Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What Did You Do Today?

...Oh, nothing much. Just discovered the FIRST rocky planet outside our solar system!

Wish you could say that, no? Likewise.

But it is confirmed. Scientists have confirmed today the first "Earthlike" planet outside our solar system.

I use the term "Earthlike" loosely. It is to say that it has a similar composition as Earth, but its environment is pretty much what would've happened if Sauron would've gotten his ring back. Very Mordorish what with the proximity to the star it encircles. A year there is less than a day here.

But it's only one side that gets the devil's ass crack treatment. The planet itself doesn't revolve on its axis. So one side is always facing the star. Making it a molten landscape on the day side, and Hoth fucking cold on the other, with a chance of ice on the night side.

What makes this planet so puzzling to astronomers is that they never expected to find a rocky planet so close to a star.

They discovered CoRoT-7b (named after the satellite that discovered it which; believe it or not, was sent up to discover rocky planets) last year, but it took them this long to determine the make and model of the planet which is about 5 times Earth's mass and under twice as large in circumference.

At least 42 scientists at 17 institutions on three different continents worked on the project.

Which has lend credence to the joke, how many scientists in how many places does it take to determine the composition of a newly found planet?

Granted it's not a really funny joke. But what do you want from them?

Back off, man! They're scientists.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"And In The End, The Love You Take, Is Equal To The Love...

...You Make."

This is the last lyric, on the last album The Beatles recorded ("Let It Be" was the last album released, but it was recorded earlier).

It is also the last song you get to play on The Beatles Rock Band game. For those of you not in the know, Rock Band has released a Beatles version of their rhythm based video games.

You would think with the saturation of Guitar Hero iterations and two Rock Band games that this would just be another installment to add to a gamer's library.

You would be stupid.

I typically don't blog about video games, if you glance to your right in this blog, you'll notice that I do enjoy video games, and I'm quite fond of a few of them (Fallout 3 is one of the best games I've ever played). But I rarely, if ever, blog about them.

That's why I am exceptionally excited about talking about The Beatles Rock Band.

Now saying that I'm a Beatles fan is saying that I own their music, appreciate the band for their influence in everything, and groove to them whenever a song of theirs happens to come on.

But this game has made me a much greater fan of The Beatles themselves. A fan of Ringo's drums, of Harrison's guitar, and Lennon and McCartney's singing and songwriting.

The story of the game takes on a linear progression as you play as the Fab Four throughout their stellar career. From their start in England.

The Ed Sullivan Show.

Their studio sessions.

And even their rooftop performance at 3 Savile Row.

Just playing as the Fab 4 in these environments would be awesome on its own. The songs that were made for each venue plays as a music video, taken from the actual performances. You're not the 5th Beatle. You're Paul, or George, or John, or Ringo (by the way, Ringo is probably the hardest to play in the game, his drums are awesome).

But what about the studio sessions? Would it not be boring just seeing 4 guys sitting around playing great music? It might be. It's why they opted to take each of their songs and you, for an amazing ride for the senses.

Here Comes The Sun? It sure as hell does.
I've played rhythm games before, and I found myself messing up on The Beatles version, not because the songs were difficult to play. But because I was so caught up in what I was watching that I took my eyes off the track. I could just sit and watch someone play the songs to see the cinematic awesomeness that went into the game. Check out the awesome videos for yourself.

The Beatles Rock Band is a game that truly takes you on that magical mystery tour. Along the way, you grow with The Beatles in song and experience. You're almost left saddened by the fact that a band as impactful as The Beatles will more than likely never grace us again within our lifetime.

And as depressing as that might seem. A faint horn will sound, an electric guitar will strum in the distance, a band will come into harmony, and you'll remember. You can come and join Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band any time you wish.

The Beatles flashed bright and strong for a decade. To this day, their star hasn't lost any of its luster. I was lucky enough to take notice of them early on as a kid. With the release of this game, I've come to find a new appreciation for the music that these lads from Liverpool graced us with.

I hope that the game will introduce a new generation to incredibly well made music. In fact, I was playing last night, and I heard my cousin today singing a line from "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds".

It's a start, no?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Don't Want To Be An American Idiot. At Least, Not One More.

"In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made school boards."
- Mark Twain.
I thank my parents for few things in my life. But the most important one I attribute completely to them is my education. My folks made education a priority in my life. So much so, that they worked themselves hard so that they would keep me in good schools while I was growing up.

It may have thrown them off when I chose to write fiction and draw comic book heroes as a kid as opposed to studying to be a doctor. But as I got older, I believe they noticed something that they thought I missed out on. They noticed that their son was intelligent.

Now, it may come off as conceited, but in all honesty, I value my education, and I'm completely humbled by all that I have still to learn.

Even in high school, I enjoyed my intelligence, it made me a bit of a smart ass, but regardless, I was fond of learning. And what I didn't know, I went to learn it on my own.

So when I hear that President Obama wanted to give a speech to the kids of America about education, my reaction was, "Rock on! Kids are stupid today, and I missed out on hearing Reagan, Bush, and Clinton's speech back in high school."

But my joy lasted about two mouse clicks. And I begin to read that there is opposition to Obama's speech to children.

*At this time, the author of this blog would like to convey that at that moment, he would've liked to have opened his window, take out his megaphone, set it to moron mode, so that morons are the only ones who can hear it, and in a hearty and clear voice, exclaims, "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?"*

Now, I'm not one for politicians, and as much as I am a fan of Obama, he is a politician, and as Plato once said,

"Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber."
So I started to read Obama's speech, to see if those who oppose this speech have any leg to stand on. You remember Lieutenant Dan in Forest Gump? You remember when he got his legs blown off? And for like half the movie he had no legs, but at the end he gets "magic legs"?

Yeah, they don't even have those "magic legs" to stand on.

The speech, for those not in the know, is an incredibly well written, articulate, and poignant speech on the responsibility students have to their own education.

Anyone else who thinks otherwise has checked their brain at the door to life.

And as appalled as I was, I was letting it slide. I was chocking it up to yet another thing the assholes who occupy this country have against a democratic president.

But I started to realize something. Obama has been doing the same thing. He's been giving, and trying, and working with the opposition to come to a plane of understanding so that both parties can push forward. A lot of folks attribute him to Lincoln for his stance.

And as this thinking mulled over in my mind, the next day, the president gives a speech on health care reform to Congress. Things were going fine, then the Republican politician for South Carolina, Joe Wilson acts like a complete and utter asshole.

Joe Wilson seems to have a penchant for putting his foot so far down his mouth that he uses his ass as a leg warmer.

In 2002, when discussing weapons of mass destruction, Bob Filner pointed out that the US provided Iraq with biological and chemical weapons technology in the 1980s, Wilson falsely claimed that it was "made up" and commented to Filner "This hatred of America by some people is just outrageous. And you need to get over that." Wilson apologized for his remarks in statements to the press.

In 2003, Essie Mae Washington-Williams revealed that she was the illegitimate daughter of Wilson's former employer, the late Senator Strom Thurmond. Good Ol' Wilson was among those who publicly doubted her claim. Wilson said even if her story was true, she should not have revealed it because "it's a smear" on Thurmond's image and was a way to "diminish" Thurmond's legacy. After Thurmond's family acknowledged the truth of Washington-Williams' revelation, Wilson apologized but said that he still thought that she should not have revealed that Thurmond was her father.

Fast forward to yesterday. During Obama's speech, Wilson bellows out, "You lie." He of course apologizes the next day, not of his own accord, but because his party asked him to.

Now presidents are no strangers, to booing or hissing or even the occasional shoe (though that guy kinda deserved it). But an out and out "You lie." Inexcusable, especially from someone who sits in Congress.

Obama has accepted his apology, being the bigger man.

I, for one, am tired of him having to constantly be the bigger man. And I'm also tired of making excuses for those who are against Obama.

These people don't hate on him cause of his views. They hate on him cause he's Black.

There, I said it. And I can give a rat's ass who wants to give me their two cents on why that may not be the case.

Ignorant sons of bitches look at the color of his skin and no further. They call him a socialist, Un-American, and even a terrorist (really?).

But you know what they're really saying?

Nigger! Nigger! Nigger!

"Oh, no." You might say. "That's such a terrible word, they're not saying that."

You're right, it's a terrible word. So they're changing the meanings of other words. Words that don't mean "nigger" in the definition, but they're sure as hell implying it.

It's sickening. I tried to overlook that fact. I assumed since we got a Black guy as president, that it means we as a country have finally gone color blind, at least a little.

I fooled myself with the ideal that we could grow. That we could see what a man with intelligence would do if he was the leader of this country.

Even those that have made the comparison of Obama to Lincoln can't say that it's not a bit racist. Making the comparison to a guy who freed the slaves because he's Black? Come on.

I like to think that it was Lincoln's partisan policies that people like to make the comparison. But I know I'm lying to myself. At least about the majority.

Well, if the comparison is going to be made. May I say, President Obama, it's time to stop reaching over the table to shake their hand. In the words of Lincoln.

"If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what's said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference."
The gloves need to come off. You are the President of The United States. You have shown the world, now show your people.

(And by your people I mean the American people, not... You know...)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

September 3rd, 1976

The Viking 2 mission was part of the Viking program to Mars, and consisted of an orbiter and a lander essentially identical to that of the Viking 1 mission. The Viking 2 lander operated on the surface for 1,281 Mars days and was turned off on 11 April1980 when its batteries failed. The orbiter worked until 25 July 1978, returning almost 16,000 images in 706 orbits around Mars.

The craft was launched on September 9, 1975. Following launch using a Titan/Centaur launch vehicle and a 333 day cruise to Mars, the Viking 2 Orbiter began returning global images of Mars prior to orbit insertion. The orbiter was inserted into a 1500 x 33,000 km, 24.6 h Mars orbit on August 7, 1976 and trimmed to a 27.3 h site certification orbit with a periapsis of 1499 km and an inclination of 55.2 degrees on 9 August. Imaging of candidate sites was begun and the landing site was selected based on these pictures and the images returned by the Viking 1 Orbiter. The lander separated from the orbiter on September 3, 1976 at 22:37:50 UT and landed at Utopia Planitia.

The lander and its aeroshell separated from the orbiter on 3 September 19:39:59 UT. At the time of separation, the lander was orbiting at about 4 km/s. After separation, rockets fired to begin lander deorbit. After a few hours, at about 300 km attitude, the lander was reoriented for entry. The aeroshell with its ablative heat shield slowed the craft as it plunged through the atmosphere.

The Viking 2 Lander touched down about 200 km west of the crater Mie in Utopia Planitia at 48.269° N 225.990° W at an altitude of 4.23 km relative to a reference ellipsoid with an equatorial radius of 3397.2 km and a flattening of 0.0105 (47.967°N, 225.737° W planetographic) at 22:58:20 UT (9:49:05 a.m. local Mars time).

And it took this picture.

This rocky panoramic scene is the second picture of the Martian surface that was taken by Viking Lander 2 shortly after touchdown on September 3 at 3:58 PM PDT (Earth received time). The site is on a northern plain of Mars, at about 48 N. Lat., 226 W. Long., known as Utopia Planitia.

The Viking 2 lander operated on the surface for 1281 sols and was turned off on April 11, 1980 when its batteries failed.

Also, on September 3rd @ 8:14am, I was born.

To share a day with something that has captivated me my entire life is truly an honor and humbling.

Mark Twain believed that his life was tied to Halley's Comet. He said,

It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: "Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together."

Mr. Clemens, to take a page out of your book, and take it the one step further that I am sure you wish you could've gone were it not for being born too soon in history.

I was born the day this picture was taken. The universe and all of its wonders have since inspired me my whole life in everything I do. It only stands to reason (if it only stands as reason to me) that I will make the journey to Mars, and I will come to rest on Utopia Planitia.