Thursday, June 28, 2007

up on high

i wont be updating too much for the next week as i'm off on another adventure. this time to the peaks of machu picchu and choquequirao in peru. seven days of hiking in the andes. i'm so excited!! i wonder how many pictures i will take!?

dont forget about jupiter tonight or to see the close pairing of venus and saturn on sunday.

i'll leave you with some more great futbol moves. key moments of awesomeness occur at 1:10.... a somersault? and thierry henry's move after 1:33!

Mix Joga Bonito - The best free videos are right here

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

wafa sultan

a very brave and intriguing woman, wafa sultan, speaks strongly on al jazeera tv

i found it interesting to hear (and read) her ideas and analogies behind why islam is more to blame for its war with the west

where in the world...?

this is where i'll be in 3 short days.

any guesses?
i cant wait!!!!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

don't forget jupiter!

tomorrow night, wednesday, june 27, we'll be treated to another planetary, star, and moon line-up! completely different than last week's alignment, this time around we see the moon, the star antares and then planet jupiter in a nice line across the south-southwest sky! use a telescope or binoculars to try to find jupiter's 4 brightest moons! for details about viewing other objects in the sky this week go visit universe today!

and dont forget to keep your eyes up for the impending extreme pairing of super bright venus and saturn. they've been approaching each other in the sky all month to reach their closest appearance in our sky sunday night....

the dots represent the movement of each planet over 5 day periods from jun 1st to july 1st. saturn is farther from us than venus so from our perspective it moves slower than venus yet faster than all the other stars in the background sky that are many many many times farther away! this sunday, july 1st, these planets will appear 0.7 degrees apart from each other on the sky (just a little farther apart than the moon looks wide!). you should be able to see both at once with most telescopes!

after sunday, saturn will lose visibility as is moves near the sun's glare. venus will reach its peak brightness on july 12th.

the above image comes from starry night.

a moment of science

an awesome idea from rebecca at i'll see if i can contribute...

Monday, June 25, 2007

lunar landing

we're going back to the moon! i think that's cool enough that i'm surprised NASA hasnt been making more of an effort to get the word out to the public to get everyone more excited about it. reading the info on NASA's website isn't very inspiring. this probably has something to do with the internal struggles of re-alocating money to fund this new initiative, but theres not much i can do about any of that so i'll try to talk about some of the science!!

an interesting project that i read about recently is the potential for a ~100 meter liquid mirror telescope to be set up on the moon! thats huge for an optical and near-infrared telescope!!! imagine two full-size soccer fields next to each other... that sort of light collecting surface without the pesky problems of earth's atmosphere will be able to see objects 1,000 times fainter than the planned successor for hubble, the james webb space telescope!

the idea behind a liquid mirror telescope is relatively simple and very cool! you start out with a big, shallow cylinder that you fill with some sort of reflective liquid (silver, mercury, gallium-indium-tin alloy...). when the liquid sits in the cylinder, the downward force of gravity resisted by the fluid force of the liquid creates a flat surface.

if you spin the entire system, you introduce a centrifugal force that causes the liquid to move outward, away from the axis of rotation, toward the round wall of the container. the outside wall pushes back against the liquid creating a inward force. when the system is spun at a constant speed, you can solve a couple equations to see that the surface of the liquid resulting from the equilibrium of all these forces is a paraboloid (regardless of the shape of the bottom of the cylinder or dish!). this is the basic principle for how mirrors are created for large telescopes... glass is melted, spun at a constant rate (7-8 times per minute) for a long time, cooled and then delicately polished to provide a smooth surface. then a reflective coating is applied to the surface.

creating liquid mirror telescopes is not a trivial process though and of course there are unique challenges along with the known complications of using parabolic surfaces. But they can be produced much more cheaply than making, polishing, testing and mounting standard glass mirrors as primary reflective surfaces for telescopes!

in other lunar landing news, NASA announced seven research projects chosen to be the main science topics investigated when we next go to the moon. their titles are not terribly revealing to me as this is not my field of expertise, but i couldnt find anymore information and i thought i'd still share them!

-- Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., William Banerdt, Principal Investigator (PI) "Autonomous Lunar Geophysical Experiment Package"

-- Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., Slava Turyshev (PI) "Lunar Laser Transponder and Retroreflector Science"

-- Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., Daniel Glavin (PI) "Volatile Analysis by Pyrolysis of Regolith on the Moon using Mass Spectrometry"

-- Goddard Space Flight Center, Patrick Taylor (PI) "Seismology and Heat flow instrument package for Lunar Science and Hazards"

-- Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo., Donald Hassler (PI) "Lunar Radiation Environment and Regolith Shielding Experiment"

-- U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Fort Wainwright, Ark., Jerome Johnson (PI) "Lunar Suitcase Science: A Lunar Regolith Characterization Kit"

-- Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo., Christian Grund (PI) "Autonomous Lunar Dust Observer"

Saturday, June 23, 2007

eight anecdotes

i was tagged by PZ myers.

The Rules:

1. You have to post these rules before you give you the facts.

2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.

4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.

5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog

1. when i was 15 i went to south korea for one month to visit my aunt amy who was living there and teaching english. i enjoyed helping her out with some of her classes and taught a group of young students an origami fortune teller game that i enjoyed playing with my friends. i slowly explained how to cut the piece of paper into a perfect square, then fold the paper in half to make a crease in the center, then unfold it, etc... after the next fold, a boy came up to me and excitedly said "teacher, teacher, i know, i know!" i was a bit confused but said "good! do it!" he went back to his desk and furiously folded while i went back to instructing the class. eventually, i showed the kids where to write the numbers and where to add little statements and fortunes like "you are nice," "i like you," "you will be rich." i showed the kids how to play the game, but it proved to be very anti-climactic as they didnt really seem to get it, but kept wanting me to go through the game so they could choose numbers over and over. as i was demonstrating how to play the game, the excited kid came back to me, said "see?" and handed me the most intricate origami bird that i had ever seen!!! wow!! i was amazed, and told him it was beautiful. then i felt completely embarrassed as i showed him the simple little game i had originally intended for him to make and read the fortune to his confused countenance "you will have many friends"!! easily outdone by a six year old!

2. one morning a couple years ago, my ringing phone woke me up. i saw that it was my sister's number so i answered... i strained to hear the little tiny voice on the other end saying "hello auntie manda!" it was my 3 year old nephew, keldan... i instantly smiled and relaxed into a waking state. he immediately asked "what's a telescope?" how freakin cute! he and i had talked about his binoculars during my last trip home so i described a telescope as big binoculars with a place for only one eye to look through at a time. you use telescopes to look at things in the sky at night. he told me that with his "bindahkoolars," he looks at "far away things" like birds and squirrels. i said that i use my telescope to look at far away planets and stars in the sky. he said that he always sees "two stars in the sky and a lot more." i told him that he could use his binoculars to look at the moon and he'll see dark spots and bright spots which are mountains on the moon. he yelled "WOW!! papa, there are mountains on the moon!!!" he was so excited.... i couldnt stop grinning. what a great way to wake up!

3. i have 51 first cousins. i'm grandkid #2 on my mom's side and #6 on my dad's so i've always had tons of little kids running around at family gatherings and i quickly became an experienced babysitter! on my dad's side, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren have finally started to overlap, but surprisingly late since the first cousin to have a child was 31 years old at the time. i cannot imagine the potential craziness of either family had my generation reproduced at the rate of my parent's generation!!

4. my family likes to sing together. for as long as i can remember at the gigantic gathering on christmas day, we have sung christmas carols. this tradition goes so far that there are packets with lyrics to over 50 songs that are distributed among the masses while everyone fills up their cup and takes their place in preparation for the event. this was terribly embarrassing to admit to people as a kid, but now it's so much an endearing part of my family's culture that i really miss it when i can't make it home for christmas. the last song we sing is always jingle bells. as soon as this song begins, santa appears at the top of the stairs and makes his thru the crowd of adoring youth and jovial adults towards the christmas tree. at the end of the song we all cheer for santa and he tells us about his year and usually adds a bad joke. he distributes all the presents with the aid of a few lucky little helpers and then we cheer him off again as he returns up the stairs to his sleigh. so very quaint! the infamous song that makes everyone perk up, prepare their ears and roll their eyes is oh holy night! the harmonies reveal themselves as the volume increases. the voices intensify toward the climax of this song when aunts and uncle stand up, reach out their arms to wail "oh niiiiight diviiii-iiiine!!!!!!" inevitably, there is always an encore of the last verse and on a good year, we all smile and laugh and clap at our accomplishment.

i'm a bit hesitant to reveal this evidence to the world, but here goes...

(last year's performance was admittedly not so enthusiastic, and the harmony levels were a bit low (due to my father's absence i think) but it's the only video of the event i've ever seen!)

5. i sang in a band for a few years as an undergraduate in cincinnati. i not-so-jokingly asked myself many times whether i should be a rockstar or an astrophysicist?

6. i've always been a cat person. i'm not anti-dog or anything, i've just never had a dog or even lived with a dog. when i was young i got a kitten and named it "sock". unfortunately, the kitten died, but i liked it so much that i named the next kitten "two socks". my other favorite cat name was "roxanne cruella deville bauer" or "roxie" for short!

7. i had no patience yesterday, so you can read about my crazy dream thing here.

8. in one year i will graduate with a PhD in astrophysics and i have absolutely no idea where the universe will send me upon completion. it's a bit scary to realize that i will exit the "professional student" status that i've held onto without a single break from school since i started! but i admit that i'm really ready to not be a graduate student anymore! so other than the typical research/academic post-doc positions that i will apply for, anyone have interesting leads to jobs involving science writing and/or bringing science and astronomy to the masses?

this was fun, so i'll ask these folks to participate:
operation bumblebee
fraser cain
the bad astronomer
holly mazurka
lab lemming
agujeros temporales

Friday, June 22, 2007

doorways in dreams

for some reason, i was tagged by PZ myers to give 8 facts/habits about myself. as i started thinking about what i would share, i remembered this odd dream thing that i had as a kid. as i started writing about it, i thought it deserved a post of its own. i'll get back to the tag challenge, but for now...

i'm not sure what the significance of my dream thing is/was, but i'm interested in hearing thoughts from anyone about this intriguing part of my personal history.....

when i was about 10 or so, i became a very lucid dreamer. i was usually aware that i was dreaming and as an example, i would re-enact dream scenes several times until any given conversation ended as i wanted it! about this time i also started having a recurring theme in my dreams... i had difficulty walking thru doorways. the premise of a dream didnt matter, but if i had to walk thru a doorway... say from a living room to a kitchen... the entire dream would pause while i faced the challenge of walking thru the doorway.

to get thru the doorway, i would take each step very slowly and focus on watching the doorway going over my head and behind my body. if i made it into the next room, i did a little happy dance and then *poof* the dream started back up again without hesitation. but oftentimes, after i slowly walked thru the doorway, it would slingshot back over me and i was faced with the task of going thru it all over again. i would try several times. if the slingshot effect happened too many times, then sometimes i could visualize the roof lifting off the house so that my body could float above the doorway and land on the other side. then the roof would return and *poof* the dream would start again! if this method didnt work, then my dreaming mind determined yet another way to tackle the doorway challenge.... this was my favorite way, but it rarely occured..... the roof and floor would completely break away, leaving me, the doorway, and some broken pieces of wall attached to the doorway floating in space! the doorway and i would float together while the stars stayed fixed in the background of space. i would usually end up floating over the doorway in space, return on the other side and then the rest of the walls and roof would return and *poof* the dream would start back up again.

this became very frustrating because many dreams would abruptly end after i spent a long time concentrating on escaping the grasp of a doorway and i would end up wide awake in my bed! one day when i was around 15 (i cant remember my age exactly), i went shopping for the day with my grandma. on the way home, for some reason that i cant remember, i told her all about my strange dream thing, fully expecting the same reaction from her that i received from everyone else ("wow, that's really weird!"). but instead, she turned to me completely straight-faced and said "oh yeah, you know all you have to do it turn around and walk thru backwards." WWAAAA???!!!?? i couldnt believe she didnt have a grin on her face or anything as she sat there calmly telling me the answer to my problems like she couldnt believe i hadnt heard that solution before!

it took me several more months of doorway-impaired dreams before my dreaming self remembered.... "hey, maybe i should walk thru backwards!?" so i turned around and slowly walked thru, watching closely as the doorway passed farther over my head with each reluctant, blind step. when i was thru, i turned around and thought... ok, that worked! for the next month or so, i had to thoughtfully walk thru doorways backwards... but then it stopped happening. i have not had a single problem with doorways ever since!!??!!?

many years later i told my grandma about how she cured whatever problem i was having and she just smiled and nodded, innocently grateful that she had passed on some knowledge that she had acquired. i never asked her how she thought to walk thru backwards... i should!

so.... did the doorway thing in my dreaming life represent some facet of my waking life? could it actually represent anything if my maternal grandmother had faced this problem before and had overcome it? are dream tendencies genetic? WTF? has any study on this been performed? it's still as intriguing for me as it is confusing!

space stuff

the 8th round of the carnival of space is up at universe today. fraser cain summarizes many interesting posts from the recent workings of the internets.

my bit talks about when the next asteroid might hit earth and what could happen. theres an awesomely scary japanese simulation video included!


Thursday, June 21, 2007

summer solstice

happy solstice everyone! the longest day of the year if youre in the north, and the shortest if youre in the southern hemisphere! the equator is not exactly lined up with the plane of earth's orbit around the sun. if the earth was lined up with this plane, we would not experience seasons in the strong way that we do. the line between the north pole and the south pole is tilted from the line connecting the earth and the sun by an angle of 23.5 degrees. this angle, relative to the plane of earth's orbit around the sun, is always the same! this means that once a year the north pole points towards the sun (summer solstice) and it points away from the sun 6 months later (winter solstice in the northern hemisphere).

imagine that you were on the sun, watching the earth as it moved around you. here's a quicktime movie showing what you would see (of course the earth also should spin 365.25 times during the course of this movie, but that would be confusing, so just focus on the wobbling axis!)

the tropic of cancer and the tropic of capricorn are defined as the latitudinal lines that are 23.45 degrees north and south of the equator, respectively. when standing anywhere on the tropic of cancer today, june 21st, the sun will appear to be at the zenith... directly overhead. the sun appears at the zenith when standing at the tropic of capricorn on the winter solstice!

another interesting question to ask is why the earth spins at all? it has to do with the conservation of angular momentum in the original gas cloud as it collapsed as our sun began to form along with all the planets around it.

my sister always has great solstice parties in her small ohio town of yellow springs. i usually try to be home for the rockin winter solstice party and maybe i will be this year!

human disappearance

ever wonder what would happen if humans disappeared from earth for some reason? how long would synthetic structures, like paved roads and skyscrapers, last before crumbling. how long would it take for bacteria to evolve to break down plastics? what would the new dominant life form become?

i dont think i actually thought about this scenerio until i read an interview with alan weisman at scientific american online! cool stuff!

it's amazing how much humans can and have manipulated the surface of the earth... and more and more rapidly over time... we create completely synthetic structures to house ourselves, to package all our products, to move around in quickly, even the food we eat!! some of my fondest memories as a kid are based around camping with my family (and singing songs around the campfire) and foraging thru the neighborhood creeks for meals to feed my pretend family! sure i played video games too, but they were more adventure puzzles... they werent so much the simulation-of-real-life games that seem so popular today.

anyway, i think it's good to remember that we humans are just one type of creature sharing a home with many other creatures on the planet earth. our pale blue dot cannot withstand endless human manipulation and neither can all the other lifeforms that exist on earth!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

planetary nocturne

cloudier for me last night than the night before. good sunset and pink clouds, but saturn and regulus stayed tucked behind the deceivingly absorbant clouds! the moon jumped twelve degrees from last night's position, although if youre in the northern hemisphere you saw it jump south while those of us in the south saw it move up and toward the north.

i also took advantage of my rooftop perspective to capture the city view. thats La Serena in from of the water and Coquimbo on the other side of the bay.

cant wait to see what tonight brings... hopefully not too many clouds wherever we each might be!

hold on to your lightsaber

'cause this is hilarious.

via bad astronomy.

if the video's not working, go here

Monday, June 18, 2007

moon and planet alignment

(for info on the late november 2008 planetary alignment: read this)

WOW!!! if you didnt get out tonight (sunday, june 17, 2007) to see the alignment of the moon, venus, saturn and regulus, you better get out tomorrow and the next night because it will just keep getting better!

just as the sun was setting tonight, i climbed up on my roof to see some gorgeous clouds, a sliver moon and an amazingly bright venus. the line of the 4 spheres was long and noticeable as the bright moon, venus, saturn and regulus were nearly equally spaced. from my view in the southern hemisphere, the moon was the bottom left, then up to the right went venus, saturn and regulus. from the northern hemisphere, their alignment started tonight with la luna on the bottom right with the planets and regulus lining up toward the left.

the moon jumps its position in our sky by nearly 12 degrees a night... it orbits all the way around the earth in one month, or about 30 days and there are 360 degrees in a full circle, so the moon moves about 360/30=12 degrees a night (see here for a more exact calculation... incidentally, this also means that the moon rises 52.7 minutes later each night!). this mean tomorrow night, the moon will line up just above venus, in between venus and saturn! the following night, it will jump again to occult (go in front of) the star regulus (cool)!

here are some simple 2 second exposures i captured....

you can just barely make out saturn and regulus in this shot....

the enthralled photographer sits on her roof on a cold winter night!

keep your eyes up all month as venus and saturn move closer and closer and closer together. their shortest separation will be just farther apart than the moon is wide occuring on june 30th. this month is awesome!!

mountain top storms

my stint observing here is finished, time to head back down to La Serena. in 6 nights i managed to observe anything with gemini for about 2 nights total. not much to do sitting inside clouds during snowstorms! (un)fortunately, it only snowed on the mountain top where i slept during one night and it all melted during the day while i slept. enjoy some photos...

welcomed by a storm.

my fox friends were absent during the storms of the first few nights, but appeared again after the storms passed.

that's gemini on the right and SOAR on the left.

cloudy nights make for horribly ambiguous observing conditions, but they certainly provide beautiful sunsets!

you can barely make out the 4m CTIO dome in this one...

the spiffy control room.

some pictures from clear nights in the past....

Saturday, June 16, 2007

june's nightly spectacles!!

the alignment of the objects in our night sky will provide some very nice early evening viewing for the rest of this month!

SATURDAY, JUNE 16: tomorrow night the waxing sliver moon hangs in the W-NW sky early in the evening. it sits below pollux, one of the two main stars of gemini, with the other, castor, to pollux's right. above the moon to the left is the dashingly bright planet venus. let your eyes follow farther up and to the left of venus and you'll spy a bright planet saturn and then the star regulus.

MONDAY, JUNE 18: saturday's noticeable alignment is a mere prelude to monday night's spectacular view! look to the west to see the bright venus, the crescent moon, saturn and regulus in a straight line from bottom to top!

*note* this picture depicts the view from the northern hemisphere. from the south, the alignment will go from bottom left to top right!!

TUESDAY, JUNE 19: the very next evening, venus and saturn will still be bright and a little closer together, but you'll notice the disappearance of the star regulus as the growing moon occults it by passing right in front of it!

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20: the line-up evolves. from lower right to upper left: venus, saturn, regulus, la luna. also, in the S-SE, you can see jupiter near the star antares. saturn and venus will not be visible in our sky anymore by august, but jupiter will remain over the next several months! any telescope will easily reveal 4 of jupiter's moons: io, europa, ganymede and callisto.

THURSDAY, JUNE 21: summer officially begins in the northern hemisphere on june 21, the summer solstice, as the north pole points toward the sun. all you in the north can enjoy the longest day of the year (while i try to defrost from the snow storm occuring on this mountain top!)!

SATURDAY, JUNE 30: the biggest show occurs at the very end of june. not only is june 30th the full moon (a blue moon for some), but venus and saturn will appear 0.7 degrees apart in the western sky! for reference, the angular diameter of the full moon on the sky is half a degree. the two planets will be very bright and very close to each other, but they will set soon after sunset so make sure you go outside to enjoy a romantic sunset and planetary spectacle!

keep looking up and enjoy!

Friday, June 15, 2007

one of thousands

the series hometown baghdad is almost over...

science, it works bitches!

i really enjoy the comic series xkcd! here's the fantastic t-shirt that i plan to buy as soon as i move back to the states and can have it shipped to me!



description from the website:
Science: We finally figured out that you could separate fact from superstition by a completely radical method: observation. You can try things, measure them, and see how they work! Bitches.

The graph on the back of the shirt is data from the COBE mission, which looked at the background microwave glow of the universe and found that it fit perfectly with the idea that the universe used to be really hot everywhere. This strongly reinforced the Big Bang theory and was one of the most dramatic examples of an experiment agreeing with a theory in history -- the data points fit perfectly, with error bars too small to draw on the graph. It's one of the most triumphant scientific results in history.

... and the two men that predicted and observed the blackbody nature and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation were awarded the 2006 nobel prize in physics! go science!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

as the universe expands

the newest edition of the carnival of space is up at star stryder.

i contributed my thoughts on why i think life, in some form, *must* exist somewhere in the universe other than just on earth!


ham and jam

so much for star gazing during this week on the mountain top! eventhough its a new moon now, i'm stuck under the thickest layer of clouds i've seen over these mountains! weather sources last night reported that the freezing line would be at 3,500 meters which is higher than the 2722 meter (8930 ft) altitude of cerro pachon and the gemini-south telescope. when i woke up this afternoon, i saw exactly where the 3500m line is on the nearby mountains across the valley due to the nice layer of snow that appeared overnight!

a while back i mentioned that i enjoyed the dinners at this observatory because there is usually some unidentifiable food item served. as i've lived in chile, i've become more familiar with the local delicacies and have recognized almost everything i've eaten on this observing run! i happened to have my camera with me at dinner tonight and (like a dork) took this picture of my salad plate. theres the typical broccoli, peas, corn, an olive, tomatoes and onions, and then... the mystery. i didnt know what that brown tubular thing was for a long time, and even saw it in its raw form at the farmer's market a few times before realizing what it was.... cochayuyo... a kind of seaweed! it's taste is not as strong as a typical green variety, but there is definitely a seaweed flavor to it. i've mostly seen it mashed up in stews more than served plain like this.

another feature of all night observing is the "night lunch". at this observatory, we fill out a form with many choices for sandwiches and other snacks and then receive a little goodie bag. i decided to be adventurous tonight and try something new. i got one relatively safe sandwich with ham, avocado, cheese and onion. there was an option for "jam" which i was a bit confused about. the flavors looked like the flavors of yogurt that they usually throw into my night lunch so i just chose the apricot. i also created a tocino sandwich, having recently learned that tocino is bacon. i mean, how could one really go wrong with bacon? when i received my night lunch i opened up the sandwiches to inspect and found that you can go wrong with bacon! one sandwich was covered with barely cooked, greasy bacon and the other had both pieces of bread smeared in sticky orange jam! hahaha! oops. i'm not saying that i'm not going to eat them when i get hungry, but i've never had a ham and jam sandwich before!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

mr wizard

our beloved mr. wizard (don herbert) died today at the age of 89. when i was young, i absolutely loved to watch mr wizard's world on nickelodeon... a true youngin of the 80's i was! i enjoyed that fact that he had kids on the show to help perform different scientific experiments. he had a great way of making science accessible and not being condescending while helping the kids formulate theories to figure out what was really happening! he made me want to figure out how things worked and probably introduced me to skepticism, although i've never recognized that until thinking about it now. i became skeptical when people would try to trick me because i suspected there was some explanation that i should be able to figure out. i also had a really cool magicians kit growing up so i was able to trick other people while understanding the secrets (although my grandpa always got me with his "i have 11 fingers" trick!).

usually mr wizard would introduce an experiment by demonstration... always leaving me and the kid on the show amazed, saying "wow"! some things seemed like magic at first, but 10 minutes later i understood the simple underlying scientific truth (or at least i knew that a scientific explanation existed, even if i didnt understand it!!). i've looked around the video internet world, but i havent found any clips of old experiments from the show. anyone know where i can look to find some?

i've typically considered carl sagan to be the major influence in my decision to study astronomy, but i think mr wizard definitely started me on my journey of questioning and logically understanding the world around me.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

science and art!

introducing the periodic table of elements printmaking project! a great way to learn a little but about a function of each element thru art!

long nights ahead

i'm heading up to cerro pachon today to start a 6 night observing run on gemini-south. the weather has been pretty crappy for the past week, which already makes for difficult observing, but the nights are also llllooooooonnnnngggggg this time of year so it'll be a work-full week! i'm not-so-secretly hoping for a snow storm, which appears to be in the forecast for two nights from now. it's not that i dont want to observe, it's that i love snow and i havent seen any in a long time other than what sits on top of distant mountain peaks!

i'll leave you with a little entertainment for now. this year marks my 10th time around the sun since graduating high school. thru the wide world of internet connections like facebook and myspace, old friends are contacting each other daily! i was pointed to a 20 minute video collage of my graduating class made by scott roberts. as i was strolling thru memory lane looking at all the familiar faces of my past, i saw a picture of myself that i'd never seen before!! i thought... "wait, was the ME???" this shot comes from around 4th grade with my friends ashley and melissa..... i wonder what they're doing these days? look at that necklace.... and the bandana tied to the belt!! classic! i have NO memory of this outfit or this event, but i stopped the video and laughed out loud for several minutes before gaining my composure again. this photo demonstrates one of the 2 perms i've had in my life and just how blond my hair was!! hahaha! enjoy...

Saturday, June 9, 2007

yellow submarine

brown is for the mama llama, suzie's hair and fred's pajamas, chocolate pudding, mud and dirt and half the sand on grand bahamas.

but what is green for?

the person who leaves a comment with the right answer gets a surprise sent to him or her from chile.

what the world eats

i've been on a food kick lately. not sure why... maybe it's some form of preparation to return to the US....

anyway, i saw this photo essay by peter menzel showing what 16 different families around the world eat in a week, and i think it's fascinating!

via andrea harner

Thursday, June 7, 2007

more space blogs

the 6th installment of carnival of space is up and running at music of the spheres.

my contribution, pale blue dot, comes from last december for the 10th anniversary of carl sagan's death. i talk about his contributions to astronomy, space exploration, skepticism and science public outreach. i tell the story of how i decided to go into astronomy.

i also added a link in the side bar to a great collection of astronomy blogs!

rosetta nebula

another spectacular image posted on APOD today. the rosetta nebula...

towards the top right of the image you can see many bright stars with the same apparent color, crammed together in a cluster. these stars formed all at once and very recently from all the dense gas in the area. when those stars initially sparked and started to burn hydrogen gas in their centers, they started to send a consistent flurry of light particles, photons, out in every direction. as the photons from the brightest and hottest stars started to reach the gas that surrounds the newly-formed stars, the gas began to glow excitedly from the extra energy it gained from the photons! different types of gas glow with different temperatures that astronomers can isolate by using filters during their telescopic observations. here, the red shade is sulfur, the green is hygrogen and the blue is oxygen. individual exposures are taken with each filter, colors are digitally assigned, and then all images are added together to form this beautiful composite!

the above image focuses on a portion of the rosetta nebula, shown in its entirety below. the full gas cloud covers an area on the sky big enough to fit 5 full moons. you can clearly see the stellar cluster in the center of the image.

the open star cluster (NGC 2244) was discovered in 1690 by english astronomer john flamsteed. the diffuse and much fainter nebula around the star cluster wasnt discovered until later. The rosetta nebula is about 50 light-years across and 4,500 light years away. star formation continues to occur in this nebula of gas and dust, so it should shine brightly for many millions of years to come.


yesterday was the anniversary of the assassination robert f. kennedy... the closest person i have to a political hero. i read a great tribute article by jim booth describing his experience as a teenager on that day nearly 40 years ago. a quote from rfk...

The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of bold projects and new ideas. Rather, it will belong to those who can blend passion, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the great enterprises and ideals of American society.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

knit graffiti

stockholm, sweden. wonder how long this awesome graffiti will last?

link: maskerade

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

real food

with rising food prices across the US, i was pleased to find a resource to find quality, locally grown products!

enter your city and state at to find farmer's markets, groceries and restaurants that distribute food provided by local farmers. this is one case where i feel that the technology of mass production for cheap is not the advantage!
People worldwide are rediscovering the benefits of buying local food. It is fresher than anything in the supermarket and that means it is tastier and more nutritious. It is also good for your local economy--buying directly from family farmers helps them stay in business.

also, learn what are the world's healthiest foods along with some yummy recipes.

UPDATE: found another cool website listing farms where you can go to pick your own fruits and vegetables!! it also gives techniques for canning and preserving what you pick. awesome!

Monday, June 4, 2007

you're how old, grandma?

i was born and raised just north of cincinnati, ohio, USA. as a kid i loved playing in the woods and grabbing creatures that lived in creeks! there was a small creek near my house, but my favorite one was in a nearby park. i would ride my bike the miles so i could go search for fossils. they were everywhere! i didnt know much about these easily-found trinkets, but i knew that the region was special for having so many fossils and i knew that these little creatures eternally stuck in rocks were really really old!!!

these fun memories happily flood my mind as i try to come to terms with a new feature of my hometown....

the creationist museum....

introducing the most ridiculous thing to come from religious zealots in a long long time... and it's located in the city where i spent my childhood and where most of my extended family resides. somehow i feel hurt by the presence of this museum.

i try to recognize, learn about, appreciate and accept that people in every part of the world live differently. no one else is like me (thats a good thing!) and i'm not like anyone else. these differences i cherish and i have no real interest in spending time pursuading people to believe in all the same things i believe in.... but i have an even harder time understanding how people think the universe is only 6,000 years old, than i have understanding how people still believe everything revolves around the earth!

Lawrence M. Krauss, a theoretical physicist, has said some wonderful things about this issue that i would like to share. please read his top 10 reasons why the universe, the sun, earth, and life are NOT 6,000 years old. he goes on....
There are many and varied ways that modern science has confirmed the history of the Universe, the Solar System, the Earth, and Life on Earth. All of these methods, while independent, are in agreement and they ALL tell us that Life, the Earth, and the Universe are many orders of magnitude older than 6,000 years. There is no scientific room for errors of this many orders of magnitude. It would be like measuring the distance between New York and Los Angeles, and determining it was less than 1 inch. In order to agree with a Young Earth Creationist picture, essentially every facet of modern science - on which we base every aspect of modern technology, our vehicles, our society - would have to be completely incorrect, implying almost everything we base our modern lives on would not work as it does.

why should this be a concern at all? because 3 american republican presidential candidates stated that they do not believe in evolution. these men seek to lead the current superpower nation yet they reject scientific consensus on biology, geology, cosmology and physics because of their literal interpretation of words written in a religious book. to be frank, this scares that crap out of me!

i dont know how i knew when i was so young that the fossils i found were so old, but i'm glad i had the freedom to investigate my intuition and to arrive at my own conclusions. this intellectual freedom is severely denied by the stout belief in any single religious text... yet three men wish to continue spreading "freedom" around the world as they believe they are defending it in the US.

read other reactions at pharyngula's creation museum carnival

Sunday, June 3, 2007

what is a melody?

i've discovered that chileans are very uncreative when it comes to naming streets. every city that i've traveled to in this country (that has at least two streets) has one named Prat and one named O'Higgins**. in general, when you find prat, you've found the main street and you know o'higgins will be cross somewhere nearby! arturo prat was a chilean naval officer in the second half of the 19th century who sailed on a ship called "O'Higgins" which was named after Bernardo O'Higgins - one of the commanders that freed chile from spanish rule in the early 1800's.

in La Serena, prat is a one-way, one lane street dominated by pedestrian traffic. the buildings are mostly two stories tall with shops at ground level and extended porches above. the small stores range from new to used goods, selling clothes, shoes, books, wine, electronics, dollar store stuff, office supplies, etc... vendors stand along the blocks selling a couple dozen manjar sweets. there are often people sitting on benches and others leaning against the building walls with paper cups extended for loose change.

after my spanish class this past wednesday, i was walking along prat wondering about who this historical prat figure actually was when my thoughts were dramatically disturbed by a loud, chaotic and persistent whistling sound. across the street was a man sitting with an overturned bucket and a cup on top. he held an old plastic recorder in his hands and rapidly moved his fingers over the holes as he blew continuously to make some of the most awful high-pitched sounds possible!! there was a slight twinkle in his eye like he knew he couldnt really play any songs, but he was making the effort to entertain, which in his mind must have been worth some monetary donation! i actually laughed out loud at this sight. i'm not sure why i found the situation so funny, but i stopped to survey the scene. i wanted to see how long he would continue "playing" and i wondered how others were reacting. i saw some cringed noses, but mostly people just walked on past without dropping any money. that lack of action says something because i've noticed people here are very generous with their loose change.

the man just kept on playing, so i walked across the street and dropped a 100 peso coin in his cup... i definitely felt entertained!

**almost every US city i've been to has a martin luther king, jr blvd

Saturday, June 2, 2007

buenos aires birthday

i spent a wonderful 5-day vacation in buenos aires, argentina to celebrate the big day... sultry tango shows, malbec wine, incredible (cheap) steaks, walking, talking, freezing, taking pictures, european architecture, south american comfort, old friends, new friends, new spanish, new music, new perspective....

see the full set of photos here