Albert Einstein once described quantum entanglement as “spooky action at distance.” The basic idea behind it is that certain things (e.g. particles, molecules) can interact with each other instantly (or nearly instantly) regardless of how far apart they are. For example, pairs of photons can affect one another when separated by vast distances, with the effects occurring even faster than light could have traveled between the two points.
Earlier this month, when we were exploring why the NASA Curiosity rover’s cameras are so lame, we mentioned that the total amount of data the scientists can transfer on a daily basis is only around 31 megabytes. As anyone with a restrictive cell phone dataplan can attest to, having a small data cap makes you think carefully about the data that you choose to download. Glenn Fleishmann over at The Economist has an interesting writeup that sheds some light on how NASA scientists make their Martian photo shoot decisions:
Every day Justin Maki faces a tricky balancing act. He is one of the boffins at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) responsible, among other things, for deciding what Curiosity photographs each Martian day, or sol, and which pictures it sends back home. “We can always take enough pictures to fill up the downlink,” Dr Maki says. The mission can currently beam at least 30MB a sol, including scientific measurements, engineering data and images, from Mars, via two satellites orbiting the planet, to Earth.
All of the rover’s 17 cameras, seven more than any previous exploratory vehicle, store images in a raw, unprocessed format and initially beam back tiny thumbnails (which NASA uploads as they come in). The scientists working on different aspects of the mission meet daily to determine which of the thumbnails to download in higher resolution. The “health and safety” of the rover takes priority. After the deliberations, which can last over an hour, instructions are dispatched to Mars.
Taking pictures on Mars: Red eyes (via Boing Boing)
Scientists at Duke University have created a digital camera that boasts a whopping 50 gigapixels. The camera, dubbed AWARE-2, uses 98 separate 14-megapixel microcameras and a special spherical lens. Each microcamera captures a tiny portion of the scene and a specially designed processor stitches the images together. Processing the data is so hardware intensive that 97% of the camera is made up of electronics and computer components (the other 3% is the optical elements).
German scientists have been awarded a Guinness World Record for “fastest movie” after successfully capturing two images of an X-ray laser beam 50 femtoseconds apart. One femtosecond is equal to one quadrillionth (or one millionth of one billionth) of a second. Here’s some science talk explaining it:
[...] the scientists split the X-ray laser beam into two flashes and sent one of them via a detour of only 0.015 millimetres, making it arrive 50 femtoseconds later than the first one. Since no detector can be read out so fast, the scientists stored both images as superimposed holograms, allowing the subsequent reconstruction of the single images.
With these experiments, the scientists showed that this record slow motion is achievable. However, they did not only take the world’s fastest but probably also the shortest film – with just two images. Thus, additional development work is necessary for the use of this method in practice. [#]
And we thought one trillion frames per second was impressive…
(via PhysOrg via Engadget)
Image credit: Photograph by Stefan Eisebitt/HZB
Picture Post is an interesting (and NASA-funded) citizen science project that turns photographers into citizen scientists, crowdsourcing the task of environmental monitoring. Anyone around the world can install a Picture Post:
A Picture Post is a 4”x4” post made of wood or recycled plastic with enough of the post buried in the ground so it extends below the frost line and stays secure throughout the year. Atop the post is a small octagonal-shaped platform or cap on which you can rest your camera to take a series of nine photographs.
People who walk by can then use the guide on the post to capture 9 photos in all directions, and upload them to the Picture Post website. The resulting panoramas can then be browsed by date, giving a cool look at how a particular location changes over time.
Ever wonder why certain people always seem to engage in meaningless Canon vs Nikon vs et al. camera brand debates at every opportunity? A recent study conducted at the University of Illinois has found that the more knowledge and experience you have with a particular brand, the stronger your self-esteem is tied to it. Ars Technica writes,
Those who had high self-brand connections (SBC)—that is, those who follow, research, or simply like a certain brand—were the ones whose self esteem suffered the most when their brands didn’t do well or were criticized. Those with low SBC remained virtually unaffected on a personal level.
The residual effect of this is that those with high SBCs tend to discount negative news about their favorite brands, and sometimes even ignore it altogether in favor of happier thoughts.
So that’s why feathers are so easily ruffled when camera brands are bashed…
(via Boing Boing)
Image credit: Canon Vs Nikon Faceoff by Rakesh Ashok
Having a camera that shoots 5000 frames per second is enough to capture slow motion footage of a bullet flying through the air, but scientists at the Science and Technology Facilities Council have now announced a camera that shoots a staggering 4.5 million frames per second. Rather than bullets, the camera is designed to capture 3D images of individual molecules using powerful x-ray flashes that last one hundred million billionth of a second. The £3 million camera will land in scientists hands in 2015.
(via STFC via Engadget)
P.S. In case you’re wondering, the image above is an illustration showing x-ray flashes being generated.