To mark the start of the Dark Skies Festival today, here are some fantastic photographics taken not that far from Brighton.
Friday, February 11th, 2022
Thursday, February 25th, 2021
Today is my birthday. I am one twentieth of a millenium old. I am eighteen and a quarter kilo-days old. I am six hundred months old. I am somewhere in the order of 26.28 mega-minutes old. I am fifty years old.
The reflected light of the sun that left Earth when I was born has passed Alpha Cephei and will soon reach Delta Aquilae. In that time, our solar system has completed 0.00002% of its orbit around the centre of our galaxy.
I was born into a world with the Berlin Wall. That world ended when I turned eighteen.
Fifty years before I was born, the Irish war of independence was fought while the world was recovering from an influenza pandemic.
Fifty years after I was born, the UK is beginning its post-Brexit splintering while the world is in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic.
In the past few years, I started to speculate about what I might do for the big Five Oh. Should I travel somewhere nice? Or should I throw a big party and invite everyone I know?
Neither of those are options now. The decision has been made for me. I will have a birthday (and subsequent weekend) filled with the pleasures of home. I plan to over-indulge with all my favourite foods, lovingly prepared by Jessica. And I want the finest wines available to humanity—I want them here and I want them now.
I will also, inevitably, be contemplating the passage of time. I’m definitely of an age now where I’ve shifted from “explore” to “exploit.” In other words, I’ve pretty much figured out what I like doing. That is in contrast to the many years spent trying to figure out how I should be spending my time. Now my plans are more about maximising what I know I like and minimising everything else. What I like mostly involves Irish traditional music and good food.
So that’s what I’ll be doubling down on for my birthday weekend.
Friday, October 2nd, 2020
Monday, September 28th, 2020
Monday, August 31st, 2020
Tuesday, June 9th, 2020
Friday, May 1st, 2020
Saturday, March 21st, 2020
Tuesday, January 1st, 2019
Tuesday, April 18th, 2017
Håkon wrote his doctoral thesis on CSS …which is kinda like Einstein writing a thesis on relativity. There’s some fascinating historical insight into the creation of the standards we use today.
Wednesday, September 14th, 2016
Friday, June 24th, 2016
Thursday, February 4th, 2016
Saturday, November 21st, 2015
Sunday, June 21st, 2015
100 words 091
It’s the summer solstice, the longest day of the day.
Last year I spent the summer solstice visiting a telescope in the woods outside Riga:
we were inside the observatory getting a tour of the telescope at the precise moment that the astronomical summer began.
Later that evening, when I was back in my hotel room, I fired off a quick DM to Chloe, simply saying “Happy Birthday!” (it’s an easy date to remember).
She responded the next day with a curiously distant message. “Thanks Jeremy. Hope you’re well.”
And that was the last DM I ever got from Chloe.
Thursday, January 22nd, 2015
Sunday, October 12th, 2014
This was the fifth Science Hack Day in San Francisco and the 40th worldwide. That’s truly incredible. I mean, I literally can’t believe it. When I organised the very first Science Hack Day back in 2010, I had no idea how far it would go. But Ariel has been indefatigable in making it a truly global event. She is amazing. And at this year’s San Francisco event, she outdid herself in putting together a fantastic cross-section of scientists, designers, and developers: paleontology, marine biology, geology, astronomy, particle physics, and many, many more disciplines were represented in the truly diverse attendees.
After an inspiring set of lightning talks on the first day, ideas started getting bounced around and the hacking began to take shape. I had a vague idea for—yet another—space-related hack. What clinched it was picking the brains of NASA’s Keri Bean. She’d help me get hold of the dataset I needed for my silly little hack.
So here’s the background…
There are many possibilities for human habitats in space: Stanford tori, O’Neill cylinders, Bernal spheres. Another idea, explored in science fiction, is hollowing out asteroids (Larry Niven’s bubbleworlds). Kim Stanley Robinson explores this idea in depth in his book 2312, where he describes the process of building an asteroid terrarium. The website of the book has a delightful walkthrough of the engineering processes involved. It’s not entirely implausible.
I wanted to make that idea approachable, so I thought about the kinds of people we might want to have living with us on the interior shell of a rotating hollowed-out asteroid. How about the people you follow on Twitter?
The only question that remains then is: which asteroid is the right one for you and your Twitter friends? Keri tracked down the motherlode of asteroid data and I started hacking the simplest of mashups—Twitter meets space rocks.
Here’s the result…
Give it your Twitter username and it will tell you exactly which one of the asteroids in the main belt is right for you (I considered adding an enterprise option that would tell you where you could store your social network in the cloud …the Oort cloud, that is).
Be default, your asteroid will have the population density of Earth, which is quite generously. But if you want a more sparsely-populated habitat—say, the population density of Australia—or a more densely-populated world—with something like the population density of Japan—then you will be assigned a larger or smaller asteroid accordingly.
You’ll also be told by how much you should increase or decrease the rotation of the asteroid to get one gee of centrifugal force on the interior. Figuring out the equations for calculating centrifugal force almost broke me, but luckily I had help from a rocket scientist and a particle physicist …I’m not even kidding. And I should point out that the calculations take some liberties—I’m assuming a spherical body, which is quite a stretch, given the lumpy nature of most asteroids.
At 13:37 on the second day, the demos began. Keri and I were first up.
Give Habitasteroids a whirl for yourself. It’s a silly little thing, but I quite like how it turned out.
Speaking of silly things …at some point in the proceedings, Keri put the call out for asteroid data to her fellow space enthusiasts on Twitter. They responded with asteroid-related puns.
Wednesday, August 13th, 2014
A peak at a near-future mundane dystopia from Joanne McNeil that reminds me of Brian’s spime story
Monday, February 28th, 2011
The travelling time is underway. I’m in Denmark right now, leading an HTML5 workshop at NoMA, the Nordic Multimedia Academy, and thanks to some excellent questions from the students, it’s all going smoothly.
Last week I was in Belgium for the Phare conference, which also went smoothly. I enjoyed giving my presentation and I really enjoyed the excellent hospitality of the Ghentians.
While I was in Belgium, the occasion of my fortieth birthday arrived with a sense of long-foreseen inevitability. I spent it in Bruges.
Four zero. The big four oh. Two squared times ten. The answer to life, the universe and everything minus two.
The photons that were reflected from Earth at the time of my birth are arriving at GJ 1214 b. Or, to put in another way, the light that left GJ 1214 at the moment of my birth is entering our solar system, perhaps even reaching the retinas of human beings somewhere on this planet who happen to be looking into just the right part of the sky at just the right time.
Monday, June 14th, 2010
Offcom are not representing my interests as a consumer. This is a disgraceful decision.