Sunday's Astro picture of the day was the solar spectrum -- who doesn't love the sun?
Image courtesy N. Sharp of KPNO (larger image and credit here). It's a high--resolution spectrum that's been folded many times to fit in a rectangular space. Those dark bands are absorption lines, caused by metals in the sun's atmosphere.
A cheap prism, or a piece of diffraction grating plastic, is just enough to resolve the most prominent Frauenhofer lines for yourself. Girl Scouts think that's really cool. Undergrads think it's utterly boring.
[That the image resembles a gay-pride rainbow sticker, and was posted on APOD 4 days before Stonewall Day, appears to be a coincidence.]
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
Tom Tomorrow, keeping watch on the right-wing nutjobs for us, informs us what's on Bill O'Reilly's mind:
The new menace sweeping the nation is Lesbian Gangs which force unwitting teenagers into lesbian sex by threatening them with pink 9mm Glocks.
The preceeding sentence was not a satire of Bill O’Reilly, but rather, an accurate summary of the report I just watched.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
With two firefighters in my family, it's hard to hear the morning's news that nine firefighters died in South Carolina fighting a blaze in a sofa store.
In my hometown, when the body of a dead soldier comes home from Iraq, an aerial firetruck hoists the flag high over the procession. A sign of respect.
Monday, June 18, 2007
My earlier post on dark-sky communities for amateur astronomers has spawned a long discussion of light pollution at Bad Astronomy. I'm cross-posting my contribution here:
Kudos to everyone who noted that dark-sky retirement communities are a neat fringe movement, but that it’s more important to reduce light pollution where average people live.
I recently flew back from Tucson, AZ where I had an observing run @ Kitt Peak National Observatory. Tucson’s population is half a mil, but you wouldn’t know it standing on Kitt Peak, only 55 miles away, where I enjoyed dark skies, the summer Milky Way, and two nights of data-taking scientific happiness. How is this possible?
Here’s the answer. Take any flight into Tucson at night. You’ll descend over streets evenly lit by regular sodium circles. The city is well-lighted. So what’s different from other cities? Then you figure it out. No lights glare UP, at you in the plane. Street-lights aim DOWN, at the road, and wear hats to stop light from traveling upward. Ditto for billboard lights (aimed down, not up). Car dealerships are lighted, but not blindingly. Tucson has lights. They’re just intelligently placed. They save energy, energy, & dark skies.
As a result, the countryside 5 miles outside of Tucson, AZ, is far, far darker darker than 5 miles outside my home-town of 10,000. SMART lighting, that’s the ticket. And the solution is for ordinary people to get their town councils to adopt lighting ordinances that prevent waste and reduce light pollution. Check out the noble people at Dark Sky.org, and raise a ruckus down at town hall.
"Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights."
-Mildred Loving, on 12 June 2007, the 40th anniversary of US Supreme Court's decision that the state of Virginia could not nullify Mildred's marriage to Richard Loving because they were an interracial couple.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
All, right, folks. Let's make a list of movies that include women scientists as characters. Feel free to debate the relative stereotypical-ness of each. I'm afraid it'll be a short list, but please, prove me wrong! (And give me something to watch on the various planes I'll be on this summer.)
Caveat: I don't think physicists in hot pants count, unless they're actually doing any physics.
I already call Jodie in "Contact".
Summer's the time when astronomers go traveling -- off to conferences & workshops, preferably in nice, high-altitude sites like Aspen.
Here's a gorgeous photo of the wake of a British Airways flight into London last July. From a boring NYT article, photo credit is "Steve Morris/ AirTeamImages."
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Friday, June 8, 2007
Unlike most sciences, astronomy has oodles of serious, hard-core, non-professional practioners.
Check out the NYT article about 3 communities built specificially for amateur astronomers, in dark sites, with strict light pollution controls. In particular, Portal, AZ is beautiful -- we spent hours at a campground watching a small meteor shower and star-hopping with our birding binos.
Friday, June 1, 2007
Does med school teach doctors to select insipid waiting room magazines? Or do they pick it up naturally? Is there a special course to help OB/Gyns select that lethal combination of Self, People, Parenting, and Real Estate Woman?
Memo to doctors: If you stock The Advocate, Lesbian News, or any other magazine that acknowledges gay people exist (and you're on my health plan), I will switch to you double-fast. If you stock Poz (a magazine about HIV+ people) or magazines featuring women of color who aren't Oprah, you win double inclusion points.
At least now, doctors offices have WiFi, so I can read the NY Times in the waiting room.