Saturday, January 22, 2011


Since the weather was reasonable this morning (it's getting ready to rain right now), my wife and I decided to take our regular walk around the neighbourhood. We do this as often as weather permits. For us that means that it's not raining or snowing. In that case, I substitute a half hour on our stationary bike. I've been using that bike basically by myself; my wife does her exercise by doing her normal housework - we have a "split-level" home, and she's constantly walking up and down the stairs.

By now, the bike's odometer reads just over 6043 miles (over 9700 kilometers). I commented on this exercise bike in March, 2009, at which time the odometer read 3000 miles. At an average of about 9 miles per half hour that additional distance represents roughly 330 days on which I used that bike.

It shows how often the weather around here is bad enough for us to forego taking a walk, because this means that there have been something like 170 inclement days per year during that interval; it's an indication that we live in a "high precipitation" city.

Here's the link to that previous post:

True friends

Last night, since Derek has been feeling a bit better for the last couple of days, he had a date with some of his buddies to go to dinner. They arrived in a limousine to pick him up, much to Derek's surprise. The dinner took place at Gotham's - one of the "in" dining institutions in this city ( Fortunately, Derek has not lost his appetite; food is one of the things he can still enjoy.

What a considerate thing to do - true friends indeed.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Other "Earths"

For many years, astronomers, physicists, geologists, and scientists in other disciplines, as well as science fiction writers, have speculated whether there are planets circling other stars, much like our star (the Sun) has a retinue of large and small planets circling it. Our Earth is one of those planets. The ultimate aim is to establish whether there are other planets (exoplanets - not part of our solar system) which could perhaps have liquid water on their surfaces. We see liquid water as the absolute basic necessity for life as we know it, although we are beginning to see variations of life even here on Earth which may perhaps lead us to a possibility for other life forms, not necessarily requiring water.

In any case, the underlying reason to look for Earth-like planets elsewhere is to come up with a reason to think that life is present throughout the universe (at the moment, we have absolutely no evidence that life exists elsewhere).  Exoplanets have been known to exist for a couple of decades or so, but they are very hard to detect and the first ones we knew about were extremely large and could be called "failed stars".

There are a number of telescopes in orbit which are specifically designed to look for the extremely small effects which such planets have on their "suns".  - This is a Canadian project, directed by Dr. Jaymie Matthews of UBC, which has detected some exoplanets as a serendipitous byproduct of its main mission (to measure tides and wave propagation in distant stars).

There are orbital telescopes specifically designed to look for exoplanets, and one in particular is designed to look for Earth-sized ones. Here's a link:

It has just succeeded in detecting one exoplanet which is just slightly larger than Earth, albeit unlikely to be earth-like. This is the news release from NASA:

(Artist's concept, NASA news release)
It'll have a profound impact on human thinking if we ever find another planet on which intelligent beings are present. If we ever get into direct contact with such a "civilization" the course of human evolution may be permanently altered.