I take it back…

Sorry to all the astronomers out there; I take it back. I’ve just read up a little more on 2002 UB313 or Sedna as it’s now being called, and done a few calculations.

The Earth’s moon is about 382,480km away from Earth and 3,476km in diameter. (Interestingly, the Shuttle would have to go 400 times higher than its current altitude to get to the moon.) Resorting back to the good ol’ inverse tan function, this means that the angle that your eyes would move between looking at the left-hand edge of the moon and the right-hand edge is around 0.52°, or 0.009 radians. Put another way, if you were out at sea (with a full 180° sky), you’d need 346 moons in a string to go from one horizon to the diametrically opposite horizon.

Now take our new friend Sedna. It’s less than 1,700km in diameter and is currently 13,000,000,000km away from us. That means that its equivalent angle is 0.00000749° or 0.00000013 radians, so you’d need 48,047,887 of them to stretch in an arc across the sky. In other words, visually, it is 69,425 times smaller (in terms of width, not area) than the moon.

If you chose to look through your telescope at night, assuming you’re on the correct side of the earth at the time, if you chose a single point at random to look at in space, there would be a 467,621,956,521,874 to 1 chance that you’d be looking at Sedna.

Well done for finding it!

The moon is made of cheese

It’s been quite a busy week with work, which I almost always prefer to having little to do. Things are largely fun, yet challenging, and the next few months will hopefully continue in the same vein.

I did manage to catch the Shuttle launch earlier in the week, though. It never fails to impress me, despite there having been so many over the past 20 years or so. However, with the media attention (and that of Nasa) in the four days since the launch having focused on potential damage to the Shuttle, it seems as if this mission is turning into an investigation into whether the Shuttle is fit for re-entry as opposed to one focusing on other scientific endeavours. Some of the video footage available on the NASA website is pretty impressive.

Meanwhile back on earth, astronomers have discovered our solar system’s tenth planet, imaginatively named 2003 UB313. Given the technology available to us nowadays, it seems bizarre that something so large could have evaded our detection for so long, particularly given that Pluto was discovered back in 1930. I know it’s quite a long way away, but hey.

Google has got in on the space act, by providing a lunar equivalent to Google Maps. Zoom sufficiently far in, and you’ll see that the moon is indeed made of cheese, which leads me on to the seemingly eccentric Canadian cheese-maker Luc Boivin. He believes that by aging his cheese at the bottom of a murky lake, the pressure and coolness will provide optimal conditions for a perfect cheese. I’d love a taste!

You can’t handle the truth!

We just watched A Few Good Men on TNT. Good film (not great), tarnished slightly by the taming of the language geared to the family audience. Despite this, I find it hard to think of a scene as strong and memorable as the court interchange between Cruise and Nicholson. It has to be the best scene in a movie ever, but I’m happy to take alternative suggestions.

You heard it here first

Well actually you didn’t, but couldn’t resist the title, given the subject matter.

About five years ago (while exiting Embankment tube station if I remember rightly), I wondered why hearing aids were so ugly. In a vain attempt to blend in with skin colour (as long as your skin is a sickly sludge colour), instead they seem to stand out. They always struck me as akin to the age-old National Health glasses in terms of their appearance.

Older people may not be too bothered about the look, but I figured that younger people who rely on the devices must feel very self-conscious. So, I mused, instead of trying to make them blend in, why not make them stand out? Produce them in bright colours with the option of skinning them to suit different outfits. The idea was sufficiently inspired to share with my now wife, but also sufficiently radical to prevent me from acting upon it.

Today, I read of the very same idea on (where else) the BBC’s website. The RNID is teaming up with some design bodies to launch an exhibition to showcase new technologies and designer hearware. There’s even a device with a remote control to block out irritating sounds. Could be useful in the office on occasions, and I’m sure my colleagues would concur.

Search away

I’ve finally got round to enabling Google Search, enabling you to find articles of old on this site, but also to search the world wide web at large. Hope you like it (over to the left).

Corn on the cob

Thought you might appreciate this card that I received for my birthday. I struggled to stop laughing at repeated points during the ensuing evening at the very thought of the card.

Happy Birthday

Caption inside: (please ignore Stephanie) Happy Birthday!

Holiday Road

Andy’s now sorted out his and Sarah’s travelogue offering, and has already made it to sunny Nantucket aboard the Solara cabriolet. Nicely done!

The Stockwell death

Today’s news that the recent fatal shooting at Stockwell Underground station was unconnected to the bombings and the attempted bombings will come as a huge blow to both the police and the Muslim community, as well as the family of the murdered man.

The anxiety that is no doubt an undercurrent throughout London’s transport network has been the cause of a seemingly innocent death. The British police, who are not renowned for their race relations, will face some serious questions over the next few weeks, and the Muslim community must be concerned about the possibility of racial stereotyping being the main driver – if a white man had acted in the same way, would he be dead now?

The fact that the man was wearing a large coat in the middle of summer, along with the allegation that he ignored the police’s earlier calls to stop, would likely put him under some level of suspicion, but for him to die as a result seems so wrong.

Something quickly needs to be done about the security of the Underground to ensure that Friday’s death is not repeated. If that means more security at ground level, then so be it. Given the extreme mentality of the guilty few, everything needs to be done to prevent them from getting into the Underground in the first place. How to deal with the analogous situation aboard buses is another story.

Cleveland Indians

The Indians are 29-1 this season in games in which they’ve scored six or more runs. Sometimes I wonder how they concoct the statistics, but this proves just how reliant on stats American sport is.

Farewell

Sad to see Andy & Sarah leave New York after their 2.5 year stint over here. Looking forward to the travel updates as they wend their way across America before heading home, but need the URL – Andy?

Nice, simple idea to be found at Tiny URL. Essentially, it’s a redirection service, but it allows you to replace long, unwieldy URLs with more manageable ones within the www.tinyurl.com domain. Quite helpful when you’re pasting long URLs into emails or IM conversations – it’s usually the simple concepts that work best. It’s also quite nice that the site’s owner(s) has a penchant for unicycling, as found in their left-hand nav.

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