20 December 2006

Moon Phases

Do you own a monthly calendar? Check in the corners of the dates to see if it indicates the moon phase. Yes? Chances are it's wrong. I've noticed that roughly half (give or take 25%) of the calendars I've owned that had moon phases on them were wrong. If you want to know the actual real phases of the moon, check out the supremely accurate US Naval Observatory moon phase calculator, or for a simpler version StarDate Online's appears to be correct as well. The USNO also has the best sunrise/set calculator (as well as some additional info).

Top 10 Animal Geeks

Thanks to Jethereal for the link, it's the top ten animals in science. I wouldn't call them geeks as they were more of victims, but it's still interesting. :-P

Carl Sagan

Today is the 10th anniversary of Carl Sagan's death. Sadly, I am too young to know much about him, but what I do know is that he was dedicated to increasing people's feeling of wonder at the universe, to creating an insatiable need for knowledge, and to keeping our minds always questioning. I hope as a science teacher I continue to keep that legacy alive.

19 December 2006

Space, the computer's frontier

Holy shucking fit! I was trying to download some free things from the iTunes store, and it says my hard drive is full. My 70-Gig HD on my desktop. I don't download porn unlike some people I know. I don't download movies like others. I only have a 20-Gig iPod and I think I only own around 30 Gigs of music. Windows and Office and Warcraft III don't take up 40 Gigs. I'm going to run a defrag overnight, but that won't figure out the problem for me.

Help me out here folks. I've already gone and cleared out temp files. I went into my iTunes folder and there were a bunch of .tmp files there too that seem to have cleared up a couple freakin' GIGS of space. I am suspicious that it's a fucked up iTunes library, but I'm not sure how to fix it. I've seen visualization programs for the Mac that allow you to see how much disk space is allocated to different programs, is there one for the PC (Win XP)?

*grumble grumble* I didn't notice anything that looked like spyware when I ran the Task Manager, so I think I'm safe there. What else can I do to figure out (a) where my space's gone, and (b) how to stop gap in until I can figure it out?

Thanks in advance for any help.

ETA: Ugh, Disk Defragmenter says I can't run the defrag effectively b/c I now have only 6% of the disk free (5 Gigs) and it wants at least 15%. *grumble*

Google + NASA = Awesome!

NASA has agreed to give LOTS of data to Google, including "weather forecasting information, three-dimensional maps of the moon and Mars, and real-time tracking of the international space station and space shuttle flights so the pictures and data are available to anyone with an Internet connection."

I'm unclear about what's new to this. Google already has a lot of Moon and Mars data, and if they have elevation info for Mars they should already be able to do 3-D virtual fly-bys, despite Griffin saying it as a new thing. Perhaps this is just much more high-res data? Besides, everything NASA produces is public domain - except images of astronauts, and some research data has a proprietary period, and some probably is classifed, but everything else is freely available - so I'm not clear how this is anything Google couldn't get otherwise. Maybe it's just that it's being handed over smoothly and easily that's the issue. Or maybe Google's just taking advantage of the public domain rights, and Yahoo or anyone else could do this as well.

But yeah, we'll see. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for awesomeness.

18 December 2006

And another one...

Rules of the lab

1) If an experiment works, something has gone wrong.
2) When you don't know what you're doing, do it neatly.
3) Experiments must be reproduceable, they should fail the same way each time.
4) First draw your curves, then plot your data.
5) Experience is directly proportional to equipment ruined.
6) Always keep a record of your data. It indicates that you have been working.
7) To do a lab really well, have your report done well in advance.
8) If you can't get the answer in the usual manner, start at the answer and derive the question.
9) In case of doubt, make it sound convincing.
10) Do not believe in miracles--rely on them.
11) Team work is essential, it allows you to blame someone else.
12) All unmarked beakers contain fast-acting, extremely toxic poisons.
13) No experiment is a complete failure. At least it can serve as a negative example.
14) Any delicate and expensive piece of glassware will break before any use can be made of it.

Geeky Joke

Found online...

A computer programmer happens across a frog in the road. The frog pipes up, "I'm really a beautiful princess and if you kiss me, I'll stay with you for a week". The programmer shrugs his shoulders and puts the frog in his pocket.

A few minutes later, the frog says "OK, OK, if you kiss me, I'll give you great sex for a week". The programmer nods and puts the frog back in his pocket.

A few minutes later, "Turn me back into a princess and I'll give you great sex for a whole year!". The programmer smiles and walks on.

Finally, the frog says, "What's wrong with you? I've promised you great sex for a year from a beautiful princess and you won't even kiss a frog?"

"I'm a programmer," he replies. "I don't have time for sex ... But a talking frog is pretty neat."

I want a talking frog!

17 December 2006

No Snow

Ah, so it's not just me complaining about the lack of snow, and not even just New England. It's all of Europe too. I knew El Nino was having an effect, but this's much more widespread than I thought, plus El Nino is primarily a Pacific Ocean effect. Hm.

13 December 2006

Now I'm pissed

I just got a spam email with the subject line "Radio Frequency". Goddamnit, I thought it was something legit about astronomy! I am NOT happy they're stealing real subjects for their crap.

11 December 2006


Sometimes I am so glad I'm not in research anymore.

It only gets better from here, but I don't want to spam y'all...


Foxtrot is cutting back to weekly. :( So sad, how'm I gonna get my dork on? The last daily will be Dec 30.

10 December 2006

The Life of a Scientist-Mother

This article is a small look at what mothers in academia, science, and/or research have to go through. Share it with friends and family, whether in science or academia, or with loved ones who are.

Princess Di's driver drunk

There is a reason I'm posting this story here, on Modern Science.

New DNA evidence proves the driver of Princess Diana's car was drunk on the night of her fatal crash in a Paris underpass in 1997, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported Saturday.

The tests confirm that original post-mortem blood samples were from driver Henri Paul and that he had three times the French legal limit of alcohol in his blood, the BBC said, quoting from a documentary it will screen Sunday.
Conspiracy theorists have claimed that Paul's blood samples were swapped with blood from someone else -- who was drunk -- and contended that the driver had not been drinking on the night Diana died.

The wording in this article is very hazy. I read these three paragraphs as "DNA evidence proves the driver was drunk." In fact, this is explicitly what is stated in the first phrase! The problem though is that DNA can only ID people, it can't tell how much alcohol is in your blood stream. If they found out a way to get whether you were drunk from your DNA, that would be bigger news than Princess Di conspiracy theories.

The confusion lies in the wording, and is revealed with futher reading. What they meant was "DNA evidence proves the drunken blood belonged to the driver." This is a whole different story. Apparently the same sort of people who think the US couldn't figure out a moon landing but could figure out complex special effects not available until the 90's, thought that someone had swapped the blood of Di's driver with someone else's blood, and it was that someone else who was drunk. Oy.

Can you believe they had to do this DNA test just to appease conspiracy buffs? Ridonkulous. The DNA test said that the nucleated white blood cells in the drunk blood belonged to the person known to be driving Di's car. Next thing you know someone's going to claim that the white blood cells must've been swapped out from the blood. That's right, they're going to say someone centrifuged the driver's blood and the drunk's blood, drained out the nucleated cells from both and swapped them, and then put back the blood that has the driver's nucleated cells and the rest of the components from the drunk. Just watch.

09 December 2006

Hubble Deep Field video

Man, Jethereal finds me the bestest things. And this is one of them.

I wonder when my little group will be able to do that. :-P I'm still keeping my fingers crossed on the grant. We won't know until February, and I haven't had the time/energy to do any other applications. I figure if we don't get this one I'll spend all summer writing others!

Because everyone needs a fscking bright laser

Do you need a laser that actually can be seen in air? You really need to be able to pop balloons and light matches at 46 feet. And of course we all know how badly you've wanted to tape a laser on the end of a glass fiber optic-type tube and have a light saber. Since all this is true, check out Wicked Lasers, especially their videos.

01 December 2006

Republicans want law to trump science

Lame duck Republicans want a law to define that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks. Scientists have accepted that a fetus can feel pain at 28 weeks (7 months), but have not come to a consensus about 20 weeks - the fetus does withdraw from stimuli, but it could be a reflex due to any stimuli, or a pain response, it's not clear.

Folks, passing a law doesn't make anything more true. You can't "legalize" that pain starts at 28 weeks if it turns out that it doesn't. You can't make the sky pink by passing a law. You can't make π equal to 3. It just doesn't work that way, these are fundamental properties of the universe, and the universe doesn't give a shit about the laws humans make up. Someone should send these idiots back to grammar school.