"astronomy" entries

Four short links: 14 August 2015

Four short links: 14 August 2015

Jeep Hack, Blockchain for Beginners, Three Next:Economy Papers, and Signs of Self-Destruction

  1. The Jeep Cherokee Hack (Kaspersky) — details from the Black Hat talk.
  2. The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Blockchain Technology — in case you’ve been slipping on your nerd cred.
  3. Automation Angst (The Economist) — discusses three papers: (1) automation creates new jobs; (2) the sweet-spot of automation has been in mid-range intellectual, mid-rate physical tasks; and (3) know the history of automation/unemployment scares.
  4. Observational Signatures of Self-Destructive Civilisations (arXiv) — Using the Earth as an example, we consider a variety of scenarios in which humans could extinguish their own technological civilisation. Each scenario presents some form of observable signature that could be probed by astronomical campaigns to detect and characterise extrasolar planetary systems. I feel like there’s a business form of this paper, too …
Four short links: 25 June 2013

Four short links: 25 June 2013

History as Science, Indoor Location, Nightscape Photography, and Finding the Impossible

  1. Cliodynamics: History as Sciencea systematic application of the scientific method to history: verbal theories should be translated into mathematical models, precise predictions derived, and then rigorously tested on empirical material. In short, history needs to become an analytical, predictive science.
  2. Cricket — indoor location system from MIT. In a nutshell, Cricket uses a combination of RF and ultrasound technologies to provide location information to attached host devices. Wall- and ceiling-mounted beacons placed through a building publish information on an RF channel. […] The listener runs algorithms that correlate RF and ultrasound samples (the latter are simple pulses with no data encoded on them) and to pick the best correlation. Even in the presence of several competing beacon transmissions, Cricket achieves good precision and accuracy quickly.
  3. The World at Nightan international effort to present stunning nightscape photos and time-lapse videos of the world’s landmarks against celestial attractions.
  4. Paul Steinhardt on Impossible Crystals (YouTube) — quasi-crystals with five-fold symmetry previously believed impossible. And then he found one, and led an expedition in 2011 to Chukotka in Far Eastern Russia to find new information about its origin and search for more samples. As you do when you’re the Albert Einstein Professor of Science at Princeton, a job title that comes with no pressure at all to bring home the impossible.
Comment: 1

Mining the astronomical literature

A clever data project shows the promise of open and freely accessible academic literature.

There is a huge debate right now about making academic literature freely accessible and moving toward open access. But what would be possible if people stopped talking about it and just dug in and got on with it?

NASA’s Astrophysics Data System (ADS), hosted by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), has quietly been working away since the mid-’90s. Without much, if any, fanfare amongst the other disciplines, it has moved astronomers into a world where access to the literature is just a given. It’s something they don’t have to think about all that much.

The ADS service provides access to abstracts for virtually all of the astronomical literature. But it also provides access to the full text of more than half a million papers, going right back to the start of peer-reviewed journals in the 1800s. The service has links to online data archives, along with reference and citation information for each of the papers, and it’s all searchable and downloadable.

Number of papers published in the three main astronomy journals each year
Number of papers published in the three main astronomy journals each year. CREDIT: Robert Simpson

The existence of the ADS, along with the arXiv pre-print server, has meant that most astronomers haven’t seen the inside of a brick-built library since the late 1990s.

It also makes astronomy almost uniquely well placed for interesting data mining experiments, experiments that hint at what the rest of academia could do if they followed astronomy’s lead. The fact that the discipline’s literature has been scanned, archived, indexed and catalogued, and placed behind a RESTful API makes it a treasure trove, both for hypothesis generation and sociological research.

Read more…

Comments: 10
Four short links: 18 April 2012

Four short links: 18 April 2012

Cartographic Data Tool, Astronomical Volumes of Astronomical Data, Faster Touch, and Why MS Open Source?

  1. CartoDB (GitHub) — open source geospatial database, API, map tiler, and UI. For feature comparison, see Comparing Open Source CartoDB to Fusion Tables (via Nelson Minar).
  2. Future Telescope Array Drives Exabyte Processing (Ars Technica) — Astronomical data is massive, and requires intense computation to analyze. If it works as planned, Square Kilometer Array will produce over one exabyte (260 bytes, or approximately 1 billion gigabytes) every day. This is roughly twice the global daily traffic of the entire Internet, and will require storage capacity at least 10 times that needed for the Large Hadron Collider. (via Greg Linden)
  3. Faster Touch Screens More Usable (Toms Hardware) — check out that video! (via
    Greg Linden)
  4. Why Microsoft’s New Open Source Division (Simon Phipps) — The new “Microsoft Open Technologies, Inc.” provides an ideal firewall to protect Microsoft from the risks it has been alleging exist in open source and open standards. As such, it will make it “easier and faster” for them to respond to the inevitability of open source in their market without constant push-back from cautious and reactionary corporate process.
Four short links: 9 June 2010

Four short links: 9 June 2010

DIY Games, Code Review, Open Oil Data, Crowd Sourced Science Success

  1. Game Dev 101 lessons with WarioWare DIYNintendo’s long-running and (at its debut) groundbreaking WarioWare franchise has always been predicated on discrete games played for 5-10 seconds at a time, in rapid succession, and it’s precisely that stripped-bare approach that makes it an ideal launchpad for re-wiring the way aspiring designers think about what makes games fun. With its own bespoke image and music editor, a graphical scripting language not altogether (so I’m told) that different from the tools available in popular PC package GameMaker, and — crucially, if a bit over-long for those more familiar with game dev proper — hours worth of mandatory tutorials that leisurely stroll you through Your First Animated Sprite or Your First Logic Gate. (via BoingBoing)
  2. What Should Mozilla Look For In an Automated Review SystemMondrian’s review comment system really seemed to encourage a style where there was a one-way flow of instructions from the reviewer to the reviewee: “Do this. Do this. Do this.” and the reviewee replies with “Done. Done. Done.” Sometimes this is appropriate, but oftentimes it isn’t. (Mondrian is Google’s internal tool for this) (via Marc Hedlund)
  3. DOE Releases BP Oil Spill DataAs part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing commitment to transparency surrounding the response to the BP oil spill, the Department of Energy is providing online access to schematics, pressure tests, diagnostic results and other data about the malfunctioning blowout preventer. (via EllnMllr on Twitter)
  4. The Rise of Crowd Science — fascinating account of the life work of Alex Szalay, who has turned astronomy into a data-sharing discipline embracing crowdsourcing. I loved this story: More than 270,000 people have signed up to classify galaxies so far [on Galaxy Zoo]. One of them is Hanny van Arkel, a schoolteacher in Holland, who found out about the site after her favorite musician, Brian May, guitarist for the rock group Queen, wrote about it on his blog. After clicking around on Galaxy Zoo for a while one summer, she landed on an image with what she describes as a “very bright blue spot” on it. “I read the tutorial and there was nothing about a blue spot,” she says, so she posted a note to the site’s forums. “I was just really wondering, What is this?” Her curiosity paid off. Scientists now believe the spot is a highly unusual gas cloud that could help explain the life cycle of quasars. The Hubble telescope was recently pointed at the object, now nicknamed “Hanny’s Voorwerp,” the Dutch word for object. Astronomers have published papers about the discovery, listing Ms. van Arkel as a co-author. “Don’t ask me to explain them to you, but I am a co-author of them,” she says with a laugh. Szalay will be at Science Foo Camp this year, and I can’t wait to meet him. (via Penny Carnaby)
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Time Lapse of Galactic Center of Milky Way rising over Texas Star Party

According to William Castleman: “The time-lapse sequence was taken with the simplest equipment that I brought to the star party. I put the Canon EOS-5D (AA screen modified to record hydrogen alpha at 656 nm) with an EF 15mm f/2.8 lens on a weighted tripod. Exposures were 20 seconds at f/2.8 ISO 1600 followed by 40 second interval. Exposures were controlled by an interval timer shutter release (Canon TC80N3). Power was provided by a Hutech EOS203 12v power adapter run off a 12v deep cycle battery. Large jpg files shot in custom white balance were batch processed in Photoshop (levels, curves, contrast, Noise Ninja noise reduction, resize) and assembled in Quicktime Pro. Editing/assembly was with Sony Vegas Movie Studio 9.”

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Space Shuttle Atlantis during Solar Transit

In this tightly cropped image, the NASA space shuttle Atlantis is seen in silhouette during solar transit, Tuesday, May 12, 2009, from Florida. This image was made before Atlantis and the crew of STS-125 had grappled the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo Credit: (NASA/Thierry Legault) Thierry made this image using a solar-filtered Takahashi 5-inch refracting telescope and a Canon 5D…

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