Tag Archives: travel

A Trip to Titan

titanNASA is advertising its upcoming space tourism trip to Saturn’s largest moon Titan with this gorgeous retro poster.

Just imagine rowing across Titan’s lakes and oceans, and watching Saturn set below the horizon. So, dump that planned cruise down the Danube and hike to your local travel agent before all the seats are gone. But, before you purchase a return ticket keep in mind the following:

Frigid and alien, yet similar to our own planet billions of years ago, Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, has a thick atmosphere, organic-rich chemistry and a surface shaped by rivers and lakes of liquid ethane and methane. Cold winds sculpt vast regions of hydrocarbon-rich dunes. There may even be cryovolcanoes of cold liquid water. NASA’s Cassini orbiter was designed to peer through Titan’s perpetual haze and unravel the mysteries of this planet-like moon.
Image: Titan poster. Courtesy of NASA/JPL.
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Exotic Exoplanets Await Your Arrival

NASA_kepler16b_poster

Vintage travel posters from the late 1890s through to the 1950s colorfully captured the public’s imagination. Now, not to be outdone by the classic works from the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods, NASA has published a series of its own. But, these posters go beyond illustrating alpine ski resorts, sumptuous hotels and luxurious cruises. Rather, NASA has its sights on exotic and very distant travels — from tens to hundreds of millions of light-years. One such spot is the destination Kepler-16.

Kepler-16 A/B is a binary star system in the constellation of Cygnus that was targeted for analysis by the Kepler exoplanet hunting spacecraft. The star system is home to a Saturn-sized planet Kepler 16b orbiting the red dwarf star, Kepler 16-B, and  is 196 light-years from Earth.

See more of NASA’s travel posters here.

 

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Don’t Hitchhike, Unless You’re a Robot

hitchbot

 

A Canadian is trying valiantly to hitchhike across the nation, from coast-to-coast — Nova Scotia to British Columbia. While others have made this trek before, this journey is peculiar in one respect. The intrepid hiker is a child-sized robot. She or he — we don’t really know — is named hitchBOT.

hitchBOT is currently still in eastern Canada; New Brunswick to be more precise. So one has to wonder if (s)he would have made better progress from commandeering one of Google’s self-propelled, driverless cars to make the 3,781 mile journey.

Read the entire story and follow hitchBOT’s progress across Canada here.

Image courtesy of hitchBOT / Independent.

 

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If You Can Only Visit One Place…

scotland-2014

Travel editors at the New York Times have compiled their annual globe-spanning list of places to visit. As eclectic as ever, the list includes the hinderlands of Iceland, a cultural tour of Indianapolis, unspoilt (at the moment) beaches of Uruguay, a trip down the Mekong river, and a pub crawl across the hills and dales of Yorkshire. All fascinating. Our favorites are Aspen during the off-season, a resurgent Athens, the highlands of Scotland and the beautiful Seychelle Islands.

Read the entire article and see all the glorious images here.

Image: Hikers pause in the Loch Lomond area. Courtesy of Paul Tomkins/Scottish Viewpoint, New York Times.

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The Golden Age of Travel

Travel to far flung destinations was once a luxurious — some would say elitist — affair. Now that much of the process, and to some extent the end result, has been commoditized, we are left to dream of an age that once seemed glamorous and out of reach for most. And, what better way to market these dreams than through colorful, engaging travel posters. A collection of wonderful marketing posters from that “golden age” is up for auction.

Many of these beautiful works of art were published as commercial pieces so the artists often worked under the covers of their advertising or design agencies. While a few, such as Willy Burger, Maurice Logan, went on to be recognized by the art establishment, most worked in anonymity. However, the travel poster art they produced beginning at the turn of the previous century formed at key part of the Art Nouveau and later the Art Deco movements. Luckily this continues to influence art and design and still makes us dream of the romance of travel and exotic destinations to this day.

See a sample of the collection here.

Image: Roger Broders, Sports D’Hiver, c 1929. Courtesy: Swann Auction Galleries

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Lost in Transit

Next time you are stuck at an airport due to a delayed flight or an ill-timed connection, rather than finding a quiet spot near a wall outlet (to charge one of your 10 electrical devices), try something different. Some airports offer some fascinating distractions for stressed-out fliers.

From the Telegraph:

Modern air travellers can pet a “therapy dog”, attend a concert, have their teeth whitened or admire a 42-foot statue of Gollum.

Other options include yoga and meditation for health-conscious holidaymakers (Dallas Fort Worth and Albuquerque airports, respectively) and massages for anxious fliers (New Delhi), while Hong Kong International boasts an iMax cinema.

A list of unusual activities was compiled by CheapFlights.co.uk, the travel comparison website, for its infographic “50 things to do when you’re stuck at an airport”.

Here are some of the most bizarre and surprising airport features:

– Ping Pong – tables are set up at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport

– Swim – a swimming pool and Jacuzzi are available to passengers at Singapore’s Changi Airport

– Health check – teeth whitening, blood pressure testing and expert physicians are all available at Incheon Airport

– Gollum – a 42-foot statue of Gollum from Lord of the Rings sits catching a fish in Wellington Airport

– Fish – Vancouver Airport has an aquarium and a jellyfish exhibit

– The stars – Tokyo’s Haneda Airport boasts its own planetarium

– A dinosaur – a 10-foot-tall, 31-foot-long Yangchuanosaurus greets passengers at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport

– Sleep – take advantage of specially designed ‘sleeping chairs’ in Seoul, Singapore or Amsterdam

– Snuggle with a dog – at Miami International, Casey the therapy dog wanders the terminal with her owner. Anyone is welcome to touch her

– Toilets – from Hello Kitty-themed restrooms in Taipei to futuristic electronic toilets in Tokyo, airport bathrooms have plenty of interesting facilities

– Nature – pay a visit to the rainforest without leaving the airport. A section of jungle has been transplanted into Kuala Lumpur

– Ice Skating – Seoul Incheon offers a synthetic ice rink

Read the entire article here.

Inforgraphic courtesy of Cheapflights.

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100-Year Starship Project

As Voyager 1 embarks on its interstellar voyage, having recently left the confines of our solar system, NASA and the Pentagon are collaborating with the 100-Year Starship Project. This effort aims to make human interstellar travel a reality within the next 100 years. While this is an admirable goal, let’s not forget that the current record holder for fastest man made object — Voyager 1 — would still take around 50,000 years to reach the nearest star to Earth. So NASA had better get its creative juices flowing.

From the Guardian:

It would be hard enough these days to find a human capable of playing a 12-inch LP, let alone an alien. So perhaps it is time for Nasa to update its welcome pack for extraterrestrials.

The agency announced earlier this month that its Voyager 1 probe has left the solar system, becoming the first object to enter interstellar space. On board is a gold-plated record from 1977.

It contains greetings in dozens of languages, sounds such as morse code, a tractor, a kiss, music – from Bach to Chuck Berry – and pictures of life on Earth, including a sperm fertilising an egg, athletes, and the Sydney Opera House.

Now, Jon Lomberg, the original Golden Record design director, has launched a project aiming to persuade Nasa to upload a current snapshot of Earth to one of its future interstellar craft as a sort of space-age message in a bottle.

The New Horizons spacecraft will reach Pluto in 2015, then is expected to leave the solar system in about three decades. The New Horizons Message Initiative wants to create a crowd-sourced “human fingerprint” for extra-terrestrial consumption that can be digitally uploaded to the probe as its journey continues. The message could be modified to reflect changes on Earth as years go by.

With the backing of numerous space experts, Lomberg is orchestrating a petition and fundraising campaign. The first stage will firm up what can be sent in a format that would be easy for aliens to decode; the second will be the online crowd-sourcing of material.

Especially given the remote possibility that the message will ever be read, Lomberg emphasises the benefits to earthlings of starting a debate about how we should introduce ourselves to interplanetary strangers.

“The Voyager record was our best foot forward. We just talked about what we were like on a good day … no wars or famine. It was a sanitised portrait. Should we go warts and all? That is a legitimate discussion that needs to be had,” he said.

“The previous messages were decided by elite groups … Everybody is equally entitled and qualified to do it. If you’re a human on Earth you have a right to decide how you’re presented.”

“Astronauts have said that you step off the Earth and look back and you see things differently. Looking at yourself with a different perspective is always useful. The Golden Record has had a tremendous effect in terms of making people think about the culture in ways they wouldn’t normally do.”

Buoyed by the Voyager news, scientists gathered in Houston last weekend for the annual symposium of the Nasa- and Pentagon-backed 100-Year Starship project, which aims to make human interstellar travel a reality within a century.

“I think it’s an incredible boost. I think it makes it much more plausible,” said Dr Mae Jemison, the group’s principal and the first African-American woman in space. “What it says is that we know we can get to interstellar space. We got to interstellar space with technologies that were developed 40 years ago. There is every reason to suspect that we can create and build vehicles that can go that far, faster.”

Jeff Nosanov, of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, near Los Angeles, hopes to persuade the agency to launch about ten interstellar probes to gather data from a variety of directions. They would be powered by giant sails that harness the sun’s energy, much like a boat on the ocean is propelled by wind. Solar sails are gaining credibility as a realistic way of producing faster spacecraft, given the limitations of existing rocket technology. Nasa is planning to launch a spacecraft with a 13,000 square-foot sail in November next year.

“We have a starship and it’s 36 years old, so that’s really good. This is not as impossible as it sounds. Where the challenge becomes ludicrous and really astounding is the distances from one star to another,” Nosanov said.

Read the entire article here.

Image: USS Enterprise (NCC-1701). Courtesy of Star Trek franchise.

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Above and Beyond

According to NASA, Voyager 1 officially left the protection of the solar system on or about August 25, 2013, and is now heading into interstellar space. It is now the first and only human-made object to leave the solar system.

Perhaps, one day in the distant future real human voyagers — or their android cousins — will come across the little probe as it continues on its lonely journey.

From Space:

A spacecraft from Earth has left its cosmic backyard and taken its first steps in interstellar space.

After streaking through space for nearly 35 years, NASA’s robotic Voyager 1 probe finally left the solar system in August 2012, a study published today (Sept. 12) in the journal Science reports.

“Voyager has boldly gone where no probe has gone before, marking one of the most significant technological achievements in the annals of the history of science, and as it enters interstellar space, it adds a new chapter in human scientific dreams and endeavors,” NASA science chief John Grunsfeld said in a statement. “Perhaps some future deep-space explorers will catch up with Voyager, our first interstellar envoy, and reflect on how this intrepid spacecraft helped enable their future.”

A long and historic journey

Voyager 1 launched on Sept. 5, 1977, about two weeks after its twin, Voyager 2. Together, the two probes conducted a historic “grand tour” of the outer planets, giving scientists some of their first up-close looks at Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and the moons of these faraway worlds.

The duo completed its primary mission in 1989, and then kept on flying toward the edge of the heliosphere, the huge bubble of charged particles and magnetic fields that the sun puffs out around itself. Voyager 1 has now popped free of this bubble into the exotic and unexplored realm of interstellar space, scientists say.

They reached this historic conclusion with a little help from the sun. A powerful solar eruption caused electrons in Voyager 1’s location to vibrate signficantly between April 9 and May 22 of this year. The probe’s plasma wave instrument detected these oscillations, and researchers used the measurements to figure out that Voyager 1’s surroundings contained about 1.3 electrons per cubic inch (0.08 electrons per cubic centimeter).

That’s far higher than the density observed in the outer regions of the heliosphere (roughly 0.03 electrons per cubic inch, or 0.002 electrons per cubic cm) and very much in line with the 1.6 electrons per cubic inch (0.10 electrons per cubic cm) or so expected in interstellar space. [Photos from NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 Probes]

“We literally jumped out of our seats when we saw these oscillations in our data — they showed us that the spacecraft was in an entirely new region, comparable to what was expected in interstellar space, and totally different than in the solar bubble,” study lead author Don Gurnett of the University of Iowa, the principal investigator of Voyager 1’s plasma wave instrument, said in a statement.

It may seem surprising that electron density is higher beyond the solar system than in its extreme outer reaches. Interstellar space is, indeed, emptier than the regions in Earth’s neighborhood, but the density inside the solar bubble drops off dramatically at great distances from the sun, researchers said.

Calculating a departure date

The study team wanted to know if Voyager 1 left the solar system sometime before April 2013, so they combed through some of the probe’s older data. They found a monthlong period of electron oscillations in October-November 2012 that translated to a density of 0.004 electrons per cubic inch (0.006 electrons per cubic cm).

Using these numbers and the amount of ground that Voyager 1 covers — about 325 million miles (520 million kilometers) per year — the researchers calculated that the spacecraft likely left the solar system in August 2012.

That time frame matches up well with several other important changes Voyager 1 observed. On Aug. 25, 2012, the probe recorded a 1,000-fold drop in the number of charged solar particles while also measuring a 9 percent increase in fast-moving galactic cosmic rays, which originate beyond the solar system.

“These results, and comparison with previous heliospheric radio measurements, strongly support the view that Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause into the interstellar plasma on or about Aug. 25, 2012,” Gurnett and his colleagues write in the new study.

At that point, Voyager 1 was about 11.25 billion miles (18.11 billion km) from the sun, or roughly 121 times the distance between Earth and the sun. The probe is now 11.66 billion miles (18.76 billion km) from the sun. (Voyager 2, which took a different route through the solar system, is currently 9.54 billion miles, or 15.35 billion km, from the sun.)

Read the entire article here.

Image: Voyager Gold Disk. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

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Filter Bubble on the Move

Personalization technology that allows marketers and media organizations to customize their products and content specifically to you seems to be a win-win for all: businesses win by addressing the needs — perceived or real — of specific customers; you win by seeing or receiving only items in which you’re interested.

But, this is a rather simplistic calculation for it fails to address the consequences of narrow targeting and a cycle of blinkered self-reinforcement, resulting in tunnel vision. More recently this has become known as filter bubble. The filter bubble eliminates serendipitous discovery and reduces creative connections by limiting our exposure to contrarian viewpoints and the unexpected. Or to put it more bluntly, it helps maintain a closed mind. This is true while you sit on the couch surfing the internet and increasingly, while you travel.

From the New York Times:

I’m half a world from home, in a city I’ve never explored, with fresh sights and sounds around every corner. And what am I doing?

I’m watching exactly the kind of television program I might watch in my Manhattan apartment.

Before I left New York, I downloaded a season of “The Wire,” in case I wanted to binge, in case I needed the comfort. It’s on my iPad with a slew of books I’m sure to find gripping, a bunch of the music I like best, issues of favorite magazines: a portable trove of the tried and true, guaranteed to insulate me from the strange and new.

I force myself to quit “The Wire” after about 20 minutes and I venture into the streets, because Baltimore’s drug dealers will wait and Shanghai’s soup dumplings won’t. But I’m haunted by how tempting it was to stay put, by how easily a person these days can travel the globe, and travel through life, in a thoroughly customized cocoon.

I’m not talking about the chain hotels or chain restaurants that we’ve long had and that somehow manage to be identical from time zone to time zone, language to language: carbon-copy refuges for unadventurous souls and stomachs.

I’m talking about our hard drives, our wired ways, “the cloud” and all of that. I’m talking about our unprecedented ability to tote around and dwell in a snugly tailored reality of our own creation, a monochromatic gallery of our own curation.

This coddling involves more than earphones, touch pads, palm-sized screens and gigabytes of memory. It’s a function of how so many of us use this technology and how we let it use us. We tune out by tucking ourselves into virtual enclaves in which our ingrained tastes are mirrored and our established opinions reflected back at us.

In theory the Internet, along with its kindred advances, should expand our horizons, speeding us to aesthetic and intellectual territories we haven’t charted before. Often it does.

But at our instigation and with our assent, it also herds us into tribes of common thought and shared temperament, amplifying the timeless human tropism toward cliques. Cyberspace, like suburbia, has gated communities.

Our Web bookmarks and our chosen social-media feeds help us retreat deeper into our partisan camps. (Cable-television news lends its own mighty hand.) “It’s the great irony of the Internet era: people have more access than ever to an array of viewpoints, but also the technological ability to screen out anything that doesn’t reinforce their views,” Jonathan Martin wrote in Politico last year, explaining how so many strategists and analysts on the right convinced themselves, in defiance of polls, that Mitt Romney was about to win the presidency.

But this sort of echo chamber also exists on cultural fronts, where we’re exhorted toward sameness and sorted into categories. The helpful video-store clerk or bookstore owner has been replaced, refined, automated: we now have Netflix suggestions for what we should watch next, based on what we’ve watched before, and we’re given Amazon prods for purchasing novels that have been shown to please readers just like us. We’re profiled, then clustered accordingly.

By joining particular threads on Facebook and Twitter, we can linger interminably on the one or two television shows that obsess us. Through music-streaming services and their formulas for our sweet spots, we meet new bands that might as well be reconfigurations of the old ones. Algorithms lead us to anagrams.

Read the entire article here.

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Places to Visit Before World’s End

In case you missed all the apocalyptic hoopla, the world is supposed to end today. Now, if you’re reading this, you obviously still have a little time, since the Mayans apparently did not specify a precise time for prophesied end. So, we highly recommend that you visit one or more of these beautiful places, immediately. Of course, if we’re all still here tomorrow, you will have some extra time to take in these breathtaking sights before the next planned doomsday.

Check out the top 100 places according to the Telegraph after the jump.

Image: Lapland for the northern lights. Courtesy of ALAMY / Telegraph.

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A Different Kind of Hotel

Bored of the annual family trip to Disneyland? Tired of staying in a suite hotel that still offers musak in the lobby, floral motifs on the walls, and ashtrays and saccharin packets next to the rickety minibar? Well, leaf through this list of 10 exotic and gorgeous hotels and start planning your next real escape today.

Wadi Rum Desert Lodge – The Valley of the Moon, Jordan.

From Flavorwire:

A Backward Glance, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton’s gem of an autobiography is highbrow beach reading at its very best. In the memoir, she recalls time spent with her bff traveling buddy, Henry James, and quotes his arcadian proclamation, “summer afternoon — summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” Maybe so in the less than industrious heyday of inherited wealth, but in today’s world where most people work all day for a living, those two words just don’t have the same appeal as our two favorite words: summer getaway.

Like everyone else in our overworked and overheated city, rest and relaxation are all we can think about — especially on a hot Friday afternoon like this. In considering options for our celebrated summer respite, we thought we’d take a virtual gander to check out alternatives to the usual Hamptons summer share. From a treehouse where sloths join you for morning coffee to a giant sandcastle, click through to see some of the most unusual summer getaway destinations in the world.

See more stunning hotels after the jump.

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The First Interplanetary Travel Reservations

From Wired:

Today, space travel is closer to reality for ordinary people than it has ever been. Though currently only the super rich are actually getting to space, several companies have more affordable commercial space tourism in their sights and at least one group is going the non-profit DIY route into space.

But more than a decade before it was even proven that man could reach space, average people were more positive about their own chances of escaping Earth’s atmosphere. This may have been partly thanks to the Interplanetary Tour Reservation desk at the American Museum of Natural History.

In 1950, to promote its new space exhibit, the AMNH had the brilliant idea to ask museum visitors to sign up to reserve their space on a future trip to the moon, Mars, Jupiter or Saturn. They advertised the opportunity in newspapers and magazines and received letters requesting reservations from around the world. The museum pledged to pass their list on to whichever entity headed to each destination first.

Today, to promote its newest space exhibit, “Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration,” the museum has published some of these requests. The letters manage to be interesting, hopeful, funny and poignant all at once. Some even included sketches of potential space capsules, rockets and spacesuits. The museum shared some of its favorites with Wired for this gallery.

Read the entire article here.

Image: Hayden Planetarium Space Tours Schedule. Courtesy of American Museum of Natural History / Wired.

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