Futurama: 2010

Posted in Humor, Video on 2009/06/12 by iyokobat


After a long wait, it looks like Futurama has a future on TV. It was announced that 26 new episodes have been ordered by Fox and are expected to air in 2010. Ye-ha!

Futurama” exults in its snarkiness about slacker dudes. The central character is nitwit pizza-delivery boy Philip J. Fray, who falls into a cryogenic chamber in 1999, is frozen and wakes up 1,000 years later where he’s befriended by various misfits who include an alcoholic, kleptomaniac robot named Bender.

Bender will drink to that!


New Solar Cycle Prediction

Posted in Astronomy, Physics with tags , on 2009/06/04 by iyokobat


The debate has been going back and forth for a few years about how powerful or how mild the next solar cycle will be. Now NASA is saying that the upcoming cycle will likely be one of quietest in regards to the number of sunspots:

An international panel of experts led by NOAA and sponsored by NASA has released a new prediction for the next solar cycle. Solar Cycle 24 will peak, they say, in May 2013 with a below-average number of sunspots.

“If our prediction is correct, Solar Cycle 24 will have a peak sunspot number of 90, the lowest of any cycle since 1928 when Solar Cycle 16 peaked at 78,” says panel chairman Doug Biesecker of the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center.

It is tempting to describe such a cycle as “weak” or “mild,” but that could give the wrong impression.

“Even a below-average cycle is capable of producing severe space weather,” points out Biesecker. “The great geomagnetic storm of 1859, for instance, occurred during a solar cycle of about the same size we’re predicting for 2013.”

The 1859 storm–known as the “Carrington Event” after astronomer Richard Carrington who witnessed the instigating solar flare–electrified transmission cables, set fires in telegraph offices, and produced Northern Lights so bright that people could read newspapers by their red and green glow.

Read more

Robot explorers in space

Posted in Space Exploration, Technology, The Future on 2009/06/02 by iyokobat

This is the kind of story that could either get you real excited about space science, or instead cause alarm to Luddites and Butlerian Jihadists (a concept from the Dune books). Autonomous robotic exploration has great potential for space programs and especially for planetary geology. It might provide a means to conduct complex searching and sample collection on another planet, say Mars, without requiring human guidance or intervention.

I think some form of this or at least the idea is already part of the hazard avoidance system on the Mars Exploration Rovers.

Intelligent Robots Will Explore Milky Way by 2020

Star charts for mobile phones

Posted in Astronomy, Technology on 2009/05/30 by iyokobat


Google has announced development of a handy tool for stargazers, navigators, and anyone with an interest in the night sky. Using the phone’s GPS and the camera view finder, the new service would essentially turn your phone into a star chart for your current location and time.

Graham Bryant, chairman of the Hampshire Astronomical Group, told the newspaper: “If children are studying geology they are often happy to go out and examine rocks, but not many children seem to be able to navigate their way round the night sky.”

The application could reignite interest in planets and constellations that has been dampened by light pollution from street lamps that make the night sky hard to observe.

Google plans space exploration gadget to help mobile phone users study night skies

Also check out Seeing the light. This is a good article about light pollution.

Where’s my hovercraft?

Posted in Technology, The Future on 2009/05/30 by iyokobat


When you were a kid, thinking about the future, did you have visions of flying cars, robot maids, and transporter devices?  What happened to THAT future?

CNN writer John Blake has an article that explains some of the reasons why we haven’t fully adopted some of the futuristic technology ideas that seemed inevitable

People’s fascination with technology’s imprint on the future didn’t start, however, in the mid-20th century with shows like “The Jetsons” or “Star Trek.”

Joseph Corn, co-author of “Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future,” found an inflated optimism about technology’s impact on the future as far back as the 19th century, when writers like Jules Verne (“Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”) were creating wondrous versions of the future.

Blake shows examples of technology, such as jet-packs, “Smell-o-vision”, and human washing machines, that are technically feasible, but not very practical to the society of today.

Why our ‘amazing’ science fiction future fizzled

Galactic Center of Milky Way Rises over Texas Star Party

Posted in Astronomy, Video on 2009/05/18 by iyokobat


If you’ve never attended a star party, then this time-lapse video should give you some idea of how beautiful the night sky can be (if you can get away from city lights).

Night sky video

Last mission to Hubble

Posted in Astronomy, Space Exploration, Technology on 2009/05/12 by iyokobat


The Hubble Space Telescope will be getting some much needed maintenance from the shuttle Atlantis and its crew. Equipped with over 100 specialized tools, the crew will be doing extensive work on Hubble, which includes replacing the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 with the new Wide Field Camera 3. They will also be adding a new instrument called the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS). In order to make room for this device, they will be removing the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR) and returning COSTAR to Earth. COSTAR was installed to correct design problems with Hubble’s primary mirror, but is now obsolete due to previous Hubble upgrades.

Hubble was launched in 1990 and has been providing some of the best photographs of the universe as well as groundbreaking science and astronomy. This mission is scheduled to be the last shuttle mission to the Hubble and considered very risky. Hopefully the repairs will be successful and will give Hubble many more years of operation or at least until the next space telescope, the James Webb Telescope, is launched. The JWT is scheduled to launch in 2014, but has already had numerous delays.

I have the utmost respect for the courageous astronauts of Atlantis who are conducting this mission. I wish them success and a safe journey home.

For more on this ongoing story, check out NASA’s web site for the Hubble servicing mission.