Friday, July 31, 2015

The Moon crossing the Earth

This is another breathtaking image from NASA. The moon was crossing the Earth with the illumination of Sun.
A NASA camera aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite captured a unique view of the moon as it moved in front of the sunlit side of Earth last month.
In the image we can see the fully illuminated  “dark side” of the moon which is never able to be seen on the Earth.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Martian

I’m stranded on Mars.
I have no way to communicate with Earth.
I’m in a Habitat designed to last 31 days.
If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.
So yeah. I’m screwed.

The Martian is one of the best thrillers I've read in a long time. The technology is beautifully researched and based on what is currently envisioned for a manned flight to Mars. It feels so real it could almost be non fiction, and yet it has the narrative drive and power of a rocket launch. This is Apollo 13 times ten. It's Robinson Crusoe on Mars, 21st century style. I simply couldn't put down this book. Engineers and scientifically-minded readers will love this suspenseful story of technological survival. Read the text before the film version is released later in the year.

Most of Ridley Scott’s film The Martian takes place on Mars, but don’t expect to see any xenomorphs during this space adventure. “Just geology,” the Alien director said to PEOPLE of his new film, which focuses on an astronaut named Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon), who gets stranded on the Red Planet following a mishap. “The last thing Mark’s thinking about is life on Mars. He’s thinking about how to save his life on Mars.”

Based on the book by Andy Weir (mentioned above), Scott’s The Martian features an all-star cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Sebastian Stan, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean and Donald Glover. But it’s Damon who stands at the front, playing a man with only a finite amount of time to figure out how to survive after a storm leaves him behind on Mars and presumed dead by his crew.“He finds he has a problem, and instead of him collapsing into terror—because he’s got 28 days to live – and that’s if everything goes well for him – he knuckles down and actually starts to work it out,” Scott said.

The Martian is the second movie in a year to feature Damon lost in space, following Interstellar. Both of those movies share another connection, too: Chastain, who stayed earthbound in Christopher Nolan’s space drama but plays an astronaut in The Martian.“I need to do another film with Matt, because we have very little scenes together in this film, and he is a pleasure to work with,” Chastain said. “I have been a fan of his work for so long – everything from Good Will Hunting to The Informant. He is just brilliant, and I think his performance in The Martian is going to blow people away, to see him as they have never seen him. It is exciting for me to watch.” (Entertainment Weekly)

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Put a Bench in Edinburgh


When you're walking around Edinburgh and decide to sit down on a bench for a rest, it's very likely that you'll find a commemorative plaque attached to it. Personal, like In Memory of René Laurener, who liked sitting down, or from a society, such as the Contemplative Pensioners' Association - In memory of our comrades, street seating tends to come with an inscription. It's a custom that the city council uses to finance these urban furnishings, indispensable in an ageing city such as the Scottish capital.

Depending on whether they're made of wood or steel, and in view of the seat's location, the cost of putting a bench in the city varies. In Princess Street Gardens, although it's impossible to find an empty spot, the estimated price would be around £3,000, while in other areas you could have a commemorative bench for just £850. For this amount, the generous donor pays for the object in itself, a plaque and engraving, transport and installation, as well as administrative fees. The city council is responsible for maintenance and the agreement lasts 20 years, unless the bench suffers terribly serious damage. When this time frame expires, the family or organisation that financed the bench are contacted and offered the chance to repeat the deal. This tradition is defined by journalist Stephen Emms in the Scottish newspaper, The Herald, as "a British institution." In his article, Emms argues that it's difficult to trace the origins of this custom as the city has no records of benches erected prior to the mid-twentieth century. His father, the historian Richard Emms, believes that the practice may date back to the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London or the open-air movement led by the National Trust in the late 19th century, with "Darwin, Huxley or Bernard Shaw adopting the outer memorial as a secular retreat from churches."

The stories behind some of these benches are moving, to say the least. In his article, Emms narrates that of Malcolm and Jessie. In the much sought-after Princes Street Gardens, there's a bench commemorating the love between this couple, who first met in Edinburgh at the turn of the 20th century. Shortly after marrying, they emigrated to the United States where they made a new life for themselves. When the couple died, their children brought their ashes to Scotland to be scattered in their hometown. On arriving to the city, they discovered this initiative and decided to create a permeant memorial to their parents in the shape of two wooden benches.

Surprisingly, this system doesn't only serve to fund park benches. Working through council departments, the funds can be used, for example, to finance a nursery school garden, furnish a new building, or provide a notice board. In Spain, when you achieve the impossible, you're said to have "put a pike in Flanders." The Scottish equivalent, then, must be to have a bench in Edinburgh.
Ling Magazine, July 2015