Science can be controversial.
LoL by: tracylos
(images via: Jakab Aron Csaba)
Vlad the Observer? The abandoned observatory in Odorheiu Secuiesc, Transylvania, Romania was abandoned before it was even operational. Construction began in 1889… make that 1989 (images can deceive) under the auspices of the autocratic Ceausescu regime which was rapidly nearing a violent end. By 1990, Romania had shrugged off communism and pre-approved projects like the observatory at Odorheiu Secuiesc found their funding cut off.
Considering the reputation England has for inclement weather, was building an observatory in Cornwall really such a great idea? A group of amateur astronomers thought so, and in 2000 they demonstrated their confidence by volunteering time, materials and skills to build two domes with plans on paper for a third. The group was also confident local and regional governments would contribute funding to support the project, which in hindsight (and even foresight) was a huge mistake. By 2002 the project was deep in debt, all work stopped and vandalism began. A pity these so-called observers weren’t more, er, observant.
The stately Lamont–Hussey Observatory located on naval Hill in the city of Bloemfontein, Free State, South Africa, opened in 1928 and featured a 27-inch (0.69 m) refracting telescope. Conceived, built, owned and operated by the University of Michigan, the Lamont–Hussey Observatory closed in 1972 after its usefulness as an astronomical instrument had been superseded by numerous other such facilities.
Few abandoned buildings look as good as the Greek Revival-style Daniel S. Schanck Observatory, located on the Queens Campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Architect Willard Smith took inspiration from the Tower of the Winds in Athens, Greece when designing the octagonal observatory building, which opened in 1865. After the observatory closed in the 1960s, the building suffered from neglect and occasional vandalism before being cosmetically renovated by Wu & Associates, Inc in 2012.
Simulating an amazing array of natural environments and phenomena, this dynamic playspace turns ordinary hand-sculpted sand into vividly colorful landscapes in the blink of an eye.
A real and working augmented reality sandbox, the system is designed to help educate students about earth sciences with a uniquely responsive and intuitive interface.
A team of data visualization and earth sciences experts, mainly from the University of California, created the setup using a Microsoft Kinect camera coupled with topographic visualization software and a 3D data projector.
From rough prototypes to its present state, the project has come a long way in terms of the level of rendering detail and response speed.
Tapping into a familiar form of childhood play, the project “allows users to create topography models by shaping real sand, which is then augmented in real time by an elevation color map, topographic contour lines, and simulated water. The system teaches geographic, geologic, and hydrologic concepts such as how to read a topography map, the meaning of contour lines, watersheds, catchment areas, levees [and more].”
Of course, one can imagine an array of applications of this technology beyond classrooms and science museums, from Minecraft-style, construction-centric games to simulators and modeling tools for landscape architects and urban designers.
More about this amazing project: “UC Davis’ W.M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences (KeckCAVES), together with the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center, Lawrence Hall of Science, and ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, is involved in an NSF-funded project on informal science education for freshwater lake and watershed science. The sandbox hardware was built by project specialist Peter Gold of the UC Davis Department of Geology. The driving software is based on the Vrui VR development toolkit and the Kinect 3D video processing framework, and is available for download under the GNU General Public License.”
Not only is this a microscope made of paper, costing a total of fifty cents to produce, it can stand up to being thrown, stomped on and dunked in water. And it comes in a flat-pack of yardstick that takes just a few minutes to assemble. Foldscope by Manu Prakash has the potential to transform the way disease is identified and diagnosed in developing parts of the world.
Demonstrated in a 2012 TED talk, the Foldscope is about the size of a bookmark and based on the principles of origami. It has no mechanical moving parts and it’s cheap enough to disseminate for free and incinerate after use to safely dispose of infectious biological samples.
It might not seem like a lens this tiny would be powerful enough to identify samples of microbes like Giardia or malaria, but the unique optical physics of a spherical lens held close to the eye can magnify samples up to 2,000 times. The lens is about the size of a poppy seed and costs about 17 cents. It can be press-fit into a small hole in the center of the slide-mounting platform on the paper microscope body.
More sophisticated version have multiple lenses or even combinations of colored LED lights powered by a watch battery. Other additions include the capability to project images on the wall of a dark room. Prakash plans to give away 10,000 of the DIY origami microscopes to citizen scientists with the most inspiring ideas for their use. Prospective users can apply for a Foldscope kit by emailing Signup@foldscope.com.
Built in 1968 on Anvers Island, Palmer Station is the only American antarctic base located north of the Antarctic Circle. The base’s activities focus on the study of marine life and most projects are seasonal in nature: the station’s resident population averages around 40 in summer but drops to 15-20 in winter.
(image via: NASA)
But enough about the station, check out the photo above! In November of 2009, red-parka’d base personnel got together to send a friendly greeting to NASA’s DC-8 flying science laboratory flying overhead.
Ukraine didn’t build the Vernadsky Research Base; the former Faraday Station on Winter Island was purchased from Great Britain in 1996 for the bargain price of one pound. The station’s main claim to fame is its bar, said to be the southernmost such establishment on earth, where thirsty and/or bored patrons can pay $3 a shot for vodka brewed on-site.
(image via: Rachel Lea Fox)
Now operated by the National Antarctic Scientific Center of Ukraine, the Vernadsky Station consists of nine buildings and can house up to 15 staff members. Full credit to Flickr user Rachel Lea Fox for the image above. Time for a new flag? Er, I wasn’t asking you, President Putin.
Constructed in 1990 and expanded 15 years later, Troll Station is Norway’s only year-round antarctic science base… problem? The Norwegian Polar Institute operates 8-person capacity Troll Station, which is located in the Norwegian antarctic dependency of Queen Maud Land. Troll Station is built on a bare rock outcrop poking through the ice cap and since the region is considered to be a “desert” in meteorological terms, heavy snowfalls and wind-blown drifting are not major concerns.
(image via: Epoch Times/Heiko Junge/AFP)
As is the case with all antarctic research stations, accommodations at Troll Station are both limited and spartan… even if you’re Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
Belgium’s futuristic Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Research Station opened in February of 2009 and claims to be “the world’s first zero emission polar research station.” The 16-person capacity station draws electric power from solar panels supplemented by a network of nine wind turbines.
(image via: IRM)
Though sunlight is unavailable for months at a stretch, Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Research Station’s location backing onto the rocky Utsteinen Ridge in Queen Maud Land exposes it to howling gales measured at up to 300 kph (190 mph). Calmer days are much appreciated by station staff. He’s rollin’, don’t be hatin’.