Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Impressive Performance VI. Jill Scott and The Roots

My favorite version of this song is the one on the awesome documentary Dave Chappelle's Block Party. The video quality on this YouTube version it's spectacular, but the audio is much better than most. Jill Scott is a force of nature on stage, and the Roots are awesome as ever.

You can't put me in a box, no!
My soul just don't fit in one
I am the moon that will rise in turn
My new sh*t has just begun!
I can take you higher
I can take you low
It's not matter of what I put on
It's just matter of my soul!


Monday, December 26, 2011


You've seen this band, right? No? Check it out.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Impressive Performances V. Vince Young's 99-yard TD Drive

There has been a lot written about NFL quarterback Vince Young, not all of it good. But I don't care, because his 99-yard touchdown drive against the Cardinals is such a thing of beauty that it covers a multitude of mediocrity-related sins. Seriously, could a Hollywood screenwriter have scripted this any better? Starting on his own 1-yard-line? How many fourth downs did he have to convert? Oh, the drama! And that finale? Come on, that doesn't happen in real life!


Thursday, December 22, 2011


Impressive Performances IV. Rubik's Cube World Record

Words fail:


marcus to owen, while in the shower:  "you've been a thorn in my side all day long, kid"

owen:  "hey, wait a second - is this snack or lunch"
me: "hmmm, both"
owen: "you can't eat lunch at 10:30, and we didn't have snack, so i'll call this SLUNCH"
(this kid is soooo my son!)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Impressive Performances III. Gilbert Arenas

Before he took his role as a shooter too seriously by pulling a gun on a team mate in the locker room, Gilbert Arenas was one of the most impressive...um...gunners in the NBA. Despite only being roughly six-feet tall (he's listed as 6-4, yeah right), he played with an intensity matched by very few in the league. There have been many 50+ games recorded in the NBA, but my favorite is Arenas' 60-point game against Kobe's Lakers (sorry Lindsay!).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Impressive Performances II. Mouse on the Keys

For most impressive performance by a Japanese post-rock, jazz ensemble, I present Mouse on the Keys with Saigo No Bansan

Monday, December 19, 2011

Amazing Performances I.

Fifth-year astro grad student Tim posted this video to his Gmail status, along with the challenge, "If you know of a more impressive performance, please share."

What constitutes an impressive performance is a bit subjective, but then again, it kinda isn't. I'll be posting contenders in the weeks to come. If you know of amazing performacnes, musical or otherwise, please let me know in the comments!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Transiting Santa

Merry Xmas! Where X stands for star crossing...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

This will be on the exam

Funny whiteboard from my Fall2011 Ay20 course. Full description at my student Nathaniel's blog:

Ay20: What I Thought of the Class

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


A homophobic mayor's lesson in love.
Our story begins in June, when Troy, Mich., realtor Janice Daniels decided she no longer hearts the Empire State. Apparently forgetting that Facebook pages can be viewed by other people, she posted on her wall that “I think I am going to throw away my I Love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there.” [Daniels later became mayor of Detroit Troy]
Given Daniels’ “God-fearing love for this country,” it’s hard to be optimistic that Amy Weber’s  plea for open-mindedness [see video below] will fall on receptive ears. But every time gay men and women — and their friends and families — come forward and confront small-minded politicians with eloquence and dignity, it makes it harder for the voices of division and intolerance to cavalierly spew their bile and get away with it. Those “queers” and their loved ones so easily dismissed on Facebook are your neighbors. Adjust your mouth accordingly. And “joke” though Daniels’ comment may have been, it’s nevertheless unfortunate that New York’s acceptance of same-sex marriage has made the mayor of Troy decide she can no longer “love” the state. Because as Amy Weber understands, it’s not fear, not ignorance and certainly not hate that move us forward. “In the end, love is all that matters,” she told Daniels. “No matter what you’re doing in life, if you can look at it through the lens of love, you will do the right thing.”

Saturday, December 10, 2011

KeplerCon 2011

Last week was the first Kepler Science Conference (or KeplerCon as I call it), at NASA Ames near Silicon Valley in Northern California. I attended with my grad student Tim Morton, and my new postdoc Phil Muirhead. Phil and I had back-to-back talks about our work on studying the least massive stars in the Kepler Field.

The Kepler Mission is a 1-meter space telescope that is staring at a 100 square-degree field of view. It measures the brightnesses of 160,000+ stars once every 30 minutes looking for the stars to periodically become dimmer, indicating the presence of an eclipsing (transiting) planet. Here's what a large signal looks like:

The Kepler Mission is exciting because it looks at so many stars and has such high precision. Here's a tiny signal from a tiny planet discovered by Kepler:

This is Kepler-22b, a 2.5 Earth-radius planet orbiting in its star's "habitable zone," which is the goldilocks region around the star where it is cool enough for liquid water. Pretty exciting!

Kepler is finding thousands of small planets like this, and each signal needs to be confirmed using telescopes on the ground. At the conference, Phil and I described our program to focus on the planet signals around very small stars known as red dwarfs, or M dwarfs. 

Here's Phil's excellent talk:

Here's my talk right after Phil's:

And here are all of the talks from the conference:

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bunches of planets!

Caltech-Led Team of Astronomers Finds 18 New Planets

Discovery is the largest collection of confirmed planets around stars more massive than the sun

The twin telescopes at Keck Observatory in Hawaii. The astronomers used Keck to discover 18 new Jupiter-like planets orbiting massive stars.
[Credit: Rick Peterson/ W.M. Keck Observatory]
PASADENA, Calif.—Discoveries of new planets just keep coming and coming. Take, for instance, the 18 recently found by a team of astronomers led by scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
"It's the largest single announcement of planets in orbit around stars more massive than the sun, aside from the discoveries made by the Kepler mission," says John Johnson, assistant professor of astronomy at Caltech and the first author on the team's paper, which was published in the December issue of The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series. The Kepler mission is a space telescope that has so far identified more than 1,200 possible planets, though the majority of those have not yet been confirmed.