Photography ... astronomy ... art ... design ... technology
(... and the odd rant)

All of these make my world go 'round, to some extent, and they will all be found here at some time or other. Some of the photography can be purchased from my Redbubble site. I can also be found at Tempus Fugit (no longer being updated).

Monday, July 28, 2008

Beautiful science

Science seems to elicit a range of reactions from people: excitement, fear, distrust, puzzlement, and so on. There are those who hang on almost every word that scientists utter, and those who are dismissive of scientific endeavour, and see it as evil work, just serving to ruin the world. Some of these reactions are understandable, given the range of effects and products that scientific discovery and progress has produced, both good and bad.

For some, science can be just plain beautiful; such beauty can lie in an equation, the proof of a theorem, or a truly captivating image generated by any branch of science capable of so doing. One such example of the latter is this delightful confirmation of one of Einstein's predictions - gravitational lensing. Put simply, gravity can bend light. It takes a massive object, with a substantial gravitational field, to achieve this, but fortunately, the Universe is full of such things.

Our Sun is massive enough to show the effect, which can be demonstrated during total eclipses: stars 'behind' the Sun (but close enough to it, in the line of sight) can be seen in slightly different positions than expected, due to the Sun's pull on the distant starlight. When we look deep into the Universe though, we can observe not just stars, but entire galaxies that give rise to this effect. Often, the result is fragmented arcs of light, as very distant objects are not just 'moved ' slightly, but completely distorted. One very fine example of the effect is in this image from APOD. A very distant galaxy has been distorted into a nearly complete ring, by a nearer one. Click the image to read more.

SDSSJ1430: A Galaxy Einstein Ring
Credit: A. Bolton (UH/IfA) for SLACS and NASA/ESA

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The past is evaporating

I have always been concerned about the disappearance of ephemeral (and not-so-ephemeral) things, that deserve a greater degree of longevity. In my domestic surroundings, this manifests as a love of old or antique furniture, cameras, books, and so on. Photographs have a special place in my heart, as documents of people and events in the past - especially when those photographs are from the early years of photographic endeavour.

Retro Thing reports on the potential loss of early expmples of computer software, in "Restoring Woz's Original Apple BASIC":

"You might not realize how much early microcomputer software has been lost over the years. Steve Wozniak's Apple BASIC is a case in point. Only a few original copies of the tape still exist, and there were no perfect binary dumps of the 4096 byte file until Michael Steil recently decided to try his hand at reading a 2002 mp3 audio recording [mp3] of the original 30 second cassette file."

This is especially horrifying when the potential loss relates to such a pivotal piece of computing history. Read on, here.

clipped from
Apple I

blog it

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

But is it Art?

No. 1 Son and I were on our own last week, with the other half of our domestic community being away for the week. While I was out and about (or inside and busy), said son amused himself - both in the house and elsewhere. During the time the house was graced with his presence, DVDs were watched and food was consumed, among other activities. Actually, there probably were no other activities worth speaking of, now I come to think of it...

I returned home one day, to discover a growing collection of crockery beside the TV. No surprise in that - it is known to happen from time to time. This collection seemed to be on a larger scale though, so I wondered if, like grapefruit, there was more to it than met the eye. With a few spaces left in the dishwasher, this little gathering would have fitted nicely, but I just wondered whether it might be some sort of personal statement, instead of merely manifestation of a lack of industry. Could it be that
No. 1 Son was merely expressing himself, and I was about to destroy his creation? To be on the safe side, I thought I should preserve the arrangement, just in case.

So, I present it to you now, with but a single question: Is it Art?