Posts Tagged ‘History Channel’

Back on line

November 21st, 2009 3 comments

the bugs have been swept out...

We’re back on line after a skin-crawling attack that exploited the WordPress installation to rebrand the name as synonomous with the latest in spamware. I noticed the problem yesterday morning, and took the site offline. Buried in the WordPress .php scripts, I found a piece of code that looked like this:

the bugs have been swept out...

Luckily, the MySQL database seems to have been unaffected, so I did an rm -rf * and started from scratch with the latest WordPress.

It’s been a rather apocalyptic-themed week: Russian hackers attack, the University of California is disentigrating under the weight of repeated budget cuts, and on Tuesday, I went to Los Angeles to film a segment for a History Channel episode describing how the Earth would fare in the sudden absence of human presence. My particular interview focused on what would happen to the geostationary satellites over a timescale of weeks to months to years. The filming was done at an abandoned hospital, which was one of the creepiest places I’ve ever seen.

Categories: worlds Tags: ,

Rings on the TV

September 14th, 2009 2 comments

Image: JPL/Cassini

Just a heads-up for those of you who haven’t yet firmed up your television viewing schedules for tomorrow night.

I’ll be appearing in a episode devoted to astrophysical disks (that is, rings) that’s set to air Tuesday night on the History Channel’s Universe series. Time is 9PM/8C. (Not sure when it goes down on the West Coast, “check your local listings”.)

The show delves into the ubiquity of disk-like structures in astrophysics, covering the range of scales from the band of our geosynchronous satellites to the rings of the Jovian planets all the way up to quasars and disk galaxies.

The swarm of satellites and space debris, including the ring of geosynchronous satellites (Source).

To create a visual analogy for Saturn’s rings, we visited a Pizza My Heart in Santa Cruz where they still hand-throw the pizza dough. I lecture about how the elastic forces in the spinning dough play a role similar to a the gravity of the central planet in providing inward centripetal acceleration. All the while, they’re throwing the dough in the background.

Throwing pizza dough to emulate an astrophysical disk.

Later, they got dramatic close-up footage of the spinning disks. There were were several moments when the spinning dough was severed azimuthally, causing the outer edge of the dough to go flying off at a tangent, narrowly missing camera and crew. I ad libbed that this is similar to what would happen with the ring particles if Saturn’s gravity could somehow be cut off.

Tune in to see whether it all bakes up as a credible piece of science popularization…

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Inside Jupiter

August 3rd, 2009 3 comments

Image Source: ESO

Two weeks ago, I spent a day with a team from Flight 33 productions working on an episode for the ongoing Universe series on the History Channel. Over the past several seasons I’ve appeared on occasional episodes of this show, either in connection with extrasolar planets or with regards to the ultra-distant future. The topic of the latest episode was extraterrestrial liquids, running the gamut from the (relatively) familiar and accessible — azure oceans on TPF dream planets — to the bizarre: vast expanses of liquid metallic hydrogen in the interiors of giant planets and hypothesized superfluids miles beneath the surfaces of neutron stars.

How can one get liquid metallic hydrogen’s essence across during a brief segment of commercial television? By comparison, conveying the atmosphere of a Jovian planet is quite easy. Towering sunlit clouds. The chilly deluge of the Jovian rainstorms. The awful smell. Liquid metallic hydrogen, on the other hand, couldn’t be any more alien. It exists at typical pressures of ten million atmospheres. In Jupiter, there are hundreds of Earth masses of the stuff, all at temperatures several times hotter than the surface of the Sun. A handful of the deep Jovian interior, materialized somehow on the surface of the Earth for the sake of demonstration, would instantly explode with fully counterproductive newsworthy effect.

The analogy I came up with is provided at a heavily congested bumper car rink in which the bumper car drivers are free to jump between cars. In this model, the cars represent the heavy protons and the drivers represent the much lighter electrons. Arrangements were made to utilize the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for the filming of this mock-up of the Jovian interior. The logistics of the event drew together a rather diverse range of participants, and the event snowballed to make the front page of the Santa Cruz Sentinel (link to the article).

It’ll be interesting to see how things turned out when the episode airs.

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