Tuesday, July 31, 2012

follow your curiosity

a new robotic rover will land on mars in less than a week!   i love the name of this one: curiosity

here's a look at the details of what will happen on august 5/6th, 2012 - the dramatic last seven minutes of terror, as this awesome new robotic explorer passes through the atmosphere of mars and sinks towards the planet's surface.

curiosity launched from earth on november 26, 2011 and has been traveling ever since.   its will land on mars this sun/mon and you can watch the landing LIVE at NASA TV!!  isnt that amazing? 

the landing times are:

Aug 5, 2012    10:31 p.m.  Pacific (USA)
Aug 6, 2012     1:31 a.m.   Eastern (USA)
Aug 6, 2012     5:31 a.m.   Universal

Aug 6, 2012     6:31 a.m.   London (UK)
Aug 6, 2012     3:30 p.m    Sydney (AUS)

curiosity will look at the environment on mars, to determine whether it could have supported small life forms called microbes.   exciting times!

Sunday, July 29, 2012


samsara is a non-verbal film that i cant wait to see!  it is photographic art put to motion.  director ron fricke also created the visual stunners Baraka and Koyaanisqatsi (which has a great score by philip glass).  samsara was filmed in 25 countries and took 5 years to finish.  it will be released in late august and i'm super excited to see it when it's finally out in australia!

watch this trailer fullscreen!

from the website:

SAMSARA is a Sanskrit word that means “the ever turning wheel of life” and is the point of departure for the filmmakers as they search for the elusive current of interconnection that runs through our lives.  Filmed over a period of almost five years and in twenty-five countries, SAMSARA transports us to sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial sites, and natural wonders.  By dispensing with dialogue and descriptive text, SAMSARA subverts our expectations of a traditional documentary, instead encouraging our own inner interpretations inspired by images and music that infuses the ancient with the modern.

Friday, July 27, 2012

the speed of lightning

it's hard to imagine all this activity happens during that brief flash of lightning across the sky.  

i love a good lightning storm!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

yosemite: water falls and granite monoliths

from the yosemite valley, we hiked up past a couple waterfalls.   this is the bottom of vernal falls:

then we continued up hundreds of stone steps to the top of nevada falls.    this is the calm river before it takes the 600-foot plunge over the edge.  

we cooled off our exhausted feet in the water and felt completely refreshed afterwards!

we continued the walk along the john muir trail and were rewarded with this spectacular view - the back of half dome on the left and nevada falls on the right.  

a good adventure with pops :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

rays and shadows in yosemite

i really had no idea how grand and gorgeous yosemite is.   two more days to explore!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

measurement systems

i find the US measurement systems to be mostly confusing (12 inches in a foot?).  having lived in many countries, i can now think in both fahrenheit and celsius, but i have no idea how much i weight in kilos.   

anyway, this graphic nicely demonstrates a reason why using fahrenheit to measure temperatures kinda makes sense!  :)

Source: twitter

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

colourful ostracod

this is an image of a small crustacean, called an ostracod, dyed with various fluorescent dyes and imaged under ultraviolet light.  i like the vivid colours and fuzziness.

Monday, July 16, 2012

space food

not really sure why i think this image is so funny :)  it's a contribution by artist, giorgia zanellato, to an exhibition called "future" at the mobile museum

Friday, July 13, 2012

science: it's universal (a video)

i'm pleased to release my hack day creation from the dotastronomy 4 conference: a video called science: it's universal

this project was initiated to be a response to the science: it's a girl thing atrocity released by the european commission a few weeks ago.  but i think the final product stands well on its own, and hopefully manages to reach a broad audience!   i hope you enjoy!

Science: It's Universal from amanda bauer on Vimeo.

i have no way of judging whether this video creation will be well-received by teenagers, which was the target audience of the EU video.   so, if youre a teenager - what do you think?   or if you know teenagers, show them this video and let us know what they think!

as for the making of the video, we started after lunch on tuesday, 10th july 2012, as part of the dotastronomy hack day festivities.   i went around with nicole all afternoon, interviewing participants at the conference about their experiences as astronomers, developers, and scientists. 

many thanks to markus poessel and the haus der astronomie for providing all the recording equipment we used during the shoot! 

i hadnt appreciated at the beginning of this project just how long the video footage would take to render and upload.   it was 5 pm by the time we finished all the interviews, and then 10 pm before i was able to start with the actual editing of the video!  i became fairly frustrated, but really enjoyed the story nicole and i were envisioning from the footage we got. 

it was also nice to be working in the creative atmosphere of all the other hackers, with surrounding sounds of computer keys clicking as the night grew late. 

i did all the editing in iMovie, which required a significant learning curve as i hadnt really used it extensively before.  

we worked through phases of giggling giddiness and iMovie exhaustion.   by 2 am, we were determined just to finish the thing so we could present it the next day at the conference, and by 3:30 am, we were ready to go (to sleep). 

working under pressure such pressure made me recognize the need to focus on the basic content.  i had to chose not to worry about less significant details in order to accomplish the overall goal.  i tend to work to deadlines and fill the extra time with attention to potentially trivial detail.   it's a lesson for me in the future to first focus efficiently on content, the main idea, and only then allow some time for editing the intricate specifics.   

anyway, we proudly presented the video we hacked together to the dotastronomy group on wednesday.  i've edited a bit more since then, but the bulk of what you see above is what we put together from scratch in those 14 hours.   whew!

some of you might notice that i briefly appear in the video - just long enough to introduce the uniquely aussie tim tam slam to the group!   ;)

i really hope you enjoy this presentation.   please let me know what you think in the comments!  

all photos in this post were provided by alasdair allan

Thursday, July 12, 2012

dotastronomy 4

another dotastronomy has come and gone.  what fun!

exhilarating and exhausting.
motivational, inspirational, educational and entertaining.
a hive of productive creativity.

... and too much food and alcohol. but i digress...

Photo Credit: Stuart Lowe

i enjoyed the company of some old friends and met a swarm of talented new people.  i learned about the existence of some amazing online research and data visualization tools, and witnessed the creation of a bevy of impressive new research tools, hacked together in a day, from small collaborations of clever, hard-working people.

the mornings of the conference consisted of sessions inside the planetarium of the haus der astronomie, high above the lovely city of heidelberg, germany.

Photo Credit: Stuart Lowe

afternoons were filled with unconference sessions (informal discussions and lessons suggested by participants throughout the day) and the infamous hack day. 

    the hacking event started just after lunch on the second day of the conference.

    Photo Credit: Stuart Lowe

    and continued for the rest of the day/evening/night...

    Photo Credit: Alasdair Allan

    the hacking/pair coding didnt stop on the funicular down the mountain back to town!

    and on and on we worked, well into the rainy night! 

    i might have won the prize for working the latest this year, as i didnt finish until 3:30 am!  more on that later... 

    a few results of this year's hack day:
    • a cool and fun browser data fitting tool by dan foreman-mackey.   it's not often that i describe fitting data as "fun," but this gaussian fitting tool actually is!?!    and it was made in a day.  amazing.  
    • a cosmology calculator dashboard widget for macs created by brooke simmons, stuart lowe, and julie steele.  you can get it at this link (zip file)
    • a useful page of links and resources recommended by attendees: here 
    • and i managed to make the science video that i threatened to create a few weeks ago.   i'll post the official release in the next couple days!
    many more projects were completed, but they dont have anything to link to.

    an interesting question raised during the conference was how we can cite the the useful software tools developed over long periods of time by these and other astronomers?  we didn't come to a good conclusion about this, but as developers and data analysts become a growing population of professional astronomers, this issue must be considered seriously by the community! i'd be curious to hear suggestions on this matter.

    overall, it has been another great few days!  many thanks to all organizers, especially sarah kendrew and rob simpson!

    stellar colours

    i think the colors of the star trails are lovely in this photograph by lincoln harrison.

    Monday, July 9, 2012

    Saturday, July 7, 2012

    ready for the road

    later today, i start the long journey to heidelberg, germany for the 4th dotAstronomy conference.  i hope to be posting a lot from there, as i usually do!  i'm excited to see the completed spiral galaxy-shaped haus der astronomie where the conference will be held!

    you can follow the events in realtime via twitter.  my comments will be here:  @astropixie and everyone's comments at the event will be listed here:  #dotastro

    i'm still accepting suggestions for a possible response to the science: its a girl thing release.  got any ideas?

    after heidelberg, i head to north america to attend a couple more conferences and give a few talks.  best get packing....

    Friday, July 6, 2012

    pot of gold?

    this rainbow ends where i live! i looke, but couldnt find it; i demand my pot of gold!

    Thursday, July 5, 2012


    yesterday was a big day.   physicists at the large hadron collider in geneva announced the discovery of a new, never-detected-before particle.   they are 99.9999% (5 sigma) sure that this particle is what the infamous higgs boson should look like.    here's the glamour graph: 

    that little red bump, relative to the yellow, is the signal.   i know it doesnt look like much and probably means very little to most, but watch this enlightening video and it will all (hopefully) make much more sense!

    The Higgs Boson Explained from PHD Comics on Vimeo.

    Tuesday, July 3, 2012

    dont forget to look up

    just think that 100 years ago, everyone saw all the stars every night.  times have changed, quickly.

    we should all get out from under the city lights every now and then in order to look up! 

    thanks for the reminder, yet again, calvin and hobbes

    Monday, July 2, 2012

    the accelerating universe: a public talk

    if anyone is in the sydney area on 18th july, you can go see a free public talk by 2011 physics nobel prize winner, brian schmidt.  

    the talk is FREE, but please register at this website so that they can accommodate everyone who wishes to attend.

    DETAILS:   7 pm, wednesday, 18th july.

    Wesley Conference Centre
    220 Pitt Street
    Sydney, NSW 2000


    In 1998 two teams of astronomers were tracing how the universe had expanded during its history. They expected to find that the expansion was slowing down. But instead, they found it was speeding up. This shocking discovery overturned astronomers' ideas about the history and fate of the universe.

    The expansion must be caused by something. Astronomers have called it Dark Energy, and it seems to make up more than 70% of the cosmos. But what is it, really?

    Professor Brian Schmidt (Australian National University), who led one of the astronomy teams, will describe this groundbreaking discovery and explain how astronomers track the Universe's history back more than 13 billion years—and what they think its future will be.

    Sunday, July 1, 2012

    two-looped bagel

    a cute party trick, and an interesting method to maximize the cream-cheesable surface area of a bagel!