When life on Earth starts getting you down, look up


After reading, among other things, Jeff Fecke's article on the culture of rape ingrained in the U.S. Air Force, my wife shook her head and said to me "I don't know how you do this every day."

It can be a bit of a mental drag. Day after day, reading about things like the CIA's reign of torture across the globe, or seeing how nearly a third of all Iraqis now are without water, sanitation, food and shelter and in need emergency aid, or seeing how my country has been taken over by a despicable cast of bloodthirsty warmongers while learning how long they've actually been in charge, and on and on - it can sadden a person, to say the least.

Which probably explains my new-found interest in astronomy. Now don't get me wrong, I'm no expert. Far, far from it. To paraphrase Woody Harrelson in the movie "Doc Hollywood," I'd probably understand a lot more of astronomy if it weren't for all that math.

Nonetheless, it's something I find fascinating. And perhaps soothing. Because we are such a minuscule part of this universe that we barely count. We are but a pebble in a vast sea of ever-changing tides. But we are part of it. And we are a part of it that can learn about it, as well.

So, while I anxiously await the day I buy my first telescope (the Orion 6″ Dobsonian SkyQuest XT6 IntelliScope seems like a great place to start, for any of you that happen to be my wife), here are a couple links for anyone interested in astronomy. The first is AstronomyBuzz.com. Created by "Bad Astronomer" Phil Plait, AstronomyBuzz is sort of a Digg for those with their heads in the clouds. Still working to gain traction, it's a site that could use some more decent posters as it takes a look at astronomy photos, videos and stories, among other things.

For those that love podcasts, the Astronomy Cast is truly phenomenal. Host Frasier Cain and Dr. Pamela Gay take looks at everything from how stars are created to Einstein's theories and how they are applied to astronomy, to just about anything else under the sun, and far beyond. And Gay, who aside from being a fascinating scientist with Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, has as good a radio voice as you could imagine. It's an entertaining, educational podcast of the highest order.

Finally, is you've just flat-out decided that the universe is just plain annoying to you, why not try your hand at owning a star, planet or galaxy of your own in a fictitious environment? That's what's happening at Galaxiki, a sort of wiki-based community portal that allows its members to edit stars, planets and moons in a virtual galaxy, all to create an entire fictional universe online.

"The richness of the galaxy itself, the great 2D map-browser, the easy to use editing and setup features and the option to purchase your own private solar system will make this site an exciting experience for all surfers", said Jos Kirps, the creator of Galaxiki. "We offer almost everything for free - free membership, free community star naming and editing, free participation in all community areas. There has never been a site like Galaxiki, and we can't wait to see the genesis of a completely fictional online galaxy."

So remember, life can be tough when you make the decision to actively pay attention to the world around you like we do. Instead of letting it get to you, however, look up. Figuratively and literally.


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