The Observant Astronomer

The passing scene as observed by an observant Jew, who daylights as an astronomer.

Friday, August 26, 2005

A post for Erev Shabbos

For those who have always wondered about the Zoharic passage Kegavnah before Borchu on Shabbos evening, check out the link above.

For those interested in the continuity between East-European and North American traditions, read the link above.

For those who have wanted an answer about something for a long time, the link above has someone in the same boat.

Homeopathy no better than sugar pill: Metastudy

Could that be because it is a sugar pill?

But be sure to check out the special pleading by the naturopath further down.

I'm reminded of the one time I actually consulted a naturopath at the urging of my brother-in-law. I was there with my wife and young baby. After going down his list of recommendations for diet, lots of lettuce I seem to remember, and so forth, this naturopath looked over at our baby and pronounced that babies shouldn't travel faster than some particular velocity. "Relative to what?", I wondered.

Friday, August 12, 2005

There's no predicting the weather

The link is to the archive for Tropical Storme Irene currently making its way through the North Atlantic. It is amusing to follow through the Discussions. This is a case where the various weather models are providing very poor guidance to the forcasters, and they are having to rely on their experience rather than the computer modelling. Take for example Discussion 4, or Discussion 19. This is probably going to turn into a hurricane, but no one here knows where it is going. It is too bad that they don't give a graphic comparing the predictions to the actual path though. That would be very interesting.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

DST revised

The link will take you to the appropriate section of the text of Energy bill signed on Tuesday by President Bush. The revised rules for DST in the US are now:

2nd Sunday of March through the 1st Sunday of November effective 1 March 2007.

So this will not affect anything this year or next. Section 110(c) calls for a study to see if it actually saves any energy. If it doesn't Congress can put things back the way they were. The language is a compromise between the House version, which was 1st March through last November, effective immediately, and the Senate version, which was to leave everything alone.

So, rest easy for now. You've got a couple of years to worry about getting to work when an early minyan is impossible.

Wise Telescope to be launched into orbit.

So which one is the real Wise Observatory, this or this?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Soft Fruit

As I was eating my 4040 at lunch, having finally gotten the last of the glue off, I got to wondering just who was behind the conspiracy to put sticky labels on every last plum, peach, and pear, as well as all the other fruits and vegetables. Well it turns out that the power behind this is a group called the Produce Electronic Identification Board, under the auspices of the Produce Marketing Association. These numbers are called Price Look-Up codes (PLUs) and you can see for yourself what a 4153 is here. The idea, apparently, is that there are just too many different kinds of produce in the stores these days and the poor check-out clerks cannot be expected to tell the difference between a gala apple and a braeburn.

Now the Food Marketing Institute needs to get their act together because, despite their claim, 3009 is supposed to be a Russet apple, not a cut of lamb.

According to these people in Missouri, an additional digit on the front may or may not be a cause for worry.

And, if you're really annoyed by the stickers, just wait until the tattoos start showing up.

Still life with tattooed fruit, anyone?