Author Archive

Settling in San Angelo – Don’t Get Sick!

by on Aug.24, 2012, under Personal

Just a quick post to say its our 22 day in San Angelo. My family, most notably by brother and his son were instrumental in getting our stuff moved in. We are still unpacking but the major stuff is done,

For 22 days I have been trying to find a primary care doctor. I am on Medicare so it should not be hard. West Texas Medical and Angelo Community Hospital simply refused to accept me although their emergency room is very efficient. So to hell with West Texas Medical. I was in the medical field for 20 years and this behavior is wrong in every way.

Even Shannon Hospital and Clinics are still trying to find a doctor for my wife and I. But I did get an appointment by a free clinic, or clinic that serves the poor. I think it’s called Esperanza. Right on guys! Learn from them you for profit bastards.

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One thing I will really miss about California – Oak Tree Mazda

by on Jun.22, 2012, under Personal

My wife and I will be moving to Texas in a few months, and to be honest I cannot wait. This state is going downhill fast, and I always wondered how a state can get away with both state income tax and sales tax! Texas has sales tax so I wont ever have to pat state income tax.

Yes I will miss the moderate temperature, the culture and of course the ocean. But there is one thing I will really miss and this will sound strange. I will miss my car dealer? I have bought cars in many different states and all the dealer wants to do is get you in the car, have you sign the contract and leave. And if you need repair, the service at the dealer is like a game of roulette.

I had a Mazda Millenia that was paid for, but I unfortunately I totaled it. Now I am a huge Mazda fan. I call them the best car no one knows about – but the Mazda3 seems to be changing that! My wife and I went to Oak Tree Mazda on Stevens Creek Blvd in San Jose to get a new car. She walked right up to a Liquid Silver 2010 Mazda3 (this was in January 2010). I can tell she wanted it. The process of getting the car was fast and painless with no pressure for add-on or model changes.

I brought in the car to their service shop for all the routine maintenance. I brought my car in when my right front tire was flat. After examining it, they warned me that the nail was too close to the sidewall so I will need a new tire, but they fixed the hole anyway at no charge. How cool is that. The most recent service was a few months ago and it was then I decided to write a blog about Oak Tree Mazda. If you are in the market for a new car, get a Mazda! And buy it at Oak Tree Mazda. And if you want an honest sales person, ask for Norman J. Arnold. Their phone number is (408) 553-6300. Judging by the integrity of Norman and the quality of their service department, Oak Tree Mazda hires top notch people.

Now lets look at just a small taste of the cars they sell:

Mazda Miata

My first Mazda was a Miata back in 196 so I am a bit partial to them. They have changed quite a bit. Gone are the pop up lights, but you now have a choice of soft or hard top.

Mazda Miata Hard Top

Mazda Miata Hard Top Front View

The interior has changed a bit over the years as well. More convenience features, better sounding stock radio and more places to store stuff.

Miata Interior

Mazda is also known for their very unique color pallet that changes year to year. Here is a close up of the Miata we have been looking at, the 2012 special edition.

Mazda Miata Hard Top Color Close Up

Miata’s are not the only ones they sell of course. There are many Mazda3 in 2-door, 4-door, and 5-door (or hatchback) like this model below:

Mazda3 5-door

My wife and I own the 2010 5 door Mazda3 and we love it. Fully loaded its comes with a Bose stereo with sub-woofer. The volume changes with the ambient noise. It has a navigation system, front lights that turn with you, front and side air bag. 17″ wheels and lots more. It drives now just as it did off the lot. No rattles are loose parts. Everything still works as it should.

More Choices

There are more choices like the Mazdaspeed3 (left), and RX-8 (middle) and a Mazda6 I think (right. There is also the new Mazda2 and Mazda5. The Mazda2 is the affordable starter car and the Mazda5 is geared towards family. There is also the CX line: the CX-7 and CX-9 which are their luxury crossover line of vehicles. Definitely a must too look at. Give Norman Arnold a call and he will be happy to show you any model you wish.


This is NOT a paid advertisement. I am just sharing my experience with Oak Tree Mazda and I hope you have the same experience I did.

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What we know (and don’t know) about exoplanet Kepler-22b

by on Feb.04, 2012, under Astronomy, Science

December 14, 2011 | Author:AAAS member — Freelance Writer Brian Dodson, Ph.D. (Retired)

This artist's conception illustrates Kepler-22b, a planet known to comfortably circle in the "habitable zone" of a sun-like star. (Photo: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

The discovery of Kepler-22b, an exoplanet orbiting Kepler-22 (otherwise known as UCAC3 276-148830, a sun-like G5 star about 600 light years from Earth) within the “habitable zone,” the region where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface, was confirmed on December 5, 2011.

Kepler-22b is about 2.4 times the radius of Earth. Its orbital period is 289.9 days, which sets the semimajor axis of its orbit at 0.85 Astronomical Units. Scientists don’t yet know if the newly discovered planet has a predominantly rocky, gaseous, or liquid composition, but its discovery is a step closer to finding Earth-like planets.

AAAS MemberCentral had the opportunity to ask AAAS member Alan Boss of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institute for Science about Kepler-22b and the status of the quest for exoplanets.  Here are his comments.

AAASMC: Can you briefly describe Kepler-22b and its home star?
Alan Boss:
The planet is a super-Earth, that is, a planet with a mass perhaps in the range of 10 to 15 times that of the Earth. We do not know of what it is composed, but given its size, about 2.4 the diameter of the Earth, we expect it to be made up of rock, iron, ice, and water. Most likely it has an ocean covering most of its surface.  If the planet has an atmosphere, as we expect it does, the average temperature on the surface should be about 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

The host star is a star remarkably similar to our sun — if we were living on the planet and looked up at the star, it would look very much like our own sun. It has just about the same mass and size, though it is a little bit fainter.

AAASMC: What observational methods and techniques have so greatly changed the exoplanetary landscape?  Is this new momentum likely to continue?
51 Peg b, discovered in 1995, is considered the first bona fide planet found around a sun-like star.  Since then, most of the confirmed planet candidates have been found by Doppler spectroscopy, which measures the wobble of the star around the center of mass of the star-planet system. Ground-based transit surveys have found the next largest number of exoplanets. Kepler has now found over 2000 exoplanet candidates, by doing a transit survey from space, so that the Earth’s atmosphere does not interfere with the observations. Kepler will continue to discover large numbers of new exoplanets, especially if NASA grants a mission extension for Kepler.

AAASMC: Kepler-22b was discovered by observing its transit between its star and us.  This makes the atmosphere (if any) surrounding the planet available for observational analysis.  Is there currently any sign that Kepler-22b has an atmosphere, and if so, what is known about it?
Exoplanetary atmospheres are studied by how the light of the host star is absorbed by passing through the planet’s atmosphere.  An atmosphere on Kepler-22b has not been detected to my knowledge, and it is unlikely to be detected with any current instrumentation.

AAASMC: What upcoming technique and/or missions may tell us more about the nature of Kepler-22b? And what sort of characteristics might we be able to discover, if present?
Kepler-22 may be too far away for even the yet to be launched James Webb Space Telescope to say anything about the atmosphere of its planet. We need to find planets that are much closer to Earth for us to do a proper follow-up.

AAASMC: The Drake equation attempts to quantify the number of SETI-discoverable civilizations in the galaxy. Two of the multiplicative factors in Drake’s equation characterize solar systems in ways to which the current spate of exoplanetary discovery is relevant —  fp is the fraction of stars that have planets, and ηe is the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets. What effect has the recent spate of exoplanetary discoveries had on the Drake equation?
Boss: It means that ηe is going to turn out to be fairly close to one, though we won’t know for sure what it really is until Kepler finishes an extended mission, perhaps four or five years from now.

Related links:

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Why the Higgs boson is important

by on Feb.04, 2012, under Astronomy, Science

January 6, 2012 | Author:AAAS member — Freelance Writer Brian Dodson, Ph.D. (Retired)

Real CMS proton-proton collision events in which 4 high energy electrons (green lines and red towers) are observed. The event shows characteristics expected from the decay of a Higgs boson but is also consistent with background Standard Model physics processes. (Image: CERN)

Two recent experiments (ATLAS – A Toroidal Lhc ApparatuS, and CMS – Compact Muon Solenoid) have independently found indications that the Higgs boson may exist (with a mass of about 125 GeV/c2, or roughly 133 times the mass of a hydrogen atom). Although these indications are at about the 2 sigma level of certainty (5 sigma levels are required to claim a discovery), the experimental results suggest that the existence and properties of the Higgs boson should be pinned down during 2012, if all goes well.

Why is finding the Higgs boson so important to the future of high energy physics? The Standard Model (SM) explains the existence of massive particles by the Higgs mechanism, in which a spontaneously broken symmetry associated with a scalar field (the Higgs field) results in the appearance of mass. The quantum of the Higgs field is the Higgs boson. It is the last particle predicted by the SM that has still to be discovered experimentally.

Lisa Randall is the Baird Professor of Theoretical Physics at Harvard University. She has received multiple awards and honorary degrees while pursuing the furthest boundaries of fundamental physics. Randall’s most recent book, Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World, contains a chapter on the Higgs mechanism and boson, and several more on the application and potential of the Large Hadron Collider.

AAAS MemberCentral had the opportunity to talk with Randall about the CERN results and the Higgs boson.

AAASMC: Why is determining the existence (or lack thereof) of the Higgs Boson such an important question that it has attracted the professional efforts of thousands of scientists?
Lisa Randall:
We understand the Standard Model of particle physics that tells us about matter’s most basic elements and interactions (as observed so far) extremely well. But, as I describe in Knocking on Heaven’s Door, the story of physics has to do with advancing in scales. We know the Standard Model works at the energies we’ve so far observed–it’s been extremely well tested–but we don’t know what underlies it. This is particularly acute for the Standard Model because it assumes elementary particles can have masses. But consistency of our theory tells us that those masses can only arise as a consequence of something called the Higgs mechanism.

If particles had masses from the get-go, the predictions for their interactions at high energy would be nonsense.

(Detecting) the Higgs boson would be, first of all, an experimental verification that the Higgs mechanism is correct. It would also tell us something about what underlying theory was responsible for distributing “charge” in the vacuum in the first place.

AAASMC: Assuming the Higgs Boson is confirmed to exist, will this put the Standard Model on a firmer foundation? Will the adjustable parameters of the SM decrease in number or in range?
Lisa Randall:
We will indeed understand the basis for the Standard Model better. We will still be left with questions about particular mass values, for example, but we will know the context in which to try to solve these problems.

AAASMC: If there is no Higgs Boson, is the Standard Model dead? If the Higgs Boson does exist, are we left only with the Standard Model as a viable theoretical framework?
Lisa Randall:
The Higgs boson with the particular properties that are currently assumed is a consequence of one particular implementation of the Higgs mechanism. Other implementations have other experimental evidence. And, until we rule those out, we can’t rule out the Higgs mechanism, even if the particular model that predicts a standard Higgs boson is ruled out.

AAASMC: Does the Higgs Boson itself have mass? That is, does it interact with the Higgs field in such a way that it is a massive particle?
Lisa Randall:
It does indeed have mass and it is indeed a consequence of its interactions with the Higgs field. Nice question.

AAASMC: Do we have any idea how Higgs Mechanism mediated mass might couple into (generate) general relativistic space-time curvature?
Lisa Randall:
The same way all other masses do. Once the Higgs mechanism is in place, particles act like they have mass.

AAASMC: What is the difference between the Higgs Field as an omnipresent background field and the classical notion of ‘an ether’?
Lisa Randall:
An ether is supposed to be some actual substance. It would pick out a particular reference frame for example (that in which it isn’t moving). The Higgs field isn’t an actual thing. It is more like a charge. It is a property of empty space–space that is empty of any material matter.

AAASMC: Why was the Higgs Boson nicknamed the ‘God’ particle?
Lisa Randall:
Leon Lederman named it that in his book. The Higgs mechanism is important, but so are a lot of other aspects of physics, science, and the world. We can leave religion out of it!

More information:

video Lisa Randall recently spoke at a recent AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion Program discussion on what science can explain.

video At the 2011 Annual Meeting, Lisa Randall presented on the latest thinking on String Theory, Higgs Boson


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Funding Needed

by on Dec.04, 2011, under Personal, Website Related

Astronomy Online has received funding primarily from personal income from my better half. Unfortunately she has become a victim of the so called corporate cutbacks. The good news is now my wife and I can spend much more time together.

Much needed money is needed to keep Astronomy Online online as well as expanding the site for additional content and services for teachers and students. The best way to donate is through PayPal. There is a link on the side bar as well as on the left side bottom of Astronomy Online. Also my PayPal ID is Ricky.murphy at astronomyonline dot org (the ‘at’ and ‘dot’ as well as the spaces in between are to protect the email address from spammers).

Astronomy Online also include this blog as well. I would appreciate any donation. The more the better. I would like to offer telescope access to students for free, which is the ultimate plan for the site.

It’s important to know that anything you donate is HOT tax deductible.

Thank you for your time and may everyone have the happiest of holidays!

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First Soyuz Launch from Arianespace’s Guiana Space Center

by on Oct.20, 2011, under Astronomy, Science

Arianespace’s first launch of the Soyuz rocket from the Guiana Space Center (CSG) in French Guiana will orbit the first two satellites in Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system. This mission, to be followed by the first launch of Europe’s Vega light launcher in 2012, signals the introduction of the most complete family of commercial launch services in history.

The Launch will occur October 20, 2012 at 6:34 AM EST. Launch will be live in the window below. Hopefully I am not too late!

We will be broadcasting on Twitter as well ( for the “Live tweet” of the Soyuz mission from 3:00 am EST. Please feel free to follow us to be a part of this histroric moment.

With the Soyuz launcher operating out of the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana, Arianespace will be the only launch services provider in the world capable of launching all types of payloads to all orbits,from the smallest to the largest geostationary satellites, along with clusters of satellites for constellations and missions to support the International Space Station.

The Soyuz at CSG program carries on the long-standing partnership between France and Russia, one that kicked off in 1996 with the creation of the joint venture Starsem to operate the Soyuz launcher at Baikonur. This strategic partnership gives Europe a medium launch vehicle, while allowing Russia to increase the number of Soyuz launches. A total of 23 successful Soyuz commercial launches have already been performed at the Baikonur cosmodrome, and three more are still scheduled in 2011-2012. All versions of the Soyuz launcher have carried out 1,776 missions to date, from both Russia and

The European Space Agency (ESA) first began studying the possibility of Soyuz launches from the Guiana Space Center in early 1998, and officially started this program in 2004. Construction work in French Guiana kicked off in 2005 and the first Russian components started arriving in 2008.

ESA named French space agency CNES prime contractor for this project, overseeing the development and qualification of the Soyuz launch complex (ELS) at the Guiana Space Center. Russian space agency Roscosmos was in charge of the Russian segment of the program, and also coordinated the work of all Russian companies involved.

Arianespace managed the supply of Russian systems and coordinated the work by Russian companies during the development phase. The «Soyuz at CSG» program is already a business success, with Arianespace having won 14 launch contracts even before the first launch.

On its first mission from CSG, Soyuz will place the Galileo IOV-1 PFM and FM2 (In Orbit Validation) satellites, named Tiis and Natalia, into circular orbit at an altitude of 23,000 kilometers. The satellites were built by a consortium led by Astrium GmbH.

Arianespace and its subsidiary Starsem earlier orbited the experimental satellites Giove-A and Giove-B, enabling Galileo to secure its allocated frequencies.

More information regarding this mission can be downloaded here in a PDF provided by Arianespace.

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Some New Solyndra News

by on Sep.14, 2011, under Personal

Some interesting news on the Solyndra bankruptcy. It seems the 500 plus million dollar loan was NOT approved under the Bush administration but approved under the Obama team. White house emails infer they wanted the loan to go through do they can be at the opening ceremony. In other words, Obama spent more money we don’t have just so he can look good by saying more jobs being available. Our government thinks we are stupid.

Next year is the time to vote for our president. Do we want to keep Obama who continues to spend money we don’t have? Remember the bank bailout? Us regular folks saw none of that. Loans for us? That is what it was for but banks used it to buy other banks and bonuses. Americans are still loosing their homes.

Please research the candidates and complain to your congressmen. America is We the People!!!

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