Music of the spheres!

Is outer space really the silent and lifeless place it's often depicted to be? Perhaps not. Astrophysicist and musician Matt Russo takes us on a journey through the cosmos, revealing the hidden rhythms and harmonies of planetary orbits. The universe is full of music, he says -- we just need to learn how to hear it.

Making Pizza Dough Out Of Cauliflower Is A Delicious Revelation

Behold the Cauliflower Pizza: serve it up Di Fara style with cut basil. (Jen Carlson/Gothamist)
Did you know you can make a lower carb, healthier pizza crust almost entirely out of cauliflower? You can, and this weekend we tried it. There are a ton of recipes online, but it all comes down to two versions: one that uses shredded mozzarella in the dough, and one that does not. We tried the one that does not... and it was delicious.
First things first: yes, it works. It's more delicate, but the dough will not fall apart. Do not be afraid! You just need to make sure you have cheesecloth to wring all of the water out of the cauliflower—if you do not do this, it will not work. It's also not as time-consuming or as complicated as you might think—here's how to do it:
Cauliflower "Flour" Ingredients
  • 1 head of cauliflower (we used a medium sized one and it was more than enough)
  • 1 egg
  • A dollop of goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parm (or more!)
  • Salt, pepper, and any other seasoning or herb you want in the dough
  • Garlic or garlic powder

Suggested Toppings
  • Fresh mozzarella
  • Sliced tomatoes (or tomato sauce)
  • Basil
  • More parm, to sprinkle on top
First, grind up the cauliflower in your food processor. Don't have a food processor? That's fine, you can use a box grater, though it will take more time.
Next, cook the cauliflower—you can heat it up in your microwave for 5 minutes, or cook it (for that same amount of time) with a little bit of water in a pot or pan. After it cools (you can put it in the fridge to speed along this process) place it into a piece of cheesecloth and wring every last drop of water out of it. This is important!
Now you have a nice ball of dry cauliflower "flour," which you will mix with one egg, a dollop of goat cheese, a half a cup or so of grated parm, and any seasoning you want. Honestly, once you have the egg and cauliflower in there, you don't have to be exact in what type or how much cheese to add.
Once that's done, form it into a pizza crust and bake at 425ºF for about 10 minutes (until it starts to get golden). Do this on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and WITHOUT any toppings.
Remove your dough from the oven and add your toppings (we recommend putting a little garlic powder on the dough before you start topping it—cauliflower has a pretty bland taste, so don't be afraid to season). Then return it to the oven to cook for another 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted.
Remove from the oven and try to let it cool for a couple of minutes before slicing it up. While it's cooling, get it into your head that this will not taste like your standard pizza dough (duh)... but it IS very good. We served ours up Di Fara style, by cutting basil on top and tossing it on to a paper plate. 

In Praise of the Telescopic Perspective via Nina Reznick

A 2017 Moon seen through my telescope at home under the Brooklyn skies.

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot as seen by the Voyager. (Photograph courtesy of NASA.)
Neptune as seen by the Voyager. (Photograph courtesy of NASA.)
The Voyager‘s farewell shot of Uranus. (Photograph courtesy of NASA.)

When the Voyager completed its exploratory mission and took the last photograph — of Neptune — NASA commanded that the cameras be shut off to conserve energy. But Carl Sagan had the idea of turning the spacecraft around and taking one final photograph — of Earth. Objections were raised — from so great a distance and at so low a resolution, the resulting image would have absolutely no scientific value. But Sagan saw the larger poetic worth — he took the request all the way up to NASA’s administrator and charmed his way into permission.

The “Pale Blue Dot” — the Voyager‘s view of Earth seen from the outer edge of the Solar System. (Photograph courtesy of NASA.)

After nearly half a century of reign, the Voyager took the now-iconic image of Earth known as the “Pale Blue Dot” — a grainy pixel, “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam,” as Sagan so poetically put it when he immortalized the photograph in his beautiful “Pale Blue Dot” monologue from Cosmos — that great masterwork of perspective, a timeless reminder that “everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was… every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician” lived out their lives on this pale blue dot. And every political conflict, every war we’ve ever fought, we have waged over a fraction of this grainy pixel barely perceptible against the cosmic backdrop of endless lonesome space.
In the cosmic blink of our present existence, as we stand on this increasingly fragmented pixel, it is worth keeping the Voyager in mind as we find our capacity for perspective constricted by the stranglehold of our cultural moment. It is worth questioning what proportion of the news this year, what imperceptible fraction, was devoted to the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, awarded for the landmark detection of gravitational waves — the single most significant astrophysical discovery since Galileo. After centuries of knowing the universe only by sight, only by looking, we can now listen to it and hear echoes of events that took place billions of lightyears away, billions of years ago — events that made the stardust that made us.


Boston Dynamics’ humanoid robot can execute a perfect backflip.
Atlas, which can also keep its balance when it’s pushed and get back up if it falls over, can now perform impressive gymnastic moves.
Boston Dynamics has just released footage of the machine’s latest trick, and viewers are both impressed and concerned.

Stunning Library in China [via Nina Reznick]

Have you ever seen a library as stunning as this? The structure is incredible. It features a giant spherical auditorium in the middle that looks just like a giant eye. This impressive 5-storey library, located in the Binhai Cultural District in Tianjin, China, was designed by Dutch design firm MVRDV in collaboration with the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute (TUPDI) and has since been dubbed 'The Eye of Binahi'. 



The California Sycamore on California Avenue [via Nina Reznick] 

This is, for a change, a feel good story; maybe, so far, we hope; a breezy general history of a giant sycamore, our community, and a disparate band of amateur activists coming together to celebrate, and try to save, a living giant.

It all started a few months ago with a handwritten sign on a utility pole. Actually, it started almost a hundred years ago with a seed dropped in the soil. Okay, let’s start somewhere between the middle and the end:

In a year of tremendous political discord, true terror, media bombast and unprecedented natural disasters, an urban community of neighbors of all political persuasions and from all walks of life has come together to try to save a tree. Is saving a tree a big deal? Yes, we think it is.

In Santa Monica, California – a city most recently under a choking pall of thick smoke from the massive wildfires burning in surrounding communities – there is a beautiful, legendary tree at least 90 years old; it’s a fire-resistant native California Sycamore on a street called California Avenue that is not only a quite striking visual landmark but also a home for owls, falcons, hummingbirds, and butterflies. At 75-feet tall this tree towers over a low rise residential neighborhood alongside a street that links three schools and traverses a grid of 2 and 3-story apartment buildings, single family bungalow-style homes, 1920’s-era courtyard developments, modern transitional housing for homeless families, a residency for senior citizens, and three historic churches. The property on which this tree grows also features a farmhouse built in 1882 and was owned by the same family for many years; the California Sycamore on California Avenue has always been expertly and lovingly cared for by whoever owned the lot on which it stands.

The property was recently sold and a developer from outside the community announced his intention to immediately cut down this giant tree without any indication of what or even when anything would be built on what would suddenly become a vacant lot. That would be a shame.

California Sycamores are among the oldest species on Earth and are known for their longevity and hardiness, living more than 200 years, with some reported to have lived 500 to 600 years. Because of their history in this region, their beauty, their bountiful shade, the habitat they provide, their tolerance for drought, their resistance to fire, and because they are one of the few native hardwood trees still living in this region, California Sycamores – on public or private land – are protected in Los Angeles, Malibu, Pasadena, and other nearby towns; but in purportedly progressive and “green” Santa Monica there is no restriction on cutting down even the most venerable landmark street tree if it happens to be rooted on private land.

When it became apparent that imminent plans were being made to cut down this tree, someone stapled a sheet of typing paper to an adjacent utility pole; it was a white sheet with a crude drawing of a tree and the words “HELP SAVE THIS SYCAMORE. ANY IDEAS?”

When it became apparent that imminent plans were being made to cut down this tree, someone stapled a sheet of typing paper to an adjacent utility pole; it was a white sheet with a crude drawing of a tree and the words “HELP SAVE THIS SYCAMORE. ANY IDEAS?” That’s all that was on the sign. Within hours a neighbor wrote her phone number on the sign, adding that she would like to help and that she had some ideas; soon she received some calls of support and she posted on a neighborhood website that the tree was threatened and anyone who wanted to help could pitch in. Within days there was a meeting of a handful of neighbors – none of whom had ever met each other before – after work hours in a nearby coffee shop.

Frustration was mollified, spirits were raised, and one woman suggested the next meeting should be on the public sidewalk beneath the tree’s wide canopy on a weekend morning – perhaps inviting a forestry expert who could educate us about both ecology and law (and even help us determine if the tree itself was healthy). A slightly larger crowd of people – again, mostly strangers to each other – attended. The expert said the tree was in great shape, and she suggested we might reach out to the developer to offer him support for variances if he would preserve the tree – a win-win for all. The woman who had put her number on the sign notified the local neighborhood association, whose key coordinator sparked to the idea of saving this tree and put in an application at city hall to seek official landmark status for the giant sycamore – a living biology lab two blocks from a large urban public school.

Someone reached out to the developer with our offer of local support for his future development if he’d save this tree. The response? Days later the developer arrived onsite to begin preparation to cut down the sycamore (under the guise of ‘tree trimming’). With the application for landmark status having been filed by the neighborhood association “just in time,” an emergency call was made to a city official who dispatched other city officials who raced to the site and ordered the developer to cease and desist. The tree was saved – temporarily – pending the upcoming hearing on its fate at the next meeting of the city landmarks commission.

The word went out: “Come to the meeting! You do not have to speak at this meeting – unless you want to – but your presence will be essential so hey, let’s make it fun! – join your neighbors, meet new friends, celebrate our city, pass the word: BE THERE MONDAY!” Through the neighborhood association’s contacts with local reporters a story about the tree appeared on the front page of the local newspaper. Soon people from all over the city were detouring from their usual paths to meet this tree.

On a cold Monday night, dozens of neighbors crowded into the small city meeting room, some with school age children brought by their parents to experience democracy in action. It was then revealed that the landmarks commission had already decided on a death sentence for this magnificent tree.  It was painful to read the staff report on this legendary native tree as it threw very ‘negative shade’ on the entire Landmarks Commission process.  Claiming to be based on their own arborist’s analysis, the staff report was filled with mis-statements and curious omissions as the city laid out the bizarre argument that the giant sycamore was nothing special.

When we found the unedited report from the arborist hired by the city, we were stunned to discover that he actually wrote a GLOWINGLY SUPPORTIVE report about this tree — but that the city’s staff for some reason chose to cut, paste, and rearrange the arborist’s written narrative in order to HANG the tree.  Whereas the staff report said that the arborist noted an abundance of “native trees within a two block radius surrounding 1122 California Avenue,” the staff report omitted the rest of the arborist’s sentence which stated about these other trees that “none of these … were of significance due to small size, poor condition, etc … and do not compare in size, condition or beauty to the subject western sycamore.”

The arborist stated that The California Sycamore on California Avenue “makes up a significant portion of the dwindling native tree canopy in the area” with a summation that the sycamore is “exceptional for its good health.”  And yet somehow this turned into a city staff conclusion that this tree “does not appear to be a particularly exceptional specimen.” The city arborist noted the massive bird nests in the tree; we in the community have seen falcons in and around this tree year in and year out – and the city arborist stated in his report that no action should be taken until these nests are studied as raptors are a year-round protected species. That this tree may be a nesting site for falcons was left out of the report on which the Landmarks Commission was asked to base its decisions.

Read more 

This is the newest video from SKYGLOWPROJECT.COM, a crowdfunded quest to explore the effects and dangers of urban light pollution in contrast with some of the most incredible Dark-Sky areas in North America. It was created by Harun Mehmedinovic and his shooting partner Gavin Heffernan. Here’s what Harun told us about it:
In this video, we visit the Colorado River at the Grand Canyon National Park during the monsoon season, and the magnificent night skies there as seen from the river level. Recently, Grand Canyon was granted the status of an International Dark-Sky Park.

Thank you so much Harun and Gavin for sharing your video with us!
Bottom line: Timelapse of day and night skies over the Colorado River at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

 You can find out more about the video here.

Knuckle mnemonic [via Cacciatore]


The knuckle mnemonic is a mnemonic device for remembering the number of days in the months of the Julian and Gregorian calendars. 

Starting with the little finger knuckle of the left hand, proceed to the left index finger knuckle, then (swapping hands) jump to the right fist's index finger knuckle for August, finishing on the knuckle of the right ring finger (December).