Monday, April 30, 2012

rocket science vs. brain surgery

just saw this video from the comedic genius of mitchell and webb.

i must admit, i have pulled out the old "it's not exactly rocket science" line before, but i usually reserve it for other astronomers or when someone is being a bit of a jerk...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

a farewell to the shuttles

many people have been touched by the sight of NASA's last remaining shuttles being carried to their final resting places.  here is a shot of the enterprise shuttle on april 27th, 2012, on its way to its new home at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in new york city. 

Photo Credit: Smithsonian Institute / Mark Avino and NASA
(see a photo of the cast of Star Trek and NASA's Enterprise in 1976: HERE!)

in case anyone wants to read a bit more about astronomy or give some books to others, i thought i would take this opportunity to share some i've come across recently.  long ago i shared an adult list of accessible science reading that includes carl sagan, richard feynman, and mike brown's recent book about pluto

here i suggest a couple books aimed at kids.

(1) "Starry Messenger" by Peter Sis has some lovely illustrations and is a nice story about galileo.

(2) "The Way the Universe Works" Dorling Kindersley authors: Robin Kerrod and Giles Sparrow is jam packed with lots of good info across most of astronomy. it's more encyclopedia-like and less story-like, but would be fun for kids of all ages to look through and read more as interest arises.

(3) "George's Secret Key to the Universe" by Stephen and (his daughter) Lucy Hawking.  did you know stephen hawking and his daughter write a kids adventure book?   i didnt until recently.  it is aimed at the 7-8+ age group, i think.  i have not read it, but i've heard it has pretty good ideas about the vastness of the universe as explored through the tale of a little kid.

hope those help anyone who knows curious kids who have been inspired by NASA's latest hurrah.  i'd be interested in hearing your suggestions for other adult or kids astronomy books in the comments!  

Friday, April 27, 2012


s'mores are an american campfire classic consisting of a roasted marshmallow placed between two graham crackers along with a large chunk of hershey chocolate.

photo link

there is a definite technique to the process of making a s'more, but no real wrong method.  

finding a roasting stick of proper thickness and length on which to place your marshmallow is the first challenge.  you must be able to hold the marshmallow into the fire while standing at enough distance to not burn yourself!  bonus points for sticks that allow for multiple marshmallows roasting simultaneously. 

then you have to get good fire coverage of the marshmallow so that it doesnt burn too much on the outside before it melts through to the center, ensuring that the marshmallow doesnt slide right off the stick if it accidentally melts too much!

the final step involves sliding the perfectly roasted marshmallow between the chocolate-laden graham crackers without getting your fingers too sticky. then you have to wait just long enough that the chocolate melts from the heat of the marshmallow, but not too much!

finally, a wonderful few mouthfuls of yumminess await.

why am i mentioning all this?   because of a hilariously posh little indoor s'mores tray that i just saw on the internets.  if this was on the menu, i would order it immediately!


Friday, April 20, 2012

tasmanian calm

i'm spending a few days on a remote island off of the island of tasmania. let the relaxation begin....

Monday, April 16, 2012

rottnest island

i was in perth, western australia last week for a GAMA group meeting. i stayed for some of the weekend to do a bit of exploring as well. during my last visit, i went north to see the pinnacles. this time, i went west to explore rottnest island.

the oddly-named island is just another ridiculously gorgeous coastal part of australia - this time with ship wrecks, a massive osprey nest, and quokkas, in addition to 63 beaches!

cars are not allowed on the 11 km wide island, so we rented some bikes and rode all around. that's a lighthouse in the background, although it almost looks like a shuttle launch pad from this distance!

we rode a lap around the island and then came back to this spot to swim. to the left in the photo below is a rusted old ship wreck. before jumping in, we watched two dolphins jump around in the water along the coast!

there have been an unusually high number of shark attacks off the coast of western australia over the last year, but there were still surfers out in the waters.

we also spotted a huge osprey nest on top of this tiny rock island!

luckily, the air was calm during our visit, but the wind can get VERY strong, as demonstrated by these permanently bent and stripped trees!

this sign somehow summarizes australia for me.

what are quokkas, you ask?

Photo Credit: Quokkagirl

they're funky little rat/kangaroo marsupial creatures that are the size of big cats (or small dogs) and live almost exclusively on rottnest island.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

slaves to the arrow of time

The expression of consciousness, emotion, desire.
Experimenting with materials, sounds, words.
Mastering techniques, developing anew.
Tangible proof of love,
Left vulnerable to interpretation.
Powerful product of our souls,
This Art.

The figuring out of how it all works.
Testing ideas, boundaries, possibilities.
Creating new knowledge, building on the past.
Maleable proof of existence,
Susceptible to new evidence.
Language of the Universe,
This Science.

The ultimate wonder.
Unstoppable evolution marinating in infinity.
Frighteningly fragile, each single specimen,
Yet astonishingly adamant as a whole.
Teasing and shunning, mysterious and bold.
Embracing the challenge of change,
This Life.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

an invocation for beginnings

interesting points to consider, by ze frank.

"life isn't just a sequence of waiting for things to be done," he says.

yes, that's certainly true, but my struggle right now is that i'm not entirely sure what my "goal" is, or in what time frame i'm trying to reach that vaguely elucidated end point.  it was easier when my goal was to get a PhD and a job.  ok.  now what?

so i'm traveling and accomplishing small things in hopes that they help me envision and define what it is i ultimately want. such is the problem with career steps (ie. postdocs) that last for a couple years, i guess. but i'm not trying to follow along a traditional academic career path, i just want to do astronomy and share it with as many people as i can, because the Universe is awesome in the true sense of the word.

what am i trying to do, though? i think i know,** but i don't know how to get there. so that is the goal i've set for myself for the next ~6 months... more clearly define what it is that i actually want to do, who it will benefit, and who i can convince to pay me to do it!

but ze is right - we must remember to actually enjoy the moments as they happen, or what's the point? i know that these days i'm certainly enjoying being super! :)

** dream job: science correspondent on the daily show! jon stewart, have you been getting all the post cards i've been sending over the last several years? call me.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

cosmic mural

if someone could just come and paint this on my bedroom wall, that would be great.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

wireless gingko

this photo from a book called abstract city made me laugh...

... and reminded me of the beautiful gingko trees i saw all over south korea...

... and generally of south korea...

kimchi pots

... and, of course, food!

Bibimbap (my favorite!)

they like to serve lots of little tiny white dishes - of yummy spiciness!