Showing posts with label Discovery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Discovery. Show all posts

July 25, 2019

Lasting Decisions

So it's a funny thing about decisions...

Decisions are supposed to represent the conclusion of a process involving the following steps:

- Research of the problem
- Decide on the scope
- Discover the requirements
- Determine viable alternatives
- Evaluate costs, benefits, and risks 
- Do some soul-searching
- And then resolve and commit on a way-ahead

While these steps are typically formalized in a work-setting, they may be done informally in our personal lives. 

But even after all this, we need to remain adaptive to changes in the environment that would cause us to reevaluate the decision and alter course. 
So a decision is a decision until we revisit the decision. 

The problem is that in some highly complex, unstable/turbulent environments, or ones where there are a lot of disagreements among stakeholders (such that there was perhaps not a consensus on the original decision to begin with) then "decisions" may be short-lived.

In this case, decisions may be half-baked, not even last until the ink is dried, and certainly not have a chance in hell to be executed on or seen through to determine whether they actually would've worked. 

In a way a decision that is so temporal is not even really a decision, but sticking your toe out to feel the temperature of the water, and any commitment of resources can and probably will be a complete throw-away.  

We've got to do the investment in the upfront work, really make a good data-driven (and inspired) decision, and give it an opportunity to blossom. 

Yes, we need to remain agile and change as we sincerely need to, but too much change and for the wrong reasons leads to going nowhere fast.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 26, 2019

Amazing - They Go In And See

Had my routine colonoscopy this morning. 

It is so amazing that they can go in with camera and everything. 

Look around and if necessary, cut out anything bad. 

Years ago, people just felt sick or pain and maybe saw some symptoms from outside.

But they had no idea what was happening inside. 

So grateful to G-d for the technology and doctors that can make sure all is okay. 

We are truly living in miraculous times. 

They even send you home with some pictures afterward.

It's interesting to see, but maybe a little TMI. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 6, 2018

Radio-Activity

So earlier in the week, I had a great opportunity to visit the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR). 

It was fascinating to see the reactor, control room, and all the cool experiments--not things you see every day, right? 

For safety, we had to wear devices that measured radioactivity and also go through machines that checked us afterward. 

When one person in our group went through the scanner, it went off with a red alert, and the poor individual obviously got really scared--like OMG is there some contamination on me or something.

But they went through again and it turned out it was just a false positive, thank G-d. 

I guess these really can be dangerous substances to work around, but still so marvelous how the scientists harness these neutron beams and direct them to all sort of fascinating scientific experiments. 

Being around all this science makes me think whether if I could do it all again--wondering aloud--whether I would pursue an education in one of these amazing scientific disciplines and work in the lab like a "mad scientist"--exploring and discovering new things and figuring out the mysteries of the universe and how the world really works. 

What a fun, fun field to work in!  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal and Art by 4th grader, Phillip Kenney)
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May 12, 2018

Beautiful Virus, Huh?

So this is an image of the Tobacco Mosaic Virus.

Yeah, I never heard of it either. 

It is a virus that attacks and destroys tobacco and other plants. 

Viruses are ugly and evil in that they hurt and kill other living things

Yet in looking at this molecular image, I seriously hate to say it, but it is also beautiful in a way. 

The shape, color, complexity--the design and wisdom embedded in it--what can I say, but even this too is a miracle. 

Sure, it would be better in a mortal sense if there were no viruses to make us suffer and literally eat away at us. 

Yet, surely G-d has a plan even for these nasty virus molecules.  

Do they help us gain immunity to even worse diseases?

Do they help us to use ingenuity to discover, fight, and evolve to withstand their attacks and progress our society in larger ways?

Do they help us learn however horribly to turn to G-d, strengthen ourselves, and somehow try to cope with suffering and loss in life and death.

All sickness is unbelievably horrible and the suffering it causes is truly impossible to understand, and G-d should please, please have mercy on us. 

Yet, looking at this molecular image of even this virus, there is something comforting in the supreme intelligent design and creation of it all.  ;-)

(Source Andy's photo of image by Visual Molecular Dynamics)
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March 21, 2018

Measurement And Standards Are Our Friends

So I learned that Metrology is the science of measurement. 

And measurement is the foundation of scientific research and creating standards. 

Scientific research and measurement are about exploration, discovery, and innovation.

Further, it is about finding the facts; it is objective; it is truth; it is essential to maintaining integrity. 

Standards also help to ensure dependability, because there is a common reference and you know what you are getting. 

A great true story that demonstrates the importance of measurements and standards is the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904.

This was the third worst urban inferno in American history. 

It destroyed over 1,500 building across 140 acres. 

Fire engines responded from as far as New York and Virginia. 

But the problem was that they invariably could not help. 

Why?  

Because their fire hose couplings could not fit on the Baltimore fire hydrants--they were not standardized.

Without standards, we don't have interoperability. 

We don't have a reference that everyone can go by. 

It's as if we're all working on our own desert islands. 

This defeats the power in numbers that make us together greater than the sum of our individual parts. 

Science and technology help us advance beyond just ourselves and today. 

Measurement and standardization help us to build a better and stronger society. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 30, 2017

Future Home For Mankind



Thought these artist renderings of the Trappist-1 Star were awesome. 

NASA discovered this star and 7 Earth-size planets around it that could conceivably have water and sustain human life. 

As we continue to gobble up Earth's resources and build incredibly powerful weapons that may one day soon destroy it, we need to have a viable Plan B.

Hence, the race to find another planet(s) with resources and environmental conditions where human civilization can survive and thrive.

I'm not sure what is more exciting than finding that magic planetary home of the future, where everything is new and pristine again like the Garden of Eden.

A place to go where hopefully we take not only the bits and bytes of our current world, but also the lessons learned to do it better again. ;-)

(Source Photo: NASA JPL here and here)
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November 16, 2016

To MARS and Beyond

So excited about the new show called MARS (and yeah, it's on National Geographic). 

I watched the season premier and it was awesome!

They did this cool combination flipping between the non-fiction of the here and now on Earth in 2016 with all the plans and advances being made to go to settle Mars someday, and the fictionalized future 2033 actual voyage and colonization there. 

The spaceship, rovers, colony are all pretty amazing and it seems so real like we're practically there!

Elon Musk (SpaceX) does a nice job explaining the vision and the reusable rockets they are focused on to get us cost-effectively to the Red Planet and beyond. 

The imperative is clear for us becoming a true multi-planetary species, so that we drastically reduce (hopefully to zero) the risk of an extinction level event to humanity.

There was a good quote that I remember, something like:

"We go into the dark, so others can follow the light."

The leap forward of us actually making it to and colonizing Mars is so mid-boggling great that just about everything else literally pales in comparison. 

Mars is just the first real step...after that the possibilities are truly endless. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to NASA Jet Propulsion Lab)

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October 3, 2016

Happy Jewish New Year 5777

May it be a truly sweet and wonderful year. 

It should be a year filled with happiness, health, peace, prosperity, love, and unity. 

May G-d forgive our transgressions, judge us with mercy, and inscribe us in the book of life. 

Let it be a year of meaning, inspiration, innovation, exploration, discovery, and ushering in better times for all mankind. 

Thank you Hashem for all your everlasting kindness, for safeguarding and keeping us, and bringing us ever closer to redemption and to you. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 29, 2016

STEM Lost And Found

So this was a shirt of a local college campus that I took yesterday. 

It shows aspirations to be all sorts of things...from a doctor and lawyer to a cowgirl and princess. 

However, in this list of  22 professional aspirations there is a noticeable lack of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). 

Yes, doctors do have to know science, but not necessarily the type that opens up the world of discovery and innovation like a researcher or scientist!

STEM are the fields that over and over again have been reported as grossly lacking in this country. 



Another article in IEEE Spectrum (August 2013) claims that while the "STEM crisis is a myth," still "we should figure out how to make all children literate in the sciences, technology, and the arts."

From my experience, while I certainly get to see a lot of awesome technical talent, I also see and hear too many moans and groans when it comes to a lot of basic skills in STEM.

One colleague said the other day (and in a public forum), "Oh, don't depend on my math skills for that!"

Others that I know have difficulty with everything from simple spreadsheets, backing up their computer files, or even balancing a checkbook, and other such fundamental skills. 

Growing up with a dad who was a math whiz, a sister with a PhD in bio-medical science, and me majoring in accounting, business, and later diving into IT, I learned to appreciate, on many fronts, how important basic STEM skills are, and I in turn used to drill my own kids with workbooks and worksheets--and they perhaps at the time resented me for it, and maybe only later in life, started to love me for caring and trying.

In school, I found a lot of the education in STEM to be lacking coming across too often as esoteric and disappointingly devoid of day-to-day meaning and application in the real world for the regular people not building bridges or spaceships, so I certainly understand the frustration of young people who while they may be interested in pursuing these critical areas of education, may be turned off at the way it's being presented to them. 

We need great teachers who not only know the material, but love what they do and know how to make the material come alive to their students. Also, we need jobs that pay commensurate to the value of the talent and not nickle and dime the developers, researchers, and engineers while lining the pockets of the executive suite. Finally, we should focus the hearts and minds of our people on the real meaning of the work they do and how it helps people and society, and not just on what often comes across as isolated tasks or the organization's free dry cleaning and all you can eat buffet lunches. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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December 14, 2015

Looking For Astronauts - Apply Here

So cool!!!

OPM Job announcement today for Astronauts.

Work for NASA at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.

Train for missions to the International Space Station, on two new commercial spacecraft, and for the Orion  deep-space exploration vehicle.

To go where no man or woman has gone before...

Dreams do come true!;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Paul Hudson)
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May 19, 2015

The Flaming Bus

I took this photo today in Washington, D.C.

This cool bus is painted with flames on the hood and has a guitar at the top. 

No, it's not the bus from The Partridge Family although it has similar colors!

On this bus, the guitar has the name "Sailing Conductors Jack Mantis" on it. 

When I looked this up online, I found that these are some "music loving dudes" who travel (sail and bus) the world and record musicians across dozen of countries and 5 continents. 

They have music, videos, and a 4-part TV series from their global talent search--although there is only limited material at their site (so not sure where all the recordings from the "hundreds of local musicians" is available for consumption).

Anyway, this is a fascinating experiment in discovering diversity, music and the arts, and culture along their travels. 

As to the specific music--beauty is in the eye of the beholder. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 1, 2014

You're Probably Not A 10

There is a review online for nearly everything...from sources such as Amazon to Yelp, Angie's List, IMDb, and more. 

But what you may not realize is that the knife cuts both ways...you are not only the reviewer, but the subject of reviews.

And if you're not all that...then everyone can know it!

The New York Times has an opinion piece by Delia Ephron about how reports cards are no longer just for kids, and that they are "for the rest of my life...[and] this is going on your permanent record."

From cabbies that won't pick you up because you've been rated a bad fare to your therapist that says you can't stop obsessing, restaurants that complain you refused to pay for the chopped liver, and the department store says you wasted their salesperson's time and then bought online, and even your Rabbi says you haven't been giving enough to the synagogue lately. 

People hear things, post things, and can access their records online...your life is not private, and who you are at least in other peoples opinion is just an easy search away. 

In Tweets, Blogs, on Facebook, and even in companies customer records, you have a personal review and rating waiting for discovery.

Your review might be good, but then again...you are not always at your finest moments and these get captured in databases and on social media.

Data mining or exfiltration of your personal information is your public enemy #1.

Of course, you'd like to think (or wish) that you're brand is a 10, but not everyone loves you that way your mother does.  

Too bad you can't tell them, "If I want your opinion, I'll ask for it"--either way, your gonna hear what people think of you loud and clear. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 24, 2014

To The Holy Land

My youngest daughter, Rebecca, left for The Holy Land today.

I am so proud of her courage, love, and determination to visit there and learn more about her Judaism and Israel. 


Rebecca, you are going on an amazing journey, and we are all so happy for you and thinking of you. 


We all wish you nothing but the best time, lots of learning and meaning, new friends, and of course G-d's endless blessings and protection.


May you go in peace and return in peace--all our love. ;-)


(Source Photo: Rebecca Blumenthal)

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September 28, 2013

What True Love Means


A Walk To Remember--what an absolutely amazing movie.

This girl with a beautiful soul, Jamie, turns around the life of this lost boy, Landon. 

She warns him not to fall in love with her, but he does. 

She reveals that she has Leukemia and is no longer responding to medicine. 

Landon is head over heels for her and marries her despite the prognosis. 

They enjoy one summer of love before she passes. 

But she has changed his life forever. 

I cried like a baby at this one. 

It was a movie of faith, love, and turnaround--it made me believe again. ;-)

"Love is always patient and kind. It is never jealous. Love is never boastful or conceited. It is never rude of selfish. It does not offense and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people's sins, but delights in the truth. It is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes." - Nicholas Sparks
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May 24, 2013

Willy Wonka Wears Google Glass TOO

I can only say that my fascination with Google continues to grow daily. 

Years ago, I used to joke, "What is this G-O-O-G-L-E?"

But now, I know and marvel at how Google is information!

And every type of information from news and facts to shopping and entertainment: 

Research is Google.
eCommerce is Google. 
Entertainment is Google. 

Google this...Google that. 

Archive, index, search, discover, access...learn, grow.

Google has quite literally ushered in a new age of enlightenment, no really!

The focus is on information...Google's mission statement is:

"Organize the world's information and make it universally acceptable and useful."

If you believe that knowledge and learning is one of the core underpinnings for personal growth and global development then you can appreciate how Google has been instrumental in unleashing the information age we are living in. 

Of course, information can be used for good and for evil--we still have free choice. 

But hopefully, by building not only our knowledge, but also understanding of risks, consequences, each other, and our purpose in life--we can use information to do more good than harm (not that we don't make mistakes, but they should be part of our learning as opposed to coming from malevolent intentions). 

Google is used for almost 2/3 of all searches.

Google has over 5 million eBooks and 18 million tunes.

Google's YouTube has over 4 billion hours of video watched a month.

Google's Blogger is the largest blogging site with over 46 million unique visitors in a month

But what raises Google as the information provider par excellence is not just that they provide easy to use search and access to information, but that they make it available anytime, anywhere.

Google Android powers 2/3 of global smartphones

Google Glass has a likely market potential for wearable IT and augmented reality of $11B by 2018.

Google's Driverless Car will help "every person [traveling] could gain lost hours back for working, reading, talking, or searching the Internet."

Google Fiber is bringing  connection speeds 100x faster than traditional networking to Kansas City, Provo, and Austin. 

Google is looking by 2020 to bring access to the 60% of the world that is not yet online

Dr. Astro Teller who oversees Google[x] lab and "moonshot factory" says, "we are serious as a heart attack about making the world a better place," and he compares themselves to Willy Wonka's magical chocolate factory. (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)

I like chocolate and information--and yes, both make the world a better place. ;-)

(Source Photo: here by (a)artwork)


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May 4, 2013

3-Bedroom Homes on Mars


I am very excited about Bigelow Aerospace's BA-330 space inhabiting module.

The BA-330 is an inflatable, expandable habitat that can be launched into orbit or used to colonize another planet. 

According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek (2 May 2013), the space vessels are inflatable--like a football or car tire.

The inner core is an airtight bladder for living. The outer shell is composed of protective layers of foam and bullet-resistant Vectran fabric. In the center is a metal framework of electronics and equipment.

The "space habitat is folded tightly into the trunk of a rocket for launch, and released in orbit, where is inflated with a breathable atmosphere." 

Internal pressure makes the hull rigid and the up to 40" of layered protective material make the habitat stronger and safer than conventional aluminum modules--and yet can be produced at half the cost!

The modules can be arranged vertically into the equivalent of a three-story home with kitchen, dining room, bedrooms, and gym. 

NASA has plans for one of these modules to join with the International Space Station and to test it for future uses. 

Bigelow wants to be the 1st space landlord renting out dwellings, work environments, and laboratories to tourists, scientists, and companies. "Bring your clothes and your money. We provide everything else."

For only $51M you can travel to the Bigelow Alpha Station--it's first commercial outpost--and enjoy 110 cubic meters for 60 days. 

Someday, these early ventures into space will seen as the pioneers crossing the oceans to discover and settle new far away lands, but the difference will be millions of miles and infinite choices. ;-)
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February 9, 2013

Love Is In The Air


Love is in the air for these mating penguins. 

I love this picture from The Atlantic (8 Feb. 2013) of a penguin colony of 9,000 found in Antarctica--with these two penguins getting all cozy together. 

While the penguins were not easily seen from satellites in the "remote icy expanses," apparently they leave something behind that is observable, and that is their you-know-what--droppings.

What a way to find something so beautiful, but as they say bees do it, birds do it, and it's not just love they are talking about. ;-)

(Source Photo: here)

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October 21, 2012

From Adventure Photography to Lifelogging


Felix Baumgartner jumped from a helium-filled balloon lifted space capsule, one week ago today, to set a skydiving record from 24 miles up and reaching the speed of 834 miles per hour.

On Felix's helmet was a GoPro video camera to capture this memorable event.

GoPro is the leader in wearable, waterproof, shockproof videocameras and has an especially strong market in action and extreme sports.

Their newest helmet-mounted camera is the HD HERO3 (available 17 October 2012), and it continues the significant trend to ever smaller, lighter, and more powerful cameras technology.

I like this video they put out showing the high resolution and exciting video taken while doing activities from surfing to mountain climbing, deep sea diving, flying, kayaking, and more.

I have a feeling that these cameras are going to make a leap from capturing adventure photography to being used for lifelogging and lifejournaling--where people capture major life events on a wearable camera, and in some extreme cases--they try to capture virtually their whole life!

As someone who has blogged now, thank G-d, for 5 1/4 years, I greatly value the ability to capture important events, share, and potentially influence--and lifelogging with discrete, wearable camera technology can take this even further. 

Of course, with this technology, we need the ability to search, discover, and access the truly memorable moment--those that are meaningful to you and can have a deep and lasting impact on others--and let's face it, despite the rise of Reality TV, most of life is not quite a Kardashian moment. ;-)

It sort of reminds me of the Wendy's commercial, where the old lady asks from a fictitious competitor, "where's the beef?" With lifelogging, blogging, or other capture and sharing technologies, the beef had better be there (people's time is valuable)!

There are billions of people to reach--capture, reflect, share...in writing and with pictures--then truly, "The pen is mightier than the sword."

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August 2, 2012

This Fish Doesn't Bite

It's annual Shark Week--apparently, there is now a dedicated week for just about everything.  

Although I am not sure how that works with only 52 weeks a year...unless every week is "dedicated" to multiple honors, rememberances, etc.  

Like they say, everyone/everything gets their five minutes of fame. 

This picture is of the Discovery Building in downtown Silver Spring.

Yeah, there is a ginormous shark head hanging off the side of the building (and you can see a little bit of the fins and tail hanging off the sides).

This guy, turned around and staring at the shark head, practically missed his ride, but then again this is not something you see everyday on the way to work.

Jaws meet DC commuters/workforce--we're not running from this gefilte fish. ;-)

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January 28, 2012

Hello From Moon Colony

What can be more thrilling than the promise of space exploration and the virtually limitless possibilities that it holds. 

Since the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, the first manned mission to land on the moon, we have dreamed of the next step in terms of an actual colony of humans living there. 

In 1975, the science fiction TV show Space: 1999, that many of you may still remember, envisioned what this space colony could look like (until a nuclear mishap sends the colony hurling through space). 

From 1984, you can see attached, a NASA's artist rendering of a colonized moon along with astronauts and lunar rover.

Now in 2012, with the presidential campaigning in full swing, we are hearing the promise of such a manned lunar colony once again and it is still just as exciting as ever.

One candidate, called for the lunar colony to be bustling with commercial activity by 2020--wouldn't that be amazing!

While it was funny when this candidate said that once the colony reached 13,000 American inhabitants, they can petition to become a state, it also somehow brought it into a new perspective and made it so real--like could this really happen one day? 

The idea of expanding beyond our limits here on Earth, making new discoveries, tapping into potential new resources, and harnessing ever greater innovation from such exploration can bring hope of a better, brighter tomorrow to all. 

Note to self: must haves for a lunar colony--aside from a place of worship, a great fitness center and some nice restaurants, we'll need the Internet, iPhone, Netflix, and Xbox (and Facebook would be a plus) ;-)

(Source Photo: here)


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