Red-faced Pluto Full of Surprises

New Horizons scientists combined the latest black and white map of Pluto's surface features (left) with a map of the planet's colors (right) to produce a detailed color portrait of the planet's northern hemisphere (center). Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

New Horizons scientists combined the latest black and white map of Pluto’s surface features (left) with a map of the planet’s colors (right) to produce a detailed color portrait of the planet’s northern hemisphere (center). The color is what you’d see if you were riding along with New Horizons. “Ralph” is a visible/infrared imager.
Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

Hey, Mars, you’ve got company. Looks like there’s a second “red planet” in the Solar System — Pluto. Color images returned from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, now just 10 days from its encounter with the dwarf planet, show a distinctly ruddy surface with patchy markings that strongly resemble Mars’ appearance in a small telescope.(…)
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Pilot Of Solar Plane Shares Secrets Of Record-Setting Flight

Swiss pilot André Borschberg still has a long flight ahead. He took off Sunday afternoon from Nagoya, Japan, in the Solar Impulse 2, an experimental craft powered only by sunlight that is attempting to set a record as the first plane of its kind to circumnavigate the globe.

After several weather delays, Borschberg is finally en route to Hawaii, on the most difficult leg of the expedition, dubbed the “Earhart Leg” because it is roughly the same path on which Amelia Earhart disappeared 77 years ago. Borschberg is expected in Honolulu by Friday or Saturday.

We spoke with Borschberg via satellite uplink from his cramped cabin in the Solar Impulse 2.

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Dazzling Video Shows What The Night Sky Would Look Like If You Could See Every Asteroid

If you think asteroids are rare, it’s only because they’re so small and dark and hard to see. An eye-opening new video (above) shows what the night sky would look like if we could see the near-Earth asteroids astronomers have discovered — it’s quite a swarm.

“We’re essentially flying around the sun through this population of asteroids with our eyes closed,” Scott Manley, the astronomer who created the animation and posted it to YouTube, says in the video.

The interactive video lets you pan around the night sky as if you were standing in the darkness with a powerful telescope. Manley created it to spotlight the all-too-real danger that asteroids pose to humanity.

Thinking about the threat isn’t much fun, but we have to say that watching the video is. Enjoy!

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You Are Not Your Data (and a project update)

The 2014-15 Fellows talking with Jeffrey Katz following our individual presentations. Photo credit: Ari Beser.

Last week was the Fulbright-National Geographic Pre-departure Orientation in Washington, D.C. In addition to getting a chance to meet the brilliant 2015-2016 Fellows, we (the 2014-15 cohort) gave presentations to the public about our projects. I structured most of my talk around one question: what can you learn from your data? The short answer, of course, is many things. The longer answer is more complex, and it’s really in that complicated area that this project I’ve been working on for the past almost-year has been situated.

The 2014-15 Fellows talking with Jeffrey Katz following our individual presentations. Photo credit: Ari Beser.

But even though my talk was about what you can learn from your data, I find it really important to stress that while your data tells stories about you, you are not your data. We are more than lines on maps and dots on charts, even though those might be the tools that we (I and many other data artists and visualizers) use to represent people.

But we shouldn’t confuse the signifier with the signified. Those of us who work with data are probably often guilty of doing this—it’s easy to forget that metrics are tied to specific people. For the past year, I’ve been working in-person with people whose digital data I’ve also been collecting. The people I’m working with are kind, generous, and intelligent, and there is so much more to them than just their data—if anything, their data is just a beginning.

One of the sample maps from the final website I’m creating.
My own personal map of how much data I'm generating through the many places within London that I've working on my laptop.
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