Archive for February 2009

T-7 Days And Counting.

February 28, 2009

Current schedule for the Kepler mission is for launch on March 6. Launch windows are from 10:49 – 10:52 p.m. and 11:13 – 11:16 p.m. EST. Launch is aboard a ULA Delta II.

Kepler got its payload fairing wrapped around it today. Here it is with half of the fairing:
The Kepler spacecraft in its fairing.

The Kepler mission is very important to me. This spacecraft is capable of discovering Earth-like planets around other stars. And that means updates to the Galactic Population Estimate!

Two Beautiful Ladies

February 28, 2009

Two Beautiful Ladies

Keep an eye out in the west over the next few nights right after sundown. Oh and I need to do some lens cleaning, at least I hope that’s all it is.

Upsetting.

February 8, 2009

The third commenter to this article, BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | Number of alien worlds quantified, manages to upset me.

It’s a fact that aliens have been visiting Earth for last several thousand years. Many of our technologies are gifts from them.

[emphasis mine]

Not only is this just wrong, but it is denigrating the hard work, frustration, sweat, and all the rest of the unpleasantness that everyone working on new technologies goes through. On top of that it denigrates the intelligence of those who fund the efforts, from government leaders to angel investors.

This person has absolutely no clue about how scientists discover the laws of nature, or how inventors, engineers, and technicians apply those laws to build new technologies.

Congrats to Iran!

February 4, 2009

Whoa – Iran?
Well, let’s be honest, the troubling thing about Iran is their political and religious leaders, and having spent a number of years living in a glass house, I’m not going to throw stones.

Anyway, they have launched a satellite into orbit. And that deserves congratulations, I am always glad to hear that someone put something into orbit.

What’s your sign?

February 2, 2009

The Bad Astronomer prompted by the same question at Cocktail Party Physics asks about etiquette when a conversation turns to beliefs about things not supported by science, like astrology.

For religion, I just shut up, dodge the question, and generally go along with the before dinner prayer and what not. I grew up with it, so it isn’t even a conscious thought.

For astrology, when asked “What’s your sign?” I have a fairly stock answer.

“My *sign* is ‘Speed Limit 299,792 km/s'”.
Most people quickly figure out that I am an intelligent dork, appreciate puns, and do not believe in astrology or other para-psychology. Sometimes generates questions like “Huh? Two hundred…what?” For those who asked as a way to get conversation going rather than any from any cherished belief, the answer leads to a far better conversation. Unfortunately, for those who really believe in astrology any further conversation leads to problems for me.

The problems come from talking about how stars and planets do affect my life – in a very real and measurable way. But not in the way astrology claims. More like causing me to look up to enjoy the expansive beauty and I end up stumbling or tripping over something on the ground. Or the more long term effects from looking up, asking questions, learning astronomy, then at some point getting the notion to go there. Which in turn has influenced many of my life choices. But astrology doesn’t say you where born on such and such a day therefore you will grow up to be a rocket scientist.

“So there could be something to it? Right?”
At this point exasperation sets in and it is all downhill. “No, no, no! Look, when I was born astrologers say the Sun was in Virgo. Only one problem, it wasn’t. It was in Leo. Never mind all the people born the same day or the same hour as me who aren’t even interested in science and engineering, let alone actually rocket scientists.”

The best thing I have found is to excuse myself for a trip to the washroom and hope the conversation has turned by the time I get back.