Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I love to count...

One... two... ah ah ah, three! There are three nights of extremely questionable weather for astronomy before I get to go home  on Christmas morning. I love to count nights of extremely questionable weather for astronomy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thought for the day

I like seals and sea lions, sure, but I don't really really LOVE them... because if I did, I'd be a pinnipedophile.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chocolate and Cheese?

 Japan: For all those times you think "gosh, I wish my KitKat bar tasted more like cheese."

Actually, KitKat comes in a lot of flavors in Japan, apparently because its name reminds the Japanese of "Kitto Katsu" - "You will surely win." Cheese isn't even the worst one I've seen mentioned.

The most unthinkable one I saw listed on Wikipedia was cucumber. :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

New research proves astrology, except that it doesn't.

 Browsing the headlines this morning, I came across this gem from the web site "NaturalNews."

Principle of astrology proven to be scientific: planetary position imprints biological clocks of mammals

Pretty shocking, huh?  After a few digs at the so-called "scientific" community for calling astrology "quackery," the author got down to the meat of the matter:
Skeptics must be further bewildered by the new research published in Nature Neuroscience and conducted at Vanderbilt University which unintentionally provides scientific support for the fundamental principle of astrology -- namely, that the position of the planets at your time of birth influences your personality.
In this study, not only did the birth month impact personality; it also resulted in measurable functional changes in the brain.
This study, conducted on mice, showed that mice born in the winter showed a "consistent slowing" of their daytime activity. They were also more susceptible to symptoms that we might call "Seasonal Affective Disorder."
Pretty shocking, huh?  Imagine that - scientists inadvertently proving that astrologers have been right all along, since the time of year you're born affects your personality, and as we all know, the position of the planets is determined by the time of year.

Except that, well, it's not.  At all.  Sure, Earth goes around the Sun once a year, but all the other planets have their own orbital periods, which are mathematically related to their distance from the Sun.  This has been known since 1619 - it's called Kepler's Third Law.

So if one goes to Heavens Above and generates solar system charts for dates exactly a year apart, one gets something like this.  The chart on the left is from December 16, 2009; the one on the right is from December 16, 2010.

Notice how although the outer planets, like Jupiter and Saturn, haven't moved much relative to Earth and the Sun over the span of a year,  the inner ones - Mercury, Venus, and Mars - are in completely different positions?

So, while what season you're born in may very well affect what you're like - which is what the Vanderbilt research actually suggests - it has absolutely nothing to do with the position of the other planets at the time of your birth.

So I'd like to suggest a different headline:

New article proves astrology fan doesn't even understand how planets move.

Unfortunately, that headline wouldn't surprise anyone at all.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Public Speaking

My colleague Alanna and I gave a public talk on November 20th at 'Imiloa Astronomy Center about our "night life" as telescope operators on Mauna Kea.  It was well-attended and a lot of fun - most talks people get to hear are by astronomers talking about science, so we were eager to show how we see things differently as technical and operational staff.

Alanna made me do all the talking while she acted things out (think Penn & Teller), but at least she helped with the question-and-answer session at the end.

Why I'm leaving Twitter.

I've stuck it out and continued participating on Twitter while Elon Musk has run it into the ground, made it progressively more inhospit...