O’Bryan walked me slowly down the steep side of the mesa, to the desert floor, so I could see Star Axis in its entirety. The work’s centrepiece is a 10-storey staircase that lets you walk up through the rock of the mesa, your eyes fixed on a small circular opening that cuts through the top of the pyramid. The first section of the staircase is roofless and open to the sky, but the end of it has a stone overhang that makes it look and feel like a tunnel. This ‘star tunnel’, as Ross calls it, is precisely aligned with Earth’s axis. If you bored a tunnel straight through the Earth’s core, from the South Pole to North Pole, and climbed up it, you’d see the same circle of sky that you do when you walk through Ross’ tunnel. Gazing up through it in the afternoon glare, I saw a patch of blue, the size and shape of a dime held at arm’s length. But if the sun had blinked for a moment, fading the heavens to black, I’d have seen Polaris, glittering at the end of the tunnel, like a solitary diamond in the void.
"Embracing the Void
," Ross Andersen, Aeon
posted by Rustic Etruscan
on Oct 17, 2013 -
An intriguing essay
on how young women in Georgian England were able to do science by hiding in the pursuits of the domestic arts.
"Women didn’t find it easy to participate in late eighteenth century science. Experimentation and discovery were not easily compatible with the ideals of domestic femininity – but there were women who rejected these social expectations and became active and renowned."
posted by salishsea
on Mar 20, 2013 -
In the telling it has the contours of a creation myth: At a time of great evil and great terror, a small group of scientists, among the world’s greatest minds, secluded themselves in the desert. In secrecy and silence they toiled at their Promethean task. They sought the ultimate weapon, one of such great power as to end not just their war, but all war. They hoped their work would salvage the future. They feared it could end everything.
- Prometheus in the desert: from atom bombs to radio astronomy, New Mexico's scientific legacy
posted by Artw
on Nov 24, 2012 -
A planet with about the same mass as Earth
has been discovered in orbit around Alpha Centauri B, a star in the Alpha Centauri triple star system - the solar system's closest neighbor, a mere 4.3 light years away. Alpha Centauri B is very similar to the Sun, and this marks the first planet with a mass similar to Earth ever found around a Sun-like star. However, the planet is orbiting at a distance of about six million kilometers, much closer than Mercury is to the Sun in the Solar System, so temperatures above 400 degrees Celsius may make vacationing there unpalatable even for the most dedicated beach-goer. However, lead paper author Xavier Dumusque called it "a major step towards the detection of a twin Earth in the immediate vicinity of the Sun."
posted by kyrademon
on Oct 16, 2012 -
One of my favorite blogs
happens to be local to me. Eric Berger, the Houston Chronicle's "SciGuy" usually reports on the weather
. But he also posts entertaining and serious stuff as well. [more inside]
posted by PapaLobo
on Nov 22, 2011 -
Where's Tyche, the 10th 9th planet? Getting the full story.
John Matese and Daniel Whitmire of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette recently made the news when they announced the possible discovery of a gas giant planet they named Tyche
in the Oort Cloud, at the extreme edge of the Solar System (previously
). Now ars electronica breaks down the evidence behind the announcement, what can be done to confirm or disprove its existence & how long it could take.
posted by scalefree
on Mar 3, 2011 -
On July 17th, NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer
(WISE) satellite completed its first survey of the entire sky viewable from Earth
. After just seven months in orbit, WISE -- a precursor to the planned James Webb Space Telescope
-- has returned more than a million images that provide a close look at celestial objects
ranging from distant galaxies
. The first release of WISE data, covering about 80 percent of the sky, will be delivered to the astronomical community in May of next year
, but in the meantime we can see some of the images and animations that NASA has released to date: Galleries (containing just a small selection of images)
. Videos and Animations: 1
, 2 [more inside]
posted by zarq
on Jul 24, 2010 -
The Carnegie Institution for Science reports
"a much higher water content in the Moon’s interior than previous studies." For decades, the moon's water content was estimated at less than 1 part per billion; the new estimates range from 64 ppb to 5 parts per million. A scientist at Washington University said, "We can now finally begin to consider the implications—and the origin—of water in the interior of the Moon.”
There's more at NASA
and the BBC
, and the full paper is available at PNAS
posted by Stan Carey
on Jun 15, 2010 -