Category Archives: Personal Blog

Slow Month

Sorry that this is one of the slowest months on record. I think all our brains are frozen.

For people interested in my Medieval Reenactment fun, the SCA, I have been busy getting ready for Gulf Wars.

It’s true, the hard work killed him… so, now we know.

By the way, he’ll find out about this picture when I tell him to check out this page tonight. *heh* I’m sure he’ll be amused.  By the way, do you see those water skis attached to his pants? I swear, Sasquatch has kinfolk in Alabama.

Well, I’ve got a couple weeks to get him armored up as well. Should be a blast fighting next month, hate for him to miss his chance.

I hope everyone is keeping warm. Sorry for the slow blogging, but I’ll try to remember to do some real science in the next month, and that should liven up the proceedings.

The “No Bad Poetry” Award

Anyone who has read here a while, knows I have a penchant for bad poetry. When scientists use sex to sell their research, I feel that I need to take notice, and make fun of them. Checking back, it has been nearly a year since I have been FORCED into bad poetry. (Its not my fault, really, they make me.) Technically speaking, the post on the speed of sperm was September of 2009. So, I could have given this Motivational Award last October.

Keep Classy Scientists, Because you know I won’t…

Oh, and a quick reprint of my classic …

For Effective Sperm it is Said
they must have the smallest of head
Aerodynamically shapes us
To win the sex races
So that quicker is better, in bed

Solar Science

Improved measurements of sun to advance understanding of climate change

Ok, the article speaks for itself, but I had to discuss one minor element. People always relate “solar cycle” and “solar radiance.” They are not particularly related. The sun’s output does change over time, but the solar cycle is a measurement of the suns magnetic field interacting with some sub-surface solar jet stream. The amount and speed of the particles hitting the Earth is related to the Solar Cycle, but not the irradiance. The Irradiance hasn’t been well measured or correlated to anything. Is the sun weaker than yester year? Why? No idea.

Now, particles from solar storms do impact the Earth and may relate to heating and cooling trends. This may explain the relative weakness of the heating cycle of the last decade.  But you have to separate irradiance and particle flow, because as far as I know, they aren’t related. Right now, in this extended solar minimun, we have a very low particle flow. We also appear to have a low irradiance. They MIGHT be related. However, the trend is long term, not 12 year cycles.  In any case, this new satellite may tell us a lot.

My Horoscope last week from the Onion

Pluto rising in your sign indicates trouble in your work life, which is problematic because, well, for astronomical reasons, Pluto will be rising in your sign for the next 87 years.

Umm… They are sick and twisted.  Is that enough reason?

Terrible Secret: I like Astrology

No, I didn’t confuse Astrology and Astronomy. Technically speaking, I have been a professional astronomer. (I have been paid to do professional work in Videography of Meteor showers and am part of a publication on Lunar Impacts.) Yeah, real astronomy.

Apparantly a real astronomer looked at the variation of the rise of constellations with date, and noticed that the shift had been…well… like a month. Now, people have been using the “traditional dates” since long before I was born. These dates were accurate back in Babylon, but currently are sufficiently in error, than the Astronomer decided to re-state the dates.

According to astronomers at the Minnesota Planetarium Society , here’s how your date of birth aligns with the constellations:

Capricorn: Jan. 20-Feb. 16
Aquarius: Feb. 16-March 11
Pisces: March 11-April 18
Aries: April 18-May 13
Taurus: May 13-June 21
Gemini: June 21-July 20
Cancer: July 20-Aug. 10
Leo: Aug. 10-Sept. 16
Virgo: Sept. 16-Oct. 30
Libra: Oct. 30-Nov. 23
Scorpio: Nov. 23-29
Ophiuchus: Nov. 29-Dec. 17
Sagittarius: Dec. 17-Jan. 20

Yeah, this just KILLS me.  I mean, I am a consumate Virgo! Everyone says so…now I am a LEO? My SISTER is a Leo. (and it never matched her well, I hope she enjoys being a Cancer, I always thought she was.) I am not a Leo, at least in my own mind…not that it ever made any difference to the horoscopes. Never had a horoscope (outside of the Onion) that I liked.  But the personalty profiles I thought were fun. Oh well, it was fun being a Virgo. My son is now a Scorpio, he loves Scorpions. He’ll like that. My wife … well … No great change. I had hopes, high hopes, of her ending up in Ophiuchus… In the words of the Immortal Sage “Missed it by THAT much.”

Just to talk about SCALE for a second.

Ophiuchus is famous for containing Bernard’s star, which is only 5.9 Light years away, our closest neighbor. However, it is a red dwarf and not very interesting otherwise.

Here is one of our closest neighbor Galaxies. It is actually easier to find than Bernard’s Star, which can give you an idea of how bright it must be. It is 35 Million light years away. Just to give you an idea of the scale of the universe. It currently takes about 6 months to get to Mars. If I could fly to Mars in an hour, traveling about 10 percent of the speed of light, the solar system is my oyster. I can travel all the way from Pluto to the sun in a few days. In a month I could explore the reaches of the Oort cloud. But, it would still take me 60 years to get to Bernard’s Star. Wow.

Now imagine I have a Starship with which can travel to our closest neighbor, Bernard’s Star, in about a day at 2000 times the speed of light. I can get to the center of the galaxy 50,000 light years away, in only 25 days. The Galaxy is now my oyster.  How close is our neighbor galaxies? They are still a 50 year flight away.

A picture of that galaxy, for your amusement.

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.
Explanation: Gorgeous spiral galaxy NGC 3521 is a mere 35 million light-years distant, toward the constellation Leo. Spanning some 50,000 light-years, its central region is shown in this dramatic image, constructed from data drawn from the Hubble Legacy Archive. The close-up view highlights this galaxy’s characteristic multiple, patchy, irregular spiral arms laced with dust and clusters of young, blue stars. In constrast, many other spirals exhibit grand, sweeping arms. A relatively bright galaxy in planet Earth’s sky, NGC 3521 is easily visible in small telescopes, but often overlooked by amateur imagers in favor of other Leo spiral galaxies, like M66 and M65.


Sorry that this week has gotten me off to a late start. Huntsville Alabama, home of the warm winter and the hot summer…has had a very cold winter. Since Christmas Eve, when we watched “The year without a Santa Claus” it was clear that the deal between Cold Miser and Heat Miser had gone through. We now had to believe in Santa Claus.  Yes, Southtown got its Christmas Snow storm for the first time… I think ever. There have been some “trace” snowfalls on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day on about 6 occasions since 1929. The day after that one it was 51 degrees, and all the snow melted. This year we got 6 inches and it stayed all week. Total now is around 11 inches for the month. Amazing.

SO, some links on snow.

 Electron Microscopy Unit Snow Page and
Alaskan Lake Ice and snow Page

I found them fascinating. Here was a fun experiment to play with. Ice Spikes in your freezer .
Get some ice cube trays, big ole square blocks, and fill them with DE-IONIZED water. yeah, it apparently matters how much mineral salt is in the water.  Then freeze it nice and slow, and you get …

Have Fun !

Happy New Year!

I just want to thank everyone for making this a great year. I hope I can put some Christmas pictures on here in the upcoming days. My wife has the camera, but we had a great time. As for the year as a whole, there have been high notes and low notes, but the director has said, “cut” and that year is in the can. Lets see what we can do with the new year.

If anyone has some suggestions, I would love to hear them.  I am working on a couple of novels and a couple of games, as well as some science related topics. I have a lot of (real) work on radiation effects waiting for me at the office, but nothing interesting for discussion online.

Oddly enough, my boss has actually re-opened the “Nuclear Rockets” can of worms.  I know several of your are Nuclear Rocket fans, so I will try to figure out what tools I can use to develop the concepts further. I am a big fan of nuclear electricity powering plasma engines, but the boss wants to go direct to Nuclear Thermal. For those of you who don’t know the difference (probably about everyone) I’ll have a full discussion later. I am a nuclear engineer, as well as a plasma physicist, so I hope I can explain it without making a hash out of everything.  (But not today, Mondays are not good for coherence.)

Have a Happy New Year! I hope you had a Merry Christmas, and I hope we all can look for many returns. Comment in regularly, I could use the feedback.