Archive for August, 2022

Waiting for Artemis 1…

August 29, 2022
source: nasa.gov

I’m currently watching NASA TV waiting for the launch of Artemis 1, the first test of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion crew capsule, albeit unmanned this time with “crash test dummies”, mannequins that will be used to measure forces and radiation, and the first mission to the Moon of its kind for 50 years, since Apollo 17 in 1972.

There was an unplanned hold at 40 minutes before launch due to an operating temperature problem in engine #3.

There are a couple of launch opportunities in early September if today’s launch is cancelled.

This is an important precursor test mission for Artemis 2, a crewed mission scheduled for 2024 that will orbit the Moon and return its astronauts to Earth, Apollo 8 style, before the first crewed landing mission, Artemis 3, in 2025, 53 years after Apollo 17 and 56 years after Apollo 11.

I must admit that life keeps me pre-occupied enough that I wasn’t thinking about this much again until recently. For someone who remembers being sent home from school, even as a 5 year old boy, to watch Apollo 11 on the family B&W TV along with the blurry pictures of Neil Armstrong on the ladder of the LEM, and as a lifelong fan of spaceflight, manned and robotic, the fact that Artemis (the twin of Apollo) is happening seems just a bit special.

NOTE: While writing this, the Artemis 1 launch was scrubbed for today. The next earliest possible launch date is September 2nd, pending the outcome of the analysis of test data from today’s engine problem. Here’s hoping!

20 years since Mum died

August 16, 2022

August 17 2022 marks 20 years since my mother died.

My first inclination was to title this post 20 years since Mum’s passing. Even though I sometimes find myself using the word “passing” in this context, as an atheist, the word makes no sense to me here.

So, what’s changed in 20 years?

Everything and nothing.

And yes, I am aware that’s not a logically consistent statement…

Here’s a personal, random (that’s me in a nutshell) and partial list of things that have and have not changed:

  • A little over a year after we lost Mum, Karen and I had a daughter, Heather, who we dearly wish had known my mother.
  • The Kepler spacecraft has shown us that the universe is likely to be teeming with planets.
  • I still think Mum was the kindest, wisest, sanest of us all.
  • Some countries think war is still a fine idea. Sigh…
  • Our species is beginning to understand that consuming resources at the current rate is problematic. Note that’s not the same as doing something about it…
  • The world as a whole is still not taking climate change all that seriously.
  • I changed employers a few times.
  • The future of computing is still exciting and scary in equal measure. Technology is not value free.
  • I still think of Mum most days. I still miss her, and that’s how it should be.

Shameful attack on Salman Rushdie

August 14, 2022

Religious freedom ends where human or animal suffering begins.

Marianne Thieme

Those who have suggested that the recent attack on Salman Rushdie is the fulfilment of the 1989 fatwa issued against him for his book, The Satanic Verses, should be reminded that while everyone is entitled to their opinion, not all opinions are equal. Ridiculous ideas should be ridiculed.

All such utterances do is to reinforce Christopher Hitchen’s view that religion poisons everything.

Muslims who disagree with extremist interpretations of Islam should denounce, in the strongest possible terms, those who believe that an insult to their prophet makes anything permissible.

Neither should people of any religious conviction come to the defense of such Islamists on the grounds that they are being faithful to Allah, as if faith itself is something to be considered a virtue, grounds for being a member of a special club.

On some matters, it just is NOT the case that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Not when an opinion leads directly to physical harm!

Our species is in serious need of growing up.

We no longer have any need of a god to explain what is no longer mysterious. What believers will do now that their faith is optional and private and irrelevant is a matter for them. We should not care. As long as they make no further attempt to inculcate religion by any form of coercion.

Christopher Hitchens

VStar Citations and other References

August 14, 2022

The purpose of this post to maintain a list of publications and other direct references to VStar.

At the time of writing, 23 papers in the following journals cite the use of VStar:

  • The Journal of the American Association of Variable Star Observers
  • Research Notes of the American Astronomical Society
  • Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia
  • Open European Journal on Variable stars
  • Acta Astronomica
  • arXiv (open-access archive)

The 2012 Algorithms + Observations = VStar” JAAVSO paper is currently the suggested way to cite use of VStar (as per the main AAVSO VStar page), although a CFF citation entry on GitHub or software publication DOI may be recommended as an alternative in future.

In the videos section, John Percy is author of the 2007 text book, Understanding Variable Stars.

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