Slow News Day: Alien Skull On Mars

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This just came in from the Telegraph, apparently Mars Exploration Rover Spirit has spotted a random skull on the Martian surface. This is obviously the only interpretation… as we know what an alien looks like, don’t we? Big head, big eyes, pasty grey skin. Something like this? Or, more likely, like this? Or this? Wow, it could be any one of them.

However, it’s not quite that exciting.

It’s a rock, as you may have already guessed. And no, the Telegraph isn’t taking it seriously either. (Although The Sun’s microreport could be taken either way.)

Although the newspaper’s article resembles a badly conditioned April Fools gag, there is one glaring error, well two actually. No, three.

Firstly, Spirit is not a camera – it’s a whole robot with a camera attached (called the Panoramic Camera, or Pancam for short). If it was just a camera, could you imagine the movie location costs?

Second, I’m not sure why this was filed in “Science News”. It obviously needs to be filed under “It’s a Slow News Day, We’ll Report Anything”.

And thirdly, I seriously doubt this image got “space-gazers talking”. When I last looked at one of Opportunity’s panoramic shots, I could see all kinds of strange things in the Mars dirt. If I was a conspiracy theorist, I’d love poking around the shapes and shadows, thinking I could see skulls, flying hubcaps and mysterious plant-like features. But I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I’m a “space-gazer”, but I’m not “talking”.

As it’s late, I’ve given up trying to find the source of the article (no links – come on Telegraph, if you’re gonna play blogging for the day, at least reference your lead!). Apparently some “UFO hunters” were being serious, but then joking, about this rock that looks like a skull. So, what the Telegraph is really trying to tell us is:

A stone. On Mars. Might look like a skull. Doesn’t really. Even ufologists don’t take it seriously. So it’s not really news. Move along.

I’m not suggesting the Telegraph isn’t a good newspaper, on the contrary, but really, what’s the point?

Why did I even bother to report on this? Oh yeah: It’s a stone that looks like a bunny skull. Now try explaining how a rabbit got up there…

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Astroengine Featured on CNET

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In an article written by Don Reisinger for CNET News, Astroengine.com was selected as one of the “18 cool sites and apps that teach you about space.”

This is awesome as one of my main effort on Astroengine is to not only promote space news, opinion, skepticism and logical thinking, I also hope the site serves as an educational medium, so readers can understand the science that hides beneath the headlines. “Outreach” is a lot more than a group of scientists trying to work out how best to promote their work to the world; it’s a way of communicating advanced scientific theories to an audience who don’t necessarily have a specialized knowledge of the subject matter. Even though I have an education in a small aspect of astrophysics, it is often hard to understand the next big discovery in cosmology (don’t get me started on quantum dynamics, that stuff is insane!), so the more explaining the better in my books.

Also, to add to the coolness, by virtue of alphabetical luck, Astroengine.com takes the #2 slot in the top 18 space websites. And to top the whole thing off, Don Reisinger’s article hit the front page of Digg.com this morning. Needless to say, Astroengine was busier than Grand Central Station on a Friday evening this afternoon (thank goodness I have a brand new server to deal with demand)!

Thank you Don, I really appreciate the mention and the really cool review!

For more, check out “18 cool sites and apps that teach you about space” on CNET.com »

A Hole In Arizona

©Stan Gaz

This picture was posted by Phil Plait and I was mesmerized. Stan Gaz, the photographer of Meteor Crater in Arizona, will be laying on an exhibition in New York from April 30th to June 6th. If this is anything to go by, it’s an event you can’t afford to miss out on… if you’re in or near New York that is. As I am quite literally on the other side of the country, I’ll miss it, but here’s more info if you are more fortunate.

100th Carnival Of Space. Oh Yes! It’s the Centenary Edition!

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One hundred Carnivals. Wow.

I think it goes without saying that this is a huge Carnival of Space, a celebration of the first century of space blogging as we move into the second. So long as I blog about space and science I will continue to participate in this supreme celebration of the space blogosphere.

So, over to Brian Ventrudo at One Minute Astronomer, for the huge 100th Carnival of Space!

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” — Carl Sagan (from One Minute Astronomer)

Flying Laser Ready to Begin Airborne Weapon Tests

The 747 plus ABL (USAF)

747 airliner? Check. Huge laser? Check. Huge-flying-missile-melting-laser? Nearly.

Actually, I’d want to fly the aircraft remotely, unmanned, and fire the oversized laser pointer at the 747 from a distance. Just to see how long it would take to melt. But that’s just me.

Boeing on the other hand, has succeeded in building a flying laser. Toward the end of 2008, the Airborne Laser (ABL) had been installed inside its Boeing 747 host and it was undergoing static tests. Sure enough, the megawatt laser had proven its worth and fired at a target, twice, in one-second bursts. Details are sketchy as to the damage the ABL caused, but Boeing and other US military contractors heralded the test as a success (if you ask me, the target probably looked like this afterwards).
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Geodesy and GOCE: Astrocast.TV with Bente Lilja Bye

In the first episode of A Green Space — A Green Earth at Astrocast.TV, my friend and astrophysicist Bente Lilja Bye gives a superb overview about the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) that was finally launched in March. It’s a captivating show, detailing the history and science behind the study of geodesy (the gravitational field, shape and rotation of the Earth).

You may not be familiar with geodesy, but it is critical to advancing our understanding of the planet we live on. For example, GOCE observations could aid prediction techniques for earthquakes, or refine GPS data; suddenly geodesy has a very real and immediate relevance to us on the ground.

Be sure to check out the video below, it’s a very slick production. Great job Bente!

2012 Is Coming… And All I Got Was This Lousy Fridge Magnet

Screenshot from the Flash animation "The End of the World" by Fluid

Just when I was getting bored of the endless stream of 2012 doomsday hype (tripe), my interest was suddenly reinvigorated when I saw this advertisement:

2012 Calendar Magnet

$2.99 + shipping

Our calendar magnet is a real 2012 calendar. So you can have it on the refrigerator for 3 1/2 years! The calendar magnet is 4.25 inches wide and 5.5 inches long. It is also very clear and easy to read (looks better than the picture above, but is smaller). The shipping cost within the U.S. is $0.79 and for International orders $1.89.

No way. Oh yes. Yes, they did! The most well-known 2012 protagonist website is selling doomsday fridge magnets depicting an Earth plus comet barrelling towards it.

I had to triple-check, just in case this was the doomsday blogging equivalent to Punk’d. No, this is real: fridge magnets.
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