In eleven minutes and some odd seconds, I’d be dead. Not even twelve. Eleven! And I couldn’t do anything to change that less than salutary fact. The “timer” was ticking, but contrary to the popular trope, there was no loose red wire to cut and stop it all. No, the bomb wasn’t even a “bomb” bomb but a routine physics experiment gone terribly wrong, and I knew full well that it couldn’t be stopped thanks to the implacability of runaway exponentials and all that.

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Be Careful When You Feed the Lunatics

One of the hazards of being an outreach-minded astronomer is having to deal with a never-ending stream of lunatics.  Whether it be the overly-fervent gal who got supper-pissed when I failed to agree with her that asterisms were galaxy-sized corporeal beings or the octogenarian who called  out the cops because he was sure that I was using my telescope to peep at him through his solid walls, I’ve had more than my fair share of encounters with both the grossly misinformed and the all but barking mad.  As a rule, though, I tend to take such crackpots in my stride.

The people who drive me bonkers, though, are the supposedly sane and well educated; fellow citizens who hold the most outrageous and improbable beliefs even though a modicum of sense and introspection should serve to dispel them one and all.

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Ore-oh (ORRERY OH!)

I’ve always loved Laurel & Hardy’s 1934 film “Babes In Toyland,” and have certainly been known to intone the toy soldier’s signature phrase to myself during any number of odd—and usually inappropriate—moments.  Ore-oh, OREO, indeed!  If I could only fit myself out with one of those natty enameled uniforms then I’m quite sure that I’d be styling with the best of them.

But I digress.  On this day, my purpose is to discourse on orreries; not ore-ohs, nor even oreos.  For the uninformed, an orrery is (to quote Wikipedia): a mechanical device that illustrates the relative positions and motions of the planets and moons in the Solar System in a heliocentric model.  In this somewhat mod-ern era, mechanical orreries have fallen out of fashion, particularly since online orreries like “The Planets Today” are so easy to use, and exceedingly more accurate.

The problem with electronic orreries is that they lack my favorite component: gears!  Continue reading

2003 UB313 was seen by actual human eyeballs!

(Note: this article was originally published in 2005 on my defunt astronomy tourism site:  A related press release may be found here.  2003 UB313 was ultimately named Eris, and in the process helped to dethrone Pluto to “dwarf-planet” status.)

On the morning of October 9th, 2005 a small team of amateur astronomers visually observed the 10th planet using McDonald Observatory’s 2.1m Otto Struve Telescope. Keith Murdock completed the first observation at 1:08 AM CDT. Louis Berman made a second confirming observation at 1:15 AM CDT. Over the next hour the planet was subsequently observed by seven additional team members and two McDonald Observatory staff. Continue reading

Squid’s Don’t Have Lids

Human Eye Compared To Squid Eye

Human Eye Compared To Squid Eye

Squids and humans have little in common.  Indeed, our last common ancestor was a small Precambrian “worm” that lived some 750 million years ago; way before the evolution of our camera-like eyes.  Even so, cephalopods use a lens to project an image onto a retina; just like us.  The amazing thing is that the eyes of the vertebrates and cephalopods evolved independently; in very different ways and at very different times.  Scientists have a lovely term for this: Convergent Evolution.  (Note: P.Z. Myers, of Pharyngula fame—and one of my all-time favorite bloggers—has a slightly different take on this which, for the scientifically inclined, makes an interesting read.)

So what does this have to do with trading? A lot, as it turns out. I’ll leave the details for another day but suffice it to say that the majority of trading systems, commercial or otherwise, are incomplete, unusable or simply crap.  One need only look at one of the market leaders, like NinjaTrader or TradeStation, to know this is unquestionably true.  After all, no one gets into trading to sit in front of a console and “trade;” they want to “make money.”  The platforms, however, are all about mechanics but nothing about methodology.  It’s like being asked on the operating table to pick your own anesthetic.  Even worse, the second they put you under you have to somehow manage to wield the knife too.  No sane human would allow such a thing to occur in an operatory, so why do they allow it with their equally vital finances?

So back to squid, there are plenty of trading choices out there, but inasmuch as each and every one is a demonstrable fail, it’s time for a little re-evolution. Hence the squid; who I declare henceforward to be my most favored mascot…

BTW, squids really don’t have eyelids, although the Myopsids (gotta love the name!) do have a sort of cornea which, according to Danna Staaf, “…satisfies all their eye-covering needs…”