|:: Friday, August 20, 2004 ::|
The Blog Has Moved!
Find it at alltheseworlds.hatbag.net.
|:: Wednesday, August 18, 2004 ::|
I found something even sillier than the Enterprise Mission:
Another revelation to those who understand the symbolic language of the Illuminati is the hidden meaning of the names of the Space Shuttles, "A Colombian Enterprise to Endeavor for the Discovery of Atlantis... and all Challengers shall be destroyed."
Of all the topical strips we did, this one seems to be timely the most frequently (though we should have left out the reference to Hawaii).
Take A Nap! Now!
Tons of new great posting on the Joe Blog.
Rutan For The Future
Per Flight International:
A one-person version of Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne that reaches an orbit of 130km (81 miles) to rendezvous with an orbiting hotel may form the next stage of Burt Rutan's private manned spaceflight plans.
...the aerospace designer detailed how such an orbital vehicle could be evolved from his existing three-man, suborbital 3,000kg (6,600lb) SpaceShipOne. The amount of spacecraft mass dedicated to fuel would be increased to achieve the greater altitude and speed required.
...Rutan referred to plans by Robert Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace, to develop a space hotel based on NASA-originated inflatable habitat technology.
That's No Moon!
I figured this was coming after the story I linked to yesterday about the two new tiny, tiny Saturnian moons that Cassini has discovered. Astronomers are raising the question of what exactly constitutes a moon. Just as Sedna and Quaoar (and Pluto)are making us reconsider definitions for what a planet is, these two rocks are forewarning of an approaching time when, without a limitation on what a moon is, hundreds more moons may be added to our solar system's roster.
The Flying Car
For at least half a century, we've been promised The Flying Car at some not-to-distant-yet-still-futuristic date. The latest: The Flying Car is coming in 10 years. Not that you'll have one in 10 years, of course.
With the completion of several key milestones, Discovery is on track for a NET March launch.
So apparently RealNetworks supports Freedom of Choice but not freedom of speech.
Per Spacflight Now:
It thus appears that the first generation of stars in the Milky Way galaxy was formed at about the time the "Dark Ages" ended, now believed to be some 200 million years after the Big Bang.
It would seem that the system in which we live may indeed be one of the "founding" members of the galaxy population in the Universe.
Change Is Coming...
|:: Tuesday, August 17, 2004 ::|
I think I may have discussed this before, but I can't remember how many Hatbag characters have real names.
Ahead Of The Times
I've been proudly lowercasing internet for years.
Still in the early days of mission, Cassini has already discovered two new Saturnian moons, and they're tiny.
Paramount and I have had one discussion about my appearing on "Enterprise." I mentioned money and they stopped calling. my best, Bill
Though not using the software I linked to yesterday, I did figure out how to download .mp3s over WiFi and play them on my Newton (well, I should say an .mp3, since I currently only have enough memory on mine for one song at a time). Not bad for a machine that predates WiFi and mp3. I also did some cool Newt-enchanced grocery shopping last night.
Jurassic Park Is Melting In The Dark
These spoilers for Jurassic Park 4 are just too amusing to not link to. Let me just point out that this would be a horrible, horrible movie.
|:: Monday, August 16, 2004 ::|
I'm considering registering a domain for the Daveblog, but I wanted to open it up for input. The domain name would be something space-related, probably something similar to the current blog name (though www.alltheseworlds.com is taken, though not currently in use).
Upsides include potentially easier-to-enter address (though how often does anybody type in an entire URL anymore, and the current address, though it does have a slash, is still pretty short and easy). I could do other stuff with the URL (i.e. have other space-related content on the site), and am looking at the possibility of having sub-domains, which could give me multiple top-level sites (for example, if the address were currently blog.hatbag.net). And, of course, having a URL more closely linked to the content. There's also a chance that I could make e-mail addresses for the URL available to blogfans (i.e. email@example.com).
The biggest downside would be, natch, that the address would change (though I'd certainly be keeping hatbag.net, so I could set up an automatic referral page). Also, and this is a downside mainly just to me, it would separate out the traffic stats for the blog and the comic strip site, which, though giving a more accurate picture of the traffic for both, would make my numbers fall, which would make me sad.
It's apropos of nothing, but I found a line in this article to be amusing:
The eMac is now silent enough to actually be able to enjoy music.
I've always suspected that my iPod is able to actually enjoy music, since it having musical taste is the only way to explain why its "random" selection likes some songs better than others.
Doubt that I'll actually be using this software since it only runs in Classic (and I have about enough memory free on my Newt for one song), but I did think this is a kinda cool site.
There's no 10th anniversary strip today, so I'm posting this one to demonstrate how well HATBAG avoided the sci-fi Singularity problem described below.
Whither The Future
There's an article in Popular Science that has some rather interesting bits, about The Singularity and its effect on science fiction.
The idea was conceived by Vernor Vinge, a computer scientist and science-fiction writer who’s now a professor emeritus at San Diego State University. We’re living through a period of unprecedented technological and scientific advances, Vinge says, and sometime soon the convergence of fields such as artificial intelligence and biotechnology will push humanity past a tipping point, ushering in a period of wrenching change. After that moment—the Singularity—the world will be as different from today’s world as this one is from the Stone Age.
To try to summarize the element of the article I found interesting, the idea, not even put into such concrete terms, that a Singularity is pending in the immediate future (say the next 20 years), has diminished the world of science fiction, which is having a difficult time creating futures which are both advanced from our own and believable.
New Frontiers For Huntsville
I was surprised to read this bit of news in the paper this weekend:
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. has been selected as the site of NASA's Discovery and New Frontiers Program Office. ...
The Discovery initiative includes focused, scientific investigations that complement NASA's larger planetary exploration. Its goal is to launch numerous small missions with a faster development phase -- each for considerably less than the cost of larger missions. The Discovery program has launched numerous missions to date, including the Mars Pathfinder, Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous-Shoemaker, and Genesis missions.
The New Frontiers initiative addresses high-priority investigations identified by the National Academy of Sciences. NASA's first New Frontiers mission is called New Horizons, which will fly by the Pluto-Charon system in 2014, and then target other Kuiper belt objects. NASA recently selected two mission proposals under the New Frontiers program for pre-formulation study, leading to a selection of the second New Frontiers mission in May, 2005.
Without saying too much about this, this is a new area for Marshall, one which does not appear immediately to play off the center's traditional strengths. Of course, the one area of overlap is that Marshall has done a lot of work on next-generation propulsion methods, which may mean that the agency is looking for ways to speed up implementation of those methods in solar system exploration.
A fascinating bit of news, indeed.
And here's more about it from The Huntsville Times.
As The Apple Turns has some speculation on the tablet Mac rumors.
As does Cult of Mac.
|:: Saturday, August 14, 2004 ::|
You Want Weekend Dave-Bloggin'?
I got your weekend Dave-bloggin' right here.
What Might Not Have Been
Here's an excellent article about the history of Macintosh, addressing the whole OS licensure question and looking at what might have been, what would not have been, and what should have been.
Action Versus Plot
Saw AVP last night. Not as bad as it could have been, but it could have been a whole lot better. The first thing that would have helped it is if someone had actually read the script before they started shooting it. Even without going into the canon of the two series, the script had tons of just minor, annoying problems. I'm generally the sort of person who lets stuff like that slide, but throughout this movie I found myself going, "Yeah, but..." Plus, and I've never seen either of the Predator movies, but this film played surprisingly fast and loose with the Alien canon, particularly considering the involvement of one of the creators of the original Alien (to be fair, though, tweaking the Alien canon to fit your story is an old trick that dates back to the James Cameron days. I just don't remember it ever having been this egregious before.)
The other major problem with the movie is that it breaks the "make-or-break" rule of the Alien series, which is, in short, "To thine own self be true."
Each of the Alien movies has been in an entirely different genre, and the best are the ones that know what sort of movie they are, and play to that.
Alien, of course, is your conventional horror movie, a classic monster movie. The monster just happens to be an alien, and the haunted house just happens to be their spaceship, but it follows all of the rules and conventions of a good horror movie. By following the monster movie rules, and having a darned scary monster, it works perfectly.
Aliens is obviously a war movie. The basic story elements and emotional notes could be transferred to World War II or, particularly, Vietnam, and work just as well. And, again, it's good at what it does. Aliens is an excellent war movie, and the addition of a darned formidable enemy makes it perfect.
Alien^3 is where this begins to fall apart. Alien^3 is, at its heart, a drama. The story isn't about the alien, it's about the people, the alien is just a catalyst for telling the story. Unfortunately, someone, likely the studio, never really understood that, and tried to make it something it wasn't, pretending to some extent it was a horror movie. It wasn't, and doesn't work as one, and adding those elements to a drama means that it doesn't work as anything. I still find Alien^3 to be underrated, possibly because I try to watch it as what it was meant to be instead of what it was forced to try to become, but it lacks the internal consistency of the first two.
Ditto Alien Resurrection. Alien Resurrection, in my mind, is the least ambitious of the series from a genre perspective, in that it uses the same science fiction elements as the others (spaceships, aliens, etc.), but unlike the others, used them to tell a science fiction story. Whereas the others have the synergy of the deft repurposing of elements of one genre to service another, AR is flat and lacking in creativity; as impressive as the alchemy of turning lead into lead. Unfortunately, AR apparently doesn't even realize what it is. I doubt its writers even gave any thought to the whole issue of genre. AR is a fanboy film, which attempts only to do cool things with the rules of the Alien universe, which is what makes it science fiction, it attempts to do tricks with ideas.
But I think its creators were under the mistaken impression that they were making a horror film, and indeed, it does have some scary moments, as do all of the Alien films. But one has to wonder if they really thought that saggy-breasted baby Skeletor was going to be scary. A horror movie, to work, has to have a scary climax. And AR just plain doesn't. Saggy-breasted baby Skeletor is pure science fiction, the culmination of interesting ideas--a combination of the aliens and humanity. From that perspective, he works. From being something out of a horror movie, he just doesn't. It's hard to believe that anybody that thought that softening the alien up with humanity would somehow make it scarier. So, again, another Alien movie weakened by failing to stay true to its core concept.
So now we have Alien Versus Predator. And, once again, we have the same problem.
It took me a while after watching it to realize what genre film this was. It pretends, as did the last two Alien movies, to be a horror film. But, like the last two Alien movies, it's just not.
But, it's possibly actually less sure of what it actually is than any of them. I finally decided that if you stripped away the entire movie and rebuilt it around its core, that what it actually would be is, and this makes sense from the title, a fight movie. It's the Rocky or Karate Kid or Stricly Ballroom or Searching For Bobby Fischer of the Alien series (and the Predator series, too, I guess).
And that's where it suffers it's biggest failure. A fight movie has to have--has to have--a hero. Imagine watching Rocky and not knowing if Rocky was the one who was going to be in the big fight at the end. Imagine watching the Karate Kid and wondering if maybe it was going to be about Johnny. You have to have a hero.
A horror movie, on the other hand, is just the opposite. The hero develops. At the beginning, you have to have no idea who will live or die. Someone watching the first Alien movie, having never seen the others and knowing nothing about them, is not going to know that Ripley is the hero into well into the movie.
That's part of why the changing-genre aspects of the Alien movies works to well. In the first movie, Ripley develops as the hero. Which is how a horror movie should work. By the second movie, we know Ripley's going to be the hero. Which is fine, because you need a hero in a war movie. The second one would not have worked as a horror movie once you knew Ripley is the hero.
AVP pretends at the beginning to be a horror movie, but, because it's not really, it doesn't work as one. Unfortunately, by pretending to be, it doesn't do due service to the hero, which means that it can't work properly as a fight movie either.
Of course, to be fair, watching the movie, I wondered how they could make a movie with such blaring problems, but then, when it was over, and heard the applause, I realized the answer. The target audience of AVP are those people that want to see cool Aliens fighting Predators stuff, and in that respect it does pay off. I imagine those people came into the movie of a checklist of things they wanted to see, and I can imagine that by the time they left most or all of those items had been checked off.
Leaving those of us who were fans of Alien and Aliens because they were good movies to keep hoping for that rumored Ridley Scott and James Cameron team-up Alien movie.
Rich Beyond The Dreams Of Avarice
You know, I'll be the first to admit I know nothing of the technology involved, but it seems to me that there's a gold mine waiting for the company that figures out how to broadcast WiFi like cellular. I would pay good money for the ability to connect to the internet wirelessly anywhere in town. (And notice I've managed to go this entire post without mentioning how phenomenally cool that would make my WiFi Newton. Oh crap, so much for that.)
|:: Friday, August 13, 2004 ::|
Not only can I now blog wirelessly from my Newt at work, I can also read my blog on it as well! Fear the power of NEWTON!!!
This Week At NE
This week at NASAexplores.com, I've got an article about the Heated Tube Facility at NASA's Glenn Research Center, and Maggie's got a piece about clean rooms.
Take One Tablet...
OK, keep in mind that most Apple rumors on the internet aren't worth the paper they're printed on. Also keep in mind that Jobs said not that long ago that Apple had developed a PDA but had decided not to sell it (though this isn't strictly a PDA). Of course, you can also keep in mind the fact that Apple not that long ago dug up the handwriting recognition software from the Newton (still the best ever developed) and adapted it to work with OS X as Inkwell. With those caveats firmly in mind, I thought this is kind of interesting:
Apple has filed for a European design trademark which may provide a tantalising glimpse of the company's long-awaited tablet computer. ...
The filing ... covers a "handheld computer" and contains sketches of what look like an iBook screen minus the body of the computer.
The drawing, of course, could be of anything--it could just as easily be a wireless monitor, which has been rumored before. And, even if the filing does in fact say it's a handheld computer, it could be paperwork filed in connection with the developed-but-killed PDA.
In the meantime, it's an interesting Apple rumor.
One of very, very many.
Following up on the conversation about Fred Haise and his unique role in space exploration, I thought it worth pointing out that as interesting as he is, apparently neither Haise nor fellow Mississippian astronaut-turned-NASA-administrator Richard Truly (nor Space Shuttle Winona rider Don Peterson) merit inclusion in the upcoming Mississippi Encyclopedia. I have sent e-mail to the Managing Editor recommending their inclusion, and even offered to write the entries myself, but to no avail. Stennis Space Center, which played a vital role in sending men to the Moon, is also ignored. In fact, the encyclopedia apparently will not recognize scientific contributions of any Mississippians who aren't women. (Dr. James Hardy, who performed the world's first heart transplant at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1964, is included--under contemporary issues.) To me, this just goes to further stereotypes about the state.
Anyone else who finds this an appalling oversight is welcome to join me in writing to those responsible.
This one turns 7 tomorrow, which is also when my youngest brother turns 16.
There's been a lot of hype in the last year about China's plan to put a man on the Moon... maybe... or not... or whatever... at sometime... unless they don't, but very little during the same period about India's plans to put a man on the Moon by 2015 (to be fair, possibly because, unlike China, they haven't put a man in space, or even, to the best of my knowledge, flown a man-rated spacecraft). So now India is saying maybe they won't send people to the Moon either. The country does still plan to orbit a lunar probe next year, though.
When I first saw this story yesterday, I was going to ignore it as silly, but now it's all over the place:
An expedition of Russian researchers claims to have found evidence that an alien spaceship had something to do with a huge explosion over Siberia in 1908. Experts in asteroids and comets have long said the massive blast was caused by a space rock.
The new ET claim is "a rather stupid hoax," one scientist said today. And it's one with a rich history.
So I stumbled across Blogshares.com last night while doing a Google search. Initially I came across the Blogshares page for Nik's blog, and was glad to discover that an outgoing link on my blog was worth $175, compared to only $116 for Nik's blog! Yay, me! But then I discovered that outgoing links at Taking A Nap were worth a high of $458. Of course, shares of my blog are worth $59, compared to 24 cents for Joe's. To be fair, though, all three of our blogs have multiple Blogshares entries, each with different values, so it all depends on which one you go with.
|:: Thursday, August 12, 2004 ::|
And, since I know you've been in suspense for the last 24 hours, here's the second part of the series.
Alas, Poor Geoffrey
Apropos of nothing but a short period of Dave history, Toys R Us may get out of the toys business.
collectSPACE reports today that the U.S. Postal Service has authorized Stamps.com to begin offering customer-designed stamps. By going to the PhotoStamps Web site, you can upload an image that you would like to see on a stamp, and then order them.
Today In History
On this date 27 years ago, the Space Shuttle Enterprise made its first free flight, commanded by Apollo 13 LMP (and Mississippian) Fred Haise and piloted by Gordon Fullterton, after being carried aloft on NASA's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. (Though the picture above is actually from the second of the five free flights.)
Also on this date, 42 years ago, two manned spacecraft were in orbit simultaneously when Voshkod 4 joined Voshkod 3, which had been launched the day before.
True Private Spaceflight
While this blog is getting carried away with X Prize fever, here's a little something else to dream about: the day when individuals could own their own personal spacecraft.
Alan Boyle interviewed Armadillo Aerospace and Doom mastermind John Carmack about the future of the Black Armadillo program after the weekend crash, and among the interesting things that Carmack had to say, this stood out:
"$35,000 is basically what the vehicle cost. The new one will probably be closer to $40,000, because we are doing more custom machining and using some more expensive materials. ... If we built two identical ones at the same time, cost would go down a little, probably 15 percent, and labor for the second one would probably be cut in half."
Now, granted, this is for an unmanned prototype, and, granted, this doesn't cover launch costs, but consider that there are people willing to pay $100,000 for a suborbital flight. Is it too hard to imagine that within a couple of decades the cost for an assembly-line personal spacecraft would fall low enough that there would be people willing to pay it?
Picture Of The Day
Clouds on Mars. Courtesy SpaceRef.com
You know, I completely forgot about the Perseids last night/this morning. Did anybody out there see anything?
If you, like me, missed it, the show's not over. Go back out tonight and try again. After midnight, there should be about a dozen meteors per hour.
Dave's Wish List
So I'm waiting patiently for word that either USA's The 4400 has been renewed on as an ongoing series or that Troy Hickman's Common Grounds comic book has been picked up as an ongoing. Two great miniseries that deserve to be continued.
(For that matter, I'm watching for any word on what Hickman will be doing next. I forgot to mention a couple of weeks ago that the second part of his two-ish run on Witchblade is now on shelves, and I don't know what he's got planned after that.)
So it turns out that the ultimate Matrix Collection won't have extended cuts of the films, which saves me a nice chunk of change. That said, the idea of adding commentary tracks from critics who hated the films in a novel concept.
I should note that before Japan successfully deployed its solar sail material in space the other day, a team at Marshall deployed two solar sails in a vacuum environment, albeit one on Earth.
Addendum: And here's a fresh update on another solar sail project, which is leading the race to be the first true solar sail "propulsion" flight.
|:: Wednesday, August 11, 2004 ::|
I'm publishing this post wirelessly from My Newton
I'm publishing this post wirelessly from My Newton!
Slightly old news, but I'm just now seeing it. Discovery was powered up a couple of weeks ago and is returning to a normal processing work flow after having been powered down for Return to Flight modifications.
Forgot to post the two-part series that started the month.
Attack Of The Clones
Britain has issued the first license for human cloning. The focus of the license is stem cell production.
Now It's Even Meteor!
Tonight will mark the primo skygazing opportunity for the Perseid meteor shower. Go out after dusk tonight for the chance to see rare but magnificent Earthgrazer meteors. Then get up before dawn tomorrow morning for the shower's peak, when better than a meteor a minute should be visible.
I posted a couple of days ago a link to where you can buy flown patches from the first spaceflight of The da Vinci Project's Wild Fire, and here's yet another opportunity to buy an official X Prize souvenier--official parts from "decommisioned" Armadillo Aerospace rockets (presumably like the one that was "decommisioned" hard into the ground this past weekend) for a mere $125.
Japan has deployed a makeshift solar sail, sorta. The sail was not used to test propulsion, but just to demonstrate a superthin material which could be used for a sail.
It's A Short Way Down... The Street
You know, I'm enough of a space and science fiction buff to think that it's really, really cool that scientists are experimenting with antimatter just half a mile from where I work, but I've also seen enough starships explode for it to make me a little nervous.
Latest from the continuing changing reports of what exactly China's space program is going to do. They will not be launching a female taikonaut any time soon, and they will someday be sending humans to the Moon, but it's anybody's guess when, and there may or may not be two taikonauts on next year's Shenzhou VI.
The Best PCs...
Apple Computer received the best "overall rating" for both desktop computers and notebooks in the Reader's Choice awards at, yep, PC Magazine.
The PC mag questions whether they may be a reason for the rating other than high quality: "Can all of Apple Computer's survey success be chalked up to fanatical users?"
I have no doubt that the intensely loyal Mac user base has at least something to do with the results, but, you know, there is a reason why Mac users are so loyal.
|:: Tuesday, August 10, 2004 ::|
At Last, Justice
Per The Onion:
WASHINGTON, DC—After more than 30 years spent hiding in the Los Angeles underground as wanted criminals, the members of the crack commando unit Alpha Team, commonly known as the A-Team, were cleared of all charges brought against them by the U.S. military, an army official announced Monday.
Hail And Farewell
OK, so the moment someone sent to the group song lyrics by Hanson as a memorial to the 107 crew was the exact moment I knew it was time to leave the Columbia2103 Yahoo group.
This Week At NE
This week at NASAexplores, I've got an article about what the experience of going on a space walk is like, and Maggie's got a piece about NASA's SOFIA telescope airplane.
My EVA story is about as close as I come at NE to doing the article equivalent of a clips show, but I'm relatively pleased with it nonetheless.
This strip was published on the day I turned 22. Happy birthday me.
Brave New World
OK, who here, a mere 15 years ago, would have envisioned a world in which a multimillionaire Russian capitalist is trying to drive a hard bargain for a Soyuz seat? If Sergei Polonsky can convince Rosaviakosmos to drop the normally $20 price tag for a flight down to a cut-rate $8 million in light of their post-Olsen desperation, he could be on the next crew to visit the International Space Station. (Though, impressively enough, possibly only the third person in the next two months to make a rookie spaceflight, following an unnamed Scaled pilot if Melvill doesn't take repeat SS1 stick duties, and Brian Feeney, of Canada's da Vinci Project.)
Today In History
On this date 1 year ago, Exp. 7 commander Yuri Malenchenko became the first man to get married while in space. According to Cosmic Log, Malenchenko and his wife recently repeated their vows terrestrial service at a Russian church, as they had planned to do after the landing.
(Apparently Kat has recently taken down the spacewedding.net Web site she set up prior to the wedding, and which I visited and found still working not that long ago.)
According to this article about the SETI workshop I posted about yesterday, appropriately enough, cable television may be keeping us from meeting the neighbors.
Seeing all the headlines of stories from over the weekend about the failure of an X Prize rocket, I utterly missed the fact that the stories were actually split between two different rockets. Not only was there an explosion of a rocket in Washington, as I reported yesterday, but a Black Armadillo prototype crashed again. (Black Armadillo is the spacecraft of Armadillo Aerospace, masterminded by Doom creator John Carmack, initially one of the more visible X Prize contenders.)
Winter On Mars
Now is the winter of our Mars roving. The team behind NASA's two MERs, which were never expected to function this long, are now faced with a new challenge--how to keep the rovers roving as the Martian winter begins. The plan: Cut back on science operations for the near term in hopes of even more exploration in the future. At this point, the whole 90-day-lifetime has been utterly forgotten, and the team is looking forward to finding out just how robust these amazing machines are.
"Both are performing very well," said Dr. James Bell, a Cornell astronomer who is a member of the rover science team. "The Sun will come back strong, and if we have been careful, we've got a good chance of another year of work out of Spirit and Opportunity."
And, on a related note, here's more on possible evidence of life from the rover landing sites.
"Let's Go Save The Hubble"
At a meeding at Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe gave a mandate to put together a plan for a robotic servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. For those still under the misguided impression that the agency is pursuing the robotic option rather than a Shuttle flight in an attempt to save money because of the Vision for Space Exploration, please note that the price tag for the mission will be at least, and possibly well over, $1 billion. (Which means, of course, that the decision of whether or not to save Hubble will ultimately rest with Congress, which will have to make the funding decision. Several in the legislature were strong advocates for servicing the telescope, and we shall see just how strong their support truly is.)
The illustrious Chris Tutor suggested we write a sitcom script by Sept. 18 before undertaking an entire novel in October. Personally, I'm pretty clueless in this arena, but I would like to think I could do some wicked script doctoring if we had some ideas. Anyway, point being, if anyone's interested in working with Chris on this, here it is.
Picture Of The Day
|:: Monday, August 09, 2004 ::|
I'm back. Thanks for the patience during my absence.
Starr Of The Show
Christina's review of last week's Garrison Starr concert is online. Go read!
With a couple more concerts under my belt since my Thursday blogging about the G. Starr show, I would once again say that Garrison's concert was, in my opinion, an ideal sort of live show. If you're going to go see an artist in person, you should get something more than you would get from a live album. I like it when artists talk between sets, and Garrison didn't disappoint at all in that respect (a bit of political naivete aside). She actually interacted with the audience, and at the end of the evening, you felt like you had really spent time with her. I realize that level of interaction isn't really possible in your ampitheater or arena venues, but the artist should at least acknowledge that there is an audience there that came to see the show.
Just my two cents.
Addendum: Here's Christina's excellent G* interview piece.
This is still one of my all-time-favorite strips. Props to Lain.
Among the items available for purchase on The da Vinci Project's Web site are Mission Patches that will be flown on the first launch of Wild Fire in October. There aren't many changes to buy space-flown articles for less than $20 (American), and this one will be a particularly cool piece of history (especially if Wild Fire beats the odds and SpaceShipOne to claim the X Prize).
If there are alien civilizations, why haven't we heard from them? That was the topic of a Friday meeting on SETI's failure thus far to identify extraterrestrial signals.
It's A Long Way Down...
Real-life professors and scientists are grappling with real antimatter -- the particle physicists' "mirror image" of ordinary matter -- in today's laboratories.
Antimatter might have practical uses, too, visionaries claim. Possibilities include antimatter-powered robotic aircraft that could remain aloft for months to provide military and weather surveillance. Antimatter beams could blast cancer tumors. Antimatter emitters could detect chemical weapons. Even more far out, antimatter-powered space cruisers could zip from Earth to Mars far quicker than conventional spacecraft -- perhaps even getting to the nearest star system in a few decades.
According to Wired, Gravity Probe B should soon begin its science mission.
Giving in to the temptations of making the difficult task of spaceflight even more difficult than it needs to be, ESA is sinking time and money into researching human hibernation for missions to Mars, an idea that strikes me as even more wasteful than artificial gravity. Even if ESA is able to master the art of putting humans into suspended animation, I'm curious how and when they plan to test whether and how well such hibernation would combat the effects of microgravity exposure. A hibernating animal is able to avoid the atrophy that a human would suffer during an equal period of bedrest, but it seems to me it would be difficult to say for sure that means that hibernation would also prevent microgravity-exposure-induced atrophy. If not, the hibernation would be horribly bad for crewmembers, who wouldn't be able to engage in the needed microgravity mitigation techniques.
The long and short of it, though, is that I just don't see any need for it. On a mission to the outer planets, that could last for years, sure. But, going to Mars, it would be better use of the research euros to work on advanced propulsion which could cut the travel time to Mars down to 3 months, a very reasonable goal, and rely on the same mitigation techniques that are currently proving reliable on ISS to keep the crew healthy for their landing.
(Though I guess the point about reducing the mass needs for food is a decent one.)
iWrite Pretty One Day
Per Wired's Cult Of Mac blog:
...Murphy ran the posts through a Unix utility called Style, which produces several "readability metrics" based on vocabulary, spelling, sentence length and so on.
Naturally, Mac users came top, followed by Slashdot contributors and lastly PC users, who collectively scored well below the level of fifth graders.
Problems Dog Pluto Probe
Space.com has an update on the problems NASA faces with the New Horizons Pluto probe because of the Los Alamos work shutdown. Basically, the agency will haev to decide whether to delay arrival at Pluto by 4 years, or to stay on schedule with a less-capable spacecraft. A decision is expected by mid-September.
Robonaut has gone mobile in recent tests which have equiped the android with a "space leg" that would let it maneuver around outside the Space Station, and in other tests in which the robot torso was placed atop a Segway scooter.
X Prize Update
OK, almost certainly the coolest piece of news I didn't get to blog during my absence was Thursday's announcement that Canada's da Vinci Project X Prize team will be launching their spacecraft October 2 in a prize attempt flight. The launch will be just 3 days after the scheduled first prize attempt launch of Scaled Composite's SpaceShipOne, meaning that, if both are successful, either could still win the prize based on turnaround speed. After the first launch, teams have 2 weeks to make their second flight, but the pressure is now on to make a second launch much more quickly, turning this into a true race. Exciting times, indeed.
Spicing the contest up even more was the Washington-state-based test of the Rubicon 1 rocket, which exploded Sunday, during a test.
Addendum: Cosmic Log has dome interesting commentary.
Addendum: Scaled is apparently planning a October 4 second flight of SS1, which would almost certainly claim the prize, unless Wild Fire can fly twice in 2 days.
More Hubble Trouble
Why do I have a feeling this is going to be blown out of perspective?
In Blackest Night Update
So Jack Black isn't Green Lantern. Probably.
|:: Friday, August 06, 2004 ::|
Home again. Had a great time. Too tired to write much. We'll try to blog again soon.
|:: Thursday, August 05, 2004 ::|
Greetings From Atlanta
Yo! I'm at the Apple store at the Lenox Mall in Atlanta, a few hours before the concerts. Don't really have much to say, but since I have the chance to blog, thought I should grab it. Plus, I get to mention that I'm at an Apple store, which is freakin' cool!
Don't have time for proper blogging, but here's something to hold you over.
Quick Concert Review
Somewhere there is an alternate reality better than our own. In this timestream, Garrison Starr released her amazing first album, “Eighteen Over Me,” just like in our own reality. And, also like in our own reality, she went on to realize two more albums after that, “Songs... From Takeoff To Landing,” and the recent “Airstreams And Satellites.” The difference between the two is that in that wonderful other reality, whoever cornered her between her first and second albums and convinced her to stop rocking never did. I don’t know how this alternate universe came about, perhaps that reality had the great fortune of that person being hit by a car or something before issuing his non-rocking mandate to Ms. Starr. But, regardless of how it happened, the long and short of it is that in that alternate reality, the second and third albums rock just as much as “Eighteen” did--and rock it does, at least in places. “Superhero” is way catchier than 95 percent of the stuff you hear on the radio, and it’s a huge loss to the world that it never became a hit single. “Passing” has one of the 10 best rock guitar intros in history. I had the privilege a couple of years ago of hearing her do that blistering bit live, and I imagine a new black hole must have been formed somewhere by the way it ripped a whole in the universe.
But, regardless, we don’t live in the alternate universe I’ve described; we live in one where that blessed car wreck or whatever never occurred. In our reality, I’ve bought G. Starr’s last two albums, and have grown to love each in its own way for what it is, but, each time, upon putting it in, I have literally asked aloud, “Garrison Starr, why won’t you rock anymore?!” On the most recent, she even, at her producer’s request, retooled “Superhero” to fit her new folk/alt-country scene. The effect is like a kid who was really, really cool when you knew them in college that you’re now seeing for the first time in six years, only to have him drive up in a pickup truck wearing a cowboy hat.
Last night, though, was like a visit to the mirror universe. Garrison, in short, rocked. She and her band went through a huge chunk of the most recent album, and played them the way they were supposed to be played. It was so gratifying hearing them live up to the potential that I knew they had. Songs that never really completely grabbed me on the CDs were great last night, and the ones that were my favorites were awesome.
As an added bonus, for whatever reason, in midstream most of the band left and she and her Jacksonian keyboardist Neilson Hubbard did a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” which is Nicole and my song, and just put us in heaven. I’m a firm believer in the idea that you shouldn’t cover a song unless you can bring something to it, and the feeling Garrison put into her performance made it entirely her own. I hated that I don’t have, and can’t get, a copy of it.
One small gripe about the concert: Say you’re a performer, and you’ve just put out a new album, and you’re going on tour to support it, and you’ve got to put together a new band, and they’re not going to play every date with you. Even in those circumstances, I firmly believe, you should make your new band at least listen to your old stuff. In case the audience, you know, wants to hear some of it.
At a fan’s request, the band, hampered by the bass player, who had “heard the song, but didn’t really know it,” stumbled through “Five Minutes,” one of the best songs from Starr’s second album. It was a valiant attempt, made even more impressive by Garrison, who had been having guitar problems all evening, tuning her guitar midsong while singing. “Passing,” on which one simply couldn’t fake one’s way through the guitar work, was completely out of the question.
All in all, though, well worth the price of admission, and a very nice concert experience. I had the opportunity to talk to Garrison afterwards, and after getting my Mississippi and Hal & Mal creds out of the way, begged her to please, please, please release some live material. Even if she has to record it herself and sell it through iTMS, to please, please, please make it available.
But, I fear, not in this reality.
|:: Wednesday, August 04, 2004 ::|
I was going to post something today about the latest RTF cost updates, but couldn't find a link to the story. In the meantime, Jordan's beat me to the punch, so instead of blogging it myself, I'll just link to his post and my comment on it.
Came across this story while doing research for an article on the computers on ISS:
The new International Space Station is already suffering from computer problems similar to those experienced on Mir. ...
Most of the problems appear to be related to Microsoft's Windows NT, while Russian-made software seems to be more reliable.
Also found this interesting tidbit:
The credit for the first "laptop" computer in space goes to a Mac Portable flown on STS-43 in 1991. (Although, reading on, it appears that wasn't entirely true.)
I'll be away from my computer for a while starting tonight, as I head to B'ham for a Garrison Starr concert, and then on to Atlanta in the morning for an Alanis Morissette/Barenaked Ladies concert and hopefully some Corky's, followed with Six Flags on Friday, before returning home that evening, to be back in H'ville for my birthday Sat. I'll blog when/if I can. Hope everyone won't be too disappointed if there's no concert audioblogging this time.
No 10th anniversary strips for a while, thanks to the between-semester-break.
And who says there's never anything interesting in the news?
Major Milestone For Mario?
This just bothers me, for some reason:
US software giant Microsoft is interested in buying Japanese video games group Nintendo (news - web sites), German magazine Wirtschaftswoche reported.
X Prize Update
Cosmic Log is speculating that the Canadian da Vinci Project, which will be unveiling its Wild Fire spacecraft tomorrow, has found funding for a fall launch, making it the best contender to win the X Prize if Rutan isn't able to make two out of three tries between Sept. 29 and Oct. 13.
James Oberg has an interesting article about how yesterday's space walk caused the ISS to go off course. Basically, a tiny water emission on the Orlan suits, in microgravity, provides enough thrust to move the entire Station.
Missing classified information at Los Alamos could delay humanity's first close-up shots of Pluto. Work on NASA's New Horizon Pluto probe has been delayed due to the work shutdown at the lab. If the probe isn't ready for a launch window in January 2006, the launch could be delayed by a year, and it arrival at the most-distant planet could take an extra 2 1/2 years.
Also per Space.com:
NASA plans to have a rescue shuttle ready for just the first two post-Columbia missions. After that, they might go back to business as usual. ...
When Discovery blasts off on the first return-to-flight mission, as early as the spring, NASA says Kennedy Space Center will be ready to launch Atlantis on a rescue mission within 45 days. On the second flight, a rescue shuttle will be ready to go within 58 days.
No More Free Ride
Now, here's a potentially interesting bit of news from AP:
Russia will begin charging the United States for delivering astronauts and cargo to the international space station starting next year, the head of the Federal Space Agency said Wednesday. ...
"If the Americans want to fly Soyuz (spacecraft) in 2005, they will have to compensate us the costs," space agency head Anatoly Perminov said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.
There are two scenarios in which this news doesn't really matter much. The first is that the Shuttle begins flying again in March, and is able to resume crew rotation duties beginning with Expedition 11. This would require some unconventional decisions. The ISS increments since the STS-107 disaster have been six months long, based on the Soyuz rotation schedule. The longest increment, Expedition 4, was 6 1/2 months long. STS-114, which is scheduled to launch No Earlier Than March 6, will not be a crew rotation mission, and the next flight after that, STS-121, isn't scheduled until no earlier than May. Meaning that either Exp. 10, scheduled to launch in October, would have to be the longest Station mission to date while waiting for the Shuttle to bring replacements, or Exp. 11 would have to launch on the Soyuz TMA-6 in April, which would mean one NASA flight on Soyuz once compensation requirements are in effect.
That said, however, there has been talk, and I haven't seen a final decision, that NASA may stop using Shuttle for crew rotation. There are several more Station assembly flights that have to be carried out before the 2010 Shuttle retirement deadline, and by switching crew rotation from Shuttle to Soyuz and using Shuttle solely for assembly, NASA can remove a few flights from the schedule, making it easier to meet the deadline. This, of course, would mean being "charged" for several Soyuz flights.
The other scenario in which this is relatively inconsequential is that Rosaviakosmos is referring to "in-kind" compensation. In-kind has been the main currency of the Station thus far, primarily in the form of man-hours. For example, during the EVA prior to the one yesterday, Russian equipment had to be used for tasks that were supposed to be done with U.S. equipment. In exchange for the use of Russian equipment, Rosaviakosmos charged NASA a number of astronaut work hours. It's not that big a deal, since Russia already owes the U.S. a pretty heft number of man-hours, so U.S. in-kind contributions to Russia at this point consist of reducing that debt.
Which leads to the final scenario, which would be a big deal--NASA does have to use Soyuz for one or more crew rotations, and Rosaviakosmos isn't talking about in-kind contributions. In other words, NASA would have to pay cash for Soyuz seats, which the agency is prohibited from doing by the Iran Nonproliferation Act.
This possibility has been hinted at several times over the past year, and one almost has to assume it's a Russian bluff to get the U.S. to repeal INA and start sending much-needed cash to Rosaviakosmos. But, if not--ESA would almost certainly be willing to pay for a Soyuz seat if there were an available position in an Expedition crew due to NASA not having a way to get there.
It'll be interesting to see how this develops.
I believe I reported incorrectly that the Knight Rider Season One set which came out yesterday was lacking any special features. It turns out that not only does it have commentary on the pilot from Hasselhoff and Larson and several featurettes, it also includes the "Knight Rider 2000" TV movie.
Tour Of Duty
The Greenwood Commonwealth has a story featuring my former editor, Jim Abbott, talking about the 35th anniversary of his reserve unit's return from Vietnam.
|:: Tuesday, August 03, 2004 ::|
It's been 10 years now since the end of Next Generation. (Also, Hippie has a pointy finger.)
Expedition 9 has successfully completed today's space walk, preparing the Station for the arrival next year of the European Automated Transfer Vehicle. The two crew members zipped through their planned tasks, despite an unanticipated LOS midway through.
On a down note, though, I learned this weekend that Exp. 9 is apparently too busy to talk to me about their EVA experiences.
Coulda Been A Contender
Another X Prize contender, Space Transport Corp., is planning a test launch of their spacecraft this weekend. The launch will be a demonstration flight only of the technology, with a goal apogee of about 5.5 km.
Good news for Hubble lovers: Although, despite their fondest wishes, the HST will someday, whether serviced again or not, come down, NASA may give them the next best thing--another Hubble, sort of.
One of the possibilities being considered for the "Search for Origins" telescope program is a "replacement" Hubble that would use any leftover parts and upgrades for HST that are not sent on a servicing mission. The flight-ready hardware would give the mission an appealing low cost.
Soyuz Wanna Go To The Moon?
The Space Review has an artilce raising an interesting prospect for fast-tracking human lunar exploration: using Soyuz as circumlunar spacecraft. While there is probably limited appeal to the U.S. in a non-landing mission, it's a fascinating use of hardware, and, the article argues, one with potential commercial possibilities.
Life On Mars?
Those twin robots hard at work on Mars have transmitted teasing views that reinforce the prospect that microbial life may exist on the red planet.
Results from NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers are being looked over by a legion of planetary experts, including a scientist who remains steadfast that his experiment in 1976 proved the presence of active microbial life in the topsoil of Mars.
"All factors necessary to constitute a habitat for life as we know it exist on current-day Mars," explained Gilbert Levin, executive officer for science at Spherix Incorporated of Beltsville, Maryland.
On its second launch attempt, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft successfully took off to begin its 7-year voyage to Mercury (though it will begin sending back information from the innermost planet in only 4 years, when it makes its first Mercury flyby).
Love Is A Batmobile
AICN has footage of the new Batmobile in motion, though Harry got way more excited about it than I.
|:: Monday, August 02, 2004 ::|
When my wife, among the rarest of ATW readers, says it's time to change the poll, then it's time to change the poll. So I did. Further human missions won the last poll about the most exciting part of the Vision for Space Exploration, while returning to the Moon, human missions to Mars, the hunt for extrasolar worlds, and the development of new spacecraft each received 17 percent of the vote.
I also updated the watching/reading/listening section, since I've bought a new album for the first time in a while. Butterfly Boucher was the opening act at the Sarah McLachlan concert last week, and was signing CDs, so I got one. Haven't listened enough to have a fully formed opinion, but what I've heard so far is not bad. You may have heard her first single, "Another White Dash," on the radio. Or not.
Also, inspired by the blog of Lain's friend Jordan, I have added a profile to my blog, complete with summary version in the sidebar. That said, what I have now was thrown together pretty quickly. I always have a hard time with favorite books or movies or whatever questions, so if you know of anything I should add, let me know.
It's not a 10th anniversary strip, but this one is a little timely with today's posting.
Pale Blue Dot
A team of killjoy British scientists is making the arguement that Earth may be unique in the universe, that data on extrasolar worlds appears to make finding another world like ours unlikely.
Want to help choose landing sites for future Mars missions? NASA's Marsoweb Web site will let you review images from Mars orbiters to find interesting locations on the Red Planet.
Didn't Shoot The MESSENGER
Weather delayed the launch of NASA's MESSENGER Mercury spacecraft. They'll try again at 1:15:56 a.m. CDT tomorrow, when another 12 second window comes open.
Get Well, Steve
Here's wishing Steve Jobs a speedy recovery.
Tomorrow Is Another Special Edition
w00t! Once again, one of those rare occassions has come to pass where my refusal to buy an obviously overly crappy DVD has paid off. After years of only a feature-free edition being available, Warner has finally decided to put out a DVD set befitting one of the greatest movies of all time. Gone With The Wind will be released in a four-disc set on November 9, fully restored with extras out the wazoo. Which makes Saturday's Daily Hatbag a bit more timely.
|:: Sunday, August 01, 2004 ::|
This strip turns 8 years old today. My favorite part is when Hippie gets skewed.
Today In History
On this date 44 years ago, the United States launched Tiros 1, the first successful weather satellite.
I thought this "self-portrait" of Opportunity was pretty cool.
And So It Begins...
Forget if I've posted this already, but if not, check out the teaser trailer to the Hitchhiker's Guide movie. Good stuff. So far, so good.