Sunday, July 20, 2014

U.S.-Mexico Border at Night from Space

Today is the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon. The Apollo program tested our technological abilities and taught us a great deal not only about the Moon, but the entire solar system. The program also gave us a unique perspective on our own world and allowed us to see it in its entirety for the very first time. 

Today, our astronauts don't voyage as far from home, but they still are giving us interesting views of our home world. Here's an example - a nighttime photo from the International Space Station showing portion of the U.S.-Mexico border:
Image from ISS Expedition 30 Crew. Credit: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA-Johnson Space Center. The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.
It is a pretty interesting shot as the U.S.-Mexico border is clearly illuminated and the two cities along the border, Calexico in the U.S. and Mexicali in Mexico, are so radically different. The U.S. Mexico border is also illuminated between San Diego and Tijuana. Here's a shot from ISS showing  Juarez, Mexico (left) and El Paso, Texas with the wiggly, orange illuminated border between them.
Image from ISS Expedition 26 Crew. Credit: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA-Johnson Space Center. The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.
Again, the character of the two cities is remarkably different. There is a lot that can be learned by looking at nighttime views of cities from around the world.

My Cities from Space posts are the most popular ones on my blog and some of the readers here will be interested knowing that there's a new citizen science project called Cities at Night that has an amazing database of such images from the International Space Station. The project aims to teach people about light pollution and to crowd source classification of the nighttime images taken by the astronauts. Be sure to check it out.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Star Trek: Wolf In The Fold

It is time for another episode of the original Star Trek series, today it is:
Wolf In The Fold has some interesting elements, but it is not a great episode.

It begins with Kirk, McCoy & Scotty enjoying the nightlife on the hedonistic planet Argelius II.  Why? Well, Scotty is apparently recovering from a concussion and needs a boost. It seems there was an explosion that threw Scotty against a bulkhead and it was caused by a woman. In McCoy's medical opinion, "considerable psychological damage could have been caused. For example, his total resentment toward women."

One of the reasons I like Star Trek so much (apart from the flying through space part) is that it presents a positive outlook on the future, one where an ugly rock beast can be thought of as being just a mom trying to protect her children. One where no one would categorize who caused an accident by their gender or race. Oh, well. I guess it doesn't always hit the mark, especially in TOS, where things are still a little rough around the edges.
They certainly seem to be enjoying the show, don't they? After Kara is done dancing, she comes over to join them. Scotty invites her out for a walk in the fog. Kirk and McCoy decide to head over to another club when a scream pierces the night.
They find Kara dead, having been stabbed a dozen times, and Scotty standing nearby holding a bloody knife. This doesn't look good.
After the opening credits we meet Administrator Hengist, played by character actor John Fiedler. Some of you may know Fiedler for his job as a voicing the roll of Piglet in Winnie the Pooh. I prefer to think of him as Mr. Peterson in one of my favorite TV series, The Bob Newhart Show. He's one of several actors that were guest actors on both Trek and The Bob Newhart Show.  

Hengist is the perfect person to investigate the murder because he is from off-world and the Argelians are gentle, harmless people that apparently aren't very good at this kind of thing. Scotty remembers nothing about what happened and is sticking to that story. While it looks very much like an open and shut case, McCoy doesn't think that Scotty could possibly have committed the crime, even though he thinks that Scotty might have total resentment towards women. Okay, whatever, Doc.

Kirk convinces Hengist to allow him to bring down a member of the Enterprise crew equipped with a psycho-tricorder. Lt. Karen Tracy beams down and heads to back room to check out Scotty's story. What could go wrong?
Yeah, quite a lot. Lt. Tracy is murdered too. Once again Scotty is the only suspect and claims to remember nothing. Naturally, the next step is to hold a seance to find the truth.
Sybo, the wife of prefect Jaris (played by the same actor that played Landru in Return of the Archons), leads the show. Here is her narration of the seance:
Concentrate upon the flame which burns upon the altar of truth. Yes, there is something here. Something terrible. I feel its presence. Fear, anger, hatred. Anger feeds the flame. Oh! Oh! There is evil here. Monstrous, terrible evil. Consuming hunger. Hatred of all that lives. Hatred of women. A hunger that never dies. It is strong, overpowering. An ancient terror. It has a name. Beratis, Kesla, Redjac! Devouring all life, all light. A hunger that will never die! Redjac! Redjac!
The lights go out and, wouldn't you know it, Sybo ends up dead with a knife in her back and Scotty is caught red handed.

At this point, with three murders having committed that all point right at Scotty, the biggest surprise is that he is not immediately hauled off to the electric chair. Instead, Kirk manages to convince Jaris and Hengist that they should all go to the Enterprise to establish Scotty's guilt or innocence.
Once there, they take testimony from Scotty and two men who had some connection to the first woman murdered, but none at all to the next two.

Eventually, they decide to focus on some of the words that Sybo spoke before she was murdered. They learn that Redjac was a proper name for Jack the Ripper on old Earth and very quickly focus on the hypothesis that they are dealing with an entity that feeds on terror, as Spock says "Deriving sustenance from emotion is not unknown in the galaxy, and fear is among the strongest and most violent of the emotions." And further explaining,  "To meet with specified requirements, entity would exist without form in conventional sense. Most probable mass of energy of highly cohesive electromagnetic field.... And I suspect preys on women because women are more easily and more deeply terrified, generating more sheer horror than the male of the species."

This idea of an entity that feeds on emotion will surface again in the Season 3 episode, Day of the Dove, but that's a tale for another day.
Kirk then Googles asks the library computer to list the the unsolved mass murders of women since Jack the Ripper. They find a trail that leads off Earth out into space with the most recent ones happening on Rigel IV, just before Mr. Hengist left there. They confront Hengist, who naturally denies everything.
After they determine that the knife, which was used in all three murders, also came from Rigel IV Hengist tries to flee. After a brief scuffle Hengist drops dead (after being punched by Kirk) and the entity within him flees into the ship's computer, which tries to inflict terror upon the entire crew.
Ever quick with the meds, McCoy shoots up the entire crew with sedatives strong enough to "tranquilize an active volcano."

Still, the computer threatens the crew, shuts off life support, and creates general mayhem. Thankfully, Spock saves the day with math by having the computer compute Pi to the last digit.
The entity flees to computer and reanimates the body of Hengist, Spock injects him with McCoy's tranquilizer and they beam him out into space making the universe safe from mass murder forever more.

And there you have it. Wolf in the Fold isn't terrible, but for me is very much a middle of the road episode. The idea of the entity and tying it to Jack the Ripper is an interesting plot twist, but they never should have gotten that far as Scotty should have been convicted and locked away long before they figured it all out.

There was one new piece of music composed for this episode (for Kara's belly dance), but it wasn't used. All of the music used in the episode was tracked from other ones.

Next up, The Changeling

Monday, July 14, 2014


Arizona's monsoon season is off to a good start. The summer rains come in the form of thunderstorms and yesterday delivered some pretty decent rains and quite a lightning show.

I wasn't able to get out after dark for any lightning photography but I did manage to capture this shot during the daytime yesterday afternoon:
Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and I'll be able to do some lightning photography after dark, when it is much easier to catch.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Super Moonset

I woke up early enough today to watch and photograph this morning's (super) moonset. Here's how it looked.
Canon T3i, 250mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/60 sec
Canon T3i, 250mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/60 sec
Canon T3i, 250mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/60 sec. Cropped from the full frame.
Canon T3i, 55mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/60 sec.
Canon T3i, 250mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/60 sec. Cropped from the full frame.
Canon T3i, 250mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/60 sec. Cropped from the full frame.
The photos were taken just over an hour after the Moon was 100% full, while the Moon was also at perigee - it's closest point in its orbit to Earth, making a so called super moon. I'm not a bit fan of that term, but this morning's moonset was indeed super.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

4th of July Fireworks!

Every year the Town of Marana, Arizona (located near Tucson) puts on a pretty good fireworks show. I live close enough to the annual event to get a really good view right from home.

I took around 120 photos of last night's show and, while they weren't easy to choose, here are some of my favorite shots from the show:
Canon T3i 5 sec., ISO 100 f/5.6
Canon T3i 5 sec., ISO 100 f/5.6
Canon T3i 5 sec., ISO 100 f/5.6
Canon T3i 5 sec., ISO 100 f/5.6
Canon T3i 4 sec., ISO 100 f/5.6
Canon T3i 4 sec., ISO 100 f/5.6
Canon T3i 4 sec., ISO 100 f/5.6
Canon T3i 5 sec., ISO 100 f/5.6
Canon T3i 5 sec., ISO 100 f/5.6
Canon T3i 5 sec., ISO 100 f/5.6
Canon T3i 5 sec., ISO 100 f/5.6
Canon T3i 6 sec., ISO 100 f/5.6
I was far enough away from the fireworks that I needed to use a 250mm lens for these shots. Many of them have been cropped from the full frame.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Birthday, America

The U.S.A. turns 238 years old today. To celebrate here are a few photos of our national bird, the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus).
These were taken on our trip to Alaska last year.