December 20, 2011

The Mirror's Truth*

The Kepler space craft has been looking for planets for about three years now. It's kind of hard to imagine so much time has gone past. But just look at what it has accomplished! Well over two thousand planet candidates, of which experts estimate 80% will turn out to be the real deal. 1600+ new planets! In three years! I can dig it. Of course it will take time to confirm which candidates are actually planets or not. That's fine, patience is a virtue and all that. So why is three years any different than two years, or one year, other than the amount of planet candidates? The type of planets we might soon start to find.

You see, the Kepler team requires three transits (when the planet passes in front of the star, causing a dip in the light, which is how Kepler finds planets) in order to confirm a candidate as a planet. Which means that if there are any planets kinda like Earth out there, now is about the earliest we would be expecting to start seeing them. Of course, we would have to be able to detect a planet similar in size to Earth orbiting a similar star (the ultimate hope of this planet hunting game is to find a planet that isn't just similar (Small, rocky, and in the habitable zone) but a mirror image of Earth (Same size, density, star type, habitable zone, etc). From the dip in the light curve of a star that is produced by a planet transiting it we can determine orbital period (time between transits), size (how much light gets blocked), and from this we can estimate mass**, density, and from that composition etc. Which means that in order to find a mirror Earth we have to find a planet similar in size around another star. Which we have just done!

Which is exciting yes, but a more ordinary form of exciting. This was always known about the Kepler mission, that it would take awhile to start finding small, rocky planets similar to our own. We knew that to find a mirror Earth we would have to wait about three years. So while it's exciting to be at this particular cusp of history, it's not unexpected. What is exciting is found in this infographic I stole from

Learn about the latest Kepler space telescope discovery of alien Earths, Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, in this infographic.

You see that teeny weeny little yellow triangle in the bottom graphic? Yeah, that's Kepler's search area. That miniscule blip on our galactic neighborhood is all that Kepler is looking at. And it has returned thousands of candidates, adding potentially hundreds of new planets to our understanding of the cosmos. And it has just proven that it is indeed capable of finding the elusive mirror Earth. From what, like one tenth of one percent of the galaxy? That's what's so exciting to me. This is by no measure a comprehensive catalogue of galactic planets. It's not even a full sweep of the immediate neighborhood. This is standing on the porch and counting the number of houses until the end of the block.

We have so much more left to discover!

*I couldn't  think of a title, so I went with In Flames.

** A different technique is used which measures the gravitational tug on a star by a planet to determine it's mass. But this technique only works for planets massive enough to noticeably move their parent star. In this case, we know that these planets have a maximum mass [they aren't moving their star around], we know what their orbital period is, and we have a good idea of the size. From these three things we can get a rough estimate of their mass. I didn't figure this out until after I posted the article. I should know by now that I should read Bad Astronomy to get my facts straight.
Enhanced by Zemanta


December 09, 2011

Been Looking Forward To This

So, there's this company called SpaceX. I may have mentioned them once or twice before. Any way, They have been hoping to combine two of their demo flights into one demo. Which would mean that if this demo, now announced as Feb. 7, goes according to plan, SpaceX is ready to start commercial supply missions to the ISS. This would make them the first company capable of anything even close to that in the history of the world. Neat!

English: Entrance
Image via Wikipedia

Enhanced by Zemanta


December 01, 2011


It looks like we're making progress on creating our next set of Mars rovers. And this time it will be international! Hopefully. If it all works out. Spaceflight Now has an article about the next step in creating the next missions to Mars. I mentioned this in a previous post, but now we're starting to get more details. I would like to note that the reason given in the article as to why we can't fund another Atlas 5 is because funds are being used to fund the James Webb Space Telescope. I wonder what Phil Plait's reaction will be?
Enhanced by Zemanta


November 28, 2011

I don't understand this...

Ok, so one of the things climate change deniers do is to claim that the scientists are only in it for the money. (First mention in the third paragraph) This doesn't make any sense. Has anyone ever seen a scientist on MTV Cribs? No, and it's not just because science isn't seen as cool enough or whatever. It's because scientists, by and large, are not rich. Those few who are did not make their money from grants, either. They wrote best selling books after and during a successful career in science.

The mad scientist is one character type freque...
Image via Wikipedia

Lets say we give a scientist a million dollars. We tell them to do whatever they want with it. Sure, they'll buy tools for their shop, maybe something nice for the spouse, but they won't go nuts. You give a scientist a bunch of money and they are more likely to by an electron microscope than a Ferrari. A scientist is interested in research, experimentation, learning about the world and being enthralled by its beauty. About the only reason your average scientist has to buy a big screen TV is so that they can properly render their high speed, data collecting footage.  So I'm not sure where these deniers are coming from, thinking scientists are money grubbing bastards. But whatever, they are allowed their opinion (despite the fact that they get their talking points from oil company billionaires)

But that's not the oddest thing. I could see how someone might be cautious about signing over a massive amount of cash to someone, with no idea what they are going to do with it. But the money the deniers are talking about is grant money. It's not a personal check. It's a highly sought after, discrete amount of money that is only for a specific purpose - Grant money goes to the school they do their research at more than the scientists themselves. What does go to the scientist is their salary. Unless you don't think people shouldn't get paid for the work they do, there isn't much of a problem with this. And of course, that salary comes from more than just grants. Things like tuition and stuff also goes into their salary. Because research scientists at universities are also (gasp!) teachers.

I just don't understand the money angle. Scientists aren't in it for the money. If they were it would be obvious. They'd drive better cars, have bigger apartments, not waste their time teaching people, things like that. If you want to be rich, strike oil. If you want to learn about the world, be a scientist. Money is not a motivation for a scientist to undermine science.

While it was hard to find any sources that actually said where they got their figures from, I did find that most were in a similar range, and matched well with those from either: Reputable sources; or sources which detailed their data collecting technique. Here are a few, just to show that most scientists don't make much money.

Sorry for the quick and dirty linkage, but I don't feel like cleaning them up right now. I used CNN, Simply Hired, and for my sources.
Enhanced by Zemanta


November 27, 2011

Linkage: Language, Politics, and other miscellany

Ok, so here's my final installment of links. This one was harder because I have a lot of stuff I just never visit, so I had to visit them before I posted them. Which took awhile. And was slightly annoying, as I realized most of the links I have are utter crap. But these ones aren't!

Language & Writing

Dialect Blog - great posts about all the different dialects of English.  always worth a look.

Visual Thesaurus - Awesomness in words.

The Open Notebook - Great resource for writing tips

Paperrater - A good final check for essays. Grades, word counts, all that, all in one place. And free!

Etomyonline - Online etymological dictionary

Politics & Society

Factcheck - Both these websites are all about fact checking political statements. This is a very handy resource.

Global Debates - Online debates regarding global issues

Fora - A lot of cool stuff in here. Mostly conservative. Lots of videos.

TED - Like Fora, but more liberal.

Free Knowledge

Justice - The Harvard class

MIT Open Course - Online classes, to varying degrees of depth.

 Academic Earth - like the above, but pulls from all universities.

Miss Elaine Eeus

Forkes Report - My uncles blog.

The Internet Archive - Home of the wayback machine!

Library at Alexandria - Not the one burned down, but a modern equivalent. Which is neat.

There you go, a shit ton of links for your viewing pleasure. I have some more stuff to write for school, and those will be posted soon. Also anything else I feel like writing, but I know for sure I'll write the stuff for school. I paid good money for the classes, so failure is not an option. If I do fail, Gene Kranz will kick my ass. Probably not, but you never know. Cheers!


November 26, 2011

MSL Launch II

Curiosity is officially on its way to Mars! All engines expended, all stages separated, now all we have to do is wait! For 9 months. They say patience is a virtue, but it doesn't feel like it when you're actually waiting for something.

MSL Launch

Mars Science Laboratory has just launched and reached a stable orbit! We are in a 19 minute coasting orbit, after which the main engines will ignite one last time to send it on to Mars. Go baby go!

November 23, 2011

Russia Preparing For Next Move

Ok, so remember when I said I wouldn't have the time nor inclination to write about much for the next little while? I was wrong. Dang. But on the upside, I now get to tell you about this article. According to the reporter, Ilya Arkhipov, Roskosmos is looking towards an international partnership, now that Phobos-Grunt is all but gone. Russia is also looking towards China for a partnership in space. I hope Russia succeeds. It sucks to lose something like a major mission to Mars. Who knows, maybe 'piggy backing' missions will turn out to be an excellent way to get more science done.

November 22, 2011

Linkage: Science & stuff

Ok, so yesterday I posted a bunch of links. They all had to do with space. This time I've done the same, but with only three links about space! The rest is interesting too.


November 21, 2011

Linkage: Space

So with the holidays coming on and stuff I don't know how much time I will have to spend writing stuff other than essays and answers to algebra and stuff*. But I don't want you to be left bereft of blogger wisdom (variable definition of 'wisdom' in use here) so I'll just post a bunch of links that I use. These people are usually smarter than me anyhow.


November 18, 2011

There's an awesome article in Smithsonian's Air & Space magazine all about SpaceX. Go, read, enjoy!

November 17, 2011

Totally and Utterly Redundant

And I thought ATM machine was bad, but this takes the cake!

Long Road

I like Bad Astronomy. It's a great site, with tons of great stuff on it. Phil Plait kept mentioning Jennifer Oullette and her blog, Cocktail Party Physics. So I decided to check it out. It's also a great read, full of interesting stuff. It turns out that Jennifer was the editor of this years Open Laboratory anthology series this year. These collections, hosted by Scientific American's The Network Central blog, are a compilation of all the years best science writing on the internet. Which is itself pretty neat. You should definitely read some of the essays, articles, and blog posts they have listed. But that's not why I'm writing. I clicked over to TNC blog to see what other sorts of stuff they do, which is basically compile a list of current SciAm blogs for the week. On one of those posts I ran across Anna Kuchment's blog, Budding Scientist, and her post "Ask Bryan Greene Anything".

This is actually a short post, with only ten questions. But they're good ones! I especially enjoyed Greene's responses to questions five and six. He makes a good point about how our teaching methods fail to give the big picture of science, and how this effects people perceptions of what is usually portrayed as a bunch of esoteric factoids. Definitely worth a read!
This is the final slide to Phil's presentation...
Phil Plait's last slide at TAM 6. Image via Wikipedia
PS I hope Discover doesn't get pissed at Phil for keying people into Scientific American's blog ring. I for one think both magazines are great. I read both, I enjoy both, and I'm glad that both exist. So no conflict of interest, as I'm interested in both. 
PPS Full Disclosure: Actually, deep down, I kinda hope they do get pissed, and use this post as an example, because then I might get to meet Phil, which would be freaking awesome. I don't think he'd agree.
Enhanced by Zemanta


November 07, 2011


My first thought? Subsidence.


November 06, 2011


It strikes me that it is exactly this type of oversight and micromanagement that private corporations are supposed to alleviate NASA from. SpaceX  and Boeing certainly don't like it. Of course, this issue will come down to the nitty gritty details of the CCIDC. Depending on what NASA actually has planned, this may make some sense. Flying cargo up on an independent vehicle is one thing, sending people up is something else entirely. More intricate requirements, which already seem taken care of (SpaceX launch abort), and keeping a closer eye on the development of human rated vehicles may simply be prudent.
Enhanced by Zemanta


October 14, 2011

English Essay 2 - Cosmos

I wrote this for my English class, just turned it in today. Which means that I can now post it!

                Cosmos has been one of the most enduring and popular series on television. Premiering in 1980, the 13 episode series was hosted by astronomer Carl Sagan, who also wrote the series along with his wife Anne Druyan and their partner Steven Soter. In a break from previous science television shows, Cosmos did not limit itself to just one area of study. The breadth of the show goes from the tiniest particles then known to the largest scale structures of the universe. But at no point does the series lose its sense of humanity, and that is I think what has made the series consistently relevant. We are shown the wonders of the universe, and rather than being alien and remote these awe inspiring wonders are intricately linked to the deepest parts of ourselves.

                Cosmos spoke to your heart. Its opening image is of a vast star field with ethereal music drifting out of your speakers. The series begins with a man and his imaginings as he ponders science, humanity, and the universe. This show was Carl Sagan's vision. He showed us all how he saw the world. He took such a joy in existence, and was so good at explaining it, that you couldn't help but feel as he did about this universe we inhabit.

                Carl Sagan was the perfect host for this show. He was calm, intelligent, and personable. He saw beauty in everything, and he could communicate that beauty to you with ease. Though most famous for this show, and quite accomplished in astronomy, he was most prolific as a writer.  I for one don't mind that at all. He wrote beautifully, eloquently; powerfully. He wrote with a clarity that could leave you breathless. He explained scientific principles with such passion that you were automatically enthralled. His compassion for individual people could be heartbreaking. Richard Dawkins has said that science is the poetry of reality. If that's true, then Sagan was its poet laureate.

                But the show was about more than the simple eloquence of a man. It was about the wonder and beauty of the world, and our place within it. The first five minutes of the very first show exemplifies this. Standing on a cliff by the ocean, he tells us of the immensity of the cosmos. Interweaved within this he extols our accomplishments over the past few millennia, he expounds upon what humans have done. He shows us that the universe is vast, and that we are just a small part of it. He tells us of our potential and our danger. He puts us into the cosmos, connecting us, small as we are, to the largest concepts possible. We are, as he was fond of saying, made of star stuff.

                Each episode takes the form of travelers' tales, short stories interwoven and interrelated. Each on its own insufficient to be compelling, but in combination they are complex and subtle and powerful. Each small bit complements all the rest. He begins on the shore of an ocean, comparing the vastness of the cosmos to the vastness of the sea. Like the sea, the stars are where we came from. The atoms and molecules that we are all made of were themselves made in the fiery heart of a dying star. There is a sense of returning home, both to the ocean and to space.  Through this episode he documents our curiosity, our drive to understand, and our courage. He forms a compelling argument that not only is exploration built into the very fabric of Humanity, but that we are capable of truly becoming an interstellar species.

                In the second and third episode he starts using the metaphor of music. He starts by applying it to biology, and the possibility of life on other worlds. He compares it to singing, that we are but one voice in a cosmic fugue. He continues with this metaphor when he investigates our obsession with finding the cycles and harmonies of nature. He walks the path from astrology and farming to keeping a calendar and the cycle of life and death. He shows how these ideas were applied to early astronomy. He discusses the 'harmony of the spheres' and how we gradually learned more about our solar system. This culminates in the story of Johannes Kepler.

                Kepler was an astronomer who for years struggled to find a way to understand the movement of the planets using platonic solids. The way he saw the world, the way he was taught to see the world, relied heavily on ancient Greek scholars. Like Pythagoras, Kepler assumed there were whole number harmonies throughout nature. He used the five Platonic solids as his basis for astronomical geometry, and applied Pythagorean ideas to their motion. We learn of his struggle with these ideas. We watch as he spends years doing calculation after calculation, none of which work. We also watch as he throws out all his preconceptions, and we learn about the insight that finally let him understand what was going on. His work laid the foundations of all modern astronomy, and this was only possible once he was willing to admit he was wrong.

                In Cosmos we are taken on journeys into the past. We learn of our history, and the history of science. Scientific ideas are not often created and proven in one generation. Democritus, we learn, was trying to prove that we are made of atoms over two thousand years ago. It wasn't until the sixteenth century that we saw mountains on the moon and the clouds of Jupiter. We have sought to understand gravity for millennia, electricity for centuries, genetics for generations, and ourselves for ever.  To tell these stories we must understand not just the facts, but the context. We have to know the people and the world they lived in. We have to follow the growth of an idea, sometimes for thousands of years. This is not an easy task, but Sagan was a master story teller.

                I have touched on just one story that Sagan tells us in this series. There are many more. In each one,Cosmos made use of some new technology: Computer graphics. Sagan does not use such technological wizardry gratuitously, but artfully. When he uses a model of the Library of Alexandria as a digital backdrop it feels entirely appropriate. Though the issues he is talking about at that point are quite diverse, they all have a connection with the Library. Looking at it now, it is obvious that Sagan was digitally dropped into a shot of a model. To be honest, the scene may have been more realistic if they had used a painted backdrop. But with a digital image you can pan and zoom, change angles and walk through doorways. You can't do that with canvas. It's these options that make the use of digital technology the right choice. Whether it's a scenic library background or the information of the mind portrayed as great shelves of books, the use of digital is not gratuitous. The visual metaphor perfectly complements the verbal.

                They are however, late seventies computer graphics. They aren't, given the standards of today, that good. But we can get a measure of how good they once were by examining the documentaries that have followed.   Earlier documentaries were bland. They were appropriate for school use, and given the alternative (black and white textbooks) were certainly appreciated. But they were not emotionally compelling. We learned about science sure, but we didn't learn anything about why scientists become scientists. Some, like Wild Kingdom, were excellent. Most, however, featured a middle aged balding man with a monotonous voice who was usually holding something sciency. But after Cosmos that changed. Graphics were used much more extensively. The hosts were expecting to have at least some personality. The BBC started producing a variety of series on science that incorporated ideas from Cosmos. This legacy continues today with such films as Wonders of the Solar System andThrough the wormhole with Morgan Freeman. Even we yanks have gotten into the act, courtesy of Discovery channel, History Channel, and Family Guy. Well, more the first two than the last. But Seth McFarlane is producing the next completely new series of Cosmos, premiering on Fox in 2013which is just plain old fashioned exciting. I wonder if Peter Griffin will be the host. I hope not, but still, that would be amusing.

                Cosmos has been translated into over forty languages, broadcast in sixty countries, has been re-mastered, re-edited, updated and re-updated at least a dozen times. It continues be cited as inspiration by some of our top scientists, as well as have consistently high ratings when re-broadcast. The show is so enduring because of its strength of vision. Sagan artfully balanced factual data and human spirit in his stories. He was awestruck by the cosmos and that there are such creatures as we to observe it. His demeanor, his speech, his thoughts and the images he brought forth all tie into each other, are connected to each other.  They weave together into an intricate tapestry, an epic tale greater than anything you can imagine.

My take on the subject is a little more nuanced than this, but still. I find this amusing.

"The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the cosmos stir us - there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries."
-Carl Sagan


July 31, 2011

Poll by IBOPE Zogby indicates the majority of voters support space exploration

According to a new poll by IBOPE Zogby, most people disagree with ending the shuttle and agree with the idea of a public/private partnership in space. Now that caught my attention. You see, the shuttle was intended as a low Earth orbit transport vehicle. Private companies are trying to do exactly that. By shutting down the shuttle we open the market to private companies.

However, that's not space exploration, that's space utilization. I think that closing down the shuttle not only fosters the growth of the private space market, but it also frees up resources that can be devoted to true space exploration. Furthermore, once the market has become established, scientific research can be funded primarily by national institutions. Those institutions can purchase flights on private rockets instead of requiring a LEO vehicle paid for by another national organization. This will help improve access to space for smaller organizations, such as universities.

So, while I think there's a bit of a misunderstanding the shuttle and private enterprise, I am glad to see that there is general support of the space program.

However, I'm not sure I like the poll itself. It was short, and the questions weren't always easily answerable. The first question asked if you agreed or disagreed with the decision to end the shuttle. The initial decision was made by Pres. Bush, and Obama decided to continue that decision when he took office. Secondly, the conditions under which each decision was made differ from each other. By clarifying which decision was meant would help clarify peoples thoughts on the matter.

Human SpaceflightImage via Wikipedia
Map of countries with human spaceflight capability (dark blue) 
The third question asked whether future space exploration should be conducted by NASA or private companies. There was no distinction made between LEO and GEO utilization and being the first group to pioneer a new horizon. Getting junk into space (and hopefully soon, back out of space) is different from first sending people to Mars or an asteroid.

The fourth and final question wondered whether people were concerned that other nations might surpass us in space. The question should have been broken into two parts. First, ask if you think that other nations will surpass us. Then ask if another nation surpassing us would concern you.

I do not think that this poll offers an accurate, in depth view on what people think of space exploration. It's questions do not provide insightful answers, and they do not address all the relevant issues. The poll lacks in clear definitions of terms. Overall, however, the poll's questions do quite well in posing the question: Should we be exploring space? As the sample size is fairly large, and somewhat representative, it seems clear that the majority of the public supports exploring space. But a more nuanced understanding is impossible with this poll. 

Enhanced by Zemanta


July 14, 2011

Prophesy in a song lyric

You know that song? You hear it all the time, in commercials and movies. It's got the line, "Money money money money,   money!" You know the one I'm talking about right? Do you know the title? I didn't use to, but it got brought up in conversation today and none of us could figure out what the title is or who did it. Happily, there exists Google. It turns out that the song was recorded by a sixties soul trio called the O'Jays, named after Cleveland DJ Eddy O'Jay. They had a number of hits, some from when there were five members, such as "Lonely Drifter", and some from when they became a trio, such as "For the love of Money" and "Love Train". Hey! They also did "Love Train"! That's neat. But that wasn't the song I was looking for. It had something to do with money, that's for sure, but I'm a little deficient in further details. I know! Song lyrics search engines! Yes! I found the song title! And even better, the video for the song was embedded, right on the page! So I could verify that the song lyrics I was reading actually belonged to the song that I was thinking of on one web site. Neat. And the title of this song about the perils of money and greed, as recorded by the O'Jays? For the love of money. And the name of the album? Backstabbers. Frickin' genius.

March 31, 2011

The Beauty of Science

There are some who say that attempting to break apart and analyze the world removes from the world some of its beauty. I myself have seen examples of exactly this phenomenon. But not all times does understanding the world take something from our perception of the world. Let me tell you a story.

In the beginning of all things, there was a god awful bang. In this explosion were created two hydrogen atoms. These atoms, in concert with many trillions of their kin, existed as they had done since their creation. A vast cloud was formed of them, as they waited patiently for billions of years as other stars were born. It was not until a nearby star, formed from the same elemental hydrogen, came to the end of its life, that our star began its coalescence.

Unable to sustain its process's of nuclear fusion, this nearby star collapsed and rebounded in a massive explosion which created the shockwave that started the collapse of our cloud of hydrogen. Our two atoms, having waited through the eons, have at last started the long process of coalescing into a star. After many millennia swirling around the cloud's center of gravity, these two atoms will arrive at the edge of what will one day be our sun.

They are taken down into the broiling heart of our new-formed sun, and there, at the end of all their waiting, they are brought together under intense heat and pressure in a process which will produce one atom of helium. The fusion of these two atoms released energy, energy which had been stored within the two original atoms since the moment of their birth. The energy from the formation of the universe was used to create these two atoms, and in their transformation into helium some of that energy was returned to the universe. This energy became a photon, a particle of light.

This particle, birthed in the fiery center of a star, began its torturous journey to the surface. There is a lot of matter in the depths of our stellar neighbor, and for millions of years our photon struggled against the amassed weight of material pressing down against it. But after many centuries of hardship, our photon finally broke free from the tyranny of the sun. Once released, this photon began traveling away from its stellar nursery, on into the vasty night between the worlds. Flying past the roasted world of Mercury, and barely glancing at the clouds of acid encircling Venus, our photon finally reaches our pale blue world. Light travels fast, more than 186,000  miles a second, but even at this breathtaking pace our photon must travel for more than eight minutes before it can reach our home planet.

As this photon enters our atmosphere, it's wave becomes bent and curved in accordance with the immutable laws of physics. Created in the heart of the star, and born from the union of two atoms created at the beginning of all things, having fought its way clear of the sun and traveling through the empty miles of space, bent and scattered by our atmosphere, our photon finally reaches the surface of our fair planet.

Our photon may strike a rock, or a tree, or a rooftop. It might splash into the ocean or rebound off of bare earth. But once it does strike, it briefly becomes a part of whatever structure it just impacted. The energy contained within the photon is absorbed by the material. Our photon, with some slight changes brought on by its interaction with the Earth, is emitted once again, travels through the atmosphere, and enters my eye.

This preserved energy from our creation gets absorbed in my retina and travels, as electrochemical impulses, from my eye along a nerve which leads to my brain. This impulse is sorted and used, is transformed into an image. This photon, along with trillions of others just like it, have come together to create an absolutely stunning sight: sunset over the mountains. The fires of creation have been preserved through these aeons in order to create jaw dropping beauty.

Knowing how the world works does nothing to detract from its beauty. Quite the opposite in fact.


March 29, 2011

Money Bags

This year, July has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. This happens
once every 823 years. This is called money bags. So, forward this to
your friends and money will arrive within 4 days. Based on Chinese
Feng Shui. The one who does not forward.....will be without money.

I think can sorta see things from the perspective of those who are mistrustful of science. Especially for those who place their trust in pseudoscience. Science is, at times, boring. I know. A shocker. But you know what, so is every job. So what. If someone told me all about the new form they had which combined three different tasks into one sheet, I wouldn't care. Not unless there were a truly spectacular storyteller. So I have to imagine that hearing about the particle wave duality of light, or watching a news broadcast talking about electrochemical pathways and or the photosynthetic capabilities of chlorophyll, can get, well, dull. A person might lose interest. Right up until the scientist claims to have found a way, from studying plants, of creating highly efficient solar cells capable of  not just supplying the worlds energy, but also of growing delicious tomatoes.

Of course, we would want to see some evidence to back up such a claim, as well we should. But the evidence is mostly reams and reams of data or rather boring videos of the same thing, over and over and over again. However, a demonstration is also acceptable, provided that we are allowed to see everything that's going on. If someone is trying to convince me to part with my money to buy their new device that they claim can do all this amazing stuff, than I want to be absolutely sure that the device can actually do all that amazing stuff.

What puzzles me is why people don't apply the same scrutiny to the claims of astrologers, homeopathy therapists, and random chain emails. For instance, I got this email just today. If we really weren't going to see another July like this one for 823 years, than we ought to celebrate. I was so excited in fact, that I opened up my computers calendar, and guess what! This July really will have 5 full weekends! Sweet! And then I wanted to put a note on my calendar for July, 2834, just in case I'm around then. I would want to be reminded to party. Unfortunately, my computer only went a hundred years into the future. Dang.

Oh well, Google is often pretty useful. So I checked out their calendar. It only goes half as far into the future. Which I guess kinda makes sense, seeing as how that calendar is geared more towards keeping an agenda than just checking to see what day it is.* But on the other hand, you only really need  two formulas, one for the date and one for the day. Add to that a starting point, any date you want, say 01.01.02001. Then, make sure that you have the right day for the date (a Monday, by the way. Hell of a way to start the decade.) and let the computer fly. I figured that I would be able to find some online calendar, kinda like the world clock, fairly easily.

I couldn't. First, it's really hard to phrase the query in a way that doesn't produce a lot of sites selling calendars or proffering online agenda services. Second, I couldn't actually find one. I figured that some sites have calendars on them that you can scroll through, which might get tedious. But some allow you to input a date, like 01-31.07.02834. But jeez, that seemed tedious. So I decided I'd give another good crack at good old Google search.

I tried a lot of things. Some were quite good. I looked up both how to tell the date, and how to find out what day any date happens to be+, and the formulas needed.** But not immediately useful. But as luck would have it, simply putting in "calendar for July, 2834" returned a whole slew of sites, like boards of education and state governments, which had a perpetual calendar on their site, and Google brought me right to it.

So why in the world did I go through all that effort to find a calendar for 2834. Oh yeah! Will July, 2834 have 5 full weekends? No.


Well, whatever. Maybe the email has been floating around for awhile, dug up from the last time this happened. Maybe we only have to wait 819 years. I figured that it would be pointless to try and guess at how long we would have to wait until we saw this again. So out of boredom and unspent excitement, I started checking out July for a couple of years into the future. You know what? July will have 5 full weekends in 2016. And August will do the same in 2014. Actually, all months that have 31 days will sometimes get 5 full weekends. So I guess the email wasn't really accurate, and I probably won't get money within 4 days if I send this email on (actually, I’ll be really pissed if I don't get money soon. I'm supposed to be getting paid in two days.) That's kind of a bummer.++

So what. Having 5 full weekends right at the heart of summer? That's a great excuse to have a barbecue.

*an excellent reason to have a calendar on your computer. I know that when I have finished up a few days of hard partying, when I wake up groggy, hung over, and vitally, really freaking dirty, I'm quite interested in knowing what day it is, where are my pants, where am I and why aren't I wearing any pants, and did I have to work during any of those days that I now can't remember?

+Interesting side note: an alternative version of the terms I used didn't ask "How to find the day for any date" but "How to find the day for a specific date". Interesting dichotomy there. Both statements ask the exact same thing, but from two different angles. The first is general, the second specific. Conclusive? No. Comprehensive? Hardly. No, this is merely one observation, the subject of one interesting side note.*+

**For the date, that's pretty easy. Every year divisible by 4 is a leap year, except those years ending in '00. There is also a leap year every time the year is divisible by 400. Thus 2000 was a leap year, 2001 was not, 2004 was, and 2100 will not. For the day, just use Zeller's congruence. This a rather arcane bit of mathematics that I have only the barest comprehension of. I know that it's an equation, and I'm pretty sure some division is happening in there. But as for the rest of it, I have no idea. But apparently it works.

*+Interesting companion side note: If one were to peruse my recent search history, they would find a whole lot of variations on the theme "calendar july" with some embellishments of '2834' and 'formula'. The one stand out is I think "clorofil". I could not spell that damn word for the life of me. No matter what combination of letters I tried, I kept seeing that damn red squiggly line. Now I don't.

++Both the inaccuracy of the email and the fact that I have to wait two more days to get paid.

Enhanced by Zemanta