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Adventures In Time And Space 11: The One Moment and OK Go

The One Moment is a 2016 music video by OK Go. OK Go is an American rock band made up of Damian Kulash (lead vocals, guitar), Tim Nordwind (bass guitar, vocals), Dan Konopka (drums, percussion), and Andy Ross (guitar, keyboards, vocals).

The One Moment contains 4.2 seconds of real-time footage that is then shown in slow motion and played over the length of the 4-minute video. The footage records 325 events that were initiated either by the band members or by timers and were slowed down to times up to 20,000 percent from real-time speed to match the beat of the song. Such visualizations of fast events are a favorite topic of mine and have been mentioned in a previous post.

OK Go’s music videos have long been a favorite of educators for their awesome blend of creativity, science, and technology. So, not surprisingly, the band has taken the next step by collaborating with director Geoff Shelton and AnneMarie Thomas of the Playful Learning Lab at the University of St. Thomas to develop an online resource for educators.

The OK Go Sandbox provides teachers and students with a way to use the band’s music videos to play with concepts in unexpected ways and to inspire students in science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM). OK Go’s music videos serve as starting points for integrated guided inquiry challenges that allow students to explore various STEAM concepts.

Director Geoff Shelton is planning to create new videos specifically designed to inspire classroom discussions and projects. Google and Morton Salt, along with anonymous donors, have generously brought to life the launch of this online resource.

Adventures In Time And Space 10: Light In Slow Motion

A research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created an imaging system that allows them to capture light at fast enough speeds to show it traveling in slow motion down the length of a one-liter soda bottle and reflecting back again. The MIT Media Lab’s Camera Culture Group, led by Project Director Ramesh Raskar, collaborated with the lab of Moungi Bawendi of the MIT Department of Chemistry, since fast chemical reactions also occur within a similar timescale, that of femtoseconds (one quadrillionth of a second), where atoms within reactant molecules are rearranging themselves to form new product molecules. The team’s system collects visual data at a rate of half a trillion exposures per second.

The new system is called Femto Photography and it consists of illumination bursts from a titanium sapphire laser lasting femtoseconds (1 x 10-15 of a second), image captures from detectors lasting picoseconds (1 x 10-12 of a second), and mathematical reconstruction techniques to put it all together.

The exposure time of each image frame is 2 picoseconds, or two trillionths (2 x 10-12) of a second, and the resultant video shows the movement of light at roughly half a trillion frames per second. Since it is nearly impossible to capture images at such a fast frame rate, the system uses a stroboscopic method where a laser pulse lasting less than 1 picosecond or one trillionth (1 x 10-12) of a second is used as flash. The returning light is then collected by a camera that records half a trillion frames per second.

However, due to the very short exposure times of 2 picoseconds, millions of repeated measurements need to be collected over several minutes and then rearranged using a reconstruction algorithm to create a video of the event lasting a nanosecond, or one billionth (1 x 10-9) of a second. In a nanosecond, light travels about 30 centimeters or 12 inches, about the length of a one-liter soda bottle. For comparison, the blink of a human eye is about 0.4 second or 400 milliseconds, 400 millionths (400 x 10-3) of a second. Thus, an eye blink is nine orders of magnitude slower than what the imaging system can capture on video.

Beyond educational and artistic purposes, the MIT team hopes to use the new imaging system for research into understanding ultrafast processes, into analyzing industrial faults and material properties, and as a type of medical “ultrasound with light.”

Adventures In Time And Space 5: Cinder Lake Crater Fields

 Crater field #1 was designed to simulate Apollo 11 landing site taken from Lunar Orbiter images

Crater field #1 (above) was designed to simulate Apollo 11 landing site taken from Lunar Orbiter images (below)

The San Francisco Volcanic Field is located on the Colorado Plateau in northern Arizona. The major stratovolcano in the volcanic field is San Francisco Mountain. Cinder debris, black pea-sized frothy lava from these once-active volcanoes, covered the surrounding sedimentary rock surface during the Quaternary period.

In the 1960s, NASA wanted to train the astronauts in geology. The Astrogeology branch of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in Flagstaff chose northern Arizona because its geological formations were thought to be similar to those on the moon. The Cinder Lake crater field was specifically chosen for the creation of a realistic lunar-like landscape.

In 1967, NASA completed the first phase of its lunar analog crater field with a 500 square-foot area designed to duplicate a section of Mare Tranquillitatis, a potential Apollo 11 lunar landing site that was captured in images from Lunar Orbiter II. The Cinder Lake field initially contained 47 craters with diameters of 5 to 40 feet. It was expanded later that year to an 800 square-foot field with 143 craters total. Over 300 pounds of dynamite and over 13,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate were used to blast the craters from the black lightweight cinder debris.

Cinder Lake Crater Field #1 was used to help train astronauts on identifying craters and on determining their location in a lunar landscape. The astronauts also practiced using geologic hand tools and testing scientific experiment packages and various lunar vehicle prototypes. A simulated Apollo lunar module ascent stage was also constructed and placed on a ramp to give it the appropriate height off the lunar analog surface.

In the second phase, NASA decided to build a larger 1,200 square-foot test field with 354 craters just north of Cinder Lake Crater Field #1. The new location was selected because the dark basaltic cinder over there covered the lighter clay beds, so that blasting craters would create distinctive light-colored ejecta, including crater rays.

Crater field was used to create Apollo 11 EVA planning map

Crater field was used to create Apollo 11 EVA planning map (simulated LM on ramp center left)

Final crater field contained 143 craters (simulated Lunar Module on ramp)

Final crater field contained 143 craters (simulated Lunar Module on ramp)

 Crater field #1 was used also to test Explorer vehicle prototype

Crater field #1 was used also to test Explorer vehicle prototype

Adventures In Time And Space 4: Royal Observatory At Greenwich

The Prime Meridian near Flamsteed House

The Prime Meridian near Flamsteed House

The Royal Observatory at Greenwich is on a hill in Greenwich Park in London and is the location of the Prime Meridian. The observatory was commissioned in 1675 by King Charles II for the purposes of celestial navigation and cartography. The king appointed John Flamsteed as the first Astronomer Royal to serve as the director of the new observatory.

The Prime Meridian passes through the Greenwich Observatory complex and is marked by a stainless steel strip in the courtyard. In recent times, a green laser also marks the location and shines across the night sky. The Prime Meridian is part of a geographic coordinate system. This coordinate system is useful for making maps because every location on Earth can be identified by its latitude and longitude.

The latitude is an angular measurement ranging from 0° at the Earth’s equator to either +90° at the north pole or −90° at the south pole. Lines of latitude are circles of differing circumferences on the Earth’s surface. The largest circle is called a great circle and it is the equator. Lines of latitude also are called parallels because the circles are parallel to each other. The equator divides the Earth into the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere. On the Earth’s surface, each degree of latitude corresponds to a distance of about 111 kilometers.

The longitude is an angular measurement ranging from 0° at the prime meridian to either +180° eastward or −180° westward. All meridians are halves of great circles which converge at the north and south poles. The prime meridian and its opposite, the 180th meridian at 180° longitude, together form a great circle around the sphere of the Earth and divides it into the Eastern Hemisphere and the Western Hemisphere. Because lines of longitude converge at the poles, each degree of longitude corresponds to a different distance on the Earth’s surface as the latitude changes. At the equator, the distance is about 111 kilometers, but this distance gets smaller until it reaches 0 kilometers at the poles.

For further precision, each degree of latitude and longitude (°) is divided into 60 minutes (‘), each of which is further divided into 60 seconds (”), e.g., San Antonio, Texas is located at 29°25′26″ N and 98° 29′ 37″ W. These coordinates also can be expressed as decimal fractions, e.g., San Antonio is 29.42412 and -98.49363.

Unlike the equator, which is the one great circle perpendicular to the Earth’s axis of rotation, the location of the prime meridian is arbitrary, and can be part of any great circle that runs through both poles. Throughout history, it was common practice to choose a nation’s capital or some other popular location, so different maps had different prime meridians. Finally, it was decided in 1884 to have delegates from 25 nations meet in Washington, DC, for the International Meridian Conference. The delegates voted to adopt Greenwich as the location for the universal Prime Meridian.

Map of the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory Greenwich (south is up)

Map of the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory Greenwich (south is up)

Once Greenwich was chosen as the universal Prime Meridian, the longitude at any location can be determined by calculating the time difference between that location and Greenwich. Since a day has 24 hours and a circle has 360°, then the sun moves across the sky at a rate of 15° per hour. As a simple example, if a location is six hours behind the time at Greenwich, then that location is near 90° west longitude. Obviously, a chronometer set to Greenwich time and the local time need to be known.

GPS shows 0.00149 degrees (about 5.3 seconds) due to IERS Meridian being about 100 meters eastward

GPS shows 0.00149 degrees (about 5.3 seconds) due to IERS Meridian being about 100 meters eastward

So why doesn’t the Greenwich Prime Meridian show 0° longitude? The reason has to do with the fact that the Earth is not really a perfect sphere and that, until recently, most maps had to shift their lines of latitude and longitude until they matched local surface measurements to some reasonable amount.

It was only until the existence of artificial satellites that maps finally could be adjusted to the center of the Earth’s mass and not to various local surfaces. The current coordinate system, the World Geodetic System, was established in 1984 (WGS 84) and measures global surface locations to within ±1 meter or better. WGS 84 showed that the Greenwich Prime Meridian was actually about 5.3 seconds or about 100 meters west of 0° longitude. The new meridian is known as the International Reference Meridian and is maintained by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS). It is the reference meridian of the Global Positioning System (GPS) run by the United States Department of Defense.

The IERS Reference Meridian is about 5.3 seconds (about 100 meters) east of the Greenwich Meridian

The IERS Reference Meridian is about 5.3 seconds (about 100 meters) east of the Greenwich Meridian

Adventures In Time And Space 3: Everyday

Noah Kalina

Noah takes a photo of himself every day for 6 years.

New York artist Noah Kalina created an awesome montage of pictures that he took once a day of himself for 2356 days. He started on January 11, 2000 and finished on July 31, 2006. His video everyday displays the photographs at a rate of six per second.

This time span covers about 6.5 years of Noah’s life, or maybe one-thirteenth of an average human life span. To put this amount of time in perspective, 6.5 years would be roughly the time a human would develop from a baby to a child in the first grade, the time spent in university earning a graduate degree, and it would be the time needed for Pioneer 11 to reach Saturn.