Courtesy of the great xkcd (
I came across this video, and recalled this comic, and could not help but share both. 

While one is a fascinating proposal, while the other is an incredible "local" display of solar activity. 
This solar eruption occurred on September 29th and 30th and was 200,000 miles long!

To put that in perspective, the diameter of Earth is 7,918 miles. That means 25.25 Earths could fit inside this fire canyon if you (well, some(one/thing) much bigger than you...with a massive cloning machine) simply placed them end to end along the length of this eruption. If that some(one/thing) wanted to fill the entire eruption with Earth copies I would estimate a cool 200 could fit in there. 

More you say? Much more? Ok, 500, but that is my final offer.

To throw yet another huge number into this post the sun is ridiculously hot, with the center "burning" at a sweltering 27 million degrees Fahrenheit. I suppose "burning" is not really the best way to describe the internal dynamics of the sun, since nothing is actually on fire. The center of the sun is comprised of plasma, which produces heat through the process of nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion is when two nuclei collide at very high speeds, under intense pressure, and that process creates a great deal of energy/heat. This process is what keep us alive though the energy provided via light rays. 


Those light rays take roughly 8 minutes to reach us, since the Earth is 93,000,000 miles from the sun. All of the heat produced by our solar system's only star whizzes through interstellar space at 186,282.4 miles per second, which is only slightly faster than Usain Bolt. 


Nice work Sun!

It has been a bit of a recess since my last post, hope you all have been doing well. I have gone through a bit of a transition (living in a new state, starting a new job), but I want to reboot this site showing two videos about the fantastic bee, a creature I am still very much interested in.

The first video shows what looks like a science fiction movie assault on a beehive in Europe. Giant hornets approach, looking for food in the form of bee larvae. In mere moments an entire hive is wiped out, and the hornets feast on the unborn bees.

Ruthless, no?

Just wait. 

I urge you, don't just watch the first video. 

The bees are not entirely helpless. Well, at least their Japanese relatives are not all helpless.
While this is at not quite the same level as the annihilation seen in the first video, cooking this hornet alive is at least a solid A- revenge tactic. Amazing that they have adapted this technique, and to such precision, to combat the hornets that have preyed on these bees for so long.
PicturePhoto credit:
My wife was recently looking at some small children's bikes for one of our daughters and came across the following bike (pictured to the right).

Though we are tired of only choosing between pinks and purples for our girls - girls do enjoy other colors in their lives, or at least the choice to have other colors in their lives, though marketing departments don't seem to realize that* - but this lack of choices is something we have (sadly) become accustomed to.

Thinking about the bike, and a bike purchase in general, we have several requirements:

Is it the right size?...Check.
Does it have training wheels?...Check.
It is bright enough to see from Olympus Mons?...Check.
Is there a sexualized woman leaning over, showing her chest while wearing what seems to be a clubbing outfit as a prominent picture on the bike?...Check. (image below)

Wait, what the hell?

This is a bike for little girls right? I wouldn't imagine a 16" bike, with training wheels, and shinning streamers coming off the handlebars would be targeted for the active, but very short (as in under 40"), stripper community, but the decal fooled me.

If that is the target demographic for this product then Kudos! to you marketing department, you nailed it. We all know that is not the case though.

In a word, disgusting.

Here is a link to the bike (oh, there are many made by MyBike) so you can see for yourselves. Below is the photo that revealed the nature of this bike, and so much more.

the main question now is what to do. I plan on contacting someone about this, directly, or perhaps the creators of MyBike, but suggestions are always appreciated. It is troubling that these products exist, but good to know there are many out there who will fight the goof fight to clear a smooth, (relatively) safe upbringing for young girls and boys out there.

* Marketing departments are not solely to blame, and they know exactly what they are doing.

Photo credit:
Continuing my fascination with hexagons, we turn to bees and the honeycombs they produce. 

The fact that bees are able to create such elaborate structures out of wax is pretty astounding. When you look closely at their hives and notice the design they use it sparks the question, "Why hexagons?"

As with many things in nature, the shape that honeybees have used since their dawn is not by mere chance. 

Turns out that by utilizing hexagons bees save more wax than if they built honeycombs out of the other possible shapes that would fit together nicely, namely equilateral triangles and squares. If bees used either of these shapes the pieces would fit together nicely, but the amount of wax used to create the same interior space would be greater. Considering that it takes about eight ounces of honey to produce one ounce of wax, it is in the best interest of the bees and their colony to stretch that wax as far as possible when creating their apartment complexes and nurseries.  

If you have your doubts about the benefits of using hexagons here is the paper by the University of Pittsburgh's Thomas Hales that provided the proof, confirming a 2,000 year old mathematical conjecture proposed by the Roman every-man Marcus Terentius Varro

Want a more digestible version of the proof? See the BBC video below.

BONUS VIDEO: If you already think bees are wise for using the optimal shape to create their honeycombs, this bonus video further pushes you to becoming obsessed with their bee-havior. (had to) 

Turns out, bees "waggle" while facing specific directions in the hive (once a food source has been located) to indicate to other bees where to go and how far they need to travel to reach that food source. 

Oh, and they use the sun as a reference point. 

AND THEY ACCOUNT FOR WIND!!   Mind officially blown.
In continuing my focus on our solar system, which largely stems from starting to talk to my daughter about the Earth and its neighbors, I bring you two fascinating and beautiful images of Saturn; specifically, of Saturn's northern pole region, courtesy of Cassini.

The first image shows a bizarre hexagon shape that surrounds the northern pole. Each side of the hexagon is 13,800 km long (8,600 miles), which is longer than the diameter of the Earth (7,926.41 miles). This pattern is peculiar because it does not appear in the southern region, which has led some (me) to believe that Settlers of Catan is favored by north hemispherians, while southern hemispherians are strictly Monopoly people. That is a shame.
If you look in the middle of the hexagon you will see what looks like a small disc, which is magnified below in a false-color image. While this is breathtaking to look at, if you were caught inside the 150 meters per second winds (330 miles per hour) it truly would be breathtaking (not even factoring in the lack of oxygen). A similar vortex is found at the southern hemisphere.
The beauty of space vast, much like space itself!
Two remarkable videos featuring the center of our solar system, the sun, courtesy of NASA.

The first video shows the sun rotating and the various solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and changes in the magnetic field lines. These images were captured by NASA''s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). 
The video eventually splits into four windows that show the sun at different wavelengths (Angstroms), further providing some marvelous footage of all of the activity on the outskirts of the most important part of the universe for us (aside from Earth, though without the energy from the sun we would not be able to exist. Chicken and the egg-ish scenario here).

The second video provides a closer look at a single, giant eruption on the surface of the sun. For perspective purposes, the size of the Earth is shown at the 1:06 mark for comparison. While it is true that I personally geek out on things like this, the sheer beauty of the plasma flowing back to the sun via magnetic lines should be aesthetically appealing to a broad audience.

Enjoy!...and love one another.
For more on our solar system you can turn to two prior posts (well, one extended post that was split into two segments) titled "Where are we in the universe, really?" (part 1) and "Where are we, really?" (part 2). The sheer scale of our immediate neighborhood is mind boggling, and makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.
I recently watched two different TED talks that were both inspiring, heartfelt descriptions of embracing the potential inside each other/ourselves and remaining optimistic.

Though the subjects are vastly different - John Hunter's talk focuses on the potential of children if provided with unstructured learning, while Neil Pasricha advocates true optimism and following your heart - the common thread is that we are more powerful, loving, and connected than we often see ourselves. Inspiring and beautiful.

Do you have a laptop with a broken screen that needs fixing? The process is actually much easier than you might think.We have had this netbook for several years now and the screen went south on us. Rather than booting up in the standard fashion the screen was a light gray. Fearing the computer was fried I plugged it into the our television to see if the gizzards were still working - luckily they were - but it has been sitting in a desk drawer for months just begging to be used again.

An opportunity popped out of a conversation that spurred my interest in fixing this so I can send it off to a loved one (you know who you are, itt-Bray) in exchange for some of their help.

BAM! Fixed and ready to rock with a beautiful, free Ubuntu operating system.

Though this tutorial is for a particular model (Acer Aspire One), this same process should work for most laptops/netbooks. Don't throw away a laptop with a dim or cracked screen (or pay $100+ to get it fixed), DIY that baby!

In full disclosure, I picked the replacement screen up from, though there are several sites out there to choose from.

Good luck with your future DIY projects, and remember that you can take control of your environment! (partially, but still)