Sunrise From Space

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Month: March, 2013

The Human Condition In Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’

Like many other vaunted science fiction films, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is heavily focused on the moral debate over technological advances in artificial intelligence and robotics. Located in a futuristic, dystopian Los Angeles, the plot centers around Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter of sorts who tracks down and kills “skin jobs”, incredibly intelligence robots who look and act exactly like humans. Struggling with his own internal issues of loss (most humans have left Earth for presumably greener pastures), Deckard tracks four skin jobs who have escaped and have already killed several humans. On a simple level, Deckard falls in love with another skin job, Rachael, and struggles with the meaning of human/artificial existence. On a deeper level, the film explores questions of morality in artificial intelligence and technology in general. The human spirit is generally diametrically opposed and supportive of technological advances, consistently wary of each new development, but overtly exited as well. It has been that way for centuries and doesn’t look to change anytime soon.

On Mount St. Helens

mount st helens

Being from the Pacific Northwest, there were plenty of notable geological features from which to choose from. Mount Rainier is the largest mountain in the region, but Mount St. Helens seemed more applicable to this assignment because of its quite recent volcanic activity. Mount St. Helens is an active stratovolcano (also known as a composite volcano) and is located 96 miles from Seattle,WA. The name Mount St. Helens is derived from 18th century British diplomat Lord St Helens, a friend of George Vancouver who took an important survey of the region in the late 18th century. Part of the Cascade Volcanic Arch, Mount St. Helens is one of over 160 active volcanos in the Pacific Ring of Fire. The mountain most recently erupted on May 18, 1980, the most destructive (both in terms of loss of life and economics) volcanic event in the history of the United States. See below for a video documenting the eruption.

Mount St. Helens’ eruptive history dates back 40,000-35,000 years ago, an era referred to as the “Ape Canyon Stage”. The “Cougar Stage” (20,000-18,000 years ago) followed, and subsequently the “Swift Creek Stage” (13,000-8,000 years ago). The mountain itself began to form in the Pleistocene 37,600 years ago with original eruptions of dacite and andecite. 36,000 years ago, a large mudflow occurred, a consistent feature in all of Mount St. Helens’ eruptions. Following the Ape Canyon Stage, the mountain faced around 17,000 years of peace. The Cougar Stage was highlighted by Pyroclastic flows of hot pumice and ash, as well as significant dome growth. 5,000 years of dormancy followed, broken by the Swift Creek stage, highlighted by more dome growth and eruptions of tephra, which blanketed the countryside. The modern period of the mountain (since around 2500 BCE) has been highlighted by a wide variety in the composition of erupted materials, ranging from olivine basalt to andesite and dacite). The mountain’s volcanic activity comes as a result of the Juan de Fuca plate subducting the North American plate.

Mount St. Helens is significant for the tangible damage it caused in the past 50 years and for being one of the few active volcanos within the United States.

The Eagle Nebula

Screen shot 2013-03-09 at 2.47.50 PM

I created the above Tri-Color Image using Photoshop and the FITS Liberator. I added the required colors and cropped it so that it is more aesthetically appealing.

The Eagle Nebula is categorized as Messier 16 or M16 and is also known as the Star Queen Nebula. It was discovered by  Jean-Philippe de Cheseaux in 1745-46 and its name is derived from the fact that early astronomers thought it looked like an eagle. It is part of a diffuse emissions nebula. It’s region of active star formation is about 7,000 light years away. The tower of gas that can be seen coming off the nebula is about 90 trillion kilometers high and are often called the “Pillars Of Creation”. The Nebula has been referenced in popular culture several times, most notably in the television series Star Trek and the film Contact.