By Phil Plait | February 19, 2010 3:00 pm

Things I have thought about today, in no particular order:

Gamma-ray bursts


A heretofore undetected but potentially densely-populated class of objects in the solar system


Why my phone sometimes rings audibly and other times chooses not to

The electron column density in a magnetic bubble after a nuclear detonation in the upper atmosphere

Ice cream sandwiches


Social networking and astronomy

Temporarily misplacing my wallet last night

Suborbital rockets and their potential for astronomy and tourism

My cat

Feel free to do with this information as you wish.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Piece of mind

Comments (43)


    Err… what was the title of that book you keep going on about, again?

    P.S. Three things that keep me awake at night:

    1) Why do some pigeons have one gammy leg?

    2) Why is it that you always see one old boot in the street, but never a pair?

    3) Why do women always manage to find stuff that you’ve hidden, but they can never locate their own stuff?!

  2. Bigfoot

    For some reason, your post makes me crave a Mars bar. You should go into subliminal advertising.

  3. Bill

    > Why my phone sometimes rings audibly and other times chooses not to

    You have apparently stolen my phone.

  4. Thomas Siefert

    That’s two days worth of tweets…

  5. My chum Joanne (NASA GCFC) was at the Colorado meeting with you this week. She was highly chuffed and sent multiple tweets about you, Virgin Galactic and how to get her next project on VG spaceships. Thanks for inspiring!

  6. Now I’m craving ice cream sandwiches. And I miss my cats.

  7. Marko

    Here is what I was thinking about:

    Is it feasible that there is a planet that revolves around the sun at the exact opposite point on the same elliptical path earth? Would we from earth every be able to detect such a body and if so how?

  8. T_U_T

    @ marco AFAIK the configuration would be dynamically unstable and the planet would crash into earth after s few orbits.

  9. NewEnglandBob

    Phew! Luckily you included ice cream sandwiches. I expected at least 60% of your thoughts would contain either food or sex.

  10. I love the contrast between the high order scientific thinking and “my cat.”

  11. Marko:
    I’m pretty sure that, even if we were unable to detect such a body from Earth, we would have detected it with the many probes we’ve sent in all directions of the Solar System. Even so, I’m pretty sure the existence of such a planet is not physically feasible – perhaps someone with more knowledge than I on the subject of planetary formation can shed some light on this?

    And Phil:
    Ice cream sandwiches are important. Never let go of the ice cream sandwich. Face the anti-Ice Cream Sandwich and allow it to pass through you. When the anti-Ice Cream Sandwich is gone, only you and the ice cream sandwich will remain.

  12. Love it, love it, love it. Only thing missing is the B…b…b…b…
    It’s great to know it happens to others as well.

  13. Adrian Lopez

    You’re in a Seinfeld sort of mood today, eh?

    “What’s the deal with ice cream sandwiches? I mean hey…”

  14. DataJack

    Bigfoot @2: What makes you think he isn’t?

  15. DataJack

    Marko @6:Not only is there not another planet on the far side in our orbit, but we would easily be able to detect it, because of its gravitational effects on other planets, as well as all of the very-far-away cameras we have out there, that can look back at us.

  16. Steeev

    Marko @6 – you just described the movie “Doppelganger” (released in the USA as “Journey to the Far Side of the Sun”). I believe that there was a similar Twilight Zone episode, and Father Guido Sarducci addressed the issue on Saturday Night Live once. According to him, the only difference between Earth and the other planet was that the residents thereof ate their corn on the cob vertically rather than horizontally. Or I could have imagined the whole thing.

    Search for “Counter-Earth” on wikipedia — it turns out the topic has a longer history than I imagined.

  17. Dave T.

    I had no idea nuclear detonations create magnetic bubbles. Or are you referring to the massive broadcast of EMR?

  18. o rly

    My iPhone does the same things, sometimes I’ll notice I have a SMS/MMS message or E-Mail that I never heard an audible alert for.

  19. DesertRatCO

    @Marko. Since the two bodies are at opposite ends of the elliptical orbit, they would be traveling at different speeds. This would mean that they would never truly be exactly at opposition, menaing that any such pair would be visible to one another, at least for part of the orbital path. I don’t have the math handy to draw up the orbital mechanics, but there is no way for them to remain “exactly opposite” each other.

  20. Ryan C

    >Feel free to do with this information as you wish.
    I shall attempt to help!

    > Why my phone sometimes rings audibly and other times chooses not to
    There are several possible explanations for this. I’m assuming you’re talking about your iPhone.
    1) Silent switch – I find that it can get partially moved towards silent. Once it passes a certain point, it goes silent. Try switching it to silent and back.
    2) Hitting the volume controls – if you hit the volume controls, up or down, the ringer will silence. If you keep your phone in your pocket, you might be hitting it inadvertently.
    3) Poor reception – I’ve had this problem with other phones. If there’s poor reception, sometimes it takes a few rings for the caller before it rings on your end. If you have really bad reception, it may go right to voicemail.
    These last two can be exasperated if you have a ringtone that begins quietly or has a pause at the beginning.

  21. Brian

    Wow, I think you commenters are onto something w.r.t. the subliminal advertising angle — I suddenly have a huge craving for a column of electrons like you find in a magnetic bubble after a nuclear detonation in the upper atmosphere.

  22. Nemo

    I’d love to hear more about #3 (heretofore undetected etc.).

  23. Marko

    Thanks guys, I wonder if that meme just crept into my head years ago and just resurfaced today or if I just came up with it. I guess I will never know.

    I did once see Father Guido Sarducci live at Cobbs Comedy in San Francisco, so I’m going to guess its the latter.

    Regardless, I am going to go find that movie now.

  24. “A heretofore undetected but potentially densely-populated class of objects in the solar system”

    — errr…. WHAT!

  25. Ian– I got a chance to chat with Joanne for a little while today too. She’s pretty cool. I guess I could “flying thousands of people a year into space” as another thought here, too. :)

  26. Laundry, huh? Maybe the previously-undetected objects in the solar system are missing socks!

  27. Ryan C

    Also, my random thoughts on your thoughts:
    >Gamma-ray bursts
    I really need to get my signed copy of DftS! back from my friend.

    It’s been too long. I can’t wait until spring. But, seeing lightning in a snowstorm was awesome.

    >A heretofore undetected but potentially densely-populated class of objects in the solar system
    How likely is this, inside of the Kuiper belt? Wouldn’t a cluster of objects reflect sunlight pretty well? Unless they have a low albedo, of course. Also, need to catch up on news about NEOs. I haven’t heard anything in a while. Not scared, just curious.


    >Why my phone sometimes rings audibly and other times chooses not to
    See above for my comments!

    >The electron column density in a magnetic bubble after a nuclear detonation in the upper atmosphere
    I really wish I’d taken more physics classes in high school and University…

    >Ice cream sandwiches

    Is the Mars Science Laboratory still on track? I’m hoping we discover evidence for life outside of earth, now or in the past. Panspermia or developing life independently, either would be fascinating.

    >Social networking and astronomy
    I’m following Dr.Kiki, StarStryder, Neil deGrasse Tyson, NASA and you, BA, but that’s it. Any other suggestions? Podcast recommendations are highly appreciated.

    >Temporarily misplacing my wallet last night
    Possibly related to laundry? Hope not.

    >Suborbital rockets and their potential for astronomy and tourism
    I’m a big guy and not exactly wealthy, so sadly I don’t see this happening. I want it so badly.

    >My cat
    I’ve got to get home soon. My dog’s all alone.

  28. Chip

    My free improvisational impressions based on your random thoughts:

    Gamma-ray bursts —
    I’ve decided not to worry…

    Lightning —
    We now live in Northern California where it seems to be rare except in the Sierras. My wife loves thunder and lightning and misses it from her Indiana childhood. I miss it from Arizona where its also big and loud.

    A heretofore undetected but potentially densely-populated class of objects in the solar system —
    Would this be related to the Pluto-not-a-planet ruckus from several years back? Kuiper Belt objects or closer in?

    Laundry —
    Our cycles follow this somewhat unconventional pattern: clothes thrown downstairs (except when guests visit.) Collected in the morning and thrown into the empty washer to accumulate over several days. Washed when washer is full. Then tossed in the dryer, which squeaks. Removed and folded when dry. Meanwhile, the next overlapping cycle has started and new dirty clothes are accumulating in the washer. Its an on-going tale of toss, wash & spin, but at least there’s symmetry.

    Why my phone sometimes rings audibly and other times chooses not to —
    This is known as “Schodenger’s Phone”.

    The electron column density in a magnetic bubble after a nuclear detonation in the upper atmosphere —
    Yes, of course, well you see, (drinks from a glass of water,) it’s like, well, you know…(covers mouth, mumbles) “pluff fluff mumph” and um, yes. Agreed.

    Ice cream sandwiches —
    I wonder if anyone notices that they seemed better when we were kids. Yes, a lot of things do but unless there’s a great brand I don’t know about, they seem today to be more like ice-milk sandwiches.

    Mars —
    We must remember that all of those weird and wonderful images from the Rovers are of a real place. Those landscapes exist, right now as you read this.

    Social networking and astronomy—
    Thanks for including Facebook posts. Sometimes I check in there first and end up here.

    Temporarily misplacing my wallet last night —
    If it isn’t the wallet, its the car keys followed closely by the cell phone or iPod. (Somewhere much later on the list is the bar of soap in the bathroom.)

    Suborbital rockets and their potential for astronomy and tourism —
    I have a feeling someday this will seem like the Wright Brothers when a destination off of Earth is established. Maybe an orbiting hotel-observatory and of course, the Moon. I think once we have a place to go and live there for a while, the mode of transport to get us there and back will be greatly enhanced.

    My cat —
    Mine just watched me make a salad a few minutes ago. The wide eyed look on his face seemed to say “what are you doing?”

  29. Tom Woolf

    I think I’ll contact the Dept. of Homeland Security…

    “Social networking”… conspiracy!
    “suborbital rockets” & “nuclear detonation”…!!!
    “Laundry”…trying to wash your crimes away!
    “misplacing wallet”…hiding your identity!
    “ice cream sandwiches” & “cat”… TMI! TMI!!!


  30. For my part, I’m thinking about something very exciting. My Dad’s sixtieth birthday party takes place this evening!

    Moreover, it was for this party that I’ve recently compiled a trivia quiz on the history of science since 1950. Tonight it gets used. For real. And afterwards – most likely Sunday – I will upload a web version of the quiz, so that people around the world can use it to test their knowledge and learn something new. The PHP coding is already done; only the launch remains.

    Phil, quite seriously, I’m planning to @ tweet you, and a few other science enthusiasts on Twitter, when the quiz is up and running online. Are you cool with that? (I’ll assume so, as it surely can’t do any harm.) Thirty percent of the questions involve astronomy, which is more than for any other specific field of science (but there’s lots of other stuff too).

    A small anecdote (and free answer giveaway exclusive to BA readers, who already know it anyway): The quiz includes one science-related event for every year, and for 1987 I chose the supernova in the LMC. I mean, seriously, what else? Anyway, in an online discussion during my research phase, one person told me that they were born in 1987 and felt disappointed because a supernova going off is boring compared to the other astronomy-related events on my list. “Supernova? Boring?“, I thought, “You are in desperate need of being educated by Phil Plait.

  31. Daniel J. Andrews

    Only thing I now remember about the movie Journey to the Far Side of the Sun is that a guy in a wheelchair stares balefully at his reflection in the mirror and then rolls his chair into it at full force. Think I’ll have to rent too….

  32. Cindy

    The secret to enjoying ice cream sandwiches is to eat them with kids. Nothing like seeing the chocolate and vanilla smeared all over your kid’s face with a look of total enjoyment to make you enjoy your own ice cream sandwiches.

  33. Jeffersonian

    my thoughts today:


  34. Zed

    Bet your wife is real happy she didn’t make the cut but the cat did.

  35. jcm

    “A heretofore undetected but potentially densely-populated class of objects in the solar system”

    Oort cloud?

  36. MadScientist

    As far as suborbital flights and astronomy (or science in general) goes, NASA does provide a service for small payloads on suborbital flights. It’s as cheap as you can get since stages of (small) decommissioned missiles are put together and used for the job as opposed to using an ICBM like the Titan (which can achieve orbital velocity). If space tourism ever takes off (well, aside from the current joy rides on Soyuz) you can still bet that science experiments will cost a bundle – whatever your science payload, it will take up valuable space and weight allowances. I’d bet that there are also amateur rocketry groups with the skills necessary to put those missiles together for such a purpose (though gaining access to the decommissioned missiles will be quite a task).

  37. my thoughts
    Why is it that one niece is hyperactive while the other one is quiet.
    Should I burn the branches that I cut the other day.
    It is almost spring time to plan for the garden.
    I have not been out star gazing lately.
    Should I watch cartoons with the nieces.
    How are the Canadians doing in the Olympics.
    Hmm another tree that needs to cut down.
    Should have re thought cutting down tree with bow saw.
    Tree is down, now need some air.
    Need Coke (the pop).

  38. “Feel free to do with this information as you wish.”
    Thanks. My Cylon Phil Plait grows ever more lifelike.

  39. Chip @28 –

    Klondike makes GREAT ICSs! They come in an eight-pack, so your good for at least a few hours. (and they are the same size as Klondike Bars!!!!)

  40. Nothing wrong with thinking about your cat provided you leave Schrödinger out of it.

  41. Bryan Feir

    Ryan C@20:
    I think you mean ‘exacerbated’, which means ‘increased the severity of’, as opposed to ‘exasperated’, which means ‘annoyed’.

    Hmm, now that I look it up, it gives the former definition as an archaic meaning for the latter word, so you may have not been wrong so much as dated.

    Yes, I’m being pedantic, that’s just one of those words that gets used wrong a lot…


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar