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Space Science

Bill Gates and Microsoft Fund Telescope 171

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the he's-still-a-nerd-people dept.
coondoggie writes "Bill Gates and the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences this week donated $30 million to an ambitious telescope that researchers say will be able to survey the entire sky every three nights — something never done before. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) Project got $20 million from the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences and $10 million from Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates. Expected to see its "first light" in 2014, the 8.4-meter LSST will survey the entire visible sky deeply in multiple colors every week with its 3 billion-pixel digital camera, probing the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy and opening a movie-like window on objects that change or move. With the telescope scientists will be able to quickly find Earth-threatening asteroids and exploding stars called supernovas and will be able to map out 100 billion galaxies, according to researchers."
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Bill Gates and Microsoft Fund Telescope

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  • ah! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Coraon (1080675) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @10:20AM (#21922884)
    but does it run Linux?
    • Re:ah! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @11:02AM (#21923288) Homepage Journal
      Most probably not.

      In addition to receiving funding from Bill Gates and Microsoft, another sponsor was the Charles Simonyi Foundation. Charles Simonyi [wikipedia.org], for those who are not aware, was responsible for Microsoft Office as head of Microsoft's Applications division for many years. Much of the early version of Microsoft Word for MS-DOS and Multiplan were coded by Simonyi. He is the originator of the so-called 'Hungarian' notion for identifiers prevalent among M$ developers, where an identifier's type is embedded in the name, so you get variables like sName or nCount.

      • by jcaldwel (935913)

        g_bHungarianNotCausesBrainDamage = TRUE;
        :-)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Your.Master (1088569)
        His version of Hungarian notation was a bit different from the one used now. For him, it wasn't type as in string vs. int vs. pointer to a long, it was about different kinds of data within types. For instance, a string guaranteed to be valid & null terminated would have one prefix and a string with no such guarantee could have another.

        http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/Wrong.html [joelonsoftware.com]

        sName and nCount is a bit of a perversion on that theme, given that a good IDE will show you the type if you want it and
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by VENONA (902751)
        OTOH, it will generate 30TB per day.

        According to http://www.lsst.org/About/Tour/software.shtml [lsst.org]
        "Current projects show that approximately 5000 mathematical operations are required per pixel of the image to process and classify survey data. Scaling this to the size of the LSST data stream shows that approximately a thousand of today's high-end processors will be required a feasible proposition. Advances in processor power over the next five years will reduce this number to a few hundred, by which time the req
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Yes, it probably will.

      All modern control systems for research telescopes and instruments involve a supervisory layer and that is often run on a Unix or Unix-like system. LSST also has to do an unprecedented amount of soft-real-time processing on the data stream (see their tour page [lsst.org], and this kind of astronomical software typically runs on Linux and/or Unix.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by NixieBunny (859050)
      I work at Steward Observatory, who is a major collaborator in the LSST project (and will make its mirror). The telescopes that Steward makes usually use Linux for the control systems, since it provides a reasonable level of real-time control capability and is fairly sane to administer. Telescope control requires getting rather close to the hardware, some thing that Windows is not especially good for. Our office is pretty much a 50-50 mix of Windows and Linux machines, with Windows used grudgingly in most ca
      • That's just mind-boogeling amounts of data, I can't even imagine trying to store it on a windows based solution; I'd have though that Windows would have been relegated to display functions with maybe a token Mac or two, while Linux and or Solaris does the heavy lifting in data processing and storage.
    • Re:ah! (Score:4, Informative)

      by chrisd (1457) * <chrisd@dibona.com> on Saturday January 05, 2008 @01:39PM (#21924930) Homepage
      Please note that the LSST -isn't- about os politics, but about near earth object detection, and the telescope is going to create a crapton of data that needs storing and processing but last I talked with the engineering team, they were planning on running Linux across the -many- machines they need to process the data.

      Chris DiBona

    • by Wavicle (181176)
      When I worked at LLNL a few years ago, I interned with a group doing research on how to manage/process the monster data stream coming down from LSST. Everything we were doing assumed whatever solution was developed would be running on a Linux-based supercomputer.

      Take this with a grain salt: my understanding is that software projects for LSST at the Lab didn't have their funding renewed.

      I heard Google started doing some of this. Now that LSST is gaining more attention, I wonder if they're hiring? :)
  • by schwit1 (797399) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @10:23AM (#21922912)
    As opposed to the bridge to nowhere or the Woodstock memorial.
    • by Amiga Trombone (592952) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @10:28AM (#21922966)
      It might be arguable that it should, but the reality is that it never will.

      One more argument for keeping money in the pocket of the people who earn it, rather than the government's....
      • The founders of the U.S. had a problem with taxation without representation, not taxation in general. As long as elected representatives have overseen taxation and government expenditure, all is running as intended. This Slashdot mentality of "This money is mine, and the government is just stealing it!" is just elitist dismissal of democracy, because you think you know better how money should be spent than your community. Plus, it's crazy to claim that the money is yours alone when, hey, there wouldn't be coinage without the government and they can determine what to do with it. If you don't like it, start bartering.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by schnikies79 (788746)
          It is in no way an "elitist dismissal of democracy". Is it so bad to think for ourselves instead of expecting big brother to do it for us?

          Your mentality is nothing more than you can't do it yourself, you have to have the government. Just another way to destroy individualism.

          Moderate taxation isn't a problem, heavy taxation to support social programs is.
          • by Adambomb (118938)

            Moderate taxation isn't a problem, heavy taxation to support social programs is.
            And choosing between these relative qualifiers is pretty much the reason governments exist. Or at least, the major reason governments should exist =).
            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by robbiedo (553308)
              heavy taxation to pay for Republican deficit interest payments and war mongering. There, I fixed that for you.
        • Insightful?! (Score:2, Insightful)

          by GradiusCVK (1017360)
          Sorry buddy, I think you're pigeonholing all the founders into a category of men who only cared about taxation without representation and nothing more... but lets ignore the fact that the majority of the founding fathers were individualists and against large government in ADDITION to disagreeing with taxation without representation, and take on your argument as if all your premises were true. Sorry, but when you take MY money, apply it to YOUR favorite pet programs that I feel are not worth the money or a d
          • by flewp (458359)
            Only terrorists hate Rainbows and Sunshine. 9/11.

            But thank you for pointing out the difference between a democracy and a republic. To quote the GP (or whatever) "This Slashdot mentality of "This money is mine, and the government is just stealing it!" is just elitist dismissal of democracy, because you think you know better how money should be spent than your community." - It's not an elitist dismissal of democracy at all. It's exactly what a democracy is. If we were a democratic society, we'd have
            • by philipgar (595691)
              The first problem is that the USA is not a democracy, but a republic isn't the reason we are "spared" the tyranny of the masses. In general, a "Republic" is what most pro-democracy forces want. Almost no one is looking for a pure democracy where everyone votes for everything, and they wish to have a republic formed where elected officials voice the peoples concerns. In my opinion, this is still a democracy of sorts.

              What protects the USA (and many other countrys) from the tyranny of the masses is most def
        • The founders of the U.S. had a problem with taxation without representation, not taxation in general. As long as elected representatives have overseen taxation and government expenditure, all is running as intended. This Slashdot mentality of "This money is mine, and the government is just stealing it!" is just elitist dismissal of democracy, because you think you know better how money should be spent than your community.

          You might want to try reading the original Constitution, prior to the 16th Amendment. Y
        • by pla (258480)
          Plus, it's crazy to claim that the money is yours alone when, hey, there wouldn't be coinage without the government and they can determine what to do with it.

          You say that like it matters - Do you really believe "wealth" doesn't exist without the underlying pyramid-scheme of fiat currencies?

          Perhaps more relevantly - The US Treasury just last month cracked down on a popular form of exactly what you claim we wouldn't have without the government. Doesn't it strike you as strange that they would need to ha
        • by scottv67 (731709)
          If you don't like it, start bartering.

          I agree that the idea of switching to a barter-based system is appealing. But the age-old question will still have to be answered: Who runs Bartertown?

        • The problem is that those of us who are paying more and more in taxes are effectively suffering taxation without representation anyhow.

          This is because "our" representatives spend a lot of money on bread and circuses [wikipedia.org] to benefit people who don't pay their "fair share".

          My definition of fair:

          (Cost of Government) / (Number of Citizens) = the fair tax per citizen.

          Anything else is unfair, but necessary simply because not everyone can afford their share.

          All the shenanigans of modern tax code boils down to

          • The proper function of government is to protect your life and those things which make your life possible (primarily property). It is only just that you pay for what you get, hence a head tax for protecting your life and a property tax for protecting your property. This arrangement makes it more likely that taxes bear some relation to ability to pay, and also encourages the productive use of property.
        • Plus, it's crazy to claim that the money is yours alone when, hey, there wouldn't be coinage without the government and they can determine what to do with it. If you don't like it, start bartering.

          Actually, there were people trying to do exactly that, [libertydollar.org] but the government didn't like the competition...
          • by CRCulver (715279)
            No, the government didn't like the fraud. If they had made their own currency in a different shape and appearance than U.S. coinage, there wouldn't have been a problem.
            • That's odd - nobody has been charged with fraud. Or anything else, for that matter. Who is claiming to have been defrauded?
              • by CRCulver (715279)
                By using disc-shaped pieces of metal and rectangular pieces of papers as their currency and recommending them for general purchases, the Liberty Dollar project could have confused the general public. The law 18 U.S.C. 514 is meant to protect against that.
                • I believe the Canadian government, among others, is also manufacturing disc-shaped pieces of metal and rectangular pieces of papers as their currency and recommending them for general purchases. When are we invading?
        • This Slashdot mentality of "This money is mine, and the government is just stealing it!" is just elitist dismissal of democracy,
          As opposed to your attitude that my life and my production belongs to the collective and that I should be grateful that the rabble allows me to keep some.

          Plus, it's crazy to claim that the money is yours alone when, hey, there wouldn't be coinage without the government and they can determine what to do with it.
          Those metal tokens only have value because they hold the value created b
    • As opposed to the bridge to nowhere or the Woodstock memorial.
      Bridges and memorials don't pose a challenge to religious dogma.
      • As opposed to the bridge to nowhere or the Woodstock memorial.

        Bridges and memorials don't pose a challenge to religious dogma.


        You seem philosophically akin to the ignorant bible thumper who takes the mistranslated English version of the bible literally in every way, you seem to merely be the mirror image that thinks science means anti-religion. The truth is that science and religion are compatible. The Vatican operates a telescope and funds research:
        Dark Matter and Energy in the Cosmos
        The Accelerat
        • As opposed to the bridge to nowhere or the Woodstock memorial.

          Bridges and memorials don't pose a challenge to religious dogma.

          You seem philosophically akin to the ignorant bible thumper who takes the mistranslated English version of the bible literally in every way, you seem to merely be the mirror image that thinks science means anti-religion. The truth is that science and religion are compatible. The Vatican operates a telescope and funds research:

          Sane religious people are not threatened by science, the idiot ones are. You'll note that the sane religious types are not trying to block stem cell research but the idiot ones shout loudly enough that it happens anyway.

          Morde meum manubrium, assmunch.

          • Sane religious people are not threatened by science, the idiot ones are. You'll note that the sane religious types are not trying to block stem cell research but the idiot ones shout loudly enough that it happens anyway.

            It is also true that sane scientists are not threatened by religion. However people with political agendas see demons everywhere, they have quite a bit in common with the religious idiots. Given your mischaracterization of the stem cell issue I fear you are coming from a more political p
        • by x2A (858210)
          "The truth is that science and religion are compatible. The Vatican operates a telescope and funds research"

          Why do people keep saying this? It's not really true is it, it's at least pretty misleading. It's like saying (to use an extreme example) that love and murder are compatible, because a person a person is capable of doing both. A man might love his family, but murder his boss, but they're completely seperate acts; he didn't murder the people he loves, and him murdering his boss wasn't exactly very lovi
    • To be fair, the "bridge to nowhere" gets a bad rap. Two of Stevens' projects were dubbed as "bridges to nowhere," although one of them was arguably a pretty good idea.

      The first, and the more famous never had a chance of being built, because even the locals thought it was a terrible and ridiculous idea. Stevens was stupid to propose it....

      The second would have opened up large areas of undeveloped land in an area that is otherwise overcrowded, overpopulated, and expensive. Although the area is indeed mostl
  • I bet... (Score:4, Funny)

    by aurb (674003) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @10:26AM (#21922946)
    ...they are going to use it to search for potential markets for Microsofts` products...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by moondo (177508)
      The guy put $30 mln of his own money. Let him do what he wants with it... and if we benefit in the process, let's be grateful. Maybe we can learn a lesson on business.
  • ...if it didn't take so long to copy the images it takes onto external storage.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 05, 2008 @10:28AM (#21922968)
    Blue Sky Of Death
  • by Anonymous Coward
    why don't we just hack in and download the map directly? :P

  • by Rolgar (556636) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @10:35AM (#21923038)
    The winner of the Google Lander program land on the moon.
  • There is no place on earth where you can see the entire night sky over three days. There will always be stars hidden.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by $RANDOMLUSER (804576)
      Indeed. Cerro Pachon [gemini.edu] is at 30 degrees south, in central Chile, meaning that a fair portion of the northern sky won't be visible.
    • If you define "the night sky" to mean "that portion of the sky visible at night from where you are located", then it is quite possible.
    • by Zibblsnrt (125875)
      Clearly that means that the telescope is actually meant to destroy the Earth in order to get it out of the way to fulfill its nefarious mission.
  • by gimpeh (1209722) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @10:40AM (#21923086)
    ...to scan the sky!

    Do you want to
    • create a document template?
    • send an email to a friend?
    • send the invasion fleet to a new planet?

  • "probing the mysteries of dark matter"

    In my opinion this will go the way of the aether [wikipedia.org] and be totally discredited in time. The aether being denser than Iron and being able to propagate light .. er at the speed of light.

    The basic evidence for 'dark matter' is that galaxies are rotating to fast and maintaining there shape differently than gravitational allows for. They should fly apart or never been formed. Rather then change the current theory, scientists went out and invented 'dark matter'.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vertinox (846076)
      The basic evidence for 'dark matter' is that galaxies are rotating to fast and maintaining there shape differently than gravitational allows for. They should fly apart or never been formed. Rather then change the current theory, scientists went out and invented 'dark matter'.

      So care to explain why there appears to be an expanding universe? Dark matter is a stop gap, but unless you provide a better reason, its all we got. I think that was the point of projects like this to either prove or disprove 'dark matt
      • by Thing 1 (178996)

        So care to explain why there appears to be an expanding universe?

        I saw this here [slashdot.org] a couple weeks ago, and laughed out loud:

        is this further evidence that we're approaching a black hole? The whole, unverse appears to be accelerating away from us in all directions thing?

        kinda freakin' me out here people, if time slows down too much, it'll be 2:45 Friday afternoon forever!

    • by JetJaguar (1539)
      There is dark matter. There is more evidence for it besides galactic rotation curves. Lookup the virial theorem and galactic cluster binding energy (in other words, without dark matter there's not enough mass to hold galactic clusters together). Google the Bullet Cluster, in this specific case they have been able to detect a distinct separation between the dark matter and visible matter. There is definitely something there, even if we don't know what it is.
    • by volsung (378) <stan@mtrr.org> on Saturday January 05, 2008 @11:29AM (#21923550)

      Galactic rotation curves are only one of the pieces of evidence of dark matter. There is also a lot of evidence due to weak lensing that there are large invisible mass distributions. The Bullet Cluster is an especially impressive observation of two clusters colliding. The shockwave from the baryonic gases smacking into each other has separated the hydrogen from the dark matter, as seen when you overlay the xray map and the mass distribution reconstructed with weak lensing. Modified theories of gravity can most easily explain discrepancies when the visible matter and apparent invisible matter are concentric (such as in rotation curves). Then you just need to tweak the radial force strength at large distance. But in a system like the bullet cluster, the visible and dark matter have been separated, and that's a lot harder to explain with modified gravity. (Not that people aren't trying, of course...)

      Astronomers fought long and hard against dark matter, but grudgingly accepted it after it became more and more difficult to explain galactic rotation curves, weak lensing, the large scale structure of galactic clusters, and the power spectrum of variations in the cosmic microwave background without it. It all fits together much better when you introduce a very weakly interacting source of mass into the soup that makes up the universe. (Weakly interacting enough to become a nearly collisionless fluid early on during the expansion of the universe.) The smoking gun will be the detection of dark matter in a controlled lab setting. Those searches are just now beginning to ramp up.

    • There is no dark matter really. Matter of fact it's all dark.
    • by HiThere (15173)
      I believe that you're confusing dark matter with dark energy. (I'm certain that one of your respondents is.) You seem in a mixed state, and I think you don't understand what you're disbelieving in, if you really mean you don't believe in dark matter.

      We live on a ball of cold dark matter. (I.e., the speed of it's particles is slow, and it's not emitting significant electromagnetic radiation.) It happens to be composed largely of protons and neutrons, and the "missing mass" isn't. You might be referring
    • by dissy (172727)

      Rather then change the current theory, scientists went out and invented 'dark matter'.

      Its rather unfortunate you dont know what dark matter is (if you did, you would realize it wasnt invented)

      Lets put it this way. You exist. Your handle is rs232. If i call you by 'rs232' to someone else, by your logic, i just 'invented' 'rs232'

      Dark matter is a name given to matter that we can infer is there, but we cant tell what it is because there is no light coming from it or reflecting off of it.

      I can prove dark matter exists right now (Well, in about an hour and a half, when the sun sets)
      Go outside

  • the Blue Star of Death!
  • by $random_var (919061) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @10:56AM (#21923220)
    ...not Bill Gates and Microsoft. Anybody making that misattribution clearly didn't even read the headline of the actual article, let alone the chunk of text quoted in the summary.
  • I can't wait to see the television they have to build to display those images...
  • by johannesg (664142) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @11:24AM (#21923498)
    Only $30 million to look for planet-destroying rocks from outer space? Is that really all it takes to saveguard our species and world from such threats? If so, why aren't there half a dozen of these things already scanning the heavens every second of the day?

    Gee, *humans*...

    • by Adambomb (118938)
      Well, probably because of the fact that many would see it as $30mil to be able to look for planet-destroying rocks from outer space, and then watch as said rock slams into us as what the hell do we do about it currently =).

      If theres a viable "... Then blows the offending chunk of matter into its constituent atoms" support system, then yeah crank em out.
    • by sholden (12227)
      You have a strange idea of "safeguard". This makes it more likely me see it coming. It still hits and kills us.

      Some people like to watch the doctor do the injection, other people like to close their eyes. Both methods still result in the injection happening...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by johannesg (664142)
        These things don't show up with 4-hour warning. If you look carefully, you can see them coming years, even decades in advance. That gives us a reasonable amount of time to deflect it (which could be as easy as painting one half of it white!).
        • by sholden (12227)
          If we found one tomorrow there is nothing we could do about it now. We'd be better off spending the efforts on coming up with those paint it white options and testing them on rocks we already know about (that aren't going to hit us, and that won't when we deflect them a bit, but have similar characteristics to ones that might) to see if we can deflect them enough to make a difference. Then maybe having a look-see might be worthwhile...

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by thexray (1000044)
            What good this technology will be if we found ome tomorrow? I think we need invest into both areas at the same time.
        • These things don't show up with 4-hour warning. If you look carefully, you can see them coming years, even decades in advance.

          And sometimes they don't show up years in advance. 2007 WD5 was discovered in November and may hit Mars in January.

          See http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/space/12/21/mars.asteroid.ap/ [cnn.com]

          But then again, if we had been looking carefully we might have seen this a long time again.

    • There are government funded sky surveys that look for and track this kind of object.

      The chances are low in the short term, but a 1000 year asteroid collision can cause serious devastation, which is likely centuries away. In terms of risk vs. reward, there are other problems where the money may be better spent.

      It's a balancing act, in my opinion.
    • no $30 M is what Gates and Simonyi donated to the project, which will certainly be used for that purpose, looking for planet-destroying rocks, but that purpose will not be it's only purpose.
      A $14.2 million National Science Foundation Design and Development Award was recieved by LSST and Google's partnership will be nothing to sneeze at either. Seeing the Planet-destroying rocks is what they are working on now and that's the easy part, recognizing which are planet-destroying rocks and which are really a 9/16
    • Windows needs your permission to look at dark matter.
      Allow or Cancel ?
      If you do not trust this dark matter, do not run this operation. Dark Matter can potentially harm your computer.
  • Here are links to the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) home page [lsst.org] and its layout and construction [lsst.org].

  • My God! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Ranger (1783) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @01:37PM (#21924906) Homepage
    It's full of blue.
  • Is there a compression algorithm for video of skies?

    V2.0 of this telescope should be able to survey the entire sky in real time, and compress the feed down to something reasonable. Tie 3 or 4 of these together in different countries and you have a continuous realtime recording of space as visible from the earth archived for researchers.
  • ...does this have to do with Microsoft? Nothing, as far as I can see.
  • Will this spell this the end of amateur comet hunting? Will all newly-discovered comets henceforth be named after Microsoft products?
  • 1) $30 million dollars is pocket change to bill gates
    2) An asteroid hitting the earth would kill billions of potential microsoft customers
    3) The idea of bill gates saving the world would drive linux users nuts.
    4) Its tax deductible
    5) Its good PR
    6) The data accumulated can be used in a future Microsoft Encarta Universe program.
  • The LSST and Google have also announced some degree of collaboration: http://www.lsst.org/News/google.shtml [lsst.org].

    Indeed, an ex-Google "VP of Engineering", Wayne Rosling, joined [space.com] the LSST project in June 05. That Google announced a joint effort with the LSST some time later is not therefore totally surprising--sometimes it's who you know.
  • Its wonderful all this info will make it to professionals and amateurs alike thats to Google and MicroSoft alumni.

"Pascal is Pascal is Pascal is dog meat." -- M. Devine and P. Larson, Computer Science 340

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