Archive for the ‘English’ Category

Refueling the Spirit

Monday, October 21st, 2013

I love this picture! Here, a B-2 Spirit from Whiteman Air Force Base Mo., detaches from the boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker, assigned to the 22nd Air Refueling Wing McConnell Air Force Base Kan., after being refueled. The photo was taken by Airman First Class John Linzmeier, USAF.


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Driving Around Los Angeles In The 1950s

Monday, September 16th, 2013

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Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

This video shows a California Air National Guard C130J of the 146th Airlift Wing performing an approach and airdrop of fire retardant on the Rim Fire in the Yosemite area. Such maneuvers are very risky, and the professional skill these aircrews are displaying are immense. Here is what it looks like from the cockpit:


The aircraft is coming is so low that the automatic landing gear warning is going off repeatedly. (Normally, this warning is supposed to alert the pilot that the wheels are not deployed during a landing approach). In this instance, the warning is probably annoying, but it cannot be disabled easily.

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Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Is it just my imagination, or do some of the students look like they are nauseous?

John Bannister, Lecture with Dissection , England, 16th century. Click to enlarge.

John Bannister, Lecture with Dissection , England, 16th century. Click to enlarge.

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Earth As Seen From Saturn

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

This picture shows us. All of us on planet Earth. All 7 billion human beings contained one tiny dot of light.

Earth from Saturn

(Click to enlarge)

In this rare image taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn’s rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame. It is only one footprint in a mosaic of 33 footprints covering the entire Saturn ring system (including Saturn itself).  At each footprint, images were taken in different spectral filters for a total of 323 images: some were taken for scientific purposes and some to produce a natural color mosaic.  This is the only wide-angle footprint that has the Earth-moon system in it.

The dark side of Saturn, its bright limb, the main rings, the F ring, and the G and E rings are clearly seen; the limb of Saturn and the F ring are overexposed. The “breaks” in the brightness of Saturn’s limb are due to the shadows of the rings on the globe of Saturn, preventing sunlight from shining through the atmosphere in those regions.  The E and G rings have been brightened for better visibility.

Earth, which is 898 million miles (1.44 billion kilometers) away in this image, appears as a blue dot at center right; the moon can be seen as a fainter protrusion off its right side. An arrow indicates their location in the annotated version. (The two are clearly seen as separate objects in the accompanying narrow angle frame: PIA14949.) The other bright dots nearby are stars.

This is only the third time ever that Earth has been imaged from the outer solar system. (more…)

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Nineteen Eighty-Four

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

1984Fascinating. George Orwell‘s novel, “Nineteen eighty-four” (sometimes spelled as “1984”) has been catapulted back into the US bestseller lists!

Practically overnight, sales have risen almost 5800%.

There are several editions of the original works published in 1949, so it is not quite clear how the numbers are compiled. I wonder what Mr. Orwell would have to say. (Unfortunately he died in 1950).

Don’t forget, Prols:




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Color Footage of London, 1927

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

This is archive footage based on images captured by Claude Frisse-Greene, an early British pioneer of film. Nearly 90 years ago, he created a series of travelogues using a color process developed by his father William Frisse-Greene, a British portrait photographer and a well known inventor. His experiments in the field of motion pictures led him to be known as one of the fathers of cinematography.

One of William’s inventions was an additive color film process known as “Biocolour”, a rather cumbersome early color process. It works by exposing every other frame of standard black-and-white film through a different-colored filter, and then staining the resulting monochrome prints either red or green. In a motion picture projection, the combined frames create an illusion of real color.

Using computer enhancement, the British Film Institute reduced the flickering seen in the original footage.

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Roger Ebert Dead

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Roger Ebert, my favorite film critic passed away from complications of cancer today. Given today’s fragmented media market, he will never be outdone. There’s much that could be said about his career and influence, but I will gladly leave this to others who are more knowledgeable.

But I wanted to post this letter Ebert sent to an student who was about 11 or 13 at the time.


Dana Stevens went on to study comparative literature at UC Berkeley, started a blog and is now a professional film critic. She has written for the New York Times, the Atlantic and the Washington Book World, among others.

Proof that real letters are more inspiring than e-mail!

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Flying Over the Earth at Night

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

This video is so amazing that I had to repost it as it came. This was originally posted on “Astronomy Picture of the Day“, a daily blog site highly recommended for everyone with an interest in astronomy.

Video Credit: Gateway to Astronaut PhotographyNASA ; Compilation: David Peterson (YouTube);
Music: Freedom Fighters (Two Steps from Hell)

Explanation: Many wonders are visible when flying over the Earth at night. A compilation of such visual spectacles was captured recently from the International Space Station (ISS) and set to rousing music. Passing below are white cloudsorange city lightslightning flashes in thunderstorms, and dark blue seas. On the horizon is the golden haze of Earth’s thin atmosphere, frequently decorated by dancing auroras as the video progresses. The green parts of auroras typically remain below the space station, but the station flies right through the red and purple auroral peaks. Solar panels of the ISS are seen around the frame edges. The ominous wave of approaching brightness at the end of each sequence is just the dawn of the sunlit half of Earth, a dawn that occurs every 90 minutes.


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Friday, March 29th, 2013

by Tim Tompson*

Easter Sunday will soon be upon us.

In the year 325 A.D. the First Council of Nicaea defined the date for Easter as the first Sunday following the first Full moon after the Vernal equinox. But astronomically selected dates can move around; e.g., the vernal equinox can happen on 20 March as well as 21 March, and the phases of the moon are not tied either to the civil calendar nor to the equinoxes. So, for the purposes of calculating the date for Easter, the Roman Catholic church defines its own equinox as always happening on 21 March, and they use their own “ecclesiastical full moon”, which by definition always occurs on the 14th day of the ecclesiastical lunar month on the ecclesiastical lunar calendar (which assumes by definition that 19 tropical years equals 235 synodic months exactly [the correct number is 234.997]). In this way, Roman Catholic Easter always falls in the window of 22 March to 25 April.

Roman Catholics use the Gregorian calendar, which was finalized in 1582 for the explicit purpose of returning the date of Easter to the same date it had when the First Council of Nicaea met. In the time between 325 and 1582, the vernal equinox had slipped backwards through the civil calendar to 11 March instead of 21 March, which it was in 325. So when the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar in 1582, ten days were skipped over, which moved Easter back to 21 March. And by the trick of skipping leap days in years ending in 00, unless they are evenly divisible by 400, the length of the average civil calendar year is shortened from 365.25 days (that is one “tropical year”) to 365.2425 days, the end result of which is that the civil calendar will fall behind the seasons by about one day come the year 3200 (a problem easily solved by skipping the leap day in 3200).

The actual time it takes to go from one vernal equinox to the next is 365.24219878125 days, which should result in an accumulated difference between the seasons and the civil calendar of 3 days, 17 minutes, 33 seconds over 10,000 years. But the mean tropical year is decreasing by 0.53 seconds per 100 years (a slow tidal transfer of energy from sun to Earth), and the mean length of day is decreasing by 0.0015 seconds per 100 years (a slow tidal transfer of energy from Earth to moon). That’s why the calendar can lose a whole day in only about 1200 years. One could cleanup the next few thousand years by skipping the leap day in the year 3200, keep the leap day in 3600 and 4000, and skipping the leap day in 4500 & 5000.

Eastern Christians (mostly the Eastern and Greek Orthodox churches, Eastern Catholic and Coptics) use the old Julian calendar, so they celebrate Easter basically a month later than do the Romans, in the window between 4 April to 8 May.

There are various good reasons for having a civil calendar that is locked to the seasons. But the one that has been most important has proven to be the need to have Easter fall on a fixed time of the civil calendar year.

* The writer is a physicist retired from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Among his main personal interests are astronomy, chess, languages and linguistics, and military history.

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