The One Metre Initiative

The One Metre Initiative aims to build an observatory not too far from here, making use of the preposterously dark skies of the Madawaska Highlands. The site is, as far as I can tell, not far from Denbeigh, Ontario (and north of Bon Echo Provincial Park); we probably pass by every time we drive to Toronto. At the heart of the observatory will be a wide-field telescope with a five-degree field of view: one metre in aperture, f/2.5 at prime focus, with a 112-megapixel camera attached — which is being touted as the largest telescope in Canada, and competitive with other wide-field scopes used for detecting such things as near-Earth objects and supernovae. The facility will also be a tourist site: there will be a visitor centre, and there are plans to host star parties. The project is privately financed: $4.5 million has been raised so far, with another $1.2 million still to go. It’ll be interesting to see how this turns out.

Exploding telescope!

If, like me, you were bemused by the warning on Orion’s giant telescopes that pointing said telescopes at the sun could set their surroundings on fire, here’s some evidence that they’re really not kidding. Mike Lynch’s 14½-inch Dobsonian telescope exploded — that’s right, exploded — when the wind blew the cover off it and the primary mirror briefly caught the Sun’s rays.

“The wind blew the cover off,” he explains. “The scope was locked horizontally but the wind blew it out of gear and lifted it skyward — toward the southeast, unfortunately! Later that the morning the Sun just happened to pass in front of the mirror. What are the chances of that! When that happened, all hell broke loose: the eyepiece mount cap caught fire, and soon the entire upper half of the scope exploded in flame. The hand controller, eyepiece mount, and Telrad finder totally disintegrated!”

So, don’t point your telescope at the fucking Sun, okay? Especially if it’s a big Dob.

Do the Mythbusters know about this yet?

Women and amateur science

Last month, Reptile Channel’s Russ Case posted a blog entry on women and reptiles — specifically, on the growing presence of women in the amateur herpetocultural community. Whereas once reptiles were “usually considered a guy thing,” Case argues,

Somewhere along the way, things changed. The next time you’re at a reptile expo, pay attention and you’ll notice just as many women wandering the aisles and enthusiastically examining the reptiles on display as there are men. And they’re not just in the aisles — you’ll see plenty of women vendors selling reptiles and amphibians, too.

It’s something I’ve noticed as well — not the trend, because even after 11 years, I haven’t been in the community long enough, or paying attention to it enough, to be aware of the trend — but the presence of women in the herp community, wrangling frogs, snakes, and lizards with the best of them, and I was aware that it was counterintuitive insofar as common sense or received wisdom was concerned. I’ve also met women who were bolder and less afraid of snakes than their male partners (which I found very interesting).

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