Even More Incredible Photos from New Horizons

Good morning, readers!

I apologize for the long break. I started a new job this week, and then, unluckily, fell ill. It’s been a tad bit hectic. For now, I have some new photos of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons mission. The first is stunning–a large swath of land that has a “snakeskin-like” texture due to some mystifying geological formations of some sort. Scientists are still working on what could create such formations. The mountainous region has been named (informally, at the moment) the Tartarus Dorsa. Check it out:

pluto_snakeskin

The second is a lovely, detailed panorama of part of the Sputnik Planum, showing close up details of craters and mountains. And it’s close–the image is only 330 miles across. Make sure to click on it to see larger resolution.

pluto_detailed

Finally, there is the most detailed color of Pluto we have yet received, and it has enormous potential for helping scientists to determine the geological and climate history of the dwarf planet. You can see the Sputnik Planum there in the middle, and the Tartarus Dorsa in the middle right:

pluto_color

Enjoy the photos! I hope to be posting some solid content soon. Thanks for checking in!

Image credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

A Scale Model of the Solar System in the Nevada Desert? Yes, please.

The human mind did not evolve to be able to grasp the vastness of interplanetary distances. It’s just not something that our ancestors had to factor in to survive, so there was no need for the capability to develop.

Thankfully, we have wonderful people like the team who put this short film together to help us out. Alex Gorosh and Wylie Overstreet created a scale model of the solar system in the Nevada desert, including the orbits of the planets, with an earth the size of a marble as the starting point. Even with an Earth this small, a scale model of our solar system requires seven miles of empty space. Seven miles. Just think about that for a second…

Anyway, I can’t explain it any better than they can. Check it out, and afterwards, just take a moment to ponder the staggering smallness of humanity:

To quote Carl Sagan,

I believe it is true that humility is the only just response in a confrontation with the universe…

I noticed that they thank him in the credits. I think he would have loved what these guys have done here.

When asked in the comments on their youtube page, the team responded that a scale model of an atom was “already in the works.” I can’t wait to see it!

The Global Subsurface Ocean of Enceladus

enceladusPhoto credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Exciting news from research using NASA’s Cassini mission data–confirmation that there is a global subsurface ocean on Saturn’s moon, Enceladus!

The southern pole of Enceladus has active jets of water and vapor (as you can see in the photo). This means that there had to be at least a liquid reservoir of some sort under the surface–or there would be no water and vapor to expel. However, previous research had posited a regional body of water under the southern pole, as there was no evidence that corroborated anything more.

Here’s where the new research comes in.

Continue reading “The Global Subsurface Ocean of Enceladus”

Hearing Color – Cyborgs and Transhumanism

music-599383_1280Check out the TED talk below, featuring the fascinating Neil Harbisson, a cyborg and cyborg activist.

Harbisson was born with achromatopsia, a rare disorder where one is completely color blind. This isn’t red-green blindness, which occurs much more commonly in populations. Harbisson sees the world entirely in grey.

However, working with a cyberneticist, Harbisson helped to design an antenna-like “eye” that plugs into the back of his head. The eye senses colors, then converts the light frequencies into sound frequencies, which Harbisson perceives through bone conduction. He can, quite literally, hear color.

Continue reading “Hearing Color – Cyborgs and Transhumanism”

More Photos of Pluto Incoming from NASA’s New Horizons

The data and images from the New Horizons Pluto flyby are still coming in. NASA  released some more photos today–and these are impressively detailed. The first one is a beautiful 1000 mile wide mosaic featuring the Sputnik Planum and some of the surrounding features. The second two are the more close-up single photos.

Read what NASA has to say about Pluto’s incredible terrain here. There are also some pretty cool pictures of Charon, Pluto’s largest moon.nh-surface-features-9-11-15 Continue reading “More Photos of Pluto Incoming from NASA’s New Horizons”

New Species Unearthed in the Human Lineage

Skeletal fossils of Homo naledi are pictured in the Wits bone vault at the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, on Sept. 13, 2014. The fossils are among nearly 1,700 bones and teeth retrieved from a nearly inaccessible cave near Johannesburg. The fossil trove was created, scientists believe, by Homo naledi repeatedly secreting the bodies of their dead companions in the cave. Analysis of the fossils -- part of a project known as the Rising Star Expedition -- was led in part by paleoanthropologist John Hawks, professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Photo by John Hawks/University of Wisconsin-Madison)
(Photo by John Hawks/University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Exciting news today in the genus Homo: a new hominin species, dubbed Homo naledi has been discovered in South Africa! A team led by Lee Berger recently retrieved the largest and most complete assemblage of hominin bones ever found in Africa. The bones were discovered in a part of the World Heritage site called “The Cradle of Mankind,” the same system where A. africanus was first discovered.

Continue reading “New Species Unearthed in the Human Lineage”