Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Everything you ever wanted to know about influenza...even a little bit about manbearpig flu

I guess I don't need to say there has been a lot of new about the swine flu lately. I've read countless blogs and new articles about it. I've even temporarily banned TV news from head for a while in order to avoid all the fear mongering. I've been kind of lazy lately so I'm gonna poach a story from one of my favorite sources of medical news: Junkfood Science.

I'm always generally skeptical of "breaking news" and other news stories on popular media. They have a habit of picking sensational headlines, exaggerate the facts and leaving out critical information (and critical thinking). This is especially true of science news. The public buys fear so the media sells fear. Isn't "sweeps week" sometime around now?

Briefly, part of the this "new" scare is due to a new focus and reporting system on influenza by health organizations. "increased surveillance is not the same thing as actual increased incidents." Tens of thousands of Americans already die from influenza every year. The numbers are NOT increasing. It's not time to panic. It's smart to be concerned but most importantly: wash your hands, don't cough on people, wash your hands and don't forget to wash your hands.

Here are some snippets from Junkfood Science Blog:

The media loves a good scare and the word pandemic is a guaranteed headline grabber. By this evening, there were nearly 70,000 news stories about an influenza pandemic, many accentuated by pictures of crowds of people wearing blue surgical masks. But scaring you half to death with speculations of a new pandemic does little to help you. The known facts, offered in a balanced perspective, is really news you can use.

...most of us have lived through a flu pandemic and never even realized it. The Hong Kong flu pandemic in 1968-69, for example, killed an estimated 33,800 Americans. That sounds like a lot, but it’s about the same number of Americans who die from the flu in a typical year.

Swine flu was first isolated in laboratory tests from a human in 1974. Sporadic cases of swine influenza viral infections in humans have been reported in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia for decades.

The bottom line is that there is no evidence we need to panic about another flu pandemic. The newspapers and television networks love a good scare, as do pharmaceutical companies. But scares do nothing to make us feel better. All influenza infections are worthy of prudent precautions, but panic can be far more virulent and more costly than the flu itself.

Please read Sandy's full story and follow the links: "Flu Fears."

Addendum:

1. Forget about those blue surgical masks you see everyone wearing on television news. Viruses are tiny enough to go right through them or around the openings. They might help protect you from globs of mucus flying towards your face, but that’s about all. They’re mostly good for hyping the fear factor and looking scary. -JFSBlog

2. If you get sick: For heavens sake, stay home and don’t spread any respiratory virus with your friends, schoolmates, work buddies or fellow parishioners. And especially stay away from people who are more vulnerable to respiratory infections, such as babies, elderly, immunosuppressed patients and those with underlying medical conditions or chronic diseases. -JFSBlog

3. If you believe in god, (why are you reading my blog?) I doubt your god/Gods/God would want you to go hang out all sick and everything with all his worshipers on Sunday. Stay away from church. But then again, perhaps your god/God/God wants a bunch of new souls...hum quite a dilemma.

3. Viruses are pretty cool little buggers.

4. Learn about Al Gore's research into manbearpig. I don't really have any information about a flu associated with manbearpig. However, I'm sure if there was a flu associated with manbearpig, we'd all surely be fucked.

5. Michelle Bachman is, again.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Great Horned Owl


Great Horned Owl
Originally uploaded by Mully410

This is my favorite set of photos. I took it at the Minnesota State Fair in 2008. The University of Minnesota Raptor Center brought out this Great Horned Owl. The handler was gracious enough to feed her a mouse right in front of me. It was pretty cool. I took about 20 shots and picked the 5 best for this set.

Thanks to the crowd at reddit.com, this set of 5 photos has over 700 views.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Penn Says - Go to TAM7

Penn Jillette of the famed "Penn and Teller" duo, says go to The Amazing Meeting. He will be speaking at the event again this year.



I've previously posted about TAM here . Randi Speaks about it here. Or just skip the links to my posts and go directly to the JREF site.

I'll all booked and ready to go, are you?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I am so #1


I am so
Originally uploaded by Mully410

This very short video is now the number 1 viewed item in my Flickr photostream.

I love reddit.com. If you haven't tried it, check it out. It's a lot like Digg without all the fancy graphics. There is a very active community there. Within one day of posting this video, my set of the owl eating a mouse and this lame turkey video, I got 1100 views.

I submitted 4 or 5 blog posts and over 300 new people read my blog so far this week. Very cool. Thanks everyone, especially the new reddit crowd.

Stupid Government

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Does it really matter how your numbers measure up? Your "common sense" is WRONG

Sandy at Junkfood Science blog reports on another "buried" heath study. Again and again it's reported that people with high body mass index (BMI), die prematurely because of their weigh. This is very difficult to prove with objective valid and comprehensive data. I encourage you to read the full article, especially if you are spending big dough on a gym or a diet. Basically, it's pointless for most people to lose weigh to get "healthy." Now if you are doing it purely out of vanity, then I guess that's ok. Here is a snippet:

Everywhere we turn, tape measures are being unfurled and our waists and hips measured, our bodies are weighed and pinched all purportedly to measure our health and risks for an early grave. But they don't. Foremost, they are measures of the natural, hereditary diversity of human body shapes, types and sizes, and reflections of aging.

But convincing us that fixating on our appearance and how our body measures up is more than superficiality, but about being healthy and convincing us that judging others by their bodies and how they measure up is more than prejudice, but concern for their health sells much more than tape measures and health risk assessments. Whether its someone telling us what to do if our BMI and waist measurements don't meet government guidelines, how to get rid of belly fat, or what to do if our waist-to-hip ratios and body shapes aren't ideal the advice is the same: diet, exercise and lose weight. Obesity, healthy eating and lifestyles is big business and big government.

Go here for the full article: Junkfood Science: Does it really matter how your numbers measure up? Or can you ditch the tape measure? As always, follow her links to the studies. Read them yourself and thing critically.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Thoughts and Tips on Photography

Fence Closeup
Fence Close Up, one of my more recent personal favorites. (an example of depth of field use)

There are tons and tons of great photography tips and "tricks" to capture great shots. I finally found a website that is fairly comprehensive. Digital Photography School contains pretty much everything you need to know about taking photos, buying cameras and post-production modification.

Until recently, the only photography class I attended was a free evening seminar at National Camera Exchange. I got a free pass with the purchase of a really nice Pentax 35mm camera. I learned (rather remember) only two things from that class. First of all, The Rule of Thirds which basically says divide your shot into thirds and position the main point of interest in your shot at or near one of the intersection points of the horizontal and vertical thirds. Secondly, (I don't know if there is an official name for it) get down to the level of your subject. How many photos of people's kids have you seen all from the same angle? The shooter is almost always standing up pointing the camera down at the kid(s). BORING! Get down on one knee and shoot the kids at their level. You'll see a huge improvement in your shots. Don't be lazy...these are you kids, for Pete's sake.

Last month, I attended an all day seminar by Fran Lanting at the Bell Museum on the University of Minnesota campus. Frans has traveled the world and worked for National Geographic. We saw scores of his photos and heard his commentary on what it took to get those amazing images. He has lots of his work and some tips on his website. Probably the biggest revelation he shared was how much preparation goes into the composition of each shot. He said nature is very predictable, meaning animals will generally do the same thing over and over again. I watch the birds at my feeder and sure enough, they perch in the same trees, walk around in the same areas and arrive and leave at the same times of the day. Frans spends lots of time observing nature. Once he has a good feel for what's going on, he sets up his gear with the best background and composition all lined up. Another bit of insight that Frans shared was about megapixels. He said nobody is counting the pixels in your shots. It doesn't matter how fancy of a camera you have or how many jillion pixels it has. If you shoot uninteresting boring crap it's still uninteresting boring crap (OK. He was more polite about it. I'm paraphrasing). If you have an interesting shot, it doesn't matter how much you paid for you camera.

I picked the Sony DSC-W150 because is was small, about the size of a pack of playing cards. I have a big clunky Canon with a 200mm lens but found I never brought it anywhere, so I wanted something that fit in my pocket. The Sony has a fairly decent 5x optical zoon, starts up pretty quickly and has an optical view finder. I shoot in 16x9+ mode because it looks better on my big screen TV. You tell me if I need to spend another $5000-$10000 on fancy camera gear. I think I do OK and so do the people who've viewed, favorited and commented on my stuff almost 15,000 times.

My most viewed photo:

Ghosts in the woods
Ghost in the woods

My most interesting and favorited photo (according to Flickr):

Sad Face (Moon Jupiter and Venus)
Sad Face (Moon, Jupiter, Venus)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Astronomy Day 2009 is fast approaching...May 1, 2009

I had great fun with the Minnesota Astronomical Society celebrating 100 Hours of Astronomy earlier this month. Here is another public event from MAS:

May 1st and 2nd, is the annual Astronomy Day weekend. Astronomy Day is a grass roots movement designed to share the joy of astronomy with the general population - 'Bringing Astronomy to the People.' On Astronomy Day, thousands of people who have never looked through a telescope will have an opportunity to see first hand what has so many amateur and professional astronomers all excited.

Astronomy Day weekend highlights Saturn and its' thinning rings, the Moon, Mercury passing by the Pleiades and comets Cardinal (C/2008 T2) and Yi-SWAN (C/2009 F6) visible in the evening. Venus will also be a good target but will need to be viewed several hours BEFORE sunset. We will be saying goodbye to the winters finest objects M42, M45 and M1 and welcoming the arrival of some of summers best: M13, M57, M3, NGC4565, the Virgo cluster and many others. Events begin Friday May 1st at 7:00 pm with solar viewing and informal video presentations, followed by stargazing.

Saturday's events begin at noon and will include speakers thruout (sic) the afternoon. So far we have Bill Arden, who will give a talk on constellation mythology, Michael Kauper who will talk about daytime astronomy/activities for kids and Jackie LaVaque, giving an overview and tour of the observatory's past and present will be available to answer your questions.

Go here for complete up-to-date details: Minnesota Astronomical Society

If you are interested and want to carpool or something, please let me know.

* Should you join us the Onan Observatory be sure to read the Star Party Guidelines.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Ridiculousness of God

Here is an interesting, entertaining and likely shocking (to Christians) video. The angels make some great points. I don't understand how anyone could disagree with them. Please watch the whole thing, especially if you are planning to attempt to influence my opinion.

NonStamp Collector has lots of similar videos on his Youtube Channel.

Thanks to PZ at Pharyngula for the tip.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Emerging Nature


Emerging Plants
Originally uploaded by Mully410

Time for a nature update. I've been out to the TCAAP Wildlife Viewing Area about a half dozen times so far this spring. I captured these tiny plants emerging from the ground tonight.

The osprey are back. I saw four them tonight. Two were beginning to rebuild a nest on top of the pole they always use. I saw three of the river otters a couple weeks ago. Turkeys are everywhere around here. Tonight, I saw a big tom strutting around with his feathers all spread out. He was on the other side of the lake so no pics. :-(

Eastern bluebirds
have made it back and are scoping out the bird houses. Lots of geese and ducks around. Saw two trumpeter swans only briefly a couple days ago. A pair of them successfully raise five cygnets last year. The loons are back too.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

GALILEOSCOPE STATUS REPORT AND INFORMATION FOR CUSTOMERS

I received this email the other day. It means, be patient for your Galileoscope.

We never intended to send e-mail blasts to all our Galileoscope customers, but we need to make an exception today and ask your forbearance and forgiveness.

Please read this message through to the very end before deciding whether you need to reply. If you have a question, it’s probably answered here somewhere.

The Galileoscope team has been overwhelmed by the positive response to the project since our e-commerce site went live in February. In only one month, thousands of people have ordered tens of thousands of Galileoscopes for delivery all over the world. The kit is going into production, and we expect to begin shipping Galileoscopes in late
April, as planned. Orders will be filled in order of receipt. Watch our website, www.galileoscope.org, for updates.

Problems and Explanations

We know that many customers have encountered problems when placing orders and/or have been frustrated by a lack of responsiveness from the Galileoscope team. We sincerely apologize for these inconveniences. There are several explanations. First and foremost, this is a big project run by a small staff of volunteers who have full-time professional jobs -- that’s one of the keys to our being able to offer such a high-quality telescope at such a low price. Unfortunately, this also makes it very difficult for us to promptly answer queries or resolve individual problems with orders. We are diligently following up on all outstanding issues, but it’s taking far longer than any of us would like.

Missing Order Receipts

Second, despite extensive prelaunch testing, we discovered some configuration problems with our website only after it went live. As a result, some customers did not receive e-mail confirmations of their orders. We will manually re-send these confirmations as soon as we can track them all down. If you sent us an e-mail asking, “Where’s my receipt?”, you will get a response.

International Credit Cards

Third, the service we’re using to approve credit-card transactions initially rejected many valid international credit cards. If you tried to place an order and had your credit card refused, please try again -- your purchase should be approved now, and you should get a receipt by e-mail. Note that we are using best practices in all our financial transactions and have had absolutely no problems with the security of
individual credit-card numbers or other personal information.

Patience Will Be Rewarded

Again, the volunteer nature of the Galileoscope project dictates that we cannot respond as promptly as a typical commercial enterprise on the Internet. This doesn’t mean we won’t respond -- it just means we will be slow in responding to queries that need individual attention. Hopefully this e-mail blast will answer most people’s questions,
avoiding the need for many individual replies.

Here is some additional information that might answer your
as-yet-unanswered questions.

Orders Small and Large

Our website, www.galileoscope.org, is intended to be used for small orders with payment by credit card or PayPal. The cost is US$15 per Galileoscope plus shipping by postal/parcel service. Individuals or institutions wishing to order 100 or more Galileoscopes can get a discounted price of US$12.50 per kit, save on shipping via freight service, and pay by purchase order. To initiate a large order of 100+ kits, please fill out the Request for Quotation form at https://www.galileoscope.org/gs/sites/galileoscope.org.gs/files/Galileoscope-RFQ.doc
and send it by e-mail to freight@galileoscope.org.

Early Requests for Freight Quotes

If you requested a freight quote several weeks ago, before we posted the RFQ form on our website, you needn’t send another request. We are working hard to cull these early requests from the thousands of e-mail messages we’ve received, so you should hear from us soon with your quote. Again, please be patient.

How *Not* To Order

We accept orders only via our website and via the request-for-quotation form, as noted above. Online orders must be prepaid with a credit card or PayPal. We do not accept telephone or mail orders, and we do not accept payment by check (except for
institutions following up on previously accepted purchase orders).

A Clarification about Donations

Many customers have become confused about our Give a Galileoscope donation program. This program is not or ordering gifts for specific persons or groups. Nor is it for requesting free telescopes for yourself or others. When you Give a Galileoscope, you cannot specify a recipient or a delivery address. Donations via this program are pooled
anonymously, and the donated Galileoscopes will be distributed later to underserved students throughout the world. Exactly who will get them will be determined by the American Astronomical Society and its program partners, as described on our website.

We are delighted to report that, so far, for every five Galileoscopes ordered for delivery, a sixth Galileoscope has been ordered for donation. This means that thousands of kids across the globe -- kids who would never otherwise be able to afford a telescope -- will get an opportunity to see the night sky up close thanks to our customers’ generosity. This is truly gratifying and very much in keeping with the
spirit of the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

As noted above, we will begin shipping Galileoscopes in late April. Thanks for reading all this, and again, we sincerely apologize for the various problems and inconveniences you may have encountered.

For the Galileoscope team,

Dr. Rick Fienberg
IYA2009 Galileoscope Task Group Chair
AAS Deputy Press Officer
rfienberg@galileoscope.org
_______________________________________________
AASExploder mailing list
AASExploder@aas.org
http://lists.aas.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/aasexploder

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cigar Shaped UFO not


Cigar Shaped UFO not
Originally uploaded by Mully410

Hey, I just noticed this photo finally hit 200 views! I've been watching it for a while so I can add it to my 200+ set. Thanks for viewing.

Why Evolution is True - Just in Time

I had a discussion with a friend just yesterday about evolution vs. creation. If you've read my blog, you already know I'm big on science. I know the differences between hypothesis, scientific theory, faith and woo. Creation belief is simply not science.

This was the first time I encountered someone, in person, who was very well versed in the creation as science arguments. I've been reading about these arguments for long time. It didn't take long for me to figure out I was out matched. This conversation eventually ended with me saying "I'm not an evolutionary biologist so I'll have to get back to you on that."

Ironically or coincidentally or psychically, I came across this book review by my Facebook friend, favoritest astronomer and President, Phil Plait. Here is a snippet:

That's why I loved the book Why Evolution is True by biologist Jerry Coyne. This is a clear, easy-to-understand work that shows you - with no compromising and no backing down - that evolution has occurred, the evidence is overwhelming, and that no other explanation fro what we see around us makes sense. He goes through many, many arguments about this: how we do see adaptation to changing environments, how the DNA records support the change in the genome of life with time and environment, how fossils support evolutionary change.

Moreover, he shows that the scientific theory of evolution by natural (and in some cases, sexual) selection makes clear predictions which are borne out by observations. And on top of that he shows why these conclusions make no sense at all if you think there is some Creator that made us the way we are out of thin air (or dust, I suppose).

Go here for the full post and some links: Why Evolution is True

I immediately went to Amazon and ordered it. I also ordered The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design. Many of my Minneapolis Skeptic friends recommended this book.

I have no illusions that I'll be able to change my friends mind. I don't plan to ammo up just to attack his position. My goal is to learn more and hopefully understand better how he thinks like he does.

Most of my readers know this, but just in case you don't. I have given equal time to the "other side" of this debate. The cold hard truth is there aren't two sides. The theory of evolution does not predict or explain creation. See big bang theory for that. And by the way, I have it on good authority (Facebook quiz) that my biblical knowledge is that of a Bible Scholar.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mully410 Critical Blog - Stats 04-13-09


Mully410 Critical Blog - Stats 04-13-09
Originally uploaded by Mully410

For those of you keeping track, here are the latest stats on my blog.

Some more highlights:
- Visitors have come from 67 different countries
- The largest average of page views per visit came from Iraq
- The longest average time spent on my blog came from Lithuania (27+ minutes)
- The most traffic to my blog comes from Digg.com with Flickr.com and Randi.org close behind.
- 31 times someone with a dial up connection viewed my blog.
- So far 24% of my visitors are repeat customers.
- The "How to Find Comet Lulin" post has been read 378 times.
- The "Who is Closed Minded" post is the 2nd most popular with 158 reads.
- Mully410 has 9 fans on Facebook.
- This blog has 4 RSS feed subscribers and 39 NetworkedBlogs followers.

Thanks everyone for all the traffic.

BTW: Mully410's Flickr photos have been viewed over 14,000 times!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

We live, we die, and some of us get eaten.


We live, we die, and some of us get eaten.
Originally uploaded by Mully410

This is what happens to bunnies in my neighborhood. Was it a hawk? Eagle? Coyote? Owl? Any one of the these wonderful organic sustainable creatures could have eaten this Easter bunny.

I wonder....what kind of being/entity/god/God/gods could create a world in which so much terror and death is absolutely essential for survival? Until I'm presented with extraordinary evidence to the contrary, I will continue to think there is no such sadistic supernatural being in charge of anything.

Today in Astronomy: April 10: Sidney Dean Townley

This astronomer was born exactly 100 years before me. Here is a snippet:

Sidney Dean Townley April 10, 1867 - March 18, 1946:

Sidney Dean Townley was an American astronomer and geodeticist. During his second year at the university he took a course in astronomy. He was also given a room at the Washburn Observatory and worked nights as an assistant. These would serve to shape his interest in astronomy.

Go here for the full story: Today in Astronomy: April 10: Sidney Dean Townley

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mully410 is Vain on Facebook

Become a Fan of Mully410 on Facebook. I'm not sure what I'll publish on this fan page. Perhaps some your loyal readers with think of something. I haven't figured out how to link this fan page to feed my blog, Flickr and Youtube posts. If you figure it out, please let me know.

Randi Speaks - Conjuring With Barbara Walters

Here is another great Randi Speaks episode. Randi shows some clips of an appearance he had on Barbara Walters' show. Here is a snippet and the video:

35 years ago, Barbara Walters was so impressed by Uri Geller that a bent key he presented to her became a permanent part of her key chain. Convinced that she found the real deal, she invited Randi and a couple of other notable magicans onto her show to try to explain the "Geller Phenomenon.


Go here for the link the to the JREF site: Randi Speaks - Conjuring With Barbara Walters

Friday, April 10, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me

Happy birthday to me and everyone else born on this great day: Steven Seagal, John Madden, Omar Sharif, Max Von Sydow, Joseph Pulitzer, Harry Morgan and Chuck Conners.

http://www.famousbirthdays.com/

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Randi Speak - TAM7

In this video, James The Amazing Randi talks about this year's The Amaz!ng Meeting. TAM7 for short. I'll be attending and so should you. Here is some stuff I wrote about it earlier.

"The biggest and best critical thinking conference in the world."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Minneapolis Skeptics April Happy Hour

Minneapolis Skeptics are meeting this Thursday April 9th for happy hour. I was at last month's event and had a great time. Good food, good beer and great conversation. The best part was meeting new people who share a similar skeptical view point.

Here is a snippet of the event:

Common Roots Cafe

2558 Lyndale Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55405
(612) 871-2360

Our April happy hour will be in the Community Room at the Common Roots cafe. Conversation lovers, this is a good room to talk in, and we can spill over into the main cafe if the group gets too large. Beer lovers, they have a few nice beers on tap including Surly Furious and Cynic.

Go here for their meet-up site and more details.

Science IS imagination! - Bad Astronomy Blog

Another great post by my Facebook friend Phil:

People don't understand science.

And I don't mean that your average person doesn't understand how relativity works, or quantum mechanics, or biochemistry. Like any advanced study, its hard to understand them, and it takes a lifetime of work to become familiar with them. No, what I mean is that people don’t understand the process of science. How a scientist goes from a list of observations and perhaps a handful of equations to understanding. To knowing.

And that's a shame, because its a beautiful thing. Its not mechanical, not wholly logical, and not plodding down a narrow path of rules and laws.

Go here and read the full post Science IS imagination | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Randi Speaks: The 2008 Pigasus Awards

Sorry for the lateness of this post. It's time for the JREF Pigasus awards. Here is a snippet:
Every year on April 1st, the JREF gives out the Pigasus awards; a dubious honor to people or organizations that have done their best in the past year to snuff out science and promote irrationality. Randi talks about the 2008 winners, who receive no plaques, trophies, or banners: just the knowledge that they're getting publicity... but probably not the kind they want.
Here is the video of James Randi:

Monday, April 6, 2009

Who is Closed Minded - Part 2

I've written about my struggle with people who accuse me of being closed minded here. Here is a great short video about closed-mindedness. Please view it. It may help you become smarter:

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Tragedy in New York

Here is another tragedy to pile on top of the recent deaths in New York:
Police heard no gunfire after they arrived but waited for about an hour before entering the building to make sure it was safe for officers. They ten spent two hours searching the building.

By William Kates - Associated Press
This was published in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press on Saturday April 4, 2009. So it appears the safety of the officers is more important than the safety of the common citizen. Scary.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

100 Hours of Astronomy

Telescopes (2)

The IYA2009 organization sponsored the world-wide 100 hours of astronomy this weekend. Click on their link on the right hand side of my blog for more information. I chose to celebrate with the Minnesota Astronomical Society at their Onan Observatory. They have a lot of cool telescopes. Click on the link to Onan for a complete description, if you got your nerd on today.

It was great fun. I learned a lot and saw a lot of cool objects. I have a small set of photos on my Flickr page here. Here are some photo highlights (click to embiggen):

I took a whole bunch of photos of Saturn by holding my Sony DSC-W150 up to the eye piece of various telescopes. It took some trial and error to find the best camera settings and it was pretty challenging to hold the camera steady enough to get a reasonable shot. Here is my best Saturn pic:

Fuzzy Saturn

One of the amateur astronomers thought this might be a good representation of what Galileo first saw when he observed Saturn about 400 years ago. Interestingly, while I was viewing Saturn in one scope and another guy was viewing it through a different scope on the same mount, we both saw a satellite pass through our field of view. I suppose this is pretty rare given the small viewing area through the telescope. Very cool!

One of the neatest viewing platforms that MAS has at their Onan Observatory is a 16" telescope (forgive me for not having specs) that is connected to computer monitors. This is very practical because it allows a lot of people to view the same image simultaneously. I took some pics of objects in the monitor. Here is one of my favorites:

Sombrero M104

It's the Sombrero Galaxy, also known as M104 and NGC4594. It looked more crisp in the visual telescopes but I think this shot turned out great.

Regular reader of my blog are aware that I spent some time looking for Comet Lulin last month. My most popular posts are about the comet here, here, here and here. Although I was unsuccessful in finding the comet with my binoculars with all the local light pollution, I did have some fun in the attempt. I asked one of the MAS members if he could show me the comet. He did that and showed me 2 other comets only visible through a telescope. I had no idea so many were around now. We had a pretty bright moon and some high clouds here and there, so they only looked like fuzzy dots. Regardless, I was impressed. Here is my shot of Comet Lulin off the monitor:

Comet Lulin

It's the fuzzy dot just right of center in this frame. Click on the image to embiggen.

Here is a picture of the Moon. I tried to capture the "Straight Wall." It is fairly rare to get a good view of this feature because the Sun has to be in just the right spot to cast the shadow.

Straight Wall Moon

It's the straight line running from top to bottom and a little right to left in the center of this frame. This shot was taken of the video monitor. This feature looked a lot cooler in the visual scopes but I was unable to get a good shot.

As I mentioned earlier, I have a few more pictures in a set on my Flickr site. Please check them out. I'm going to try and get out to see as much of the sky as I can this year, so come back regularly and look for more posts.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The JREF YouTube Account is back online!

Yippee!!!!!! Here is a snippet, if you are interested:

We're pleased to announce that our YouTube channel is back online. Our account had been suspended by YouTube due to some copyright complaints on a handful of videos we had uploaded. The videos in question have been removed, the proper hoops have been jumped through, and YouTube restored the account. We are currently going though our inventory to make sure any videos that we even suspect might be in violation are removed. There are 200+ of them, so it'll take us some time, but we're on it.

Go here for the full story: The JREF YouTube Account is back online!

Go here to watch great videos and to learn stuff: http://www.youtube.com/user/JamesRandiFoundation

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Critical Thinking Club Meeting - April 12th.

Critical Thinking Club, St. Paul Chapter

Date: April 12, 2009

Time: 10:00 a.m. to noon

Kelly Inn, I-94 & Rice St., St. Paul

Presenter: Dr. Mark Decker

Subject: How do we know what we know?


Breakfast Buffet $10.00 Coffee only $3.00. We need to plan for the room setup and meal, so if you are going to attend, please RSVP to criticalthinkingclub@gmail.com.


As he teaches large numbers of undergraduates, Mark Decker frequently runs into very non-critical thinking that runs the gamut from standard religious beliefs to (albeit rarely) some fairly out-there perspectives. He therefore not only teaches content (i.e., biology), but also trains students in the skills on how to collect and evaluate information.


In our April presentation, Dr. Decker will lead a discussion about the role of a college education, especially one in science. Drawing upon anecdotal cases of clashes with students’ ways of thinking (e.g., an avowed young-Earth creationist asked him for a letter of recommendation to Pharmacy School, students wanting to invoke miracles to explain natural phenomena, etc.). he will focus the discussion on the duty of the college professor in such cases. Is he just a provider of information, or does he have a duty to intervene when students demonstrate a willingness to dismiss scientific understanding because of conflicts with their religious beliefs?


Dr. Mark D. Decker is the Associate Director of the Biology Program of the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Amazing Church Sign



I admit that I've fallen credulous to some of the funny church sign pics I've seen over the years. In retrospect, I may have been a little skeptical (easy to do after the fact.) My favorite one said "Thinking about suicide? Let the Church Help." While surfing around Digg.com, I found this web site. I quickly and easily made my own church sign. Go ahead and give it a try. They have lots of different designs and styles available.

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