Tuesday, November 28, 2006

email from ACC

It's not everyday you get an email from Sir Arthur C. Clarke!

I enjoyed many of his books since public school including 2001, Childhood's End, Rendezvous with Rama, A Fall of Moondust, Expedition to Earth, and The Nine Billion Names of God.

He gave an update on goings on at SETI, the good news, the increased support, the increasing capacity. He asked if we might contribute to the project financially.

And, finally, he urged us to tell all our friends, to run SETI at home. That will be important when we start analysing 7 times the amount of data!

Monday, November 27, 2006

nichrome everywhere!

Maybe I'm over-analysing this but I want to make sure that the nichrome wire I have, now from two old toasters, is not wasted. So I double- and triple-checked my calculations. Then I redid the calculations from a different "direction" to arrive at more satisfying and consistent results. And finally moved to building an early prototype for my binoculars. This test meant running it off the portable 12V battery through the Kendrick (first-generation) controller to 4 heating elements configured in series. And, happily, it works (I'll report on the design in detail later). The next step is to build the wrapping material which I'll be able to Velcro around the bino lenses and eyepieces. I'll try to do that at Mom's over the holidays...

While prototyping, I remembered seeing my digital thermometer in my bathroom. So I grabbed it and clamped it to the nichrome wire during testing. Somewhat inconclusive, being a digital device, and apparently very sensitive to movement. In fact, for a moment, I was wondering if the thermometer wasn't working properly. So I dug out the user manual (or should I say "user sheet") from my files.

Now, as I was doing that, I also stumbled across the small user manual for my old hair dryer. I ran back down to the bathroom thinking, I haven't seen that hair dryer for years! I wasn't even sure I still had it. But I dug into a bin and there it was, the "New Generation" BV-12 1250W hair dryer, at the back, coiled in its cord, filled with more than a few dust bunnies.

Ah ha! The next nichrome contributor. It will serve up its innards for The Cause. Particularly since there is no long hair on my head to dry anymore. ;-)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

lights out!

Very interesting...

Winds of change, perhaps?

At the RASC Toronto Centre meeting most recent, there was a brief announcement regarding a flyer that got distributed to residents in Markham regarding, essentially, light pollution. Prepared by a local politician (or candidate), it talked about issues, solutions, light design, security light systems, etc. Wow. We were all impressed. The http://www.darksky.org/ site was referred to on the glossy brochure. This is great news for people on the north side of the GTA...

And today, I noticed an ad from the city itself in the subway car. It's aimed at business owners, particularly those in the downtown core, to remind them to turn their lights off. The main headline declares, Lights Kill Birds! See FLAP for more info.

I actually noticed this ad a little while ago. But now, given the Markham blitz, it makes me wonder if there's not a shift happening.

I've seen or known of these efforts in other cities. But I've been impressed to see inroads made in Toronto.

Maybe, maybe, we can reclaim our night skies...


I later learned the Richmond Hill is the only municipal Canadian government to have light pollution laws. Of course, that they surround the David Dunlap Observatory makes them more aware and sensitive to the issue.

a definitive answer

Joined the NewtonianReflector group on Yahoo and asked questions about the "mystery" eyepiece from Mom's Edmund Sci. telescope. In short order, I received a couple of informative replies.

From Chuck:
It's a Kellner. I've owned a couple of them. Doesn't have a field stop, so it's really kind of hard to tell what the AFOV is. Lot's of pincushion, so Edmund may have been calling it a Kellner, when it was really something else?
From Bobby:
It is an Edmund 1.25 -1"FL Kellner, it has uncoated cemented lens and anodized alloy body with no markings and no field stop. It has an ultrawide field of view (maybe 75 deg) but the FOV at the edges are unclear because of the lack of a field stop. It's one of the better vintage eyepieces of the mid-60's to mid-70's. Was the original EP with my 6"/f8 Edmund and 4.25"/f10 reflector.
I can finally put this item to bed.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

member night

Tonight I attended another Toronto Centre RASC meeting. This was much better for me, much more interesting. It was a "member night."

There were three presenters, all members presumably. The first person was actually the owner of Khan Scope Centre and he discussed and demonstrated the new Celestron Sky Scout. It was cool to see the actual unit and see—from a distance—how it worked (I also grabbed a brochure). I was able to ask if it calculated altitude (it did) and learned the price (retail CDN$460 or US$399). The second presenter talked about an important member of the RASC from 100 to 50 years back: Clarence Chant. And the final presentation was on a barn door mount that the member made and used for astrophotography. Wow! Impressive what he did with little money, an old Pentax film camera, 400 ASA slide film, and a 50mm lens. Beautiful photos. Inspiring!

There was also a brief mention of an upcoming CBC Venture show which will feature the SkyShed company. That show is coming in a couple of weeks. Venture airs on Wednesdays at 7:30pm EST.

There are still some things about these meetings that I think are odd or perplexing to me. There are some things that are... I dunno... missing? Lacking? I'm starting to realise that I expected more socialisation. Some happens, to be sure, before and after the meeting(s), assuming you know someone. But there appears to be nothing here, at these meetings, for the newcomer.

Regardless, I think I'll join. I'll try it for a year. With a membership, I can at least explore the member-only activities, which I think I'll enjoy even more.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

another toaster

My neighbours threw an old Proctor-Silex T2 automatic pop-up toaster in the recycling bin this morning. It was there when I returned home this evening so I snagged it. More nichrome wire for my DIY dew heater projects!


The long wire has a resistance of 43.8 ohms. It is 170 centimetres long (that's about 26 ohms / metre). One of the short wires comes in at 14.2 ohms; the other at 13.1. They are both 100 cm long (so around 13 to 14 ohms / metre). I noticed that the short wires are thicker or wider than the long ribbon, about 50% wider.

The higher resistance explains why these wires are shorter than the ones from the older toaster. That's 10 or so years of nichrome technology, I guess.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

sunspot through sunroof (Vaughan)

I was sitting in a friend's car, a Smart Fortwo no less, today (around 2:00pm EST) when I happened to look up through the glass sunroof (or is that a moon roof?). Perhaps it was the sun trying to break through the cloud layer that caught my eye.

Between the still thick clouds and the two layers (one more than the stock) of ceramic tinting on the sunroof, I was able to look directly at the sun. And I saw a huge sunspot!

I pointed it out to my friend Dave. He couldn't see it through the roof because of his angle but he caught it looking through the dark tint of the side windows.

That was a nice little surprise!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

did backup

Backed up the blog. Used WinHTTrack.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

practice your Greek

Need to practice your Greek alphabet? I've been quizzing myself for a year or so. I know the alphabet in sequence. I can correctly write all the lower case characters and variants. But I still want to get faster on my character recognition, particularly when I'm looking at star charts.

I recently found Theiling Online which can be used for various drills.

Ready? Go!