Scifi and the Corona Virus.

The western world is closing down, for a while.

The Corona virus crisis has hit us all.

As someone in the rather vulnerable group I have, essentially been in isolation for a week now. Not quite, because this week I had appointments at the hospital for a blood test and subsequent CT-scan, as part of the follow-up on a cancer I had treated – successfully – in 2018.

Since I was out, I did go to the pharmacy, too, just to get supplies of medicine I have been using regularly, especially a means to reduce the effects of pollen allergies.

This crisis may take longer than we might expect. For me, at least, I will hesitate to venture much out into the world (or even in my own country), until we have seen and tested a successful treatment or a vaccine is available.

What does that mean to me? I am fortunate enough to have retired, so there is no **need** to go out much. I can get food supplies and other necessities delivered to my door. Even then, I should be careful not to be infected from the delivery people. The most essential company has already made more cautious procedures in that respect.

Here is the thing for me. I am generally used to living on my own, and have not gone out among people a lot. Yes, sometimes I have gone for a larger event, but that is all on hold now.

Well, there is enough to keep me occupied. I have a large collection of books, audios and videos, that are unread/un-watched/un-listened-to.

With a garden that needs at least a minimum of tending there is more to do.

One other interest that is good in my isolated situation is access to social media and other information on the Internet, and my interest in building electronic circuits. Yes, I am into amateur radio, have been for over 50 years, and that also gives some nice social contacts. Even before this crisis I have had more than enough to do.

So if I can avoid getting infected I will get through that crisis. Others may not be so fortunate.

To everyone in doubt: If you are an essential part of health care and other necessary functions, take all possible precautions to stay healthy. Many others should be working from home, if at all possible, and so help reducing the spread of the virus. Those of us who are vulnerable due to age or previous sickness, stay home if at all possible, and help in any way you can, those who need it.

We will all need to stand together (with a distance) to get through this. If we do, most of us will be there on the other side, if not, we will see much fewer people succeeding.

Further, after some days with only bad news, I am now starting to see some better news on this situation. Sometimes simple things like people assisting as possible, up to the first human tests of possible treatments or vaccines. One example was that someone had made an open-source version of a simple ventilator for the worst hit patients, capable of being made with a 3D printer. We will need everyone who has skills to alleviate the problems ahead of us.

I am therefore cautiously optimistic.

Next post will hopefully be more related to the main theme of this blog, but I am sure there will be updates in between posts.

 

So now I wish you all good health and hope you will get over this crisis in a good way, and thank you for your patience.

Kepler Space Telescope Has Found a Strange Star.

The Kepler space telescope has discovered a most unusual star in its search for exoplanets a long time, but erratic dimming of the light, – up to 20% dimming, which is *a lot*, over a longer period.
There are several hypotheses investigated, including a swarm of comets, or …. just maybe …. a structure built by an alien civilization.

Now, I remember the buzz a few decades ago, when the first pulsars were detected, and some thought the precision of the pulses had to be artificial but – as it turned out – it was a natural phenomenon of a fast rotating neutron star.

I would not jump to the alien conclusion before every other hypothesis has been thoroughly investigated. It could, however become very exciting if all the “natural” hypotheses would have to be discounted …

The article can be found here :

 

Weekly Photo – Rocket Science

In 2010 I became aware of a group in Denmark Copenhagen Suborbitals.

The group is building rockets, rather big ones, no New Year’s fireworks.

Given the size of their vehicles they could not get permission to launch from land (Denmark is a small country, and has no large deserted areas). What did they do ? Easy ! If you can not launch from land, then it must be from the sea.

In the summer 2010 I went to the presentation of their Mark 1 sea launch platform, named Sputnik. It was set to sea carrying the rocket, using a crane. This is one of the better pictures I got from the presentation.

The Mark 1 of the platform is not self powered, so they used another self made project for propulsion of the platform, yes, it is a submarine you see on the picture.

The rocket itself is 9m (30ft) tall and 60cm (2ft) diameter.

The first launch attempt later in the year failed. The count went down to 0 and – nothing happened. Well, the pyrotechnics went off as expected, but the rocket stayed in place. The failure was due to a frozen valve for the liquid oxygen.

They learned a lot about procedure and tech from the failure, and one year later, June 2011 a modified rocket and launch platform (this time self propelled) were used. Counting down to 0 and – nothing happened. After a look at the telemetry it was found that the launch signal had not arrived, and 10 – 15 minutes later another attempt was made, and off it went. I do not have pictures from that event, since only active members of the group were allowed in the area. They did, however publish a press kit on the website.

Their criterion for success was that the rocket lifted itself above the platform, the flight went up to about 2km when the flight was aborted from the ground, in order to stay within the designated area.

The rocket had no active steering and veered off like a missile. The “payload” was recovered, but not the engine stage. More on this project later.

Northern Lights

I consider that there are three great spectacular events to see in the sky. All are very rare, and I have not seen all three of them. Let us take a look at this :

1. Meteor Storm :

In 1998 I was looking to get to see a meteor storm from the Leonid meteor shower. It peaks every 33 years – with variations in the size of the peak.
Following the most common predictions of the peak I made ready to stay up for a night. But – as my luck (or lack of it) was – the show did not happen on that night . . . A slightly different, but even more spectacular show of a fireball meteor storm came one night BEFORE the prediction. Many people missed the opportunity, and so did I. A colleague of mine was up in the middle of the night and thought, “fireworks at this time of the night ?”. When he looked out there was one bright fireball after the other appearing in the sky.
The following night I stayed up, and essentially nothing happened. What a disappointment. Some people claim that it was the show of a century – and I missed it. On top of that – it was a clear sky that night, something of a rarity where I live.

2. Total eclipse of the Sun :

This is one event where 99.9% is *very* different from 100%. I went to see the show in Northern France in August 1999, and nearly missed the climax of the show. but minutes before totality a small blue patch appeared in the sky, and we got to see totality. Quite a spectacle.
I wrote a modest report on the event – with a few pictures, you can find it here.

3. Northern lights – Aurora Borealis.

In Denmark where I come from, I have seen the Northern Lights twice in my life.
Funny enough, moving further South to The Netherlands I would have expected to see less of it there. But in a shorter time span I have seen Northern Lights at least twice, and even photographed it. The photo is far from spectacular, but it will have to do for me.

Enter Norway – to be more precise, the town of Tromsø. There the auroras are a common occurrence. I came across a beautiful time lapse movie made by Ole Christian Salomonsen in Tromsø.
He publishes it (in HD Video) on his blog
I heartily recommend taking a look at the 4.5 minutes of movie, the aurora and his foreground images are – well – spectacular.

More Books I Intend to Read

I just started reading Dan Simmon’s book “Hyperion”, and I still have along way to go. I think it is interesting enough for me to read all the way through, though I am going at a slow and steady pace.

Listening to the podcast ‘Dragonpage Cover to Cover‘ I was listening to their Library segment. This is one of the few cases where I felt the enthusiasm for a book so contagious that I went to order it immediately.

The book in question is Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Galileo’s Dream”. The theme of Galileo having a peep into the future he, along with other great scientists created the basis for, is intriguing to me.

As a final note, here is a quote attributed to Galileo Galilei :

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

Colliding Planets !!

The Spitzer InfraRed Space Telescope, launched a few years ago, has , more or less by accident found the remains of – not one – *but two* rocky planets around a star about 100 light years away.

The two planets, one estimated to be in the order of Earth sized, the other Moon sized , appear to have collided probably a few thousand years ago, very recent in astronomical terms.

More detail can be found at Bad Astronomer Blog

This is, as far as I know, the first, however indirect, evidence of Earth/Moon sized planets.

That is not all : A few days ago it was reported that the Kepler Space Telescope, launched this year, had detected the atmosphere of a planet orbiting another star

Exciting times indeed.

Science and imagination

I just stumbled over an article in the “Bad Astronomy” blog, a reply to someone claiming that science is devoid of imagination.

I particularly like the “boiled down” version of the reply :

“Without imagination, science is a dictionary”

since without imagination science (and technology would never have brought us anywhere, certainly we would not be discussing the topic on the Internet.