Sifting through Hubble’s basement

This is a remarkable story of superabundance and what happens when gold becomes just another ore. The folks who run the Hubble Space Telescope sponsored a competition to take a picture. But this competition was not to take a picture with the telescope. It was to take a picture from the telescope. Because since it first opened its vast floating eye Hubble has taken over a million pictures. So much candy! Where will we put it all? Basically it all goes in the basement, and nobody ever sees it.

So this competition (or part of it, anyway) was just to crawl around in the archives and dig up a good picture. We’re inside the treasure chest and we still need a map. What a great way to put the people to work!

See the winners grouped on a single page her in the Atlantic: Hubbles Hidden Treasures.

Augmented Audio Reality (Lite), or Pimp My Prius

Ever seen one of those iPhone astronomy apps where you hold up the phone and it shows which stars you’re looking at (e.g. Star Walk)? That’s augmented reality. You paint useful information on top of the world. There are going to be a LOT of reality-augmenting apps on the way.

Here’s my favorite new example: an app that will turn your Prius (or whatever under-powered car you drive) into a super car. It’s called XLR8 (“accelerate”… get it?). The reviewer says “I didn’t write this app, but I hope the folks that did become wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.” All it does is give your car a new sound, but it’s responsive and realistic. Watch this video.

For comparison with something a little more, shall we say realistic and unaugmented, here’s a famous short film called C’├ętait un Rendez-vous in which a (crazy) guy drives inadvisably fast through the streets of Paris.

Sea life videos, opportunistic and premeditated

Wildlife videos are ever more impressive these days, and it’s easy to see why. You can carry a cheap, high-quality camera everywhere you go. So we get to see more videos like this flying humpback whale.

With his stubby wings outstretched, he reminded me of the flying penguins on the BBC video by Terry Jones. But this whale is the real deal, and here he is flying, in a classic case of pointing the camera in the right direction at just the right time.

I saw this video on the PetaPixel site, which had a link to a more premeditated video: super slow-motion footage of Great White sharks attacking (fake) seals. The shark is visibly disgusted that he’s just been duped into biting a bogus inflatable seal. And there in an open boat, an open inflatable boat not 30 feet away, is a tasty camera crew. Mmm… naughty camera crew is teasing shark. Shark not laughing. Shark going to let them make one last movie. Movie end with surprise closeup!

Anyway, that brings me to the last video, this of everyone’s favorite smiling mammal from the swimsuit set, the Pacific white-sided dolphin. Here the Huffington Post fills us in on a story about a guy who set out to film albacore tuna, but came away with this instead.

The Blue from Mark Peters on Vimeo.

Ye gods! I’m glad I lived long enough to see that.

Mars a-Twitter

I don’t need to tell you that NASA recently landed a new rover on Mars. You can go to the NASA website and find the latest pictures as easily as I can. But here’s something you might not have seen: a piece from the Atlantic about the use of Twitter during the Curiosity landing: For Posterity: What It Was Like Watching Curiosity’s Descent on Twitter.

I recently started following the tweets from the Atlantic, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed their coverage of, among other things, the news from Mars. The piece I link to above talks about how much Twitter enriches your enjoyment of an event when you are following the protagonists while trading tweets in real time with your friends. The article is a Storify collection of links and tweets about the landing, and it is by turns funny and very touching.