Voyager's Crossing the Termination Shockwave

Hey, who knew. MIT has an instrument on the Voyager 2 spacecraft! Evidently, the Plasma Science instrument is still going strong. The one on Voyager 1 died before it reached the termination shockwave, but Voyager 2 just crossed it recently, and the instrument is working pretty well.

But with Voyager 2, the Plasma Science instrument not only detected the boundary, making detailed measurements of the solar wind’s temperature, speed and density as the spacecraft crossed through it, but it actually encountered the shockwave repeatedly. Because the outflow of the solar wind varies with changes in the sun’s activity level, building up during large solar flares and quieting during lulls in sunspot activity, the boundary itself pulsates in and out. These pulsations can wash across the craft multiple times, just as a boat landing onshore may cross the ocean’s edge multiple times as waves crash in and then recede.

While Voyager 1 apparently made a single crossing, Voyager 2 apparently crossed the boundary five times, producing a wealth of new data. It’s even possible that if there are large variations in that solar outflow, the shock layer “could push past Voyager again,” says Richardson.

Serendipity at its best

Sometimes you just get lucky. According to the New York Times,

The lame wheel on the NASA Mars rover Spirit has proved an invaluable science tool, turning up evidence of a once habitable environment, scientists said Monday.

Turns out that scientists found something they weren’t looking for because of the crippled wheel. Lots of science happens that way!

The press release from work says

The puzzle is what produced a patch of nearly pure silica — the main ingredient of window glass — that Spirit found last May. It could have come from either a hot-spring environment or an environment called a fumarole, in which acidic steam rises through cracks. On Earth, both of these types of settings teem with microbial life.

Go rovers, go! About time to hibernate for the Martian winter, too.

Meanwhile, orbiting the planet, MRO continues to do its work. I worked on the Mars Climate Sounder, which is taking measurements on Martian climate. And CRISM took some funky photos of the Martian moons.

Revolutionary Christians and Church

Justin Taylor wrote a post last week about Christians who George Barna labeled Revolutionary Christians. Barna describes them as people who rarely attend church services. That’s just sad.

Taylor goes on to do a pretty darn good job of using Scripture to make the case that Christians are told to be part of the visible Body of Christ, to serve and to be served, in the church.

If Christ is the foundational cornerstone, then the church is his temple. If Christ is the savior, then the church is the saved. If Christ is the sanctifier, then the church is the sanctified. If Christ is the head, then we are his body (Eph. 1:22-23; 3:6; 4:4, 16; 5:23, 30)

Sam Storm did a review of Barna’s book, Revolution, and went on to say

No matter how often or egregious the neglect of pastoral responsibility and authority may be, the inspired and infallible instruction of the New Testament remains unchanged.

Storm provides a really well thought-out, insightful post that talks about what a church truly is, what it’s meant to do, what it’s meant to look like, and how we’re meant to be a part of it.

Wheel of Time Will Be Completed

I saw today that the Wheel of Time series will be completed. The author, Robert Jordan, passed away recently, but Tor has contracted with Brandon Sanderson to write A Memory of Light, the 12th book in the series.

I agree with most reviews that the series really tailed off after book 4, and finally picked up again in book 10. It’ll be nice to get closure on all the characters, though I expect Mr. Sanderson will have some tough fans, The Wheel of Time has an amazingly picky following, perhaps only second to Star Trek.

Negative Numbers Are Hard

A friend of mine sent me a link to story in England about people who had problems with negative numbers.

I phoned Camelot and they fobbed me off with some story that -6 is higher – not lower – than -8 but I’m not having it.

It almost makes me want to cry. Maybe if we all used Kelvin, we wouldn’t have this problem!

August Rush is great

August RushI went to see a great movie this afternoon. I was killing some time since my bathroom was being remodeled and I couldn’t be at home. Plus, I’d finished a few errands so I figured I should treat myself. August Rush turned out to be an amazing movie.

OK, yes, it has a small degree of cheesiness. It has a few gaping plot holes that you could fly the Space Shuttle through. And the sheer number of unfathomable coincidences could drag on you if you think on them too much. So don’t. Enjoy the sheer joy and beauty of the music and the acting in the movie. The final concert with August’s Rhapsody took my breath away with sheer delight. It just makes you want to get up and spin around the room with a wide grin on your face.

And it doesn’t hurt that Keri Russell is in the movie. Freddie Highmore does an incredible job as the child prodigy. And Jonathan Rhys Meyers does some great playing and singing. Robin Williams, well, his character, I’m still not sure what to think of him. A very complex character…

I llked it so much I went over to Barnes & Noble and grabbed the soundtrack. I don’t know why La Bamba is on there, but now I have those amazing guitar riffs and the haunting cello refrains playing right now.

Christmas Music

One of my great joys during Christmas season is the music. Not the nauseous, hear everywhere, lame carols that all the stores are playing, but the wondrous, uplifting, joyful music of the season.

I went to see the Azusa Pacific Symphony of Sound concert last Sunday afternoon at Lake Avenue Church. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is one of my favorite Christmas songs, the choir sang it to perfection. The Men’s Chorus did a hilarious rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas with a bunch of random interjections from other songs. The solos during Do you see what I see? were quite splendid. It was a throughly enjoyable performance. APU seems to have a really good music program.

On the 16th, Lake Ave has their Messiah Sing-a-long. I’ve been going to that just about every year. I pretend to be able to sing baritone, and even though they have all the difference voices sitting together, I sit with whomever I go with. Great fun. My church in Boston always did a Messiah Sing, half of it at Christmas and half at Easter. Händel really nailed it with that oratorio.

Mark Zuckerberg missed the point

Mark Zuckerberg announced today that the Facebook Beacon program now has a global opt-out option. Too little, too late, in my opinion. Especially since he only mentioned it on a blog post, and doesn’t place a mention of it on any user’s profile page. Bleh.

And he really misses the point. Users point out that
“It does not explicitly state that Facebook will stop collecting the information transmitted from third party sites.”. More precisely,

Facebook user Tom Hessman added that Zuckerberg admitted that Facebook will still be receiving data from partner sites whether users opt out or not. “From the sound of it, everything still works as is, except that on the Facebook end you can opt to never have [information about activities on other sites] publish. And if you do, supposedly they purge the data. But with the way Beacon works, the data could still very well exist in Facebook’s standard Web server logs … do they purge those too?”

Exactly! Why is Facebook still receiving information about their users, heck, even people who are not users? They just don’t get it.

Technosailer still thinks Facebook and its partner companies are likely to get sued. They have a Firefox extension specifically for blocking Facebook Beacon and telling you that it’s doing so.

Boycott the companies who are partnering with Facebook to invade your privacy!

Michael Arrington agrees with me

Michael Arrington at TechCrunch agrees with me, only he has a much louder voice and a much taller platform to stand on.

If I tell the New York Times, which happens to be a Beacon partner, that I do not want to share my travel ratings or the articles I save on the NYTimes.com with Facebook, then the New York Times should not be sending that information to Facebook under any circumstances and trusting that Facebook will dispose of the information properly. Not to pick on the New York Times. The same is true of any advertising partner. That data should never be transmitted in the first place.

Which is exactly what I said earlier about Facebook Beacon. Hotwire should not be giving them any information, at all, whether Facebook makes it opt-in or not.

It looks like Facebook partner, SIx Degrees, is doing it right. They have an option on their website that allows users to opt-in to sharing information with Facebook. As slimy as the Beacon program is, if they’re going to be a part of it, that’s the way to do it right. But as it looks, Coca-Cola, Travelocity, and Overstock have all changed their mind about participating in the program. Maybe Hotwire should, too.

Facebook is being remarkably dumb in their attempt on invade the privacy of every single one of their users. Don’t be a part of it.