Ten years ago today—Jan. 15, 2005—humanity reached out and touched another world. It was Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. The Cassini spacecraft, still on its way to entering orbit around the ringed planet, had already dropped a small probe named Huygens—named after Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens, who discovered Titan—to go their separate ways. Huygens was aimed at the monster moon (bigger than the planet Mercury!), and on Jan. 5, 2005 began its descent.

Titan’s atmosphere is mostly nitrogen and twice as thick as Earth’s, so Huygens used that to slow initially, then used parachutes to drop safely down to the surface. While it did, it took a lot of photos and other data to investigate the alien world. Finally, after more than two hours, it touched down, the first time a space probe had ever successfully landed on the moon of another planet. On the YouTube channel The Mars Underground there’s a fantastic and compelling video of the descent, loaded with info, which shows you the Huygen’s-eye view of Titan as it made its way down to the surface.

Amazing! You can see the angle and size of Huygens on the left, its descent angle on the bottom left, and various data on the right. In the middle the view fills in as the camera takes its shots, and then at about 1:00 things start to pick up as the probe descends through the thick haze layer into more transparent air, close enough to see detail in the landscape which changes as the probe descends.

The sounds coming from the left speaker represent the rotation and descent angle of the probe among other things, and sounds from the right speaker represent various instruments taking data, as well as how solid the uplink connection is to Cassini (which acted as a receiver, then sending the Huygens data back to Earth). The show notes on the YouTube page have the details. But it was peculiar and sad to hear the uplink tone die as communications with Cassini were lost when the spacecraft set in Titan’s sky as seen by Huygens.

In the decade since we’ve learned so much about this planet-sized moon! It has grains of hydrocarbon ice that blow in the wind, forming dunes, it has lakes of liquid methane and ethane (with features in the lakes that change with time), it has weather. It has a methane cycle, which is the analog to the water cycle on Earth; river channels are clearly seen leading downhill to flatter surfaces. And while it may be frigidly cold there to us—180 below 0 Celsius—for methane that’s near the triple point where it can be a solid, liquid, and gas, just like water on Earth.

More info here: http://tinyurl.com/nlsn2ra

Source: www.planetary.org

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The American Museum of Natural History has a great new video series: Shelf Life. It features the 33,430,000 artifacts and specimens estimated to be in the museum. From their description:

Shelf Life is a collection for curious minds—opening doors, pulling out drawers, and taking the lids off some of the incredible, rarely-seen items in the American Museum of Natural History. Over the next year, Shelf Life will explore topics like specimen preparation, learn why variety is vital, and meet some of the people who work in the Museum collections.”

A lot of natural history museums are trying to make the invisible visible by turning to video and social media.  The vast majority of a museum’s collection is never seen by anyone besides a tiny group of experts. How do you convince the public that they should care about a bunch of dead stuff? The perception of a lot of people is that museums are about naming and pickling things. Travel to exotic places, find unusual species, and kill them.

This assumes that things are just warehoused in a museum, which is certainly true in one sense.  Museums are a long term, stable library of our past and our present.  But a library that stops acquiring and indexing books isn’t going to remain relevant.

What’s actually stored in a museum is change that you can touch and measure.  TheCDC is using museum specimens to track human pathogens and diseases over space and time. Ecologists are looking at Hawaiian birds collected and preserved 100 years ago (now extinct) to see if they can find a way to protect today’s Galapagos species from canarypox. Preserved insects helped us figure out dinosaurs didn’t have lice via advanced molecular techniques.

The video series also makes some of the work that goes into maintaining a collection visible. You can’t just put something in a jar and walk away; constant maintenance and care helps to make sure that we can still see insects collected by Darwin, or plants from Linnaeus’ cabinet.

Source: www.wired.com

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Email marketing has never had good press. That’s because many newsletters look the same. 

Unfortunately, what works for one marketer may not for another person. You need to be creative.

As I always say, the most creative ideas are often the simplest. 

Rohan Ayyar has written a very good articles for HubSpot. Here are his suggestions, accompanied with case studies:

– Understand the user experience

– Reengage inactive subscribers

– Leverage coupons beyond sales

– Build reviews into your emails

Bookmark the post. You may find yourself coming back to it quite often. 

Read it at http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/email-marketing-experiments


Cendrine Marrouat

Source: blog.hubspot.com

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