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Mars Curiosity moment of joy: NASA JPL team high-fiving after landing (video)

[Video Link] As the post-landing press conference begins, NASA and JPL MSL leaders high-five and cheer with the Mars rover engineering and flight control team. I shot this last night (on my iPhone, pardon the shakiness) inside the Jet Propulsion Lab, at 11:15pm PDT, about 45 minutes after the rover landed, against all odds, on the surface of Mars.

* Despite the image on the screen behind them, this was not a Microsoft press conference.

Mark Twain on film

No, not Hal Holbrook but Mark Twain himself. Thomas Edison shot this film of Twain in 1909 and it is the only known footage of the author. To celebrate, Jason will cook me one of his celebrated Mark Twain steaks, pan-fried of course. (via Mental Floss)

Curiosity rover "caught in the act of landing"—NASA photo

This just in from Mars:

NASA's Curiosity rover and its parachute were spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as Curiosity descended to the surface on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured this image of Curiosity while the orbiter was listening to transmissions from the rover. Curiosity and its parachute are in the center of the white box; the inset image is a cutout of the rover stretched to avoid saturation. The rover is descending toward the etched plains just north of the sand dunes that fringe "Mt. Sharp." From the perspective of the orbiter, the parachute and Curiosity are flying at an angle relative to the surface, so the landing site does not appear directly below the rover.

The parachute appears fully inflated and performing perfectly. Details in the parachute, such as the band gap at the edges and the central hole, are clearly seen. The cords connecting the parachute to the back shell cannot be seen, although they were seen in the image of NASA's Phoenix lander descending, perhaps due to the difference in lighting angles. The bright spot on the back shell containing Curiosity might be a specular reflection off of a shiny area. Curiosity was released from the back shell sometime after this image was acquired.

More about the photo here. (courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

If there is anyone who can save M. Night Shyamalan from himself, it's Marti Noxon

Here is some excellent news that I promise is excellent, just wait for the second part: M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, and let's leave it there) is coming to television, developing a supernatural drama series for Syfy called Proof. And here is that second part that should have many of us very psyched: he will co-write this project with Marti Noxon, former writer, producer, and showrunner of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, screenwriter of the Fright Night remake (which was excellent), and trusted confidante of Joss Whedon. Tell me this woman isn't the perfect person to team with a guy who once wrote really good suspense and then veered off into Crap Town.

Read the rest

Instagram streams from various cities

Tokyoooo

Vegasssss

"This is Now" provides real-time streams of Instagram uploads from a variety of cities like London, Paris, New York, and Vegas (above). I'm surprised there aren't more photos of feet and food!

Radioactive uranium sculptures

Chandeeeeee

Anttttt

Australian artists Ken and Julia Yonetani created a series of sculptures from radioactive uranium glass. The large artworks, including the chandelier above and a 6-meter green ant, will be unveiled this week at the 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art in Sydney, Australia. The artists were inspired by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The show is titled "What the Birds Knew," which was the alternative title for Kurosawa's film "I Live In Fear," about the fear of nuclear war. According to the press release, "Modern uranium, or "Vaseline" glass is typically only up to maximum 2% uranium by weight. This is not sufficiently radioactive to pose a health hazard to those viewing the glass."

"What the Birds Knew" (4A Centre)

"Radioactive art tackles fall-out for Japan" (SMH)

Profile of video/gif artist Max Capacity

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Glitch video/GIF artist Max Capacity work pushes the grainy VHS cut-ups and early home computer bit constraints of 1980s cyberpunk into the digital realm. Network Awesome and Radosaur Productions interviewed him for Tumbkr's Storyboard effort. "Max Capacity: Net Necromancer"

Bees ground Delta flight

Honeybees clustered under the wing of a Delta Airlines flight at Pittsburgh International Airport last week; the plane could not depart until a beekeeper was summoned to take possession of the swarm. CBS reporter Mary Robb Jackson adds that swarms of bees are not uncommon at the airport, where 25,000 to 30,000 occupied Taxiway-C last May. [KDKA]

Life on Mars: A round-up of Curiosity-related awesomeness

They were chanting "Science! Science! Science!" and "NASA! NASA! NASA!" in Times Square last night, as the Curiosity rover touched down on Mars at about 1:30 am Eastern time.

The best parts are yet to come. As chemistry professor and blogger Matthew Hartings pointed out this morning, Curiosity is, fundamentally, a chemistry project. Curiosity will search for the chemical building blocks of life, it will study the make-up of the soil and atmosphere, it will look at planetary water cycles and the effects of cosmic radiation. The long-range goal, as you've probably picked up by now, is to put human beings on Mars—maybe by as soon as the 2030s. Curiosity is the chemistry that will help make that very ambitious sort of awesome possible.

We'll be staying tuned for cool stuff coming in from Curiosity. In the meantime, I wanted to point you toward some swell videos, photos, jokes, and essays that have turned up in the last nine hours.

First off, if you slept through the event or just want to relive the excitement, the video above captures the five minutes before and five minutes after Curiosity made landing. The actual touchdown happens about at about mark 5:30, and the first images come through at 7:30.

And, speaking of images ...

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Memory card leads to long-lost camera's owner

Found by Vermont teacher Jon Noerr in a creek near Pharaoh Lake, a muddy Canon XT Rebel had clearly taken its last shot. But the memory card was ship-shape, and its contents made it possible to track owner Michael Comeau down and give him back his long-lost photos.

The memory card’s contents contained a hodgepodge of urban streetscapes, photos of apparent loved ones and random signs. He noticed most of the photos appeared to be in one general area, which he believed to be in one of New York City’s outer boroughs. ... But just two photos served as Noerr’s “holy grail,” a shot of a young woman sitting on a front stoop of a house numbered 327 and a shot taken seconds later of the sky that captured a street sign reading 3rd Street.

"I think I found your camera": Visual clues help man solve mystery [PostStar.com. Photo: John Noerr]

Baby deer saved

A cute, speckled deer "scampered" into the woods Thursday after being rescued from a 20-ft hole in Suffolk County, NY. [Huffington Post. Photo: Suffolk County Police Department]

• Two grey tiger kittens who spent hours trapped in a drain pipe were rescued by Ingham County Animal Control. Officials believe the kittens were thirsty, and did not realize that the pipes were slippery. [Battle Creek Inquirer]

• Puppies! Pongo the Rottweiler mix was rescued from a dumpster in Riverside, Ca., only hours before it was scheduled for pickup and crushing. Meanwhile, 57 puppies were rescued from a puppy mill by officers from Brunswick and New Hanover County Sheriff's department: "The raid was initially planned for next week, but ... the conditions were so bad, they had to take action earlier." [PE.com]

• Sadly, a group of campers in Nova Scotia was rescued from a circling pack of coyotes, which will now go hungry. [UPI, which deserves much kudos for finding stock art of a disappointed coyote]

Science fiction grand master Jack Vance rockin' a uke and a kazoo

The video description says it all, really:

Science fiction legend and grand master Jack Vance, 96, owns you completely with his ukelele and kazoo. He plans to sell music from his Go For Broke Jazz Band as well as the e-books already for sale on his website. Vance sings and plays harmonica, kazoo, ukelele and jug, and his friend Kevin Boudreau plays string bass and the washboard. Taken during a recent interview with Vance, for Locus Magazine. The Vance interview will appear in the August 2012 issue of Locus.

(Thanks, Spontaine!)

Temple killer was white supremacist

Wade Michael Page, who killed six people inside a Sikh temple Sunday, was a "frustrated neo-Nazi who led a racist white supremacist band," reports the AP.
Page told a white supremacist website in an interview in 2010 that he had been part of the white-power music scene since 2000 when he left his native Colorado and the started the band, End Apathy, in 2005, the nonprofit civil rights organization said. He told the website his "inspiration was based on frustration that we have the potential to accomplish so much more as individuals and a society in whole," according to the SPLC. He did not mention violence in the website interview.

Fire alarm enters tenth hour without relent

Public housing officials in Pittsburgh are hunting for whoever has the key to turn off a fire alarm triggered yesterday evening. As of 8 a.m. Monday, it's been blaring for 10 hours straight; if you have the key, please get in touch with the Allegheny County Housing Authority. [WPXI Pittsburgh]

Five reasons to play D&D


I thought Grimm Wisdom's "5 reasons to play D&D" was a great list -- and it made me want to get my 4-y-o out of bed and have a go at the stripped-down version we play with random toys, polyhedral dice, and miniatures. But I blogged it instead -- here's the first three, I'm gonna get the kid up:

1. Dungeons and Dragons is about imagination. It is sitting at a table, with some books, paper and pencil (or their electronic equivalent, PDFs and spreadsheets), and using the power of your mind to throw yourself into a fantasy world. Everything that your characters do is something you decided for them to do. This is no video game designer laying out choices for you. In my 20-plus years of gaming, our characters have started wars, ended wars, rescued people, killed monsters, started towns, started criminal organizations, thrown parades, stopped parades, bought bars, built temples, in addition to countless other things.

2. Dungeons and Dragons is structure. No creative endeavor, be it art, music, writing or performance, can exist without a framework of r

ules and boundaries. Our English language is built on 26 letters and our music 12 notes. It is the creative person’s mission to build something in the context of that structure that is worthwhile and maybe even entertaining.

3. Dungeons and Dragons is social. You can’t play this game alone. It requires at least two people, and typically four to eight. Interacting with other people, especially face-to-face, is important. It just is.

5 reasons to play D&D (via Wil Wheaton)

Man crushes 7 police cars with tractor

A man accused of using a tractor "like a monster truck" to crush seven police cars is out on bail. Roger Pion, 34, of Newport, Vermont, was reportedly angry at a recent arrest; he now faces up to 16 years in prison. Here's Laura Carpenter in the Newport Daily Express:

Fortunately, no one was in the vehicles and no firearms, located in the trunks, were discharged. The damage, estimated at between $250,000 and $300,000, included the vehicles, cages, firearms, radios and radar equipment. No one in the sheriff's department heard the ruckus outside; they were alerted after a witness called 9-1-1. That afternoon, two Newport City Police officers were in the area not far from where the red tractor was headed after the rampage. The officers followed the tractor in their cruiser, according to an affidavit by Detective Trooper Lyle Decker with the Vermont State Police. Pion allegedly looked back and saw the police cruiser behind him. He allegedly stopped the tractor and began to back up towards them. The cruiser then backed up, hitting a car behind it.

The evidence is clearly that America needs more weed, not less.

Hi-res image from new Mars rover

From NASA: "This is one of the first images taken by NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (morning of Aug. 6 EDT). It was taken through a "fisheye" wide-angle lens on the left "eye" of a stereo pair of Hazard-Avoidance cameras on the left-rear side of the rover. The image is one-half of full resolution. The clear dust cover that protected the camera during landing has been sprung open. Part of the spring that released the dust cover can be seen at the bottom right, near the rover's wheel."

NASA's New Mars Rover Sends Higher-Resolution Image [Nasa JPL]