Monday, May 25, 2009

This is a Test Entry--testing ScribeFire

This is a test... this is only a test.

I've been a fan of Star Trek
for a long time, but I am not a fanatic--I own no Star Trek memorabilia
nor have I donned a Star Trek costume.  I've yet to see the new Star
Trek movie, but I've read that it is excellent and am looking forward
to watching it.  But thinking about Start Trek something came to me--a
little disturbing, perhaps. 

In the scene in my mind there is this villain who has commandeered a star ship
(not unlike Khan) and warped around the galaxy destroying and
terrorizing. Capt. Villain has a right hand man who I'll just call mr.
mini.  So Capt. Villain suspects that mr. mini is plotting a coup and
plans to kill him after taking the ship.  Obviously Capt. Villain is
angered and so, as one would expect, he plans his own small plot to get
rid of mr. mini, but he wants to do it in such a way that mr. mini
suspects nothing and to send a powerful message that mutiny is a bad

So mr. mini happens to also be an engineer and knows how to repair
stuff on ships.  Capt. Villain hatches an evil scheme to rid himself of
all those who oppose him. He gives a task to mr. mini to go for a
spacewalk on the outer hull to repair some damage in a bulkhead.  So
off mr. mini goes to repair the bulkhead.  He puts on his space suit,
heads to a pressure hatch, straps on the tether and exits the ship. 
Mr. mini pokes about to find the damage and at that Capt. Evil locks
the hatch and, after revealing his plan to a now terrified mr. mini,
orders his navigation officer to go to impulse and then full warp.

So, after an unnecessarily long winded bit of prose, I wondered what
would actually happen to mr. mini.  Yes, Star Trek is fiction, of
course, but let's assume that it's all real.  Would mr. mini suffer a
horrible death?  At first I thought yes, but then I thought perhaps
not.  Given that mr. mini is still tethered to the hull and is
surrounded by the ships "warp bubble", would he not also just move with
the ship?  It's kind of like riding on a train or in a car and tossing
a ball up in the air.  The ball, you, your coffee, etc., is moving with
the vehicle and so given your point of view, these things seems to be

So now what would happen if the captain also cut the teather holding
mr. mini thus forcing him to float free from the ship as it goes to
impulse.  Of course mr. mini would eventually exhaust his oxygen and
just die.  But that's not the point.  Say the Capt. orders the ship to
go to warp at the point when mr. mini is no just past the warp bubble
barrier.  If the ship goes to warp, will something grizzly happen to
mr. mini.  Maybe he would be dragged in to the warp worm hole (or
whatever it is called) and thus forced to travel perpetually at warp speed
until his body reaches the end of the universe, assuming there is an
end to it.  Without navigation, would his body warm into a star or a
black hole?  And how the hell does a star ship, traveling at warp,
avoid such obstacles?  Does the ship's computer have the ability to
"look" ahead and so move the ship around these obstacles?

And last (and perhaps the most important thing), will I ever stop writing about this stupid thought experiment? 


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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Lonely Galaxy: Birthing Stars Too Quickly?

I found this interesting piece from NASA about a mystery behind why a lonely galaxy, NGC 1569, is creating new stars more quickly than other galaxies

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Discovered: A Hidden Video of a Squid

On Greg Laden's blog is the following video.  It was created late last year and was just recently discovered floating around the internet as an email attatchment.

Now, a "Shell Oil submersible robot" filmed the squid.  I don't know if it was attempting to do this unaided or if someone was at the controls (I'm sure it has to be the latter), but after watching the video I had an idea.  The video is badly shot with the squid out of many scense as if someone with no experience was attempting to control it. So the idea I had was to figure out how a computer could automate the actual filming.

This robot, not completely autonomous, would have the ability to follow the subject (squid) by first having someone point to it and then locking on to it.  After that the subject would always be in the scene and either the onboard computer, given a general description (script) of how to behave, could film the squid entirely autonomously.  Or, once locked in and filming, someone could feed it commands or take manual control of the camera and move it about.  Some of these commands might be able to control the camera in the following ways: zoom out, zoom in, hold, pan up, pan down, pan left, pan right, etc.

Anyway, this is my idead.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cassini-Huygens: Images from Titan

I remember hearing about the Cassini-Huygens mission, but then forgot about it.  But in the December issue of Sky & Telescope there is an article about Titan and the spacecraft that visted it.  I think that it is perhaps the coolest thing in the world (or outside it) when we send spacecraft and probes that can land on a new world and take images.  It just makes my yearning for knowledge about the universe that much stronger.  And I am simply astonished that in my lifetime I've been around to hear and see the discovery of exoplanets.  But we'll leave that for another time.

When I explored further I found the official sites for this mission, one of them at NASA's JPL and the other at ESA.  At ESA web site I found a really cool slideshow of the images taken by the Huyens probe as it decended to the planet surface.

I highly recommend checking out the slideshow of the images taken by the probe, and don't forget to visit the home sites.  It's really cool stuff.

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Witch Head Nebula

This is the Witch Head Nebula, NASA's Image of the Day.  It's appropriate for this Halloween weekend.


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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Nature Blog Network

I really enjoy reading about nature and at times actually leaving the deep dark den in which I live to venture out to my back yard to photograph birds, trees and bugs.  Sometimes when I feel really adventurous I take the dogs and my binoculars to the park so the we can enjoy the beauty and the sun.

But when I cannot get out of the house, I like to read books about nature.  But today, rather than a book, I tootled about the academic section of a blog network and happened upon a site called "Teach Me About Bird Watching!!!".

Now this is kind of a novel idea.  Rather than profess expertise about some topic such as birding, the author of this blog invites others to send her information which she then posts.  But when I tootle, I don't stay long, so on this blog I found a link to another kind of blog network called the Nature Blog Network.  You can create an account and submit your nature blog listing under one of ten topics:
  1. Birds
  2. Ecosystem
  3. Flora
  4. Hiking & Outdoors
  5. Insects & Invertebrates 
  6. Mammals 
  7. Marine 
  8. Mollusks
  9. Mushrooms & Fungi
  10. Reptiles & Amphibians
I submitted this blog (Science and Nature), but because it's theme isn't concerned specifically with one of the listed topics, I don't think it will be accepted.  Which is fine because I enjoy writing about a lot of different things.

Anyway, check out The Nature Blog Network and if you have a nature blog, try submitting it.  If you're accepted your blog will be among the best.

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