Tag: Halloween

They Came From Outer Space

By Phil Plait | October 31, 2012 6:00 am

Space is scary.

Supernovae explode, flooding their neighborhood with deadly high-energy light and blasting superheated matter outward at a large fraction of the speed of light. Black holes gobble down everything around them, and they’re sloppy eaters, spewing out deadly radiation and belching vast winds of gas. Galaxies collide, asteroids impact, entire worlds are chewed to dust by their violent stars.

And since ’tis the season, here’s a gallery of spooky pictures of nature: moaning nebulae, screaming stars, ghastly volcanoes, and more. Y’know, we humans love to make up stories about vampires and goblins to scare ourselves, knowing they’re just stories… but the Universe is real, and really, really terrifying. Mwuhahahahahaha!

Happy Halloween from the BA Blog!

MORE ABOUT: Halloween

Angry nebula is really REALLY angry

By Phil Plait | November 16, 2011 7:00 am

In the heart of the Large Magellanic Cloud (one of the Milky Way’s many satellite galaxies), there lies a vast complex of gas called 30 Doradus. And inside that sprawling volume of space is the Tarantula Nebula, a star-forming region so huge it dwarfs even our own Orion Nebula. Thousands of stars are churning away in there, going through the process of being born.

And as they do, the hottest and brightest of them carve huge cavities in the nebula, heating the tenuous gas therein to millions of degrees. The result? This:

[Click to embiggen.]

I love this image! It’s a combination of observations from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory (in blue, showing the incredibly hot gas) and from Spitzer Space Telescope (in red, showing cooler gas). Those bubbles of hot, X-ray emitting gas are constrained by the cooler gas around them, but it’s likely the hot gas is expanding, driving the overall expansion of the nebula itself. However, it’s also possible the sheer flood of high-energy radiation from the nascent stars is behind the gas’s expansion… or it’s a combination of both. Astronomers are still arguing over this, and observations like this one will help figure out who’s right.

… but you know me. I love pareidolia, and there’s no way you can look at this image and not see a really angry screaming face, shrieking at that blue blob hovering in its way. That’s so cool!

And c’mon, NASA: you release this image two weeks after Halloween? Oh well, I’ll add it to my scary astronomy gallery anyway, which is after the jump below.

Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/PSU/L.Townsley et al.; Infrared: NASA/JPL/PSU/L.Townsley et al.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pareidolia, Pretty pictures

NanoWeen Stories

By Phil Plait | October 31, 2011 5:07 pm

I used to dabble in writing fiction when I was younger, and really enjoyed it. I’ve had some interesting ideas filed away for years now, and then, in 2009, Wil Wheaton wrote about a site called Ficly, which inspired me to cold-start my fiction chops. Ficly only allows you to write micro-stories, with a total of 1024 characters (that is, letters, numbers, and punctuation; not story characters). That limit of only a few hundred words can really hone your skills! I had a lot of fun writing a couple of stories on Ficly called Deep, and Random Walk (the second of which is good for Halloween, though they’re both on the eerie side).

This morning, I was reading Twitter and suddenly wondered if it were possible to write even shorter stories. Twitter stories! They would have to be very short — duh — but still imply some story behind them. And this being Halloween, they had to be creepy. So I wrote one, gave it the hashtag #NanoWeenStories, and posted it:

I know, it’s a bit silly and tongue-in-cheek. But after posting it, I started thinking about this more, and realized it really could be fun. So I posted some more:

See? There’s an implied back story there, without any real set up or detail. I realized this was way too much fun, so I kept going:




The next thing I knew, a bunch of other folks started writing their own, too. A lot of those are really good, so if you have some time between doorbells, check them out.

I’m currently suffering from what I call "typewriter key jam", named for the condition when you hit too many typewriter keys at once and they all stick together: I have too many ideas to write, and they’re all stuck. I need to pick one and go. But in the meantime, these nanostories are a great way to keep the fingers busy.

Hmmm, busy fingers. I bet I can use that…

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Geekery

Out of this world jack-o-lantern

By Phil Plait | October 31, 2011 12:30 pm

Looking for a last minute jack-o-lantern idea? You might get some inspiration from BABloggee Kevin Puetz, who made this space-station-based pumpkin for Halloween:

[Click to engourdgenate.]

Pretty cool! I like the Orbiter docked on the right, too. I’ve been away the past few days and didn’t have time to carve a pumpkin, so here’s a picture of mine from last year:

Got dorky pumpkins? Put links to ‘em in the comments!

And since I’ve got your attention, here again is my gallery of spacey, spooky astronomical objects, so that when you’re walking along outside tonight you’ll know that when you look up to the stars, they’re looking back at you! Mwuahahahahaha!



CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Geekery, Humor, Pretty pictures

A cosmic Halloween gallery: things that go BOO in the night

By Phil Plait | October 27, 2011 7:00 am

Halloween is coming, and while people are out trick or treating or enjoying a costume party, the Universe will continue to go about its business.

The business of DEATH, that is. Black holes will continue to tear apart stars and gorge themselves on the tasty, gooey insides; galaxies will erupt with high-energy radiation, blasting out killer rays for hundreds of thousands of light years; giant clouds of gas will collapse, form stars, and promptly have their interiors eaten out from within.

The Universe is scary, and even scarier on Halloween. And I can prove it to you, with a gallery of eerie and spooky images I hand-picked just for you. So turn down the lights, play some creepy space sounds, and enjoy. And if you get a chill down your spine while you peruse the gallery, why, I don’t blame you. After all, Halloween is for make-believe… but what you’re seeing is very, very real.



CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: Halloween

Blowin' off some scream

By Phil Plait | October 31, 2010 10:38 am



Happy Halloween from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland!

This is a radar image of the volcano taken by the Icelandic Coastal Patrol back in April 2010 while Eyjafjallajökull was still erupting constantly and making the news. I had forgotten about it, but it was tweeted by my friend Alex Witze and makes a perfect post for the holiday.

Have fun tonight!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Happy Halloween!

By Phil Plait | October 31, 2010 7:19 am

Trick or treat!

Happy Halloween, everyone! I almost put up a big scary picture here — my brother-in-law Chris took one that is honestly really creepy… but decided it might freak a few people out, so I put it in after the jump. If you’re an arachnophobe, I wouldn’t suggest clicking the "Read the rest of this entry" link…

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Big Fat Whale Halloween

By Phil Plait | October 29, 2010 1:07 pm

bigfatwhale_halloweenI’m a fan of the webcomic Big Fat Whale — he nails just the right tone of satire, snark, and intelligence that really resonates with me. Today he has a Halloween list of pretty funny scary movies that need to be made.

Turns out that the artist of BFW, Brian McFadden, reads my blog, too. The last panel of the comic is dedicated to me! Watch your back, Zach.

Related posts:

- Big Fat Whale has the scoop on Pluto
- SMBC gets it right, as usual


A Halloween bag full of Dum Dums

By Phil Plait | October 31, 2009 8:00 am

I actually am fairly tolerant of religious differences between people. Religious beliefs run very, very deep, and touch a part of us that is incredibly difficult to analyze rationally or with any sort of real self-skepticism. In general, a person’s religious belief is wrapped up in their own sense of self, so attacking that religion is akin to a personal attack on them.

But sometimes, just sometimes, a belief can be goofy enough — and damaging enough — that maybe a little bit of mockery is deserved. Certainly Pat Robertson has done so much damage in his lifetime that he gets no pass at all from me. My thoughts on him are clear and public (for example, he is "bigoted, small-minded zealot who will say anything to appeal to his base").

So it comes as no surprise that his website CBN is a haven for nonsensery at all levels. But a new post there about Halloween has even me scratching my head. Kimberly Daniels wrote a piece there about Halloween that is about as far from reality as it can be:

Halloween is a counterfeit holy day that is dedicated to celebrating the demonic trinity of : the Luciferian Spirit (the false father); the Antichrist Spirit (the false holy spirit); and the Spirit of Belial (the false son).

Really? I thought it was a time to have fun, let a little loose, eat candy, and just be silly. But I guess that’s just me.

… and about 300 million other Americans.

So we’ve established she’s a goofball. Fine. But then she goes too far:

During this period demons are assigned against those who participate in the rituals and festivities. These demons are automatically drawn to the fetishes that open doors for them to come into the lives of human beings. For example, most of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches.

Attacking Halloween is one thing, but attacking the candy?

Wow, it must be fun to live in an evidence-free world where you can simply assert whatever you want without proof or references or anything! Here, let me try: CBN is run by a TI 99-4a computer with buggy code that sometimes strings words together in patterns that almost make sense, if you squint and stand some distance away from them.

Hey, that was easy!

I think that it’s not only OK, but appropriate to shake your head and be somewhat dismissive of opinions stated as fact that aren’t within a glancing blow of reality. That anyone can take Robertson* or his organization seriously is weird. The fact that they make money hand over fist is, well, not a crime since it’s legal, but a real shame.

And I wonder if anyone has told Ms. Daniels about the pagan origins of Christmas celebrations?

Anyway, as for me, I’ll happily be giving out my accursed Kit Kats and demonic Baby Ruths to all the satan-worshipping entrail-reading pagan evildoers in the neighborhood. And probably snitching the occasional hellspawned Tootsie Roll, too.

* In case you think I am being unfair to Robertson — if such a thing is even possible — because someone else wrote that article, then check out this article at Americans United. Robertson deserves far more mockery than even I feel I can do on this blog.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Piece of mind, Religion

Monsters are iNNNtersting

By Phil Plait | October 30, 2009 2:00 pm

It’s almost Halloween! As a scifi dork, I love this time of year. But also as a man of a certain age, another thing I love is the master of humor his own self, Bug Bunny. So to get you in the Halloweeny mood, soak in the genius of Hare Raising Hare

Tip o’ the brow ridge to Samurai Frog.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Miscellaneous
MORE ABOUT: Bugs Bunny, Halloween

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