Skip to main content

It is always sad when we loose one of the best, be they actor, anarchist, or scientist. This man’s character was all of these, even if the man himself was only one. Thank you, Anthony, for being my favorite Master…

First, a sad thing to report. Anthony Ainley, The Master from 1981 to 1998 (and the best Master, IMHO), died on 3May04. I was looking forward to him putting in an appearance in the new series, at least long enough to set up a regeneration sequence. It would have been a fitting end to a great actor’s career. Details can be found here:

Note: this link to is defunct; the author of this page went on to write his own science fiction, which can be found at Shannon Sullivan. He still maintains his Dr Who pages, now at A Brief History of Time Travel

In a more positive department, we seem to have a target date for the first new episode: Christmas! We also have a Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) and the first Companion (Billie Piper as Rose Tyler). We will see the return of an old enemy, the Autons, to get us started. Guess they didn’t want to jump right into the Daleks or Cybermen; after all, if this works out as we hope it will, there will be a LOT of episodes to develop stories for. Can’t use up your best enemies right out of the gate if you expect it to go the distance!

Here are a few links to point you to still more information about the New Who; check them out, bookmark them, and stop by here often for new ones as I gather them all together!

BBC Doctor

Gallifrey One

Digital Spy

Note: has been taken over by a domain name reseller, so the link is removed.

And please don’t feel shy about sending me any links you think should be added to this group! I can use all the input I can get here, and lots of other folks will find your links useful.

For the last 6 weeks work has hammered on me, and I had no time to do new entries here. That hasn’t changed much, but I will try to take the time anyways; there is a lot going on right now that deserves to be talked about.

This time around, Comets, and more specifically the 2 you can see this week, C/2001 Q4 (NEAT) at magnitude 1.5 (naked eye) and C/2003 H1 (LINEAR). Since the Linear object is at magnitude 12.5 as this is written, you will need a scope to see that one.

C/2001 Q4 (NEAT) has just peaked, hitting magnitude 1.0 a few days ago, and can be observed from most places where you can make out a few dozen stars through the smog and light pollution. It is loosing 0.1 in magnitude each day, so try to see it this week if you can. A site with no smog, no clouds, and minimum light pollution would be best, of course. A pair of binoculars would enhance the experience, so you can see the tail in all its glory.

Wherever you are on the planet, right now the best viewing time is from dusk to 9:30PM. Where in the sky to look is the next question, and the reason for this blog entry. Here are a few resources to help you find these, and many other sky objects (including a lot more comets).

CALSKY (The Calculated Sky) is the best online tool I have ever seen for finding out what is viewable in your local night sky, with details of where and when to look. Its interface is both simple and powerful, allowing you to set your place on the planet against its database, and what kind of celestial objects you are interested in. You can even save your settings as a cookie to your browser, so they will be the default each time you log in. One of the settings you can choose is “user levels”, from amateur to professional; it calculates what kind of equipment each level might have to determine which entries and objects would be useful for you to be aware of. You can also reset the location that comes up on any page by clicking the Location Name in the window to the right of the “Calculated Sky” text header. Did I mention this one is a monster, and should be in every astronomy addicts Links collection? LOL

Basic Link:

Current Comet Link:

That comet link assumes you live in Austrailia, change it to match you location for best results.

Another world-class site for tracking sky objects is the Singapore Science Center. It has a LOT more going on than that, so I recommend you spend some time on the site, even if you are on the other side of the planet. The Basic link is:

Current Comet Link:

If you are more astronomy-aware, you might want specific ephemeris data. A great site for that is Harvard’s CFA (Center For Astrophysics) database, and again, it is searchable. Also again, it has a ton of information beyond the confines of tonight’s topic, and the limits of my description. So even amateur astronomers want to add this link to their permanent collection!


Current Comet:

No mater who you are, following the places to look works better if you have a picture of what the sky should look like. A good site to grab that image is

That link gives you the sky from Denver. The other choices they offer are New Orleans, Atlanta, Charleston, SanFran, Minneapolis, and Syracuse. The sky is a lot bigger than the Earth, so if you live in North America, you should find one of those choices works for you. And all of them include current interest points, which this week includes the NEAT comet!

That should be enough to get you started. Enjoy the Living Sky, and let me know if you find anything that should be added to this list!

Ever wondered what you would see if you could look down on your neighborhood from space? It turns out there are a lot of online tools to help you do that. Not a great surprise, considering how many decades things like spy satellites, weather balloons (and orbital platforms), and GPS devices have been looking down on us. And that is ignoring the less formal collections, like shuttle astronauts with digital cameras, or NASA/ESA project techs who want to point their devices at earth to get a baseline image before their robots get to other planets.

So here are a few fun links to get you started. The resolution of the best of the publicly available ones is only about a meter on a side, so you can see your house or car, but not your pet or neighbor (unless your pet/neighbor weighs in at over 500 pounds). The satellite images that can read the brand name and logo off your golf ball exist, but you need a security clearance way above the average persons to get access to them.

Astronauts digital cameras, a good jumping off place:
Interactive Map:

USGS Orbital Maps, just found my house on this one; drill down and check it out!

TerraFly is a Java Applet to interface you to the database, and allow you to virtually “Fly” over the terrain imaged here, driven off their online data. This one is brought to you by Florida International University, the National Science Foundation, NASA, the United States Geological Survey, and IBM.

Another NASA sponsered interface, this one is a great way to narrow down your search for yourself.

And yet another NASA site in this mode:

On the more commercial side, there is:

All of these are worth a visit; check them out and let me know what you think!

The Doctor returns!

Since the word went out in mid-2003, there has been a lot of speculation and rumor, but the one thing that remains firm is that the show WILL be back with all new episodes! If I had a vote, I would love to see David Warner as the Doctor, and Alan Rickman as the Master; both veddy British, both world-class actors, both voted for by folks involved with Doctor Who, and either could play either role and nail it definitively to the wall. The dynamic tension between them alone would be worth the price of admission. Too bad I’m just a fan, and only get to vote with my web site.

So rather than confuse the issue by generating online rumors with my personal wish list, let me give you a few links that should point you to the real info and updates. Starting with the official BBC NewWho pages at:

Some non-official sites that will keep you posted with the latest data should start with one of the oldest online Who resources, Outpost Gallifrey. It doesn’t hurt that they are doing one of the best jobs out there:

A few other sites worth your time to check out include:

Thank you, BBC, for breathing new life into the longest-running SciFi TV show ever!

It is time to step away from the scientific data, and see what kind of fun we can have. *grin*

These are a few sites that will let you interact with the data our metal servants have been sending back from the Red Planet. Don’t forget, with the raw volume of information heading our way, you can also build your own interfaces, and your own display sets. But these should at least get you started, and give you an idea of what kind of range you can work from or towards.

This one is from Nasa, and it will be hard to beat. But you can put your own multimedia display together, and let folks play it back online. The format here is RealPlayer, which allows you to add all the SMIL interactive controls, as does QuickTime and Windows MediaPlayer.
Nasa Live Mars Link

2) Display and Control
Flash adds scripting to the Playback; it allows you to give an added level of interactivity beyond the SMIL functions.
Nasa Flash Mars Interface

3) Interactivity
These use 3D/VRML browser plugins to allow a true measure of control by the user over the cyberspace environment. Like everything else here, they need something installed that is not built in to their browser. Remember to put the links to the plugin on the page, for those that don’t already have them.
CNN Mars Interactive

The new announcement from NASA makes life on Mars a much more realistic potential. With not just geologic evidence that water once existed, but the possibility that it still may be there (as a semi-frozen slurry embedded under the soil), we even have a chance at current life! After all, we have remnants of previously extant forms living in deep-sea volcanic vents here on earth, which could never survive conditions on the surface. Once life gets a foothold, it doesn’t let go without a serious fight, no matter what conditions it has to evolve to meet.

Here are a few links to bring you up to speed on the latest developments…

CNN Mars report

Of course, if there IS life on mars today, don’t expect to talk to it anytime soon. Best bet is it would be in the viral or bacterial form. And while both of those formats have the theoretical potential for intelligence (see the writings of W.Gibson, N.Stephenson, and C.Willis for a few beginning examples), we can’t communicate with the ones in our own biosphere yet. How much more difficult would it be to communicate with those from a totally different evolution?