Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tsunami Watch

After studying the official tsunami reports on the National Weather Service website I tuned in to watch live coverage on Hawaii News Now. This is all oceanographic excitement from the from the 8.8 earthquake in Chile. There are lots of other places affected, including California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. But Hawaii seemed the most interesting. The TV station has a remote camera on Hilo Bay. The surging water was so dramatic I decided to take some screen shots. The bridge in the shot is 10' high.

12 PM (Hawaii Time) (5pm my time) outrush
12:03 back in
12:07 outrush
12:08, really going
12:29, outrush again. missed the crest because TV station was on another shot

The main effect from this activity is going to be extreme turbidity. Corals have the ability to move some sand and silt off themselves. They will be busy doing this for a while I expect. Some of the delicate ones can get broken by such an unusual surge, but this probably wasn't any worse than storm swells.

Before this action started the announcers reported news from the people watching the whales off the coast. They all of a sudden moved off shore. I couldn't help thinking of one whale turning to the other whale going,"Shhhh.... Do you smell that? Let's get out of here!"

The official report has these numbers already:

GAUGE LOCATION        LAT   LON    TIME        AMPL         PER
 -------------------  ----- ------  -----  ---------------  -----
 KAWAIHAE HAWAII      20.0N 155.8W  2211Z   0.52M /  1.7FT  24MIN
 BARBERS PT HI        21.3N 158.1W  2140Z   0.19M /  0.6FT  76MIN
 KAUMALAPAU HAWAII    20.8N 156.9W  2136Z   0.18M /  0.6FT  56MIN
 KAHULUI MAUI         20.9N 156.5W  2147Z   0.98M /  3.2FT  22MIN
 NAWILIWILI KAUAI     22.0N 159.4W  2151Z   0.28M /  0.9FT  44MIN
 HILO HI              19.7N 154.9W  2120Z   0.86M /  2.8FT  20MIN
 PAGO PAGO AS         14.3S 170.7W  2132Z   0.66M /  2.2FT  12MIN

So that's what a 2.8 ft surge in 20 minutes looks like. From my screen shots the surge seems to turn around in under 10 minutes. That could be a local anomaly. The buoy that collects this data is probably located away from obstructions and channels and measures the big picture. But in that one spot you could see a lot of water rushing in and out pretty quickly. Not a Hollywood level catastrophe, but definitely a situation where you don't want your boat tied up to the dock the wrong way.

All in all a pretty impressive display of the National Weather System and the Pacific Tsunami Warning System. I expect I owe fiber optic cable for being able to watch it in near-real time. Good thing the fiber wasn't damaged by this event. Just look at all that fiber running around the Pacific! But where is it off the coast of Chile? I guess somebody thought the earthquake risk there was too great. They're patting themselves on the back right now.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Feeling a little Prufrocky

Get ready to spit out the butt-ends of your days and ways! I'm gonna pin you down and leave you wriggling on the wall! Wait, that's wrestling.

Anyway, I'm feeling like a pair of ragged claws today. Tired of presuming. I'll give you all another coffee spoon of my opinions next week. For now here's the whole Prufrock. Since it's on a jillion other web sites might as well be on mine too.

T.S. Eliot (1888–1965).  Prufrock and Other Observations.  1917.
1. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
        S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.
LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats        5
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …        10
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,        15
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,        20
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;        25
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;        30
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
In the room the women come and go        35
Talking of Michelangelo.
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—        40
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare        45
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
For I have known them all already, known them all:—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,        50
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
  So how should I presume?
And I have known the eyes already, known them all—        55
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?        60
  And how should I presume?
And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
It is perfume from a dress        65
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
  And should I then presume?
  And how should I begin?
      .      .      .      .      .
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets        70
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
      .      .      .      .      .
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!        75
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?        80
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,        85
And in short, I was afraid.
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,        90
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—        95
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
  Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.
  That is not it, at all.”
And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,        100
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:        105
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
  “That is not it at all,
  That is not what I meant, at all.”
      .      .      .      .      .
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,        115
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
I grow old … I grow old …        120
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.        125
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown        130
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ripple Tank Demonstration of Sonic Boom Meets Sun Dog

Who knew you could learn so much from blog comments? As long as you're willing to do follow up fact checking that is. Here's what I know now that I didn't know before:

1. A cirrus cloud with a sun dog is evidence of a warm, moist air mass sitting on top of a very cold air mass
2. The index of refraction of the two masses is different enough to produce optical refractive effects
3. If there is not a lot of turbulence these masses of air will stay separated with a distinct boundary

I think all that work in grad school doing mixing problems on North Atlantic Deep Water and Antarctic Bottom Water and all those other specific named masses of water in the ocean makes me believe that air can behave the same way. Sonar is affected by the refraction of these layers of the ocean so I can easily accept that shock waves could create refraction on an order that would produce optical effects in the sky. So time to make a video. I'm going to assume that a shock wave would perturb this interface between the denser cold air and the lighter warm air just like dropping something in a pool of water disturbs that surface. I want to simulate the rocket's presumed 11 shock waves. I decided to use 11 airgun pellets inside a straw to create this effect. Of course on such a small scale it's going to have to be really slowed down for us to see anything. I shot it at 210 frames per second. That got me close to one frame per pellet.

**** update: my video server went down so no video anymore ****

I isolated individual frames to see if that numbering each wave thing seems valid. Right off the bat you see that as the first pellet hits the water there are multiple visible rings in the shadow. I don't believe that one shock wave equals one sine wave. There is a point where it is very tempting to count them off as they are so orderly, but then it just sort of goes chaotic. This wouldn't be such a problem with a supersonic vehicle though. It's heading into clean air. My water was pretty jumpy by the time all the pellets were wet.

In retrospect I suppose I should have counted each pellet as two shock waves -- the front breaking the water and the back where the water closes over it, but some off them fell kind of stuck together. But the demonstration still shows a few useful things.

1. The bright and dark rings of basic refraction from an acoustic type wave
2. The continuing movement of the fluid (and air is a fluid) after the original disturbance is gone. It has to boing back and forth a bit to dissipate the energy and regain equilibrium.

Now since this is basically a demonstration of Snell's Law I have to put in a link. All the stuff on wikipedia and the other sites is just very dry and no fun. But I found a SONG about Snell's Law that really cracked me up. I'm gonna have "n one sine theta sub one hey hey hey equals n two sin theta sub two hip hooray" stuck in my head all night now.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

More analysis of the visible sonic boom

Geoffrey Forden wrote an article with a missile-centric explanation of the waves in my video.  Since he used my image I'm going to go ahead and use his too. He draws this nice diagram to show how the shock waves from the rocket traveled through the cirrus cloud.

Then he picks out the individual waves in the cloud and correlates them to points on the vehicle that could make shock waves at the cusp of supersonic flight. I'm not sure it's so cut and dry though. I think the ordinary acoustic waves following the shock waves do something too.

The comments after this article are very informative. I like this one about the cloud.

The “cloud layer” is actually a thermal layer or boundary with warm, moist air below, cold air above, and a layer of ice crystals at the boundary. Such thermal barriers create optical refraction effects similar to those between glass and air, and critical angles beyond which they begin to reflect instead of refract. It’s the latter effect that’s responsible for the visible waves.
It happened to be a very calm day with no wind or turbulence, which made the thermal layer abnormally flat and abrupt — pertect for the observed effect.
— Paul Lutus · Feb 19, 03:36 PM ·

This satisfies me a lot more than the digital light projector theory. Ordinary Snell's Law accounts for the visible ripples and not the requirement that the ice crystals tip in unison and not just go tumbling like crazy. Cause it seems to me they'd just go tumbling like crazy. I'm very glad to know these optical refraction effects are a thing.

(Thanks to Phil Plait for sending me this link.)

How much money do I need to live?

How Stuff Works analyzes how much money you really need to live. Now this is a topic I know a lot about and I think their tips are weak.

My main number one secret to not buying useless shit is this Philosophical Test -- If I buy this, where will I put it? There's nothing like living in 216 sq ft to make you get over your acquisition phase quickly. Never does this article suggest reducing your living space.

How Stuff works suggests these things:
Buy generic: Even if it means saving the old brand-name boxes and planting generic products inside to fool your family (or yourself), buying generic is a smart choice.
What? That's idiotic. I don't know what they're even talking about. They want me to put Oatey Circles in a Cheerios box? Well I'll go ahead and tell you right now that processed cereal is right out of the budget. If you want the goodness of oats, buy plain oatmeal and cook that stuff up. Wait until it goes on sale.
Use coupons: Most likely, you can find coupons for many of the items that you buy on a regular basis, taking a chunk off the cost. Investing a few minutes in finding coupons will save you money.
I totally don't do this. Where do coupons come from anyway? The Sunday paper? I'm allergic to that thing. It's a waste of money and not an enjoyable use of my time to go through that nonsense. I don't even have room to spread that nasty thing out in my house. My roommate in college used to get the Sunday paper for the coupons and it just made us buy stuff we wouldn't usually get. No coupons.
Don't buy it just because it's on sale: Whether you are on a weekly grocery store trip or are clothes shopping at the mall, you're probably going to spot a tempting sale.
Ridiculous. What it should say is don't buy it UNLESS it's on sale. I go to the grocery store and look for the things I would like to eat. If I eat up all my Triscuit crackers and I go to the store but Triscuits aren't two for one anymore, I don't get Triscuits. And it's important to know two for one means 50% off each box. I don't buy two boxes. Where would I put them? I get one for half off. Here's how they get you though, Buy-one-get-one-free means you have to get two for the savings to count. Sometimes I'll get two bags of buy-one-get-one-free salad mix because I have plenty of room in my vegetable crisper.
Cook: Rather than eating out at restaurants, cooking at home can save money. This doesn't just apply to dinner, either. If you prepare lunches to bring to work, you can save a good deal more -- some people estimate $960 a year on lunch alone [source: Kiplinger].
If I had a job then I would damn sure be going out to lunch. That's the best part of having a job! Now I might only eat half of what I'm served and have the rest for dinner. That cuts the price in half already. As a single person it's not necessarily true that cooking is more efficient. The ingredients don't work out. You end up with too much of some ingredient and it goes bad before you can use it up. It may be less expensive to go out for Chinese and bring half of it home with you and eat it again the next day. Plus I just don't have room for a lot of shelf stable ingredients. Turkey tetrazzini is delicious because it has sherry in it. I have room for a bottle of olive oil and some balsamic vinegar, but that's it. I can't have sherry too. But it's already in Stouffer's turkey tetrazzini and that comes in a compact rectangular box.

It is important to buy prepared frozen food when it's on sale so you always have something convenient to eat. This allows flexibility in your schedule. If somebody wants to go out, off you go, no worry about some fresh meat or produce spoiling in your refrigerator. And if you always have a handy bowl of noodle soup in the house you can put off going to the grocery store longer. Nothing makes you spend money like going to the store. The longer you put it off the better.
If not owning a microwave oven makes other people think you live in poverty, it counts as a necessity from a social perspective. But people got along fine without microwaves for millennia.
Microwaves are freakin' cheap! You need a microwave. What you don't need is a RANGE. Those are expensive, take a lot of electricity and a lot of space in your house.

I made up an oatmeal recipe, far cheaper than processed cereal. It is made in the microwave. I start by dispensing the oatmeal out of the box into a canister on the counter so it's always handy. I mix my oatmeal with oat bran about half and half. This makes the oatmeal creamy yet it still has some actual calories in it. It is specifically suited for an unemployed person or home office type who isn't in a rush. It will never boil over and make a mess in your microwave. All the ingredients stay fresh a long time and don't take up much room.
The Devil's Oatmeal
Scoop 5 heaping teaspoons of oatmeal/oat bran mixture into a ceramic bowl 
Add an 1/8 tsp of salt
Pour in 1 cup of water and stir
Put in the microwave and push 666, Power level 3, Start
When it stops, add raisins and stir again
Repeat 666, Power level 3, Start
Get it out whenever you get around to it. It will stay warm for a while. 
Add butter, walnuts, and honey
Stir and enjoy

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Translating Flames

Well the YouTube video is up around 650,000 views now with 571 comments. A solid 5 star rating with 1902 votes. The early international lead in Japan has expanded across Europe and Asia. The comments continue to be amusing. I've been asked questions in Japanese, been complimented in Chinese, flamed in German, and puzzled by Romanian.

これって平面的に広がってると思ったけどこの映像を見る限り三次 元的に広がっているように見えませんか?
Do not see a source that has spread to third but judging by this video I wanted to spread the planar What is this?

Incredible ah, very good very strong! Sonic boom is the first time I saw!

Somebody said "Love the Star Wars Music" and that got a Chinese
Me too

really nice

weckt mich mal wenns interesannt is... bin bei 20 sekunden eingeschlafen
wie der nigga zu dumm zum filmen is
There's something sad about going to the trouble to copy and paste mystery text into Google Translate to find out my video made them go to sleep in 20 seconds and is not worth {doesn't translate.} I feel sort of pathetic.

I'm not sure about this comment from manteescu1000 in Romania. His top favorite video is by Gary Glitter and he thinks our space program is primitive?
primitiv mod de lansare,o teleportare,star gate ,un warp !
omenirea este in epoca primitiva !
primitive method of release, a teleportation, star gate, a warp!
mankind is in primitive times!

Best analogy for what the rocket looks like: Blemmo thinks it looks like an asparagus.

Some of the comment threads just have to be captured in full to convey the humor. I liked what shad0wcaptain said. I actually swapped business cards with the guy standing next to me who I believe is the one laughing. I emailed him to see if he recognized himself but he hasn't had the bandwidth to watch the video yet as he was traveling. He's back in Melbourne (Australia, not Florida) now, where he lives, so I expect he'll let me know soon if that's really his laugh. My brother Harry likes the Mr. Musik thread the best.

Man, some people just really can't handle the camera work. Yet they don't seem to have a problem with grammar mistakes like I do. Your/you're and who's/whose mistakes make me cringe more than camera shake.

I wonder what makes Asyphyxium001 think I'm highly qualified, motivated, and engineering-oriented? Just the fact that I made a special trip to a sparsely attended rocket launch? I suppose I should just take the compliment. But it hurts my feelings that people keep dissing my beautiful tripod. I didn't FORGET it. I left it in the car on purpose! It's freaking heavy! It would invade other people's personal space. And I wasn't sure how hard it would be to track a rocket, having never watched a launch before. I figured with a monopod at least I could very quickly pick up the whole thing and aim the camera by hand if I needed to.

Maybe alrigh7 isn't James Cameron, but artistry80, I know who you are :-) Thank you for coming to my defense and for making me laugh.

There is a whole class of viewers obsessed with the bird. Here is a humorous selection. Incidentally, Mr. Sultana was within 2 feet of the actual length of that rocket, but I think he overdid the hyperbole on the wingspan.

And finally we come to the last two treasures of YouTube comments. Claims of fake and cool new friends.
Now brdavis5 turns out to be a part-time physics professor and author in Indiana. His YouTube channel has some really cool stuff -- rockets, geysers, lego boats, autonomous ball shooting robot tanks. He has the same high speed camera as me. He is using it to analyze the speed of his hydrogen rockets. I sent him a message on YouTube and now we're email friends. He's helping me work out a scientific explanation of what exactly happened up there in the sky. He suggests that the ice crystals in the cirrus cloud were tipped to reflect the sun just right, like how a digital light projector works. I don't know enough about cirrus clouds to know if it's likely that they would all line up just right from a high amplitude 20 Hz wave. But I did find this Mythbusters episode that reminded me how powerful that sound is, yet harmless to glassware in free space.

*Update: More Japanese. The Google Translator cracks me up. Thanks yassy558!

衝撃波が同心円状に、水面に落ちたしずくのように美しく見えると は、奇跡の画像です。
Shock waves of concentric circles, and looks as pretty as a drop fell in the water is a miraculous image.
Thank you. Great! !
Seemed to lurk in the sky really fast waves. .
Suitable impressed tears.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Old Spice Shames Axe with Better Ad

As much as I hate any kind of stench on a man, even clothes washed in scented laundry detergent, I must say Old Spice has a WAY better ad agency than Axe. This ad is absurd and delightful.

YouTube description: We're not saying this body wash will make your man smell into a romantic millionaire jet fighter pilot, but we are insinuating it.

Yes, it says "smell into." So once again a lack of proofreading skills is the bane of the internet.

I wish they had a product that could make my man SOUND like him. Of course I'm going to need another product to make my man not imaginary.

*Update: If you want to see how this ad was made check out the video on my friend John Callendar's blog,

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chemtrails and Axe Body Spray

You know that section above the comments on YouTube for video responses? Well when somebody tries to post one it emails the owner of the channel for approval. I got one that was another view of the same event, so I accepted that one. Then I got one that looked like it was shot with a proctoscope. Some kind of reddish fleshy out of focus orifice? Ignore. Just now I got another one that is a video of the sky. Pretty cirrus clouds and some condensation trails. The description reads:

I've made several calls to police/fire/air pollution etc. etc... everybody says it "isn't their jurisdiction".. well.. could you maybe transfer me to whoemever's jurisdiction it is? Or is it just set up this way so nobody can report the spraying?

The SPRAYING? What?! People seriously think those white trails are chemicals? I am not putting a link to this nonsense in here because I don't want them to get any more views on this stupid video. Just cannot believe people think contrails are a conspiracy. Makes me want to roll them in snow and teach them a lesson in how water reacts when it has something to condense on.

The most recent comment is from a sane person.

If you are asking "officials" why they are "spraying" the skies what do you expect them to say. Contrails are contrail and not "spray".

But then there were more nuts.

"it isn't their jurisdiction" lol..Interesting that's the EXACT "response" I got calling so called "officials", airport (!); county offices. This after my neighboorhood sky got suddenly BLANKETED. Was told they "don't notice anything" (WTF?) 1 person said it was "light reflecting in the sky"..(?) NONE of them offered to look into it, nobody wanted to get involved+ investigate, NOTHING. Can you believe this bull shit? This is what our tax dollars go to support. This is how they "represent" us

OK, for fuck's sake. You didn't take advantage of a perfectly good free public education to learn how condensation works and now you want to blame the government for not representing you? What about you representing your country? I'm embarrassed to speak the same language as these people. And it keeps going on.

YUCK! My locale looked like this the past week...

Oh kiss my ass. This is probably the same person that thinks radio towers are ugly. I like a nice tower. Nothing dumber to me than a cell tower dressed up like a pine tree.

Right out of the blue trails started appearing in grid patterns going all directions! lasting for hours on end.. spreading out covering the sky blocking the sun. Weather hasn't changed drastically nor does air traffic in the area ever produce such effects. All of a sudden BAM trails appear everywhere : (

How would you know what the weather is like at 30,000 feet? Shut up!

...these trails were all over middle tennessee today....!

Say it isn't so! There's water in the sky!

I've just recently started taking picutres of these things. I have heard what they are and can believe it that they are bad. They certainly are not natural.

YES! They are TOTALLY NATURAL! What's unnatural is your ignorance of basic physical properties of water.

Wow! bad spray day. 5***** Thanks for posting.

Bad spray day? Spray Day? Reminds me of something that is TRULY bad and I bet nobody is going to call attention to the rampant misuse of chemicals in this travesty. I'm talking about the new Axe body spray commercials called "Double pits to chesty." There are some aerosols I would seriously like to see banned, as well as the truly ridiculous ad campaign. Completely asinine. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

YouTube Comments vs. Number of Views

So my YouTube video has gone viral and now I get to find out more than I ever wanted to know about induhviduals who comment on YouTube videos. The first couple hundred views got no remark at all. I knew I was in for something serious when I got my first "Fake and gay!" comment on Wednesday morning. I deleted that one because I thought "gay" was offensive. About 3pm on Wednesday Phil Plait embedded my video on his blog, Bad Astronomy. That was the beginning of the comment arguments over what actually was going on up there in the sky to cause these effects. And the ramp up on the claims that it was fake.

I think the fake argument is funny. Did they not hear the crowd? Besides, I WISH I had thought of faking this! I'd have done it YEARS ago! I wish I knew how in fact. But I'm giving them too much credit. It's just the nature of the internet I suppose. People troll around being rude. I decided to document it scientifically so I started an Excel spreadsheet. I started by classifying the 78 comments I had at the time by general sentiment: Wow! Fake! Oh no the bird! and That's not a sonic boom.

My favorite version of Wow! is captainpickard's, "I'll have an order of KICK ASS, with a side of FUCK YEAH!" For Fake! I have to compliment stegre for "I have seem (sic) many edited films and this video has definitely been tampered. Your argument is invalid." It is both arrogant and nonsensical at the same time. Excellent work, stegre.

After I finished tabulating all the comments and started working on the chart I realized the last two categories were extraneous. And at that point I started getting spam. The thing about viral videos apparently is that they are viewed in exponential numbers. Since I started working on the spreadsheet another 8,000 people watched the video. Once those rates are high I guess the spammers come out and start hitting the comments section. Other viewers are quick to tag them and make them go away though. Thank you nice people!

Around 65,000 views a hater claimed Russia is better than America. Within minutes three people jumped on that comment. Looks like I can just relax now and let the internet public fight it out among themselves.

Meanwhile I'll be having fun making childish videos for my niece-oriented blog where all the video is on Vimeo instead of YouTube. iMovie '10 is fun!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Pluto Files

Neil deGrasse Tyson goes on a quest to find out why people love this non-planet so much. March 2nd on Nova. I expect it will show up on hulu soon after that. I look forward to it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sun Dog Take Two

I've gotten so many views on my Sun Dog/Shock Wave video I felt obligated to improve on it. It seems non-scientists really like the beginning of the launch with the bird, but astrophysicists just want to get to the money shot and see the sun dog get obliterated. That part would be better in slow motion instead of just repeated. iMovie will do that. Unfortunately not the old version that I have. So being unemployed with no viable source of income whatsoever I went out and spent $79 on iLife '09 so I can provide more free content for the world.

When I was in undergraduate school I took a neat class in the English Department called Restoration London Stage. It was one of those classes that they discontinued the year after I took it because the professor retired. She was a lovely lady with a gentile Southern accent but she had inner ear problems so bad she couldn't walk up and down stairs. I can't remember her name but I'm sure I still have the plays we read in storage. Other classes cancelled after I took them included Psychoacoustics and Physics of Photography. These were excellent classes with very senior professors. Dr. Payne and Dr. Braden I salute you.

Anyway, in Restoration London the funniest playwrights made their living writing plays because they had a patron. Some rich citizen who loved the arts would pay for the writer's apartment and food and clothes and they would get to read the play before anybody else. I always thought this was a brilliant business model. I think the internet has created the perfect circumstance for this business model to be restored. Even if you come up with some content in high demand there is still no money in it. My blog traffic went up 2330% because of this sun dog video, but I only made $0.11.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sonic Boom Meets Sun Dog

Video from Kennedy Space Center Apollo Center February 11, 2010. Launch of Solar Dynamics Observatory on an Atlas V rocket. About 1 minute 14 seconds after liftoff the vehicle went supersonic. The shock wave obliterated a sun dog. It was really beautiful, and poetic for this mission. A sun dog or parhelion is a bright rainbow effect in the sky caused by refraction of sunlight through ice crystals.

Click the Vimeo icon to view in HD on the Vimeo site. Go Full Screen and set Scaling to Off and it will be optimized.

The launch of the Atlas V rocket carrying the Solar Dynamics Observatory was beautiful. I am very pleased with the images I captured with my inexpensive camera. The NASA video on YouTube didn't even show the shock wave.

After the sonic boom the rocket went through a layer of the atmosphere with enough moisture to make a nice contrail. Why is it so erratic? I can only guess it was from wind sheer. *Update: Dr. Patronis called me and explained that the rocket exhaust vents are on gimbals and they're constantly adjusting to keep the rocket going straight and true. Of course they are.

video is also on YouTube and my Mobile Me gallery

Negative critique

I enjoyed my two days at the Kennedy Space Center this week but I would be doing a disservice to  my blog theme if I didn't vent about the things that could use improvement. I've made it into a short video.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Kennedy Space Center, Scrubbed Launch

Today I went to the Kennedy Space Center to see an Atlas V rocket launch the Solar Dynamics Observatory. This satellite will transmit 1.5 Terabytes of data per day for 5 years. No wonder they delayed it for 2 years. They had to wait for the price of hard drives to come down.

Of course they scrubbed the launch at the last minute. I'll go back tomorrow and hopefully see it. Now I know what to expect.
Here's the view of the rocket on the launch pad from the Apollo/Saturn exhibit at KSC. See it between the trees? Yeah, it's 3 miles away and pretty small. Look at that CNN link up there for a picture of what it looks like up close.

Here it is zoomed in with my camera. It's that thing in the middle of the four towers.

Looking at it through Jeff's camera it looks bigger, but not a lot clearer. It's hard to get a picture of something from that far away. The heat radiating off the ground makes it all shimmer.

After we waited around for an hour and a half they called it off for wind. It was a pretty day, just too windy from the wrong direction apparently.

Our observation location was in front of a big building where they have a Saturn rocket on its side.

Of course they also have a gift shop. This is where I found some rant-worthy items. Take these liquid filled toy balls. More than 3 ounces. I guarantee you can't take these in your carry on luggage on an airplane, yet they have them for sale in the NASA gift shop.

This Snoopy with his head shoved in a lucite fishbowl disturbs me a great deal. I just can't stop thinking of some worker in a Chinese factory whose whole job it is to cram Snoopy's head into a bubble all day every day. I mean, it's tight on there! I can barely get my finger between the lip of the bowl and his neck! There's no power pack or air input in this toy. He's not even wearing a space suit. He's got on his red scarf. It makes no sense. Having seen videos of stray dogs with their heads stuck in mayonnaise jars it really creeps me out. How does that factory worker explain her job to her mother when she goes home? "I push a stuffed animal's head into a tight, clear bowl."
"American children are too good for goldfish?"
What if it's the same person that assembled those 6 teated cow vacuum cleaners? How can they not think Americans are ignorant of animals AND cruel? The bowl in not round either, it's oblong like Snoopy's head, so if you turn it sideways his nose goes all deformed. It's horrific. I hope that poor woman in China doesn't have nightmares.

More from Kennedy Space Center tomorrow!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Space Shuttle Endeavor STS-130 Launch

Road trip to Titusville, Florida across the Indian River from Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island. Blue marker is my actual tripod location. Zoom out to see Launch Complex 39A where Space Shuttle Endeavor waited for go. There was a nice sign by the park entrance that described it as a "unique stormwater park." That basin behind the outflow had a nice split face block retaining wall and a fountain with orange and red lights and waterfalls. All around it were brass plaques with hand prints and signatures of astronauts. Most of them had shorter fingers than me.

View Space Shuttle Launch in a larger map

Saturday night:

Saturday night the launch was scrubbed about 15 minutes before it was scheduled to go because of this low cloud cover. It made for fabulous light and shadow though. In person you couldn't discern this much detail. It just looked like the Atari logo flipped upside down. This is a long exposure with a long lens. Notice you can see the whole structure of the launch complex upside down in the cloud.

I got there about 4:00 pm on Saturday and it was already crowded in the Wachovia parking lot next to the park with the good view. I held a parking space for my friend from Jupiter who was bringing his good camera. When he got there we staked out a spot in the crowd in the park and waited in the cold for about 5 hours.

I wasn't sure what the situation was going to be like the next day because of Monday being a work day plus the Superbowl. I went ahead over there early and got there at 4:00 pm again. The parking lot was relatively deserted. I took my double folding chair down to the waterfront and found the front row was already claimed with empty chairs of people waiting in their campers. I found a spot just big enough for my chair next to the big concrete ball beside the pier which was reserved for media only. Then I waited in the car keeping warm with all the extra sleeping bags I borrowed from Keith and Vicki Huddleston, my hosts in Orlando.

The crowds started showing up after the Superbowl was over. I felt bad about saving my spot with that chair when everybody else was waiting in the cold so I went on out there with Keith's amazing purple sleeping bag and my tripod. By 3:30 am when Jeff got there with his camera it was standing room only.

Media people were making their way through the crowd out onto the pier. I think I could have gotten them to let me out there by telling them I was a blogger -- they didn't require credentials, only an air of entitlement which is an act I perfected in college when I worked for the Technique. But I thought the pier was an inferior base for a tripod for a long exposure anyway. There were some people in aluminum foil accessories making a video of some sort. Nobody at the park seemed to care. The buzz was that they were from a reality show on MTV but it just wasn't the kind of crowd who was impressed by that.

At 4:12 the park turned off the lights. At 4:14 am the horizon lit up and steam billowed to the North and South. Very quickly after ignition the shuttle lifted off and carried the light up into the sky. 
 When it passed through the first layer of low clouds the whole sky lit up like a time lapse sunrise. Then the sound arrived. A palpable concussion to the chest and a thrill to experience. My educated guess it that it was about 95dB, loud enough to be fun, but less than half as loud as the  IMAX movie trailer for the space shuttle movie. I expect they're getting 110dB or better out of the movie sound system in the launch  scenes.
It was more beautiful viewed wide angle. I was glad I kept my camera put away and just watched. My National Geographic Twitter feed yielded one wide shot that shows the clouds lighting up, but it was way more beautiful in person and from the more distant perspective I had from across the river.

The couple behind us was exclamatory about the whole thing. You could hear their voices quavering as they said, "Oh my god! It's so beautiful!" and when the sound arrived they caught their breath and tried to find words for it. The man was a constant stream of commentary and then when the sound finally died down the woman said in a voice of awe, "Thank God for engineers." 

It made me tear up a little bit, thinking of all the engineers like myself that are out of work and unappreciated. If it takes traveling a long way and waiting in the bitter cold for hours to have a 10 second experience to make somebody value engineers then it's no wonder we are in trouble. I can only hope the IMAX movie reaches more people.

Launch pad minus the space shuttle. I'm glad I didn't miss the last night launch.
(photos by Jeff Jackowski with my tripod :-)