I Get Book…

November 30, 2009

…from the snail mail. The title is Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future. According to the cover, it is supposed to:

_debunk the faulty assumptions underlying coal’s revival and shatter the myth of cheap coal energy.

There is more to it, but frankly, I don’t feel like typing the whole summary. ^_^ I look forward to reading it. Thanks, Grrlscientist!

Scaled Model of the Solar System

November 30, 2009

Darn it! Someone already did something like that. I was thinking of doing something similar on this blog. The owner of the web page put both the sizes of the objects (the sun is hugenormous!) and distance (space is laaarrrggeee!!!) to scale. So yeah, the site is impressive, and it really gives you a sense of how even only in the Solar System, distance can get crazy. Try to imagine the distance between stars, heck, between galaxies. I know, you can’t.

What I tried to do was basically scale it in distance. Basically, each space meant certain distance, and when a certain planet was reached, I would write the planet’s name. Thank goodness I didn’t have to do it. It would have been vvvveeeeerrrry long and annoying to make. But the model being part of the new edition of pop quiz still stands:

This is the nth edition of *drum rolls* Pop Quizz! A quizz which tests the depth of the reader’s knowledge!!

Occasionally, I will occasionally ask a question, and the reader will answer them! Sometimes, a wrong answer won’t invite rage, some really obvious one will, but whatever it is, it will show how much you know or suck at something. ^_^

So, today question (4: hard) is, how far do you think the eight planets of the solar system are distanced relative to each other? All that counts is how well you scale the distance. Let’s say planet 1 is a gazillion times far away from planet 2 compared to the distance of planet 3 to planet 2. Then you would, in a long ruler or scroll bar or something, place planet 1 really close to planet 2, but place planet 3 really far away. Except in this case, you are dealing with 8 planets. Check the above website as reference and answer. So, if you got the relative distance to all planet right, give yourself 3 points, 2 points if you got 6 or more right, 1 point if you got 3 or more right. You know what 0 is. Oh, and it is an instant zero if you don’t even know the order of the planets. After all, quizzes are supposed to be knowledge based. ^_^ If you want some clue, read after the break: Read the rest of this entry »

Penn Jillette on Videogaming

November 24, 2009

I am a fan of Penn and Teller. They do amazing magic trick shows to educate others on our mind and perception, and they generally encourage critical thinking and skepticism. Recently, Penn got in an interview about the episode of Bullshit on videogames. Wow, finally, someone who defends videogame as a legitimate form of entertainment and art! Not that there has never been a defense on electronic gaming and all, but it is usually from the gamers who defend it themselves. Sometimes, I wonder if those people decrying videogames as harmful to society might have some truth to it. Maybe they do, but then, I remind myself that movies have far more violent content, but it has never brought about the downfall of our civilization. Although just like videogames, movies did have its stages in which it was trying to vie for public acceptance, especially those with violent and sexual contents. So did rock and roll, many books, and whatever form of entertainment you can think of. Eventually, movies did become considered legitimate forms of arts. I wonder whether videogames will reach the same status.

Oh yeah, and it is true, Jack Thompson is, I am quoting here, an “a**hole”. Although that particular legal bit of videogaming history is over, as the media is being accepted, and the guy has been disbarred. Of course, you have to be careful of the games you hand out to children, but I tell you, this Jack Thompson guy was going to extremes.

Fighting the Security Tool Virus: A Tale of Woe and Tribulations

November 23, 2009

The last three days have been a nightmare. My computer got infected with a virus, and I don’t know how.  The type of virus I got is called a security tool. It is an extremely annoying kind of virus. It basically imitates an antivirus, except that when it scans, it asks you to delete the so called “malignant files”, when in reaility, they are legitimate ones. Then, they ask you to pay for it, thereby stealing your money. The best thing to do is to keep clicking “stay unprotected”. That bastard.

The worst part, though, is not the pop ups. The worst part is that it prevents ALL access to other programs, and it tries to direct you to itself. So, what I did is quickly restart it, and reboot in safe mode with networking. I used the internet to get tips, from which I got my next strategy. I restarted normally, but quickly went to the task menu, ended the process of the virus, which is a string of numbers if you look closely, upgraded the anti malware, quickly scanned it, and got rid of it. All of this was an ordeal onto itself because I didn’t know what to do initially.

Afterwards, the internet explorer didn’t work, so I thought there must have been more nasty buggers. The next step was to use an antivirus to quarentine and destroy the rest of the viruses. That one took 2 hours of scanning. But when I got rid of them, I thought it was all over, but nope. Internet explorer was busted, Mozilla Firefox wasn’t. I tried downloading and reinstalling internet explorer, but to no avail. Instead, I checked the internet, and I found a certain patch which recovered the missing files I thought the virus or antivirus deleted. When I reseted it, though… *WWHEEEeeeuuuu….* When the screen got to administrator selection screen, it froze, all the freaking time. No matter how much I reseted it. I gave up for that day and went to sleep. Hoped somebody would just shoot me in the head.

Fortunately, my brother, using some sort of reboot, fixed it. Internet explorer still doesn’t work! And you know what else didn’t work along with that? Google Earth didn’t work because supposedly, “it couldn’t connect.” What was weird is that when I checked network connection and IE, it wasn’t connecting. But when I checked Mozilla and the blipping lights of the modem, everything was fine. I don’t get it. And this is the state of confusion that I am stuck in. So, I have to turn to the few of you who read this for help, anyone know what is wrong?

I conclusion, I hate computer viruses, probably as much as my next door neighbor and blogger. Seriously, what kind of loser/no life spends his time creating something like this? Can’t he or she get a legitimate job or something? Maybe the lucrative business of stealing money and annoying people has a market, who knows. Seriously, jeez, I am annoyed.

Planet Icosahedron and Astronomy Stuff

November 19, 2009

I, having nothing of interest, think there are a few links I think you would like:

Planet Icosahedron: Basically, it is like a planet globe, but instead, it is a icosahedron (duh). Anyways, the images for them have been created by the various spacecrafts that have been near the planets. Very neat stuff. (via skepchick)

Can it be? Finally, a visible evidence of dark matter? It is possible, although we have to wait for the results, so don’t get your hopes up. ^_^ (via Cosmic Variance)

Cool astrnomy picture of ISS going in front of the moon. ’nuff said.

(via badastrnomy)

Hubble found a large dusty galaxy with an ethereal X (via universe today). Badastrnomy has a detailed analysis of it, if you like those kind of stuffs.

Oh, and the Planetary Society Blog posted this cool interaction between the moons of Saturn:

Runner Up for Worst Country in the World

November 16, 2009

While I was wandering around, I found these blog posts (from An American Perspective of China) of an American visiting North Korea, one of the handfuls who ever did, mind you. Anyways, I am a South Korean (well, genetically, although culturally, I am more of a Venezuelan/American), so the North Korea situation is especially interesting to me. His accounts and insight from the country is certainly interesting. It is pretty much what you would expect if you have read 1984. Even foreigners aren’t allowed for much freedom to look around. It is Orwellian incarnate, hell on Earth, a truly dystopian society. How something like this could actually exist is beyond me. For me, this is so unbelievable that even though I know it is true, my mind keep telling me that it is way too farfetched, over the top. Indeed, this paragraph reflects my feelings very well:

When you arrive in North Korea, there’s a sense of unreality about it.  I suspect even Bill Clinton, when he climbed out his private jet onto the tarmac at Pyongyang, must have wondered to himself, “Is this really happening?  Am I actually here?”  For most of us, North Korea seems to occupy the same imaginary plane of existence as Mordor.  I live in Beijing, and the concrete realization that the DPRK is a real place just a short hour and a half flight away — even though I’d known it all along in theory — came as quite a shock.  Showing up at the Beijing airport and checking into my flight felt like that scene in Harry Potter where the plain brick walls of King’s Cross station give way to reveal a hidden platform with a magic train to whisk him off to Hogwarts.  

But there is one thing that I think is really impressive, but at the same time, sickening of North Korea, which is the mass games. It is basically a ceremony of some sort where there are a whole bunch of people performing in exact precision celebrating the leader… How do I explain this… Showing is better than telling:

This is, by the way, another one of those brain washing devices, keeping the youth’s mind busy all year long to prevent dissent, to praise the North Korean leader, who has a god like status, and to promote basically the collectivistic mindset of the nation. Truly incredible, truly sick. It is a shame really. All of those talents wasted praising just one guy.

You know, I am thinking, this whole thing is unfair. What did those people do to deserve eternal slavery of the mind? Why do these group have to suffer? Now, I know that there is no particular reason except for the current of history, and these people had the misfortune of being North Koreans, but still… So much of our lives, like where we are born and the situation that comes along with it is so outside of our control. That sense of no control is truly a horrible feeling.  Whether I am me or another person is so much like the rolls of a die. I feel truly fortunate that I live in a good country with a good family, and even though we might not be rich and hardships have arisen, I have a decent opportunity to do what I want to do. I don’t have to think what someone else tells me to think. This is all cliche and all, but I think we shouldn’t take our liberties for granted, that is all.

So yeah, you get the point. If there ever was a contest of worst or most FAIL nation state in the world, North Korea would be a runner up. Although there are so many horrible places in this world that it is hard to make my mind up on what  is the worst country in the world. But truly, North Korea is almost, if not, is unmatched in its Orwellian way of doing things.

I Met Alex Filippenko

November 11, 2009

At Saturday, I went to a lecture in University of Delaware. There, Dr. Alex Filippenko (the dark energy guy) lectured on the supernova research and how it led two teams to conclude that there was something in the universe called dark energy, which was causing the universe to expand. The lecture I attended is pretty much the same as this one, but being there personally and asking questions is an experience, all right? During questions, I asked about the big rip, which had a quiet an entertaining response of everything being ripped. Also, there was also an interesting fact that came out of the questionings. One of many evidence that the accelerated expansion is happening is the fact that when a photon enters a galaxy cluster, it has a certain energy. Well, when it comes out, it has a higher energy because basically, the particle is falling in the cluster. But as it goes out, the universe is expanding, and so the gravity becomes weaker and the particle manages to escape the gravity well easier.

Seeing a scientist speak is pretty exciting for me. It is somewhat different. When he answers questions, it feels a bit like getting an answer from a fortune teller behind a crystal ball, with knowledge mysteriously coming out of some secret vault centuries old, with experience beyond his ages. I guess this is how all experts of their fields feel like when they speak. Of course, the difference is that fortune tellers are fakes, and the way knowledge is obtained is not mysterious at all. It is science, folks. And he happens to know a lot about cosmology. Oh, plus, he happens to tell pretty funny jokes during the lecture. I love all of his puns, like: Maybe they (referring to the galaxies getting farther away from the Milky Way) are lactose intolerant? Get it? Milky Way? Lactose Intolerance? *sting punch line* I guess we are one step closer to living in a world where people don’t have to apologize for their puns, whether lame or not. Yay! (more pun appreciation, people!)

I recorded some of what I attended, although I got to tell you, I am so shaky it pretty much sucks (part one below, btw, didn’t have enough space for all of the lecture):

In the end, I got to meet with the lecturer and asked him if I could take a picture for the blog. For my admiration to him and blogosphere domination, if you must ask why. He was generous enough to allow me to do it. And considering all of the autographs he was writing, I felt like I was being somewhat annoying. So, thank you, Dr. Filippenko! So here it is:


I wonder if there is a chance we might intersect when I become an astronomer myself.

Science in Action

November 10, 2009

Scientists are better at predicting things than psychics. C’mon, has psychics ever predicted the existance of black hole? I don’t think so. ^_^ In this case, theorists predicted that a certain type of supernova should exist with this and this characteristic. Well, one day, a group of astronomers found a supernova which didn’t fit with anything they have found before, but it turned out it did fit with the theoretical supernova. Science at work. You make a prediction based on a hypothesis, and then when there is observational or experimental evidence for it, it is accepted into the framework of knowledge. But what always surprises me, even though it happened a billion times already, is the precision in which theories predict things will be like, especially the math based ones. After all, if the supernova didn’t have that exact characteristic, then the hypothesis wouldn’t have been confirmed, and they would have had to have come up with something else. I think that is kind of strange if you ask me. Do you?

And before I close off:

A collaboration of three telescopes, Hubble (near IR), Chandra (x-ray), and Spitzer (infrared), they took a highly detailed, beautiful picture of Milky Way’s center, Saggitarius A star. Badastronomy and universe today have more details about it. As for me, I just want you to forget the details for a while and look at this wonder, admire the beauty of the universe (annotated version here):

See? Science can be beautiful too.

One more thing, here is carnival of space 128 for any person curious enought to be interested in these things.

Glenn Beck and the Paranoid Conspiracy

November 10, 2009

The latest from Jon Stewart is one of the funniest. In one of his episode, he decided to play the Glenn Beck character. And the sketch was absolutely brilliant. Not only does he imitate Beck’s personal loony style ver well, he exposes everything that is wrong with all of his arguments, including appeals to emotion, slippery slope implication, the vague paranoid connections, and he pretty much doesn’t have any evidence for what he talks about. Which is why the fact that millions of people watch him and take him seriously makes me dispair. Seriously, this guy needs some meds.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Glenn Beck and the Paranoid Conspiracy“, posted with vodpod


Super Mars Pictures and Stargazing for Begginers

November 9, 2009

Update: I added another link down there.

High res pictures of Mars all collected in a single page by boston.com. All of them wonderful, some of them quiet bizarre and exotic. Seeing these pictures is a bit like going to foreign countries. You just want to see everything in it.

hat tip: badastronomer

Next is a video of stargazing for begginers called Sirius Stargazing (get it, Sirius? haha):

(from skepchick)