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Tech journalist since the dark ages. Windows Secrets, LangaList newsletter, Windows Magazine (NetGuide, Home PC), Byte, Popular Computing, yadda yadda yadda. Google me, if it matters.

This feed is mostly personal interest; it's NOT my professional writing. There's tech here, yes, but also lots of general science and some politics and weird humor thrown in.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

NASA countdown clock finally retired

A news story today talks about the retiring and replacement of the original NASA countdown clock --- the "second-most watched clock in the world,"
after the clock in London's Elizabeth Tower (the tower that houses the "Great Bell," nicknamed Big Ben).

I'm sure you've seen the clock:

AP Photo:
 


I saw it in person in 2011, when I was a guest of NASA to attend the launch of the Mars Science Lab, and its rover, Curiosity.

My Pix:

Fellow attendees goofing in front of the clock:   

45 years of salt air had taken its toll:





I was surprised --- aside from the general hoopty quality of the clock --- that the numerals were made up or ordinary, and mismatched, incandescent bulbs.


Most were 40-watt; some frosted, some not; clearly whatever was available from the local Wal-Mart or Home Depot.



The new clock is LED and all-electronic, although it will look much the same on the outside. It should be ready for the launch of the first (uncrewed) flight of Orion, scheduled for next week.

The original clock will be cleaned, and displayed in a museum. :)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Absolute Zero: The lost chapter of Interstellar

A brief, 7-page, 46-panel comic of Dr. Mann's (the Matt Damon character's) days on the ice planet:

Example:



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Weekend read: The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science

The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science:
How our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link.

Excerpts:
 We apply fight-or-flight reflexes not only to predators, but to data itself.
...
We may think we’re being scientists, but we’re actually being lawyers. Our “reasoning” is a means to a predetermined end—winning our “case”—and is shot through with biases. They include “confirmation bias,” in which we give greater heed to evidence and arguments that bolster our beliefs, and “disconfirmation bias,” in which we expend disproportionate energy trying to debunk or refute views and arguments that we find uncongenial. 
Good read:

https://medium.com/mother-jones/the-science-of-why-we-dont-believe-science-adfa0d026a7e

Earliest known photograph of Los Angeles, California, 1862.



Via: OnThisDay & Facts (@NotableHistory)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Before radar: Giant WW1 and early WW2 "sound mirrors" detected approaching aircraft acoustically

Many sound mirrors were built in England, and later scrapped when radar became available; some are being excavated and restored now.



Story: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/sound-mirrors--the-earliest-form-of-air-raid-warning--unearthed-on-south-coast-9821837.html

Other, often bizarre-looking, early acoustic aircraft detectors:










If nothing else, perhaps they'd make the enemy die laughing. :)

The Infinite Voyager:The Golden Record

Each of the two Voyager spacecraft --- the first human-made objects to enter interstellar space --- carries a "Golden Record" into the void.

These are phonograph records that contain a wide variety of sounds (opera, jazz, tribal drumming...) and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth.

Each spacecraft also carries a stylus; and the records are embossed with visual instructions on how to construct a playback device so that intelligent extraterrestrial life form, or future humans, may access the records' contents.

The embossing also includes a map showing where Earth is, using prominent pulsars as reference points.

The Infinite Voyager:The Golden Record site includes a link to the music, so you can hear what's winging its way into deep space. Take a listen!



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Why working at home is both awesome and horrible - The Oatmeal

I've worked at home --- self employed --- for 17 years. (Yikes!)

Parts of the Oatmeal's "Why working at home is both awesome and horrible" rang true, both for the positives and negatives of working alone.

Here's just one segment:


Monday, November 17, 2014

A little space humor (2/2)

Want to buy a used comet lander? Only $9 on eBay! (Note: You gave to pick it up yourself.)



A little space humor (1/2)

Check out the twitter hashtag #WhyIGotFiredFromNASA.

Examples:

When Jim Lovell called down "Houston,  We have a problem"  I responded: "Press 1 for English,  2 for Spanish."
--- ‏@berkemeyerjj

Was greeting every PhD with "Eeeeehh, what's up, doc?"
--- @RickTsaara

NASA I left a Tribble in a food bin on a Russian Soyuz resupply ship.
---@USAinSpace

Because yelled "Thruster? I barely know her!" at each and every opportunity.
---@FailedProtostar

Turns out that answering a Congresscritter's question with "As every third grader knows..." isn't a good idea.
--- @wesmorgan1

Suggesting we designate one astronaut as a Red Shirt, just in case, was considered "poor taste"
--- @lantenengo

"That's how they did it in Armageddon" is not considered "proof of work"
--- @MarcusBeaubier