Monday, July 05, 2010

Potpourri CXLIII

I know, I know, I really should be outside getting some exercise in the fresh air, but it's my day off, so I'm spending it in whatever lazy fashion suits me best: in my case, blogging, hitting golf balls, and having a couple of brewskis. You enjoy the holiday your way, I'll do it mine.

While I am no longer working for Constellation/Ares, my cube is still located where the Ares Projects are based. And yes, I still care about the fate of the project. It now appears that Congress is punting on passing the federal budget on time or putting any money behind their complaints about how the Administration is treating NASA. So the program--what's left of it--will be in zombie mode until someone attaches the electrodes and gives it new life or it's put down like the wounded pet that it is. Oy.

From Doc:

  • A little caffeineated humor. Need a t-shirt that expresses your mental state? Try this.
  • And why? Because a story on NPR indicated that caffeine might, in fact, be good for you.
Oh yeah, and speaking of the Constellation Program, the Obama administration has released a new space policy. I have thoughts, but will be judicious about posting them.

  • Observation #1: Human space exploration is not listed in the top-line summary of priorities.
  • Observation #2: While there's an emphasis on "space nuclear power," that could any number of things: nuclear-powered batteries (what we use on Cassini/Galileo now); space-based nuclear reactors for powering ion drives or other flavors of propulsion that result in radioactive by-products in space; or it could mean starting up a NERVA or Orion type of vehicle, which would actually use nuclear explosions to accelerate spacecraft. We'll have to wait and see.
  • General comment: In theory, international cooperation is a good thing, and gosh knows the previous administration (President and NASA) did not go out of their way to push for it in space. However, there are always challenges when you deal with international partners. For example, what if we stop getting along with a major partner (e.g. Russia) over some unrelated political/military fracas? If Russia provides critical components for the mission, would the mission be stopped by diplomatic problems? And then there's our nation's oh-so-fabulous export control laws, which in theory prevent people who don't like us from getting hold of our sensitive technology, but in reality can prevent international teams from working with us because we can't allow them to see how our technologies work, or vice versa. Hopefully the administration will at least fix ITAR before putting international partners on the "critical path" for any future missions (i.e., making their participation essential for success).

Need your business cards refurbished/redesigned? Check out this site.

A variety of things I found through random surfing:
Are you really into seeing science stuff? Would you like a trip to Sweden? Check this out.

If you're a big fan of living on the Moon, you might enjoy the Moon Miners' Manifesto, the newsletter of the Moon Society. I don't want to live on the Moon, personally. I like Earth. But I wouldn't mind staying at a hotel on the Moon, say with a nice view of the Earth...

From D2: a graphic designer gets a little snarky with a friend who wanted him to do something they bloody well could have done themselves. I've tried things like this, but it usually damages friendships.

Got this through my space-geek sources:

More on the Times pay wall:  Did you know there are only two Space Shuttle missions left? Mark your calendars: November 1 and February 26. We'll miss human spaceflight when it's gone...
Space Studies Institute Space Manufacturing 14: Critical Technologies for Space Settlement at NASA Ames Conference Center October 30-31, 2010!

Thirty five years ago, NASA Ames Research Center was the site of the first large technical study of space settlement. We have made significant progress since then, but with the prospect of low cost space transportation in the near future, now is the time to reinvigorate research and collaboration on the critical path technologies needed for space industrialization and settlement. The 14th Space Studies Institute conference on Space Manufacturing continues in the spirit of the Princeton Conferences initiated by Prof. Gerard K O’Neill in 1974.

The Space Manufacturing and Space Settlement Conferences have always given SSI attendees great value. This conference is the only one solely concerned with the science and engineering of humanity’s expansion into the solar system. Its most important function is to bring together the engineers, entrepreneurs and researchers who do the real work. New space companies and new institutions have formed from collaborations forged at earlier conferences. We hope that this and future annual SSI conferences will be as fruitful.

The specific purpose of Space Manufacturing 14 is to identify and recommend critical hardware research that can be conducted now by SSI, NASA and other organizations.

Registration opens July 7, 2010

*Registration is $250 for a full two day conference (Saturday October 30 & Sunday October 31), which includes a catered lunch for both days and a Friday night Wine Reception.
*Saturday, October 30th, Buffet dinner $35
*Our Official Hotel for this event is the lovely Sheraton Sunnyvale. Exclusive to SSI attendees, a special rate of $89 per night includes an exclusive Shuttle pickup and drop off between San Jose Airport and the Hotel (until 9pm on Friday, October 29, Saturday, Sunday and Monday), transportation to and from the NASA Ames conference free High Speed Internet in each SSI guest's room.

For history buffs, a time-lapse animation of Middle Eastern empires:

This sounds interesting: someone is developing a crowdsourced documentary:

An online introduction to Einstein’s thought:

Using “cognitive surplus” to change the world?

Like me, my buddy Martin luckily got moved off of Ares and onto other duties, including speech writing for executives at Marshall Space Flight Center. I suggested the following books/links to help him "think like an executive." Or something. Here to help...
Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History:

Bartlett’s Quotations:

The Complete Works of Shakespeare:

Not sure civil servants are allowed to quote the Bible anymore, but what the heck:

This site is useful for finding random “stuff” out on that-thar interwebs thingy:

Also, if you want to absorb the zeitgeist of the early 21st century (and understand what sorts of books that managers/leaders read), consider the following:

Outliers (Basic theme: there are other things that account for success than money, luck, and hard work. Stupid.)

The Wisdom of Crowds:

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable:

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything:

The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century:

The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less:

Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results:

Servant Leadership: A Journey Into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness (Okay, most leaders are NOT reading this one...but more of them should. A great recommendation I got from D2!)

Apps, apps, and more apps...I got a little spooked today trying the "Shazam" app on my iPhone for the first time. The gag is, you turn it on, put the iPhone up close to the radio, or even sing a few bars of a song, and it will identify the song's title and artist. That's just creepy. Oh, and speaking of apps, the U.S. Government is now getting in on the act, as reported by my buddy Dar.
More on Constellation: job losses are now estimated at around 5,000 people nationwide. Boo.

John Logdson is apparently a mentor of the folks who created the current space policy. Here are some of this thoughts here.

From my buddy Melissa, a short movie on teamwork.

From Anika, for Star Wars and Joss Whedon fans: a "Joss Whedon is my master now" t-shirt.

From Lin: News coverage of the oil spill is now being regulated.

And lastly, steampunk is making a bit of a comeback, in a variety of formats, including computer keyboards and apparel. For those unfamiliar with steampunk, I recommend reading The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson. It's an alternate history science fiction story in which Charles Babbage got his mechanical computer ("difference engine") to work in the Victorian Era, thereby extending the Victorian aesthetics into the future.

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