Dr. Phil Plait is an astronomer and a very popular science communicator. His blog, Bad Astronomy, “covers the entire universe, from subatomic particles to the Big Bang itself, astronomy, space exploration, and the effect of politics on science.” Like many young astronomers, Phil’s interest in astronomy ignited when he first saw Saturn and its rings through a telescope. He earned his Ph.D. working on the study of supernovae with the Hubble Space Telescope. We chatted about his career, his enduring work in amateur astronomy with his telescope, his love for science communication, why people who don’t believe in the Apollo moon landings are wrong, the study of a potentially dangerous asteroid or comet collision with Earth, how climate change is affecting us, and the recent discovery of a nearby solar system with Earth-like planets.
These days, it’s easy to collect a lot of data in the course of a research project. And, often, that big data collection is hard to interpret and glean new insights from by data analysis alone. That’s where scientific visualization comes in. Here’s a site that celebrates those images which are frequently just plain beautiful as well. From the website: “The Wellcome Image Awards are Wellcome’s most eye-catching celebration of science, medicine and life. Now in their 20th year, the Awards recognise the creators of informative, striking and technically excellent images that communicate significant aspects of healthcare and biomedical science.” Check it out.
Every year since 2014, NASA has published a software catalog, On Wednesday NASA released a software catalog with over 1,000 free code samples. The free code is divided into 15 categories like robotics, aeronautics, climate simulators, biological sensors and guidance systems. Although the code is free, some restrictions may apply. For some, any U.S. citizen can apply to use it. Others can only be used by other federal agencies. And there is even some open-source code in the catalog. Open-source code can be directly downloaded, but most others require you to create an account, or in some cases sign a government contract or a usage agreement. If you’re in the sciences or like to tinker at home, be sure to check out this year’s NASA catalog.
You’ve heard of Duranium, Tritanium and Gold-pressed Latinum, right? These are fictional metals from Star Trek lore. But did you know a Periodic Table of all the elements and alloys mentioned across all fiction has been compiled? It includes all the magical substances from TV, the movies, comics, games, mythology and more. Of course, there’s no chemistry in this table. Instead, it’s a beautifully presented and organized database. Just click on any item to see its origin. For example, click on Dur to discover that “Duranium makes up the outer hull of Starfleet’s NX-class starships.” This table is just amazing to behold.