Sunday, November 23, 2008

Winter again

At this time of year here, you take the nice days when you can get them. Today was such a day; my wife and I took the opportunity and went for a long walk (usually, we walk about half an hour per day, if weather permits). Our city has many nice parks, and there are a couple within reasonable walking distance. We chose Central Park (not the one of New York fame).

After we got home, the view out of our front window showed that our local mountains had been dusted with snow - the first signs of the coming winter. Time sure goes fast. You've seen similar pictures of the scenery on this blog before, but we never get tired of the view, even though we've lived in this house for 37 years. So, here is what attracted my attention today:

The pictures were taken through our front window with a Canon Rebel XT, set to an exposure time of 1/500th of a second, at ISO 800 "film" sensitivity, 75-300mm Canon zoom lens set to 255mm, at f 8.0 focal ratio. For those of you who want to know more about what these various settings represent, I recommend that you read Derek's ongoing dissertation about camera settings.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Interested ?

Many of you know that I've had an interest in Astronomy since I was eight years old. I seem to recall that the impetus for that came from a book my father was reading while in hospital - a couple of months before he died (that hospital visit then is one of the few concrete memories I have of him. He was also interested in astronomy - so, in a way, I believe that I'm honoring his memory). The book ("The Moon" - Nasmyth and Carpenter) was describing the theories of the cause of the huge mountain ranges and the thousands of craters which cover the Moon.

At that time it was unclear that the cause for their existence is the constant collisions of the Moon with the "space debris" still present in our solar system (ranging from minor planets, through asteroids and meteors, to the "shooting stars" which can be seen on any clear night when away from the light-polluted night sky of our cities). The book contained a picture of an artificial little crater, created by dropping little pebbles into half-dried mud - or some such method. What amazes me is that I remember the book (it was the German translation) so well, after more than 60 years - and that, when entering the English title and names of the authors into Google, the first hit was a direct link to some information about that book.

For some reason, the "crater" picture triggered my interest - and I'm still interested. Nowadays, I own several telescopes and binoculars, and can look at these craters at any time the Moon is in the sky. In those early days, the thought of owning a telescope did not even enter my mind; it was way beyond what we could afford financially. None-the-less, as soon as I could, I joined our local astronomy club, and I've been a member of one ever since.

My current affiliation is with the Vancouver Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. We welcome everyone to our monthly meetings, member or not, because one of our mandates is the promotion of an interest in astronomy and related sciences. Feel free to visit our meetings and participate in the public displays and use of telescopes to explore our place in the Universe. Here's a link to get further information:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

There is hope.

I don't often make comments on political events, especially if they relate to another country, but yesterday's US election results give me some hope. The people of the US have chosen to return to the precepts which made the USA the beacon of freedom in the past, and which seemed to have been compromised lately.

There are unrealistic expectations of a "quick fix", of course, but the economic mess that the US financial system finds itself in was not created overnight, and won't be fixed in a day. What will be needed is perseverance and a return to saner principles of economics. In the past, those are what made the USA the great country it is - the people have chosen to return to those concepts; good for them, and, I think, for all of us.

The USA has shown much compassion in the past for people on the losing side. I am a beneficiary of that compassion - I grew up in Berlin during and after the war (think of the Berlin airlift), and was lucky enough to have lived in the "American sector" of the then divided city. That compassion has not changed, in my opinion. In addition, the American people are known to be great "adapters" of new ideas, wherever those ideas may have originated. Nowadays, due to the internet, televison, and other instant communications technologies (American inventions and adaptations, by and large), ideas are available from all over the world. It takes nothing more than an open mindset to consider that other people may have ideas which could be helpful.

Judging by the speeches given by both Barack Obama and John McCain (both of which I consider to be magnificent pieces of oratory), there seems to be a willingness to look for new ideas wherever they may be found.

For these reasons I think that the USA can again be a moral light that can guide us to a more tolerant world.