Tuesday, November 29, 2011

christmas moon

despite the heat of the southern hemisphere, i'm starting to get in to the holiday mood thanks to this lovely photo by Joni Niemela.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

two astronomers walk into a bar...

i went to a favorite pub in sydney a few weeks ago with some non-astronomer friends, who started making fun of me immediately when i arrived, because i was wearing my star wars t-shirt. i defended myself, in vain.

when it was my round for drinks, i went up to the bar with one of these friends so we could decide what kind of beer we wanted. while in the queue, i thought maybe i recognized the silhouette of someone there. sure enough, despite the hundreds of bars in sydney, there were a few astronomers at the pub who happened to be attending a conference in sydney that week.

i walked up, tapped an astronomer friend on the shoulder, and when he turned around i happily pointed out that he was also wearing a star wars t-shirt :)

i'm not sure if that actually helped my case, but i felt somehow vindicated!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

math problem

i'd like to tell you that when i go out with physicists, this isnt a tough problem, but that would be a lie ;)

Monday, November 21, 2011

perth's pinnacles

i'm visiting the city of perth in western australia right now. i work on projects with a few different groups of astronomers here, so i decided to make an extended visit to progress those projects, give a talk, and explore a bit of western australia!

over the weekend we had a lovely BBQ at matilda bay, where you could see the city center in the distance.

we then set off the next day on a short road trip to visit the pinnacles desert area three hours north of perth.

it's unclear exactly how these rocks formed, but it happened after a series of events over a long, long period of time. it's also interesting that they occupy a relatively small area out in the desert of western australia.

we had a lot of photographic fun.

i forgot to bring my hat from sydney, so i purchased one at a shop on our way to the desert. the ribbon read "merry christmas!" this might be my holiday card this year :)

it was incredibly windy while we were out there and we were occasionally, painfully sandblasted! the benefit of the wind was the mystical atmosphere the sandstorms created.

some of the pinnacles reminded me of other things.

and if only i was a rock star, i'd have a nice photo to go with the CD, thanks to aaron's photography!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

southern skies and southern cross

a couple months ago, brady visited australia to shoot some footage for the periodic table of videos, a new project called deep sky videos and our old favorite, sixty symbols. in this new sixty symbols video, i get to explain all about my favorite celestial objects visible in the southern hemisphere!

one thing that this video reminds me is that i start talking really, really quickly when i get excited!

there is some extra footage available to watch if you want to know a bit more!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Perth beaches

not a bad way to spend a morning... especially where there is a BBQ to look forward to in the afternoon! :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

the sky over the anglo-australian telescope

an astronomy colleague of mine, Dr Ángel López-Sánchez, recently created a nice time-lapse film of images he collected while observing at the Siding Spring in Australia, where the Australian Astronomical Telescope sits.

he recorded some of the scenes while i was out observing with him, and i always worried that maybe the kangaroos would knock over his camera equipment as it sat clicking away throughout the long nights. apparently enough footage survived, because this video is great!

other scenes from siding spring:

tim tam slams
milky way over AAT
rainbow panorama
sunset over warrumbungle park
the invaders have landed
the UK-Schmidt telescope
determining redshifts
telescope domes and kangaroos

Thursday, November 17, 2011

stellar quilts

it's a wee bit out of my price range, but the pillars of creation quilt created by jimmy mcbride on etsy is incredible!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


is anyone else participating in this year's movember charity campaign?

the entrance of luna park on sydney's harbour is through the mouth of this slightly creepy old clown, who usually isnt sporting a mo.

my favorite times are when the clown on stilts comes out to floss the big clown's huge teeth :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

lightning circles

i like the arrangement of these stormy night photos done by artist cassandra jones.

she has also created other shapes, but i like circles best.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

dirty space news: transiting planets

we havent had a good installment of dirty space news in a while, so i'm pleased to present a killer! the caveat is that this one was created on purpose, but that doesnt make it any less brilliant!

as of right now, there are 697 exoplanets known. of these, 185 have been detected by the transit method.

if a planet happens to pass in front of its star from our point of view, it blocks a tiny amount of light output from the star. sensitive telescopes can detect this dip and then we can attempt to model how big the planet must be! the kepler space telescope, for example, looks for such systems with transiting planets.

some observations of transits at different wavelengths do not exactly agree in their timing, so people have suggested that the planet might push a shock wave in front of it that distorts the geometry of whats blocking the star's light (ie. it's not just a circular planet, but could be a different shape due to the shock.).

in order to test this theory, an industrious student from the UK wrote some code to test out the hypothesis. before the code was used to model real data, this student made an inspired choice as to which geometric forms to use and thankfully, shared the results on youtube.

without further ado... (turn your volume up and click on the image below)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

just kids

during my train rides to and from work over the last week, i've been reading patti smith's memoir just kids.

she's a rock star poet. there are some incredibly memorable sentences throughout the book that have made me sit back and reflect - not about their meaning so much as the harmonious and clever way they are put together. this quote isnt from her book (that i've seen yet), but i saw it on the vast internets today:

i was lucky enough to see her perform during a book tour in england a couple years ago. i bought the book at the show after listening to her read a few passages, but i had to put it down the first time i tried reading it. she does a lot of name-dropping throughout, which is simultaneously fascinating and annoying, and a lot of the book focuses on her relationship with robert mapplethorpe. i couldnt take it at first.

but this time around i'm really enjoying her poetic phrases and i've been listening to more of her music as well. i love her passion and attitude.

here's a video of one of my favorite songs of hers, dancing barefoot. randomly, this is a version performed live with eddie vedder and johnny depp. it's a great version, aside from the person singing along during the choruses...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sydney observatory

my plan for the evening ;)

maybe one day I'll think of a new title for a public talk, but I just like this one!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

a year in oz

we had a few people over this weekend to celebrate the fact that my flatmate and i both moved to sydney one year ago. time flies swiftly, and creeps along, simultaneously.

we had fun creating the spread, and a friend brought incredible flowers!

another friend brought yummy desserts and adorable meringue birds.

inspired by recent travels, i attempted to make a matcha and adzuki bean (green tea and sweet red bean) cake roll! it was my first attempt at the roll thing and i'm amazed it rolled up without any major cracks! overall i was pleased with how it turned out. the cake was a bit dry, but the flavours were nice and the colours were great!

i managed enough nerve to sing a few original songs for the very friendly audience. i should play in front of people more often. i can stand up and talk about science in front of an audience of hundreds without feeling as nervous as i felt playing live music in my own living room.

the sun treated us to a nice end to the lovely day.

it has been a good year here in sydney. took a while to get settled, but i feel at home now. it helps that the city is so ridiculously beautiful, i found a good person to live with, and our (mold-less) flat is a pleasant place to be :)

Friday, November 4, 2011

stealing candy from a baby

the challenge from jimmy kimmel was for parents to tell their kids that they ate all their halloween candy... and record the responses! the experiment sounded cruel and unusual to me so i very reluctantly watched the video, but the resulting footage is surprisingly funny!

at both halloween and easter, i had strategies laid out for how i would consume my candy, mixing the favorites with the okays in a very specific way so that i could trade with my sisters and enjoy the flavours, until all the candy was gone. this process would usually last for a week or so.

i totally would have cried if my parents (or anyone) had taken such sweet satisfaction away from me, but i think i never realized it until i watched these poor kids. there is a lot of anticipation and gratification surrounding the full candy acquisition and consumption experience!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


this pleasantly frustrating statistics question was recently seen on a chalkboard somewhere:

post your answer in the comments...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

deep sky videos

from the creator of sixty symbols, brady haran, comes a new video project and youtube channel called Deep Sky Videos, which is a collection of videos about objects in the night sky!

you'll see at least one familiar face in this preview ;)

on twitter: @DeepSkyVideos