Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Public Star Parties, February 2013

There are two star gazing events in February that are open to the general public.

Friday, February 15. 7:00 PM. Town Square Park, Murrieta
This event is conducted by the First Light Astronomy Club of Temecula High with assistance from the Temecula Valley Astronomers, and involves outdoor observing only. The start time is 7:00 pm. An end time hasn't been announced yet, but I expect that the event will last for two hours.

Tuesday, February 19. 6:00 -8:00 PM. The Murrieta Library, Murrieta
A indoor show on astronomy tailored for children starts at 6:00 pm. Observing is between 6:30 - 8:00.

CORRECTION: The link above for the Murrieta Library star party mentions that there is a 60-person seating limit. This is not correct.  The event will accommodate more than 60 persons.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Red Queen' Race

My first broken new year resolution: Get caught up on my reading. Though I failed on the big goal, I did manage to stay in place (like the Red Queen, running full speed to stay in place). Here are a few quotes from my recent reading that I want to remember.

From The Particle at the End of the Universe, by Sean Carroll, reporting of the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy in 1969:

When asked if there were national security benefits to funding the multi-billion dollar Superconducting Super Collider, physicist Robert Wilson of Fermilab replied,

"It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to make it worth defending."

And second, this opinion article, Silencing the Science on Gun Research, from the Journal of the American Medical Association should be part of the national conversation on the topic of gun-related deaths:

"Injury prevention research can have real and lasting effects. Over the last 20 years, the number of Americans dying in motor vehicle crashes has decreased by 31%.1 Deaths from fires and drowning have been reduced even more, by 38% and 52%, respectively.1 This progress was achieved without banning automobiles, swimming pools, or matches. Instead, it came from translating research findings into effective interventions."


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Water droplets refracting the morning sun

On Dec 31, 2012, I observed the refraction of water droplets over my garage door.

You can see the drops, their shadows, and between them, curves like upside down sand dunes drawn by the refracted light. The rain drops also have comet-like tails (3rd picture).


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Skeptical Science Post: The Dirt on Climate

I posted an article on Skeptical Science:

My grandmother was always fascinated by knowing that a region in Northern China (the Chinese Loess Plateau) had similar geology and formation history as a region near her home. Both the Chinese Loess Plateau and the loess bluffs that gave Council Bluffs in western Iowa (USA) its name, were formed from windblown dust deposited during times of northern hemisphere glaciations. The Chinese Loess Plateau is exceptional in that Hao et al. (writing in Nature, 18 Oct. 2012) link dust size to weather systems whose strengths correlate to glacial and interglacial conditions. Therefore, they were able to use layers of loess to estimate the extent of previous interglacials.

Perhaps the most rewarding part of examining this research is the opportunity it presented to contact the authors. My summary on Skeptical Science was greatly enhanced by the contribution of photos from Qingzhen Hao of the region he studied.