Lists of Things retiring

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Why? I’m a bit tired of lists. And only three kinds of people read this any more:

  1. Me
  2. Mary Beth
  3. People who Googled “I hate LabView”

But all is not lost! I have just moved my personal web page to a new server and probably shall continue to blog occasionally at

some stuff I need to do in zero-g

Wednesday, 20 May 2009
  • Point to the enemy’s gate
  • Somersault
  • Bring some space Legos to float around in front of me
  • Bring a Nalgene of water and turn it upside-down

Some questions for Wolfram Alpha

Monday, 18 May 2009
  1. “What is the answer to the Ultimate Question?”
  2. “What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?”
  3. “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

some good things

Saturday, 9 May 2009
  1. Passed my A exam! Now I get an M.S. in rocket science!
  2. Only one final paper left in the semester.
  3. Moved into some awesome new lab space!
  4. Getting together with new friends.
  5. The new Star Trek movie. Woah! J.J. Abrams must have been watching a lot of Galactica, I think, from the intense first fifteen minutes. Really like some of the cinematic and editing choices, too. “This year’s Iron Man,” indeed.
  6. The Red Sox now lead the AL East.
  7. Ithaca’s weather these days – it’s so green out there!
  8. NASA.
  9. Got to fly the glider recently!
  10. My general emotional state right now. :)

past v present in US space

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Ranges depend on whether you measure from the first or last flight of a program that was active over some time period.

Past achievements in space exploration:

  • First US satellite in orbit to first man in space: 3 years
  • First US satellite in orbit to first man in orbit: 4 years
  • First man in orbit to first Moon landing: 8 years
  • Moon landings to LEO space station: 1-4 years
  • Moon landings to LEO Space Shuttle: 9-11 years
  • Pioneer 10 to Voyager 1 and 2: 5 years

Current vision of space exploration:

  • First LEO Space Shuttle to LEO space station completion: 19 years
  • From LEO Space Shuttle to Moon landing: 10-29 years
  • From LEO Space Shuttle to Mars landing: 17-36+ years
  • Cassini to Europa Jupiter System Mission: ~10 years

Where did the ambition go?! Maybe I will help re-inject some this summer.

Some suggestions for holidays that athiesm or agnosticism might have as an organized religion

Friday, 17 April 2009
  • 21 March, 21 July, 21 September, 21 December – Solstices and equinoxes. Times to celebrate each season, the passage of time, events that occured in the past season, new growth, harvests, etc.
  • 9 November – Carl Sagan’s birthday. A day to celebrate the wonder of the physical universe and its exploration.
  • 15 February – Galileo Galilei’s birthday. A day to celebrate the ability of the human mind to investigate and comprehend the universe. Another possible Galileo-related suggestion: 31 October, the anniversary of the day in 1992 when the Vatican officially admitted that they were wrong about the Sun going around the Earth.
  • The date when Roger Williams founded Rhode Island. This holiday would celebrate the independence, diversity, and tolerance of thought and philosophy.
  • A day honoring Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen), pioneer of the scientific method and experimental physics.

I need some suggestions that counteract my Western history educational bias…

The best and worst of “Battlestar Galactica”

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Here’s my list of the best and worst episodes of the 2003-2009 series “Battlestar Galactica.” For MB’s benefit, I’m going to hide all my spoilers behind a jump this time! But if you are partway through and feel like reading anyways, I have organized the list chronologically by episode, so you can stop whenever you need to. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Battlestar Galactica: Daybreak’

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Okay, so here’s what I didn’t like:

  1. The religious themes, which were more active in this episode than I think they ever were in the show, except maybe to Gaius Baltar from the Six in his head. I liked it much better when the mythology held historical clues to help the fleet unravel the way to Earth, rather than when the supernatural plays an active role. I think that takes away from the characters as the main drivers of the show’s action. There never seemed to be any direction from an external entity until this point. This was most disappointing to me in Kara’s disappearance; in fact, now that I think back on it, I could have done without the whole “is Starbuck dead?” issue.
  2. William Adama going off to be by himself for, apparently, the rest of his life. First, I don’t think that’s all that consistent with the character–although I think he definitely would have gone for some serious alone time, he would have come back to his people eventually. Especially to Lee, who is now basically screwed because he has nobody! (Which was not true until the Adama takeoff/Kara disappear scene.)
  3. The robot montage at the end.

That said, I liked a great deal of the finale. I think it wrapped things up just about as well as the show could possibly have ended.

  1. ‘Earth’ as an ideal that lends its name to the planet. I thought that was a logical and yet unexpected way to resolve the mid-season cliffhanger.
  2. Tying in the Colonial fleet with present-day humans. Avoids all the nasty complications of what to do if the Colonials reached Earth in the present or future, and also ties in with the “life here began out there” mythology of the old ‘Battlestar Galactica’ series, which Ron Moore has referenced a couple of times.
  3. The theme of cyclical time and breaking out of the cycle–which has been in vogue in scifi for quite some time now, but is still good to play with. I particularly liked, though, how BSG leaves breaking the cycle up to…the audience!
  4. The cinematography (especially the music) for the scene where Kara punches the coordinates into the FTL system.
  5. That battle…! Didn’t feel quite as epic a naval duel as the ones involving Pegasus or as fun a dogfight as the first season battles, but what a great way for the Galactica to go out. Hallway gunfights are also a great way to focus the action on the characters. Two more points here: (1) redstripe Centurions rock, and (2) the effects guys must have watched the opening scene of ‘Star Wars’ a lot when splicing the action sequences together.
  6. The Opera House. To me, the culmination of that set of visions, especially from Baltar’s point of view, represents the idea of ‘fate,’ but not in the sense of predetermination–instead, it means ‘fate’ in the sense that our choice of actions lead us to a new set of choices, which lead us to a new set, all culminating at a specific point; our actions and the opportunities to choose those actions can be traced back through many critical points, though we still have free will to choose at each point. Think of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. The Opera House represented one possible critical point, given the set of all preceding choices. Looking at Baltar, specifically, we see that he had the free will to choose his path, and he almost always chose his own self-interest (or what his Six convinced him was his self-interest); his choices led him to a critical point facing Cavill in CIC.
  7. Mary McDonnell’s acting. Also Edward James Olmos. They did a great job on the final episode.

It’s been a great ride. And while those disappointments in the finale were very disappointing, the episode as a whole kept me thinking, so it seems to have worked. Mostly, I’m sorry to see it go.

Dear BSG: usually you have a lot of realism, but

Friday, 13 March 2009
  • naked
  • singularities
  • can
  • not
  • exist.

What do these have in common?

Tuesday, 3 March 2009
  • plain
  • hog
  • bell
  • egg
  • plant
  • yam