In 1596, Willem Barentsz and his crew went searching for the Northeast passage for a third time. It did not go well, and the crew was forced to spend a winter on Novaya Zemlya. On November 3 they saw the sun go down, and did not expect to see it again until February 8. However on January 24, 1597, three of the crew caught a glimpse of the sun. Three days later, Barents himself saw the sun, "in its full roundness, just free of the horizon." They had witnessed what would be know as the the Novaya Zemlya effect (YouTube of such an event; PDF with history and details). [more inside]
The Last True Know-It-All reviews Andrew Smith's biography of Thomas Young - "The Last Man Who Knew Everything (including hieroglyphs). Was Young The Smartest Person Ever? [more inside]
John Howell and Joseph Choi at Rochester's Institute of Optics have built an optical cloaking device which uses just 4 readily available lenses. Eat your heart out Harry Potter.
One step closer to the Disaster Area stuntship. "It's so...black!" said Ford Prefect, "you can hardly make out its shape...light just seems to fall into it!"
Stanford bioengineer Manu Prakash has developed the Foldoscope (pdf), an Origami-based paper microscope. A shave and a haircut is two bits (25 cents), the Foldoscope costs only twice that.
"We live in a world where digital information is exploding. Some 90% of the world’s data was generated in the past two years. The obvious question is: how can we store it all? In Nature Communications today, we, along with Richard Evans from CSIRO, show how we developed a new technique to enable the data capacity of a single DVD to increase from 4.7 gigabytes up to one petabyte (1,000 terabytes). This is equivalent of 10.6 years of compressed high-definition video or 50,000 full high-definition movies."
Cat responds to rotational optical illusion. The illusion in question. But why does it work? Link to the actual paper.
From the mid 40s to the mid 50s Coronet Instructional Films were always ready to provide social guidance for teenagers on subjects as diverse as dating, popularity, preparing for being drafted, and shyness, as well as to children on following the law, the value of quietness in school, and appreciating our parents. They also provided education on topics such as the connection between attitudes and health, what kind of people live in America, how to keep a job, supervising women workers, the nature of capitalism, and the plantation System in Southern life. Inside is an annotated collection of all 86 of the complete Coronet films in the Prelinger Archives as well as a few more. Its not like you had work to do or anything right? [more inside]
The green flash isn't quite the light show that some might imagine, but is still impressive. But sunsets aren't alone in producing the green flash - the flash can also appear above the moon. Up on Cerro Paranal in northern Chile, ESO Photo Ambassador Gerhard Hüdepohl has captured a very clear example of the a green flash above the moon. [more inside]
The re-invention of silk "For a millennium, traders brought silk fabrics from the Far East along the Silk Road to Europe, where the beautiful yet tough material was fashioned into dazzling clothes. Today bioengineers (video interview)are infusing the natural protein fibers spun by silkworms with enzymes and semiconductors. They are processing the modified strands under varying temperature, shear and acidic conditions to create novel materials with remarkable properties."
"It is only fitting that the story of the brain should be a visual one, for the visuals had the ancients fooled for millenniums. The brain was so ugly that they assumed the mind must lie elsewhere. Now those same skeletal silhouettes glow plump and brightly colored, courtesy of a variety of inserted genes encoding fluorescent molecules. A glossy new art book, “Portraits of the Mind,” hopes to draw the general reader into neuroscience with the sheer beauty of its images." Slide Shows: The Beautiful Mind and Portraits of the Mind [more inside]
The average human eye has three types of cone cells, each of which is sensitive to a different wavelength range of visible light. The difference in the relative signal from the three cones allows us to distinguish colors. Unfortunately, since these sensitivity ranges overlap, there are some combinations of signals from the cones that can't be created by light emitted from a real object. These are the so-called "imaginary colors". However, by selectively overstimulating one or more types of cone, we can still perceive these colors; this is the principle behind the Eclipse of Titan, an optical illusion which produces both a green and a cyan that don't otherwise appear in nature. (Similar effects can be seen in the Eclipses of Mars, Neptune, and Triton.) [more inside]
Green flash at sunset, last day of summer. They occur every night, but are too fast and/or faint for us to see. They also don't just occur over water. There are apparently 2 main types. Sometimes they're one big blob, sometimes on the edge & sometimes a hovering blob over the sun. Previously. [via]
Atmospheric Optics. Rainbows, in spray, of moonlight, in reflective paint, without sky, with spokes, twinned, reflected, in clouds, in the fog, more. Halos, horizon distortion, green flashes, pillars, near-contrails. Surface and volume shadows. Waves atop the atmosphere. Mysteries. Picture of the Day. Via. Previously. Still no unicorns.
"...we see on the ground a number of spots of light, scattered irregularly, some large, some small..."
The Nature of Light and Color in the Open Air "Moreover, this book is written for all those who love Nature; for the young people going out into the wide world and gathering together round the camp-fire; for the painter who admires but does not understand the light and colour of the landscape; for those living in the country; for all who delight in travelling; and also for town-dwellers, for whom, even in the noise and clamour of our dark streets, the manifestations of Nature remain." - Marcel Minnaert [more inside]
The Weather World 2010 project at UIUC began as a comprehensive meteorology tutorial designed for a high school/undergraduate level. It has since expanded to include guides to remote sensing and reading weather maps. (Some highlights include optical effects, severe storms, and the basics of weather forecasting.) For folks in the US, it also has current surface and satellite imagery for a number of different atmospheric properties.
The folks at Anchor optics must have figured out that if you give away more than thirty pdfs of classic science project books involving optics, people who want to do the projects will know where to shop. My favorite: Fun With Fresnel Lenses (22.9 mb pdf).
i began cataloging the colors, and put the color list on the web. over time, the paint catalog turned into a web site.
I didn't believe my eyes, but it turns out that it only takes some cold water and a thermal inversion to make a superior mirage (superior in both position and awesomeness). Pekka Parviainen has written about the phenomenon in Finland and has lots of photos to share. Still don't believe? Watch the videos: especially the one in which the mirage disappears before your very eyes! (.rm)
Science imitates Star Trek, again. Physicists Nicolae Nicorovici and Graeme Milton have published a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences outlining a theoretical means for constructing a cloaking device. A superlens constructed from a metamaterial with a negative refractive index could be used to create a resonance that cancelled the light coming off of a (very small) object, rendering it invisible.
Athanasius Kircher was the 17th century's Jesuit version of the übergeek. His scholarly attentions were drawn to egyptology, astronomy, magnetism, languages, optics, music, geology, mathematics and many many other pursuits. The "dude of wonders" invented novel machines such as the mathematical organ and magnetic clock, established one of the first museums, published about 40 academic works (with beautiful accompanying illustrations) and was globally revered as one of his time's greatest intellectuals. He is also the main link in the Voynich manuscript mystery. [MI]
Grand Illusions: Optical illusions, scientific toys, visual effects, brain teasers, and (perhaps) just a little bit of magic!
The Magic Mirror of Life. An appreciation of the camera obscura.
Lomo Shoots the OreS(o)und - The Lomographic Society plans to mark the opening of Øresund Bron, the longest bridge in Europe, linking Sweden and Denmark, with a huge photo party.