Jupiter Takes One on the Chin

An amateur astronomer captured a collision between a comet or asteroid and the planet Jupiter.  Better Jove than Earth!


Click on the image to see a movie of the collision.


Descent to Mars

Here is a beautifully rendered and augmented video of Curiosity’s descent to the Martian surface.  Enhanced to 30 fps, in ultra high definition, with sound, we first see the cutaway of the heat shield.  Shortly thereafter, we hear the parachute deploy, then we hear it detach, then we hear the retrorockets fire, followed by landing.

Things I Learned Recently…

while reading Paul Davies’ “The Cosmic Jackpot”:

1) The ratio of the strength of the electromagnetic force to the force of gravity is 10 to the 40th power.   This ratio is needed for planets to form and for stars above the Chandrashekhar Limit to go supernova.

2) In string theory, the number of extended dimensions is not fixed at three out of the nine.  Instead you can have four extended dimensions and 5 compactified, or 2 extended dimensions and 7 compactified.  The latter seems to rule out life in any meaningful way (flatland here we come).

3) When the Universe was less than a trillionth of a second old, the Higgs field had an average value of zero, so all particles had zero mass.

4) The ratio of protons to neutron is 6.  This ratio came about because of the value of the strength of the weak force.

5) The cosmic background radiation (CMBR) comes from the primordial annihilation of matter and antimatter.

6) The amount of matter in the observable universe is ten to the 50th power, in metric tons.

7) In an infinitely sized universe,  the average distance to an identical you is 10 to the 10 to the 29th power.

8) In an infinitely sized universe, the average distance to an identical observable universe is 10 to the 10 to the 120th power.

Red Rover, Come Over!

The new pictures from the Mars rover Curiosity are surely fantastic.  When you look at them, you feel like you want to go for a walk on a nice sunny day on dear old Mars.

Unfortunately, the atmospheric pressure on Mars is 0.1% that of Earth’s, and there is almost no magnetic field on Mars.  So not a very safe place for a biological unit to hang out on.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Watch Out for Those British Hooligan Soccer Fans…

Brits use all metric, with a couple of exceptions:

1) Distances and speeds are measured in miles and miles per hour respectively;

2) Almost all liquids [including gasoline] are sold in litres now, but you still buy pints [20 fl oz] or half-pints of beer and certain other beverages;

3) Power is generally measured in kW, though occasionally folks still use BTUs.


Interesting aside:

The Brits only decimalized their money in 1971, so that 100 pennies make up 1 pound. Prior to that, 12 pennies made up a shilling, and 20 shillings made up a pound [the system being known as pounds, shilling and pence – 240 old pennies to the old pound].

At the time of “decimalization” as it was known, some of the old coins could be used to represent the new ones, until they left circulation – e.g. the old 1 shilling coin, worth 12 old pennies became equivalent to a 5 penny piece.

The term “what’s that in old money?” has entered the British vernacular to describe a situation where someone is trying to correlate a new piece of info, to something they already know… as you can guess, it originates from the period of decimalization…


A Brit pint is 1/8 of an imperial gallon, consisting of 160 imperial ounces.  A US pint is 1/8 of a US gallon, consisting of 128 Yankee ounces.

One imperial ounce is 28 ml, and one US ounce is 30 ml, so one Brit pint is 560 ml, and one US pint 480 ml.  This is why Brits get so drunk at soccer matches: they are drinking 17% more beer per pint.