Almost two months ago, some teenagers from Spain launched a camera into space with a weather balloon. Yeah, that’s right. They recovered their camera, published the photos and are now dining at the long, laden dining table of Scientific Gluttony. I’m painfully jealous, of course.
Jordi Fanals (not a teenager), Gerard Marull, Martí Gasull, Jaume Puigmiguel, and Sergi Saballs rest easy in the knowledge that they’ll never have to dance for erlenmeyer flask money again.
One of my favorite websites, The Big Picture, has a selection of the kids’ photos up today, as well as a link to the kids’ Flickr set of of images should you want to peruse them. I think the second comment on The Big Picture page captures the sentiment of the moment: “SCIENCE!”
[The kids' Flickr page (all in Spanish, naturally)]
¹At my high school, attendance at football pep rallys was mandatory. I found this to be unfathomably torturous, so I pretended I had principals and sat outside reading a book instead. When I was caught, I announced I would stage protests until such time that the school found it prudent to hold science or art pep rallys in addition to the football ones. I was sent to detention. In the library. Morons.
Last week I read an article about an experimental psychological tool for astronauts: a computer.
The concept is very, very basic: write a program that walks the user through self-treatment. As I was reading, my first reaction was to dismiss the entire thing – yes, that’s what I’d need if I were depressed, an emotionless checklist presented to me in the form of a computer program (the article is also hilariously quick to insist it would be “nothing like science fiction’s infamous HAL,” because, you know, it’s important to clarify that it won’t kill the crew off).
Human psychology is something I make no claims in understanding. When I’m feeling depressed I occasionally think, “Maybe I need help?” since TV tells me I do, but then I realize, “Wait, it’s legitimately depressing to understand that human beings suffer needlessly.” If I’m totally honest with myself, than I have to admit I’d love to ask my computer what I should do about feeling blue.
Abulafia¹: What seems to be the problem?
me: I feel sad. Well, maybe more like hopeless.
Abu: Okay. Can you be more specific?
me: I’m tired of being poor and worried about money all the time.
Abu: Have you tried getting a job?
me: There is no precedence that shows my getting a job will alleviate the problem.
Abu: Well… have you tried Googling any news on the Diablo III release? Also, I broke your Photoshop. Sorry.
“Depressed astronauts might get computerized solace” at USA Today.
¹I name my computers, yes, and this one is named Abulafia.
Sometimes, in the midst of the terror of bureaucracy and Los Angeles parking permit fiascos, a minuscule glimmer of hope shoots by, nearly undetected. You have to be alert. A Hope Neutrino, if you will.
You see, I’m afraid you either get it or you don’t. Some of us are chosen, and we know we are chosen. If you are reading this, you’re probably one of us.
It usually happens with youth. We all have the story. Just, one night, you heard your name being whispered. Mine was in the Mojave desert, next to Edwards Air Force Base where my grandparents lived. Late one night, far away from light pollution and close to the actual breathing spirit of jetflight itself, Old Muroc, I looked up one night and saw the Milky Way and – I think I must have been about 6 years old – suddenly realized that the sky wasn’t a solid ceiling, but a falling away of infinity. I remember physically losing my balance. It was no longer “up,” it was out. New neurological links fused into permanent brain patterns. The stars did not move across the Earth, the Earth was moving amongst the stars. Each new piece of information was like punching my brain in the stomach: each star was a sun, each sun could have planets circling it, the universe had no known boundary, and suddenly, amongst the static download of data, the understanding of what it meant that we had been out there. We had been out there!
… Sunday ... it said. … Sunday …
… Come home …
I want to. I’m trying.
It’s hard for me to admit, but I understand faith. I know what it feels like to have that one thing you don’t need to question, that one thing that doesn’t waver in front of being tired, being sick, being bored and frustrated. It’s just that, instead of believing in a magical, bearded cloud-man, I believe that mankind isn’t as terrestrial as we think we are. Oh, I don’t know that the specific species came from space or anything, but I do know that each atom of our DNA is literally stardust. That everything we are, everything we touch and eat and breathe is stardust, particles travelling billions of lightyears from where they started, particles that saw the beginning of time itself. We are each space. Some of us know we should go back. Earth is a fun diversion, but you can only stay at Disneyland so long.
Yesterday it was brought to my attention that SpaceX, the privately held company that put the first civilian-designed and launched rocket into orbit on September 28th (without a damn hitch, I should add), is headquartered in Hawthorne, California. Which is literally within walking distance of where I am typing this right now. As I excitedly perused their site to see if they offered tours of the facility, I absentmindedly clicked on the “careers” page, where I happened to notice they were hiring for a position I am qualified for.
The SpaceX Merlin rocket engine (no relation, I assume, to the other famous Merlin engine). Photo ©Space Exploration Technologies.
It feels dramatic, but it is true: it was like being back in the desert again, the gossamer rip of the Milky Way forever obliterating my view of the universe. I could work for a company that puts rockets into space? Oh. Oh my. All this moving horror, the complex series of phone calls it takes to get one’s gas service turned on (it’s a long story, but suffice to say that even customer service was confused), all that flotsam was slammed back into place.
All of these companies, and there are more every day it seems, are staffed by people, private, educated, passionate people – regular people – who want nothing more than to get us home. It is their job. SpaceX has no government coffer (hell, our government doesn’t have a government coffer), no politcal agenda. It’s pure science, every day. It is a moon landing, every day. And I intend to participate.
I just hope they’re okay with me having a tattoo of SpaceShipOne in my left armpit.
The Large Hadron Collider, aka Mr. Black-Holey, made scientists cry this week by breaking.
Including the failure of a 30-ton electrical transformer and then the far more irritating mass leakage of helium from a supercooled chamber which — while hilarious for the scientists in the chamber that the helium leaked into — will have to be warmed and then supercooled again, a long and expensive process.
CERN’s Dr. James Gilles was reported to have commented that having one’s World’s Biggest Collider totally break in a fucked up way is “(…) just an unfortunate fact of life (…).”
Collider to Be Stalled for 2 Months at The New York Times.
Hi. My name is Sunday. You may know me as “Subspace,” or, the girl who ostensibly has a website. No? That’s okay.
Let’s pretend the last few weeks of nothingness never happened.
That sentence didn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense. Looks like I still got the magic!
Y’all are probably already on top of it, but Mozilla-gened Songbird is on the scene, a little application that aspires to be Firefox for music collections. And, as I already described to Quagmire, a system for finding DRM-free downloads a.k.a., the probable death knell. All I know is that I go through these periods where I crave a song I’ve heard but as someone that doesn’t really listen to music on a regular basis (more on that in a moment), I can never justify buying an album. Additionally, I have a lasting resistance to iTunes after it crashed two of my laptops. Sure, that was years ago, but I have digital scars like some people have emotional ones.
Generally speaking, I have only a few times where I actually want to listen to noise above and beyond the sound of my own degenerating biomass. I can’t listen to music while writing unless it is either so totally familiar that I can hear it without actually registering it on my forebrain, or there is nothing even closely resembling human speech. This narrows down my library considerably. And eclectically.
My recent music crack has been the Swedish pop star Robyn (whose website, it needs to be noted, looks suspiciously like something GalacticMu’s own Leesa “BattleGate” Leva would have designed), and if I want to listen to “With Every Heartbeat” seventeen times in a row, then by damn it, that’s my right. Not actually, but I’m an American so I have to say that at least once a day or they take my apple pie away. Anyway, the reality is: my writing mixes are often a mix of Gorillaz, Toto, Robyn and Vangelis, and no self-respecting person actually admits to that sort of thing unless they’ve got ladyballs of solid adamantium.
I’m going to go keep playing with Songbird some more in an attempt to procrastinate writing the articles I need to get written from the last two weeks. Whatever, I got until Monday.
I’m a bit of a kitchen whore, which means that while I love technology as much as the next geeky lady, I get a little wetter over the cooking stuff. Not gadgets like onion choppers (uh, have you tried a knife?) but more like cooktops. Oh, lovely cooktops.
Take for example this sexy beast:
That’s right, it recesses when not in use. It’s the Izona Luna cooktop, which combines the technology of ceramic/glass cooktops with gas. This may seem just gimmicky at first glance, but it in fact combines the two best qualities of both cooktop methods. You see, nothing cooks like gas. Nothing. There are a lot of scientists that can go about explaining why this is, but I’m not one of them. But a gas range (electric too, for that matter) is notoriously hard to clean due to the open but inaccessible chambers directly below the cooking element. A ceramic/glass cooktop is a smooth surface, but the heating element in these is often no better than a cheap electric stove.
Blah blah blah, all of this doesn’t matter – look at that thing! It makes me want to fry up a big batch of vat-grown meat and some heavily gene-modified vegetables.
Link to the flash-heavy Izona website for lots of images of gorgeous women lounging on cooking technology.