Tag Archives: science

Robots are awesome, right up until the nigh-inevitable robot revolution wherein they destroy and/or enslave all of humanity forcing a scrappy group of rebels to rise up in defiance for all mankind. But until then? Totally awesome.

So awesome, in fact, that the University of Pennsylvania has an entire department dedicated to the idea of making increasingly more awesome robots. It’s called the GRASP Lab, or General Robotics Automation, Sensing, And Perception Laboratory, and Fast Company drops by to interview the teachers and students, and avoid asking the obvious questions like “Why are you enabling the end of the world as we know it? and “But seriously, how fucking sweet is your life until then?”

Unfortunately their embed code seems to be a little off so until we get that sorted out, I highly recommend you check it out on their site. If/when we get that fixed, we’ll update the post to embed the video.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Professor Brian Cox, think of him as a modern, British Carl Sagan. Like Dr. Sagan, he’s also a bit of a rockstar in his home country, and known for his particular approach to science shows on the BBC. Hence the parody music video above, which begins as a tribute before moving into the realms of good natured mockery and surrealism in record time.

Also, he rides a unicorn.

“We’re reaching into the fabric of the Universe at a level we’ve never done before” – Prof Joe Incandela

You may or may not be aware, but earlier today, CERN made what’s known as “A really big announcement.” After 45 years of experiments, CERN scientists have validated the existence of the Higgs boson – the elementary particle theorized to explain how matter achieves mass – with 99.9998% certainty. This is without question one of the most important scientific discoveries of the past decade, as the Higgs boson plugs a major hole in the Standard Model of particle physics.

We here at HSA are pretty on-the-record that we think science is awesome, and to celebrate this momentous occasion we’ve tracked down an incredibly entertaining video that explains what the Higgs boson is, what CERN has to do to validate its theorized existence, and why it’s so important to our understanding of how the universe operates.

When people look at it, it looks crazy. That’s a very natural thing. Sometimes when we look at it, it looks crazy.

Thus begins NASA’s video about the challenges of dropping a lander on Mars. Trust me: you have no idea how complicated, terrifying, and amazingly awesome this mission is – and this is just the landing! This is NASA’s “Seven Minutes of Terror” where the entire mission lives or dies based on the most ambitious planetary landing in the history of human space exploration, and lucky for you – it’s all detailed here.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the people I slot into my “top 5” when thinking about the list of people I most admire on the planet. He’s not as well known as most of the rest of the pop culture landscape, but that’s because he’s not pop; he’s a scientist of the same ilk as Carl Sagan and Richard P. Feynman. He’s a byproduct of decades of curiosity on a universal scale, and his thoughts, dreams, and desires in many ways reflect the very best that the human race has to offer. Were I young enough to idolize, Neil deGrasse Tyson would be atop the list beating out Optimus Prime, Jeremy Clarkson, and John Hammond from Jurassic Park. As it stands, I’m old enough that my idolatry has been replaced by respect, and outside of my immediate family I’d be hard-pressed to single out any person I respect more.

This is Neil deGrasse Tyson’s modest proposal: That as a country and as a people, we were never as good as when we were actively exploring the cosmos; that we can see the results of that exploration and universal curiosity on the planet as a whole and on the progress of human civilization; that never before – and never since – has there been such a drastic and dramatic shift in the viewpoint and progress of civilization away from tribal warfare and towards a united understanding of the human population. Yet, all of that was done with so little – and over time, even less than that. In light of the results, and in light of the costs, Neil deGrasse Tyson is asking the United States to double the budget of Nasa from .4% of the total budget to 1% of the total budget.

Given the current state of economics and politics it’s a difficult argument to make right now, but he makes it so succinctly and so well that it’s almost impossible to argue how much we will gain as a country, as a people, and as a planet. If you’re interested in reading and knowing more, I’d recommend visiting and taking a look at some of the other videos. If nothing else, you’ll have a better understanding of the passion that comes from looking out into the universe and seeing yourself in the reflection.

I’m sort of fascinated by how physics acts on the very large and very small scales (ask a physicist sometime why 90% of your body is actually empty space, then try not to have an existential crisis.) Up until fairly recently, our observational techniques were limited to real time and anything beyond was left to either guesswork or imagination. It’s only very, very recently that the kind of equipment needed to perform these observations was available to the average layman.

Thus we have the above: a water droplet entering a still pool shot from a Phantom camera at what appears to be about 2000 frames per second. I can almost guarantee that you’re going to be surprised by what you see.

If you’re gonna ask a question like the above title, with the scientific and sociological implications therein, you want to make sure you’re getting the right person to answer it. Your cousin Bob, for instance – maybe not the right guy. A theoretical physicist from CUNY and best-selling author who co-founded string theory? Yeah, that’s the guy.

Meet Michio Kaku. He’s smarter than anyone you hang out with and has obviously put some thought into this issue before. More importantly, he’s able to communicate his ideas in a way that makes sense to the average layman/non-theoretical-physicist. I hesitate to give any of his answer away, but suffice to say it’s fascinating how he’s categorized human civilization and utilized fictional civilizations in order to draw distinctions that make scientific and pop-sci sense.

Should you find yourself wanting more, I’ve got good news: this video is one of a series from where he covers everything from “Talking to Dogs” to “Why Cryogenics is Bogus” to “How to Program A Quantum Computer.” Needless to say, I’ve got my day week cut out for me.

…more specifically, the Pentatonic Scale. I hesitate to give any more away for fear of robbing you of some really amazing moments, so I’ll instead deviate from form and just copy the Youtube description:

Musical artist Bobby McFerrin directs his audience in a demonstration of the power of the pentatonic scale at the event “Notes Neurons: In Search of the Common Chorus” from the 2009 World Science Festival.

I’ve heard Mars missions described as “hitting a bullseye on a target 100 Million miles away, with a 200 million dollar bullet.” Last Saturday, one of the most complicated scientific machines ever created began its journey to the red planet. If all goes according to plan, the Mars Science Laboratory, and its payload of the Curiosity Rover, will land within a 12 square mile target on August 5th, 2012 to begin searching for whether Mars could support life – either in the distant past or even perhaps the near future.

This is an artist’s rendition of how the MSL will land on Mars, as well as some of the highlights of the journey. If you ever wanted to see just how complicated it was to fire that 200 Million dollar bullet, this is a good place to start.

I say it all the time, but science is awesome!