Friday, May 21, 2004

The Listeners by James E. Gunn

I just finished a sci-fi book by James E. Gunn called 'The Listeners' which was published in 1972. This book is very similar to 'Contact'(1985) by Carl Sagan, particularly at the beginning plot line. In fact Carl Sagan commented on the book as follows: "One of the very best fictional portayals of contact with extra-terrestrial intelligence ever written". The two books do deverge in plot quite a bit later on in the storyline. The Listeners is a sci-fi classic and I highly recommend it. Its a fast and enjoyable read with a surprise ending. Hint: Don't look ahead in the book at the illustrations (like I did!) if you don't want the ending spoiled for you. The Listeners

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Insectasoid Robot

Before I developed an interest in astronomy, I was into robot building and I'm sure I will be again. Below is The Beetle Robot. I built him and Annie did the artwork. Notice the beady looking eyes and the crooked nose. His body may be made from a plastic slushy top but this little guy moves fast. He runs on 4 AAA batteries, two on top and two on the bottom, has two Radio Shack motors and paperclips for feelers attached to a couple of snap switches. He basically runs around like a bat out of hell and bumps into things. When he bumps something he backs up and turns and runs again. He gets stuck only rarely and if you're patient, he can work his way out of most traps. He's actually easy to build and fun to watch. Here's the link to the tutorial on how to build him: The Beetle Tutorial

Sunday, May 16, 2004

The Observatory And Mars

This is my portable observatory which I finally repaired after a serious disaster last winter. This is a great observatory with only one serious drawback. In high winds it has a tendancy to act very similar to a hot air balloon. Even though I had it anchored down with six stakes during a storm last winter the winds kicked up to around 85 miles an hour, tore it up from the stakes, threw it over the roof of my house and into the neighbors back yard! Luckily no one was hurt. It's now secured with six heavy duty stakes and 5 sand filled jugs (amazingly, it only sustained minor damage).

I built the observatory from plans off the internet. The entire structure with the exception of the tarp is made of pvc pipe, glue and lawnmower tires. Total cost was about $200.

The photo to the right of the obseratory is of Mars taken with a webcam on 8/7/03 at 4:31am est. Mar's southern ice cap was at its peak when this picture was taken and Mars was one month away from its closest approach to Earth in 30 years.

Here's the link to get plans on how to build the observatory: Portable Observatory

Here's an enlargement of the Mars image:

And here is a close up view of the Martian surface:

Who says I don't have good taste in jewelry?
Scroll your mouse over the ring and watch it light up!