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Where we’re at

May 4th, 2006

banana leaf

The systemic collaboration website has now been on the air for six months. Traffic has been increasingly steadily. By the end of April, oklo.org has been averaging 250 visitors a day, with a total of 1661 unique “real” visitors for the month. (This brings to mind a philosophical question: if a tree falls in a forest, and only robots, worms, or replies with special HTTP status codes comment, did it make a sound?)

april showers

The Systemic Team is enthusiastic about a number of improvements that will be coming on line very soon. Here’s a rundown of what to look for during May:

1. Aaron Wolf is putting the finishing touches on the next release of the systemic console. The updated version will have a number of subtle improvements to the existing controls, and will have several completely new features, including a sonification utility and a folding window. Sonification allows the user to create a .wav format audio file of the radial velocity waveform produced by a given configuration of planets orbiting a star:

console sonification controller

As we’ll discuss in future posts, the ability to “listen” to dynamical systems provides a startlingly effective and completely novel way to evaluate the long-term orbital stability of a hypothesized system of planets. For example, when a configuration of planets is stable, one generally gets a sound with a steady timbre: [example 1.5 MB .wav file corresponding to a stable planetary system].

On the other hand, when a configuration of planets is unstable, the radial velocity waveform of the star can get pretty crazy, which can lead to an inifinite variety of very weird sounds: [example 0.5 MB .wav file corresponding to a dynamically unstable planetary system].

2. Stefano Meschiari, who will be transferring as a graduate student to the UCSC graduate program this Fall (yes!), has developed a PHP-based collaborative environment for the systemic project. Think flickr, think myspace, think the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia, think seti@home, and think effective scientific collaboration all rolled into one. I’m not kidding, folks, it’s amazing.

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