Productivity, YorkUniverse 150, and Leftover comet water on Jupiter

Rather than post a bunch of simple tiny posts, I decided to go for the gusto and post something a bit more massive.  I realized recently that I blog barely once a week, which would be fine for an astronomy-only blog, but I also want to blog about interesting things in my life, which are slightly more common than ‘weekly.’

So to productivity, which for me has been lacking as of late.  I spend plenty of time doing valuable things, but not many of those things are valuable to me in the long term.  I get to work out a lot, relax and watch tv, cook, play guitar, and learn piano, but other than that, very little actual work gets done.

So what changed my mind? The lack of funds that go along with lack of work and motivation? The desire to not be bored of the lack of challenge in day to day activities? Although these played a part, the biggest change came just from action.

By simply doing something work-related, anything at all, it became a lot easier to keep going and continue working.  This seems true of most of the things we procrastinate over in life, and you’d think that after 27 years of this I’d have figured it out earlier.  Well I guess I have known about this secret for a long time, but it seems I’ve underestimated the brain’s ability to distract us from what we really need.

At any rate, the shift has happened and now it becomes about building on the successes.  Taking the small steps of doing and adding to them to build something bigger.  When I was a kid I built a castle out of lego, brick by agonizing brick.  The analogy works well here, it just takes a bit longer to lay each lego brick.

Quotes often keep me interested in the doing, so here are a couple recent discoveries:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” –Calvin Coolidge

“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” –Bruce Lee

Onto York Universe 150, which is referring to the 150th live broadcast of the York University Astronomy Radio Show, which I’ve been a host on for the past year and a half or so.

Usually when we do a show its over skype with our broadcast partner in the United States, who then plays it live over the digital air (its a web based radio station –  We have 3-4 hosts per show and we do it from our own homes, which can make it difficult to have coherent conversations because we have no cues as to when its our turn to talk.  Even still, we manage to make great shows about current events in Astronomy, and are the top rated show on the broadcast schedule.

For the 150th show, we decided to go all out, by doubling the show time to 2 hours, inviting all 8 of our hosts on air, and doing a live broadcast with most of us in the same room.  We also did some more debate style and opinion-based discussions, which led to some heated exchanges and made for a great show.

I enjoyed doing something different, and it really got me to reflect on how far I’ve come since my first show.  The first time it was awkward, I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t think what I had to say was interesting, and so I kept quiet.  When I did speak it was mostly umms and ahhs and a lot of nervous ticks.  In a year and a half of semi regular weekly practice, I’ve become confident, well read in Astronomy, and very concise and coherent in my manner of speaking.  Its a night and day difference.

It goes back to the productivity stuff above, and there’s another lesson here.  Doing is important, even in repeated failure.  Success is simply failure + persistence.

You can find all of our shows, including the 150th, podcasted for free at

And finally I go to the astronomy part of the post.  The Hershel space telescope, on its last legs, has been churning out interesting data at an impressive rate over the past month or so.  The latest story I picked up was about water in Jupiter’s atmosphere.  Jupiter is not very full of water, except for a solid amount in the southern hemisphere.

Water present in Jupiter’s atmosphere, light blue shows more water – Credit: NASA-JPL

But why in the southern hemisphere? Why not all around.  Turns out that the water all originated from the 1994 impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.  The comet broke apart and hit Jupiter’s southern hemisphere all those years ago, and the massive amounts of ice water present in the comet have dispersed around the same latitude on the mighty gas giant.

Other potential sources of water in the atmospheres of gas giant planets are thought to be icy ring systems or icy moons.  Enceladus of Saturn would be an excellent candidate for this with its icy volcanic eruptions flying far into space away from the moon.

That’s it for now.  I’ll try to blog more about cool stuff. Have fun!

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