The Hubble Celebrates 20 Years of Discovery

20 years ago (April 24, 1990) the Hubble Space Telescope was launched, beginning a long period of discovery. Today, NASA is celebrating the Hubble's 20th anniversary by releasing one of the many brilliant photos taken by the space telescope. The image shows us a small portion of one of the largest star-birth regions in the galaxy, the Carina Nebula. As NASA goes on to describe it:

"Towers of cool hydrogen laced with dust rise from the wall of the nebula. The scene is reminiscent of Hubble's classic "Pillars of Creation" photo from 1995, but is even more striking in appearance. The image captures the top of a three-light-year-tall pillar of gas and dust that is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby bright stars. The pillar is also being pushed apart from within, as infant stars buried inside it fire off jets of gas that can be seen streaming from towering peaks like arrows sailing through the air."

You can download NASA's featured photo in various sizes and resolutions here. You can also look through an amazing gallery of Hubble photos sponsored by NASA, plus a beautiful collection by National Geographic's here. Lastly, NPR has a nice audio slideshow that features astronomers talking about their favorite Hubble images. Thanks @lauraehall for the heads up on that.

Life: Creeper Plants Climb Trees

Discovery Channel's Life series has been receiving a lot of rave reviews for its stunning footage of plants and animals.  This excerpt showing creeper plants climbing trees lives up to the hype. Leave it to a little time-lapse video--not to mention a voice-over by Oprah Winfrey--to blur the line between plant and animal.

UPDATE: A reader in Europe informed me that this video is apparently being blocked outside of the US. It's extremely rare that this happens with YouTube videos (I've only seen it happen with full movies), but for some reason, it happened here. My apologies. [Dan]

Wes Alwan lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where he works as a writer and researcher and attends the Institute for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Culture. He also participates in The Partially Examined Life, a podcast consisting of informal discussions about philosophical texts by three philosophy graduate school dropouts.

Hitler Reacts to Takedown of Hitler Parodies

Note: strong language in this video.

You have probably all seen them -- the countless parodies of the now famous scene from the 2004 German film, Downfall, which records the last days of Hitler and the Third Reich. Earlier this week, the fun started coming to an end when Constantin Film, holder of the movie's copyright, asked YouTube to remove the clips for reasons enumerated here. But almost as quickly as YouTube took them down, new ones started to pop up. Above, we have one parody showing Hitler responding violently to the takedown request. And, then, taking an entirely different stance, we see him being the mastermind behind the controversial purging of videos. The meme lives on ... for now. Thanks to @wesalwan for the tip here.

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Flight of the Bumblebee … On an iPad

Great little find by Doug. At an April 19th concert in San Francisco, the Chinese pianist Lang Lang threw his audience a bit of a curveball when he started playing Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee on ... yup ... an iPad. According to The Wall Street Journal, this performance comes preloaded on the Magic Piano App that retails for 99 cents. Thanks Doug for sending this one our way!

via 9to5mac

Michael Pollan on Sustainable Food

If you're looking for some quick insight into Michael Pollan's bestselling work on food and "our national eating disorder" (The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food, Food Rules, etc.), then you'll want to spend some time with his 15 minute talk presented at Pop! Tech 2009. The talk gets down to a timely set of questions. How can we, as individuals, eat better? How can we improve our health? And how can we make our food supply more "green" and sustainable. Pollan gives you a quick taste of his thinking here and offers five takeaway tips. Watch above, or download his talk in video or audio from this page.

Artists Under the Influence

artists under the influenceIt's no secret. Many writers have written their masterpieces under the influence of various liquids and chemicals, ranging from fairly innocuous to not. This month, Lapham's Quarterly has pulled together a list that correlates great works with contributing substances. Here's a quick sample:

  • Honoré de Balzac, La comédie humaine, Coffee
  • W.H. Auden, September 1, 1939, Benzedrine
  • Truman Capote, In Cold Blood, Double Martinis
  • Ken Kesey, One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Peyote & LSD

via @kirstinbutler

An Epic Journey on the Trans-Siberian Railroad


Google and the Russian Railways recently joined forces to create a virtual tour of the historic Trans-Siberian railroad. It's the longest railway in the world, moving from Moscow to Vladivostok, cutting across two continents, 12 regions and 87 cities. Now, you can take the six-day journey from the comfort of your own home. Through a special page on Google Maps, you can watch video of the trip unfold, as if you were a passenger, and also enjoy classic Russian literature, music and photos along the way. As you roll out of Moscow, start listening to a free audio version of  Tolstoy's War & Peace (in Russian, of course) and ease into the 150 hour trip. How's that for an epic virtual journey?

via @6oz

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