Astroengine.com Nominated for Best Space Blog!

Wow. That was unexpected! Astroengine has been nominated under the category of “Best Space Blog” on the award site Blognet!

Awesome. Well, I’m not sure what to say about that apart from “thank you” to the wonderfully cool person who anonymously left an awesome review of my site, and then a really nice follow-up review from one of Blognet’s admin staff. Thank you!

I’m not entirely sure how the award-choosing will unfold, but more blogs will be nominated in time (for now, it’s just Astroengine, enjoying the limelight, by itself), but keep an eye open and vote when/if you can. I wont be exchanging votes for money, but I’ll try to boost the content of Astroengine so it is a contender for the prize πŸ™‚

Thank you to the anonymous lady who nominated me! You’re a star (and not just any normal star, my favourite, the Wolf-Rayet star!).

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Follow Astroengine on Twitter!

Astroengine on Twitter...
Astroengine on Twitter...

As if I’m not spending enough time in front of my computer already, it appears there’s another social web application I’ve been neglecting! I actually signed up to Twitter in August, but forgot about my Twitter account’s existence until now. After an explore, I realised it’s actually a very powerful tool, providing up-to-the second updates (in under 140 characters) about, well, anything.

First things first, I’m going to use it for personal stuff (although, “I’m doing my teeth,” or “I’m hungry” probably won’t feature) plus Astroengine article updates. I’ve now seen, that if I get enough followers, it might also be a good way to notify everyone about forthcoming Astroengine Live shows (next one is on Wednesday at 4pm PST – don’t forget! I’ll post another reminder later if you fancy tuning into my banter on the airwaves…). There will also be various updates for articles I post on the Universe Today.

So, if you are currently Twittering, follow me on the Astroengine Twitter feed, otherwise, sign up for a free account and start making sweet Twitterings…

See you there!

Cheers, Ian

Astroengine LIVE Touches Down on WPRT Radio!

Astroengine.com is about to branch out into the world of radio…

Starting on Wednesday 19th November at 7pm EST (4pm PST, or midnight GMT), I’ll be hosting my own weekly talk show called Astroengine Live! The show will air for two hours where I will discuss all the best space news, including views, opinions, phone-ins and special guests. If you want to find out everything from the next NASA mission, the status of the International Space Station, progress with the Large Hadron Collider to breaking news from small research institutions around the globe, then Astroengine Live is for you.

Ultimately I want Astroengine Live to work in harmony with Astroengine.com, expanding the reach of the radio world into the vast resources available online. Because of this, all schedules, episode content and additional on-air information will be available through AstroengineLive.com, directing you to the category “Astroengine Live” on this website.

I will announce show specifics closer to Wednesday’s debut, but in the meantime, you can check out the new home of Astroengine Live at WPRT Radio, also the home of Paranormal Radio with Captain Jack!

Cheers, Ian

PS. I’m also getting my own theme tune… now that is the icing on the cake!

Astroengine.com Selected for “Top 10 Space Blogs”

Astroengine in the Top 10!
W00t!

A huge thank you goes to Dave Mosher at the excellent blog Space Disco for adding Astroengine.com to the Blogs.com “Top 10 Space Blogs”! Not only did my site make it into the top 10, by sheer alphabetical luck, Astroengine is also right at the top. Awesome! I’ll wear my badge with pride.

Dave, I owe you a pint some time!

Cheers, Ian

The Universe Today is Unbanned from Digg.com!

Does Digg love the Universe Today again?
Does Digg love the Universe Today again?

Great news! It would appear that after only day one of the campaign to have the Universe Today un-banned from Digg.com, somebody in the admin staff was obviously paying attention (unless they are an avid reader of the Universe Today website too), and realised their mistake. Digg.com is now allowing articles from the Universe Today to be re-listed and dugg!.

I’d like to think that this was all down to blogging power — after all, this little space blogger was blamed for the whole NASA-Phoenix-Perchlorate saga! — but I’m just really happy that the guys at Digg have redeemed themselves a little.

This whole episode does however highlight an ongoing problem with banned sites, I hope it will help to refine Digg’s policy in the future.

Have a look at the first article to be Dugg after a long absence: “More Ares I Development Problems: Is it Really That Bad?” (one of mine!)

Digg Effect Destroys Astroengine (But Healing Now)

Wow, what a stressful day! On writing One-Way Mission to Mars: Top 5 Items to Pack last night, I had no idea about the consequences. This morning the article exploded onto the front page of Digg.com, sending a flood of traffic into Astroengine.com. Although my bandwidth is more than capable of dealing with the situation, the server was quite literally paralysed, causing the technicians at GoDaddy.com to pull the plug (can’t blame them, apparently all the other sites on the shared server were knocked out).

I’ll post a more detailed post soon, but should anyone want to know the best course of action when dealing with an uncontrollable flood of traffic, here’s what I had to do:

The first measure was to stem the flow of traffic from the referrer causing the server outage. Once the relentless barrage of Digg users were blocked, the GoDaddy admin staff were reassured the problem wouldn’t reoccur if they put Astroengine.com back online. The second measure is a longer-term solution until I migrate the site to a better server. WP Super Cache creates html versions of Astroengine’s php pages, thus bypassing the execution of php scripts every time someone visits the site (vastly reducing the load on the server).

Thanks to Fraser (my publisher at Universe Today) for helping me out and giving these tips when dealing with a Digg explosion.

So, now I am going shopping. It’s fantastic to have these bursts of visitors, but the time is coming when I’ll need to upgrade. I’m either going to go the route of buying virtual-dedicated or a dedicated server. Any suggestions for which hosting providers have the best service/price? I’m most likely going to stay with GoDaddy, but I’m open to suggestions.

Apologies for dropping offline today, hopefully this will be the last interruption to service!

Cheers, Ian

Universal Death and Impossible Physics… In the Same Box!

The box from Amazon.com cannot contain the awesomeness inside...
The box from Amazon.com cannot contain the awesomeness inside...

Today marks a significant day in the history of my bookshelf.

Having moved to the US from the UK, leaving the bulk of my proto-library collection back in my Bristol hometown, I only transported my most prized science and university textbooks. Alas, I had to leave my treasured collection of Patrick Moore books, my guide to the Universe and several hefty quantum physics texts in storage, bringing the bare minimum across the pond.

Books are important to me, and I have big dreams about having a room filled with them; one of those in-house libraries filled with knowledge and history. But five books hardly constitute a library… heck, they barely fill a rucksack. So action needed to be taken… I needed to turn this proto-bookshelf into a source of reference!

I have a bookshelf. Check.
I have an office. Check.
I have an Amazon.com account. Check.
I have a credit card (it’s strained, but you can’t put a price on knowledge, right?). Check!

So I went shopping and brought Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Impossible (of which I have been promising myself most of the year) and succumbed to Phil Plait’s Death from the Skies! (with a book title like that, you have to obey the calling). Can’t wait to put a crease down the spines of both books, but I am keen to read Dr Plait’s account of how dangerous the Universe can be. Having done battle with the 2012 doomsayers, I need to read a book with a good, scientific rundown of how the world might end – and not fighting against the pseudo-scientific claims about Planet X and those pesky Anunnaki. The world is going to end some time, so look at the facts behind the claims and find out yourself.

The praise from Mythbuster Adam Savage for Death from the Skies pretty much sums it all up, I can’t wait to review the book myself:

Phil Plait has done it again. He brings his unique and funny voice of reason and sanity to bear on making sense of a deadly universe. If things worked the way I wanted them to, any reporter about to do another “sensational” story on deadly meteors would consult this volume and BANG! Common sense would find it’s way into the news. How strange would THAT world be? On his blog and in his books, Plait is an important source of sanity and critical thinking, with just the right sense of wonder, reminding us that the universe is an amazing enough place without having to make crap up about it.” – Adam Savage, from Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters.

For more on his big box of death, check out Phil’s Bad Astronomy blog

Listen to the October 3rd Paranormal Radio Show

Back on Friday October 3rd, I was invited back onto Paranormal Radio in my new capacity as “Science Content Editor“! (Or an even cooler title “In-house Myth Buster” if Jack has his way!) This is a really great position as I get to add all things spacey to the Paranormal Radio website, and then I get to chat about it later live on the radio with the excellent Captain Jack. A pretty nice position to be in if you ask me… However, on that Friday two weeks ago, I had very little to talk about. After all, I’d just gotten married and I had just said goodbye to my family who headed back to the UK. I’d missed most of the excitement surrounding the Chinese spacewalk, I very nearly missed the historic SpaceX launch… but fortunately Jack had some questions for me about “Dark Flow” and he introduced me to the whole China spacewalk conspiracy and we were away!

If you fancy listening into the cool three-hour show, it is now available by mp3 or you can have a play with the Black Vault Radio Flash player to listen in to my show (which now has a monthly slot) and all the other nightly shows with Captain Jack.

We have some interesting future shows in store for you! Watch this space for announcements on when we air each month…

Writing for Los Angeles Family Magazine – New Science Column!

The October 2008 edition of LA Family Magazine, where my new space column features!
The October 2008 edition of LA Family Magazine, where my new space column features!

So what does Astroengine.com and Denise Richards have in common? Well, usually not a lot, but today my writing appears in the October 2008 edition of LA Family Magazine with Denise Richards featuring in the leading article. Admittedly, there’s 36 pages separating Denise from me, so the link is a little tenuous, but great nonetheless!

I was asked to become a regular columnist in this leading parenting magazine in an effort to communicate space science topics to parents and their kids. And what better way to begin than by writing about flying to the Moon!

After writing a very popular article about “How Long Does it Take to get to the Moon?” for the Universe Today, I thought this was a good place to start. The next article will tackle a bigger project, a trip to Mars…

Have a look at this month’s edition of Los Angeles Family Magazine and have a read of “Hey, Kids! Want to Go to the Moon?” (page 54)