Sunday, April 29, 2007

Gliese 581 c

Gliese 581 c is a newly detected planet 20.5 light-years away, and located in the constellation Libra. The news from this past week almost slipped by unnoticed. But it could be something that will change our world -- in terms of human perspectives on the universe.

The planet has an estimated size about 50 percent larger (and 5 times more massive) than Earth, and a surface temperature between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius. It's one of the best possibilities for a planet outside our solar system that could sustain liquid water and "life".

The discovery was made using an instrument called HARPS (High Accuracy Radial Velocity for Planetary Searcher), which is a very precise spectrograph. It is located on the ESO 3.6-m telescope at La Silla, Chile. HARPS is able to measure velocities with a precision better than one meter per second (or 3.6 km/h). Pretty amazing technology.

I took a pause for reflection this morning, and to let the significance of this new discovery sink into my brain. Wow. It does stir up a sense of curiosity to find out more about this new world. When I was growing up, no one knew if there "any" planets outside our own solar system.

Here's a link to a Wikipedia article.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Star Wars Exhibit

I thought I would share some random photos from the "Star Wars" exhibit at the California ScienCenter mentioned in the previous blog entry. I'm not sure if I can say that the "science" in Star Wars is that accurate, but it's a great story/movie. If you click on the photos below, you can see a slightly larger image.

This is Luke Skywalker's landspeeder which is sort of like a hovercraft. In the era of computer graphics, it still nice to see a "hardware" model for an imaginary object.

This is a closeup of Luke Skywalker's prosthetic hand. Who knows? It would be beneficial to have mechanical body part replacements -- just in case we might need an extra hand.

Below is C-3PO with some of his internal wiring exposed. It's good that they still use color coding for electrical wiring in the future.

There were many models on exhibit of spacecraft that were used in the movie. This is a rebel alliance X-wing starfighter.

Master Yoda peers outward from behind the glass. For someone 900 years old, he's looking pretty good.

And this guy, I believe, is one of the snow creatures from Episode V.

And here's an Imperial TIE fighter from the evil Empire. Not sure what kind of propulsion system was used, but they're very fast and maneuverable (in the movie, that is).

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Phase Two for Hikaru

Hikaru calls this the "bah-puh" (for bathroom). At almost 20 months, it's about time to make a major transition away from diapers. He hasn't been "trained" yet, but we hope to soon.

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The Science of Sake

Last night the Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) held a "sold out" food and sake-tasting benefit fundraising event called "The Science of Sake". It was held after hours at the California Science Center which currently features a "Star Wars" exhibit.

Since I'm on the LTSC staff, I was working at the event. I'm not much of a sake (Japanese rice wine) expert or drinker/taster, but I took a few photos below.

As you can see, many LTSC staff working at the event were dressed in black suits, since it was quite a formal event.

In addition to sake, there was also plenty of great food to go around.

We honored the Iron Chef Morimoto who participated in our annual Los Angeles Tofu Festival -- the main LTSC fundraiser of the year.

There was also a silent auction and a raffle drawing -- the usual non-profit organization fundraiser stuff. Everyone seemed to be having a great time socializing, schmoozing, eating, and tasting the variety of sake.

Sometimes, you never know who you might meet, and you have to be careful. The guy below pulled a light saber on me. But it's not surprising, since this is LA.

In the photo below, the winning raffle ticket is being drawn for the $25,000 cash prize.

Everything seemed to go smoothly last night, so perhaps the Force was with Little Tokyo Service Center, and many thanks, of course, goes to everyone who attended.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007


That's a vocabulary word I didn't know before, but I came across it in some random web surfing. Propolis is sort of like a wax-like "caulking" used by bees to seal and protect the hive (including diseases).

But the interesting thing is that is claimed to stimulate the immune system, and has antibiotic and antifungal properties. Boy, as new parents catching colds every weekend, we can use this.

I guess, there's many things that we don't know, and maybe bee technology has some new engineering and material applications, including our health. Who knows? Sometimes when I feel that modern science has investigated everything, there's always something new in something old.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Los Angeles Time Lapse

I see many urban Los Angeles night scenes every day -- especially commuting to and from downtown. The video below is a beautiful time lapse perspective. This was created by 599 Productions and presented on YouTube.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Earth Day Weed Pull

What did we do to celebrate Earth Day? We pulled weeds.

This, of course, was performed in an "earth-friendly" non-toxic low-impact low-tech traditional manual manner -- by hand and down low, that is... No herbicides were used. And I gained some cardio health benefit (including the back). The result was a huge pile of green material for our backyard compost pile.

By the way, some of the pulled weeds had deep roots going down a foot or more. I was so impressed that I took a photo of them...

If these weeds can grow so well in our soil, I'm rationalizing that some other plants will grow just as much. Here's a photo of some Japanese eggplants and cucumbers that I planted. I'm looking forward to seeing them grow.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Little Tokyo Unplugged

There was a "wire cutting" today. We launched a community project called "Little Tokyo Unplugged" to provide free wireless (WiFi) Internet access in the Little Tokyo district of Los Angeles. The project was in a "testing" phase for the past couple years, but now it's "official".

So if you visit Little Tokyo, make sure to bring your wireless-enabled laptop computer or device, and look for the SSID "Little Tokyo Unplugged". When you open your web browser, you'll be redirected to a website with Little Tokyo information. One hope for this project is to aid community development by connecting visitors and residents to local information.

Unfortunately, I was recovering from a bad cold/flu today, so I wasn't able to attend the festivities (but my co-workers say that everything went very well). It was a busy week for the LTSC tech team, as we were performing some last minute network troubleshooting, configuration changes, and deploying wireless mesh nodes on rooftops around Little Tokyo. I'm glad we were able to pull it off.

By the way, if you have problems with the WiFi access, please don't complain to me, but good feedback is appreciated. Keep in mind that the service is "free" (and you're getting more than what you're paying for :-) ). More information about this project (and if you wish to get involved) is at this website. There's a Little Tokyo wireless community advisory committee if you wish to be involved.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Doorman

The door below is the entrance to the "Children's Garden" at the Huntington. Hikaru wasn't so interested in seeing the rest of the garden -- as much as he enjoyed opening and closing this door! So this is about as far as we went.

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Many Faces

At 19 months old, Hikaru is becoming quite a performer in front of the camera. He has multiple expressions, including his "fake smile" and other wild looks.

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Cactus Color

It's springtime and flowers are blooming! This entry is a continuation of a previous one on "Desert Design" and cacti, but the intensity of the colors for some cactus flowers are quite incredible (at least to me). The photographs cannot adequately describe them, but wanted to share a couple below. If you click on them, you can get a larger view.

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