Monday, June 25, 2012

Is Facebook broken?

It seems that Facebook is broken. It doesn't respond, it doesn't allow me to post or allow me to review responses to previous posts. What is going on?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Green jobs the way to go

There is a lot going on in the world at the moment, but there's one thing that seems more relevant than ever. Sustainability is dependent on generating jobs from the green revolution. If we don't, I find it hard to see how we will prosper on a planet with 6 billion people.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Smokey sunset

Two nights ago the air was thick with smoke from the bushfires raging around British Columbia. The setting sun appeared as a deep orange then red globe hanging in the sky. I managed to shoot a couple of video sequences on my Canon 40D using the open-source EOS Camera Video Recorder software.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Dust storms in Oz

Last Wednesday the biggest dust storm in 70 years swept over much of NSW and turned the sky over Sydney a blood red. The NASA Terra satellite recorded the dust storm from space and showed its true extent - an awesome display of climate change...

Stories are just hitting the wires that a second dust storm is affecting the East Coast.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A super volcano under Mount St Helens?

This week's New Scientist magazine has an interesting story about the possibility of a super-volcano lurking under Mount St Helens.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Groth of the Mt Redoubt Lavadome

The eruption at Mount Redoubt in Alaska continues, but with fewer explosive events at present. I have collected the images from the HUT webcam at Redoubt and processed them into a time-lapse sequence showing the growth of the lavadome. Watch out below!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mount Redoubt shines (a little) in the dark

Alaska's Mount Redoubt has been in an eruptive phase for the last 6 weeks. There are several webcams that follow the eruption and for the first time since the eruption began, the images captured by the webcams at night have shown evidence of the unmistakable signature of the incandescent glow from the growing lavadome. Cool! Or Hot, as the case may be...

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The team at the GalaxyZoo project have discovered some remarkable new galaxy clusters - nothing like this has been seen before - check out the full papaer on

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Earth eclipses the sun!

For the first time ever, we have seen a total solar eclipse by another planet. In this case, it is the Earth eclipsing the sun, not the moon. This video was captured by Japan's Kaguya lunar orbiter on Feb. 9, 2009. Beautiful! An English explanation for the event is posted at Science@NASA

Update: Also posted on Slashdot.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Planets imaged by two different teams

It is a little unbelievable, but today two different teams of astronomers released images of extra-solar planets imaged directly for the first time.

The first image was captured by the Hubble Space telescope of a planet orbiting Fomalhaut. The planet is estimated to be three times the size of Jupiter and is the first direct image in visible light of an extra-solar planet.

The second of today's announcements was from the Gemini Observatory, which released images captured by the Gemini North telescope and W.M. Keck Observatory on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea of two planets circling the star HR 8799, which is approximately 130 light years away.

Truly an amazing day!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

trueSpace 3D now freeware

Yes, Caligari have just released the latest version of their 3D modelling program as freeware! The only requirement is to register to enable the download of the complete program, manual and all the training videos.

The move was announced by the CEO of Caligari in his blog earlier today:

Dear Caligari community member,

Today is an important day in the 23 year history of trueSpace. We are releasing a major upgrade to our flagship product with trueSpace7.6, bringing significant improvements in modeling, animation, rendering and workflows, plus new direct export to Virtual Earth. Most of these you might already expect if you’ve been following my regular Captain’s Blog. What you may not expect is that we are making trueSpace7.6 available to everyone at no charge, in a giant step forward to bring high-end 3D authoring tools to all who want them!

trueSpace7.6 is far more than a SketchUp-style 3D architectural modeling tool. Instead, it provides a complete 3D authoring environment for any type of 3D content creation, whether that’s images, animations, objects for games, or content or worlds for online interactive shared spaces.

trueSpace7.6's modeling tools feature a variety of surface representations including full polygonal editing, subdivision surface modeling, NURBS, metaballs, and implicit surfaces. Those are supported by400+ modeling tools like real-time Boolean operations with full construction history so you can move subtracted parts of your design at any time during your work, or even change a subtraction to an intersection.

trueSpace 7.6 also provides advanced surfacing tools like layered materials, texture maps, normal maps, procedural materials, UVE projections, real-time DX9 pixel shaders that include shaders to simulate subsurface scattering, reflection, refraction, smoke, fire, water, anisotropicshader, metallic paint, glass – and those are just the real-time shaders!

The animation capabilities are even more impressive.trueSpace7.6 supports key-frame and motion capture animation on fully hierarchical objects. Key-frame animations can be seamlessly blended with procedural animations and physical simulations, all of which can fully interact with each other. This means you can have a walking character animated by key-frames getting hit by a procedurally animated car and fly away in response to the collision thanks to physical simulation.

In trueSpace7.6 you can also create fully articulated characters and interact with them using full body IK with editable direct manipulation widgets for joints (including physical stiffness), and apply physics or animated morphs for facial expressions.

If you want to create a photorealisticimagesor a video, then the built-in Lightworks high quality offline renderer will give you spectacular rendering results including soft shadows, raytracing, global illumination in form of hybrid radiosity, image based lighting, caustics, tone mapping, HDRI, anisotropic reflectance,multi-pass rendering to Photoshop layers, motion blur, depth of field, lens flares etc.

trueSpace’s award-winning direct manipulation interface with its easy-to-use 2D controls and 3D widgets has always been highly praised by users and press alike.For version 7.6 we have streamlined many workflows in extensive collaboration with our Beta testers. The UI is context-based and fully configurable, including toolbars, panels, widgets, layouts and projects. With universal drag-and-drop you can simply drop your model from the 3D workspace directly into an e-mail, written document, etc, and vice versa, clicking on the object in an e-mail will automatically open it in trueSpace.

There are also a series of advanced editors. In addition to the 3D workspace and modeling editors, there are a universal 2D node link editor, a script editor,a non-linear animation editor, a material editor, a UV editor, and more. Plug-ins are now accessible from the real-time 3D workspace and we expect to release truly amazing plug-ins for trueSpace7.6 in the near future, as well as stimulate 3rd party creation of independent products both free and commercial thanks to the availability of an SDK.

Finally, trueSpace7.6 is the only 3D authoring tool on the market which will allow you do all of the above in real-time shared 3D collaborative spaces where members of the design or animation team can maintain real-time interaction from anywhere in the world.

We are taking the unprecedented step of making these tools available to everyone for free in order to stimulate content creation for the present and future online 3D environments, and so that any artist out there with a dream can fulfill their vision without finding themselves trapped by budget limitations. This is particularly true if their vision includes emerging 3D online worlds, where free and unrestricted communities of web artists can collaborate on 3D projects and even establish new kinds of communities the likes of which the world has never seen before, way beyond simple chats in isolated 3D rooms or 3D islands.

Above all, trueSpace7.6 will empower you to create anything you dream up, whether you want to make illustrations for National Geographic, design products for Rolls-Royce, create buildings for Virtual Earth, make advertising or training videos, architectural walkthroughs, innovative video games, or animated films.All of these possibilities are now open to you simply by downloading trueSpace7.6 and learning what its powerful 3D authoring tools can do for you!

To download trueSpace7.6, visit the link below:

Also, to aid in your learning process we have made all of our video courses, previously $79 each, available at no charge, and you can download those courses here.

At a time when other companies are removing their low cost products to make it even tougher to get started in 3D, it gives us great pleasure to enable all artists regardless of age or income to create 3D in whatever field they dream of. We hope you enjoy your copy of trueSpace7.6.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

From the edge of the Mily Way

A little video I put together - totally ignoring physics and reality... From the edge of the Milky Way zooming down to the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre in Vancouver BC. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Lightning strikes Mount St Helens

Just before midnight last night, a thunderstorm passed over Mount St Helens and the Volcanocam cameras captured a couple of direct strikes on the volcano! The image below is from the HD-Volcanocam, which provides quite a spectacular shot of a lightning strike that must have occurred just as the image was taken at 23:07 PDT.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Fireball over Mount St Helens?

On reviewing last night's images from the Volcanocam cameras, I noticed that one of the images appeared to show a bright circular object above Mount St Helens at 02:21am this morning.

Checking the archived images from last night revealed another image that was taken a five seconds later than the image I had downloaded.

Comparing the two showed that the object had moved between the two frames, making it likely it was something recorded by the camera, rather than thermal or other noise. (which is the cause of all the small hot-spots on all the nigh time images, which do not move locations).

A brief animation of the two images with the bright spot, together with an image from five minutes before and afterwards is available as an animated gif and a full sequence from sunset to sunrise is also available on my website at

I'm not sure what the bright spot is. It obviously appears to be circular, but this could be a result of overexposure causing a circular record on the CCD. A bright fireball would fit the bill, similar to the one that was seen in BC, Washington, Oregon and Idaho in February 2008. Although I haven't been able to find any record of anyone seeing anything like this last night.

Probably a much more likely explanation is an aircraft or helicopter with its landing lights turned on approaching the JRO Observatory where the cameras are located. Although I haven't noticed any similar occurance since the recent activity at Mount St Helens began in 2004.

Another possibility is a bright Iridium flare, although this seems unlikely and more to the point none were visible around this time from Mount St Helens.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Phoenix has landed!

The NASA Mars Phoenix probe has successfully touched down on the surface of Mars in what appears to be a near-perfect landing. The probe relayed its first message immediately after touchdown at the first opportunity, and has just sent its first b&w image from the surface.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How the mighty Gnome has fallen

The mysterious and mighty Gnome appeared from nowhere, apparently on a mission to clear away the snow to enable us all to have a better view of the clouds in front of Mount St Helens. He battled valiantly, but succumbed to the onslaught of snow earlier today. Long live the Gnome! RIP.

This morning:


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A surprising visitor at Mount St Helens...

There has been little activity over the last few months at Mount St Helens (MSH). The growth of the lavadome apparently ceased in January, seismic activity has quietened down to minimal levels and for the last few weeks the view of MSH from the Volcanocam cameras at the Johnson Ridge Observatory has been non-existent due to the massive snow drifts in front of the cameras.

So it was with a little surprise to see the images on the classic Volcanocam this afternoon showing that some unexpected help has arrived to make things interesting...

Update: Reports from The Columbian and indicate that access to Johnston Ridge is currently only by US Forest Service snow cat - so it's beginning to look like it may be an inside job. Views on the classic Volcanocam this morning show the snow appears to be gaining the upper hand on the little guy...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Meteor shoots across sky between BC and Idaho

There were many reports this morning of a meteor seen flying overhead across British Columbia, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and Idaho around 05:30am local time. The images from the US Forest Service Volcanocam didn't show any signs of the fireball on the images I downloaded last night. Unfortunately, the Volcanocam website is currently down, and I have been unable to access the archived images from last night to check all the images for a sign of the meteor. Until it's back up, we won't know if it was visible from the Johnson Ridge Observatory where the Volcanocam cameras are located.

There's also a video purported to be from the Idaho Air National Guard, at the Gowen Field base in Boise, Idaho recently posted on YouTube, which may be the only images captured of this apparently spectacular sight.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

An explanation for the multiple rainbows have posted an explanation for the bizarre multiple rainbows I saw last Saturday afternoon. According to Atmospheric Optics expert Les Cowley the explanation is:

"The multiple arcs are called supernumerary rainbows. They were so named because early natural philosophers could not explain them and considered that they should not be there. They are a diffraction pattern produced when rays passing through small raindrops overlap and interfere. If we are lucky we see one or two, these widely spaced multiple ones are exceptional and tell us that the raindrops were very small and, more unusually, all of the same size."

Who knew?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Strange rainbow

Yesterday afternoon I noticed this bizarre rainbow in the sky, I have never seen anything like it before. It wasn't just a double rainbow, but there were at least 6 bows visible, but getting smaller and fading into the distance. I took these photos around 4:00pm yesterday afternoon looking east in Vancouver, BC.

Here's another slightly closer view, and following that a contrast enhanced version which more clearly shows the bows. Bizarre! Has anyone else seen anything like this before?

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