My View

I’m fairly lucky at work. I regularly get treated to some pretty amazing views, and I take it for granted. Over the years it’s become the norm and I forget how lucky I am.

Here I wanted to show you some of spectacular sunrises and sunsets I get to see, as well as a few others.

Sunset on the Apron

That above one taken just the other evening. Continue reading

It’s Raining CH4

The sky is overcast, hazy and orange, there’s a light wind. It’s a tad chilly too, -170°C. Water’s frozen as hard as steel. And yet it appears to be raining. Large globules of liquid slowly float like snowflakes to the surface.

We are ofcourse not in some bizarre and crazy sci-fi TV series, but on the surface of Saturn’s moon, Titan.

Saturn's Rings, the small moon Epimetheus and Titan

Titan’s a pretty exciting place. It’s the only moon in the entire Solar System with an appreciable atmosphere (it’s thicker than the Earth’s!) and it’s bigger than the planet Mercury! Continue reading

Finally Decided

I have finally decided where to head with my OU studies. At least for the time being anyway!

After completing my current course (S283: Planetary Science and the Search for Life) which is an amazing course by the way, I’m going to focus on some basic level 1 courses. I want to get a broad knowledge of different areas of science and so have decided to head for the Certificate in Contemporary Science. A smash of 6 level 1 courses that I have decided to include:

  • S196: Planets: An Introduction (one I’ve already passed)
  • S186: Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Tsunamis (my next course)
  • S194: Introducing Astronomy (the one I’ll do after that)
  • S170: Darwin and Evolution
  • S189: Understanding the Weather
  • ST174: Inside Nuclear Energy

I think that’ll give me plenty of knowledge in some differing areas, and it’ll take me well into next year at my rate of study! The plan after this is unclear, but I plan to do some maths courses so I can do S282: Astronomy (or its successor) so I can get the Certificate in Astronomy and Planetary Sciences and then perhaps do S207: The Physical World and S276: Geology. After that, who knows? It’s a long way off though!

I long to know more, and I’m rather excited about my future studies! :)

23 Week Babies

Last night I watched a programme on the BBC called 23 Week Babies. It was a very emotional and thought provoking documentary on babies that had been born at 23 weeks. They’re severely under-developed, can’t breathe unassisted and require virtually 24 hour medical attention.

It brought up many ethical dilemmas, and whilst I know what I would (or at least think I would) do in this situation, it also made me reevaluate my opinion in other areas.

Firstly I want to discuss the term baby. We ofcourse all know what one is, but it’s the specifics I’m after. Personally it annoys me when a pregnant women refers to her fetus as a baby. Is it a baby yet? What is the point of babyfication? Is it the moment of conception, the moment of birth, or some iffy area in between? It can’t be the moment of conception right, it’s just a jumble of cells at that point. Could it be the moment of birth, if so what happens when it is born in this ‘iffy area’ in between? Is it a baby because it has been born or is it a fetus that isn’t developed? This is a very difficult question to answer.

The thing that shocked me most was the fact that parents had the ultimate choice in the situation. Regardless of what doctors said, whether they’re in severe pain and face no chance of survival beyond a few days, the parents can still say, keep him or her going. They seemed petrified of ‘killing’ their own child. Is this killing though? It seemed to me emotion getting in the way of the real matter at hand.

The programme went to Holland to film what happened over there. Doctors there do nothing to help and resuscitate and 23 week baby. They merely say if they did they’d prolong unnecessary pain. The statistics show that the vast majority of 23 weekers resuscitated only live on average 6 weeks longer than is necessary. Is this right? Should we help them survive just to live for 6 more agonising weeks?

There are also major dangers in saving a 23 week baby. Their lungs, heart, brain and other internal organs are firstly grossly underdeveloped. Tubes are inserted into the lungs to help them breathe. This can lead to lung cancer in a lot of cases however.

The next question comes up is one which relates to the tiny number of those that survive (something like 9 in 100 survive). Due to being born so early, with their underdevelopments, severe disabilities can ensue. The babies can get extensive brain damage, a fact that would stay with them and affect them for life. Is it right to allow a baby an un-fulfilling, painful life?

This brings up a separate issue. If during a normal pregnancy you find your child has a disability, whether through the mother drinking or other, should you terminate or not? Is this a similar issue, or completely different? Another difficult and arguable situation.

All in all, I highly recommend the programme. Very thought provoking and filmed incredibly well on such a difficult subject. But what do you think? – Should we fix people just because we can?

Discovery Returns to Earth Tomorrow

Well it’s been a truly great mission. I’ll show some of the mission photos below. Discovery’s never looked so beautiful! A few photos of the magnificent ISS as she leave it too.

I tried to find Discovery’s ISS fly around footage, but can’t find it. If anyone can direct me, I’ll drop the video in. Eitherway here’s a superb video on what Discovery has done this mission. Complete the assembly of the International Space Station!

Meanwhile, the landing. It’s tomorrow. She ignites for the deorbit burn at 1552 GMT tomorrow, hits the top of the atmosphere at 1625 GMT and lands on runway 15 at the KSC at 1657 GMT. Then that’ll be it. She’ll spend the rest of her life in a museum. What a beauty though. The landing tomorrow will be truly beautiful! :)

All photos from NASA Human Spaceflight and ISS Astronaut Paolo Nespoli’s Flickrstream

Welcome to the Wonders of the Universe

It’s finally here everybody. Today is the day. BBC2, 9pm. Tune in! You won’t regret it.

It’s going to be with us for the next four weeks. 4 episodes of sheer awesomeness. This first episode is entitled ‘Destiny’, and looks at time. What it is, how it works. We’ll go from the Big Bang to the end of the Universe.

Typically I’ll be working when it’s being shown for the next two weeks. So no major spoilers, and please, please do not tweet me saying ‘Haha’. I won’t find it amusing in the slightest!

Eitherway, I hope you all thoroughly enjoy it all, and if you’re new to science, I really do hope it inspires you to learn more. It is a fascinating topic.

The accompanying book is also available. Find it on Amazon here and get £10 off!

Oh and don’t forget it’s the 700th episode of ‘The Sky at Night’ tonight too. BBC1, 2325. It’ll have Brian Cox, John Culshaw, Martin Rees and the other regulars. Not to be missed either!

And once again, that amazing trailer!

Space isn’t the final frontier. The human imagination is.

Wow. I’ve just seen this posted on the web and it simply must be shared and seen by all.

Space isn’t the final frontier. The human imagination is. To know ourselves, to know why we dream, why we fall in love, and why we struggle onward, we first have to know how it is we exist. The stars are in our collective heart and we long for them just as we long to know our place in this Universe. We are small, we are isolated, but we ARE. Damn if that doesn’t make us quite the amazing anomaly.  -D. Raffetto