Category: In other sciency news

In Other Science-y News:  We’re getting even closer to a universal translator!

I’ve been following this stuff and it is getting cooler and cooler.   Watch this video:

The Biggest Deal Nobody’s Talking About

Aye maaaan!

Hold up, so Voyager 1 has left the damn solar system and it’s not on the front page anywhere?  Y’all do realize what an achievement this is, right?  Voyager has now traveled farther than any man-made object to date.

Just so we are clear, this is a photo of Earth from Voyager 1 in 1990.  See that little blue dot in the brown band?  Yep, that’s us and everyone who has ever lived on Earth.  It’s been 23 years since that was taken.

Photo credit: NASA via Wikipedia.

There’s been controversy about whether Voyager 1 actually left for a year or so now, but it appears researchers are certain that Voyager 1 is now traipsing through the Milky Way.  It has actually gone where no man has gone before!

Remember V’ger, anyone else a little nervous?  Could you imagine Voyager 1 being intercepted and upfitted by a race of aliens and returning to us?  I’ll be long dead by the time that happens, but it is kinda cool to consider.  On the other end of the spectrum, a probe entering a black hole and becoming self-aware was a very similar story to the movie Event Horizon– the scariest movie ever made.  Let’s hope that sh*t doesn’t happen.

The V’ger entity and resultant merger with Ilia and Lt. Decker is supposed to be the beginning of the Borg, so, yeah, let’s hope all of that doesn’t happen.  In fact, let’s hope that the galaxy is filled with gentle, kind My Little Ponies or something.

In fact, maybe there is good reason for this not to be front page news after all…

Happy Friday everyone!

In other Science-y News: The Sun’s Magnetic Field Is About to Flip

No, the sun is not about to go DMX on you and lose its mind (up in here, up in here).  However, the sun’s magnetic field is about to flip, likely in the next few months.  The polarity flip takes place about ever 11 years, so, don’t worry, we aren’t going to die a fiery death.  There may be some more sunspot activity and potentially some telecommunications disruptions due to increased solar storms.  But, have no doubt, this is a big deal that will affect our entire solar system!

Check out more about the flip here

And, while we’re at it, here’s the clearest picture of a sunspot ever taken.  Pretty nifty, huh:

Credit: Big Bear Solar Laboratory/New Jersey Institute of Technology

In other Science-y News: Soylent, Stem Cell Burgers, and Nootropics. Oh My!

You may have seen or heard coverage this week about Google-supported research to develop meat grown from stem cells.  One of two people who was able to eat a burger cooked from the stem cell meat said that it was good, but lacked fat.  Now, any talk of artificially-grown meat makes our collective alarm bells go off because we all remember Charlton Heston yelling “Soylent Green is People!” in the eponymous 1973 film.  I am pretty confident that every third person who read or heard the story probably thought, “Hmm, how long before someone grows people burgers?”  I don’t think that fear is warranted, but I was definitely the third person in that case.  Slippery slope.  Would you eat a stem cell burger?  Tell the truth.   Truth-I might because I recognize that the demand for meat has all sorts of undesirable environmental consequences.  Probably no time soon, gotta wait and see if it turns anyone into the minion monster.

Which leads me to my next topic.  Why on earth would someone create a potentially revolutionary food (not meal) replacement drink and name it “Soylent”?

Beats me, but it’s working.  There is a growing movement of people who are trying to figure out how they can stay alive without eating actual food.  I’ve been trying to keep up on its development.  Apparently, Soylent is a blandly sweet concoction of everything the body needs to survive.  It can be prepared in advance and taken with you.  Right now the cost is still high and the ingredients can be hard to find, so it won’t be coming to a store near you soon.  That said, it could totally revolutionize the weight loss industry.  Liquid diets work, but they are typically missing nutrients and people end up losing hair, dying, etc.  The question for me is whether people will end up with gall bladder problems long term because fat is needed to cause the organ to contract.  That used to be a big problem with liquid diets in the ’80s.  Right now, the creator isn’t trying to lose weight, so he eats at his caloric maintenance and tweaks the formula when he starts to feel weak.  He also doesn’t advocate only drinking Soylent, he has a few regular meals with food when he feels like it.  Definitely keep an eye out for it.

Nootropics, I still don’t fully understand this topic.  Basically, people are trying to figure out how to lifehack their brains to squeeze out every ounce of cognitive computing power through nutritional or pharmaceutical supplementation.  Essentially, they want to be like the lead character in the movie Limitless.  Some of the ingredients have to be procured through grey markets, meaning overseas pharmacies and others are simply nutritional supplements like melatonin.  Many of you have taken 5-hour Energy to give yourself extra pep and sharpness, we may see something similar on the market soon for mental clarity and memory.  I haven’t tried any of them though the topic is definitely interesting.

I worry less about Soylent being people;  I don’t want us to end up like Morlocks.

What about you; are you up to try these?

Are we thiiiis close to a Universal Translator?

So, I think Google will probably become Skynet, but, until the machines become self-aware, I’m enjoying all its neat innovations. Especially, Google Translate. Hasn’t all of Trekdom been hoping for a universal translator? I’m currently learning Vietnamese for no other reason other than I want to be able to converse with people. When I don’t know a phrase, I just speak to my phone with the app open and, boom, it automatically translates it to spoken Vietnamese and shows the spelling! It does this for at least 50 languages. Every time I use it, I am amazed at how far the tech has come. You remember how thick translation dictionaries are? Now, it’s at your fingertips.  Maybe we can get Klingon added…..

Check it out in the Play store.

So much for the Transit of Venus…

Well, I came, I saw, but I did not conquer the Transit of Venus.  I don’t know if you can hear the disappointment in my typing, but imagine a sad puppy dog face while reading the next few lines.  I stood outside for 2 hours and finally gave up.  Went to my local science museum to see it through a gigantic telescope, but the clouds decided that wasn’t going to happen.  Honestly, the weather was pretty ominous all day, so it was mainly a chance to be around other geeks and nerds.

Success!  I spent 2 hours discussing telescopes and getting recommendations on one to buy. Once the fact that I was talking to other nerds was established, I told them about the blog and, suddenly, there were six of us talking non-stop. It was awesome, natch!

Venus was somewhere between the cloud on the left and behind the building.  Doesn’t that cloud look apocalyptic, like something is going to Independence Day-style fly out of it?


Veni, vidi, vi…not so much. Hear that? That’s God laughing at our plans.

It’s Venusians, Venerials if you’re nasty!

So, I don’t know from which angle to approach this post.  The important thing to know is that Venus is about to put on a show for us.  The second planet will be crossing in front of the sun for several hours in the afternoon.  This only happens once every 105 years, so not again until 2117.  I am feeling like a lot of once in a lifetime events are occurring in 2012, but that’s an apocalyptic post for another time.  This eclipse is called the Transit of Venus, which sounds like a Kama Sutra position and it probably is.  Okay, back on topic.  Astronomical phenomena always gets Captain Jackson a little geeked because it gets me thinking about what our ancestors might have thought the event signified.  Venus has historically represented love and relationships and word on the street is these eclipses coincide with significant scientific breakthroughs. has a pretty neat article about the significance of these transits.

Oh yeah, one of the proper names of people who live on Venus is Venerials, hehe.  I can’t possibly imagine why that didn’t catch on.

Start looking up around 6:00PM on Tuesday, but only if you have the proper solar viewing equipment.  Yes, apparently, it is true that you can damage your eyes by staring at the sun.¹ Don’t do it, please, don’t do it. Drake.

If you check back on Tuesday, and I think you should, here’s some theme music.  I had to post this because dude looks like a full on Star Trek TOS villain.