Thursday, July 28, 2011

home is where the nerdy art is

One of the nicer aspects of moving is getting to make your mark on a new space. Now that I've finally started thinking seriously about in-home design for my new pad, I'm realizing how tough my decor decision-making is going to be. I've got a ways to go yet, but I thought I'd share some fun sciencey/geeky stuff I've come across recently:

Endless Forms Most Strange
Alexander Ross is one of my favorite contemporary artists. His works recall fantastically detailed biological films and cellular structures at once beautiful and weird. I adore the glossy, green Play-Doh-like appearance of his paintings and can only hope that someday I'll be able to place one of his unique pieces in my home. For now I'm happy to know that he's just published a new collection via the David Nolan Gallery in New York.

On the Origin of Species... Down to the Letter
Whether you choose the single finch or the evolving primate set, nothing says "I love science" quite like Darwin's entire manifesto printed out line for line on your living room wall. Posters by Spineless Classics.

See the Solar System
Physics professor and graphic designer Tyler Nordgren created a lovely poster series for the National Parks Service stressing clear skies perfect for stargazing. Last year he also drummed up some fantastic prints depicting travel scenes from around the solar system, including these two gems from Saturn's moon Enceladus and Jupiter's moon Io.

Stop and Feed the Robotic Lions
What can I say? This Voltron print by Scott C., titled "Super Hungry," is super cute.

Cheat Sheet
Last, but certainly not least, is this clever Mac shortcuts print by birdAve on Etsy. Who says wall art can't also be useful?

Monday, July 25, 2011

those were the days

This is the very first email I ever received, exactly 17 years ago today [high res]. It was the summer of '94 and I had been interested in finding out about Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which was smacking quite visibly into Jupiter at the time. [See how easy that was? This was before links to Wikipedia, kids.]

I was still a high school student, attending classes at Brown for the summer, when I sent the initial email from what was then an awe-inspiring computer lab. Ah, to secure a spot in the sea of black-and-green monitors at the CIT... Anyway, Peter Ford over at MIT kindly sent me some websites to check out (I hardly had any idea what a website even was back then) and pointed me in the direction of Brown's stellar planetary geosciences department. As fate would have it, I ended up taking a super planetary geo course with Pete Schultz, who's mentioned in the email, as an undergrad several years later.

Things to point out in the actual message: It took two pages to print! And gosh the headers were intense back then. This was before we were introduced to Eudora, which Brown used for I don't know how long...through the end of '99 at least. Anyway, I happen to have printed this puppy out and was surprised to find it this week in a stack of stuff I thought I'd long tossed away. Makes me wanna start yammering about trudging five miles to class in the snow, etc. etc.

Friday, July 22, 2011

saying goodbye, times two

“The end of an era.” It's a phrase that's been uttered countless times these past two weeks, as the country and the world waited with anticipation for the last chapter of NASA’s storied space shuttle program to come to a close. Having trekked to Cape Canaveral to witness Atlantis’s final two launches in person—and having known only one American spaceflight program in my lifetime—I certainly joined in the fanfare. Yet those five little words had not one but two melancholy meanings for me this week in particular, as I counted down to an ending of my own: I officially left New York City after a dozen remarkable years and headed off into a whole new cosmos. In many ways, I’m incredibly hopeful for both the future of human spaceflight and for my days ahead in a new city. But I find myself this week stuck in the gloaming, that transition time between day and night, with bittersweet emotions all over, often in places where I'd least expected them. So, here’s where I raise a glass—let's make that two. To the space shuttle, and to Gotham: You will both always be in my heart. &infin

Photo credits: Top - NASA; Bottom - pixbymaia

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

up up and away

last one by shlomi yoav (shlomi_y) on
last one by shlomi yoav

And so it is time for me to bid adieu to the space shuttle. The very last mission is set to begin this week with the launch of the Atlantis orbiter from the Kennedy Space Center on the Florida coast. This particular launch is a gift from the American people, whose representatives voted last year to tack on one last go before the entire shuttle fleet is permanently grounded and the orbiters put on their pedestals for future generations to ooh and ahh at. Yet those same politicians are also now looking to drastically defund NASA in what amounts to a serious rethinking of whether or not America has a real future in space. Will the U.S. forever take a back seat to the Russians or Chinese or anyone else in our quest to land humans on Mars? It could very well happen. In the U.S. we certainly like to talk the talk when it comes to being innovators, in space development and otherwise, but so often in the past decades, walking the walk has proven to be another story altogether.

Millions of words will be spoken, penned, blogged, and microblogged about this final countdown, so I won't clog the fiber optic cables with too many thoughts on this bittersweet occasion. But I will say that in the end I choose to believe that the American people will keep outer space in mind when they fill out their ballots of the future. And how, you ask, will we do this in the face of economic uncertainty, declining political will and an ever-straining space budget? By reaching out to each other. In the past couple of years I've met, virtually and in real life, more folks than I'd ever known existed who consider space exploration—both robotic and human-based—one of the most important endeavors humanity can undertake. And these folks have passion. If we can group together, to share our excitement with those unaware of what our space program actually does, to get our representatives to think beyond the next election and out toward the stars, to teach our little ones about what they might one day discover beyond our blue planet, we'll have a force to be reckoned with when it comes to our future in the cosmos.

A friend of mine is still hoping to be an astronaut someday. Despite NASA's uncertain future, he and others like him are keeping the dream alive by continuing to do what astronauts and all scientists do: constantly asking questions. What a stupendous waste it will be if we let this collective bundle of energy and human spirit go for naught.

And with that, I'll leave you with this brilliant 45-minute visual feast of the space shuttle on its way off the pad. I dare you not to marvel as you sit and watch, agog and wide-eyed, at the ingenuity it took to make this peculiar bird fly up, up, and away. &infin