What If Everyone Jumped at Once? What Color is a Mirror? Big Questions Answered in Viral Videos

Michael Stevens knows something about viral videos. Yes, he's a Googler who works on Programming Strategy at YouTube. That gives him some professional bona fides. But he also rolls up his sleeves and produces his own wildly popular videos under the Vsauce banner. Perhaps you'll remember when Stevens asked the question late last year: Just how much does the entire internet -- all 5 million terabytes of information -- actually weigh?  (That got 1.3 million views, putting it certainly into viral territory.) Two weeks ago, Stevens returned with another tantalizing question: What color is a mirror? Hint: It's not what you think. And now, just two days ago, he dropped this question on us: What would happen if everyone on the planet jumped at once? Catch it below.

What Would It Be Like to Fly Through the Universe?

Of course, the question has crossed your mind, at least once: What would it be like to fly through the universe? Now you can find out.

According to NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day website, the clip above offers perhaps the best simulation yet. The animated flight takes you through 400,000 galaxies (each spot represents one galaxy) and brings you to a point 1.3 billion light years from Earth. And that's just a small slice of the larger universe. Miguel Aragon-Calvo and Alex Szalay (both of Johns Hopkins) produced the video along with Mark Subbarao of the Adler Planetarium using images from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

On a related note, don't miss What the f#ck has NASA done to make your life awesome?. It will remind you what NASA's doing with taxpayer funding.

Plus we have great Astronomy courses in our collection of 500 Free Online Courses.

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Watch Astronaut Don Pettit Conduct Cool Experiments Aboard the International Space Station

Astronaut Don Pettit is a chemical engineer by training, and he is a man who loves his work. The video above, produced as part of a series called "Science off the Sphere," shows an experiment conducted aboard the International Space Station. In it, Pettit demonstrates the way a water bubble reacts to puffs of air in microgravity. The results are fascinating to watch, made more so by Pettit’s total absorption in the experiment.

During his first six-month stay on the ISS in 2002-3, Pettit also experimented on how fluids react in zero-gravity. He dubbed these sessions “Saturday Morning Science.” Pettit returned to the ISS in December of 2011 and is still there, orbiting over 240 miles above the earth, conducting experiments in his free time and producing "Science off the Sphere." Episode 5 of the series (below) is mesmerizing, and again, Pettit’s wonder as he narrates the experiment is palpable.

Related Content:

Great Cities at Night: Views from the International Space Station

Drinking Coffee at Zero Gravity

Josh Jones is a doctoral candidate in English at Fordham University and a co-founder and former managing editor of Guernica / A Magazine of Arts and Politics.

 

Carl Sagan Presents Six Lectures on Earth, Mars & Our Solar System … For Kids (1977)

The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures for Children -- it's a tradition that began back in 1825 when the inventor Michael Faraday organized an annual lecture series for kids, hoping to instill in a younger generation a love for science. Almost two centuries later, the tradition continues. Eminent figures like Sir David Attenborough and Richard Dawkins (watch here) presented lectures to youngsters in 1973 and 1991 (respectively). And the great astronomer Carl Sagan took his turn in 1977, offering six lectures on our solar system. The first two talks offer a broad overview of the planetary system, setting the stage for three presentations (see below) dedicated to Mars, a topic that holds special interest this week. With NASA just having landed its rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars, it's particularly interesting to watch Sagan talk about the knowledge gained from early NASA orbiters, particularly the Mariner and Viking missions. In a rather timely way, Sagan's lectures put the Curiosity mission in a grander historical context, a deeper history of space exploration.

Sagan's talks assume no specialized knowledge and run roughly 60 minutes each. You can find more Christmas lectures on the RI website here.

The Outer Solar System and Life

The History of Mars

Mars Before Viking

Mars After Viking

Planetary Systems Beyond The Sun

We'll be adding this course to the Astronomy section of our collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Video: The Minutes Before & After the Landing of the Mars Curiosity Rover

NASA's Mars rover, Curiosity, landed just minutes ago. If you didn't catch the action live online, you can watch a screen capture of the moments before and after the landing. The landing itself takes place around the 5:40 mark, but the tension in the mission control room begins in the minutes before that, when the rover passed through The Seven Minutes of Terror. The joy, the tears, the great sense of accomplishment, the first images from Mars (around 7:30 mark) -- they all follow. A job well done. A great pleasure to watch.

If you want to focus on the pride in the mission control room, you can simply watch the video below.

The Benefits of Being Awestruck

http://vimeo.com/46264514

In December 1972, astronauts aboard the Apollo 17 spacecraft snapped a photograph of our Earth from an altitude of 45,000 kilometres. The photograph, known as "The Big Blue Marble," let everyone see their planet fully illuminated for the first time. The picture, showing the Earth looking isolated and vulnerable, left everyone awestruck. And "The Big Blue Marble" became the most widely-distributed image of the 20th century. Now, less than a half century later, pictures of our planet barely move us. And we hardly bat an eyelash at videos giving us remarkable views from the International Space Station.

We're losing our sense of awe at our own peril, however. The title of a new Stanford study tells you all you need to know: Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time, Alters Decision Making, and Enhances Well-Being. Apparently, watching awe-inspiring vidoes makes you less impatient, more willing to volunteer time to help others, more likely to prefer experiences over material products, more present in the here and now, and happier overall. (More on that here.) All of this provides filmmaker Jason Silva the material for yet another one of his “philosophical shots of espresso,” The Biological Advantage of Being Awestruck. It's the first video above.

Find more awe in our collection of Great Science Videos.

 

The Science of the Olympic Flame; Ancient Style Meets Modern Technology

For all the recent scandal and the trauma of past Games, the Olympics remain a pageant of grandeur and glory, and there is no greater symbol of its ideals than the Olympic Flame. The video above, from the Ontario Science Centre, explains the evolving technology that keeps the flame burning from its lighting to the closing ceremonies. It’s a pretty cool story, set to a bombastic soundtrack worthy of its subject and carried by an animated runner who just peeled himself off of an ancient Athenian vase.

Introduced in the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, the flame revives a symbol from antiquity, commemorating Prometheus’s audacity and reminding warring city states to put aside hostilities for as long as it burned. In the modern Olympics, between the lighting and the opening ceremonies, the flame, in its stylized torch, makes a pilgrimage to the host city via relay, a practice that began with the 1936 games in Berlin. This year’s relay started on May 19th in Land’s End in Cornwall and ends this Friday, the 27th at the opening ceremony in London. The torch will have traveled through 1,000 places in the UK, covered a total of 8,000 miles (and passing through 8,000 hands), moving over land, air, and water, without once having to be relit.

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