Monday, August 13, 2007

The Final Frontier

I've had a real problem adjusting to a different schedule this break. Since coming home from sea, I have not been able to get to sleep before 2-3am. For the first couple weeks, I just motored along on a lot less sleep, but lately I just cannot get my sorry ass moving in the morning. I'll be working days, this trip so barring lack of sleep from traveling, I should be in good shape for my upcoming work schedule, at least.

Lack of things to do at 2am kind of sucks, though. I've got 200 channels on cable, but there is almost nothing worth watching. I wish UFC was on late night (its on now and distracting me-YES Matt Hughes just kicked the shit outta Royce Gracie!!), because nearly everything else is just mindless crap. This has led me to my addiction to both Galaxy Zoo and StarDust@home. I discovered both through LL's blog a while back and immediately joined both efforts.

StarDust@home allows anyone with a computer to assist the folks at NASA and University of California, Berkeley with identifying dust particle impacts in an array of aerogel cells that were flown into the tail of the 4.5 billion-year-old Comet Wild 2 on Jan. 2, 2004. After a seven-year mission, the cells returned to Earth in the Utah desert in January of 2006. The cells were impacted by cometary dust particles which were either formed in the vicinity of our sun or a neighboring star-I believe the jury is still out on that, despite the appearance of some very surprising mineral combinations, that suggest formation near an alien star.

From home, you can assist in the search of these aerogel cells, analyzing small areas at a time, by viewing a series of micrographs progressively focusing deeper into the aerogel, like a movie. When you think you’ve spotted an impact, you notify them and after it’s confirmed, it’s yours to name.

Galaxy Zoo allows anyone with a computer to assist the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) with classifying galaxies from home. The SDSS is taking images of a large portion of the sky and will eventually find and image a million galaxies. Edwin Hubble divided galaxies into two major types, elliptical (like a football) and spiral. A third classification used at Galaxy Zoo is merging, where you have evidence of two, or more galaxies merging to form one-these are kind of rare, I’ve had maybe 3 out of the eleven-hundred I’ve classified this month. In addition, spiral galaxies can be classified by rotation, or edge-on, if they are viewed from the side and rotation cannot be determined.

Both analyses require a little training. StarDust@home runs you through a series of tests like Galaxy Zoo, but unlike the Zoo, continuously throws in test micrographs to keep you on your toes and rate your results in real time. Galaxy Zoo has an area that tracks the number of galaxies you analyze, with a members forum and profiles.

While Galaxy Zoo analysis is infinitely more pleasing to the eye, as you saw a post, or two back, StarDust@home is the more important effort at this point in the game, I feel. Classification of the million galaxies will give us some insight into the formation of the universe based on the type distribution, especially when cross-referenced against probable age, but at this stage in the game, insight into how our galaxy vs. that of an alien one from a chemical standpoint is a more logical first step in galactic mechanics, in my opinion. Nonetheless, both are interesting and fun and would be a great way to interest children in science and the universe we live in.

That's about it from this side, I'll stick up a post about dropping trees around me casa, from the ship. Ciao.


Mr. Bud said...

responsibilities are taking away our childhood.
no KBC :(

be well, travel safe my friend.

Queen of Dysfunction said...

Ahhhh.... now I understand Galaxy Zoo. Very cool!

...and somehow I'm not at all surprised that you would be totally into it.

Travel safe, best wishes to PW and the kids in your absence and hope to read more about tree-dropping in the next post. Not that Mr. Bud hasn't already forwarded me the photographic evidence of your evil deeds.

NewfiesWoman said...

Interesting. Wonders if she could get her TG interested in science??? Question of the ages. Cool stuff though. Thanks for sharing

Travel safely , and yer gonna be back home before ya knows it. Can't wait to see the pic's of you dropping them trees. NOPE. Been waiting for awhile to see what evil you could do . Ya drop one on the house?? LOL