Posted in astronomy, literature

Astronomers determine time of year an ancient poem was written

This is amazing! There is so much science in art, and art in nature and science.

Sappho Poem translated by Mary Barnard
by ancient Greek poet Sappho

In her poem…

Sappho talks about the Pleiades, a cluster of extremely bright stars near Taurus. What’s more, Sappho mentions two interesting facts:

  • she watches the Pleiades go down, sinking beneath the horizon. And …
  • … this occurs before midnight.

Recently, two scientists got interested in the poem, because they realized these two facts could be used to determine precisely what time of year Sappho wrote the poem.

After all, constellations change their position in the sky as the year progresses. That means in different months they’ll sink beneath the horizon at different times of day. Since we know that Sappho saw the Pleiades go down before midnight, first you have deduce where Sappho was located — geographically — when she wrote the poem (because this will determine what part of the sky she was looking at). Then you check the star charts from that vantage point, and figure out what time of the year the Pleiades would have been visible right until midnight.

That’s what the scientists did, in their fascinating paper “Seasonal Dating of Sappho’s ‘Midnight Poem’ Revisited”.

Read the analysis via the original article (worth the read!): Astronomers Crack The Secret of This Gorgeous Poem by Sappho

Posted in aerospace, astronomy, chemistry, physics

A NASA Engineer Turned Artist Whose Canvas Is a Huge Fish Tank | Design | WIRED

Have you ever been mesmerized by the swirling of the milk in your coffee (or is that just me pre-caffeinated)? Well, that phenomenon at least is interesting to one other person, Kim Keever.

Artist Kim Keever is like a hydroponic Jackson Pollock. Instead of a canvas, though, he drizzles paint into a 200-gallon fishtank.Keever is reticent to share the secrets of his process, but says that after the Sears Easy Living paints are added to the tank, he has anywhere from five to 20 minutes before the liquids diffuse, leaving 200-gallons of murky brown water in their wake. In the moments where the colors whirl and eddy, Keever shoots thousands of photos, choosing one or two before embarking on the five hour processes of emptying, cleaning, and refilling the tank so he can start anew. “They only need to hold up for that ephemeral moment, and then it doesn’t matter,” he says. “Whatever impermanence exists in the materials is irrelevant once the photo is captured.”Keever’s dabblings in acquatic abstract expressionism are a far cry from his rigid college days, where he studied engineering. During summers, he’d intern at NASA, where he worked on missile skin technology and jet nozzles. He had the grades and work ethic to thrive at the space agency and envisioned a career dedicated to improving booster engines, followed by a creative retirement filled with art making. Ultimately, he traded in his slide rule for a low-rent loft in the East Village of New York City.Keever began his art career in the New York City of the 1970s, surrounded by the weirdo glamor of Warhol’s Studio, the emerging art of subway graffiti, and the novel sounds of Grandmaster Flash and disco. He spent nearly two decades as a traditional painter and printmaker until he discovered the style and subject that would become his trademark in 1991.

more via A NASA Engineer Turned Artist Whose Canvas Is a Huge Fish Tank | Design | WIRED.

Posted in aerospace, astronomy, biology, communication and networking, education, electronic imaging and displays, museum, Optics

3D museums coming soon, says astrophysicist

Neil deGrasse Tyson siging a copy of his book ...
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson believes 3D museums aren't far off. Image via Wikipedia

Pointed out to me by friends at SPIE:

How would you like to walk among the stars without ever leaving Earth? Or cavort among the molecules, get close up to cells or rub shoulders with lions, tigers and bears?

Museumgoers of the future could do all this — possibly within five years — thanks to cutting-edge technology that offers visitors high-quality “3-D vision” without the usual cumbersome goggles.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium, believes such technology, which has the potential to turn an afternoon at the museum into a multisensory, memorable educational event, may be one of the hallmarks of such institutions as they move into 21st century.

Tyson, two-time appointee to presidential space commissions, author of nine books and, per People magazine, the sexiest living astrophysicist, will be keynote speaker at Wednesday’s session of the American Association of Museums convention at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

“They’ll be walking among the lions, and it’s not limited to lions. There will be stars and galaxies. They can walk among the stars. We can project the International Space Station on the dome … and they can go check it out, watch a 3-D space walk in progress.”

Posted in aerospace, astronomy, biology, communication and networking, electronic imaging and displays, engineering, medical imaging

$10 Million X-Prize for team who develops working Tricorder


I LOVE when Science Fiction becomes Science Fact! I was also a huge fan of Star Trek as a kid, so the idea that the Tricorder could become a reality is really exciting to me:

Wireless company Qualcomm has joined forces with the X-Prize Foundation to sponsor an X-Prize to create the first functional tricorder.

The tricorder, for the non-geek reader of ReadWriteWeb (is there such at thing?) is the handheld computer used by medical professionals and science officers to do non-invasive scanning on the Star Trek television shows. The prize will focus on the medical applications of this fictional device.

more via $10 Million Tricorder X-Prize.

Posted in astronomy, biology, chemistry, communication and networking, education, engineering, museum, physics

Suffrage, art and science – The Scientist

This was supposed to be coordinated with the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day (held March 19, 1911), so I’m a little behind, but hey, it’s still Women’s History Month!

A hundred years on, women are still underrepresented at the highest levels of science, despite there being equality in the numbers of PhDs and post-docs, at least in the life sciences. The Medical Research Council MRC has published a book, Suffrage Science, to celebrate the centenary and the achievements of women scientists. On Wednesday night March 9, as part of the books official launch, the MRC held a debate, entitled “Are Women Changing Science?” and reception at the Institute for Contemporary Arts in London. A panel of remarkable women discussed the role of women in science, the problems they have personally faced, and how, hopefully, attitudes might be changing.

After the debate, silver jewelry designed by Benita Gikaite and Anya Malhotra, first year students in Jewellery Design at Central Saint Martins College, was presented to UCL cognitive neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Davies, Collins and Parry.

While this even was meant mainly to raise awareness of women in science, it also underscored the importance of balancing all aspects of knowledge; art and science, male and female ways of thinking, theoretical and applied!

More via Suffrage, art and science – The Scientist – Magazine of the Life Sciences.

Posted in astronomy, communication and networking, electronic imaging and displays, museum

Learn about the cosmos while playing on your phone

American Museum of Natural History: Cosmic Discoveries App

This is a great example of combining technology, science education, and art into one engaging toy.

This App is actually very cool. It’s the American Museum of Natural History: Cosmic Discoveries. The App puts things into one of those mosiac images in which several tiny pictures create one huge image. You can zoom in by double-tapping or pinching, and read up on a ton of information.

Cosmic Discoveries was produced by the Museum’s Digital Media Department and curated by Dr. Michael Shara, a leading scientist and Curator in the Department of Astrophysics. It was developed in celebration of this exciting tradition of innovation and is the latest offering of the Museum’s expanding digital platform which enables public access to the Museum’s extensive resources in science, education, and exhibition—whether they are visiting on site or online. By anticipating the new ways that people access, learn, and share information today, the digital platform integrates the experience of visiting the Museum with a variety of mobile offerings that extend the Museum’s impact beyond its walls and put the wonder and excitement of discovery into the palm of one’s hand.

The design is great because it is artistically engaging, making the user want to explore and vicariously learn. It doesn’t feel like learning to the user, it just feels like a cool toy that they get cool factoids from.

It’s also free, so have a look at it here. Credit to for the discovery.

Posted in astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, physics

xkcd: Showdown

I’ve been deliberating posting a link to web comic XKCD. They’re raunchy, they talk about very grown-up subject matter, and they’re not very nice. But they’re ALWAYS bringing up math and science.

Of course today’s particular web comic has absolutely nothing to do with any of that.

xkcd: Showdown.


More via xkcd: Showdown. Most are not safe for work, but they’re stick figures, so maybe your boss will let it slide.