/ nat / blog

Monthly Archives: February 2010


All Your Base Are Belong To Us (explained)

Laurelhurst Park


Art is Illegal

Spy Ears


Kate Madison & the LOTR Prequel

Everything is Green(Screen)


Bluegrass Association

Gravity is Evaporating

The smearing of starlight near the Milky Way’s central black hole could provide a new window into extra dimensions.

Black holes have been praised as potential extradimensional peepholes before. Gravity is surprisingly weak at macroscopic scales, especially compared to the other fundamental forces, and some physicists think gravity could be leaking from the three-dimensional world humans inhabit into extra, unobserved dimensions. Observations of black holes could help (SN: 9/26/09, p. 22): Shrinking black holes could be evaporating into other dimensions, and any tiny black holes that might be produced in the Large Hadron Collider would be the result of extra-strong gravity at micrometer length scales, meaning gravity’s relative weakness can be blamed on extra dimensions.

Those tests rely on black holes ranging in mass from many times the mass of the sun to many times smaller than an atomic nucleus. But a new technique proposed February 14 at the American Physical Society meeting in Washington would make use of the most massive object in the Milky Way galaxy: the supermassive black hole at the galactic center.

Weighing in at about 4 million solar masses, that black hole exerts enough gravitational oomph to bend the light of stars that orbit near it for observers on Earth to see a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing.

“A gravitational potential…does several things to the light,” said graduate student Amitai Bin-Nun of the University of Pennsylvania. “It can split the light into multiple images, it can distort those images, and most importantly, those images either are brighter or less bright than the original light coming from the source.”

Bin-Nun chose a particular star whose orbit brings it close enough to the supermassive black hole to distort its light. He ran simulations of how its brightness will change over the next 10 years assuming two different shapes for the spacetime around the black hole: one predicted by a four-dimensional (three space and one time) universe, and one that includes the effects of a fifth dimension.

“This is a test of what gravity looks like around the black hole,” he said.

The simulations showed that at the star’s peak brightness, which it will reach in early 2018, the star will be about 44 percent brighter if the universe has five dimensions than if it has four.

Unfortunately, in either case the star would be too dim for most current ground-based telescopes to see. “This is observationally challenging,” Bin-Nun said, which may be an understatement. “But it is still a statistically and scientifically significant result.” He pointed out that a telescope called MICADO that was proposed to come online in the next decade should be able to detect the star, and other stars that have not yet been discovered might be better candidates.

If such a brightness difference was observed, it would be “incredibly important,” comments Tom Murphy of the University of California, San Diego. “It gets at the very nature of space and time.” But he’s skeptical that the observations are even possible. “It’s not a useful test if it can’t be done,” he says.

Permalink | Comments Off on Gravity is Evaporating

The Dobro

February 17, 2010 – 2:00 pm

Craig Ferguson

February 16, 2010 – 2:00 pm

Hermes Trismegistus

February 15, 2010 – 2:00 pm

The Emerald Tablet

February 12, 2010 – 2:00 pm

The Emerald Tablet, also known as Smaragdine Table, Tabula Smaragdina, or The Secret of Hermes, is a text purporting to reveal the secret of the primordial substance and its transmutations. It claims to be the work of Hermes Trismegistus (“Hermes the Thrice-Greatest”), a legendary Hellenistic[1] combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth.[2]

This short and cryptic text was highly regarded by European alchemists as the foundation of their art, in particular of its Hermetic tradition.

Textual history

The oldest documentable source for the text is the Kitab Sirr al-Asrar, a compendium of advice for rulers in Arabic which purports to be a letter from Aristotle to Alexander the Great. This work was translated into Latin as Secretum Secretorum (The Secret of Secrets) by Johannes “Hispalensis” or Hispaniensis (John of Seville) ca. 1140 and by Philip of Tripoli c. 1243.

In the 14th century, the alchemist Ortolanus wrote a substantial exegesis on “The Secret of Hermes,” which was influential on the subsequent development of alchemy. Many manuscripts of this copy of the Emerald Tablet and the commentary of Ortolanus survive, dating at least as far back as the 15th century.

The Tablet has also been found appended to manuscripts of the Kitab Ustuqus al-Uss al-Thani (Second Book of the Elements of Foundation) attributed to Jabir ibn Hayyan, and the Kitab Sirr al-Khaliqa wa San`at al-Tabi`a (“Book of the Secret of Creation and the Art of Nature”), dated between 650 and 830 AD.

Permalink | Comments Off on The Emerald Tablet


February 11, 2010 – 2:00 pm

Busiek’s Cake

February 10, 2010 – 2:00 pm

Wes Anderson’s Spider-Man

February 9, 2010 – 3:45 pm

Permalink | Comments Off on Wes Anderson’s Spider-Man

Who asked you?

February 9, 2010 – 2:00 pm

The Thing vs The Champion

February 8, 2010 – 2:00 pm

The Annual for Marvel Two-in-One in 1982 did not come with a lot of hype, so not only was it a really good comic book story, but it came as a real surprise at the time. As unheralded as it was when it was released, the comic has persisted as one of the strongest Annuals Marvel has ever produced, and the comic was influential enough to be homaged (homaged or lifted wholesale?) by Dexter’s Laboratory over a decade later.

It is a good comic book.


One of the striking aspects of this comic (by Tom DeFalco and Ron Wilson) is that it manages to fit in so much story into one annual. There is more story in this one Annual than there was in all four issues of Countdown: Arena or Contest of Champions (one AND two!), and the story was better – and all with such a simple premise.

Some intergalactic dude named the Champion comes to Earth and picks a bunch of the strongest heroes on Earth and challenges them to a fight – he goes around to different planets and tests their greatest fighters – if they prove worthy, the planet is allowed to survive. If not, he destroys the planet.

It is determined that the fight will be a big boxing match at Madison Square Garden, simulcast all over the world.

Obviously, the heroes of Earth don’t just say, “Yeah, okay, that sounds fine. Carry on.” They all team up and try to get around the Champion’s prodigious powers, and the issue features many cameos from other heroes, and it is impressive how well DeFalco does with the characterizations of the various Marvel heroes that he uses.

Of the heroes chosen, Doc Samson is considered not up to task (as he’s not trained as a fighter), Namor refuses to sully himself with a boxing match, Thor is disqualified because of his inability to fight without a hammer (as he needs it to stay Thor) and Hulk is disqualified for refusing to play by the rules.

That leaves Sasquatch, Wonder Man, Colossus and Thing.

Sasquatch is beaten pretty easily, but Colossus truly shows his mettle (intended…hehe) by almost lasting a full round (no one has ever lasted two rounds) against the Champion despite being brutalized.

Wonder Man cracks a bit under the pressure and is disqualified, so it comes down to the Thing.

And this Ron Wilson drawing from the issue should tell you how prepared the Thing was for the fight.


Pretty darn cool looking, no?

Anyhow, the Champion and the Thing spar for three rounds, with the Thing being totally pummeled, but refusing to cave. The ref calls the fight after three rounds, but the badly beaten Thing rises to his feet and argues the call,

“Hold it! This fight ain’t over yet… not by a long shot! Ya only won on a technicality! Ya didn’t really beat me! Ya’ll never beat me! I’m just too stupid… and ugly… ta know when to quit!”

The Champion agrees that while he could kill the Thing, he could never truly defeat his spirit.

He is honored by the Thing’s bravery, and leaves Earth unharmed.

The Thing basks in his victory for Earth, and then collapses into a heap, as he is near-death.

There’s a neat follow-up issue by DeFalco in the regular title where he shows the Thing recuperating from this fight.

Overall, a great one-off issue. A lot of fun and a nice insight into the mind of the Thing.


Permalink | Comments Off on The Thing vs The Champion

Edgar Rice Burroughs’

February 5, 2010 – 2:00 pm

What do you know about pain and sadness?

February 4, 2010 – 7:44 pm

Permalink | Comments Off on What do you know about pain and sadness?

Heppner, Oregon

February 4, 2010 – 2:00 pm

Xu Fu

February 3, 2010 – 2:00 pm

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Xú Fú (Chinese: 徐福 or 徐巿, not to be confused with the character , Japanese: Jofuku 徐福) was born in 255 BC in the Qi state and served as a court sorcerer in Qin Dynasty China. He was sent by Qin Shi Huang to the eastern seas twice to look for the elixir of life.[1] His two journeys occurred between 219 BC and 210 BC. It was believed that the fleet included 60 barques and around 5000 crew members, 3000 boys and girls[1], and craftsmen of different fields. After he embarked on a second mission in 210 BC, he never returned. Some sources have pointed to 500 boys and 500 girls instead.[2] Various records suggest that he may have arrived and died in Japan


The ruler of Qin, Qin Shi Huang feared death and sought a way to live forever. He entrusted Xu Fu with the task of finding the secret of immortality. In 219 BC, Xu Fu was sent with three thousand virgin boys and girls to retrieve the elixir of life from the immortals, including Anqi Sheng, who lived on Penglai Mountain in the eastern seas. Xu sailed for several years without finding the mountain. In 210 BC, when Qin Shi Huang questioned him, Xu Fu claimed there was a giant sea creature blocking the path, and asked for archers to kill the creature. Qin Shi Huang agreed, and sent archers to kill a giant fish. Xu then set sail again, but he never returned from this trip. The Records of the Grand Historian says he came to a place with “flat plains and wide swamps” (平原廣澤) and proclaimed himself king, never to return.

Later historical texts were also unclear on the location of Xu Fu’s final destination. Sanguo Zhi, Book of Later Han, and Guadi Zhi all state that he landed in “Danzhou” (亶州), but the whereabouts of Danzhou are unknown. Finally, more than 1,100 years after Xu Fu’s final voyage, monk Yichu wrote during the Later Zhou Dynasty (AD 951-960) of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period that Xu Fu landed in Japan, and also said Xu Fu named Mount Fuji as Penglai. This theory is what formed the “Legend of Xu Fu”, which later spread to Japan, as evidenced by the many memorials to him there.

Permalink | Comments Off on Xu Fu

Dante’s F*ing Inferno

February 2, 2010 – 2:00 pm

Christopher Hitchens – 28min

February 2, 2010 – 2:00 pm

Permalink | Comments Off on Christopher Hitchens – 28min