(or in an interactive website that allows you to view the universe through one of the most powerful telescopes in the world. From the main page, you can click on one of the 500,000,000 cataloged objects, or choose one from the list on the right side of the page, and you are immediately transported to another world. The up-close view of celesial objects such as the Carina Nebula is accompanied by detailed scientific information. The site also contains thousands of stunning photographs, adding an artful component to the educational and scientific potential that this site holds. My personal favorite: the Butterfly Nebula (NGC 6302):

National Geographic Surname Map

This site is an exciting interactive map of surnames across the United States.  This helpful map displays the most common surnames in each area, with the larger bolder ones being the most common and the smaller ones being less so. Using this map it is easy to track many interesting pieces of information besides just checking the popular names around your home. One of the most interesting opportunities this site provides is the ability to see where different ethnic groups have settled around the United States. The prevalence of english and irish names in the mid atlantic, scandinavian names in the midwest, and latino names in the southwest states all point to very specific and fascinating settlement patterns. This is also shown in the identification of small subpopulations such as the cuban community in southern florida. This map also shows an interesting pattern of population density. As you might expect, names are much larger and more densely packed in the northeast, while the western states have fewer names, most of which are much smaller.  In making this map, National Geographic has used geography and cartography to portray information on surname distribution in a creative, accessible way.

Flash Earth and Flash Planetarium

Check out this amazing tool for exploring the planet’s surface and the night sky! It’s a totally comprehensive flash player tool that allows you to view the entire surface or sky at once. Of particular interest is that you can position yourself anywhere on the planet for a personalized astrological map of the stars. It’s super intuitive and engaging. Check it out.

Hurricane Tracker

Hurricanetrak is a great tool that can be found on It allows anyone to follow or track the path of a tropical system or hurricane anywhere in the world. You also can keep an eye on weather conditions. The primary objective of this tool is to help surfers know where the best surf is. By using other tools, such as LOLA and Google maps, you can zoom in and out of storms, display various layers of forecast data, and also use interactive shadows and rulers to see exactly where a storm is going. LOLA is a global surf forecast. During hurricane season you can click on  individual storm names to see the current storms path. You can also access historical data to research previous storm activity. Specific details, such as wind speed, pressure, wind and swell direction, and wave height can be examined as well.

Aurora Forecasting

If you have been curious about the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis there is no time better than now to check out more about this awesome natural phenomenon.  The aurora borealis is essentially the result of protons and electrons from the sun colliding and mixing with the Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic fields.  When this happens there is an awesome display of color that occurs at both the North and South Poles, though the north is better known for it in my experiences.  The Northern Lights are absolutely remarkable and this website predicts how good they will be.  The Geophysical Institute is sponsored by the University of Alaska Fairbanks and their website puts up predictions for how well and when the Lights will be able to be seen.  The website also talks about interpreting the forecast and tips for how to plan to see the Aurora Borealis when it is at its best.  I suggest checking this website out if you would like to know more about the Northern Lights.

WATERLIFE: Promoting Awareness of the Great Lakes

WATERLIFE is a highly interactive website that focuses on a documentary that tells the “story of the last great supply of fresh drinking water on Earth,” which happens to be the Great Lakes.  Upon entering the site, you can choose from a number of images that transport the viewer to subjects related to the Great Lakes, such as invasive species, bottled water, power, recreation and healing.  It is possible to click on any of the subject, which then takes the viewer to a page that explains that subject more in depth and involves imagery from the film.  WATERLIFE essentially is promoting the conservation of the Great Lakes due to its importance locally, regionally, and internationally.  It relays facts like only half of the Great Lakes wetlands remain intact.  Also, 100 billion gallons of water evaporate from the lakes each day.  The Great Lakes have been greatly impacted by invasive species, which harms not only the ecosystems but also the local economies.  These species include Asian Carp, Zebra Mussels, and the Lamprey.  A great aspect of the website is that although it speaks of many issues and negative impacts associated with the Great Lakes, it also focuses on positive action that can be taken.  Education is a major component of this positive action.  WATERLIFE is a part of that education tool, as it uses storytelling and beautiful imagery in order to promote awareness and the conservation of the vast supply of fresh drinking water in North America.

Bible Geocoding

Satellite map of the places in the Bible

This websitie took on the major task of locating every geographically identifiable place mentioned in the Bible.  The Goggle Earth map breaks down geographic locations not only by every Biblical book, but also chapter.  It is pretty remarkable project considering how many locations had to be identified.  There is also an Atlas that lists all the places alphabetically, complete with thumbnails, verses, and photos.

When Refrigerators Warm the Planet: GE’s Frig Reforms

(GE’s first HPC free model)

Scientists continue to discover gases more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. GE just announced Tuesday it will be the first refrigerator producer to eliminate a gas called HFC (Hydroflorocarbon) 134a from its frig insulation materials. HFCs have 1,430 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Before using HFCs, frig manufacturers used CFCs as a blowing agent and refrigerant. But then CFCs were banned because of their effect on the ozone. Were HFCs that great of a replacement?

GE is the first frig manufacturer to propose eliminating HFCs from their processing. One potential replacement gas is cyclopentane, a hydrocarbon molecule with a global warming potential of 3 to 10. GE has already converted one factory to cyclopentane, which will eliminate 400,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year (equivalent to 78,000 cars taken off the road).

Frig companies are also working to recapture some of the harmful gases still locked in the insulation of trashed refrigerators.

The question(s) is(are) then, (a) why didn’t they replace CFC with cyclopentane back in the 1970s?, (b) are scientists going to discover some environmentally damaging impact of cyclopentane 20 years from now?, and (c) is anyone designing a carbon neutral refrigerator?

National Parks Infinite Photo

Follow this link to see some of the most stunning images of national parks. Keep zooming in to see amazing geographic features, bizarre animals, and fascinating rock formations. The fun goes on for hundreds of pictures. The pictures were submitted by normal people who shared their photography with national geographic. I have literally been playing with this for the last two hours.

Just an example of one of the amazing images from this website.

With space program ending, astronauts seek next frontier

Many astronaut corps are now asking themselves what do to next, especially considering that NASA’s space program has been shut down. According to the New York Times article titled “With ‘Coolest Job Ever’ Ending, Astronauts Seek Next Frontier,” shuttle missions such as The Endeavour and the Atlantis are going to be the last launches that we see.

The end of active space shuttles could be foreseen back in 2009, which was the case for John M. Grunsfeld. After his last flight in May of 2009 he asked Dr. Peggy Whitson, head of NASA’s astronaut office, what his chances were of going on another mission. Her response was “Slim to none.”

Grunsfeld has since left NASA, and he is currently the deputy director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. Many other NASA employees have since left to seek employment in other areas. Last year alone 20 astronauts left the active-duty roster and 61 remain; this is down from a peak of close to 150 astronauts in 2000.

Despite the disappointment with NASA ending its space shuttle program, there are other options to get into space! For instance, former NASA astronaut Garrett E. Reisman now works for SpaceX, which was founded by Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk. Reisman has since logged in more than three months in space and has conducted work on the space station’s robotic arm. He is now working on a rocket called Falcon 9 and a spacecraft called the Dragon.

Many of the former NASA astronauts are still “wistful” about the lost opportunity of flying on one of the few remaining flights, but it is nice to know that there is still opportunity for current and aspiring astronauts and engineers within other areas.

New York Times, 4/23/2011