Looking back…

In case you were wondering about notable science events that occured the week following August 22…

On August 24, 79 A.D. Mount Vesuvius erupted, covering the cities of Pompeii (hopefully you had the chance to see the exhibit here in Houston at the Museum of Fine Arts), Herculaneum, and Stabiae under volcanic ash. The city was lost for 1,700 years – until it was accidentily rediscovered in 1748. The excavation of the city has given valuable insight into the city during the height of Roman Empire, acting as a time capsule, allowing scientists to study the buildings, food, and even people that were buried that fateful day.
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This is Mount Etna erupting in 2006 (there is no footage of the 79 explosion of Mount Vesuvius for obvios reasons.)

Also on August 24, in 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) redefined the term “planet,” and Pluto was sent on its cosmic way (read the post about the controversy that ensued, by our astronomer James.) Pluto was “demoted” to the status of Dwarf Planet. There are currently eight planets and four dwarf planets in our solar system. The new definition of a planet is a celectial body that meets the following criteria:
    (a) is in orbit around the Sun, 
    (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and
    (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.

Karoli looking foward
Creative Commons License photo credit: ckaroli

On August 25, 1609, Galileo Galilei demonstrated his first telescope to Venetian lawmakers. He was one of the first men to build a telescope, and did so without actually ever seeing one of the few that existed. He was the first to discover any of Jupiter’s moons (he found 4), now known as the Galilean satellites.

On August 27, 2003, Mars made its closest approach to Earth in nearly 60,000 years. The last time Mars was that close to Earth, man had just began to migrate out of Africa. Man wouldn’t start settling down, farming, and beginning to live in cities for another 48,000 years. Mars passed approximately 34,646,416 miles (55,758,006 kilometers) from Earth.

Science Doesn’t Sleep (7.24.08)

Hmmmmmm....where's your Canon gone then???
Creative Commons License photo credit: law_keven

So here’s what went down after you logged off.

“Cow Power” could meet 3% of North American energy needs - and reduce the animals’ greenhouse gas emissions.

Santa might need to start thinking about relocation – the ice at the North Pole was only 1.3 meters thick in summer 2007 – and it’s getting thinner.

The Perseid Meteor Shower is coming around again – get away from the city lights and see it at the George Observatory.

Japanese and Mongolian scientists have uncovered a complete Tarbosaurus (related to T. rex) – missing only a few neck bones and the tip of the tail.

The Physics of Bungee Jumping – or, Why You Must Be Extremely Tough to Bungee With Tree Vines (video).

Marking a shift from the tradition of naming celestial bodies after Greek or Roman gods, astronomers have named a new dwarf planet Makemake (MAH-keh MAH-keh) after the Polynesian creation god.