Friday, April 29, 2011

parthenon: ancient legos

i started my official holiday today - in greece! i probably wont be posting much over the next week, but i couldnt resist sharing some photos from a walk up to the acropolis of athens today.

is it just me, or does the parthenon look like it was put together with stone legos? ;)

Γειά σας!

why dark matter matters

this is an excellent pencast from phd comics.

Dark Matters from PHD Comics on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


the moon set is my favorite scene in this one. interesting editing with the wind turbine shots too! the music is violin concerto: III by philip glass.

Leica Summilux-C w/ Tom Lowe from Band Pro Film & Digital on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

heidelberg, germany

two weeks ago i visited the lovely city of heidelberg, germany and the max planck institute for astronomy (MPIA) located on top of a mountain overlooking heidelberg.

the little city has a very large castle!

and a big river with an old bridge to walk across.

i love the coziness of restaurants that serve german food, i just wish i would have thought to take this photo when the plate was still full with yummy spätzle and meat.

after a nice journey up the steep hill ("berg" = mountain) in a funicular, we saw some lovely views and walked the rest of the way to MPIA through a forest.

just next to the MPIA, a building is being constructed in the shape of a spiral galaxy (!!) and will host the haus der astronomie - an exciting organization dedicated to teaching astronomy to school children and adults all over the german-speaking world!

i was lucky enough to get a full tour :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

ways to stay creative

for the most part, this list is great (see number 1), but personally, i dont do number 7 (does this surprise you as much as it does me? i dont know, i just never think to do it).

 from life on michigan avenue

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pythagoras’ Trousers radio show

while visiting cardiff a couple weeks ago, i participated in a radio interview for a show called pythagoras' trousers. the show examines current issues "from the worlds of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, bringing these fields to a wider audience and promoting these subject areas to school pupils." excellent stuff!

the episode is called:
Bank Holiday Astronomy Special: Herschel Space Mission

and will be aired tonight, monday 25th april, from 8-8:30pm (GMT, which is 3-3:30pm EDT). you can listen to the show at radio cardiff (locally at 98.7FM) or streaming online, or anytime after the air date as a podcast at pythagorus' trousers.

i havent heard the episode yet, but during the interview, i talked about what knowledge we gain by using long-wavelength herschel space telescope observations to complement optical data of distant galaxies in the universe, and also what these combined observations teach us about our own milky way galaxy.

the image above shows the andromeda galaxy (M31) through herschel's big eye.

to learn more about the herschel space observatory, please check out the very nice website produced by the outreach group at cardiff university: click here!

a lovely day over edinburgh

unexpectedly sunny skies for most of today!

(click to see full-size!)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

ride the slide

i'm currently in garching, germany (near munich) visiting the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics and the offices of the european southern observatory (ESO). across the road from these intricately-designed buildings is the local university's school of Mathematik, Physik und Informatik.

inside of this building lives a wonderful set of slides, which provide an excellent escape from the office and bit of adrenaline-inducing fun when i feel sleepy in the afternoon!

you can pick up quite a bit of speed sliding down these slick tubes, and they provide a convenient measurement system beyond the end of the slide to tell you just how far you go! the best part is that the markings along the white line say 1, then the square root of 2, then 2, etc... nerdilicious.

every building should have a slide. weeeee!

architecture 101

a design from aled lewis :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

everyone is a genius

(lefty jenkins)

it's a good reminder for myself that i should seek the help of others to accomplish certain goals, instead of stubbornly trying to do too many things on my own. no need to reinvent the wheel, as they say. we each have our own unique strengths and abilities and we should recognize and acknowledge those qualities in each other in order to achieve more together.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sunday, April 17, 2011

mathematical sign language

surprisingly simple and useful representations of these various functions...


Saturday, April 16, 2011

timelapse: the mountain

these timelapse films of various everyday natural phenomena... sunsets, clouds passing, the milky way crawling across the sky... make me sit back, relax, and smile in awe. enjoy. (full screen view recommended)

The Mountain from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

these scenes were all filmed in El Teide in spain. it's worth a click to read Terje Sorgjerd's full account of his adventure filming these amazing scenes.

hat tip to tom at timescapes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

mangle with a clear conscience!

i'm currenty in cardiff, wales to give a talk at cardiff university. while exploring the city, guess what we found inside this cool building...

did you guess?

a penny smasher!!!

but not to worry... we can all mangle with a clear conscience :)

cardiff is a city where the buildings have hats.

and face boats. (?)

and it's by the sea! look, i think that's england!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

fires near mcdonald observatory

i studied for my PhD in austin, texas and spent several months at the mcdonald observatory in west texas. i saw many beautiful thunderstorms and even some smoke plumes during my observing stints, but never did a full-fledged wildfire threaten the safety of people nearby.

that all changed several days ago when a devastating wildfire blasted through the nearby town of ft. davis. the observatory shared this incredible photo:

shown is the 107-inch telescope, the one i've used for a cumulative 4 months or so, as viewed from the catwalk of the 82-inch telescope that was built in the 1930s!

as of now, the observatory is safe, but here is a link for info on the current texas wildfire situation. best wishes to all!

the NY Times posted an article with the images below included:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011

more from dotAstronomy3

here is an exciting summary of some of the scenes of dotAstronomy3 this week:

.astronomy3 Trailer from Markus Poessel on Vimeo.

and a short video explaining why we managed to wipe out the WiFi network. also, ABBA!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

pluto, the previous planet: a song

a couple years ago i was walking to the bus stop with the song "rudolph the red nosed reindeer" stuck in my head, much to my frustration! in order to maintain my sanity, i started singing alternative lyrics based on the phrase that popped into my head: pluto the previous planet! i've been wanting to record this song and post it for the public ever since, but had never really been inspired.

so yesterday during the hack day portion of dotAstronomy meeting, i gathered a few fellow conference participants: astronomers, a great pianist, and an enthusiastic director.... and off we went!

so without futher ado... pluto, the previous planet!!

Pluto, the previous planet from carolune on Vimeo.

as much as i like the song as it is, the last verse might lead one to believe that i would like to reinstate pluto as a planet. i want to state for the record that this is NOT the case! i'm pleased that astronomers have decided on a definition of a planet that is based on some actual physics! the song is just fun and i hope people enjoy it.

with all this in mind, we also developed an accompanying website with a special message from pluto:

"First of all, thank you everyone for your concern, but really, I’m happy in my new role as the original dwarf planet! And there’s no need to worry, nothing physically happened to me to cause my reclassification. In fact, Charon’s been jealous for years that I was considered a planet, while we’ve been dancing around each other in our joint orbit around the sun. And don’t forget about our other two small satellites: Nix and Hydra! They may be small, but they’re important to me. And your Earth only has one Moon, so I feel special..."

here's the website:

hope you enjoy!

dotAstronomy - Oxford, UK

the third dotAstronomy conference is well underway in oxford's new college! i'll have exciting results to reveal tomorrow from this year's hack day, but for now, here are a few photos of the harry-potter-like venue!

Friday, April 1, 2011

stellar path

not sure who created this artwork, but i like it and saw it at onyx earth