Art and Science … Again? Yes.

Visual effects in 'Interstellar' resulted in an astronomical discovery about black holes.

When it rains, it shines. Never mind. The variation fails the theme. Still, once again we find ourselves at a nexus of art and science.

Matt Williams of Universe Today explains:

Diagram by Kip Thorne, executive producer of the movie 'Interstellar', showing how a black hole distorts light.While he was working on the film Interstellar, executive producer Kip Thorne was tasked with creating the black hole that would be central to the plot. As a theoretical physicist, he also wanted to create something that was truly realistic and as close to the real thing as movie-goers would ever see.

On the other hand, Christopher Nolan – the film’s director – wanted to create something that would be a visually-mesmerizing experience. As you can see from the image above, they certainly succeeded as far as the aesthetics were concerned. But even more impressive was how the creation of this fictitious black hole led to an actual scientific discovery.

In short, in order to accurately create a visual for the story’s black hole, Kip Thorne produced an entirely new set of equations which guided the special effects team’s rendering software. The end result was a visual representation that accurately depicts what a wormhole/black hole would look like in space.

In truth, it is hard to imagine a better selling point for a science fiction film. Interstellar opens in American theaters November 7.


Williams, Matt. “The Physics Behind ‘Intellstellar’s’ Visual Effects Was So Good, it Led to a Scientific Discovery”. Universe Today. 23 October 2014.

At an Intersection of Art and Science

Detail of image showing 3D model by Klaus Leitl, ca. 2014.

Perhaps it is simply best to say click the link, or even the picture above.

Suffice to say, what you are looking at is not a real photograph of a real organism, but, rather, a real photograph of a real model created using 3D printing technology.

It is easy enough to forget that the intersection of science and art is hardly rare. While the art of science might seem somewhat elusive, the science of art is everywhere. The work of Klaus Leitl just happens to be a spectacular intersection.


Alec. “Austrian artist creates life-like insect models using a Form1+ 3D printer”. 15 October 2014.

Postcard From the Middle of Nowhere

A snapshot of Rosetta and comet 67P/C-G, taken by Philae at a range of 16 km.

Rosetta is a spacecraft built and launched by the European Space Agency. Its travel partner is a robotic lander named Philae. Their job is to study a comet named 67P/Churyumav-Gearsimenko, or 67P/C-G for short.

The Rosetta mission launched in March, 2004. A little over a month ago, Rosetta and Philae quietly dropped into orbit around the massive comet.

European Space AgencyOn November 12, in little under a month, Philae will attempt to land on the comet.

Go, go human species! Philae, do the job; we’re all behind you.

Meanwhile, a holiday snap?

What you’re looking at in the picture above is none other than 67P/C-G; Philae took the snapshot, which includes part of the Rosetta structure, from a range of under ten miles

Elizabeth Howell, writing for Universe Today explains:

So this spacecraft — taking this picture — is going to land on the surface of THAT comet. Doesn’t this give you a pit in your stomach? This is a selfie taken from the Philae spacecraft that, riding piggyback, captured the side of the Rosetta spacecraft orbiting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The image is so close-up — just 9.9 miles (16 kilometers) from 67P’s surface — that mission planners can even spot Landing Site J on the comet’s smaller lobe.

Additionally, Howell notes, we will hear tomorrow whether or not Site J is cleared for landing; the next data set will be gathered at a range of six miles away from 67p/C-G.

The article comes with a fun, attention grabbing headline, “Creepy Comet Looms In The Background Of Newest Philae Spacecraft Selfie”, but might well overstate the case. After all, when you two hundred ninety eight million miles from home, and all of ten miles away from the only thing in the Universe you can reach, yes, that thing might seem creepy. It’s four and a half miles long. Four miles wide. And it is two hundred ninety eight million miles out in the middle of nowhere and running away from you, yeah, that can be a heart-fluttering moment.

And yet our intrepid explorers push on. Good luck, Philae. And thank you, Rosetta. We know you’re not coming home, but we are so amazed.

And good show, ESA. As we creep toward the climax, we can only wait in thankful awe at the spectacle you’ve given us.

Location of Rosetta mission and comet 67P, 15 October SCET.


European Space Agency. “Rosetta”. (n.d.)

Howell, Elizabeth. “Creepy Comet Looms In The Background Of Newest Philae Spacecraft Selfie”. Universe Today. 14 October 2014.

“Comet 67P (Churyumov-Gerasimenko) and The Rosetta Spacecraft”. Live Comet Data. 14 October 2014.

(Hat tip and many thanks to S.L.)

Inquiry, Discovery, Inquiry

The feature called Maskelyne is one of many newly discovered young volcanic deposits on the Moon. Called irregular mare patches, these areas are thought to be remnants of small basaltic eruptions that occurred much later than the commonly accepted end of lunar volcanism, 1 to 1.5 billion years ago. (Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)

This is why NASA rocks:

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has provided researchers strong evidence the moon’s volcanic activity slowed gradually instead of stopping abruptly a billion years ago.

Scores of distinctive rock deposits observed by LRO are estimated to be less than 100 million years old. This time period corresponds to Earth’s Cretaceous period, the heyday of dinosaurs. Some areas may be less than 50 million years old. Details of the study are published online in Sunday’s edition of Nature Geoscience.

“This finding is the kind of science that is literally going to make geologists rewrite the textbooks about the moon,” said John Keller, LRO project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Variations of a blue pigment were developed at Oregon State University. (Photo: Mas Subramanian)Science as a career is, to a certain degree, a form of job security. That is, while one might argue the idea of job security through perpetuation of the problem in certain political argumentation, the reality is that you don’t need to do that with science. That is to say, when you make a scientific discovery, you also raise a million new questions for scientists to answer.

No, really. Did you hear about the time all of five years ago that scientists at Oregon State University accidentally created a new shade of blue?


NASA. “Release 14-284: NASA Mission Finds Widespread Evidence of Young Lunar Volcanism”. 12 October 2014.

Chang, Kenneth. “By Happy Accident, Chemists Produce a New Blue”. The New York Times. 23 November 2009.