Archive for August, 2006

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge

August 29th, 2006 No comments

While I was down in Tacoma for the memorial service I had some spare time and drove over the Narrows Bridge to see how the construction of the second bridge was going. I also took a few pictures back in May so you can compare those and see how much they have done in the last three months. While I think the final traffic patterns (essentially only adding a single HOV lane in each direction, but with wider lanes) are somewhat silly, at least it looks like the toll won’t be as high as originally thought ($3 compared to the original $5-7).

The original Narrows Bridge (called “Galloping Gertie”) opened on July 1st, 1940 and then four months later proceeded to collapse due to poor design. Many who have taken high school physics around the country have probably seen video clips or pictures of the demise of Gertie. If you haven’t seen it, here is some great footage of the rockin’ Gertie and her death. The second Narrows Bridge opened in October of 1950 and hasn’t fallen down yet. Because of traffic and the fact that it is “really scary” to drive with opposing traffic over the current bridge, they decided to build a second bridge.

In October of 2002 the construction of the second span started. They seem to still be building it as I couldn’t cross it yet. The first few bridge decks have been put in place. There is a giant cargo ship parked under the bridges that arrived from South Korea, conveniently they had 46 sections of bridge that would just fit the span. Each section is hoised from the cargo ship by large gantry cranes that ride along the main suspension cables. Eventually all those deck pieces (so they tell us) will fit together and we will be able to drive over it starting in the summer of 2007.

For those that would like to view the construction, Narrows Park on the Gig Harbor side has a great vantage. For more of my pictures from this trip you can see my Flickr set: Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

Wikipedia - Tacoma Narrows Bridge
WSDOT Projects - SR 16 - New Tacoma Narrows Bridge
WSDOT - Building the Bridge
WSDOT - Lifting the Bridge Deck Sections
“Galloping Gertie” Collapses November 7, 1940
YouTube - Video of Galloping Gertie’s demise

Categories: Daily Life, Photoblog Tags:

Three More Shows and Prayer Requests

August 28th, 2006 11 comments

I will start with the fun stuff. There are three more shows in Seattle that you should plan on coming to this coming weekend.

Friday, Sept 1: Late Tuesday (MySpace) has their Seattle CD release show at the Triple Door. $12, All ages, doors at 6 (you can order food and stuff), show at 8. This will be a great show at an awesome venue. I recommend buying tickets early (you can also get directions as well) here.

Saturday, Sept 2: The Lonely Forest (MySpace) will be performing at Bumbershoot at 12:00 noon at EMP’s Sky Church. Hopefully you will be going to Bumbershoot and this can be your first stop. If you hadn’t planned on it, you should still come. The only drawback is that it is $30 (you can buy tickets here). The show will still be well worth it as I know they will rock the house down (and will be releasing their new EP).

Saturday, Sept 2: Last, but not least, Katie Jacobson, jazz pianist and singer will be performing at Hot Wire Coffee in shoreline at 8:00pm. I don’t think there is a cost but I imagine she will be playing for tips. (Map here)

All three shows will be great and I hope you will be there. Let me know if you have any questions about any of them!

Also, I have some prayer requests for those that are so inclined to pray… even if you aren’t, maybe you should!

Read more…

Categories: Daily Life, Meaningful Song Tags:

A Sense of Scale: The Solar System

August 27th, 2006 17 comments

Since my last few posts have been scientific in nature, I thought I would continue the theme with a look at scale; specifically the scale of our Solar System. In one of my previous posts, Walk the Solar System, I looked at a scale model representation of the distances in the Solar System (see that post for appropriate links and resources). For this post I want to look at and get a sense for relative object sizes. UPDATE: I have written another post relating to relative sizes: A Sense of Scale: The Bodies of the Solar System. Check it out!

The first images show a progression of the smaller planets (although, Pluto shouldn’t really be included, should it?) through our star, the Sun, and then to other stars for stellar size comparison. These images were stolen from Wind Scraps (and she got them from a friend, so I really have no idea who made them or who they belong to…). Click the image to see the larger and clearer versions.

Here we start with the smallest planets (er… and a dwarf planet). The smallest object is Pluto, the newly described dwarf planet (see my blog posts: 134340 Pluto and Pluto is not a Planet for more info on Pluto’s recent developments). The other objects are the four closest planets to our Sun: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. They are also referred to as terrestrial plantes because of their rocky composition.

This next image shows our original five planets (… well you know what i mean) compared to the four outer gas giant planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. All four of our gaseous planets carry a planetary ring system to some extent.

The third image is the last that is limited to our Solar System. This is a size comparison between our eight planets, Pluto, and the Sun (which is the proper name for our star, the generic term). The Sun is a G2V type star on the main sequence and it accounts for nearly 99% of the mass in our system. Like the planets, the Sun also rotates: it completes one revolution in every 28 days (actually the equator spins faster and the poles slower than that).

The fourth and fifth images compare our sun’s size to other stars. The white Sirius is the brightest star in our night sky and in the constellation Canis Major. Pollux is a bright star in the constellation Gemini and is one of the twin’s heads. Pollux has been confirmed to have a planet with about 2.3 Jupiter masses orbiting around it. Arcturus is in the constellation Botes and is some 37 light years away.

Here we have our final progression in sizes. Rigel is the brightest star in the constellation Orion (the lower right side). Aldebaran is the bull’s eye in Taurus. Studies have also shown that there is either a very large planet (about 11 times the mass of Jupiter) or a dim brown dwarf that accompanies Aldebaran. Betelgeuse is a red supergiant in the constellation Orion (the left hand shoulder). Antares resides in the constellation Scorpius and is one of the largest stars known - it would more than fill up our solar system all the way out to Jupiter’s orbit!

I also wanted to show two more images that are similar to the first set but also include some of the other small objects in our Solar System. These were stolen from this page. Both are clickable for larger versions.

Any questions? For some very interesting links relating to scale, see my resources below!

Blog posts: 134340 Pluto and Pluto is not a Planet for info on the decision to change Pluto’s definition from a planet to a dwarf planet.
Wikipedia - The Solar System
Scale Comparisons of the Major Heavenly Objects of our Solar System
Scale of the Solar System
A Scale Model of the Solar System - a cool Java applet.
A Sense of Scale - a cool graphical representation of scale comparisons.
Wikipedia - Orders of Magnitude - Length comparisons with real world examples.
Powers of Ten - Remember that classic film? Here is their website!

Categories: Science Tags:

Creation Science

August 24th, 2006 32 comments

Parableman put up Christian Carnival CXXXVI yesterday (for more, see my Christian Carnival Archive) and one of the posts caught my eye: Dr. Hovind and the Age of the Earth from Imago Dei. I wanted to write my thoughts on it here for a few reasons: firstly, Christianity and science are very near and dear to me, and secondly, the writer was getting a decent amount of persecution from non-Christians about the subject and I wanted to throw out my Christian perspective on the subject that (hopefully) won’t be seen as persecution but an alternate position. Also, I have written on some of this way back in my post Science vs. Religion (with the original post and comments at my old blog here), so feel free to check that out as well. I will be linking to many different sources in their post including Wikipedia. I recognize that Wikipedia is not the best source for information, but it is often easier to understand than other sources and they have links to other sources if you want additional information.

Before I start, I feel I should make this disclaimer. I am a devout Christian. I am a Bible believing Christian. I also have degrees in Physics and Astronomy. I am perfectly okay that some Christians will reject this, that is their prerogative and salvation does not depend on what we think about these things. However, I think that, as Christians, we are called to use the things that God has given us, this includes our minds and our “powers” of observation. Science is a wonderful thing and it can be used to tell us about the amazing universe that God did indeed create (just maybe not in the way that some Christians think). On with the post!

Amanda’s post starts with a look at different forms of evolution:

1. Cosmic Evolution - the origin of time, space, and matter. This is the big bang. 2. Chemical Evolution - the origin of higher elements from hydrogen. (If the Big Bang produced hydrogen and some helium, how did we get the others? 3. Stellar and planetary Evolution - the origin of stars and planets. (No one has ever seen a star form. What you see is a spot getting brighter and you assume a star is forming. It could be the dust is clearing and there’s a star behind it. No one has ever proven the formation of a single star. Yet it’s estimated that there are enough stars for every person on earth to own 2 trillion stars.) 4. Organic Evolution - the origin of life. Somehow life has to get started from non-living material. (But spontaneous generation was proven wrong 200 years ago.) 5. Macro Evolution - Changing from one kind of animal into another. (Nobody has ever seen a dog produce a non-dog. Big or small it’s still a dog. Dog, wolf, and coyote may have had a common ancestor, but they’re still the same kind of animal.) 6. Micro Evolution - Variations within kinds (big dogs and little dogs). Only this one has been observed.

I would like to take a look at each one of her statements.

Read more…

Categories: Religion, Science, Social Commentary Tags:

Pluto is not a Planet

August 24th, 2006 12 comments

Take out a sharpie and start crossing out your text book. Our solar system just got a tad smaller (well, sort of). We have eight planets, not nine. The IAU (International Astronomical Union) has decreed that (among other things) Pluto (and Ceres) are no longer defined as planets, but as dwarf planets.

This means that the Solar System consists of eight “planets” Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. A new distinct class of objects called “dwarf planets” was also decided. It was agreed that “planets” and “dwarf planets” are two distinct classes of objects. The first members of the “dwarf planet” category are Ceres, Pluto and 2003 UB313 (temporary name). More “dwarf planets” are expected to be announced by the IAU in the coming months and years. Currently a dozen candidate “dwarf planets” are listed on IAU’s “dwarf planet” watchlist, which keeps changing as new objects are found and the physics of the existing candidates becomes better known.

What is the universe coming to!?

[Addendum] For loads of more information, please check out the IAU General Assembly Special 2006 at The Jodcast (via the comments at Tom’s Astronomy Blog: Pluto is NOT a Planet).

[Addendum II] I want to make it clear WHY Pluto is not a planet (as I have been getting lots of search referrals here relating to this) - I will be referencing IAU’s resolutions 5 and 6 (PDF): It is because of the nature of Pluto’s orbit (in that it does not “clear its neighborhood” [there are objects in its orbit] and that it crosses with Neptune’s orbit). The following reasons DO NOT have any bearing on the decision: (1) Its size (Resolution 5.1.b and 5.2.b are identical meaning that both a dwarf planet and a planet must have sufficient mass to become round, this does not mean that a dwarf planet must be small in size [although generally they are because they don't have enough mass to comply with resolution 5.1.c, so in that sense, size does play a factor, but only in that sense.]). (2) New scientific information/evidence (there was NO NEW DATA discovered about Pluto to changed how we describe Pluto, it was merely a decision by the astronomical community to change how a planet is defined). (3) A realization that Pluto is not a planet (no, the definition of Planet just changed). (4) Pluto is not part of the Solar System (no, Pluto is part of the Solar System, in the same orbit it has always been in, it is just defined differently). (5) New scientific theory about planets (this isn’t exactly right. It doesn’t have anything to do with scientific theories, it has to do with scientific definitions, the thories about planets and how they work has not changed).

I hope that helps, let me know if you have any questions.

[Addendum III] Also, I wanted to add that the reason this came up was because of the discovery of other objects in out Solar System that didn’t seem to quite be asteroids but also didn’t seem to be planets. In order to keep things consistent, this debate came up. It either meant making the new objects into new planets or creating a new class as a way to define these objects. When that was done, Pluto fit into that new category, the Dwarf Planet. Eris (formerly nicknamed Xena) especially, which is actually larger than Pluto, would have been considered a planet had the decision gone the other way. With the new class, Eris is currently the largest Dwarf Planet.

[Addendum IV] Came across a great article by NASA’s Chief Historian, Steven J. Dick: Pluto, Classification and Exploration. It is a great read.

[Addendum V] As I have said, the reason Pluto is not a planet is because it did not pass the third criterion: a planet must “clear its neighborhood” meaning it must remove other objects in its orbit. While looking at the Eris WikiPedia article, I came across a great image showing all the trans-Neptunian objects. Check it out for a VERY helpful visual as to what “clearing the neighborhood” would mean. All the little red dots are “Plutinos” or objects that share Pluto’s orbit. These objects are what remove Pluto from the planetary lineup. You will also notice that ther other planets also have other objects in their orbital distance, this is where the ambiguity in the language of the new definition comes in. Technically it seems that most planets have not completely cleared their neighborhood. But the visual does a good job of showing the huge difference in number of objects in each planet’s (or dwarf planet’s) path, which I am assuming was a factor.

[Addendum VI] Ok, to be explicit, here are the criteria for being a planet: Resolution 5.1

5.1) A Planet is a celestial body that
5.1.a) is in orbit around the sun,
5.1.b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and
5.1.c) has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.

It is this final criterion that Pluto fails to meet as discussed in Addendum V above.

[UPDATE] Also, Pluto has a new name: 134340 Pluto! Exciting, eh? Just another common asteroid…

Categories: Science Tags:

Lady in the Water

August 22nd, 2006 6 comments

Last Saturday when I met up with mom and Erin, we went to see Lady in the Water (which was much more difficult than I expected: it has only been out since July 21st and was only in one theater in Seattle!). [Warning: some minor spoilers ahead] I hadn’t read any reviews of the film before seeing it, but have enjoyed M. Night Shyamalan‘s work in the past. They only thing I heard about it was that it doesn’t have his characteristic twist at the end, I was okay with that. Now having seen the movie, I have been browsing the Rotten Tomatoes reviews of the film and see that this movie has, by and large, not received critical acclaim (both from “professional” and “amateur” critics alike). Their consensus: “A far-fetched story with little suspense.” I particularly enjoyed Entertainment Weekly’s comment that Lady is “Shyamalan’s most alienating and self-absorbed project to date.” What do I have to say to all of this? What a load of crap!

A good majority of moviegoers disagree with me, but, quite frankly, they are wrong. The tagline for this film is “A Bedtime Story” - this is a fairly tale, and a well told one at that. While the movie isn’t as creepy as his previous, there are definitely still elements of creep and suspense. Paul Giamatti did a superb job in the role of “Cleveland Heep”, a kind apartment manager who finds himself in the middle of a seemingly unreal fantasy. The rest of the ensemble cast did a great job moving the story along. Bryce Dallas Howard as the Lady played the mysterious “Story” perfectly. One of the critiques Shyamalan has received is that his insertion of himself as the hero and soon to be martyred writer was self-indulgent and egotistical. Well, maybe, but he did a good job of the acting. His appearance may not have been necessary, but most other directors are self-indulgent and egotistical, Shyamalan just happened to be on the screen this time.

Shyamalan also uses humor throughout the suspense that was not very traditional (but I really enjoyed it). It was unexpected but really reflected the humor of real life (that doesn’t always happen in funny situations). The jokes were also used to poke fun at critics (no wonder they didn’t like it!), life, and even itself. I also really enjoyed the cinematography (which has also received negative comments). The use of focus (and zoom to an extent) was very original I think. There would be moments where the frame was out of focus and the character(s) would would into or out of that focus plane as the scene called for. Most film makers would probably not want to keep the focus of the scene, as it were, out of focus for the amount of time that Shyamalan does, but I think it is done very well with the movements of the scenes. The use of the pool in the final scene was also very well done and allowed for an interesting visual of the climax.

The moral of the story? Believe in fairy tales! Heh. We are taught to seek after the things we are called to and to not hide from the past. Cleavland has to deal with his past and his “place” in life. In the end, we don’t know what happens. It is left up in the air. We don’t know what happens to any of the characters. I liked that. We aren’t told that things will all be easy now, we are told that these different people came together to support each other in who they are and who they are to become. We are left with hope.

One of my favorite moments [Warning: larger spoiler ahead]: The plan to save Story has not worked out, everything is failing. Someone notes that Story told them the universe would lead them down a path to salvation (essentially). At that exact moment we see the crowd parting and the camera slides down between them to reveal Story being carried down a path by the Scrunt. All the horrible things that have happened seemed to have gotten worse at that moment, but in reality it is the event that leads to salvation. Interesting. [/ End Spoiler]

My advice: go see the movie! Don’t listen to all the reviews. It is a bedtime story, treat it as such and enjoy the story telling.

Official Site
Rotten Tomatoes reviews
Powell’s Books - Lady in the Water: A Bedtime Story the movie
Powell’s Books - Lady in the Water: A Bedtime Story the book

Cleveland Heep: H-how was your movie?

Harry Farber: It sucked.

Cleveland Heep: Oh..

Harry Farber: Just another piece of crap movie in which the two protagonists finally confess their feelings for each other in an ending scene outside during a thunderstorm. Why is it that people in movies like to stand around and talk in the rain?

Categories: Movies Tags: