Stephen Hawking to give public talk Tuesday at Caltech

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Famed theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking will be at Caltech on Tuesday for a free public lecture.
From insights into the birth of the cosmos, the death of black holes, and even the future of the human race, Hawking’s contributions to science are innumerable.
His presentation in Beckman Auditorium will be designed for general audiences, providing a rare opportunity to see Hawking in person and to get a glimpse into the workings of a great contemporary mind.
There’s already a steady buzz building around the event, so here’s a helpful reminder: Get there early.
Tuesday, Jan. 18, at 8 p.m. at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium, 332 S. Michigan Ave., Pasadena. Free, no tickets or reservations required. Arrive early to ensure seating. events.caltech.edu
(Getty Images)

Visit the Planetary Society’s new Pasadena digs

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The Planetary Society will host an open house Thursday at its new headquarters on South Grand Avenue.
Free public tours will be given from 4 to 7 p.m., and visitors will also be able to meet Bill Nye, the society’s new executive director, and his predecessor Lou Friedman, who helped found the organization 25 years ago.
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“… There are two questions that trouble us all from the moment we can think: Where did we come from, and are we alone?” Nye says. “It is the answers to these two questions that is the pursuit of the Planetary Society.”
Learn more about the society’s most ambitious program yet, LightSail-1. Friedman is directing the solar-sail mission, which will use sunlight to propel a small spacecraft — one smaller than a shoebox — in Earth’s orbit. The second and third LightSail missions will reach even farther into space.
“The thing that inspires kids about space exploration — we want to make that inspire the public,” Friedman says.
Tomorrow, Aug. 5, 4-7 p.m., The Planetary Society, 85 S. Grand Ave., Pasadena, (626) 793-5100, planetary.org
(Photos by Walt Mancini / Staff)

Nose Diving: TastingRoom’s tiny wine bottles have big tech behind them

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In an operations center near the Sonoma County Airport, highly sensitive liquids are handled in a meticulous process that prevents their contamination.
Exacting scientific standards require the most unpolluted environment possible: a semiconductor clean room, devoid of oxygen, into which no human can enter. Materials arriving in and exiting the clean room do so through airlocks that preserve the zero-oxygen environment. The liquid is automatically measured and dispersed — gently and accurately, over and over — by some of the world’s smallest peristaltic pumps.
And all of this is done, essentially, to decant a bottle of wine. Or, rather, hundreds of thousands of them.
Welcome to the manufacturing pipeline of TastingRoom Inc., the innovators behind TastingRoom.com, which recently began shipping out to California consumers its taste-sized sample kits of wine from vineyards like Trefethen, Patz & Hall, Gundlach Bundschu, Talley, DeLoach and Grgich Hills.

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Curious worlds apart: Dual exhibits at Art Center’s Williamson Gallery in Pasadena

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The exhibitions are dual: One looking back at the fascinating domain of patent models in the 1800s, the other looking forward to the future of objects conceived on computers and sprouted up by machines. One revolution has already changed the world; the other soon will.
Image, at top: This printed rose began with a high-resolution scan of a real rose, and was then printed at Art Center on a 3D Systems’ V-Flash 3D Printer, in which a photo-polymer resin is cured by UV light, in micro-thin layers, each one four-thousandths of an inch thick. (Photo credit: Steven A. Heller / Art Center College of Design)

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Week in science: Oil spill threat spreads | James Cameron helping to bring 3-D to Mars | A monster jellyfish of the deep

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Image: Dr. Erica Miller, left, and Danene Birtell with Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research work Friday to help a Northern Gannet bird, normally white when full grown, which is covered in oil from a massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico, at a facility in Fort Jackson, La. (AP Image)

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    The still-spreading Gult Coast oil spill is threatening to become a full-fledged environmental disaster that may eclipse Exxon Valdez in cost and impact. [WaPo]

    • Today, the Obama administration put pressure on BP America to do more to stop the leak and clean up its aftermath. [NYT]
      • Experts and volunteers are scrambling to aid the wildlife affected by the spill. [Discovery News]

        Image: This satellite photo provided by NASA shows the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico as it closes in on the Pass a Loutre area of Plaquemines Parish, La. (NASA photo)

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        Week in science: Donner Party cannibalism in question | JPL satellites eye Iceland volcano chain | Striking images from Saturn


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        >>THINK 
        • A bone to pick: Was the Donner Party’s legendary cannibalism just a myth? A new study of the bones found at the Donner’s campsite in California’s Sierra Nevadas suggests the snowbound pioneers may not have eaten each other after all. [DISCOVERY NEWS]
        Image: James F. Reed and his wife, Margret W. Keyes Reed, seen in this file photo taken in the 1850s, were survivors of the tragic Donner Party. (AP Photo)

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        The week in science: Space station rendezvous, a WISE-eyed beauty and bullets of sound


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        >>THINK 
        • Space shuttle Discovery docked at the International Space Station early Wednesday, after a rare antenna breakdown that knocked out radar tracking. Today, a pair of astronauts completed a spacewalk to disconnect an old, empty ammonia tank outside the station, and they prepared a new one to replace it. [Star-News]


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        Women in space: Two astronauts have ties to Pasadena area

        >>INSIDER 
        There are a record-setting four women currently in space — two of them with ties to the Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley area — and we wanted to know more about these trailblazing astronauts.

        As the Associated Press reported, Tracy Caldwell Dyson, a native of Arcadia, was aboard a Russian rocket last week when it blasted off with two Russian cosmonauts en route to the International Space Station.


        And Stephanie D. Wilson, formerly of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Caada Flintridge, was aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery as it launched on Monday.

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        That’s genius: ‘E.T., e-mail home’ and other adventures in deep-space Internet with JPL’s Scott Burleigh

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        >>THINK

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        Scott Burleigh of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is one among a consortium of scientists and computer programmers working to turn interplanetary Internet from science fiction to reality.

        The deep-space Internet, which had to be specially designed to withstand the tumult of extraterrestrial existence, has already been tested by NASA and may be up and running for practical use on real missions in the blink of a Space Eye.

        The new networking protocols that make up this Internet are delay-tolerant, so as to protect and pass on data even amid the regular transmission glitches that happen, for example, when a spacecraft moves behind a celestial body or a solar storm flares up.

        The interplanetary Internet even has potential terrestrial applications that could benefit life here on Earth. Read more about them — and Burleigh — in Rose Magazine, below.

        At top, an artist’s concept of interplanetary internet, courtesy of NASA/JPL. Portrait by Walt Mancini/Staff.