The 'Fish Out of Water' Blog

written by Tom Edathikunnel

New Triple Pulsar System Adds New Focus to the Theory of Relativity

Triple Pulsar System

Triple Pulsar System

As humanity stands on the everlasting threshold of discovery, we consistently look back on the accomplishments of the past to form a keener eye for the future. One of the most groundbreaking and revolutionary theories in physics and astronomy ­was The Theory of General Relativity founded by German scientist Albert Einstein.  Many believe that Einstein’s theories are irrefutable, which only add to his unprecedented genius. However new exploration into the depths of the universe may challenge that theory unlike anything ever before witnessed.

Astronomers have found a new system with a powerful cosmic beacon, known as a pulsar, in orbit with not one, but two dwarf stars. This triple celestial system has raised new questions on Einstein’s theory, challenging what many believe to the foundation of modern astrophysics.

A pulsar consists of a neutron star, the leftover core of a massive star that has exploded in a supernova reaction. The gravity of this core squeezes its mass so intensely that the atomic nuclie join into a single sphere. This spinning sphere of neutrons emits powerful beams of radio waves in a measurable and consistent rhythm. This consistency makes it possible for scientists to determine whether a pulsar is in orbit with another object. As a pulsar and its companion orbit each other the distance between the pulsar and the Earth varies slightly, making measureable differences in the waves approach to Earth.

The distinct triple system opens new questions about the equivalence principle, which relates two different conceptions of mass. An object’s inertial mass quantifies how it resists the pushing and pulling of forces. Less inertial mass means less energy is required to set that object in motion. Gravitational mass determines the effects of gravitation pull on an object. A heavier object has more gravitational mass.

Simply put, the equivalence principle says inertial mass and gravitational mass are equal. This explains why objects fall to Earth at the same rate regardless of mass.  This new pulsar system opens the way to a much more interesting assessment. The “self-gravitation” of the new pulsar system accounts for a mere 10% of its entire system mass. At the same time, both move in the gravitational field of the outer orbiting star.  The purposed Strong Equivalence Principle takes this equation one step further. According to the Theory of Relativity, E = mc2 , energy equals mass. So an objects system’s mass can be generated by the sum of the energy in the gravitational fields within the system.Einstein never accounted for the “self gravitation” and thus adding a new complexity to the theory.

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NASA’s Curiosity Rover Determines Martian Radiation

Goddard- Mars

NASA’s Martian probe Curiosity has recently made detailed measurements of the absorbed dose and dose equivalent of cosmic rays and solar energy particles on the surface of Mars. Using the Radiation Assessment Detector, or RAD, aboard the rover, scientists now have a more detailed glimpse into the atmospheric and cosmic climate of Mars.

First published in November’s issue of Science, these measurements provide valuable assessment information for future manned missions to Mars. By monitoring the radiation and effects of solar storms on the Martian surface, scientists can determine if conditions are pragmatic for a human mission.

“Our measurements also tie into Curiosity’s investigations about habitability. The radiation sources that are of a concern for human health also affect microbial survival as well as the preservation of organic chemicals.” Stated Dr. Don Hasslar of Southwest Research Institute.

Mars-RadiationFindings show two forms of potentially harmful radiation. One is a chronic low dose of galactic cosmic rays and the other is short-term exposure of solar energetic particles, which are produced from solar flares.

Radiation on the Martian surface is much harsher than on Earth. Mars lacks a global magnetic field, which acts as a natural shield against solar radiation. Additionally the atmosphere on Mars is much thinner, providing little shielding to the surface.

The radioactive particles can penetrate Martian soil and mix with the regolith, the powdery rock on the surface, which is the main contributor to the complex radiation environment on the Martian surface.

Long-term exposure to radiation can prove harmful and even deadly.  A 500-day mission on the surface would bring the total radiation exposure to around 1 Sieverts.  Exposure to a dose of 1Sv is associated with a five percent increase in fatal cancer risk.

These findings bring new questions about radiation exposure in deep space as well as possible remedies and technologies to curb its effects. Curiosity’s discoveries yield new light on the possibility of Martian life and conditions. With findings of an ancient fresh water lake earlier this month, the possibility of solid evidence of life and a manned mission to Mars seem to be just as indeterminate and exciting as ever.

Hubble’s Reveals Latest Nebula Capture of Nebula ‘RS Puppis’

NASA has just released a fascinating collection of data that visually represents the reflective nebula around the Cepheid variable RS Puppis. The oddly named nebula has been monitored from some time and has regular 41.4-day pulsation cycles. Each time RS Puppis reaches its maximum brightness, it pushes another wave of illumination into the surrounding dust cloud.

RS Puppis Light Echo

With such rhythmic pulsations, a pattern of an expanding bulls-eye has appeared around the star, similar to the outward rippling of a pond from strikes on the water’s surface

The images, taken with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys in a visual filter, began on March 2010 and stretched until April 29, 2010. Each individual image is over a 23-minute exposure frame.

RS Puppis Light Echo II

China Lands First Probe on Moon’s Surface

China's Lunar RoverAccording to Nasaspaceflight, China’s Chang’e-3 and the lunar rover Yutu, also known as Jade Rabbit, have landed on the lunar surface at approximately 8:11 EST.  Launched on December 1st, these rovers followed a normal flight plan and are now China’s first soft landing on the Moon.

Yutu is equipped with a solar panel which will power the rover during the three-month mission. Yutu will explore a three square kilometer area (roughly 7.7 miles) from the landing point. The rover is capable of real time video transmission and is equipped with a number of instruments for soil sampling and testing.

The details of the launch and landing aside, this marks a big step for China as well as space exploration as a whole.  The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) launched by India earlier this year, as well as the recent findings by NASA’s Curiosity Rover, have ignited newfound interest in the unknown realms of outer space.

China's Lunar Rover 2China’s robotic foot on the moon symbolizes two things. The first is that they are truly an advancing country and with the smog and air pollution issue aside, seem to be funding money into tangible technology for the future. This also demonstrates their power to organize and fund complex missions, which means that it will not be long before they set their eyes on larger and more daring exploratory endeavors.

This pressure may be a much-needed incentive for the United State’s Space Program. Mining projects, colonies, and other theoretical missions have been conjured since the early era of the Space Race, but until now have remained too expensive and risky for implementing.  Perhaps a rivalry with China or India may change that.

I see these findings as a progressive step towards more funding and more advancement in space exploration worldwide, but specifically within the United States.  Perhaps more manned mission to the moon or even to Mars may be in the future, especially with countries beginning to trek into space. Recent reports of Europa’s seismic activity have also garnered attention and I remain eager to see what new missions and finding lay in the future.

Album Review: Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson Lake and Palmer

brain-salad-surgery-4eda0a1d5452c

Upon first hearing Brain Salad Surgery I was rather put off by the album, and must confess, I tossed it aside for several months. At the time I was not clever enough to see the full concept of the album, and much like critics during the albums release, dismissed it far too quickly. What may strike listeners first is the dominated use of keyboard synth, which gives the album a very biting sound. The higher electronic tones were the main reason why I disliked the album upon first hearing it, as it deviated from the previous albums. When I finally listened to it in its entirety it was truly unlike anything I had ever heard before, and found myself wanting to listen to it more and more.

Brain Salad Surgery displays the exceptional musical talent of all three members. The band, consisting of Keith Emerson on keyboards, Greg Lake on bass and vocals, and Carl Palmer on drums, delivers an extremely complex album, which is particularly why I believe it has withstood the test of time so well. In addition the goal of this album was to perform the entire thing live on stage, which only further underlines the bands amazing talent. The album’s A-side consists of the bands interpretation of the Hubert Parry hymn ‘Jerusalem’, as well as a few shorter interpretations like ‘Toccata’ and ‘Benny The Bouncer’.

The main bulk of the album is the 30 minutes composition entitled ‘Karn Evil 9′. Broken into three impressions, sweeping over the remaining half of the A-side and the entire B-side of the album. The most well known section is from the first impression, “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends…” which I often hear at sporting events. The concept of the ‘Karn Evil 9′ is a futuristic “carn-ival” where machines showcase human acts and accoutrements. As the story unfolds, a human rebellion takes place and concludes with a climatic showdown between humans and computers, where the fate of man is left purposely unclear.

The most unique and distinctive feature of the album may be the artwork. In the original LP release, the front cover is split in half down the center, with the exception of a circular section. The two halves reveal a painting by H. R. Giger.

giger_works

Overall it may seem contrived to write a review for such an old album. Although the progressive waves of music are always moving forward, I believe that there is great wealth and inspiration in the music of the past. Brain Salad Surgery is a unique album that provides a fusion of electronic roots and incredibly complex jazz and rock elements, and will still maintain its longevity long into the future.

Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson Lake & Palmer
Keith Emerson: Organs, Piano, Harpsichord, Custom built Moog Synthesizers & Moog Polyphonic Ensemble
Greg Lake: Bass and Vocals
Carl Palmer: Percussion and Percussion Synthesizers

Images:
Brain Salad Surgery LP Cover and Interior designed by H.R. Giger.

Album Review: Tormato by Yes

Listening to this album retrospectively, I am given the opportunity to see the progression of Yes as well as where this album fits into their creative scheme. It is said by the members themselves that Tormato was a scattered and rushed effort, effectively giving them their least favorite album to date. However I personally enjoy this album and find it unique for its unparalleled instrumentals and lyrical creativity. Honestly I was set on reviewing another album this week, but I could not stop listening to the A-side of Tormato.

Primary it contains some very complex and interesting arrangements and instrumentals. The original lineup is present once again, featuring Anderson, Wakeman, White, Squire, and Howe. The album has a more synth overtone but I think it gives the album more style than limitation. Many may argue pieces like ‘Future Times’ and ‘Release, Release’ are dated, but I find them still very enjoyable and quite fascinating. Anderson’s lyrics still prove to be entertaining and just as mystical, Wakeman’s keyboards provide a dynamic and stunning display and Squire and Howe’s interweaving work simply astounds me and White really shines with his drum solos.

The B-side of album offers a more diverse mix of songs. ‘Arriving UFO’ and ‘Circus of Heaven’ are humorous pieces and although still very good, lack the dynamic energy I look for in Yes. ‘Onward’ is a rare slow song by the band and offer some really insightful and beautiful lyrics. It is one of the handful of songs written by Squire, which I really enjoy and tend to gravitate towards.

The album art is another departure from the cosmic landscapes of Roger Dean, and is done by Hipgnosis. Although I see why, upon it’s release it was initially dismissed, I think Tormato provides a sweeping display of Yes’s many talents, both as a solid union of musicians, and as individual talents.

Tormato by Yes
Jon Anderson: Vocal
Steve Howe: Guitar and Vocals
Chris Squire: Bass and Vocals
Rick Wakeman: Polymoog and Keyboards
Alan White: Percussion

Images:
Tormato LP Cover designed by Hypnosis.

Album Review: 2112 by Rush

2112 is one of the most musically creative and impressive progressive rock albums I have ever heard. Rush’s musical ability is only trumped by their longevity, as this album stills to this day delivers a fusion of stunning musicianship and thought-provoking lyrical content.

The A side of the album contains the song ‘2112’, a sweeping piece that runs over twenty minutes. Based on the novella Anthem by Ayn Rand, ‘2112’ tells the story of a dystopian future in which all forms of media, books, and music are controlled and regulated by the malevolent “Priests of the Red Star Federation” from the “Temple of Syrinx”. The protagonist of the story stumbles upon a guitar, an item completely new to him, and realizes his ability to create, think, and explore. As he tries to presents his gift before the priests they reject it as a waste of time, and destroy the guitar in attempts to continue to pacify the population. In the wake of the destruction, the protagonist is greeted by an oracle who shows him the true potential of man, and the creative force mankind possesses by conjuring images of cities, paintings, and sculptures. Stricken by grief and loss, the protagonist decides that life is not worth living under the rule of the Federation, and takes his own life.

Rush’s sweeping story is only amplified by the incredible music. This album is rather early on in their decade spanning career, but it still displays spectacular talent and vision. Part I- The Overture begins with the iconic whoosh of intergalactic synth and the entire piece progresses into the multiple acts of the story, concluding with part VII- The Grand Finale, which in my opinion is one of the best displays of Rush’s talent. The sheer epic feel of the conclusion always leaves me with an overwhelming sense of awe.

Side B contains five non-sequential songs, which are often overlooked when compared to the density of Side A. These songs still remain quite fresh and each display the dynamic talent of each member. One of the favorites is ‘Something for Nothing’, Neil Peart’s lyrics truly inspire me, and the guitar work of Alex Lifeson and bass playing of Geddy Lee are simply astounding.

The cover art is simple, and shows the bands name along with the title of the album. The gatefold contains the lyrics as well as the now iconic ‘Starman’, which has become a symbol of band since its release. 2112 is a fantastic album, challenging the audience to think, listen, and question. If you have never heard this album before, I highly recommend it, and for those who have, it is time to listen to it again.

2112 by Rush
Alex Lifeson: Guitars
Neil Peart: Percussion
Geddy Lee: Bass and Vocals

Images:
2112 cover and interior gatefold design by Hugh Syme

Yes at the Theatre at Westbury

This was my first Yes concert, and I can quite honestly say it was one of the best concert experiences of my life. I have never been more impressed with a live performance than I have with Yes’s powerful concert at the Westbury Theater in New York. The band has been touring for over forty years, and has only improved with time, fine tuning their stage presence and musicianship.

Before Yes’s set began, the crowd was treated to Procol Harum, an interesting band that has also stood the test of time and continues to tour and perform. It was a rare treat to see both these influential bands perform in one night, and I hope this trend of older progressive rock bands sharing a stage continues.

Yes’s set list did not disappoint and seemed to be aimed for the loyal long time fan, versus the causal listener. The band performed a sweeping array of songs, with a direct focus on older material, particularly from ‘The Yes Album’. Steve Howe’s performance of The Clap, was phenomenal, and I could easily imagine him on stage 30 years ago, performing it for the first time. Another fantastic surprise was seeing the band performance of America, a rendition of a Paul Simon song, which was first featured on the 1975 compilation album ‘Yesterdays’. The song was spectacularly performed and I was stunned to see how well each band member performed both as an individual and together. The band went on to perform Fly From Here in its entirety, which provided a nice balance of both contemporary and classic Yes. I must admit that I was quite dismissive of the album when it was first released since Jon Anderson was not a part of it, but I thoroughly enjoyed the song live, and am curious to re-listen to the album.

What really solidified this to me as one of the best concerts of all time was watching the group’s performance of ‘Awakening’, which to me possesses everything impressive about Yes as a band. I was genuinely moved by the performance and was floored watching all the band members, particularly Chris Squire, who played a triple neck, double bass/ 6 string guitar. The band’s replacement singer, Jon Davidson, did a great job carrying on Jon Anderson’s lyrics and style. Geoff Downes was exceptional on the keys, providing a unique and equally skillful performance of Rick Wakeman’s impressive organ solo.

The band concluded the night with an encore performance of ‘Roundabout’, a hardedge track that still holds enchantment to this day. Overall I was overwhelmed with the skill and presence of Yes, and although this was only my first Yes concert, it will certainly not be the last.

Images:
Fly From Here by Roger Dean

Album Review: L.A. Woman by The Doors

L.A. Woman is the sixth and final studio album by The Doors, and is the last recorded album with vocalist Jim Morrison, who died shortly after the release of the album in 1971. What makes this album unique compared to the previous works of The Doors, is the incorporation of  studio bassist Jerry Scheff and rhythm guitarist Marc Benno. The addition of these two musicians, compared to the normally 4 person line-up gives this album a much more unique depth of sound and style, creating a very blues album with the classic rock dexterity.

What predominately  interests me about this album is the fusion of deep blues rhythm and hard rock melodies. Songs such as ‘Love Her Madly’ and ‘L.A. Woman’ still stand the test of time compared to contemporary rock songs, and are radio hallmarks. to this day. In pervious albums The Doors did not feature a proper bass line, and keyboardist Ray Manzerek and drummer John Densmore led the band’s rhythm. With the inclusion of a bassist, the rhythm of the entire album stays consistently engaging, providing a rich depth of sound with the familiar Doors style.

Morrison’s lyrics remain cryptic and mystically poetic as ever throughout the entire album. Songs like ‘The WASP’ and ‘L’America’ always challenge me to listen closer and to question perception. These accents and tweaks to The Doors already signature style culminates to, what is in my opinion their greatest song, ‘Riders on the Storm’. The simple blues bass line really stands out, but is further complimented by the smooth lead guitar work of Robbie Krieger and the impressive electric organ work of Manzerek. What is really great about this song is the impressive breakdown in the middle, which features some interesting instrumental movements that completely remain unique to The Doors. Although this album may not contain the chart toppers of their previous works, such as ‘Break on Through’ from the eponymous 1966 debut album, I still consider L.A. Woman to be The Doors creative masterwork.

L.A. Woman by The Doors
Jim Morrison: Vocals
Robbie Krieger: Guitar
Ray Manzarek: Piano and Organ
John Densmore: Drums
Jerry Scheff: Bass
Marc Benno: Rhythem Guitar

Images:
Album concept/design: Carl Cossick

Album Review: Led Zeppelin II by Led Zeppelin

Right from the start Led Zeppelin II delivers a heavy and unique sound that captivates listeners. Personally this is my favorite Led Zeppelin album comparable only to 1973’s Houses of the Holy and 1971’s Led Zeppelin IV, in terms of innovative content and style. The first thing I noticed was the interesting album artwork which gives a bit more direction to the band’s image, compared to their debut album which featured the Hindenburg in flames. According to The Complete Guide to Led Zeppelin by Dave Lewis, the cover was designed by David Juniper and is based on a photograph of the Jasta 11 Division of the German Air Force in World War I. The interior gatefold (below) contains a gold blimp atop an Olympian building, with sparkling floodlights and four pedestals with the names of the band members and a track listing.

The music on this album is the epitome of the now ‘classic’ Led Zeppelin sound and contains some of the bands best-known work, with both subtle and obvious sexual references. Side One contains the band’s first single from the album ‘Whole Lotta Love’ as well as ‘What Is And What Should Never Be’, ‘The Lemon Song’, and ‘Thank You’. Side Two contains ‘Heartbreaker’, ‘Living Loving Maid’, ‘Ramble On’, ‘Moby Dick’, and ‘And Bring It Home’.

Although this album is a heavier departure from the band’s first album, it was actually recorded in the same year, amid a rigorous touring schedule, which only further impresses the evolution of style and creativity. I believe Side Two of this album is where Led Zeppelin came together and produced some of their most interesting, and innovative music. ‘Heartbreaker’ is one of the most noteworthy songs, and displays Jimmy Page’s amazing guitar ability as well as sets the stage of more involved and progressive pieces like ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and ‘Achilles Last Stand’. ‘Ramble On’ still holds up compared to contemporary rock songs, and its references to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings displays Robert Plants mystical and lyrical influences. One of my all time favorite songs is ‘Moby Dick’ which is a 4-minute instrumental piece with John Bonham’s drum work laying an intricate and spectacularly skillful foundation. The final song ‘Bring It On Home’ still has blues and folk elements but ties it all together with heavy rock style, now a trademark among Led Zeppelin songs.

Overall I believe this album is fantastic and a fundamental influence on modern rock and heavy metal. The drumming style and energy of John Bonham has clear influences on other acclaimed drummers such as Neil Peart of Rush, Carl Palmer, and Dave Grohl. Jimmy Page’s guitar work on ‘Heartbreaker’ and ‘The Lemon Song’ laid the foundation for modern guitar solos, riffs, and “shedders”, and as modern rock continues to expand and explore, the inspiration and legacy of Led Zeppelin will only grow brighter and further engrained with time.

Led Zeppelin II by Led Zeppelin

Jimmy Page: Electric and Acoustic Guitar
Robert Plant: Lead Vocals, Harmonica
John Bonham: Drums, Percussion
John Paul Jones: Bass Guitar, Organ

Images:
Led Zeppelin II Album Artwork: David Juniper
Interior Sleeve Design: David Juniper