Tag Archives: astronomy

Jupiter and so

I read this the day before yesterday: apparently, Jupiter has lost one of it’s bands (National Geographic on this) within the last couple of months (or even year). If you’re curious if this will have any impact on our Earthly lives, please check your local daily astrology forecast.

Computers are fascination and so are games: depending on your mileage, of course. Earlier this month, I learnt that a senior fellow in the US managed to defeat the game ‘Bejeweled’ by reaching the topscore of (wait for it, wait for it), 2,147,783,647. If you’re not familiar with that number, for your reference I present Wikipedia’s entry on Integer numbers.

And last but not least, via Reddit, I came across this gem (or youtube video) showcasing the excellent animation stuff in the Arma2 game. I looked at this game a year or so ago and while buggy, I was extremely impressed with the online-multiplayer portion of Arma2. From the ‘Leave no man alone, rescue Arthur’ mission, to that ‘long lonely walk until someone offered me a ride on his bike to the battlefield’ occasion. No really: surreal.

A shuttle. A Space.

Last week, I found out that the Space Shuttles are going to be retired next year. Currently, NASA is looking for the shuttles’ final home: several institutions consider displaying America’s Expensive and Great Leap Of Faith Into Space. Sarcasm aside, seeing the first Space Shuttle take off and land, and that all live on TV: as a young kid, that was fairly amazing, yes. However, I’ve never been a fan of manned space exploration (previously on xsamplex).

Slightly more exciting: it’s the 20th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope, and NASA celebrated that with this pretty picture of ‘Mystic Mountain’. What can I say about the Telescope? I remember that the initial launch and deployment were not that successful and that thanks to the Space Shuttle, the ‘Scope wouldn’t have been making as pretty as pictures as it does now.

The Telescope, however, will last for a couple of more years and is to be replaced by the ‘Webb Telescope’ in 2014.

May 15, 2010: Atlantis’ Last Voyage.

The light

A couple of days ago, I was thinking of mankind’s efforts to make an invisible cloak: I’m not sure why I came up to that subject, but, at one time, I remember trying to explain someone what light is and the duality of matter and energy (I guess I should link to the double-slit experiment as well). Anyway, to stay on topic, I read that researchers are getting closer to making such a cloak, and this time it doesn’t require heavy use of metals: by manipulating the optical density of an object (the ‘amount of refraction of an object’) they were able to transform the path of light.

I also read that researches have drawn up a genetic map of Africa, which shows that continent (besides being the origin of humans) is more genetic diverse than initially expected. Additionally, the study seems to confirm the location of the origin of human migration, which is in south-west Africa.

A week ago (or so, according the news sources), astronomers watched the explosion of the oldest object (for now) in the universe. The best estimations are that it exploded 13 billion years ago, which makes the object approximately ‘only’ 600 million years old or so. The gamma ray burst, detected by SWIFT (which some news sources fail to mention), confirms what most astronomers already suspected: that stars can form within 600 million years.

The mist thereafter

Yesterday, it was Earth Hour day, which is a WWF-supported event that urges people to turn off the light switch for an hour. While I didn’t join the call, I understand that this is a highly symbolic gesture (CBC coverage of the event). Related to this: I see that Europe finally went to Daylight Savings Time.

I have a whole bunch of older links sitting in my bookmarks and this is probably a good time to get rid of them, some of them related, some of them out of order.

Last month, I ran into the Worldfish Center, an organization that published a press release laced with pretty graphics that showed which fishing countries were vulnerable because of climate change (Summary report + PDF files).

Recently, an Edinburgh researcher came up with a number of intelligent alien worlds that may be out there. The researcher ran simulations in 3 scenarios: The first one assumed that it’s difficult to form life but that it evolves easy (361 intelligent civilizations). The second scenario assumed life was formed easily but struggled to develop intelligence. Under these conditions, over 31,000 forms of life were estimated to exist. The last scenario examined that life was passed on to planets during asteroid collisions, which led to 37,000 intelligent civilizations.

How are your GW-BASIC skills lately? Good I hope? I read this article and it threw me right back into BASIC. The article slams Dembski for not paying attention to the finer details of a BASIC program written by Dawkins to illustrate the difference between random mutation and random mutation with selection. Musgrave’s BASIC code can be found here and it’s remarkably not written in GW-Basic (oh the disappointment). However it features the use of those elegant GOTOs.

Click. Clack.

SomeAlt. Control stuff I ran into earlier.

I read that Windows 7 (Microsoft much-touted successor of Windows Vista) is positioned as the ‘Linux Killer’ (original article at Computer World). From that article:

The threat to Windows comes entirely from “netbooks” — lightweight, inexpensive laptops that typically use Intel’s low-powered Atom processor and don’t come with substantial amounts of RAM or powerful graphics processors

The last time I checked, was that Linux’s was actually taking out more bytes (ha-ha) out of the Windows Server market, which is basically because the open-source operating system is so easy to install on older hardware and that. Well, that is if you use Debian, of course.

A NASA team announced the discovery of cosmic radio noise six times louder than normal. Apparently, this noise happened in 2006 and after plenty of peer reviews, it appears that this (yet unknown) noise was not related to anything that humans do on earth. However, the researchers are still not sure what created this noise.

You thought we suffered economic hardship? In Zimbabwe, the government just introduced a $50 billion note, which (apparently) just buys you a loaf of bread in that same country. I am curious who’s portrait is prominently showing on that note, but on preview, I don’t think too many politicians (except for the dictator kind of types) would want to have his (or her’s) face on a bill that’s probably only usable for wiping one’s nose.

And the best is for the last: If you’re into fractals (sure you do), here’s an open-source Fractal Flame Editor (Windows only: for other OSes look here). Surprisingly, it’s written in Delphi 5.

Haute hyperedroit

I saw ‘Religulous’ (imdb) the other day, which I thought was entertaining but awkward. I like Maher’s ‘Real Time’ show and I think his work is generally funny, but he’s definitely no Michael Moore. If you plan to watch it, you can apparently now also find the movie online.

If you want to get rid of hardware, make sure that you physically destroy the hard-drive or just use the right tools to do this (earlier on xsamplex), by using DBAN for example. Since data can stay so persistent on harddrives, maybe harddrives makers should consider adding a ‘kill switch’ which will destroy a harddrive in an instant.

Back in December 08, IpodNN featured an iPod Touch clone, which was apparently on sale in Canada. I’m all for competition, but looking at the picture/screenshot, I wonder why the device’s internal camera is called the ‘PC Camera’? I find that an unfortunate name.

And oh, yeah: the price of gas just went up and now might be a good time to send a team of explorers to Saturn’s moon Titan. Maybe one of the US carmakers should start investing in space technology. I see a bright future for Ford Warp-Drives that come in one colour. Black.

A bang.

Via New Scientist:A Big bang researchers have worked on a (computer) model that suggests that our universe could have emerged from another collapsing universe. The researchers based their model on a theory called the Loop Quantum Cosmology, which was (originally) proposed in 2003. At the end of the article, there’s a funny quote about how these physicist came up on LQC:

“From a physicist’s point of view, it is fully justified. Mathematicians perhaps would not be amused.”

I hear that if you give mathematicians a couple of beers, you can convince them that the Earth is only 5,000 years old. I’m not joking: please try it on your local math teacher!

This is important news: there’s finally empirical evidence that our galaxy, the proud Milky Way, has a white creamy coconut center and a soft crunchy chocolate crust, that melts in the mouth, not in your hands. Or as astronomers would say, a black hole in its center. I may have mentioned this a couple of years ago, but this black hole story is actually old news, I mean astronomers were already convinced that our galaxy had a black hole in its center. Obviously, it took many years to collect the evidence for this. Additionally, witness the smartness of the Slashdot crowd:

When i heard that there were black holes in other galaxies, i was fine with that, since they are so far away. But now i hear there is one in OUR galaxy? That’s kinda scary, since its so close to us!

Oh: this Hubble telescope that they launched in the 80s, yes? It still seems to be hitting the news: this time, astronomers managed to find CO2 in the atmosphere of a planet circling around a star, what, 65 million light-years away.

And hanging around the Discovery site: Did you know that 2008 will get one extra second? I remember this happened years ago too, which is exactly the reason why I tend to be at work 2 seconds later than normal. Who else can I blame for this?

Update 1: Weird The Onion picture about science.

Update 2: Related: Astronomers dissect a black hole with. What?

On. I think.

Meteorites collectors, astronomers and researchers are trying to pinpoint the track of the meteor that lit the Prairies’ sky, last week. According to the latest calculations (Newtonian, hahaha), the meteor had a mass of 10 tons. I say, it was probably a good thing the meteor hit a not-so-densely populated area.

Cancer rates are down in the US, and hopefully, the same is true for other areas in the Western world. As for the US, maybe this is tied to the ‘Obama’ effect?

I’ve been carrying a virus with me the last couple of weeks and it appears that my immune system is slowly getting a grip on it. I’ve not been sick that often as relatives know: I’m fairly resistant against colds, but when it gets to me, it gets me. Maybe my system got too comfortable.

This also means that I postponed some of my coding projects, including the ‘safe translation’ of DAWG from Delphi to C#. I’m surprised how popular my wordfinders are, and have been, the last, what, 6 or 7 years? I’ve been planning to slowly move these applications over to something more reasonable, but never had the time to work on the newer algorithms. Sooner than soon, I hope.

Planet 9

US astronomers have made the first photo of an exoplanet that makes it rounds around the star Formalhaut. It took a couple of years (and a lot of patience) to actually confirm the planet though. Additionally, another team of astronomers made a picture of 2 planets orbiting a star called HR8799 (Washington Post report). Generally, it seems. it was a good week for astronomy.

New Scientist had an article about a theory that the Earth might be in the center of a void: at the heart of the discussion is the 1998 discovery that some galaxies seem to have been racing away from us instead of slowing down. This discovery is currently explained by introducing ‘dark energy’, the energy that tends to accelerate the rate of expansion of the universe. The new theory proposes that our universe (the Milky Way) is surrounded by a ‘bubble’ that causes photons to lose energy but gaining energy while leaving this bubble.

I also read that India has succesfully landed a probe on the moon. For the next couple of weeks, the probe (‘Chandrayaan 1′), will measure the composition of the moon’s thin atmosphere.

Silly Season

So: Political Silly Season is finally over and word has it that Obama and Bush are going to have an arm wrestle match next week. Besides McCain officials throwing each other in ‘front of the bus’, I also read that (with the Democratic win), historians are finally willing to rate the current sitting president. I mean, how history will see him. One word: ‘Incompetent’.

I had this link for the longest time in my ‘bookmarks': a couple of amazing close-ups of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. With the change of politics in the US, maybe there’s hope for science in America.

And then, there was a (female) jogger who was attacked by a rabid fox and ran a mile with it on her arm. She managed to throw the thing in her trunk and was able to reach the closest hospital. I think the best part of the story is that the fox apparently bit a control officer afterwards. This could be a perfect script for Monty Python.

Know. Knol.

Last week, Google opened their ‘Knol’ site for the general public: It’s a knowledgebase and it’s targeting the other knowledgebase we learnt to hate and love, Wikipedia. The web itself is divided in the (usual) camps: Love it and Hate it. To me, it looks like Google has actually learned from the problems that Wikipedia (still) has: the site is actually a lot easier to read, plus, contributors don’t seem to be hiding behind usernames. For example, there’s this excellent article on colon cancer, which, by far, seem to be more informational than Wikipedia’s entry. Additionally, it seems that Knol contributors seem to disclose their affiliations to commercial entities. I only find Google’s choice of name a bit unfortunate.

The other site I want to mention is NASA images, which is a site, powered by the Internet Archive, that hosts, you guessed it, NASA images from the past. There’s way too much to discover on that site and I wouldn’t do it an honour to try to fit it in a small paragraph: The Spaceflight section is amazing and comprehensive, albeit a kind of obnoxious to navigate through (kind of ‘sliding’ pictures pop-up interface, that isn’t all to user-friendly). Pictures and photos can be zoomed in and downloaded (for free, of course).

And not at all related, I’ve always been impressed with Truthmapping which at one time I considered to be a useful tool for creating test scenarios (can’t find the link right now at xsamplex). Apparently, the only clone (which claims to be superior to Truthmapping) I’ve found is ‘DebatePoint’, which is open-sourced. It sort of reminds me of Halfbaked (which makes an excellent tool for mapping out ideas).

A suffering object

An assortmentA feeling that something is weird of links, or as my English-speaking portion of my brain prefers to call them: a ‘whole bunch of I-forgets’.

A while ago, a Dutch teacher discovered a weird object in the constellation of ‘Leo Minor’. Thanks to the discovery, it looks like that the Dutch word ‘Voorwerp’ is going to be the next famous Dutch word (The other word of course being ‘apartheid’). The word itself reminds me of long and repetitive Dutch grammar classes and yes that particular part, ‘lijdend’ voorwerp.

Talking about ‘suffering objects’, what can I say about the Conservapedia vs. Lenski spat? Not much, considering ArsTechnica‘s excellent breakdown of, well, the breakdown of Conservapedia? Too much spare time. Additional bonus: Reddit thread.

Slashdot reports that Microsoft released the specifications for pre-2007 Office file formats. And here I was thinking that I’ve read about this before (earlier on xsamplex). On the good side, that is if you feel obliged, go hack at the fileformat. This also reminds me of a website that discusses several other well-known binary formats, including PDF.

Missing: 2 Milky Way arms.

I found thisWhere are we at? map of the Milky Way (warning HUGE [5000×5000]) via Reddit (thread). The picture comes from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, and (ofcourse), comes with a brief press release about the actual point of the map: Two of Milky Way’s arms have gone missing! And you thought the announcement that mrs. Clinton was going to suspend her campaign was important news. Uh, no. Maybe.

Apparently, the researchers at Caltech are talking about the fact that previous models and maps suggested that the Milky Way had 4 arms:

“For years, people created maps of the whole galaxy based on studying just one section of it, or using only one method,” said Benjamin. “Unfortunately, when the models from various groups were compared, they didn’t always agree. It’s a bit like studying an elephant blind-folded.”

If you’re curious where we are at, click the image above. If you like spoilers, or, worst, in case you get kidnapped by a bunch of Space Invaders who look slightly similar to Mork from Ork: Our small sun is located near an arm called the Orion Arm, or Orion Spur, which is located between the Sagittarius and Perseus arms.

Update 1: These kinds of maps remind me a bit of the earliest ones of our planet.

Update 2: Oh dear, you may want to have this webpage ready (constellations, constellations!) on your iPod Touch in case you really get abducted by Mork.