Wray, CO Tornado

There’s some amazing footage out there of the May 7, 2016 tornado near Wray, Colorado. I suspect the video does not do it justice, and, without documentation, trying to describe that kind of power to someone would quickly get mystical.

As the North American plains have always been Tornado Alley, I was curious what native stories and legends there might be. This page collects a few sources. From a Kiowa account by Iseeo:

Suddenly, the leader of the party shouted for the men to dismount and prepare for a hard rain. Soon, too, with the approaching cloud, lseeo recalled hearing a -roar that sounded like buffalo in the rutting season. Sloping down from the cloud a sleeve appeared, its center red; from this lightning shot out. The tremendous funnel tore through the timber bordering the Washita. heaving trees into the air.
Some of the young men wanted to run away, but the older, more experienced Kiowas knew what must be done. They called for everyone to try hard and brace themselves. The elders drew their pipes from saddlebags and lit them. They raised their pipes to the storm spirit, entreating it to smoke, and to go around them. The cloud heard their prayers, Iseeo explained, and passed by.

The whole article is fascinating.


Sharpest ever view of the Andromeda Galaxy

In January, NASA released the biggest Hubble Telescope image ever assembled: the image of Andromeda, above. It’s fitting, as Edwin Hubble himself first calculated Andromeda’s distance and established it as a separate galaxy about 100 years ago.

The full-scale version of the image has 1.5 billion pixels and shows over 100 million stars. That’s roughly one star for every ten pixels. The only way to appreciate this mind-boggling fact is to zoom in to the full, zoomable version. Even then, I think it might be impossible to comprehend.

Ray Villard of the Space Telescope Science Institute said, “It’s like photographing a beach and resolving individual grains of sand.”

Rosetta and Philae

On November 12 a spacecraft will land on a comet for the first time. The European Space Agency launched Rosetta over 10 years ago and it has been traveling to rendezvous with the comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko ever since. Philae is the probe that will reach the surface.

In addition to the charming video above (and another very rad video), the ESA put together this interactive site showing the ten-year, gravity-assisted path Rosetta has taken.

Wondering how big the comet is? This big.

Update: Philae made it!


The flying bedstead

Neil Armstrong trained in a lunar lander affectionately called the “flying bedstead” because it resembled a bed frame. On May 6, 1968 he had to bail out before an imminent crash. The original footage is here; above, a digitally stabilized version of the incident.

Illuminated Origins


Charles Darwin had ten children, and with that big of a family it’s no surprise that the house could get busy—even chaotic enough that the kids might start drawing on your important papers. In Darwin’s case, it was his manuscript for On the Origin of Species.

The surviving manuscript at the Cambridge University Library has his children’s illustrations on it. See a few other charming additions here.