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November 10, 2010

How would space look if you were there?


Blake Gopnik's October 3, 2010 Washington Post review of "Beyond: Visions of Our Solar System," an exhibition of "... 146 amazing photographs of planets, their moons and the sun" at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, got me thinking that it's been a while since I've visited.

Time to pencil in a trip to D.C.

Above and below, selections from the show, which will remain up through May 2, 2011.

Spectacular slide show featuring images from the show here.

Excerpts from Gopnik's review:



The sun is 93 million miles away, and the temperature at its surface is 10,000 degrees.

Saturn is 777 million miles from us, and the tops of its clouds are at an icy 285 degrees below zero.

Mars is much closer and friendlier: only 49 million miles away, and averaging a hospitable minus 80 degrees.

What would it mean to get a firsthand look at objects so nearly unreachable, so unwelcoming, so unfathomably strange? That was the question that stayed with me as I viewed the 146 amazing photographs of planets, their moons and the sun in "Beyond: Visions of Our Solar System," an exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.


The oldest saw about art is that it "makes absent things present." But what should we make of images that bring planets within reach? A picture of a dog lets us know what it would feel like to be within sight of it. But being brought "within sight" of Jupiter's moons demands a suspension of disbelief at a whole different level. The stunning images in "Beyond" do an amazing job of showing us worlds we've never seen and never will see. That makes them feel more like fiction, even poetry, than fact.

They are, however, almost entirely factual. Michael Benson, the New York-based writer, photographer and filmmaker who is behind this show, gathered its images from databases at NASA and elsewhere, sorting through tens of thousands of pictures to find the most striking ones.

Benson, working with the imaging specialist Paul Geissler, took the optical information offered by the scientific photos and translated it into pictures of the planets as they might appear to the naked eye.


To get an eye-filling, seamless image of Jupiter and its moon Europa, Benson stitched together 60 photos. He did the same for his image of a Martian dust storm, and for his panoramas of the Martian surface seen from inside a crater.

Overall, however, Benson's goal was to pull accurate information, then assemble it into a fairly traditional realism. There are aesthetic choices involved, as there are any time a photographer decides which lens to use and when to snap the shutter, "but it's not as though I'm taking a urinal and calling it 'Fountain,' " Benson says. His goal was to end up with pictures that show what things might really look like to a human floating by the rings of Saturn or striding across Mars.

And that, once again, is where my mind starts to tumble: I can't quite imagine that person careering through space, 777 million miles from home, and enjoying the sights. Space flight might someday permit it, and Benson's photos may indeed predict what that person would see. But there's still a gap I feel between the sights those photos show and any state of affairs my terrestrial brain can believe in.



The images above, from the top down: Dual crescent view of Neptune and its moon Triton; Jupiter and its Great Red Spot, a cyclonic storm system that has been raging for hundreds of years; An 86-mile-high volcanic plume exploding above the horizon of Jupiter's moon Io; Uranus and its rings, which were discovered in 1977; An erupting prominence on the Sun.

November 10, 2010 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Back to the future: ELP Laser Turntable


James Grahame's Retro Thing post:


Twenty years after the introduction of the original, ELP has released a new needleless record player. It features a champagne-gold aluminum case and weighs a hefty 23 kg.

The back panel features RCA and XLR analog outputs, while 5 lasers lurk under the hood. Why five? Well, two are used for groove tracking, another two read the left and right stereo sound and the final beam measures the distance between the laser head and the record surface to handle warped discs.You can set the turntable speed in 0.1 RPM increments for LPs and 45s, with 0.2 RPM increments when playing 78s.

The signal path is fully analog; there's no digitization, so what you hear is exactly what's picked up by the laser pickup. And therein lies the problem — this process is extremely sensitive to dust. It doesn't have the benefit of a mechanical needle to snowplow debris out of the track, so you'll hear every single pop, click and thump if you don't dilligently clean your discs before each play.

Oh, and there's the small matter of price. The LT-2XNP will retail for $19,100 when it's released in March 2011.


[via Richard Kashdan]

November 10, 2010 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

STOP PRESS: Fanboy (and Fangirl) Alert!


Just 34 minutes ago (1:27 p.m. today) I happened on Paul Biba's tweet (above).

Style me happy as it's possible to be.

Because in true drink the Kool-Aid — why, I've wondered forever, isn't is spelled "Kool-ade? — fashion I just know that my life will be miraculously transformed once I download iOS 4.2 to my iPad.

Birds will tweet (the ones that are still around and haven't headed south), Prince will sing, I will do the macarena

on my treadmill and Gray Cat will roll around in the leaves with delight.

For starters.

Only two days to go.


Paul's the recipient of a positive halo effect as a result of his giving me this great news.

Everyone who follows his Twitter and reads TeleRead — the nexus of ebooks and related topics — will find their world a happier place.

Just ask his daughter Erin.

You say she's not unbiased?

Go away.

If you're not 100% satisfied after following Paul and/or reading TeleRead, let me know and I'll cheerfully refund every red cent you paid.


I know it's hard to believe but Paul's not paying me.

Which is something I need to discuss with him in the near future....

November 10, 2010 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Last bit o' jam bottle scraper


From the latest edition of Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools, edited by Oliver Hulland, this review by Debora Dekok:


I first used this bottle scraper twenty years ago when boarding with a family in the Netherlands. At the time, Dutch pudding came in glass jars similar to traditional milk bottles and this spatula was the only way to get out the last drop. Since then, I have thought wistfully about that bottle scraper every time I have tried to get gooey foods (think sauces or peanut butter) out of a bottle or jar.

Unlike most spatulas, the long handle reaches the bottom of long bottles. The small silicone head bends to enter small openings, then pops open inside. The curved head makes a snug fit against a bottle's interior walls, making it easy to pull the contents out.

On a recent trip to The Netherlands, I made sure to purchase one for my home kitchen. Online, it can be purchased at Fante's Kitchen Ware Shop.


14.3"-long flexible plastic handle, 1.8" x 1" scraper head.

$2.79 (scroll down to near the bottom of the page).

November 10, 2010 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Speech Accent Archive — "Talk to the ear"

Anyone ever tell you that you talk funny?

"Everyone who speaks a language, speaks it with an accent."

Yes, even you.

[via yogahz]

November 10, 2010 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

21st-Century Rubber Ducky (and Duckling)

Floating-ducks-1 v

What's old is new again.

"The duckling nestles neatly into the mother duck's back and they float — and when placed on a flat surface rock — as one."

$15 CAD (click on "Play").

Crowdsourcing reveals "ducky" is preferred 3-to-1 over "duckie."

You could look it up.

November 10, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Credit Default Swaps Explained — Part 2 of 2

Part 1 appeared here yesterday.

How did these videos do, from your perspective, in terms of explaining these so-called "financial weapons of mass destruction?"

November 10, 2010 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Clown Nose Containers


By Tomas Kral who describes them as


"a series of objects inspired by the red clown nose."


"The cork cover is connected to the ceramic container with colored elastic."


[via M-Dashing and Abby Kellett/Gretelhome]

November 10, 2010 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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