Valentine’s day is the time for everyone to show their love, including scientists! Scientists have taken to the twitterverse with clever, snarky, and cute science-themed valentines. Enjoy and follow along with #ScienceValentines or, on a more serious level, #ElsevierValentines – which is meant to comment on the publishers controversial relationship with scientists and open access. Let’s just say… it’s complicated.
A fun activity for kids, parents, and really people of all ages! On Christmas eve, hit up the NORAD website and track Santa as he delivers gifts around the world! I used to do this as a kid… and not gonna lie, I still check this website out every Christmas eve!
NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, has been tracking Santa every Christmas since 1958 using state of the art technology:
HOW WE TRACK SANTA
It all starts with the NORAD radar system called the North Warning System. This powerful radar system has 47 installations strung across Canada’s North and Alaska. NORAD makes a point of checking the radar closely for indications of Santa Claus leaving the North Pole every holiday season. The moment our radar tells us that Santa has lifted off, we begin to use the same satellites that we use in providing air warning of possible missile launches aimed at North America.
These satellites are located in a geo-synchronous orbit (that’s a cool phrase meaning that the satellite is always fixed over the same spot on the Earth) at 22,300 miles above the Earth. The satellites have infrared sensors, meaning they can see heat. When a rocket or missile is launched, a tremendous amount of heat is produced – enough for the satellites to see them. Rudolph’s nose gives off an infrared signature similar to a missile launch. The satellites detect Rudolph’s bright red nose with no problem.
The third system we use is the SantaCam. We began using it in 1998 – the year we put our Santa Tracking program on the Internet. NORAD SantaCams are ultra-cool, high-tech, high-speed digital cameras that are pre-positioned at many places around the world. NORAD only uses these cameras once a year – on 24 December. We turn the cameras on about one hour before Santa enters a country then switch them off after we capture images of him and the Reindeer. We immediately download the images onto our web site for people around the world to see. SantaCams produce both video and still images.
The last system we use is the NORAD jet fighter. Canadian NORAD fighter pilots, flying the CF-18, take off out of Newfoundland and welcome Santa to North America. Then at numerous locations in Canada other CF-18 fighter pilots escort Santa. While in the United States, American NORAD fighter pilots in either the F-15s, F16s or F-22s get the thrill of flying with Santa and the famous Reindeer – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph. Even though Santa flies faster than any jet fighter (Santa actually slows down for us to escort him), all of these systems together provide NORAD with a very good continuous picture of his whereabouts.
The site also addresses common questions you may have about tracking Santa:
WHAT ROUTE DOES SANTA TRAVEL?
Santa usually starts at the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean and travels west. So, historically, Santa visits the South Pacific first, then New Zealand and Australia. After that, he shoots up to Japan, over to Asia, across to Africa, then onto Western Europe, Canada, the United States, Mexico and Central and South America. Keep in mind, Santa’s route can be affected by weather, so it’s really unpredictable. NORAD coordinates with Santa’s Elf Launch Staff to confirm his launch time, but from that point on, Santa calls the shots. We just track him!
HOW CAN SANTA TRAVEL THE WORLD WITHIN 24 HOURS?
NORAD intelligence reports indicate that Santa does not experience time the way we do. His trip seems to take 24 hours to us, but to Santa it might last days, weeks or even months. Santa would not want to rush the important job of delivering presents to children and spreading joy to everyone, so the only logical conclusion is that Santa somehow functions within his own time-space continuum.
DOES NORAD HAVE ANY STATISTICS ON SANTA’S SLEIGH?
NORAD can confirm that Santa’s sleigh is a versatile, all weather, multi-purpose, vertical short-take-off and landing vehicle. It is capable of traveling vast distances without refueling and is deployed, as far as we know, only on December 24th (and sometimes briefly for a test flight about a month before Christmas).
SLEIGH TECHNICAL DATA
|Designer & Builder||K. Kringle & Elves, Inc.|
|Probable First Flight||Dec. 24, 343 A.D.|
|Home Base||North Pole|
|Length||75 cc (candy canes) / 150 lp (lollipops)|
|Width||40 cc / 80 lp|
|Height||55 cc / 110 lp|
|Note: Length, width and height are without reindeer|
|Weight at takeoff||75,000 gd (gumdrops)|
|Passenger weight at takeoff||Santa Claus 260 pounds|
|Weight of gifts at takeoff||60,000 tons|
|Weight at landing||80,000 gd (ice & snow accumulation)|
|Passenger weight at landing||1,260 pounds|
|Propulsion||Nine (9) rp (reindeer power)|
|Armament||Antlers (purely defensive)|
|Fuel||Hay, oats and carrots (for reindeer)|
|Climbing speed||One “T” (Twinkle of an eye)|
|Max speed||Faster than starlight|
From NOAA/NASA, check out these satellite images of holiday lights around the world!
Around many major U.S. cities, nighttime lights shine 20 to 50 percent brighter during Christmas and New Year’s when compared to light output during the rest of the year, as seen in the satellite data. In some Middle Eastern cities, nighttime lights shine more than 50 percent brighter during Ramadan, compared to the rest of the year.
From the MIT Hillel, celebrate the first night of Chanukah with their test tube menorah!
Have you seen the classic Holiday movie Home Alone? If so, you may have wondered about the injuries sustained by the two burglars, Marv and Harry, during the hilarious and painful home invasion. FINALLY we have some answers – a doctor has weighed in on the pranks, and the resulting injuries! Lauren Hansen, writing for the Week, goes through the medical side of Home Alone!
Can a man really be hit square in the face with a steam iron and walk away unfazed? What kind of permanent physical damage would a blow torch to the head really do? To answer these questions and officially dissolveHome Alone‘s Hollywood magic, I spoke with my friend Dr. Ryan St. Clair of the Weill Cornell Medical College. Enjoy.
Here is my favorite injury as an example, definitely check out Hansen’s article for the rundown of other injuries!!
The injury: A blowtorch to the scalp
The set-up: Unable to get through the front door, Harry returns to the back. He kicks his foot through the doggy door to disarm a potential BB gun threat, delicately taps at the doorknob to test its temperature, and, finding it cool, opens the back door — only to unknowingly arm a blowtorch that fires at the top of his head.
The doctor’s diagnosis: “Harry has an interesting reaction to having a lit blowtorch aimed directly at his scalp. Rather than remove himself from danger, he keeps the top of his skull directly in the line of fire for about seven seconds. What was likely a simple second-degree skin burn is now a full thickness burn likely to cause necrosis of the calavarium (skull bone).” That means the skin and bone tissue on Harry’s skull will be so damaged and rotted that his skull bone is essentially dying and will likely require a transplant.
Today, October 8th, is World Octopus Day! Octopus have been around for a long long time, so why do we need an international octopus day?
Right now more than 50,000 tons of octopus are caught each year. And scientists still have little idea how many octopuses are out there in the oceans—or even how to go about measuring them. Octopuses, being asocial animals, don’t swim in schools that can be tracked and measured. And researchers are only just now devising ways to estimate an octopus’s age, as various species—and even individual populations in different environments—grow at various rates and live for anywhere from months to several years. And assessing populations accurately demands this sort of basic info.
So on this International Octopus Day, take a little time to remember these incredible eight-armed animals out in the oceans, quietly catching crabs, masquerading as other animals and occasionally even using tools.
And here is a nice infographic from dailyinfographic.com!