Archive for January, 2011

Space Saturday XXXV

January 29th, 2011 No comments

In this somewhat somber Space Saturday I commemorate the loss of Space Shuttle Challenger and the 7 crew members aboard. 25 years ago yesterday at 73 seconds into the flight, aerodynamic forces broke up the craft (not an explosion as is commonly thought) due to a failed O-ring in the right side solid rocket booster.

STS-51L - Space Shuttle Challenger at Liftoff - Click for larger version

STS-51L - Space Shuttle Challenger at Liftoff - Click for larger version

The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

Destruction of the Challenger

Destruction of the Challenger

In January of ’86 I was six but I do remember the devastation that this catastrophic failure brought. It is sad that this disaster was preventable. It is sad that it happened again with Columbia. I think the worst part of the tragedy is that it is very likely the 7 crew members were alive for the almost 3 minutes after the shuttle broke up on the trajectory back toward impact with the ocean. I cannot imagine their terror during that time (although hopefully they were unconscious). It was a sad day indeed. Never forget the men and women who have given their lives for science.


For other astronomy pictures, check out my Space Saturday Archive.

Categories: Science Tags:

Resolutions for the year

January 23rd, 2011 No comments

It is almost the end of January (wow, how did that happen??) so I figured I should actually get my New Year’s Resolutions down on paper. Well, e-paper anyway. This year I resolve to watch less tv and read more. Simple enough, yeah? I think so. This has already been made easier with my new Kindle. Now it’s just a matter of following through and making good decisions. Cheers to the New Year and your resolutions!

Categories: Daily Life Tags:

My Space Shuttle Tile

January 16th, 2011 No comments

I’m a space nerd. It might have something to do with astronomy being one of my majors back at UW, it may have to do with all the Star Trek and Star Wars I have watched, or it might just be part of the inherent wonder that is space. Regardless, I am a space nerd. Anything NASA I love. I love From the Earth to the MoonWhen We Left the EarthIn the Shadow of the Moon, and any other video I can get my hands on. I can watch launch videos like this over and over. I remember when the Challenger exploded after liftoff and the Columbia breaking up as it reentered the atmosphere; devastating me. While I look forward to the future of manned spaceflight, it is somewhat sad to see the Shuttle Transportation System come to an end later this year.

As part of the decommissioning of the shuttles, NASA is allowing educators to have a piece of the program. Space Shuttle Tiles for Teachers:

NASA is now offering space shuttle tiles to educational institutions. Would you like to have a piece of history for your classroom or lecture space? Sign up now because a limited number of tiles are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

I went through the (fairly involved) procurement process and just received my very own (well I suppose technically my school’s) tile!!

Each Space Shuttle carried over 24,000 separate Thermal Protection System tiles, and each one was a different size and shape. This is an authentic tile and is presented to honor 30 years of Space Shuttle flights and the great achievements made by the men and women of NASA in science, aeronautics, and space exploration.

Here is a bunch of info about the Space Shuttle Thermal Protection System tile. My piece does say “Training Only” on it which I suppose could mean it hasn’t actually been to space, but really, I don’t care. It has been on the shuttle, is part of the incredible program and a piece of history. For more info and links, check out the Space Shuttle Tiles for Teachers website.

This may not seem like a big deal; it is a fairly tiny (around 20cm square and 1cm thick) piece of lightweight (but amazing) ceramic. But I am very proud to have just a little bit of NASA and Space Shuttle history!

Images of my tile (click for larger version) (Oh, and I should note: the tile is wrapped in plastic, that is why there is a glare):

Shuttle TileShuttle TileShuttle TileShuttle TileShuttle TileShuttle Tile

Categories: Education, Science Tags:


January 15th, 2011 No comments
My new Kindle!

My new Kindle!

My new Kindle!

My new Kindle!

I got a new toy!

It is fairly ridiculous, but I have read more this week than I have in quite a while. I have lots of books, many of which I haven’t read before, and yet I get the Kindle and I am actually reading again! Strange, but true. I have used the Kindle App on my phone, but it’s a smaller screen and there is something about reading with a back lit display that I don’t really like. I can stare at a computer all day, but when I am reading, I don’t like the strain on my eyes. This is especially true when reading before bed, it is hard to wind down by looking at a screen. It is somewhat embarrassing to admit, but I have actually thought about trying to turn the page…

No, I don’t get the authentic book smell and feel, but it really is a pleasure to read on the shiny new piece of technology. It also helps to be able to share books with my fam. Yay for books!

Categories: Daily Life, Literature Tags:

Space Saturday XXXIV

January 8th, 2011 No comments

Welcome to the next edition of Space Saturday! This week’s edition comes from Tuesday’s partial Solar Eclipse.

Partial Solar Eclipse and ISS Transit

Partial Solar Eclipse and ISS Transit

The ISS transits the partially eclipsed Sun.

The ISS transits the partially eclipsed Sun.

A partial Solar Eclipse started in Northern Africa and traveled Northeast through Europe and back South into Russia. Astrophotographer Thierry Legault traveled to Oman to capture the event (source and credit for the photograph). He visited Oman because that choice allowed him to capture the International Space Station as it made a transit across the partially eclipsed Sun. Pretty amazing capture!

And from the Bad Astronomer:

To give you an overall idea of what you’re seeing here: the Sun is 147 million kilometers away (less than usual because this eclipse happened, coincidentally, very close to perihelion, when Earth was closest to the Sun). The Moon is 390,000 kilometers away. The Sun is about 400 times bigger than the Moon, but also about 400 times farther away, making them look about the same size in the sky. If you’re still having a hard time picturing the scale, take a look at the dark sunspot in the lower right of the big picture: it’s about twice the size of the Earth!

The space station, on the other hand, is 100 meters across (the size of a football field) and orbits about 350 km (210 miles) above the Earth’s surface. So the Moon was very roughly 1000 times farther away than the ISS when this picture was taken, and the Sun 400,000 times more distant. Yet all three lined up just right to make this extraordinary photograph possible.


Be sure to check out my Space Saturday Archive for more astronomy photos.

Categories: Science Tags:

Seattle Drivers are Horrible: A Rant

January 7th, 2011 No comments
Keep Right Except to Pass

Keep Right Except to Pass

Now I don’t want to get off on a rant here…

If you don’t want me to insult you, please stop reading here because there is a pretty good chance I will. I do apologize for this, but I just have to get this off my chest!

I commute around 30 miles every day. I hit both I-5 through downtown and I-90 over Lake Washington (and occasionally SR520 but really, that’s a nightmare). I see a lot of drivers. Most of them I do not like. Sorry Seattle, but you just don’t know how to drive. For some it is because they are jerks and just enjoy pissing people off but for most it is general obliviousness to what is going on around them. Regardless, it is selfishness.

Here is Washington State law:

RCW 46.61.100
Keep right except when passing, etc.
(2) Upon all roadways having two or more lanes for traffic moving in the same direction, all vehicles shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, except (a) when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, (b) when traveling at a speed greater than the traffic flow, (c) when moving left to allow traffic to merge, or (d) when preparing for a left turn at an intersection, exit, or into a private road or driveway when such left turn is legally permitted. On any such roadway, a vehicle or combination over ten thousand pounds shall be driven only in the right-hand lane except under the conditions enumerated in (a) through (d) of this subsection.

Got that? For ANY road (and I would say especially for a highway) that has two lanes in the same direction, you drive in the right-hand lane. I would estimate that there are at least 5 times in my weekly commute where it is faster for me to drive in the right-hand lane because slow people are in the left-hand lane. That isn’t right.

I understand that with the sheer volume of cars on our roads, traffic is inevitable. Fine, I can handle that. What I cannot handle is the fact that so much traffic is caused because of slow people driving in the left-hand lane and blocking traffic behind them. If I can see where the wall of traffic starts, there shouldn’t be traffic: It is being caused by YOU (you know who you are… well you should anyway). I am consistently amazed when I see someone get on the freeway below speed and instantly move to the left lane; there is no reason to do that, at all. If there isn’t anyone in front of you for a decent distance, move over. If you see multiple cars (actually, even if it is just one car) behind you, regardless of your speed, you need to move right. The amount of traffic we have is completely avoidable.

Figure it out Seattle! You are driving a large hunk of metal down the road; you should not be oblivious to anything. Pay attention to your surroundings. Let traffic flow.

Ready for the rule of thumb that we ALL need to follow? Move to the right!

All that being said, Seattle? At least you aren’t Oregon drivers. ;)

Driving Flow Chart

Driving Flow Chart


Categories: Blogging, Social Commentary Tags: