Tuesday, February 28, 2006

They should have sent...a poet!

That is what Jodie Foster tearfully says in Contact as she gazes upon an amazing cosmic vista through the viewport of her space capsule.

Until we build a giant spinning machine that shoots people through space wormholes, we will have to settle for these photos from the Hubble of the galaxy M101.

According to the press release, this photo is the Hubble's most detailed image of a spiral galaxy ever. It has taken over decade to assemble all of the different exposures into one giant view.

You can look at smaller versions of the image, or download the largest one and gaze at all the glowing details.

Poetry indeed.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

It's a great, big universe...and we're all really puny!

This song by the Animaniacs is sarcastic, but it almost would fit right in at Tomorrowland. It is pretty catchy, but I do not get the joke about Mickey Rooney.

Is it me...or does this song sound just a little like the Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow song from the Carousel of Progress?

This is my first attempt at embedding video, so let us see how it works.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Dubai spaceport

While the top news headlines feature the heated debate over Dubai and ports in the United States, there is also news that Dubai might become the site of a port to space.

Read the details on the Space Adventures website, which not only has some amazing art of the proposed spaceport, but some impressive web design as well.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Social bookmarking, del.icio.us, and the info-storm

A form of future shock has become a plague upon my life: so much information, so little time.

I wrote earlier about organizing the flood of information that comes at me from all directions. RSS services like Pageflakes and Writely have streamlined my time spent reading web pages, making every second I spent online count.

I used search engines in my early web surfing days. Google was unknown and Yahoo was still a young company. Altavista was the most powerful search engine in the mid 1990s.

Finding information on anything from Star Trek to Photoshop meant looking through hordes of links, some live, some dead, and many that were just plain useless.

I soon discovered that people were better search engines than machines. My friends and co-workers would E-mail or instant message me links; they knew me and my interests. My filter for the information age become a biological one: live humans who could steer me to information I needed.

Now services like del.icio.us have taken this idea online. I'm new to del.icio.us, which has been available since late 2003. I also use digglicious.com, which blends del.icio.us and digg.com.

I have renewed the excitement of discovery from web surfing so long ago by using these sites, clicking on links that other people have sorted out by interests and topics. I can sit for hours and gather links and information. I find sites I never would have found on a specific search.

What makes these services work are people. People add to their bookmarks what they find worth keeping. The readers of digg.com boost the stories they find worthy.

Digglicious.com I find hypnotic because it updates automatically. Powered by AJAX, the page re-shuffles as new links are added and accessed. It seems alive and thinking, a cross between a search engine and a stock ticker.

As the designers of search engines fine tune their craft, and as those who seek to take on Google rethink how people access information, I find that the most powerful tool we still have for navigating the sea of information we have created...are the users.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Pageflakes, cool RSS stuff...and SCIENCE!

I recently discovered Pageflakes, a site for personalized web content through a web desktop. Pageflakes is similar to the personalized home page that Google offers, but I have found the Pageflakes interface easier to customize. I saw the link to Pageflakes in the story link I posted last night, but I just started using it for my own web surfing today.

There are tabs on the pages, allowing you to group together your RSS feeds and other modules in seperate areas. You can put all your feeds on one page, your to-do lists on another page, your photos from Flikr on another, and so on.

Now I have a whole page of feeds for my science and tech sites. One click and my screen fills up with the lastest news from Slashdot, Digg, Universe Today and a whole slew of other sites. All the science my brain can handle in one sitting.


Now I have that old Thomas Dolby song stuck in my head.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

De-future shocking the web - RSS feeds and Ajax desktops

Over a decade ago I read Alvin Toffler's book Future Shock, describing people and organizations swamped by a tidal wave of information and change, leaving them confused and directionless.

Future Shock was written nearly a decade before the home computer, and nearly 20 years before the World Wide Web.

Now even hardcore info-junkies can get washed away by the flow of information and overchoice. New tools have arrived to help take the firehose blast of data from the Internet and channel it for proper use.

I have been reading up on RSS feeds and the different online desktops that are available. I found an article on the ZDNet site that describes the options available for organizing and accessing RSS feeds and web sites into and easy to browse format.

This article also mentions the Writely online word processor and other such applications.

I have noticed that many blogs have a whole arsenal of buttons that help their readers add them to an RSS reader or online desktop. Which ones work best? How much will I have to renovate this blog to help attract more readers?

Looks like I have a long week ahead of me.

Does anyone have any comments on how they manage to keep up?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Antigravity space travel by the end of the century? Engage!

Technovelgy.com has an amazing story about a proposed 'antigravity' propulsion system. Dr. Franklin Felber has written a paper stating the possiblity of spacecships reaching near light-speed "without crushing the contents of the craft"...which I think everyone can agree would be a good thing.

Dr. Felber expects that we could see such a journey take place by the end of the century.

Before you fall out of your chair or spill coffee on your keyboard from laughing too hard, consider this.

Space travel was once believed to be impossible because a rocket would never function in a vacuum. Before the first atomic test, there were fears the blast would set fire to the Earth's atmosphere and burn up the planet.

Such notions sound quaint to us today, but were respected opinions in their time. Imagine if you tried to explain to someone from the early 1900's how something as heavy as a 747 could fly cross country?

We still have 94 years left in this century, so Dr. Felber's prediction has plenty of time to unfold.

I can imagine if someone does build an antigravity spaceship, it will get a healthy dose of funding from the private sector and advertisers. If I live to see the day a spaceship flies through our solar system like a cosmic hot rod, it will probably have its hull plastered with logos of beer companies and shaving gel brands.

Near light-speed travel by the end of the century? I will be keeping an eye on this one.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Cassini Wonders - An infrared movie of Titan

The Cassini spacecraft took this image of Titan during three flybys, using the space probe's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer. The light and dark patches show terrain that shifts from possible volcanic activity. There may even be areas of water or frozen carbon dixoide.

Science fiction films and space art have shown us thousands of exotic worlds. The Star Wars films took place on planets that varied from sandy deserts, lush jungles, frozen tundras and even one covered completely with skyscrapers.

But this strange orb is not painted on a sheet of glass at Industrial Light and Magic or rendered in Photoshop...this is the real deal.

You can even see the image rotate.


Monday, February 13, 2006

Writely - Web based word processing and less tech clutter

Writely is a word processor that works in your web browser. Sign up with an E-mail address and you can create and share documents on the web. No software to install.

Writely not only shares documents, but it also allows you to write and upload blog entries as well.

What I like about Writely is how clean and functional the interface is. For basic document writing, everything I need is there.

Online applications are changing how people use and perceive computers, feeding a demand for simplicity in all new technology. People want to use their gadgets without fiddling with tiny buttons or complicated interfaces.

Devices like Ipods make people feel they are in charge of the items they paid for. No one likes to spend several hundred dollars on a device and feel confused trying to use it.

The gee-wiz days of technology have gone. People are already so wired with PDAs and other gear, making them reluctant to add a new item to their already cluttered lives. Unless a computer program or handheld device pulls its weight, it goes into the real or virtual recycle bin.

As for word processors, there will always be a need for more complicated programs to do heavy duty tasks. For many users, simplier is better.

I think we could all welcome a future where more gets done with fewer toolbars.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The age of avian flu gives us the "elbow bump"

According to a story in the New York Times, we may soon be replacing the friendly handshake with the elbow bump as a greeting.

What is the elbow bump? Instead of people shaking hands, involving potentially germ-spreading skin on skin contact, people will touch elbows briefly as a friendly greeting. It sounds like something visiting extra-terrestrials would do, but it is already being done by health workers who deal with outbreaks of the Ebola virus.

The term to describe practices such as this is social distancing, which seems destined to join the ranks of terms like identity theft and podcasting.

If there is a flu outbreak, not just will public health be threatened, but the economies and prosperity of affected nations as well. People could be forced to adopt a Howard Hughes-esque germphobia to preserve a functioning society.

The story goes into detail how Asian countries had to adapt to fears over the SARS virus. Goverments encouraged people to wear surgical masks, even making them manditory when using subways. People learned to deal with the new facewear quickly, even dressing them up with corporate logos and cartoon characters.

In the middle of a deadly flu outbreak, it appears the urge to be stylish will still be as strong as ever. The hipster bug can be just as contagious as the most lethal germ.

I wonder how this will affect the business world. Will the term handshake deal be retired? A firm handshake is often used as an insight into a person's strength of both body and character. Can the elbow bump fulfill that role?

How far are we away from the film Demolition Man, where people greet each other with no physical contact at all, waving their hands in the air in a circular motion?

In the future of Demolition Man, not just did you have to watch your hands, but also your mouth. Profanity detecting voice sensors were installed everywhere...charging you a fine every time you cursed.


I have created a monster!

I had several short blog posts that I wrote for this weekend. They have grown from short posts into larger ones. Now I have to edit and rewrite parts of them.

I guess I have to accept the fact that I do not like short blog posts. I like to explore ideas and cover a lot of ground. Sometimes I overwhelm myself with my own expectations.

I feel like mad scientist at times with this blog. I try to create something simple, and it breaks out of the lab and goes on a rampage.

Time for me to put on the white coat again and go clean up the mess I have made.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Alien creatures invade Florida...and a blogger tells all!

A fake blogger that is.

One of the characters on the ABC show Invasion is a blogger who documents the strange events in the town of Homestead, Florida. Who better to report on people being turned into alien hybrids than a blogger?

The blog is not just a plot twist on the show. You can actually read it here.

I have to give credit to creators of Invasion for having some knowledge of the blogging culture incorporating it into the plot.

I have grown to like Invasion. I started watching it in September and expected yet another rehash of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but it has gone far beyond that.

The writers of Invasion seem to have figured out that your average viewer is now well schooled in the lore of the UFO culture.

The X-files took the offbeat realm of UFO magazines and websites, with topics like Roswell, Area 51, and greys, and made it as mainstream as speculations over Brad and Angelina.

Invasion is the first post X-files show that has its own take on what an alien takeover could look like. Instead of death rays and flying saucers, the invaders have learned to blend in almost perfectly.

It makes perfect sense that a blogger would be the first to find the truth is out there.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Chewbacca doesn't live on Endor...but he has his own blog

The famous South Park episode is wrong. Chewbacca does not live on Endor. He still lives on Kashyyyk.

How do I know this? From Chewbacca's blog...of course.
UPDATE... WARNING - Chewbacca's written language might be hard for humans to read, but his pictures are vivid and direct. They might be too intense for some more sensitive viewers. Reader discretion is advised.

Chewbacca has some strong opinions about the art of Edvard Munch and the behavior of Michael Jackson. He also sings.

Don't ask me how I found this.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Blogger Problems and Big Changes

Blogger appeared to suffer a whole slew of problems today. I couldn't upload images and my last post lost changes that I saved to it.

At least I didn't lose any work. I started writing my posts in a word processor, then copy/pasting them into the Blogger tool. Good thing I had backups or I would be really upset.

I am working on a new template for my blog and several story ideas, so I will probably take a few days off from heavy-duty posting to do some research, but make little posts every day to keep things fresh.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

One Month of Blogging - I'm Getting a Signal!

In my first blog entry I mentioned my childhood trip to Tomorrowland and my hopes for a “A great big beautiful tomorrow.” What has happened over the last month with this blog has made a shiny fragment of that hope come true.

This blog has been up for one month. I am amazed at how much fun it has been and the responses I have received. Thank you all who have visited here, those who shared your comments and your own blogs with me. I am grateful for your time and your words.

This blog has served as my own Arecibo Radio Dish: a place where I started transmitting a signal into the void on the off-chance anyone might be listening. I am happy to find that the blogosphere is alive with intelligent life.

But there is so much still to discuss and share. Again, I say thank you to all those who have answered my e-mails or posted comments here. I have a challenge ahead of me to keep up the conversation and make the signal stays strong and clear.