Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Wonder of YouTube

Ah the wonder that is YouTube.

I've just come across a collection of Wierd Al videos on there.
These are brilliant, just look at all the visual gags, its like watching Airplane!.

Like A Surgeon.

Amish Paradise.

The Saga Begins

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Hawaii Earthquake - Update

The latest from Gemini-North seems to be that so far they haven't found any major damage due to the earthquake, though the chillers required a bit of patching up. Fortunately for me, GMOS and its associated calibration unit, seem to be fine, fingers crossed.

Apparently it's going to be a few days before they are certain everything is ok, they aren't confident enough to move the telescope to check that the secondary mirror is ok.

Let's hope they get things up and running as soon as possible.

On a related note it seems that the JCMT and UKIRT came through unscathed.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Distorted View of Beauty

I just came across this incredible video on youtube. It really points out just how we have ended up having such a distorted view of beauty these days. It shows what can be done with one average(ish) looking woman, lots of makeup, time and digital effects.

It kind of reminds me of all the fuss during the Lebanese-Israeli conflict about doctored photos, I don't really hear anything about how advertising is intellectually dishonest.

New Element

Scientists in California and Russia have succeeded in making the heaviest element to date, element 118, or as it provisionally called ununoctium (Latin for "one-one-eight") or eka-radon (beneath radon on the periodic table).

They acheived the feat using a method I thoroughly approve of, brute force. They basically fired 40 billion billion atoms of calcium-48 at a target of californium-249 at such high speed that the nuclei overcame their mutual repulsion (due to the large amount of positive charge located there) and fused. In total it took 3000 hours and in that time they produced 3 atoms of 118. I don't feel that bad about asking for 100 hours of observing time any more.

The work is pretty cool, the teams aim is to search for the "island of stability" a theoretical region of the periodic table where very heavy atoms like this can be stable for macroscopic timescales. The 118 only lasted around nine ten-thousandths of a second, but heavier elements in the sland of stability are theorised to have half lives of several seconds to minutes, long enough to do chemistry with the atoms.

Here is a link to the Washingtonpost article about the discovery.

Monday, October 16, 2006

More from The Onion

This is probably my favourite story from The Onion of all time,

"Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory"

It perfectly sums up the utter absurdity of Intelligent Design. Enjoy.

Hawaii Earthquake - Mauna Kea Operations Affected

At 7.07am on Sunday (15th) there was an earthquake just off the kona coast of Hawaii, it measured 6.6 on the richter scale and has royally screwed up observations from Mauna Kea for the next few days at least.

I have a personal/professional interest in this because the guys at Gemini-North were actually observing my S0s project earlier in the evening. The latest news from Gemini-North is that it could be several days before they are confident enough everything is safe enough to get back to normal operations. Good luck.

Here is the latest from Gemini-North, and here is a short newsweek Q&A about the Earthquake. I can't find any official word from Keck or JAC about this yet, but I'll keep my ears open.

Derby Day

Well people in the department can hardly have missed the excitment in the air over todays keenly awaited astronomy 5-a-side derby. Though ending the game as an unused sub myself I can at least say I was there to drink in the atmosphere of 10 out of shape, sweaty astronomers running about for 20 minutes. Many years from now people will still discuss how things may have been, should Raul been fully fit for the game, however he wasn't and as such the Astro boys were left lacking their main outlet. Cosmic took advantage of this, with some solid defending by Rich, more solid keeping from Nic and Tony keeping himself busy up front as usual, the boys in red eventually ran out deserved 2-1 winners.

Well done us, and for fun here is what I imagine the celebrations would have been like after the game, had I played and scored.

Oh My God!

I want one of these. The physics it has built in is incredible.

Craig has just pointed out what this kind of physics can lead to when released onto the internet. Guys clean yourselves up, take a shower, drink a few beers and go meet some women.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Space News: 2

More interesting news from Space.com, research to be published in ApJL by Miley et al. (2006) used the HST ACS to look at a forming galaxy cluster at z~2.2.

They found the galaxy in the centre of the image above (which they call the spiderweb galaxy) to be made up of about 10 smaller clumps, which are believed to be smaller star forming galaxies in the process of merging. This galaxy seems to be a progenitor for a large cluster dominating cD galaxy, like the ones seen in the nearby Universe.

What is very interesting is the large star formation rate in the structure of 100Msun / year, with such a high star formation rate it doesn't take that long to form all of the stars in a large elliptical galaxy. This feeds nicely into my own research which involves measuring the ages of stars in large elliptical galaxies, we generally seem to see that large elliptical galaxies formed most or all of their stars before a redshift of about 1.

In conclusion everything seems to fit very well with a hierarchical merging formation for these large galaxies, exactly as we would expect.

Friday, October 13, 2006

More Daily Show: 2

The more I see of Jon Stewart the more I like, I wish he was running for President.
I know you guys at work don't really understand my obsession with the politics in the states, but the more I see of the way things are over there, the more I think "There but for the grace of God". Plus the daily show is damn funny.

Giving the Devil a shoeing, or Bill O'Reilly if you prefer his real name.
Or dealing with the state of journalism (crossfire).
Or the gay marriage debate.
The minimum wage.

The Onion

Just came across this from The Onion.


Plus check out the "stories" on the right. One in particular is genius.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Crank Watch: Case 2

I think its about time I got back to my usual pastime of crank watching (and baiting).

The reasons for choosing crankhood as an occupation are legion; simple mistakes followed by bloody minded insistence on your own correctness (a la Arp), madness, social disfunction, inflated opinion of oneself (I'm smarter than Einstein etc.), the desire to be noticed, the chance to earn the respect of a bunch of poorly-washed barely-literate loons and of course the need to spend some time doing something other than surfing the 'net for porn.

However in my personal opinion the worst reason is obvious: religion. It's surely madness to base an attempt at a scientific theory on some religious beliefs. I'm glad to say that most of the major organised religions have come to the conclusion that science tells us how the world works, they tell us how the afterlife works. Nowadays they generally don't get involved in claiming how the world works, mostly due to the fact that time after time they get proved wrong, best not to argue with the science and just worry about the moral implications.

Well some people are unfortunately not that enlightened. I've just come across a bunch of geocentrists! yeah I thought no one could be that nuts either, but there you go, never underestimate the stupidity of strangers. Check out their website here. Their basic reason for believing that the Earth is the centre of the Universe is that it says so in the Bible, good start. But just look down their list of other reasons for why it is valid!

Kepler murdered Tycho Brahe because he was a geocentrist! Now there's a story and a half. Interestingly modern investigations do seem to show that Brahe died from mercury poisoning, still quite a leap to blame Kepler.

Most of their other reasons are simply due to the fact in GR you can choose any reference frame you want, so if you are stupid enough you can choose one where the Earth is stationary. This does of course have implications, the most obvious being that the Universe must be rotating round the Earth once every 24 hours. So for distant galaxies that rapidly builds up to speeds greater than light, now technically this is allowed as it is space that is rotating not the galaxies, but come on! Whats more likely, that one insignificant planet is moving or the entire Universe has been arranged perfectly such that everything moves around it? Honestly. Just check out the monster "discussion" of the theory at the bad astronomy bb.

Apparently telecopic observations show that the Earth is at rest, that's news to me and I've made quite a few telescopic observations.

Also apparently Einstein "invented" relativity to escape the geocentric evidence. So how come it works, perfectly, every single time its tested?

The guys who wrote the book however are a bit touchy, here is a quote from the blog the authors are involved in:

So the devil's drumbeat continues : the modernist claims of credibility invariably return to the strawman of Galileo vs. geocentrism. One can take it to be the logo of modernism, its defining mark and the signature stamp of the demon, the bludgeon by which orthodox dissent is beaten into silence.

Well, what did they expect the Spanish Inquisition? I doubt it, No one expects the Spanish Inquisition. Sorry couldn't resist. Check out the rest of the madness here.

Disclaimer No Cranks were harmed in the making of this post, we'll not physically, though a few egos were bruised, probably.

Space News

Wow, I think this is the first post actually about research in astronomy.

I came across this space.com article about research into quasars. Its pretty good, I'm really only posting this because I seem to spend an awful lot of time arguing with Arpians about whether Quasars are in fact supermassive black holes in galaxies very far away (they are) or if they are objects ejected from nearby galaxies (they most certainly are not). This work just puts another nail in the coffin of Arps ideas, its actually getting pretty crowded on that coffin lid, I'm not sure they'll be able to fit many more nails in.

Anyway back to the science, the research led by Xinyu Dai and Christopher Kochanek of Ohio State University looked at a pair of quasars that have been gravitationally lensed by an intervening galaxy. This lensing allowed them to measure the size of the accretion disc of the Black Hole (BH) accurately, finding that the accretion disc is around 14AU (that's 14 Earth orbital radii to us). Its also emitting X-Rays, telling us that the accretion disc is very hot, as you would expect as gas rapidly spirals into the BH.

Monday, October 09, 2006

More Daily Show

I keep coming across these videos on YouTube, The Daily Show just gets better. Or maybe its just that they have had more material of late.

Jon Stewart on Larry King.
The Daily Show.
Bush on Oil.

On Stem Cells.

On Gaydar.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Definition of Irony

I must admit to having a few problems with irony myself, but today I think I have found an example that perfectly sums up this tricky concept.

The simple version is that some redneck is demanding that the book Fahrenheit 451 be banned from schools, the book itself is all about a world where books are banned. Now I'm fairly certain that the irony will be lost on the moron making the complaints, which apparently centre on the fact that the book describes the burning of books including the Bible. So what is the best way to deal with a book that shows the evil of censorship and totalitarianism, simple ban it. To read more about this particular cretin, have a look here.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

FOX News?

Just come across a great video about FOX news and their tactics. This one is a classic, there is a huge scandal in the US at the moment about a Republican congressman who has been sending lewd emails to underage boys. Obviously this is pretty bad news for the Republicans a month before elections, but have no fear! their friends at FOX news have a cunning plan. Its so simple its brilliant, simply say he is a Democrat!

I think Joseph Geobbles described this tactic best
If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.

Check out this video its great.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Good Night 3.

Some people have asked for a bit more detail on the goings on over the pond. Here are some CNN stories that explain some of the details.

At youtube here.
And here.
And here.

and a page with quotes from Harry Reid the ranking Democrat in the senate. Sorry I don't have the originals, too busy at the minute. Click here.

I guess the sad thing is that it has already happened here, to a certain extent, and there just following our mistakes. I guess it makes a change to the usual way around.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Good Night 2

So it appears that I wasn't the only one that noticed the bill currently doing the rounds in the states (the one that allows torture and effectively ends habeus corpus).

As usual the Badastronomer is on the ball. Check it out here.

Ashingtonese - Part 3

Another installment of Adams Ashington dictionary.

"Bought" in English is to acquire something with money, but in Ashington it was a Sesame Street character. "Bought disnt like Oarnie nay mare"

"All" - means everything whereas in Ashington it is a title similar to a duke. "The all of Lancaster is a posh cunt"

"Herb" in English is something used to enhance the flavour of food, whereas in Ashington it is part of a cooker. "The cooking herbs ahaad."

"Snare" is something used to trap an animal, in Ashington it is frozen precipitation that usually falls in winter. "Ya bugger the snare's starting to torn t' slush"

"Add" means to combine two or more things to get a total, in Ashington it a term used to describe someone in their dotage "Berb started t' gan a bit funny when he got add"

"Term" is an academic time period, in Ashington it is the name of a gentleman. "Term backed fowa winnaz at Cambois dergs yistiduh"

"Torn" in English means to rip something i.e paper in Ashington it means to move or cause to move in a circular direction wholly or partially around an axis or point. "Dennis waasn't able t' torn eez wife owa in bed, she waaz owa muchuva heffa nooa days"