Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Workout - Splosion

A little over two weeks ago, I shared my plans for workouts leading up until a couple days ago. We're now in the process of repeating those 14 days of workouts (making some changes along the way to keep things fun, of course). We're now back to a workout that I named "Splosion". I took a couple exercise ideas for pushups and squats that I found somewhere online (I forget where) and added in some single-arm kettlebell clean and presses. We've enjoyed the workout so much that I figured I'd share it here. Check it out below:


3 RFT (rounds-for-time)

- 20 pushups, 10 second plank, 4 clap/plyo pushups

- 20 squats, 10 second hold in mid-squat position, 4 jump squats

- 34 single-arm KB C&P (17 per arm, alternating)

This workout is lots of fun. It's short and sweet but still hits some major muscle groups (it made us sweat pretty good as well). The combination of static holds before explosive movements as well as the round finishing move of the KB clean and press makes the workout a bit more challenging than it sounds, but it's still accessible to pretty much anyone with a decent level of fitness. Definitely get in a good warm-up before you do the workout. 

If you want to try Splosion but don't have clap pushups yet, then try a plyo pushup (push to the top of the pushup position quickly and let your fingers leave the ground a little bit). Also, a dumbbell could easily be used in place of a kettlebell for the C&Ps.

Three rounds of these exercises will definitely get you sweaty. We're in the 11 to 12 minute range right now, but are looking to take that down to 8-10 minutes. If you try this workout, let me know and tell me your time!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Young Einstein (1988)

Albert Einstein: Dad, I want to be a physicist.
Mr. Einstein: What do they grow, son?
Albert Einstein: They don't grow anything.
Mr. Einstein: Well what's the use of them then?

In 1988, a then little-known Australian man who had his name changed to Yahoo Serious came to short-lived fame globally due to the release of a film he wrote, directed, and starred in. That film was Young Einstein and it remains my favorite film to this day. 

Young Einstein is an imagined myth of the life of Albert Einstein, but, in this tale, Einstein is a young Tasmanian apple farmer's son who discovers the theory of relativity while figuring out how to split a "Tasmanian beer atom" (to put bubbles into beer, ya know) and who falls in love with Marie Curie (in the end saving Curie and many others from gruesome deaths due to a massive atomic bomb, which Einstein has to defuse by playing roll-and-rock music). Okay, I know that sounds like a bit much. Maybe you'd dig the trailer for the film. Check it out:

Okay, so it's an older film now and the trailer doesn't really do it justice. The film is definitely visually stunning for the time when it was produced. The overall story isn't going to drive anyone to tears or impact your life greatly (unless you see it as a child and think that Albert Einstein was really a Tasmanian who split beer atoms - as has been the case for some people). However, the wittiness of the film and the awesome 80s rock score will certainly keep any of us who are past our tweens amused. You should definitely check out Young Einstein. It won't be the worst 1.5 hours of your life. Maybe drink while you watch it, though.

I personally love Young Einstein. It's the first film that I fully remember seeing. I was 5 years old when it came out. My parents took me to the theater to see it. I went home that night and tried to build a guitar (which didn't pan out, but later my mom helped me build a shoebox guitar which actually worked a bit). Young Einstein impacted me as a young person as it helped me to wonder about how we can re-imagine the lives of great scientists and inventors while having some fun along the way. It helped me to formulate my earliest stories. I still watch it at least once a year. Surely due to the nostalgia, but also because it's a really fun movie.
I'll close with this, the dedication to the real Albert Einstein that is offered at the very end of the film, just before the credits roll:

Young Einstein is dedicated to a genius, a rebel, a pacifist, an eccentric with a clowning sense of humour who once remarked about his own theories:

"...I never thought that others would take 
them so much more seriously than I did." 

Albert Einstein 1879-1955

Monday, December 28, 2015

Climb the Mountain

Climb the Mountain, by sunrise666 at Deviant Art

“Climb the mountain 
not to plant your flag, 
but to embrace the challenge, 
enjoy the air and behold the view. 
Climb it so you can see the world, 
not so the world can see you.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

"Dune - Leto II, Transformation" - artwork by Andrew Ryan

Here's a piece of beautiful artwork by Andrew Ryan (username AndrewRyanArt at Deviant Art). This illustration shows the transformation of Leto Atreides II, the son of Paul Atreides and the God Emperor of Dune within the Dune Universe. In this fictional world, Leto II transforms from prescient human to sandworm. Ryan's artwork showing part of this transformation is a bit different than what I figured when reading the original novels (I saw the change more as a mottling of the skin in scales than in whisps that look like tribal tattoos). Nonetheless, this is still a beautiful piece of Dune artwork.

"Historians exercise great power, and some of them know it.
They recreate the 
past, changing it to fit their own interpretations. Thus, they change the future as well."

      -Leto II, His Voice, from Dar-es-Balat (Frank Herbert)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Star Wars a cappella by Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, and some "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" cast members!

Star Wars a capella, from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
Certainly, most of us from all of geekdom are super stoked for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (I can see 8 year old me playing with Legos I had cut and shaped to resemble Star Wars characters, playing Star Wars nintendo games, and dreaming of what more might come from the Star Wars Universe). Well, as if we didn't need another reason to get excited about this film, Jimmy Fallon and The Roots brought some of the cast members of the upcoming film onto The Tonight Show and put together this awesome a capella Star Wars medley. It's going to be an awesome weekend!

May the force be with you, always.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Two Weeks of Fun Workouts

50 pullups - strict
100 pushups – hand release
Run 5 K
+ Thrusters

The Warrior

20/10/4 of:
squats – squat hold – jump squats
pushups – second plank – clap pushups
then 34 single-arm KB C&Ps
Core + 100 dips


Core + 100 KB Swings
PAP Upper
PAP Lower
Deadlift +
5RFT - 5-10-15-20

I don't normally share my workouts routines online, but I like the current plan I have for the next two weeks. You can see that plan above. It mixes together a Crossfit Hero workout called Severin with some of my own bodyweight workouts (like the one I call "Splosion", which mixes an approach to squats and pushups that I found online with some kettlebell clean and press moves) as well as some of the workouts that can be found in the Beachbody collection. If you're interested, here's a quick breakdown of the workouts:

This one is pretty fun. It's 50 strict pullups followed by 100 pushups (with hands coming off the ground at the bottom, resting the chest momentarily) and then a 5 kilometer run. The goal is to work up to doing the workout with a 20 lb. weight vest. 

The Warrior
This is one of the workouts from P90X3. It's a fun mix of sets of exercises for the upper body, cardio, core, and lower body. The Warrior is one that definitely builds up some sweet. 

This is a routine that I put together. I found a suggestion online to mix squats with squat holds and jump squats as well as pushups with plank holds and plyometric pushups. I do it as 20 reps followed by 10 seconds of holding and then 4 reps (so 20 squats followed by 10 seconds holding a low squat followed by 4 jump squats). Each set will see this 20-10-4 progression for squats and then for pushups and then I add in 34 reps of single-arm kettlebell clean and press. I then do three rounds for time (3 RFT) of this progression.

For these days, we do any of the cardio kickboxing workouts from the Les Mills Combat series. Lots of punching, kicking, knees, and elbows (which I throw in, since they're not included in the workouts).

This is a 10 minute core routine from the Les Mills Pump series. I've done lots of core routines over the years, but this one is by far one of the best. It targets the upper abs, lower abs, obliques, transverse abdominis, and the lower back. It's a great workout for targeting the core. I have either bench dips or kettlebell swings added in on the end of my core routines a couple times in this two week progression (just to add some more to the workout!).

This is another of the P90X3 workout routines. Isometrix targets the core and includes lots of balance exercises. The exercises alternate from planks and down-dogs of various kinds with standing balance poses (mostly from yoga). I feel like balance is a super important component of fitness that too few people focus on. It's definitely worth running through this routine from time to time.

Other Resistance Workouts
I also have a couple of workouts in this progression that include deadlifts, pullups-pushups-situps-squats, barbell clean & press, and barbell thrusters. These exercises are a great mix of compound movements with bodyweight exercises.

PAP Upper and PAP Lower
These workouts are from the P90X2 series. The PAP part of the names comes from post activation potentiation, a way to exercise where a heavy load is placed upon a muscle followed by lighter loads and fuller ranges of movement. Although I don't personally think the P90X2 workouts do a great job of incorporating PAP, they're still fantastic workouts. Each workout is composed of four rounds each of two supersets of 4 exercises that target either the upper body or the lower body. These are hour-long workouts that end in a heavy sweat, but they're a lot of fun as well!

Like I said, it's not usually my thing to share my workouts online, but if you dig these and want some more info, feel free to ask.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Writing Motivation - Almost There

Sometimes writing can feel like your stuck on a ledge on a cliff (writer's block), sometimes it can feel like your falling (self-doubt), and sometimes it can just feel like your looking up at a mountain and thinking about climbing it (just start writing already!). I'm definitely at the point now where I'm just climbing away. I'm nearing the top of the first major section (the first full draft). I can feel it coming. I'm almost there. Then it goes off to my adviser for reviewing while I focus on other stuff. So close. Almost there. Write on!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Writing Motivation - Slaying this Dragon

I have a pretty sweet collection of cards with old school fantasy and sci-fi art on them (much like these images). I've had those cards since I was a kid, though I have no idea where I got them from. One of my favorite themes is the knight slaying the dragon. Much like the modern connotation of the biblical story of David and Goliath, the knight slaying the dragon (or really any character slaying a dragon) makes us think of situations where great foe can be conquered, usually with some bravery and hopefully some intelligence. That's kind of how I feel with my current writing work. This paper that I'm writing is my dragon. I know that I must slay this dragon. It is a great foe, but I know, somewhere inside, I am greater. Write On!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Writing Motivation - "writer s surf"

writer s surf, by Medi Belortaja
I most certainly need motivation right now to continue working on a current research article, which is also going to be part of my graduate dissertation. Beyond my habitual coffee, I like to jump into my writing by first reflecting on the work ahead and by considering the thoughts and creations of others.

Sometimes, writing seems to come naturally to me, while there are other times where it most certainly requires some personal taunting, teasing, inspiring, and just plain ol' "sucking-it-up-and-getting-it-done". In looking for a quick spot of motivation on my day's writing, I found this beautiful cartoon by Medi Belortaja. He titled the piece "writer s surf". 

"Writer s surf" brings to mind those feelings of the surge of a wave under my board as the ocean picks me up and thrusts me toward shore (a feeling I haven't experienced in reality in too many years). The piece also evokes the feeling of being sucked in to a work of writing or of reading. Some writings (be they short articles, fantastical stories, scientific research reports, or epic journeys into other worlds) really do take the author/reader on rides, much as surfing a wave.

Belotaja brings forward in his cartoon the feeling of riding the page, surfing the written word, and embracing the motions of the cosmos as we engage with a moving force of nature. Write on!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How Do You Take Your Coffee?

Coffee is one of the most consumed products on the planet. Especially among Northern European nations (Finland actually ranks the highest) but also growing in countries like India and China, coffee consumption has become a daily part of life for many people. Some people take their coffee black, some like a little cream and sugar, and some people prefer all the dressings of flavors, creams, sugars, and foams that lattes and the like have to offer.

Some of my best moments with my family when I was younger was when we would sit around, drink coffee, and talk about anything and everything in life. Nowadays, I tend to enjoy my coffee with either lots of fat or with some nice spices. 

Coffee with Butter and Oil

If you pay any attention to nutrition fads and trends, fitness media, or anything related to Crossfit, then you've probably heard of Bulletproof Coffee. If not, then be warned: you might find this gross. But, then again, you might really like it. I do.

Bulletproof Coffee is a recipe (but also a brand) created by Dave Asprey, who goes by the handle, The Bulletproof Executive. He's taken the Asian idea of Yak Butter Tea and introduced it into mainstream America in the form of coffee with lots of fat. Asprey's original recipe called for 1-2 tablespoons (~15-30 mL) each of butter and medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) added to a cup of coffee and blended. One great source of MCTs is coconut oil, which is also tasty.

I don't really care right now to argue for or against the health benefits of getting lots of fat in your diet. There's a lot of information out there in that realm, and maybe I'll write a post some day about MCTs and why I choose to get lots of fat in my diet, but, for now, let me just say that I love drinking my coffee with butter and oil! 

I personally rock about about 3 tablespoons (~45 mL) each of butter and coconut oil in my coffee each morning. I like to drink it while checking email, doing some brain training, and reading articles online. I estimate that it gives me about 700 calories, mostly in fat. Most mornings, that's all that I have for breakfast and I usually feel awesome for most of the day after that.

Want to give it a try? Do it! You might hate it. You might love it. However, please take this warning: try it the first time with a very small amount of coconut oil. When people start including coconut oil or straight MCTs into their diet, they tend to get diarrhea. No one wants to get through their morning coffee only to have the runs waylay them before they can kick some ass out of their day!

Sometimes a Little Spice is Everything Nice

Even though I rock my morning coffee with lots of fat (see above) sometimes I like to have a second coffee in the day, usually in the early-to-mid afternoon (evening coffees can also be fun from time to time, but they're also good at messing up sleeping patterns). When I have that second coffee in day, I tend to prefer it with some spice, specifically with some cinnamon and nutmeg. 

Cinnamon and nutmeg, along with spices like clove or allspice, are the kinds of spices that are great at adding lots of flavor and enjoyment with just a small dash of the spice. There are plenty of arguments out there for the health benefits of using these spices as well, however, again, I choose not to get into that here. I just want to talk about the coffee! 

I like a little flick of cinnamon and nutmeg in my coffee along with some half-and-half cream or some heavy whipping cream (none of that low-fat stuff for me!). It tastes super yummy and the spice seems to help me with taking smaller sips (maybe I just want to savor each sip all the more).

I've told you about two of my favorite ways to enjoy coffee. So, tell me, how do you take your coffee?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Fever Ray - If I had a Heart - Theme for Vikings

We've been watching the History Channel show Vikings lately. It's a pretty sweet show. A good mix of history and fantasy with an enjoyable story arc (at least, there is where we're at in the show so far). The theme song for the show, "If I Had a Heart" by Fever Ray, is a chilling tune and one that sticks in your head for hours after you hear it. The song has been used in a variety of shows and films. I thought I'd share the original music video for this epic tune here, on A Cosmobiologist's Dream. Enjoy!


If you'd like to play this song on guitar, user diseasedfox at Ultimate Guitar has helped to make that possible. Find the tab here.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Phobos on My Phone

This pic of the Martian moon Phobos is rockin' on the background of my phone today. I recently downloaded the NASA App, which allows you to set up your phone to display a new picture very day from Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD). The app also let's you download cool ringtones and notification sound-clips that are made of up of sounds from space (rockets launching, the sounds of the planets, and sonified transit data from Kepler light curves). Definitely get this app on your phone. Then you will also be able to rock sweet images, like this one of little Phobos, every single day.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Da Vinci's Notebook - Another Irish Drinking Song

I love you all, so here's a video for "Another Irish Drinking Song" by Da Vinci's Notebook:

What's that you ask? "Why can't I get drunk and sing this song as well?" Well, ask no more. Raise a glass or seven and sing along with the lyrics below:

Gather 'round ye lads and lasses, set ye for a while, 
and harken to me mournful tale about the Emerald Isle. 
Let's all raise our glasses high to friends and family gone, 
and lift our voices in another Irish drinkin' song. 

Consumption took me mother and me father got the pox, 
me brother drank the whiskey 'till he wound up in a box. 
Me other brother in the troubles met with his demise, 
me sister has forever closed her smilin' Irish eyes. 

Now everybody's died, so until our tears are dried, 
we'll drink and drink and drink and drink and then we'll drink some more. 
We'll dance and sing and fight until the early mornin' light, 
then we'll throw up, pass out, wake up and then go drinkin' once again. 

Ken was killed in Kilkenny and Claire she died in Clare, 
Tip from Tipperary died out in the Derry air. 
Shannon jumped into the river Shannon back in June, 
Ernie fell into the Erne and Tom is in the Toome. 

"Cleanliness is godliness," me Uncle Pat would sing, 
he broke his neck a-slippin' on a bar of Irish Spring. 
O'Grady he was eighty, 'tho his bride was just a pup, 
he died upon the honeymoon when she got his Irish up (hey!). 

Now everybody's died, so until our tears are dried, 
we'll drink and drink and drink and drink and then we'll drink some more. 
We'll dance and sing and fight until the early mornin' light, 
then we'll throw up, pass out, wake up and then go drinkin' once again. 

<Mexican Hat Dance> 

Joe Murphy fought with Reilly near the cliffs of Alderney, 
he took out his shillelagh and he stabbed him in the spleen. 
Crazy Uncle Mike thought he was a leprechaun, 
but in fact he's just a leper and his arms and legs are gone. 

When Timmy Johnson broke his neck it was a cryin' shame, 
he wasn't really Irish, but he went to Notre Dame. 
MacNamara crossed the street and by a bus was hit, 
but he was just a Scotsman so nobody gave a shit (OCH!). 

Now everybody's died, so until our tears are dried, 
we'll drink and drink and drink and drink and then we'll drink some more. 
We'll dance and sing and fight until the early mornin' light, 
then we'll throw up, pass out, wake up and then go drinkin' once again. 

<Hava Nagila> Ole!

Me drunken Uncle Brendan tried to drive home from the bar, 
the road rose up to meet him when he fell out of his car. 
Irony was what befell me Great Grand Uncle Sam, 
He choked upon the very last potato in the land. 

Connor lived in Ulster town, he used to smuggle arms, 
until the British killed him and cut off his lucky charms. 
And dear old Father Flanagan who left the Lord's employ, 
drunk on sacramental wine beneath the altar boy (HEY!). 

Now everybody's died, so until our tears are dried, 
we'll drink and drink and drink and drink and then we'll drink some more. 
We'll dance and sing and fight until the early mornin' light, 
then we'll throw up, pass out, wake up and then go drinkin' once again. 

Someday soon I'll leave this world of pain and toil and sin, 
the Lord will take me by the hand to join all of me kin. 
Me only wish is when the Savior comes for me and you, 
He kills the cast of Riverdance and Michael Flatley too. 

Now everybody's died, so until our tears are dried, 
we'll drink and drink and drink and drink and then we'll drink some more. 
We'll dance and sing and fight until the early mornin' light, 
then we'll throw up, pass out, wake up and then go drinkin' once again, 
then we'll throw up, pass out, wake up and then go drinkin' once again, 
then we'll throw up, pass out, wake up and then go drinkin' once again.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thomas and the Swiss Coffee Break

A few years ago, in October of 2011, I traveled to Switzerland along with my graduate research adviser, Alexis Templeton, and then lab-mate Emily Knowles. We had flown to the land of fine chocolates, melted cheeses, secretive banks, and elegant watches to conduct some x-ray spectroscopy research at the Paul Scherrer Institute's synchrotron particle accelerator, The Swiss Light Source (SLS). 

SLS is a pretty funky place. There's a particle accelerator ring where a variety of magnets are used to shoot electrons along the ring's 288 meters (about 945 feet) of circumference at 2.8 billion electronvolts (2.8 GeV)! There are a bunch of experimental end-station, called beamlines (instrumental setups that use x-ray beams produced by the electrons), for doing stuff like protein crystallography, x-ray tomography, x-ray absorption spectroscopy, and a range of materials science and geochemistry work. 

The work being conducted at SLS is pretty awesome, but maybe of more interest to some folks is that the place itself looks like a flying saucer landing in a field in thee Swiss countryside!

SLS is the flying saucer on the top right in this image of the Paul Scherrer Institute 
I'm not really writing this post about the SLS, awesome though it is. I'm writing this post to share a story about something that happened to me while we were there all those years ago. This is a story of a coffee break. Or maybe it's the story of a coffee break that never was. You decide.

Our work at the SLS involved the use of the X07MA/B PHOENIX beamline, where we were using microscale x-ray fluorescence and x-ray absorption spectroscopy to map the distributions and types of sulfur compounds in Emily's samples of altered basalt and my samples from the Arctic. That kind of work can become quite tiring and delirium easily sets in when you've been working for hours upon hours to collect data at a synchrotron. Luckily, there was a small cafe in the building adjacent to the SLS. I made quite a large number of stops to that cafe to drop a Swiss Franc or two to pick up a boost to keep me going while I continued slogging through x-ray data collection and beamline data processing. 

There are two interesting things that I learned about having coffee in Europe during that trip. Thing One: Europeans serve coffee in very little cups. Thing Two: if a European invites you to "go get a coffee", they mean they'd like to sit down, relax, and talk while slowly sipping a cup of coffee. Let me explain.
This is NOT how coffee is served in Europe

Thing One: Europeans haven't gone overboard with trying to "supersize" everything the way that Americans have. In general, in Europe, if you order a coffee you are very likely to get something that is 4 or 6 fluid ounces of coffee in a very small cup. I've had plenty of European friends who claim that this is because their coffee is so strong, and, in some cases, that's true. 

There are a lot of places in Europe where ordering a coffee means you're pretty much getting a shot of espresso. However, that hasn't been my general experience in most cases. Most of the times when I have ordered a coffee in Europe it has been just a regular drip coffee in a little cup. It's not the 20 fluid ounces of joe that we Americans tend to inhale as part of our morning rituals. 

At the time when I was working at SLS, I was still fairly deep into my academic-driven addiction of coffee. Needless to say, I drank little cup after little cup of coffee while in Switzerland on that trip.

"This just will not do!"

Thing Two: Here's the thing that motivated me to write this post. I made a bit of a coffee faux pas while on this trip, and the experience taught me a deeper lesson about myself and about the culture of my nation.

During one of the longer bouts of wrestling with data analysis and trying to figure out how to proceed when things seemed to be going all kinds of wrong, there came a moment of sangfroid amongst those of us working the beamline. Dr. Thomas Huthwelker, the beamline scientist who operates the PHOENIX beamline and helps users to figure out stuff, had shown up to, well, operate the beamline and help us users figure out some stuff. We got a small break in the action as things started working well again. At that point, Thomas (pronounced kind of like "Toe-Mahs") asked if any of us would like to go get a coffee. I was feeling like I could use yet another boost at that point so I decided to join him.

We walked to the cafe, where I dropped my Swiss Franc for a little itty-bitty cup of coffee and waited by the door for Thomas. I figured we'd grab the coffee and head back to the beamline to continue working on the next problem. I then saw Thomas coming out of the cashier's line. He had a little tray with a pastry on it and his little cup of coffee. He looked at me and I heard him go "oh!" and then he said, "I'm going to have a seat for a moment, if you don't mind." I honestly didn't mind, but rather than join him (which would have been the appropriate and probably more enjoyable thing to do) I walked back to the beamline to slug down that coffee in two sips (seriously, those coffee cups are really small) and continue working.

Why didn't I think to take that coffee break as an actual break? Why didn't I choose to join Thomas for a short sit and some time to think about anything other than work? Because I come from a nation where we're too often taking our coffee and our food to-go so that we don't have to take any time away from work. As a graduate student, I'm made to feel guilty whenever I'm not doing work (grad school is seriously depressing). I grew up with the ingrained thought that productivity means always being "on" and rarely taking a break. We Americans can get shit done, but we've honestly taken it too far when it comes to work. We don't have a culture that values a work/life balance. And that is a huge problem.

My missed coffee break with Thomas in Switzerland all those years ago taught me to stop every now and then and take a break out of work to sit and relax. Sometimes it's good to walk away from work and not give a shit about the fact that the work is still there. We as a nation need to work harder to remove the drive-thru mentality from our lives. 

I'm now at a point where I'm working about 60-80 hours a week on my graduate work. I have very little of a social life because, well, because grad school sucks and is a necessary evil that needs to be entirely restructured. With all of the work that I'm doing of late, I need to remind myself now more than ever to take a breaks, often. It should be possible to stay on top of our work without entirely losing ourselves and not stopping to think sometimes "hey, a few minutes out right now won't hurt anything". Admittedly, right now I wouldn't mind meeting up with Thomas again and having a break over some very little cups of coffee.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Amos Lee - Arms of a Woman

I've been humming, whistling, and singing this tune on and off for the past few days. Arms of a Woman, by Amos Lee, is just a sweet, mellow tune that sticks with you. The instrumental side of the song is played softly, making plenty of room for Lee's soulful voice to dominate. The lyrics remind me of something between the lament of being far from home (which is a huge reality for me; I live 1700 miles from my family) and the warm feeling you get when you're with someone who fills voids in your life without even trying to. I'm taking a break from writing with a finger of Laphroaig whisky and thought it would be a good time to share Amos Lee's Arms of a Woman. Cheers!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Running with Wolves: A Guided Meditation with The Honest Guys

One of my favorite forms of meditation is a form where the practitioner goes on a journey within their mind. Traveling through wilderness or even through urban constructs, I've found the practice to be an enjoyable way to focus my mind, as I have to create the experience of the journey with my mind and my body. The Honest Guys offer many fantastic guided meditations, including several that guide one on a journey. I just tried one of their new guided meditations and really enjoyed it. This one took me on a journey of running with wolves through the wilderness at night. I could feel myself breathing in the night air and I could smell the forest as I was running. It was a great way to wind down at the end of the day.

If you're looking for a new journey for your own meditations or maybe if you want to give guided meditation a try, then I highly recommend checking this one out. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

"You Have No Respect for Logic"

A Movie Clip Worth Sharing

"Contrariwise, if it was so, it might be; 
and if it were so, it would be; 
but as it isn't, it ain't. 
That's logic."
-Lewis Carroll                 

It's late and I'm feeling a tad snarky, so why the hell not share this awesome video clip of one of my favorite scenes from the 1988 movie Twins?

This scene describes how I feel pretty often when reading public commentary on the internet. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

John Butler's "Ocean" - Some fantastical guitaring

Just caught this video of John Butler rocking his song "Ocean" on a well-worn eleven-string and absolutely loved it. Groovy.

Take a load off and have a listen:

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Tom Kucy's "Ground Control: Apollo Archive" - a video memorial of Apollo

...And if she faintly glimmers here, 
And paled is her light, 
Yet alway in her proper sphere 
She's mistress of the night. 

- from "The Moon", Henry David Thoreau

This past month, the NASA-affiliated Project Apollo Archive released a large collection of thousands of images from the Apollo Moon missions on their Flickr page. It's a study in awe and wonderment to sit and click through the images. The archive offers amazing views of the Earth from space, still shots of the astronauts hard at work onboard their spacecraft, and some of the most incredible imagery of humans working on the surface of the Moon. I highly recommend taking some time to revel in the images. 

If seeing these images of our world's largest natural satellite is as fantastical for you as it is for me, then you might also enjoy the following film produced by Tom Kucy and titled "Ground Control: Apollo Archive". Kucy took some of the images and edited them together with audio to provide a short film that is absolutely stunning:

Here's some info from Kucy regarding the video:

"GROUND CONTROL is a small personal project, bringing NASA's Apollo Archive photos to life. I utilized Adobe Photoshop, After Effects and Audition to complete this project. In order to achieve the subtle and weightless movement of each scene, I used an animation technique known as parallaxing. I shifted each image element ever so slightly to push forth the notion of how large and vast space truly is. 

I would love to bring more missions to life, and may pursue a small series based on the most memorable Apollo missions."

I for one would love to see Kucy create some more mission-based videos.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

There is no sound in space (or is there?)

(You can pickup some threads with this picture here)

In space, no one can hear you scream! That's what the tagline from the film Alien taught a generation of folks. Well, at least it taught some part of a generation. Well, maybe it only slightly hinted at an idea for a minimal fraction of some part of a generation. Or something like that. 

Too many times we've gone to the movies to see yet another sci-fi adventure with spaceships blasting each other with phasers and lasers and things that go "boom", all making lots of noises that some sound technicians likely spent hours in a studio putting together. And, most of the time it seems, these films get space completely wrong. 

Humans cannot hear in the vacuum of space. We can't. Since sound waves need a medium through which to travel and space generally offers nothing of the sort, there will be no propagation of sound from space battles, Star Destroyers traveling past you, or your fellow astronaut screaming from inside their space suit as they drift away from the ship after forgetting to attach their tether (unless, of course, they're screaming into their radio communication system).

Check out this vid from Coma Niddy at Sci Code on Space Myths

Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and more: the sounds of the spaceships and space battles and other spacey stuff in most of our television and films seem to show an utter lack of understanding on the part of the populace general. Even if filmmakers know that there shouldn't be sounds in space, it seems like most of them pander to the ignorance of the people by adding sounds to space. There are some who get it right, though. The cult sensation Firefly was well-known for presenting the lack of sound waves in space. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Gravity, and a few others also present the silence of space to the audience.

But hold on now, you might be thinking. Slow your roll, Cosmo Boy. Perhaps you've heard that NASA has recordings of some sounds from space. So what's up with that?

Just because sound waves don't generally propagate through space doesn't mean there's nothing for us to hear out there. For instance, several spacecraft (including the Voyager, Injun, and Hawkeye spacecraft) have had instruments capable of detecting the interactions of various particles with the ionospheres and magnetospheres of planets as well as the solar wind. The electromagnetic interactions spread over a large range of vibrations, but a lot of them are in the 20-20,000 Hz range in which we humans hear. NASA has released lots of these sound data sets online, including files primed for ringtones and notification sounds. Here's a video compilation of some of these sounds from our solar system (definitely awesome!):

Pretty cool, huh?!

Well, guess what? There's more.

As if listening to the interactions of the planets with the space environment weren't awesome enough, we can also take data from many our observations of the universe and convert those data into sound files. This is done through a process called sonification. For instance, we can take the Kepler light curves of stars and convert those light curves into sounds, allowing us to listen to the data. We can listen to the variations in the stars and we can even listen to the dips in the light curves as exoplanets transit in front of the stars. 

Sounds that are produced in this way aren't anything you would naturally hear, but they're still pretty awesome. For instance, this video presents a chorus of sounds produced through the sonification of light curves:

That's some eerie stuff. We can use sonification to convert all kinds of data into sounds, but listening to the processes occurring so far away in some way seems haunting and yet inspiring. Pod Academy recorded an episode called The Sounds of Space back in 2012 which can give you a fuller description of some of the cool stuff that what we can listen to from our observations of space. It's definitely worth a listen.

So even though no one can hear you scream in space, and even though all those spaceships going "pew pew pew" with their lasers and phasers and such in science fiction movies is a bunch of silliness (even if it does sound cool), there are some awesome things that we can really hear from our observations of space, either actual interactions of matter that cause vibrations in our hearing range or from data that we've converted to sounds. 

If you'd like to hear some more, I have another post to accompany this one that includes several embedded videos with the sounds from some of the worlds of our solar system.

(Image from PRX)

The Sounds of the Planets

Below are some awesome videos that have sounds recorded from various spacecraft that let us listen to some of the interactions of matter and energy in our solar system. You can find these audio files and more from NASA's website for space sounds.







Thursday, October 22, 2015

Gosh by Jamie xx, video by Erik Wernquist

Perhaps you recall late last year seeing Erik Wernquist's film "Wanderers", a fantastically beautiful video that hit the interwebs and went viral. If not, click on the link above and be stunned by a beautiful interweaving of imagery and videos from NASA edited together and augmented with effects generated by Erik Wernquist, and all played while you hear Carl Sagan reading from Pale Blue Dot.

Erik Wernquist has produced another film, this time as a music video for the song "Gosh" by Jamie xx, and this film is just as awesome. The video shows us Mars. At first, it's just Mars from afar and the song is repetitive and just running the beat. The song builds as we begin exploring Mars. We then see what might happen in some of our earliest developments of the Red Planet. Then Wernquist and Jamie xx take us on an audiovisual exploration of where terraforming of Mars might take us in the not-too-distant but also not-too-soon future.

I'm excited to share it with you here. I highly recommend that you turn up the volume and watch this video in full screen:

Dig it? Ya, I thought so. Sometimes I think about the soon-to-come human exploration of Mars and where that might lead to. I think about where the children of Mars will focus their endeavors and what they'll think of us, the ancients. I wonder what might happen as the millennia and the epochs slide by. All of this and more is coming. Gosh...

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Shark in the Milky Way: a Hawaiian Legend

The Milky Way as seen through the Hawaiian trees, by active KÄ«lauea (photographed by Sean King)
There are a great many myths that our ancestors created to explain the white and dark patches of the Milky Way in their night's sky. Looking up to see this band of light in the sky, some of them would liken it to a great river or a walkway, while some others thought it was the remnant flames of a horse-rider or chariot dragging starlight or sunlight across the sky. Many of our ancestors, including the Norse and the Algonquin peoples, thought of the Milky Way as a path, perhaps leading to Valhalla or a great village, which their friends and family could follow once they had died. 

The Polynesian peoples commonly thought of the Milky Way as a great river or sea in the heavens, though many of their legends include mention of a great shark. The people of Tuamotus, for instance, considered the Milky Way the sacred ocean of the god Kiho-tumu, and great dark patch in the Milky Way was formed from his ship, which was known as The-Long-Shark. Indeed, many of the Polynesian peoples of various regions had legends that included a shark or great fish swimming in the Milky Way.

Rena Ekmanis' Canoe at Night

Last night I was reading Vivian L. Thompson's "Hawaiian Myths of Earth, Sea, and Sky" (as some of you know, I'm working on another planetarium talk - this one will deal with mythologies of the heavens and connecting ancient people to our modern pursuits in space exploration). One of the stories Thompson shares is called "The Shark in the Milky Way". It tells of one of the adventures of the trickster god Ka-ulu. Here is a very-brief paraphrasing of that story:

This version holds that Ka-ulu's brother, Ka-ehu, had been abducted by a great king, a chief of Far Island. Ka-ulu becomes Ka-ulu-the-Strong and decides to find his brother. 

The king fears Ka-ulu, so he sends Great-Rolling-Surf to kill the strong man. Ka-ulu uses his strength to break the Great-Rolling-Surf into little waves.

The king then sends Great-Stone-Man-with-Eight-Foreheads, a giant made of stone. When this giant attacks, Ka-ulu grabs him and holds him down until the ground and grass and trees grow over him. The Great-Stone-Man thus becomes a stone mountain with eight rolling hills.

The king send his Great-Barking-Dog to attack Ka-ulu, but the latter uses his strong hands to break the Great-Barking-Dog into pieces, each of which became a little barking dog that ran off in fear.

Ka-ulu approaches the king's mountain home. The king throws Great-Rock at Ka-ulu as he climbs the mountain. Ka-ulu crushes the Great-Rock into many little pebbles.

Ka-ulu then approaches the king and places his strong hands on the king's throat. Threatening the king's life, Ka-ulu asks for the whereabouts of his brother. The king, a weakling and fearful for his life, tells Ka-ulu to go ask the Chief of Sharks about the location of Ka-ehu.

Ka-ulu goes to Chief of Sharks and asks where Ka-ehu can be found. Chief of Sharks tells Ka-ulu that Ka-ehu is inside of his great stomach, but there is room for two if Ka-ulu would like to join him. 

Knowing better than to be eaten by a great shark, Ka-ulu grabs the Chief of Sharks by his jaws and pulls them so wide that Ka-ehu can walk out of the shark's stomach. Before Ka-ulu and Ka-ehu leave, Ka-ulu grabs the Chief of Sharks and throws him into the sky. The great shark's body breaks upon and the heavens and shatters into millions of pieces, forming the great white streak across the sky that we now know as the Milky Way.

What would you think of the heavens above if you were alone on a canoe in the great sea? Would you create your own myths and legends from the patterns in the stars, the wanderings of the planets, or the patches of the Milky Way? (image from Thompson's book)

If you'd like to read a bit more about the legends of Ka-ulu, definitely check out the Asia-Pacific Digital Library's versions of the stories. I'll soon be putting together a post that will outline the talk I'll be giving on the constellations and mythology, so stay tuned for that.