Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Bukit Merah Rare Earth processing plant incident

Look cool wearing yellow with guidance from Masaomi Kida from the Yellow Turban Rebels!

The police are hot on their heels for colour gangs in KL… Well bad elections are one of the atrocities committed, but let’s just not forget another equally terriffying incident that made the news a few weeks before.

The Lynas rare earth processing plant, proposed to be built in Gebeng, Pahang reeks foul of one of the worst radioactive disasters in Malaysia which is the title above “The Bukit Merah Rare Earth processing plant incident”. Yeah you read that right. It’s happening right in our own backyard, so exciting right? Turns out it was back in 1979 when the project was first mooted in Bukit Merah.

The Chronology of events, you can read it at the Consumer Association of Penang website http://www.consumer.org.my/index.php/development/environment/454-chronology-of-events-in-the-bukit-merah-asian-rare-earth-development.

In a nutshell, back in 1979 the project started, giving many locals false hopes of a better job and pay while being exposed and irradiated with dangerous radioactive waste. As the plant started operations in 1982, the people started to notice something wrong – the factory’s smoke and bad smell made them choke and cry. Their health began failing, indicated not only by frequent bouts of coughs and colds, but a sharp rise in the incidence of leukaemia, infant deaths, congenital disease and lead poisoning.

Numerous experts have been called from both sides of the divide, and many found the site unsuitable, with comments from ‘unsuitable designs’, ‘not meeting international standards’ to even ‘extremely shoddy’. The villagers, together with people concerned about them, tried to stop their operations through legal grounds and marches but ended up being blocked by FRU personnels, detained under ISA and all sorts of other things. It was not until 1994 that only the plant stopped operations succumbing to public pressure from both national and international.

But the damage has been done.

Locals who worked at the plant suffered from radiation-linked mental and health problems. An example is this tragedy documented in the New York Times featuring Ms. Lai Kwan who has been taking care of her son, born with severe mental and physical disabilities. She was pregnant while working at the plant and was not fully informed of the hazards. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/09/business/energy-environment/09rareside.html?_r=1

The disasters takes its toll on the land. A cleanup operation is currently in progress which is projected to span 30 years and is believed to be one of the largest cleanups in the rare earth industry. So much for Malaysia Boleh.

Now the Lynas plant has only been conceived very recently as of early this year 2011. In the light of our previous incident, the project took just 2 months to be approved and now it is reported that The New York Times reported that as many as 2,500 workers are rushing to complete a US$230 million plant in Gebeng, near Kuantan, that will refine slightly radioactive ore from Australia.

What say you?

Teenager

One thing I regret about my secondary school life is that I didn’t play more. Yeah you read that right. For 5 years of school life I’ve only been to one camp, two outings, three competitions. Even I don’t know where the remaining time went to – I suspect my belly took it :P

And seeing people celebrating birthdays, I can hear the footsteps of my own birthday coming near, and with it the final year of being a ‘teen’-ager.

This is an excerpt from the novel Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.

Halfway through April Naoko turned 20. She was seven months older than I was, my own birthday being in November. There was something strange about her becoming 20. I. felt as if the only thing that made sense, whether for Naoko or for me, was to keep going back and forth between 18 and 19. After 18 would come 19, and after 19, 18, of course. But she turned 20. And in the autumn, I would do the same. Only the dead stay 17 for ever.

It rained on her birthday. After lectures I bought a cake nearby and took the tram to her flat. "We ought to have a celebration," I said. I probably would have wanted the same thing if our positions had been reversed. It must be hard to pass your twentieth birthday alone. The tram had been packed and had pitched so wildly that by the time I arrived at Naoko's room the cake was looking more like the Roman Colosseum than anything else. Still, once I had managed to stand up the 20 candles I had brought along, light them, close the curtains and turn out the lights, we had the makings of a birthday party. Naoko opened a bottle of wine. We drank, had some cake, and enjoyed a simple dinner.

"I don't know, it's stupid being 20," she said. "I'm just not ready. It feels weird. Like somebody's pushing me from behind."

"I've got seven months to get ready," I said with a laugh.

"You're so lucky! Still 19!" said Naoko with a hint of envy.

For some reason this part of the story was etched deep in my brain. Must be the resonance of being the last few years of teenage-ness. And it’s quite common actually – my ex-Chinese Language teacher once told our class that on her 30th birthday, she felt unusually depressed because she could not call herself a “twenty-something” lady anymore!

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Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko “電波女と青春男”is a currently airing slice-of-life anime show directed by the acclaimed director Akiyuki Shinbo. Throughout the series this phrase always came out “Adolescence points”. In the series itself the male protagonist made a real detailed explanation!

Let's talk about adolescence points. These are points gained or lost upon experiencing something related to adolescence. The maximum number of points attainable from a single event is 5. Here are some examples.


First, 1 point: Chatting normally with girls at break, or getting something to eat with friends. Basically, these are points gained by living a normal school life from day to day. However, your adolescence points decrease as days go by. So the risk of looking back and thinking, “Man, it was fun doing all that, but it was nothing spectacular,” is very high if you only shoot for normal events.

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Next, 2 points: Talking to a girl your own age in the park at night is a good example. Any 1 point activity gains an extra point when you add situations like “at night” or “during club”. If one pointers are fundamentals, then 2 pointers are the application. With the right knack and good looks, you can gain over 20 points over your 3 years in high school.

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Saving them won't do you any good in college or at work, but when you go to die, they make a world of difference in your satisfaction with your life. That moment is the culmination of your life, when you realize just how important high school was.

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Anything worth more than 3 points is based on your own personal viewpoint. The best example is probably going on a date with someone you like, but only if it's unrequited or you aren't going out. There are special cases where they can be earned in groups.


For a cultural festival, or any other events with limited chances, you can often gain 4 points. And for things that you personally think “This is it!” with no doubt in your mind, then for you personally that's a full 5 points. Like running around town with no shame or honor for a girl, or getting a chance for victory at Koushien. Only those who step over the boundary lined by trauma and glory can sprint and attain this honor.

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How many “adolescence points” did you get? If you’re past the era already, keep the calculator away to prevent yourself from falling into despair. Not yet 20? You’re lucky, man! Go get yourself a memorable life!

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Just don’t resort to something like this.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dogged determinations

No matter what life throws at you

Take it in stride and see it through

For obstacles and challenges, they are meant

For you to prove your mettle as a man

 

Failure is not the end of all things

It’s a second chance to start again from scratch

Running away is never an option

Live on with your dogged determination!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Paradise Lost

Play this video before reading below =)

If at the beginning of life
You have a few routes to choose
One no better from another, equally strong
And after choosing there’s no point of return

The Warrior, brave and bloodthirsty
Or the Archer, master of dexterity
The Mage, skilled in controlling Nature
Or Machinists, who designs to kill

And there’s a whole world for you to explore
Soaring mountains, deep gorges, tunnels and more
And uncharted territories that lies beyond
Waiting for humanity to set foot upon

Plying the roads on your faithful old horse
Under the eternal twilight
Facing danger without fear or remorse
Holding your sword ,you fight -

When each battle is a fight to the death
No time for tests, no time for regrets
Fame and fortune the victor begets
And the loser, well – rots to death

It’s a world where hard work pays off
Where justice and righteousness triumphs over evil
It’s a world where you can be anything you want
Freed from the limitations of societal norms

A world where you can create your own epic
And leave your mark for generations to come
A world when everyone is deemed to be special
And each has a role to play in the world

There’s that concrete jungle in somewhere distant
With walking but soulless inhabitants, their eyes -
Devoid of emotions, they’re lambs to the slaughter
Who will be their saviour?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Well

No use brooding over spilt milk. Weeeee =)

The sky was so clear every night – when I’m having exams, that’s it. After my final paper I went out to stargazing and trained on M6 and M7 but could not get other things. Seems like someone still have much improvement to do. But then again my friend commented that the Sagittarius nebulosity is very rare to be observed in the city…

Its milky way season so take a look at this picture and see what you’ve missed out so far living in hideous concrete jungles you call the city. And despair =)

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This one is from Mr. Nigel Choy taken at South Africa. Notice the meteor at the left hand side?

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Picture taken from various sources and was in my “downloads” album. Lazy to give acknowledgements, please notify below if you see your stuff in here. Anyway if you put things online they’re supposed to be shared right? =)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A very beginner’s guide to M6 and M7

As the title says, it’s a super beginner guide, perfect for you who got your first telescope when the Summer constellations swings by and you’re bored of pointing to the Moon and Saturn and Jupiter. (This assumes that you know how to turn the knobs already). Now it’s high time you finally grow up and search for the true astronomer’s treasure – the Deep Sky Objects. In this case, M6 and M7 are both open star clusters. You can read more about open star clusters and their significance at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_cluster.

Well then,

First off it’s M7. The trick here is partly contributed by my friend Tan Simpson. As in any guides that I’ll churn out soon (hopefully) most of them will be based on starhopping. All pics by Stellarium, a free star chart software that you SHOULD get here - http://www.stellarium.org/

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1. Find the constellation Scorpio. It can be easily identified by the red star Antares at the centre, and after you spotted it, simply glance at your star chart or stellarium and then look back at the sky and play connect the dots in your head.

2. Now zoom in to the tail of the Scorpion, there is two *quite* close stars there. No they are not double stars, a double star is much closer.

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3. There. As the picture suggests, just make out an imaginary line and use the finderscope to navigate your way to M7. If you live in a fairly polluted area M7 might not appear in your finderscope, otherwise it is visible as a faint patch of light (magnitude 3.3) Therefore the two stars circled in red are for distance reference. 

4. Identification of M7. I use the shape of the centre of this star cluster.

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It’s not something random, it’s a Chinese character 不 that means ‘no’. Okay it’s random, but this is gonna help you into finding your next target.

Well then, pause for a while and gaze at this beautiful star cluster, discovered by Ptolemy in 130 AD and described as ‘the nebula that always followed Scorpio’s tail’. Obviously it is not a nebula, but telescope observations didn’t take place until the 1600’s. And Charles Messier made it his 7th celestial object of comet wannabes.

Well then, let’s move on.

5. Now you follow the path where 不 is pointing to. This is a little bit tricky as M6 is not directly straight to the line. Or rather, you use this line which is the in-between of the two lines in bold.

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I used the finderscope to navigate through this and got lucky to see M6 in the finderscope itself. Usually M6 is not as bright because it’s a magnitude 4.2. Bear in mind that magnitude is calculated on a logarithm function, implying that a mag 4 is about 10 times darker than a mag 3.

6. Identify M6 a.k.a. the Butterfly cluster

This you can’t go wrong.

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The “Butterfly cluster” is named so because it resembles a butterfly. See the two butterfly wings spreading out? This is what I see under 24x magnification. Another notable thing is the red star BM Scorpii that really contrasts his blue neighbourhood. BM Scorpii is also a variable star (a star which brightness changes), the range changes within magnitude 5.5 to 7.0.

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Now this is also my first two Messier objects, so essentially we’re learning together :P My next target is the densely populated Sagittarius region, hopefully I can make out more comprehensive guides to the Deep Sky Objects! 

Any suggestions and improvements, do not hesitate to comment too!

Clear Skies!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Make believe montage

Warning for purists : this is copy and paste from all kinds of pictures!

For whatever-ists : enjoy!

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Once upon a time…

*WARNING : PICTURE HEAVY POST*

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…The Chinese called it the “Sky dog eating the moon”, and Christopher Columbus used this phenomena to trick the Native Americans into believing that he had divinity. Hindus regard it as bad luck, while Muslims acknowledges it as a display of God’s greatness and they conduct special prayers during the eclipse.

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The Lunar Eclipse this time, due to clouds above our area, we just managed to see half of the eclipse. This is how it went (for us) :

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taken using my crude attempts in afocal photography. We were at the Masjid Negara (National Mosque) where the National Planetarium held this event, complete with sideshows and quizzes. The stars of the telescopes were the 10 inch Maksutovs! One easily costs a car, autofocus not mentioned.

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Everyone brought their teles to the event, including Simpson’s… felt bad for not bringing mine. right : the maksutov

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Anyway, it was indeed an extraordinary experience, to see the Moon slowly fading away and reappear in an orange coloured hue. I hereby end this post with this amazing picture taken by William Chin and co., they climbed up Mt. Kinabalu just for the eclipse and got this shot of the eclipse with the Milky Way as background!

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Here’s to clear skies!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Jupiter

A chance peek outside the window in the early morning, and after two cloudy nights I can finally see the stars! Goes without saying, I rushed down and set up my telescope instantly to the brightest thing I see in the sky. And it’s Jupiter!

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As my logbook suggested, I see some thunder flashing around so I decided not to dice with chance and moved back to the porch of my house. Who knows it didn’t rain at all, although Steve got the attention of the morning joggers and they got treated to a view of Jupiter!

This Stellarium picture is something like what I can see from the telescope.

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This view is the activation for the legendary scientist Galileo Galilei to support the Heliocentric Solar System Model (where the Earth is theorized to revolve around the sun), opposing the Church’s view of the time which is Earth-centric (Sun and all other stuff revolved around the Earth). Naturally it got him into big water, and despite the scientific evidence showing that heliocentric is the way to go, he was placed under house arrest and is labelled as a heretic. Therefore this view is a classic, a tribute to brave men who stood their ground in spite of everything that are against them.

If you notice that my sketch is a flip of the Stellarium one, it is because yeah, anything that I see in my scope are all plagued with these inversions. Makes it tough for navigation, I’m currently still trying to get the hang of it, upside down eye-hand coordination!

A quick look at Stellarium shows that other than Jupiter, in the early morning show Mars is just below Juno, the Pleiades are out once again, Andromeda is grazing the skies… coupled with the star-studded summer celebrities Scorpio and Sagittarius I can’t help but want to pull an all-nighter one day! 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Astronomy

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Observing the moon at daytime

It’s rare but this is one of the times, when words cannot convey my raw, heartfelt feelings of sheer joy and excitement! Took out my new telescope for a stint with Simpson, and despite heavy clouds we managed to observe the Moon, Saturn and M7. The whole family came by and took a peek in the eyepieces, and even learnt how to control the telescope!

Looking at my younger brothers stunned by the telescope, I saw a shadow of myself from a time long ago…

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The Orion AstroView 100mm EQ Refractor

Since that fateful night in SRJK© Chee Mong, Paka 8 years ago, when I was first introduced to the intriguing night sky which looked so good in the pure East Coast. A whole new world opened up to that small kid that wonders what is above the sky. So, actually I began stargazing at 11, haha with an RM10 star chart that is so frequently used it endured so much wear and tear and eventually it got lost. Until now, I still wondered where the hell did I leave that big star chart.

Then I moved to KL, and got some sort of a barter trade – night sky for Internet instead. I just remembered that in the first year we had Internet, I was always searching for things Astronomy. And sometimes do stargazing, on really clear skies which is like thrice a year. But still I already harboured wishes to own a telescope already at that time. As time passes, the interest in astronomy has somehow dimmed and the focus has turned to Physics instead in general. It went on like that until that fateful night…

…of 16 December 2010, when fellow comrade Tan Simpson organised this Geminids Meteor Shower day. All of a sudden I was thrown back into the Winter Sky, which I explored the most last time. The images of the constellations keep rushing into my head like deja vu, of Orion, of Taurus, of Gemini, and not forgetting the deep skies like the Orion Nebula, the Pleiades and such. There was plans to make an astronomy club last year, to tell you the truth I totally forgot about it during the holidays, but this event made me determined to establish this club.

And so, I found a reason to fight for. In the midst of all the hocus pocus on A Levels, I found this sanctuary of mine, that stood still in eternity, that is sometimes so exciting and sometimes so peaceful and never-changing. Lying down and watching the stars that dance together to form a constellation, which bears the names of gods and demons of ancient Greece. It’s as if one can start seeing the re-enactment of the epics just by gazing into the night sky. And in the night sky, I found peace. My fascination with constellations remains till this day :D

And next comes the telescope. It was at once a childhood ambition fulfilled, an astronomical barrier conquered, a personal goal achieved, another chapter of life started. People liked to question why spend so much dough on a telescope, when you can get an iPad, XBox or something else. The reason is simple enough – the telescope is the ultimate phase for an astronomy buff to become from novice to amateur. And it at once greatly empowers us to see much further and listen much deeper into the whispers of the cosmos. And the telescope is probably the single most fun and friendly scientific instrument in the whole world. And yeah, the experience of seeing what you usually see in pictures in the scope, although it’s much smaller, is a magic moment where there is no words capable of describing.

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This is a picture of the Moon at daytime. Taken using not so high tech phone camera, am waiting for someone with a dslr to dock with my scope!

Finally, many many many many thanks to Papa who ultimately is the one who drove me to the shop, helped to pay first when I have no time to withdraw money from my account, and later offered to sponsor half the price of the telescope! Thank you ma too, for fetching me to stargazing events. Both were also always supportive of my astronomy ambitions. And of course fellow comrade Tan Simpson, if it weren’t because of you I’d still be finding my interest while loafing around aimlessly. MCKL Stargazer Society for being supportive on the weekly meetings and monthly outings (well, almost), and also Mr Micheal that was quite lenient on club applications which really helped me who is having a hard time setting up the club. Mr Lopez for volunteering to join us that helped to make the first club outing a success; and also giving me confidence in pursuing a career in Physics. The Japanese band Supercell for their song “Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari” which serves as my astronomical battle anthem. And many many more.

Clear Skies!