Voyager 2 has entered interstellar space!

NASA's Voyager 2 space probe has officially left our solar system and entered interstellar space. Now more than 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from Earth, the spacecraft has crossed the boundary of the bubble-like heliosphere around the planets and is no longer touched by the plasma wind from our sun. Voyager 2's twin Voyager 1 entered interstellar space in 2012 and continues to send back valuable scientific data via the Deep Space Network.

From NASA:

“I think we’re all happy and relieved that the Voyager probes have both operated long enough to make it past this milestone,” said Suzanne Dodd, Voyager project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “This is what we've all been waiting for. Now we’re looking forward to what we’ll be able to learn from having both probes outside the heliopause.”

Voyager 2 launched in 1977, 16 days before Voyager 1, and both have traveled well beyond their original destinations. The spacecraft were built to last five years and conduct close-up studies of Jupiter and Saturn. However, as the mission continued, additional flybys of the two outermost giant planets, Uranus and Neptune, proved possible. As the spacecraft flew across the solar system, remote-control reprogramming was used to endow the Voyagers with greater capabilities than they possessed when they left Earth. Their two-planet mission became a four-planet mission. Their five-year lifespans have stretched to 41 years, making Voyager 2 NASA’s longest running mission.

The Voyager story has impacted not only generations of current and future scientists and engineers, but also Earth's culture, including film, art and music.

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Is it better to read a book or listen to it?

Daniel Willingham, a University of Virginia psychologist who wrote "The Reading Mind," says that the most common question he receives these days is the following: “Is it cheating if I listen to an audiobook for my book club?” In a New York Times essay, Willingham parses the benefits and drawbacks of both formats. Which one is better? Of course personally preference and convenience matter, but Willingham argues that generally right now when it comes to listening or reading a book, there is "equivalence for easy texts and an advantage to print for hard ones." For example, audio books provide prosody, the intonation, tone, and rhythm of the words. Sometimes, hearing those cues helps us understand the material. But not always. From the NYT:

For example, one study compared how well students learned about a scientific subject from a 22-minute podcast versus a printed article. Although students spent equivalent time with each format, on a written quiz two days later the readers scored 81 percent and the listeners 59 percent.

What happened? Note that the subject matter was difficult, and the goal wasn’t pleasure but learning. Both factors make us read differently. When we focus, we slow down. We reread the hard bits. We stop and think. Each is easier with print than with a podcast.

Print also supports readers through difficult content via signals to organization like paragraphs and headings, conventions missing from audio. Experiments show readers actually take longer to read the first sentence of a paragraph because they know it probably contains the foundational idea for what’s to come.

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Weird, Michael Jackson really did talk to the man in the mirror

"I'm not a narcissist... just trying this mirror thing... testing the camera... seeing how well it works... doooooo... applehead."

(via r/ObscureMedia)

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Guess what languages these people are speaking

These people are pretty bad at recognizing different languages. And so am I.

Bonus facts I happened to find on Ethnologue, a fascinating directory of languages: Apparently there are more than 7,000 living languages in the world. Half the world's population speaks one of the top 23 most-used languages, with the top five being Chinese, Spanish, English, Arabic, and Hindi. One-third of the 7,000 languages are endangered, "that is, loss of all individuals who continue to identify the language as being related to their identity." Read the rest

Ecstasy pill found in child's Sonic burger meal

In Taylor, Texas an 11-year-old girl helpfully unwrapped her four-year-old brother's Sonic fast food burger and found what she thought was a piece of candy inside. Fortunately, she asked her parents before popping into her mouth. They took the "candy" to the police who determined it was actually an Ecstasy pill. Insert your own "happy meal" joke here. From KXAN:

Officers took the restaurant's manager, Tanisha Dancer, into custody for a felony theft warrant from Guadalupe County. When she got to the Williamson County Jail, police said a female correctional officer searched Dancer and found three ecstasy pills hidden in her clothing...

Taylor police said they notified the Texas Department of Health, the restaurant's local owner and corporate Sonic. Police said the Sonic director of operations told them that they have now fired Dancer.

Two other employees were also arrested -- one for marijuana possession and the other for outstanding warrants.

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Rat in a vending machine

Last week, students at Atlantic Community High School in Delray Beach, Florida were delighted by a new snack offering in the vending machine. Unfortunately, it wasn't immediately clear how to select this limited time item for purchase.

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Listen to the "sounds" of wind on Mars for the first time ever

For the first time, we can hear the "sounds" of wind on Mars as captured by the scientific instruments on NASA's InSight robotic lander. From NASA:

"Capturing this audio was an unplanned treat," said Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California...

Two very sensitive sensors on the spacecraft detected these wind vibrations: an air pressure sensor inside the lander and a seismometer sitting on the lander's deck, awaiting deployment by InSight’s robotic arm. The two instruments recorded the wind noise in different ways. The air pressure sensor, part of the Auxiliary Payload Sensor Subsystem (APSS), which will collect meteorological data, recorded these air vibrations directly. The seismometer recorded lander vibrations caused by the wind moving over the spacecraft's solar panels, which are each 7 feet (2.2 meters) in diameter and stick out from the sides of the lander like a giant pair of ears.

image: "One of two Mars InSight's 7-foot (2.2 meter) wide solar panels was imaged by the lander's Instrument Deployment Camera, which is fixed to the elbow of its robotic arm." (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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This plant drives its own robot

Elowan is a "plant-robot hybrid" that uses its own bio-electromechanical signaling to drive itself around toward light sources. From an explanation by researcher Harpreet Sareen and his colleagues at the MIT Media Lab:

In this experimental setup, electrodes are inserted into the regions of interest (stems and ground, leaf and ground). The weak signals are then amplified and sent to the robot to trigger movements to respective directions.

Such symbiotic interplay with the artificial could be extended further with exogenous extensions that provide nutrition, growth frameworks, and new defense mechanisms.

Elowan: A plant-robot hybrid Read the rest

Striking new selfies from the InSight lander on Mars

Since the InSight robotic lander touched down on Mars last week, engineers have been putting its scientific instruments through their paces. This included extending the lander's 6 foot (2 meter) robotic arm that will be used to deploy instruments and take images of the Martian surface.

"Today we can see the first glimpses of our workspace," said mission principal investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

People, these images are from the surface of Mars! MARS!

NASA's Mars InSight Flexes Its Arm (NASA)

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Impressive upcycling of a CVS receipt

As we know, the absurdly long CVS receipts are due to the rise of data mining and target marketing. A fellow from Lakewood, Ohio recently Tweeted his ingenious upcycling of one of those ridiculous receipts. From News 5 Cleveland:

Andrew said he got the idea quite on accident – he bought a few items (less than 10, he said) from the Rocky River CVS, then laid the receipt out on his bedroom floor to take a picture of it to send to his friends.

He came back later and actually thought the receipt was one of the blinds that had fallen on the floor. “…they’re cheap blinds so they fall off pretty often,” he said in a chat with News 5.

“…and when I realized it was actually the receipt, I thought it would be funny to see if it fit in the window, and it happened to fit perfectly,” he said.

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Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham dissects "You Can Go Your Own Way"

I'm a lifelong fan of Fleetwood Mac's California cocaine trilogy of Fleetwood Mac, Rumours, and Tusk. In the new 150th episode of Hrishikesh Hirway's excellent Song Exploder podcast, Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham (who the band recently booted out after 44 years) deconstructs the emotional mindset-- it's about his tumultuous relationship with Stevie Nicks -- and brilliant musicianship behind the 1977 classic "You Can Go Your Own Way" from Rumors. Listen below.

Also announced in this episode, the wonderful Thao Nguyen of Thao & The Get Down Stay Down will take over as Song Exploder's host in 2019! Congrats Thao!

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Gorgeous free mix of contemporary and archival "world music" and avant-garde soundscapes

Composer and producer Josiah Steinbrick -- who has worked with the likes of Devendra Banhart and Danger Mouse along with releasing his own music -- is also a rigorous record collector and curator of all varieties of outernational music -- ancient and contemporary -- and experimental/avant-garde sounds from around the globe. Through his Instagram feed, Josiah has turned me on to countless new artists, musical cultures, and sonic experiences. This week, ARP's Cult Cargo program on NTS Radio presented Josiah's mix of "pan-global contempo/archival selections from the past 12 months of vari-functional sculptural laments, hypno-pulses, and abstractions in HD." Far fucking out. Listen below.

Playlist:

TOMOKO SAUVAGE Clepsydra

REX ILLUSIVII Dream

KӢR Az Esam Loza

DISCO VUMBI Jo-Docuroma

APICHATPONG WEERASETHAKUL Morse Beat Roar

FRANÇOIS BAYLE Toupie Dans Le Ciel

PALTA, SPORTS Forårets Skørhed

CHAM-PANG Tant Pis Pour Les Heures De Sommeil

PANAQUIRE / OSWALDO LARES QuitipláS

STINE JANVIN Zen Garden

MADANG / RAGNAR JOHNSON Boma, Kaean

SUBA Wayang 04

WRONG WATER Cotton

KONRAD KRAFT Arc 12

PHEW Sonic Morning = 音の朝

RAMZI Evora

UWALMASSA Untitled 07

NSRD Kādā Rītā (One Morning)

NAM DI VILLAGE / LAURENT JEANNEAU Lantene (Moon) Women

ARTURO RUIZ DEL POZO Tarka En Brukas

NOZOMU MATSUMOTO Climatotherapy

NIAGARA Damasco

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Watch David Lynch's weird TV commercial for Adidas

David Lynch has directed many television commercials but this one from 1993 for Adidas, titled "The Wall," gives any surreal perfume commercials (including Lynch's own) a run for their money. (See what I did there?) You can find a directory and clips of Lynch's other commercial, ad, and promo work here.

(via r/ObscureMedia)

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Satanic statue part of holiday decorations at Illinois Capitol

The Satanic Temple of Chicago has installed a stately and elegant statue at the Illinois Capitol between the Christmas tree and Hanukkah menorah. Predictably, some people are pissed. Approximately 4.5 feet tall, the statue features a snake around an arm with the hand clutching an apple. The pedestal is emblazoned with the statement "Knowledge is the greatest gift." From CNN:

"We feel it's a First Amendment issue, we have other displays there -- a Hanukkah menorah and Nativity scene," (Secretary of State's office spokesperson Dave) Drucker said. "If you have displays of one type you need to be consistent and allow everyone to do so, aside from hate speeches and other unacceptable things."

The Satanic Temple says that its members are atheists who are often interested in community activism, according to the group's website.

"We do not promote a belief in a personal Satan," the website says. "To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions." The group says it embraces the "struggle for justice" and believes people should "strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures," according to its website.

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Far out t-shirts that celebrate the SETI Institute!

Is there life out there? That's one of the mind-boggling questions that the SETI Institute explores through its scientific research, all the while inspiring our own curiosity and sense of wonder about our place in the universe. SETI stands for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence and the official mission of the organization, founded in 1984, "is to explore, understand and explain the origin and nature of life in the universe and the evolution of intelligence." Support their efforts with these far out new t-shirts from the SETI Institute's Chop Shop Store.

Above, the iconic SETI Logo tee. Below, a graphic expression of SETI pioneer Frank Drake's "Drake Equation" used to estimate the number of technological civilizations that could have developed in our galaxy. And lastly, a design honoring the scientists whose pioneering work underpins the search for extraterrestrial intelligence: Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Carl Sagan, Frank Drake, and Jill Tarter.

SETI Institute t-shirts (Chop Shop Store)

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(FAKE) The most intense street fight you will ever see

UPDATE: Alas, it's funny but it's fake.

Watch below. A triumphant Manhattan moment. I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me. I'm going to see it again and again and again and again and again.

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Disgusting Food Museum coming to Los Angeles

Sweden's Disgusting Food Museum is opening a touring exhibition in Los Angeles's Architecture and Design Museum. The exhibit runs from December 9 to February 17. "What we find disgusting has to be learned -- it's purely cultural," says curator/psychologist Samuel West. This is a fine opportunity to taste foods you've been curious about, like fermented shark, durian, maggot-infested cheese (above), bull penis (seen below), or mouse wine (also below). From CNN:

...American favorites such as root beer and Jell-O salad sit in the museum alongside fried tarantula and cooked guinea pigs. "If you give root beer to a Swede they will spit it out and say it tastes like toothpaste, but I think it's delicious," he notes...

While many food-related "museums" of late have mostly just been opportunities for novel selfies, West is adamant that the Disgusting Food Museum is there to help people learn and think critically, not just to pose for photos. The downside? "One of my worries that it will start stinking in here," West says.

Also see posts about Samuel West's previous Museum of Failure here and here.

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