Pale Blue Dot

This three-minute speech – Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” – was the finale to the original Cosmos series, and stands in my mind as one of the most moving short speeches I’ve ever heard. Voyager 2’s last glimpse back at the earth as it became the first human craft to exit our solar system provided the backdrop and the inspiration for Sagan’s soliloquy. Seeing it in 1980 marked a dawning of cosmic awareness for me as a young teen.

Tonight we watched the finale of Neil de Grasse Tyson’s “Cosmos” reboot. Tastefully, the series finished with Sagan’s original Pale Blue Dot audio, set to new (and far more gorgeous) visuals.

Every week for 13 weeks we’ve gotten together with another family and hung on every word, absorbed as much as we could, and tried to help our children appreciate as much as possible of these incredible perspectives on life, the universe and everything.

It is impossible to summarize the hugeness of the undertaking in producing the new Cosmos, or of the impact it has had on us. It has truly been the TV event of the decade for us, and I hope the seeds it has planted will continue to grow in Miles’ heart for the rest of his life.

Silver Balls

Accidental team effort: A while ago, we ordered a set of super-magnetic BuckyBalls from ThinkGeek. Miles soon discovered he could stick them to the nails in our wooden floor, and stack them up in delicate little towers. Amy, with her amazing eye for detail, saw something beautiful in the scene and started taking pictures – close up, and with a very short depth of field. She accidentally left the camera’s light temperature sensor set to Tungsten, which caused this gorgeous bluish cast.


Remembering that ThinkGeek has a section attached to each product in their catalog for “Customer Action Shots,” I submitted the image alongside their BuckyBalls product entry. Next day, amazed to discover we had won this month’s user submission prize!

I’m totally in love with Amy’s shot — and with Amy. And with Miles.

Happy New Year everyone. Love to all.

Collider VR

&tQuicktime VR at its finest: The Atlas target at the Large Hadron Collider, CERN, near Geneva.

When I see stuff like this, I always wonder why Quicktime VR never really took off. Examples of it aren’t unheard of, but given that it’s relatively easy to create QTVR files, I’d expect to see these things everywhere. Instead, Apple’s QTVR creation software became the only OS 9 software the company never ported to OS X. I’ve heard this is mainly because stitching software now comes bundled with most digital cameras, so there was little market left for it. But if every digital camera comes with stitching software, why isn’t QTVR ubiquitous?

via David Rowland

The Great Turtle Race

For the past 100 million years, 6-foot long leatherback turtles have been crawling onto a beach in Costa Rica to lay their eggs, then sprinting back to their feeding grounds in The Galapagos to re-fill their bellies. But 90 percent of the leatherbacks have disappeared in recent decades, victims of human pressures. The turtles’ epic history may only have 10 years left – they’re on their way out.

This year, researchers attached satellite transponders to the turtles’ shells as they laid their eggs, and were able to track routes back to The Galapagos. The resulting wealth of GPS data means their race home can be plotted, full of educational opportunities. The trip will be re-played as a 14-day journey starting tomorrow. Amy, Miles, and I have all picked a turtle to cheer on, and will be watching the trip for the next two weeks.

At first I bristled to see the names of corporate sponsors attached to the animals, but that was a knee-jerk reaction. Corporations are exactly the entities that should be chipping in to raise awareness and change the world. Away we go.

The site is being produced by J-School multimedia journalism instructor Jane Stevens.

Music: Tom Waits :: Earth Died Screaming

Tears in Zero G

After the space shuttle Columbia burned up in the atmosphere, all media was focused on the loss. We barely heard about the three astronauts stranded on the International Space Station, who not only lost seven close friends in the disaster, but also their ride home.

… without gravity, your tears don’t fall, so these great shimmering pools of water filled his eyes and he’d have to knock them away and his tears are all around him in the weightlessness … and then immediately thereafter they begin to realize, “Well, I guess we’ve lost our ride home.”

Facing the prospect of spending two years aboard the station, they ultimately went home aboard a 40-year-old Russian Soyuz pod, which was strapped to the outside of the ISS like a lifeboat. After a harrowing voyage in which rockets misfired by half a second, throwing them hundreds of miles off course, they landed in the deep tundra of Kazhakstan (home of Borat!). Presumed dead and lost by the rest of humanity, they had hours to meditate and rejoice in the green grass of planet earth before being discovered.

The fascinating story is told by Christopher Jones, NASA’s Director for Solar System Exploration, to Moira Gunn for Tech Nation. The bit about levitating tears is about 10’30” in.

Music: Momus :: Mai Noda

Planet Earth

Discovery’s Planet Earth series is so beautiful, I think it make my head a-splode. Just speechless. One second of footage of an orca striking a seal, blown out in time on high-speed cam to 47 seconds, like nothing you’ve ever seen. Birds of Paradise dancing so surreal they can’t be from this planet. Hyenas tracking impalas with a group intelligence like ESP. Throw away everything you thought you knew about nature programming. This raises the bar so high…

Music: Moondog :: No. 19 – Maybe