Thursday, June 30, 2011

Through Cambrian eyes

A 515-million-year old fossil compound eye has been found in Australia. Though it was discovered in isolation, the eye may have come from an odd arthropod called Tuzoia:

Whatever creature bore it would have had surprisingly hi-res vision (demonstrated starting at 2:25):

Sunday, June 26, 2011

"I am not sure I understand you fully."

[ELIZA:] I am not sure I understand you fully,
[PARRY:] *It's clear to me if not to you.
Do you think its likely that not to I?
*I went to the races.
Please go on.
*I gamble on horses.
What does that suggest to you?
*I went to the races.
What else would you like to discuss?
*Gambling has been nothing but trouble to me.
Why do you say that just now?
*I've had experience with crooks gambling at the track.
I am not sure I understand you fully.
Part of a conversation between two early chatterbots. They mostly talk past each other and repeat stock phrases, but there are moments where PARRY seems to show some awareness:
What else would you like to discuss?
*I am getting tired of answering the same questions over and over.
I am not sure I understand you fully.
*You harp on the same questions too much.
*In my opinion you have a one-track mind.
What makes you think I have a one-track mind?
*I used to go to the track every week.
*The way you repeat yourself is getting ridiculous.
Suppose you repeat myself is getting ridiculous.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


M82 Chandra HST Spitzer

The galaxy Messier 82, shown in a composite of images from the Chandra X-Ray telescope, Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer infrared telescope, with colours adjusted to fit everything into the visual spectrum.
 The soft, multicolored glow of this image reminds me of Lumia.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The unmoving Earth

The Earth has an equatorial bulge because it rotates. If it were to suddenly cease rotating, its surface would be transformed as the oceans migrated to opposite poles:
 ...eventually creating an equatorial megacontinent that would ring the earth and thus separate both polar oceans.
What a strange new world this would be. As the earth would stop rotating (but presumably still circle the sun), one night-and-day cycle would last an entire year. The new continent ringing the globe (2) would include a large part of current Mid-Atlantic, Indian and Mid-Pacific seabeds, perhaps re-emerging legendary continents like Mu, Atlantis and other lands lost beneath the waves...
(2) What would it be called? Pangaea – again? Ringland? Equatoria?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Raining iron and olivine

On a far-off planet known as OGLE-TR-56b (a "hot Jupiter" which orbits its star in about the length of a terrestrial day), a hellish weather phenomenon may occur:
Intriguingly, the temperature of OGLE-TR-56b's upper atmosphere is theoretically just right to form clouds, not of water vapor, but of iron atoms. Earlier this year, astronomers reported evidence for iron rain on brown dwarfs. However, such storms only occur over a short portion of a brown dwarf's lifetime, while the newly discovered 4 billion year-old OGLE-TR-56b should still be experiencing this exotic weather, thanks to strong heating from the nearby star.
Elsewhere in the cosmos, in the nebula surrounding a newly-forming star, it rains crystals of a green mineral called olivine:
"We propose that the crystals were cooked up near the surface of the forming star, then carried up into the surrounding cloud where temperatures are much colder, and ultimately fell down again like glitter." ...
"If you could somehow transport yourself inside this protostar's collapsing gas cloud, it would be very dark," said Charles Poteet, lead author of the new study, also from the University of Toledo. "But the tiny crystals might catch whatever light is present, resulting in a green sparkle against a black, dusty backdrop."
Illustration of the crystal rain from NASA

Monday, June 6, 2011

Shepard Tone

Like the auditory equivalent of a barber pole or impossible staircase, this tone seems to fall (or rise) forever without really going anywhere.