Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Geysers of Enceladus

My favorite moon. 

That's Saturn in the foreground, and the crescent Enceladus behind it.  The remarkable bit about this shot is the erupting geysers clearly visible at the south pole of Enceladus (at the very bottom of the crescent; click the picture to make it bigger).  Wow.  These ice geysers are coming from quarter mile deep cracks in the surface of the ice, called the Tiger Stripes.  The Cassini probe keeps making passes over this section, and on this last pass, on Feb 23, observed 30 geysers.  This was once supposed to be a dead moon, all rock and ice.  Now we know it to be alive with geological activity, and likely hiding a great lake of water beneath all that ice (though the jury is out on that).

Curiouser and curiouser.

Here's a close-up.
Thanks to Cassini, and to Bad Astronomy, for the pix.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

First Pitch

This image sings and soars all on its own.  Not that it needs a realistic Earthbound analog, but if I had to choose one, I'd say that sprite in the upper left is flinging a baseball to that mitt in the lower left.  This being Spring Training and all.

This is in reality a group four very old and gravitationally bound galaxies,  Hickson Compact Group 31, interacting with each other.  One day, perhaps a billion years from now, they'll be one big galaxy.

The shot is from the Hubble.  Astronomy Picture of the Day posted it yesterday.  It's worth clicking to see in a larger format.  Particularly that sprite on the left.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Near Dark

Lil hux and I watched Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker last week.  Great date movie!  Brutal, powerful.  Stays with you.  Though, oddly, the image that sticks in my mind days afterward is that shot of the limping cat.

I was lucky enough to see a movie Kathryn Bigelow made twenty years ago in a real theater (in Times Square, no less).  I've been touting it as the best vampire movie ever made since.  It is, though it's sort of a western/vampire hybrid.  These vampires aren't dreamy tween fantasies.  They're mean, and bloody, and hungry.   The excellent Bill Paxton is in it, chewing some serious scenery.  Lance Henriksen is predictably menacing.

Worth watching for the bar scene alone.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Our six year old had a sleepover guest last weekend.  We usually stretch the rules for sleepovers, let em stay up later than they normally would.  So.  About ten p.m., Hux is asleep, I go upstairs to check on them.  They're very quiet, their faces are ashen, they're glancing nervously at each other.  The computer, conspicuously, is out in front of them.  My little one finally says, "We saw something we shouldn't" and bursts into tears, very upset.

I pull up the history on the computer and see they've been doing Google searches on "naked boys" and "penis" and, my favorite, "naked boys penis stiken out."   I should point out right up front they didn't see anything.  I've got a program called FoxFilter that's pretty good at filtering sites.  So while they didn't see anything, their guilt at even looking up those terms was overwhelming.  I calmed them down, told them there was noting wrong with being curious.

They didn't get into trouble.  I'm not gonna punish my kids for their curiosity.  Curiosity should be celebrated.  And they confessed right away.  And the internet filter did its job.  So it's all good news.  I was even impressed at their spelling (except for that "penis stiken out" bit).  But the unsettling thought remains, that we are leaving the calm, quiet waters at the shores of parenthood, and every day stepping out to the faster, more dangerous currents beyond.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


So in my last post I threw out a quick little one liner about how our youngest heard the Alanis Morissette line "I'm brave but I'm chickshit" and asked me what a chickenship was.  Funny.  What I left out was the rest of the conversation, where I was explaining to her what "brave" meant.  I said something to the effect of "when you're scared to do something, but you do it anyway, that's brave."

She said, "If my sister was in a cave with a bear, I'd go in and kill the bear and save her."

Because they fight so much, I sometimes forget how ferocious their loyalty is to each other.

Before they came to our home, they had to live with so much chaos.  I'm guessing there were many times when each other was all they had.    

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Got another story published: Tomlit is gonna publish Grace sometime in April.  They've turned me down a coupla times, so that was good to hear.

The lil booger is fond of singing along loudly to Alanis Morissette in the car.  We were listening to Hand In My Pocket (I'm brave but I'm chickenshit) and she asked me "Daddy, what's a chickenship?"  I told her it was a ship that carries chickens.

This just in: Utah is gonna be hit by a comet in a month.  Because if you can't trust websites with scrolling, blinky text, who can you trust?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Randomness is not random.

This is a very dramatic image of the aftermath of a collision between two asteroids, hitting each other with the force of a very large nuclear explosion. It's a false-color image, so it doesn't look quite that dramatic in real life. But it still looks pretty cool. The "tail" is debris from the collision streaming off the main body, blown away by the solar wind like a comet tail (it doesn't glow like a comet tail because it's not made of ice).

The two asteroids are likely part of the same "family" of asteroids, and it might be the same family (Flora) that spawned the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs.

Families of asteroids are asteroids that are post-collision remnants of a breakup of a much larger parent asteroid.  They all share similar orbital characteristics, meaning their orbits are at similar speeds, similar shapes, and the same distance from the sun.  They also spin at roughly the same rate.  I am thrilled by the idea that asteroids don't move randomly, but instead are part of families that all move in similar ways.  Picture a scattered group of asteroids, all moving at the same pace, same direction, spinning in unison.  Pretty, eh?  The energy moving through a system organizes that system.  Randomness is not random. 

The picture is from Hubble.

Got a Post of the Week award (my second!) from Hilary.  Thanks Hilary!  Go visit her.  She's a wonderful photographer.

Lastly, the site is redesigned.  I got bored.  I'm still futzing with it; suggestions are welcome.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


If you've ever wondered what it feels like to send a manuscript off to an agent, and wait for a response, it feels a lot like this.

My apologies to Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, as I am almost certainly breaking copyright law by stealing his artwork. In my defense, it's nothing ten thousand Chevy, Dodge and Ram trucks haven't done already.