Black hole eats a star

Space is a hot topic these days.  Not even a full week has passed since spectacular lunar eclipse, and we already have more exciting news. reports an extremely rare event:

A powerful beam of energy has been spotted blasting out from the center of a massive black hole as it rips apart and devours a star in a rare sight that astronomers say likely happens only once every 100 million years, a new study finds.

This is pretty impressive!  They’ve also published a couple of artist impressions of what is going on.

Total lunar eclipse

If you are reading it minutes after I post, then don’t lose precious time – run outside and look at the Moon.  Today you have a rare opportunity to observe total lunar eclipse.  If you are, and you probably are, late, then consider the illustration below.  Since I don’t possess all the necessary skill and equipment to make a photograph, I turned to my mad drawing skills.

Feel free to reuse the image as you wish, and please ignore all the scientific inconsistencies – I am not much of an artist and I had limited time.  After all, space bodies involved in this phenomena are moving fast.

Interestingly, even Google search is tracking the movement of the shadow.


The known universe

I’ve shared and favorite’d this video before, but it’s worth another time.  Every time you get depressed or pissed off about something, every time someone gets to you, or you think something horrible happened, just watch this video.


That’s the known universe for you.  And if you think about how small we are compared to our planet, and how small our planet compared to some other, and how small our galaxy compared to the other ones, and so on and so forth, and then think about your problem again – doesn’t it look tiny and beyond microscopic now?

On software testing

The software is checked very carefully in a bottom-up fashion. First, each new line of code is checked, then sections of code or modules with special functions are verified. The scope is increased step by step until the new changes are incorporated into a complete system and checked. This complete output is considered the final product, newly released. But completely independently there is an independent verification group, that takes an adversary attitude to the software development group, and tests and verifies the software as if it were a customer of the delivered product. There is additional verification in using the new programs in simulators, etc. A discovery of an error during verification testing is considered very serious, and its origin studied very carefully to avoid such mistakes in the future. Such unexpected errors have been found only about six times in all the programming and program changing (for new or altered payloads) that has been done. The principle that is followed is that all the verification is not an aspect of program safety, it is merely a test of that safety, in a non-catastrophic verification. Flight safety is to be judged solely on how well the programs do in the verification tests. A failure here generates considerable concern.

The above was written by R. P. Feynman, in Feynman’s Appendix to the Rogers Commission Report on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident, 1986. More than 20 years ago. Much recommended reading.

Found via Richard Feynman, the Challenger Disaster, and Software Engineering.

Tonight in Cyprus : partial Lunar eclipse

Famagusta Gazette reports that a partial Lunar eclipse will be visible from Cyprus tonight.  For the photography fans among you, it’s probably a good time to review moon photography tips.  The thing to remember is that even though shooting at night, the moon is lit by the sun, which means you’ll need to use pretty much the same settings as for the bright daylight – tele-zoom lens, tripod, f/16, 1/80 – 1/100.  Good luck, and don’t forget to share your pictures after!

50 Ways to Help the Planet

50 Ways to Help the Planet is an excellent initiative.  These are 50 simple, straight-forward tips for how to make a little bit less of an impact on our planet.  You probably already do some of these things.  You’ll probably never do some of them.  But chances are you’ll find some things in that list that you won’t mind doing.

Here is the list of things as applied to me and my family.  You should probably read the original list first though.

Continue reading “50 Ways to Help the Planet”

Three gender race

Olga was watching one of those cheap sci-fi space movies on TV. It took me only about twenty seconds of looking at before I started joking about it – immitating voices, using quotes from other movies, and doing all sorts of other fooling around.

When I satisfied myself with all the mind crap that I could produce, I took a two minute break by thinking seriously about space stuff. The choice of topic this time was – other races.

In just under two minutes I managed to come up with a three gender choice – Triorids. Sounds cool, doesn’t it? Well, in this race, they would have your regular Male and Female, and they would also have a Catalyzer.

The thing is that a Triorid Male cannot have sex with Triorid Female. Their genitals just doesn’t match. So they need a Catalyzer. It’s like a converter. It connects to both Male and Female and helps them to have proper sex.

There are good and bad things about Catalyzers. The good thing is that they are more normalized. If you think of Males as plus, and Females as minuses (you can safely reverse, if that’ll change your attitude), than you Catalyzes would be about zero – somewhere in between. They also help a mating couple to stay together by finding compromises in conflicts and complimenting both other sides all the time.

The bad thing is that Catalyzers have the character, soul, and spirit of their own. They live their own lives. In turms of sex, that means that if Male Triorid wants to have sex, he has to convince not only a Female, but a Catalyzer too. Even if both Male and Female want to have sex, they still have to make Catalyzer agree.

I’m writing this idea down, because it occupied the whole two minutes of my two minute break, but I liked it enough to want to think it over next time.

Now I am back to my usual crap of impersonating cheap movie characters and using qutoes from other films…