Christopher Merle

Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, but first I need more coffee.

Category: Science (page 1 of 4)

All about science

Things We Should Be Using

  • Metric system
  • Human Era calendar
  • Tau (τ) instead of pi (π)

I’ll try to elaborate more later but wanted to get that idea out there. The first one should be familiar to you. Technically the US uses the metric system and converts those measurements to English units.

The Human Era or Holocene calendar simply adds a 1 to the front of the year. So it’s 12,018HE instead of 2018AD, and next year will be 12,019. It’s based on the premise that we should make our Year Zero when the first city (town) was built some 12,000 years ago in Turkey. It’ll be easier to remember dates. It basically marks the beginning of civilization.

Tau is simply 2 Pi. Mathematically they are the same. But it is easier to understand the math around this irrational but very important number around 6.28318… and not 3.14159…

11,000 BC

I just saw an article about how ancient carvings in Turkey recorded a comet swarm that hit the earth 13,000 years ago.


I have no idea if that is true, but I recall reading about something similar that a comet struck the Earth about the same time and struck North America.

We know that a little over a century ago, in 1908, a comet struck Siberia in the Tunguska Event and it was devastating for the region, but because it was so remote and so little population that few were affected.  Explorers took several years before they could even visit the site. There was no crater, but trees for miles around was flattened by the blast. If something similar had happened, 13,000 years ago by an even larger comet striking the glaciers in North America there’d be very little evidence to show for it today.

And even more recently in 2013 a meteor exploded over a populated Siberian city,  Chelyabinsk, but because it was so much smaller than Tunguska the damage was relatively minor, 1100 were injured and thousands of windows destroyed.

I’m writing about it as a reminder to dig a little deeper to see if the evidence supports the theory. Catastrophic events have shaped human evolution and history, so it is possible, but is is true?

As a side note: It really should be the Year 12017 HE (Holocene or Human Era)




Yeah, I don’t know what it stands for either*. It’s the acronym for the Berkeley distributed computing project. Back in the late 90’s I participated in the SETI@Home project. You let the software use idle CPU cycles to search for artificial signals from deep space. I participated for a few years and ended up earning 2000 credits. I printed out my certificate and it’s laying about someplace. Anyway the distributed computing project was so popular Berkeley created a platform called BOINC and now there are dozens of projects. Tens of thousands of computers have participated creating vast networks of supercomputing power very cheaply.

I’ve got two old laptops I’m using as home servers (one is for web development work). Originally the laptops were used to play around with Linux and also to do development work for clients. I ended up turning the first one into a print server on our home network. Now we don’t have to take our laptops into my office to print. Since this server is on all the time heating up the room (slightly), my mind harkened back to SETI@Home. I knew there were other projects so I looked at the list to see what struck my fancy. I found two. MilkyWay@Home and

MilkyWay@Home uses data from the Digital Sloan Sky Survey to help generate an accurate 3D model of our own galaxy. The other is to run climate models and test the accuracy of climate models up to the year 2100. I chose the latter first as it seemed to be more practical. Actually I ended up choosing both, and I’m running each on their own laptop.

Although I accept the science for global warming, if I discuss it I don’t need to base my arguments on climate models. There’s plenty of hard evidence that humans have altered the climate. However, we do need to be able to predict the climate if people (mostly Americans) do not change the way they live to stop climate change. Computer climate modeling got underway in the 1970’s and those models have gotten more accurate and computers have gotten immensely more powerful since them. It would be useful to test to verify how accurate those models are. And if they are off then they can be improved.

If it turns out the climate models predict less serious consequences of human activity and those models have been made more accurate then that would be a good thing. I think it’s unlikely but we won’t know until we look. I suspect (and computer models have already predicted) that human caused climate change is going to be very bad for us. But we still have a window of opportunity to mitigate the worst consequences. We can’t stop it, but can slow it and eventually reverse it, but that will take centuries. However, that window is closing, and I don’t know how much time we’ve got.

Whether it’s for fun or serious reasons these distributed computing projects allow citizens to participate in large projects. And as computing power continues to improve these projects will help to solve pressing problems.

*Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing

82,000 Feet

On October 9, 2008 at 1:06PM CDT (19:06 UTC), The Cassini probe orbiting Saturn just flew within 25 kilometers of the moon Enceladus’ surface. That’s 82,000 feet. The altitude the SR-71 flew at or a little over twice as high that most commercial jets fly at. All I can say is wow, just wow!

Cassini flyby of Enceladus
Emily Lakdallawalla of the Planetary Society detailed Cassini’s itinerary Cassini flies within 25 kilometers of Enceladus tomorrow

And JPL scientist Shadan Ardalan, Cassini Navigator tells us Cassini made it Xtreme Navigation,Not for the Faint of Heart

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