Category Archives: Science

dark miracle – a trip to trinity

The Trinity Test Site , where Robert Oppenheimer famously became "Death, destroyer of worlds" is open to the public only twice a year, so it’s pretty tough to get a first-hand look at this rather important historical location.

Enter Joshua Ellis, an independent journalist who went to Trinity this year to compile a story on the site, the people, and its history. Josh’s trip was funded by small donations from various people, and he promised to publish an in-depth story with a ton of pictures, and video if he was able.

Josh’s story Dark Miracle is live today, and boy is it amazing:

When I told my friends where I was going, a few of them blinked at me. "Be careful," they said. "That’s, like, The Hills Have Eyes territory." I promised to pack at least a machete, somewhere in the car.

[. . .]

Many of the houses date from the original Manhattan Project —
prefab duplexes and quad-plexes that have been extensively retrofitted
by various owners over the years. It is easy, looking at some of these
houses, to imagine physicists such as Oppenheimer and Hans Bethe or
Edward Teller or Leo Szilard sitting on their porches, discussing
different approaches to building the Gadget, as they called it.

It is an odd little place — beautiful, to be sure, but it
seems devoid of the sort of small-town closeness that other small
American cities like it possess, where everybody knows everybody else.
There seem to be a lot of strangers living next to one another in Los

It is part history lesson and part travelogue; Josh paints vivid pictures that put the reader right next to him on every step of the journey, whether it’s talking to Ed Grothus, the excentric owner of the Black Hole Museum of Nuclear Waste, driving up to the test site, or looking at what’s left of ground zero. There are pictures and video, as well as entries in his blog that give additional details and perspective to his story. It is really a remarkable project.

As a reader, I count myself lucky that I got to read this piece; as a writer, I am absolutely thrilled at the idea of freelancing stories that are funded through small contributions from many different people. Josh brilliantly released his story under a creative commons license, so more people can see the benefits of distributed journalism.

(via boingboing)

i call the big one bitey

Months ago, I bought the supercool Antworks ant farm from Think Geek.

Six to eight weeks ago, I ordered the little critters who would amuse me endlessly
with their incessant tunneling, and waited for them to arrive. Yesterday, the wait ended.

Around ten in the morning, I put the ants into their new gel-filled home, and by three or so in the afternoon, they’d begun to tunnel down the side. Before bed last night, around twelve hours after they’d moved in, they reached the bottom of the habitat, and started to work their way over to the side.

Holy crap, man. I sat there and watched them dig their way across the bottom for close to thirty minutes. Because of the gel, I could see their mandibles pulling chunks out of the growing tunnel, and it looked like it was sort of blooming open.

When I got up this morning, I ran straight to the ants, and the picture here is what I found: they worked all night long, and have two growing tunnels across the whole thing. In fact, as I’ve been writing this, they’ve just broken through on the left side of the picture.

There are things here that still images can’t capture: it’s surprisingly satisfying to watch one ant start at the top of the habitat and work its way down into the tunnels. They all interact with each other in fantastically interesting ways, probing with their mandibles and antennae, and as far as I can tell, they never complain about the work. When they pass over the LEDs at the bottom of the thing, they cast this eerie shadow up into the gel that looks lie what you’d expect to see if The Abyss and Them! had a love child.

There are a couple more pictures of the habitat in my flickr stream.