Tuesday, February 24, 2015

When you consider things like the stars, our affairs don’t seem to matter very much, do they?"
-Virginia Woolf

Hubble Sees A Smiling Lens

In the center of this image, taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is the galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849 — and it seems to be smiling. You can make out its two orange eyes and white button nose. In the case of this “happy face”, the two eyes are very bright galaxies and the misleading smile lines are actually arcs caused by an effect known as strong gravitational lensing.

Galaxy clusters are the most massive structures in the Universe and exert such a powerful gravitational pull that they warp the spacetime around them and act as cosmic lenses which can magnify, distort and bend the light behind them. This phenomenon, crucial to many of Hubble’s discoveries, can be explained by Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
In this special case of gravitational lensing, a ring — known as an Einstein Ring — is produced from this bending of light, a consequence of the exact and symmetrical alignment of the source, lens and observer and resulting in the ring-like structure we see here.

Hubble has provided astronomers with the tools to probe these massive galaxies and model their lensing effects, allowing us to peer further into the early Universe than ever before. This object was studied by Hubble’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) and Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) as part of a survey of strong lenses.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

the world goes on

Wild Geese 
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver

Friday, February 13, 2015

Mini Erin.

I just can't get over how much Erin and Elsie look alike as babies. Sometimes I am just so perplexed and amazed that humans are capable of creating a mini person - a bundle of all these crazy bits of genes that we are just now starting to understand. 

Last week I visited my oldest sister and her family in Pacific Grove and we went to the Tech Museum in San Jose. There was a whole exhibit devoted to the Human Genome Project, and it reminded me of how much I enjoyed my AP Biology class in high school. As a hopeful 16 year-old, for about 20 minutes I thought of becoming a scientist to work with genetics...and then remembered that numbers and codes and formulas just aren't my thing. But what those numbers make - what each tiny piece of invisible DNA inside us can mean,  and the larger implications of it all - still fascinates me.

Like how such a small percentage of our DNA goes into making us look different from one another, but that the majority of our genetic code is the same for the whole human species. Which means that fundamentally, race or ethnicity is not a genetic construct, but rather a social one - in which we ourselves attach so much significance to skin color or the shape of our eyes that we group ourselves by differences. Differences that, in the larger scheme of things, are absolutely miniscule in comparison to our similarities.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

and mongolia is a blip


The map resizes countries based on their population. It's simple: Each square represents 500,000 people.

In the case of TeaDranks' cartogram, the attribute is population. A quick look at it, and a few ideas pop out:
  • India has almost caught up with China as being the most populous country in the world.
  • Nigeria quickly has become Africa's population hub, with more than twice as many people as any other country on the continent.
  • Cities like Delhi, India, and Shanghai, China, have more people than some European countries.
  • The U.S. makes up less than 5 percent of the world's population. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Thank goodness I'll be learning the Cyrillic alphabet instead of the traditional script. It's hard enough as it is!

Traditional Mongolian script 
 Sample text in Mongolian in the Traditional script


Mongolian Cyrillic alphabet

Хүн бүр төрж мэндлэхдээ эрх чөлөөтэй, адилхан нэр төртэй, ижил эрхтэй байдаг. Оюун ухаан нандин чанар заяасан хүн гэгч өөр хоорондоо ахан дүүгийн үзэл санаагаар харьцах учиртай. 


Khün bür törzh mendlekhee erkh čölöötei, adilkhan ner törtei, izhil erkhtei baidag. Oyuun ukhaan nandin čanar zayaasan khün gegč öör khoorondoo akhan düügiin üzel sanaagaar khar'tsakh učirtai. 


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Monday, February 2, 2015

all of us

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Things I'm going to miss.

baby Lyla laughing
snuggling with Avery
Elsie dancing
watching trashy TV with my sisters
reliable internet
central heating
my humidifier
my books
the bathtub at my Mom's house
the dogs
safe running water
Western-style toilets
my car
fresh fruits and veggies
a pillowtop mattress
grandma and grandpa
having more clothes than can fit in a suitcase
the smell of lavender lotion on my nieces before bed
fry sauce
french fries
regular electrical plugs
my vacuum
Sylvie's smile
lunches with Mom
Dad's explanations
paved roads
Amazon Prime shipping
cold (and pasteurized) milk

Did I mention I'm really going to miss my family, Target, my vacuum, and normal toilets? Oh yeah, and privacy. The lack of it is going to take some getting used to.