in orbit

I mostly talk about video games and the world wide web


Chrome: Faster Than A Potato

I just kind of enjoy the Chrome ads in general:


A Moment of Silence Please

(1917 2007)

Don Herbert, aka Mr. Wizard, died yesterday from bone cancer. I actually thought the guy was already dead, but I used to watch his show at like 6am every day before middle school (that or Transformers and sometimes Captain Planet) and a bunch before that. Apparently it ran from 1983 until 1990 and reruns aired until 2000. Anyway, thanks Mr. Wizard! Without you I'd never have seen a vacuum cleaner suck grape juice through a straw up to the 7th floor of some building, or learned how to make a match box land on its side when you drop it... and something about friction. Okay so I don't remember all of what the show taught, but I remember enjoying it, and that's what counts, I think. Adeiu, good sir! Thanks for dropping the science.

Face Blind

Really interesting article in Wired about prosopagnosia, which is a condition where the brain is unable to recognize faces.

For most of his childhood, Choisser thought he was normal. He just assumed that nobody saw faces. But slowly, it dawned on him that he was different. Other people recognized their mothers on the street. He did not. During the 1970s, as a small-town lawyer in the Illinois Ozarks, he struggled to convince clients that he was competent even though he couldn't find them in court. He never greeted the judges when he passed them on the street everyone looked similarly blank to him and he developed a reputation for arrogance.


Peace Out, Pluto!

So, Pluto is no longer a planet. I guess if I had to care, I agree with it. Pluto was always a pretty shitty planet. First off its largest moon, Charon, is huge. So huge in fact that the barycenter of the planet/moon system is above Pluto's surface, making it the only planet to have this feature. On top of that it has a wacked out solar orbit that's on an incline from the other planets. So if you think of the other eight planets of orbiting mostly on a level plane to the Sun where they're each at the same 'height', tilt Pluto's orbit a bit so it's below the plane on one side and above it on another (like a see-saw). Finally, when viewed from above the orbit is not in line with the others. From 2/7/1979 until 2/11/1999 Pluto was closer to the Sun than Neptune and the rest of the time it's further from the Sun (every 300 years or so it switches with Neptune for anywhere from 15 to 30 years).

None of this stuff really matters though, because to be a planet the new requirements are:
  • Orbits around the Sun
  • Has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape
  • Has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.
The third point is not true for Pluto along with a couple other celestial bodies that would have become planets (like the asteroid Ceres) under the original proposal.

So, that's all for Pluto! Downgraded to a 'dwarf planet', how humiliating. But still, it was a planet for 76 years, which is a pretty good run. So in memory of Pluto, I've switched the in orbit background picture from Jupiter to Pluto. We still love ya, little guy!