Wednesday, November 4, 2009


     So, what are these guys trying to do?  Well, according to their web site, they are "creating a highly accurate three dimensional model of the Milky Way galaxy.1"  So, they want a picture of the galaxy that we live in and they are using observations from The Sloan Digital Sky Survey and your computer cycles to figure out what the galaxy looks like.  Ok, that's cool and all, but I've got a different idea. 
Let's call it a counter proposal.  Rather than try to make a highly educated guess, let's do this: strap a digital camera to a rocket, fire it straight up, and when it gets far enough out to get the entire galaxy in frame, snap a picture.  If you use one of those cell phone cameras that automatically post to Flickr or Photo Bucket or something like that you won't even have to worry about getting the memory card back.

     Now, I don't want to be too negative here, but I see a few problems with this whole, 'map 'o the galaxy' concept.  First off, when you're looking into space, the farther out you look, the farther back in time you are seeing stuff, so, something ten light years away is what it looked like ten years ago, and the galaxy is 90,000 light years wide.  Your map is already out of date.  Next, there a huge bulge in the middle of the Milky Way.  How are you going to see past that.  X-ray spex?  Last, and, personally, I think best, at the center of our galaxy is a super massive black hole.  Stephen Hawking can't even tell you what that looks like, so how are you going to put that on your map?  I think you should do like the old map makers did, and just draw a sea serpent there.  Oh, and here's another one.  I just typed 'Milky Way' into Google's image search and got 3,710,000 hits, so, don't sweat it guys, we got an image or two you could use. 

     So, if I dislike this idea so much, why am I supporting these guys?  Why process for them?  Well, I don't dislike their project, I'm simply an enormous smart-ass and I can't help myself.  This project actually is creating highly accurate models of the Sagittarius stream, part of the Milky Way, and they are making strides in computer science by developing better optimization methods for internet based computing, so these kids are all right.  



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