### Kepler: RIP

Kepler's reaction wheel #4 has failed, leaving the telescope unable to point precisely. It has been an amazing ride. We now know of 2740 transiting exoplanet candidates, many which are still awaiting confirmation and characterization. We know of circumbinary, Tatooine-like planets. We've found eclipsing degenerate objects tidally deforming their companion stars. We've found compact systems of tiny planets parked right next to their stars. We now know that small planets abound throughout the Galaxy. The field of exoplanetary science, as well as astrophysics in general has been forever revolutionized by NASA's highly successful Kepler Mission.

But now it's time to say goodbye.

I did a phone interview yesterday with a reporter from the LA Times. She asked if I was mourning. I hadn't thought about it until then. But yes. Yes, I was mourning. My group about to have 5000 hand-picked red dwarf targets added to the Kepler observing list. Those stars and their myriad small, potentially habitable planets will go unobserved. So personally, yes, I'm extremely sad.

I'm also sad for all of the hard-working scientists and engineers at NASA Ames. They have gone above and beyond on a shoe-string budget to generate the exquisite Kepler data sets that my group has made a living on for the past three years. Thank you Kepler science team! We mourn with you the loss of this amazing scientific instrument, this previously unblinking eye into the Cosmos.

Geoff Marcy sums it up well on Facebook:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the internet,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let jet airplanes circle at night overhead
Sky-writing over Cygnus: Kepler is dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of doves,
Let the traffic officers wear black cotton gloves.

Kepler was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week, no weekend rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talks, my song;
I thought Kepler would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are still wanted now; let's honor every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing will ever be this good.

With thanks to W.H.Auden.

### On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on NBA.com, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

### Finding Blissful Clarity by Tuning Out

It's been a minute since I've posted here. My last post was back in April, so it has actually been something like 193,000 minutes, but I like how the kids say "it's been a minute," so I'll stick with that.
As I've said before, I use this space to work out the truths in my life. Writing is a valuable way of taking the non-linear jumble of thoughts in my head and linearizing them by putting them down on the page. In short, writing helps me figure things out. However, logical thinking is not the only way of knowing the world. Another way is to recognize, listen to, and trust one's emotions. Yes, emotions are important for figuring things out.
Back in April, when I last posted here, my emotions were largely characterized by fear, sadness, anger, frustration, confusion and despair. I say largely, because this is what I was feeling on large scales; the world outside of my immediate influence. On smaller scales, where my wife, children and friends reside, I…

### The Force is strong with this one...

Last night we were reviewing multiplication tables with Owen. The family fired off doublets of numbers and Owen confidently multiplied away. In the middle of the review Owen stopped and said, "I noticed something. 2 times 2 is 4. If you subtract 1 it's 3. That's equal to taking 2 and adding 1, and then taking 2 and subtracting 1, and multiplying. So 1 times 3 is 2 times 2 minus 1."

I have to admit, that I didn't quite get it at first. I asked him to repeat with another number and he did with six: "6 times 6 is 36. 36 minus 1 is 35. That's the same as 6-1 times 6+1, which is 35."

Ummmmm....wait. Huh? Lemme see...oh. OH! WOW! Owen figured out

x^2 - 1 = (x - 1) (x +1)

So $6 \times 8 = 7 \times 7 - 1 = (7-1) (7+1) = 48$. That's actually pretty handy!

You can see it in the image above. Look at the elements perpendicular to the diagonal. There's 48 bracketing 49, 35 bracketing 36, etc... After a bit more thought we…