Where I want to be

30 June 2007

I can only handle so much coolness at once. I ran across these conference proceedings about the confluence of chaos theory and disaster response a while ago, but didn’t have time to read. Nor do I now, and not least of all because I just found these conference proceedings about the uses of digital globe applications in environmental (and other) science outreach.

That’s a lot of reading.

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With all due apologies to Phil Plait, natch.

Having worked in astronomy education for a while now, I figured I was done being blindsided by conspiracy theories on work-related topics. I’ve dealt with the basics: face on Mars, Moon landings, UFOs, and so on. But this is a new one for me.

I glanced at a local broadsheet that favors conspiracy theories today, and it appears that they have taken a break from ad hominem attacks on elected officials to devote a few valuable column-inches to astoundingly ill-conceived pseudoscientific innuendo. Under the title “An Inconvenient Truth,” they ran a picture of Jupiter with pretty good resolution (bands, festoons, Red Spot and Red Spot Jr visible).

The caption for the photo was great in an awful sort of way, and I quote here for your reading pleasure:

Photo of Jupiter, taken from Keck Telescope on Mauna Kea, shows two giant storms passing each other. The smaller one is new, evidence of global warming on Jupiter. After seeing photos like this, some might get the silly idea that global warming is caused by the Sun. So, to protect us from our own ignorance, the ‘activists’ are trying to shut down the telescope.

Um.

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In the spirit of recommending planetarium software in the last post, I’d like to solicit input on good bird books. I browsed for a while today, but couldn’t figure out whether Corvallis was ‘grassland,’ or ‘woodland,’ according to their classifications.

At any rate, I saw five nene flying over the Mauna Kea access road yesterday on my way down from the summit. I’ve seen a few in the same spot (between the runaway truck ramp and the reservoir) before, but never airborne. Cool.

The only constant in my life for the last month or so has been the ecliptic. Amid a ridiculous whirl of packing, helping others pack, preparing for a serious job interview, travelling, apartment hunting, mending fences at work, and sundry other things, I have tried to keep my eyes on the planets at night.

My friends can attest that with little or no provocation, I have been pointing at the night sky with a silly grin on my face and saying “Venus,” or “Jupiter,” or “Saturn.” These celestial non sequiturs are tolerated with polite indulgence and mild shaking of their heads, but they make me feel better. And recently, when Elle and I flew to Oregon where I spent a week before I reluctantly glided back on my own, the lineup of the aforementioned balls of cosmic dirt, together with the waxing gibbous moon, were the only things that kept me centered.

It turns out that I didn’t get the job I interviewed for, despite copious preparation on everything from sprinkler heads to rat catching, as well as thoughful and intense interview prep from some very well-qualified friends. Ah, well. Keep looking, and in the meantime head to the summit today.

For any astro-types out there, check out Stellarium, an open-source planetarium application. It is typically light on features, but has a very nice aesthetic (a feature too often overlooked, in my opinion) and has at least a few Hawaiian star and constellation names, making it one of an even smaller category, as far as I can tell.

Bird types aren’t so lucky, since I don’t have a website for you, but you’ll no doubt be amused by my sheer joy in seeing turkey vultures and crows in abundance. No doubt I’ll get over it.