Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Big Picture: Enceladus

The Boston Globe's Big Picture is spectacular this week, featuring Saturn's Moon
Ecneladus as seen by the Cassini spacecraft. Here is my favorite.

Okay, there are actually three objects in this picture. First you will notice an edge on view
of Saturn's rings. The big dark circle with a ring of light is Saturn's largest moon, Titan.
Titan has a thick atmosphere that scatters sunlight making that distinctive ring. Then you
will see the small dark moon Enceladus about 2 O'clock on the ring of light around Titan.
Since we see the Sun eclipsed, we are looking at the night side of both of the Moons.

Be sure to check out the entire collection of pictures.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Have a Frankenbeer for Long Life

We have a thing about those French, right? They eat lousy diets but are healthier than we are. One idea about why is because they drink a lot of wine that is high in resveratrol. The University of Wisconsin recently published a study on the effects of resveratrol.

Well, we Americans don't want to drink no stinkin' wine...we are beer drinkers! So a group of students at Rice University set about finding a solution: a genetically modified strain of yeast that will produce resveratrol! Unfortunately, these are geeky students, not beer brewers and their first batch reportedly wasn't exactly a fine beer. But they are turning to Saint Arnold Brewing Company to get it right.

Soon we too will be able to eat poorly, drink beer, and still live a long, healthy life thanks to the geeks!

Oh, and that is another bottle of geeky beer: Galileo's Ale that was introduces at last summer's American Astronomical Society meeting.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophyscist Blog.

"Don't expect as much snow this year"

The crystal ball gazers at the National Weather Service in Sullivan, Wisconsin are predicting weather months into the future again: Never mind that they cannot accurately predict tomorrow's weather.

After years of working in landscape, I came to trust NWS predictions about as much as I do Madame Zoltar's. In fact, I trust hers more. Yeah, this is one of my pet peeves, a taxpayer funded service that makes useless pronouncements about the future. I remember the "major winter storm" that NWS said was going to hit us a few years back. Their hyperbole reached fever pitch as the system approached. Death and devastation were inevitable. Racine Unified cancelled school. Businesses closed. Everyone hunkered down. And then . . . , nothing. not even a snowflake. Oops, my bad, said the NWS, and then geared up for their next big scare.

Don't get me wrong, I am in favor of a government weather service. The Sullivan NWS forecast for Racine is still my homepage. But ask anyone who works outdoors and they'll tell you that the NWS is more interested in sensationalism and dramatics than they are in accurately predicting the weather. I consider their forecasts to be guidelines for the next 12-24 hours, at best. If my gut tells me differently, I trust that because it has proven to be much more accurate than anything the NWS says.

I know that people consult farmers' almanacs and other sources for predictions about upcoming seasons. Fine. We all want to know what's coming. I mean, just think back to last fall and all those dire predictions from the NWS about the killer winter that was about to blanket us. Remember how they told us that we were going to have a record year for snowfall? Remember how they advised local communities to stock up on salt and snow removal supplies? Remember how well prepared we were for the events of last winter thanks to the predictions of the National Weather Service? Remember? No? Gee, neither do I . . .

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday's nights Lost Video Part III

You want the best... you got the best ..... (punk band in the world that is) The Clash with London calling. RIP Joe Strummer.

Friday'sLost Video Part II

Ok, follow me on this one....

The Foo Fighters are Dave Grohl's post Nirvana music avenue, which for the first album was just Dave playing all instruments and singing. The songs were ones he wrote while a member of Nirvana, but never showed them to Kurt Cobain because he didn't think they were good enough. He decided that a whole band was needed to tour, so the Foo's became a four man outfit, and a second album was done (and many more since). This song is called "My Poor Brain" and is my fav from the 2nd album "The Color and the Shape"(1997). Im also addicted to the bridge riff on this song!!!

Now about this song was not played in concert alot, and some English Foo fans went to 6 concerts to get Dave to play this song. From a poster called Emily:

I went to see the Foo Fighters on their UK tour, i went to these dates:


At each show we held up signs saying "My Poor Brain", and nearly every show Dave said no way. On the Saturday at London he said "I'll play it tomorrow! ok? i will!" then it came to Sunday and he kept his word and played it second to last :)
Props to all the Foo Fighters Postboard people, you made this tour one hell of a laugh!!

Now this vid is a cross between the live intro from the London concert, merged to the album version of the song and concert footage. Please enjoy! (Sorry about a couple of "F" bombs)

Friday's Lost Video Part 1

Alice in Chains formed in Seattle, Washington in 1987 by guitarist Jerry Cantrell and vocalist Layne Staley. Although widely associated with grunge music, the band's sound incorporates heavy metal and acoustic elements. The band is known for its distinct vocal style which often includes the harmonized vocals of Staley and Cantrell.

Alice in Chains rose to international fame as part of the grunge movement of the early 1990s, along with bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden.
Although never officially disbanding, Alice in Chains was plagued by extended inactivity due to Layne Staley's problems with substance abuse, culminating in his death in 2002. "No Excuses" is in my opinion one of their best songs. Please enjoy.

Video That SHould Have Stayed Lost..

Sarah Palin is well known for saying she can see Russia from Alaska (even though she has never been to that part of Alaska as far as anyone can tell). However, that also means you can see Alaska from Russia...and they like what they see!

"The Stink in Farts Controls Blood Pressure"

"A smelly rotten-egg gas in farts controls blood pressure in mice, a new study finds.

"The unpleasant aroma of the gas, called hydrogen sulfide (H2S), can be a little too familiar, as it is expelled by bacteria living in the human colon and eventually makes its way, well, out.

"The new research found that cells lining mice's blood vessels naturally make the gas and this action can help keep the rodents' blood pressure low by relaxing the blood vessels to prevent hypertension (high blood pressure). This gas is 'no doubt' produced in cells lining human blood vessels too, the researchers said."

I know that this may not be the most pleasant subject for posting, but I consider it part of my duty as a responsible blogger to keep everyone updated on advances in medical science.

I also wanted to show my ex-wife that I wasn't lying when I said that I had to pass gas or I would explode. Now I know why I developed high blood pressure after all those years of trying to stifle nature's release valve.

YEAH!! It's Friday, if you're not on the bus yet, get in!

I guess we're somewhere in California, darn auto pilot!
We're heading to Florida next if I can get this thing turned around...
Pool party at Beejays!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What Will Happen at Midnight Tonight?

While having another useless conversation with a couple of friends of mine, we pondered the following question: What will happen at midnight tonight? There are two correct answers; 1) Today will come to an end 2) and so will tomorrow. If tomorrow continued past midnight, it will be today. And if tomorrow did continue past midnight, it would be the tomorrow today that we talked about yesterday. Makes sense don't it?
And that's another thing. If you replace the "b" in "bone", with a "d", why is it done?

Captain Kirk to Lieutenant Sulu: Plot a Course for the Planet of Bitter Recriminations

Set your phasers on stun and then shoot yourself in the mouth.

States target sex offenders before Halloween

There's an AP story here about how various states have laws governing the activities of registered sex offenders on Halloween. Most of them specify that sex offenders can't have contact with children or Halloween activities, cannot dispense candy, etc. The ACLU is fighting the laws in one area.

I never thought about it before, I mean, specifically prohibiting sex offenders from participating in a holiday that revolves around children. Sounds like a good idea to me, but I know that the "rights" of sex offenders is also an issue.

Truth is, I have no idea what we should do with "those people." I know an individual who committed a horrible sex crime against a two year old. He was tried, convicted, served time in prison, and his parole included sex offender counseling and classes. As far as I know, he has not committed another such crime. I also felt that he never fully accepted responsibility for his original crime because he always said that he was out of his mind drunk when he did it, and it would never have happened had he been sober. I've pointed out numerous times that I'm an alcoholic, yet never once in my deepest drunkenness did I ever even consider committing a sex crime. I think that's something that's inside of you whether you're drunk or not, sane or not.

I don't know what the solution is. Do you?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Free Taco Courtesy Jason Bartlett!

Taco Bell was having a promotion where everyone gets a free taco if there was a stolen base in the World Series game tonight. Bottom of the 5th, Jason Bartlett of the Rays just cashed it in for us.

Get your taco next Tuesday, October 28th, between 2pm and 6pm local time.

With two teams known for good baserunning, that was a sucker's bet on their part.

The Despair of Blogging

The above image comes from a killer website called If you are feeling uplifted and happy from all the motivational posters around your office, their collection of Demotivators is the cure.

Take your 12 favorites and make a custom calendar for next year...I guarantee your boss will love it!

I WILL NOT complain about my job, EVER AGAIN!!

That was the title of an email I received that contained this picture:

But the email didn't say what the job is. Veterinary constipation consultant? Maybe that's how you do a colonoscopy on an elephant? I hope that's an air line going in there with him. Then again, maybe he's not going in, maybe he's being pushed out? Or is this how you assist an elephant in labor? The mind reels . . .

Dear Madame Zoltar

Hello my sweeties! How are you? It has been a grueling week in the psychic business, what with the upcoming election, the economy, and all. The one thing I can tell you for certain about current events is that nothing is certain.

Our first email today comes from Lizardmom, who writes:

This question has plagued me for some time now. Hubby says that water and/or rain are bad for leather. Why do cows not seem bothered then as well?? They don't shrink, crack or anything that seems to be worrisome once it's a jacket, but yet wasn't an issue as a full body suit...

Dear Ms. Lizardmom,

Cows are evil creatures, as attested to by this photograph:

They do things like that just to bother us. Like the milk thing. As long as milk is inside a cow, it doesn’t matter how hot it gets. But once it’s been dispensed for human consumption, watch out. It has to be separated, refrigerated, pasteurized, homogenized, neuralized, bacteriostaticized, and on and on. On no, dear, never trust those of a bovine nature. Nor the porcine.

Our next query comes from logjam, who writes:

Dearest Madam,

Is it true that the ransom for Orbs will eventually end up being a $50 gift card and 1,000 skymiles?

Your vision into the vast bunion is appreciated.

Dear Mr. logjam,

Thank you for your appreciation. I am always willing to help my fellow human beings in their quest for knowledge.

I do not know nor do I care about any supposed ransom for that reprobate, OrbsCorbs. He does not exist in my world. Unfortunately, he appears to exist in yours. You have my sympathy.

Here’s a couple of early Halloween treats for you all.

The first is the Past Life Generator. Click on the mirror to discover who you were in a previous incarnation.

The second is Predictions from the Past. That’s self-explanatory.

Ta-ta, children! Don’t forget to email me your questions and comments, hopes and dreams, plots and schemes: Have a wonderful week.

Auf Wiedersehen!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

India's First Lunar Mission

India launched its first lunar mission today, Chandrayaan-1 (which means "Moon craft" in Sanskrit, and I am not going to write that again for fear of misspelling). This mission will map almost the entire lunar surface with a resolution of about 5 meters and keep up the search for water in the polar regions. A 5 meter resolution is pretty could see a house, but not something the size of a person. (The U.S. will launch the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter next year which will have much higher resolution but will not be able to image the entire surface of the Moon so these two missions complement each other nicely).

Congratulations to India...and best of luck in the futrue. They are planning a lander/rover mission for 2011!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Welcome JTI Bus Tour To Kitt Peak!

I would like to welcome you all to Kitt Peak National Observatory! I know it has been a long bus trip from Racine. Let me show you around a little bit.

Our first stop will be the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope. It is that weird looking thing that is described as a sideways 7. It is the world's largest solar telescope. The tunnel is 500 feet only see 200 feet of that above ground, so most of that thing is below ground! Let's go inside.

Sorry about the glare. It's a little bright in here when they are observing. You can see the main mirror way down there at the bottom. A mirror at the top (called a heliostat) bounces light down the tube to the mirror. The mirror then focuses the light. A third small mirror bounces it down to the observing room. Speaking of the observing room...

There is Claude, an observer at the solar telescope. He has set up the telescope to project an image of the Sun onto a table. The image is about 80cm across. You can see sunspots on this or direct the Sun into different instruments, such as spectrographs, to record the data.

Let's go to another telescope. This is the WIYN 3.5 meter telescope. It was built in 1994 and is the newest large research telescope. It has a wide variety of imagers and a multi-fiber spectrograph that can take spectra of a lot of objects at the same time (I forget the exact number...we can ask them down in the control room). You can see a person standing next to it for scale.

Take a lootk at the back of the telescope. Each of those little guys you see there is an acuator. An acuator is a small motor that pushes and pulls on the mirror. Modern mirrors are very thin to make them lighter. Thin mirrors bend under the influence of gravity as the telescope moves. All these little motors push and pull on the mirror to keep it from becoming deformed and giving distorted images.

Our last stop will be the largest optical telescope on Kitt Peak, the Mayall 4 meter telescope. It was the second largest telescope in the world when it was built back in the 1970s. Thanks to continuous updates to its instruments, it still does premiere scientific research on such areas as dark matter. It recently got a new infrared camera called NEWFIRM which is producing lots of good new science.

I hope you have enjoyed your tour of Kitt Peak. Do stop by again...don't miss the Desert Museum or the Pima Air and Space Museum.

And Orbs, don't play with the snakes!

Another DIFFERENT Time Waster

Monster Maker

Caffeination Domination (or Least Scientific Poll Ever)

I noticed my local 7-11 today had a strange banner outside about the election. It turns out that you can vote for you favorite candidate by choosing a red or blue coffee cup.

And if you click the link above, you can come to the conclusion that McCain better hope most people don't drink coffee at 7-11! I mean, Obama is winning Texas for crying out loud! There are a lot of states that don't have results...I wonder what is up with that.

I was honestly surprised...I thought all them elite liberals would be drinking elitist coffee and the "real Americans" would go to 7-11.

More Damn Pictures of Trees

With the autumn sun low in the sky, it can give a Maxfield Parrish-like glow to things, especially when setting. I've noticed this many times over the years. And I've tried many times to capture that peculiar light on film and, more recently, digitally. I've always failed.

Earlier today I saw that glow again on some trees in East Park, aka Gateway Technical College campus. I took 19 shots, but none of them do justice to the light and color display. Here are three of the better ones:

Another Time Waster

“Pumpkin Simulator”"

Monday, October 20, 2008


Palin really gets my cheese melted and not in a good way. She would seek out a constitutional ban on gay marriage. Is the Right that bent on Fascism? Do we need even more government in our business? After she puts through that amendment, she wouldn't stop. She is showing her true Nature with that bit of hate speech.

What about Powell? He was well respected by the Right. There were many hoping for a McCain/Powell ticket. Now he is a pariah. Interestingly enough, views are so utterly entrenched, people are unwilling to rethink their views. It's become too emotional an issue for clear thinking. Yet it says a lot when the comment is made by a man who "used" to be revered by the Right. Picking Palin brings judgment abilities into question.

Sadly I think Obama has less than nine months to live if he wins. My impression is that there are way too many crazies on the Right. Bidden will be President by next year Christmas, and the ghettos and some burbs will be in flames. I hope not. Obama won't bring anymore Socialism into the world than is already being heeped in his lap by Bush's regime. He will bring a lot less Fascism though.

Some Weird Guitars

Although,I admire the sound and beauty of Gibson's Les Pauls and the Fender Stratocastors,I find myself going "wow" at the creativity and the design of some the guitars out there. Can anybody guess some of these guitars to whom they belong to? (I can) The one I want to get my hands on is Jimmy Page's doubleneck.

"The Universe is trying to kill you"

So says my friend Phil Plait (aka the Bad Astronomer) in his new book, "Death From the Skies:These are the Ways the World Will End..." Today is its official release date and you can buy it online or at local bookstores.

As the name implies, he is writing about all the nasty ways that the universe can kill you...including asteroid impacts, gamma ray bursts and everyone's favorite, black holes (which can kill you in a surprisingly large number of different ways!)

His book is targeted toward a general audience so don't be intimidated just because you didn't major in science. The one warning I will give you is that he is prone to bad puns...based on how long he was working on this book, I almost shudder to think of the puns he may have spawned!

I have not read the book yet...I just got it Friday and had a very busy weekend...I have a plane flight Wednesday that will be devoted to the book and will post more comments after that. Based on his first book, Bad Astronomy, I have no problem urging you all to run out and pick up a copy!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Great Worldwide Star Count

Monday night starts the Great Worldwide Star Count, a project to raise awareness of light pollution as well as collect a little data. The basic idea is simple. People around the world go out at night and look up at the constellation Cygnus (in the norhtern hemisphere) or Saggitarius (in the southern hemisphere). You compare what you see to the star charts on the web site and you have an estimate of how much light pollution there is in your neighborhood. You enter your observation into a form on the web site (along with your location) and you have just contributed a little bit to science. You can even make multiple observations from different locations. The most useful data is when a single city has data points near the center, the edge, and points in between.

Bad lighting design does more than just drown out the stars. Bad lighting design wastes energy by letting it go upward and can even create lots of bright glare and dark shadows that can decrease safety. Light pollution has many well known adverse effects on wildlife and even has been shown to increase cancer rates.

The International Dark Sky Association is the great resource for information on light pollution including sources for good lighting design and how to work with your local government addressing the issue.

The Great Worldwide Star Count begins on October 20th and runs through November 3rd. So go out and make some obsevations!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Do You Dream in Color?

If so, you probably were raised watching color television according to a study by Eva Murzyn, a psychology student at the University of Dundee. She interviewed people of different ages about their childhood television and movie viewing along and combined her data with some historical studies to come to her conclusion (it should be noted that I think her sample size we pretty small to make such broad conclusions!) Younger people raised on color television and movies dreamed in color and older people raised on black and white television and movies dreamed in black and white more frequently than the younger subjects.

I want to dream in 1080p with Dobly Digital surround sound!