Friday, December 31, 2010

LAST PHOTO OF THE YEAR... The final journal entry of 2010 is devoted to this cool pic of a small boat floating out in the Andaman Sea, which is located between Burma, Thailand and India in the Indian Ocean.

The Andaman Sea.

I first stumbled upon this image when I worked at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood 4 years ago. I was working a temporary office gig on the studio lot, and the office that I used had this cool photo framed on a wall. Needless to say, it was displayed as inspiration for the person who actually worked in that office (he unfortunately passed away during the time I had this work gig...which I got in the first place because he was out on sick leave. Rest In Peace, sir). This definitely is a good motivator for someone to work hard so they could earn the money to travel to this awesome place. If I ever get the initiative to get a full-time job (I'm currently a freelancer...hence all the free time to work on this blog and my actual website in the first place) that would allow me to finally earn the cash to travel the world, this will be one of many destinations that I want to go to in the hopefully-not-too-distant future. Along with New Zealand, the Great Wall of China, Alaska and the Mauna Kea Observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii. That is all.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

PHOTO OF THE DAY... Just thought I'd post this image after it's been taking up space on my computer desktop since September.

Lucas: Past and Present.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Natalie Portman.

JUST READ ONLINE today that Natalie Portman is pregnant. Well good for her. Now where's a Polis Massan droid doctor when you need one? (Yes... That was a Star Wars reference.)

A Polis Massan medical droid addresses Obi-Wan, Yoda and Bail Organa about Padme's current state of STAR WARS: REVENGE OF THE SITH.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE! Here's hoping the Lakers don't let LeBron James and Co. ruin yet another Christmas afternoon for L.A. fans when the Miami Heat take on the defending champs at STAPLES Center today. That is all.

Dwyane Wade scores a dunk against the Lakers as the Miami Heat defeats the NBA champions, 96-80, on December 25, 2010.
Andrew D. Bernstein / NBAE via Getty Images

UPDATE (5:10 PM PST): 96-80, Miami. So I guess everytime I hear Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" song on the radio, it will remind me of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (even when Shaq was on his team in 2004) constantly owning the Lakers on this day. Thanks, ABC.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A total lunar eclipse is about to take place above space shuttle Discovery on the night of December 20, 2010.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... The images above and below show space shuttle Discovery just as a total lunar eclipse is about to take place above it on Monday night. Of course, I myself couldn't watch the eclipse...since I live in Southern California...and the rainstorm that started last Friday just ended yesterday. Oh well.

A total lunar eclipse is about to take place above space shuttle Discovery on the night of December 20, 2010.
NASA-KSC video

The pic below shows Discovery back inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center yesterday. Tests will be conducted on Discovery's external fuel tank before the shuttle rolls back to Launch Pad 39A by January preparation for its targeted February 2 (Pacific Time) launch.

Space shuttle Discovery arrives at the Vehicle Assembly Building on December 22, undergo additional tests on its external fuel tank before its February 2, 2011 (Pacific Time) launch.
NASA / Frank Michaux

Sunday, December 19, 2010


TRON: LEGACY... I saw the movie today, and as expected, the visual effects (VFX) were AMAZING. From the gladiatorial fights between Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) and the programs to the Light Cycle race on The Grid, and then the aerial dogfight between Clu (Jeff Bridges) and Sam’s father Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges again) at the climax of this film, Tron: Legacy didn’t fail to entertain. There were two issues I had with the flick, but other than that, I’ll possibly buy this on DVD when it gets released.


Tron: Legacy wasn’t short on hot gals. Despite wearing a short black wig, Olivia Wilde still looked totally stunning. Heck, even the Light Runner (shown above) her character Quorra used to rescue Sam from The Grid was pretty awesome. Beau Garrett as the ‘Siren’ known as Gem looked gorgeous. And so was Elizabeth Mathis (who was last seen wearing a Hooters outfit in the recent Tony Scott action film, Unstoppable) as another Siren. I’m assuming if this film got at least a PG-13 rating, Gem’s outfit would’ve been even hotter. But hey, this is a Disney film... This is all wishful thinking.


In terms of the issues I had with the Tron sequel, it was the opening real-world scene and the ending that I took notice with. Granted, the whole premise of both this flick and the classic 1982 original was a total exercise in suspension of disbelief (humans get zapped by a laser projector and become digitized into a video game where the computer programs are so lifelike they dance and drink at bars). While I was waiting for Sam to get zapped into the world of Tron, I felt that the shot of him finally getting hit by the digitizing laser was too abrupt. In fact, we don’t even see him getting shot by the laser. One would think that dramatic music and some cool CGI sequence (like the shot where Jake Sully's mind connects with his avatar's body for the first time in Avatar) would accompany Sam’s entry into the realm that his father created, but nope. The movie wastes no time (if you didn’t think watching Sam parachute off that ENCOM skyscraper was a waste of time... What other expedient way could he have escaped the building?) in getting to the real—RE: digital—action. And now onto the ending.


While one can rationalize that Kevin and Sam Flynn are able to re-enter the real world from The Grid because they’re originally humans, Tron: Legacy doesn’t bother to explain how Clu and his army could convert to actual living organisms if they succeeded in entering that portal. Of course, Tron doesn’t need to bother explaining this particular plot-point...because it didn’t bother explaining how Quorra could become human after she joined Sam in the real world at the end of the movie (apparently, that laser projector is so advanced that it can create body organs even for non-biological things that leave The Grid). Also, the movie didn’t bother to show Sam and Quorra actually re-emerging from the digitizing laser in the finale...but this one isn’t really a criticism. I’m not one of those moviegoers who need everything spelled out for me in a film. Okay— That’s not really true. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have typed these last two paragraphs.

(By the way, am I the only one here who noticed that Kevin Flynn suddenly impersonated Obi-Wan Kenobi—complete with the hood—the minute he showed up at The Grid? Just being facetious.)


So will I watch Tron: Legacy at the theater again? Most likely...but definitely not in IMAX (since I spent $17.50 on the ticket today. Good grief). If I can watch Avatar numerous times at the theater last Christmas, I can re-watch Tron 2. Its story wasn’t as derivative as that of the James Cameron flick, but the VFX was just as awesome. That is all.


Friday, December 17, 2010


TODAY, Tron: Legacy finally comes out in movie theaters everywhere (in the U.S., that is). Of course, I'm probably not gonna watch it till this Sunday. What I will do today, however, is finish buying Christmas gifts and The Town on DVD. That film is awesome. That is all.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

An art concept of the Voyager 1 spacecraft.

Venturing into the unknown...


NASA Probe Sees Solar Wind Decline (Press Release - December 13)

PASADENA, Calif. – The 33-year odyssey of NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has reached a distant point at the edge of our solar system where there is no outward motion of solar wind.

Now hurtling toward interstellar space some 17.4 billion kilometers (10.8 billion miles) from the sun, Voyager 1 has crossed into an area where the velocity of the hot ionized gas, or plasma, emanating directly outward from the sun has slowed to zero. Scientists suspect the solar wind has been turned sideways by the pressure from the interstellar wind in the region between stars.

The event is a major milestone in Voyager 1’s passage through the heliosheath, the turbulent outer shell of the sun's sphere of influence, and the spacecraft's upcoming departure from our solar system.

"The solar wind has turned the corner," said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. "Voyager 1 is getting close to interstellar space."

Our sun gives off a stream of charged particles that form a bubble known as the heliosphere around our solar system. The solar wind travels at supersonic speed until it crosses a shockwave called the termination shock. At this point, the solar wind dramatically slows down and heats up in the heliosheath.

Launched on Sept. 5, 1977, Voyager 1 crossed the termination shock in December 2004 into the heliosheath. Scientists have used data from Voyager 1's Low-Energy Charged Particle Instrument to deduce the solar wind's velocity. When the speed of the charged particles hitting the outward face of Voyager 1 matched the spacecraft's speed, researchers knew that the net outward speed of the solar wind was zero. This occurred in June, when Voyager 1 was about 17 billion kilometers (10.6 billion miles) from the sun.

Because the velocities can fluctuate, scientists watched four more monthly readings before they were convinced the solar wind’s outward speed actually had slowed to zero. Analysis of the data shows the velocity of the solar wind has steadily slowed at a rate of about 20 kilometers per second each year (45,000 mph each year) since August 2007, when the solar wind was speeding outward at about 60 kilometers per second (130,000 mph). The outward speed has remained at zero since June.

The results were presented today at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

"When I realized that we were getting solid zeroes, I was amazed," said Rob Decker, a Voyager Low-Energy Charged Particle Instrument co-investigator and senior staff scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. "Here was Voyager, a spacecraft that has been a workhorse for 33 years, showing us something completely new again."

Scientists believe Voyager 1 has not crossed the heliosheath into interstellar space. Crossing into interstellar space would mean a sudden drop in the density of hot particles and an increase in the density of cold particles. Scientists are putting the data into their models of the heliosphere’s structure and should be able to better estimate when Voyager 1 will reach interstellar space. Researchers currently estimate Voyager 1 will cross that frontier in about four years.

"In science, there is nothing like a reality check to shake things up, and Voyager 1 provided that with hard facts," said Tom Krimigis, principal investigator on the Low- Energy Charged Particle Instrument, who is based at the Applied Physics Laboratory and the Academy of Athens, Greece. "Once again, we face the predicament of redoing our models."

A sister spacecraft, Voyager 2, was launched in Aug. 20, 1977 and has reached a position 14.2 billion kilometers (8.8 billion miles) from the sun. Both spacecraft have been traveling along different trajectories and at different speeds. Voyager 1 is traveling faster, at a speed of about 17 kilometers per second (38,000 mph), compared to Voyager 2's velocity of 15 kilometers per second (35,000 mph). In the next few years, scientists expect Voyager 2 to encounter the same kind of phenomenon as Voyager 1.

The Voyagers were built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which continues to operate both spacecraft. For more information about the Voyager spacecraft, visit: JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory


Artwork depicting the Voyager spacecraft and their positions in the solar system.

Monday, December 13, 2010

PHOTO OF THE DAY... Today, the two-time NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers met up with President Obama in Washington, D.C. for the second year in a row. Anyways... Is it just me but as the Lakers win more and more titles, their regular seasons become more and more frustrating to watch? It’s only December and they already have seven losses. C’mon Lakers... I know it’s only two months into the season, but you gotta start chipping away at the homecourt advantage the San Antonio Spurs currently have against everyone else in the NBA (if the playoffs were to start soon, which they are obviouly not). Don’t wanna risk the repeat of 2003, ya know... (When the Spurs had the best record in the league and eliminated the Lakers on San Antonio's way to a second NBA title—thus ending Los Angeles’ reign as three-time defending champions.) That is all.

President Obama poses for a group photo with the L.A. Lakers at the Boys and Girls Club in Washington, D.C., on December 13, 2010.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Thursday, December 09, 2010


TRANSFORMERS 3 Update... In case you’ve been noticing the pattern regarding my last couple of journal entries (and my Blog as a whole for the past 4 years); this month has been very significant in regards to space-related news. From the astrobiology-related discovery that microbes may potentially thrive on deadly arsenic, the successful return of the Orbital Test Vehicle to Earth and the disappointment over Akatsuki at Venus, to yesterday’s historic launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 and the Dragon spacecraft, any space geek out there would have lots of things to talk about since the beginning of December. And now, space exploration finds itself as a major theme in next year’s summer blockbuster movie, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. It’s apparent in the teaser trailer (and obviously the title), which was released online yesterday and can be viewed below...

The new Dark of the Moon trailer should be shown at the theaters in front of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader this Friday and Tron: Legacy on December 17. So apparently, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had 21 minutes during the Apollo 11 mission to explore a derelict spaceship on the lunar surface. Presumably, this spaceship is The Ark—the Autobots’ mothership in the comics and original 1980’s cartoon, as well as the rival vessel to the Decepticons’ Nemesis...which was seen in last year's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (during that scene where a resurrected Megatron flies out to an alien planet and reunites with Starscream and The Fallen). And the Transformer that we see at the very end of this trailer is rumored to be Alpha Trion. Even if it ain’t Trion, it sure as heck ain’t Shockwave, the main bad guy in Dark of the Moon. Hopefully, we’ll take our first glimpse of this evil one-eyed purple ‘bot in the next theatrical trailer...or at least on a TV spot during next February’s Super Bowl XLV. That’s not too much to ask for. That is all.


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying SpaceX's first fully operational Dragon vehicle launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on December 8, 2010.
NASA / Kevin O'Connell

THE DRAGON TAKES FLIGHT... At 7:43 AM, Pacific Standard Time today, a Falcon 9 rocket carrying SpaceX’s first fully operational Dragon vehicle was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This was the second launch of Falcon 9 since its maiden flight last June, while this was Dragon’s first voyage to Earth orbit before it finally begins ferrying cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) next year. At 11:02 AM, PST, the Dragon capsule safely splashed down in the Pacific Ocean (500 miles off the coast of Mexico, to be exact) after re-entering Earth’s atmosphere...making this the first time a commercial company successfully brought a spacecraft back to the Earth’s surface from orbit. SpaceX deemed this flight a 100% success.

Today is a historic day for manned spaceflight...especially for the United States. With the space shuttle fleet retiring next year, the launch of Falcon 9 had to be a complete success and the on-orbit performance of Dragon completely flawless to vindicate President Obama’s decision earlier this year to cancel NASA’s Constellation program and rely on private companies to send cargo (and even astronauts) to low-Earth orbit. SpaceX was suppose to conduct one more "demo" flight of the Dragon spacecraft before it was to finally dock the capsule to the ISS for actual cargo operations. Here’s hoping NASA will have a change of plans and allow SpaceX to consolidate those two flights into one mission, thus allowing Falcon 9 and Dragon to immediately usher in the era of commercial spaceflight just as the space shuttle program is about to come to a close. That is all.

The Dragon spacecraft is about to splash down into the Pacific Ocean on December 8, 2010...following the completion of its maiden flight.
SpaceX / Michael Altenhofen

A close-up of the Dragon spacecraft just as it is about to splash down into the Pacific Ocean on December 8, 2010...following the completion of its maiden flight.
SpaceX / Michael Altenhofen

The Dragon spacecraft is about to splash down into the Pacific Ocean on December 8, 2010...following the completion of its maiden flight.
SpaceX / Michael Altenhofen

A recovery team works on the Dragon spacecraft after it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean on December 8, 2010...following the completion of its maiden flight.
SpaceX / Michael Altenhofen

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

An artist's concept of the Akatsuki spacecraft orbiting Venus.

AKATSUKI Update... I would write a long entry about this, but I don’t wanna. Basically, Japan’s first mission to the planet Venus has hit a major snag. Akatsuki was unable to enter Venus’ orbit after initiating an Orbit Insertion Maneuver (OIM) at 3:49 PM, Pacific Standard Time yesterday. The flight can still be salvaged, if the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) waits 6 years till Akatsuki flies close to Venus again to initiate another OIM—which will probably not be likely since the spacecraft probably used up a lot of fuel on yesterday’s try. It’s 2003 all over again...when Japan’s Nozomi spacecraft failed to enter Mars’ orbit after being launched in 1998. Of course, if Hayabusa is any indication, resourceful engineering and intestinal fortitude by the Akatsuki flight team may lead to a triumphant moment between...December 2016 and January 2017 (the next time Akatsuki approaches the greenhouse planet).

On a personal note, the streak has ended for me. Since 2007, every spacecraft that I’ve submitted my name on is either still going strong or ended in success. NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander, JAXA’s Kaguya lunar orbiter and IKAROS solar sail, NASA’s Dawn space probe, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Kepler spacecraft... I guess I can’t complain about this unfortunate setback with Akatsuki when my name is sitting safely on the Martian surface and as far in deep space as the Asteroid Belt (and even Saturn and headed to Pluto...if you visit the link posted in the first sentence of this paragraph). Also, there are three spacecraft with my name on ‘em scheduled to launch in 2011 that will hopefully make up for this loss. I’d elaborate, but I don’t wanna jinx it. Let’s just say I’ll hopefully be heading to Earth orbit with two of these missions, and the third one will be heading to the Martian surface to join her sister rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. That is all.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) on a runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California...after returning home from space on December 3, 2010.
U.S. Air Force

BACK ON THE GROUND... Yesterday morning, the U.S. Air Force’s newest space plane successfully touched down on a 15,000-foot-long runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California...after completing a nearly 225-day top secret mission that began with a launch from Florida last April. Below are photos of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) as it came to a stop on the runway and given a post-flight checkout by technicians wearing protective hazmat (hazardous materials) suits. Directly below is the video showing infrared footage of the OTV rolling along the runway after its glide home from outer space...

A second OTV is currently being manufactured for a test flight that is scheduled to take place next year.

An infrared image of the OTV rolling along the runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California...after returning home from space on December 3, 2010.
U.S. Air Force

Two technicians wearing hazmat suits conduct a post-landing checkout on the OTV after its return home from space on December 3, 2010.
U.S. Air Force

The OTV on the runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California...after returning home from space on December 3, 2010.
U.S. Air Force

The OTV on the runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California...after returning home from space on December 3, 2010.
Boeing Co.

Military personnel at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, conduct a post-landing checkout on the OTV after its return home from space on December 3, 2010.
Boeing Co.

The OTV is towed from the runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, after returning home from space on December 3, 2010.
U.S. Air Force

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Mono Lake, California.

One more discovery in the search for ET...


NASA-Funded Research Discovers Life Built With Toxic Chemical (Press Release)

NASA-funded astrobiology research has changed the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth.

Researchers conducting tests in the harsh environment of Mono Lake in California have discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic. The microorganism substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in its cell components.

"The definition of life has just expanded," said Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. "As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it."

This finding of an alternative biochemistry makeup will alter biology textbooks and expand the scope of the search for life beyond Earth. The research is published in this week's edition of Science Express.

Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur are the six basic building blocks of all known forms of life on Earth. Phosphorus is part of the chemical backbone of DNA and RNA, the structures that carry genetic instructions for life, and is considered an essential element for all living cells.

Phosphorus is a central component of the energy-carrying molecule in all cells (adenosine triphosphate) and also the phospholipids that form all cell membranes. Arsenic, which is chemically similar to phosphorus, is poisonous for most life on Earth. Arsenic disrupts metabolic pathways because chemically it behaves similarly to phosphate.

"We know that some microbes can breathe arsenic, but what we've found is a microbe doing something new -- building parts of itself out of arsenic," said Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a NASA Astrobiology Research Fellow in residence at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., and the research team's lead scientist. "If something here on Earth can do something so unexpected, what else can life do that we haven't seen yet?"

The newly discovered microbe, strain GFAJ-1, is a member of a common group of bacteria, the Gammaproteobacteria. In the laboratory, the researchers successfully grew microbes from the lake on a diet that was very lean on phosphorus, but included generous helpings of arsenic. When researchers removed the phosphorus and replaced it with arsenic the microbes continued to grow. Subsequent analyses indicated that the arsenic was being used to produce the building blocks of new GFAJ-1 cells.

The key issue the researchers investigated was when the microbe was grown on arsenic did the arsenic actually became incorporated into the organisms' vital biochemical machinery, such as DNA, proteins and the cell membranes. A variety of sophisticated laboratory techniques was used to determine where the arsenic was incorporated.

The team chose to explore Mono Lake because of its unusual chemistry, especially its high salinity, high alkalinity, and high levels of arsenic. This chemistry is in part a result of Mono Lake's isolation from its sources of fresh water for 50 years.

The results of this study will inform ongoing research in many areas, including the study of Earth's evolution, organic chemistry, biogeochemical cycles, disease mitigation and Earth system research. These findings also will open up new frontiers in microbiology and other areas of research.

"The idea of alternative biochemistries for life is common in science fiction," said Carl Pilcher, director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute at the agency's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "Until now a life form using arsenic as a building block was only theoretical, but now we know such life exists in Mono Lake."

The research team included scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz., Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Penn., and the Stanford Synchroton Radiation Lightsource in Menlo Park, Calif.

NASA's Astrobiology Program in Washington contributed funding for the research through its Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology program and the NASA Astrobiology Institute. NASA's Astrobiology Program supports research into the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life on Earth.

Source: NASA.Gov


An image of the GFAJ-1 bacteria grown on arsenic.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Darkwing Duck.

DARKWING DUCK... Just when you thought I couldn’t get more bored/sentimental/lame/dorky after reminiscing last year about watching that animated TV show Exosquad back in, um, high school, I go back another 4 years to 1991...when I was in 6th grade and used to watch Disney cartoons that aired on channel 9 here in Los Angeles. Duck Tales, TaleSpin, Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers... These were some pretty memorable animated programs that aired during my childhood (though Rescue Rangers had some pretty lame moments...most of them related to that character Monterey Jack. A mouse beating up humans? As if!). But the one Disney cartoon that I liked the most was the Batman-themed show, Darkwing Duck.

Darkwing Duck's villainous doppelgänger: NegaDuck.

Appearing and disappearing in a cloud of smoke, having a speargun just like the Dark Knight and basing his secret headquarters inside a tower atop a suspension bridge outside the city of St. Canard... Darkwing Duck (a.k.a. "DW") was cool. My favorite villain on the show was NegaDuck. He was a total much so that I would often sketch this character if I was bored in class during 6th grade. There were other cool villains in the cartoon as Megavolt, Taurus Bulba and Dr. Bushroot...but NegaDuck was the best.

NegaDuck and his evil posse: the Fearsome Five.

I’d write more about "the terror that flaps in the night" (one of many memorable quotes by DW...along with the trademark "Let’s get dangerous!"), but I’m pretty sure most of you were shaking your heads the whole time you were reading this entry. So here’s the cool intro to this show, courtesy of (surprise, surprise) YouTube:

PS: Be prepared for a future Blog on the greatness that is Animaniacs.