- We had dinner with Paul and
Mary Saturday evening, and Mary has promised photos of her sock and
underwear drawers. Stay tuned. When Mary delivers the images, I'll post
Our next-door neighbor killed an adult copperhead
in his back yard yesterday. Barbara took the news surprisingly well.
She's terrified of any snake, let alone a venomous one. I rather like
snakes, but I don't blame Jim for killing it. I would have done the
same. There are simply too many pets and small children around here.
Although a copperhead bite is seldom fatal to a healthy adult, it can
kill children and pets.
Ironically, although copperheads are generally sluggish and not
aggressive, they account for the majority of the poisonous snake bites
here in the eastern US. They're very common, and they like to live in
suburban developments near flowing water, which describes ours. Their
usual reaction to a threat is to freeze and hope they won't be seen. To
be bitten by a copperhead, you just about have to step on it or try to
grab it. Unfortunately, that's often what kids and dogs do.
It's amazing how much the price of DVD recorders has fallen.
With the NEC ND-3520A selling for less than $50, I wonder if it ever
makes sense to install a CD writer. Probably not, except for a system
where budget is a top priority. Blank DVD discs are now reasonable as
see that Office Depot sells a spindle of 50 Maxell DVD+R discs--which
$17.99, and I've seen spindles of 100 off-brand DVD+R discs selling for
But what really amazed me was how much the price of DVD video recorders
has dropped. Best Buy is selling a CyberHome
DVR1600 DVD recorder for
$123, and there are many brand-name recorders for under $200. These
things don't have TiVo-like functionality; they're simply VCR
replacements that record to optical discs instead of tape. The unit I
looked at offers four choices for recording quality, from HQ (1 hour on
a standard DVD+R disc) to SLP (8 hours), so it seems to be a direct
replacement for a VCR and T-60 to T-160 tapes. I suspect the image
quality at any given level is superior to VHS as well. With that level
of functionality and that price for DVD recorders, VCRs are truly
I wonder if the TiVo and similar PVRs aren't obsolete as well,
particularly once the manufacturers add VCR+ functionality to these
inexpensive DVD recorders. Most people don't care much about the bells
and whistles on a TiVo. What they want is to record TV programs and
play them back, zapping commercials. These inexpensive DVD recorders
provide the basic functionality needed without requiring an expensive
I may buy one just to play around with it. It'd be interesting to see
if it records in a format that's easily editable to remove commercials
and so on.
- There's a wonderful
link on Brian
Bilbrey's site. It begins,
"The theory of intelligent attraction
(IA) holds that certain
behaviors in the universe are best explained by an intelligent
cause, as opposed to the more commonly accepted gravitational
I wish I'd thought of doing this myself. One cannot debate science
rationally with people who are too stupid to understand the scientific
method or too disingenuous to admit their intentions. The best way to
answer these morons is to ridicule them, and this site does a wonderful
job of that.
- The first of the articles I wrote for the O'Reilly web site to
help market Astronomy Hacks
should be posted this afternoon. O'Reilly sent me a link to a preliminary
version of Observing Deep Impact.
They call it unedited, but they've done at least some light editing
that's introduced some minor errors. We'll get those fixed, and the
final version should be up this afternoon. It will also include the
graphics, which are absent in this preliminary version.
- The final Observing Deep Impact article
is now posted.
Unfortunately, if the weather stays as it has been, we won't get much
of an opportunity to observe the aftermath of the impact. It's been
pretty much cloudy around here for what seems like weeks. Every once in
a great while we get a clear night, but invariably the moon is up when
that happens. Barbara and I look back with fond memories on that summer
three or four years ago when the skies were clear nearly every night.
We often went out a couple times during the week as well as on Friday,
Saturday, and often Sunday nights. We got in more observing that summer
than we have in total before or since. Of course, the entire region was
in a severe drought, so on balance it's probably better to have the
Work continues to progress on the new PC hardware book. Barbara and I
will probably take some time off for the holiday weekend.
- Rats! We'd planned an astronomy field trip up to the Wake
Forest University Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway this weekend, but
we're going to be clouded out again. Not just clouded out this time,
but rained out and severe thunderstormed out. The southeastern US
simply sucks in terms of observing weather. We should probably move to
Failing that, I'm trying to convince our observing buddies that indoor
observing is the wave of the future. I'm thinking about building an
indoor virtual telescope, using a Linux cluster supercomputer doing
real-time image rendering to show realistic images in the Telrad,
finder, and eyepiece, and DSCs used in reverse to determine the visible
field. I think it'd be pretty neat. We could choose any location on
Earth for our virtual observatory, any date, any seeing conditions and
transparency, any amount of light pollution, any virtual focal length,
aperture, and eyepiece, and so on.
I wonder if Astronomical League would credit observations we made with
it towards certificates.
To which observing buddy Paul Jones responds:
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Fancy Gap
Date: Thu, 30 Jun 2005 09:29:42 -0400
From: Paul Jones
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Knowing you, you'd hook your virtual telescope up to a Linux
supercluster and it still wouldn't have go-to.
And I replied:
No, but it would have tracking, in the
same sense as an EQ platform--move to the object manually, release the
scope, and it tracks. Of course, the scope itself wouldn't literally
move. The Linux cluster would simply keep the object centered in the
field of view.
I know you guys all think I'm kidding, but I'm half-way seriously
thinking about doing this. Think of the advantages: observe whenever we
want (including in broad daylight), no bugs, no cold weather, "clear"
every "night", bathroom and kitchen at hand, etc. Plus which, wouldn't
you like to observe through a virtual 200" Dob at 15,000 feet in the
Okay, okay, so it'd have virtual go-to. But we could disable that when
we wanted to log Herschel 400 objects or do a Messier Marathon. I could
even build in support for equatorial movements to make you happy.
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All