April 28, 2017

Review: The Buntline Special by Mike Resnick.

   This week, steam punk goes west in our review of The Buntline Special by Mike Resnick. Out last month from Pyr Books, Buntline takes us to the environs of Tombstone, Arizona in the 1880’s in a weird west tale that melds alternate history with fantasy. Fans of this space will remember Mr. Resnick as he of the Starship Rebel series fame. [Read more...]

31.10.09:Daylight Saving Time: Is it Really Worth it?

 

Be sure to "fall" back tommorrow! (credit: Art Explosion).

Be sure to "fall" back tomorrow! (credit: Art Explosion).

 

Tomorrow, at 2AM, astronomers throughout North America can rejoice; daylight saving time (DST) ends for most areas that observe it in Canada and the U.S. as we revert back to ye ole’ standard time. This means observers will no longer have to undergo the long nightly process of sleep deprivation to await dark skies. Indeed, from northern tier states, it can be well past 10pm in mid-summer before its considerably dark! Ah….bring on the darkness. But this also brings up the following is issue….do we REALLY need daylight savings time at all? Allow us to approach the virtual soapbox, if you will. Daylight saving was first famously proposed by Benjamin Franklin and established in the US after World War I. Benefits sited at the time were energy conservation, as well as optimizing daylight hours to coincide with peak productivity periods. These days, public safety is also noted. In 2005, the Energy Policy Act was signed into law by president George W. Bush, rolling daylight saving back even further, currently spanning from the 2nd Sunday in March to the 1st Sunday in November. Granted, this may be way down some people’s lists of enduring offenses committed by the Bush administration, but the damage has been done. This year’s shift represents the earliest that we can potentially “fall back,” as November 1st is a Sunday. In agrarian times, this curious system might have made sense; each local hamlet set its own time, and primary reliance was on sunlight for human activities. But in a global, 24 hour civilization, is this idiosyncrasy for the past really required? Claims of energy savings are dubious; how about smarter night-time lighting policies? Some states, such as Arizona and parts of Indiana have done away with DST all together, and the Apocalypse has yet to rain down on them. In northern areas such as our native Maine and Alaska, DST is sort of a moot point, as the gathering winter darkness always ultimately wins. Let’s say “Down with DST,” in an effort to bring back sanity and our dark skies. Let’s step forward into the 21st century! Anyway, that’s our 2 cents…we here at Astroguyz would do away with all time-zones as well, but that’s another post…see you in Standard Time-land!

 

Constructing the Very Small Optical Observatory.

VSOO.

The Very Small Optical Observatory in its heyday. (All Photos by Author).

Ahhh… eternal the lure of having ones’ own observatory. Batman has the Bat-cave, Superman has his Fortress of Solitude, and sooner or later, every astronomer heeds the siren song of having a place he and his mammoth telescope can call home. The perks are many fold; an observatory means you spend more time observing, not lugging, setting up, aligning, watching the clouds roll in, and packing it all back in. This week, I’m going to tell you the tale of how I built my own modest shrine to the stars, cheaply and quickly. [Read more...]

Your own Personal Astronomer: Tucson’s Flandrau Observatory.

Flandreau.

Cell Phone Astrophotography: The Moon & the 16-inch. (Photo by Author).

Looking for an affordable, innovative date? One of the kept secrets in the deep Arizona desert is absolutely free; I give you a night of star gazing and cosmic conundrums at the Flandrau Observatory, adjoining with the Science Center of the same name. Located on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson, Arizona, the dome boasts a 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain reflector and a knowledgeable telescope operator to go with it.  How do I know this? Because I myself was one such operator during the heady days of 2006, and could easily state that the experience was one of the most rewarding of my life. [Read more...]