Archive for the ‘Week 8 - SPACE’ Category

week 8 space ships and super novas by thomas yeung

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

I have never been at a launch site or a launch pad. I have never seen an actual space ship. But, I am going to blog about these things…

This is a picture of a space ship on a launching pad. I imagine I would be impressed if I walk up to this thing. It must be gigantic like a sky scraper. Right now, I am not as impressed by how small the picture makes the space ship out to be. I imagine that people who work there are inspired to send this space ship into outer space. One of them would say there might be aliens out there! And a brief while later, he would say we might not be alone.

This launching site is located in Russia.

During the day of the launch, I imagine people would crowd together in some favorite spots to watch the space ship lift off into outer space. I can imagine I would be standing around uninterested in the major event that is about to take place. Almost everyone else would be staring at the space ship and counting down from ten. And then blast off, I wonder if I can feel a pressure or vibration during the space ship’s lift off.

A little bit off topic, I have been to an attraction in a theme park that allowed people to experience what it’s like to be in a burning building. I always imagined that all I needed to worry about is not touching the fire. This attraction changed my mind though. Turns out, trying to escape from a burning house is a lot scarier than I thought. When I tried this attraction out, I felt the intense heat touch me from every burst of flame. There was also the intense sound from the flames. I remember being startled the first time the flames blasted out. It was an intense experience where the flames overwhelmed every senses without the fire ever touching me.

If I don’t underestimate the fire from the launch, I imagine there must be some kind of pressure or vibration caused by the launching.

Now, I will be blogging about supernovas. Supernovas are exploding stars. They also remind me of star trek. Below are pictures of these beautiful explosions… Note: To appreciate these explosions note that the size of the explosions is much larger than the pictures below make them out to be.

Crab Nebula. “The Crab Nebula is a supernova remnant and pulsar wind nebula in the constellation of Taurus… At the center of the nebula lies the Crab Pulsar, a rotating neutron star, which emits pulses of radiation from gamma rays to radio waves with a spin rate of 30.2 times per second…The most dynamic feature in the inner part of the nebula is the point where the pulsar’s equatorial wind slams into the surrounding nebula, forming a termination shock.” (Taken from wikipedia)

Crab Pulsar. “At the center of the Crab Nebula is a city-sized,
magnetized neutron star that spins 30 times a
second, where ring-like structures emit x-rays
as high-energy particles slam into the nebular
material” (Taken from

Week8_Jackson Pollock’s Un-Randomness by adam marcus

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

     This week Gil Kuno introduced us to the idea of entropy (the natural disorder of life), chaos, and random chance in art. Among his various examples, there was one that stood out from the others. Jackson Pollock, the painter who splattered paint on to a canvas to create abstract pieces of art. While Gil Kuno admitted that Pollock’s method was not totally random because he controlled brush movement, Kuno was still impressed by his pieces. There is a saying that goes something like “expand your comfort zones by spending more time in the uncomfortable ones.” Pollock reached a point in his life where his comfort zone lied within the “randomness” of his art—a zone that many people felt more comfortable criticizing than enjoying.

            Paul Jackson Pollock was an alcoholic and it was no secret. Pollock often was angry with society, those around him, and even himself. Drinking was one way he could escape his frustrations while painting was another. He claimed, “I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them.” His paintings were meant to be looked at and enjoyed for what they were, not studied for a subject or analyzed for hidden content—which most did anyway. This is why after a few years he no longer named his pieces but numbered them instead. It gave his pieces a completely neutral and story-less title. Jackson’s work was both admired and hated being called “a mop of tangled hair” and “degenerate” when all he wanted was for people to “look at [his paintings] like a bed of flowers.”

            Many people now believe that Jackson was a fantastic artist with his artworks now becoming some of the most valuable. However, when he was painting, the criticism he received only deepened his alcoholism and fueled his anger and frustrations. His paintings appeared to grow even more random and spontaneous with his “drip period” and fractal-like pieces. Yet when asked about his work he would say, “My painting is direct,” and that “there is no accident, thus is there no beginning and no end.” He was brilliant! His technique that seemed random to everyone else was not at all random to him. His objective was to be random so society’s version of “random” became Pollock’s version of “standard.” It was his mission to push people out of their comfort zones and instead of over-analyzing everything, just to enjoy his paintings—and more importantly life in general. It appeared that people never caught on to his intentions as he only became more of a frustrated alcoholic and died at 44 years of age while driving drunk.

Pollacks Number One

Pollack's Number One


             Pollock never changed because society got in his way. He painted pieces based on a natural need for something different. His rise to fame came towards the end of his life and it recently has risen exponentially. Now, even though Pollock did not want people to search his paintings for a message, he may have wanted to teach people a life lesson. Perhaps that it is not what society thinks of you, not how much they hate you, not how much they love you, but ignoring others’ opinions of what you do as long as it is what you believe in. The kind of mentality that Pollock had is exactly what pioneers of the Space Race needed to succeed. They did not give up after numerous failed trials or even only with a small amount of support.  And now, maybe the engineers and scientists working on projects like SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) are going to have to push through society’s doubts/praises so that in the future, people will admire them for the same reason this post admires Pollock and his determination.

8 x 4 canvas

8' x 4' canvas
Check Out The iPhone App

Then enter the site to make your own painting

(hint: click to change colors and space to start over)


By Adam Marcus



Week 8 Blog by Sara Captain

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Three EC Events I attended this week:

First Event: Aesthetics of Beauty

On Tuesday, I attended Linda Weintraub’s art lecture titled, Drop Dead Gorgeous: Beauty and the Aesthetics of Activism. Weintraub introduced various intriguing artists and works, all tied together by the theme of beauty in ecological phenomena such as that of decomposition and decay. One artist named Jae Rhim Lee, in order to be more connected to the ecosystem naturally, decided to fertilize and grow cabbage from her own urine. Weintraub characterized Lee’s work as “fitting into the ecosystem in order to help it,” as she then let spectators consume her garden vegetables. However, I disagree that Lee’s work is anything more than a creative way of growing vegetables and perhaps creating an interactive work of art; the reason is that Lee sent a sample of her urine to a chemistry lab to find out which components her urine required to act as a better fertilizer for the plants, and subsequently modified her diet to include more spinach, tofu, and nuts. Wouldn’t the more natural path to being included in the ecosystem entail an acceptance of the imperfections in the natural process of life and growth, rather than a scientific precision and modification of them? Furthermore, Weintraub noted as the main thesis of her presentation that beauty is no longer about how things look like; they’re now about how things function. The cabbage example thus was irrelevant to her thesis, since this artwork was modified in beauty as well as function by the artist’s specific actions. Another work Weintraub discussed was that of Gregor Schneider, titled “Death: Be Not Proud.” Schneider is looking for a terminally ill individual to die in a peaceful room in order for spectators to watch the “beauty of death.” However, Weintraub stressed the importance of not isolating these ecological works from their natural habitats or environments for the purpose of art, a mandate which Weintraub referred to as “sustainably productive.” Neither the cabbage, grown in Lee’s lab, nor the death, staged in a “peaceful room” are integrated into their natural environments. Nonetheless, I found Weintraub’s presentation fascinating and enjoyed it immensely, though I thought it lacked consistency now and then.

In the question period at the end of the lecture, Weintraub made a statement in response to a question about today’s society that struck me as shockingly true; she said, “It’s dangerous, the way we are living in an image-defined world, two-dimensional, non-interactive.” I think this statement defines the true thesis of Weintraub’s presentation, as all the works she presented were not images and not purely representations of beauty- rather, they were all tangible objects of beauty, marked by the natural touch of ecological processes. It’s in a way a reaction to the pervasive flat-screened level of technological advancement we’ve achieved; the internet and the television attempt to bring to the people the ubiquitous beauty of everything in the world, but is limited to flat, uninteractive images as its method of expression. This reminds me of what Nietszche was saying in his First Treatise, titled “Good and Bad, Good and Evil,” in which he warns of the passive “slave” mentality that most people have fallen into, and in which he abandons the idea that people should be spectators in any way, rather than actors or role-players.
Second Event: Slow Food
On Friday, I attended the lecture on the University of Gastronomic Sciences. The presentor, named David Stanto, made some interesting observations during his discourse about Slow Food, the organization that was formed in Italy in response to attempts to place a McDonald’s in a historical site in Rome. The University’s main goal is to “re-complexify food, as the corporations have simplified food too much.” However, I think this is an inadequate way of describing what the corporations have done to food. On one hand, we could say that corporations have made food too complicated. For example, when I went to Ralphs to buy peanut butter the other day, I was bombarded with at least seven different brand names, at least twenty different kinds of peanut butter, and at least thirty different marketing techniques and labels used to differentiate the peanut butters, when really they were either processed or not, crunchy or creamy, salted or not. I wasted about thirty minutes going through the peanut butters, trying to figure out why one peanut butter was any better than another, besides their different and similar price tags. In this way, corporations have complexified food a lot more than need be. On the other hand, I see how Stanto is correct in saying they’ve simplified food: I recall from lecture a couple weeks ago when we watched an excerpt from Fast Food Nation. The process of making a fast food burger is basically devoid of the previous elements of art and refined taste that a real burger used to involve. It’s basically a mechanized process now, put out by an exact formula and stringent abidance to the code; every burger must be exactly the same as the next one. It’s purely rational and scientific. The University of Gastronomy and its parent organization, Slow Food, aim to eliminate this purely scientific recipe, which is essentially nothing more than a simplified formula, a mathematical equation. Through this, they desire to provide “good, clean, fair” food. Since my family is a small vineyard and winery and I have a vested interest in promoting food such as this, I am all in favor of Stanto’s cause. However, I must disagree with the way he characterized the detriment which corporations have instigated on the food industry.
Third Event: Invisible Earthlings
After the Slow Food presentation, I visited the Invisible Earthlings art exhibit upstairs in the California Nanosystems Institute Building. Beatriz da Costa had taken samples from various places and put them in petree dishes to watch the process of subsequent bacteria growth. In this, he aimed to exhibit the “relational possibilities between humans and microbes.” One of the interesting pieces, I thought, was the one from the bottom of a trash can. It didn’t have quite as much growth as I expected. However, the project reminded me of an exhibition I attended several years ago at the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, California. The presenters first had me put my hands on the table in front of me, which appeared clean and empty to me. Then, they had me wash my hands with anti-bacterial soap as long and hard as I wished. Then, they turned off the lights in the room, brought out special green lights, and demonstrated to me how much of the invisible bacteria that was on the table did not come off when I washed my hands with anti-bacterial soap. I was stunned and disgusted, as my hands were covered in green. From this exhibit, just as from the Invisible Earthlings exhibit, I learned that bacteria is everywhere and unavoidable, so there’s no point in stressing about them. I also learned that when I do wash my hands, I should use warm water and I should create as much friction as possible for about 30 seconds. It definitely does have an effect on the “relational possibilities between humans and microbes,” however, when a person learns how close they actually are to these Invisible Earthlings.

Week 8_Space and Abstract by Christina Cheng

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

One of the most interesting topics about space has been the journey to Mars.  It is true that traveling to Mars may sound like a fascinating idea, but it also requires a person to be in an excellent psychological state.  Since the journey to Mars is probably over a year long, the astronaut must be able to live away from home without any communication or interaction with relatives and friends.  To simulate the experience of traveling to Mars, many scientists have conducted mock Mars missions.  During these long missions, teams would travel to places of extreme coldness and extreme heat in fake spacesuits and live in chambers that resemble space shuttles.  The purpose of these journeys is to allow individuals to feel what it would be like to travel to Mars as they are faced with isolation from the world they know.  Personally, I believe that although this may be a hard and even tortuous process, it is probably one of the best ways to build the most appropriate team of astronauts for the Mars expedition.  It is possible that the mental state of being in these expeditions may be far from that of being in the actual journey to Mars, but they definitely allow us to gain more understanding about the emotions and thoughts of humans during long periods of stress and isolation in space.  Here is a picture of a simulated Mars environment in Utah:

            In addition to being able to psychologically endure the travel to Mars, astronauts also need food to survive their long periods in space.  In a second article that I found, there appears to be a possible solution to this.  For astronauts, the current method of obtaining food is through the space shuttles that are sent by the International Space Station.  Since the expedition to Mars will be long, continuously supplying food by space shuttles will be very costly.  As a result, researchers have proposed growing plants and vegetables in plant chambers in space.  Although this may sound like an impossible idea, researchers have actually discovered that plants can easily adapt to different environments.  It is found that rather than using gravity to control their growth, plants can use artificial light in the chamber to stand erect in situations of low gravity.  Moreover, even though there may be no soil in space, plants can still grow in nutrient-rich water brought from earth.  In fact, researchers have begun working on a Mars Inflatable Greenhouse that may possibly be used to grow vegetables during the journey to Mars.  Here is an image that resembles a space garden:


Here are the links to the two articles I found:


Overall, I believe that space really ties together the ideas of science and art.  Much of the research about space is based on scientific technology; hence, it is through scientific progress that we are able to weave together our knowledge about space and understand more about this beautiful art piece of life.  The planet we live on represents just one portion of this piece; there is much more beyond earth, like the mysteries about Mars, that’s worth further exploration.  Let’s hope that by the time our astronauts finally make it to Mars, we will be able to uncover more answers about another piece that contributes to this beautiful artwork of life.  



Amusement parks have long been known for having exhilarating roller coaster rides.  To add a fresh taste to modern amusement parks, I propose the addition of The Environmental Sky Tower.  Differing from traditional roller coasters in structural composition and operation, the sky tower will offer an exciting and educational ride that is suitable for people of all ages.  By sitting inside a high-tech, sightseeing elevator as it travels up the sky tower, individuals will have the opportunity to physically and visually connect to the environmental conditions of the past, present, and future.  Ultimately, in offering a unique sensory experience of the changing environment from different perspectives and time, it is hoped that individuals will become more conscious of how environmental issues will affect them.


- Christina Cheng

week 8_ the universe and life, by ilona chadwick

Saturday, February 28th, 2009


a star nursery

a star nursery

In class, we discussed the numerous efforts of humankind to explore and learn about space.  In particular, we focused on space travel, and the space race.  This makes me wonder about the limits of human curiosity.  Since ancient times, people have studied the world around them, the sky, the sun, and the stars.  Astronomy has made many discoveries over the world, about the structure of our own solar system, our galaxy, and the universe as a whole.  Physics has contributed greatly to these findings, as its theories of light and matter can be used to interpret observations.  The blurred line between the fields of study has lead to some scientists to simply call themselves astrophysicists.  For example, I have heard many times about astronomers studying the wavelengths and intensities of light coming from distant stars, and they can determine when a planet passes over the star, eclipsing its light to us, and when a star wobbles due to planets orbiting around it. This website explains some of the details of how planets can be detected by examining the wobbling of stars.


One thing I have always been rather curious about is the overall shape or structure of the universe.  But, when you think about it, can the universe even have a shape?  To observe the shape of the universe, you would have to look from a point outside of the universe, which by definition does not exist.  But then, is there only a certain area where galaxies and matter exist, within an infinite void?  I found this video, which visually simulates what the universe looks like at an extremely large scale (2.4 billion light years wide), which it claims is less than 1.5 percent of the actual size of the universe.  So, the creator of this model seems to believe that there is a defined size to all that exist.  But then, there’s that extra layer of complexity: it’s expanding.


Astronomy on such a massive scale can sometime be difficult to imagine.  This difficulty is probably justified, because, as this webpage explores, space is changed by time, and either can be bent, curved, or warped.  For example, what is going on in black holes?  How can matter just “disappear”?  Why is the universe expanding?  One thought is that perhaps the universe is expanding, and its entropy is increasing, because time is passing.  I’m no astrophysicist, so I couldn’t say exactly why space and time are so related, but it has been shown in many places that they must be.  Another consideration is where the higher dimensions and multiple realities fit into this.  If quantum physics is correct, an infinite number of realities exist.  So, even if the universe is not infinite, there are an infinite number of universes.


The question, then, is whether human curiosity will ever be satisfied.  If there are an infinite number of things to learn about, then it can’t be.  However, sometimes we can find generalizations, patterns, and formulas that explain a large number of things, without actually knowing the details about each one.  If we could do this on a literally universal level, then we might finally be able to answer questions such as whether life exists on other planets, and what “shape” the universe is.


by ilona chadwick



Final Project Abstract: “Human Night Vision”


Currently, we use night vision goggles to be able to see better in the dark.  However, these goggles are often large, heavy, and expensive, making them impractical.  An alternate solution to the poor night vision of humans is genetic modification.  The aim of this project is to research genes for eye formation in owls, and use these genes to improve how human eyes are formed.  Overall, the project should enable people to see in nearly any lighting conditions, and even see more accurately during the day.  This improved vision could have many practical applications, from military tactics to, if the changes became widespread, saving electricity as lighting at night becomes unnecessary. 

Friday, February 27th, 2009

Also, Please post your extra credit assignments to the category entitled “Extra Credit Blogs”

Friday, February 27th, 2009

Hello All,

For this week please comment on the material we saw in lecture Tuesday and Thursday.  Feel free to visit Gil Kuno’s site :)  Also, remember to include a short proposal (111 words) for your final project - it can be based on your midterm.