Category Archive: Pictures

Book Review: Runners by Sharon Sant

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Runners Publisher: Immanion Summary: An engrossing, and thought-provoking read. Set in the wreck of a future dystopian England, Runners begins with teenage Elijah and a band of other tearaways (or Runners) struggling to get by in the ruins of an old house. The group dynamic, with its varied mix of personalities and ages, is fascinating from the off and the snippets of information concerning how the novel’s world came to be such a mess are intriguing to say the least. Of course, the group’s situation quickly becomes about more than merely feeding themselves as Elijah and his friends find themselves stuck in a dismal situation engineered in no small part by the sinister Mr Braithwaite. On top of this, a chance discovery in a mysterious woodland catapults them right into the heart of an even bigger menace; a superb representation of a theorized quantum phenomenon, and, by the end of the book, the numerous plot threads really do intertwine beautifully. …

Deceiving desert looks like it is made of ice

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Maybe like me, you thought this image was of a mountain, climbing out of a snowy plain. In fact, it is a satellite photo taken of the Namib desert, in Namibia. The snowy plain is in fact a sand sea – a giant area filled with little but wind-blown sands. It has the appearance of ice and snow because the sand has a high level of reflectivity or albedo, bouncing the light back into space. The hills in the center of the image are devoid of sand, causing them to reflect different amounts of light back. This region of Africa has been arid for millions of years. The cause lies in its geography. Lying on the western coast of Africa, it sits next to the cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Air masses in the region get cooled by the ocean, precipitating out their rain over the waters. By the time the air masses travel over the land, they are …

Hell hath no fury like a Venus scorned

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From a distance, the planet Venus looks a calm and serene place. But take a closer look, and things might not be quite so peaceful. Named after the Roman goddess of beauty, the surface of Venus is actually a very unattractive place to be, with choking fumes of sulphur dioxide and a surface temperature hot enough to melt zinc. Things have got even uglier, as scientists get more evidence of active volcanoes on its surface. This hellish image is really an artists impression of what an active volcano on the surface of Venus might look like. Although, the surface of Venus is littered with shield volcanoes, most have been inactive for millions of years. Evidence comes not from the surface of Venus, but from its atmosphere. Although on average its atmosphere only has 0.015% sulphur dioxide, this is concentrated in the lower sections. Higher up, interactions with radiation from the sun break it down into different chemicals. The Venus Express spacecraft …

Futuristic knitting could help arthritis

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This may look like a close up of a knitted sweater, but the fabric pictured here is much more useful. It is a woven scaffold of artificial fibres, created by scientists at Duke University, which cartilage cells can latch on to and grow in large numbers. The scaffold has been designed to be used within the human body, where it gradually dissolves away, leaving the cartilage cells to replace those that have been worn by disease or age. Preparing cartilage in this way has the advantage that it can be grown in large quantities and performs just like normal cells would. “If further experiments are successful, the scaffold could be used in clinical trials within three or four years,” said Franklin Moutos, a graduate student in the Orthopedic Bioengineering Laboratory who designed and built the weaving machine. “The first joints to be treated this way would likely be hips and shoulders, though the approach should work for cartilage damage in …

Star trails in the southern skies

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The movements of the heavens above are sometimes hard to notice. This photo, however, shows clearly the stars rotating around the Earth’s rotational axis. The telescope in the foreground is the Yepun telescope (UT4) in the Very Large Telescope (VLT) complex at Paranal Observatory, Chile. The picture was taken by Farid Char, an astrophotographer from Chile. I asked him a few questions about his magnificent picture: How long does it take to create the picture? The photo is an artistic composition. I took several captures, then stacked them, but I superimposed a single frame to see the telescope quiet, otherwise it would appear distorted because of its continuous movement during the night. The basics of the picture are shown on its web section, but I can tell you is a composition of 867 single captures over a tripod (15” each), and the overall exposition was 4 hours 12 mins (from 23:50 h to 04:02 h local time). What does it mean to …

Aerosol map of the world

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Greenhouse gases are not the only thing in the atmosphere to causes changes to our climate. This computer simulation from NASA (officially known as Goddard Earth Observing System Model, Version 5) shows aerosols spiralling through the atmosphere. While greenhouses gases tend to have a warming effect, aerosols cool the planet by reflecting more solar radiation back into space. Dominating the picture is an orange streak of sand, blown off the Saharan and Arabian deserts. Light blues in the northern and southern oceans are sea salt particles swirling around cyclones. In the north, gray smoke from fires, and white sulphates from industry emissions and volcanoes complete the picture. Over the years, a number of calls have been made to use aerosols to fight the increasing threat of global warming. It might seem sensible to release agents that causes cooling to balance the greenhouse gases that are causing warming. But as the picture above demonstrates, the atmosphere is an incredibly complex thing. Hundreds of factors determine what our climate …

Desert beauty revealed from space

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Who knew so much geography could be crammed into such a beautiful image as this one. Taken by ESA’s ENVISAT satellite, this image shows the mountains of Tibesti on the borders of Chad and Libya. First of all, the dominant blue smudge are the mountains themselves – the highest range in the Saraha. Most have been created by now-dormant volcanoes, but some are still active in the region. Lava flows can just be seen on the western edge, flowing to the left. The highest peak – Emi Koussi can be seen as a darker circle in the lower right part of the dark area. Emi Koussi is a really interesting volcano, as scientists believe it is a good analogue Elysium Mons – one of the largest volcano on Mars. The white area at the top of the image is a depression in the landscape, caused by accumulating carbonate salts blown off the surrounding regions. When these carbonates dissolve in water …

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