Cassini’s Grand Finale Begins

The Cassini spacecraft is set to make its first dive through the gap between Saturn and its rings today, April 26, 2017. This dive, first of 22, opens the last stage of the Cassini-Huygens mission before the vehicle is driven into Saturn on September 15, 2017.

To celebrate, here are a few of the amazing photos sent back from the mission.

NASA Catching Its Tail 5329_PIA12826

NASA Colorful Colossusses 5631_PIA14922

NASA Spring at the North Pole 5805_PIA14945

NASA Water World 6275_PIA18343

Incredible. At this writing, the mission’s been running for over 19 years. It’s amazing what we can do when there’s a will.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.

Follow the grand finale milestones, read the mission-end FAQs, browse graphics, documents, videos in a dedicated grand finale gallery, or follow Cassini on Twitter.

Images by by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI: Catching Its Tail; Colorful Colossuses and Changing Hues (Titan and Saturn); Spring at the North Pole; Water World (Enceladus and Saturn’s rings); the Earth Day tweet photo with more info is available at The Day the Earth Smiled.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

A Flight Suit Resembling Iron Man’s Is in the Works

Inventor Richard Browning has bold thinking in abundance. With the company he started, Gravity Industries, he’s developed a jet-engine suit like Iron Man’s to re-imagine manned flight.

British entrepreneur invents, builds and files patent for Iron Man-like flight suit by Gravity Industries

This 3.5-minute YouTube video captures the highlights of the development during a year. It closely resembles Tony Stark’s faltering design process in Iron Man—except this time it’s real. And while Gravity’s suit isn’t streamlined nor capable of long-distance flight at this point, there seems to be a modicum of potential. Staggering!

Found via File 770.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Quotes: You Have to Let Go of the Old to Begin Something New

“You have to let go of the old to begin something new. But that does not mean it is lost forever.”

– 32nd Mother of the Red Abbey, in Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff

And the “old” is worth saving – because how else do we learn, transmit our culture, and discuss our values in a world that’s becoming more and more international?

This thought was brought to you by idle musings on various library, archives, and museum collections. Unlike early cultures in our world and peoples of various fantasy worlds, right now we have the luxury of saving unprecedented amounts of our cultures’ material production.

Turtschaninoff, Maria. Maresi. New York, NY: Abrams, 2017, p. 241.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

Autogenerating Fantasy World Maps with Uncharted Atlas

Autogenerating fantasy world maps is now possible with an incredible online tool coded by Martin O’Leary.

Uncharted Atlas Map
An autogenerated map for a fantasy world, including slopes, borders, coastlines, rivers, cities, and territories, created with Uncharted Atlas. Coding by Martin O’Leary

Currently mainly existing to feed material to the Uncharted Atlas twitterbot, the tool and its code are available for others as well.

Says O’Leary:

“I wanted to make maps that look like something you’d find at the back of one of the cheap paperback fantasy novels of my youth. I always had a fascination with these imagined worlds, which were often much more interesting than whatever luke-warm sub-Tolkien tale they were attached to.

“At the same time, I wanted to play with terrain generation with a physical basis. There are loads of articles on the internet which describe terrain generation, and they almost all use some variation on a fractal noise approach, either directly (by adding layers of noise functions), or indirectly (e.g. through midpoint displacement). These methods produce lots of fine detail, but the large-scale structure always looks a bit off. Features are attached in random ways, with no thought to the processes which form landscapes. I wanted to try something a little bit different.”

Uncharted Atlas also generates names for cities, towns, and regions with a separate bit of code, following a set of consistent rules. For an explanation of how it works and to try your own hand at it, see the terrain notes and language notes.

As a user, I’d like to see a way to connect several of these individual maps into a larger unity, but that’s getting ahead of things—just having a free tool like this is fantastic. 🙂 Kudos!

In Making Stuff occasional feature, we share fun arts and crafts done by us and our fellow geeks and nerds.

Facebook Wants to Translate Laughter

Ladies and gentlemen, this is why machine translation isn’t going to replace human translators in a hurry:

FB Translate Heh Heh Heh

Apparently Heh heh heh was too much for the Facebook language algorithm. No, thanks, I don’t need it translated. Granted, I use FB with three languages (Finnish, English, Swedish) with any regularity. All of my settings are in English, however.

And the real irony? The above screenshot comes from an English-language conversation.

Some things are just too silly not to share!

Medieval Texts Hidden inside Newer Books?

After the invention of the printing press, old handwritten books and documents were commonly recycled as reinforcements in new bookbindings made in the 15th through 18th centuries. Now, thanks to an x-ray technique developed in the Netherlands, these hidden manuscript fragments are readable without destroying the book they’re a part of.

It’s all possible with macro x-ray fluorescence spectrometry (MA-XRF), which allows even pages glued to each other to be read. Dr. Erik Kwakkel at Leiden University, one of the academics behind the Hidden Library project attempting to uncover more of these fragments, has both been interviewed and written about the process.

Kwakkel leiden_ub_583_x_x

Dr. Kwakkel describes the importance of this discovery for The Observer like this:

“Every library has thousands of these bindings, especially the larger collections. If you go to the British Library or the Bodleian [in Oxford], they will have thousands of these bindings. So you can see how that adds up to a huge potential.”

He blogs about his projects and findings at Tumblr and at medievalbooks; see the latter e.g. for the exclusive behind-the-scenes post on the Hidden Library project.

Now I’m hoping we will eventually find a wealth of medieval texts in bookbindings. It’s really fascinating what we can discover with modern technology!

Image: A printed book with medieval manuscript fragments inside the spine, photograph by Erik Kwakkel (Leiden, University Library, nr. 583; 16th c. with 12th c. fragments)

Computer Issues (SATW Style)

I’ve been having computer issues on and off for a couple of months now, so my part of the posting here will continue to be lighter than normal until they’re resolved.

It’s not all bad, though: whenever my computer has been acting up really bad, I pretty reliably end up returning to one particularly brilliant Scandinavia and the World comic.

SATW Computer Technician Snippet

The character in the snippet above is Brother Finland. As a fellow Finn, I feel his pain (especially when Brother Sweden – of all people! – walks in and fixes the computer with a touch). And usually I then end up reading more SATW, which is a great stress relief.

Image: Computer Technician, detail of a Scandinavia and the World comic by Humon

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Oh Tech Platform, Why Do You Do This to Me!?

You ever leave a comment on someone’s blog, or at least try to, logged in your WordPress account already, happily press the “Post Comment” button, having already confirmed that your little Gravatar icon shows up correctly, only to have the &$%#&%* platform turn on you to ask “Are you [username]? You are being asked to login because [your email address] is used by an account you are not logged into now”?

WHY YES I AM ME, THAT’S WHY I’M FRACKING LOGGED IN ALREADY DID YOU NOT FRACKING SEE MY LOGIN!!!

alan-rickman-table-throw

Sure, there might be a solution to the problem, but it requires research that you don’t presently have the time for. As if you need another item on your to-do list, anyway, so you just put up with the stupidity. And besides, shouldn’t the point of saving your settings be that once you save ’em, they’re available for future use. RAAAAHHH!

(Rant over now; kthanksbye.)

Image via Natalie Luhrs at Pretty Terrible

When the suckage just sucks too much.

World’s First Android Phone

According to the fount of all human knowledge, the Wikipedia, the world’s first android phone was the HTC Dream, released on October 22, 2008.

I beg to differ. Undoubtedly, the first android phone appeared exactly 15 years prior, on October 23, 1993 in a tv broadcast:

Screencap from Star Trek: The Next Generation, season 7, episode 6: “Phantasms”.
Screencap from Star Trek: The Next Generation, season 7, episode 6: “Phantasms”.

The screencap above is from Star Trek: The Next Generation, season 7, episode 6: “Phantasms” where the android Data has to adjust to suddenly being capable of experiencing nightmares.

P.S. Yes, the joke is really, really, REALLY dumb. Sleep deprived brain is sleep deprived. 🙂

P.P.S. Incidentally, The HTC Dream would make a great name for a spaceship, don’t you think? If I ever got to name one, it would be an iteration of the northern lights – aurora borealis, nordlys (Danish), goleuadau gogleddol (Welsh – wow, looks so fun), or something in that vein. You?

Some things are just too silly not to share!