Daily Archives: November 30, 2012

NASA Press Conference Will Announce Voyager Captured by Alien Craft!

I’m kidding, I’m kidding, NASA did not say that. But I do think people need to take it down a notch with this whole blaming NASA for doing their press conferences wrong. As far as I know, the Curiosity Martian Laboratory Robot recently approached a non nondescript pile of dirt, analyzed the bejesus out of it as a test of the fancy dancy instruments on board, and everything worked. The pile of dirt was not interesting but they did to that pile of dirt what would have required 3,000 feet of laboratory floor space full of expensive equipment and a dozen technicians working for two months back in the day. But they did it with a Robot. On Mars. In a few days. And everything worked.

If you don’t think that is overwhelmingly exciting than you are either dead or have no idea how science works. That is incredibly amazing wonderful news.

So, when a NASA scientist became exuberant over the news that would be reported in the upcoming press conference and said he was really excited, science reporters and bloggers, jaded by the Mono Lake affair no doubt, assumed that only one thing could be that exciting: Martians. Nothing else. And then, when “rumors” went around suggesting that it was probably not Martians, it became time to crucify NASA again. That is not good science reporting, people. Don’t think you’re doing it right and NASA is doing it wrong.

I also think that the spoof site reporting that a blue plastic necklace had been found on the Angry Red Planet was pretty funny, and I think that NASA having that site killed was unnecessary. Those details are here.

Take it down a notch, people.

OK, there really will be a V-ger press conference and a Curiosity press conference in the near future.


Actually, NASA has press conference all the time. All the time. They’ve been doing this for years. The sudden concern that NASA is doing science by press conference, if it is a real concern, should have been brought up a long time ago. But really, there should not be a concern. The data that are collected on these various NASA Big Science Missions are studied by real live scientists who publish the results in peer reviewed journals. But they also have the press conferences.

Think about this for one minute. What if NASA had the rule that nothing they did would be reported to the press, but rather, only released via peer reviewed journals, often years after the actual mission activities were carried out, but they’d also let you stand a few miles away and watch launches. That’s it. No press conferences keeping people updated on the various missions as they reach various milestones. What would the people who watch this science and report on it and blog about it do then? They’d whinge about the lack of transparency, the lack of information, they’d say things like “Sure, sure, peer reviewed papers are great, but with this kind of science, with the huge public funding, and given the importance of the public interest, and the various milestones and stuff … well, they should have press conferences now and then, dammit!”

Yes, that is what would be said.

So, here, I will present the information on the upcoming press conferences, as provided by NASA, so you can see what it is all about.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Update Set In San Francisco About Curiosity Mars Rover

PASADENA, Calif. — The next news conference about the NASA Mars rover Curiosity will be held at 9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 3, in San Francisco at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).
Rumors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect. The news conference will be an update about first use of the rover’s full array of analytical instruments to investigate a drift of sandy soil. One class of substances Curiosity is checking for is organic compounds — carbon-containing chemicals that can be ingredients for life. At this point in the mission, the instruments on the rover have not detected any definitive evidence of Martian organics.

The Mars Science Laboratory Project and its Curiosity rover are less than four months into a two-year prime mission to investigate whether conditions in Mars’ Gale Crater may have been favorable for microbial life. Curiosity is exceeding all expectations for a new mission with all of the instruments and measurement systems performing well. This is spectacular for such a complex system, and one that is operated so far away on Mars by people here on planet Earth. The mission already has found an ancient riverbed on the Red Planet, and there is every expectation for remarkable discoveries still to come.

Audio and visuals from the briefing also will be streamed online at: http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl .

For more information about the mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mars and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl .


Veronica McGregor/Guy Webster 818-354-9452/ 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
veronica.c.mcgregor@jpl.nasa.gov/ guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov

Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington

NASA to Host Dec. 3 Teleconference About Voyager Mission

November 29, 2012

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA will host a media teleconference at 11 a.m. PST (2 p.m. EST) on Monday, Dec. 3, to discuss the latest findings and travels of NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft.

Voyager 1 and its twin, Voyager 2, have been speeding through the outer reaches of our solar system and sending back unprecedented data about the bubble of charged particles around our sun. They were launched in 1977 and have traveled farther from Earth than any other spacecraft.

Audio and visuals of the event will be streamed live online at: http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl2 .

For more information about the Voyager mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/voyager and http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov .

Jia-Rui C. Cook 818-354-0850
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington


Photograph of Alien Spacecraft by Flickr user Markusram

Is Bullying A Feature Or A Bug?

This looks interesting: The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t.

This is the description of the book:
The No Asshole Rule was awarded a Quill Award as the Best Business Book of 2007.

When Robert Sutton’s “No Asshole Rule” appeared in the Harvard Business Review, readers of this staid publication were amazed at the outpouring of support for this landmark essay. The idea was based on the notion, as adapted in hugely successful companies like Google and SAS, that employees with malicious intents or negative attitudes destroyed any sort of productive and pleasant working environment, and would hinder the entire operation’s success.

Now using case studies from these and many more corporations that have had unquestioned success using variations of “The No Asshole Rule,” Sutton’s book aims to show managers that by hiring mean-spirited employees – regardless of talent – saps energy from everyone who must deal with said new hires.

FEATURING A NEW CHAPTER ON THE RULE AND ITS SURPRISING IMPACT! In this new version of The No Asshole Rule, Bob Sutton provides an uproarious account of the world-wide reaction to his best-selling book. As he writes: “I didn’t plan it. I never wanted it. I didn’t believe it at first. And it still make me squirm.” Sutton’s talking about having been branded as “the asshole guy.” But beyond the initial shock value of the provocative title, Sutton’s epilogue goes on to detail the kind of impact this important book has had on corporate organizations and employees everywhere. His book has provided a major wake-up call to those individuals in the business world and beyond who somehow have lost sight that a little civility goes a long, long way when it comes to dealing with our fellow human beings – and leading an effective organization. This is one epilogue that is definitely worth reading.

There is a blog post discussing this here:

The 7 Ways Organizations Justify Bullying in The Workplace

…The potential for individuals within organizations to behave unethically is limitless. Unfortunately, this potential is too frequently realized. If these types of incidents are dealt with in the heat of the moment, not only can they be corrected immediately but you also send a signal throughout the organization that this will not be tolerated. It is like a pebble tossed into the water that sends out larger ripples.

Bullying in school is the training ground for bullying in the organization….

Shall we discuss the Internet?

Hat Tip: Amanda Temple

Taking Lego to the Max

Huxley’s Aunt and Uncle have given him, as Christmas and Birthday presents, various kits to make Imaginarium style train setups. Imaginarium is like Brio and Thomas the Tank Engine, but generally available as a Toys R Us Brand. He has enough cool bits and pieces to make a kind of double figure eight layout, but the ends can’t ever be closed into a continuous loop because we don’t have enough pieces of track. Or maybe we do. We keep trying different configurations but it never works. It also may be the case that while Huxley, Amanda and I make great Train Engineers once the tracks are set up, we make lousy Civil Engineers when laying them out. We need to hire a consultant.

This is the same problem with Lego. You see all these amazing Lego things people put together … especially if you go to Lego Land at the Mall of America across town from here. But, when you start putting this stuff together, at first, it is hard to do because everything really has to be just right to make it work, especially if electronic motors and gears and stuff are involved.

You can learn to make great Lego thingies through extensive trial and error, or you can hire a Lego consultant, or you can just get these books by Yoshihito Isogawa. I’ve got two of them (I think there may be three or four in total): The LEGO Technic Idea Book: Simple Machines and The LEGO Technic Idea Book: Wheeled Wonders.

These are very smart books. There are no words in them, just a few on the cover and in the very beginning. It is all pictures, some of which I’ve pasted here to give you an idea.

The different types of blocks in a given picture are always different colors so you can easily see what is what. There are icons that tell you what kind of assembly you are looking at, and what principle is being illustrated, such as “turning” or “a door” or “putting something in or on something” and that sort of thing. As far as I can tell, it is pretty much one assembly per layout (two pages facing each other) with several angles and other helpful illustrations on each layout. The idea is that you can build the thing that is depicted by looking at what the illustrations (mainly photographs) show, and when you do so, you learn something about how Lego assemblies are made.

The books are divided into parts and chapters. So for the Wheeled Wonders book, Part 1 has Motorcars, Cars that Spin Something, Cars that Move something … Part 2 has Differential Gears, Steering, Suspension … Part 3 has Combining Vehicles with Different Bases, Reversing After bumping a Wall, Using Pullback and Windup Springs … Part 4 has Transmission and a special section called Cool Cars. Clearly, you can see the pattern: Increasing complexity as you move through the book, with later chapters building on earlier ones.

The Simple Machines book has too many chapters for me to name them all, but it starts wiht basics (Gears, Shafts, Turntable, Angled Gears, Womr Drives, etc.) then covers power and motion (Chains and Treads, Rubber Bands, Rack and Pinion, etc.), then motors, more complicated chassis, doors, pulley systems, and eventually, amazingly, provided diagrams with instructions to make a couple of musical instruments.

The author, Yoshihito Isogawa, of Tokyo, is a Lego master and has written a whole bunch of books like this. Imagine having that job!

I think the idea here is that you build from the examples, mainly working from simple to complex, until you find yourself anticipating what the instructions would say, and eventually getting to the point where you don’t need them at all. Thereafter you’d probably find these volumes handy as references in your Ultimate. Geek. Library.