The crew of the International Space Station would like to wish you very happy holidays this year, and it comes in the form of this pretty timelapse video. On their wishlist? World peace. They’d like to see a little more cooperation on the beautiful blue marble they orbit.
It’s always nice to put a face to a name—and not just in the case of humans. Paleontologist Paul Sereno just introduced the world to Pegomastax africanus, a small two-legged dinosaur that lived 200 million years ago, traipsing through what is now South Africa armed with a pointed beak, unexpectedly sharp canine teeth, and a bristling coat of quills. Calling to mind an image of such an unusual animal is difficult (I come up with a sort of parrot-wolf-porcupine-raptor mix which, while intriguing, is certainly not correct). Luckily, however, there are people like Tyler Keillor, a paleoartist who builds lifelike models of ancient animals, letting us see them face to face rather than as a list of features. In the video above, he reconstructs P. africanus layer by layer, starting with a resin skull and adding clay muscles, all the way up intricately painted silicone rubber skin and fishing-line quills.
[via Scientific American]
Hummingbirds are incredible flyers, with the ruby-throated hummingbird beating its wings 80 times every second, an ability that inspired this blog’s name. These tiny birds can fly forwards, hover, and are the only known birds to fly backwards as well. But although zooming backwards is the rarest of the hummingbird’s flying tricks, a paper in the Journal of Experimental Biology reveals that it takes no more energy than moving forwards.
Fans of marine trivia may already know that a starfish is a messy eater. Instead of putting prey in their stomachs, many starfish species put their stomachs into their prey, throwing up this organ inside-out and letting its acidic juices break down the food into nutrient soup. Then the starfish slurps up its meal, sucks its stomach back in, and shuffles on its merry way.
Because starfish like to dine on bivalves like mussels, which hide away in an opaque shell, it can be pretty hard to watch a starfish in the act of eating. Unless you have this incredible time-lapse video from Shape of Life on Vimeo, which shows the process from the mussel’s meal’s point of view.
[via Deep Sea News]
Fire maps show the locations all over the world where wild and man-made fires are going on, based on data from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. And when you combine fire maps from the past 12 years, you get a video where flames trace recurring patterns across the globe, from summer wildfires in Canada to agricultural burning in Africa and Southeast Asia.
Note: You may want to click the full-screen button down there and watch this in its full hi-def glory.
Ever wished you could float through space, drifting past stars and cosmic dust clouds? The largest-ever 3D map of the universe, shown in the video above, gives you a sense of what that might be like, though the bright dots surrounding you are not stars, but whole galaxies, and you’re not quite drifting, but ripping along at a quadrillion times the speed of light.
To get a sense of the speed, just look at those galaxies and remind yourself that each is home to hundreds of billions of stars like our own. And you can even see, as the video progresses, the distinctive soap-bubble arrangement of the universe’s galaxies, arrayed in closely packed groups around vast tracts of empty space.
The Sloan Digital Sky Survey produced the 3D map from newly released data collected during two years of a six-year project. Knowing the locations of over a million galaxies will help astronomers find out how dark matter and dark energy are affecting the visible universe.
In the meantime, we’ll just watch this video again. And again. And again.
Get excited: the new Mars rover Curiosity is set to land early next week. And the Internet wants you to be prepared, circulating articles, explanations, and lots of videos, the highlights of which we’ve collected here:
Why Do We Have Curiosity?
Considering that we already have one working rover on the surface of the Red Planet, what’s with all the brouhaha over this one? To find out why we’re sending Curiosity to Mars, Ph.D Comics went to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to talk to scientists, ogle the full-sized replica of Curiosity, and learn about the new rover’s scientific instruments, which include, among other things, a rock-shooting laser.
To an untrained eye, the imperial cormorants that cover the shore of a Patagonian beach all look alike—but one stands out. Because this sea bird has a camera mounted on its back. So when the cormorant dives into the water, we get a birds-eye view as it travels 150 feet in about 40 seconds and then seeks out food on the ocean floor. The deep-diving cormorant is one of hundreds that the Wildlife Conservation Society tracks to ensure that the birds have places to live where they can be protected—and well fed.
Did you know your face actually turns slightly red each time your heart beats, when fresh blood pumps through it? Neither did I, and that’s because it’s so slight that our visual perception system doesn’t pick up on it. Ah, but what if you could use a computer program to magnify the changes so they become visible? That’s just what computer scientists at MIT did, and the result is fascinating: watch the video above (starting at 1:25) and see how with every heartbeat, a man’s face turns tomato red, then fades to a pallid yellow. The program is so precise that it can accurately calculate a person’s heart rate from the color changes.
[via Technology Review]
On this date in 1957, five Air Force volunteers and one photographer stood next to a sign labeled “Ground Zero. Population: 5” and watched a two-kiloton nuclear bomb explode 18,500 feet over their heads. (The height listed at the beginning of the video is incorrect.) Before the dangers of radiation exposure were fully understood, the government undertook many such tests to determine the effects of atomic weapons. This particular trial was an attempt to prove that exploding nuclear missiles in the atmosphere could be relatively safe. While the men in this video were not greatly affected by the blast—at least three, including the cameraman, lived past age 80—many other people exposed to fallout from nuclear tests developed cancer. Check out the full story behind the video at NPR.