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Hubble's tune -up works. Pays very cool dividends.


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They say they zoomed in on an area the size of a grain of rice at arms distance, in an area believed to be empty, imagine what we can find once we start mapping out the entire sky. I can wait.

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I think I've made my feelings about this stuff known. :)

Strange, though ... as mind-bending as these pics are, nothing I've seen yet affects me quite as much as the feeling I got the first time I lined up Saturn on my little 'scope a few years ago ... all shaky and fuzzy, the rings indistinct but clearly visible, sliding across the field of view fast enough to have to track it, being able to pick out 2 or 3 moons ...

Simply fabulous.

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What amazes me, is that when you click on the image of the Tadpole galaxy, everything you see in that picture is a galaxy.

I feel moved to break into song. Key of C please.....

Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving,

revolving at nine-hundred miles an hour.

And orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it's reckoned,

a sun that is the source of all our power.

Now the sun and you and me, and all the stars that we can see

are moving a million miles a day.

In an outer spiral arm at forty thousand miles an hour

of the galaxy we call the Milky Way.

Our galaxy itself contains a hundred million stars,

it's a hundred thousand light-years side to side.

It bulges in the middle, sixty thousand light-years thick,

but out by us it's just three thousand light-years wide.

We're thiry thousand light-years from galactic central point,

we go 'round every two hundred million years,

And our galaxy itself is one of millions of billions in this

Amazing and Expanding Universe!

The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding

in all of the directions it can whiz.

As fast as it can go, the speed of light, y'know,

twelve million miles a minute, and that's the fastest speed there is.

So remember when you're feeling very small and insecure

How amazingly unlikely is your birth.

And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space,

because there's bugger-all down here on Earth.

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Wasn't going to do it ... but now I can't resist. Blame Terry. :)

Reposted from the first ExtremeWeek:


Apologies for a little personal indulgence ...

Drake's Equation

Astronomer Frank Drake's famous "formula" is a tool for estimating the number of technological civilizations likely to occur within a given galaxy; ours, in particular. The site above has a calculator, for those interested in playing a bit ... and, if you're into this kind of thing, perhaps making your spine tingle. Even the most conservative estimates I've seen, within our own quite average galaxy, reach comfortably into the teens.

Keep in mind, Drake is talking galactic scale. Let's take it universal.

Next time you're out and about in town on a starry night, ask a friend to climb to the roof a 7-story building. Have him hold a dime up against the sky. Assuming you can see it from where you're standing (and please secure your wallet from passing pickpockets whilst you stare absently at the sky), the dime represents the size of the picture in the deep field image from Hubble.

The image contains roughly 1,500 galaxies. That's one dime, from 75 feet.

Today's science estimates the number of galaxies in the ‘known universe' to be, roughly, 125 billion. That's 125,000,000,000.

Our own quite average galaxy, by the way, contains roughly 400 billion stars. That's 400,000,000,000.

Now, I don't know what all of this says to my fellow human beings and board brethren, but to me, loud and clear, it says we need to lend a careful ear, cast a searching eye ... and stay tuned.


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The problem is, fizzicks, as we understand it, requires that the energy neccessary to propel a decent sized spaceship at a decent fraction of the speed of light, in order to get anywhere, would be equal to the entire current energy requirements of our planet, over 10,000 years.

So no matter how many civilizations there are out there, and are technically capable of space travel, it still seems prohibitively expensive.

And it's hard to believe that any civilisation capable of that just wants to pop wheelies in our cornfields and do sick sexual experiments on trailer trash once they get here.


My guess is that the universe doesn't actually exist unless we observe it, and then we make it what we observe it to be. I also think that space travel won't exist in a convesntional sense, rather you stay still and you warp the portion of the universe that you want to visit towards you.

But again, the energy requirements would be prohibitive.

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Fun stuff.

From where we sit today, it is hard to argue that Man as we know him is likely to ever really explore space. At least not unless something like, say, the wormholes that have been widely postulated turn out to not only exist, but be navigable. A mighty big "if" ... but if nothing else, I'm as yet unprepared to rule out the possibility of some truly remarkable upheaval in the physics we understand today.

I kind of like what Arthur C. Clarke had to say in "Childhood's End;" that in effect that Man is NOT made for space ... but that his evolutionary successor might be. With a nudge from a much more evolved species (said species is worth the read in and of itself, btw), "Man" as we know him ceases to be, but his children undergo a metamorphosis that readies them for bigger and better things.

Gotta shed the fragile, ridiculously short-lived, inefficient, immobile carbon-based shells, find out what this gray matter can really do, once so liberated ... and then go walkabout.

As to crop circles, cow mutilations, abductions and all ... not to insult anyone's intelligence here, but give me a break. In fact, if anyone reading this is a believer in this silliness, give yourself a break and read Sagan's "Demon-Haunted World." He makes a very, very strong case for common sense, and systematically debunks everything from fairies to the witch trials to the kind of phenomena I'm rolling my eyes at here. And he does it far better than anyone else I've yet heard or read.

Hey, if nothing else, you'll walk away with an appreciation of the term "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof." A nice, healthy agnostic outlook that, don't you think? ;)


I like the mental image of bringing the mountain to Mohammed, by the way. I like that a lot. :)

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Well, I'm a strong proponent of the too dumb theory - namely that we're too dumb to figure out thr real workings of the universe, or even recognize the aliens that are standing right next to us.

You gotta figure that we're not the penultimate of intellectual evolution, Art notwithstanding. My guess is that we don't have the mental horsepower to see the universe as it actually is.

And just as an amoeba has no comprehension of us as we observe it, thus do we have no comprehension of those that are observing us.

I'm also freaked out by the Schrodinger's cat experiment, that shows how a photon doesn't become a wave or a particle and fix a position until we observe it, before that it is merely an infinite number of possibilities. Because if you add a time component to that, and observe a photon that has traveled vast distances over a long period of time, then you are basically able to assign a property to something from deep in the past. By observing it now, you decree whther it started as a wave or a quantum particle billions of years ago.

In other words, those dull red galaxies you see next to the main bulge of the tadpole galaxy that are billions of years old (and billions of light years away), didn't exist until WE observed them.

We live in the ultimate interactive universe.

brain hurts :?:

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I accept as an axiom that we're incapable of understanding the "true" nature of the universe. I would hope few among us, Art notwithstanding, actually claim to do so. :)

Humans are notorious, and accomplished, at inventing rules and sytems of belief to try to explain that which they cannot yet explain. To me it's one of the central – and most counterproductive – flaws in the human animal; the need to ‘know' the answers being stronger than the ability or willingness to admit ‘not knowing,' leads to the creation of competing hypothesis to explain them.

Compelling though they may be, and may even on some levels, at times, approach the "truth," whatever that is, please ... we've been around as a species for 15 effing minutes. We don't "know" squat. And we're arrogant as hell; enough so to have convinced ourselves, in the main, that we have a clue. Bull, says me.

But we are curious, and we ask a lot of questions, like any precocious child should, so I'm not without optimism about where we might be headed, should we not destroy ourselves first, or be destroyed by that which we observe and try to understand, before we reach adulthood.

I don't much buy into the concept of something only existing once "we" see it, Mr. Schrodinger and his pu$$y notwithstanding ... strikes me as the ultimate display of anthropomorphism. Or homocentrism. Or something. Didn't we cover this with the great debate over a tree falling in the woods with no one there to hear it?

I grew bored years ago with trying to determine if the table really, actually, truly was "there." Seems an intellectual waste of time to me at this point in my life.

Good think I like wasting it, though ... and found such a sweet vehicle to do so. :)

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