If you’ve ever seen the Matrix (and honestly, who among you hasn’t?), you’ve likely marveled at the special effects, particularly when the Wachowskis appear to stop time during some of the fighting sequences. Mark Rober, who used to be a Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer for NASA, figured out how to “stop time” using a ceiling fan, a couple of flashlights, and a camera. And while that setup worked pretty well, Rober thought he could do better. He recreated the effect with high-end equipment — namely, a Phantom camera. You can compare the results for yourself below — the first video shows the first setup, while the second shows the new setup with the high-tech camera.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is the gift that keeps on giving. The photos it provides us of Saturn, the most picturesque planet around, continue to dazzle, particularly the recent big one. Cassini completed its first four-year mission back in 2008 and is now on the Cassini Solstice Mission, which will allow the spacecraft to examine Saturn during its other season. When Cassini first arrived, it was winter in the north and summer in the south, so Cassini’s sticking around to see what the seasonal reversals bring. Maybe summer in the north is the bomb, yo. Which it seems to be. Check it out.
Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto is braving the wilds of Reddit today, participating in an AMA — “Ask Me Anything” — on the popular site beginning at 1 pm Eastern. If you’re interesting in picking the actor’s brain, you can hit up the main AMA page for the link at the appropriate time. Given how divisive the Abrams Trek movies are, I’m sure at least one question will just be “YOU SUCK?” Even if you’re a hater, be kind, folks. If you’re hoping to contribute in a more productive way, here are some upcoming projects Quinto is attached to, in addition to, you know, that whole Star Trek 3 thing.
- Untitled George Gershwin project – First announced back in 2010, Quinto would be in the lead role as the legendary composer for director Steven Spielberg. It’s been a while since there’s been any news, plus it’s a Spielberg project and that guy stays busy.
- Lucid – He’s executive producing this project, based on a graphic novel by Michael McMillian. “A secret agent uses his skills as a covert spy and Combat Mage to defend the world from evil forces, using magic if necessary.” Can’t go wrong with a good Combat Mage.
- Imperial Palace – A romantic movie set in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Imperial Palace has Quinto attached as producer. It tells “the story of a man who manages a casino used as the headquarters for relief efforts and is caught up in a love triangle with his ex-girlfriend and another man.”
- He’s starring in The Girl Who Invented Kissing alongside Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones), Adelaide Clemens (The Great Gatsby, and Stephen Graham (This Is England). The romance is about “two brothers whose lives are upended when they both fall for a mysterious young woman who drifts into their small town.”
Given how many candidate planets Kepler has identified, and the recently announced estimate that billions of habitable planets may exist in the Milky Way alone, scientists are understandably excited about the prospect of finding alien life. They’re so excited, in fact, that they made a plea to Congress this week to embark on the next phase of searching for life.
Sara Seager, MIT’s exoplanet expert who came up with her own equation to express the probability of finding extra-terrestrial life, spoke at the “Astrobiology: The Search for Biosignatures in our Solar System and Beyond” hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and argued that while we have some technology capable of detecting candidate planets and other life forms, we need more. “This is the first time in human history we have the technological reach to find life on other planets,” she said. “People will look back at us as the ones who found Earth-like worlds.” NASA’s head of astrobiology seconded that, saying that humans finally have the means to gather data about other life forms in the universe, which means it’s incumbent upon us to do so.
When money is tight, creative solutions make all the difference. NASA, no stranger to funding woes, has made the brilliant tactical decision to essentially crowdsource work that once upon a time it might have done itself, or work that otherwise might not have happened. One example is the Lunar Plant Growth Habitat team, which hopes to grow plants on the moon. Another is the ELaNa IV (Educational Launch of Nanosatellite) mission and the cubesat Launch Initiative, which involved over 300 students. Nine teams from universities and one high school team got to launch their work — nanosatellites, otherwise known as cubesats — into the cosmos.
Cubesat launch initiative started in 2010 and has since chosen over 90 cubesats from universities and colleges, as well as government labs; the upcoming launch will be the fourth. The cubesats hitch a ride up on commercial rockets, and they’re tiny — about four inches long with a weight of less than three pounds. While researching for their projects, students get to learn all kinds of awesome stuff and often snag aerospace experts as mentors. On November 19, the cubesats launched on an Orbital Science Minotaur-1 rocket. Everything went well, and that rocket brought up 29 satellites in total — a record for a single rocket. We’re making satellites like crazy, y’all!
Alison Wilgus writes about space and space exploration over at Tor.com, but she’s also got some serious chops when it comes to visual storytelling. This past summer she got the chance to visit NASA and watch one of its launches. Specifically, she was a guest of the program and got witness a launch for the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System, through which all those astronaut tweets and blog posts that made Chris Hadfield a social media star were routed. The TDRSS also funnels data from the Hubble and other satellites, video from the ISS, and so on — as Wilgus puts it, “Basically anything in Earth’s orbit that’s transmitting information is tied to the TDRSS.”