SciNoFi guest-blogger Susan Karlin got a quick photo of this tattoo on the arm of Comic-Con treasurer (and creator of the Comic-Con iPhone app [link redirects to iTunes store]) Mark Yturralde. Yturralde is such a NASA fan that he has created a permanent shrine on his right arm to all the astronauts who gave their lives for the space program. (The astronauts are grouped into the three fatal American space missions: Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia.) He says, “I’m hoping there won’t be anymore deaths. So I purposely spaced out the names so there wouldn’t be enough room to add more.”
For any curious readers of the Loom, we’re already checking with Yturralde if he wouldn’t mind if we submit a pic of his tattoo to Carl’s Science Tattoo Emporium.
Jonathan Lethem might prefer to think that his short story Lostronaut, in the most recent New Yorker, was a reflection on absence, love, memory, and death, but you, know the heck with artsy authors and their high-falutin’ themes (though his Fortress of Solitude is a bit of a nod to comics nerds). This story focuses on one member an international crew of astronauts trapped on their low-earth-orbit space station. The Chinese have launched a series of space-mines that prevent the crew from using their re-entry pods to get back to earth, so all they can do is send messages home as their space station slowly runs out of energy. We’re told almost immediately that the station’s air supply is provided by plants kept in a special greenhouse, but that the facility was damaged in an accident. As the plants die, the ratio of carbon dioxide to oxygen gets steadily but slowly worse, leaving the station inhabitants with plenty of time to ponder life and death.
The hype machine was cranking in Ballroom 20 at Comic-Con this afternoon for Quantum Quest, a 3-D animated feature about “Dave the photon” who leaves the sun to “save his people and save the Cassini spacecraft from the forces of fear and ignorance.”
Clearly, we wish these guys well. Nothing would make us happier at Discover than to have an astronomy movie written by NASA scientists penetrate the public consciousness in some meaningful way.
That being said, we hope they have a good editor, because the amount of information conveyed at this panel was overwhelming.
Here is just a small portion of my notes from the session: Read More
It slides into view, slowly filling the frame: a giant spaceship, bristling with nacelles, antennas and other devices of unknown purpose. A deep rumbling pushes your sound system’s bass response to the limit. After a length of time, as determined by a complex interplay between how much awe or menace the director is trying to convey and the size of the special effects budget, a collection of glowing engines finally passes into view.
One of my favorite science-fiction movie scenes is the opening sequence of Armageddon, which depicts the asteroid impact that marked the end of The Dinosaur Show. After the impact, hellfire rains down across the globe in deadly, but photogenic, fashion.
But as impressive a visual as that scence is, it is small beans compared to what scientist think might have actually happened to Mars. After sifting through huge amounts of data sent back from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars Global Surveyor probes, scientists believe they are closer to an explanation of one of the great puzzles of the solar system: why the northern hemisphere of the planet is so different from the southern hemisphere.
The southern hemisphere is a jangle of ancient and rough terrain. The surface of northern hemisphere is much younger, and one of the flatest places in the solar system. Suggested explanations include the notion that the northern hemisphere is the sea bed of long-vanished ocean, that lava flows from the interior smoothed out the surface, or that it’s actually just a really big crater from a really, really big asteroid.
A new analysis of the shape of the Northern plain that (and this was the hard part) took into account later volcanic action that distorted the outline over the eons has put considerable weight behind the crater theory. This would make Mars host to the largest crater in the solar system and give us new insight into just how dangerous the early solar system was—it’s believed that an even bigger asteroid collided with the Earth, splitting the planet completely open and splashing off gobs of material that later formed our moon.