If you’re into thinking about the scale of the universe and other cosmographic questions that overwhelm the senses, this video might just blow your mind.
The international team of scientists who put it together created a 3-D map of the galaxies within 300 million light-years of the Milky Way. They show scale and movement within this astronomical sphere by panning, zooming and rotating around, making it easy to forget that Earth is a tiny speck buried in the vastness of this representation of the cosmos.
“The large-scale structure of the universe is a complex web of clusters, filaments, and voids,” said the University of Hawaii announcement released with the video. “Large voids—relatively empty spaces—are bounded by filaments that form superclusters of galaxies, the largest structures in the universe. Our Milky Way galaxy lies in a supercluster of 100,000 galaxies.”
Top Image: Map showing all galaxies in the local universe color-coded by their distance to us: blue galaxies are the closest, and red are farther, up to 300 million light-years away. Courtesy University of Hawaii.
In the 2008 blockbuster film “The Dark Knight,” Batman taps into every phone in Gotham City and, like his namesake bats, uses sonar-like imaging to map the world from echoes he overhears. Now scientists have invented a real-world version of that technology, researching a way that might one day calculate the shapes of rooms by listening to the cell phones within them.
Animals like bats and dolphins—and even some blind people—navigate the world by listening to sounds reflected off their surroundings, a sensory technique called echolocation. Electrical engineer Ivan Dokmanic at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, and his colleagues have developed a computer algorithm that can generate a 3-D model of a simple room using four microphones that can pick up echoes from sounds such as finger snaps, literally making it a snap to map a room.
“If someone told me some years ago that you can grab a couple of microphones, put them in a room, snap your fingers and have your computer calculate the shape of the room from the echoes, I’d be surprised,” Dokmanic says. “We turn something that’s usually considered to be annoying and what people usually try to get rid of — the echoes — into something very useful.”