Tagged: Science

Uneven Numbers in 16th Century Italy

From pulpcovers.com

It’s the 10th of October, 1582. Except that it can’t be. Not just because time travel isn’t possible, but because the 10th of October 1582 never happened. Neither did the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 13th, or 14th of October in that particular year. And just to be clear, the rest of the year was present and correct, but those dates were skipped. If you had a birthday in that period, well, you were just fresh out of luck.

And the reason why it was skipped speaks to humankind’s desire to assert order on the universe, and how the universe really couldn’t care less about what we desire.

Episode 12: Jimmy Calendrics

All together now…

“Happy birthday to you,
happy birthday to you,
happy birthday AST,
happy birthday to you!”

Well done, excellent work. A particularly good range of tenors amongst you.

AST is 1 year old! (Okay, not quite. Obviously we didn’t start with an episode zero though. Shut it maths people.) To celebrate we have this special episode that features us playing ourselves! Although not until the end. So hang on in there for that.

Can Jimmy win back some credibility from the scientific community? Can he win back any kind of respect? And where did Gene Roddenberry come from? Stop asking, start listening…

Jimmy, Mike, Science Brian – Brian Macken
Debs – Miriam Higgins
Anne, Mona Lisa – Rhona Wells
Art, Christopher Columbus, Smethley – Matt Kirk
Commentator, Sailor, Gene Roddenberry, Action Dan – Dan Bond
Producer Dan – Dan Booth

Written by Dan Bond & Brian Macken

Produced by Dan Booth

Some sound effects provided by Freesound.org

Turn off the lights and I'll glow

The sun isn’t a tidy sphere. If you go a little closer, you’ll see it looks a bit… fuzzy. Its plasma doesn’t sit as a smooth surface; it’s a roiling sea, throwing itself high above the sun, responding to magnetic fields that would tower many times over our entire planet in a way that would make any sane person feel very tiny indeed. So best not to think about the scale of it too much. We get enough existential panic from the possibility of a Michael Bay remake of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Some of this plasma gets enough of a kick to leave the pull of the Sun altogether, and it heads out into the universe. It’s barely there – just some electrons and protons held together by the merest hint of a magnetic field. But it’s there. After about 18 hours, if it’s lucky, it’ll hit the Earth. Now, it might have whizzed passed Mercury and Venus, but the Earth is slightly different – we have a magnetosphere.

Our place in the Universe

So any time there’s a transit of Venus, everybody gets excited. Astronomers go on special trips, physicists prepare sensitive equipment…okay, not *everybody* gets excited, but a lot of scientists do.

But what is so exciting about it?

Well, for a start, it was how we first worked out where we are.

Episode 10: Voyage of the Hammed

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

There are no pirates in this episode. Let’s get that out of the way first up. What have pirates ever done for science? Other than contributions to cartography, and encouraging people to bury important things. It took ages to find Newton’s Principia I understand.

Join the crew of the scientific research vessel HMS Treasure, as they tackle some big issues: gambling, cross-dressing and musical talent. Get downloading. Ye scurvy dogs.

Captain Cuse  – Calum Mitchell
First Officer Ricks – Brian Macken
Mr Green – Matt Kirk
Mr Banks – Dan Bond
First Crewman – Tara Clarke
Second Crewman – Wendy Bradley

Written by Dan Bond & Brian Macken

Produced by Dan Booth

Some sound effects provided by Freesound.org

Music:

“Der Mond ist aufgegangen” (Thomas Bergen) / CC BY 3.0
“New aloha oe” (banjo980) / CC BY-NC 3.0

How much does a kilogram weigh?

IPK

The International Prototype Kilogram is under all of those bell jars

This is a picture of the international prototype kilogram, or IPK. It is exactly, and always, a kilogram. It’s a big lump of metal which the world has agreed is how much a kilogram weighs. It was made in 1879, and it is still beautifully, perfectly, and exactly the same as it was then.

Er, more or less. And that is the problem.

The...science? of time travel

Time travel. Time travel. Science blog, time travel. Okay. Right. Let’s do this thing.

We can’t do time travel. Time is a strange thing which is hard to get a handle on, and the best definition I have come across of it is John Wheeler’s, who said “Time is what prevents everything from happening at once”. And it only points one way.

So that’s that.

Hmm?

You want more than that?

Oh alright then, let’s talk about a weird idea. It’s not time travel like we here at AST depict, but it’s…well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Computer Magic

Image via CERN

Computer Magic at the LHC (Image via CERN)

At the Large Hadron Collider, two protons are accelerated to a fantastic speed and then smashed into each other. This piece of sub-atomic vandalism is not just for kicks. Scientists there are looking for the Higgs Boson, a particle that, if found, could help explain why some things are heavier than others. It looks like they might have found one last July, too.

Now these collisions are watched by all sorts of detectors. And each collision creates about 1Mb of data (if you had the first minute of a classic song stored as an mp3, that would be about 1Mb, to give you an idea). Which doesn’t sound like much! Except, and here’s where things get tricky, there are millions of collisions a second. Even if you’re reading this blog post on a high-end computer, your hard-drive would fill up within 30 seconds. And the LHC operates throughout the year, and will for years to come. Too much data is generated for anyone to possibly store, never mind sift through.

So when they designed the LHC they had a huge problem to solve – just how do you store and process that much information?

Episode 7: They do it with Magnets

How do you confuse Prof Brian Cox? Put him in the Large Hadron Collider and tell him to stand in the corner.

Sal is a gumshoe. That means everyone wants to slap him. His old flame Mabel needs some help, there’s been a murder at the LHC. Will Sal solve the case? Will they find any Bosons at all? Shouldn’t they all have French or German accents? It’s in Switzerland for goodness sake. Take the plunge, intrepid adventurers…

Sal – Matt Kirk
Mabel – Elena Wright
Scarlet Astor – Amy Wackett
Sam Butler – Dan Bond
Frankie the security guy – Jamie Crowther
One of the boys in the lab – Brian Macken

Editing Episode 6 - Things that don’t sound like things really sound. Like

Hmm… need to work on my titles.

Anyway, as I discussed in an earlier blog, much of my time in editing Action Science Theatre is spent trying to find or create sound effects that sound as close as possible to the real thing. Sometimes, however, the reverse is true; what you want isn’t anything like the real thing, because the real thing is too nondescript, or simply inaudible. This is where stereotypical auditory cues come in, allowing the creation of what Vincent McInerney* calls ‘mindvisible images’ – instant visualisation of what is meant to be happening. While McInerney is talking about writing rather than sound effects, similar principles apply.