Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

X-ray camera for lightning

In Read on March 15, 2011 at 7:24 am

Scientists have known for a while that lightning emits radiation but they haven’t known how, or from where.  To study the phenomenon researchers in Florida built an x-ray camera capable of taking ten million images per second:

Making a camera capable of taking such quick images was an achievement in and of itself, Dwyer emphasized.

“You can’t just go buy a camera and point it at lightning,” he said. “We had to make it.”

Because lightning moves blindingly fast, the camera was required to take ten million images per second.

One challenge in taking such fast pictures is storing the data. To do so, the x-ray detector had to take pictures at a relatively low resolution of 30 pixels, which produced images on a crude, hexagonal grid.

Lightning tower.  Photo courtesty Dustin Hill.

Lightning tower. Photo courtesty Dustin Hill.

Turns out almost all of the radiation is in the tip of the bolt.

Edible giant ants

In Read, View on March 14, 2011 at 7:16 am

Ants are great, but this is gross:

Nutty Bacon-like Taste!
Nutty Bacon-like Taste!

Giant Toasted Leafcutter Ants hold two secrets. One, they are very high in protein and low in saturated fat. Two, they have a very unique taste. And C, they are commonly called (by those in the know): “hormigas culonas.” That roughly translates into “big ass ants” – so named for the size of their abdomen, but also appropriate for today’s slang. Giant Toasted Leafcutter Ants – get ’em now, while the gettin’ is good.

Via:  The Presurfer

Space shuttle launch from above

In Watch on March 10, 2011 at 7:19 am

Neil Monday is a software developer who was on a commercial flight out of Orlando National Airport on February 24th.  His window seat afforded him a spectacular view of the Space Shuttle Discovery’s final launch:

The video really gives you a sense of the power.  A parabolic path for a projectile seems so natural (Angry Birds!), but the shuttle just keeps going up.

Also, the shuttle coming up out of the cloud cover looks an awful lot like the Delta 2 rocket that we looked at last summer.

Via:  The Atlantic, via Cosmic Log

Skateboarder with no legs

In Watch on March 9, 2011 at 7:21 am

Italo Romano is a skateboarder without any legs:

Amazing.  The shirt comes off at 4:19.  Dude is ripped.

Via:  GOOD

Screens under a microscope update

In Read, View on March 8, 2011 at 7:03 am

Last August, Keith Peters took a look at the Kindle and iPad screens under a microscope.  I’m only getting to it now, but a month later when the Kindle 3 came out he gave it the same treatment:


Kindle 2.  Photo by Keith Peters.
Kindle 2. Photo by Keith Peters.
Kindle 3.  Photo by Keith Peters.
Kindle 3. Photo by Keith Peters.

“Pretty easy to see that the K3 is darker and crisper. But to the naked eye, I feel the effect is even more stunning. The screensaver photos themselves are rendered beautifully. I’d still like some new ones, but even as bored as I am with the, the first few times I saw them, I had to stare a while.”

My friend Ryan loves his Kindle, but he found a drawback on a recent plane flight:

“sir please turn off your book for take off.” Never thought I’d hear that. The only downside of a Kindle.

Ants as ecosystem engineers

In Read on March 7, 2011 at 7:25 am

Just a reminder that every day is Monday for an ant.  Work, work, work.  No weekends.

Today’s EDIMA post harkens back to our first ant post, which looked at the ways ants play surprising roles in the larger world around them.

Research at the University of Exeter has begun to describe how ants act as ecosystem engineers:

Through moving of soil by nest building activity and by collecting food they affect the level of nutrients in the soil. This can indirectly impact the local populations of many animal groups, from decomposers such as Collembola, to species much higher up the food chain.

UPDATE:  This just in from my photographer:

Ant farm. Week 2.

Ant farm. Week 2.


Complicated mechanisms explained

In Watch on March 6, 2011 at 9:53 pm

The World of Technology blog has a post from last August called “Complicated Mechanisms Explained in simple animations.”  Pretty self-explanatory:

Maltese Cross Mechanism, used in clocks to power the second hand movement.

Maltese Cross Mechanism, used in clocks to power the second hand movement.

Also excellent in the post are the animations of a manual transmission mechanism and the constant velocity joint.

San Francisco Bay clouds

In Watch on March 1, 2011 at 9:56 pm

A gorgeous time-lapse video of clouds around the San Francisco Bay area:

1:36 looks like waves lapping at a shoreline.  Creator Simon Christen appropriately calls it “The Unseen Sea.”

Via: The Atlantic

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