Well, I am plumb tuckered out after a day of festivities and adventure, so my comments here will be brief. But I did happen to make a little A* doodle over the weekend while testing out a new chair (more on this at a later date, perhaps; comfortable seating is so important!), and here it is:
That is stowed away along with other odd and miscellaneous artwork I've done lately in the episode 13 gallery; the galleries can be accessed from the "episodes" page, which is linked from the site's top menu.
With this one I drawing wirelessly with my Intuos4 tablet--because it's easier to hop back and forth between two chairs when you don't have to worry about having a cord attached--and so I was getting some lag while drawing, and had to settle for kind of big movements and dealing with somewhat imprecise control; and I noticed that the pointer got laggier when I ventured to the top or bottom regions of the screen. Huh. Well, my Bluetooth configuration could just be screwy, I dunno.
Now that I have settled on a third chair, though, I can plug back in and no longer have to worry about trying to navigate the pitfalls of these invisible beam technologies of the modern age. Back in my day, we got our Internet and stuff through big cables! Or even crummy phone lines with lots of static on them. Not whizzing silently through the air with "hotspots" and flashing bars and having to secure your connection from the neighbors! And we liked it! Or at least, it was better than nothing!
Tue Jul 05, 2011 6:07 am
Joined: Thu Nov 18, 2010 11:51 am Posts: 82
@ BC: I don't know... I'm just saying I get the feeling sometimes when Selenis is in one of her moods... or she's angry enough she relishes 'cleaning her claws' and likes it loud, messy and bloody!
Its kinda like a cathartic release when she gets to paint the walls with some asshole's innards who she has put up with long enough!
...but right now would be ..."indulgent" for her to enjoy herself gutting this pig - in this case and counter productive. Despite how annoying this guy is... she needs him quiet just a little longer and no one finding his corpse just yet!
Tue Jul 05, 2011 7:14 am
Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:18 pm Posts: 2859
That is true. And a big guy like him would be particularly hard to hide.
Selenis there is demonstrating a two-handed (recommended for use against the Burr-ly man) wristlock of the type known as "kote gaeshi" (or just "kotegaeshi") in Japanese; according to Wikipedia, it is a supinating wristlock, which is a big word. Here is an aikido fellow from Wikipedia demonstrating one way they do it in that martial art:
(There's also a decent demonstration in Japanese, if that's your preference.)
Wristlocks are awfully tricky to draw, what with the strange twists and all those fingers. After I'd gotten through it I realized my wrist hurt a little, and I thought oh no, the arms on my new chair must be the wrong height and I'm getting carpal tunnel with the drawing tablet! But then I remembered that I'd also been demonstrating the wristlock on myself for a good half hour or so, in between drawing it upside-down--and it's been well over a decade since I did the proper wrist-strengthening exercises on a regular basis. Well, nobody said art was gonna be easy, I guess.
Kote gaeshi--and indeed most of the wrist techniques in Aikido--produces quite a reaction when applied to someone who hasn't experienced one before--a reaction that seems to be expressing the certainty that the world is about to end, and specifically in the locality of the victim's wrist. I always thought this extremely surprised reaction was interesting, because, well, how does anyone *think* it's going to feel to have their wrist twisted halfway around? But people seem quite surprised that it's uncomfortable, and then they usually go and make it worse by flopping around desperately. Not the thing to do when you've been put in a wristlock! Burr, at least, has not done that part. ... That would've been harder to draw, anyway. :P
Hm that guy laying on the wristlock in that photo up above looks kinda Burr-like. And Buddha-like. Maybe I should've given Burr a beard.
If you look closely on the left side of the screen Mother is showing Selenis on page 7 of this episode, you'll see what I meant to be a sort of 3D schematic of the Hertzsprung star system in which this Andiran Robotics space station is located; vertical bars off of the horizontal plane are used to represent distance above or below the ecliptic (or perhaps rather the system's invariable plane, which is something I just learned about in making sure I was using "ecliptic" properly--I wasn't *quite*).
Ooh! Here's a nifty photo taken by NASA's 1994 lunar probe Clementine (a craft I have mentioned before), showing--from right to left--the Moon, the Sun, Saturn, Mars, and Mercury roughly in a row near the Earth's ecliptic plane and our system's invariable plane:
Anyway, I got the idea for those vertical bars in the system schematic from an old space sim I played on my family's Commodore 64 computer as a tad: Elite, which was at the time (1984) an amazing 3D (!) simulator of interstellar trade, where you flew a space ship between star systems, buying and selling for profit--and in between you had to fight off pirates, maybe the police if you were naughty, and the rare alien invasion. In a way this single 5 and a quarter-inch floppy affair was a very bare-bones game, but the real draw was just how open-ended it was: you could go pretty much anywhere in the galaxy as long as you had the patience, and you could do whatever you wanted as long as you could survive the consequences.
Elite was made by David Braben and Ian Bell, and part of the reason why I bring all this up is that I recently stumbled across a BBC video of a recent Braben project: Raspberry Pi, an entire tiny computer--about the size of a USB thumbdrive--that Braben says will cost about $25 per unit, enough to be given to every kid in school. Here is the video of him showing it off and talking about it (WARNING: video on the following page auto-plays with sound): viola.
I was interested not only in seeing what he looks and sounds like, but also how enthusiastic an advocate he is of teaching kids the basics of computer programming, which he points out really isn't done at all anymore (what, they don't make kids learn Logo (I think that's what it was...at the time we just called it "Turtle") in school anymore? lucky punks :P); non-UK viewers such as myself may like to know that the "ICT" he mentions as being taught instead of programming is Information and Communication Technology, a subject in the UK's national curriculum that teaches the use of office suites and desktop publishing software, apparently; Braben blames ICT for ousting computer programming as a subject and causing what he says was a 50% decline in computer science majors in the early 2000's.
As you can see from his Raspberry Pi prototype, Braben loves to make impressive computing in tiny packages. "Elite" was written in machine code, which was important because it gave them more options on their development machine, which had just 14 KB of memory. Ah, and according to the Wikipedia article, the 3D radar display I stole for that A* page was the last thing they added, to take up the last few unused bytes. And I hadn't known this before, but machine code is writing in the computer's actual 1's and 0's (or whatever), as opposed to an assembly language, which "uses mnemonic codes to refer to machine code instructions"--I had always thought assembly was the 1's and 0's, but now I know better!
Speaking of assembly, though, that's what Braben used for writing the first Elite sequel, 1993's (yes it was a long wait) Frontier: Elite II. I played Frontier on the Amiga, which happened to be its native format (good choice, David! :), and if I had thought the original Elite was impressive in fitting I don't know how many star systems--although their space stations pretty much all looked alike, and played a charming version of Strauss' The Blue Danube for you as you spun into port thanks to your nifty docking computer--onto a single 5.25" floppy, Frontier blew that away by fitting what I am still convinced is an entire procedurally generated galaxy--which you could pan across and rotate in 3D, if you felt like it and had the patience to keep scrolling and scrolling and scrolling...--onto its single 3.5" disk; not only that, but systems had different planets, and you could even land on them (I recall this being hard)! And sit there at the spaceport watching the other planets and sun(s) revolve overhead. Pretty amazing.
The Wikipedia article says the simulation of physics was so thorough that you could even execute gravitational slingshot maneuvers around planets and stars! Well, I never intentionally tried that, I don't think; mostly I remember slingshotting back and forth in really awkward space battles, because somehow while flying toward a planet you'd get "intercepted" by some dang pirate moving at a completely different speed, and even though he wasn't matching your speed at all, you still had to get rid of him before you could speed time back up to get to the planet before mom called you up for dinner, so the two of you would just end up making long passes back and forth, like really clumsy jousters, until finally you got a few hits in in a row on a pass and took him out. Bleh! Having utterly realistic physics in a space sim *sounds* cool, but it also shows that dogfighting in space isn't really feasible, which is why WWII flight sims will always be the best. :P (The original Elite had an easy, very non-realistic flight model.)
Today (technically; this is still Thursday's page, though :P) the Space Shuttle Atlantis will launch on what will be the final Shuttle mission. To quote from the article: "The space shuttle program was born in 1972, when President Richard Nixon announced its existence to the nation. The orbiters started flying in 1981 and will have made a total of 135 flights when Atlantis' wheels finally roll to a stop later this month." It's going to be kind of weird not having the Shuttles doing their thing anymore.
But mostly today I want to talk about NASA's Dawn spacecraft! It launched in September, 2007, and will finally be arriving at its first destination, the giant asteroid Vesta, on the 16th of this month! It was a slow trip (and that was *with* a gravitational boost from Mars in 2009), but that's because Dawn is powered by ion drives, which are really efficient, but not very powerful; however, their efficiency will really pay off--eventually--for Dawn, since it will be the first spacecraft to be able to orbit two bodies: after orbiting Vesta for a year (according to this NASA article from May), it will proceed on to the largest body in the asteroid belt, the dwarf planet Ceres, reaching it in February 2015.
Dawn may actually make a dwarf planet out of Vesta, since its investigation of the asteroid will show once and for all if Vesta has acquired a sufficiently rounded shape from the weight of its own gravity, which is required for dwarf planet status. Vesta is about 530 km in diameter, the second-largest body in the asteroid belt, containing an estimated 9% of the belt's mass; Ceres, at 950 km in diameter, contains about 32% of the belt's mass. Here's a handy chart--stolen from Wikipedia, like nearly everything else here--showing their sizes relative to the Moon:
^ "Sizes of the first ten Asteroids to be discovered compared to the Earth's Moon, all to scale. The dwarf planet Ceres is on the far left. The remaining objects, left to right are: 2 Pallas, 3 Juno, 4 Vesta, 5 Astraea, 6 Hebe, 7 Iris, 8 Flora, 9 Metis and 10 Hygiea."
Vesta is known to lack roundness at its south pole: that was knocked off relatively recently--less than a billion years ago--by a big impact that left behind a crater 460 km in diameter, with walls 25 km high. Fragments from that impact have come to Earth as meteorites, so we actually have a pretty good idea of Vesta's chemical composition, thanks to studies of those bits that have landed here.
Still, little is known about what Vesta and Ceres--these giants of the asteroid belt--actually look like! The best photos Earth-based telescopes--and even orbiting ones like Hubble--have managed are blurry things, like this one of Ceres from the Keck Observatory:
By the way, it's a little dated now, but if you want a bit more from me (why? :P) on Dawn, Vesta, and Ceres, there's this article I wrote up about them over a year ago, with some other nifty photos and diagrams.
And we should have much better photos of the possibly-soon-to-be-dwarf-planet in a matter of days, whee!
The weekend has arrived! Do consider stopping by my weekly fairy tale comic, "The Princess and the Giant," on Sunday for its regular update. And here's a handy link banner to take you to last week's, if you missed it:
A little while back an idea for a short interlude or flashback episode popped into my head; I thought initially of doing it after episode 14, but I think the end of episode 13 will actually be a better spot for it. So maybe that's what I'll do! It would be about a dozen pages, and would show us an important point in the life of Selenis...0. And actually after I thought of that, a whole bunch of nifty ideas about how to tie some other back story stuff into eventual story stuff popped into my head, so that was an opportune thing to think about at the time.
Anyway I'm getting ahead (or behind?) of myself, since we've still got...hm...just under 100 pages left in this episode. Will Gliese be spared? Will Selenis ever get out of his boring old office? Will she ever get back to going after her supposed target, Kol Andiran? The answers to these and other burning questions of space and time...next week!
I have to thank blog author Jason of Carpe Chaos for including A* on his reading list some months back. He also had some interesting things to say about the comic, and the experience of reading it. Much appreciated!
I've been struggling to find a new work chair for the past week or so since finding my old one of however-many-years was slowly murdering my leg muscles (although this may be related to having a swivel chair on a rather uneven floor :P), and I was coming to the conclusion that the proper type of chair for tablet-using computer artists simply did not exist.
See back in the day (1893 Norway, for instance), there were drawing tables (or drafting tables or whatever you call 'em):
(By the way, the Wikipedia drawing board page mentions that the "back to the drawing board" expression was actually coined in a comic! A 1941 entry in The New Yorker by Peter Arno, and you can see the comic right here.)
And illustrators still seem to use drawing tables--I have seen artists leaning on them in photos! Not that I seem to have any of said photos handy...--although nowadays they're much more horizontally inclined; but I guess the idea is you have maybe a sort of high stool, and then you lean your elbows on lower part of the tilted table surface, and draw on it. This seems wrong for all sorts of ergonomic reasons, but it definitely does one thing right that I have rediscovered on the past day or two is of prime importance in a drawing workspace: keeping your wrist straight while drawing!
Now in this newfangled electronic age, people have had the idea of perching computer monitors at the high ends of those tables, and maybe sticking a retractable shallow drawer at the low end for a keyboard to sit in, as in this model, but I wonder how well that works. After all, the point of a drawing table is to look at the table as you draw on it, but when you're using, say, a tablet for computer drawing, you're not looking at the tablet, but at the screen, and trying to look up while drawing with the tablet propped on a regular drawing table seems like it'd be asking for major neck cramps, at the very least.
A year or so ago I asked a bunch of other webcomic artists what they use to support their drawing surface, and particularly for tablet users, the answers sounded ergonomically terrifying--I think all current webcomic artists will be arthritic wrecks within the space of five years, if the answers I got were at all representative. An entire industry doomed due to lack of proper furniture not having been invented for it!
But then I got to thinking of my old school days, and how we had those desks that would swing in along the side, so you could prop your elbow on them, and then go out to form a nice desk surface in front, all in a single table piece--those were good for drawing, AND they were meant for writing (or drawing, if the teacher wasn't looking) while predominately looking forward, which would work for working on a computer screen. And behold and lo, they still make desks like those, and even in left-handed varieties.
Now you will laugh, but I am seriously considering getting one of those. I guess it will depend on whether or not I can work out a wrist-friendly tablet support position with my current new chair (this would be new chair number 4 now ;P)--the main problem being, I think, the lack of a real connection between armrest and tablet support surface--which is exactly what those old school desks did so well, and why I am kinda wanting one here in my dotage. Sure it probably doesn't have super-keen lower back support, and is probably all the wrong sizes (although the listed dimensions don't look that bad on paper), and lacks any kind of rest for the other arm (that could be a real problem, since I have to use my keyboard once in a while :P), but dang, that tablet arm (they're even *called* "tablet arm" chairs!) looks so nice right now.
In testing out a new theoretically ergonomic drawing arrangement, I ended up drawing a picture of Selenis, somehow looking rather David Bowie-ish. You can click this tiny version for the full-size one in the episode 13 gallery:
Galleries can always be accessed from the "episodes" link in the site's top menu!
I noticed a Space.com article overnight that tried to make a NASA article sound much more dramatic, and probably overstated the facts, strictly speaking. Not that anyone else we know of does this on a regular basis... >_> Anyway the Space.com article is Comet's Death by Sun Photographed for First Time; the actual NASA article they got their stuff from is First-Ever View of a Sungrazer Comet in Front of the Sun--since they didn't actually catch what happened to the comet, exactly. Sure, it probably evaporated, but only crazy non-scientists would leap to that conclusion and repost the suggestion as fact! Whee!
The comet was caught by NASA's SOHO Sun-studying craft, which you may recall I wrote a bit about in mid-May. It is very good at spotting all these comets plunging toward the Sun--and boy, I guess there are a lot of them. Anyhow here's its footage of the latest one, the first-ever it has seen crossing right in front of the Sun--it's pretty faint, but it shows up as a slight streak in the lower-ish right, moving from right to left across the face of the Sun:
And here it was a bit earlier as it approached the Sun, which is blocked-out in this composite SOHO view so its instruments can see stuff around the edges of the Sun:
Those intrepid 33-year-old Voyager spacecraft have been making some startling discoveries way out on the edge of our Solar System, as they continue to wing their way out toward intergalactic space.
First, fluctuating readings picked up by Voyager 1--the further out of the two--since 2007, and Voyager 2 since 2008, are now thought to indicate that the Sun's magnetic field gets "frothy" out near the furthest reaches of the solar wind, with lines of magnetic force criss-crossing, reconnecting (apparently magnetic field "reconnection" is also what causes solar flares in the Sun's atmosphere), and forming "bubbles" up to 100 million miles wide (which makes such "bubbles" larger than the distance from the Earth to the Sun, which is about 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometers), some filled with trapped cosmic rays and electrons.
This "foam" or "froth" idea--the readings from the probes don't appear to be absolutely definitive on the theory thus far--stands in significant contrast to the previously prevailing notion of the boundaries of the Sun's magnetic field, which was thought to spiral out gracefully in nice big arcs that eventually curved back to the Sun. Here's NASA's visual comparison of the two competing views--the red and blue lines represent the Sun's magnetic field, the blue areas represent the heliosphere--the bubble "blown" out of the galactic medium by the Sun's solar wind, the inner, greenish blue area ending with the "termination shock," where the solar wind collides with the interstellar wind and loses its supersonic speed--and the orange vapor surrounding it represents the interstellar wind:
The shape of the outer magnetic field could have significant effects on life on Earth: a magnetic "froth" around the Solar System might be helping to keep out high-powered cosmic rays, which would otherwise be shooting their super-charged particles through our fragile bodies much more frequently than they do now. Or, the bubbles could form gaps that allow more cosmic rays through--scientists aren't sure yet.
The Voyager craft are the first ever to reach this very edge of the Solar System, so this is the first time direct data of the magnetic field that far out has been gathered--so it isn't surprising that the rule books may have to be re-written a bit.
Here is NASA's video about it:
I thought the part about the path cosmic rays take to get to the inner Solar System was interesting; I hadn't realized that they come in along magnetic field lines! I had thought they just zinged straight through on the strength of their own momentum or something.
NASA followed up that first Voyager article with another one less than a week later, about how the probes are helping recalculate the distance to interstellar space: since December 2010, Voyager 1's instruments have shown that the solar wind around it has slowed to a standstill, "marking a thick, previously unpredicted 'transition zone' at the edge of our solar system"; this boundary is now thought to be "between 10 and 14 billion miles (16 to 23 billion kilometers) from the sun, with a best estimate of approximately 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers)."
That 11 billion miles figure is about where Voyager 1 is now, so in theory it could cross into interstellar space--where the solar wind and magnetic field from the Sun drops away entirely, leaving the probe to move through the galaxy's thin interstellar medium--at any time now. "Voyager 1 speeds outward a billion miles every three years," so it can't be much longer now--or so prevailing theories suggest. There's also the question of whether the probes will find a "bow shock" around the solar system, ie a compression of the interstellar wind as it collides with the solar wind; such bow shocks definitely exist, and have been observed around other stars, such as this half-light-year-long (~5 trillion kilometer) one that has formed between the star L.L. Orionis and the surrounding Orion Nebula: