Archive for August, 2006

Astronomy & Science Podcasts

August 27, 2006

Walking to and from the bus before and after work used to be lost time. The same was true for standing sardine-like on the bus. Assuming I can find a seat (less likely during peak times due to people apparently using their car less) I typically break out a journal such as Dr Dobbs or read a book, not so easy when walking, crossing roads or just trying to stand up in a moving vehicle. Enter podcasts…

If you have an Apple iPod+iTunes or some other MP3 player and appropriate software, you’ll find more podcasts (radio programs or Net-only “broadcasts”) than you can keep up with.

Here’s the Astronomy and Science related podcasts I currently listen to:

  1. The ABC Science Show
  2. Slacker Astronomy
  3. Berkeley Groks Science Show
  4. Planetary Radio from the Planetary Society
  5. Science Talk: The Podcast of Scientific American
  6. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Podcast
  7. New Scientist Podcast

On September 14, Slacker Astronomy split into Slackerpedia Galactica and AstronomyCast, since the original team seems to have split.

Although not strictly Science shows, three other relevant ABC Radio podcasts I listen to are:

  1. Ockham’s Razor
  2. All in the Mind (Psychology)
  3. The Philosopher’s Zone

These along with a bunch of programming and software engineering podcasts make otherwise dead walking time into productive ambulatory adventures.

Go to the ABC Radio National Podcast page for the ABC podcasts listed above.

Google will get you to the rest of the podcasts listed.

Finally, here is an article from the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers about astronomy and science podcasts, including some of those listed above.

About “Strange Quark’s”…

August 26, 2006

Thanks for visiting Strange Quark’s. In this first post I’ll tell you what I intend to write about and why I chose that name. In the late 80s I ran a “service” called Quark’s Cosmos on Australia’s Viatel, later called Discovery 40, pretty much the same as the UK Prestel (40 column teletext-style) system. The content of Quark’s Cosmos was focused upon astronomical and space mission news.

It was pre-Internet, so news items were distilled from traditional media along with regular snail mail from space agencies such as NASA, ESA, and occasionally NASDA (Japan) and the agencies of other countries such as Russian and India.

A highlight was that I was able to use the forum to provide up-to-date information about Neptune as seen through Voyager 2’s eyes in 1989 because of previous communications with the Tidbinbilla Deep Space Tracking Network near Canberra.

Quark’s Cosmos also had chat boards for these topics plus Sci-Fi and Philosophy along with running the odd astronomical quiz complete with prizes (books usually). Running Quark’s Cosmos was a labour of love and actually cost my wife and I money. Nevertheless, it was fun, rewarding, and appreciated by a lot of people.

With the advent of the Internet, Viatel and Quark’s Cosmos became less compelling. Competing with the richness of the Net became a zero sum game.

Much has changed in the last 20 years, but from a content and presentation perspective, systems like Viatel 40/Discovery and CompuServe were the ancestors of most of what we see on the Internet today. Long before Internet banking was available, Viatel had it for at least one large Australian bank. IRC, ICQ, blogs, all had some counterpart on these systems. The main difference is that the Internet is unbounded, unlike these older systems (and bulletin boards) hence the need for search engines.

I’ve been considering a blog for ages, and wanted to retain the “Quark” theme, but since I and the world in general are stranger than almost 20 years ago, Strange Quark’s place/blog seemed appropriate.

The main topics of interest to me these days are:

  1. Programming paradigms and languages
  2. Low-resource microcontrollers such as PIC, TI MSP430, AVR, 8051
  3. Amateur astronomy (generally sharing the night sky with others, planetary nebulae, the life & work of Johannes Kepler)
  4. Science Fiction books and movies
  5. Philosophy (in particular the Philosophy of Mind)

So, these are the topics I’ll mostly talk about. Anything else will be under clearly different categories. I’m doing this not because blogging is trendy but because I need a writing outlet, and believe I have some worthwhile things to share with others.

Finally, here’s a bit more general background about me:

  • I’m married (I mentioned Karen above) with a 6 year old son Nicholas and a 2 year old girl Heather.
  • I’m a professional developer having worked for Motorola, Freescale, the University of Tasmania, and ISPs (Vision Internet and Internode). Prior to that I was a nurse for the better part of a decade.
  • Several years ago I developed and released the ACE Basic compiler (Amiga) and LittleLisp interpreter (Apple Newton).

My long-standing and slightly antiquated website is at:

http://www.users.on.net/~dbenn

My email address is dbenn@computer.org

Stay tuned for more posts on topics such as:

  • Astronomy and Science podcasts
  • Web-based astronomy software under development
  • Java-based embedded systems
  • TI MSP430F20xx and PIC microcontrollers and rapid development
  • Reflections on personal loss (the odd one out, but something I need to write about).

That’s enough for a first post.