Last week in southern California I was shopping for sunglasses and was confronted with a choice I hadn’t anticipated: polarized lenses, or pearized lenses? I played it safe and went for the polarized lenses, so if you need some of the hard-to-find and fruity pearized glasses, they might still be there at the Glendale Galleria.
funny sunglasses

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I confess to some mixed emotions (pride and envy, neither particularly virtuous, and seemingly incompatible, I admit) upon discovering from friend and fellow Cassini Ring-er John Weiss that someone has taken my two false-color renderings of Saturn’s rings from UVIS observations and used them to make custom ties. See here for my original A ring image tie, and here for (in my opinion) a much more interesting tie with the “CAT Scan” image from earlier this year. Should I buy moxieann’s creations? I suppose so. After all, the reason moxieann got those tie designs up on the internet instead of me is that I’m too lazy and completely incompetent when it comes to making money. And moxieann isn’t. She (I’m guessing) has also used other Cassini images for ties as well as mugs. I’m drowning in mugs (and I think I could make one cheaper at cafepress.com), and I almost never wear a tie, but I confess to being tempted. That purple and yellow one looks great.

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My daughter just told me about blackle.com, a customized google page that uses a black background instead of a white one to reduce the amount of power consumption on computers. Of course the first thing I check is to “blackle” myself. That gave me, buried amongst the top hits, was the transcript of a telecon/powerpoint presentation I gave to media and science outreach reps on Saturn’s rings last year. I found it strange to read a transcript of my ramblings for a solid hour, complete with “you know”s and various other particularities of my spoken speech. Anyway, here it is. The PDF of the powerpoint presentation as well as the audio recording of the telecon is available from this page, along with all the other so-called CHARM presentations. Mine was in April 2006.

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After the Cassini PSG in Athens the UVIS team convened in Goslar, Germany, for the semi-annual team meeting. Every fourth meeting is held in Germany, hosted by our German colleagues who supplied one of the four instrument channels on the UVIS instrument. Goslar has a very picturesque old town, with buildings dating back to the 12th century. But the last stop on our tour tonight was the shot I just had to post. Punishment for debtors in medieval Goslar were humiliatedwas humiliation by being forced to sit, with no pants, on a stone beneath this statue mounted on the corner of an administrative building in the town square. That’s a coin protruding from the statue.
Statue in Goslar old town square

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After such a great week culminating in a standing-room-only crowd for my talk at StarFest, how could my IMDB STARmeter betray me? Down 58% since last week.

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Here’s an image from 1954 Popular Science that shows a RAND corporation forecast for what a personal computer might look like in 2004. I love the caption stating that teletype and FORTRAN will make it easy to use. I also love the giant steering wheel. I want one.

Picture of predicted home computer from 1954

I posted this without checking the authenticity, and according to Bruce (see comment), it is a hoax.

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Being in a relatively brain-dead mode here at the end of the year (my only excuse being a return from a mentally exhausting visit to Florida where I started a new job, shopped for and bought a house, videotaped my niece’s wedding and attended several large family gatherings), I am unable to come up with anything particularly interesting to write about as the last post of the first year of this blog. So I will finish 2006 with one of the countless unimportant things that regularly distract me from actual thought. Today’s example: the word “asks”, or any word that ends with “asks”. Why? It’s a short word, one vowel, technically one syllable, yet it is not possible to get that last “ks” sound out with adding another syllable. Say it. Repeat it. Slowly. As-kus. I hate that. Happy New Year.

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My good friend Dr. Brad Sandor stumbled across this priceless comparison while looking for information on interpolation routines. He landed on the Wikipedia site for the international police agency Interpol, which also notes the uncanny resemblance of Interpol’s logo with that of the evil Terran Empire in the Star Trek episode “Mirror, Mirror” (and its sequels).

Emblem of Interpol
Here’s Interpol’s emblem.

Emblem of the Terran Empire
And here’s that of the Terran Empire.

It would be interesting to know if Star Trek borrowed the design from Interpol. The emblem of the United Federation of Planets is based on that of the United Nations:

Emblem of the United Federation of Planets

Emblem of the United Nations

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I get e-mail alerts about funding opportunities for scientific research in my field. Usually these alerts are for NASA, NSF, or DoD programs. They might be for basic scientific research on various aspects of the solar system, or occasionally for instruments or mission proposals to the other planets. Most of the time I already know about these funding opportunities, but sometimes the e-mail notification points out a program that I was not aware of. So when I got a notification for “Mars and Lunar Exploration Awards” I followed the link. After all, “exploration” is the code word for everything NASA is doing related to someday returning people to the Moon. I’ve already been involved in successful proposals related to lunar exploration. Well these new awards sure do sweeten the pot for lunar and Martian exploration. The Earth and Space Foundation, based in England, has established several awards. This one is typical:
The first team to complete an overland traverse of the Martian south polar ice cap, reach the Martian south pole, and return across the cap wins the award. And the award is…

Are you ready?

A trophy!

Specifically, a trophy with a plaque with room for the names of all the people in the expedition to the Martian south pole, and a “symbolic” rock from Earth’s own polar continent, Antarctica! Well what are we waiting for? Now there’s a real incentive to go to Mars!

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While a petition is circulating among planetary scientists to protest the IAU resolution on the definition of planets and dwarf planets, I think they did a pretty good job, even though there are some ambiguities. When faced with life’s difficult questions, the answer can usually be found in Star Trek. In this case, if the U.S.S. Enterprise came to a solar system just like ours, the report on the system from Mr. Spock to Captain Kirk would be “Eight planets with two debris swarms, one between the fourth and fifth planets, and one beyond the eighth planet.” I think Pluto is definitely the most interesting unexplored object in the solar system, but it’s just plain different than the other 8 planets.

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