Apollo 11 in Real Time: A New Web Site Lets You Take a Real-Time Journey Through First Landing on the Moon

It only took four days. Four, long, nail-biting days where anything could go wrong, with so many fraught steps, between the liftoff of Apollo 11 and Neil Armstrong leaving the first footprint on the moon. And now fifty years stretches between us and those days, very brief days indeed, where the population of the earth came together over one stunning act of science and ingenuity. Yes, it was an American flag planted on the moon, but it was one giant leap for mankind.

This July we might want to revisit those warm feelings about humanity in what feels like a diminished world, and look in wonder at the stars again. The Apollo In Real Time website is here to do just that.

Now you can go to this website, sit back and watch as the entire Apollo 11 mission unfolds in real time.

It’s a beautifully designed website, looking like a control panel from NASA itself. There are three timelines up top to show exactly where we are over the entire course of the nine days, from launch to re-entry. On the left there is a summary of Mission Status, including velocity and distance from the earth. Below is a real time transcript between mission control and the craft. And a strip down the middle offers over 40 different channels of audio from all the main and not-so-main players, a total of 11,000 hours, most of which has never been heard before. Where available there’s film and video footage, along with photographs, a lot of it taken by the astronauts themselves, and all in the best possible quality. So if you think you’ve seen this footage over and over, think again.

(Side note: I find just listening to the sounds of mission control is very relaxing. I'm thinking a lot of you will agree.)

The site is the creation of Ben Feist, a software engineer and historian at NASA, along with his team of collaborators, who undertook something similar a few years ago for Apollo 17.

via Kottke.org

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

See the Very First Solar Eclipse Captured on Film: A Magical Moment in Science and Filmmaking (1900)

The “conquest of space,” so to speak—the human understanding of and travel to the cosmos—has come about through a succession of great scientific minds, as well as some of the most interesting and accomplished people all around. We never seem to tire of learning about their devotion to mathematics, physics, medicine, and scientific discovery writ as large as possible. But sometimes the conquest of space has required the unique talents of magicians. From the ancient mages who excited human imagination about the stars for thousands of years, to alchemists like Isaac Newton and beyond.

Witness the strange career of Marvel Whiteside Parsons, better known as Jack Parsons: sci-fi fanatic, occultist, disciple of Aleister Crowley, and onetime magical partner of L. Ron Hubbard. Parsons is most famous for founding the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the research center that powers NASA. Then we have magician Nevil Maskelyne—son of magician John Nevil Maskelyne, and possible descendent, so he said, of the fifth British Royal Astronomer, “also named Nevil Maskelyne,” writes Jason Daley at Smithsonian. Maskelyne the very much younger documented the first total solar eclipse ever captured on film.

Granted, he was a stage magician, not a follower of “The Great Beast 666.” Maskelyne's interest in showmanship and spectacle drew him not to sex magic but to filmmaking and astronomy, interests he combined when he made the first film ever of a total solar eclipse. Nowadays, millions of people have the means to make such a film in their pocket, provided they have a good view of the infrequent cosmic event (and do not ever look at it directly). In 1900, when Maskelyne undertook the challenge, filmmaking was just emerging from infancy into toddlerhood.

The Lumière brothers, often credited as the first filmmakers, had held their first public screening only five years earlier. They called their early productions actualités, essentially "reality films." Some of these, like the legendary L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat, famously shocked and terrified audiences out of their seats. In 1900, film was still a kind of magic, and “like magic,” says Bryony Dixon, curator at the British Film Institute (BFI), film “combines both art and science.” The story of Maskelyne’s achievement is “a story about magic.”

Maskelyne’s love for film inspired in him a passion for astronomy as well, and he eventually became a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. Unfortunately, his first cinematic contribution to the field disappeared, never to be seen again. Two years before he shot the footage above from the ground in North Carolina on May 28, 1900, on a venture funded by the British Astronomical Association, Maskelyne traveled to India to document a similar event. The film cannister was stolen on his return trip home

But he had learned what he needed to, having designed “a special telescopic adapter for a movie camera,” just as he and his father had earlier improved upon the film projector by building their own. Maskelyne had his spectacle. He showed the film in his theater, and the Royal Astronomical Society ensured that we could see it almost 120 years later by archiving a minute of the footage. Thanks to a partnership between the British Film Institute and the RAS, the film has been restored, digitized in 4K resolution, and made freely available online as part of a trove of Victorian-era films” just released by the BFI.

While thousands, maybe millions, of different moving images of 2017's solar eclipse exist on social media accounts, of this event 120 years ago there has existed only one. Now that brief moment in time can reach millions of people in an instant, and exist in an infinite number of perfect copies, a phenomenon that might have seemed in 1900 like an advanced form of magic.

via Smithsonian

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Marie Curie Became the First Woman to Win a Nobel Prize, the First Person to Win Twice, and the Only Person in History to Win in Two Different Sciences


For most of scientific history, women who made contributions to various fields have been sidelined or ignored in favor of male colleagues, who reaped fame, professional recognition, and cash rewards that come with prestigious prizes like the Nobel. Cornell historian of science Margaret Rossiter coined the term “The Matilda Effect” to describe sexist bias in the sciences. Rossiter’s work and popular reappraisals like book-turned-film Hidden Figures have inspired other women in academia to search for forgotten female scientists, and to find them, literally, in footnotes.

When systematic discrimination limits opportunities for any group, those who do receive recognition, the exceptions to the rule, must often be truly exceptional to succeed. There has been little doubt, both in her lifetime and in the many decades afterward, that Marie Curie was such a person. Although forced to study science in secret at a clandestine “Floating University” in her native Poland—since the universities refused to admit women—Curie (born Marie Salomea Sklodowska in 1867) would achieve such renown in her field that she was awarded not one, but two Nobel Prizes.

Curie and her husband Pierre shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Antoine Henri Becquerel, discoverer of radioactivity, in 1903. The second prize, in Chemistry, was hers alone in 1911, “in recognition of her services to the advancement of chemistry by the discovery of the elements radium and polonium, by the isolation of radium and the study of the nature and compounds of this remarkable element.” Curie was not only the first woman to win a Nobel, but she was also the first person to win twice, and the only person to win in two different sciences.

These are but a handful of achievements in a string of firsts for Curie: denied positions in Poland, she earned a Ph.D. in France, awarded the degree in 1903 by the Sorbonne, the same year she won her first Nobel. “Her examiners,” notes the site Famous Scientists, “were of the view that she had made the greatest contribution to science ever found in a Ph.D. thesis.” Three years later, after Pierre was killed in an accident, Marie was offered his professorship and became the first female professor at the University of Paris.

Curie succeeded not in the absence of, but in spite of the sexist obstacles placed in her path at nearly every stage in her career. After she received her doctorate, the Curies were invited to the Royal Institution in London. Only Pierre was permitted to speak. That same year, the Nobel Committee decided to honor only her husband and Becquerel. The Academy relented when Pierre protested. Curie fell victim to a wave of xenophobia and anti-Semitism (though she was not Jewish) that swept through France in the 1900s, most famously in the so-called “Dreyfus Affair.”

In 1911, the year of her second Nobel, Curie was passed over for membership in the French Academy of Sciences. It would take another 51 years before the first woman, Marguerite Perey, a former doctoral student of Curie, would be elected to that body. That same year, Curie was persecuted relentlessly by the French press, the public, and her scientific rivals after it was revealed that she had had a brief affair with physicist Paul Langevin, one of Pierre Curie’s former students.

But no matter how many men in positions of power wanted to deter Curie, there always seemed to be more influential scientists and politicians who recognized the supreme value of her work and the need to help her continue it. After her second Nobel Prize, her native country finally recognized her with the offer to direct her own laboratory in Warsaw. Curie turned it down to focus on directing the Curie Laboratory in the Radium Institute of the University of Paris, which she founded in 1914, a major achievement and, again, only a small part of her legacy.

Curie is known, of course, foremost for her exceptional scientific work, but also for opening doors for women in science all over the world, though much of that door-opening may only have happened decades after her death in 1934, and much of it hasn’t happened at all yet. Incidentally, in the following year, the Curies’ daughter Irène Joliot-Curie and her husband Frédéric Joliot-Curie were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Since then, only two other women have claimed that honor, and only two women, including Marie Curie, have won the Prize in physics, out of 203 winners total.

There may be nothing yet like gender parity in the sciences, but those who know where to look can find the names of dozens of women scientists running women-owned companies, women-founded research institutes and academic departments, and, like the famous Curies, making major contributions to chemistry. Perhaps not long from now, many of those exceptional scientists will be as well-known and widely celebrated as Marie Curie.

via Fantastic Facts

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Exercise May Prove an Effective Natural Treatment for Depression & Anxiety, New Study Shows

Image by cuegalos, via Flickr Commons

Maybe it seems intuitive that exercise would be prescribed to treat anxiety and depression, lower stress levels, and make people happier. After all, exercise and nutritional interventions are regularly discussed in the context of the U.S.’s other major killers: heart disease, diabetes, various cancers, even Alzheimer’s. How often have we heard about the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle or over-processed foods? Or read about remedies from walking, yoga, and spin cycling to the Mediterranean diet?

But mental health is seemingly different—the disease model that guided depression research for so long has faltered. “We do not have a biology for mental illness,” writes Derek Beres at Big Think. Researchers lack a medical pathology for mood disorders that affect overall health, careers, relationships, and quality of life for millions. The antidepressants once sold as a cure-all and prescribed to dizzying degrees proved to have limited efficacy and unfortunate side effects. No one seems to know exactly how or why or if they work. “Mental health scripts are guesswork,” Beres writes, “more of an art than science.”

Where does this leave the state of mental health research these days? One team of scientists at the University of Vermont found evidence that exercise significantly improved mood in patients with severe and chronic mental illnesses. As Newsweek reports, “a total of 100 patients signed up to participate in the study,” whose results were published recently in the journal Global Advances in Health and Medicine. The study volunteers came from “wards that dealt with conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression, borderline personality disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and schizophrenia.”

After a workout schedule that included cardio, resistance, and flexibility training, four times a week for sixty minutes at a time, as well as nutritional programs “tailored” for each patient, 95 percent of the participants “said their mood has improved… and 63 percent said they were ‘happy’ or ‘very happy,’ rather than ‘neutral,’ ‘sad,’ or ‘very sad.’” 97.6 said they were motivated to continue working out and eating better. “The research yielded positive outcomes in all areas investigated,” write authors David Tomasi, Sheri Gates, and Emily Reyns of the study’s results. They conclude that physical exercise may contribute to “a more balanced and integrated sense of self.”

The researchers also recommend exercise as a treatment before the prescription of psychiatric drugs. There may not yet be a clear medical explanation for why it works. But that may be because modern medicine has only recently begun to see the mind and the body as one, at a time when our cultural evolution sends us hurtling toward a greater artificial divide between the two. “We’ve constructed a world in which most of the population survives by performing minimal physical activity.” A world soon to be engulfed in VR, AR, self-driving cars, and an “internet of things” that promises to eliminate the few physical tasks we have left.

We are in danger of forgetting that our mental and emotional health are directly tied to the needs of our physical bodies, and that our bodies need to move, stretch, and bend in order to stay alive and thrive. Read more summary of the study at Newsweek and see the full results from Global Advances in Health and Medicine here.

via Big Think/Newsweek

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

Johannes Kepler Theorized That Each Planet Sings a Song, Each in a Different Voice: Mars is a Tenor; Mercury, a Soprano; and Earth, an Alto

Johannes Kepler determined just how the planets of our solar system make their way around the sun. He published his innovative work on the subject from 1609 to 1619, and in the final year of that decade he also came up with a theory that each planet sings a song, and each in a different voice at that. Mars is a tenor, Mercury is a soprano, and Earth, as the BBC show QI (or Quite Interesting) recently tweeted, "is an alto that sings two notes Mi and Fa, which Kepler read as 'Miseriam & Famem', 'misery and famine'" — two phenomena not unknown on Earth in Kepler's time, even though the scientific revolution had already started to change the way people lived.

Not all of the best minds of the scientific revolution thought purely in terms of calculation. The blog ThatsMaths describes Kepler's mission as explaining the solar system "in terms of divine harmony," finding "a system of the world that was mathematically correct and harmonically pleasing." Truly divine harmony could presumably find its expression in music, an idea that led Kepler to explain "planetary motions in terms of harmonic relationships, a scheme that he called the 'song of the Earth.'"

According to this scheme, "each planet emits a tone that varies in pitch as its distance from the Sun varies from perihelion to aphelion and back" — that is, from the nearest they get to the sun to the farthest they get from the sun and back — "producing a continuous glissando of intermediate tones, a 'whistling produced by friction with the heavenly light.'"

Kepler named the combined result "the music of the spheres," but what does it sound like? Switzerland-based cornettist Bruce Dickey wants to give us a sense of it with Nature's Whispering Secret, "a project for a CD recording exploring the ideas about music and cosmology of Johannes Kepler." Demanding the musicianship of not just Dickey but composer Calliope Tsoupaki, singer Hana Blažíková, and a group of singers and instrumentalists from across Europe and America as well, all "among the most distinguished musicians performing 16th-century polyphonic music today." The Indiegogo campaign for this ambitious tribute to Kepler's ideas at the intersection of science and aesthetics, which involves an album as well as a series of live performances into the year 2020, is on its very last day, so if you'd like to hear the music of the spheres for yourself, consider making a contribution.

via Quite Interesting

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Star Trek‘s Nichelle Nichols Creates a Short Film for NASA to Recruit New Astronauts (1977)

Imagine growing up in the late 1960s, witnessing at an impressionable age the heyday of the original Star Trek followed by the real-life moon landing. (If you actually did grow up in the late 1960s, just remember your childhood.) How could you not have dreamed of working on something to do with outer space, or indeed in outer space itself? It seems that both the promoters of NASA and the creators of Star Trek know that both their projects draw from the same well of wonder about the world beyond our planet. As we've previously featured here on Open Culture, William Shatner has narrated a documentary on the space shuttle as well as a Mars landing video, and Leonard Nimoy narrated a short about NASA's spacecraft Dawn.

Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura in the original series, also did her NASA-promoting bit — or perhaps more than her bit — by starring in the agency's 1977 recruitment film. In the years since the end of Star Trek, she had already been volunteering with NASA's push to recruit more women and minorities.

"I am going to bring you so many qualified women and minority astronaut applicants for this position that if you don't choose one… everybody in the newspapers across the country will know about it," she has since remembered telling NASA at the time. In the event, NASA chose more than a few, including astronauts like Sally Ride, Guion Bluford, Judith Resnik, and Ronald McNair.

"I still feel a little bit like Lieutenant Uhura on the starship Enterprise," Nichols says at the beginning of the film. "You know, now there's a 20th-century Enterprise, an actual space vehicle built by NASA and designed to put us in the business of space, and not merely space exploration." NASA's Enterprise, she explains, is "a space shuttle built to make regularly scheduled runs into space and back, just like a commercial airline," one that "may even be used to build a space station in orbit around the Earth, and this would require the services of people with a variety of skills and qualifications." At the very end, she emphasizes a different sense of variety: "I'm speaking to the whole family of humankind, minorities and women alike. If you qualify and would like to be an astronaut, now is the time. This is your NASA, a space agency embarked on a mission to improve the quality of life on planet Earth right now" — an even worthier mission, some might say, than boldly going where no man has gone before.

via Boing Boing

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

How to Memorize an Entire Chapter from “Moby Dick”: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, I mentally revisit the various homes of my childhood, wandering from room to room, turning on lights and peering in closets until I conk out.

Turns out these imaginary tours are also handy mnemonic tools, as Vox’s Dean Peterson explains above.

Hey, that’s good news… isn’t the subconscious rumored to do some heavy lifting in terms of processing information?

Peterson conquered a self-described bad memory, at least temporarily, by traipsing around his apartment, depositing vivid sentence-by-sentence clues that would eventually help him recite by heart one of his favorite chapters in Moby Dick.

In truth, he was planting these clues in his hippocampus, the relatively small structure in the brain that’s a critical player when it comes to memory, including the spatial memories that allow us to navigate familiar locations without seeming to give the matter any thought.

What made it stick was pairing his everyday coordinates to extraordinary visuals.

Chapter 37, for those keeping track at home, is a monologue for Captain Ahab in which he describes himself as not just mad but “madness maddened.” Here’s the first sentence:

I leave a white and turbid wake; pale waters, paler cheeks, where’er I sail.

Not the easiest text for 21st-century heads to wrap around, though with a little effort, most of us get the gist.

Let’s not get hung up on literary interpretation here, though, folks. Having settled on his front stoop as the first stop of his memory palace Peterson refrained from picturing frothy spume lapping at the lowermost step. Instead he plunked down a funeral wreath and director John Waters, pale of suit and cheek, weeping. Get it? White? Wake? Pale cheeks?

After which Peterson moved on to the next sentence.

There are 38 in all, and after several days of practice in which he mentally walked the image-strewn course of his apartment-cum-Memory Palace, Peterson was able to regale his coworkers with an off-book recitation.

The time factor will definitely be a let down for those hoping for a low commitment party trick.

Peterson spent three-to-four hours a day pacing his spatial memory, admiring the oddities he himself had placed there.

The incredulous comments from those questioning the efficiency of giving up half a day to memorize a page and a half are balanced by testimonials from those who’ve met with success, using the Memory Palace method to retain vast amounts of data prior to an exam.

That may, ultimately, be a better use of the Memory Palace. Peterson gets an A for spitting out the lines as written, but his expression is that of an actor auditioning with material he has not yet mastered. (No shade on Peterson’s acting talent or lack thereof—even great actors get this face when their lines are shaky. One friend doesn’t consider herself off book until she can get all the way through her monologue whilst hopping on one foot.)

For more information on building a Memory Palace, refer, as Peterson did, to author Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, or to his appearance on Adam Grant’s TED Work/Life podcast. Stream it here:

If you would like to go whale to whale with Peterson, below is the text that he installed in his Memory Palace, compliments of Herman Melville:

I leave a white and turbid wake; pale waters, paler cheeks, where’er I sail. The envious billows sidelong swell to whelm my track; let them; but first I pass.

Yonder, by ever-brimming goblet’s rim, the warm waves blush like wine. The gold brow plumbs the blue. The diver sun- slow dived from noon- goes down; my soul mounts up! she wearies with her endless hill. Is, then, the crown too heavy that I wear? this Iron Crown of Lombardy. Yet is it bright with many a gem; I the wearer, see not its far flashings; but darkly feel that I wear that, that dazzlingly confounds. ‘Tis iron- that I know- not gold. ‘Tis split, too- that I feel; the jagged edge galls me so, my brain seems to beat against the solid metal; aye, steel skull, mine; the sort that needs no helmet in the most brain-battering fight!

Dry heat upon my brow? Oh! time was, when as the sunrise nobly spurred me, so the sunset soothed. No more. This lovely light, it lights not me; all loveliness is anguish to me, since I can ne’er enjoy. Gifted with the high perception, I lack the low, enjoying power; damned, most subtly and most malignantly! damned in the midst of Paradise! Good night-good night! (waving his hand, he moves from the window.)

‘Twas not so hard a task. I thought to find one stubborn, at the least; but my one cogged circle fits into all their various wheels, and they revolve. Or, if you will, like so many ant-hills of powder, they all stand before me; and I their match. Oh, hard! that to fire others, the match itself must needs be wasting! What I’ve dared, I’ve willed; and what I’ve willed, I’ll do! They think me mad- Starbuck does; but I’m demoniac, I am madness maddened! That wild madness that’s only calm to comprehend itself! The prophecy was that I should be dismembered; and- Aye! I lost this leg. I now prophesy that I will dismember my dismemberer. Now, then, be the prophet and the fulfiller one. That’s more than ye, ye great gods, ever were. I laugh and hoot at ye, ye cricket-players, ye pugilists, ye deaf Burkes and blinded Bendigoes! I will not say as schoolboys do to bullies- Take some one of your own size; don’t pommel me! No, ye’ve knocked me down, and I am up again; but ye have run and hidden. Come forth from behind your cotton bags! I have no long gun to reach ye. Come, Ahab’s compliments to ye; come and see if ye can swerve me. Swerve me? ye cannot swerve me, else ye swerve yourselves! man has ye there. Swerve me? The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run. Over unsounded gorges, through the rifled hearts of mountains, under torrents’ beds, unerringly I rush! Naught’s an obstacle, naught’s an angle to the iron way!

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City May 13 for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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