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Showing posts from March, 2009

My 5 Favorite NASA Photos

NASA just released this stunning new photo of the International Space Station. The sun is just past the sliver of Earth's horizon, beautifully illuminating the newly installed solar arrays. The photo itself is absolutely gorgeous, there's really no other word for it.

Over the last 51 years NASA has been the source of some of the most iconic images in seen around the world today. For my money, this one just released made the list among the best of the best. I've put together five of my absolute favorite shots from NASA's manned space program. I had to limit myself because I could easily have done my ten, twenty, even fifty favorite shots, there's just so many to choose from. I tried to include both some popular ones, but also some lesser known shots, ones that really show the wonders of manned space flight.

Buzz Aldrin Standing on the Moon
When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first two people to walk on the surface of another world on July 20, 1969, history w…

Happy Pi Day Everyone!

Well, technically it happens tomorrow, but I won't be able to post on the weekend so we might as well get the celebrations kicking a day early. Pi day celebrates the achievements of the most famous of ratios, the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. The distance around the circle is just about three and one seventh times its diameter, 3.14 times to be more exact. 3.1415927 times to be even more exact, 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510... to be yet more exact, and so on. March 14th is always celebrated as Pi Day because it written out as 3/14 (this year it's offical for the first time). By a startling coincidence, it also happens to be Albert Einstein's birthday.

Pi is an irrational number, with an infinite number of decimal places and can't be written as a ratio of two whole numbers. It is unbelievably complex, our fastest supercomputers have been able to compute Pi out to over 1.3 trillion decimal places so far without any pattern e…

Kepler successfully leaves our planet to look for others

In 1618, Johannes Kepler formulated three laws of planetary motion that bear his name. He used data gathered by the eccentric observational astronomer, Tycho Brahe. Legend has it that Kepler covertly acquired the data from a stubborn Tycho. The three empirical laws describe general properties of planets following elliptical orbits. The first law states that planets move in ellipses with the Sun at one focus. The second law states that a planet will sweep out the same amount of area during the same amount of time thoughout its orbit. The third states that the square of the period (planetary year) is proprtional its average distance from the Sun. These laws later turned out to be accurate consequences of Newtons law of gravity.

Four hundred years later, we are still using Kepler's laws to search for more planets beyond our solar system. On March 6th 2009, NASA launched the first satellite designed specifically for hunting extrasolar planets (or exoplanets). The satellite is appropria…

Holdren on Hold

The Washington Post is reporting today that the nomination of John Holdren for the top presidential science advisor has been held up in Congress. Furthermore his nomination, along with Jane Lubchenco for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, is reportedly only being blocked by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) to call attention to an unrelated Cuba matter.

This is silly. Now is not the time to be playing politics with scientists as pawns. The United States is facing too many critical science related issues from climate change, to an energy crunch, to stem cell research, to be bouncing around important positions like this.

Holdren is currently director of the Woods Hole Research Center. Before focusing on the environment and policy, he specialized in plasma physics research. Once confirmed he would be the chief advisor to the president on all science matters.

Lubchenco hails from Oregon State University and as head of the NOAA would be in charge of all ocean and atmosphere research con…