28 September 2006

Google this!

I have an unusually spelled name. If you go to GoodSearch, Google, Yahoo, or MSN, or whatever search engine you prefer, and type in my name, without quotes even, 95% of the hits are me. The bottom of the second page you start to get some questionable ones, things about spaceships with my name on them and wikis and lesbians, but even then I suspect they may be me anyway. (This is why I discourage those of you in cyberland who know my full name from POSTING it, or even parts of it.)

At least once a year I perform this experiment, and today was the day. Google found me an astronomy forum post - my name, astronomy, gotta be me. The forum post read...

I've got Zandperl Lastname to thank for my love of astronomy- THANK YOU ZANDPERL!!! I was so lucky to get a teacher like her.

OMG. *blush* That's awesome! I want the forum to come back up so I can troll and see if I can figure out who this is. It's not clear what year it was posted, but the person joined the forums in March 2004, so it could've been from anywhere...

They person is from Rochester - making it possibly when I TA'd as an undergrad though unlikely since I wasn't the only one in charge of the astro classes, or possibly one of the astrocamps I did back at my Alma Mater, but not guaranteed. Their LJ name is gefilte-ghoti, and they're on various "spacefem" -named things, making me think it's a Jewish girl. Their only LJ friend just posted a survey with all their biographical info. That person is currently 19, making it likely this person is also 19, and therefore likely that it was an astrocamp or nerd camp student.

And with that, I am stumped. A virtual cookie to the first person to identify this person for me!

26 September 2006

"White and Nerdy"

Every time I listen to / watch this song / video, I find something new that has me rolling in the aisles. This weekend it was the Schroedinger equation for a hydrogen atom (thanks marquiswildbill, and for pointing it out to me); today it's the bubblewrap pr0n. And a dozen other things...

16 September 2006


Argh! Someone left me out of the loop! They've finally officially named 2003 UB313 ("Xena") Eris, but I don't know when, or why it's not a creation god. *grumble grubmle* I'm going to have to go huntin'.

ETA: Ah, there we go, it was on Sept 13, this past Weds.

ETAA: And care of FFS!, here's the NY Times link.

15 September 2006

High power microwave "guns" =? non-lethal

Nonlethal weapons such as high-power microwave devices should be used on American citizens in crowd-control situations before being used on the battlefield, the Air Force secretary said Tuesday.

The object is basically public relations. Domestic use would make it easier to avoid questions from others about possible safety considerations, said Secretary Michael Wynne.

"If we're not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens, then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation," said Wynne. "(Because) if I hit somebody with a nonlethal weapon and they claim that it injured them in a way that was not intended, I think that I would be vilified in the world press."

The Air Force has paid for research into nonlethal weapons, but he said the service is unlikely to spend more money on development until injury problems are reviewed by medical experts and resolved.

Nonlethal weapons generally can weaken people if they are hit with the beam. Some of the weapons can emit short, intense energy pulses that also can be effective in disabling some electronic devices.

The issue here is what precisely do they mean by "microwave" - the microwave part of the electromagnetic spectrum is really broad. Some wavelengths are cellphone communication, some are GPS, and some boil water. High power microwaves therefore might fry your cellphone (and possibly cause cancer, though studies are still conflicting on whether cellphones do cause cancer), fry your GPS, or boil your blood. As they do not give sufficient information, I'm going to have to assume it's dangerous to humans, and it IS a lethal weapon, and therefore should NOT be used for riot control.

Yoinked from rosefox

12 September 2006

"My Limit Break involves a moose, the demon Baphomet, and a Kuiper Belt object. It takes four hours and you can't skip any of the cutscenes." --Pintsize, Questionable Content

11 September 2006


When I'm feeling down, I usually go outside at night and look up at the billions of stars and realize how tiny I am, and that whatever little thing that's happening to me actually means nothing in the grand scheme of it all.

But sometimes you have to look back down and see that the actions of a few people can change the whole world.

08 September 2006

Always look on the bright side of life

Every cloud has a silver lining.

The cloud: Global warming is returning the Earth's to Mesozoic conditions. 80% of animal species have had range changes. Between 10% and 99% of species currently exisiting have never experienced the upcoming atmospheric conditions (numbers are so uncertain partially b/c we don't know the historical atmosphere that well, and partly b/c we don't know exactly when species evolved). Mass extinctions are predicted.

The silver lining: Mass extinction events are usually followed by massive evolution - this process is the most accepted model of evolution, called punctuated equilibrium. When dinosaurs start reevolving, even the fundies will have incontrovertible evidence before them of the existence of evolution!

03 September 2006

Hot Library Smut

By “library smut” I am in no way referring to the photo books on native peoples, or the illustrated health manuals, or any of the other volumes which, in your childhood, you lurked about the library aisle to find with the sole purpose of sneaking guilty glances at naked bodies. Nor am I referring to the “risqué” novels by Miller, Cleland, Réage, or Lawrence you leafed impatiently through as a teenager. No. What I’m talking about here is the full-frontal objectification of the library itself. Oh yeah.

Go see it for yourself. It's HOT.

Animal Crossing: Friend code

Anyone else play Animal Crossing? My friend code is 2706-6065-1445 and I don't yet know what to do with it, but I will find out! :-P

Math Teacher Arrested

Math Teacher Arrested

Southern Pines, North Carolina

A former public school math teacher was arrested today at Moore County Airport as he attempted to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a slide rule, and a calculator.

At a morning press conference, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said he believes the man is a member of the notorious Al-gebra movement. He did not identify the man, who has been charged with carrying weapons of math instruction. "Al-gebra is a problem for us Rumsfeld said. "They desire solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in a search of absolute value. They use secret code names like x and y and refer to themselves as unknowns, but we have determined they belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country. As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, there are three sides to every triangle."

When asked to comment on the arrest, President Bush said, "If God had wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction, he would have given us more fingers and toes!"

Thanks Jethereal!

02 September 2006

Planetary protest

A group of 300 astronomers, including David Levy (planetariums), Carolyn Shoemaker (comets), and Irwin Shapiro (GR) have signed a petition protesting the IAU's unilateral decision of a definition of planet. They're unclear if they dislike the definition, or dislike the lack of public input. I dislike their doing this, it's absolutely pointless when they admit themselves that the IAU doesn't convene again until 2009.

I also dislike their implied claim that it's all experts in planets:
We, as planetary scientists and astronomers, do not agree with the IAU's definition of a planet, nor will we use it. ...The list of signatories have studied every planet in the solar system, asteroids, comets, the Kuiper Belt, and planet interactions with space environment.

The first sentence reads that everyone on the list is a planetary scientist AND astronomer, and the second listed reads that EACH signatory studied every planet. No, simply not true.

As for 300 names, keep in mind that put a piece of paper in front of enough people and you're bound to get people to sign it.

01 September 2006

Women are bad at statistics...

Researchers gave a spatial reasoning test to men and women at Lafayette College in Easton, PA, to determine if men or women were better at this skill. But FIRST they asked the test-takers some statistical questions - one group were asked their genders, a second group were asked why they chose a liberal arts college, and the control group were asked about their childhoods. The control group had "typical" scores for the test - men scored 15-20% higher. Those asked about their gender beforehand had men scoring 25-30% higher. And those asked why they chose a liberal arts school, a question which allowed the testers to think of their strengths, nearly closed the gap between men and women. Go figure!

Perhaps statistical questions should be always asked at the end of an exam, then.


Link found by galbinus caeli, I replied so long to his (?) post that I just had to repost the meat of it here. In sum, the Divsion of Planetary Sciences critisized the IAU's new definition of planet, but I don't think their criticism is anything worth writing home about.

It's also worth noting that the DPS is just a part of the AAS (said "double-A-S"), and most astronomers don't give much of a shit what we call those local rocks. Many astronomers even think that once we've landed on it, the thing is part of geology, not astronomy. Planetary Science therefore is a bit of an interdisciplinary subject. Sure planets are exciting to the public, but there's a LOT more out there.

That said, I'm all into public outreach (despite planets not being my field), and I agree with the DPS's comment that the IAU definition is still quite fuzzy - interpret "control a zone" the right way and we rule out Jupiter b/c of its Trojan asteroids. I think all of us know that the definition's still got a lot of flaws, but they had to start somewhere. Shooting down the current definition b/c of its flaws is tantamount to agreeing with IDers that evolution's flawed and should be shot down.