Saturday, August 21, 2010

Plan B

My patience has finally ran out of the door! I'm done screwing around with the technical idiots from Hewitt Packard. Done with waiting for "alleged" recovery discs to arrive. DONE! I want my computer back and I want it NOW! The withdrawls are getting serious now...

So I bid my adieu to the Best Buy Geek Squad From Hell and gave the Hewitt Peckhard the bird! Time for Plan B. I got my refunds back and took my business to a local puter geek whom already has what I need. They'll even tweek it for better performance. For a cheaper price too! If it goes well, I should have my computer back on Monday. I have a lot of catching up to do!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Faster than the speed of light

There were several SETI news articles the last few days. They went from predictions that we will discover we are not alone within 25 years, to worry that we really don't want to draw attention to ourselves. "There might be wolves at out door." so to speak.

I read with interest what Hale Bopp had to say about the impossibility of faster then light transportation (using physics as we know it). This might be true, but the "worlds smartest man" Stephen Hawkins seems to have worries. If the quote is correct, it is reported that he thinks any galactic species we might meet (or answer our radio signal calls) could be thousands or tens of thousands of years in advance of us and know physics that aren't in our league. He worries that they might be aggressive. He feels because of this ambiguity of helpful/benign/aggressive possibilities, it'd be best if we wee quiet as church mice.

It seems to me that if there were galactic entities that were so advanced, and they could travel faster tha the speed of light, they would have made all the other Star Trekkish advances too including food replicators matter transporters and future energy sources. Once you have all needs met, it no longer becomes much of an issue of conquest as all needs are provided for.

For what its worth, if the Stephen Hawkins quote is real, it appears to me he thinks FTL light be possible in the future. Hey, we broke the speed of sound and there wee physicists that had math formulas proving we never would. Insurmountable. Nope, just took higher tech. Other scientists said we would never propel ourselves across the ground and accelerate faster than gravity. Heh, a little Nitro Methane, sticky tires and a Chrysler Hemi has us doing the standing start quarter mile in 3.8 seconds. FTL s just another bar we will pass eventually.

I hope we do find out we are not alone. If the world suddenly found out it was us against another team, I think we might actually pull together as a world body and reach for the stars. A space elevator by 2075. Oh yeah, anything is possible when there's another team to compete against.

My first blog!

Would any of you use this???

Snazzy Napper

Racine, once again the laughingstock of the U.S.

Boners are now illegal. We can't keep the criminals in prison, but we can ruin a man's name, fine him even though he has broken no laws, and then some hand wringers want him listed as a sex offender too. Am I just too liberal? I think not. I once was accused of being a perv. As part of another class on photography, I was making a digital log of a group process I was part of for a course on interpersonal communication. Whenever I was asked to see my pictures, I gladly handed over the camera. Nothing to hide I thought. Well it seems my wheelchair level perspective somehow made a girl feel I was concentrating on tits and ass shots. Sorry, the entire person was in the picture, no focus was made on womanly body parts. The same perspective was shot for guys and gals

Do you know what it's like to be falsely accused of being a Perv? I was mortified. I had campus police come to my dorm room. I had Professors suddenly distant. The fact we had a militant feminist organization on campus just added fuel to the fire. The police found nothing wrong, the professors never saw the pictures, but that didn't stop some professors from judging me. In the end, the girl said, "Maybe I over reacted." Good God, my life ruined on campus, and maybe she over reacted?????

When I see something like the plight of Mr Mrazak, I feel for him. He didn't expose himself, touch himself, make lewd comments or try to talk at all with the mother hens that took offense. This is going to go national as a news event and be assured, they will be pointing fingers and laughing at Racine while also pointing fingers and screaming perv at Mrazak. What was his biggest offense? He thought common sense would be enough in a court of law. Laws interpreted by the Courts of Racine, Wisconsin

Sheriff's edit: here is the link to the story in the local paper:

Wake up The Astronauts

NASA has a long history of using music to wake up the astronauts on space missions going back to the Apollo days. Frequently the music is space themed or a little inside joke for the astronauts.

For the next two shuttle missions, you can help choose the music through Space Rock. For STS-133, currently scheduled for launch on November 1st, you can choose from a list of 40 songs they have used in the past and vote for your favorites. The top two votes will wake up the astronauts during the mission (leaving plenty of room for NASA mission managers to mess around on the other days with their own songs).

For the last shuttle mission, they are giving budding singer-songwriters a chance to get in on the action by writing and submitting their own wake up song. Wish I were more musical...can't imagine a better break than waking up the astronauts!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Open Blog - Weekend Version

Be good to yourself.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

JTI Gathering 1900 - UPDATED

I have had this one "squirreled" away for a while. This is a picture of the JTI gathering in Wisconsin in 1900

I noticed this one after I posted the first, it has KK peeking around the back of the house.

Brett Favre's Greatest Retirements

I hope he keeps going until they have to kick him off the field.

Real Paintings

Photos are Images drawning by Daniel Smith.
His website is
Daniel Smith

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Venus Meets Mars

I don't know how many more planet pictures I will get in this series. However, tonight Venus is meeting Mars as Saturn departs the scene. The picture I selected tonight shows Venus just below the orangeish Mars as a plane flies just beneath Saturn.

Saturn will keep departing the scene stage right while Venus and Mars will slowly appear a little lower in the sky each evening as the slowly pull apart over the next few weeks.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

A Grand and Bold Thing

Author Ann Finkbeiner just released a new book on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey called a Grand and Bold Thing: An Extraordinary New Map of the Universe Ushering In a New Age of Discovery. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) is remarkable in many ways and I am really looking forward to reading this book. Universe Today posted an interview with the author today.

The SDSS was a project to use a 2.5 meter telescope (not particularly large by modern standards) to make a map of about 1/4 of the night sky using a 125 megapixel CCD camera, the largest CCD camera constructed up to that point. The telescope's unique design let it look at a fairly large chunk of sky at one time. Even though, it would take over five years to complete the survey.

But that's not all. They also wanted to take spectra of one million galaxies and 100,000 quasars. Spectra allow let us see how far away an object is and learn about it temperature and physical makeup. It can take about an hour to collect enough light to take a spectra with a telescope of that size and one million hours is a long time. Therefore, they built this spectrograph with 640 fibers so they could take 640 spectra at once. After the took an image of a section of the sky, they would decide what objects to take spectra of and drill holes into a plate. Each hole represented a galaxy, star or quasar they wanted to observe.

The SDSS so revolutionized astronomy that one of these plates is on display at the National Air and Space Museum. At the end of the survey, they gave away plates to people who worked on it (we had to pay shipping) so one of them is on display as a table at my place. I had a fellowship at Fermilab and worked on the SDSS in 2001-2002 and visited Apache Point Observatory as well.

Another unique aspect of the Sloan is that all the data is publicly available. You can look at it yourself on the Skyserver website. This data has been used widely in research and made the SDSS one of the most widely cited projects in astronomy research.

It wasn't all smooth sailing. The project had lots of growing pains early on (some of which I witnessed firsthand) but in the end, it exceeded expectations. There is hardly an area of astronomy that hasn't been touched by the SDSS.

Just last week, the National Research Council released its Decadal Survey. Their top priority for the next decade in ground based astronomy is the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). The LSST will be an 8.4 meter telescope with a 3.2 gigapixel camera that can survey the entire visible sky every 3-4 nights. It is a successor to the SDSS and probably would not have been so highly rated if the SDSS had not shown us how valuable sky surveys can be in science. If you need any justification for spending the money, one of its goals is to find all asteroids that might impact Earth down to a size of 140 meters in addition to a plethora of astronomy and physics questions.

The SDSS had terabytes of data: the LSST will have petabytes of data. The SDSS did large data releases about every 18 months. The LSST will make all its data available as soon as soon as 60 seconds after the image is taken for alerts that indicate a moving object, supernova, or variable star(and there could easily be tens of thousands of alerts per night).

As we embark on the next chapter of large astronomical surveys, it is great to see someone document the previous large project.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Cool Physics Photos

Every year the American Association of Physics Teachers hosts a photo contest for high school students. Student can take photos in two categories: Natural and Contrived. Natural shots are not staged whereas contrived shots can be set up in advance to illustrate a certain physics principle. In addition to the photo, the student must write a short (a paragraph or two) explanation of the physics illustrated in the photo. There are no awards, but students can submit photos that are digital compilations as well.

Well, this year they placed the top 100 photos online. These photos do not include the descriptions, unfortunately. They have a special page with the winners that include the descriptions for this set.

Peruse the photos...a lot of them are pretty cool even if you don't know what they are illustrating. Here is a sample, the 1st price in the contrived category this year.

It was taken by Joshua John Garcia from Kuna High School. His description is

"Using a high speed camera, the instant of a hand slapping a stomach was captured. This activity caused a shockwave that originated at the hand to move across the stomach. This shockwave is in the shape of the hand. The shockwave was created by the transfer of energy from the hand to the stomach. The kinetic energy from the hand was transferred to the skin of the stomach and moves across the torso of the body."

Kind of disturbing but cool at the same time...great shot! Be sure to check out the others. They have winners online dating back to 1998.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

Dear Madame Zoltar

Hello, my zestful zinnias! How are you? Hasn’t the recent weather been a blessed relief from that heat and humidity? It’s been nice to be able to open some windows and let the fresh air in, instead of being cooped up in the air conditioning. It was so steamy and so tropical around here, and for so long, that I expected to see some of Ms. Lizardmom’s wild reptile friends scampering about - or worse yet, eek, one of those snakes that occasionally find Ms. Beejay. It has been just lovely lately – except for the mosquitoes. Oh my.

If this week’s blog seems a little frazzled or at loose ends, that’s because I forgot about it until the last moment. I've been very busy this past week and things have kind of piled up. One of the big issues has been trying to get Junior ready for school. All he cares about is having the right sneakers and cell phone. If girls didn’t go to his school, I don’t think he would, either. Last week I caught him texting some hussy that his inherited psychic powers would prevent pregnancy and STDs. I know where that side of him comes from – his father. Fie on him! I gave Junior a walloping and took away his texting rights for a month. Shame, shame.

I also thought that I’d take advantage of a down time in business to do a little cleaning, in shop and inventory. Oh dear. I started more than I bargained for. The ex left a lot more baggage than I realized at the time. Add to that the overstock, discontinued items, expired pieces, promotional items, and other various byproducts of years in business, and I have a mountain of “stuff.” I started to sort through it, but I think it may be an overwhelming task. I have difficulty getting rid of anything with sentimental value. For me, that’s just about everything I’ve ever owned or touched. Or thought about. And no matter how hard I try to convince myself that “Elixir for the Vapors” will never come back into style, I just can’t throw out 425 perfectly good cases of it. Maybe I should just re-label it “Zoltar’s Energy Drink” and be done with it.

Finally, I’ve joined a support group to help me lose some weight. I consider my Irregulars to be family and I don’t mind telling you about this. I’ve had problems over the years keeping my girlish figure, and I've put on an extra pound or two, here or there. Over time it adds up and looks like an insurmountable obstacle. That’s where the help of other overweight psychics comes in. We call ourselves Presentient Overeaters Pseudonymous. We get together to talk about the issues we face in our battles of the bulge. Each week, we predict how much weight we are going to lose. With that kind of support and understanding, I have already predicted that I will lose a lot of weight, a lot. Now comes the easy part – waiting for it to happen. I'm already looking forward to fitting into my old clothes again. (I have every stitch.)

Thank you for reading my blog this week my dear, dear friends. I’m so grateful for your loyalty. I hope that each and every one of you has a wonderful week.

Please send your questions, comments, and incendiary devices to:

Enjoy the beautiful weather, my sweets, and take time to smell the flowers along the way. Watch out for the pollen, though. Gesundheit!

Open Blog - Wednesday

Red alert.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Earth From Different Perspectives

In the grand scheme of things, it has not been that long that we have been able to take images of Earth from space. We are all used to the satellite images that are used in our local newscasts. However, NASA always seems to be trying to find a new way to look at our home planet.

Today we got our first look at Earth from a position close to the Sun courtesy of the MESSENGER spacecraft. MESSENGER is currently orbiting the Sun and will go into orbit around Mercury next March. On May 6th, MESSENGER turned around and looked outward toward Earth.

You can clearly see the Earth and the Moon. I find it interesting that they look so close together even though the Moon is about 30 Earth diameters away. Earth and the Moon may have saturated the detector making each of them appear much larger in the image.

Another classic image of Earth is the Pale Blue Dot taken by Voyager 1 in 1990. Voyager 1 was a little past the orbit of Pluto at the time.

Earth appears close to the Sun when viewed from that distance. The strips are from Sunlight scattered in the optics of the camera. If you are having trouble finding Earth, look about halfway down the stripe on the right.

One of my personal favorite images of all time was captured by the Cassini spacecraft as it passed behind Saturn. With the Sun covered by Saturn, Earth you can see Earth poking through the rings. Click that one to deserves it!

Finally, no collection of this type of image would be complete without Earthrise taken by Apollo 8 in 1968.

Each of these unique images gives us a little more perspective on our place in the universe. I would love to see the day when we get our first image of the Sun from another star system...would take us out to a whole new level.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

School's Back in Session

At least here in Tucson, and I am just going to ramble on about a few things.

First, the days of easy commutes are coming to an end. I work on the U of A campus and traffic will be picking up and adding to the commute to work. Summer is always so pleasant with lighter traffic. Also means you have to be very alert on campus for people that don't know there are one way streets.

I ran by the local high school on my morning run today. The students are back there and already skipping school. It amazes me to see them walking AWAY from school before the first bell rings. Parents drop them off and they don't even pretend to go to school, but just start walking to a friend's house. "Hi, running man!" they yell out to greet me since they haven't seen me since May. Friendly little truants at least.

Then I get home and there is a SUV with a mother and I would guess 7th or 8th grade student sitting at the end of my townhome complex. I recognize them as a family that used to live here and moved out late spring/early summer. She used to wait for the bus with him last year. My best guess: they moved out of this school's boundaries but she wanted him to keep going there so they are using their old address yet and she will be driving him here to be picked up by the bus every day. I will watch and see if they keep showing up. The school's on this side of town are regarded to be some of the best public schools in Tucson.

On campus, the students are starting to move back in. The sorority girls are outside chanting, singing, etc. I drove by them on my scooter yesterday. They wear so much perfume and body wash and what not that driving by on a scooter does NOT constitute a well ventilated area.

Finally, Beloit College released its annual list of the incoming freshling classes mindset (freshling, less sexist but more offensive). I think they release this list more to make people feel old than anything else.

Thus begin the joys of another school year.

Monday, August 16, 2010

from your slacking events coordinator...

Who's in the mood for a picnic??

The summer is slipping right on by and we still need
to get our summer picnic in!!

I have had a location recommended, and it will be
disclosed upon the finalization of the planning.

Here is what I need from you -
a DATE!!

Sunday SEPT 12th

As soon as we get the date set, the rest will come
together quickly.
(I already know what I'm making - a new potato salad recipe-
taste like a twice baked potatoes - yum!)

If this is making you hungry, respond quickly
and let's get this party rolling!!

*If anyone would like to volunteer to scout
out a specific area within where we will be,
let me know :)

Tim Hawkins- Old Rock Star Songs

I should be doing laundry, but instead I'm posting videos on the internet.

Auto Draft or Live Draft

There has been a request by Team Real Debate to have a live draft this year in the Irregular Football League. For those of you that do not know, that would allow you to draft your own players, or if you dont want to the computer would just do it for you.

As the commish, I would like opinions from the teams on if they would like to do a live draft, or throw caution to the wind and tempt fate and let the computer pick for everyone.

If it were up to me (As this is the irregular league, not The Wacko League it's not my decision) I would let fate decide and go with auto draft. But what say you?

ALSO: We are three teams short. We need at least one more to have a draftable league, but three more would fill us up. Hey you, yeah you sitting there feeling all irregular and stuff. Give it a try. It's all in fun! Ask your irregular friends to sign up and lets play some football!

Open Blog - Monday

Well, that's one way of dealing with it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Saturday Night Sunset and Planets

Busy day, so I am finally getting around to last night's pics. I was at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. The sky was pretty hazy, so I knew there was not much of a chance of a green flash, but sunset was still very scenic.

After the sunset, we still had Mars, Saturn and the Moon (Mercury is very low and the sky was too hazy to get it).

Venus and Saturn are farther away from each other now, but Venus is just below Mars. If you watch closely, you can see the relative positions change from night to night. Saturn is going to get lower each night very quickly now as it passes behind the Sun.

No chance of pics tonight, but good chance of rain here.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.

SETI Girls

I just got caught up on Science Friday (I was at a meeting an not able to listen live) and they did a segment on SETI this week with some of the big names including Frank Drake, Jill Tartar, Seth Shostak, and my old friend Any Fraknoi. It's a pretty good segment and you should give it a listen.

One thing they mentioned is the video SETI Girls done by a bunch of Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) students. REU students spend the summer doing research at a lab (we have REU students at NOAO). This video takes on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

Not as professional as some, but they are having fun. When I was teaching, I did the Research Experience for Teachers (RET), a similar program, at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia. At the end of the summer, all the REUs and RETs teamed up at the picnic thrown in honor of the advisors to perform "NRAO" to the tune of YMCA. Mercifully, no known video of this event exists!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.