Showing posts with label Exploration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Exploration. Show all posts

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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April 19, 2018

Make The Right Move To Agile Education

So, unfortunately, our education system in this country is highly troubled

Generally, we teach by strict curriculum forcing children to learn what we consider "the fundamentals".

But they are anything but that and kids come out not knowing how to do the very basics or survive in life. 

Test scores have not been improving--that's not the student's fault, but the education system, which cannot force feed what students minds are rejecting as "old school" and out of touch.

Not only don't we fish for them, but we don't even teach them to fish. 

We throw at them esoteric subjects to memorize, spit back, and forget. 

Wash, rinse, repeat. 

We waste years of their life and the productivity and creativity of society. 

Ever really wonder why GDP growth is only around 2% despite all the rapid technology that we are rolling out. 

It is just not drones that we are rolling off the assembly line, but human automatons as well. 

This is where agile education comes into aspect. 

Like with software development, we can gather requirements and build, and then show the customer, and then refine again and again. 

We let the development grow and mature naturally as the code takes shape. 

No more years of development and voila here's something for you, and with the customer exclaiming loudly, "What the F*** is that!"

So too with education, we need to follow the spirit and train of thought naturally. 

Where we let the students guide the teacher to what their questions are, what they are interested in learning about, where their creative juices take them, and what is relevant. 

Rigidity in the education system leaves our students as dead ends, and not as critical thinkers and innovators.

We have a dearth of leaders we can look up to and a plethora of people that couldn't survive the Spring without their Visa/Mastercard.  

Ever wonder why so many of our great innovators are college dropouts who built their companies in their garages instead of occupying a seat in a classroom and filling their heads with teacher rhetoric. 

Most people learn by seeing, internalizing, and doing useful things for themselves, not by listening and violently rejecting the irrelevant in their lives. 

Let us release the choking reigns of our education system. 

Teachers should be able to follow the questions and interests and natural evolution of thought and creativity and wonderment with their students. 

The mark of learning is not the answers on a standardized test, but the light bulb of critical thinking and innovation from our progeny. 

Exploration and discovery and skills to be self-sufficient and survive are far more beneficial than what we are giving our children today.

We owe them a better education, but we are not delivering because we are the automatons of yesteryear. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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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 1, 2018

Alien Orange Vacuum Cleaner

I love this art in Jerusalem, Israel. 

These big orange overhangs from the lamp poles look almost like big vacuum hoses that are ready and going to suck people literally off the streets. 

Can't you just see the people in mid-air suction, arms and legs flailing all around, yelling "Hey, what's going on around here!"?

Hopefully, they don't end up on an alien spaceship somewhere with some weird creatures wanting to explore about us or even use us for food!

Okay, this is what I call Purim spiel--fun for the holiday celebration today.

Seriously though, those orange things are great. ;-)

(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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January 3, 2016

Forcing Kids Backfires Big Time

Fascinating article in the Sunday New York Times today on how the stress we are putting on our kids is making them sick. 

With testing of High school students showing incredibly alarming rates of mental illness:


- 54% with moderate to severe depression.


- 80%+ with moderate to severe anxiety.


And 94% of college counseling directors "seeing rising numbers of students with severe psychological problems."


Even pediatricians are reporting 5-, 6-, and 7-year olds coming in for migraines and ulcers!


Another teacher said with all this, "We're sitting on a ticking time bomb."


Under the pressure to get into great schools and get a foot in the door in excellent careers and attain high-paying jobs, we are making our kids work longer school days, do more homework, take more Advanced Placement (AP) exams, participate in numerous extracurricular activities, and achieve, achieve, achieve. 


We've taken away normal play time--the fun out of life growing up--and the imagination, exploration, and discovery away from kids just being kids. 


The paradox is that "the pressure cooker is hurting, not helping, our kid's prospect for success."


Especially for parents who themselves grew up poor or lacking, maybe they are trying to do the "right thing"and give their kids more than they had and a "better life."


But maybe even the best intentions to mold children to be what we want them to be, or think they should or could be, is misplaced.


If only we could all take a little (or BIG) chill pill...you can't force success--with forcing you get the opposite results.

Back off people--instead of pushing and endless disciplining--how about we listen to the children, guide them, show unconditional love, and be excellent examples--show them integrity, a strong work ethic, along with an appreciation for work-life balance, then perhaps we will get not only the success of the next generation that we all need, but also happier, better adjusted, and healthier children. ;-)


(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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November 13, 2014

We Didn't Make History

A sincere congratulations to the European Union for the epic landing of a probe from the Rosetta spacecraft--the first such landing on a comet.

They did this with a landing area of just 550 yards in diameter and away from deep crevices, large boulders, and sharp peaks--it is amazing!


Their European space scientists are exclaiming and rightfully so, "We made history today."

The problem for us is that we--the U.S.of A.--didn't!

Yes, we landed the first man on the moon in 1969 and we haven't done it again since 1972.

I remember in grade school, with great pride and wonder, watching the first space shuttle taking flight--that was in 1981.

Since then, we had the horrific Space Shuttle Columbia disaster (2003), followed by the retirement of the shuttles altogether (2011).

Now, we rely on Russian rockets to bring supplies to the International Space Station and for our military and national security satellites.

Then, just a few weeks ago, we had the explosion of Virgin Galactic's SpaceshipTwo (2014) that is said to have been plagued with problems from inadequate rocket thrust, flight control system issues, and deficiencies in basic structural integrity. 

In the meantime, the Indians have made it to Mars on a dime. 

Where are we as a nation looking to advance into space--where resources and our very survival may someday soon depend?

Just think what those multi trillions of dollars spent (some would say squandered) in Iraq and Afghanistan (now being overrun by ISIS or threatened by the Taliban) as well as for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (uh, what did we really accomplish for all that money spent?).

Where we once led, and as children we stood in awe, now we stand in bewilderment and leave our children marveling at the victories and accomplishments of others. 

We can not/must not become complacent or stop investing strategically in our future--we need to act with urgency and commitment again for our nation to succeed. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 8, 2013

For Somebody Who Has Everything

What do you get somebody who has everything? 

Well check this out...


You can actually buy acreage on the moon through The Lunar Registry, "Earth's leading lunar real estate agency."


Based on The Outer Space Treaty, no country can own a celestial resource such as the moon, planet, or asteroid, but this doesn't preclude private entities and individuals from purchasing a "lunar land claim."


The Space Settlement Institute, which "promotes the human colonization and settlement of outer space" is lobbying for the U.S. to recognize these space land claims (PopSci).


According to their website, when you purchase real estate through the lunar registry, "your property ownership is permanently registered by the International Lunar Lands Registry in its annual publication, which is copyrighted and deposited in the United States Library of Congress and with international patent and trademark offices."


You can view available properties here, from the Sea of Vapors ("moon on a budget" for $18.95 per acre--near Crater Manilius) to Lake of Dreams ("most popular" for $34.25 per acre and a special "Sweathearts package with 2 acres side-by-side).


Properties can be viewed at The Full Moon Atlas through The Luna Society.


I found Lake of Dreams by its reference in sector B-4, although I couldn't really tell from the atlas whether this was a place that I'd like to settle down or not. 


In real estate, they alway say "location, location, location"--when you're buying on the moon, who the heck knows? ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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August 18, 2012

How Good Is Our DNA

Where do we store the vast and expanding information in our universe? 

These days it's typically in 0 and 1s--binary code--on computer chips. 

But according to the Wall Street Journal (18 August 2012), in the future, it could be encoded in the genetic molecules of DNA.

DNA has "vastly more capacity for their size then today's computer chips and drives"--where a thumb size amount could store the entire Internet--or "1.5 milligrams, about half the weight of a house ant could hold 1 petabyte of data, which equals to 1,000 1-terabyte hard drives."

As opposed to binary code, DNA will store information as strands made up of four base chemicals: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C) and thymine (T). 

Just like letters in the alphabet make up words, sequencing of these 4 base chemicals can store biological instructions (e.g. 3 billion for a person) or any other information. 

Using DNA for storage involves 4 key steps: 

1) Encoding information into binary code
2) Synthesizing the chemical molecules
3) Sequencing them in a string to hold the information
4) Decoding the molecules back into information

Overall, DNA is seen as a "stable, long-term archive for ordinary information"--such as books, files, records, photos, and more.

Researchers have actually been able to store an entire book of genetic engineering--with 53,426 words--into actual DNA, and "if you wanted to have your library encoded in DNA, you could probably do that now."

With the cost declining for synthesizing and sequencing DNA, this type of data storage may become commercially practical in the future.

And with the amount of information roughly doubling every 2 years, large amounts of reliable and cost-effective memory remains an important foundation for the future of computing. 

Frankly, when we talk about storing so much information in these minute areas, it is completely mind-boggling--really no different than the corollary of imaging all the stars in vastness of sky.

It is almost incredible to me that we have people that can not only understand these things, but make them work for us. 

With NASA's Curiosity Rover exploring Mars over 34 million miles away, and geneticists storing libraries of information in test tubes of DNA coding, we are truly expanding our knowledge at the edges of the great and small in our Universe. 

How far can we continue to go before we discover the limitations to our quest or the underlying mysteries of life itself?

What is also curious to me is how on one hand, we are advancing our scientific and technological knowledge as a society, yet on the other, as individuals, we seem to be losing our knowledge for even basic human survival. 

How many people these days, are proficient on the computer in an office setting, but couldn't survive in the wilderness for even a few days. 

Our skills sets are changing drastically--this is the age of the microwave, but knowing how to cook is a lost art to many. 

So are we really getting smarter or just engaging our minds in a new direction--I hope we have the DNA to do more than just one! ;-)

(Source Photo: adapted from here with attribution to Allen Gathmen)

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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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