Daily Archives: 05/01/2003

Jitters.

I was too twitchy to watch the movie. It’s filmed with digital cameras, and that is not a compliment. Lots of jerky, jittery hand-held camera action makes me uncomfortable. Maybe if I drank more beer…

Naw, it’s that piss-water Bud Light. Stuff’s just abysmal. A can of fizzy rice water.

Oh yeah, I got rave reviews about last night’s crock pot meal from a total stranger. While Dianne and I were eating, Kurt the tiling contractor showed up to fit in some granite accents in Dianne’s new kitchen. He joined us for dinner and he couldn’t stop raving about the taste of the food. He ate about three helpings. When I told him how easy it was to make the recipe he seemed impressed. Maybe another convert to the cult of the crock pot.

Bomb with Love…

Moving Day Redux

Today was my last day in temporary quarters, working out of boxes on folding tables and broken chairs. And it only took 10 months to get into a new office.

I’m psyched – new furniture, computers, 100 megabit ethernet, new servers to play with, cool beans. Underground parking too. Coolness.

I spent the afternoon packing up my files and moving boxes around. I’m beat. Time to veg out with a movie and a cold beer.

Later

Bullseye

Take a gander at this fascinating article about the dust cloud in our solar system, and what it means for astronomers searching for other solar systems. Basically our solar system looks like a gigantic dust doughnut with the sun in the center. The hole of the doughnut was scoured out by Jupiter and the other gas giants, and Neptune’s gravity keeps the remaining dust cloud in check, far beyond our inner world’s orbit. Astronomers are now looking for similar doughnuts around other stars.

� Space.com

This image is just blows my mind. The four orbits are those of the gas giants, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Look at how Neptune is carving out a hole in the dust cloud. Also note how the density of the cloud clusters in two areas ahead and behind of Neptune. This is eerily reminiscent of Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, viewable in this APOD graphic from last year. The Trojans are the blue dots on the edge of the photo, preceding and trailing Jupiter along the edges of the graphic – all that green stuff is the asteroid belt.

The same gravitational forces are in play, locking the dust into the same orbit at Neptune. I don’t want to sound too geeky, but the dust accumulates in Neptune’s L4 and L5 Lagrange Points, stable orbits described by the mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange. Lagrange indicated 5 semi-stable points in the orbit of one body around a larger one. L1 is on a line between the two bodies, L2 is on the same line, but beyond the second smaller body, L3 is located on that same imaginary line, but on the opposite side of the large center mass, and the L4 and L5 points precede and trail the smaller body. For the curious NASA’s SOHO solar observatory sits in Earth’s L1 point, staring down at the sun. This graphic illustrates the Lagrange points nicely.

Graphic depicting the Lagrange Points and gravitational isobars - image � NASA

I just get off on this stuff. The idea that our solar system has such a telltale signal bodes well for future explorations. This cannot locate earth like planets, but it can help pinpoint stable solar systems with gas giants located on the outskirts of systems. Currently methods can only discern gigantic rogue worlds, orbiting much too close to their parent star to harbor life. I expect looking for dust clouds like this will become a standard technique in locating earth-like solar systems. Astronomers have already located a dust cloud around Epsilon Eridani, and they are studying it closely. Hopefully more stars will give up their secrets in the future.

Currently Reading

The Human Drift – Jack London
An interesting collection of London’s essays and articles. A window on the world of 1900 San Francisco.

The Magic Mountain – Thomas Mann
Still reading this. It’s taking longer than I expected. A dense allegorical tale of sickness and health in an Alpine sanitorium.

What’s on deck? I don’t know really – I got a pile of reading to do. Something a little lighter though, a book I can tear through in a day.