Astroengine Featured on CNET

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In an article written by Don Reisinger for CNET News, Astroengine.com was selected as one of the “18 cool sites and apps that teach you about space.”

This is awesome as one of my main effort on Astroengine is to not only promote space news, opinion, skepticism and logical thinking, I also hope the site serves as an educational medium, so readers can understand the science that hides beneath the headlines. “Outreach” is a lot more than a group of scientists trying to work out how best to promote their work to the world; it’s a way of communicating advanced scientific theories to an audience who don’t necessarily have a specialized knowledge of the subject matter. Even though I have an education in a small aspect of astrophysics, it is often hard to understand the next big discovery in cosmology (don’t get me started on quantum dynamics, that stuff is insane!), so the more explaining the better in my books.

Also, to add to the coolness, by virtue of alphabetical luck, Astroengine.com takes the #2 slot in the top 18 space websites. And to top the whole thing off, Don Reisinger’s article hit the front page of Digg.com this morning. Needless to say, Astroengine was busier than Grand Central Station on a Friday evening this afternoon (thank goodness I have a brand new server to deal with demand)!

Thank you Don, I really appreciate the mention and the really cool review!

For more, check out “18 cool sites and apps that teach you about space” on CNET.com »

Ask the Astroengine Community a Question

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In an effort to enhance the Astroengine.com community, I’ve now added a rather exciting new feature to the site. If you scroll down, and look at the right-hand side bar, you’ll notice an “ask a question” panel. This gadget is driven by Google Friend Connect, so this should appeal to the majority of readers.

What makes this even more exciting is that the panel is specific to each page you browse on Astroengine.com, so you can ask a question about a certain article and interact with other readers who might have a link or explanation to help you out. For example, I posed a question on the recent article “Mystery Blob Detected 12.9 Billion Light Years Away,” asking what people thought the “blob” was (and my hope that it’s a supermassive black hole… cue a bit of Muse awesomeness).

So, have a play, keep it clean and have fun! Any problems, drop me a comment and I’ll see if I can help.

Thank you Avi for bringing my attention to this great little gadget 🙂

Cheers, Ian

Astroengine 3.0

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Now we’re cookin’… Welcome to the new-look Astroengine.com!

As you may have noticed I’ve been a little patchy with blog posts of late and now you can see why. I decided to migrate the entire Astroengine installation to a brand new server after the site suffered some serious downtime after a recent article (“Where is Planet X? Where is Nemesis?“) was slammed by Digg traffic. Now we are on a sparkling new server with a brand new design. I told you this year was going to be a big year for Astroengine, this officially marks the beginning of a new era

After asking readers about suggestions for a new direction in design, it was Darnell Clayton (Colony Worlds) who came up with the winning suggestion. He pointed me in the direction of the designs by Elegant Themes and once I saw a design called StudioBlue, I was hooked. A few modifications later and I arrived at what you see here, Astroengine 3.0. It has a fresher, more magazine/blog vibe, so I hope you like it.

With all the technical stuff calming down, I can now get back to what I’m here for. Expect a tonne of space science articles over the coming months – 2009 is going to be a big year.

Thank you for your support (and patience!).

Cheers, Ian

A Change Is Coming…

Apologies for the break in Astroengine transmission, a change is brewing.

I’m currently migrating my WordPress installation over to a brand new server. This is primarily due to the huge increase in traffic Astroengine has been experiencing in recent months. All great news, but something had to give and it was my shared hosting account that eventually broke.

To celebrate the new server and faster delivery of content, I’ve also been working on a redesign. Expect a big change sometime between now and whenever I finish uploading the thousands of files to their new home (hopefully within the next day).

Thank you for your continuing loyal support.

A new era for Astroengine.com awaits…

Cheers, Ian

Astroengine Data Gathering

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Astroengine needs a new look

Every few months, I think it’s healthy to reassess the design of Astroengine and develop it where necessary. In response to recent user feedback, I’m finding that the biggest weak spots of the site are firstly its speed and secondly its cross-browser compatibility.

Unfortunately visitors to the site that run Internet Explorer 6 see a mashed-up, messed-up Astroengine. It turns out that many of IE6 users are not using this out-of-date browser out of choice, it appears to be the staple of office computers the world over (system administrators really should think about updating their software once and a while).

In fact, I even had the chance to see Astroengine through IE6’s eyes a week ago, and I felt a little light-headed – It. Was. Nasty! Although I will always test sites that I build with a variety of browsers, I can’t test my site on old browsers (and therein lies the problem). The number of IE6 users are quite small, the numbers are significant according to my stats, so I’ve decided to act…

Continue reading “Astroengine Data Gathering”

The Universe Could Soon Be 6,000 Years Old… In Texas

Yesterday, some strange stuff went down in Texas. It may not be a surprising development, especially if you have been following Phil Plait’s articles at Bad Astronomy, but it is still… strange. I don’t usually discuss creationism on Astroengine.com as I’ve always considered much of the wrangling to be an evolution/intelligent design “debate” (debate? Really? Which century are we in again?). To be honest, I’m glad I work and write in a field that can sidestep a lot of creationist bunkum. But hold up there, it’s not that simple. It would appear that some individuals in the Texan educational board have taken it upon themselves to give schools “the option” to teach, in astronomy classes, an ‘alternative’ to Big Bang theory. OK, that’s cool, what alternative scientific theory can be put forward?

That’s the problem, there isn’t a scientific alternative. Big Bang theory is solid, and with the help of WMAP we know the Big Bang occurred 13.73 billion years ago (+/-120 million years). Unfortunately, one member of the Texas Educational Board wants the state’s science classes to teach creationism alongside cosmology, meaning students will have one of the most confusing and damaging cosmology lessons I can possibly imagine.

Guess what kids, the Universe is somewhere between 6,000 to 13,730,000,000 years old. Yes, it’s looking like creationism will be taught alongside cosmology
Continue reading “The Universe Could Soon Be 6,000 Years Old… In Texas”

Astroengine.com Now Featured in Alltop.com!

Astroengine.com is now listed in the Alltop web directory! This ranks in the upper echelons of “coolness” as Astroengine now features alongside space news behemoths such as the Universe Today, Bad Astronomy, Space.com, Discovery, New Scientist, Space.com, Space Examiner and loads more besides!

From the Alltop homepage: Alltop is an “online magazine rack” of popular topics. We update the stories every hour. Pick a topic by searching, news category, or name, and we’ll deliver it to you 24 x 7. All the topics, all the time.

Be sure to check out Alltop.com, I’ve used it a lot. I like the format as you can access all your favourite space and science news websites on one page and organize it as you see fit. I suppose it’s like an RSS feed reader, only easier. That seems to be the trend of social media these days, speed and ease of use… perhaps I need to start cutting back on some of my gadgets

It was Only a Matter of Time…

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With the looming retirement of the space shuttle, the ascension of space tourism and hopes of returning to the Moon by the year 2020, this is an exciting and uncertain time when it comes to space travel and exploration. But with uncertainty and excitement also come opportunities that could change the way we look at space for decades to come and give rise to brand new ways of doing business and spawn dozens of new companies. Flying excited passengers to the edge of space could be just the beginning of a whole new industry that serves scientists, explorers and even the worlds’ military powers.

Dr. Ian O’Neill, a veteran contributor to Universe Today and avid space blogger and Greg Fish, a popular science and business writer who’s work regularly appears on BusinessWeek.com, have joined forces to identify target markets for space minded entrepreneurs as well as lay out what issues need to be resolved along the way in Astroeconomics: Making Money From The Vacuum Of Space. Combining science with marketing and the basics entrepreneurship, O’Neill and Fish take a new look at the economics of space exploration to find business opportunities for space minded companies and put many long popular ideas about the future of space travel under the microscope to separate fact from fiction.

Ultimately, the writers argue, we’ll need to rethink our priorities in space and rather than focus on politics, flag planting and living in fear of taking on new and exciting projects, we should be trying our best to transition space travel to a market-driven system which serves government agencies with assets in space, scientific institutions and private enterprise. Commercialization of space is slowly but surely beginning to happen and Astroeconomics will help space minded entrepreneurs to complete this shift and make the most of it.

See World Of Weird Things »

Astroengine Featured on the Geologic Podcast #106!

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From now on, I will listen to Prince’s “Sexy Mother F*cker” with great affection…

I mentioned I had listened to the Geologic Podcast the other day to hear George Hrab’s rendition of the awesome Occasional Songs For The Periodic Table.

It was strange, as I remembered chatting to George about that when I was ordering my nth beer at the AAS party in January, but I thought nothing more of it until I was idly chatting about something on Twitter. Like so many micro-blogging conversational experiences, I have no idea what we were talking about or how we got onto the topic of the Periodic Table and I remembered my drunken chat with George. At that moment, like a flash of enlightenment, @MsInformation pointed me in the right direction so I could listen to that particular song. It was in fact a series of songs compiled into one epic feature. This is one of the many reasons why I love Twitter, I can think without needing to think.

To my complete surprise, earlier today @MsInformation (I really should ask for Ms Information’s name…) dropped me a message to say I was featured on today’s yesterday’s (Thursday’s) Geologic Podcast. Happily surprised about this turn of events, I navigated to the podcast site, intrigued by the warning, “I hope you won’t be offended.”

I certainly was not offended, more extremely flattered and very, very entertained! You could say I’m a huge fan of the Geologic Podcast, and not just because I was featured, but because it is bloody fantastic! In episode 106, there’s everything from cows urine, “Religious Moron of the Week” to some great views from the maestro himself George Hrab, featuring Ms Information. I love George’s strong opinions and unwavering wit, so be sure to check it out.

Warning: Some of the content of the Geologic Podcast is not suitable for minors, might not be suitable for work (depending on whether you work in a hospital or a brothel – the latter will probably be fine), but it will certainly give you tough love in the sceptical thought department!

Listen into Episode 106 (March 5th, 2009) of the Geologic Podcast »

Thank you George and Ms Information!

When in the Solar Cycle were You Born?

My birthday, right smack bang in the middle of solar maximum (Space Weather)
My birthday, right smack bang in the middle of solar maximum (Space Weather)

I just came across this rather nifty little tool via fellow Twitterer TaviGreiner, and I really like it. It’s yet another wish-I’d-thought-of-that moments. You input your date of birth, and a sunspot number chart appears, displaying the solar activity on your birthday…
Continue reading “When in the Solar Cycle were You Born?”