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That time is NOW! September 14, 2012

Posted by Wilz in Astronomy, Education, Science.
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The “Pale Blue Dot” are probably the paragraphs of words which had the greatest impact on my life and creed, but last week, I found this:

“The arrow of time creates a bright window in the universe’s adolescence, during which life is possible. But it’s a window that doesn’t stay open for long. As a fraction of the life span of the universe, as measured from its beginning to the evaporation of the last black hole, life as we know it is only possible, for one thousandth of a billion billion billionth, billion billion billionth, billion billion billionth of a percent.

And that’s why for me, the most astonishing wonder of the universe isn’t a star, or a planet, or a galaxy. It isn’t a thing at all. It’s an instant in time. And that time is NOW.

Humans have walked the Earth for just the smallest fraction of that briefest of moments in deep time. But in our 200,000 years on this planet, we’ve made remarkable progress. It was only two and a half thousand years ago that we believed that the Sun was a god, and measured its orbit with stone towers built on the top of a hill. Today the language of curiosity is not sun gods but science.

And I believe it’s only by continuing our exploration of the cosmos and the laws of nature that govern it, that we can truly understand ourselves and our place in this universe of wonders. And that’s what we’ve done in our brief moment on planet Earth.

Just as we, and all life on Earth, stand on this tiny speck adrift in infinite space, so life in the universe will only exist for a fleeting, bright instant in time. But that doesn’t make us insignificant, because we are the cosmos made concious. Life is the means by which the universe understands itself.

And for me, our true significance lies in our ability, and our desire to understand and explore this beautiful universe.”
– Brian Cox, Wonders of the Universe (BBC 2012)

Now if only there was ‘an image’ that can represent these paragraphs, it might hold people’s attention for a bit longer.

From Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot paragraphs to what we have today from Neil DeGrasse Tyson and this from Brian Cox – you can see how science and our understanding of the universe is changing humanity’s perspective – it’s widening.

Whereas the Pale Blue Dot forces you to think about yourself as an individual on a precious small world, born out of our understanding of our place in space, this forces you to think about yourself as a sentient conciousness, alive in a preciously brief epoch, born out of our understanding of our place in time.

The profound beauty and privilege of being alive, here and now is staggering to me. To me, the message is clear as day – “Do something meaningful and awesome with it you idiot!”

And also staggering to me is the profound tragedy of the fact that the vast majority of mankind is completely blind to this awesome view right before their eyes, lacking the perspective to understand what they are seeing.

More people need to watch this documentary. But more importantly perhaps, more people need to be able to understand why it is so immensely awesome. And that is why I work in education.



50th Anniversary of Human Space Travel April 12, 2011

Posted by Wilz in Astronomy, Society.
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Today is the 50th anniversary of mankind’s travel into space.

Today, we honor the brave men and women who strapped themselves to millions of kilograms of explosives to be blown into a merciless, radiation filled vacuum to show us that the stars are within reach. We remember those who have given their lives for it.


Through your eyes, we have seen our home, our place in the universe, and the vastness beyond. We understand the fragility of our existence, the reason for our humility and (for some of us) the urgency to @#$% get with the bloody programme and stop being ignorant glorified monkeys.


Thank you.

A Tribute to the Hubble Space Telescope. April 25, 2010

Posted by Will in Astronomy, Science.
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Dear Hubble,

Congratulations for achieving two decades of operations. Here is a toast to you.

Thank you for being our eye in space these past many years. Because of you our celestial horizons are now wider and more beautiful. Because of you, this young and incorrigible species got to see further into the universe and allow the images to invoke feelings of both belonging and wonderment.

Thank you for having the perseverance to stay up after all these years tethered to our little planet of blue. Thank you for giving the much traveled lightwaves a home and a purpose. Thank you for all the new funky nebulae, the twinkling stars, the bashful planets, the bullying black holes and the flashing quasars. Thank you for populating our universe with billions of faraway objects, both on computer and in our minds.

More importantly, thank you for not turning your lenses earthwards, for the pictures down here are gritty,  not so complementary and a little out of  focus. Needless to say we’re not very photogenic as a whole. However, we promise that when you retire in 2014 your replacement the James Webb Space Telescope will be sent from a better world than it was when you were launched in 1990. So take no head of us down here slogging through conflicts and weathering knocks, for the work you do gives us proof of a more fantastical out of this world, which is neither supernatural nor metaphysical in nature.

Thank you, and this goes out to all the passionate people working so hard to keep you up and alive.  You all do Mr. Edwin proud.

P.S. – You may wish to keep a look out for orbiting teapots, it’s a pretty big deal down here.

Nasa HST site


Virgin Images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory April 22, 2010

Posted by Will in Astronomy, Science.
New solar images

A full on picture of our Sun, taken by the new SDO. Credit: Nasa/SDO

New images and video clips of our dear old Sun were obtained recently by NASA via the brand spanking new Solar Dynamics Observatory(SDO). SDO is a space telescope in geosynchronous orbit designed to capture massive amounts of data of the Sun and display them in enrapturing coloured videos.

Click on this link to view the breathtaking videos of solar flares, prominences and even magnetic fields of our very own ultimate ball of fire. Apologies in advance if you are here to see pictures of virgins but if you concentrate hard enough you might even see one or two on the surface of the glorious Sun.

SPORE: Intelligent Design or Evolution September 5, 2008

Posted by Wilz in Astronomy, Environment, Gaming, Society.

I’m getting my copy of Spore on Tuesday next week! Woot! One of the ironies behind this game has been what it is trying to promote. In a lot of his presentations, Will Wright (the creator) have referred to the game as an excellent method through which one can explore and be familiar with the scientific concepts such as evolution, planetary properties and their balance, and the science of deep space exploration/travel. Spore’s logo by itself does a good job of making the spiral galaxy a ‘familiar’ image.

However, the ironic part (which is pointed out happily by many a religious nut) is that although the cell gene collection thing represents evolution, the actions of the cell (and later the creature and creatures) are controlled by an intelligent being, which is the player. In other words, even if it was evolution doing the work, it was still guided by intelligent design.

What a load of bull. Anyways, I made some quick lists to support the idea that;

the game is pro-science / evolution:

  • The game portrays the evolution of a single celled organism into a complex creature.
  • The game portrays how the creature grows into intelligence and civilization (much like our history).
  • The game respects many scientific principles (injecting CO2 into the atmosphere raises a planet’s atmosphere, etc).
  • The creator of the game says he loves science and wants to use Spore as a means of promoting it.

the game is pro-intelligent design (no, it’s not a science no matter how many papers you write) :

  • There is a ‘guiding intelligence’ that is controlling the being/beings (The player is God).
  • There is a trailer which sounds very much like it’s promoting intelligent design.

the game is just a bloody game:

  • Well if the game supports any kind of intelligent design, it probably supports polytheism/milliontheism more than  monotheism. The creatures/civilizations in the game were created by millions of different players, whose creations are seamlessly downloaded into your client as you’re playing. So many Gods om-G!

Therefore the conclusion is, what Spore truly represents is, are you ready for it – an alien conspiracy theory. Yep. A bunch of aliens powerful enough to affect things without actually being noticed by the creatures, manipulating everything for some sick purpose. They’re only as powerful as demigods, coz they can’t change the laws of space-time. They have only one power, to directly control the actions of their own species.

Oh wait that would make our CPU the proper God since it is creating and maintaining the universe, and running the AI of all the other creatures. But then again it connects to a server to donwload creatures so that would make the server some kind of God nexus… and since Maxis runs the server, they would be a multiple-staffed Godhead? Will Wright would be the equal but supreme member of the Godhead? OMG is model accurate for real life? Maybe a gaming company runs our universe! Nvm.

Can’t wait to play the game!

10 ways the world could end October 23, 2007

Posted by Wilz in Astronomy, Environment, Personal, Science, Society, Technology.
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It is scary how many of the things on this list I have read about since childhood. They’ve been spoken of by scientists for nearly three decades now, and in most cases more. It is scary how practically no major advance has been made in most of these areas (in terms of policy and public awareness). And it gets scarier every time we are reminded how real these problems are.

We are long overdue (by magnitude of several hundred years) for at least two things – the reversal of the earth’s magnetic field, and a “Deep Impact” or “Armageddon” (the latter being one of the dumbest movies ever) style asteroid hitting the earth. Note what he says, “It is not a question of IF, it is a question of WHEN and HOW BIG.”

And we’re rapidly and still actively destroying our ecosystem, strengthening the resistance of bacteria and other harmful micro organisms, and spreading powerful uncontrollable experimental genes that defy natural processes into the wild.

All the effort and money put into stupid, pointless, dick-inspired wars and posturing and political campaigning… If nothing else, it would be a huge irony and lesson for the survivors on the day that 90% of the world population is suddenly wiped out. Perhaps, letting nature take its course is the only way to actually save mankind from itself. And perhaps, long from now, ASS (alien space ship) Anterprise would explore our world, and study with some degree of sadness the lost civilization of the Earth.

Even Space is Politicized for Profit May 22, 2007

Posted by Wilz in Astronomy, Society.
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Capitalism is a wonderful thing ain’t it, especially when you control enough politicians to give you big-money projects. I wonder where Malaysians ever got the impression that their country’s politics is unique when it comes to cronyism and government-assisted profiteering – it appears to be something that happens everywhere. Of course the severity of the problem is a different matter.

This article on Wired today : How NASA Screwed Up (And Four Ways to Fix It) discusses how NASA’s priority is messed up thanks to politicking. It’s been a known issue for a while now, but I’ve never seen anyone put it so succinctly.

Of course, “Keep money flowing to favored contractors and congressional districts” is not a formal NASA objective, but these words explain the agency’s core problem. Since the end of the Apollo glory days, NASA seems to have been driven by the desire to continue lucrative payments to the contractors behind manned spaceflight (mainly Boeing and Lockheed Martin) while maintaining staff levels in the congressional districts (mainly in Alabama, Florida, Ohio, and Texas) that are home to huge centers focused on manned missions. If the contractors and the right congressional committee members are happy, NASA’s funding will continue and NASA managers will keep their jobs. The space station project was built to give the shuttle a destination, keeping the manned-space spending hierarchy intact. With the space station now almost universally viewed as worthless, the manned-space funders need a new boondoggle. The moon-base idea, pushed by President Bush, fits the bill.

For myself and people like my friend William who believes that space is the next important frontier, it is sad to read stuff like this. Again, this could be just one person’s opinion, but I can’t help agreeing with him. The amount of money spent can only be justified by some serious, targeted, high-yield research. Or at least exploratory frontier research which answers important fundamental questions. How much weightlessness based research do we really need to do?

Perhaps Malaysia can show the way through introducing new activities at the space station. Heh – I guess that’s been bandied about enough by now, and we should probably drop it now that the plans have been changed (they sure sounded serious when they talked about the teh tarik though). But if they get really bored up there…