Sunday, December 28, 2008
6:30 pm est
In the odd, easily-distracted world I live in, my latest distraction is learning Morse Code as part of my growing interest
in amateur radio. In case you're curious about how useful something that old could be, check out this YouTube video
of a Jay Leno demonstration of Morse Code vs text messaging. Anyway, it'll take a little bit of time, but in small 15-minute
segments it's not overly taxing. As far as I can tell, the best thing to do is to break the letters up into groups, like
at the bottom of this page
(02 Jan 09 Update:
looks like I picked an awkward time to learn morse, because the guy who ran this site is retiring.
Someone else volunteered to take it on, but the transition is not complete), then practice with this internet code generator
. They take donations, so if you find it useful, hit their tip jar. I'm up to the n,d,b group at 3 words per minute.
2 Jan Update: I've discovered another method for learning Morse. The above method is based primarily on the Farnsworth Method
. The other method, called the Koch Method
takes another approach, basically starting with only two letters, but exposing the trainee to full-speed text. Once you
achieve 90% success, you add another letter. Free download software
will help you. My problem is that the first letters on the Koch method are letters I haven't gotten to yet, so I'm not sure
whether I should change horses. There's definitely a different pacing between the Koch software and the Farnsworth website,
and strong opinions on the best way to learn...
6:15 pm est
Successfully monitored the ISS downlink of an interview with a science center in Michigan yesterday. That's good enough to
get a certificate
, though I hope to try something else before the end of the 25th anniversary celebration of ARISS
Update: The Ann Arbor Chronicle had an article
about the contact. Surprisingly, it didn't mention anyone listening in from another state...
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Congrats to SpaceX!
6:46 pm est
While the dollar amount is less than Orbital
's award, SpaceX
got more flights:12 vs 8 (funny how economics works that way) in yesterday's award
. Discussion here
. This will be remembered as a major shift in space history...as long as it works out.
NASA TV Celebrates Apollo 8
5:51 pm est
If you're on cable or satellite TV, you should be able to access NASA's celebration of Apollo 8. The schedule is here
Also, don't forget to track Santa
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Apollo 8: Forty Years on
6:44 pm est
Forty years ago, three Americans were on a mission to circle the moon. I've been told that I was sitting on my father's lap
as he watched the coverage. If you want to review some of the big quotes of the mission, here
is a good source. If you want the meaty, controversial stuff, go here
and page down to mission time 86 hrs 6 minutes 40 seconds.
Enjoy your Winter Solstice Celebration!
6:42 pm est
Contact Attempted, Mixed Results
9:21 am est
Tried to contact the ISS via amateur radio last week. We followed the frequency guidelines found here
, and I had the orbital position of the craft plotted so we knew when to listen. We called out for contact, but the ISS crew
didn't respond (they only do so when they're not doing anything else, so no contacts are the norm). We did, however, hear
some modem-like noises which we think were data transmissions between the ISS and the ground or vice versa. Upon further
research, that looks like the way to get a two-way contact, although one way contacts still count towards a certificate
, and the easiest way to do that is likely to listen in on a scheduled school contact
Saturday, December 13, 2008
When I saw this Picture...
5:53 am est
Space shuttle Endeavor has made some news
in its multi-stop flight across the US. With the number of flights remaining in the program, it's unclear how many more
of these will take place. NASA posted pictures
of the craft flying near the Johnson Spaceflight Center, and when I looked at the headliner, my thought wasn't 'what an amazing
machine' it was 'I didn't realize the control center was that close to Galveston Bay!' No wonder they have to close down
whenver a hurricane threatens the coast.
Friday, December 12, 2008
The Stars at the Center of the Galaxy
8:26 pm est
blew my mind. A group of astronomers has been monitoring the stars at the very center of the galaxy for 16 years now, long
enough to record a full orbit of one of them. Their motions appear chaotic, until you realize that they're orbiting a supermassive
black hole at the center of our galaxy. Their orbital parameters allow calculations of the mass of the object, and it turns
out to be 400 million times the mass of our sun. The videos at the end are worth downloading and watching.
8:23 pm est
Been a while since I posted. I've not been idle, however:
- TEMPOł has been busy. Got a lead on some potential funding. More to come on that.
- (kinda related) I've been diving
a bit into amateur radio. Met a ham in my neighborhood, and we're going to try and contact the ISS.
- Of course, holiday
madness is kicking in.
- The spam related to people signing up for email news seems to have stopped through no action of
mine, but I did just get a new person to sign up.