Solar Impulse 2 en route to Hawaii

The Solar Impulse 2 aircraft (photo: Milko Vuille)

The Solar Impulse 2 aircraft has begun its solar-powered trans-Pacific crossing. Track the aircraft on its 5-day leg to Hawaii on, see telemetry data at, or follow the journey with @solarimpulse on Twitter. Bon voyage, team!

Wellcome Image Awards

Because of a gap in 2013, I had forgotten about the Wellcome Image Awards. This SEM image of a kidney stone by Kevin Mackenzie was one of the winning entries for 2014:

So was this strangely beautiful SEM image of sludge from an industrial farming process by Eberhardt Josué Friedrich Kernahan and Enrique Rodríguez Cañas:

This SEM image of a Purkinje cell by Michael Häusser, Sarah Rieubland, and Arnd Roth was one of this year’s winners:

So was this micro-computed tomography scan of the skull and front legs of a tuatara (a New Zealand reptile) by Sophie Regnault:

And this illustration of pollen grains being released from the anther of a flower by Maurizio De Angelis:

All images used under Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND). Click images to zoom and/or read more about the pictures. They’re lovely, don’t you think?

Eurovision 2015: Australia votes

It was Eurovision again on the weekend. This time, Australia competed. And voted – twice. Officially, during the contest; and in the Australian evening, unofficially, at

I have no time for the kind of analyses I did last year but, as the graph below shows, the unofficial Australian percentage ratings tracked the official Eurovision scores reasonably well (with substantial random variation), except for the huge vote for home:

The spectrum of history

I have previously blogged about carbon dating, a method which can be used to date organic items up to about 50,000 years old. Tests of carbon-dating have used tree-ring data back to around 10,000 BC.

The timeline above shows some highlights of the past 30,000 years, including one of the oldest cities, the oldest living tree, the oldest pyramid, and a Babylonian clay tablet I blogged about two years ago. The two caves in France are definitely on my “bucket list.”

Some beautiful photographs

Today, some pretty pictures from recent photographic competitions. First, the European Geosciences Union Photo Contest 2014. “Erosion Spider” by John Clemens was one of the winning entries:

Second, the BioMedCentral Ecology Image Competition. “A sticky snack for mice” by Petra Wester was the overall winner:

Finally, the Neuro Bureau Brain Art Competition 2014. “Heart of the Brain” by Chris Steele (MPI Leipzig) won the Best Visualization of Probabilistic Connectivity category:

All images used under Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND, CC BY, and CC BY-NC-SA respectively). Click images to zoom and/or read more about the photographs.

Dawn/New Horizons Update

The Dawn spaceprobe, now orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres, took the lovely photograph above a few days ago (image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA). Click the image to zoom.

And here is a NASA/JPL-Caltech artist’s concept of Dawn’s ion thrusters in action. The xenon ions glow blue:

Meanwhile, the New Horizons spaceprobe is getting closer and closer to Pluto:

This means the pictures are getting better. As New Horizons looks towards Pluto and Charon, we are starting to see hints of surface features:

We can even see colours, although the pictures are still very fuzzy: