When I was a teenager, Carl Sagan was cool ... well, at least as cool as a scientist could be. Cosmos was a best-seller, he was a fixture on PBS, and he helped make the science behind the science fiction of the day comprehensible.
This is a cool animation based on remarks that Sagan made after seeing a photograph taken from the Voyager 1 probe.
"In the absence of my own knowledge of a particular thing, I am going to find the best authority I can. Science as a tool allows us to try and generate a really good authority… it is the only system that even bothers to try to minimize bias." - Tim Minchin
[Surf’s Up, as published in the St. John's Telegram on Thursday, February 16, 2012.]
We’re going to hop, skip and jump around the digital neighbourhood, with stops for wine lovers, music buffs and aspiring Star Wars villains.
Let’s not waste a second.
Darth Maul Me The re-release of the Phantom Menace didn’t exactly stir my excitement, but I have to admit I had a laugh with this free app available from the official Star Wars site. Take a new picture or one from your library, make some taps and tweaks, and voila: you have the red, tattoeed and horned face of a Sith master. (Or Sith apprentice, to be precise.) It’s even more fun with kids.
Natalie MacLean: Wine Picks and Pairings Based in Canada, MacLean has earned a global reputation as a wine writer, and now has an app to complement a growing list of publications. Her newest book is Unquenchable, which focuses on bargains in the wine store; MacLean will be in St. John’s soon to promote it. The app is free, although you can pay for full access to reviews. A great feature: a barcode scanner that you can use while browsing at the NLC. MacLean also offers exhaustive suggestions for finding a good wine to match your food, and vice versa.
One Brilliant Bottle A couple of years ago, St. John’s novelist Kevin Major undertook an ambitious blogging project: picking one wine each week, and producing a small essay about it. Each was illustrated with rich photographs. The idea was to do 52 wines (Major specializes in organic and biodynamic selections) in as many weeks. Encouraged by the response, Major kept it going for another year. Now that 2012 is underway, Major has happily decided to keep updating the site, and few would be upset that the new entries come at a more leisurely pace. It’s one of my weekend reading pleasures.
Coffee Music Here’s a blog in a similar vein. Creator Josh Hooten intends to take a photograph every day this year of a coffee as he enjoys it, with a note about the music he’s listening to at the time. These happen to be two of my most favourite subjects, so I am a little biased. A daily pace is a bit of a grind and Hooten has been struggling to keep pace, although I intend to keep checking … in part for some random musical inspiration as I enjoy my own coffee break.
Valentine Abbey Valentine’s Day may have come and gone, but Downtown Abbey fans will relish these amusing virtual cards, any day of the year.
40 Noises that Built Pop From Word, the excellent British music magazine, here is a tribute to specific noises that made rock music what it is, from the sweeping glissando on a piano (think of the opening sound of Abba’s Dancing Queen) to the power chord (thank you, Kinks) to the fretless bass (a little jazz making its way into the rock world). The best part? You can play an audio sample to hear precisely what each entry is describing.
Donna Ramsay Photography Ramsay was among the recent winners of the Newfoundland and Labrador Bloggers’ Choice awards, in the photo category. Her blog showcases her work, particularly in portraits, and largely in black and white. The drawback? It’d be nice to see more frequent updates.
Scale of the universe Play a little big bang theory from the comfort of your own home, with a slider that shows you things that are small (an earthworm) or incredibly small (the nucleus of an atom, which is many times larger again than other options) and things that are large and then incredibly … well, you get the picture. Consider it bit of mind-blowing activity to put everything else in perspective.
John Gushue is an editor with CBC News in St. John’s. Twitter: @johngushue.
My parents bought a microwave oven around 1980 or so, and it was enormous. It took up half the space of a counter, and was about three or four times the volume of the typical oven you can buy today. The advertised wonders of microwaves (cooking meals in minutes, heating up leftovers) were eclipsed for me and my friend Chris by our teenage scientific curiosity: what would happen if you left something in it for a long time?
Our first, and last, experiment involved an orange. We nuked it, and then nuked it again and again. And maybe again. I'm not sure.
By that point, the orange had become quite gross, and it stunk up the joint. Fortunately, not permanently. (The oven wasn't permanent, either; my mom returned it, and didn't come around to microwave use for many years, as I recall.)
The following video is actually a commercial for a company that is also a microwave skeptic, yet also prone for a little experiment or two. Moe's Southwest Grill bills itself for not using microwaves to cook their food. Why? Well, the video explains their cooking principles.
Dot Dot Dot is Morse code for the letter 'S,' the full message Guglielmo Marconi claimed to have received atop Signal Hill in St. John's in 1901. It ushered in the age of telecommunications. My maternal grandfather worked as a telegraph operator for Canadian Marconi on Signal Hill for many years.
As well, I have a habit of overusing the ellipsis when I write ... as frequent readers might notice.