Friday, October 23, 2015

A FAKE picture of the REAL Earth and REAL stars

Today, I discovered a new NASA web site that provides daily images of the Earth taken by the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite, which is in an orbit around the Sun, 924,777 miles away from the earth.  The satellite is in orbit around a Lagrange point where the Earth's gravity is exactly the same as the Sun's gravity.  So, the satellite is, in effect, orbiting the Sun just inside the Earth's orbit, moving in sync with the Earth, and it can continually take pictures of the side of the Earth that faces the Sun as the Earth spins on its axis.

Because the exposure time to take a picture of the Earth from that satellite is much faster than an exposure time that would be needed to take pictures of the stars, the pictures do not show stars.  They show the Earth and a black background. 

I wondered what the Earth would look like with a starry background, and I created this FAKE image of the REAL Earth (from HERE) and REAL stars (from HERE):

You can click on the image to view a much larger (and more spectacular) version.

The images were combined using

Someone advised me of a REAL picture that does show the Earth and stars.  Here it is:

Of course, the only reason you can see both the Earth and background stars in the picture is because the Earth is so small and isn't significantly brighter than a star in the picture.  As a result, the same exposure time will capture the Earth, the moon and some of the brighter background stars.   

Looking around the Internet, I found a picture HERE taken by US astronaut Reid Wiseman on the International Space Station (ISS) that shows part of the earth and plenty of stars:

The problem with it, is that he had to use a 3-second time exposure from the moving ISS, so the stars are blurred and so is anything else that moved relative to the ISS. 

And the fact that the above picture was a time exposure reminded me of the time (about 60 years ago) when I went down to the shore of Lake Michigan to take a time exposure photo of the moon over the lake.  Here it is:

There are no stars visible in the photograph, yet it was a beautiful night and the sky was full of stars.  (That white dot just above the horizon on the right could be Venus, or it could be a blemish on the color slide.) The time exposure just wasn't long enough to make the stars visible.  If I would have left the shutter open longer to capture the stars, the moon would have moved and turned into an oblong shape.  

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Do you HATE your pillow top mattress?

I HATE my pillow top mattress.

It was an expensive purchase, but I thought my pillow top mattress was terrific for the first year after I bought it.  Then I realized the top is a pillow that cannot be refluffed.  If you are a male who weighs more than 130 pounds or so, that means your upper body will slowly create a "trench" in the pillow top.  If you sleep in the same position all night, that might not be a problem.  But if you are "an active sleeper" like I am, i.e., someone who rolls over from time to time and shifts around to get into a more comfortable position, it creates a serious problem.  You find you are not only sleeping in a narrow trench, you can feel every bump in the bottom of the "trench."  And it is very difficult to roll over when you are sleeping in a narrow trench.  There is no longer a "pillow top" where you sleep.  If you try to sleep outside of the "trench," it's like sleeping on the side of a hill.  You'll just end up rolling into the "trench." 

I'm not the only person who has problems with pillow top mattresses.  Click HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE for a few web pages created by other people who also HATE their pillow-top mattresses.

Unlike a regular mattress, you cannot turn the pillow top mattress over when you've created a "trench" on one side.  There is only one usable side to a pillow top mattress.  

You can, however, laterally rotate the mattress 180 degrees, putting the head of the mattress where the foot of the mattress was.  But that just creates a DIFFERENT problem.  If you are male, the trench was most deeply dug under the upper part of your body - your chest and shoulders - the heaviest part.  So, when you've rotated the mattress, you find that the upper part of your body is on a pillow top mattress that is almost like new, BUT your legs and feet are in a trench.  It's like sleeping on the bed while your legs and feet are on a chair next to the bed. 

I found that I could temporarily "solve" that problem by laying pieces of a thin foam mattress pad into the "trench" to fill it up.  But, after a few months I had created a NEW "trench" under the upper part of my body.  And then I had to fill that trench with pieces of foam mattress pad, too.  Then you start having problems with the foam being uneven and in the wrong places.

Right now, I'm experimenting to see if I can get the foam pieces into the right places AND cover it all with a complete foam mattress pad AND a mattress cover.  If you get a foam mattress pad that is too thick, you have a bed that is too soft.  That can be worse than sleeping in a trench.          

I could just buy a new (regular) mattress, but I haven't given up on trying to find a "fix" for my pillow top mattress.  It's become a science project.

I just don't understand why more people aren't making a roaring fuss over the STUPIDITY of stores selling pillow top mattresses without giving CLEAR WARNINGS that they may not be suitable for males who weigh more than 130 pounds.  The heavier you are, the more problems you'll probably have with any kind of mattress, but I'm 6 feet tall and weigh 185 pounds, which is not overweight.  I'm just too heavy for a pillow top mattress, and I SHOULD HAVE BEEN WARNED.    

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Some of my favorite Apollo missions archive photos

I've been going through the newly released Apollo Moon Mission photo albums, and I've downloaded and saved about 315 pictures so far.  Initially, I made a mistake of just saving the photos using the NASA file numbers.  For example, this is photo #21062657803_1b5573f7dc_o.jpg:

I'd downloaded about 50 pictures when I suddenly realized that if I wanted to mention them in a comment, I had forgotten in which album the photo was located.  And there is no way to tell from their photo number what mission or album the picture is from.  I couldn't tell anyone where I got it or where they could find a full size copy.  Duh!

So, I started methodically going through albums to try to identify where I'd found those 50 pictures, so that I could rename them.  The photo above is one that took a long time to locate.  I knew it wasn't from the Apollo 11, 12, or 14 missions, since they didn't take a "moon buggy" along until Apollo 15.  Finally, by using TinEye, I found it was from album Apollo 15 Magazine 82/SS.

The photo below is a favorite from the first mission to land on the moon: Apollo 11.  There are 8 albums of photos from Apollo 11.  The picture below is from the Apollo 11 Magazine 40/S album.  It's the 8th picture I saved from that album, so my photo number is: A11-M40S-08.jpg.

I cropped the above picture to create the picture below as photo #A11-M40S-08A.jpg:

Here's a cropped version of a picture the astronauts took during the Apollo 16 mission.  Interestingly, they got dirt on the lens and nearly all of the photos in magazine 114/B show the smudge:.

Here's a cropped shot from the Apollo 16 mission after they put in magazine 117/F and cleaned the lens (or maybe it was shot by the 2nd astronaut who didn't have smudge on his camera lens):

Here's a cropped favorite from the Apollo 17 mission, film magazine #134/B:

Below is another shot from the same film magazine, but this shot shows the astronaut holding the corner of the flag to straighten it out.  The lower gravity on the moon apparently was enough to cause the flag to straighten out all by itself.

When I mentioned this collection of photo albums on a Facebook page, it didn't take long before someone wrote: "Sure. Kubrick was such a genius."  I think he was joking, but I had been wondering how long it would take before a "Moon Landing Truther" would argue that all the pictures are faked.  And I was also wondering if there was anything in the pictures that might convince a "Moon Landing Truther" that we actually did go to the moon.  Probably not.  But, would Stanley Kubrick's special effects experts have created dozens and dozens of pictures that look nearly the same?  Would he have created smudged pictures and partial pictures from the end of a film roll?  Looking through the albums, I could not help but think how the astronauts weren't taking time to compose artistic photographs.  They were photographing everything, and the result was often a dozen pictures of the same rock from slightly different angles.  A "Truther" might argue that a picture was faked, but it gets pretty hard to say a picture is a fake when it is one in a series of thirty shots taken from the moon buggy as they drive across the moonscape.  Where on earth would anyone find such a landscape and such a sky?        

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Newly Released Photos from Apollo Moon Landings

While browsing the Huffington Post web site, I came across an article titled "Now You Can Watch Amazing Stop Motion Video of Apollo Space Missions."  That video led me to the Project Apollo Archive on Flicker.  And that in turn led me to the page that shows the available albums of photos from the Apollo missions.  I don't know how many images there are, but they number in the many hundreds, they are full size and they are in the public domain.  Most may never have been released to the public before. 

As an example, here is a 1600 x 1569 pixel photo from Apollo 11 Magazine 40/S:
You can click on the link above to see how large it really is.  It's 4048 x 3968 pixels, but Google won't allow me to provide a picture that large on this blog.  Of course, you can download the pictures and crop them or resize them to fit your needs.  Here's a cropped shot I created from an original in the Apollo 16 Magazine 107/C album:
The photos include dozens of shots of the earth taken during the trip to the moon and from orbit around the moon.  An example:
I could go on and on.  But,  I recommend that you view the images yourself at your leisure.  If you are a science nut like me, you'll want to save copies.  If you are not familiar with the way works, it may take a few minutes to figure out how to best go through the albums and how do download pictures, but it's definitely worth the effort.

Friday, October 9, 2015

weight & balance issues on an airplane

I took a round-trip flight recently from Milwaukee, WI, to Lynchburg, VA, with a stopover to change planes in Charlotte, NC.  On the flight from Milwaukee to Charlotte, and again on the flight from Charlotte to Milwaukee there were "weight and balance issues."  It was 14 years since the last time I was in an airplane, but I'd only encountered "weight and balance issues" on a plane once before in my life.  That was on a small plane hopping between islands in the Caribbean.

Anyway, on the flight out of Milwaukee, shortly after everyone was aboard, the flight attendant got on the speaker and said that they had a "weight and balance issue" and they needed someone to volunteer to move from one of the first four rows back to the rear of the plane.  I was in seat 3A, from where I'd just taken this picture:
It looked like everyone else in the first rows were couples, so I raised my hand and volunteered.  I moved back to seat 10C where I took this picture:
On the return flight from Charlotte to Milwaukee it happened again.  Only this time the flight attendant asked that TWO people volunteer to move from the first four rows to the back.  I was in seat 4F, but someone in row-1 immediately volunteered, and while he was getting up to move to the rear, someone in row-2 also volunteered.  So, I remained in seat 4F.

But the experience made me wonder about "weight and balance issues."  On the schedule I'd printed out for my flight, it said that there were occasional delays on the flight from Charlotte to Milwaukee.  Was it because no one volunteered to change seats?  What would they do if no one volunteered?

So, when I got home I did some research.  It turns out that "weight and balance issues" are fairly common on smaller airplanes.  And they are particularly common on the CRJ-200.  Here's a picture I took of the Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) aircraft shortly after I'd gotten off in Charlotte:
And here's a stock shot of a CRJ-200 I found on the Internet:
Looking around the Internet I found a web site HERE which calls it a "Barbie Jet" and says that there are also other names for it: Satan’s Chariot, Climb Restricted Jet, Mini Lawn Dart, the Flying Bus, and Future Beer Can.  The person writing that article tells of being asked to move from seat 2D to 12D for "weight and balance purposes."

Personally, I had absolutely no problem with the aircraft or the flight.  I just thought the "weight and balance issue" was interesting.  And I wondered what would happen if no one volunteered.  But, further research indicates that it might be more common for the flight attendant to TELL someone they need to move to the rear for "weight and balance purposes."  The instruction carries the weight of law, since the flight attendant is an acting agent of the captain.

I found a blog HERE where 37 passengers were asked to get off the plane in England because someone had accidentally put too much fuel in the tanks.  I found a BBC News article HERE where 71 passengers on another flight from England refused to stay on board because of "weight and balance" issues and demanded to get off the plane.  Apparently it was because a cargo door was jammed and they couldn't use that space for luggage, so it created a "weight and balance issue."   It doesn't say how many were asked to move, only that 71 got off.

A blog HERE says:
The CRJ-200 can be a pain when it comes to weight and balance. It is usually no big deal where the people are seated when it is under about 40 passengers. It's only when it is nearly full that you often have to make sure the empty seats are toward the front.
RJs can be VERY sensitive to W&B issues. Part of the issue is that each person in this example is 2% of the theoretical total pax weight load, instead of say .5% on a 200-pax plane. So yes that's definitely an issue for small planes. 
I could only find one place on the Internet where someone refused to change seats.  Click HERE:
Aircraft less than half full. Me sitting over wing in an aisle seat, vacant middle seat and a person at the window.

Just before take off, a female cabin crew approaches me and states

"I am sorry sir, but due to weight and balance reasons, you will need to move three rows back"

What the is this about... seriously. If an 80kg person moving 3 metres is so critical to the W&B of a 400+ton aircraft, then we are all in trouble. Hopefully no-one leaves their seat during the flight.

Unfortunately, the request was so stupid, that I politely refused, told her I was comfortable where I was and asked her to explain her why.

Just a thought.... if you treat passengers like idiots... they might just take offence and become uncooperative.

Could someone shed some light on this ridiculous request. Is it used often for some reason? Why would the request be made... keeping in mind the aircraft was less than half full... and CC are not Load Controllers.
I haven't found anything in that blog which explains exactly what happened when the guy refused.  I assume that someone else simply volunteered.  The passenger says that the Flight Attendant just went about his/her business as if nothing had happened.  But, it's interesting that the guy felt it was some kind of demeaning request and that it was beneath him to submit to such a request.

For what it's worth, there were no "weight and balance issues" on the much smaller planes I took from Charlotte to Lynchburg and back again.  Here's a photo of one of those planes (a Dash 8-300) at the airport in Lynchburg, VA:
(I thought it was also unusual that of the 8 times I had to get on or off an airplane, only once did the passengers use a loading ramp (when boarding in Milwaukee).  All the other times we used stairs to the pavement and a ground-level door in the terminal.) 
And now I think I know all that I need to know about "weight and balance issues."  It's "normal," particularly on the CRJ-200, and most of the time people just volunteer.  But it was relatively new to me.  The time I encountered the issue when I was in the Caribbean, I thought it was because of the heat and the air being too thin or something.  But, it was probably just a "weight and balance issue" there, too.