Disappointment rises when skydiver doesn’t fall

10 10 2012

Anyone watching for Felix Baumgartner falling from the sky yesterday was left disappointed. High winds forced the Red Bull Stratosteam to call off the launch. With so many possibly risks, there is desperate need for caution.

Joseph Kittinger and Felix Baumgartner were disappointed to learn that the Tuesday launch was cancelled just before take off. (screenshot from live stream on National Geographic, Tuesday)

If you’re out of the loop, Baumgartner was planning to skydive from the “edge of space” as his team puts it. Jumping from a height of 37km, the dive will break records for the highest, fastest and longest skydive in history. The previous record holder, Joseph Kittinger, is supporting with the jump and acting as Baumgartner’s personal mentor.

All for the sake of science?

Apparently it’s not all about record-breaking. Baumgartner’s pressurized suit will be able to collect data for scientific research and the jump itself will tell scientists a lot about how the human body can handle the extremes of space. “The Mission” is just part of todays medical and scientific research hoping to gain information for future pioneers.

The plastic film air balloon designed to lift Baumgartner to the height of 37km above earth could be stressed by temperatures as low as -57° C (screenshot from live stream on National Geographic, Tuesday)

One has to wonder if it really all comes down to science. How much of this is really just thrill-seeking? It’s an expensive thrill, that’s for sure. And a potentially deadly one, hence the unfortunate delay in the proceedings.

Hopefully the event, rescheduled for Thursday, will go off without a hook and the world will be looking at a new record holder and some more research from the edge of space.


Art or science?

4 10 2012

National Geographic is promoting the “new fanged dwarf dinosaur”.
Photo credit: National Geographic http://bit.ly/O7VAn0

The new “parrot-porcupine” being heralded as the latest in dinosaur discoveries is definitely an eye-catcher.  With a small beak-like nose, a collection of long quills and frighteningly sharp fangs, this small but unusual dino is truly a work of art. But is that all it is: art?

Truth or imagination?

How much creative license should scientists be allowed to take? Usually paleontologists find only bones or even fragments of bones. Rarely is a whole skeleton of some long forgotten beast found. And yet, detailed and colourful images of dinosaurs and other extinct creatures cover the pages of children’s stories and textbooks. Sure it makes for a beautiful illustration and fun science but what about truth?

The video shown on National Geographic website makes this point clear. They had to add a lot to this little critter’s skull in order to come up with the fearsome image they are projecting.

Lucy, the ape-woman

Lucy exhibit at Kentucky creation museum: same skull, different faces!
Photo credit: AiG http://bit.ly/T3KZpQ

The Creation Museum  in Kentucky has a whole exhibit highlighting “Lucy” that explains how simple changes to skin colour, hair and expression can create a completely different image, sometimes a different species. It is important to always be critical of every “new” discovery and to look foremost at the facts. Be sure not to be swept away in the intrigue and excitement and in the process, forget to think about the other side.