Monday, December 10, 2012

White Christmas


First snowstorm experience! They predicted 6-8 inches of snow, maybe even more! Winter was gloomy without the snow, but now it's all white and bright!






Sunday, December 9, 2012

Brace Yourself


Or rather, is already here. The first Twin Cities blizzard warning, 12-20 cm of snow... is going to be an exciting weekend!

Which is not very exciting at all, for it signals finals week. I have three papers total, not too bad compared to some of my peers who have an average on 4-5 papers. I will be done with my papers by Saturday the 16th, which leads to...

... the long awaited winter break! This winter break, I'll be split in between work, club, travel and some reading time =) The Solar Vehicle Project will be doing some solar car milling up at Duluth in a Cirrus Aircraft facility, and I am very looking forward to that! Duluth aside, Wausau, Wisconsin will be my very first overnight interstate visit, with a friend of mine who wanted to bring me skiing up Granite Peak. Books I accumulated over the semester are itching for me to gobble them up, which actually prompted me to get a bookcase for my ever increasing bibiliophilia. My job in the Nova Lab will most probably take up the remaining of my time not spent on club and travelling, hoping to offset some of the expenses accumulated during the break!

The semester is coming to an end... my first semester at the University of Minnesota! A reflection of the semester will be up after finals!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Chariots of Fire




A recent fascination with solar cars - thanks to my group, the University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project.
They have their own Wiki page - check them out! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Minnesota_Solar_Vehicle_Project

Solar cars are the epitome of green energy and engineering, harnessing the unlimited energy from the Sun, and with its sleek sexy aerodynamic body can speed up to speeds of 100 kilometres per hour. The two super races of the year in the solar car world is the American Solar Challenge and the World Solar Challenge. Pic featured is the group's 10th solar car, Centaurus III in the ASC 2012, and fully made by students!

That being said, it is a steep curve learning the ropes of the solar car business, and long hours of commitments are expected if you are to join the team. Nevertheless the rewards of the efforts are limitless - you get to learn and practice engineering skills such as CAD, milling and machining; you get to interact with many companies and parties that might be your future workplace, an awesome company of solar car enthusiasts, and most of all you're building a freaking car! A solar car!

Our current project is named D1 (I don't know what D is yet), a four-wheeled two-seater which is the UMNSVP's entry for the WSC 2013 in Darwin, Australia. Looking forward to more!



Sunday, October 21, 2012

Words that rhyme



Words that rhyme, and words that don’t
Under the hands of a skillful wielder, they shine
Not just in meaning, but also in mesmerizing
Many men of his time, and many more ever since

Articles, journals give you insight and knowledge
Books take you on journeys to another world
But they pale in comparison to the poem
For it brings you right into the heartbeats of the author

Commas, semicolons; periods. Exclamation!
Your breath goes in tandem with that of the author
Words shine under the hands of a good writer
But in a brilliant poem – they sparkle

Like the sky full of stars reaching into infinity
Alas, they are unattainable – at least, for me
And I can only wonder, at the marvelous beauty
Of the dancing words in a song without melodies.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Read this in November.

27th November 2012, Minneapolis 

I am in the Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics degree program. My courseload consists of basic engineering, thrown in with a few of the major-specific AEM course. Many projects related to engineering and aerospace are coming my way, and I look forward to them!

The University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project is in full gear now, we have to complete Delphinus 1 and ship it in time to Australia for ASC2013. I am in the aerodynamics team, taking part in moulding the body, fairings and other components. Learnt a lot from this group, Creo engineering modelling, mechanical and technical engineering stuff, and how to build a solar car - isn't that just cool? :D

Tesla Works, the innovative project based student group. We have just completed a Rocket Glider project, although the parachute did not deploy properly and our camera was unusable already, the memory card contained data and we were able to record aerial imagery of Minneapolis and St.Paul. All thanks to team members for the hard work and Prof. Flaten for his guidance!

'Neutrinos' is the buzzword right now, at least in the super busy laboratories at the NOvA Experiment, where I work as a student assistant. It is really fun to contribute to the forefront of what they call 'intensity frontiers', where high energies are employed to study the behaviours of these pesky particles.

Plans are also in the drawing board for me to establish a Stargazer Society-ish UMN Astronomy Club in the spring. We will hijack the public info sessions and make it our own, go on trips to Onan and Cherry Grove, set up telescopes by the road on every other Saturday nights for the drunk to see the moon lol. Dave is already pushing me to finish the paperwork as fast as possible, but I cannot lose sight on the midterms too!

Last but not least, I signed up for continuing karate classes at the Midwest Karate Association at downtown Minneapolis. At 80 bucks per month it's pretty steep, but one does not simply pass up a chance to learn from the top karate instructor in the United States, Sensei Fusaro! Looking forward to continuing the punches and kicks next semester.
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To me a few months later,

This will be your schedule. You are at the crossroads of many exciting and wonderful opportunities, make sure that the chances you get do not go into waste. While you're here at the U of M in the metropolis of the Twin Cities, be sure to grab what you can take, but not too much, but not too little either. Work hard, study smart, play hard, make friends, have fun - but most importantly, learn, learn, learn!

For you should always live by this epic Chinese proverb -

学如逆水行舟,不进则退。

27th September 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

Onan Observatory, Minnesota Astronomical Society

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Last Saturday, in conjunction with the somewhat-I-think-arbitrarily-named International Observe the Moon Night. I have been looking for an amateur astronomy group over here since I came, looking in the U of M with no success. Then, I went on to the state-wide Minnesota Astronomical Society,got to know the president Dave Falkner, and he brought me to this super super awesome flagship observatory of the MAS – Onan Observatory.

Onan Observatory is at Baylor Regional Park, in a small town called Norwood- Young America about an hour’s drive west from Minneapolis. It features a sliding roof design, complete with two Celestron C-14 on a Paramount ME and a Meade LX200 on a built mount(left pic, left to right), and even a 20-inch Obsession (right pic)!

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The Onan Observatory is open every other Saturday night (1st and 3rd quarter moon) for the Public Star Party – in which I am one of the participants on that night! That night there was a beautiful first quarter moon hanging low in the sky – and the constellations appears one by one as the sun sets – Big Dipper, Little Dipper and Polaris, Pegasus, Sagittarius, Cassiopeia… just to name a few. As the public was enthralled by the magnificent views of clusters and galaxies by the high-power telescopes, Dave told stories about the Greco Roman mythologies associated with the constellations. It turned out that Dave actually wrote a book about the subject – The Mythology of the Night Sky!

The picture below is an afocal Moon shot taken by me using a member, Steve Baranski’s 5-inch apochromatic telescope. It turned out pretty well! Might be because I am used to refractor afocals haha! The visitors came, asked loads of questions and enjoyed the beautiful clear night sky, so clear that we can see traces of the Summer Milky Way. They were treated to loads of goodies, and learnt a lot about star clusters and galaxies (since we’re mostly seeing them). The weather was exceptionally chilly too, the hothouse was a great respite from the freeze. I chatted with the old-timers with loads of experience over cups of hot coffee. This is an amazing astronomical society!

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One notable nifty thing in the observatory is the ‘Live View’ television that hooks up to one of the C-14s and streams the images onto the screen. It allowed many people to view the galaxies at once, and through imaging the galaxy arms and clusters are boosted and looks more magnificent! For example, left is the spiral galaxy M101 Pinwhee, and right is the globular cluster M13 Hercules!

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All in all, Onan Observatory is a trip where I enjoyed myself drowning in astronomical awesomeness so much in the recent years – reminiscent of the first time I went to the Penang Astronomy Convention last July :D Definitely looking forward to come to Onan again!


More info :

Minnesota Astronomical Society webpage : www.mnastro.org                                        

Onan Public Star Party Calendar : http://www.mnastro.org/events/showonanpublic.php

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Minnesota Monologue

The late quarter Moon rises in between Jupiter and Aldebaran tonight at 2a.m., signifying almost a month has passed since I arrived at this city of Minneapolis. Was supposed to go to the Astronomy Public Observation Program at Tate Lab tonight but it was cloudy during the evening – but it cleared up at night. 

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Welcome to Minneapolis - I am Chrono Fong, ID 46xxxxx, studying Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics at the University of Minnesota Twin-Cities.

First week of classes are pretty good. Math 2374 actually went straight into the vector parts of what used to be Further Pure 3, not an easy ride as expected lol. The other classes e.g. Intro to C++ and AEM Statics are not too bad also. Our sensei in PE Karate is much older than the profile pic he posted on his dojo website =A= But the most surprising one would be the writing class WRIT 1401 – I was the only Asian in the discussion-style class, where we sometimes discuss a topic and exchange ideas and arguments. It’s refreshing to see intellectual debate going on instead of the usual maths and facts in the Engineering classes.

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International Student Outreach (ISO) is the group I joined right after I came down from the Delta flight – Jeff and Pete hosted me before I moved in to my current apartment 8 days ago. I was treated like family, playing with their children and helping around the house, and it really smoothens the process of adapting to this entirely new place. The ISO hosted many Malaysian students too. Some that I know, especially my housemate Moy, they are kind of like a family to me already, in this home away from home. Being freshman also has some benefits – we get to go to this cool Welcome Week thing, know more people other than Malaysians – just to get a more all-rounded perspective of this city.

Being itchy for some DIY stuff though, I also looked at two Engineering student groups – The Solar Car Project and Tesla Works, who both are groups that do projects related to science and engineering. I’m currently split in between commitment to one of the clubs or possible both of them, we’ll see what comes next. There’s also a plan to join the state-wide Minnesota Astronomical Society – I already contacted their president… we’ll see how that’ll work out too. I can’t wait to go to the Onan Observatory at Baylor Regional Park!

It’s a tight balance, while starting a new life at the U of M while not losing focus on studies and the astronomy interest that defined who I am. To juggle the many hats I have : a student, a project team member, an ISO member, an astronomy enthusiast, a housemate, a fellow friend, an independent adult. Hoping that all will go well during this first semester at the U of M, and of course for many more fun and enriching times to come in this City of Lakes, and in this State of Ten-Thousand Lakes.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Eternal Sanctuary

Have you heard about this story before?
A story of an eternal sanctuary,
of beautiful stars; and stories of legends of old,
where everything is faithfully constant and never changing.
Actually, this sanctuary
Is just above your heads, really.

Have you ever looked up at the sky before?

Gaze up, and wonder
Explore the vastness of the Universe
and Adore upon upon the most beautiful gift given to us from the Universe.


The Eternal Sanctuary - A Stargazer Society Tribute from ChronoFong on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Perseids Meteor Shower this Weekend

It will be the 6th meteor shower that I will observe, since the captivating December night of 2010 when I first observed the Geminids Meteor Shower. Perseids last year was bugged by a constantly shining Full Moon (and rain throughout the early part of the night), but this year it promises to be a good show all around, with a waning half-moon, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter and Venus to observe throughout the night besides the occasional meteors burning through the atmosphere.

This weekend the Stargazer Society of MCKL will be heading to our northern headquarters of Bukit Tinggi to observe the meteor shower! Weather forecasts are good so I hope that it will be a good show. The site has already been tested with the Lyrids this April and it will be just fine for a meteor hunting trip.

290928_505259309500571_393903003_o<- For those in KL or Kajang area, Simpson of the UNITEN Astronomy Club is holding a meteor hunting session at Mini Stadium, UNITEN. Everyone is invited, public included! Admission is free, just show up at the time stated to join in the fun! The Facebook event page is at www.facebook.com/events/399068340141646/

For others, you can just observe at your own neighbourhood. Pick a spot where you can have the widest view of the sky and is fairly dark, i.e. shaded from streetlights and house lights. Gather your friends and family to enjoy the night under the night sky. How to see meteors? Just lie down and wait for one to pass by! You do not need a telescope to see the meteors. Nice things to have are mosquito repellants, sleeping bags/tikar for lying down, a flask of hot tea (it can get quite cold at midnight) and snacks! A reminder, make sure that your location is safe too. Safety should be prioritized above meteor hunting! :P

A nice thing to do - print a star chart at http://www.midnightkite.com/starcharts.html to identify the constellations up in the sky on that night! See http://chrono13.blogspot.com/2012/07/how-to-use-sfa-star-chartmalaysia.html for more details on how to use a star chart. If you have an iPhone or iPad you can also download one of the many planetarium programs in the app store. I use SkyORB on the iPad and it’s fantastic. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/skyorb/id338051358?mt=8 And, it's free!

So go forth and hunt for meteors with your friends and family this Saturday night! Don’t miss out this opportunity!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My Top 5 Science & Astronomy Books

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Going out for studies soon, and I thought hard on what books I want to bring along for the trip. After much choosing I settled on these 4 – excluding the last one. Nevertheless I find them to be the 5 best books I had for my interest in science, engineering, astronomy and space exploration.

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40 Nights to Knowing The Sky by Fred Schaaf
Topics : Astronomy, Stargazing


This is my very first book on truly serious stargazing, it was from a second hand book store. The author, Fred Schaaf of Sky & Telescope taught the early skywatchers the techniques and skills to naked eye skywatching, as well as gradually introducing the arcane astronomy of Messier objects, deep skies and others. As a young boy I don’t find his writing too daunting, in fact the introductory part – “Nights of the Heaven in Motion”, serves well to explain and clear any doubts on why are the stars moving, why is the Moon sometimes not up at night, et cetera.






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The Sun’s Heartbeat by Bob Berman
Category : Science, Astronomy


This is a science book on a class of its own. The ever-familiar Sun gets a image makeover from talented Astronomy magazine writer Bob Berman that you will never look at the Old Sun the same way again. This book answers very unexpected questions – Why are highway boards green? Why does a pirate has an eye patch? As well as providing fresh insights on how the great ball of nuclear fire has already infiltrated our daily lives since time immemorial.

I particularly enjoy this book for its independent chapters. On the sleepless nights, I can just grab it and flip to any random chapters, then start reading! At RM90 it was one of the most expensive books I had, but it is certainly worth the money (It was paid by the government anyway, lol)

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Atom by Piers Bizony
Category : Science, with a pinch of History


Enter Piers Bizony, ace documentary writer. You might have heard of the names Einstein, Bohr, Schrodinger, Rutherford from the sleepy physics classes of old – this book brings the characters alive, back into the heady days of atomic research when Man has just discovered a whole new world in the subatomic realm. Rutherford was boisterous and has a bellowing voice, while Schrodinger claims his womanizing helps him in his discoveries in quantum mechanics. Or have you ever heard of the epic fights and debates on the Solway conferences, or experiences the tension of the moment during the Manhattan Project where they realized the monstrous power of the atomic bomb? Scientists are also human, science and history go hand-in-hand, and Piers Bizony will bring you into a realm of physics your average physics teacher will not lead you to.


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The Case for Mars by Robert Zubrin
Category : Space Exploration


This is written for a slightly more focused audience group, but nevertheless if you have a passing interest on why aren’t we building Habs on Mars now, this book will show you the ways how can we do it now, using present technology know-how and some ingenious thinking.

In this book Robert Zubrin proposes a plan called the ‘Mars Direct’, which involves several launchings of manned and unmanned spacecraft to the Red Planet, and in the plan how many redundant systems are also incorporated for the aspiring astronauts to fall back on. The Mars Direct plan is now very popular and is featured in some documentaries, one of them being ‘The Mars Underground’.




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Rocket Men by Craig Nelson
Category : Space Exploration


Okay, I’m big on space exploration. Haha.
Why is this book excluded from my trip? Frankly, it’s because it’s too thick, and I have limited space in my luggage. However, this is also a contender for one of the great books I’ve read in my non-fiction collection.

In the same spirit of Atom by Piers Bizony, Mr.Nelson brings alive the moments of the Greatest Adventure in the History of Mankind, the Apollo programme. From the early days of rocketry where German, American and Russians are fighting for missile supremacy, to the era of the Cold War where the Space Race may have prevented an all-out nuclear war. To the details of the men involved in the programme, the strong but sometimes wavering camaraderie of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. To how their journey to a place no man has ever been changed their lives forever, for better or for worse. This book, although a bit heavy in words at the beginning, is a very good time machine in bringing you back to the glorious days of Apollo, where science and technology develops at breakneck speed and the world has never felt as proud as we had ever since.

You might’ve noticed that there are none of the usual fare, of Stephen Hawking, or Michio Kaku. I’ve read some books on Michio Kaku and have the full collection of Hawking, but to me these are the best books on science. For me, the good books are where they are easily approachable by novices, but will also elicit interest from the ones who are already familiar with the subject by bringing a fresh insight. It is also very important for me, to present science as not just another subject, but a driving force that brought us to where we are today. To let the generation now appreciate science and the contributions of our forefathers towards their development.

So yeah, to each their own. Nevertheless, these are truly recommended reads from someone who has hundreds, if not thousands of books to his reading experience. So, I really urge you to get a copy, and read =)

Next : Top 5 fiction

Village, Sunrise, Starry Nights

Just now the sky was clear over my house, so I did a rare timelapse of the southern sky from the playground near my house. However the clouds set in soon enough -.-


Suburban Timelapse from ChronoFong on Vimeo.

 Last weekend a bunch of us MCKL fellas went on a 3 day 2 night journey to the serene town on Sungai Lembing, nestled in the valleys in Pahang. The place was in a world of its own, featuring a magical Rainbow Waterfall, hanging bridges and a Panorama Hill behind the town with a breathtaking scenery, especially during sunrise. Sounds like the Harvest Moon's Mineral Town, eh? :D 





And here we have a timelapse of the sunrise at Panorama Hill. It was a breezy day with a little too many clouds obscuring the horizon, however it is also a good experience for us! 


Sunrise at Panorama Hill from ChronoFong on Vimeo.

This was on my first trip to Sungai Lembing back in 2008. That time the Sun was much redder and clearer! Will visit Sungai Lembing again next time! =)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Break Free

Break free of the chains that are bounding you
Break free of the shadows that held you in fear
Spread out your wings, reach for the light
And soar as high as your wings can take you.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Astronomy On The Rise

333371_10151027224084800_577645380_o Since the inception of the Stargazer Society in  MCKL, I have been looking around and noticed that the people’s awareness and interest in astronomy has been increasing. (Or it’s just me who didn’t realise that all the while?) HELP has their own astronomy club now, as well as INTI Subang. Kajang and Klang enthusiasts has been conducting their own stargazing sessions too! Despite the fact that Penang Astronomy Convention last year had its lowest turnout and was scrapped this year, the momentum is building up, thanks to social media such as Facebook which has really helped connect astronomy enthusiasts from all around Malaysia and even within the city, which can be so large that you barely know your neighbours!

And now, to another astronomy club which is on the rise – the Yu Hua Astronomy Club!

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The Yu Hua Astronomy Club has been established quite some time ago, I once was their member back in 2006 but the club has been lying dormant all the while. Until now!  Simpson and I decided to pay a visit and Simpson to guide and advise them on their future activities, as full-fledged amateur astronomers!

The attendance was shocking! Well, it’s Yu Hua, a humongous school of 5000 people. First, we introduced them to the Universe, focusing on our home, the Solar System. It was a quick and easy presentation, followed by a game which involved 10 people standing in one line to demonstrate the scale of the Solar System!

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THE TRUE SCALE OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM : (pic captions are from upper left to right, then bottom left to right)

  1. From the edge of the Solar System! Here’s Pluto in yellow. You can see Neptune in the distance!
  2. The last of the icy giants Neptune! You can see Uranus in the distance.
  3. the icy giant Uranus! You can see Saturn in the distance.
  4. The beautiful planet Saturn! ;) You can already see Jupiter not far away, and even Mars too!
  5. The largest of them all, Jupiter! You can see the rocky planets already!
  6. And at last, all the rocky planets are stuffed close together, from left : Kee Onn, Mercury (the small boy), Venus the girl in front, Sun the girl furthest behind, Mars the guy in red, and Earth the guy at the right.

Did you really understood and appreciate the scale of our own home, the solar system? Well now you do!

Apart from that, they also got the chance to check out Chrono’s 100mm refractor and Isaac Low’s mini 76mm Dobsonian Reflector! We provided them with a clear view of the Kajang town :D They also learnt how to use the star chart, and we urged them to go out to stargaze whenever the sky is clear!

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moon phases pubFinally, there was ‘homework’ for them – a task to observe and record the phases of the moon for the next month! As their meetings is once a month by school regulations \(=.=v)/ we have to get them interested and occupied until the next meeting. They also have their own Facebook group so its easy to keep in touch.

As I’ll be leaving soon Simpson will be advising this club in the future. All the best for the future of Yu Hua Astronomy Club!