Friday, April 27, 2012

Dance Your Way to a Productive Friday Afternoon

It's 2:30 on a gorgeous Friday afternoon and the sunshine is calling your name. The mountain trails are begging to feel your feet. The cold beers are a-singin' your tune.

And you are still on campus at your desk trying to ignore the Call of the Weekend.

It's late-April. Graduation is fast approaching and you have papers, finals, homework, and if you are like me, a thesis to finish writing. It's hard to stay focused at times like these. Everyone else has left the building and you have committed to working for a few more hours.

Good on you for being so dedicated!

My cure for the mid-afternoon slump is simple: Dance away your un-productivity!

Whether you boogie a little bit in your chair, or take advantage of the empty office to really cut a rug, you'll feel energized and ready to attack the rest of the day.

Here's what I'm shaken' it to this Friday:

Question of The Day
What do you groove to when you are working hard?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Borrowed from PhD Comics: The Higgs Boson Explained

Yet another example of how I am constantly amazed by people's ability to distill down difficult topics and concepts and present them in an understandable and entertaining manner. Jorge Cham of Piled Higher and Deeper  intersperses comics inspired by life as a grad stud with interviews at various universities and research institutions. This week he traveled to CERN to interview Particle Physicist Daniel Whiteson about the Higgs Boson and how the LHC is attempting to find it.

The combination of visual and audio information presented in such a unique and entertaining way gets me excited to learn about a new topic. I recommend watching the video in full screen to get the entire experience.

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Don't forget to vote in this weeks poll. What sort of posts do you want to see on this blog? More like this one? Your opinion is important to me!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Thinking About the Future of This Blog

It took me a few days of those unavoidable 'woe-is-me-I'm-not-qualified-for-space-travel-research' blues, but I'm back in the pilot's seat and already engrossed with finding my next potential 2013 adventure. Something has to distract me from writing my thesis, right?

I'd like to first extend a hearty 'Best of Luck' to the 30 finalists in the HI-SEAS program. I will be following along from wherever I end up and possibly providing updates to my readers from my position on the outside. I am also considering applying for the 2014 crew, so any advice for making it to the finalists would be greatly appreciated.

One last tidbit to carry with you to the Red Planet:

On To The Future

My main focus with this blog is still sharing an interest and passion for science. However, I am going to be focusing less on the space and astronomy aspects and more on general science topics. Are you ready to get your biology on? I hope to incorporate aspects of travel and food blogging and I'll have a lot of time to focus on these topics once I graduate. Until that point, get ready for some grad school/thesis writing 'How to...' posts.

Do you have requests for blog topics? Please allow your voice to be heard in this week's poll. The poll is located on top left side bar, and you may choose as many answers as your heart desires. Thanks for your support and advice! If you would like to request topics not on the poll, by all means include them as a comment here!

Be patient with me in the short-term. I'll be playing around with different visual themes and layouts. A new outfit helps when starting something new! I also need to brainstorm for a new name. One that will apply to my blog over the long-term. Again, suggestions are appreciated.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Not This Time

I got the most disappointing news today.

Dear HI-SEAS Applicant,
Thank you again for your interest in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation. I am sorry to inform you that you have not been selected for the interview stage of the application process. We had a very large number of highly qualified applicants, and it was extremely difficult to narrow the pool down.
I believe I've put a lot of hard work into this application process and to be cut now is really saddening. I will hopefully be able to apply next year and get further. I wish all the best to those applicants who have advanced and will go on to interviews and flight physicals.

I don't know what will happen in the short term with this blog. I am sinking into the final two months of my thesis and need to concentrate. But, I hope to not abandon everyone who has been so supportive. Stay tuned while I figure a few things out.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Guaranteed to Lift You Up

No long post today. My thesis needs some undivided attention.

However, in an effort to not leave you empty handed, please enjoy this video as much as I did.

If I'm ever lucky enough to have such an experience I hope it's caught on tape so I can share it.

Question of The Day:
What are some of your more memorable experiences to date?
What are some you hope to have?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Future of Discovery

Today marked the end of an era for manned spaceflight, as the first of the operational shuttles has been retired by the NASA Space Shuttle Program. Discovery landed at Dulles International Airport today after a memorable flight over Washington, D.C.. The Smithsonian Institutes' National Air and Space Museum will welcome the well-used shuttle into their exhibit. 

Eyes were on the sky in Washington as the flight granted spectators a final view of the shuttle in flight, piggybacked on a modified Boeing 747. 

Photo by blogger MarekFloryda 

NASA created a Flickr for those lucky enough to be along Discovery's flight path and have taken photos. 

Space Shuttle Discovery was first introduced to the public in October 1983, and left for it's maiden voyage on August 30, 1984. The shuttle landed successfully back on Earth for the final time March 9, 2011. After spending a cumulative year in space, over 39 missions, it's position as NASA's Orbital Flight leader has finished. 

Discovery Notable Facts
  • Third operational orbiter (after Columbia and Challenger)
  • Flew the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit
  • Has deployed a further 30 satellites 
  • Flew over 238,539,663 km during service
The interior of the shuttle will not be available to museum-goers once the exhibit is open. However, you can explore the flight deck here:

While this is a disappointing day for space enthusiasts, it is certainly not a sign of the end of space discoveries. Many feel that NASA and space exploration progress has slowed to a point that it is in danger of regressing backwards. 

NASA plans to resume manned spaceflight in 2017. NASA's Mars Missions will hopefully continue in 2018 with another rover mission. 

But new, private ventures into space are emerging, and may provide answers and opportunities in the present. 

Spaceport America

My own current state, New Mexico, is at the forefront of space transportation. Spaceport America is currently developing launch vehicles as the world's first commercial spaceport. Owned by the state and its people, this space launch facility is designed to with customers in mind, as well as attempting to inspire visitors. Since dedication in October 2010, the spaceport has successfully launched several vertical rockets. Most recently, the 10th launch reached the highest altitude on record for the facility.

Additionally, Virgin Galactic has entered a 20-year contract with Spaceport America, with the spaceport serving as headquarters. Virgin Galactic's space vehicles have already taken over the skies with their WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo vehicles. Over 500 people have signed up to take flights into space. Including lucky number 500, Ashton Kutcher.

New Mexico further aides in space-related progress through the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium (NMSGC). New Mexico State University (where I currently am attaining my Masters degree) is the lead institution for this program, which aims to support students in multiple disciplines with a united interest in aeronautics, space, and related fields.

This PayPal funded company hopes to pick up where NASA budget cuts left off. SpaceX aims to develop launch vehicles that ultimately reduce cost and increase viability of space access. The jewel of the space fleet vehicles is Dragon, a free-flying craft designed for transport of (un)pressurized cargo and/or crew members. Dragon is scheduled to launch April 30 and will make history by docking with the International Space Station. While this flight is still considered a test, success would bring the company ever closer to becoming the first commercial carrier to deliver payloads.

Questions of The Day:
What are your hopes for the future of space exploration?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cool Stuff Sunday 6

This past week has provided a plethora of Cool Stuff to share! I've enjoyed shifting through stories and videos to select my favorites. Thanks to everyone who shared a link to something extra Cool with me this week!

Be sure to keep you eyes on the night sky again this week/weekend. The Lyrid Meteor Shower should peak April 22.

We've seen that the planets have inspired lots of things: research, space travel, videos, etc; here is a movement from an orchestral suite written in the early 1900s that is intended to convey astrological ideas and emotions associated with the planets on the psyche.

Another great study involving the usefulness of kelp. This time to detect radiation!
Solar Panal Satellite would Beam Power to Earth 
In the very first CSS, I had a story about a twister on Mars. Now
 another has been spotted that puts the previous 800 meter tall dust devil to shame. The new sighting was over 20 KM HIGH!
Interesting approach to understanding mass extinctions.
Amazing discovery finds world's first photosynthetic vertebrate!
An update on Nat Geo's DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition. 
Question of The Day:
What was your favorite Cool Stuff from this week?
Feel free to share any other amazing articles/videos/photographs/etc that you have enjoyed this week!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Scale Matters: Applying the Concepts

If you haven't checked out Monday'sTuesday'sWednesday's and Thursday's blog posts, it'd be best to start there! This week we're having a series of posts discussing scale and size. I'm hoping you all still have your imagination hats handy. 

The concepts we've learned about during this week's series, space and time, hold a very important role within scientific research, more specifically, within experimental design. We may also refer to these aspects as spatial and temporal factors, respectively.

An important question to ask in research: So What?
Researchers need to be very mindful of these scales when asking their research questions. This questions will lead to treatment  and experimental structure.

When scientists study genetics, they use fruit flies and not elephants. Life span is important.

When entomologists study insects, they often have to consider multiple life stages that occupy both aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Some insects live days, while some may live over a decade.

When climate researchers collect data, they do so over centuries. Perspective related to time is important. Repetition is vital to minimizing experimental error.

100+ years is a long time! Certainly longer than any one researcher could record. (Dang, that would be one heck of a PhD project). However, as science is a field of collaboration, communication, and networks, people have found a way to develop approaches to address the limitations our lifespans present. Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) is currently being conducted at 26 different sights in the U.S. that spans multiple ecosystem types, environmental conditions, and varying levels of human domination of the landscape.

Different Scales within Research

Grand Canyon Temporal Scale - Click for Full Size

But even looking at data that span a hundred, or even a thousand years becomes less impressive when you start talking to a geologist. A great way to visualize the time frame geologists must consider is to imagine the layers of rocks in the walls of the Grand Canyon. Geologist can match each rock type and layer position to a point in our Earth's history. The further down the rock layer, the older it dates. 

You may also confer with a planetary scientist. Or an astronomer. Even a cosmologist. They deal with temporal time scales that stretch back millions or billions of years. Even to that very first moment, the Big Bang. 

This week has been a great experience for me. I'll try and do series like these every so often. Next week, we'll return to more sporadic topics for posts. Feedback on these posts is greatly appreciated. Just a head's up, the next application announcements may occur this week. 'Mid-April' is a little vague, but I'm feeling very optimistic. Keep reading, sharing, and commenting if you'd like to read along while I'm on (fake) Mars!

Questions of the Day:
If you are a scientist conducting research, what are some of the spatial and temporal scales that you've had to consider?

If not, can you think of the spatial and temporal scale necessary if someone wanted to study you?

Further Reading:
Implicit Scaling in Ecological Research
Choosing appropriate temporal and spatial scales for ecological research
Relative Importance of Spatial and Temporal Scales in a Patchy Environment
Expanding the Temporal and Spatial Scales of Ecological Research and Comparison of Divergent      Ecosystems: Roles for LTER in the United States

Friday, April 13, 2012

Scale Matters: But, What about Time?

If you haven't checked out Monday'sTuesday's, and Wednesday's blog posts, it'd be best to start there! This week we're having a series of posts discussing scale and size. I'm hoping you all still have your imagination hats handy. 

Size, both great and small, and the ability to perceive it through a series of magnificent inventions are already wondrous enough to contemplate. However, by adding one more aspect to this thought process, we can really understand the importance of scale. 


We generally think of time in seconds, minutes, hours, and days. If longer stretches are required we have years, decades, and millennia. 

For those of us on Earth, time is linked to the path of our plant around the sun. A day is the length of time for one rotation of the Earth. 24 hours. A year is one Earth orbit around the sun.  8765.81277 hours. But each planetary body has it's own duration for days and year. 

On Mars, each day lasts on average 24 hours 37 minutes and 22.663 seconds. Researchers and technicians working with robotic rovers and landers on the red planet must adjust their lives to Mars time. Imagine a whole team waking up about 40 minutes later each day so they can maximize research conducted during the daylight hours on a distant planet. 

The human concept of time is inherently quite stunted. We have about 80 year to observe, learn, and live. We use time to schedule our lives, educations, and aspirations. We have time allotted for school, work, and play. Holidays are assigned a certain date on our calendar. Sometimes it can feel like a very local concept. 

But time spreads out over the universe, just like space. 

All of human history is but a blip in time.  

If we take the 14 billion years that have occurred since the Big Bang and realign it into a single year, then all of recorded human history has happened in the last 13 seconds. 

With our universe, time and distances are very closely aligned. Remember that our universe started as a single point from which everything erupted. Time and space included. And with time, the universe expands, thus more space. 

The building blocks of everything that exists now were created in the seconds following the Big Bang. Everything that composes our body, planet, solar system, galaxy, etc. At first, the universe was mainly comprised of basic elements. Hydrogen, the simplest of all elements was most abundant. One proton, one neutron. As time continued protons began to stick together an eventually Helium. Two protons and neutrons. Allow enough time and more and more elements arise, increasing in complexity. 

 So we've connected time to it's importance in our own lives, and to the lifespan, size, and complexity of the entire universe.

We may also use time as a form of distance! 

The speed of light in a vacuum is a universal constant valued at 299,792,458 meters per second. You can see this in action by just going out at night and taking in the night sky. Light from stars and reflected from planets is barreling across space to your eyes. The light has traveled hundreds or thousands of light-years to reach you, granting you a glimpse into the past. My artist friend, Danielle, calls it our Museum of Light that serves as a window to our past. Keep in mind that your eyes are the first things these photons have bumped into since they left the surface of a star. Also, that the star you make a wish upon tonight might not exist at this point in time!

Remember the Hubble's Deep Field Image from yesterday's post? Those galaxies are some of the oldest we've observed, but we can still collect the light that has been traveling towards us to create an inspiring photo. 

The following video brings together several concepts from this week's series on scale. As the intro states, this film shoes the known universe as mapped through astronomical observation. Every celestial body is represented to scale and in its correct location. Keep an eye on the lower portion of the video that keeps track of light years traveled. 

We're nearing the end of this week's series of posts. I hope to bring everything together tomorrow in the final post. I'd appreciate some feed back on the pace and quality of recent posts. 

Questions of The Day:
Have you enjoyed and learned from these posts?
Do you like the idea of a series of posts spanning a week?
Do you have a topic in mind that you'd like to know more about?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Scale Matters: Beyond Our Eyes

If you haven't checked out Monday's and Tuesday's blog post, it'd be best to start there! This week we're having a series of posts discussing scale and size. I'm hoping you all still have your imagination hats handy. 

We've discussed and pondered the very tiny, and the unimaginably ginormous this week. I know it's asking a lot to try and comprehend the size of every single component of the universe, in addition to the vastness of the universe itself. No one can be expected to explore everything in existence. Luckily, scientists do not try and approach the issues with such a wide vision. Divide and conquer! Teamwork! 

But how? How do you study what you can't see with the naked eye or what you can't reach with current technology?

Inventions! (Do you remember the deep voiced commentator from Bill Nye the Science Guy? Imagine him saying "IN-VEN-TIONS!")

Before any form of microscopy could arise, humans first had to gain a basic understanding of magnification. Surely at some point in history (around the first century AD) some curious fellow noticed that when you look through transparent crystal that is thickest in the middle, what over object you peer at becomes seemingly larger. 

And thus, Magnifying Lenses were invented. Named 'lenses' for their similar shape to lentils. 

Not a lot happened to advance this technology for a few centuries. Imagine living in a time when people had no conception of what we have learned in just two days. They were really missing out! 

Eventually people must have grown curiouser and curiouser, because in the late 1500's Dutch father and son, Zaccharias and Hans Janssen, experimented with lenses in a tube, which would eventually lead to more advanced instruments. The telescope was emerging. Some 20 years later, Galileo took a short break from figuring the laws of pendulums and chucking objects off the Tower of Pisa to grab a snack and work out the principles of lenses and a focusing device. No big deal.

He turned his attention to the sky and viewed the moon (it was rough!), Jupiter (it had moons?!), and Saturn. 

Compound Microscope
However, the true father of microscopy is Anton van Leewenhoek of Holland, and not just because his name is very entertaining to say in the wee hours of the morning after pulling an all-nighter. 
Dissecting Microscope
No, he actually taught himself how to grind and polish the most advanced curvature in lenses for his time and quite some time after. Since he was the first and only person to reach these magnification levels at this point, he was also the first person to witness some of the tiny marvels of life. His microscopes were the first to see and aid in describing: bacteria, yeast plants, life in a drop of water, and the circulation of blood corpuscles. 

His advancements were so impressive that no one could rival his lenses for a few hundred years!

Both compound and dissecting microscopes require illumination by some sort of light source (i.e. light microscopes). However, even in an absolutely perfect situation, they cannot be used to distinguish objects smaller than 0.275 micrometers (or half the wavelength of light). As we've recently learned, there is a whole mess of things to look at beyond this limit. Can't learn much looking at a blur. 

SEM - Scanning Electron Microscope
TEM - Transmission Electron Microscope
Hark! The arrival of the electron microscopes in the 1930's provided us with a means to magnify objects up to 1 million times! Provided they wouldn't mind resting in a high vacuum (most living specimen mind). In these microscopes, electrons are sped up so that when beams are focused onto a sample, they are either absorbed or scattered and form an image on an electron-sensitive photographic plate. 

In addition to advancing science with their improved optics, these powerful microscopes have lead to amazing works of micro-art

Butterfly egg perched on a plant tendril to avoid ant predation. Martin Oeggerli.
In the last hundred years, we have made some incredible advancements in technology.

An Array of Radio Telescopes
Radio Telescopes - Differing from optical telescopes, these directional radio antenna operate in the radio frequency. Despite what Jodie Foster would have you think, these do not return data in the form of sound, but rather pictures.

Do not go to New Mexico's Very Large Array and ask to listen for communications.

Trust me on that one.

Multi-Telescope Observatories - Twin telescopes allow increased stability in optics due to two smaller mirrors in place of one large, fragile one.

Hawaii's Big Island hosts two of the world's most important astronomical viewing sites.

Hubble Space Telescope
Hubble Space Telescope - Carried into orbit in 1990, this monster of a telescope is still in operation today, thanks to numerous missions to update and maintain the many instruments and components. Like the electron microscopes, this masterpiece has also managed to provide images that are simply works of art.

NASA pointed Hubble at a particularly dark spot in our night's sky. The following image is the result and contains more than 10,000 galaxies.

Hubble Deep Field Image - the most detailed visible light image of some of the oldest (most distant) galaxies. 

Mars HiRise - The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment is a powerful, and highly useful, camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Images from HiRISE have aided in locating areas of interest so that they may be later explored by the everlasting bunny, err Opportunity rover. Perhaps this camera, or its successor, will be able to watch over an eventual manned mission on Mars.
Artists Rendition of the Hi-RISE aboard
the Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Questions of the Day:
Which of these instruments would you like to look through?
What would you look at?
What kind of advancements do you think lay ahead of us in these fields?

Don't forget to participate in Hubble's Hidden Treasures! You have access to ALL OF THE IMAGES FROM THE HUBBLE TELESCOPE! Two slide shows of the contest Flickr accounts are on the right side of my blog. Go, be inspired!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Scale Matters: What is Big?

If you haven't checked out yesterday's blog post, it'd be best to start there! This week we're having a series of posts discussing scale and size. I'm hoping you all have your imagination hats handy. I never leave home without mine.

Earthrise - by William Anders
After discussing the tiny, microscopic aspects of our world yesterday it's easy to see ourselves as these giants towering over these minuscule particles. In fact, when consider our role and impact on this planet, it's hard not to feel big, brave, and onto of the world. We've explored the deepest trenches of the oceans, climbed to the top of the greatest mountains, and blasted to the moon and looked back at our planet.

And then, once more, we realized once more how small we are.

“The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring, and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth.” - Jim Lovell

Cloudy skies lend to the view. Looked like a painting.
My most recent 'OMG - I'm tiny' moment was the moment I walked up to the edge of the Grand Canyon and looked out at the natural wonder that stretched before me. I thought I had seen some pretty awe-inspiring, gigantic things in my life. Whales off of the South African coast. Giant Sequoias in California. But they all paled in comparison to  the giant painted canvas that is the grandest of all canyons. It's important to note that the Grand Canyon is not the largest, longest, or deepest canyon, but is still rightly so the grandest.

We can move on to even more expressive depths. By stroke of luck, this week the man behind XKCD penned an impressive array of the depths of lakes and oceans. I was shocked to see that the Deepwater Horizon oil well went even deeper than James Cameron's epic journey to the deepest trench in the ocean. Even a blue whale, the largest animal to have ever lived (that's right, larger than all of the dinosaurs) is a mere blip on this scale. 
Click to enlarge.
What I've found is that there is always something bigger that serves to make me feel like a dust speck on a pretty blue marble. Even as far as our own solar system goes, we're on the petite side. Jupiter dwarfs us and is promptly dwarfed in return by the Sun.

Our solar system to scale.
Well, at least we can rest assured that the star in our solar system is quite a whopper, right? I mean, the Sun, she's pretty big. Look at her! No? Really, are you sure?

So there are suns that make our Sun appear to be a tiny dot. And THOSE ginormous suns are themselves dots among a giant expanse of galaxies. And those galaxies are specks in the great, vast, really, really, REALLY large expanse that is the universe.

And to think, that at one point at the very beginning of time, all of this (all the planets, stars, galaxies, etc) began at one unimaginably dense, infinitesimal point from which everything expanded.

It boggles the mind to try and comprehend these vast scales, but I suggest that you try. Go outside tonight and look at the stars, if you can, and think about the sizes and distances involved.

Remember from the video in this post, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, talks about how when most people think about the size of the universe that it makes them feel small. But when he thinks about the universe he feels big, huge even, as he is (as we all are) made of and are part of everything.

This website touches on some of the biggest objects in the universe. Can you try and guess what these structures are?

Questions of The Day:
Did you guess the biggest objects correctly? What were your guess and what surprised you about the answers?
Are you enjoying this weeks series on scale?
What is the biggest thing you've seen on our lovely planet?

If you still haven't had enough of this topic, then I highly recommend the following video. It's 45 minutes long but it can help you visualize and provide additional information and astounding facts.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Scale Matters: What is Small?

What is the smallest thing you've ever seen?

Now, what's the smallest thing you can imagine?

Imagine something even smaller.

Even smaller.

How about even smaller?

How small is it? How would you measure it? With what units?

This video, narrated by Stephen Fry, has inspired this weeks look at size and scale. Check it out and then come back for more!


Woah! A nanometer is pretty tiny! If you recall, my research looks at a specific species of micro-algae, Nannocloropsis salina. These guys are only one cell, and can only be seen under a microscope. How many nanometers across are they?

You'll have to take my word for it, but the diatom on the left is about 34 um,
while the four N. salina cells are each about 4 um. I can place rulers on the cells individually
within the program, but they don't save in the image files. Odd!
So these itsy-bitsy, unseen with the naked eye cells are thousands of nanometers wide. The diatom is about 34,000 nanometers long! In fact, both are so big that we measure them in micrometers (µm). 
A look at different size prefixes.

Let's think about this. N. salina is just one cell, and it's 4,000 nm in diameter. What makes up a cell?
We can break down even this basic building block into molecules and atoms. How big might they be? What can you find inside of an atom? How big are electrons, neutrons, and protons? Can you go even smaller?

Check out this fantastic website for help answering these questions with an iterative, visual module of the universe.

Surely there can't be many things that are even smaller. Right?

Why do we even need to study anything so unbelievably small? 

How big of an impact could they have on us, the giant humans?

We could ask Mr. Owl, over here, but I had better luck searching the web. 

  1. Nanotechnology could enhance environmental quality and sustainability.
  2. Ultrathin and lightweight organic solar cells with high flexibility

  3. And an extra special application that could help with the trip to Mars: The NASA Biocapsule - made of carbon nanotubes - will be able diagnose and treat astronauts in space!

Tune in tomorrow for the continuing saga of Scale Matters!

Question of The Day:
Can you think of any other applications or uses for the extra small objects we learned about?

Kaltenbrunner, M., White, M.S., Głowacki, E.D., Sekitani, T., Someya, T., Sariciftci, N.S. & Bauer, S. (2012). Ultrathin and lightweight organic solar cells with high flexibility, Nature Communications, 3  770. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1772

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Cool Stuff Sunday 5

Another beautiful New Mexican Sunday has come and is spoiling me with its warmth and sunshine. These are the types of days that I need to appreciate and remember if I end up participating in the Mars Analog Food Study. I'll just have memories of the sun's warmth and the fresh air's breeze. So enjoy the post and the content I've compiled, but then get off of the internet and go outside! And not just because there might be candy hidden.

Before you check out the videos and links, perhaps you can take a minutes to sign a petition to raise the allotment of tax money to increase NASA's funding?

This guy is not quite as cuddly as the Easter Bunny
A very cool NPR story that I heard on the radio about using music to teach math
 and fractions!. Creative education that works is so wonderful!
A really creative fix that may allow us to utilize brown seaweed for biofuel! I wouldn't
mind going to the coast and helping with that research!
I'm afraid some of the sound clip links may not be functioning, but an interesting article nevertheless
about how things sound on different planets! The thunder clips are my favorite!

I came across this video series (The Feynman Series) which serves as a compliment to the Sagan Series. Richard Feynman is another notable scientific communicator. This Nobel Prize co-winner was invaluable to the field of physics and made contributions both within his research and passion for teaching and popularizing the subject. What I really love about these series of videos is that they serve as such unique tools for inspiring interest in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). I want to soak up as many of these as possible so I can understand what I love about them most and try and use that to inspire my own attempts. I've found both more visual and awe-inspiring videos, such as the one above, and more silly attempts:

Another cool TED talk (can you tell I'm border-line obsessed with these?) by the author of Eat, Pray, Love. She talks about the notion of having your 'greatest achievement' accomplished and behind you, as well as the concept of 'being' a genius vs. 'having' genius. 

Question of The Day:
What are you going to do OUTSIDE this week?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

One Small Step Closer

Got the email this morning! Early this morning. A bit too early. I'm grateful for my attentive mother who saw the post on the Hi-SEAS Facebook page and called me repeatedly until my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ringtone awakened me. 

Dear HI-SEAS Applicant,Thank you for your interest in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation. As you may know, we received almost 700 applications for this mission, for only six crew positions.... At this point, you are one of the candidates for a potential
education/journalism/outreach/art/social-media position on the crew.... We expect to be able to notify the ~30 crew semi-finalists by mid-April. 
I am very excited and very honored to be considered for such a position and must in return thank every single person who has come to check out my blog, shared it with friends, commented, and provided support. There's not much for me to do at this point other than continue to post and work on getting more readers and commenters! I would appreciate if everyone could keep it up and perhaps tell a friend or two about the blog and keep up with the commenting. Comments make my day!

Friday, April 6, 2012

No News is Good News?

Announcements are set for this week, but still no word from those in charge. I'm assuming that since today is Good Friday, and campuses are closed, then it's very unlikely that they'd be contacting people. Perhaps the weekend? Monday? Another whole week??! All I know is that every time my devices make an email/tweet/ringer/random bleep or blip I tense up in excitement and anticipation.

Fellow applicant, Timothy Judd, has not been especially helpful.

Since I had hoped to use today's blog to share the news of my excitement/disappointment and that will have to wait for another are some little tidbits to keep you going.

The first contains another interview by Kim Binsted, skip to 17:29 for her part.

And then this is just a completely stellar TED-Ed talk by a fish!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Top 20 Things I'll Miss When I'm on Mars

I was going to wait to write this post until after the applicant advancement announcement, but I'm just so excited that just maybe news will arrive today instead of tomorrow (or worse, Saturday).

Four months spent 'on Mars' is a quick trip compared to the complete 2-year journey that would be required of astronauts heading to the Red Planet. However, I'm sure that the 6 selected participants will feel the strain of such a lifestyle every so often. Before deciding to apply, I asked myself if there was anything I absolutely could not live without for four months that should keep me from submitting my application. While I couldn't think of anything of that magnitude, I was able to come up with some items that I'd certainly miss (but, ultimately can live without IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE).

My Top 20 Things I'll Miss:
  1. Family
  2. Friends
  3. Freedom to Travel
  4. Vegetarianism
  5. Sunshine on my skin
  6. Long, hot showers
  7. Animals
  8. Crock Pot? If the Mars kitchen isn't equipped with a slow cooker I will be quite sad. 
  9. Forests
  10. Hiking
  11. Mountains
  12. The Ocean (and it'll be so close, yet so far!)
  13. Having my own room
  14. Fresh fruit and vegetables
  15. Direct contact with people (5-20  min delay on all communications)
  16. My own kitchen, stocked with what I want to eat/snack upon
  17. Streams
  18. A fully equipped lab and greenhouse
  19. Food choice
  20. A private life, outside of work
A lot of the things that make this list, I already miss. Graduate school in the desert certainly has many, many perks, but I'm finding myself missing going for a hike in the woods and stumbling upon a stream. I can't think of anything more delightful to do once I graduate. I'll take a nap in the sun and then turn over rocks to observe critters.

If selected, I'll be very eager to see how this list of predictions holds up to what I actually end up yearning for the most.

*       *      *

As an EXTRA ADDED BONUS, I found this short talk by Kim Binsted! Dr Binsted is one of the co-PIs for the Hi-SEAS project. Last week, she tweeted a link to this talk that was recorded at The Green House Innovation Hub in Honolulu, HI. Be sure to check out the other presentations, but if you grow impatient, the Hi-SEAS talk starts about 30 minutes into the clip. My favorite part is when she says that they'd only expected 50 applications (remember, there were 700)! I also would LOVE to have a better view of the slide with the guinea pig that outlines some of the other aspects they'll be monitoring. I see sleep! 

Questions of The Day:
What would you miss if you traveled to Mars?
What did you think of Kim Binsted's talk? Was her summary of the project what you expected?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Preparing to Enter the Imaginarium

I've come up with a nice week long series of posts, but I'll need some time to get everything in order. The next two months are crunch time for my thesis, so daily posts will not be an option. I'll try and update at least 4 times a week.

I'm very excited about next week, but everyone is going to need to be prepared to use their imagination and creativity a bit. So instead of taking the week off from posting to prepare the next posts, I'll leave you with a daily TED talk (or something similar if I happen across it) that I hope will make you think.

Today's talk is from Jay Walker, curator of the Library of Human Imagination. Now, before you even watch the clip, think about different things that could be in such a library! What would you have a library of? These can be our Questions of The Day!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Cool Stuff Sunday 4

What a long week/month. I'm reluctant to believe that April is already here. I was able to relax a bit yesterday and celebrate the Bluegrass Brawl basketball game with friends. I'm not much of a sports fan, but I am a fan of my home state and wanted to share some of the Kentucky enthusiasm. Even though I didn't post a Stuff Your Face Saturday, I did spend the morning creating an array of homemade snacks! I even brewed my own sweet tea! I'm not sure how long tea bags last, but this could be a real sweet treat on Mars!

After you check out all of the Cool Stuff for today, check out the newly added 'About Me' section. I also figured out how to add slideshows of the two Hubble's Hidden Treasures Flickr accounts to the blog sidebar. Employed some good ol' fashioned stubbornness and trial & error with that accomplishment!

Also, this week announcements will be made about who advances to the next round in the application process. 700 applicants applied to participate in the Hawaiian Mars Analog Mission and Food Study, and the review committee has spent the last month narrowing that pool to a mere 30 people! 

I'm pregnant. No, I'm dropping out of grad school. No, I'm not linking you to a story about the history of April Fools Can't get a preview for this, but its worth checking out!

Found Apollo 11 Rockets
Pretty Underwater Volcano Eruption

A great Nat Geo clip about a dam removal. Just think about how much that area will change!

Decommissioning the Space Shuttles 
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