Orreries and Fresnel Lenses

I have been thinking of creating an environment in Unreal 4 that has a collection of beautiful science gizmos in it. It is easy to imagine what this kind of room would look like, but I’m sure the process of creating and then animating each object (in game terminology, “asset”) would take hundreds of hours. It’s like looking at a huge oil painting in a museum and saying “I’d like to make a painting like that!”

I can dream, though…meanwhile, here are some cool science gizmos.

Pluto and Minecraft?

Space probe LORRI was launched in 2006. She flew by Jupiter in 2007 and has spent the past 8 years in hibernation mode on her way to Pluto. Looks to me like she has spent part of that time playing Minecraft!
Pluto and Charon


NASA’s New Horizons has returned its first images of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, since the mission entered into the countdown phase of its historic mission. Taken at a distance of 126 million miles (200 million km), it will pale in comparison to the images expected over the coming months.

The images were snapped by New Horizons’ telescopic Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) late last month. The spacecraft will make its closest approach on July 14th.

“Pluto is finally becoming more than just a pinpoint of light,” noted New Horizons team member Hal Weaver in a statement. “LORRI has now resolved Pluto, and the dwarf planet will continue to grow larger and larger in the images as New Horizons spacecraft hurtles toward its targets.”


Here is an artist’s conception of what LORRI will look like when she reaches Pluto.

LORRI space probe Pluto


The above illustration and other information about LORRI found here:


the blog of Astro Bob

I just found an astronomy-related blog that I am checking out. “Astro Bob” is posting beautiful pictures, interesting videos, and giving very clear explanations of complex topics!

Here is an illustration that I found there. It’s fascinating to me that physics can make predictions about what happened just instants after the Big Bang. It has to do with atoms congealing out of a quarky quantum soup — of course it’s going to happen quickly. Then after we have atoms, gravity goes to work, and things move a lot slower.


Click to see larger version, though it’s still not life-sized  ;)
Illustration found here on Astro Bob’s blog.


APOD, the Astronomy Picture of the Day

Hello again!  I have been away for a while due to installing tile in our aviary. I sure wish that the process was as easy as it is in Minecraft!

I want to get back to posting on a daily basis, but for a while these posts will have to be brief.

Here is today’s brief post.

Have you heard of APOD? …the Astronomy Picture of the Day. A friend of mine named Denny posted the APOD picture on a music forum I belonged to, and it is the main reason I became interested in astronomy! Denny has since passed away, but his tradition is carried on here


The nice thing about this “memorial thread” is that you can see the daily APODs one right after the other.

Some information about the official APOD site:

Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) is originated, written, coordinated, and edited since 1995 by Robert Nemiroff and Jerry Bonnell. The APOD archive contains the largest collection of annotated astronomical images on the internet….In real life, Bob and Jerry are two professional astronomers who spend most of their time researching the universe. Bob is a professor at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan, USA, while Jerry is a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland USA….APOD is proud to acknowledge that it received several accolades during its short existence, including a Scientific American 2001 Sci/Tech Web award.

Take a brief fly-by on the Denny Memorial APOD thread, or visit the actual APOD site where there is a paragraph of information with each photo.


m74_hubble_960 APODhttp://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap130811.html





Absent friend

This is one of those off-topic posts.

The reason I got interested in computer graphics software was because of a friend of mine, with the appropriately cosmic name of Denny Ray. I met Denny on an Irish Traditional Music forum. Chiff and Fipple contains many sub-forums that are related to Irish music in varying degrees, and one sub forum, the “Post-structural Pub”, was particularly miscellaneous. Denny had joined when the forum was still fairly new. Along with his trademark dry humor, Denny also liked to post links to unusual scientific discoveries, TED videos, and odd news in general. And, every single day without fail, he posted a link to the APOD — Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Every time he posted the APOD picture, people in the Poststructural Pub would comment on it. Some of the comments were serious, some were silly, and some were visual puns and jokes.

It became my goal to make Denny laugh. I started making visual spoofs on the APOD pictures, and had so much fun doing it that I bought a graphics tablet and software so that I could make better ones.

Original APOD

Denny Cat's Paw

Caroluna tries to make Denny laugh

Carol's cat's paw


Doing these computer graphics projects became a big part of my daily routine, and a part of my identity.

Denny post 2 Later on when I got a job that involved working with MS Publisher, it was much easier to tackle that software because I had already beat my head bloody against the keyboard trying to get Corel Painter to work.



So I have Denny to thank, for my willingness to push through the frustration of learning new software. As I try to learn MC Edit, WorldPainter and Avanti, I say a silent thank you to Denny.



And it has to be a silent thank you, because Denny is no longer with us. He passed away about 2 years ago. I still think of him when I read anything about astronomy, or  when I listen to a TED talk, or watch a NOVA program about quantum mechanics. I also think of him whenever I see draft horses, because he and his wife raised Shire horses.


Denny for blog


Hello Denny where ever you are, and thank you for the ways you influenced my life.




We miss you.


Denny post

Denny post 3