Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ceres: The ultimate Golf get-away

For those of you that would like to play a few rounds of golf on your vacation, Ceres is hard to beat.

A former Planet, When Ceres was first discovered in 1801 it was classified as a planet for 50 years until being demoted to Asteroid 1, then in the 2006 debate over the classification of Pluto it was briefly considered being classified as a planet until it and Pluto were reclassified as Dwarf Planets.

Ceres offers a lot to the dedicated golfer.

Ceres is large enough for its gravity to give it a spherical shape, this means on the surface you can view a regular horizon. When lining up your drive you will have a clear view and not feel like you are golfing up a steep cliff, or down the grand canyon.

Ceres has a rocky interior covered by a water-ice layer. The ice is at least 60 miles thick and during formation it “bubbled” up bringing clay and sand particles to the surface. As a result the surface of Ceres is nice hard clay, making an excellent driving range.

Ceres has a tenuous atmosphere that was thicker in the distant past, this atmosphere would have caused the small sand and dust particles to blow into low lying areas making excellent sand traps.

The escape velocity on Ceres is 1,119.6 mph so it will keep even the best golfers drive on the Dwarf Planet but still allow a good golfer to hit a 60 – 70 mile line drive.

Ceres is relatively warm –38 degrees so a golfing space suit wouldn’t need the heavier layers of protection necessary in other parts of the solar system.

For a really exciting round of golf, Ceres does occasionally get hit by other asteroids. These asteroids can break through the 60-mile ice layer and bring water to the surface, which will boil in the near vacuum until a layer of ice forms to cover it.

So for brief periods Ceres offers boiling water hazards.

Things to talk to your travel agent about.

Ceres is roughly 1,000 times the distance from the Earth as the Moon, so a Space Craft traveling at speed of the Apollo spacecraft would take roughly three years to travel to Ceres. Unless you don’t mind spending 6 years traveling for a golf get-away (I know some golfers who would find that a reasonable trade off) you might want to look into getting a faster ship.

Ceres may have a water “Ocean” but it is under 60 miles of ice and its atmosphere is nearly non-existent, so make sure your travel arrangements include such amenities as food, water and oxygen.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The First Daughters first 100-Day Report Card.

The rest of the mainstream media is busy grading Obama’s first 100 days, a meaningless and arbitrary milestone, and CNN is digging deeper by grading how Michelle Obama has done in her first 100 days as first lady. (Hint: she started out as the hottest first lady in recent history and hasn’t gotten harder on the eyes in the last 100 days). It’s necessary for me to dig even deeper into the trivialness of this totally unimportant day. I will grade the first daughters on how good a job they have done in their first 100 days.


This is the most important duty of the first family and Malia and Sasha have raised the bar. I truly believe that if Bin Laden gets CNN in his cave when pictures of those two come on, even he has to stop admire their cuteness. I believe his words must be something like “Death to Amer- Awe they are so adorable, What was I saying?”

I give them an A+ (It would be more but that is the top of the scale.)


They have done an excellent job of keeping the media informed, I remember that for the first few weeks of school CNN reported every day what they were having for lunch at school.

I give them an A+

Getting Daddy to make the house kid friendly.

An important job of every kid is to get their dad to make the new house kid friendly. They got their dad to take time out from guiding the nation out of the second Great Depression, dealing with two Wars, negotiating a path to relations with Cuba after 40+ years of saber rattling on both sides. A few hundred other things in order to get them a swing set. Good Job.

I give them an A+

Making “The Cool Mom”

Sure she’s first lady and on the cover of thousands of magazines, but to Malia and Sasha’s classmates she’s just another mom. In order for her to be “The Cool Mom” she has to do something fun with the class.

Michelle started a vegetable garden with the help of the class. That’s a fun project that has to earn some points with the classmates.

I give them an A+

The first Dog.

They were promised a puppy if daddy became President and it took him months to pick one out. Sure he was dealing with saving the nation from the second great depression, two wars, pirates, ect. But dads always have an excuse to put something off, it’s the girls job to make sure he follows through. Although when they finally got one it was damn cute.

I give them a B

Overall they get an A for their first 100 days.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Long Term Thinking

My short story “Long Term Thinking” was just published in this months “Ray Gun Revival” on-line magazine. It is a story about how man doesn’t see the eventual destruction of the galaxy as a problem, only an opportunity.

I’m really proud of that little story, it outlines the eventual death of the galaxy through hydrogen depletion, and a solution to let people have pleasant places to live for 10’s of Billions of years past the death of the mainstream stars. All told by relatable characters in under 1,800 words.

I would have liked to do more character development and paint a bigger picture of the solution, but that would have exploded the story into a small novella, and I feel the conciseness of the story adds to its charm.

Feel free to give me any feedback on it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Winter Wonderland: The Kuiper belt

In the last post I talked about vacationing on Venus, for the people who would prefer to vacation somewhere bit cooler than the melting point of lead The Kuiper belt (pronounced like Viper) offers an average temperature of 50K or -369 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature substances that would normally be a gas like methane are solid, leading to great fun.

Have an Interplanetary Snowball Fight.

Although most of the attention goes to the Kuiper belt’s dwarf planets like Pluto and Xena, there are over 70,000 minor planetary bodies in the belt, any number of them might form a binary system.

If you choose the right binary system, you can stand on one while a friend stands on the other. If the body is small enough you could throw a snowball fast enough so it achieved escape velocity. With a good aim you could hit your friend on the other minor planet.

After some practice you can have some really fancy throws and place your snowball into a sub-orbit of the body your friend is standing on so that it goes around the planetoid and hits them from behind. If you get your timing just right you could hit them in the front and back at the same exact time.

Building a mile high Snowman.

If you’re interested in doing something a little more creative, you can build a huge snowman. Simply find three Kuiper object, one roughly ½ a mile in diameter, one 2/6th a mile and one 1/6 a mile and stack them on top of each other. Their mutual gravity will keep them together but they won’t have enough gravity to collapse. Find a few darker objects that were ejected from the inner solar system for eyes and some bits from a smashed Kuiper object for a nose and arms and you’ve got a snowman that will last for a few centuries at least.

Things to talk to your travel agent about.

Make sure you book a fast ship. At the speed the Apollo spacecraft went to the Moon it would take roughly 95 to 158 years to reach the Kuiper belt, depending on which part you wished to visit. If you don’t mind spending 190 to 316 years traveling this is fine, but if you have other plans (and a normal lifespan) you might want to consider something a little speedier.

The Kuiper belt has water in the form of ice (as well as hydrocarbons like methane and ammonia) but little else in the way of amenities so make sure your travel arrangements include the little things, like air and food.

If you liked this post, you may enjoy reading the rest of the Space Tourism series.

Space Tourism Series

Venus: Not just for Lovers

Mars: For the Adventurous

Titan: Extreme Surfing

Ganymede: A Great Place For Scuba Diving

Moon: Tranquility Base

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Venus: A planet by any other name would be just as hellish.

If you have nowhere else to go, you could always stop by Venus (or Lucifer as the morning star is sometimes known as).

If you like warm weather, Venus is the hottest planet in the Solar System with surface temperatures warm enough to melt lead.

For hang gliders Venus offers a challenge with 350 kph winds and an atmosphere 90 times as thick as Earth, a hang glider could do some extreme stunts. Be careful of the clouds as they are made of Sulfuric Acid.

The surface is mostly rolling plains, but there are a few active volcanoes to liven things up.

If you plan to spend the day on Venus, be warned the day is slightly longer than its year at 243 Earth days.

If you want to take in the sights you might want to use a camera that can correct for different atmospheric conditions as the thick atmosphere often makes for reduced visibility.

One nice thing is you won’t miss Earth’s gravity as Venus is nearly the same size as Earth, giving it just a slightly lower gravity.

If you like this post, please check out my other post on Space Tourism:

Martian Adventures

Surf Titan

Scuba Diving on Ganymede

Moon: Tranquility Base

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

For the Adventurous, Mars is the place to visit.

It’s well known that Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun, is a destination scientists really want to visit as it is the most Earthlike of all the planets and there are good indications that life may have evolved in Mars’s distant past, but it is also an excellent place for the adventurous tourist.

Extreme Mountain-climbing

Mars is home to Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain in the solar system. At 3 times the height of Mt Everest, Olympus Mons is so big that from the peak you would not be able to see the base as the Mountain is wider than the observable horizon.

The summit of Olympus Mons is so high that the atmospheric pressure is just 5% of the average Martian atmosphere, as opposed to Mt. Everest where the pressure is about third of the pressure at sea-level.

The low atmospheric pressure means you would have to wear a pressure suit for the whole assent but you would earn bragging rights over other mountaineers who only climb little peaks like Everest.

Canyon Tours

If mountain climbing isn’t your thing, you can head East to Valles Marineris, the largest canyon system in the solar system. At more than 4,000 km long it would stretch across the United States.

At its lowest point Valles Marineris is 7 km deep, so deep that it is the only place in the solar system outside the Earth where liquid water could exist on the surface. (In all other places including the rest of Mars the atmosphere is too thin making water sublimate, going from ice to vapor without reaching the liquid stage, or too hot like Venus.) Currently no liquid water exists there, as the atmosphere is too dry.

Out of this world Spelunking

On the flanks of Arsia Mons, Mars’s second largest volcano, several caves have been discovered dubbed “The Seven Sisters”. Cave entrances measure from 100 m to 252 m wide and they are believed to be at least 73 m to 96 m deep. No one knows how long these caves are and they are surely home to some unique rock formations and even possibly life-forms.

Watch a Moonrise and Moonset at the same time.

After spending the day exploring, Mars offers some great views. It has two small Moons, Phobos and Deimos, Phobos rises in the West and sets in the East crossing the sky in 11 hours. In contrast Deimos rises in the East like Earth’s moon. Deimos Crosses the sky in a leisurely 2.7 days. So at several times you can see Deimos rising on the horizon as Phobos sets.

Views of Earth

From Mars you can see both the Earth and the Moon clearly giving you a view of the double planet system that can’t be seen on the surface of any other planet.

Things to talk to your Travel Agent about.

Although Mars has both an atmosphere and water, the atmosphere is too thin to breath and the water is either trapped in the soil or frozen at the poles. Make sure these amenities are included in your stay.

Check for a fast ship. Going just a little faster than the Apollo spacecraft, a ship could reach the optimum transfer orbit which would take roughly 6 months, If energy was no concern it would be possible to cut that down to a few months.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like the rest of the Space Tourism Series:

Moon: Tranquility Base

Ganymede: Jupiter's Largest Moon

Titan: Great Atmosphere

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Teabagging for Change

Conservative women are taking are adopting a new strategy to protest Obama’s tax increase on the top 1% of earners. They are teabagging liberals.

Fox news is urging everyone to attend these teabagging parties. At the teabagging parties the organizers promise a surprise, I’m wondering if that means Lady Liberty will get teabagged on stage?

Image courteously of Confined Space.

Surprisingly women of all walks of life are getting into this movement. I went out to check peoples reaction to the teabagging parties and interview people on the street. I was running a little late and didn’t do my interviews until 2am, but I did find a few women on the street corners.

I approached them and asked them this question. “Could you help me with my poll? I’m wondering if you would teabag for change?”

The answers ranged from $10 to $25. I’m considering those as yeses.

I have asked the organizers to turn it into a contest and have women compete to see who can teabag the most liberals. The top teabagger could get some sort of award and be given the title “Best Teabagger”.

If enough people ask them to run this contest I’m sure it will get national news attention.
Put your request here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Hand of God

Thanks go out to Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy for bringing this awesome picture to my attention.

If you want the explanation of what it really is check out his blog at

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Surf Titan

For a truly unique getaway with lots of fun activities it’s hard to beat Saturn’s largest moon Titan.

Titan is the second largest moon in the Solar System and the only moon to have both a thick atmosphere and liquids on its surface. This allows for some activities that can’t be performed anywhere else in the Solar System.

For the surfer Titan’s oceans offer some totally gnarly surf. The tidal forces of Saturn and Saturn’s other moons make Titan’s liquid Methane oceans home to some truly epic waves and its low gravity means they don’t hit the coast with the same force as waves on Earth, so an experienced surfer can tackle a 40-50 footer easily.

For a truly unique experience Titan is the only place where humans can fly like a bird. The combination of low gravity and dense atmosphere allows humans to put on some wings and achieve lift off.

For the adventurous mountain climbing on Titan is a great experience. Even though the mountains of Titan don’t meet Earth definition of mountains, the highest peak is roughly a kilometer high. The 500 meter cliffs in the Xanadu region offer a great free climb experience. The low gravity allows you to free climb using only your hands and if you do slip the dense atmosphere enables you to glide to safety with a simple wing suit.

The nitrogen/methane atmosphere continually rains down liquid methane forming great river systems. This provides for the greatest white methane rafting anywhere in the solar system. The low gravity means when your raft gets air it really gets air and the slow descent allows you time to enjoy the experience.

For those interested in one-of-a-kind geologic wonders, the volcanoes on Titan spew hydrocarbons; some of these hydrocarbons combine to form a natural wax. As the stream of wax is released into the cold atmosphere the outside cools and hardens insulating the wax on the inside. This interior wax continues to flow rapidly forming wax tubes that race across the flat surface of Titan much like the lava tubes in Hawaii only much faster.

The one thing that you will not see on Titan is Saturn hanging overhead. Although science fiction movies and artists love to show the scene of someone on the surface looking up to see Saturn with its rings hanging in the sky, the atmosphere is too dense to see through. All that can be seen from the surface is the Rosy Red sky.

Before leaving Earth make sure to talk to your travel agent about getting booked on a very fast ship. Traveling at the speed the Apollo spacecraft that took men to the Moon it would take roughly 31 years one way to reach Titan. Although Titan offers some once in a lifetime opportunities having to spend 62 years of your life traveling would limit the amount of experiences to compare it to.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Living in a place I was taught didn’t exist in America

I just got my taxes back; I had a badly paying job where I earned a whopping $2,469 for the year. Included in that was two months of unpaid training 100 miles away, it cost me roughly $1,000 in gas and a few hundred in maintenance on my car. So according to the tax tables I had over $5,000 in deductions or more than what I earned so my taxable income was $0.00.

I filed (even though I was below the reporting threshold) to get my stimulus check and earned income credit. Money I desperately need as on my current job I am called in when needed and because of the recession they haven’t needed me for more than a couple days a month.

According to the IRS I didn’t make enough money last year to qualify for help and I owe them $186.14. If I had made $531 more last year I would have been entitled to a rebate but because my income was so low ($0.00 taxable income) I owe them money.

If they had given me the rebate and I could count it on my gross income it would have put me over the threshold.

Growing up I had been taught that in America we had a safety net, so that if someone is hit with a string a bad luck they won’t be tossed out on the street. Now that I’ve been hit by two years of incredibly bad luck I’ve found out that it isn’t true.

In the past two years I had my good paying Securities Broker job disappear when the owner of the company disappeared with the all the companies money, only to read in the paper a few weeks later that he was arrested for selling Crystal Meth to a minor.

I went to work for a competing business that was in bad shape and after a few months things were picking up and it looked like the company would be stable. Then the owner of that business disappeared with my commission check.

After those great experiences I went to work for an Insurance company, for that I needed to go through two months unpaid training and I miscalculated my money (my bad this time), and after all the hard work and expense going to training I didn’t have money to make the 30 mile drive to work every day leaving me in a dire financial position.

Going to the various government agencies I found out that the only government assistance available was food stamps. It helps but it’s not enough to feed me and my wife, we’ve lost over 20 lbs each.

I found out that the energy assistance program through our local utility company, that I had been giving money to for the last 10 years, doesn’t help people pay their electric bill. I’ve got no clue where that money I sent went.

To try and survive, I donated plasma and delivered pizzas. The pizza place could only use me a couple days a week until sales dropped and now they only call me in when someone is sick. The machine broke at the donor center while I was donating, making me unable to give for 3 months. So my luck continues.

Now the IRS wants $186.14; that is not the idea of a safety net that I had learned about growing up. Taxing someone more because they are broke isn’t a safety net, it is down right cruel.

The worst part about being in my current situation is that I’ve always considered myself a charitable person, when I had a decent salary I would give a few thousand a year to different charities. If I had known how little support there actually was in this country for people who have a turn of bad luck I would have given more.

In a shameless attempt to raise money to pay my phone bill so I can continue posting I’m asking everyone to click here Associated Content to help me out.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Ganymede: a place for skiing, scuba diving and possibly seafood.

For those of you that couldn’t decide on vacationing on the Earth’s Moon or someplace with a pool (I’m talking to you Burning Windmill) Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon, may be the perfect place for the holidays.

Ganymede offers a lot of the same great features of the Moon, low gravity, gorgeous views, and a chance to get away from it all. Ganymede also has some great features that are hard to find anywhere else.

Ganymede is covered in ice that has been twisted into mountains and canyons by the tidal forces of Jupiter and the other moons in the Jupiter system. Over the millennia huge cracks sometimes expose the ocean underneath which starts to boil when exposed to the near vacuum of the Ganymede surface. Some of this water vapor settles on the surface of the Ice Mountains leaving a unique virgin powder that will allow a one of a kind skiing experience.

If skiing isn’t your thing, Ganymede offers a chance for a great scuba diving adventure. Just 100 miles beneath the surface is a giant unexplored sea. The same tidal forces that have made the Ice Mountains keep the seas above freezing.

These seas are heated by volcanic vents. On Earth, life thrives around similar vents so there is a good chance you will see some one of a kind lifeforms.

There is great speculation as to what these lifeforms might look like but some people (ok me.) think giant crabs (pictured below) could have evolved.

Local Atmosphere:

Ganymede has a very thin oxygen atmosphere, much too thin to breath but with some special pumps could be used to provide a comfortable atmosphere in your quarters.

Culture and Night-life:

Ganymede does offer all the conditions that life needs to evolve, most scientists believe that the local lifeforms would be primative, but if a fellow guest has an alien lifeform attach itself to their face it might be a good idea to wait a while before letting them back into the common areas.

Cosmic Rays:

Ganymede has a magnetosphere of its own and it is also within Jupiter’s magnetosphere so Cosmic Rays aren’t a concern.

Things to discuss with your Travel Agent:

Make sure they book you on a fast ship.

At the speed the Apollo Spacecraft traveled to the Moon it take roughly 16 years to travel to Ganymede. If you have plenty of money and nothing to do for the next 32 years this is fine.

Once you get to Ganymede air and water can be made from the local ice, from that food can be grown. Make sure your accommodations include these facilities.

Like always make sure to book a round trip ticket, Getting back from Ganymede would be tough.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

100 Hours of Astronomy

2009 is the International year of Astronomy, so what better way to kick it off than with 100 Hours of Astronomy.

For three days from April 2-5 astronomers around the world will be reaching out to the public to in an effort to get people interested in the Universe.

To find an event near you check out 100 Hours of Astronomy.