Saturday, January 10, 2009

A 3D Fly Through of a Supernova

I was at the AAS meeting last week and had little time to blog. Lots of cool results were announced. My favorite is a 3d fly though of the supernova remnant Cas A. This supernova blew up a little over 300 years ago and is one of the brightest radio sources in the sky and one of the closest and youngest supernova remnants making it a prime target for observing.

Only large stars can go supernova. This star probably had about 10 times the mass of our Sun. When it runs out of fuel, its core collapses to a neutron star. A neutron star, as its name implies, is made entirely of neutrons as the protons and electrons get crushed together and form neutrons (plus neutrinos, but they escape the star). The outer layers of the star star to collapse. As the neutrinos encounter the collapsing gas, a huge shock wave forms blowing the star apart. It's pretty complicated, but that's the basic picture (and the detials aren't entirely understood!)

The outer layers of the star contain a wide variety of elements: helium, oxygen, neon, carbon and silicon among others. The added energy from the shock wave can fuse these elements to from gold, silver and, well, all the elements heavier than iron!

So how do we make this 3d fly through? The supernova remnant is 3 dimensional. We can see it expanding. Pieces that move at right angles to our line of site appear to move the quickest across the sky. Pieces coming straight toward or away from us appear not to move at all. For the pieces that appear to move slowly, we use doppler shifts to tell whether they are moving toward or away from us. We combine data from the Chandra X-Ray telecope, the Spitzer Space Telescope (which observes in infared) and ground based optical telescopes, run it through a program called 3D slicer, and you get this.

The little neutron star at the center is about 6 miles wide and has about 1.4 times the mass of our Sun. It rotates dozens of times a second (its rotations speeds up when it collapses similar to a figure skater pulling in her arms and spinning faster).

Fortunately, this was about 10,000 light years away because we don't want one of these blowing up near us!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Hale Bopp is slacking off.

It's very hard to believe he hasn't come across this very geeky website. I think he has but is keeping it from us. Geeks are hot too ya know.

Friday, January 9, 2009

This is My Milwaukee

"With containment and decontamination well under way, young professionals are flocking back to Milwaukee. Night life is thriving as though nothing ever happened."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

How to Read a Wine Label (Without Ice)

1. Appellation of origin - Wine Growing region
To identify the region compare with the following list of the 13 German wine growing regions: Ahr, Mittelrhein, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Rheingau, Nahe, Pfalz, Rheinhessen, Franken, Hessische Bergstrasse, Württemberg, Baden, Saale/Unstrut, Sachsen.

2. Vintage
The vintage is the year the grapes were harvested. Wine is an agricultural product and consequently very dependent on the weather which in Germany, unlike more southerly climates, can be extremely variable.

3. Village and vineyard
The often difficult to pronounce names on the label indicate the village where the vineyard is located (identified by the -er suffix) followed by another name (often ending in -berg [=mountain, slope] indicating the vineyard site. Proprietary names like "Liebfraumilch" and "Bishop of Riesling" have no vineyard designation, they are a blend of wines from several vineyards.

4. Grape variety
The grape variety used to make a wine is the single most influential factor determining its taste. Different grapes have different flavors, just like different fruits have different flavors. For example: Riesling is a very fruit-driven grape variety providing a fine acidity. Gewürztraminer has very floral, perfumed flavors reminiscent of rose petals while Silvaner is lower in acidity and less floral, rather plain.

5. Level of dryness
The taste/style or level of dryness of a wine depends on the cellar master and is determined in the cellar by the winemaker; it is totally independent of the grape. Dryness levels are not to be confused with ripeness categories which depend on the ripeness of the grapes harvested in the vineyard. Whether a wine is dry or sweet can be indicated on the label. Trocken indicates dry wine without perceptible residual sweetness. It never contains more than 9 grams of residual sugar per liter and often less. It is very dry. Halbtrocken wines are semi-dry and may not have more than 18 grams of residual sugar per liter. With this barely perceptible sweetness, halbtrocken wines are considered "dry" by most wine lovers. If none of the above dryness levels can be found on the label, the wine is most likely a sweeter style wine, but it can range from off-dry to fully sweet. Generally, the sweetness in the wine does correlate with the ripeness levels.

6. Ripeness categories
The ripeness categories are Tablewine, Qualitätswein and Qualitätswein mit Prädikat. The latter is further divided into the ripeness levels Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauselese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein. More about that on our Ripeness category page.
7. Ap - number
The AP NR. or "Amtliche Prüfnummer," meaning "official approval number" identifies the wine and is required for all qba and qmp wines. It consists of several blocks of numbers identifying the wine like: 5 169 878 0009 93 5 stands for the testing center, where the wine was approved 169 stands for the village in which the winery is located that produced the wine 878 is the code number for the winery 0009 93 reflects, this is the 9th wine tested in the year 1993 (no necessary relation to the vintage of the wine but most often the year after the vintage) This coding enables the official testing centers to identify a wine. If there is any complaint or doubt of authenticity of the wine, sealed bottles which the winery has to keep for a number of years can be cross checked and tasted to investigate.

8. Producer vs. Bottler
Name of producer or estate, in this case the producer is Winzer Bacchus.There are about 100,000 grape growers in Germany, yet only about one fourth as many wine producers. If the label indicates "Erzeugerabfüllung" (estate bottled), it assures you that the grapes were grown and the wine was produced by one and the same grower or cooperative of growers (Winzergenossenschaft). As an alternative to "Erzeugerabfüllung," estates and growers which grow, produce, and bottle their own wine can use the term "Gutsabfüllung" on the label. The grower or collective group of growers is responsible for and guarantees the quality of the wine. Sometimes the bottlers or shipper will assume responsibility and will be identified on the label as "Abfüller."

One for the Non-Smokers


Anyone Else Get a Little Something Extra in their Paycheck?

I just checked my first pay stub of this year and it was a few dollars more than my last one of last year. At first I wondered if my FSA contributions were screwed up, but they are fine. I am betting there was an adjustment in the withholding tables due to changed personal exemption for the 2009 tax year...any tax experts out there that can verify this since I am not feeling like digging through lots of IRS tables right now?

Betty Does Bailouts

Well, lots of space news recently from me, but have more than one trick. Moving onto another kind of black hole, it turns out that the the porn industry is now looking for a $5 billion bailout. Turns out they are facing hard times as well.

"But the industry leaders said the issue is a nation in need. "People are too depressed to be sexually active," Flynt said in the statement. "This is very unhealthy as a nation. Americans can do without cars and such but they cannot do without sex."

"With all this economic misery and people losing all that money, sex is the farthest thing from their mind. It's time for congress to rejuvenate the sexual appetite of America. The only way they can do this is by supporting the adult industry and doing it quickly."

So here is the argument. We need lots of people to have babies to produce the next generation of good little indebted consumers. If people are too depressed to have sex and hence babies, the economy will collapse. Porn inspires people to have sex, therefore, we need a bailout of the porn industry to save the economy. QED

I honestly thought this was a joke when I first saw it and I am still hoping it turns out to be.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dear Madame Zoltar

Hello, my lovely snowbirds! Welcome to this week’s blog.

First, I have some good news: a truce has been declared between me and that Mr. OrbsCorbs. He has agreed to treat me with dignity and respect, and I have agreed not to castrate him again with a hex. See, everything works out for the best in the long run.

I also want to announce that I will do my best to make an appearance at this weekend’s JTI Christmas Party. Saturday is a busy day for me, with astral projecting all over the place for private readings and seances, but I’ll see if I can’t sneak in a visit. If not, have a wonderful time without me, dearies.

Your responses to Mr. OrbsCorbs’ blog on his psychiatrist’s comments about Racine show that this is a healthy group. Accordingly, I’m still not receiving a lot of mail or messages about your problems. That’s a good thing, I suppose. So this week I’m going to join with the others who post musical videos for our enjoyment and edification.

Here’s a video starring Rada, “the Queen of the Gypsies.” Quite an attractive woman, and that pipe only adds to her allure:

The following video is one which I thought that Mr. Drewzepmeister in particular would appreciate. (Note that Mr. Danny Fender is one of my many satisfied customers, having purchased my Guitar Hero Potion #9 for years.)

Here’s a Band of Gypsies performing in San Francisco in 2006:

Finally, a video that explains why you rarely see adult male gypsies dancing. Who can keep this up into their 40’s and 50’s? (Ms. kkdither, perhaps this also helps explains why Mr. Zoltar’s physical movements became so stilted with time. He sure loved to dance, but it darn near crippled him.)

That’s it for this week, my friends. Don’t forget to send your questions and comments to:

Stay warm and don’t eat any yellow snow. Shalom.

Its okay to laugh

Bush had moments of comedy

My New Musical Fix: George Hrab

I just got back from the U.S. opening Ceremony for the International Year of Astronomy. Musician, skeptic and blogger George Hrab performed and it was great! I had heard of him before, but never really listened to his music or podcast. Well, color me converted. A man with a guitar and smart, funny lyrics about science, skepticism, and telling you who he is and what he believes (or doesn’t believe). Kind of reminds me of a more scientific version of Pat McCurdy. He also wrote and sings the theme song for the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast.

So enjoy George Hrab’s “The Assumption”.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Seeing this is the International Year of Astronomy,I'd like to kick it off with an excellent tune from an underrated band,Blue Oyster Cult. These New Yorkers hit it big in the '70's with tunes like (Don't Fear)the Reaper and Godzilla. If you look underneath the surface of their big hits, you'll find a wealth of good tunes like Flaming Telepaths,Shooting Shark,E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrail Intellegence),and Joan Crawford. Not only these guys are talented musicians,they're crafty songwriters as well. They write songs about science-fiction,space,horror,and the Royal Canadian Mounties-often with an uncanny sense of humor. I was fortunate to see these guys in concert right here in Racine at Harbor Fest on 6/15/2002. Great show. This song can be found on their 1974 release Secret Treaties.

Well folks,put your hands together for Astronomy. Be sure to check out the special effects at the end of the tune.

Join In the IYA Opening Ceremony

I should have blogged this earlier, but tonight is the opening ceremony in the US for the International Year of Astronomy. The ceremony is taking place at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Long Beach (I am manning the IYA booth right now).

You can watch the ceremony streaming at the US IYA web site. They will be premiering 400 Years of the Telescope, a movie produced for IYA.

The festivities begin at 7:45pm CST (9:45pm CST) so you night owls can check it out if you are bored!

"Developers propose stores, 55 apartments for West Racine block"

“'We accepted proposals like this before, so I don’t know why we would not accept this one,' (City Development Director Brian O’Connell) said."

Three words: State and Main.

Wasn't that touted as housing for a new breed of "55 and betters" who wanted to live the urban dream? But when you wake up to the reality of the situation, many of the rentals are subsidized by Section 8, while the retail space on the lower level remains vacant. (I know, I heard, a sandwich shop is going in there. We'll see.) I'm told that the rental tenants are enjoying the on-site theater and gymnasium, while they last.

Mr. Chase Hendrix' comment on the Journal Times story above is one of the most intelligent things I have read on the local development scene. Developers in Racine throw up buildings or rehab standing ones in pursuit of federal and state monies and incentives, then leave generations of us to deal with the consequences. Why does City Hall not only allow this, but endorse it?

As I drove by State and Main today, I again saw an "Emergency Flood Restoration" van parked outside with a large tube leading into the building. They were also parked out there last spring after the rains. And who knows how many other times? This is the building that had to be gutted halfway through its construction because of a massive mold problem. This is the building that was described as an "anchor" for the northern end of downtown (even though the pre-existing and much more aesthetically pleasing M&I Bank building sits directly north of it).

Just so City Hall knows: anchors can sink things, too.

Monday, January 5, 2009

NSF: Science Is Hard

INDIANAPOLIS—The National Science Foundation's annual symposium concluded Monday, with the 1,500 scientists in attendance reaching the consensus that science is hard.

"For centuries, we have embraced the pursuit of scientific knowledge as one of the noblest and worthiest of human endeavors, one leading to the enrichment of mankind both today and for future generations," said keynote speaker and NSF chairman Louis Farian. "However, a breakthrough discovery is challenging our long-held perceptions about our discipline—the discovery that science is really, really hard."

You can read the complete story here.

Note: I am at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Long Beach and probably won't have much time to blog...I might try bloggind a press conference tomorrow for fun (if I can get a wireless signal there!)

Talk about reruns

Gladiators will be returning to the Colosseum to celebrate the 2,000 year anniversary of it's founder's birth, the Emperor Vespasian (b 9 AD, d 79 AD). His son, Titus, completed the project.

You know it had to be some show if it's still in reruns after 2,000 years.,2933,470047,00.html

My Shrink says Racine is in "Massive Denial"

Just got back from my three month/3,000 mile check up. Of course, I'm still crazy. In yammering with my psychiatrist, though, he made some statements about Racine that I found interesting. While I was whining about my problems, he said, "And it doesn't help having to deal with all of that in a city like Racine." I said something along the lines of while I know that many people bash Racine, I don't think it's such a bad town. "Not bad," he said, "but the people are in massive denial about their feelings. Everyone is passive-aggressive. In Chicago, I have to lead aggression suppression groups because people there are in touch with their feelings and angry; in Racine, you can't even get people to talk about their feelings. I know another small town in Michigan like this one - everyone is repressed."

He also said that the economic meltdown is providing the average person with a "historic" look at how "completely corrupt" our government and business leaders have become, and he expects there will be psychological ramifications from that as people try to reconcile the lies they have been told and believe with the reality of the situation.

I thought he was supposed to make me feel better. :(

It Must Be Monday

No word yet on whether or not Brian murdered the interviewer, or if he just slunk off and committed suicide.

Sheriff's Deputy's Car Rolls Over

SLINGER -- A Washington County Sheriff's Deputy's squad car flipped over and landed on its roof early Sunday morning. Authorities believe the slippery, icy condition of Highway 41 after hours of sleet and freezing rain may have caused the vehicle to flip.

As for the deputy, he reportedly had to be pulled out of his car but has only minor injuries.

He was responding to a motorist in the ditch when the accident happened. The deputy is a seven year veteran of the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

It is unknown if speed and alcohol could have been factors in the crash.

Oh, I just could not resist adding that! They do it for everyone else.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Proof that the Detroit school system works!

This is an actual picture of a Burger King in Detroit .

Woman Sues NYC Transit for $10 Million

"A woman who claims her 120-pound dog is protection from childhood memories of sex abuse is in a big-bucks battle with NYC Transit over whether the animal can ride the rails.

"Estelle Stamm, 65, won $10,000 from the city after two cops gave her a ticket for bringing the pony-sized dog into a subway station.

"Now she's going for $10 million in a federal suit that argues Wargas, her service dog, is protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

"'These sons of bitches don't like to be told what to do,' Stamm told the Daily News as she waited for a federal judge to decide whether the suit should be tossed."

Ooo, I think I just got an idea for suing Racine's Belle Urban System. First, I have to get a service cow . . .


I rec'd this in an e-mail today...brought a smile to my face when I thought about growing up on the southside of Milwaukee where most of the Moms were seen with those big old aprons with pockets. They got them at Goldmans' Dime Store 'down on Mitchell Street.'

The History of APRONS
I don't think our kids know what an apron is.The principal use of Grandma's apron was to protect the dress underneath, because she only had a few, it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and they used less material, but along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears.From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.And when the weather was cold, grandma wrapped it around her arms.Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove.Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that 'old-time apron' that served so many purposes.Send this to those who would know, and love, the story about Grandma's aprons. Or it can be a good history lesson for those that have no idea how the apron played a part in our lives.REMEMBER:Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool. Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw. They would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron. I don't think I ever caught anything from an apron, but love !!