The Most Astounding Fact: Neil deGrasse Tyson
Astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson was asked by a reader of TIME magazine, “What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the Universe?” His answer is humbling and inspiring. It captures the essence of what science teaches us about being human.
See his response in this video, We Are Star-stuff:
By Essy May
My pitch for Hollywood: Close Encounters II: Space Jaws: Some aliens capture a shark and accidentally drop it in their spaceship energy reservoir, turning the fish into a giant, intelligent, radioactive predator with anti gravitational powers. The flying shark escapes and multiplies the attacks against skydivers, planes and space stations. Oceanologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and alien experts Elliott (Henry Thomas) and Roy Neary (returned on Earth without aging, so we must find a younger actor for the role, Patrick Wilson?) team together to hunt the monster. Tagline: “We need a bigger spaceship”. Director: Steven Spielberg and music by John Williams.
Afro-Cuban musician Ramón “Mongo” Santamaría died in Miami ten years ago today.
Ramón “Mongo” Santamaría (1917-2003) was a rumba quinto master and an Afro-Cuban Latin jazz percussionist. He is most famous for being the composer of the jazz standard “Afro Blue” [featured above], recorded by John Coltrane among others. In 1950 he moved to New York where he played with Perez Prado, Tito Puente, Cal Tjader, Fania All Stars, etc. He was an integral figure in the fusion of Afro-Cuban rhythms with R&B and soul, paving the way for the boogaloo era of the late 1960s. His 1963 hit rendition of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.
Mongo Santamaría was one of a handful of Cuban congueros (“conga players”) who came to the United States in the 1940s and ’50s. Other notable congueros who came to the U.S. during that time include Armando Peraza, Chano Pozo, Francisco Aguabella, Julito Collazo, Carlos Vidal Bolado and Modesto Durán. Many consider Santamaría to have been the greatest conga drummer of the twentieth century. (x)
A stunning high res photo of Saturn’s Moon Enceladus
The Next Big Physics Machines Are Neutrino Detectors
Now that the Large Hadron Collider has apparently found the Higgs Boson, a sort of malaise set over some of the scientists behind the project. What do you do next with a 17-mile underground ring? And will there be a successor—an even larger collider of hadrons?
Fear not, lovers of big physics machines. While we await that answer, multiple new mega-projects are coming in the form of sprawling neutrino detectors, according to neutrino scientists who spoke at this weekend’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston. China’s building them, Japan is vying for an even larger one that it already has, and the U.S.’s Fermilab, outside Chicago, hopes to start firing neutrinos toward a detector 800 miles away near Mount Rushmore.
Neutrinos are the second smallest known particle (six orders of magnitude smaller than an electron!). The sun creates them. Supernovas create them. The Earth gives off its own. Physicists are fond of reminding people that billions of these ghostly particles pass through your body all the time. But therein lies the problem: Neutrinos interact with ordinary matter so little that they are impossible to detect directly. That is why you need such big machines. To detect neutrinos, physicists frequently have used a big tank of water (or mass of ice) with a batch of photomultipliers. Most neutrinos pass right through the water without interacting with anything, but every now and then one strikes the nucleus of an atom. The particle that’s then released travels faster than light (within the water medium, where the speed of light is slightly slower than normal—this is now the process doesn’t violate the laws of physics.) It creates what’s called Cherenkov radiation, which is how scientists know a neutrino came through. They can also start to figure out its energy level and the direction it came from.
A Groundbreaking Experiment: What is the Shape of an Electron?
“Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real” (Niels Bohr). This seemingly paradoxical statement is actually one of the cornerstones of quantum physics— encompassing everything from the Copenhagen interpretation to wave-particle duality in one ground-breaking sentence. But if we really think about the distinction that this statement is making between objects on the macro and microscopic level, it does leave the mind slightly puzzled as to what everything on the quantum scale would really look like if we could see it as we see macroscopic objects….
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