Wednesday, November 26, 2014

That's No Moon...

...that's a dwarf planet! Today's Pluto Picture of the Day is a painting by Mark A. Gartick speculating what the surface of dwarf planet Pluto's moon, Charon, might look like. Pluto hangs large in the sky above.

Lunar Dance

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows two of Jupiter's Galilean moons, Io and Callisto, as they pass each other in the same orbital plane, providing lucky observers from earth, with a chance to see a rare occultation.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows how Dr. Henry Throop celebrated the launch of New Horizons. I was a tad more...restrained...

Red Lagoon

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of Messier 8 and Messier 20 in the constellation of Sagittarius. What is lurking in the lagoon? "Mouseover" the image to get a clue!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Star Stuff

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows the disc containing names of 434,738 people who are "going" to Pluto.

Digital Overflight

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video showing a simulated flyover of Titan's surface, compiled from images from various Cassini flybys of that moon of Saturn.

Next time you complain about your lack of a jetpack, think about that. We've been in the Saturn system long enough and flown by Titan so many times that we can digitally recreate a model of much of the surface.

Launch Day

Here's a time-lapse image of the Soyuz TMA-15M rocket taking Expedition 42 to the International Space Station.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Godel Escher Bach on Film

Borges, Escher and Brazil, oh my! Interstellar (the film) sounds interesting in so many ways (but fails in so many other ways). Now for a film based on Godel Escher Bach?

What's It Really Like Out There?

This article is going into the notebook for that eventual Hot Cup of Coffee Revolution short story I keep thinking about.

Lost Future

Two quotes that came to mind when thinking today of how good my Samsung Galaxy Tab is...but how far short it falls from some of the gadgets of science fiction. Then a second that came to me when I contemplated how many times I've been tossed out of a job vs. the potential that we have.

There was plenty to occupy his time, even if he did nothing but sit and read. When he tired of official reports and memoranda and minutes, he would plug his foolscap-size Newspad into the ship’s information circuit and scan the latest reports from Earth. One by one he would conjure up the world’s major electronic papers; he knew the codes of the more important ones by heart , and had no need to consult the list on the back of his pad. Switching to the display unit’s shortterm memory, he would hold the front page while he quickly searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him. Each had its own two-digit reference; when he punched that, the postage-stamp-size rectangle would expand until it neatly filled the screen and he could read it with comfort. When he had finished, he would flash back to the complete page and select a new subject for detailed examination.

Floyd sometimes wondered if the Newspad, and the fantastic technology behind it, was the last word in man’s quest for perfect communications. Here he was , far out in space, speeding away from Earth at thousands of miles an hour, yet in a few milliseconds he could see the headlines of any newspaper he pleased. (That very word “ newspaper,” of course, was an anachronistic hangover into the age of electronics.) The text was updated automatically on every hour ; even if one read only the English versions, one could spend an entire lifetime doing nothing but absorbing the everchanging flow of information from the news satellites.

It was hard to imagine how the system could be improved or made more convenient. But sooner or later, Floyd guessed, it would pass away, to be replaced by something as unimaginable as the Newspad itself would have been to Caxton or Gutenberg. 


Bowman had been a student for more than half his life; he would continue to be one until he retired. Thanks to the twentieth-century revolutions in training and information-handling techniques, he already possessed the equivalent of two or three college educations—and, what was more, he could remember 90 percent of what he had learned.

Fifty years ago, he would have been considered a specialist in applied astronomy, cybernetics, and space propulsion systems —yet he was prone to deny, with genuine indignation, that he was a specialist at all. Bowman had never found it possible to focus his interest exclusively on any subject; despite the dark warnings of his instructors, he had insisted on taking his Master’s degree in General Astronautics— a course with a vague and woolly syllabus, designed for those whose IQs were in the low 130s and who would never reach the top ranks of their profession.

His decision had been right; that very refusal to specialize had made him uniquely qualified for his present task. In much the same way Frank Poole—who sometimes disparagingly called himself “General Practitioner in space biology”—had been an ideal choice as his deputy. The two of them, with, if necessary, help from Hal’s vast stores of information, could cope with any problems likely to arise during the voyage—as long as they kept their minds alert and receptive, and continually reen-graved old patterns of memory.

(Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey)

We live in a time of vast potential. We have a global information network that is constantly being crippled by governmental, non-governmental and corporate interests and concerns. Our education system is watered-down and over-priced. Our employment is constantly phased-our of existence or downgraded.

Never mind the jetpacks and flying cars. I want my free flow of information and endless chance to better myself.

No Pot of Gold

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day seemingly shows a tornado traveling down a rainbow.

Flight Infrastructure

The launch vehicle for Expedition 42 to the International Space Station makes the first steps on it's journey.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows the extremely elliptical orbit of Sedna.

Soft Shell

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day brings us another object that is well placed in our (northern hemisphere) Fall skies: Messier 1 in the constellation of Taurus, the Crab Nebula.

(Addendum: Here's a view of a different supernova remnant, MSH 11-62 as seen by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory.)

Night Sky (Different Light)

The Swift Gamma Ray Observatory has been in operation in orbit for ten years now. Celebrate with an image showing our sky in a different light.


Subtle swirls and eddies in Saturn's atmosphere, fluid dynamics in action!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Nice Eyewear

Today's Pluto Picture of the Day shows the Student Dust Counter instrument on the New Horizons vehicle before installation. Members of the SDC team are rocking their protective eyewear (and outerwear) here.

Weather Eye

The International Space Station quietly passes near Hurricane Gonzalo in this image.

Overflight Image

Operation Icebridge is five years old! An ongoing effort by NASA to track how we're melting the poles, this image shows how the western ice sheets at the south pole are reaching the point of collapse.

Work Day Prep

Flight Engineers Reid Wiseman and Barry Wilmore prepare for an outdoor excursion on the International Space Station. As an exercise for the student, research spacesuits on the ISS, airlocks on the ISS, how spacewalks are divided up, and credits/debits for same.

The Dark of the Fall

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a view of a dark nebula (dust and cold unlit gas, star-forming regions not yet well-lit by young stars) in the constellation of Cygnus, LDN 988. A nice mixture of dense starfields and dark regions for Fall viewing in the northern hemisphere!

Click on the image get a version that includes labels for objects in the image.

How Social Is Your Media?

A while ago I came across a podcast called Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff (pretty early on in it's run, if I'm right), hosted by Kenneth Hite and Robin D. Laws. It was a gaming podcast, mostly talking about their stuff. They were funny. They spoke well. They liked each other. They were knowledgeable about many subjects.

They were very good.

At that point I had been out of gaming for over a decade due to people moving away, work, family and such. My involvement in gaming was the occasional purchase of a "oh, shiny" book or miniature.

But these guys got me interested again. As a result, I eventually started running a game again (Call of Cthulhu) and have been in a few sessions of a game they were involved with (Ashen Stars).

I've also, as a direct result of the podcast, started buying (mostly digital, but also some physical) games that they've been involved in. Namely: Ashen Stars, Gaen Reach, Trail of Cthulhu, The Dying Earth. I've also bought games from their company (Pelgrane Press) or that they've mentioned on the podcast: Feng Shui 2, Dracula Dossier (for Night's Black Agents), Paranoia and TimeWatch (I may have missed a few, but you get the idea!).

That's what an effective and engaging "social media" strategy will do for you. Wish more companies would be better at it, rather than spamming me with promoted tweets or buying Twitter "trending" subjects.