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Stuff about science, science related, etc. (In hindsight, most of it seems to be more related to space and astronomy)

Written By: Gary on May 5, 2012 No Comment

This stellar planetarium in your pocket is an application called Star Walk, and it’s only 99 cents on the iPhone, this is normally $2.99 and worth it for the price (the cheapest I’ve ever seen). It’s also available for the iPad for $1.99 (which is much cheaper than the usual $4.99).

starwalk.pngThis is listed as a Mother’s day sale so I’m not sure when it’s ending, that’s not for a week (right?!?) and that would be a long sale (unless they got their weeks mixed up!).

I did a much longer Star Walk review a year ago with many screen captures and a lot more information that you’ll have to read for all the details.

This is a planetarium in your pocket. If you device has a the GPS and gyroscope, you just tilt it up at the sky and it will identify what you’re point it. It’s awesome! There are some similar products, but I think this might be the most polished.

Other than some small bits of information (and the space image of the day) you DO not need to be connected to the internet to use this information. So this is useful anywhere you can see the stars!!!

Written By: Gary on April 9, 2011 No Comment

This amazing planetarium in your pocket is an application called Star Walk, and it’s only 99 cents on the iPhone until April 12, 2011, this is normally $2.99 and worth it for the price. It’s the 50th anniversary of spaceflight and they’re celebrating by giving us a deal! It’s also available for the iPad for $4.99.

starwalk.pngStar Walk shows you all the stars and constellations, just by holding it up to the sky and pointing, it’s amazing! It uses the GPS for hassle free alignment, on other models it’ll use the gyroscope to have you set it up and then it’s supposed to follow along from there. Plus, it calculates this all based on where you are all with no internet connection required*.

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This is the startup screen (called “sky live”).

starwalk2.PNG starwalk3.PNG
Two views holding my phone to the East (one above and one below the horizon).

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A portion of the animated detail screen for Betelguese (internet not needed).

They also have a another app just for our Solar System called Solar Walk (3D Solar System model) which is more detail on just our solar system. It’s $2.99 but it’s universal and runs on iPad and iPhone; and they make Solar Walk for Mac but no Star Walk (yet!).

* Additional information (beyond the paragraphs and stats that are included) on planets (and stars?) is available and does require internet. Also the astronomy picture of the day requires the internet.

Written By: Gary on April 6, 2010 No Comment

This is the path the shuttle takes when it’s on the massive crawler and has to go from the VAB (vehicle assembly building) to one of the launch pads.

It’s the wide dual dirt/gravel roads (with the grass strip in the middle) towards the back.

The launch pad all the way to the right is 39A and the other (a little to the left) is 39B.

If you click on the photo you now get the huge version which is 3,900 pixels across and 700 pixels down (if it only shows up as wide as your browser, click again, then you can scroll right and left). You can click for a more normal 1024 pixel size too. Sorry, I appear to have problems uploading the huge version of the panorama from my phone. I’ll fix later at hotel.

Written By: Gary on March 3, 2010 No Comment

This is a time lapse of the roll out from the VAB (Vertical Assembly Building) to the launch page, I’d guess it’s about an hour of moving per minute. I’ll admit it’s not the most exciting time lapse video but it’s a lot faster than the live video was last night (it was about seven hours until attached).

STS-131_patch.pngJust before midnight last night, space shuttle Discovery began its slow roll from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39A. Riding aboard the crawler-transporter, the shuttle completed the 3.4-mile trip and was secured to the pad by 7 a.m. EST.

– NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Here’s the direct link to the roll out video.

So I’m pretty excited about this, not the roll out itself, but once it’s been on the launch pad a few more days and the figure out if there are any issues it’ll help firm up the launch date. I figure once the GOES-P mission goes off this week that’ll help too, I don’t think there is anything else big in the meantime.

Written By: Gary on February 10, 2010 No Comment

So what do you think it would look like if you wandered too close to a black hole? Scientists at the University of Stuttgart in Germany created a black hole simulation to let you input some different parameters to see how it would look.

The program’s creators say it could be an excellent tool to familiarize people with the weird ways that black holes warp light.

The video below is a narrated sequence with a few different views. Here’s the original article at New Scientist.

Direct link to the black hole video.

Found at the Woot blog (which is not generally where I get my science news).

Written By: Gary on October 9, 2009 No Comment

I was excited to watch but the results were boring…
Click for a larger version of the CNN moon crash Video.

Here’s the animation, which was much more interesting.
Click for a larger version of the CNN moon crash Animation.

I hope the animation is pretty much what happened, we just couldn’t see it. I hope the data that they get is good data. I’d prefer that it shows there is water;ut if there isn’t, I hope the results show there isn’t. No data / bad data means failed mission…

The LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) spacecraft was also passing by a little bit later (90 seconds?) so that should have have some additional data.

LATER: A little more info on this at CNN. They said this was the fifth most watched webcast ever.

Written By: Gary on August 28, 2009 No Comment

The Space Shuttle Discovery is on the launch pad right now. This always excites me and still gives me chills when it takes off! You can watch NASA TV live on their site. At this point, they are in a hold and I think they are still supposed to launch in the next hour (11:59 PM EST).

sts-128.pngI’ve always wanted to see a launch, I don’t know why I’ve never made this happen. I was supposed to go a few weeks ago to see this launch (STS-128), but they moved the date so it didn’t work out. I’ve got to make this a priority over the next year before they stop the shuttle launches.

It’s been 25 years since this ship’s maiden voyage, it was August 30th, 1984 when Discovery had it’s first launch! It was the third orbital vehicle in service (OV-103) and is now the oldest running shuttle. Wow!

Once they introduced the shuttle, I always thought they’d have some way to take passengers. I always assumed that’d be airplane type seats in the bay, like envisioned in the 1970’s James Bond movie Moonraker (anybody have an image of this?).

So let’s just plan to catch a shuttle launch in the next year, okay? Anyone have any tips on going to a launch?

Written By: Gary on July 20, 2009 No Comment

I mentioned the anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing earlier today. Here’s a few other “space” things that caught my eye:

themoon.jpg

  • Apollo 11 restored HD video.
  • Send your name to Mars and get a certificate.
  • For your iPhone and iPod Touch get SkyVoyager and SkyGazer for free today (normally $17.98 combined).
  • Photos of the Moon landing sites from the LRO.
  • And Google has added the Moon to Google Earth (desktop application).

  • That’s it for now. Please post any recommended links in the comments below.

    Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

    Written By: Gary on July 20, 2009 No Comment

    On this day 40 years ago Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. astronaut_Apollo_11.jpg I’m not sure what else needs to be added to that statement: “We landed on the Moon”! How amazing is that?!?

    Just for some frame of reference: The Moon is 238,000 miles away (384,000 km), if you were driving 75 miles per hour it would take you 3,100 hours. Keep in mind that’s speeding and you don’t get to pull over for any bathroom breaks or snacks!

    Actually it took them more like five days to get there, so just dividing that out, that’s around 2,000 miles per hour (assume it took them a while to speed up and slow down).

    When I was a kid, my mother purchased me a two record set of the mission. Lots of audio recordings of the launch and landing. I’m thinking there was some insert with a bunch of photos too. I played that a lot on my record player. I don’t have any idea what year she purchased that, but I’d say I was six or seven(?), and it was amazing to me!

    It’s still amazing to me. Whenever I can watch a launch of some kind or another, I always turn on the TV and still get thrills and chills. I get chills just thinking about it as I’m writing this…

    Apollo_11_bootprint.jpg
    The sad part is we only landed six times and then we stopped.

    Photos courtesy of Wikipedia.

    Written By: Gary on December 9, 2007 No Comment

    Meade mySKY Personal Guide for Sky Exploration MeadeSo this was a cool item I saw at REI the other day when I was looking at GPS units. Its a gun you point up at the night sky and it calculates where you are, the direction you’re facing and what angle the gun is tilted at and lights up it’s display and tells you what you are looking at (with a picture too).

    Unfortunately, it was daytime and I couldn’t use it. The one I saw was the Meade mySKY Personal Guide for Sky Exploration, this might just be something I need. This is the Official Meade site for the mySky (with some video)

  • it can identify 30,000 unique items
  • 500 audio descriptions to keep you well briefed
  • built in GPS receiver
  • 2 inch wide 480 x 234 LCD
  • Sandy Wood (from StarDate) is who narrates the sky for you
  • interfaces with some Meade telescopes
  • looks like a space gun / phaser

  • Popular Mechanics gave it a great review. But a lot of the people reviewing these seem to have them dead out of the box or problems getting the GPS to “lock”. The ones who it worked for absolutely love them. Possible other problems: Waving a gun around outside or trying to get it through airport security. And for some reason you can only update it on a Windows machine (via an SD card).Celestron SkyScout Personal Planetarium CelestronThe Celestron SkyScout Personal Planetarium seems to be a similar product, but it’s not as cool looking but it’s a year older and I think they’ve worked some of the bugs out. Many of the SkyScout complaints seemed to also be with getting the GPS to “lock”.

    And. of course, there is a chart to compare the mySky and SkyScout.

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    Written By: Gary on March 3, 2007 No Comment

    Picture 2Wow! This is the Astronomy Picture of the Day today! The above link will get you “today’s” picture whenever today is. This link will get you March, 3rd 2007 which is the one I’m talking about. It’s the moon (our moon) passing in front of the sun using ultraviolet cameras.

    The extra amazing part is once you go to that page you can watch a short animated movie of the 12 hour transition.

    Written By: Gary on October 11, 2006 No Comment

    Lifestraw-2Over 6,000 people die a day (most of them children) from water releated illnesses. These folks have created The LifeStraw, a straw about the size of a small clarinet that can be worn about the neck and weighs about 0.095 Kg (3.3 ounces). It’ll filter 2 liters (half gallon) a day for about a year! And they only cost about $3 each.


    Over a billion people in the world don’t have safe drinking water! (Drinking salt water will reduce the life expectancy in half).

    More info (from the FAQ):

  • LifeStraw® filters bacteria such as Shigella, Salmonella, Enterrococus, Staphylococcus Aureus and E .Coli.

  • First time users may find it difficult to start sucking. This is because a natural brake on the flow of water has been put into the LifeStraw®, as a controlled flow between 100 ml to 150 ml per minute is needed to get the maximum benefit of the bacteria killing effect.
  • It is expected that continuously drinking saline water through the LifeStraw® would reduce effective life to 350 litres.

    I spotted this on the New York Times video feed I get on my TiVo.

  • Written By: Gary on October 6, 2006 No Comment

    I’ve been reading that A Brief History of Time has been made available in the public domain. Here is someone who converted it to several formats (web page, Palm reader, Microsoft reader, Acrobat), not all formats have images.

    Found here at Palm 24/7.

    Written By: Gary on September 24, 2006 No Comment

    AtlantisissHere’s a very cool photo of the ISS and Atlantis passing each other last week. In this picture they’re about 200 meters about (that’s about 650 feet). Be sure to click the link and scroll down to the larger very impressive picture (that’s the sun in the background).

    Found at Don’t Forward.

    Written By: Gary on July 14, 2006 No Comment

    I finally hooked up my Oregon Scientific Weather Station and I really like it. It’s got a remote sensor for outside and shows the humidity and temp for both inside and outside (or I guess you could put the sensor inside somewhere else in the house if you wanted). It shows the moon phase and sets itself via the atomic clock. The instructions read as if the atomic clock sends out a signal constantly (I thought it was a once a day thing). I know it took awhile (overnight) for mine to get the signal (and then I had to go set the time zone). It even makes a weather forecast based on the barometer and the humidity and temp. It’s a nifty little device and it’s well worth the money I spent on it.


    It’s got an alarm clock and backlit display built into it too. Plus it shows if the temp, pressure and humidity are rising, steady or lowering. You can calibrate it for closer readings based on your altitude too. I think I paid more for just the little temp/humidity sensor I bought a few years ago.

    FYI – It starting saying it’s got a connection with the Atomic Clock, I’m not sure how/why…

    Written By: Gary on March 27, 2006 2 Comments

    I love Deal or No Deal they offer people money and people constantly turn it down. It’s kinda funny actually giving away free money.

    What really happens is they have 26 briefcases with money in it from one cent to on million dollars (semi-evenly increments randomly placed) you pick a briefcase which is now “yours”. You then pick other cases to removed them from play, obviously whatever you pick is not in your case, then every so often they offer you money to “buy” your briefcase. The more big numbers left the higher they offer you, they don’t want you to walk out with $1,000,000. The numbers they offer you are often statistically sound, if it’s down to two cases they generally offer you somewhere in the middle. When it’s a half dozen cases it’s pretty scattered but I can still guess pretty close as to the offer.

    People really make bonehead moves though. They’ve got five low numbers and one high number and they keep opening cases. Yes, it drives the price up but if you hit the one case you lose! And they generally get too greedy. Or they keep going and then they chicken out and take the money when they were offered way more the previous turn.

    The weird part is you never see anyone get the $1,000,000. Why you ask? Because if it’s down to two case $0.01 and $250,000 and they offer you $125,000 are you really going to say no deal when you might only get a penny? Maybe if you have two cases and it’s $250,000 and $500,000 (offering you $375,000) you might take the chance since you’re a big winner either way (but statistically it’s still only $250,000 difference either way).

    I’ve still got a few more things so read on (I haven’t even discussed Schrodinger yet, nor the fact that it’s not really your case).


    Is it really “your case”, it’s purely psychological, you could just leave them all up on the stage and just ignore one and that one would be “yours” but you don’t have it near to you. I think the only time I’ve seen it down to to cases (of a reasonable amount) they actually offer for you to switch your case.

    Now the Schrodinger’s Case issue which is why I’m posting this (in addition to my frustration with bonehead players) I’ll assume you don’t know who Schrodinger is and why every geeky scientist on TV names their cat “Schrodinger”. You stick a cat in box (in a unobservable soundproof lead-lined box, etc.), with a poison gas in it that every half-hour their is a 50/50 chance the poison gas get released (this equals instant death). The question after a half-hour is the cat dead or alive. Here’s the kicker: since you can’t actually observer it and no one knows what’s happened the cat is actually both dead and alive (not have of each). Yes, I know it’s insane but until you actually observe it, it’s actually both (that’s the paradox). It’s a basic principal of Quantum physics and I can’t explain it (the original hypothetical experiment dealt with radioactive isotopes anf half-lifes and other complicated things) I tried to uncomplicate it. I’m not even going to mention that at this point the wave-function collapses and that in all likelihood we split into two different universes, one with dead cat and one with a live one.

    But the question is: if no one know what’s in the case (say they were put in randomly and blindfolded) could there be a million dollars and one dollar in it at the same time. So that you actually don’t know what’s in the case until you look? Wouldn’t the same be for all the cases? Can we influence what’s in the case by having cheerleader’s cheer? By yelling “Woo Ya!”? Or by praying? Or does it just doesn’t matter and you sould just start with case one and work your way up the list when choosing?

    Oh, and my last weird thought for the day: There are 26 cases, not a very normal number for this sort of thing, but it is the number of letters in the alphabet, why aren’t they numbered A-Z?

    Here’s more Schrödinger’s cat.

    FYI – Howie makes a great host!

    Written By: Gary on July 20, 2005 No Comment

    So it’s been 36 years since we landed on the Moon. I still think that is so cool. I really thought we’d be making field trips there by now but unfortunately that isn’t the case. These days I’m just excited/hopeful that we’ll get the shuttle missions going again.

    For my birthday last year (or maybe it was Christmas) I got this Apollo 11 Artifact Kit. It’s got all sorts of cool paraphernalia in it (mission patch, moon map, travel voucher, customs declaration, school photos of one of the astronauts kids and other interesting stuff) and a book too. My mother saw it the other day and commented on how much her dad would have liked it, he’s the guy who got me interested in space and science. I don’t know if he ever knew that. I remember him taking me up to the library and getting books when I was little and I remember getting something to do with space at the same time he was (my version had lots more pictures than his did). It’s that first time that I always think of when people ask me about how I got interested in science and technology. I don’t know what was going on that made him interested, maybe a space mission or the anniversary of some launch or maybe just plain old curiosity.

    Written By: Gary on July 14, 2005 No Comment

    Astronaut garyI can’t tell you how much I wanted to be an Astronaut when I was a kid. When they built and launched the Space Shuttle I thought I’d be able to do it as a passenger but with major setbacks every few years we haven’t gotten there yet. This was a suit that they had at NextFest (see my other NextFest posts). They kept pointing the to the sensors on the front and asking kids about it (the stick way out so you can’t look down in the suit) but the suit was missing the item you’d need to read the sensors so most of the kids weren’t making the connection.


    (Hint: The item would be attached to the arm). NASA had a great setup. They had a bunch of stuff for the solar sail (which hadn’t been launched yet) too and the material was so light you didn’t feel it in you hand, I think the static in your body almost repelled it. It had a very SciFi Roswell quality about it…

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    Written By: Gary on January 27, 2005 No Comment

    AliensofthedeepAliens of the Deep in 3D was great! IMAX movies are always great especially when in 3D. It’s James Cameron doing a Jacques Cousteau type movie thousands of feet down. They’ve got beautiful footage some interesting background details and some occasional special effects. They spend a lot of time talking about how some of this is like exploring other worlds and how some of what they do on the ocean floor would be used in deep space (especially if looking in water for life). A bit of how the extremes of space and the ocean can be very similar. Did I say the 3D looked great?!?

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    Written By: Gary on December 10, 2004 5 Comments

    Anyone know anything about a planetary alignment tonight? (Or this week?) The weather guy mentions it (on the left down a little, by the video clip) but I can’t find anything on-line about it (Yahoo/Google/Space.com). A link (or two) if you had any information would be excellent…

    Written By: Gary on October 27, 2004 3 Comments

    You can definitely see the eclipse and see that it’s RED but it’s just to hard to really see it well. :(

    Written By: Gary on October 27, 2004 2 Comments

    Total eclipse of the Moon tonight. It’ll be 11 PM-ish in the eastern time zone in the US. See Yahoo for basic info, Space.com for Top 10 Lunar Eclipse Facts and this and this guide. This will be your last chance until 2007!

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    Written By: Gary on October 4, 2004 No Comment

    Spaceship1BPrivate spacecraft travels into space twice in 5 days and they win the prize! I always wanted to be an astronaut as a kid, but when the space shuttle came around I assumed I’d be able to go as a passenger so I didn’t pursue it. Maybe I will still get my chance to go on a vacation into space… More info.

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    Written By: Gary on June 13, 2004 One Comment

    So I found this Ecological Footprint survey which (kind of) lets you figure out how much of the Earth’s resources you consume (waste). Actually what it lets you calculate is if everyone on Earth was like you, how many Earths would be need to supply them all. Not knowing enough, I left 0% room for other species and if everyone were like me it would take somewhere around six Earths to support everyone. Actually I did it a few times and got answers between 5.3 and 7 depending on how I answered some of the borderline questions. Either way, I’m a pig in the world ecology (my low score is just that above the average american). If I gave other species 1/3 of the planet my number jumps up to somewhere between 7 and 10.

    Now some of this would change if we had good public transportation in Detroit (the motor city) and if I knew how “local” my food was produced. I.E. If I lived in Battle Creek I’m thinking my eggs, bacon, beef(?) and cereal would all be considered more local. I got nailed for air travel (10 hours a year), living alone and home square footage (but I live in a condo, not taking up any more space than the person below me, no yard and I walk a lot of stairs to get up to the third floor).

    The funny thing is that it appears that I scored (lost) lots of points for living alone which (likely) means I’m not increasing the world’s population. And I’d gladly give it all up to increase that number by one or three…


    (The survey was originally linked to www.lead.org/leadnet/footprint/default.htm but doesn’t appear to be there any more so I’ve updated the link).

    Written By: Gary on May 27, 2004 No Comment

    I was looking for a (regular) calendar and I found this.

    Written By: Gary on April 22, 2004 No Comment

    myfirstdnaI’m not kidding this DNA kit is from http://discovery.com/ and is sold as the Discovery DNA Explorer Kit. “Ideal for budding forensic-scientists or secret agents, the working lab and tools are just like the real thing.”

    Be careful of the warning if you live in Canada: “Two of the 10 experiments included in the Kit require the “Lambda DNA,” which does not ship to Canada.”

    Written By: Gary on March 30, 2004 One Comment

    sacredplanetI saw Disney’s Sacred Planet today at the IMAX. It was excellent. Beautiful scenery! It was a more natural version of ‘The Lorax’ lots of little clues about nature but not too much in your face with it. From Africa to Utah (and the Arctic?) and stories of culture passed on. Click on the links/images for trailers and other bonuses at http://sacredplanet.com/. It opens April 22nd on Earth Day.


    “Sacred Planet is a 45-minute journey around the world to some of the most exotic and beautiful places that still exist. From the last remaining old growth forests of British Columbia, the snowy peaks and glaciers of Alaska, the red rock canyons of Utah and Arizona, the tropical jungles and underwater mysteries of Borneo, the ancient ruins of Thailand and remote deserts of Namibia to the white sand beaches of New Zealand. Stunning images that include the landscape, the people and the animals indigenous to the land, all serve as visceral reminders of this planet’s infinite variety and biological diversity.
    sacredplanet
    The tenor of the film is one of hope and beauty. It showcases the natural beauty of our planet’s diverse regions as a testament to what is at stake, and as an inspiration to its audience. Sacred Planet serves as witness to all that remains to be cherished, rather than to all that has been lost.”

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    Written By: Gary on March 24, 2004 No Comment

    joy376If she was reading the latest issue of Scientific American at the beach in the topics paying attention to my feelings and and proposing. No doubt, I’d be the brain in the vat.

    I was thinking more of the scientific pleasure scenario. I give them “smart” information and they stimulate my pleasure points thus making me want to store and calculate more information for them. I wasn’t thinking so much about the psychological debate about these things (would I rather be IN or OUT of the matrix?).

    I also just bought The Day the Earth Stood Still so the old campy image of the brain in a vat is in my mind… Well, either way I thought it was a good cartoon.

    This cartoon is from Joy of Tech (.com).

    Written By: Gary on March 24, 2004 No Comment

    I have two (2) thoughts off the top of my head:

    1. Some kind of magical wireless interactive communication system. For data and voice that reaches everywhere at a high speed and a cost effective price (for the data and the receiving hardware) for EVERYONE.

    2. Self-repairing roads! I think more places would build roads if they knew that nanotechnology (or something) could keep it repaired (and de-iced).

    Sorry, I know it’s not world peace or something like that, but I was trying to be realistic!

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