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The Business Focus of INDYCAR Fans

April 28th, 2011 · No Comments

In today's Q&A from Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star, April 28: On standing starts and TV ratings, he ponders why fans of motorsport [especially INDYCAR] are so fixated on the business of the sport, TV ratings, and the rulings.

" I don’t know why so many people have to be so critical of everything that’s done in motor sports. As I told Randy Bernard on the phone this week, baseball and football fans aren’t that critical of the sanctioning bodies. They don’t worry about attendance, TV ratings or if the rules are adjusted. Generally, they only care about their teams. I wish this sport was like that. We get too bogged down in the details of the sport, and that tends to alienate outsiders." -- Curt Cavin, Indianapolis Star

The difference between INDYCAR and MLB or the NFL is that the MLB and the NFL aren't on life support. Professional baseball and football are very healthy and thriving in today's marketplace where INDYCAR is struggling more than it ever has before. Fans are nervous and concerned for the sport they love, so its no surprise they want as much information about the business as possible. When the rules affect how the sport is perceived by the larger public, of course the fans will be interested then as well.

Perhaps a good analogy is visiting a loved and respected friend or relative. If they're healthy, when you visit you talk about mundane things, but if they're sick, you're asking about their health, how they've been doing, if they've been taking their meds, etc. You wouldn't ask these more technical questions if everything was normal. Likewise, if the IZOD IndyCar Series were healthy and enjoying the level of success of MLB and the NFL, fans wouldn't be as focused on the business nitty gritty as they are. The sad fact is that the IICS is not healthy and successful. Ratings continue to slide, sponsorship is increasingly difficult to secure, and track attendance continues to wan. This is why we focus on the things we do.

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Evening With The Stars for Fall 2009

September 14th, 2009 · No Comments


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Summer Work

August 20th, 2009 · No Comments

The corn is starting to dry out, so it must be time for the Fall semester to start up again. Here at JCCC, though, the work doesn’t stop just because its Summertime. This past summer term, I had an honors student that worked on astrophotography and differential photometry. Both were fun projects, and I’ll write more about the variable star photometry later. For now, let me show off some of the excellent images G. W. Francis took with our SBIG ST-8 CCD camera and his own Nikon D40.

A solar prominance seen throuh a Hydrogen-alpha (H-a) filter.  The solar disc has been masked to enhance the prominance.

A solar prominance seen throuh a Hydrogen-alpha (H-a) filter. The solar disc has been masked to enhance the prominance.

Every Monday evening in June, it seemed, was cloudy, so we decided to take advantage of a sunny afternoon and image the Sun using an H-alpha filter. This filter only allows the one wavelength of red light emitted by hydrogen atoms which enables us to see features like the prominence shown above.

Ursa Major obscured by the reflected light from sodium vapor lamps.

Ursa Major obscured by the reflected light from sodium vapor lamps.

GW mounted his D40 onto the piggyback mount of our Celestron 8″ SC telescope and tried to take an image of the constellation Ursa Major. Most of what he got was the reflected light from the sodium vapor lamps in the parking lot. This was the last night of observing at the college. The light pollution was just too much for us.

21 30-sec exposures from the D40 rotated and stacked to form a single image of the Northern Sky.  Polaris is the bright star in the center of the image.

21 30-sec exposures from the D40 rotated and stacked to form a single image of the Northern Sky. Polaris is the bright star in the center of the image.

21 30-sec images from the D40 stacked, but not aligned so that the rotation of the Earth is evident by the trails formed by the stars.

21 30-sec images from the D40 stacked, but not aligned so that the rotation of the Earth is evident by the trails formed by the stars.

GW mounted his Nikon D40 on a tripod and pointed it northward, centering Polaris in the field of view and collected 21 images each with a 30-sec exposure. By rotating and aligning each image, a detailed view of the Northern Night Sky is revealed. When the images are not rotated, but simply stacked and merged together, the rotation of the Earth becomes apparent as the stars leave trails through the sky. Notice that Polaris, which is very close to the North Celestial Pole, remains nearly fixed in place.

M57  - The Ring Nebula

M57 - The Ring Nebula

Before settling down onto the program variable star for the evening, the we targeted several Messier objects. M57, the Ring Nebula, is a planetary nebula. A star, not unlike our Sun, threw off its outer layers as it died leaving behind an expanding shell of gas and a small but staggeringly hot white dwarf in the center.

M16 - The Eagle Nebula imaged by peeking through the gaps in a maple tree.

M16 - The Eagle Nebula imaged by peeking through the gaps in a maple tree.

M16, The Eagle Nebula, made famous by the Hubble Telescope’s image Pillars of Creation, had to be imaged by peeking through the gaps in a maple tree near where we had setup the telescope. The location was chosen for optimum viewing of the variable star DY Her, not M16, but we got lucky. In the image you can make out the famous pillars in the top center of the image.

M13 - The Great Cluster in Hercules

M13 - The Great Cluster in Hercules

M13, the Great Cluster in Hercules, is one of the closest (relatively speaking) globular clusters to our planet. This dense cluster is home for around a million ancient stars.

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New Pics

June 18th, 2009 · No Comments

Rather than using the SBIG ST-8 CCD camera, I opted for my Nikon D90 for these photos. In some respects its better, in other ways not so much. First stop: The Sun.

The chromosphere shown in H-alpha

The chromosphere shown in H-alpha

In this image, you can see the Sun’s chromosphere and a small prominence on the left side of the image. The camera doesn’t have the resolution nor dynamic range of your eyeball, so cool though this may be, nothing substitutes for seeing the Sun live. This image was taken through a DayStar H-alpha filter threaded to the back of our 12″ Meade on the roof of the CLB with my D90. I’ve tried doing solar imaging with the SBIG camera, but even at the fastest shutter speed, the image saturates. Even in the above image, the disc of the Sun is overexposed in order to make the chromosphere visible.

The double star Alberio in the constellation of Cygnus.

The double star Alberio in the constellation of Cygnus.

Alberio is a nice double star in the constellation of Cygnus. If you have a pair of binoculars, this is an easy target. The color difference between the two stars is due to their different temperatures. The bright blue star is extremely hot where as the yellow star is cooler (relatively speaking) with a temperature closer to that of our own Sun. This image is a single 30″ exposure with the D90 set at ISO3200. The noise isn’t too bad, but being a single shot, there’s more noise and less detail than one could get by taking multiple images and combining them. I’ll try that some time soon. With the D90 as opposed to the SBIG, the colors of the two stars are really easy to capture. With the SBIG, one would have to take three separate images through a red, a green, and a blue filter and combine them to form the color image. Doable, but definitely more work.

The Great Cluster in Hercules, M13

The Great Cluster in Hercules, M13

This image of the Great Cluster of Hercules, M13, is a single 30″ exposure like the image of Alberio, but with the much dimmer object comes a lower signal-to-noise ratio. Imaging objects like this is where the SBIG becomes vastly superior to a digital SLR like the D90. As with the Alberio image, this image could be improved by combining multiple exposures.

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2009 IndyCar 300 at Kansas Fan Guide

April 9th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Its that time of year again! Tab and I have our tickets for the Saturday qualifying sessions and the Firestone Indy Lights and IndyCar Series races at the Kansas Speedway. The race is at the end of the month and you can catch the broadcast on Versus or online at

Anyway, I’ve updated the Kansas Fan Guide from last year to include more details about the Legends shopping district, and update the schedule of the Royals games the weekend of the race. The Royals are in town and this year, it looks like they might not suck! YAY!

Let me know if I need to make any corrections to the guide, and we’ll see ya at the track!

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EWtS Wrap-Up

April 7th, 2009 · No Comments

The Evening With The Stars this spring had a great turn out. Thanks to all who came out. Leo gave a great talk, and I’ve heard from many of the attendees that they really enjoyed the evening. Unfortunately, the weather was not as cooperative and clouds ruined our planned observing. We’ll try again in the Fall when we have our EWtS event again. Here are some pictures from the evening.

Kings and Queens, Myths and Monsters:  A Tour of the Spring Sky

Kings and Queens, Myths and Monsters: A Tour of the Spring Sky

Leo Bud Johns talking about the joy of observing the night sky.

Leo "Bud" Johns talking about the joy of observing the night sky.

Attendees of the EWtS event.

Attendees of the EWtS event.

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Evening With The Stars

April 3rd, 2009 · No Comments

The JCCC Science Division presents anEVENING WITH THE STARS

April 4th at 7:00pm
in the Craig Auditorium, GEB 233

Leo “Bud” Johns
of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City
will give a presentation on
Kings and Queens; Myths and Monsters: A Tour of the Spring Sky

Followed by night sky observing, weather permitting, with Prof. Doug Patterson at the Paul Tebbe Observatory located on the roof of the CLB. Some objects of note that will be viewable are:

  • The Orion Nebula
  • The Pleiades Cluster
  • The Double Cluster in Perseus
  • Saturn
  • and the Moon.

For more information, contact either
William Koch,, at (913) 469-8500 x3725
Doug Patterson,, at (913) 469-8500 x4268.

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GDC 2009: Day 5

March 31st, 2009 · No Comments

I know, its already Tuesday, and I’m just now getting around to posting the happenings of GDC on Friday. Its been busy, cut me some slack. At any rate, Friday at GDC was like most final days of a conference: lots of people with suitcases in tow, gradually diminishing population throughout the day, and exhibitors tearing down their booths and trying to give away as much remaining swag as possible. NASA Expo Booth Unfortunately, I didn’t have too much time to make it over to the Expo hall on this last day, but I did manage to secure some good swag. Perhaps the best of all was available at the NASA booth. Yes, NASA was at GDC this year promoting their library of 3D models that are free for all to use. They had some very nice pins, big meatball stickers and meatball temporary tatoos. NASA Meatball(don’t know what I’m going to do with the tat)

The math and physics discussions were over for the week, although there were a few session on how physics was integrated into some animation packages. The session I attended was High-Definition Physics with Clothing and Vegetation by NVIDIA APEX. I’m not an animator, but the presentation was very interesting. The APEX animation engine incorporates the PhysX engine as well, so animation and simulation can be combined in one tool with no coding required. Very nice. Check out NVIDIA’s APEX website linked above.

Attending the Math and Physics tutorials the first two days was certainly worthwhile, but I did regret not being able to also see the Serious Games Summit. Fortunately, Ben Sawyer of the Serious Games Initiative gave a great summary of the two-day summit. One of the biggest consumers of serious games currently is the health field. Through games such as DDR and WiiFit, health organizations are starting to realize that video games can drive physical activity. You don’t always have to play video games on a couch! In order to reinforce this trend in the health fields, the Serious Games Initiative created a group called Games for Health which is looking at not only how games and game technology can help patients, but also how it can aid nurses and doctors improve their ability to deliver quality health care. SlinkyBall from HAGames.comThere were many other presenters as well, including the more traditional education-based serious games from Hidden Agenda Games. HA Games uses an interesting model of providing financial incentives for college students who develop educational games for high school students. An interesting model, and one that would benefit students at both levels. For an example of one of their games, check out SlinkyBall which demonstrates the function of simple machines.

The last talk I attended for the conference was a historical look at the game development challenges of the Atari 2600 by Ian Bogost of Persuasive Games. It wasn’t exactly what I’d expected going in, but it was an entertaining talk which tied into Kojima’s keynote from Thursday regarding how hardware limitations can influence game design.

With the conference over, Russ and I headed down to Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 to enjoy the sights and seafood. Good times and great food were had, and many pictures were taken. Here’s a small sample. The rest can be seen in the GDC09 set I have on Flickr.

Pier 39

Fisherman's Wharf

Golden Gate and Moon
(yes, I needed to clean my lens and image sensor. it was a long week)

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GDC 2009: Day 4

March 28th, 2009 · No Comments

More physics and fluid dynamics! YAY! Ok, actually less physics and fluid dynamics theory, and more on their role in game design. The first talk was How Sackboy Learned To Love Physics by Dave Smith co-founder of Media Molecule which produced the triple-award winning Little Big Planet. The talk wasn’t so much about the physics used to create the game as it was about how physics can influence design. Any game that has onscreen movement must include some level of physics, but how much? Is more always better? The example that Dave used was Donkey Kong. Of course there is some physics involved since there is certainly movement, and there has to be some level of collision detection. However, now we have more sophisticated hardware and can perform full 3D rigid-body simulations at 60 Hz, would Donkey Kong be a better game if it were rendered in 3D will full physics? Of course not, so rather than applying mad amounts of physics to every single game, a designer needs to consider how much physics to include. There is a trade off, the more physics and dynamics one includes in a game, the less control the designer will have over the direction of the game play, and the greater the risk of a kablamo resulting from unanticipated paradoxes or crashes. As a physicist, my default reaction is “Yay more physics!”, however, after hearing Dave’s talk, I can certainly see that, in a game environment, high-end physics simulation can sometimes get in the way of game design. Its back to the overall theme I’ve been seeing all week, know when it’s “good enough!”

Hideo Kojima's keynote talk

Hideo KojimaThe second big keynote talk was given today by none other than Hideo Kojima, creator of the Metal Gear series of games, the first of which gave birth to the genre of stealth games. Although he wasn’t as dynamic of a speaker as Mr. Iwata, he had a lot of really great insights about game design. The major takeaway that I got from his talk was the three basic elements to overcoming obstacles in game creation: hardware technology, software techniques, and game design. When limited by the hardware, one must be more creating with the software techniques that one employs and the design of the game play. The reason why the original Metal Gear became a stealth game was because of the limitation of the MSX2 platform for which the game was being built. Each iteration of the game over the past two decades had to overcome similar challenges. As the hardware improved, more and more was possible, but also more and more was expected, so clever game design was still very critical to the commercial success of the series.

The poster presentations were pretty sparse this year, but there was one very good one from Dr. Michael Gourley at University of Central Florida on the modeling of fluid turbulence. Check out this video demonstrating his simulation methods.

Wind tunnel simulation

The last interesting session for the day was titled Beauty of Destruction. I should have read the abstract instead of just the title. I saw the title and thought that it was going to be a discussion of the animation and simulation techniques for modeling destruction of game objects, but rather is was a discussion of using the C++ destructor function. This is NOT what I had expected, but it was certainly interesting.

After the end of the day’s sessions, I met up with my good friend Steve who now works at Berzerkly and we ventured out to Johnny Foley’s again and had fantastic cottage pie, Guinness, and a desert of Bushmill’s 16yr single malt. YUM! I won’t bore you with all of the incredibly nerdy conversation we had regarding fluid dynamics, stress tensors, and the pitfalls of SPH, but that wasn’t all we discussed. After seeing my haul of swag, he was super jealous! The AGU conference doesn’t have swag anywhere half as cool as GDC. We also spent a lot of time discussing how excited we were about the coming IndyCar season and especially the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. It was a good evening. I’ll see you in May, Steve, and I have your uber piece of swag!

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[Press Release] Poker Players Alliance Lauds New Statistical Study Showing Poker is a Game of Skill, Not Chance - PPA (03/27/09)

March 27th, 2009 · No Comments

Poker Players Alliance Lauds New Statistical Study Showing Poker is a Game of Skill, Not Chance Publish at Scribd or explore others: [...]

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