Category Archives: science

A Sense of Scale

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Wow, I love this movie.
It shows the relative scale of astronomical bodies, from Mercury (~รขโ€ฆโ€œ the size of Earth) to W Cephei (almost 300,000 x Earth)

Oh, and while I’m embedding movies, I like this time-lapse video of a hot air balloon festival, not only for the video, but for the music.

Mentos experiments at Andy’s place

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We went to Andy’s annual BBQ tonight, and I brought along our camera. There were a series of “drop the mentos into the bottle of Diet Coke” experiments. I dutifully recorded them all and herein are the links to the videos on YouTube:

Experiment #1.

And here’s an alternate viewpoint of the same event:

Experiment #2 wasn’t very successful, possibly due to the Coke being cooled down.
So we warmed up a bottle and performed the most successful experiment, #3.

Pretty cool, eh?

Deep Impact has .. impacted!

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Just watched
NASA’s Deep Impact
space probe crash into the Tempel 1 comet.


The impact was way, way brighter than people were expecting.
One guy on NASA TV wondered if they happened to hit a pocket of gas underground or something.
*My* theory is that the comet is partially made of nitro-glycerin..

Michael and I tried to find something on TV, checking Discovery, the Learning Channel.. but nothing.
Discovery was busy playing MythBusters.
CNN was talking about sports when we checked, although John Chew told me he was watching spotty coverage
that consisted partially of assurances that the impact would not send the comet to earth, destroying civilization.


I tried various means by which to get to NASA TV, including RealPlayer and Windows Media Player,
but what ended up working best was Video Lan Client on my PC (wouldn’t work on my Mac).

Here are some pics..

StarFest 2004

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The moon, taken with my Olympus D-510 through Jeff’s telescope.
Click picture for larger version.

We’re back from StarFest.
Quick summary: Friday night was cloudy, Saturday night was excellent but I got sick, we came back Sunday morning.

The sun.
Click picture for larger version.

Saturday was definitely *The* *Day* for the ‘Fest.
The seeing was excellent, and people stayed up until past 4am.

The sun through an H-Alpha filter, so you can see the prominences. [sp?]
Click picture for larger version.

Unfortunately for me, something in the air was causing me no end of grief.
I haven’t “had allergies” for most of my life, but in recent years I seem to be getting sneezing fits now and then.
This was much worse, as it included both the runny nose *and* a powerful headache.
I managed to stay up Saturday night until after the moon set (it was really bright) and saw the Andromeda galaxy, the Triffid nebula and various other nebula before hitting the sack around 10:30pm.
Even then, I had a very hard time falling asleep because of the headache.
Probably one of the worst times I’ve ever had trying to fall asleep.

A panoramic view of the tent village at StarFest, with Jeff and Michael next to a telescope.
Click picture for a very much larger (11,244 x 936, and 1,269k) version.

Jeff was checking out a certain brand of scopes because he is thinking of getting that brand.
Jeff and I bought new pairs of binoculars, Bausch and Laumb 7×50’s.
They have excellent light-gathering and really brighten up whatever you look at.
Not just stars — in the middle of the night when I c ould barely make out the silouhettes of people, I was able to use the binoculars and read the badges people had on their coat arms.
Very impressive!

All of my StarFest 2004 pictures are
under one directory,
so feel free to browse through them.

Nanotechnology rave

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I posted this to
a slashdot thread

If we somehow do manage to get home “makers” (as they’re sometimes called in SF), it’s true that the economy will go to Hell in a handbasket. However, everyone’s dependence on that economy will follow. In effect, everyone will be able to make their own food, CD players, etc, etc. It will be the beginning of the Real Information Age™. People will trade nanorecipes for fridges, stoves, ovens, photovoltaic arrays, computers, and cars over the internet. Just about anything you buy right now will be “downloadable”. Like the latest Porsche? Here, someone scanned the one he bought (by dumping it into a maker in “record” mode) and uploaded it to

Aside from social needs (hospitals, internet service, transportation, government) there won’t be a whole heck of a lot left for people to do. Expect the cost of physical labour (and people’s incomes from that) to dwindle. Expect the cost of goods to do likewise. “Knowledge workers” who design new items, the recipes for which can be sold over the Internet will do well. These will be people who know How Things Work, and who are currently emplloyed in the manufacturing industry, so at least some people will make the transition nicely.

In a lot of ways it will be good. It will remove a lot of resource bottlenecks such as food, water, oil, .. chocolate. ๐Ÿ™‚ How it will impact our need for energy depends on the efficiency of the technology. Will the energy cost to make a barrel of oil be higher than a barrel of oil? If not, we’re in good shape. If so, then we would be in for interesting times.