A European Space Agency probe will be launched into space early next month to help test the last major prediction of Einstein's theory of general relativity: the existence of gravitational waves.
Gravitational waves are thought to be hurled across space when stars start throwing their weight around, for example, when they collapse into black holes or when pairs of super-dense neutron stars start to spin closer and closer to each other. These processes put massive strains on the fabric of space-time, pushing and stretching it so that ripples of gravitational energy radiate across the universe. These are gravitational waves.
The Lisa Pathfinder probe won't measure gravitational waves directly, but will test equipment that will be used for the final detector.
LISA Pathfinder will pave the way for future missions by testing in flight the very concept of gravitational wave detection: it will put two test masses in a near-perfect gravitational free-fall and control and measure their motion with unprecedented accuracy. LISA Pathfinder will use the latest technology to minimise the extra forces on the test masses, and to take measurements. The inertial sensors, the laser metrology system, the drag-free control system and an ultra-precise micro-propulsion system make this a highly unusual mission.
Why isn't it super-fast to fly west in an airplane, given that the Earth is spinning at 700-1000 miles per hour relative to its center? This seems like a sorta-variation on the old airplane on a treadmill question, doesn't it?
The Leopard 2 battle tank was developed for the West German army in the 70s and has a fully stabilized main gun. What does that mean? It means that even if you're flying along at 30 mph on bumpy ground, your gun remains steadily pointed on-target (like an owl or chicken head). It also means you can balance a full mug of beer on the gun without spilling a drop, making the Leopard the world's best and most expensive waiter. (via @MachinePix)
Fourteen-year-old Lucas Etter solved a randomly scrambled Rubik's Cube in just 4.9 seconds the other day, the first time anyone has ever solved one under five seconds. As Oliver Roeder writes over at 538, Cube solve times have fallen quickly in the past decade.
In these competitions, the colorful cubes are randomly scrambled according to a computer program, and a solver has 15 seconds to inspect a cube before racing to spin it back to its organized state. The first official record - 22.95 seconds - was set at the first world championship, held in 1982 in Hungary, home country of the cube's inventor, Erno Rubik. But speed cubing went into hibernation for two decades, until the next world championship was held in 2003. From there, the record has fallen precipitously, thanks to innovations like the Fridrich method, the Petrus system and even "cube lube."
George Lucas says he had nothing to do with The Force Awakens and furthermore that the movie was not done the way he would have done it.
"The issue was ultimately, they looked at the stories and they said, 'We want to make something for the fans,'" Lucas said. "People don't actually realize it's actually a soap opera and it's all about family problems -- it's not about spaceships. So they decided they didn't want to use those stories, they decided they were going to do their own thing so I decided, 'fine.... I'll go my way and I let them go their way.'"
Soooooooooooooooo, if Star Wars is a family story, why did you make it about spaceships and special effects?
This week on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver rails against the penny. This seems like such an obvious thing, that we should stop using pennies, but I bet if the government ever moved to ban pennies, it would set off a firestorm of protest.
The person I listen to the most regarding books I should be reading is Tyler Cowen...he has never once steered me wrong. So when he wrote about the best fiction of 2015, I perked up. I've been hearing many good things about Elena Ferrante's series (Cowen himself flagged her The Lost Daughter as a favorite back in 2008) but his assertion that her recent series of novels ranks as "one of the prime literary achievements of the last twenty years" puts it solidly on my holiday beach reads list. The New World by Chris Adrian & Eli Horowitz and Vendela Vida's The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty also sound particularly interesting.
Picks and lists from others will start appearing online soon...I'll update this post as necessary.
A team of three Pennsylvania meteorologists is now providing a coast-to-coast sunset quality forecast.
The team behind SunsetWx has already published a thorough methodology of its algorithm and a case study of successfully predicted "vivid" sunsets its first day of forecasting last week. Basically, the model blends high-resolution forecasts of humidity, pressure changes, and clouds at various levels of the atmosphere, weighting wispy upper-level clouds the strongest and penalizing for thick, low-level clouds or average clear sky evenings.
They totally called Sunday's bonkers NYC sunset, so maybe they're worth a follow. Sunset photo by @AirlineFlyer.
A rocket built by Blue Origin, an aerospace company backed by Jeff Bezos, recently reached space and executed a controlled landing back on Earth, which allows it to be used again. Bezos himself joined Twitter1 this morning to announce the news. Elon Musk, whose SpaceX company has been trying (and failing) to do something similar lately, congratulated Bezos and his team on Twitter2 but also threw a little shade on BO's efforts to reach "space" vs. SpaceX's efforts to reach "orbit".
It is, however, important to clear up the difference between "space" and "orbit", as described well by https://what-if.xkcd.com/58/. Getting to space needs ~Mach 3, but GTO orbit requires ~Mach 30. The energy needed is the square, i.e. 9 units for space and 900 for orbit.
Welcome to Twitter, Jeff.
The Slow Mo Guys lit a bucket of kerosene on fire, surrounded it with 12 box fans, whipped the fire into a tornado, and filmed it with slow motion cameras at up to 2500 fps. I don't know about you, but I want quit my job, say goodbye to my family, give this mesmerizing rotating fire all of my money, and follow it around the world, doing its bidding. (via colossal)
Perhaps inspired by the long time scale filmmaking of Richard Linklater's Boyhood, John Malkovich and Robert Rodriguez have teamed up to make a movie that won't be released until 2115. Why? As a promotion for luxury brand Louis XIII Cognac, which is also aged 100 years. According to io9, Louis XIII is sending out 1000 tickets to people whose descendants will be able to see a screening of the film 100 years from now.
I wonder how serious they are about this? To what extent have they futureproofed their media? The io9 piece says the movie is "preserved on film stock"...is that and an old movie projector sufficient? Have they consulted with MoMA or Danny Hillis?
For the latest installment of Every Frame a Painting, Tony Zhou examines the artistry and thought silent film master Buster Keaton put into the physical comedy in his movies. I used to watch all sorts of old movies with my dad (Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel & Hardy) and had forgotten how good Keaton was. If you're anything like me in wanting to head down a Keaton rabbit hole, Zhou recommends starting with the first short film he directed and released, One Week.
See also Studs Terkel's 1960 interview with Keaton, a video showing Keaton's use of symmetry and center framing (Wes Anderson, Kubrick), Every Frame a Painting episode on Jackie Chan, and The Ultimate Buster Keaton Collection, a 14-disc Blu-ray box set.
Transparent was my favorite first season of television since Game of Thrones, or maybe even Mad Men. So I'm delighted to see the trailer for the show's second season, which starts on Dec 11. If you haven't seen the first season yet, I would highly recommend doing so...this show does so many things right.
At the risk of turning this into an Adele fan site, here are the isolated vocals for her performance of "Hello" for Saturday Night Live. They are raw and flawless and real and everything pop music isn't these days.
Update: That YouTube video got yanked, but I found the vocals on Soundcloud. We'll see how long that'll last.
Update: Welp, that lasted about 10 minutes. Digg has embedded their own video. How fast will that one disappear?
Older entries »