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Posts Tagged ‘image’

Minnesota Blizzard From Spaaaaaaace!

December 14, 2010 1 comment

Blanket of Snow covering South Dakota, southern Minnesota, eastern Iowa, northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin and Indiana - Click to Enlarge (Courtesy: NASA/JPL)

On Saturday December 11, 2010 over 40 cm of snow fell in the Minnesota area. NASA’s Terra satellite captured this awesome image of the snow.

This is the same storm that caused the Metrodome, home of the Minnesota Vikings to collapse.

This forced the Vikings to play their game in Detroit. It didn’t work out so well for them…

How Facebook Connects the World: A Visual

December 14, 2010 1 comment
A Stunning Visualization of Facebook Friend Connections – Click to Enlarge

This beautiful simulation was created by a Facebook intern named Paul Butler. He is an intern on Facebook’s data infrastructure engineering team.

Using a sample of 10 million friend pairs, he wanted to see how those friends were connected geographically. How did he do it?

He explains in a Facebook note, but it is a little bit technical, so I will attempt to translate for the lay reader.

First he started with his 10 million sample pairs. Then he sorted them out by adding up how many friends each city has with each other. For example, how many friends do people in New York have in Chicago? How many friends do people in Los Angeles have in Tokyo? And so on.

So then he tried plotting lines between those cities. Pairs of cities that had more friends between them would have brighter lines. But this turned out to be a bit of a problem. When he tried this,

…a big white blob appeared in the center of the map. Some of the outer edges of the blob vaguely resembled the continents, but it was clear that I had too much data to get interesting results just by drawing lines. I thought that making the lines semi-transparent would do the trick, but I quickly realized that my graphing environment couldn’t handle enough shades of color for it to work the way I wanted.

His graph simply did not have enough shades of blue to make an accurate representation of the numbers. But since he sounds like a very smart guy, he came up with a solution:

I defined weights for each pair of cities as a function of the Euclidean distance between them and the number of friends between them. Then I plotted lines between the pairs by weight, so that pairs of cities with the most friendships between them were drawn on top of the others.

So cities that were closer together got brighter lines. So the line between New York and Chicago is brighter than the line between Los Angeles and Tokyo. Next, he chose to plot lines between cities that have more friendships between them on top of other lines. So the line from New York to Chicago is plotted on top of the line from New York to Scranton.

And Voila! A really nice map of the world drawn entirely with friendships. Paul Butler had some deep thoughts on it:

It’s not just a pretty picture, it’s a reaffirmation of the impact we have in connecting people, even across oceans and borders.

Facebook has gotten some bad press lately. And frankly, I was getting sick of people clogging up my News Feed with Farmville.

But damn, that picture is cool.

What Does a Black Hole Look Like?

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Credit & Copyright: Alain Riazuelo - Click Image for Large Version

Not to sound like a smart ass…but it would look like a big black hole.

This is a computer generated image by Alain Riazuelo and I saw it the other day as the Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Aside from eating all the light hitting the black hole straight on, notice the “rings” around it as well. This is called gravitational lensing, and is something astronomers look for in order to identify a black hole, since the lensing is easily visible at a larger distance.

MRI of Woman Giving Birth

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

MRI of Baby in the birth canal. Photo Credit: Charité Hospital

Wow. Just…wow.

A couple of days ago, a woman in Germany gave birth at the Berlin’s Charité Hospital while inside an MRI scanner

 so scientists could study the birthing process in more detail.

A hospital spokesperson said the entire procedure went well, and both mother and baby are doing well.

Researchers designed a special “open” MRI machine in order to accommodate the experiment. MRI’s are quite loud though, so the mother still had to wear earmuffs, and the procedure was stopped after the amniotic sac broke, in order to protect the baby’s hearing.

MRIs use large coils of wire to generate a strong magnetic field to image the body. Generally, the bigger the magnet means a better picture, so the opening in which the patients lie is as small as possible. In this case, it was more advantageous to have a more open design. A photo of the actual MRI machine used in this experiment was not given, but it would look something like this.

An "open" MRI machine. Photo Credit: Open MRI of Canada

So what was the point of all this? Scientists want to study the birth process better in order to understand what causes complications, and prevent them.

Experiments like this are going to continue, as 5 more mothers have volunteered for the procedure.

Man, how many times have I said I would write a post about the “Physics of MRI”? Quite a few…its coming I promise, cause I have a couple more cool MRI studies to share… stay tuned.