Thursday, April 30, 2009

gravity: one gallon

need a little more gravity in your life? sam potts might be able to help :)


of course, everything has a gravitational influence on everything else! i'm (always) imparting a gravitational force on the surface of the earth, just as the moon is exerting a gravitational force on the earth as well! its funny, even if impossible, to claim a measurement of one gallon of gravity!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

carnival of space - 100!

for one hundred weeks in a row, space enthusiasts have collected their favorite writing samples together for everyone to enjoy in the carnival of space! enjoy your weekly dose of space reading at the one minute astronomer's site!

the year 2012 AD

for those of you worrying (needlessly) about the many end-of-the-world scenarios that have been put forth to occur (in)conveniently on the exact same day - december 21st, 2012 - there is a nice description by cameron hummels in today's podcast of 365 days of astronomy!

Summary: An increasing number of people believe that December 21, 2012 will mark the end of the world. Proponents of this idea cite diverse astronomical reasons for an imminent apocalypse: the end of the Mayan long-count calendar; an alignment between the Solar System and the Milky Way; the solar sunspot cycle reaching an all-time high; the reversal of the Earth's magnetic field; and a devastating collision with 'Planet X'. Tune in to hear to the facts and controversy surrounding this purported impending disaster.

listen here!

i will inevitably write more about this topic as the date approaches because people have asked me a lot of questions about these issues and i'd like to clarify what are facts and what are fallacies. to summarize: no, i am not worried. i have not heard a single doomsday claim that is supported by facts.

for more information, read what ian has to say at universe today.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

timescapes timelapse

here's another lovely video by tom at timescapes! at minute 2:15, he shows some great shots of a single dish of the very large baseline array (VLBA), and several shots of the multi-dish very large array (VLA) in new mexico. beautiful views of the moving night sky throughout!

Timescapes Timelapse: Learning to Fly from Tom @ Timescapes on Vimeo

Thursday, April 23, 2009

under the bridge - the literal version

no doubt about it - the red hot chili peppers have produced some fantastic music over the years! but this mock video, that shares new lyrics to under the bridge based on exactly what is shown in the video, is hilarious! (and it doesnt hurt that i never get tired of watching anthony kiedis...)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

astronomers and the temple of preah khan

this clever panorama image, featuring yara and myself and yara and me, was created by audrey galamet at the preah khan temple, near angkor, cambodia. click for a larger view!

my pose on the right is an attempt to imitate the lovely apsara dancers who are carved into the walls all over these temples.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

38 hours across thailand

miraculously, all forms of public transport i needed to use yesterday conspired to work with me! the day started with a 45 minutes taxi ride from our hostel to the pier of koh chang island. the taxi consisted of two benches in the back of a pick up truck, with our luggage tossed on top of a loose covering. then we took a ferry to mainland thailand where we waited (ahem, sweated) for one hour until the bus arrived. the bus was supposed to take 6 hours, but it arrived in bangkok uncharacteristically ahead of schedule, giving me more time to say au revoir to my fabulous traveling companions!

i took a tuk-tuk to the train station and really enjoyed bargaining with the tuk-tuk driver over the price! i had previously asked a travel agent about how much the tuk-tuk would cost; she said 60 baht. the driving initially offered me 150!? when i countered with 50, he looked shocked, and then smiled, and we settled on 80 (about $2 for a 20 minute ride). haggling can be great or horrible.... not much in between.

i arrived at the train station, bought my 2nd class overnight sleeper compartment ticket to chiang mai, which i had been worried might be sold out! the train confused me at first because i had no idea how the "sleeper" system worked, but i eventually figured it out and the ride was mostly comfortable. it ended up taking nearly 16 hours to get to the chiang mai station!!! then i took another tuk-tuk and waited about 30 minutes for the girl i'm staying with here to come meet me.

whew! i'm exhausted from all the sitting, broken up by moments of backpack-laden excitement!

chiang mai is a cute little city with great alley ways, coffee shops and message parlors everywhere. my first point of business was to sign up for a cooking class ;)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

the language of the universe

at the conference in malaysia (was that just over a week ago?!?!), meghan gray distributed business cards promoting her fabulous survey - STAGES. the front of the cards have gorgeous color images of individual galaxies from the abell 901/902 galaxy supercluster, and the backs have information on the project with a link to the university website. i took more than my fair share of cards (thanks meghan ;) and have since given one to each of the people that i have come to know during my travels.

the reaction of one person in particular really made me appreciate that i grabbed the cards. while we were visiting the temples of angkor in cambodia, we hired one young tuk-tuk driver for all three days. he was adorable and enthusiastic, although his poor english and our nonexistent khmer made communication very difficult. nonetheless, we ate lunch together each day and went out in siem reap during our last day in town (i'll share the story of that unappetizing local meal in another post).

 we told him that we are three girls from three different countries on three different continents, but we are all astronomers and are traveling together after our conference. he said "strong ladies!" we smiled and blushed. he wrote down the khmer alphabet in my notebook and taught us several words, as he practiced his english and tried to understand our chit chat.

during our first lunch together, i gave him one of the STAGES cards to help explain what an "astronomer" is. the card had the image of a gorgeous spiral galaxy dancing on the front and i wrote my name on the back. he seemed fascinated as he smiled and laughed and happily stashed the card into his long-sleeved shirt pocket.

it was impossible to explain the details of the image and reality that we live in a similar galaxy called the milky way, but we didnt really need to say anything... he was thrilled. every time we returned to the tuk-tuk that afternoon, after exploring another ancient temple around angkor, we found him lounging in the tuk-tuk, with his feet up, admiring the image of the distant galaxy. wonderful!

no matter what part of this earth we happened to be born in, or what language we were taught to speak by our parents, we all see the moon rise and fall each day and we all share the wonder of bright stars in the night sky.

unfortunately, i'm out of those beautiful business cards, so now i'm left to using hand gestures and drawings to explain the universe to people i meet that dont speak english (or spanish).

Monday, April 13, 2009

excitement in bangkok

for those of you following along at home, there is trouble in bangkok - my previously scheduled destination of tomorrow!! not to worry, we've decided to head south instead, to an island near the cambodian border. hopefully things will settle down in bangkok (while i'm relaxing on the beach), as i'll most likely have to pass thru there to get to chiang mai in the north. i'm happy to be avoiding the big city, actually. i've been having loads fun the last few days exploring small towns and their way of life.

birthday word puzzle

i have a little word puzzle for you.

twenty years ago, ken was four times older than amanda. today is ken's birthday and now amanda is half* his age. how old is ken turning today?

the problem tells us:

the solution:

happy birthday pops!!!

* well, i'm very nearly half anyway... no need to work out the details :)

the second photo was taken by brad kuntz.

the idea for this post was blatantly stolen from the clever daniel jaramillo at chichipanguanorrea.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

sneak peak of southeast asia

here's a teaser of photos from my adventures so far... some from malaysia and some from cambodia. enjoy!

the petronas towers of kuala lumpur.

i have endless pictures of food.

my new favorite shoes. luckily, she removed them when she entered the temple so i didnt have to keep suspiciously following her to get a photo!

monkey beach.... where the monkeys out smarted us and stole our juice.

view of penang from the largest buddist temple in malaysia.

with my traveling companions, eating with our fingers :)


i love the written script, even though its hard to look beyond the amazing motorcyclists!

i have no idea what the black things are...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

cambodia - first impressions

non-stop, chaotic movement,
dominated by motocyclists with up to four riders!
few helmets.
many mouth/nose covers.

intersections harbor motorists
moving along vectors of >every< direction.
glad i'm not navigating the tuk-tuk!

concentrated faces during the day
in order to keep up with the pace.
smiling faces at night
when the winds blow and the temperature cools.

many market fish still jumping.
unidentifiable animal parts sitting on the table
next to the petite, squatting woman chopping them up.

ladies blush when asked for a photo.
young children yell >hello!!< as we walk past.

we ate a veggie-full soup last night,
based on the khmer diet.
unknown animal parts boiled to make a broth.
loads of various greens added
along with basil and many other herbs.
two kinds of noodles finished the base,
then we scooped it into our bowls
to make room for more greens in the pot!
option to add a bit of a flavorful brown gravy for texture,
and spicy red chili paste -
if you think your stomach can handle it!
apparently mine couldnt.

hopefully i'll remember that lesson today.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Thursday, April 2, 2009

shake the world

here's a nice worldwide video project called shake the world.

i like projects such as this where people from all over the world can participate, and in the end we are entertained, and learn something about the realities of other people's lives!

Shake The World from Shake The World on Vimeo.

i've arrived in malaysia!

the moon smiles while orion leans on his side. the street-flooding downpours dont dissuade the motorcyclists from riding around town.

i have arrived in kuala lumpur, malaysia!

the city of KL is surprisingly modern. there is little evidence for structures older than 20 years or so. the petronas towers create a gorgeous skyline with the KL tower, but it doesnt feel "exotic" until i go to the chaotic markets and eat the fabulous food!

the conference is proceeding smoothly! astronomers give their talks to the group, trying to convince others of their results, which dont always agree with previous talks. controversial subjects are the most interesting, when people discuss potential resolutions and advise each other on how to progress with ideas!

a simple challenge in this science is to create definitions, then convince the community to continuously use those definitions! one result may contradict another just because they define "close" galaxies differently, for example! this is true for any subject i guess, but no less frustrating among the experts.

in all honesty, there hasnt been a major breakthrough in the field of galaxy formation and evolution in probably 25 years - and i'm not seeing any evidence for an exciting *new* result here. the discussions revolve around tweaking the details of relations discovered in the 70's or 80's. i was hoping for a bit more insight, but maybe it's just me that hasnt found it....?

time for lunch.... i'll try to make time for more reflections over the next couple days...

yuri's night - april 4-12, 2009

yuri's night: dream. explore. celebrate.