Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Couple Panoramas of the Oregon Coast

While attending the family reunion I was on vacation for in Oregon in July I got the chance to take a trip up the Oregon coast. There's some really gorgeous scenery up there, and I took the opportunity to take some pictures for panoramas. I finally got around to putting them together this weekend and thought I'd share them.

First off here's a panorama of Simpson Reef, a small reef off the Oregon coast:

Click for larger version.
The largest island visible near the center of the image is Shell Island, and while you can't see it at this resolution the beach at its base was absolutely covered in sea lions. From my location at the overlook spot I could hear a constant faint cacophony of cries from the mass of pinnipeds sunning themselves on the strand. The reef is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Oregon Islands Wilderness, and its constituent islands are also important breeding grounds for lots of seabirds.

This panorama isn't of anywhere particular (it's just a bit up the coast from Shore Acres State Park), but I loved the landscape:

Click for larger version.
It's hard to see at this resolution, but there are some neat concretions visible down close to the shoreline. Concretions are masses of matter harder than the surrounding sedimentary layers formed by precipitations of mineral cement, and look like roughly spherical lumps protruding from the softer stone around them as it erodes faster. The whole coastline here show some interesting weathering and erosion features.

It occurred to me while making these panoramas just how much work goes into making them, and I'm considering possibly doing a little walkthrough/tutorial on what I do to put these together in the future. Anyway, enjoy the landscapes. A hui hou!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ice Skating in Hawaii

It's been a little bit quiet around here as I spent pretty much the last two weeks of July and the first week of August away, first back on the west coast for a family reunion then in Honolulu for a business trip. The triennial IAU (International Astronomical Union) conference was back in the U.S. for the first time in twenty-five years, and as a new organization EAO wanted to have a booth there to help get our name out. Which is why I got to spend a fun week in Honolulu talking to people about the JCMT!

Despite flying through the Honolulu airport twice a year on average for the past six years this was my first time actually outside the airport. It was a bit of a shock just how different it was from Hilo. O‘ahu has a lot of basically flat area, something that is in short supply on Hawai‘i, and it was discombobulating to drive for miles with essentially no elevation change. Though the half-mile walk to the convention center from my hotel was flat rather than uphill, so I'm not complaining.

Check out our nifty booth!


That fantastic diorama of the summit of Mauna Kea on the left there belongs to Subaru with whom we were sharing a booth, and boy, was it popular throughout the conference. It was really nice to be able to point out to people exactly where the JCMT (and everything else) on the summit was.

While I was there, I got to do something most people don't associate with Hawaii: ice skating! My co-worker and friend from college that I went over with, Will, suggested it, so one night after the convention was over we took the bus over the skating rink. I even took a really poor picture as proof!


Yeah, that picture didn't really come out well. I blame my slightly deranged expression on the fact that I was standing on ice skates and concentrating on not falling over. It was a lot of work, and there was much comedic flailing as I rounded the rink a few times, but at least I managed not to fall down over the course of the hour I spent on the ice. All in all, a fun experience. Look forward to some pictures from my time in Oregon soon!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Adding Cubits to your Lifespan

In my Bible-reading this morning I ran across Matthew 6:27 where Jesus says “And who of you by worrying can add a single πῆχυν to his ἡλικίαν?” This is an interesting verse to translate, because ἡλικίαν (pronounced heylikian, with the i's sounding like the i in machine) is usually translated as something like ‘lifespan,’ but πῆχυν (pronounced peychoon, where the ‘ch’ sounds like it does in German ‘Bach’ or Scottish ‘loch’) is a very straightforward word meaning ‘cubit.’

On the face of it, this doesn't make grammatical sense; how do you add a cubit to your lifespan? This has lead to two divergent translations I've seen: one involves translating πῆχυν as ‘hour’ (despite there being another definite word for hour, ὥρα [hora]), while the other translates ἡλικίαν as ‘height.’

Neither of these translations sound really good to my ear, so I when I came to the passage this morning I decided to go back to the literal meaning of both words and incorporate insights from relativity theory. Relativity tells us that time is simply another dimension like the three dimensions of space (which are inextricably linked in a four-dimensional spacetime), and that by using the speed of light as a conversion factor we can use units of measurement for space to measure time, and vice versa. What does a ‘second of distance’ mean? It's the distance light travels in one seconds, approximately 186,000 miles or 300,000 kilometers. And similarly, one ‘meter of time’ is the amount of time it takes light to travel one meter, approximately three nanoseconds.

A cubit, by the way, is very close to half a meter, so what Jesus is basically saying here is that you can't add even a nanosecond and a half to your life by worrying—so don't worry, because your Heavenly Father is in control. A hui hou!