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2013 was a year full of discoveries and experiences, of people, places, ideas… Here’s to more of that in 2014…
Happy New Years!
#memostatigram

Tagged: memostatigram

My Heliopause

It was 1992, and I was still in high school, when i received my March/April (print) issue of the The Planetary Report (Volume XII, Number 2). It was the bi-monthly publication (it is currently a quarterly publication) of the The Planetary Society, since its inception in 1980 by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman. 

At that time, although the internet had been around for some time, the World Wide Web was still very young. Netscape (1993), Internet Explorer (1995) and other popular web browsers had yet to have existed. Latest information and resources on space exploration or planetary discoveries were not easy to come by in the region of the world where I lived. Relevant magazines were not available at the local bookstores and could only be gotten via international subscription which was extremely expensive because of the prevailing exchange rate of the Ringgit to the greenback. Whatever that was available at the library on this subject matter was pretty much outdated nor did they stock periodicals as a supplement. The Star had a weekly Astronomy column on Fridays that provided some bits of fodder that did little to appease the hunger of this 16 year old astronomer wannabe. As such, it was of ecstatic delight when I got a free membership to The Planetary Society for participating in a competition. 

image

The March/April copy was a special issue that covered Voyager 2's epic encounter at Neptune, the final stop in its grand tour of the gas giants, bringing its 12-year journey to an end. The actual encounter with Neptune was in August 1989, but for two and half years, scientists were sifting through and analyzing copious amounts of data. The issue covered the elusive rings of Neptune, its magnetosphere, the winds, clouds, the most prominent Great Dark Spot, its small satellites, and Triton. 

But perhaps nothing that I had ever read (or ever will) in all of my planetary or astronomy related reading list would have had an impact on me as profound as the figure and its accompanying caption on page13, along with the rest of that article under the subtitle The Next Frontier.

image

Figure 4 - … Four space craft, Voyagers 1 and 2 and Pioneers 10 and 11, are now heading out of our solar system. Sometime in the next century, one of them will cross the heliopause and enter interstellar space.

The word heliopause from then on, was forever etched in my mind. There was very little material available at the time to explain more as there was very little knowledge about it. You could not look it up in the encyclopedia.

During an outdoor public astronomy and planet gazing event in PJ new town later that year, I had the opportunity to talk to Looi K.K., an active figure in the astronomical scene in Malaysia and the society at the time. The society itself would eventually become a part of Malaysian Nature Society. I first met Looi in 1990 at the society office in PJ when i was submitting my competition entry, where among things in the one-man-show office, he showed me the flagship planetary related software at the time, Dance of the Planets. A RM10K piece of computer software capable of simulating the night sky, orbits, and so forth of the past and future.

It was during this second meet that I had the chance to ask him about the heliopause and when Voyager might encounter it. He was at the time the only other person i knew that actually knew the word. Alas, he did not have an answer, but I remember him mentioning that it may or may not be in our lifetime.

All of that was 20 over years ago. I had since lost that copy of The Planetary Report during my uni days, eventually sourcing a copy for sale online and getting it but I never stopped wondering about the heliopause. Thus, when Voyager 1 encountered the termination shock in 2004, i got very excited. It might find the heliopause in my lifetime after all! Then things got really exciting from 2010 onwards with anticipation building up to 2012, culminating with the official announcement on September 12, 2013 of its crossing the heliopause the year before.

The news was abuzz on every media that Voyager 1 had left the solar system. Suddenly the whole world was talking about exiting the solar system and the word heliopause seemed to be drowned in the all of the glory. It irked me greatly that the general public and even news agencies equated the crossing of the heliopause as exiting the solar system. There were conflicting emotions. I got comfort in being able to see the heliopause crossed in my lifetime, but i felt discontented for what i perceived as the lack of respect for the vastness of the solar system. The solar system, everything that and which revolves around our sun, Sol. It is far greater than 122AU where the magnetic influence of our sun gives way to interstellar winds. Far greater than 36 years of travel at 38,120 mph. It will take Voyager another 30,000 years to escape the gravitational influence of our sun out of the the outer Oort clouds and truly exit the solar system.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

But of course by then humankind can only do guesswork based on projections without actually knowing, as Voyager would have stopped talking to us long before that. Not in our lifetime.

Perhaps, this is what makes the milestone truly exciting. Voyager itself telling us it had crossed the heliopause and we being able to listen to it.

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The following excerpt taken from The Planetary Society, Volume XII, Number 2, March/April 1992, page 13, which is part of the main article titled The Magnetosphere of Neptune.

The Next Frontier 

Now that we have investigated all but one (Pluto) of the planets in the solar system, we can state with certainty that magnetospheres are a ubiquitous feature of rotating planets and even stellar objects, as inferred from ground-based observations of such astrophysical objects as pulsars and even entire galaxies.

The obvious question is whether the Sun itself, being a rotating, magnetized star, possesses a magnetosphere envelope in its own right. The answer is clearly yes, since we have seen that the magnetized solar wind extends beyond the orbit of Neptune, and, as of this writing, at least 8.3 billion kilometers (5.2 billion miles) from the Sun.

Thus the next challenge for both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 is to cross the boundary between the magnetosphere of the Sun (called the heliosphere), and the interstellar medium, which is the space dominated by nearby suns. A hypothetical solar magnetosphere, encompassing all the planets, is shown in Figure 4. Also shown are the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft heading toward the boundary that separates our solar system from the interstellar medium. Current estimates are that Voyager spacecraft will not cross this frontier until well after the year 2000. We have to remember, however, that the Voyager journey has been one of surprises, and we may yet learn that our understanding of the Sun’s magnetosphere is rather incomplete. Only the future will tell us the answer.

Tagged: voyagernasaheliopauseheliosphereastronomysolarsystemvoyager1

Tomorrow Becomes Today (Cathay Motion Picture Awards 2013) (by kvijaynathan)

My very first attempt at a short film is an entry for a competition.

The Task: to produce a 78seconds long short film within 78hours, which began at 12pm on the 18th of May and had to be submitted by 6pm of the 21st.

The Theme: Tomorrow

Having wanted to dabble in this for awhile now, i decided this was the best time to start. So here is the final product.

Tagged: cmpacathay motion picturecathaycathay motion picture awards 2013short filmcathay lifestyle

Source: youtube.com

Reconstructing Ice - My very First Time-Lapse Video

For a while now, i have been fascinated by some awe inspiring time-lapse videos, mostly of nature, some of planes and airports, the skies, the milky way and such. I have been wanting to give it a go myself, and after a little bit of research, realized I had all the basic tools. i decided to give it a go with something simple, and learn from it.

Hardware:

D3s with AFS 24-70mm f/2.8G with a MC-36 intervalometer

Settings:

D3s on Manual mode, Shutter Speed 1/10s, Aperture f/5, 4s interval between shots, unlimited shots (since I wasn’t sure how long the ice would take to complete melting.

In the end, I took 840 shots (i wanted a number that would fit perfectly based on a 24fps video playback) that translated into a 35sec clip at 24fps.

The ice took slightly under an hour to melt under approximately 26 degrees celsius. 

Software:

Quicktime 7 Pro for converting the image sequence into a 1080p H.264 .mov video. iMovie11 for editing, enabling reverse playback, adding of transitions, titles and music.

I shortlisted 2 tracks which I thought might work well for the short sequence and finally went with Channels and Wind by Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass taken from the album Passages.

Tagged: time-lapsetime-lapse videotime-lapse photographyphotographymelting iceicereverse playbackwards playentropy

The Morning After a Night I Could Not Sleep

On the morning of January 21st 2013, I ranted a series of tweets about the consecutive two nights that I had trouble sleeping. The following are those tweets in the series some of which I have edited for spelling, grammar and full versions of shortforms used:

~ I normally sleep within minutes of my head hitting the pillow… I literally just need to switch off

~ but last night I had difficulty switching off, because my mind like an app on overdrive just refused to end the task it had started

~ I traced the source and realized that the app got activated the night before when I awoke in the middle of the night

~ for some reason a chain of thoughts had decided to wander further back into the dark recesses of memories

~ archives that have collected dust, dark because the bulbs that lit the rooms have long bust, and mold and such have eaten the documents much

~ the program having set on a mission, struggled, cast a long rope and tried to reach, deep into what seemed like an abyss

~ at first it seemed much was gone, and only fragments remained, but still, how much of the cavern had closed was not yet known

~ and like an archaeologist that returns to light only to continue the search on another day, my mind returned to sleep. That was the previous night

~ last night the archaeological program that was looking for long forgotten memories went back to work in the dusty shelves of my mind

~ it found some legible information, other bits and pieces, yet I do not know still how much has been lost over the years

~ but the greatest realization was that like an outdated encyclopedia that you have not referred to, I have not looked at them for too long

~ memories are like fragile old documents that it’s condition you have to check on every now and then, to ensure its health

~ and when you’ve let it be for too long, retrieving them is a painstakingly long, slow excavation process, not something done overnight

~ it can be sweet, bitter or a mix of both depending on what you had packed into the boxes

~ some keep to continue living in the past, others as a testament to the journey they’ve taken, some choose what to keep, others just discard

~ but whatever it is, once the app has started on its work, it’s difficult to quit and shutdown your mind as was the case for me last night

~ {END RANT}

Guest Post #2 on Life is Great

This week I have written a guest post on Life is Great. Earlier this year I got a couple of recipes from mum. These are 2 of my many favorite chicken dishes that she cooks for me (among all the other wonders my mum cooks and does for me). So after getting the recipe from her, I have tried cooking it twice. Here is my story behind it and the recipe she dearly imparted on me. I shall not reveal too much here, but I talk about home cooked food, my mum and stuff. 

As usual I have taken the pictures of the wonderful effort and Pick Yin has processed them for the blog. Its a recipe that is simple enough to try. Enjoy!

Thanks mum for everything!

Tagged: food

sakura

disaster strikes

if you read my first blog post, you’ll find that i have a habit of connecting a string of things that are significant to me. naturally, when disaster struck the Tohuku region in Japan on March 11, my thoughts immediately went to a dear friend who was living in Japan. i knew i would have much to say on the matter and wondered deeply on how to put those thoughts which had yet to materialise in full force into perpective. how would i connect them?

as i started writing, i started getting lost in the flurry of thoughts and began questioning the purpose of the post. 

where’s my friend?

as dear as my friend was, i couldn’t remember exactly which part of Japan she was at, although i thought for sure it was close to Tokyo, from my last conversation with her during her birthday.

i followed the developments very closely as i had with the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and the ensuing tsunami. i finally came to realize the power of twitter in disseminating information fast and became a junkie overnight. i knew the names of some big cities in Japan but never really understood the geography of where they were in the island or how far apart they were from each other. this promoted me to do something i enjoy very much which is map reading.

by Sunday, i had established some form of contact with her in addition to facebook status update. relief that she was fine despite the fear, inconvenience and uncertainty. 

refreshing old memories

back in 2002 and 2003, I used to play badminton regularly. i was doing my post grad then and we had a regular weekly (sometimes twice a week) meet for 2 hours of play. during the height of our sessions, there were 8 of us playing doubles in 2 courts, so it was continuous play most of the time, unless of course some of us had to rest, then we would resort to singles match for those who could still go on. it was during this period that I made some new friends some of which I could really connect with. it was in one such session that i got introduced to a Japanese girl from Osaka named Sakura. only she wasn’t from Osaka, Japan but was actually born and raised all her life in Layang Layang, a small town near Kluang in Johor. in a short time, we grew close and became good friends.

eventually we would make a memorable road trip to the east cost, she would introduce me to the best kaya toast and Kluang coffee at the quaint old railway station in Kluang town and we would talk philosophy and life.

later that year she left to Japan to be with her guy.

Sakura has been in Japan for about 7 years now and we’ve kept in touch and in those times finished her master’s degree, got a job, changed jobs, moved from Niigata, got married, relocated to Yokohama and most recently had a baby. the items in that list may not be in that order, but the point is a significant part of her life was lived in Japan.

i wanted to vist her in 2006 but never did. 

reflection

while writing this i suddenly remembered an old Japanese TV series in the 80s. Oshin. i used to watch this with my mum on TV3 every evening without fail. it was dubbed of course but i think it had an impact on the impression i would later have on the Japanese people.

perhaps to many of us the catastrophe in Japan is just another big news with no real connection. A friend once said its just statistics to most people until its someone dear to you that is affected.

at one point i had wanted to ramble about the situation over there, a sort of an insight of an observer approximately 5000 kilometers away. but then i thought whats the point. you already know the extent of the disaster. you already saw how dignified the people of Japan remained. you already heard the miracle stories. you have already read the analysis both technical and cultural. and for those who still bother you already follow the latest developments and humanitarian efforts.

no, this post shall be a tribute to my dear friend who is now part of a society that i have always revered greatly. 

my-so-called-Nike shoes.

dear Sakura you would most definitely remember this. but all my other fellow readers, i shall enlighten you. during our road trip to the east coat, we made a detour to Tasik Bera. while walking around and snapping photos with my Nikon F3 film camera (yes the days of film), i noticed the beauty of the striking red of her ‘Nike’ shoes against the dried brown leaves on the ground. it looked like a pair of Nikes but i wasn’t so she called them my-so-called-nikes. it was film, so i had no way to know how the shot would turn up but i took it anyway. this began a series of shots that i took of her wearing the shoes in various locations during our road trip. we purposely decided that the shots would not reveal her face as to add to the focus on the shoes and not the wearer. 

i do not know if the shoes made the journey to Japan but i’d like to believe that it did. here’s to you and the well being of the honorable people of Japan.

Awakening & Rebirth

When I woke up this morning I immediately sensed something amiss. It was too bright and this was a weekday. A confused moment passed and I checked my iPhone for the time. It was 9am. So that was what was wrong. I had overslept for 2 hours and already late by an hour for work. And I still had to get ready before going in. There was obviously 2 ways of looking at this from a glass half full or half empty perspective. I could go on getting anxious and rushing about getting ready while consistently and hopelessly figuring out how or why I had overslept or I could be relieved that I woke up at all at 9 and not at noon when my boss most certainly would have rang me up to find out why I was missing.

So I’m awake now, late but definitely up.

Awakening.

As with most humans, I too am a creature of habit. And like many of us, I like to make that symbolic connection between events or happenings around us with things taking place in our daily lives as well as time cycles of these. And with that we celebrate anniversaries, commemorate events, births, deaths and pretty much anything that we find significant either to ourselves or collectively as a society. Perhaps it’s our natural need to pause and take stock of the situation, a sort of a checkpoint to analyze and reflect. Changes, improvements, degradations, the rate of change or the lack of change. These and many others are pondered upon when we look back at something after a year, or two, or three or the more significant ones like 5, 10, 25, 50 and a hundred years and multiples of that.

Just last night, my other half commented that it has been 8 years since she started her blog. Another friend updated his twitter and facebook status on it being 3 years since the 2008 Malaysian General Election (where a political upheaval took place denying the ruling coalition two-thirds majority in parliament) and what has changed since then. Are we just comfortable rounding up numbers? Why don’t we register at this checkpoint at say 3 years, 7 months and 22 days? Is it because we feel we have a good perception of what the measure of such rounded numbers actually means? Do we feel we can perceive the measure of a complete year just like how we have a relatively good grasp of how long 1 feet or a centimeter is?

But it probably didn’t start with that intention. Ancient humans from the time of the pagans marked their calendars based on the seasons and at a time when hardship and toiling was the rule of the day for the common man, ending of seasonal cycles that allowed them to take a break gave them sufficient reason to celebrate and recharge. With calendars, mankind was able to effectively make date stamps to mark his/her life’s journey milestones accordingly and not just rely on the seasons. As time went by, the toiling never ceased but the rewards (s)he reaped probably increased and (s)he needed more justifications to take the occasional breaks for two big reasons. Firstly, because (s)he wanted to and secondly because now (s)he could afford to. Perhaps it could be possible that this high order milestone laying, entwined with our very nature of wanting to see recognizable patterns that comforts us out of our fear of the unknown eventually filtered down to its current incarnation in our present selves? Why else would we have “Today in History”, celebrate birthdays, have memorial services and so forth? Maybe it is our way of taking a break from routines of the mind and body. The mundaneness of daily life. And maybe just maybe these time or date stamps that we connect to significance gives us the justification to do so, to take that break.    

A couple of weeks ago, Pick Yin, my other half was deciding to refocus and reorganize her blog into mainly a food blog, with all her past postings not related to food and more on life and musings into an archive. During her heydays, she used to blog on a variety of topics but these days her efforts are focused on food. From a marketing standpoint (which I doubt she actually thought about), this would be the better way to do it. A focused food blog would probably attract a stronger following and gain bigger popularity due to its specialization. I was sad that all she had written before would go into the closet. I always looked at her blog as a possible avenue for me to vent my thoughts but with this restructuring that door seems closed unless it is food related like the guest blog i posted not to long ago.

Which brings me here.

Rebirth.

I need to connect significant things to dates in a way that matter to me. This is my OCD (among things). Yesterday March 7, would have been a great day to restart blogging (if the first attempt even qualifies as blogging) as it was the day that conclusive evidence of alien life being found made news. I am a proponent of this idea for a variety of reasons but that is at topic for another day. The point being I had to speak up. That pushed me to get myself registered at tumblr but not enough to begin torturing the world with my ramblings. Then today March 8 was the 8th anniversary of Life is Great (previously the Daily Appreciations of Pick Yin, now the Delicious  Appreciations of Pick Yin) and the 3rd anniversary of last Malaysian GE. Both matters were things that stir strong convictions in me. Enough said. I have made my connections and date stamps to mark this milestone.

With these thoughts I have left for you to digest, I end the restarting of my blog. It is already better than the 3 pathetic lines (the only 3 lines of the single post before the entire blogspot was taken down due to inactivity) I put up the first time I started under “Of Color Portraits and Musical Landscapes” back in July 7, 2007 (Live Earth). Now, I sincerely hope I’ll at least make it to the second post.