Using Laser to Map Ancient Civilization in a Matter of Days – NYTimes.com

As an archeology geek with interest in the Mayans, I go squee: Using Laser to Map Ancient Civilization in a Matter of Days.

Then, in the dry spring season a year ago, the husband-and-wife team of Arlen F. Chase and Diane Z. Chase tried a new approach using airborne laser signals that penetrate the jungle cover and are reflected from the ground below. They yielded 3-D images of the site of ancient Caracol, in Belize, one of the great cities of the Maya lowlands.

In only four days, a twin-engine aircraft equipped with an advanced version of lidar (light detection and ranging) flew back and forth over the jungle and collected data surpassing the results of two and a half decades of on-the-ground mapping, the archaeologists said. After three weeks of laboratory processing, the almost 10 hours of laser measurements showed topographic detail over an area of 80 square miles, notably settlement patterns of grand architecture and modest house mounds, roadways and agricultural terraces.

It has an interactive graphic! It’s awesome! The city is huge!

Dob Update

We took the Dob out for real this evening because the evening was incredibly clear just as the sun went down. While Katie Rose was antsy while the telescope was positioned we were able to see:

– Some amazing cratering on the moon.
– The rings of Saturn and Titan.

The Dob was able to split the rings. Of course, nothing stayed in the view for very long because the Dob is manual and doesn’t have a worm gear to hold tracking, but for a little telescope, the optics were quite spectacular.

Katie got to see lunar details and the rings of Saturn from the driveway. Orion was a bust, but all in all, a pretty amazing success.

Museum and Gardening

We took Katie to the Maryland Science Center on the Inner Harbor on the diagonal on the water from the National Aquarium in Baltimore. The Maryland Science Center is a hand’s on science museum focusing on dinosaurs, general Earth Sciences, Newtonian physics, (incredible amounts of) Biology, Space Sciences in cooperation with NASA and whatever special exhibits they are showing that season — right now, surviving Antarctica. My impressions:

  • Four year old pro-scientists can run free and touch everything. This makes this the best place on the planet.
  • The exhibits were pretty comprehensive.
  • They have a full wet bio lab for kids, but it’s a very much “7 and up,” which made 4 year old who really wanted to wear a lab coat and play with microscopes have a meltdown.
  • I liked the Planetarium.
  • All in all, we will return to the museum. It was accessible from 95, straight forward with parking, and lots of things to mess with. It was about the same size as the National Aquarium, so it’s a 4 hour museum, not a two day mega-haul like Air and Space down on the Mall. I want to look at what the benefits of being a member are and weigh if I want a family membership or not.

    My tiny proto-biologist got out with a Cat in the Hat book that is an introduction to basic human anatomy, a second Cat in the Hat book with an introduction to Space Sciences, and a Discovery DVD on anatomy. (Katie is obsessed with how the human body works, and today’s organ was the lungs.)

    Then I came home to resume my war. My Mom thinks I garden because it’s relaxing. I know I garden because I get to destroy my enemies, the weeds, with extreme justice. I’ve been working on it for the last month and I’ve actually de-garbaged it, pulled weeds, cut back plants, cut back the Rose Bush of Doom, planted more bulbs, and finally started laying down mulch. But right now I am out of mulch so I have been thwarted by reality. I don’t know what annuals are going to go into it this year. I haven’t thought that far. I am thinking things that grow big and aggressively instead of little sedate, timid things. And I am tempted by clematis on the side of the house just to see how insane the vine goes. It will need something to climb…

    I’m doing a very small 3×3 vegetable garden with Katie Rose this year as an experiment in horticulture. It turns out Aerogarden has a vegetable seed-starter kit so we’re doing the daily observer-and-record cycle in the dining room while starting plants from seed. I find that I don’t care if I get a tomato out of it this year or not, but if Katie learns about how plants grow then it’s a score. After the seedlings move outside, the Aerogarden is going to be repurposed for cherry tomatoes.

    It is very clear out so we’ve promised Katie Rose astronomy night. The Dob will go into the driveway and we’ll look at the Moon and see what else we can see…

    DinkyScope

    One of Katie’s very first words was “Moon.”  She’s been fascinated with the moon, and now Jupiter, Saturn, Venus and Mars, since she could point up at the sky and point out that there were holes up there through which light passes.  We figured she was old enough to understand basic instructions, so we were bad and bought her a present.

    We bought Katie her very first piece of serious scientific equipment, the Orion SkyQuest XT4.5 Dobsonian telescope. It’s an interesting scope because Orion advertises it as their starter/kids pack to get kids started.  It costs just as much as a crappy refractor from the Mall but it’s a real scope that can do real scope-like things. And sure, she’s only 4, but one cannot be too little to have a telescope!

    Here’s what we have learned in the whole 6 hours from owning this scope:

    – It is an awesome scope for the price.  The scope is only $200.  Because a Dob is just a light bucket, Dobs are cheap.  They have high mirrors – cost ratios.  The one doesn’t have any electronics, but it is exceptionally well built, sturdy, and all the gears work like they have been greased with butter.

    – It was easy to lift, easy to set up, and took about 5 minutes to get going and shooting things.

    – Even without the mirrors properly aligned, I took it out, put it on the driveway, got it pointed at the Moon (in daylight!) and let Katie see the Moon through the eyepiece.  This was a moment of extreme excitement.  It wasn’t even a full Moon, or in the dark, or with one of our high-quality eyepieces.

    – If I had this Dob, even without electronics, when I was a kid I would still be in the backyard.

    – This is seriously making me consider one of the big Dobs with all the electronics and gears. We have a Mak-Cass and it is awesome but it is mostly for planetary viewing.  The big Dobs will get you the best Hercules Globular Cluster you’ve ever seen where you can make out about 10,000 stars.

    If you have a little kid and you want to get out and look at the planets and the Moon and some real easy to find deep field objects, this is a hell of a piece of starter equipment.  It’s a ton of telescope for the price, and it’s good for Mom and Dad, too.