Friday, November 14, 2008

Star Wars Cappella

I found this too amusing to pass up.

Goodbye Mom

This brought a tear to my eye!
Hope this touches you the way it touched me!


A young man shopping in a supermarket noticed a little old lady following him around. If he stopped, she stopped. Furthermore she kept staring at him.

She finally overtook him at the checkout, and she turned to him and said,

"I hope I haven't made you feel ill at ease;
it's just that you look so much like my late son."

He answered, "That's okay."

"I know it's silly, but if you'd call out "Good bye, Mom" as I leave the store, it would make me feel so happy."

She then went through the checkout, and as she was on her way out of the store, the man called out, "Goodbye, Mom."

The little old lady waved, and smiled back at him.

Pleased that he had brought a little sunshine into someone's day, he went to pay for his groceries.

"That comes to $121.85," said the clerk.

"How come so much ... I only bought 5 items.."

The clerk replied, "Yeah, but your Mother said
you'd be paying for her things, too."

Don't trust little Old Ladies!!!

India's Satellite Crashes Into The Moon!

But they tried to do, really. The satellite called Chandraayan 1 carried a small impactor. While the main satellite stayed safely in orbit, the impactor was sent on a collision course to the Moon.

The 64 lbs impactor carred a laser altimeter, a camera, and a mass spectrograph to study what little air there is on the Moon. It crashed this morning (10:31 am Eastern time). They have not released any results yet, but early indications are everything went as planned. It hit the Moon at a speed of about a mile per second, so needless to say, it's not going to be sending back any more pictures!

However, it wasn't supposed to. If functioned as designed and I am Jonesin' for some pics!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

A snake, just for SER!

Look what was found next to the house today??? Only good one is a dead one!

WOW, what a ride it's been so far!! Reporting from somewhere in Italy!

Lizardmom's IRREGULAR transportation Wow, what a trip!!
Here in our 'duck', we're on the lamb, maybe we should visit a zoo too!
AA got out of control while driving, we've been banished from a few countries...
Now in Italy, so far we haven't gotten into any trouble - YET!
Pass the pizza, this is good stuff!!
Where are we off to next guys?

Kids banned from running through Laurel Clark Memorial Fountain

"RACINE — The Dr. Laurel Clark Memorial Fountain will not be open for children to play in next year."

They've been adding chemicals to the fountain's water for health reasons. Turns out that those chemicals are messing up the works.

And they're talking about putting a chain link fence around the fountain to keep kids out of it next year.

A chain link fence? Do they mean specifically around the center where the water shoots up, or around the entire memorial? Either way, I think it will be ugly and/or defeat the purpose of the memorial. It would be better with the fountain off, or on very low volume.

Seeing the delight on the faces of kids as they ran through the fountain has been one of my favorite parts of summer. I understand why, but it's too bad that something as simple and spontaneous and innocent and joyful as that cannot be allowed to continue.

Update - thanks to fungi, I stand corrected on the chain link fence issue. This is the type of fence they are talking about when they say "chain fence:"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Obama to pioneer Web outreach as president

"NEW YORK (AP) — Transition officials call it Obama 2.0 — an ambitious effort to transform the president-elect's vast Web operation and database of supporters into a modern new tool to accomplish his goals in the White House. If it works, the new president could have an unprecedented ability to appeal for help from millions of Americans who already favor his ideas, bypassing the news media to pressure Congress."

I find that heartening and scary at the same time. Heartening because I'm a big proponent of democracy and I see the Internet as a great tool for enabling and sustaining that. Scary because I also see the Internet as a great tool for the dissemination of misinformation and propaganda.

They say that JFK was the first president to use TV to his advantage. Looks like Obama will be the first cyber-wise president.

"We're not doing that anymore..."

Holy cow! That's a .50 caliber rifle.

Reminder of summer past.......

How many of you have already forgot the flooding in Racine?

More pictures located at Summer Pictures.

But Do They Obscure the View of Venus?

Big news today...we officially have the first images of planets orbiting other Sun-like stars! It was only a matter of time, and we are now there.

Exhibit A is from the Hubbls Space Telescope.


The star is blocked out by a small bar (literally) called an occulting bar. The star is so bright we need to block its light to see the dim planet nearby. That little speck of light is the planet! It may not look like much, but it has been imaged multiple times to confirm it really is a planet in orbit around the star. The star itself is called Fomalhaut and is one of the brightest stars in the sky.

The next example orbits the star with a much more obscure name, HR8799. The big news here is we can see THREE PLANETS!


Note the three red dots in the image at the right. This image was taken in the infrared. Planets give off a lot more light in the infrared so they are easy to detect in an infrared image. Even the closest of the three planets is about 3.8billion km from the Sun (close the distance of Uranus from the Sun.) In other words, theere is plenty of room for more planets closer to this star...maybe small, rocky, planets like...well, let's not get carried away yet!

Once we found the first extrasolar planet, the pace of discoveries rapidly increased. Now that we have the first images, I hope we do as well at getting more!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Health Warning: Don't Swallow Your Bubble Gum!

Gee, Wally! What a Swell Sculpture!

And its going to be in the Louvre! Let's get June, Ward and the Beaver and go see it!

Yep, that Wally, Tony Dow, will have a sculpture on display at the Louvre titled "Unarmed Warrior" from December 11th to the 14th.

Originally, the sculpture had arms until Eddie Haskell heard it was going to be at the Louvre and decided to take it out to try and pick up girls. The arms were lost in comical, but unfortunate accident involving popcorn, and a top hat at an early 3D movie. Afterwards, Haskell charmed everyone into believing the accident was caused by a mysterious one armed man.

I think this is kind of cool. Sometimes former celebrities have strange talents and go onto successful second careers...although I am not sure Wally and the Beaver would fully appreciate abstract sculpture!

Dear Madame Zoltar

Hello, my friends, hello! Did you go to the Christmas parade? Neither did I.

Our first and only email today comes from the beloved SER, who writes:


There are those who claim December 21, 2012, schools’s the end of the world. My question is, does your crystal ball fall in line with this date and if not do you have one in mind? I really wanna know this way I can spend a shit house full of money on credit cards knowing in advance I’ll never have to pay them off!!

Dear Mr. SER, you sly devil, you. You don’t have to do that. You can go out and rack up an outhouse full bills on credit cards right now, and then just declare bankruptcy. It’s the American way. In fact, if you get into really, really, really big debt, maybe the government will bail you out.

However, if you still insist upon a hint on the end of the world, I can tell you that the warranty on my crystal ball runs out on December 12, 2012 – and it’s not renewable.

Here’s something interesting, friends, an interactive fortune teller. Kind of cute, but I don’t think it will ever replace the real thing:

And here’s an incredibly bad video entitled "Fun Rangers #5: The Fortune Teller." I have no idea what this means, but I’m sure it’s funny if you ingest the right combination of chemicals:

Well, it has been a joy visiting with you. Please send your questions and comments to me at

Hasta la vista, dearies.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Don't Google "Flu" Unless You Are Really Sick...

Because it turns out that Google is using aggregate search data to track flu outbreaks. The basic idea is simple. If a lot of people in Des Moines are doing Google searches about the flu, odds are a lot of people in Des Moines are coming down with the flu. They claim they can detect outbreaks faster than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) since they don't have to rely on collecting lots of reports from health care providers.

There is an interactive flash map at the Google Flu Trends site as well as a flu shot clinic locator.

So if you all want to test it out, start doing lots of google searchs for the flu where you live and see if you can trick it into thinking you have an outbreak!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Jim Doyles KRM Christmas Song

(Sung to Jingle Bells)

tax and spend
tax and spend
choo choo on the brain
oh what fun it is to ride
this empty little train.....

Come On KRM Committee.... our Pockets are empty. We are taxed out and cant pay anymore to fund pet projects. Give us a fricken break!

The Journey to Palomar

You will have to check your local listings...this week a special called the Journey to Palomar premieres on PBS. It chronicles the quest of George Ellery Hale to build the world's largest telescope. And he did...four times! His telescopes include the Yerkes 40 inch refractor, the Mount Wilson 60 inch and 100 inch reflectors, and his namesake, the Hale 200 inch reflector at Mount Palomar.

The 200 inch (5 meter) Hale Telescope was the largest in the world for almost 30 years. As a child, it captured my imagination and I couldn't think of a better job in the world than sitting in the observing cage all night long every night (I have some crazy ideas about good jobs!)

Thanks to modern cameras and upgrades, the Hale Telescope remains a productive scientific instrument 60 years after its completion.

The Hale Telescope also inspired me to ask questions. Namely, why haven't we built a larger telescope in the last 30 years? As I explored the answer to that question, I started getting my first lessons in engineering and the limitations of technology at the time. Over the next thirty years, I have watched how we have overcome many of those limitations and we are now planning telescopes 30 meters across and more! These innovations include spun cast, low weight mirrors, segmented mirrors, advanced CCD cameras, and adaptive optics to remove atmospheric distortion.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Good Night, Sweet Phoenix

The Phoenix Mars Lander mission has come to an end. The setting Sun is no longer high enough in the sky to for the solar panels to collect enough energy to keep Phoenix going. Phoenix has not been heard from since November 2nd. Although they will listen for potential signals for the next few weeks, no one really expects to hear anything. Soon the lander will be covered with snow and its solar panels will probably snap off, ending any chance of hearing from it in the spring.

Phoenix found the water ice it was designed to search for, analyzed the soil of Mars finding perchlorate salt in the soil, and even observed snow falling!

Although the data collection is officially at an end, the data analysis is just getting under way. Scientists will be analyzing and debating the data sent back for years to come and use the results in designing future exploration of Mars.

Next up, the Mars Science Laboratory scheduled to launch in the fall 0f 2009.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicst Blog.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hope no one got our license plate

Dateline: Liechtenstein

In a scene reminisient of the movie "Apocalypse Now", this peaceful alpine hamlet was the scene of a bizarre invasion that caused thousands of deutschmarks in damages and left a population shaken.

Early in the morning of November 8th, with music blaring from its speakers, an amphibious light amoured vehicle rumbled through the cobblestone streets of Vaduz. Hans Gruber, the local baker, described the scene:

It came speeding down Lettsrasse, paused, then made a left turn onto Bangarten. It began careening back and forth smashing into storefronts. If you didn't know it was a precision military manuver, you would think some drunken reveler was behind the wheel. It suddenly stopped, took dead aim at the Beerhaus, and accelerated through the window. A bunch of them then jumped out and began looting the stores. It was truly frightening.

Government officials confirmed the loss of 673 pounds of chocolate, six barrels of beer, 50 pounds of cheese and one cuckoo clock. Since Leichtenstein has no standing army, the government speculates that this was an irregular militia group from either Germany or Italy. The matter has been referred to interpol for investigation.

Luke Intuit, Rueters News Service

Favorite TV shows (and GOOD reasons to procrastinate!)

I want to grow up to be JUST like Maxine!

Happy Monday all,
here is a twist on the Monday OPEN BLOG,

it's a
"what are your favorite shows"
"what is your favorite ways to procrastinate?"

Google Does it Again

This is nationwide and it is absolutely free! Click on the link below and watch the short clip for a quick demonstration.


Your Monday Morning Physics Lesson...

My friend Kevin just sent me the following video.

You might remember Newton's First Law, something about inertia...objects at rest staying at rest? Very nicely illustrated here and a good way to kick off the week!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

AIG Bailout Jumps to $150 Billion

That's right. The insurance group that threw a $440,000 party for its executives after we gave them $85 billion in September has posted a third-quarter loss of $24.5 billion. They're being rewarded with a reworked bailout of $150 billion of tax money. W00t! I wonder how big a party they'll throw this time? I wonder if any taxpayers will be invited? I wonder why we pretend that hard work and honesty are the paths to success?