Above, one of the last images taken by the Mars rover Spirit (NASA/JPL/Cornell).
NASA this week announced it will cease attempts to re-establish contact with the Mars Exploration Rover "Spirit," which last communicated on March 22, 2010. From an item on the Space Coalition website:
The stuck in the sand Mars rover reached a point where there was inadequate energy to run its survival heaters. That being the case, the rover likely experienced colder internal temperatures last year than in any of its prior six years on Mars. Many critical components and connections would have been susceptible to damage from the cold. Today, a transmission from Earth will be the last in a series of attempts to reawaken the robot.
From the NASA announcement:
Spirit drove 4.8 miles (7.73 kilometers), more than 12 times the goal set for the mission. The drives crossed a plain to reach a distant range of hills that appeared as mere bumps on the horizon from the landing site; climbed slopes up to 30 degrees as Spirit became the first robot to summit a hill on another planet; and covered more than half a mile (nearly a kilometer) after Spirit's right-front wheel became immobile in 2006. The rover returned more than 124,000 images. It ground the surfaces off 15 rock targets and scoured 92 targets with a brush to prepare the targets for inspection with spectrometers and a microscopic imager.
(Via Miles O'Brien)
In the photograph above by Robert Pearlman, space shuttle Endeavour emerges from behind the launch pad's rotating service structure. SpaceFlightNow has ongoing coverage (and live webcast of the launch), and SomaFM has a terrific ambient audio feed going. Godspeed!
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WHAT SCIENTIFIC CONCEPT WOULD IMPROVE EVERYBODY'S COGNITIVE TOOLKIT?• My response to the EDGE 2011 Question is here ("Ambient Memory And The Myth Of Neutral Observation").
The term 'scientific"is to be understood in a broad sense as the most reliable way of gaining knowledge about anything, whether it be the human spirit, the role of great people in history, or the structure of DNA. A "scientific concept" may come from philosophy, logic, economics, jurisprudence, or other analytic enterprises, as long as it is a rigorous conceptual tool that may be summed up succinctly (or "in a phrase") but has broad application to understanding the world.
• Here is the index of all participants, more than 150 of them, including Brian Eno, J. Craig Venter, George Dyson, Kevin Kelly, Clay Shirky, Evgeny Morozov, Linda Stone, and Richard Dawkins (who will be returning soon as a Boing Boing guestblogger, I'm happy to report!).
(Image: RUDBECKIA, Katinka Matson)
J. Craig Venter: Genome Scientist, J. Craig Venter Institute; Author, A Life Decoded
Three years ago, Edge collaborated with The Serpentine Gallery in London in a program of "table-top experiments" as part of the Serpentine's Experiment Marathon . This live event was featured along with the Edge/Serpentine collaboration: "What Is Your Formula? Your Equation? Your Algorithm? Formulae For the 21st Century."The whole collection is here, and more about the project here. Contributors whose works are included so far include Eduardo Salcedo-Albaran; Lewis Wolpert; Armand Leroi; Kai Krause; Tim Berners-Lee; Sean Carroll; Douglas Rushkoff; Marina Abramovic; Joan Chiao; Nicholas A. Christakis and James Fowler; Emanuel Derman; Jennifer Jacquet; Joel Gold; J. Craig Venter; Gino Segre; Bruce Sterling; Laurence C. Smith; Cesar Hildago; Bryan Hunt; George Dyson; Brian Knutson; Matthew Ritchie; Neri Oxman; George F. Smoot; James Croak; John Baldessari; Dimitar Sasselov; Dave McKean; Carlo Ratti; and Nicholas Humphrey.
Hans Ulrich Obrist, curator of the Serpentine, has invited Edge to collaborate in his latest project, The Serpentine Map Marathon, Saturday and Sunday, 16 - 17 October, at Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AR (Map).
The multi-dimensional Map Marathon features non-stop live presentations by over 50 artists, poets, writers, philosophers, scholars, musicians, architects, designers and scientists. The two-day event takes place in London during Frieze Art Fair week. The event features maps by Edge contributors, and an Edge panel of Lewis Wopert, Armand Leroi, and John Brockman, on Sunday (17 October) 1:15pm-2:15pm. The gallery is a work-in-progress. We are posting Edge Maps as they are received.Information Technology, Genetics, Neurobiology, Psychology, Engineering, Chemistry of Materials (yes, even the chemistry of materials. We are made of matter, and therefore any effect on what we are or we will also become the chemistry of the elements that we are made or not?). All these matters, pertaining to domains that are essential for understanding what "means" to be "human."
Update: A Boing Boing map is now in the mix.
In which I am inspired by a snarky comment on another blog.
My normal routine involves a fair amount of procrastination, but I tell myself that’s OK (really), because sometimes it leads to work ideas.Read the rest
Not pictured: A convenient terrestrial solar panel. Image from thebadastronomer Flickr stream, via CC.
Light can't escape a black hole. Some people look at this fact and get the shudders. Others think, "Hey, that would make a really effective solar panel!"
Or, rather, it might if not for that whole "massive, crushing force of gravity" problem. MIT's Technology Review has a neat piece about scientists trying get around that minor hiccup. They're working with light-distorting metamaterials, the stuff you frequently see written up in stories about the coming of futuristic cloaking devices, alongside references to Harry Potter's invisibility cloak. But instead of bending light around the metamaterial, these researchers are focusing on a weirder--and, in my opinion, much cooler--goal.
...a metamaterial that distorts space so severely that light entering it (in this case microwaves) cannot escape.Their black hole consists of 60 layers of printed circuit board arranged in concentric circles (see picture below). The printed circuit boards are coated in a thin layer of copper from which Qiang and Tie have etched two types of pattern that either resonate at microwave frequency or do not. They've measured microwaves at 18 GHz going in and none coming out. And the circular symmetry of their metamaterial means that the microwaves are absorbed in all directions at once.
There you have it: The light-capturing power of a black hole, without the teeny inconvenience of being smooshed. Incorporate the material in solar collectors, and you could end up with a much more efficient way of harnessing the sun for energy.
After however many years of living, do you still have things about yourself, who you are and how your brain works that you don't entirely understand? To celebrate their 150th issue, the email version of The British Psychological Society's Research Digest asked 23 top psychologists to write 150 words on their nagging questions about themselves. From human consciousness, to death and forgiveness, to the dark Dalek-y corners of the mind, the answers are a great read--and an excellent place to jump into asking similar questions about ourselves.
I know. I know. That's awfully heavy for a Monday. So, for the excerpt here, we'll go with Richard Wiseman's answer, about the nature of humor:
I have no idea why I occasionally think funny things. For example, the other day I was watching the film "District 9", which is about an alien race known as "prawns", and thought "I wonder if the alien in charge is called a king prawn?". I would be the first to admit that it was not the world's greatest joke, but still, where did that moderately amusing idea come from? And why are some people so skilled at creating funny stuff, whilst others wouldn't recognise a proverbial custard pie, even if it hit them in the face? My guess is that the creation of comedy will remain a mystery for centuries, although at some point in the not too distant future, I suspect someone will carry out functional MRI scans of comedians creating jokes, and claim to have identified the part of the brain responsible for producing humour. Now, that will be funny.
-- George Ayittey on the BBC, September 20, 2009.
The "30 mosques in 30 days" blog documents Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq's "Ramadan journey through NYC's Muslim Community." It's a really neat project, and ends on September 19th (the last day in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan). Snip from one post, each one is about a different mosque, all are delightful.
After the dhikr session, we broke our fast with dixie cups of water and prayed. The imam's recitation was incredible. This may sound hokey, but his voice sounded a lot like a perfect pitch violin, the way his voice glided seamlessly from letter to letter in his recitation. You couldn't help but close your eyes and take it all in. (...)(via @ethanz via Global Voices)
After a few minutes of breaking the ice, I mentioned the word "Call of Duty 4" and immediately a group of kids swarmed me. We had a blast during dinner cracking jokes. One thing I really love is seeing younger kids come to mosques because they genuinely enjoy being there, not because they are dragged by their parents. Its kids like these that make me feel good about where the Muslim community as a whole is headed in this country.