Astronomers have been able to view the same supernova in a distant part of the Universe several times due to the gravitational lensing effect of a cluster of galaxies in-between here and there. From Dennis Overbye in the NY Times:
Supernovas are among the most violent and rare events in the universe, occurring perhaps once per century in a typical galaxy. They outshine entire galaxies, spewing elemental particles like oxygen and gold out into space to form the foundations of new worlds, and leaving behind crushed remnants called neutron stars or black holes.
Because of the galaxy cluster standing between this star and the Hubble, "basically, we got to see the supernova four times," Dr. Kelly said. And the explosion is expected to appear again in another part of the sky in the next 10 years. Timing the delays between its appearances, he explained, will allow astronomers to refine measurements of how fast the universe is expanding and to map the mysterious dark matter that supplies the bulk of the mass and gravitational oomph of the universe.
Scientists expect the supernova to reappear in the next few years. Gravitational lensing was predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity and as Overbye writes, "the heavens continue to light candles for Albert Einstein."
A video of the output of an ASCII fluid dynamics simulator.
Sloshy! (via waxy)
This is a first for me: last week I received an email from a peanut about his Kickstarter campaign, Pete Peanut and the Trouble with Birthdays. Pete wrote to tell me about the new book he is publishing with help from his friends, Sean Hewens, a designer and writer, and Mimi O Chun, a designer and artist.
I don't want to give too much away, but Pete's book tells of the problems he and his friends are having with birthdays. Where the book really shines, however, is in the photography that accompanies the text. Each of the miniature mid-century modern scenes of Pete's world was hand-crafted by Hewens & Chun and they look amazing. The style and aesthetic reminds me very favorably of Wes Anderson (particularly Fantastic Mr. Fox) and Kelli Anderson's work. The pair of them obviously have some serious design chops and an enviable attention to detail.
Kids are going to love this book, but in talking with Chun & Hewens, they wrote the book with adults in mind as well, with a similar crossover appeal as The Simpsons, Harry Potter, or the aforementioned Fantastic Mr. Fox. Sure, a story about anthropomorphic peanuts is cute and whimsical, but there's also irony, references to art & design, and themes like our society's preoccupation with aging and our celebration of the self.
The main reward for backing the campaign is a hardcover version of the book, but you should check out some of the other ones as well. Unfortunately, the hand-made miniature scenes from the book are all spoken for, but they've just added an amazing reward at the $35 level: a custom Viewmaster & reel that's synced to an audio version of the book. So check that out and much more on the Kickstarter page for Pete Peanut and the Trouble with Birthdays.
In Mr. Holmes, Ian McKellen plays a post-retirement Sherlock Holmes who has moved to the country to take up beekeeping. Here's the trailer:
Beautiful video of the Himalayas shot from a helicopter flying at up to 24,000 feet high.
In 1940, Germany published a tourist map of occupied Paris intended for use by German soldiers on leave.
For the New Yorker, Alex Ross writes about movie soundtracks, with an emphasis on the scores for the 2014 crop of films.
This year's Oscar nominations for Best Original Score did the field few favors, overlooking some significant work. Jonny Greenwood, increasingly known as much for his film music as for his contributions to Radiohead, has yet to be acknowledged by the Academy, despite his idiosyncratic, imaginative collaborations with the director Paul Thomas Anderson, most recently in "Inherent Vice." Jason Moran deserved a nod for his "Selma" score, which oscillates between subdued moods of hope and dread, avoiding the telltale gestures of the great-man bio-pic. (The Aaron Copland trumpet of lonely American power is in abeyance.) Most baffling was the omission of Mica Levi's score for "Under the Skin," which, like Greenwood's work for Anderson, moves from seething dissonance to eerie simplicity and back again.
I listen to movie soundtracks quite a bit; they're good to play while working. Here are a few I've enjoyed from 2014:
There are only a dozen images so far, but this Tumblr comparing art from before the 16th century and contemporary images of hip hop is fantastic. My favorites:
Camponotus fellah (which you almost certainly know is a species of carpenter ant) have a lot of incentive to stick together. The worker ants that live and work alone enjoy only a tenth of the lifespan of their more social co-workers. While that stat is extreme, it's not necessarily unique.
Isolation can also enfeeble rats, mice, pigs, rabbits, squirrel monkeys, starlings, and parrots.
And of course humans. What is it about being together that makes us -- and the ants -- more healthy? From The New Yorker's Emily Anthes: Marching One by One.
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My answer to that question, having read nothing about it beyond this article, is "it sounds like a bit of a stretch, but what an interesting thing to think about". This theory about how humans and wolves (and later, dogs) teamed up to outcompete Neanderthals for food is being forwarded by anthropologist Pat Shipman, author of the new book, The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction.
Modern humans formed an alliance with wolves soon after we entered Europe, argues Shipman. We tamed some and the dogs we bred from them were then used to chase prey and to drive off rival carnivores, including lions and leopards, that tried to steal the meat.
"Early wolf-dogs would have tracked and harassed animals like elk and bison and would have hounded them until they tired," said Shipman. "Then humans would have killed them with spears or bows and arrows.
"This meant the dogs did not need to approach these large cornered animals to finish them off -- often the most dangerous part of a hunt -- while humans didn't have to expend energy in tracking and wearing down prey. Dogs would have done that. Then we shared the meat. It was a win-win situation."
At that time, the European landscape was dominated by mammoths, rhinos, bison and several other large herbivores. Both Neanderthals and modern humans hunted them with spears and possibly bows and arrows. It would have been a tricky business made worse by competition from lions, leopards, hyenas, and other carnivores, including wolves.
"Even if you brought down a bison, within minutes other carnivores would have been lining up to attack you and steal your prey," said Shipman. The answer, she argues, was the creation of the human-wolf alliance. Previously they separately hunted the same creatures, with mixed results. Once they joined forces, they dominated the food chain in prehistoric Europe -- though this success came at a price for other species. First Neanderthals disappeared to be followed by lions, mammoths, hyenas and bison over the succeeding millennia. Humans and hunting dogs were, and still are, a deadly combination, says Shipman.
For their new ad campaign, Apple gathered some photos that people had taken with their iPhones and are featuring them on their website and on billboards. Here are a few I found particularly engaging.
I've said it before and it's just getting more obvious: the iPhone is the best camera in the world.
As part of Errol Morris Week on Grantland1, Alex Pappademas did a great interview with Morris about his work. Morris has interviewed serial killers, Holocaust deniers, rapists, and the architect of the Vietnam War but said that the person that most challenged his capacity for empathy was Donald Rumsfeld.
He's confident right now! He doesn't have to wait 100 or 500 years. He doesn't care. I really care whether I'm right or wrong. I really do care. And probably for lots of reasons. I don't want to be seen as a dumbass, I don't want to be seen as someone who believes in something that's absolutely false, untrue, something that can't be substantiated, checked. I believe that there's some deep virtue in pursuing truth. Maybe it's the highest virtue. I believe that. Whether you can attain it or not, you can pursue it. It can be a goal. It can be a destination. I don't believe that's Donald Rumsfeld's goal. I believe that Robert S. McNamara really wanted to understand what he had done and why he had done it. You know, we remain a mystery to ourselves, among the many, many, many other mysteries there are. And McNamara's struggle with his own past -- I was deeply moved by it. I think he's a war criminal, I think he sees himself as a war criminal, but I like him.
Update: Another recent interview, by Brin-Jonathan Butler, is being offered as a 99¢ Kindle Single.
This collection of political cartoons depict the FCC's recent ruling on net neutrality as Big Government throttling the free internet, except that every caption has been replaced with "the cartoonist has no idea how net neutrality works". Here's one example followed by the unadulterated cartoon:
The zingers get zinged. (via @john_overholt)
A new biography of Steve Jobs is coming out in March, written by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, a pair of technology journalists who have covered Jobs and the personal computer revolution for decades. John Gruber has read it and calls it "remarkable".
It is, in short, the book about Steve Jobs that the world deserves. You might wonder how such a book could be written without Jobs's participation, but effectively, he did participate. Schlender, in his work as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and Fortune, interviewed Jobs extensively numerous times spanning 25 years. Remember the 1991 joint interview with Jobs and Bill Gates? That was Schlender. As the book makes clear, Jobs and Schlender had a very personal relationship.
The book is smart, accurate, informative, insightful, and at times, utterly heartbreaking. Schlender and Tetzeli paint a vivid picture of Jobs the man, and also clearly understand the industry in which he worked. They also got an astonishing amount of cooperation from the people who knew Jobs best: colleagues past and present from Apple and Pixar -- particularly Tim Cook -- and his widow, Laurene Powell Jobs.
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