Sidewall skiing

CAPTION: Saudi youths demonstrate a stunt known as “sidewall skiing” (driving on two wheels) in the northern city of Hail, in Saudi Arabia. Performing stunts is a popular hobby amongst Saudi youths. Mohamed Al Hwaity/Reuters

I don’t really even know what is is I want to say about this photo, but it made me think a lot about Saudi culture.

Here’s another shot of sidewall skiing.

Hind’s Crimson Star

On one of my favorite blogs – the Earth Science Picture of the Day – has this photo today of Hind’s Crimson Star, discovered in 1845 by  John Russell Hind. Photographer Greg Parker (with links by blog host Jim Foster of NASA) explains:

The image above features Hind’s Crimson Star, a well-known carbon star in the constellation of Lepus. Carbon stars have stellar atmospheres that contain more carbon than oxygen. Hind’s star is too dim to see with the unaided eye except from very dark locations. It lies southwest of Rigel, the bright white star that represents Orion’s left knee. From my location in southern England, Hind’s star is pretty low in the sky. In fact, in order to view it from my observatory, I have to wait for it to move into the gap between two sets of trees on my southern horizon.

Hind’s Crimson Star is a variable type star. It fluctuates in brightness between an apparent magnitude of about +5.5 to +11.7 — with a period on the order of 418–441 days. Note the blue stars in close proximity to the red carbon star. Oddly, there always seems to be at least one bright blue star near a carbon star. Image taken on January 20, 2013 and processed by Noel Carboni in Florida.

Click to see it big as the sky. If you want to happy up your inbox, I would strongly suggest signing up for the EPOD email or twitter!

 

People, Hell and Angels

While looking for a photo to go with this great concert video of Jimi Hendrix I wanted to share, I synchonistically discovered that Jimi apparently has a “new” album that you can listen to right now: People, Hell and Angels.

Reuters explains that the songs on People, Hell and Angels were to be the follow-up to Electric Ladyland:

“After the huge success of the (Jimi Hendrix) Experience and those first albums, he wanted to branch out more, and the blues sound on this is just different from the others,” said Janie Hendrix, Jimi’s step-sister and president and CEO of Experience Hendrix, the company founded by the musician’s father to oversee the star’s estate.

…Feeling constrained by the limitations of the Jimi Hendrix Experience trio (which included drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding), the guitarist had already started working with an eclectic group of musicians.

They included the Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills, drummer Buddy Miles, saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood and bassist Billy Cox, with whom Hendrix had served in the U.S. military.

The resulting sessions, culled from 1968 and 1969, form the basis of “People, Hell and Angels,” co-produced by Janie Hendrix, original engineer and mixer Eddie Kramer and long-time Hendrix historian John McDermott.

Click to listen to the album – it’s a genuine treat. The photo is by Brian T. Colvil and (speaking of treats) here’s the FIFTY-SIX AND-A-HALF MINUTE video of Jimi Hendrix live in Stockholm, 1969.

Meanwhile, in the cosmic shooting gallery…

From Asteroid Apocalypse at the Daily Beast:

The city of Chelyabinsk in Russia bore the brunt of the celestial fireworks. A piece of rock, about 50 feet across and weighing more than 7,000 tons, came crashing to Earth. Traveling at a blinding speed of over 40,000 miles per hour, it created a sonic boom and shock wave that shattered windows across the city: 1,200 people were injured, mainly by the flying pieces of glass, and 52 were hospitalized, 2 of them in serious condition. Chelyabinsk, once known as one of the most polluted places in the world due to its storage of nuclear waste, will now be known as “meteor city.”

The asteroid packed a huge punch, the power of 20 Hiroshima bombs. It was a “city buster,” capable of flattening a modern metropolis and reducing it to rubble. It was a miracle that the asteroid exploded roughly 10 to 15 miles above ground: had there been a ground burst, it would have caused tens of thousands of casualties. If that asteroid had hit just a few seconds later, it would have created a tragedy on Earth.

…Lurking in space are asteroids even bigger than the city busters—to wit, “nation busters” big enough to destroy Germany or England. The most dangerous one is called Apophis, which is 1,000 feet across and will come dangerously close to Earth in 2029 and again in 2036. The most recent calculations show that Apophis will barely miss Earth in 2029, but will actually graze our atmosphere. But because of the uncertainty of its path as it whizzes past, there is a small possibility that its orbit may be perturbed so it might actually hit Earth in 2036. NASA scientists are reasonably confident it will still miss Earth in 2036, but the head of the Russian space agency takes the threat of a collision seriously, stating that we have to prepare for the worst. If Apophis hits Earth, it would have the force of approximately 20,000 Hiroshima bombs.

Read on for more about this frightening subject that is also one of the most compelling arguments for a strong space program that I know of.

Steve Jurvetson took this shot at the massive Meteor Crater in Arizona. Click that link for info from NASA and check out Hiking to the bottom of Meteor Crater for more shots from Steve’s journey! His Quarries, Mines & Holes slideshow is really cool too!

Just looked at Meteor Crater and wondered how big it was. Wikipedia says that Meteor Crater aka Barringer Crater got its names from the nearby town Meteor and Daniel Barringer. From there I wandered off to read about Barringer’s actions in the early 20th century and the list of the world’s largest impact craters (this one’s just a little guy!) and the curiously tiny impact craters of the United States.

Guns, etc.

Rolling Stone columnist Matt Taibbi is hands down my favorite pundit out there right now. In his latest column, Republicans Have Their Worst Week Ever, he writes that watching the GOP over the past week has been like watching the Three Stooges try to perform a liver transplant on roller skates.

Consider: Conservative action group Political Media launches Gun Appreciation Day and got 50 million people (which is a not insignificant 1.6%) to sign a whereas-packed petition that concludes with the money shot of:

Therefore, We the Undersigned petition the United States Government to cease and desist all efforts to disarm or short-arm the American people by limiting and disparaging the Second Amendment or rendering it a dead letter through federal legislation, interpretation and regulation.

I don’t even know what the means legally, except that maybe if you try to short arm them you’ll end up in the dead letter office.

But even before their excellent idea gets out of the gate, it stalls out, as obnoxious reporters check the list of “Gun Appreciation Day” sponsors and find that the “American Third Position,” a group that purports to represent the “unique political interests of White Americans,” is one of the event’s sponsors.

So now, Political Media has not only decided to hold its Gun Appreciation Event on a holiday meant to celebrate the life of a black leader who was a symbol of nonviolent protest and who was killed by a white man with a gun, it’s done so with the financial help of some yahoo white supremacist group. But this doesn’t derail the whole thing, as it’s of course just an innocent mistake. Political Media kicks “Third Position” out and appropriately issues a statement, saying, “We have removed the group and reiterate this event is not about racial politics, it is about gun politics.”

So far, so good, right? Well, then they go and actually hold their “Gun Appreciation Day” rallies all over the country, on Martin Luther King Day. And what happens? Five people get accidentally shot!

Definitely read on for more examples of Herculean idiocy including the suggestion that the film Django Unchained makes the argument for gun rights because there wouldn’t have been slavery if slaves had gun rights. Brilliant!

Here’s Matt on Totally Biased w Kamau Bell. A great interview on a great show, and I extra-heartily encourage you to watch Matt Taibbi & Chrystia Freeland on Bill Moyers show that explores income inequality, which is at its greatest in recorded history right now. Come on, watch it.

Kevin Dooley provided the photo and the title of this post, Guns, etc. Kevin is a wonderful photographer who shares his photos via Creative Commons, about which he writes (in part):

If you don’t care about making money from your images (at least at this stage of your life) but want them broadly seen, then you have to label your photos as Creative Commons and get on the open source photography bandwagon.

See it bigger and see more in his Valley of the Sun slideshow.

Habitable Exoplanets

NASA’s Kepler Mission is a spacecraft observatory that scans a single large area of the sky in the constellations Cygnus and Lyra. It simultaneously measure variations in the brightness of over 100,000 stars every half hour, searching for the half hour to half a day “winks” in light output that happen when a planet transits, aka passes in front of its star. Transits are only seen when the star’s planetary system is nearly perfectly aligned with our line of sight. For a planet in an Earth-size orbit, the chance of it being aligned to produce a transit is less than 1%, and the change in light akin to the dimming of a flea crawling across a car’s headlight and viewed from several miles away. Check the videos for more of an idea of how this observatory works.

It was named in honor of Johannes Kepler, who described the motions of planets about the Sun in a precisely predictable manner. Since its launch in 2009, Kepler has confirmed over 2000 planets. If you’d like to try your hand at sifting through the Kepler data, check out planethunters.org. Also check out the Kepler Mission on Facebook, where I learned that William Borucki, science principal investigator for the Kepler mission, received the National Academy of Sciences 2013 Henry Draper Medal for founding concept and visionary leadership of the project.

Image via the Planetary Habitability Library, who have a really cool collection of projects related to extra-solar life. Image Credit: The ‘X-mas Planets’ is a collage of computer generated images of habitable worlds by the Planetary Habitability Laboratory (PHL) over an image of a section of the De Mairan’s Nebula (Messier 43) taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Earth is at the top right. This image was done to celebrate the first year of the PHL’s Habitable Exoplanets CatalogCredit: PHL @ UPR Arecibo (phl.upr.edu), ESA/Hubble, NASA.

 

Instawhoops

WIRED relates that Instagram has decided to remove a controversial piece of their new terms of service (TOS) announced yesterday:

Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.

You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.

This did not sit well with, well, anyone. The internet went nuts as users and the media railed against the new ad-centric, privacy-crushing policy. Some went so far as to delete their accounts and move to other photo-sharing services. Instagram reacted Tuesday afternoon with a blog post clarifying its position and promising to amend the offending section of the TOS.

“It was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation,” company co-founder Kevin Systrom wrote in the post. “This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing.”

Yeah. You can read on to see what Instagram “meant” to say and also see what the NYT adds. Definitely check out Forbes’ take on Flickr reaping rewards from the snafu.

I use Instagram (yes, those are my photos) and post all of my photos on Flickr with a Creative Commons license, so I’m probably more comfortable than most with my photos being used for purposes other that being my photos. I can’t help but believe that Facebook (who owns Instagram) was testing the waters to see what’s possible without risking their core brand.

I would be shocked if Facebook didn’t come out with similar policies in the years to come. I don’t know what I’d do, but I certainly agree with Peter Shankman’s advice about posting things to social media sites.