30 January 2007


I just may have to buy a few theremin kits online for my Physics II class this semester. It's a very early electronic instrument based around using the human body as a part of an RLC circuit.

HST Update

Hubble's back online, but the ACS still isn't. Next servicing isn't scheduled until Sept 2008 (so in practice, Oct 2008).

In unrelated news, the webpage "NASA.com" contains the tagline "Nothing is really real unless it happens on television." The real webpage is www.nasa.gov, and more detailed information about the current Hubble status is available from NASA here.

29 January 2007

HST in Safe Mode

From an email to all Hubble users (I'm not one, but I got forwarded it) ...

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 2007 20:10:51 -0500
From: Brett S. Blacker <blacker-AT-stsci.edu>
Subject: ACS anomaly and extension of HST Cycle 16 deadline

HST entered inertial safe mode on Saturday January 27. Preliminary indications are that this event was associated with an ACS anomaly. GSFC and STScI engineers and scientists are still investigating the situation, but it appears unlikely that ACS CCD observations (both WFC and HRC) will be available in Cycle 16. Current indications are that ACS/SBC can be restored using operational workarounds, so observers should assume that the ACS/SBC configuration will be available in Cycle 16.

The formal Cycle 16 deadline was 8 pm EST on Friday Jan 26. We received a total of 747 proposals, including 498 to use ACS/WFC or ACS/HRC. The latter proposals are unlikely to be viable. In order to ensure that we accommodate the science areas covered by those programs, we are extending the HST Cycle 16 deadline.

ACS is currently the best camera on the HST. This is a big loss if it's down. *sigh* And wasn't it just repaired lately too? I hope it's a transient phenomenon. At least researchers are being allowed to revamp their proposals, as this happened less than 24 hours after a round of proposals were due.

24 January 2007


If the geek genes that brought you to my blog intersect with a love of pets, check out Dolittler. This is a blog by a practicing veterinarian in South Miami, FL. She's a good read.

22 January 2007


I'm not particularly looking forward to teaching thermo later this semester, but the following quote gets me close.

Nothing in life is certain except death, taxes and the second law of thermodynamics. All three are processes in which useful or accessible forms of some quantity, such as energy or money, are transformed into useless, inaccessible forms of the same quantity. That is not to say that these three processes don't have fringe benefits: taxes pay for roads and schools; the second law of thermodynamics drives cars, computers and metabolism; and death, at the very least, opens up tenured faculty positions.

--Seth Lloyd, writing in Nature 430, 971 (26 August 2004). (Wikiquote:Thermodynamics)

Toxic Products

Just about every personal care product you use, from toothpaste to shampoo, has some toxic ingredients, including ones with reproductive concerns. If you want to check out yours, here's a site that'll let you do so. Makes me want to go organic...

17 January 2007

Brazillian gov't attempts to breed tribesmen

Well, that's not all the article's about, but it's the most bizarre part. The Brazillian gov't currently works to protect isolated tribes, much like we supposedly protect endangerd species, but they apparently don't give it quite enough man/money power. Better some effort than none, but more would be better still. Interesting to see how we treat these isolated groups.

15 January 2007

Temperature Curve

Ah, finally it is a comfy 75ºF in my bedroom. I got home around 7pm after a weekend away and it was at 55º, and it's now 12am at 75º, so that's Δ20ºF/5hr = 4º/hr = 1º/15min ... and I could now go on and look at my 2 heaters' wattages and calculate the power that went into the room temperature and figure out how lossy my bedroom is, but I don't feel like it. Yay math! Yay laziness! If anyone else feels like it, go ahead and I'll check your results. :-P

08 January 2007

It's that time of year again!

Early January is the AAS (American Astronomical Meeting, "double-A-S") meeting, and as always there's a slew of astro articles / press releases that trickle out from it through the media. The first one I've seen is how Mars missions killed life. Keep in mind that these are press releases and/or submitted presentations. There has been no peer review of the material, even though it's been worked on very hard by the astronomer presenting it and his/her team. It could still be proven wrong. The actual peer review papers associated with these things are usually quite tame by comparison.

And while we're at it, the word of the year is "pluto" - but as a verb! I might've preferred "climate canary" myself - even though Pluto's demotion is exciting, it holds much less meaning for the human race than global warming and those species that it is pushing past the edge of extinction.

06 January 2007

It's NOT Global Warming!

The lack of winter in New England is not NOT NOT a sign of global warming.

  1. Didja notice the weather in the Upper Midwest? Global warming is a world-wide thing. If it's balanced out between one place and another, it doesn't count.

  2. Global warming also isn't a one-year thing. If you'd been talking about the past few summers' heat wave across Europe, you could blame that on global warming, but blaming one single summer on global warming doesn't cut it.

  3. El Nino is the most likely cause for this winter's weather, both the warmth in the Northeast, and the snow in the Midwest. El Nino is a short cycle in the weather that really CAN vary from one year to the next, so it's the most likely culprit.

So there. Stop calling it global warming already! *grr*