"The Philae has landed!" Excitement over the Rosetta mission has been building for weeks, with tons of explanatory blog posts on what the lander is meant to find, helpful historical timelines, and an Astronaut Simulating the Comet Landing while on board the Space Station. At long last, the wait is over: European Space Agency’s Philae Spacecraft made an historic touchdown on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko this week. The next day, it news broke that Rosetta's Philae Lander Is In Trouble. The probe is sending back data, but scientists aren’t sure where it landed or how long it’ll survive. Rosetta's little lander bounced a kilometer back into space before settling. Now it could run out of batteries.
But oh, the glorious photos it is sending back in the meantime! Photos make the space rock look small. It's actually enormous. Here's How Philae's Comet Compares to the Statue of Liberty and Eiffel Tower. Related: How Philae's Comet Compares To An Imperial Star Destroyer. Despite all this ocular proof of the successful landing, Alien "Cover-Up" Conspiracy Theories are already starting to Emerge. There are allegations that 67P is not a comet but alien object kept secret by NASA and European Space Agency. Yeah, right. Also: Apparently 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is singing a mysterious "song" into space. And now you can Pilot Rosetta at Home to Land on a Comet and Study It With NASA's Comet Quest Game.
So: the Rosetta Mission is a True Space Odyssey. Here’s what it means, and what we’ll learn and why the Mission is Such a Big Deal. The comet 67P is a relic from the solar system’s birth: studying it will offer insight into Earth’s beginnings – and could avert future collisions.
For a peek inside mission control during the landing, check out this Nail-Biting, Funny, Frenetic Account in which planetary scientist Monica Grady shared her experience from inside the control room. Related: For Rosetta Mission's Scientists, the Thrill is in the Comet Chase. "Claudia Alexander has spent the last 15 years of her life waiting for this moment: landing a spacecraft the size of a washing machine on the surface of a speeding comet."
Philae and Rosetta "live-tweeted" their separation, breaking a few Internet hearts in the process. But xkcd pretty much won the internet this week by live-cartooning the comet landing. See the collection here.
In the midst of the excitement, though, was a disappointment: one of the head ESA Scientists decided to wear a Shirt Covered in Gratuitous Sexy Chicks For the Livestream of this momentous landing, prompting numerous distressed tweets. If you're among those who can't see what the big deal is, here's Alice Bell in the Guardian eloquently explaining why women in science are annoyed at the scientist's clothing. Another blogger declared, "Science took a huge step forward today, and, thanks to one dumb fashion choice, one step back." And at the Washington Post, Rachel Feltman observed, "No one is saying that Taylor isn't a good scientist, or that he should be dragged through the mud for his miss-hap. But when these things happen, we need to talk about them -- and the men involved need to listen." Others helpfully offered alternative colorful and quirky shirts to wear for when you've just landed a spacecraft on a comet -- and even some comet-inspired jewelry, if you're so inclined. And on Friday, Rosetta Scientist Matt Taylor Apologized for his poor choice of shirt. Yay!
So much for comets. On the shameless self-promotion front, I have a new article up at Quanta on how Multiverse Collisions May Dot the Sky: Early in cosmic history, our universe may have bumped into another — a primordial clash that could have left traces in the Big Bang’s afterglow. (It's the second of a two-part series on the multiverse; here is Part 1 by Peter Byrne and Natalie Wolchover.) I also wrote a two-part post for NOVA's physics blog: There’s More Than One Way To Hunt For Gravitational Waves (Part 1 and Part 2). This week on Virtually Speaking Science, I chatted with Glen Whitman and Jim Dow about economic recovery after the zombie apocalypse, analyzing vampire investment strategies, illuminating the market forces that affect vampire-human romances. If you missed this fascinating conversation, it's archived here on Blog Talk Radio. And Jen-Luc Piquant highly recommends the collection of essays Whitman and Dow edited, Economics of the Undead: Zombies, Vampires, and the Dismal Science.
Time’s End Will Be the End of Endings. Or, when physics mirrors Doctor Who. Could time end? Yes. And no. Recent work in physics suggests a resolution to the paradox.
'Twisted light' beamed across Vienna. Portraits of Boltzmann, Schroedinger and Mozart were transmitted with an error rate of only 1.7%.
What does a journey through a wormhole actually look like? "As Interstellar physics guru, Kip Thorne, admits in his recently published book, The Science of Interstellar, the wormhole interior is an 'interpretation informed by simulations with my equations, but altered significantly to add artistic freshness.' Nevertheless he believes the visuals 'capture the spirit of a real wormhole trip' and are 'fresh and compelling.'"
Ancient pigments, modern mystery: When Chinese workers searching for water found the famous Terracotta Warriors instead, they brought to light a scientific mystery.
The Fluid Dynamics of “The Starry Night”: How Vincent Van Gogh’s Masterpiece Explains the Scientific Mysteries of Movement and Light. Related: A Solar-Powered Glow-in-the-dark Bike Path by Studio Roosegaarde Inspired by Van Gogh.
Einstein Among the Daffodils: A science historian and English professor discuss how physics and poetry mix.
Tapping into the science of the beer volcano: Researchers reveal why a party trick makes your brew floweth over.
Through the Theoretical Glass: Patrick Charbonneau views all of science as just a way to study his beloved glass and explore how a super-cooled liquid becomes so sluggish as to become solid.
Could plasma-surfing electrons star in future particle accelerators?
Pixar Explains How Animators Use Math to Make Movie Magic:
Shifting Universal Constants Could Reveal Space's Hidden Dimensions. Do inner workings of nature change with time?
Slip-Sliding Away: Two Massachusetts teams develop slick coatings to keep ketchup, other items from sticking to surfaces.
Gluhwein and Gravity Waves: Halloween, Bonfire Night and why a strangely damaged cup makes Jon Butterworth think of General Relativity.
SciShow Explains the Science Behind the 2014 Nobel Prize Winners in Physics, Chemistry, and Medicine.
The underappreciated value of boring truths, with nifty plausibility/excitement graph. "If you’d break this down by research area you’d also find that the more boring the truth, the more people work on nonsense. Wouldn’t you too? And that’s why there is so much exciting nonsense in quantum gravity phenomenology - because the truth is boring indeed."
A Woman with the Key to the Secrets of the Universe, or why new CERN director Fabiola Gianotti is Teh Awesome. "Gianotti initially decided to study philosophy at university because it asked big questions, but in the end changed to physics because it was more likely to produce answers. This combination of artistic and scientific influences has left her with three passions in life: music, cooking and physics. “All three follow very precise rules,” she says. “Musical harmony is based on physical principles while in cooking, ingredients must be weighed out with precision. At the same time, you have to be able to invent because if one follows the same recipe all the time, you never create anything new.”
Hedy Lamarr, born 100 years ago this week, helped invent the tech behind the wireless internet.
Shaking the Topological Cocktail of Success. Take ultracold potassium atoms, place a honeycomb lattice of laser beams on top of them and shake everything in a circular motion: this recipe enabled ETH researchers to implement an idea for a new class of materials first proposed in 1988 in their laboratory.
Trying to really understand what it means for a star to be 17 light years away can be hard. Newspapers can help. …
Science Explains Why No One Can Lift Thor's Hammer.
The Lost Einstein Film: “The Basic Principles of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity” premiered at the Frankfurt Trade Fair on April 2, 1922.
'Interview With a Time Traveler', A Short Film Exploring the Burden of Traveling Through Time.
The Dawn of Nuclear Weapons Goes Viral: photos of the Manhattan Project, declassified.
Light-Based Computers Could Be Here Within 10 Years.
What is the Shape of a Proton? It's kinda like a bagel.
Wishing Doesn’t Make It So: What happens when science fiction runs into the cold, hard wall that is scientific reality?
Intangible Data in Physical Form. "Mathematical theorems, the physics of an object moving through space, and intangible scientific data are visualized three-dimensionally and made into works of art in these 12 sculptures and installations."
The November Revolution: The discovery of the J/psi particle and the birth of the Standard Model. 40 years ago today, two different research groups announced discovery of the same new particle and redefined how physicists view the universe.
"It's just a theory." Is a scientific theory no different to the theory that Elvis is still alive?
Shakespeare's Secrets: Is there a hidden cipher in literature's greatest works?
Bioacoustics: When Fish Shout. "Clownfish chirp and pop by gnashing their teeth together. Oyster toadfish hum and blare like foghorns by quickly contracting muscles attached to their swim bladders. Croaking gourami make their signature noise by snapping the tendons of their pectoral fins."
"Irrationality was born in a pentagram. A star." The Noisy Ratios That Keep Math Wild.
Convictions overturned in L'Aquila trial, seismologists acquitted, more details shortly. Italian seismologists acquitted. Background here.
The Physics and Non-physics of Catching a Baseball.
A Tiny But Complex 3D-Printed Take on the Rubik’s Cube With 49 Squares on Each Side.
Fukushima radiation nears California coast, judged harmless.
17th-century paintings of Saturn by German astronomer-artist Maria Clara Eimmart, pioneering woman in science.
Here’s how to build a low-cost groundwater detection system, and the geophysics of how it works.
This Carl Sagan chatbot can't solve your problems but it's fun.
How Cellophane "Fortune Teller Fish" Work. (Spoiler alert: the fish can't read your mind.) Related: The Skeptic's Horoscope."Today your lucky numbers are indistinguishable from your unlucky ones. Sorry about that."
Mark Twain Predicts the Internet in 1898: Read His Sci-Fi Crime Story, “From The 'London Times' in 1904.”
Listen to the Harmonic Hum of a Glacier in the Swiss Alps.
Cocktail Craftsmen Add a Dash of Science to the Mix. Pouring the perfect cocktail can be a serious business, with modern mixologists employing techniques that are more commonly found in a laboratory than behind a bar. Related: Japanese Distillery Demonstrates the Fiery Process of Charring a Whisky Aging Barrel. Also: Cocktail Calculus Chart: The Inner Workings Of Recipes. Understanding the interplay of acid, sugar, and alcohol gives essential insight into how a cocktail is structured.
Move over, Punkin' Chunkin'! John Oliver Somehow Improves the Already Awesome Salmon Cannon: