Friday, February 25, 2011

Make a laser out of a gin-and-tonic: very cool in theory, though the gin-and0tonic may have even more inspirational applications.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Take a few minutes out of your evening and do a favor for astronomers by submitting some data to the Globe at Night project. They're crowd-sourcing data on light pollution. All you have to do is go outside and see how many stars are visible in Orion, and then report your results and location. I'd particularly encourage our readers in out-of-the-way locations (err... that's most of you) to weigh in. Help them get to 15,000 data points by March 6!

Our back yard rated a pretty respectable Mag 4, not half bad for being a literal stone's-throw from the biggest intersection in a state capitol.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Speculative Dinosaur Project. Uneven but enjoyable. (I got there from somewhere on Tet Zoo.)
Black Sea sparrow hawking. Very well done little film. They even have good Pontic music in there. I imagine that throwing a bird like that would be one of life's great satisfactions. Got to make another trip out that way!

Via Steve, who will no doubt blog it better shortly.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bloody foreigners:
The official kilogram, a cylinder of platinum and iridium maintained by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, is more than 130 years old... Some scientists now believe the official kilogram may be losing mass...
As my source for the story puts it, "An honest imperial pound would never show such inconstancy."

And what happened to all that wonderful rationality of the meter being derived from some well-rounded fraction of the earth's dimensions?
Over the years, the official meter has been redefined several times and is now “the length of the path traveled by light in a vacuum during a time interval of 1/299,792,458 of a second.”
Gone the way of Brumaire, Pluviôse, Fructidor and hopes of guillotines in Piccadilly Square, I suppose. Mustn't be unkind, though, they're only poor Parley-Voos after all.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

There's always something new to learn about classical music, and The Simpsons: Ned Flanders' doorbell chime plays Luther's Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott.

Reference, though I heard it on Performance Today, in an introduction to Mendelssohn's Reformation Symphony (which, musically at least, is much better than its title).

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Finally took some real pictures, of some honest New Mexico hinterlands in decent light. Check 'em out: Rio Puerco Volcanic Necks.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

A Farewell to Mountaineering

A notable contribution to a request for mountain poetry:
When I was about 20, my English grandmother introduced me to a 91-year-old friend, an old village vicar who had long retired. He was just about blind, bent and shriveled, but he still had a curious mind and quizzed me about what I had been doing. I've been in Wales, I said, climbing. He shuffled over to his dresser and out came album after album of his mountaineering photos from the days of hemp ropes and hard men. He didn't give me the photos (god, I wish I could get at them now), but he did give me a copy of this poem, a farewell, as he called it, which he wrote at age 90. His name was Herbert Bell.

Dancing, dancing, I wish to die dancing,
Fully to use my limbs, which have carried me
Facing from rock to rock
In dark and dawn, sunrise and sunset,
Seeking we knew not what, only to move further and further
From dull convention's rule.
Three times I slipped, and nearly fell and died.
So would my days have ended,
Killed by too much vigour wrongly placed.
Dancing and ever dancing
Sometimes in excess of misery, unsupported, and unappreciated.
Yet I gave my best, Yet not always my best,
For the true dancer glories not in himself,
But in the fine pattern, paired with his partner
So that the whole may make a perfect figure,
One with the universe of life and being.

So Moses slipped away, when he knew that his work was done,
To die in his desert mountain. I would rather slip away
Dancing in our crowded island.
Let there be no mourning when I go.
You and I are old. The bonds of love must be untied.
Love is eternal, Sweet moments make life stronger.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Kazakh music to brighten up your Friday:

The BBC's Human Planet Explorer site is not recommended if your time is valuable. But it does have Abyssinians fighting off raiding cliff baboons with slings, Shetlanders dressing up as Vikings, among much else.

This, for instance, is bound to go viral. You saw it here first, alas.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The '10 Blackberry is bottled, and the Blueberry is fermenting nicely.