gnomi: (yeshiva_stewart)
...does anyone know of ultra-observant Jewish groups that say that humans should not explore space, based on Tehilim (Psalms) 115:16 (הַשָּׁמַיִם שָׁמַיִם לַה' וְהָאָרֶץ נָתַן לִבְנֵי-אָדָם -- "The heavens are heavens of the Lord, but the earth He gave to the children of men")?
gnomi: (danny_what (celli))
-- Last night I found myself humming a song as I was falling asleep, after [personal profile] mabfan had turned out the bedroom light. What song? There is a Light That Never Goes Out.

-- A couple of nights ago, I came up with (what is possibly not unique) the idea of HyperSpace Transfer Protocol (HSTP). Not sure if it would be used to send items or information through hyperspace, but I was taken with it.
gnomi: (Default)
Excerpts from Ilan Ramon's diary will be on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem as part of an exhibit of historic Israeli documents ("Blue and White Pages
Documenting the History of Israel").

For more information on the exhibit, see the Israel Museum's Upcoming Exhibitions page.
gnomi: (cooking-whisk (shoegal-icons))
This Saturday, 4 October, is the 51st anniversary of the launch of Sputnik. [personal profile] mabfan and I are going to launch at the home of friends of ours, and I offered to bring dessert. And I was challenged, if possible, to bring a dessert that fits the theme of Sputnik or satellites. So...

Suggest to me (relatively straightforward, as I need to make it tonight) a dessert that somehow ties into satellites in general or Sputnik specifically.

(If I fail to come up with anything themed, they're getting brownies.)
gnomi: (vote_for_pluto (shoegal-icons))
Tonight, from 22:19 to 22:26, [personal profile] mabfan and I went out into the -2 degree C weather to look at the total eclipse of the heartmoon.

This is the best of the bunch of photos I took with my little digital camera. Click to zoom in; you can see the moon pretty well.

And then we came inside, because we are fond of our toes.

(Inappropriate icon, but it's the closest I have to "astronomy.")
gnomi: (vote_for_pluto (shoegal-icons))
-- It's so weird being in the office on a Thursday. I'm just saying.

-- I'm very bad at not working while eating lunch at my desk. I have to get better about that.

-- Apples in New England in the fall are wonderful. ::CRUNCH::

-- This weekend we've got a problem: we've got baseball in Boston in October, but it's the week of Parshat Noach (the week in which we read the Torah portion about the story of Noah), and it almost always rains for Parshat Noach.

-- At Young Israel on Yom Kippur, people were asking me, "So... how's your planet?" It's been a year since the article, but people still ask.

-- Note to chick-what-packed-our-leftovers: writing "chicken" on the top of the carryout container as an identifier of the contents is not so helpful when both of us had chicken leftovers.

-- I work well with deadlines. Really I do. But do I really need *three* between 12 October and 24 October? I think not. And that's just my work-work deadlines. Freelance deadlines are an entirely different animal altogether ("They're an entirely different animal.")

-- In the end, I *did* end up getting the Nine action figure. He's standing next to Ten, with Jack on Ten's other side (and, as it happens, Daniel Jackson standing behind them holding a zat gun).

-- What does it mean when someone writes something one way in a manuscript and then votes the opposite way in my polls?

-- I'm knitting another Dalek. This one will be beige with black Dalek bumps.

-- Is a Dalek bump anything like the Colbert bump?

-- I'm pondering doing an Erev Shabbat Jewish Blogging post about the difference between work and melacha (the categories of "work" disallowed on Shabbat).
gnomi: (penguin_chevruta (rjcardinal))
-- So, I'm back in the office, which means that my schedule will be normalizing.

-- Also, my laptop has been repaired and will be coming home tonight, thus returning me to normal communications at home.

-- We still have no new stove, much to the consternation of many, but I was assured last night that I should be coming home this evening to find a new stove in my kitchen. Which is good, because it's predicted to top out at about 18 degrees today. And since that's too cold for my oven to function, we're dependent on the microwave until such time as my new stove appears.

-- Yesterday was The Great Pluto Debate, and it was quite an interesting event. Over 250 people showed up to hear the debate, and I can now say that I have shared a stage and a conversation with Brian Marsden and Owen Gingerich, as well as Arsen Hajian of the US Naval Observatory; Andy Cheng, Principal Investigator for the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) for the New Horizons Mission to Pluto; Gareth Williams, Associate Director of the Minor Planet Center at the Harvard Center for Astrophysics; Kelly Beatty, Executive Editor of Sky and Telescope magazine; and [personal profile] mabfan.

-- As mentioned above, the weather today is good for penguins and polar bears and that's about it. It was 10 degrees when I left home, 9 when I got to the office, and it's now back up to 10. With the wind, it feels like -17, they're saying. Brrrrrrrrr!
gnomi: (Default)
As mentioned a couple of days ago, [personal profile] mabfan and I were interviewed by CBS4 News about our fight to save Pluto. They ran the interview last night. The video is here, with a partial transcript here. The reporter, Ken Barlow, gave a plug for the Clay Center Observatory and for our upcoming Save Pluto Day observances on 4 February 2007.
gnomi: (Default)
Quick media announcement for those of you following Michael and me as we fight for Pluto:

CBS 4 News in Boston is doing a story on us and on the Society for the Preservation of Pluto as a Planet! According to our sources, the segment will be broadcast as part of the 5 PM local news on Wednesday, November 29 (that's tomorrow). Michael and I were interviewed for the segment, discussing our love of Pluto and why we think the IAU's definition of a planet is flawed.

If you miss the segment, it will be placed on the Channel 4 website at after the broadcast. We'll try to provide folks with an exact link.
gnomi: (Default)
As [personal profile] mabfan mentioned yesterday, earlier this week, he and I were interviewed by the Brookline TAB for an article about The Society for the Preservation of Pluto as a Planet.

Today, the article came out in the hard-copy paper. On the front page, above the fold.

You can read the online version here.

The only blatant error we could find is that she got wrong which song we sang the snippet of. We did sing her a bit of "Yakko's Universe" and a bit of "Interplanet Janet", but the lyric she quotes is from neither.
gnomi: (Default)
Every year, the Annals of Improbable Research runs the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony at Sanders Theatre. According to their website, "The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative -- and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology." Michael and I have been to the ceremony twice, and we've always had a great time.

This year, Michael and I would like to bring a delegation from the Society for the Preservation of Pluto as a Planet. If a group of six or more people purchase a block of tickets and register as a delegation, the delegation is recognized at the beginning of the ceremony, and any delegation deemed "colorful" will be chosen to "parade ostentatiously into the theater." We're hoping that by having an SP3 delegation attend the ceremony, we will continue to bring poor Pluto's plight to the attention of the masses.

The 2006 ceremony will be held on Thursday evening, October 5, at Sanders Theatre at Harvard University. The ceremony begins at 7:30 PM, so the delegation will probably have to be there around 7 PM. Tickets are somewhat expensive, I'm afraid; we're hoping to get a block of the $33 seats (and there may be a surcharge as well). Michael and I can lay out the initial expense of buying the block of tickets, but we're going to need to be paid back as soon as possible. If you email us that you wish to be a part of the delegation, we're going to have to ask you to bring the money for your ticket on the night of the ceremony.

So, if you'd like to attend, and be a part of the delegation, please email us at


Wednesday, September 27, at 3 PM EDT

(We know that's in only two days, but we have to buy the tickets early enough to arrange the delegation.)

Once we have a delegation all set, we'll set up an email list to figure out how to be "colorful" enough for a parade.

If you would like more information on the Ig Nobels and the ceremony, check out the webpages at The Ig Nobel Prizes and About the 2006 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony and Lectures.
gnomi: (shuttle)
Thanks to streaming video, I saw the Space Shuttle Discovery end STS-121 safely this morning, with a clean touchdown right around 9:15 (EDT) this morning.

Welcome home, Discovery, and welcome home, brave travelers.
gnomi: (Default)
Today is the birthday of:
-- Naveen Andrews (who turns 37 today)
-- Joshua Malina (who turns 40 today)
-- James Earl Jones (who turns 75 today)
-- Betty White (who turns 84 today)
-- Some claim today as the birthday of Joshua A. Norton, first and only emperor of the United States
-- Al Capone (who would be 107)
-- Benjamin Franklin (who would be 300 today)

Among the events that occurred on this day:
-- 1950: The Great Brinks Robbery - 11 thieves steal more than $2 million from an armored car in Boston, MA.
-- 1966: A B-52 bomber collides with a KC-135 jet tanker over Spain, dropping three 70-kiloton hydrogen bombs near the town of Palomares and another one into the sea.
-- 1977: Gary Gilmore put to death.
-- 1985: British Telecom announces the retirement of Britain's famous red telephone boxes (much to the disappointment of Dr. Who fans everywhere) that's what I get for posting sleepy.
-- 1991: Operation Desert Storm begins early in the morning. Iraq fires 8 Scud missiles into Israel in an unsuccessful bid to provoke Israeli retaliation.
-- 2006: California executes Clarence Ray Allen, the oldest man on the state's Death Row.
-- 2006: NASA launches New Horizon mission to Pluto. Today is also the anniversary of the 1997 death of Clyde Tombaugh, the astronomer who discovered Pluto.

Natural disasters seem to occur on this date:

-- 1994: A magnitude 6.7 earthquake occurs in Northridge, California
-- 1995: A magnitude 7.3 earthquake near Kobe, Japan
-- 2002: Mount Nyiragongo erupts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, displacing an estimated 400,000 people.

(source for much of this:
gnomi: (shuttle)
Discovery lands safely at Edwards AFB in California.

Minute-by-minute coverage of the landing is here.
gnomi: (shuttle)
Witnesses' Waltz by Leslie Fish

Lyrics are here )
gnomi: (shuttle)
[personal profile] mabfan and I watched the liftoff of Discovery this morning, with him watching CNN from New York and me watching streaming video of NASA TV. Liftoff was beautiful, seemingly flawless*, and still [personal profile] mabfan and I held our breaths during "Go with throttle-up." He and I both remember Challenger, remember what happened when they did "go with throttle-up."

Fly safe and true, Discovery, and return to us safely.

*[personal profile] mabfan and I watched the liftoff of Columbia in January 2003, and at the time I told him I thought I'd seen something fall off the side of the shuttle, something that looked like foam. I unfortunately, apparently, turned out to have been correct.
gnomi: (recreational_therapy (lanning))
...though I first mentioned it in [personal profile] magid's journal:

MAB has been talking about the "Transit of Venus" for months. And sometimes I hear it as "transitive Venus." Thus, Venus must take a direct object.

Anyone want to suggest direct objects for Venus to take? Would we miss them if she did?
gnomi: (alternate_kitty)
This morning, MAB and I got up at 4 AM so that we could go to the The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics to watch the Transit of Venus. We arrived at 4:38 AM (the Center had announced a 5 AM opening time) and there were already about 10-20 people in line. As we waited, more people joined the line, and in a bit we were joined by [personal profile] farwing, who we'd been expecting. At about 4:50, they announced that, unlike past events at which they'd let the whole mob up at once but people would have to wait long periods of time to actually use the telescopes, they'd be letting people up in groups of 30-40 for 15-minute viewing times, by color-coded sticker. MAB, Farwing, and I got blue stickers, for the first group to be let up. We were told that, due to cloudiness, it might take a bit for us to see anything, but that the first group would be allowed to stay on the roof until the sun had risen enough above the clouds to see anything.

A number of people had brought and set up telescopes. At 5:14 AM, I saw the first hints of the sun - bright pink, due to the "junk" in the atmosphere - peeking above the horizon. MAB, Farwing, and I used our mylar-lensed solar observation specs to watch the sun rise. Even without magnification, we could see the black dot of Venus at about the 4:30 position on the sun. During this time, we were photographed by someone from the AP, who later took our names for her article (we'll have to check later in the day, see if we got mentioned).

By 5:34, we observed the sun through one of the small telescopes that had been set up on the roof of the Observatory, and then at 5:44, we went into the dome to observe through the 9" telescope.

We then left the roof of the observatory so that the next group could be brought up to observe. As we left the observatory building, we saw [personal profile] magid and some others standing in the line (we would talk to them all a bit later, after they'd been up to the Observatory). By this time, we'd been told by the Observatory staff that there had been 500 people in line and after that time they'd started turning people away.

In the long, curving line outside the Observatory, MAB and I ran into [profile] somehedgehog and [personal profile] wildelven and then [profile] seborn as well. Soon thereafter, [personal profile] zmook wandered up, as well. We shmoozed up and down the line for a bit seeing who else we might know. After a while, the organizers came out and repeated that they were restricting the number of people who would be allowed in. A number of people left after that announcement, but all of our folk stayed around.

We headed down the hill a bit, where some people were gathered with a pair of binoculars fitted with solar filters. The view at 6:12 AM through the binoculars was remarkably clear. We then stood around and shmoozed some more. We were joined by [personal profile] taxonomist and his lovely wife, and we walked down Garden Street, where someone had - having been turned away from the Observatory line - set up his telescope on the sidewalk. We met a bunch more people there, though the view through the telescope was obscured by clouds so we could not do any more direct observations.

After a while, we walked back to the Observatory, into Phillips Auditorium where they were showing a Webcast from the Canary Islands. At 7:14, via Webcast - at this point from Greece - we saw the 3rd Contact and then at 7:19 we saw the beginning of the 4th Contact. By 7:24, we saw Venus complete its transit across the sun, with 4th Contact.

Much fun was had, and there was a much better turnout than either MAB or I had anticipated. But we were both glad that we'd gotten there for the beginning and were able to experience as much of this event as possible. After all, it happens only twice in 120 years. The next one will be on 6 June 2012, and then the next one thereafter won't be until 2117.

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