Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pluto is Just Mickey's Dog now

It's official - there are only eight planets in the solar system. Pluto got demoted.

Pluto Demoted

Can't say that I'm surprised. But also, I can't say I'm sorry.

And I'm sure the debate will rage on for years.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Forum? Fiveum? Sixum?

Almost looks like I'm reverting back to the old ways on the internet. No, I'm not getting back into the whole "chat room" thing.

No, logging into forums. I've always been in a couple of them, even though I don't post to them much. But this past weekend I've joined three more. Actually I formed one of them for my local astronomy club, and I hope it's well-used by the members.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Does the Dark Really Matter?

Of course it does.

Word is getting out that there has been a breakthrough in the search for proof of Dark Matter. Here's the Press Release, and also more in depth commentary by Sean Carroll of the University of Chicago.

My friend Jake, who's a genius anyways, had this to say...
Okay. I can summarize the 'importance of the result.'

So: everyone knows dark matter is right. I mean, my opinion (and that of all my colleagues in high energy physics and cosmology) has been 'it is 99% likely that dark matter exists and it is composed of new matter particles.' I see no reason to suspect that demanding the existence of new particles as being 'hard to believe'---partly because such new particles are obviously predicted by theories without any reference to dark matter.


The astro community (which I find hard to comprehend oftentimes) would rather believe that we don't understand anything (e.g. MOND=general relativity is wrong for no good reason) than believe that new particles exist beyond those in stars

Anyway, this result shows that dark matter does in fact exist, which everyone outside of astronomy has known since 1933.
(Note: Just as an FYI: "MOND" = Modified Newtonian Dynamics - a theory that explains the galaxy rotation problem without assuming the existence of dark matter.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Just How Many Planets?

From the IAU (International Astronomical Union)

The IAU draft definition of "planet" and "plutons"

16. August 2006, Prague

The world's astronomers, under the auspices of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), have concluded two years of work defining the difference between "planets" and the smaller "solar system bodies" such as comets and asteroids. If the definition is approved by the astronomers gathered 14-25 August 2006 at the IAU General Assembly in Prague, our Solar System will include 12 planets, with more to come: eight classical planets that dominate the system, three planets in a new and growing category of "plutons" - Pluto-like objects - and Ceres. Pluto remains a planet and is the prototype for the new category of "plutons."

So if this passes, we will immediately jump from nine planets to twelve. The new ones will be Ceres, Charon (currently Pluto's moon), and UB313 (it's current designation - a new name will come later).

I may only have one week to still say that I have seen every planet in the solar system. Because as of next Friday, it won't be true.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

I Can See For Miles....

At 1:04pm EDT, or 17:04 UT, the odometer in my car turned 70,000 miles.

Guess I need to stop driving so much.

Friday, August 11, 2006


While trying (unsuccessfully) to take photos of hummingbirds in the back yard, I just happened upon a butterfly on one of our bushes.

You can see the images at my website.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Birthday Conundrum

I had a birthday recently (extremely recently – but I won’t tell you when), and got the usual grief from my family about not celebrating nor caring about it.

For the past few years we haven’t really celebrated any of our birthdays in the family, mainly because my brother and I have been “adults” for a long time now, and are past the “kids party” stuff. Now it’s perhaps a card, perhaps a gift. Nothing really big.

I guess my problem has to do with the sappy way everyone gets when it’s a birthday. People use their “cute” voice when they talk to you on that day, and heck, even my mom – in a “cute voice” – asked “well, and now how old are you today?” Frack, she knows how old I am; she was there, I think.

I guess I’m just embarrassed by the whole thing. But on the other hand, I don’t mind helping other people celebrate their birthday. Perhaps it’s because I’m not the “center of attention” if it’s someone else’s day.

(Now, those of you who think you know me are probably saying “but Kevin loves to be the center of attention!” But you are dead wrong. There’s too much pressure being the center of attention.)

A part of me does like the attention; the recognition. But I have always existed more with my head than my gut, and logic tells me that this “craving of attention and recognition” is wrong. So I get embarrassed.

I’ve always found it hard to talk about myself. Heck, if you look at our club’s newsletter, you will rarely see my name in it. Mainly because I write the thing, and can’t “toot my own horn” at all. It seems wrong some how. And that also is the reason I don’t have a “bio” on our club’s website. I’m not good at that stuff. Oh, I can write about others, but not about me.

So, where does that leave birthdays? Do I just leave the day out there, and let people know, so each year they can offer me well-wishes? Or do I still keep the date to myself, and then sulk about how no one cares? But I don’t think I really sulk; it just seems that way to me.

I guess it all goes back to not being a very open and trusting person, I reckon. And I don’t know, after all these years/decades, that I can change. Or perhaps because I don’t have anyone in my life to share it with (I’m talking a significant other, not family).

However... Happy Birthday to me.

Whenever it was.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Doing My Civic Duty - But Why Today?

Well, I have done my civic duty, as I went up and voted in the state primary. I tweaked my morning walk so I would go right past the polling place, and just stopped in on my way past.

As usual, there's really no one good to vote for, especially here in Michigan, where you can't split your ticket. I'm neither a republican nor democrat, but you have to vote for one party (if you want to vote in that area at all).

But why have the primary today, of all days? Sure, it's the second Tuesday of the month, but on the 8th? That's sacrelidge.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Dr. Tyson Speaks!!

Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson - who is the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, among other things - was the guest Blogger on the Planetary Society's weblog (Emily Lakdawalla is on maternity leave - congrats Emily!!), and he had some great things to say. Here are the links to his weblogs...

Appetite for the Cosmos: The Fan
Appetite for the Cosmos: The Janitor
Appetite for the Cosmos: The Cabbie
Appetite for the Cosmos: The UPS Delivery Guy
Appetite for the Cosmos: The Sanitation Truck Driver

I had to drop him a note expressing my admiration for what he wrote. I also suggested that he perhaps think of doing something like that all the time, just like Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer.

We'll see if I get a reply.

Friday, August 04, 2006

It's Invaded my Brain!!!!

Was just out mowing the lawn.

So why do I have the Nick Gilder song "Hot Child in the City" running through my head?

Does anyone know?

The Sounds of Sirens

Man, I just love the first Friday of the month during the Spring - Fall. Right at noon.

That's when they test the tornado (civil defense) sirens.

I love to sit outside and listen.

Good times.... good times..

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Looking for Dust

I'm now officially part of the "Stardust@Home" project.

What is that, you say?

Well, it's a world-wide effort by scientists to find particles of cometary material in the returned sample from the Stardust mission to Comet Wild2.

It's pretty fun, and I like it better than when I did Seti@Home.