Planet Mitchell

When it comes to immortality, the best a guy of my means can realistically hope for is a brass plaque on a park bench, and that’s if I start saving tomorrow.

The chances of a public statue in my image or a hospital wing in my name are getting slimmer every year. There’s an outside chance I’ll contract some new disease or syndrome, but I can’t count on that happening.

Luckily there’s the Internet. Thanks to a group of scientists and astronomers I have an outside chance of having a whole new planet named after me.

The latest exercise in collaborative networking – basically hooking your computer up to a network of other computers to form a kind of super computer, is called PlanetQuest ( If you sign up for the program, your computer will be used to help sift through the mountains of data collected by dozens of telescopes in the search for extrasolar planets. That is planets outside of our own solar system.

About 136 extrasolar planets have already been discovered, mostly using a technique that detects the wobble of distant stars as a result of the gravitational forces of a circling planet or planets.

PlanetQuest is slightly different in that it will look at the variations in brightness of a star to detect whether a planet is passing across the surface. Right now this is our best hope of finding an earth-like planet outside of our own solar system – the wobble system is only refined enough to detect massive planets in relatively close orbits around a star.

Unlike other collaborative networking projects that go to work when your computer is in sleep mode or the screensaver comes up, you can actually sit back and watch PlanetQuest do its stuff on your desktop. The system’s designer felt the project was more educational this way, and makes participants feel closer to the experiment. It also increases the amount of time your computer spends sifting through the data.

The best part of PlanetQuest is the shot at immortality – if your computer discovers an extrasolar planet, you get to name it.

I’m thinking Mitchell Prime, or possibly Andrupiter.

Better weather reports?

Weather is everything in Whistler, but predicting the weather is a hair puller at the best of times.

Mountainous areas are generally harder to forecast for than other regions, and Whistler’s situation is made more complicated by our proximity to the nearby coastal system.

Environment Canada’s predictions for Whistler are pretty good for the most part, but sometimes the timing is off, and long-term forecasts are often rendered useless by unexpected changes – a long range forecast made on Tuesday calling for snow on Saturday could be calling for sun by the time Friday rolls around.

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