Thursday, February 24, 2011


STS-133 launched almost exactly on time and it was spectacular! Tend of thousands, possibly a hundred thousand people attended. Today spaceflight has broad support, with Manu people wishing the Shuttle aloft.

Launch Day

Today February 24, like last November, we are in Florida awaiting launch of Discovery and STS-133. The weather is sunny with scattered clouds, an excellent day for flying.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Another Top 50!

Among the other happy greetings from friends on February 19, comes word that this little blog is included in Science Master's

Top 50 Astronomy Blogs.

"This great blog is from a full time scientist and offers insights into astronomy."

Am sorry that this wasn't noticed sooner, but this scientist is often too busy to spend time looking for how many lists she has made. Thanks to Mandy the Science Master, and everyone else today!

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Prototype of Robonaut 2. R2 would be the first human-shaped robot to be launched into orbit. It was developed by General Motors and Oceaneering Space Systems. Robonaut is part of the payload of STS-133, originally scheduled for launch last year but now set for February 24. R2 will not be able to fix hyperdrives, but tests will prepare for the day when robots will be partners aboard space stations.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Play It Again Sam

The Houston area has a new stage production of Woody Allen's PLAY IT AGAIN SAM. Woody's character dates a variety of women, giving someone the chance to play multiple roles. Vanessa the redhead has her own distinct philosophy:

VANESSA: I've had many men, my first at twelve. After that it was an endless stream. Poets, writers. I lived in a house with five actors. Some of them were gay, but what does it matter? I straightened them out. It was a challenge. My life has been a continual round of orgies. I took on the entire Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity at Yale in three hours. It's still a record in New Haven. I've always thought of sex as something open and wonderul, to be enjoyed as fully and frequently as possible. What do you take me for?

A more educated view of cosmology is given by this intellectual girl:

GIRL: It restates the negativeness of the universe. The hideous, lonely emptiness of existence. Nothingness. The predicament of man, forced to live in a barren, godless eternity. A tiny flame flickering in an immense void with nothing but waste, horror and degradation forming a useless bleak straitjacket in a black, absurd cosmos.

ALLEN: What are you doing Saturday night?

GIRL: Committing suicide.

ALLEN: What about Friday?

Given today's experience with "dark energy," even some educated people can never get over their own predispositions. To them everything is dark, dark, and doomed to failure. The Universe will be torn apart in a Big Rip. Science can never explain our observations. Theories that shed light on the Universe can't possibly be right. Could silly speculations about a Universe of "dark energy" be reflections of scientist's own dark thoughts? They need to laugh and enjoy the show!

PLAY IT AGAIN SAM runs February 11 to March 6!


Thursday, February 10, 2011


This photo has been circulating in the blogosphere. A ring of Black Holes (pink) seen by the Chandra X-Ray telescope, superimposed on a ring of stars (blue) seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Arp 147, 430 million light-years away, is the result of two galaxies colliding.

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Sunday, February 06, 2011

Magnetic Pole Flipping?

The near-simultaneous occurrence of two huge storms on opposite ends of Earth reminds one of this old photo from the POLAR satellite. The satellite image is here superimposed upon Earth. Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis, the Northern and Southern Lights occur simultaneously! They are part of a huge electric circuit powered by Earth's internal dynamo. Positive and negative, dancing in unison like Ying and Yang. How beautiful, wonderful and little-understood this planet is.

At Tampa (Florida) International airport, runways are being renamed because of shifts in Earth's field. Runway 18 will be Runway 19, from 180 degrees magnetic North to 190 degrees. The magnetic North pole, presently located near Ellesmere Island in Northern Canada, was first located in 1831. Its location was nearly constant until 1904, when it started shifting at about 15 kilometres per year. In the late 1980's it sped up, and is now moving at nearly 60 kilometres per year.

The South Atlantic Anomaly is a weak spot in Earth's magnetic field. The area beneath the SAA has much less shielding from cosmic radiation. International Space Station operations are planned to avoid this region. The anomaly is known to be growing and spreading westwards into the Atlantic. Some suspect that magnetic field changes could have unknown effects on Earth's climate, possibly affecting the appearance of very large storms.

Geophysicist Arnaud Chulliat of the Institut de Physique du Globe in Paris believes that a rapidly changing region of magnetism exists at the boundary of Earth's core. Furthermore, Chulliat believes this region is powered by a "plume" of magnetism emanating from deep within the core. This inner region could be dragging the magnetic field with it. The source of this plume may be found not in geology, but in the physics of a Black Hole.

As readers of this blog know, Earth's centre could be the location of a small Black Hole. The singularity would be a relic of a time near the Big Bang. Earth would have formed around it like a pearl around a grain of sand. The Black Hole is far too tiny to swallow us up, but the small amount it does eat is converted into radiation. Outward radiation pressure prevents the core from collapsing and is responsible for Earth's core heat.

Earth's inner core may be a whirlwind of charged particles spiraling around the singularity. The Black Hole rotates within Earth, dragging charged particles around it to create a dipolar magnetic field. The "positive" pole would be in the South exactly as observed. Periodically the spinning singularity would change direction, dragging Earth's magnetic field with it.

The magnetic pole spent a long time near one spot until 100 years ago. Like a pendulum, the pole would wander away at an increasing rate. It would continue to wander until it nears the other end of its swing. The wanderings of Earth's magnetic pole could be the gyrations of a spinning Black Hole.

As Australia and the US dig out from huge storms, we are reminded how little humans know about the workings of their planet. The amount of radiation reaching Earth is affected by the magnetic field. While we witness the wanderings of Earth's magnetic field, humans have failed to see what may be beneath all their feet. The source of polar wanderings could be a Hole in the Earth.

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Thursday, February 03, 2011


This photo of Cyclone Yasi was made by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite February 2 at 2:15 p.m. Australia local time. The center of Yasi had already moved inland. Yasi has been called the most powerful storm to strike Australia in a century. Flooding in Queensland in the past few months has cost 35 lives. Miraculously, Yasi's centre passed between our major cities of Cairns and Townsville.

On the far side of the world, the GOES-13 satellite on January 31 made this photo of the huge storm covering most of the US. So far it has led to 50 centimetres of snow in Chicago and chilly conditions as far South as Texas. In Houston, Johnson Space Center and most schools are closed Friday morning. How is the weather where you are?


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