Tuesday, August 25, 2009

morning glory clouds?

Here's something weird.
It's another picture from Astronomy Picture Of the Day (APOD) and it shows some unusual cloud constellations observed in Australia. They can't really explain how the appeared (I think some clouds seen in Bavaria sometimes have similar, although not as pregnant, shapes. And we learned in physics how they were formed. That doesn't seem to apply here.
If you have any idea, join the discussion on APOD ;-)

Besides, I think the name is hillarious! ;-)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The story of stuff

Here's an interesting link that I found on the web the other day. It's the story of resources (from extraction to disposal, called the 'materials economy'), told by Annie Leonard. It's a nice wrapup and another nice starting point to think about our way of living.


Why Pluto isn't a planet!

I'm a bit annoyed by the (again) upcoming discussion about this, so I'll quote some numbers here.
One of the most important (and impressive) numbers on the subject is the so-called Stern-Levison parameter Λ. Basically this is the ratio between the mass of an object and the total mass of all the objects on it's orbit. When you compare the numbers in the wikipedia table linked below, you will easily see that there is a fundamental difference between what (most) scientists call a 'planet' and what (again most) scientists call a plutoid or an asteroid.
Please everyone, accept that Pluto is something different. This has nothing to do with scientists not 'liking' pluto or being 'anti-american' (Yes, seriously, I read that this would be the case because pluto is the only former planet that had been discovered by an american. And indeed, the community that wants pluto to remain a planet seems to be much stronger in america). I also read about one article suggesting to abandon the word 'planet' altogether and rather use 'earth-like/rocky planet', 'gas-giant planet' and 'plutoid', I second that. Gas-giants and earth-like planets are something different still.

Now, the Stern-Levison parameter Λ for most of the big objects in the solar system (btw, something orbiting another object in the solar system than the sun, is a moon, independent of it's size, shape and other parameters) can be found here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

IAU against light pollution and beautiful MilkyWay pictures

The IAU (International Astronomical Union) had released an article about Light Pollution last week because our skies get more and more lightened and polluted so we can see less and less stars (in principle, 5000 stars should be seen with the naked eye, but in soome places you can only see ~150). Many people have never even seen our own galaxy, the Milkyway.
The stars and galaxies have always been a great inspiration for artists, painters and poets. A source that we are about to loose.

Aditionally, the light pollution has large effects on the environment, both by using power to run the light and directly on animal populations.

In the last days, quite a few great pictures of the milkyway popped up in the web. As it fits the above resolution, I wanted to post and share them (click for full resolution):

Credit & Copyright: Wally Pacholka (AstroPics.com, TWAN)

Credit & Copyright: Wally Pacholka (AstroPics.com, TWAN)

Credit & Copyright: Larry Landolfi

Credit & Copyright: Tom @ timescapes from Timescapes (found on Amandas Blog Astropixie)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Kuroshio Sea - 2nd largest aquarium tank in the world - And general thoughts

I've discovered this video when I was browsing DarkRoastedBlend yesterday (one of the amazing websites where you can find loads of nice stuff, I'm pretty sure that will pop up here from time to time).

Reference has to be given to Jon Rawlinson who made this film. Thanks. The pictures are just stunning and the calm music really emphasises the beauty and the grace with which the animals move in the waters. Absolutely fantastic!

Somehow it's a bit shocking that they really have 3 big (but still young) whalesharks in the - still small compared to open water - aquarium tank. Whalesharks are sharks, but to humans they are not dangerous at all (they eat plancton, don't even have propper teeth). They are also the biggest living species of fish on earth, they have been reported to grow to over 13 meters in length and weighing over 12 tons.

On the other hand the whole scenery is just amazing and makes me remember a few nice dives that I had in the last years (though, unfortunately, I did never see Mantas and/or whale sharks in open water, friennds have and they told me about it. Certainly on my ToDo-list).

The underwater world is really, really beautiful, it's a bit unfortunate, that the tank in the video is just an empty tank, I have seen other aquaria (e.g. Monterey, California) where they have more realistic and lively tanks. I think, THIS should be the way to keep fish (Having said that there ARE fish that DO live in open water, not on reefs or shorelines, whalesharks travel a lot and probably don't mind empty tanks more than lively tanks.

Here's a video from Monterey Bay Aquarium.

I really love diving. In the old question about holidays 'mountains or sea?', I did usually say mountains a while ago, but I have converted to sea since I made my diving license. Being totally out of your own habitat really takes you into a different world and I can only recommend it to anybody to at least try it out. I have never yet met anybody who did not like it when they tried it on a nice spot (2 meters visibility is NOT a nice spot!). It's just fantastic to see things moving all around you, something you would rarely see even in the deepest rainforest. Everything is so colorful (which you can only catch when your camera is working unfortunately, I need a new one), peaceful, silent ... nearly ruminent. You can really leave everything behind you. And when the animals acutally start interacting with you (turtles and sharks may come really close and observe you, doplhins and seals start playing), this is simply breathtaking.

Sometimes when I see films like these or even longer films like BBC documentaries, Blue Planet, Planet Earth, Home and others, I really love them, our planet is so breathtakingly beautiful (do I dare say even more beautiful than astronomical pictures?). It's so sad that mankind does care so little about it and keeps destroying it for sheer profit.

I just cannot (or don't want to) believe how poeple treat animals, how we shoot elephants for their ivory, hunt whales (for 'scientific' reasons or better to say: to eat them), destroy and poison big and ancient forests to get the valueable ores beneath them, burn every little bit of coal and oil that we can find and which took millions of years to be generated, overfish the oceans, poison the land and the sky, cut down the rainforests, e.g. on Borneo, destroying the last habitats of the last free orang utans (Watching Hannes Jaenicke in german television made me really sad, those animals are so human! Same mimic, same feelings. See Trailer here, full film searching for 'Hannes Jaenicke: Einsatz für Orang-Utans' on ZDF Mediathek, german, sorry. Help the Orang Utans by spending money to BOS, make your christmas presents a bit smaller this year).

And then the companies that cut down all the trees forests to plant oil palm trees ship the oil to europe and western countries, put it in nearly every food you can buy and, worse, sell them as 'alternative fuel', telling you that if you burn them you actually save the environment because it's 'renewable energy'. THAT is sarcastic and certainly NOT what people wanted!

I can only hope that our generation finally understands a few things and that we REALLY change the way we use and exploit the world. I'll keep trying to make my small contribution and I can only hope than millions and billions of intelligent people think the same way. People have to realize that we do not only destroy the beauty, but also the fundament on which our societies are built. I still want to have a planet left that I can hand over to my (hypothetical) children without being asked why we didn't take a bit more care!

(I got carried away, sorry for that)

Monday, August 10, 2009

How do people spend their time?

I thought that was an interesting link:

It's an interactive graphics showing how people (in US) spend their time of day split by gender, employment status,...
It's quite interesting to play around with it, give it a try.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Picasa Album online

After a good fight in the last days with finally organizing my camera photos at home, some of the pictures and albus are now online on my Picasa webpage at:

After organizing this, I can now start to post real things, maybe I'll start tonight.