Thursday, July 27, 2006

Going home

I'm currently sitting in Frankfurt Airport waiting for my KLM flight back into the UK, and on my way back home from a very successful HTN workshop in Göttingen, Germany...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Heatwave and NO2

The BBC reports on the current heat wave in the UK seems to have resulted in a heavy build up of NO2 over the UK. I guess that the air just isn't going anywhere right now, and all that pollution we're pumping out is just sitting there...

CREDIT: BBC News/KNMI, Netherlands
Data from NASA's Aura satellite shows a build-up of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels over part of southern and north-western parts of England, as well as Belgium and the Netherlands. For comparison the NO2 pollution levels are shown for the 15th of July (top) and 18th of July (bottom).

Here I come to save the day!

Engadget is reporting that Apple has, at very long last, filed with the FCC for a Mighty Mouse with bluetooth support. About time...

CREDIT: Apple (via Engadget)
The new Bluetooth Mighty Mouse

Update: Now available from the Apple Store UK...

Monday, July 24, 2006

Brad goes to OSCON

Brad has gone to OSCON, and I must admit to being somewhat jealous. I've been out to OSCON every year for the last three now, but this year it clashed with the 2nd HTN workshop in Göttingen so I'm in Germany instead.

While I'm having a lot of fun with telescopes out here, and it looks like the workshop is going to be really useful, I'm still going to be following Brad's posts from OSCON with interest...

Friday, July 21, 2006

In transit, again...

I'm back in transit, and on my way to the 2nd HTN Workshop at the Institut für Astrophysik in Göttingen, Germany.

The world

I'm visiting my wife in Leeds this week and was being introduced around the department when Gemma found a huge balloon left over from the graduation ceremonies, and of course had to rescue it before it was popped. However, after finding the balloon everyone seemed far more interested in it, than finding out who this strange guy wandering around the halls was...

Gemma and the world...

It was a bit freaky, almost all of them immediately checked to see if Hawaii was visible, and then complained that the balloon only had two colour printing and, as such, the designers had seen fit to leave off Antarctica. Geographers eh?

Wash me...

Ever had "wash me" written by someone on the back of your car? Scott Wade has taken the traditional past time and created a new type of ephemeral art...

CREDIT: AutoBlog/Scott Wade
Dust art...

I'm not sure what I do if someone did that to my dusty old car? Take lots of pictures and hope it doesn't rain perhaps..?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The interesting stuff...

As Discovery lands in Florida after the second successful return to flight mission, we should now see the resumption of construction flights to the ISS, with the next launch of Atlantis (STS-115) scheduled for August 28th, set to deliver the second left-side truss segment (ITS P3/P4), a pair of solar arrays (2A and 4A), and batteries to the space station.

Shuttle commander Steve Lindsey's view of the landing strip through a head-up display during the final approach into Kennedy Space Center.
CREDIT: NASA/George Shelton
Discovery landing on Runway 15 at NASA's Shuttle Landing Facility on the 17th of July. Mission elapsed time was 12 days, 18 hours, 36 minutes and 54 seconds. Main gear touchdown occurred on time at 9:14:43 EDT, wheel stop was at 9:15:49 EDT.

With firm plans for a 2010 retirement date for the space shuttle fleet, from next year there is set to be an much increased European role in the ISS with the first launch of the ESA ATV. Although only five ATV cargo flights to the space station are currently scheduled before 2015, with the shuttles' retirement that may no longer be enough. NASA is already looking into transferring cargo originally earmarked for the shuttle to other craft, including both ESA's ATV, and Japan's H-2 Transfer Vehicle (HTV).

However the really interesting stuff is actually happening elsewhere. On July the 12th the first in a series of launches by Bigelow Aerospace put the first inflatable space module into orbit with remarkably little press coverage considering the possible implications. Yes I know the launch made Slashdot, but it's hardly the 9 o'clock news.

CREDIT: Mike Gold/
The Bigelow Aerospace Genesis-1 expandable module being packed into the nose cone of the Dnepr booster, a converted SS-18 ballistic missile, which was launched yesterday by ISC Kosmotras out of a silo at the Yasny Launch Base, an active Russian strategic missile facility.

The launch did get coverage in the specialist press, with articles in both New Scientist and Nature and after a bit of digging I did run across an older Popular Science article which talks about Bigelow Aerospace. But apart from a few articles there seems to be a remarkable lack of interest.

CREDIT: John B. Carnett
The full-scale S-1A demonstrator, approximately 45 feet long with a 22 foot diameter, with former NASA engineer William Schneider who designed the modules for Bigelow Aerospace.
The Bigelow Aerospace prototype is based on NASA's TransHab inflatable module concept, shown here during testing at the Johnson Space Center in 1998.

Which is odd, because this launch is historic, certainly it's as big a milestone as the X Prize. This is the first time a private company has launched living creatures into space, and it's the first privately built space habitat. Big news, so why no coverage?

CREDIT: Bigelow Aerospace
The first images from Genesis-1

It could have something to do with Bigelow's obviously poor media relations, you only have to look at their website to see that these people don't really know how to present themselves to the media, or the public in a "professional manner". Some people were even questioning whether the launch was for real, or just a practical joke.

Well it's definitely for real, you can track Genesis-1 in real time, and grab the first images and video of Genesis-1 from the Bigelow website. Big news, even if Bigelow themselves aren't shouting about it...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

.Mac and the iPhone

Rui Carmo has an interesting post about Apple's missed opportunities with it's .Mac service. You know what? It's the first convincing argument for the much rumoured iPhone I've heard yet...


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Back in transit...

I'm back in transit again and sitting in the departure lounge of Albuquerque airport waiting for my flight to Chicago, where I catch my flight back to Heathrow. It's been a while, but I'm finally going back home...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

An astronaut podcast...

Wired is currently carrying a podcast interview with the British born astronaut Piers Sellers. In case you're wondering, the interview was done prior to launch...

Copy what you like...

Paul Graham advises us to copy what we like,
Whenever I see a painting impressively hung in a museum, I ask myself: how much would I pay for this if I found it at a garage sale, dirty and frameless, and with no idea who painted it? If you walk around a museum trying this experiment, you'll find you get some truly startling results. - Paul Graham
It sounds like sound advise. I'll bear it in mind next time someone asks me why I wrote my entire system in Perl and not Java. Although possible the laughter gives it away?

Amanda unboomed

Controversy is raging across the web about the news that Rocketboom's host Amanda Congdon has been, well, unboomed, by her business partner Andrew Baron.

CREDIT: Amanda Congdon
Rocketboom, no longer daily, no longer with Amanda Congdon. Will the show, and the company, survive her departure?

It's unclear as yet what exactly has gone on with the IPTV startup. Amanda's own video statement suggests that she has been fired by the company, but Andrew's response suggests that she has departed under her own steam. With commentary flying back and forth from the great and the good, both supporting Amanda and supporting Andrew, it's shaping up to be an interesting fight. I hope it works out in favour of the injured party, err, whichever one of them that turns out to be...

Update: The suggestion that Scoble should hire Amanda as he heads towards his new gig at Podtech has already floated and he isn't discouraging the idea although she's already had an offer from Jason Calacanis of Weblogs, Inc.

Update: Amanda has published the back and forth with Andrew on her personal weblog. Basically the entire thing has turned into one of those messed up situations where everyone losses, and everyone blames everyone else for what went wrong.

UPdate: Both Jason Calacanis and Scoble have their say on what they regard as the toughest job in management, keeping the talent happy...

Update: Already the jokes start, has the English language just acquired a new word?

Update: Did it really come down to the money? With a quarter of a million people tuning in every day they still couldn't attract enough advertising?

Update: Now Scoble is half-seriously trying to hire Calacanis. I wonder how many people get the opportunity to hire their own boss...?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Apple phone home...

Daniel Jalkut has discovered that the recently released 10.4.7 OS X update phones home to Apple (via TUAW) and there doesn't seem to be any way to turn it off. After the controversy surrounding Microsoft's "Genuine Advantage" programme, and their own iTunes mini-store, you would have thought they'd have known better by now..?

Update: Amongst others Wired gives us a quick hack to disable the new Dashboard Advisor. However Pascal Pfiffner points out a more elegant method to achieve the same ends, just turn off the responsible daemon...

Google, abject failure?

Inside Google has a good post on Google Checkout, including a link to a piece by Wall Street Journal columnist Jeremy Wagstaff. Wagstaff argues that Google is an failure, at least at cross-marketing, with few of Google's new products outside its core search business "sticking"...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Discovery go for launch, again!

Despite safety fears, and after two postponed launches, the space shuttle Discovery is now set for launch from Kennedy Space Centre at 14:38 EDT (18:38 GMT, 19:38 BST) on Tuesday the 4th of July.

The space shuttle Discovery is revealed after retraction of the rotating service structure at Launch Pad 39B during the built-in hold at T-11 hours. On the 12-day STS-121 mission, the seven-member crew is scheduled to test new equipment and procedures to improve shuttle safety, as well as deliver supplies and make repairs to the International Space Station.

Update: A successful lift-off for Discovery at 14:38 EDT (18:38 GMT) on the 4th of July. Despite the safety fears surrounding the mission, during the press conference following the launch it was reported that the external tank's performance was greatly improved.

MP4 | Windows Media | Real Video
Lift-off for the space shuttle Discovery (STS-121).

While onboard cameras captured images showing some small pieces of the external tank breaking off during the launch, NASA currently sees no reason to be concerned about the integrity of the orbiter. However like the previous flight in July last year, the crew will take a closer look at Discovery using the orbiter boom sensor system, as well a performing slow roll of the craft that will allow further photography from the International Space Station.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Jim Baen, 1943 - 2006

I was saddened to hear today of the death of Jim Baen, who passed away on June 28th as a result of a massive stroke. Jim Baen was a founding partner of Baen Books, one of the largest independent publishers of popular fiction, and was almost single handily responsible for resurrected the genre of military science fiction from it's low ebb in the early 90's.

Additionally, and against the prevailing opinion of most other publishers, he was a vocal advocate of unencrypted electronic books, and while electronic publishing has been a costly failure for other publishers, Baen Books consistently turned a substantial profit from its unencrypted books.

Toni Weisskopf and David Drake suggest that people who wish to make a memorial donation purchase copies of "The World Turned Upside Down" and donate them to libraries or teenagers of their acquaintance.

Jim Baen is survived by two daughters, Jessica Baen, 29, and Katherine Baen, 14 and will be sorely missed.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

Tonight I went to see Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth. I'm not sure what I was expecting. Not true, I was expecting the ranting of a bitter man, who felt he had been unfairly cheated out of the presidency. What I got was a terrifying look at global warming. While obviously disappointed, Gore doesn't seem bitter, and comes over as a humorous and interesting speaker.
I am Al Gore, and I used to be the next president of the United States...
I've talked about the end of the world in the past, possible extiction levels events, and how the effects of global warming might have been massively underestimated due to the effects of global dimming. But day to day life wears away at you and you tend to shove the big questions to the back of your mind. Even those of us that have the privilege to be paid to think for a living have to concentrate of the small things to get by...

The movie trailer on Google Video (or YouTube)

Gore talks passionately about the environment, the effects of global warming, and the possible consequences of the break-up of the Antarctic ice shelf, or the melting of the Greenland ice pack.
If you look at the ten hottest years ever measured all have occurred in the last fourteen years, the hottest of all, it possible that we should prepare against other threats besides terrorists?
It makes you wonder what the world would be like today if Gore had been elected president of the United States in 2000, rather than Bush. It's hard to trust a politician, even an ex-politician. But Gore's track record on climate change seems fairly solid, go see An Inconvenient Truth, especially go see it if you doubt global warming is real.

Update: Well Al Gore used a Futurama clip in his movie to "explain" global warming, so I guess it's only fair...