This is Our Future, Earth.

APOD: 2011 August 7 – MyCn18: An Hourglass Planetary Nebula.

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
the highest resolution version available.

Let’s get an exit strategy, OK?


The sands of time are running out for the central star of this hourglass-shaped planetary nebula. With its nuclear fuel exhausted, this brief, spectacular, closing phase of a Sun-like star’s life occurs as its outer layers are ejected – its core becoming a cooling, fading white dwarf.

Delicate rings of glowing gas (nitrogen-red, hydrogen-green, and oxygen-blue) outline the tenuous walls of the hourglass.

The unprecedented sharpness of the HST images has revealed surprising details of the nebula ejection process, helping resolve the outstanding mysteries of the complex shapes and symmetries of planetary nebulas.

Along with Supersonic Flight, Our Dreams Die…


The Zombie Apolcalypse is Coming! Beware!

“Zombie” Ants Bite at High Noon, Then Die.

A fungus-infected ant bites down on a leaf.

In a new study, researchers used microscopes to peer inside affected ants and see how the infection progresses. The team found that the growing fungus slowly fills the ant’s body and head, causing muscles to waste away and muscle fibers to spread apart.

It takes about three to nine days from initial infection for the ants to become completely zombified, the team found. At first, the infected ants go about their normal business, residing in their nests, interacting with other ants, and even feeding.

Read the whole article to be completely freaked. I have read stories like this – scary to find art on the way to becoming reality…

How Heavy is One Right Whale Testicle?

Depends what your Unit of Measurement is.

It could be:

147  Newborn Babies
5.5  Tom Cruises
10.0  Jennifer Anistons. So Tom Cruise is 1.9  Jennifer Anistons.

It’s even heavier than a whole polar bear! (1.15  Male Polar Bears).

And you would need a whole lot of crap (793,831  Average Bowel Movements),

Go here for more ways of measuring that you can swing a cat at. Or something.

Interesting Facts About Right Whales

Each male produces massive amounts of sperm in an attempt to dilute sperm already present in the female. To do this, the whales need the appropriate plumbing, which explains why one southern right whale testicle weighs in at over 500 kg (1,100 lbs), making the right whale the animal with the biggest testicles. At 1% of the whale’s total body weight, this size is very large even taking into account the size of the whale. Right whales can grow up to 18 m (60 feet) long and weigh up to 100 tons.

They are called “right whales” because whalers thought the whales were the “right” ones to hunt, as they float when killed and often swim within sight of the shore.

Beating the asymptote: The end of rinderpest

Goodbye,  Rinderpest. Hello, Healthy Cattle.

The news is the effective eradication of rinderpest, a viral disease of cattle. Rinderpest does not infect humans, and even in animals it barely occurs in the Americas (or Australia or New Zealand), though until recently it was common and devastating in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. So unless you are a large-animal veterinarian or a cattle farmer, the disease might never have been on your radar.

So why care that it is on the verge of being removed from the world? Because this marks the first time that a disease of animals has ever been eradicated — and only the second time that any disease has been eradicated at all. The first was smallpox. That was 30 years ago.

Since then, seven other human diseases have been targeted for eradication: Guinea worm (dranunculiasis), elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis), measles, mumps, rubella, cysticercosis, and above all polio. None of those eradication programs have yet reached their target. Polio has probably come closest, at the cost of billions of dollars and undoubted millions of hours of volunteer effort — yet each time the goal seems within reach, the disease roars back again.

Piffle to those who say Science does nothing. I remember listening to the news and hearing about Smallpox being no more. I was 25. I was full of optimism that we were going to build a better, safer, healthier world.
And what do we have instead? People who claim AIDS is cured by mega doses of vitamins, Gillian bloody McKeith and the rise of homeopathy. God help us.

Nikon’s Small World

Nikon Small World – Gallery – 1st Place, 2010 – Jonas King.

current image

1st Place, 2010

Jonas King

Vanderbilt University, Department of Biological  Sciences, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

Anopheles gambiae (mosquito) heart (100x)

Did you think, when you woke up this morning, you would see a mosquito heart? Actually, did you even think a mosquito had a heart, for that matter! Neither did I and yet, here it is.

Follow the link for more miracles of micro-photography, the winners and runners-up in Nikon’s Small World competition.

How to make a strawberry « The Tribal Scientist

Excellent post. The list is awesome and frighteningly long.

Next time somebody raises their eyes at the ingredients on a food packet and claims it looks like a chemistry lab, implying that is a good indication that the food must be worse for them than some other item, print out this page and hand it to them. Of course, being aware of the impact certain compounds have on our health is useful, regardless of whether you can pronounce it or not. But ‘long lists of big names and numbers, hyphens and greek letters’, as the strawberry shows, is not shorthand for unhealthy or toxic. By the same token, short lists and familiar words are no guarantee of being better for you.

via How to make a strawberry « The Tribal Scientist.

Dare I Go In…

to the Royal Observatory’s Oktoberfest,  Science Fiction London tie-in event? Well, if I want to see the preview showing of Gareth Edwards new film, Monsters, I shall have to!

“Six years after Earth has suffered an alien invasion, a cynical journalist agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through an infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the US border.”

Edit: And very good it was, too.

How to brew beer in a coffee maker, using only materials commonly found on a modestly sized oceanographic research vessel

Well, when you’re a long way from a pub, any beer will do!

Via Southern Fried Science


Beer brewing is the delicate and dedicated blending of art and science.  Finding the perfect balance of grains, hops, malt, adding just the right flavoring agents, boiling for exactly enough time to release the tannins, starches, humic acids from you wort, activating enzymes to break down those starches, forging the perfect mash from the ether of sobriety to give birth to that most glorious pint, these are skills that take a lifetime to master. Perfect beer is meticulously planned and carefully crafted.

Screw that.

You’re six days into a 2 month expedition, and if you were lucky enough to not be on a dry ship, it’s de facto dry by now anyway. You’re eying the ethanol stores, the crew is eying each other, and all hell will break loose if y’all don’t get some sweet water soon. This is no time for artistry.

This is not, as a rule, a terribly good beer (though, with a good brewmaster on board, it can be). This is a beer to pass the time and ease the pain of life at sea. I can guarantee that if you are careful, it will be at least as good as the cheapest commercial alternative.

Click through to read the rest of the article and discover how you, too, can brew beer with a coffee maker.


Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Completes First Manned Glide Flight


I just wish I could fulfil my life-long dream and see Earth from Space. Maybe this will bring the dream nearer…

The VSS Enterprise today reached a new milestone: completing a manned free flight from over 45,000 feet, then gliding down to land at Mojave Air and Spaceport, in California.

During its first flight the spaceship was piloted by Pete Siebold, assisted by Mike Alsbury as co-pilot. The two main goals of the flight were to carry out a clean release of the spaceship from its mothership and for the pilots to free fly and glide back and land at Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

More info here, at Virgin Galactic News.