Thursday, January 07, 2010

Potpourri CXIII

LOTS of stuff to clear out of the inbox. A visit with Dr. OZMG looks like it is going to be snowed out, so I might as well write.

Regarding my previous post on coping with burnout, D2 sent this article. One of the ways I personally am trying to work on burnout is to start writing a science fiction novel. As usual, it's ambitious, complex, and quirky, and will cover several issues. I might use the blog here as a way to track my progress as well, but writers are notoriously shy (and rightly so) about sharing rough drafts, so the most I might say is what I've been up to or what sorts of sources I'm using to educate myself. One thing I'm also using to keep myself honest is a "small, attainable goal" support group on Facebook recommended by Dr. OZMG. A novel is a difficult thing to do, and SF brings an additional layer of complexity, in that the author must be a) technically/scientifically correct, b) innovative in pushing the envelope of future technology, and c) interesting and readable in his descriptions. I love a good challenge. :-)

Also from D2: an online lecture by a quantum physicist on why quantum physics violate comon-sense logic. God's universe is a very strange, marvelous place.

Looking to live in another country? The Down Under Defense Expert (DUDE) sent this link on International Living listing the best countries to live in and some more detailed explanations of their choices.

Also from the DUDE: an article on the "Israelification" of airport security.

NASA has an open opportunity for academic institutions to pursue grants for developing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education opportunities in connection with the Summer of Innovation event in 2010. Along similar lines, the Obama administration is ponying up more money for STEM education. This year, when the government is spending in ways that make drunken sailors blush, that might be great. Sustained funding will be a bigger problem once the President and Congress become Born Again Budget Cutters.

The internet is spawning some interesting ideas in philanthropy. For example, instead of spending a ton of money on Super Bowl commercials, Pepsi plans to participate in the Refresh Project, asking readers to suggest how they should spend the money on worthy causes instead. Also, a group called Syntiant4G has created a YouTube video to promote a mentorship program that combines for-profit and nonprofit ethos. Interesting!

From Tracy, an article on the "secrets" of innovation.

From my NASA Public Affairs Office (PAO) feed, the Fermi telescope investigators think they can use pulsars as a "galactic GPS" system, given their precise rotations. Speaking of telescopes, the Kepler telescope has located its first five "exoplanets" (that'd be planets circling other stars, not our own). Kepler was designed specifically to locate Earth-like planets in other solar systems. It's a marvelous, heady time to be alive--so many wonders to discover!--stay tuned.

Also from the NASA PAO, a notice that a moon rock collected by Apollo 11 will be taken up to a new, permanent home on the International Space Station. This same piece of rock was carried to the top of Mount Everest by former NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski. You might ask, "So what?" Well, jeez. Consider the number of adventures involved in moving that little rock around. If being the first man on the Moon, a person who has scaled the tallest mountain on Earth, or someone who has been to the International Space Station won't inspire you, then I can't help you. The short, Bartish answer is that "Greatness matters. Achievement matters. As long as individuals are willing to try to do great things that NO ONE else could do, what might they inspire other individuals to do that they had never considered possible?"

My fellow tech blogger Darlene Cavalier the Science Cheerleader is starting a new web site soon called, which will promote opportunities for private citizens to get involved in conducting science at home and (probably) also encourage them to get involved in the science decision-making process. I like the way Dar puts it: "A whole lot more goes into setting science policies than the pure science: economics, values, and other societal implications that come into play in a big way. Scientists themselves ought to have more access to Congress, for example, but there needs to be put in place a deliberate mechanism to inform--and then solicit--input from the public." The Science for Citizens site is still a work in progress, but you can sign up for update emails now. I believe Dar is looking for partners to promote this cause, so if your organization is interested in supporting her work, by all means email her, either through SfC or her primary page,

On one of my random New Year's Eve weekend Facebook posts, I suggested that it was long past time for someone to develop wine pairings for junk food, as some of us don't always do high-quality snacks at home. Jennifer the PAO Maven pointed me to this article on Food & Awesome.

More from the world of space...the Mars Spirit rover is starting its seventh year exploring Mars. It might be common knowledge, but bears repeating: Spirit and Opportunity were both designed to operate for 90 days. That is some outstanding engineering. I'd want these people designing and building my car, but then they and I would miss out on the other cool stuff they might achieve. If you wonder why I have no problem working for NASA, it's stuff like this.

I haven't discussed politics in awhile here, mostly because it's been boring me and I've got more important things to concentrate on. However, this link from the Heritage Foundation is worth checking case you're interested in how federal government spending is trending. The graphs are not good. One thing not discussed by Heritage is the increase in science and science-related education under Obama, which I consider a good thing, if sustained over the long haul. I've been told that the last time the U.S. went in big for science and research and development spending was under Ronald Reagan (note to my friends who think Republicans are anti-science). Our nation's leadership now depends on large and sustained investments in science and technology. And students aren't stupid. If they see that there's money to be made in STEM, they will return to those fields.

That's about now for this dose of Potpourri. Sorry it's so long, but I got a little behind in my postings. Happy 2010! Let your year be filled with happiness and marvels.

No comments: