We know space is big, but trying to understand how big is tricky. Say you stare up at the sky and identify stars and constellations in a virtual planetarium, you can't quite fathom how far away all those stars are (previously, twice). Even if you could change your point of view and zoom around in space to really see 100,000 nearby stars (autoplaying ambient music, and there are actually 119,617 stars mapped in 3D space), it's still difficult to get a sense of scale. There's this static image of various items mapped on a log scale from XKCD (previously), and an interactive horizontal journey down from the sun to the heliosphere with OMG Space (previously). You can get a bit more dynamic with this interactive Scale of the Universe webpage (also available in with some variants, if you want the sequel [ previously, twice], the swirly, gravity-optional version that takes some time to load, and the wrong version [previously]), but that's just for the scale of objects, not of space itself. If you want to get spaced out, imagine if If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel, and travel from there (previously). This past March, BBC Future put out a really big infographic, which also takes a moment to load, but then you can see all sorts of things, from the surface of Earth out to the edge of our solar system.
UN Climate Report: We Must Focus On 'Decarbonization', and It Won't Wreck the Economy - "The basic message is simple: We share a planet. Let's start acting like it." [more inside]
Remember the Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded over Russia earlier this year, injuring hundreds and giving us dozens of spectacular dashcam videos? It may have friends.
"This is a story, a picture story, of two very lucky people before whom was spread out the greatest of treasures, the planet Earth. We traveled aboard a magic carpet, the one with the yellow borders, National Geographic magazine. During four decades we wandered over all the continents and left wakes across the seven seas." [more inside]
The smell of earth after rain is called Petrichor, and it is caused by Geosmin, a sesquiterpenoid metabolite with the chemical formula C12H22O. Human sensitivity to geosmin is about 10 parts per trillion. (via)
Beautiful HD video of whirlpools flowing around rocks, courtesy of NASA and neatorama.
Is the Earth getting lighter? BBC Radio's More or Less ("the mathematical icing on the cake of life") talks to some of the Naked Scientists from Cambridge about whether the Earth is gaining or losing mass, revealing some surprising and interesting facts.
On November 22, 2011, TEDxBrussels held an all day event whose theme was: "A Day in the Deep Future." Speakers were asked to try and contemplate what life will be like for mankind in 50 years. Overview. [more inside]
First Orbit. "On 12th April 2011 it will be 50 years to the day since Yuri Gagarin climbed into his space ship and was launched into space. It took him just 108 minutes to orbit Earth and he returned as the World's very first space man. To mark this historic flight we have teamed up with the astronauts onboard the International Space Station to film a new view of what Yuri would have seen as he travelled around the planet. Weaving these new views together with historic voice recordings from Yuri's flight and an original score by composer Philip Sheppard, we have created a spellbinding film to share with people around the World on this historic anniversary." [more inside]
Time lapse footage of Earth taken by Don Pettit during his time on the International Space Station. [more inside]
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 to asteroids. 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): 1, 2, 3, 4. Videos and Animations: 1, 2 [more inside]
What would happen if the earth stopped spinning? ArcGIS was used to perform complex raster analysis and volumetric computations and generate maps that visualize these results.
Our amazing planet. I could study this all day.
Go buy a helmet because Astronomers calculate there is a tiny chance that Mars or Venus could collide with Earth. [more inside]
Rethinking Earthrise. On the 40th anniversary of the NASA's Apollo 8 mission [caution: weird JFK animation], which answered Stewart Brand's epochal, LSD-inspired question "Why haven't we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet?" with an unforgettable image of a seemingly fragile and isolated blue planet, Nature editor Oliver Morton -- author of a new book on photosynthesis called Eating the Sun -- disputes the notion that the Earth is fragile and isolated. "The fragility is an illusion," he writes. "The planet Earth is a remarkably robust thing, and this strength flows from its ancient and intimate connection to the cosmos beyond. To see the photo this way does not undermine its environmental relevance -- but it does recast it."
Magnetic Portals Connect Sun and Earth. "Like giant, cosmic chutes between the Earth and sun, magnetic portals open up every eight minutes or so to connect our planet with its host star. Once the portals open, loads of high-energy particles can travel the 93 million miles (150 million km) through the conduit during its brief opening, space scientists say." [Via]
Yale Environment 360 is an online environment magazine from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. It has a lot of great material, like "Biodiversity in the Balance" by Carl Zimmer and "Carbon’s Burden on the World’s Oceans" by Carl Safina and Marah J. Hardt. [Via Zimmer's blog The Loom]
The Meaning of Life. "We create life, we search for it, we manipulate and revere it. Is it possible that we haven't yet defined the term (PDF)?" [Via The Loom.]
Earthlings (1 hr 35 min Google video) is "a feature length documentary about humanity's absolute dependence on animals (for pets, food, clothing, entertainment, and scientific research) but also illustrates our complete disrespect for these so-called 'non-human providers.'" Also in three parts on YouTube.
GRACE is fine-tuning our understanding of Earth's gravity. It also shows that Greenland's ice is melting, how the recent Sumatra earthquake changed the earth, and provides information on the world's oceans and climate.
Hole Drilled to Bottom of Earth's Crust, Breakthrough to Mantle Looms --Should we be doing this? What will happen? The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) seeks the elusive "Moho," a boundary formally known as the Mohorovicic discontinuity. It marks the division between Earth's brittle outer crust and the hotter, softer mantle. (the creamy nougat center?)
How to destroy the Earth. (via MoFi)
J-Track 3D is an interesting JAVA web-app offered by NASA which gives a 3D interactive display of over 500 satellites currently orbiting the Earth.
Do you feel a little lighter when you go to visit your Aunt Betty in Poughkeepsie? Maybe this gravity map can shed a little light on the subject.
Gotterdammerung. It's big, it's bad, and it's due in 2019. Dammit, who's going to rock me to sleep tonight? [via /.]
Hey, Baby -- did you feel that? The sun, someday, will envelope the Earth and all life as we know it will die. Can we prevent this? Some wacky scientists think that the best thing to do would be to up and move the whole damn planet.
We are not alone.... a new planet outside of our solar system was found today. It's only a matter of time before the little green men come down to greet us.