Friday, May 30, 2008

Balticon 42: Sunday Science Sessions

I'm in geek heaven. There are times I really wish I could be everywhere at once. Sunday's Balticon ( programming was packed with science programming I wanted to attend. I wasn't able to attend the sessions on Life, the universe and the second law of thermodynamics by John Ashmead nor the Lasers and optics by Matt Reitan. I was able to cut a deal with the family so I could attend several other sessions though. EPOXI and a new extra solar planet exploration by Dr. Timothy A Livengood (Bio and Voyage In DC), A stroll through the forest/jungle of modern astrophysics by Dr. Yoji Kondo, Ancient myth narratives by Rabbi Alan Yuter (wikipedia: Jewish Museum of Maryland) , and James Webb Space Telescope by Laura A Burns. I managed to catch the last 15 minutes of the Pots, poniards and people by Barry M Gittlen, PhD (Baltimore Hebrew University). Unfortunately Dr. Carey Lisse was not able to make it to give the session on Cassini's observations of the Saturn system. The Saturn session was replaced with a presentation of a thesis on quantum time.

The talk on astrophysics was definitely a bit over my head but the speaker Dr. Yoji Kondo is such a sweet wonderful guy I couldn't leave. Until I did some web searching to post this I had no idea how much he has accomplished. I found bios and awards for him on multiple sites including: Balticon bio, wikipedia bio, and NASA News .

The talk on quantum time was delivered by an excellent speaker but I just couldn't follow the physics. Chemistry kept me from going on to an oceanography degree and I’m imagining physics would have accomplished the same. It is difficult for me to wrap that kind of math around in my head.

Unfortunately I only caught the last 15 min of Barry M Gittlen PhD talk on an ancient olive oil factory town in the Middle East. The little bit I was there for was fascinating. Hopefully the excavate more and he does a follow up talk soon. Is a part of “Ask the Archeologist” so I might have other opportunities to learn about his findings. ‘James Webb Space Telescope’ (NASA education site and NASA JWST home page). Yeah, I took more notes and a few websites. Both talks were too short. The audience could have easily kept them busy with an hour of follow questions and discussions. All of the sessions are an hour long.


EPOXI and a new extra solar planet exploration

Dr Timothy A Livengood

Demotion of Pluto from planet status is not unprecedented. The Then there were the talks on ‘EPOXI and the new epoch of extra solar planet exploration’ and

demotion was in the "works" for years.

Planets are named for Roman Gods while other heavenly bodies are named for Greek Gods. Names do not use other myths or religious group deities because it can be a sensitive cultural matter. Not all groups want their God(s) or Goddess(es) use for naming heavenly bodies.

Watching Doppler changes is currently the most common way of discovering new planets. The changing colors (Doppler) are caused by the sun/star's movement or wobble which indicate there is a planet or planets. If you imagine a parent swinging a child in a circle, the child moves and the parent moves (wobbles) too. This wobble affects the light from the star and from the planet (farther and closer away). The wobble proves there is a planet even if none is seen. It can be proven by the light frequency measurements.

Planets known in our solar system = 8

Planets known outside of our solar system = 287

Recommended doing a Google search for "extra solar encyclopedia" and "EPOXI".

There are 6 methods to find planets. Eclipse photometry is the least expensive method. This one just requires a good mass produced telescope, $5,000 camera, and freeware software, totaling less than $10,000.

EPOXI/EPOCH will do it with eclipse photometry.




Observation &


EPOCH is an intensive follow-up study of stars that we already know host a planet. A space craft with a limited view and using already existing equipment. It will measure the brightness changes as the planet orbits the sun. The data will be used to study eclipsing planet and eclipsing stars.

EPOXI was originally to study comet. It is orbiting the sun rather than orbiting Earth. EPOXI can look at an object for 3 to 4 weeks. It has stable radiation levels and a defocused ("crummy") camera. It will also be used to study Earth.

Quantum Time

John Ashmead

His disorientation which he will be presenting in 3 weeks to a

conference for physics in Montréal.

Is time quantized in the same way space is quantized? Time: one

second at time or as a whole. Relativity: time/space. Quantum

mechanics: space is fuzzy, time is a parameter.

Pots Poniards and People

Barry M Gittlen

Pots have been discovered with ancient Hebrew letters saying for Aisha (a goddess). Another said ‘pot Gaia’, the Greek earth goddess with the names of 5 Syrian kings names listed. In the first layer (deepest) there were lots of pig bones showing they were a common food source but the last layer had none and this is the layer which had the inscriptions written in Hebrew. The olive oil factory town they have been excavating could produce up to 1,000 tons of olive oil in a season.

James Webb Space Telescope

Laura A Burns

James E. Webb 1906-1992

James Webb helped develop the science path for NASA, prior it was just exploration. He led Apollo. He was NASA’s second Administrator and began the proposal for a space based telescope. The telescope named in his honor is the only one named for an administrator.

Hubble vs. James Webb Space Telescope (JWST): The Hubble is a serviceable satellite in an earth orbit pattern and uses high resolution images. The JWST is a non serviceable satellite which will be in orbit at L2 (1.5 million kilometers) and will use near and mid infrared. The JSWT has a mirror larger then Hubble’s. Compared to the Spitzer the JWST will have a larger field.

The JWST will have 4 main science goals. 1) To end the dark ages: 1st light and reionization, what are the 1st galaxies. 2) The assembly of galaxies 3) Birth of stars and protoplanetary bodies 4) Planetary systems and the origins of life.

While developing the JWST they had to predict what technology would be available to make the project work and then try to develop it along side of developing the satellite. Its mirror is 6.4 meters and will fit into a 4 meter rocket via “satellite origami”. There are 18 mirror segments and each one has 7 actuators to help align them all to make one continuous surface. The primary mirror segments actuators align the mirror on 6 planes of movement and the 7th can be used to warp the center of the mirror. The mirror segments are cut from a single sheet of barium which is then coated with gold plating to make the reflective surface. The solid piece of barium weighs 100 kg prior to drilling and weighs 13 kg after the mirror is completed.

The launch date for the JWST is 2013 and has a project life span of 5 years with funding to continue through 10 years after launch. Currently there is no way of getting humans to L2 to service the JWST. There is an O-ring on the JWST incase we are able to have humans or robots service it prior to the end of the project life span. The Hubble is the only serviceable satellite in orbit and there is a large cost associated with those services. The cost of the JWST project, as of 2007, is $4.5 billion (US) over it’s 25 year life span covering design, building and operation. This comes to about $15 of taxes per person in the US – total.

There is an unofficial Lego kit of the JWST and it can be found at

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