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May 6, 2012 7:15 PM   Subscribe

NASA: The Pursuit of Light

Perhaps more than all other federal agencies, NASA tells stories about big things: big places, big data, big ideas. Using extraordinarily high resolution data sets from some of the most innovative and powerful scientific instruments ever built, the media team at NASA Goddard presents PURSUIT OF LIGHT. The presentation showcases top level goals of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, with an eye toward capturing the imagination of mainstream audiences.
credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
posted by blue_beetle (21 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
That visualisation of currents at about 1:15 was fantastic.
posted by arcticseal at 7:22 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love that the sun splashes itself with drops of condensed rapidly cooled plasma that are orders of magnitude larger than the earth and make ripples when they land.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:04 PM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love this imagery and I'm so glad to see Nasa making a strong case for itself.

But these captions. Ugh.

They should fund a poet-in-residence and put her to work creating appropriate text to accompany the mind-blowing images they produce.
posted by R. Schlock at 8:08 PM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


> the media team at NASA Goddard presents PURSUIT OF LIGHT ...
... with an eye toward capturing the imagination of mainstream audiences.


I found that sadly underwhelming, the pace, the music, the text ... my inner John Cleese was expecting the closing scene to involve a slow growing smile revealing a ping of light from braces on straight white teeth.

Oh no, not NASA, too.
posted by de at 8:29 PM on May 6, 2012


They should make a 30-45 second version of this and show it in theaters, among the pre-movie ads. It should end with something like:

This is not Computer Graphics.

This is Real.

This is Your Universe.


(brought closer to you by your NASA.)


[I'd probably get thrown out for yelling "Fuck Yeah" at a Sunday matinee of the next Wallace and Gromit movie.]
posted by benito.strauss at 8:29 PM on May 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


They should fund a poet-in-residence and put her to work creating appropriate text to accompany the mind-blowing images they produce.
The Muzak was terrible too. There have been lots of popular, viral "fan" videos put out about NASA or science in general. NASA should hire some of the people who did those.
This is not Computer Graphics.

This is Real.

This is Your Universe.
Except they are computer graphics, just ones based on real world data.
posted by delmoi at 8:38 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Except they are computer graphics, just ones based on real world data.

What are you waiting for, film? And with that definition, your comment qualifies as computer graphics.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:25 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was fantastic. It seems like NASA is finally responding to the recent wave of fan-made youtube inspirational videos, and about damn time.

They should fund a poet-in-residence and put her to work creating appropriate text to accompany the mind-blowing images they produce.

Yes, they should have sent a poet.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:33 PM on May 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Spectacular images, so beautiful. Thanx for posting this.

I don't give a damn if the music wasn't perfect or the words just so and if NASA decided to put too many images of charming earthlings in it for your taste, well, I guess NASA did it because lots of earthlings like to see charming earthlings and this associated what earthlings want to see with what they also ought to see for someone like my (mythical) Aunt Myrtle.

I guess I should have known better than to read the comments in here, such a jaded crew, probably if any of you got a date with Bérénice Bejo you'd complain -- to her, no doubt -- that she wore the wrong perfume or something, rather than just enjoying her company.
posted by dancestoblue at 9:40 PM on May 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Enough with the whining. Some beautiful images wrapped up in a way that might get some less pedestalled people to maybe realize that there may be a point for going out there.
posted by njohnson23 at 10:09 PM on May 6, 2012


I guess I should have known better than to read the comments in here, such a jaded crew

If Kinkade is dead, everything is permitted.
posted by R. Schlock at 10:36 PM on May 6, 2012


Is it true that if we built a telescope powerful enough, we could see the Big Bang? Or was that something I read in a Gru comic book.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:13 PM on May 6, 2012


If Kinkade is dead, everything is permitted.

Pursuit of Light, not Painter of Light.

That was super-cool. Thanks for posting this.
posted by gingerest at 12:12 AM on May 7, 2012


I love NASA and think they deserve much more money than they're getting but even I thought that was an underwhelming short with randomly thrown together scenes and cheesy music. I'm all for NASA making it's case in a way that a regular Joe can appreciate but I don't think this is it. Waste of money, but at least they're trying I suppose.
posted by Defenestrator at 12:12 AM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, you guys. Always with the picking of the nits!
posted by MelanieL at 12:25 AM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it true that if we built a telescope powerful enough, we could see the Big Bang? Or was that something I read in a Gru comic book.
The farther away the light is, the 'older' it is. So the galaxies that are the farthest away are the ones that we see as they appeared very long ago The most distant known object is UDFj-39546284, the light from which has traveled 13.2 billion light years.

The entire universe is about 13.7 billion years old. So, the light that reaches us today from that galaxy was emitted pretty early in the history of the universe. But if you look at the picture, as far as the Hubble telescope is concerned it's just a few pixels. You can still learn a lot, like what kind of elements make it up and so on, but obviously having a more detailed picture would tell us a lot more about it. All the stars in that galaxy would have been pretty new. What did the first stars look like when they were forming?

As for the big bang itself, well, we can't see that because it's blocked by the cosmic background radiation, which is actually the image of the hot plasma as it finally cooled down enough to form stable atoms
posted by delmoi at 12:51 AM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


13.2 billion ly is the light travel time distance which isn't a very useful figure. UDFj-39546284 has a redshift of z=~10 which comes out to a comoving distance of about 31 billion ly, i.e. that galaxy right now is 31 billion ly away from us. Distance ≠ Rate × Time in cosmology due to the metric expansion.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:07 AM on May 7, 2012


R. Schlock: I love this imagery and I'm so glad to see Nasa making a strong case for itself.
But these captions. Ugh.
They should fund a poet-in-residence and put her to work creating appropriate text to accompany the mind-blowing images they produce.


They did once have an artist-in-residence program, briefly. Laurie Anderson was NASA's first and last.
posted by at the crossroads at 4:32 AM on May 7, 2012


Is our star a particularly long-lived one? I thought it was 6 billion years old or so, and will last another 6 billion years or so. But if the universe is only 13 billion years old, how did so many stars had a chance to for and die in the 7 billion years before the sun formed? All this dirt and rock and higher elements had to be created by stars running through fusion of higher and higher elements (or so I thought). Is it surprising to scientists that the universe isn't older?
posted by rikschell at 4:47 AM on May 7, 2012


rikschell : Whether you consider the Sun 'particularly long-lived' depends on what you compare to -- lower-mass, longer-lived stars are more common than the Sun (i.e. the Sun is more massive and shorter-lived than the average star).

However, the stars that produce and distribute most of the elements that make up dirt, rock, etc. are generally very short-lived: to fuse elements up to iron and undergo a supernova event (which both makes the heavier elements and distributes them on galactic scales), a star has to have a mass above ~8 times the mass of the Sun, which corresponds to a lifetime of 50 million years or even less (just a few million years for the most massive stars). It's thus possible to go through many generations of element creation relatively quickly. Even many very distant galaxies (that we view less than a billion years after the Big Bang) have one-tenth as much heavy elements as the Sun or even more. The youngest stars in our Galaxy have a few times larger abundance of these elements than the Sun does.

(I could complicate this a little by talking about white-dwarf-based supernovae (e.g. SNe Ia), which can also create heavy elements, but they take longer to occur as they form from lower-mass stars, so they aren't essential to the answer).

A minor quibble about delmoi's comment: it's the hot plasma itself that blocks our view of the Big Bang. It's basically for the same reason we can't see beyond the visible 'surface' of the Sun; we just see light from the closest region to us that's not totally opaque. Here, that's what we call sunlight; for the Universe, that's the cosmic microwave background radiation. Light doesn't block other light (until you get to extremely high energies and densities) - the CMB could make other signals harder to see in contrast, but it can't block it.
posted by janewman at 8:42 AM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Irrelevant side note: I'm currently at a particle physics conference; an actual bullet from one of the most recent slides:

'Since Yukawas in superpotential, most reasonable assumption that spurions chiral superfields'

Lewis Carroll would be proud. Give me a beautiful image from NASA any day.
posted by janewman at 8:47 AM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


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