Sunday Thing - miniature Mars Science Laboratory edition

posted in Links by Cargo Cult on Sunday August 12 2012

Previously, details of landings on alien planets were left to the imagination.

The barest minimum of links this week, thanks to an extended trip to Canada - so, here goes. Want updates on NASA and JPL's daring Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover on Mars? Try the Planetary Society's extensive blogs, complete with gloriously excessive detail and insider information. Need raw imagery for stitching into fancy new panoramas and the like? Look at the Raw Image Library on the MSL site. Would rather see pre-constructed panoramas and other enthusiast-produced visualisations? The Unmanned Spaceflight forums definitely win at that.

One of my Intended Career Paths in the distant past was to become some kind of planetary scientist, exploring the surfaces of our nearby planets. Unlike distant stars or exoplanets, we have the ability to get up close - while walking on the surface of, say, Mars is perhaps many decades away, that doesn't stop us from poking remotely controlled cameras wherever we like, be it Venus, Mars or even Titan...

Canadian Science

posted in Photography by Cargo Cult on Saturday August 11 2012

Expect some jumbo-sized uploads to Flickr quite imminently, but I've recently found myself unexpectedly exploring multiple Canadian research establishments with a camera.

Your intrepid correspondent has braved ionising radiation (dosage in the order of consuming three bananas), strong magnetic fields and radio-quiet valleys in order to bring you these glimpses of SCIENCE in Canada.

Edit 2012-08-24: Now on Flickr, the TRIUMF cyclotron and the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory. Enjoy!

Canadian radio telescopes are PUNY AND INSIGNIFICANT compared with the mighty Jodrell Bank. Cyclotrons are not to be confused with velodromes. They've yet to discover intelligent life south of the 49th parallel. They're waiting for you, Gordon. In the test chamber.

In other astrophysical news, pioneering radio astronomer, hero of the Space Race and arboriculturalist, Sir Bernard Lovell, has died aged 98. Of note: I once pointed a radio telescope at the radio telescope.

Sunday Things - emergency Mars edition

posted in Links by Cargo Cult on Sunday August 5 2012

Following a vast journey across unfathomable emptiness, a lone explorer shall survey the empty, potentially lifeless wastes of ... Canada?

In case they don't have the intertubes in Canadaland, here's an EMERGENCY SUNDAY THINGS, prepped and launched some time prior to Sunday, its eventual arrival now fully automated.

MRO can transmit data to Earth at up to 6Mb/s. THAT'S FOUR TIMES BETTER THAN ADSL IN RURAL DERBYSHIRE.
Grand Canyon of Gale Crater - part of a grand selection of HiRISE images around Gale Crater, landing site of the Mars Science Laboratory rover, a.k.a. Curiosity. When's it landing? Today! Or tomorrow, if you're east of the central USA.

Looking for a good place for up-to-the-minute news, discussion and occasional insider information? Try the Unmanned Spaceflight forums. Go Curiosity!

This is not the rover you are looking for?

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Sunday Things - non-Olympic edition

posted in Links by Cargo Cult on Sunday July 29 2012

The Sunday Things series continues its unstoppable march with a miscellaneous batch of non-Olympian links this week:

I'm sure Walter Bishop is somehow to blame.

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Mirror Wall - a mirror that responds to passers-by with shimmering vibrations, as if reality itself is starting to distort and decay. I had a vaguely similar hallucination looking into a mirror as a child, while off my face on antibiotics - another singularly bad trip at that time involved the entire universe collapsing around me, compressing my consciousness into a painfully tiny void. MY BRAIN SCARES ME. via

The computing choice of all discerning time-travellers.
IBM 5100 Portable Computer - weighing in at a feather-light 25kg, this 1970s monster was both IBM's first microcomputer and first portable computer. Plus the insides look gorgeous. Image from Wikipedia, link via.

It's not even a jetpack and we still don't have them in this future. :-(

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1960s Hover Scooter - like an oversized Flymo, the plummy voiceover and pilot's impeccable suit and tie really shows up our 21st century as being COMPLETELY RUBBISH. via

Includes that vague sense of unease that forms late on a Sunday afternoon.
Sir, You Are Being Hunted - tweedpunk robots roaming a procedurally generated English countryside. There's been a distinct lack of directly game-related links here. THE HORROR.

Bonus Soviet Radioactivity corner:

Sunday Things - MORE SPAAAAAACE edition

posted in Links by Cargo Cult on Sunday July 22 2012

First of all, let's get the particularly SPAAAACE-oriented link out of the way:

Spheres that insist on going into space are inferior to spheres that don't.
Wheatley in Spaaaaaaace! - laser-etched Wheatley on a panel being carried by the Japanese HTV-3 supply craft. Disclosure: I worked on Portal 2. INSERT MONEY HERE BWUHAHAHAHA.

Now on with the merely space-oriented linkage:

Mir in haitch-dee!

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IMAX: Mission to Mir - the other evening I was looking for decent imagery of the inside of the sadly departed Russian Mir space station. After sifting through fuzzy, low-resolution contemporary JPEGs and MPEGs I found the mother-lode - a 1990s IMAX documentary uploaded to YouTube in glorious 1080p. Extra: Soviet space-fungus!

Not a sarlacc pit. (I hate Star Trek.)
A Hole in Mars - caves on the moon and Mars utterly fascinate me. The idea of human-navigable spaces untouched for perhaps billions of years - I really really really want to see inside. via unofficial APOD RSS feed

Significantly cleaner and more spacious than the real thing.
Making of Moon - the film, that is. Fascinating blog from the film's visual designer, who thanks to the implausibly low budget and limited resources was involved with everything even remotely visual. Splendid results - beware spoilers. via laura

Bonus Peculiar Cartography corner:

  • Strange Maps - "all kinds of intriguing maps - real, fictional, and what-if ones". (By the way, I love maps. Scattered around my flat: a huge nautical chart for the San Juan Islands, a geological map for where I grew up in the coal-mining East Midlands, 1950s geological maps and plans for mineral mines from Central America (a box filled with the things courtesy of Powell's Books!), an old walker's map of the Lake District, large-scale maps of Brussels, etc. etc. etc. - then I make fictitious ones in my day-job. Nice.) via isoma
  • Baarle-Nassau - ridiculously complicated border between Belgium and the Netherlands. There's a bit of the Netherlands surrounded by Belgium surrounded by the Netherlands...
  • Geological Investigation of the Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River, Part IV - I think I'm going to be printing out these maps...