Strange Days In Science #10: Augmented Reality & Blue Skies On Pluto

By on October 18, 2015 // Science // 3 Comments


Is it weekly? Is it bi-monthly? There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to Strange Days In Science. Don’t worry, though: I’ve got some weird and amazing science news for you this week. Check it out…

Disney Gets Creative in VR

We’ve already seen one example of how virtual reality will change art. Now, Disney Research has given us another: coloring books that come to life in three dimensions.

“Coloring books capture the imagination of children and provide them with one of their earliest opportunities for creative expression. However, given the proliferation and popularity of digital devices, real-world activities like coloring can seem unexciting, and children become less engaged in them.

Augmented reality holds unique potential to impact this situation by providing a bridge between real-world activities and digital enhancements.” – Live Texturing of Augmented Reality Characters from Colored Drawings

They also performed a user study on the app, which showed that using augmented reality with coloring books both improves participants’ connections to the characters and motivates them to draw more. Now give me my VR helmet.

The Blue Skies of Pluto



NASA released the above image earlier this month, showcasing Pluto’s blue “atmospheric hazes.” It’s one of the first color images of the phenomenon, and was captured by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC).

According to researcher Carly Howett, “That striking blue tint tells us about the size and composition of the haze particles. A blue sky often results from scattering of sunlight by very small particles. On Earth, those particles are very tiny nitrogen molecules. On Pluto they appear to be larger — but still relatively small — soot-like particles we call tholins.”

New Horizons also detected “exposed regions of water ice.”

A…rat brain simulation?

Scientists have successfully created a “digital reconstruction” of part of a rat brain, simulating 30,000 neurons. Real rats have about 200 million. Here’s a video about the research.

Scientists measure world’s smallest “free-living” insect

It’s a beetle called Scydosella musawasensis. Scientists have been aware of the insect since 1999, but only recently had the opportunity to precisely measure it. Using specialized software and equipment, the smallest beetle was found to be a minuscule 0.325 mm.

Wanna take a ride? To Mars?

NASA is planning to establish “Earth independent” Mars colonies by the 2030s. “Living and working in space require accepting risk and the journey is worth the risk,” says their report Journey To Mars (PDF). Will we make it? I’d like to think so.

Other Stuff You May Have Missed

It’s been a hectic month. Like Stranger Dimensions on Facebook, if you’re into that sort of thing, or follow me on Twitter. Also subscribe to Stranger Dimensions by email (don’t forget to verify), and check out these links and more with the Strange Days In Science Flipboard Magazine. Thanks for reading!

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About the Author

Rob Schwarz is a writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. He manages Stranger Dimensions in between changing aquarium filters and reading bad novels about mermaids.