest Day

The good news is that it’s all uphill from here.

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This is an analemma, a map tracking the sun’s position over the course of a year. You remember that diagram Tom Hanks drew on the cave wall that one time? PolitikanerCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Some days I feel like I am getting nothing done. Despite the fact that I have been working on a number of projects and fighting bad tech mojo on multiple fronts,* today is one of those days.

Am I am getting nowhere? Maybe, but I’m also doing it very, very fast. Thanks to the magic of plate tectonics (ok, that part’s pretty slow) and orbital mechanics, so are you.

If you’ve ever wanted to know how fast you are moving (even when you aren’t going anywhere), check out this fun site:


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Photo by Abed Ismail on Unsplash

* Really, keyboard, backup drive, laptop, and printer, you’d have me believe that this wasn’t all planned?

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Venus de Trivia

The other day I found myself wondering, “Why does Venus spin in a different direction than most other planets?”

Short answer: Something Big Happened. We don’t know what but There Are Theories.

Longer answer, in case you need all the exciting details for trivia night: 

Why does Venus spin the ‘wrong’ way round? – 2 Sisters In STEM

Venus – NASA Solar System Exploration

Bonus fact: The average surface temperature of Venus is 864°, perfect for baking pizza.

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Thanks, but I ordered Canadian bacon. NASA

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Some days, time just seems to fly by. Those are usually days with new and interesting experiences, where every moment fires off new synapses. Other days not so much, particularly on days that call for the predictable.

If you, like me, are feeling the drag of Pandemic Mondays, you might find a little comfort in this new model of Earth’s tectonic activity over the last billion years. Because there’s time that feels like it’s crawling by, and then there’s sloooooow time.

“It’s mesmerising: like ill-fitting jigsaw pieces, bits of continents slam together and morph into supercontinents, break apart, and then crash back together in new formations – with each second of the video leaping forward 25 million years.”

Tectonic timelapse – Cosmos Magazine

See the linked scientific paper for details, caveats, additional maps etc., or just sit back and watch the world morph like Play-Doh.

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While you’re at it, have fun locating modern day sites across millions of years, and by milestones like first flowers (120 million years ago!). 

Ancient Earth (interactive; kind of like Jurassic Park, but with fewer teeth)

Flowers? Earth, that’s so thoughtful of you!

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I’d like to say something inspirational, something supportive, something that will help you navigate the challenges we’re all facing these days. At the moment, though, I’m coming up a little short.

Instead, here’s an image that reminds me that even in the darkest times, our persistence, our knowledge, and our shared humanity will help us find a way forward.


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That’s right, today is the summer solstice. At 15:54 Universal Time (that’s 11:54 a.m. in my neck of the woods), summer officially starts in the northern hemisphere! For more on the analemma, or figure-eight described by the sun as it arcs across the sky (think the calendar Tom Hanks etched on a rock in Castaway, or check out this composite photo from NASA). And NatGeo has a nice, detailed piece on the solstice here: What is the summer solstice? The answer might surprise you.

What is summer? So many things, not least light, glorious light to do as you will. Or, you know, mess up bedtime;)

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

Bed in Summer, Robert Louis Stevenson

Have a wonderful summer day!

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(This is me, willfully ignoring the many, many feet of snow still camped out on my front lawn.)

Happy Spring!

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