Friday, June 19, 2015

4th Annual Natural Disaster Tour

You remember last year's update .  It was more rain this year, with massive flooding in Texas and Oklahoma, and some elsewhere.  We passed through Oklahoma a few days after the rain let up
The first pass of rain, that is, before Tropical Storm Bill arrived with 10 more inches.  We were in Arkansas by then, though.  We had to change our site at Robinson Point, because the first one we chose was underwater.
More pictures.

Very Large Array

The VLA is a radiotelescope,

or 28 of them, in the high desert of New Mexico.  It collects radio-frequency radiation from the most distant stars and galaxies in the universe (as far as we know), and the data tells about the origins and deaths of stars, galaxies, and black holes that happened billions of years ago.

Some of the things they have discovered:

The array is set up in three arms radiating from a center, like a peace sign.  Each arm is 13 miles long,

which allows the telescope to focus on wavelengths of up to 22 miles.  A special purpose supercomputer - 16 petaflops, the 5th fastest in the world, and the fastest when it was built - gathers the data from the telescopes and synthesizes it into a composite view.

The individual telescopes can be moved along train tracks to form different configurations, in order to gather radio waves of different wavelengths.  There are 4 standard configurations, and they are changed 4 times a year so that scientists can gather different sets of data.  Scientists submit plans to a committee, and those judged the most worthy are granted time on the array.  The scientists don't pay, and they are from all over the world.  The VLA is funded by the US government.

We saw some antelope on the way

The scientists get exclusive use of the data they collect for a year, then it becomes public.  VLA has 2 terabytes of data on its web site now that anyone can use.  They're planning an upgrade of the telescopes and computer that will collect 2 terabytes of data every 100 minutes.  Time to buy stock in computer disk storage companies.

More pictures.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Billy Simms BBQ

For those of you born after 1980, Billy Simms played football for Oklahoma in college, and the Detroit Lions in the NFL.  He won the Heisman trophy in 1978 and played in 3 Pro Bowls before a knee injury ended his short NFL career.  He played in three Orange Bowls, beating arch-rival Nebraska in one, to the great disappointment of my neighbor in Wyckoff, NJ, who was a HUGE Nebraska football fan.

Today he and his partner have a restaurant chain of 44 stores, most in Oklahoma.  We ate at the one in Elk City.

I had the ribs, and they were excellent.  Nothing fancy, but really tasty.

The restaurant is decorated in football posters, 

and his bus was parked outside.

If you ever see a Billy Simms BBQ, go there.  I recommend it.

More pictures.