Sunday, November 30, 2008

carnival of space #81

enjoy some space reading at the carnival of space #81 - available now at tiny mantras (smooching infinity since 2005)!

ercolano, italy

mt. vesuvius erupted violently in the year 79 AD, quickly throwing several-meter-deep layers of volcanic ash over the city of pompeii, and pouring a 15 meter thick layer of lava on the city of ercolano (historically, called herculaneum).

mt. vesuvius sits on the bay of naples, viewed here from the city of naples:

while pompeii represents the internationally recognized buried city, the dug-out ruins at ercolano are more intimate, intact, and explorable!

this image shows the un-earthered city of herculaneum in the foreground, the 55,000-strong modern city of ercolano built on top, and the ominous volcano, mount vesuvius, looming in the distance.

since herculaneum has been completely excavated from the thick lava, you walk past impressive views down into the old city as you walk to the main entrance.

here you can see the diagonally placed, earthquake-resisting bricks, and the thin, horizontal roman-style bricks.

looks like some of these bricks were made with porous lava rock (?)

the counters of shops were covered with large marble mosaics.

actually, nearly every surface; floors, walls, and ceilings were covered in detailed stone mosaics or intricate paintings! it was amazing that so many survived and that i could walk right on top of some!

this was a fountain and/or pool to put your feet in with a huge window/sky light above it! there must have been a huge statue on top of the column. nice central room for a home!

the bathrooms were especially elaborate.

this intricate mosaic represents neptune and venus (aphrodite).

(see full-size image)

massage table with light pouring in from a hole that was once covered with stained glass.

columns, columns everywhere!

amazing to think that these beautiful artifacts were the homes of people over 2000 years ago!

see the full set of pictures at full size: here... enjoy!

Friday, November 28, 2008

refraction in space

cool space trick from astronaut leroy chiao on the international space station (ISS) january 15, 2005!

the image comes from the big picture, which has posted a nice set of shots from the ten years of ISS existence!

click to see other refractive photography.

homemade thanksgiving

today is my third day in a row cooking for one single meal. my roommate is laughing at me and i admit i'm pretty amazed at my own dedication to this thanksgiving - for no apparent reason. there are certain food items that i havent been able to find ready-made here in nottingham, so i've decided to cook them from scratch. sometimes when i think i can't have something, i start to crave it. plus, i just moved into a new partly-furnished apartment and have had to discover what cooking items did not come with the place, so i've had to do some domestic shopping to prepare!

the menu:

- veggies and yogurt-dill dip (to warm up our palettes)
- roast chicken (the turkeys just didnt look that good and i actually like chicken better)
- my own holiday cous-cous stuffing (the one recipe my mom has stolen from me ;)
- mashed potatoes and gravy (dedicated to cori-sa!)
- green bean casserole (with homemade french fried onions!)
- cranberry sauce (my first time!)
- three-seed rolls (hooray for yummy yeast bread!)
- not pumpkin pie (couldnt find pumpkins, so i made a butternut squash pie!)
- with whipped cream!

the effort i've put into the meal represents two things, i think.
1) i've invited a few people to my thanksgiving dinner who i'd like to thank for welcoming me so well to this new country (limited by table space and oven size, sorry i couldnt invite everyone i'd like...).
2) i'm really missing *all* of my family right now... and our gargantuan rent-out-a-hall, assembly line, 4-turkey, dessert-table, beer-from-a-keg, wine-from-a-box, kids-running-mad, games-after-dinner, slip-around-on-the-ice-outside thanksgiving celebration!

one side of my family gathers every year in a huge hall below the church that my grandfather attended as a child. all my aunts and uncles and cousins gather (i have about 20 cousins on that side), plus my grandpa's siblings, their kids (my moms cousins), their kids (my second cousins once removed?), and then the next generation of children (my niece and nephew, for example). its easily 100 people (maybe more?). phew!

the oldest generations (my mom's aunts) organize the feast. they are, of course, in charge of the turkeys (more than two, less than five). they call around to the individual members of the family reporting what they should bring: appetizers, candied yams, green bean casserole, glazed carrots, cheesey broccoli casserole, the strange jello fruit thing, apple pie, pumpkin pie, etc... before lining up to fill our plates, we stand together holding hands while my grandpa reflects on the special day with his full family. i adore my his passionate prayer before the meal. even with so many family members, whose names i struggle to remember, but whose features are connected to my own... my grandpa's words bring us all together in appreciation of our fondness for each other and our time spent together.

so as i'm cooking all this food, i'm thinking about my family back home, and missing their laughter. i'm especially thankful to them for being so supportive of me during all the uncommon endeavors i've attempted in life - including my decision to move so far away from them to pursue my own selfish exploration of the universe. thank you!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

hedgehog in the fog

i'm late to this cartoon... over 30 years late! hedgehog in the fog is a russian animation created in 1975, before all the fancy-shmancy computer generated imagery came along. the clip below is well worth the 10 minute investment of time... especially trying to figure out how they created the effect of the fog. enjoy!

found thru operation bumblebee.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

postdoc limbo

from phd comics:

its true that grad school is a sort of limbo, but there is a precise (and looming) finality to that reality... becoming a doctor! for a postdoc, there is no universal or definite goal, aside from the generic academic "publish or perish" mantra.

right now, i'm finalizing the details to have my dissertation work for publication in a peer-review journal, i'm acquainting myself with the research projects of the group i just joined and moving forward with research ideas that coincide with my new boss's existing galaxy data, i'm reducing data i collected with the gemini telescope earlier this year but havent yet had time to pay attention to, and i'm acting as the primary referee for another group's research by reviewing a paper they would like to publish in a journal (and writing a blog).

eventhough it feels a bit overwhelming to write out the list like that, i know that i'm still just learning how to manage my time while it's all my own... before i have the requirements of a university faculty member. assuming i move forward along the academic ladder, i'll have to take care of the issues above in addition to advising students, sitting on committees, teaching courses, and (hopefully) participating in more exciting research collaborations around the world.

wow. i guess i should appreciate this limbo while i'm in it, eh?

how much mom worries

jessica hagy has such a great ability to represent huge truths in simple graphical form.

i love you, mom!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

hold on tight!

at first i was thinking... wow, thats a pretty clever use of natural forces. then i started thinking... woooah dude, hold on tight! and look out for those darwinian rocks!

Monday, November 24, 2008

what type of blog is this?

inspired by asymptotia's description, i decided to use the typealyzer to see what type of blog this is! apparently i write as an "ESTP - the doer."

this classification comes from the myers-briggs personality classifications and stands for Extraverted Sensing Thinking Perceiving. i've taken myers-briggs tests before and i had to sit down and answer about a hundred multiple choice questions. i'm not sure how the typealyzer works just by the text of a blog, but it's still fun to see the results! here's how the typealyzer claims my brain works:

the most interesting thing to me is that the first time i took a myers-briggs test, i was about 14 years old and i was an INFP - Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving, described as
Quiet, reflective, and idealistic. Interested in serving humanity. Well-developed value system, which they strive to live in accordance with. Extremely loyal. Adaptable and laid-back unless a strongly-held value is threatened. Usually talented writers. Mentally quick, and able to see possibilities. Interested in understanding and helping people."

that description fits my 14-year-old-self pretty well i think. its amazing how much we change with time and experience.

another funny result from typealyzer is the little sketch-character that accompanies the description. almost every time i've submitted my blog for one of these online analyzer things, they tell me i'm a man. i wonder if this cute little picture of a girl stems from the fact that most "STFP Doers" are female, they could actually guess my sex from my blog writing style, or the fact that the title "astropixie" has feminine insinuations?

jupiter and venus race to december's horizon

if you have been able to see the early evening skies for the last several months, you have almost certainly noticed two very bright "stars" sinking towards the horizon: venus and jupiter.

venus sets first in the southwest and appears 2 magnitudes brighter than jupiter, which hangs higher in the sky (about 7° apart nov 23rd). watch these bright planets over the next week, as they move together in night sky. jupiter is moving more quickly along the ecliptic, and therefore appears to catch up to venus in the southwestern night sky, as if it wants to win the race to set earlier! by november 30th, the planets are only 2° apart, when the party is invigorated by a wee crescent moon, that passes near the planetary conjunction as it moves the opposite direction in the sky by 12° each night.

jupiter then continues its descent and slowly falls a bit westerly each night. the bright planet sets earlier and earlier so that it eventually catches up with the sun's position in our night sky! jupiter physically passes behind the sun next january 24th as it says goodnight to our night sky. when the planet moves around the far side of the sun, it begins to lead the sun along the ecliptic, and starts to greet us in our morning sky, as it rises just before the sun rises to bring the day.

UPDATE: a comment from chuck convinced me i needed to clear up issues about objects moving around in the night sky!

every night, all objects rise in the east and set in the west, just like the sun, due to earth's daily rotation. over time (many nights or weeks or months), the planets move more quickly with respect to the rest of the stars because they are closer to us in space (this was how we originally identified planets).

while each night venus and jupiter rise in our eastern skies and set in the west, over time they continue along their own orbits around the sun which causes them to move along the ecliptic defined in our sky. currently, jupiter is moving westward along the ecliptic causing it to set a bit earlier each night, while venus is moving, much more slowly, in the other direction, along the ecliptic. so venus isnt actually racing jupiter to set earlier, its very slowly setting later and later. sorry for the confusion, and thanks chuck!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

missing: particle.

news from the large hadron collider has slowed since a few complications arose in september of this year. LHC will remain shut down until spring 2009, since the time for repairs will take a while, and CERN usually shuts down all winter for an obligatory winter maintenance period.

but the scene isn't completely quiet in switzerland as this sign, recently seen around the CERN facilities, shows!

thanks to dark roasted blend.

shuttle night launch

here's a quick and cool video of a shuttle night launch from kennedy space center.

Shuttle Launch: Cape Canaveral, March 11 from Seth Gadsden on Vimeo.

here's a much longer video from endeavor's launch last week (nov 14, 2008). its interesting to watch the last ~7 minutes before the launch and hear commentary explaining each move during the final stages of launch preparation! it would be so great to witness a night launch in person!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

reasons for attending grad school

i think i started in the blue, then moved thru green and orange... at some point adding "avoiding paying student loans."

found at graph jam via mike's meandering mind.

do you look like your car?

meet vladimir nikolic. he can do impressions of cars!

a christmas story

there's a classic 1983 american christmas movie that is played on TV for 24-hour marathons throughout the holiday season: "a christmas story." i loved this movie as a kid and i'm still entertained by it each year. i'm shocked to report that not a single person among the people here in nottingham that i've asked have heard of this movie, much less seen it! i must plan a screening! this movie must be witnessed!! where can i find it?

here's the original trailer for the movie to give you a taste:

"a christmas story" represents an integral part of the comforting holiday tradition i feel every year. my sisters and i quote the movie regularly, from triple dog daring each other, to singing "fa-ra-ra-ra-rar" at the annual family caroling session.

as a pointles bit of trivia, the "christmas story" house is located in cleveland, ohio... a mere 4 hour drive away from where i grew up in cincinnati, but i never went to see it.

thinking about this movie reminds me that i will get to watch all the british christmas specials this holiday season and experience the various traditions unique to this region of the world. is there anything that people particularly like that i should make a point to pay attention to??

frugal astronomy

if youre interested in exploring the universe as an enthusiastic amateur astronomer, but lack the budget to buy a nice telescope or travel to distant locations to find the clearest skies available.... check out 25 useful tips for the frugal astronomer given by brian at one minute astronomer.

Friday, November 21, 2008

scenes from italy

italy has to be one of the most photogenic countries on earth, although i hardly seem to have a hard time finding things to take pictures of wherever i am. the bad news is that my camera requires retirement after the damage received on this trip. the good news is that its time to upgrade my technology! any camera suggestions? i've heard the new canon powershot g10 is excellent, but it might not fit into my little camera bag that i really like :(

anyway, here are some of my favorite scenes from italy.

the colosseum in rome

roman romance

man watching the scene in naples

mount vesuvius from the ferry to capri island

idyllic italy: capri


(abbey road?) pompeii

beautiful marble sculptures recovered from the cities devastated by the 79 AD eruption of mt. vesuvius

the town of atrani

in the town of rovello

idyllic italy: amalfi coast

hello moon

these shots represent a simple preview of many images i have to share! enjoy!