Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Most Satisfying Video in the World

Here's something fun that you might catch on the interwebs right now. Digg has brought us a video that is just, well, satisfying. It's a collection of awesome technologies at work making slices, pulling material apart, crushing materials together, washing, building, breaking, cutting, rolling, falling, assembling, burning, and more... The music in the video isn't all that satisfying, in my opinion, but it's most certainly worth the watch:

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Streaming Meditation: Red Blocks

This piece of art is called "Streaming Meditation". It was made by Blackheart6004 at DeviantArt. When I look at it I see a jumble of red block (the obvious) as well as the digitization of red blood cells flowing through the body and all primed with oxygen in their heme groups. I also see what could be the fallout from a giant red cube crashing into an immovable barrier, the cube being broken apart into many smaller fragments, each itself a red cube. Could there be a smallest cube in such a case, a single particle of "red cube"?

What do you see?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Nothing Else Matters, on Sitar

Here's an awesome version of Nothing Else Matters, as played along on the sitar by Ashish J. It's fantastic throughout, but definitely stay with it for the solo, you will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Voyaging, for Almost Four Decades

This beautiful image was produced by NASA to commemorate the anniversary of the Voyager spacecraft, which were launched in August and September of 1977. 

We'll soon be closing on 40 years since the launch of Voyagers 1 and 2. These missions have done so much for planetary science and are still alive, continuing to send data back to us about the space environment along their travels. They may last as much as another 5 or 10 years before they run so low on power that all of their instruments shut down. 

Even after the Voyagers have shut down their instruments and died, they will still travel; out there amongst the stars, the furthest reach of humanity, they will continue on.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Jupiter, King of Worlds

Jupiter is the king of the planets of our solar system. Jupiter is almost 26,000 times more massive than the Moon and 318 times more massive than Earth! Even though Jupiter is still less than one tenth of one percent as massive as the Sun, the king of our worlds is over 2.5 times greater in mass than the rest of all of the planets in the solar system combined (unless there really is a Planet IX out there, which would only change that number a little bit; a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation tells me that if Planet IX is there and is 10 times the mass of the Earth, then Jupiter would be about 2.3 times more massive than all the other planets combined)!

Jupiter is a behemoth of planetary mass in our solar system. Here you can see the relative masses of the 8 planets. (image from Das steinerne Herz on Wikipedia)

Jupiter was one of the five planets beyond Earth known by many ancient peoples. Jupiter's apparent point of light in the night's sky was associated with the god Marduk by the ancient Babylonians, while ancient Chinese beliefs personified Jupiter as the Fu Star (Fuxing), association the bright light of Jupiter with prosperity. It was from the ancient Romans that Jupiter gained the name we use for it. Jupiter in Roman mythology is the king of the gods, just as Zeus was the king of the gods in Greek mythology. We even came to name one of the days of our weeks after Jupiter (though in English, our word for that day (Thursday) has derived from the Germanic mythologies and the god Thor).

It was Galileo's discovery of four of the moons of Jupiter in 1610 and his writing of them that nearly caused the Catholic Church to murder Galileo (the idea that there could be moons orbiting other planets was certainly considered blasphemy against the church at that time). Below you can see a page from the Sidereus Nuncius ("Starry Messenger"; Galileo's 1610 book on his astronomical observations), where Galileo drew Jupiter and the moons he had discovered:

Although Galileo's discoveries of Jupiter's moons propelled astronomy and our understanding of the universe forward, it was Giovanni Cassini who first drew pictures of the features on Jupiter that he could observe with his telescope. For instance, below are some images from Cassini where he first shows what we believe was the discovery of the Great Red Spot (or, at least, discovery of a spot which may have preceded the Great Red Spot by over a century).

Perhaps one of the coolest of the earliest drawings of Jupiter came in 1880, and can be found in the collections of astronomer and artist E.L. Trouvelot. His drawing of Jupiter was created during an observation on November 1st of 1880, and clearly shows the Great Red Spot:

These early observations and drawings must have sent people's minds racing with wonderment at what those features on the king of worlds could be. However, once we started incorporating photographic imaging with observational astronomy and, especially, started sending spacecraft to explore the other worlds we started constraining what it was we were seeing on Jupiter (while also raising lots of more questions!). 

The Pioneer 10 spacecraft was the first extension of humanity to fly by Jupiter back in 1973. Here's one of the images taken during that encounter with the giant world. Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to measure the radiation and magnetic fields surrounding Jupiter. It was also the first to take images of the moons of Jupiter up-close. Pioneer 10 passed within 81,000 miles of the cloudtops of Jupiter on it's flyby over 40 years ago.

Jupiter has since had several other spacecraft go zooming by, most of which at least took pictures if not full-on collecting data and targeting Jupiter and its moons for observation; for instance, check out this table I stole from Wikipedia on spacecraft that have flown by along with the dates of closest approach and the minimum distance from Jupiter at that time:

Pioneer 10December 3, 1973130,000 km
Pioneer 11December 4, 197434,000 km
Voyager 1March 5, 1979349,000 km
Voyager 2July 9, 1979570,000 km
UlyssesFebruary 8, 1992408,894 km
February 4, 2004120,000,000 km
CassiniDecember 30, 200010,000,000 km
New HorizonsFebruary 28, 20072,304,535 km

The only spacecraft so far to be sent into orbit of Jupiter was the Galileo Spacecraft, which operated in the Jovian system for over 8 years (from its arrival in December of 1995 until we crashed it into Jupiter (something we like to call "de-orbiting") in September of 2003). Galileo was used to study Jupiter's atmosphere and rings and to image and study the volcanoes on Io. Galileo discovered that Ganymede has its own, very strong magnetic field and really gave us most of the best data from which we have concluded that there is likely a deep subsurface ocean on Europa. The Galileo spacecraft really unlocked Jupiter and set the grounds for future spacecraft to visit that giant world.

An artist's concept of the Galileo spacecraft at Jupiter, with Io's volcanoes erupting nearby

Of the upcoming missions to Jupiter, one of them is actually going to get there very soon. The Juno spacecraft (see image to the left for a digital image of the spacecraft) is a NASA mission to Jupiter which was launched in August of 2011 and will arrive at Jupiter on July 4th of this year. Juno, named after the wife of Jupiter who was able to see through his clouds, will study Jupiter's composition, magnetic and gravitational fields, and will study the various processes within the Jovian atmosphere.

Following Juno, there are two missions in the works for studying the icy moons of Jupiter. JUICE (the Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer) is an ESA mission slated for launch in 2022. JUICE is designed to study primarily Ganymede and Callisto, though it should also fly by Europa a couple of times as well. A NASA mission set for launch on the early 2020s (likely 2022, as of now) is also in the works. The mission is currently called the Europa Multiple-Flyby Mission, though that name will surely change when the mission is more fully developed. This mission will focus on studying Europa. It will tell us about the surface processes and composition of Europa, will tell us a bit about the internal geology and composition of this moon, and, most importantly for astrobiology, will seek to determine the existence of Europa's ocean and determine what it can about the composition and possible surface-interactions of this ocean. 

Though JUICE and the Europa Multiple-Flyby Mission will target the icy moons of Jupiter, they will teach us a lot about the Jovian system in general (like how Jupiter's magnetic field and the chaotic whipping of particles through that field effect the moons of Jupiter). Taken along with Juno, the next couple of decades of research on Jupiter should be highly revealing, telling us a lot about the king of the planets but also helping us to uncover new mysteries and new questions about this behemoth in our solar system. 

In closing out this post, here is a quote about Jupiter, the god, from Ovid:

"Jupiter, from on high, smiles at the perjuries of lovers."

When it comes to the "perjuries of lovers" on Earth, Jupiter the planet, just as Jupiter the god, most certainly has no interest in our shortcomings. Though there is a beautiful history to consider in astrology, and Jupiter most certainly has played a prominent role there, the real test of time for Jupiter has revealed this king of our planets to be a massive and active monster of nature, though also beautiful in its presentation of itself to the universe.

Jupiter Drawing, from Kelvin Ma at Wikipedia

Monday, February 22, 2016

Sulfur in Yellows, Reds, and Blues, Oh My!

Sulfur burning at Kawah Ijen (image: Oliver Grunewald)
Sulfur is most certainly one of the coolest elements. Sulfur was one of the few elements that ancient people knew of (back in a time when it was known as "brimstone", and before people even knew what elements actually are). Sulfur is the 10th most abundant element in the universe and the 6th most abundant element on Earth by weight (although most of it is in the core, along with lots of iron and nickel). Sulfur causes our flatulence to smell bad and allows people to perm their hair (due to the disulfide bonds that are broken are reformed between the amino acids in the hair). 

Sulfur also presents itself in some awesome colors when it's in its elemental form. For instance, here's a picture of solid elemental sulfur at room temperature from my book shelf:

Elemental sulfur is a beautiful yellow color in its natural solid form. However, when it melts, it turns various beautiful red colors:

Red molten sulfur at Kawah Ijen volcano (iamge: Photovolcanica)

Yellows and reds are cool, but elemental sulfur also burns in a beautiful blue color. Here's a video from scientificpages on Youtube which shows powdered elemental sulfur burning in open air:

In the video you can see the sulfur turning red as it melts, but you can also see the blue flame forming over it. 

Burning sulfur is something that anyone can try at home, but finding large amounts of elemental sulfur melting and burning in nature will only happen in a few places. One of the best known places where this occurs is in Kawah Ijen volcano, in East Java, Indonesia, where the elemental sulfur extruding from the volcano is harvested by a local company (the image at the top of this post is from Kawah Ijen). Some of the best pictures of the sulfur in Kawah Ijen have been taken by Oliver Grunewald. Here's one of Grunewald's photos of the sulfur being harvested at night:

It's truly a beautiful location for seeing elemental sulfur in all of its various colors.

Friday, February 19, 2016

On the road again

We're heading off for a mini-vacation today. We're going to do some hiking and playing in Taos, New Mexico. It's definitely good to take breaks from time-to-time to re-energize and to live life a bit.

Taos Pueblo, by Randy Follis

Sunday, February 14, 2016

No well is an ordinary well

Do you remember the well in Final Fantasy?
The "ordinary well" that gave this message:

...Well I beg to differ. 

Every well is a hole drilled into the Earth in pursuit of the sustaining fluid of life. Some wells are drilled in hope of finding water. Some wells are drilled where knowledge and experience have told us there will be water. Some wells have dried up long ago and now present nothing more than a vertical cave created by humans. 

Some wells are small and some are big, some supported by brick or metal, while others are drilled in rock strong enough to support itself. Some wells support entire communities of people while other wells have provided for a sense of fulfillment of individual dreams and wishes (even if that seems like idle hope). No well is an ordinary well. 

Friday, February 12, 2016


My legs and back are recovering from a heavy workout yesterday, so I took some time to put together a few more workouts for the coming weeks. Here's one that I think will offer a good challenge. 

I'm calling this one "HIIT It All", since it uses High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and it's aimed at hitting a little bit of every major muscle group. This one's a little less cardio-focused than some HIIT workouts, but I have a feeling it will still feel like cardio by the end.

HIIT It All uses Tabata-style training, with alternating sets of full-on effort and rest. The Tabata workout traditionally uses 20 seconds of active work followed by 10 seconds of rest. HIIT It All however uses the following sequence:

- 1 superset of "40 seconds on, 30 seconds off" for 2 exercises
- 2 supersets of "30 seconds on, 20 seconds off" for 2 exercises
- 3 supersets of "20 seconds on, 10 seconds off" for 6 exercises
- 2 supersets of "30 seconds on, 20 seconds off" for 2 exercises
- 1 superset of "40 seconds on, 30 seconds off" for 2 exercises
-after each group of supersets, take an extra minute of break time to setup for the next superset

Here's a table showing the overall setup. Of course, there are all kinds of exercises that could be used in a workout like this, but I threw some together that seemed to jive with the goal of doing a whole-body HIIT:

Total Supersets
Total Time (Cumulative)
Push-ups + Knee Tucks
Follow each push-up with a knee tuck.

Pull-ups + Knee Raises
Follow each pull-up with 3 knee raises (add kipping only if needed)
 Add 1:00 to last set
Plank w/ Arm Lifts
Alternating raises of arms in front

Sumo Deadlift
 Add calf-raises in the second set
 Add 1:00 to last set
Hands-stand pushups (add kipping only if needed)

Cross Crawl
a.k.a. Bicycle Crunches

Band Pulls
 Use heavy resistance band; pull down from above (a.k.a. band lat. pull-down)

Side-to-Side Hops with Knee Raises
Leap from left to right and then bring up left knee into a tuck and then alternate 

Dips + Kicks
Dips with knees bent; at the bottom of each dip do a front kick with one foot. 

Reverse Crunches
Legs as straight as possible
 Add 1:00 to last set
Dumbbell Side Plank
Change sides on second set

Goblet Squats
 Add calf-raises in the second set
 Add 1:00 to last set
Curl into Shoulder Press


Farmer's Carry

Deep Horse Stance Hold
Just to finish it out strong 

I think the weight load for a workout like this should be pretty low (since all of the breaks are short). I'll probably use 62 lb. kettlebells for the squats and farmer's carry, 10 or 15 pound dumbbells for the side planks, and 25 lb. dumbbells for the curling exercise.

Let me know what you think (or if you have questions). 

This is me today

Did a double workout day yesterday. 

We hit the gym in the morning for deadlifts and seated rows followed by a metcon with TRX inverted rows and medicine ball work. We finished it off with a 2 km row on the rowing machines. 

Then I decided it would be fun to follow a heavy deadlift day with an evening run with a friend. We only ran about 5 miles, but I still got some blisters on my feet (probably time for new running shoes).

Today my everything hurts. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

There's a lot of food in the U.S., but that doesn't mean we need to eat all the time

The United States of America is a nation where food is plentiful for most people. 

Although we waste a surprisingly large amount of food, and there are certainly Americans who know the pain of starvation (a USDA report on Household Food Security reported that 14% of American households were considered "food insecure" in 2014), most Americans have enough food around to not only eat but to overeat as well (roughly one-third of American adults were considered obese in 2011-2012). 

It's honestly saddening how often we take the abundance of food for granted and fill ourselves until we feel like garbage. Like Louis C.K. has said, "I don't eat until I'm full, I eat until I hate myself.

Just as Aristotle espoused that there is virtue in finding a happy medium between extremes in lifestyle (don't be too active, but don't be too lazy; don't be too proud of yourself, but don't entirely debase yourself; etc.), there is certainly a state of moderation in our caloric intake that is good for us. We need a certain amount of calories to stay alive, but sometimes it's fun to eat more than that in a day. However, it seems like we should be balancing out the heavy eating days with some light eating days. It was thinking about that in the first place that led me to intermittent fasting a few years ago.

Intermittent fasting is a form of fasting where you cycle between periods of fasting and non-fasting. You can still go high calorie on a day of an intermittent fast, but I've personally found it harder to overeat while intermittently fasting.

I've been trying different forms of intermittent fasting, to see what works well for me. I've enjoyed the "6 on, 18 off" approach (eating all of my meals in a 6 hour period and then fasting for 18 hours), though now I'm trying trying 24 hour fasts once each week. I'm doing a total fast (water only) once each month, and then the other three weeks I just stay low calorie during a 24 hour period.

I've heard people who claim that fasting is bad for you or who ask "why would you want to do that", but there are some potentially great health benefits to fasting. For instance, Kris Gunnars wrote a post for Authority Nutrition entitled "10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting" where he reports the take-home points for almost 4 dozen peer-reviewed research articles showing potential benefits of fasting in various ways.

However, the main reason I'm using intermittent fasting has more to do with having control over myself. It's a fun mental challenge to push your body into a state of fasting and to have control over the process. I've found it to be a stimulating exercise, as well as a good way to control my caloric intake. Living in a land of plenty, it's refreshing to abstain, just a bit. As I mentioned above, there's lots of food in the U.S. and most people do not have to worry about getting their calories for the day. However, I think if more of us were conscious of how much we eat and when we eat, we might be better at controlling what we eat. Just some food for thought.