Category: Science

Video of Earth at night is better than any movie

It’s not clear to me why NASA doesn’t create videos like these themselves, but whatever the reason, dedicated space fans aren’t allowing the video vacuum to exist for long. This gorgeous timelapse video of the Earth at night as seen from the ISS, is proof that reality can be every bit as breathtaking as what Hollywood can dream up. Do yourself a favour and watch it in fullscreen mode – you’ll be glad you did.

From the creator, Knate Myers:

Every frame in this video is a photograph taken from the International Space Station. All credit goes to the crews on board the ISS.
I removed noise and edited some shots in photoshop. Compiled and arranged in Sony Vegas.

Music by John Murphy – Sunshine (Adagio In D Minor)

Image Courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory,
NASA Johnson Space Center, The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth

For more great NASA-resourced timelaspe videos, check out the NASA timelapse club on Vimeo.


Simple math problem could indicate your religious beliefs

Religious belief  – faith in the existence of someone or something that is beyond the ability of science to prove or disprove – is one of the hallmarks of the human race. The vast majority of the planet’s population (75%-99% by some estimates) identify themselves as having some kind of religious belief.

So it’s no wonder that researchers are fascinated with the mental underpinnings of this uniquely human trait. The question “why do people believe?” is right up there with “why do people love?” – for those who study the human brain and try to unravel its deepest riddles.

But a surprising new report by psychologists William Gervais and Ara Norenzayan, of the University of British Columbia,  would seem to indicate that your inclination to be religious can be – at least in part – determined by how you approach a math problem.

Here it is:

If a baseball and bat cost $110, and the bat costs $100 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?*

Okay, now that you’ve given it some thought, I’ll let you in on what this is all about.

It turns out nearly everyone who answers this question come up with one of two possible responses.

Some people say the ball cost $10.

Others say it cost $5.

The mathematically correct answer is $5.

If that was your answer, you are an analytical thinker and – according to results of this study – more likely not to have any religious beliefs.

If you said the ball cost $10 (and I confess to being one of those people), you are an intuitive thinker and thus more likely to hold a religious belief of some kind.

I guarantee that some of you, regardless which answer you came up with, will feel anger, resentment or some other kind of negative emotion after reading the study’s findings. If you proclaim to be an atheist and you said “$10” you’re might feel as though you haven’t lived up to your usual analytical behaviour – the kind of questioning and skeptical nature that led you to your current views on religion. Likewise, if you are religious and said “$10,” you might feel like the study is saying your belief is an indicator of how smart you are.

While I can’t refute any of the correlations the study has presented, I tend to concur with the opinion expressed by our own Phil Tucker on the original post:

I doubt this has much to do with religion — more to do with how much time you spend reading a question before answering, which is usually based on the consequences of a wrong answer which in this situation is next to none.

To be fair, the study’s authors are quick to point out that analytical thought (or a lack thereof) should not be considered the be-all and end-all factor when it comes to how likely someone is to be religious. They freely acknowledge there are many more areas of influence that come into play.

The full study, which was performed using 179 Canadian undergraduates, is available here and it’s well worth a read for those of you who want to learn more about the different ways these psychologists tested their hypothesis.

Now, if it pleases you our readers, let’s perform our own much less scientific survey…

How did you respond to the math question?

[Source: Psychology Today via Boing Boing]
(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

P.S.: I have a favour to ask. It has been my experience that any articles here on Sync that touch remotely on the question of religion tend to ignite passionate and sometimes hostile debates over the existence of God or other deities. Given that the study in question did not make any judgement calls about the validity of religion or a lack of religious belief, I would very much appreciate it if comments on this article could be equally respectful. Thanks!

*The original math question from the study was “A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?” which is mathematically the same as the question above, but changed by the author of the Psychology Today article so that he could track references back to his piece.

Spectacular photos and video of a solar flare

Awesome isn’t it?

That’s what our sun looks like when it goes through a fairly regular occurrence: a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection). CMEs are often associated with solar flares – some of which end up heading straight for Earth where they can create stunning enhancements of Aurora Borealis and can also play havoc with our orbiting satellites and electrical infrastructure.

That was not the case however on Monday, April 16th, when this particular CME was recorded by NASA’s SDO satellite-based solar observatory.

The flare produced by this CME headed off in another direction, which is likely why we have such spectacular imagery to look at.

NASA classified the flare as an M1 – a medium sized flare.

Check out more images and a video below…

(All images and video credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO)

Watch as a deaf woman hears her voice for the first time

We can’t tell you much about the woman in this video other than what she says about herself on her YouTube page:

I was born deaf and 8 weeks ago I received a hearing implant. This is the video of them turning it on and me hearing myself for the first time :)

But I think once you’ve watched the video, you’ll agree that we don’t need to know anything else. Her emotional reaction to hearing herself cry, speak and then laugh for the first time in her life is so genuine and profoundly moving I think it won’t be long before this video becomes one of the web’s most watched.

It’s easy for us to get caught up in the never-ending cycle of the latest smartphones, tablets and other gadgets, many of which we often refer to as “magical.” But if you really want to see magical technology, look no further…


Update, Sunday Oct 2, 12:29 am
Judging from the comments, it seems that many folks have taken the headline (which was pulled from the woman’s own words) too literally. Just because she was deaf from birth, doesn’t mean she never heard a word anyone ever said to her. She apparently has used hearing aids most of her life. Likewise, just because she says she’s hearing her voice for the first time, doesn’t mean she’s never heard it *at all*, it could simply mean she’s never heard it with the assistance and extra clarity of her new implant. I’ve yet to find any credible evidence that this video is a hoax as some have suggested and can’t understand why anyone would want to create such a hoax (a fake reaction video to a hearing implant?). That said, if you think you have proof, please post below in the comments. – S.C.

[Source: BoingBoing]

Hitch a ride on Endeavour's last flight

After the tragedy of space shuttle Columbia’s disintegration on re-entry back in 2003, NASA became understandably obsessed with being able to see their orbiters from as many angles as possible, at least throughout the critical launch phase. This was the period of time during which a chunk of insulating foam broke off Columbia’s external fuel tank, ultimately leading to the damaged heat tiles that caused the unforgettable incident.

And while that moment in NASA’s history is one of the saddest, it has lead to this moment: thanks to their heightened awareness of launch complications, NASA now records these events from a variety of angles.

On Endeavour’s last flight, and the second-to-last shuttle flight ever, NASA installed cameras on Endeavour’s solid rocket boosters. These cameras give four points of view: looking up (toward the shuttle’s nose), looking down (toward the shuttle’s tail), looking toward the external fuel tank and looking up from inside the nose-cone of the booster – a view which only comes into play once the three chutes have been deployed.

For NASA, this footage represents invaluable safety and performance data. For us, it’s a chance to ride along on one of the most amazing human inventions ever made.

As you watch, keep in mind, this is 36 minutes of video compiled from both of the solid boosters as well as a camera aboard Endeavour. While it’s fun to watch the whole thing, here are some highlights:

0:16 – Lift-off as seen from the downward-facing camera

2:25 – solid rocket booster separation as seen from the downward-facing camera

6:50 – Splashdown of solid rocket booster as seen from the downward-facing camera

7:40 – Lift-off as seen from the upward-facing camera

9:38 – solid rocket booster separation as seen from the upward-facing camera

14:50 – solid rocket booster separation as seen from the inter-tank camera

18:50 – deployment of the three drag chutes as seen from inside the nose-cone

19:16 – splashdown as seen from inside the nose-cone

The remainder of the video is essentially these same moments viewed from other angles. But it’s all spectacular. Enjoy!

Freakishly real robot might make humans redundant

When you consider the potential of the technology we’re developing to cause serious harm to humanity in the future, it makes sense that there are those hard at work trying to make technology more approachable by making it more human.

The Japanese are leading the charge on this, seemingly spurred by the need to create advanced robotic helpers for their swiftly aging population. Since not everyone is going to like the idea of having R2D2 helping them out of bed in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, there is clearly a need for more humanoid assistants, if only to try to calm fears that they will one day decide they don’t need us.

But I doubt I’m alone when I say I’m not so sure that the advances in this field are doing much to make me feel more comfortable. I’m kind of freaked out by it.

The robot in these videos is a “Geminoid” – a term coined by Japanese scientist Hiroshi Ishiguro. According to the creators’ website, “A geminoid appears and behaves just like its source person. Also, it is tightly-connected with its original by information paths.” In other words, it’s meant to be a fully automated clone of someone real, down to the facial expressions.

The Geminoid in these videos however, is from Alborg University in Denmark, where their goal is to try to understand the differences in cultural perceptions of the artificial humans. In the first one, the robot even appears to breathe. My first impression was that it had to be faked – that this was just a real guy pretending to be a robot, but judging from the “making of” videos, it’s real alright.

Readers, what’s your take? Freaked out? Excited? Ready to swear your allegiance to our new robotic overlords?

[CrunchGear via Sayomg]

NASA captures a giant solar flare

I know this not really a gadgets story, but something this cool just has to be shared. NASA’s SDO spacecraft, designed to take extremely high-resolution images of our sun recently captured this incredible footage of a very large solar flare. Here’s the description from NASA:

When a rather large-sized (M 3.6 class) flare occurred near the edge of the Sun, it blew out a gorgeous, waving mass of erupting plasma that swirled and twisted over a 90-minute period (Feb. 24, 2011). This event was captured in extreme ultraviolet light by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft . Some of the material blew out into space and other portions fell back to the surface. Because SDO images are super-HD, we can zoom in on the action and still see exquisite details. And using a cadence of a frame taken every 24 seconds, the sense of motion is, by all appearances, seamless. Sit back and enjoy the jaw-dropping solar show.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Thanks to Gizmodo for turning us on to it.

[NASA Goddard on Flickr via Gizmodo]

Now that's FAST: Researchers break the 100 petabit per second kilometer barrier

fibre-opticsAccording to this report from Cellular News, the researchers at Bell Labs, a division of Alcatel-Lucent, have achieved a signifcant milestone in networking: they’ve improved on the current fastest commerical speeds by a factor of ten.

How did they do it? They combined a variety of different technologies into a single solution that included 155 separate lasers, each of which carried 100 Gigabytes of data at different frequencies.

Now keep in mind, the researchers sent the light from these lasers down a single fibre optic cable, which means that they needed a way to decipher the data at the other end – something which traditional sensors aren’t able to do.

They used a new technology known as “coherent detection” – which can distinguish between a much greater number of light frequencies than “direct detection” (the current standard for commerical fibre optic transmissions).

So there’s really only one question left to ask: When can I get this hooked up at home?