Friday, June 25, 2010

Frank Frazetta.

Frank Frazetta 2.9.28-5.10.10
One of the first things I can ever remember wanting to be as a kid, following paleontologist, astronomer and scientist of course, -YES, in that order!- was an artist. For years art in particular illustration, held the place of obsession that music holds for me today and I spent countless hours alone in my room teaching myself to draw. To this day I still carry a small sketchbook with me wherever I go and a large portion of my bedroom is taken up by a massive drafting desk filled with art supplies and stacks of old sketchbooks and loose drawings.

A few weeks ago I learned that lost in the noise of May Frank Frazetta, one the artists who first inspired me to do more than just draw, passed away at the age of 82 following a stroke. If you were a fan of Frazetta's work you've no doubt already read all there is to read about his life and recent death but given his influence on my own art and personal tastes I wanted to at least mention him here.

Frank Frazeta was born Febuary 9th 1928 in Brooklyn New York. He began drawing comics in the forties and would eventually become most well known for his cover illustrations on countless fantasy and sci-fi paper backs, magazines and comics as well as movie posters and album covers for artists like Molly Hatchet and Yngwie Malmsteen.

I must admit that since music has become the most consuming part of my life I have not kept up with my own art very well. Much less the lives of the artists who first inspired me in childhood, including Frank. While I was frustrated to learn there was both turmoil and tragedy in the final years of his life including the death of his wife, the arrest of his son and the truly unfortunate quarreling of his family over his estate even before his death. It was nice to learn just how successful he had been as the things which I enjoy tend to be offbeat and unpopular and so the people who make them often struggle to make a living. This was most certainly not the case for Frank. His art hangs in his museum in PA and sold for thousands of dollars within his own lifetime. Recently, along with Frank miller, Frazetta's art broke records at auction and just last year kirk Hammett of Metallica payed a million dollars for this original painting of Conan The Conqueror.

So while it's always sad to see someone who's work or talent you admire or enjoy go. It's nice to know that they were able to achieve success doing what they loved.

Links And Additional Content
I found two tributes on you tube I wanted to share. The first is a short high quality video shot at Frazetta's museum in PA and I thought It was pretty cool to to see the the actual paintings rather than prints. The Conan music however is a little unnecessary. Though in the interest of fairness I should point out I actually own that soundtrack and have it on my iPhone. Posted by Youtube user:pitchfilms

I suppose I should also warn you that like most artists Frank liked to paint naked women. There you've been warned.

The second is a bit longer and is sort of an iTunes album cover style slide show of Frazetta's work. Posted by Youtube user:VisulReviews

Again, illustrated neckedness imminent...

And just because it's one of my favorites, "Nightstalker", 1967 And a quick, sloppy little ink drawing I did of this piece when I was around sixteen or so. Which I had to take a photo of with my phone as I seem to have misplaced the plug to my scanner.

For more of Frank's work do a google search or check out the unofficial online gallery HERE

Image Credits: "Self Portrait, 1962", "Conan The Usurper, 1967", "Conan the Conquerer", 1967, and "Nightstalker", 1962 by: Frank Frazetta
Crappy little ink sketch by: Me
Photo Credit: Unknown
Videos posted by You tube users:pitchfilms and VisulReviews

Friday, June 18, 2010

George Hrab: Trebuchet

Trebuchet by: George Hrab

If you don't know the name George Hrab you should. Besides having a book and one of my favorite Pod casts , George also has six albums worth of independent music. His newest album "Trebuchet", which you can watch George creating the cover art for in the video below, can be heard in full in this weeks episode of "The Geologic Podcast: Episode #170" , as well as in various other pod casts around the web. My personal favorite tracks were "Death From The Skies", featuring Phil Plait (yes that Phil Plait) and "Trebuchet", which you can hear a portion of in the time lapse video below.

Trust me when I tell you an unbelievable amount of work goes into making an album. Much less; an album, a weekly podcast, filming, producing, and editing your own videos, playing drums in a live band, trying to promote it all, and doing all of the other things George somehow manages to find the time to do. So if you've ever been entertained or enlightened in some way by something George has said or done, then for Xenu's sake, go give the man a dollar for a song!

You can buy "Trebuchet" on iTunes or CD Baby where you can also find the rest of George's music.

And just in case your too lazy to follow any links, Here's a video George made for "Far" which appears on Trebuchet and is also the theme song for the "365 Days Of Astronomy" Pod cast.

All images songs and videos by:George Hrab
Video posted by You Tube User: geologicrecords
To find out more about all of George's projects go to:
Vote for George, The Pod Cast AND Trebuchet Here on Digg.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Return Of Hayabusa!

Okay, so it isn't really the name of some low grade Japanese sci-fi movie you've never heard of. It's actually something MUCH, MUCH COOLER!

Itokawa is a 500 yard long irregularly shaped object orbiting about 180 million miles from Earth. Hayabusa was a Japanese probe launched May 9th, 2003 which made contact with Itokawa in September of 2005. The probe studied the asteroid from a distance of 20 Km until mid November of 2005 when Hayabusa approached the asteroid for a series of soft landings to collect sample material from the objects surface.

It was unclear weather or not Hyabusa's initial landing attempt was successful due to communication issues. But after analyzing the data it was learned that Hayabusa had actually landed on the surface of the asteroid for thirty minutes but had not carried out it's sampling sequence. Several more attempts were made to touch down and take samples from the asteroids surface but it appears as though those attempts were unsuccessful as well. But Given Itokawa's soft loose form it is possible that samples were successfully collected during the probes landings on the asteroids surface.

The mission certainly was not without complication. In 2003 solar flares damaged the probes solar cells while en-route to Itokawa, reducing the efficiency of the spacecraft's Ion engines and delaying it's arrival, thus reducing the time it was able spend at the asteroid. Hayabusa also carried a second small craft MINERVA, which was intended to be released on the surface of Itokawa. But communication errors caused the craft to be released at the wrong altitude and it was lost out into space.

While it is not yet known weather or not the unmanned probe successfully collected any samples, the probe did manage to rendezvous with the asteroid, land on it's surface for a period of half an hour, AND return to Earth as of yesterday June 13th, 2010 after seven years in space.
How unbelievably cool is that?


Additional Links and Content
Here's video of the probes reentry taken by a DC-8 flying over Australia, posted by Youtube user:numpango

And if you'd like to read more and way better coverage of Hyabusa's return check out Emily Lakdawalla's blog which is where I found this still of the probes return taken by:Yomiuri Shimbun.

Image Credit:Yomiuri Shimbun
Hyabusa Returns graphic by: Me
Video posted by Youtube user:numpango

Sunday, June 13, 2010

More On Titan

While doing some Googling for my next entry I stumbled upon this Flash presentation on Titan from NASA's Planet Quest page and I thought I would share. The presentation begins with video and narration covering most of the facts about Titan I discussed in my own entry on the moon. After this overview is complete, or even before it's complete if you're the impatient type, you can then move on to a 3d global view where specific features have been highlighted and can be clicked for additional images and information. There is also a quick fact tab for general statistics such as it's radius and mass as well as a latest images tab and additional links to other sites relating to Titan at the bottom of the page.

Austria Calls in Druids to Reduce Traffic Fatalities

Following a high number of fatal accidents along a particular stretch of highway near Salzburg Austria, the Austrian motorway authority has enlisted the help of Arch Druid Ilmar Tessmann, seen here on a recent visit to the Degobah system.:

And it's a good thing too. Otherwise they may never have known the fatal crashes were being caused by radiation being emitted from nearby mobile phone Towers. Which were apparently disrupting the area’s normal terrestrial radiation according to the arch druid.

In order to counteract this harmful radiation, Ilmar and his fellow druids placed quartz standing stones to restore the area's "Natural energy" but they didn't stop there. Aside from dowsing for pockets of "dark energy" these enterprising young druids also Incorporated a cheaper modern day alternative by burying plastic slates with magnets in the ground. The combination of which Ilmar claims has successfully counteracted the harmful effects of the mobile phone towers.

"If you ask me to give you a scientific explanation, I can’t, I just know it works, and even critics can’t argue with our success rate."
, said Ilmar.
Oh sure we can.

The Austrian motorway authority only went public with it's Druid roadway project after the Druids' efforts seemingly cut the number of deaths on the motorway from six to zero in two years. It should go without saying that a reduction of six over a two year period could easily be accounted for by a number of other factors, including simple chance. It's impossible however for me to say exactly what those factors might be as I'm not even entirely certain I was able to find the original source on this story. Much less any additional information on what may have led to the drop in fatal accidents in this particular area. But it's safe to say that placing quartz monoliths, dowsing for "dark energy", and burying plastic plates and magnets along side the highway had nothing to do with it.

First a link to The Metro article on this story, which is as far as I can tell the original source, or at least as close as I can find.
Then we have a link to someone on the other side of the issue, someone who doesn't find this story quite as ridiculous:Scott Michael Stenwick, who claims himself to be a Thelemite and ritual magician who has been practicing for more than 25 years. - Enjoy!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Methanogenic Life on Titan?

Saturn's moon Titan is one of my absolute favorite objects in our solar system. The above image, taken by the Casini spacecraft using infrared imaging to cut through Titans thick atmosphere, reveals the sun glinting off the surface of what are believed to be standing lakes or even an ocean of methane near Titans north pole. The largest of Saturn's moons, Titan is the only natural satellite known to have a dense atmosphere,1.19 times as massive as Earth's, and is the only object other than Earth for which clear evidence of stable bodies of surface liquid exists.

Titan's dense hazy atmosphere made it impossible for the first probes to pass near enough to image the moon to penetrate through to the surface, until The Cassini–Huygens spacecraft reached Saturn on July 1, 2004 and began the process of mapping it's surface by radar. On January 14, 2005,The Huygens Probe touched down on the surface of Titan after a three hour descent through the moons thick atmosphere, revealing that many of the moon's surface features seemed to have been formed by flowing liquid. Now, new evidence has arisen seeming to suggest there may be life on Titan, or so the headlines would have you believe. But as with the recent hype surrounding the creation of so called synthetic life, the evidence for life on Titan has been greatly exaggerated for the sake of a story.

The first thing you need to understand is that Titan is extremely cold, around minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 179 degrees Celsius, so water cannot exist on the surface of Titan in liquid form. That means any organism that did live on Titan would have evolved to use a substance which would remain liquid at those temperatures, methane being the most likely candidate. While there are liquid-water-based microbes on Earth that thrive on methane or produce it as a waste product, methane based life remains speculative.

All of this speculation is the result of two recently released papers based on the analysis of chemical data returned by the Casini spacecraft. The first paper by Darrell Strobel suggests that hydrogen molecules flowing down through Titan's atmosphere are disappearing on the surface. The second paper by Roger Clark maps hydrocarbons on Titan's surface and finds a surprising lack of acetylene. Both substances would be essential to methanogenic life which would use hydrogen as we do oxygen and could potentially consume acetylene as food, thus accounting for the seeming lack of each substance in Casini's data. Could all this be evidence that methane based life exists on Titan? Absolutely. But as always Occam's razor applies and it's far more likely that further analysis will reveal a less spectacular reason for the seeming anomalies.

Here on earth, the existence of creatures living hundreds of feet below the ice in the arctic, thriving in poisonous lakes in under ground caves or living in sulfur vents in the deep ocean make it clear that life can adapt to most anything, and I personally believe we will find life outside of Earth. Weather that life will be as simple as some alien cave slime or microbe or as exotic as silicone based lifeforms thriving in oceans of methane I certainly don't know. But as tantalizing as it may be, it's too soon to say that Casini's most recent findings represent proof of such life on Titan.

Links and Additional Content
First, check out the and Universe Today articles on this story, which were my primary sources for today's entry then, this video from the ESA which condenses the hours of data the Huygens probe collected down to 4 mins and 40 seconds.(The sounds added to this video get annoying you might want to consider muting it.)

Video posted by Youtube user:nequest
Image Credit:NASA

Saturday, June 5, 2010

In A World Without Bullies...

Emo + Goth + Furies =,

See what happens when bullies are removed from the social food Chain. Don't get me wrong, I love the freaks, not to mention the geeks and social outcasts of the world. After all, I've been all of the above my entire life (see my facebook link for proof). But a world where a guy can attach a raccoon tail to his ass, put on make up, call himself a Werewolf and make it through a day of school without someone at least trying to kick the crap out of him is world in which I don't want to live.

1000 to 1 says they're all vegetarian werewolves.


Video posted by YouTube user:werehyenataur

Originally found on:Weird Things

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Oil Spill And James Cameron, Insert Avatar Pun Here:

I previously wrote an entry about Kevin Costner
and his attempts to aid the clean up in the gulf and in that post I decided to make an avatar joke. Little did I know that a mere two weeks later James Cameron, seen above trying to look calm while being held captive by two escaped mental patients, would step up to offer his underwater expertise to aid in operations to stop the massive leak in the gulf.

Like Costner, Cameron has decided to use his own resources to do what he can to improve the situation, rather than wasting time arguing over who's fault it is. If he truly can do anything to aid in the crisis then Bp, the federal government, and all the rest of us should welcome his help. But like before what I find most relevant about this story is not that Cameron has stepped up to help but the reason that Cameron's offer is such big news; the fact that no one else seems to have a clue what to do.

To be fair there are of course a few ideas out there such as the nuclear option which I'm sure you've heard about by now, but in case you haven't. This plan involves detonating a nuclear device above the well in the hopes that when the explosion turns the sea floor into glass it will seal off the leak. Or, that glass could shatter and create a massive canyon for the oil to leak from. Either way, seems like a reasonable plan. Right?

Meanwhile oil continues to stream into the ocean, irreparable damage continues to be done to the environment and individuals continue to loose they're lively hood as a result of others corruption and incompetence. I myself am among those wondering what impact the spill will have on my life as I have the great misfortune of not only living in Florida, a circumstance I define as unfortunate even without an oil spill, but earning my living making fishing lures. Though I suspect I'll make it through okay given that I'm on the east coast, the spill has already had an effect on business throughout Florida. And even if I do make it through, lots of people throughout the southern coast won't be so lucky.

Given the media coverage on this I see no need to carry on or link to additional information so instead I'll leave you with a calculation to ponder.

Since the spill began BP has maintained there is no more than 5000 barrels of oil a day leaking from the ruptured well, it's seems clear that it's a much higher number than that but lets go with it:
5000 barrels x 55 gallons per barrel, equals:275,000 gallons of oil a day, x 46 days equals: 12,650,000 gallons leaked into the ocean thus far. If the leak doesn't stop until August, and a relief well could take much longer, that's another 57 days or 285,000 barrels or15,675,000 gallons if the well is not capped until august first. Which would bring the Conservative total of oil leaked into the ocean to a grand total of: 28,325,000 gallons.