Heinlein Centennial web site
send e-mail to A Voyage To Arcturus (note: Spam Arrest is on, so a one-time-only confirmation will be requested)

[ 20060412 ]

Anniversary, 25th and 45th

Not that anybody reading Arcturus needs a pointer to anything by Rand Simberg, but here it is anyway: graze on over and read Flying Solo.

Jay Manifold [8:26 AM]

[ 20060408 ]

A Bridge to Nanoscale Devices?

While IBM got below 30 nm, the astonishing technique described in Scientists Build High-Energy Batteries Using Viruses creates wires five times narrower still:

By manipulating genes inside the viruses, the scientists coaxed them into coating themselves with cobalt oxide molecules and gold particles and then lining themselves up to form tiny wires that serve as the anode electrode in a battery.

Each wire measures six nanometers, or six billionths of a meter, in diameter and 880 nanometers in length. Once the genes have been altered, the viruses can be cloned millions of times to form batteries as small as a grain of rice or as large as a hearing-aid battery, the team said.

Extrapolating crudely, we will be routinely creating nanometer-scale structures (as opposed to materials) in just a few years, not decades.

Jay Manifold [6:09 AM]

[ 20060407 ]

MSRAL 2006 - Call for Papers

(Ref announcement below.) Again via Gary Pittman, MSRAL Secretary/Treasurer:

Call for Papers

We have a very limited number of slots for presentations available for the convention. If you would like to submit a poster, paper, or running powerpoint presentation, please contact Jim Small and provide the following information:

1) Title of Presentation
2) Description of presentation, not just a topic or title.
3) Time required (keep it under 45 minutes)
4) Names of presenters
5) We will provide a video projector, DVD, VCR or computer if needed. Availability of easels for posters is unknown. If possible, provide your own. Likewise for running presentations on a computer. Contact Jim Small for special needs.
6) Deadline for submissions of presentations is the end of April to permit us to assemble the schedule. Poster sessions may be submitted through May 31.
7) Selection of presentations will be made May 1st to give presenters ample notice of their time allotment and schedule.
8) Persons not placed in the schedule will be invited to submit as a poster or running movie or power point in the poster area.

Please pass this information along to your club members. We look forward to seeing you at the convention.


John Solodar
St. Louis Astronomical Society

Jay Manifold [1:52 PM]

Not So Irreducible

While the discovery announcement of a fish-tetrapod transition form was the big paleontological news of the week, including as it did a striking illustration (warning: ~1 MB *.jpg), The Scientist is wisely allowing non-subscriber access to Affirming evolution of complex systems, in which we read that

the researchers used phylogenic analyses to “resurrect” a 450 million year old protein and determine the process that led it to its current form. "It's almost as though they had a time machine to go back and look at the ancient interactions," Richard Lenski at Michigan State University, who did not participate in this study, told The Scientist.

No pretty pictures with this story, so it probably won't, er, have legs. But it's at least as important as Tiktaalik. The historical sciences do indeed provide us with a time machine. And while this isn't the first time "irreducible complexity" has gotten in trouble, we may look forward to the steady erosion of this bizarre subspecies of postmodernism. The universe makes sense, folks. The scientists aren't just making this stuff up. Life on Earth really is all related. I try to imagine feeling threatened by that, but I just can't.

Jay Manifold [1:52 PM]

[ 20060405 ]

A Biker Reads the Newspaper

(Ref this book.) In What Bike Week Carnage?, Doug Murray does the math and demonstrates that Bike Week in Daytona was safer than motorcycling usually is. I commend him, and recommend you to Prof Cline's list of structural media biases for how reports of "carnage" can appear in an environment of relative safety.

Jay Manifold [8:23 AM]

Small World

Jill Carroll is the niece of longtime ASKC stalwart Rett Alonzi. Congratulations on her safe return.

Jay Manifold [8:01 AM]

[ 20060403 ]

Magic Moment?

Via the ASKC's Dick Harshaw, this bit of trivia: "On Wednesday of [this] week, at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 in the morning, the time and date will be 01:02:03 04/05/06. That won't happen again for 1000 years." Well, 100 years, actually, unless the year is represented as "006." Having said that ...

I recommend we celebrate it at 01:02:03 UT, which is 8:02:03 PM Tuesday in these parts.

(This post is dedicated to my college dorm buddy S. David Kaufman, who referred to 12:34 on digital clocks as "the magic moment.")

UPDATE: Previously unknown reader (the best kind) John Farren reminds me that in the UK, there will be a Magic Moment at 01:02:03 on 4 May, or "04/05/06," as they render it.

Which in turn suggests yet another: YY MM DD HH:MM:SS, that is, 2006 May 04 03:02:01 -- once again, assuming this to be UT for worldwide consistency (and convenience in the Americas), that would be 10:02:01 PM CDT on Wednesday, May 3rd. Now to develop a suitable celebration ...

Jay Manifold [8:14 AM]

[ 20060402 ]

Yet Another Convention

Locals (and "regionals," I guess), graze on over and check out the 2006 MSRAL Convention website. Thanks to MSRAL Secretary/Treasurer (and ASKC'er) Gary Pittman for the tip.

Jay Manifold [6:08 PM]

Moon vs Pleiades: Observing Report

(Ref this earlier post.) Observations were carried out with a 127 mm Mak at 38x; the Moon was a waxing crescent, only 15% illuminated, so Earthshine was prominent. It made for a striking arrangement, since several brighter Pleiads were clearly visible in the telescope even before the end of civil twilight.

The venue, however, was one of these, so precise timings of occultation events were prevented by a medium-double-digit number of 10-year-old girls bouncing up and down while shouting ARE YOU THE ASTROMONER? [sic] every few seconds. (In possibly related commentary, adult Girl Scout leaders expressed dissatisfaction with Leawood city park regulations forbidding alcohol.)

We also looked at Saturn (at 80x), with Titan nicely situated just below it, and I pointed out a few regular features of the winter sky (Orion, Sirius, etc) with the laser. The adults were at least as impressed as the kids; I don't think any of them had seen Saturn through a telescope before. Thankfully, fellow ASKC volunteer, the reliably indefatigable Mike Sterling, showed up and relieved me about 8 PM -- though I actually enjoyed it immensely and found the clientele, if a bit loud, utterly endearing.

(I have preserved a memory of an earlier event in Vignette.)

Jay Manifold [5:39 PM]

[ 20060401 ]

MARAC 36 Update

Latest info, including current schedule which differs from the one I posted below, is here; I hope to attend, at minimum, Brian Thomas' talk next Saturday afternoon (“Terrestrial Effects of a 30 pc Supernova”).

Jay Manifold [3:53 PM]

Today's Results

Jay Manifold --


A person of questionable sanity who starts their own cult

'How will you be defined in the dictionary?' at QuizGalaxy.com

Possibly due to a combination of being ...

Jay Manifold --


Visually addictive

'How will you be defined in the dictionary?' at QuizGalaxy.com

and ...

Jay Manifold --


Benevolent to a fault

'How will you be defined in the dictionary?' at QuizGalaxy.com

Jay Manifold [12:18 PM]