Thursday, 29 March 2012

I now have an iPhone and New Mobile Number

The dog has my old Nokia now.  Those who need it will get my new number soon.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

English Toy Terrier at the Beach

Early morning walk along the beach at Ferring, West Sussex.

Top Mars Explorers at NASA Ames

Chris McKay and Kevin Fong, NASA Ames Research Center
For the recent BBC Radio 4 series Scott's Legacy, Kevin Fong and I spent a day interviewing Mars researchers at the NASA Ames Research Centre, south of San Francisco.  First was leading Mars specialist Chris McKay whose astrobiological science involves not only robotic probes such as the Phoenix Lander but work in the dry valleys of Antarctica.  They are the environments on Earth most similar to conditions on Mars.

Chris was a brilliant interviewee but, needless to say, only snippets ended up in the broadcast programme.  Here is more of the interview.  Particularly interesting are his thoughts on why humans should go to Mars - it's not for science fundamentally, he argues, but for questions about human destiny.

Just down the corridor from Chris, we later interviewed Jennifer Heldmann who studies both the Moon and Mars.

Jennifer Heldmann and Kevin Fong
In the Radio 4 programme, we just had Jen talking about water ice in the south polar craters on the Moon.  Apparently there's about twice the amount of water in the 'soil' in them as there is in Saharan soil.  That's enough to sustain exploitation for rocket fuel, drinking water and (I'm guessing) tomato plants for a moon base.  Anyway, there was no time in the programme to hear her talk about water on Mars - including its likely role in making the extraordinary Martian gullies that have been spotted in the last few years.

All the evidence points them being created in the here and now.  There could be one being carved as you read this.

Listen to Jen tell Kevin about the gullies, the possibility of deep aquifers on Mars and where she would choose to visit if SpaceX gave her ticket for their forthcoming 'Mars for the Average Person' package.

Just beyond the Ames security perimeter is the Mars Institute, where planetary scientist Pascal Lee works in his Mars image-bedecked office.

Pascal Lee and Kevin Fong at the Mars Institute, Mountain View
The picture to the right of Pascal's shoulder is one of his paintings.  It shows the view of Mars from its moon Phobos.


I have to include an extra picture of a man who brings his dog to work with him.  Why aren't all employers as enlightened as the Mars Institute?

Pascal, Ping Pong and Kevin
Listen to some of the interview that never made it into the final Scott's Legacy programme.  Pascal and Kevin touch on subjects such as Mars-inspired art and soft furnishings, and the challenge of developing a space suit suitable for geologising on the Red Planet.  The contemporary space suit would weigh so much in Martian gravity that astronauts on Mars would be barely able to move.

 In this interview, Pascal also describes some of the research which the Mars Institute and NASA do on the dry, desolate Devon Island in the high Arctic.  Centred on a great meteorite impact crater, this is the Haughton-Mars Projectaimed at preparing for human missions to Mars, sometime - God knows when - in the future.

Humongous hangars, me and Kevin Fong

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Huxley's First Day at New Broadcasting House

It was tense smuggling him past Security in a messenger bag with a blanket flung over him. His snout was poking right out and he was writhing around inside, the blanket bobbing up and down madly. The services of Agent Feachem were invaluable as she swished just ahead of me distracting the Corporation's operative with a flick of her pink scarf....  

Once safely inside Zone D and within the freezing call centre - sorry new Radio Science Unit - the young dog behaved almost impeccably and brought comfort to the shivering serfs attempting to make this week's radio science output. There were several red alert moments as A&M apparatchiks came through on their patrols. Rapidly erected barriers of backpacks to conceal the undercover puppy were in order. His cover was almost blown when he began to chew his squeaky toy ferret. Several times Agent Feachem and I had drop the heights of seats and drive our legs under the desk to avert the daleks spying him on our laps.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Terrier and Chihuahua at Play

At last Huxley finds a playmate smaller than him.

My sister Deb's chihuahua, Millie.  My sister is the one in the furry moon boots.

Millie establishes dominance with the sweep of one paw.

 Get up you wimp.

Everybody was kung fu fighting.  To me, he's got the look of Velociraptor about to disembowel.
A little worrying.

After two and half hours of chasing each other around my sister's house, friends forever I reckon.

Master H is too hot to handle for my niece Sophie.  Millie is not amused.

Tomorrow, there will actually be a science post, related to the Radio 4 programme about human space exploration that I've just made with the Talented Dr Fong.  Scott's Legacy Episode 2  includes interviews with Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmidt, NASA boss Charles Bolden and space engineer/visionary Elon Musk of rocket company SpaceX on how he's going to get us to Mars.  Watch out for BBC News story on this tomorrow morning.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Huxley's Last Three Weeks in Pictures

It has been three weeks of charming and disarming.

First contact with godfather-in-chief Mr Ian Stones.   In the arms of the agent for global opera stars and friend to Domingo, Huxley could yet be the first English Toy Terrier to appear at the Garden.

Jacqueline Lewin restrained the terrier from gorging on Pa Cotton's best finger.

 Jacqui's rainbow octopus got the savaging instead.  The defenceless creature had its eyes ripped off within a minute.

One of his grandfathers was called Maggical Paws.

Colin Campbell and Huxley.  Does this not have something of an Athena poster about it?  The one with the hunk holding up the baby?

Uncle Christian tells Master H all about the fun he'll have on mini-breaks in Stockwell.

 I can see what Christian and Bob are trying to do here but I don't regard this as exemplary puppy care.

Being a son of Barnsley and always speaking as he finds, Steve Rose came sceptical about the charms of small dogs.

Obviously a change of mind at neutrino speeds.

"You're not listening to a word I'm saying!"

Sorry, this might make you sick but he is the Special One.