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Mars Phoenix: Pay your respects October 31, 2008

Posted by Sarah in science.
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NASA’s Mars lander, Mars Phoenix, is struggling for power as the Martian winter sets in at its polar landing site. On its hugely popular Twitter feed, Phoenix has been keeping us updated on its fight to stay alive for another day. I have to confess I felt strangely emotional (and then foolish!) when the little lander said goodbye….

And it seems like I’m not the only one who’s formed an attachment to Phoenix! Over at Wired, writers started a contest to write epitaphs for the robot. So join in here and submit your entry!

Surprisingly (to me at least), many people seem to associate Phoenix with being female. What’s the psychology behind that?! Scientists are male, but little robots sent to Mars are female? Interesting.

Hurricane Gustav September 4, 2008

Posted by Sarah in science.
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This great photo appeared on the Wired blog yesterday, showing Hurricane Gustav as it hits the South Coast of the US. Natural disasters and extreme weather phenomena are fascinating can really put humanity in perspective, in much the same way that astronomy can. We can argue about wars and disease for centuries, but in the context of the Earth alone, which itself is an utterly insignificant blip on the scale of the Universe, we’re really pretty insignificant.

[NB – By this I don’t mean to say that we should just accept the Earth’s caprices and the human life it can claim. There’s no excuse for being unprepared. Here in the Netherlands for example, the way water levels are so meticulously managed is really inspiring. One storm, over 50 years ago, is all it took to make this happen.]