29 September 2004

X Prize Launch - SpaceShipOne

SpaceShipOne started its pursuit of the X-Prize today by launching from the Mojave Spaceport today. While the flight appeared to have some issues (the rolling post ignition reared its ugly head once more), the flight was successful. Rutan and Co. have two weeks from today at 11:34 AM EDT to make a second flight to the 100km altitude.


It's difficult to say at this point just how significant this prize could be. Cheap, efficient, and solid technology to orbit payloads in the hands of private business and citizens will revolutionize the way we think about and use space. The difficult part is to say how this revolution will materialize. Will we vacation in space? Will we finally start to reach beyond the surface of this planet in numbers? Will science finally have a way to experiment and manufacture things in ultra-low gravity?


Aeronautics changed the way we think of the world; places once off the grid are now accesible just by changing planes. Extrapolate that concept to space flight and then you start to get really excited about the potential that is quickly becoming part of our lives.

Spaceflight Now running commentary
Link to Slashdot discussion
X-Prize homepage

28 September 2004

The interrobang‽

We need to bring this back!


In 1962, the interrobang (‽), was introduced by the New York publishing establishment as "a twentieth century punctuation mark". The interrobang combined the functions of a question mark and an exclamation point. It received some attention at first, but never caught on, although for a brief period during the 1960s it was added to some typewriter keyboards.

What a great symbol for the internet-enabled masses. How many times have you gotten a message that ended with the string of question marks and exclamation points. (ala ?!?!?). You can make the symbol with Unicode; just enter ‽.
Link [via BoingBoing]


UPDATE: Go figure, Microsoft, the king of standards, doesn't support the Unicode for the interrobang. If you're reading this post in IE, sorry. Try Firefox; it displays this properly and it's a hell of a lot safer.

27 September 2004

Oh please, oh please, oh please

How bloody cool would this be? A (Virgin-themed) space hotel. Sure, Richard Branson is a loud, arrogant, blowhard, but he's got the track record and accumen to, if not pull something like this off, at least give it a good gooes in the right direction.


It's getting closer to reality. Sounds like Branson is going to license the SpaceShipOne tech from Paul Allen/Burt Rutan. Private flights could begin as soon as 2007. We need to bring Howard Johnsons back just to have one in space.


Link [via Drudge]

24 September 2004

Bashing the McMasses

Another great article from what is becoming one of my favorite sites, Spiked. In her article/critique "Bashing the McMasses", Josie Appleton takes filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, who made the "docu-blockbuster-cum-human-experiment Super Size Me," to task. It's good to see people who watch movies for the techniques used to sway your opinion and not get caught up in the emotion with which so many filmmakers try to cloud your judgement. (See any Michael Moore or Leni Riefenstahl joint for ample reference material.)



Super-Size Me is one of those films that starts off with a pre-ordained path: the filmmaker is dating a vegan chef and walks all over Manhatten on a daily basis, which makes him relatable to the majority of Americans (oops, forgot to turn off that sarcasm toggle... ah, there we go).


Read the article; it's a wonderful example of why so many "artists" love deconstructionalism. If you can't or aren't supposed to deconstruct a piece of art, you can't put it in context. No context == no frame of reference. Very post-modern.




Link

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - The Adventure Game

This is SWEET! BBC Radio 4 has re-released the Infrogames Hitchikers Game as a Flash game. I want to hug the program director over there.
Link

22 September 2004

It's the END! Again...

If someone writes in a paranoid manner about paranoia, do they get a hat or sticker or button?


One easily can imagine a tyrant with worldwide ambitions and high-tech capabilities scheming even now to pull off the greatest hoax of all time, after years of conditioning the public to anticipate precisely such a crisis. This may sound like the ultimate techno-paranoid nightmare, yet it's consistent with the high volume of current warnings that the end is nigh.


Link

20 September 2004

List item: Bust eBay cherry; check

Slowly, I start to get this internet thing. I sold my first thing on eBay (well, things actually, but. one's a little different). I still haven't got paid or shipped, so the process isn't complete, but it was very fun to watch my item get bid on at the last minute... knowing that somewhere, someone is looking at the same page I am, trying to buy something I currently have.

It's not as if it's the money, because getting excited over $40 really wouldn't do it. Do salesmen get a rush when they make a sale, like somehow they succeeded in converting the buyer?

Link to completed auction

16 September 2004

Foreign Policy: Hating America

You read statements like this, and you suddenly realize that no one person is worthy of leading this country.


There are many issues on which the United States is the crucial organizer of collective goods. Someone has to be concerned about terrorism and nuclear and biological proliferation. Other countries might bristle at certain U.S. policies, but would someone else really be willing to bully, threaten, cajole, and bribe countries such as Libya to renounce terror and dismantle their WMD programs?

Thank God for checks and balances


 


Link (via Arts & Letters Daily)

08 September 2004

This is how you read (on the web anyway)

Very cool research... I'd love to see a website redesign based on this.



Link (via BoingBoing)

Ouch... Genesis crashes

In what is definitely the worst possible scenario for the Genesis project, the parachute on the re-entry craft failed to deploy and the stuntman-piloted helicopters never had an opportunity to attempt a recovery. Unless some miracle remains for the team, looks like the whole project is a wash over the most basic part of re-entry; slowing down. Tough luck.


Link

Who Cares About the Truth?

Oh god, I'm slipping into moral realivism.


Such rough-and-ready pragmatism taps into one of our deepest intellectual veins. It appeals to America's collective self-image as a square-jawed action hero. And it may partly explain why the outcry against the White House's deception over the war in Iraq was rather muted. It is not just that we believe that "united we stand," it is that, deep down, many Americans are prone to think that it is results, not principles, that matter. ...some of us find worrying over abstract principles like truth to be boring and irrelevant nitpicking, best left to the nerds who watch C-Span and worry about whether the death penalty is "fair."

So, by not opposing the Iraq war, you may as well have joined all those nuts not engaged in worrying about "abstract principles like truth".


An unswerving allegiance to what you believe isn't a sign that you care about truth. It is a sign of dogmatism. Caring about truth does not mean never having to admit you are wrong. On the contrary, caring about truth means that you have to be open to the possibility that your own beliefs are mistaken. It is a consequence of the very idea of objective truth. True beliefs are those that portray the world as it is and not as we hope, fear, or wish it to be. If truth is objective, believing doesn't make it so; and even our most deeply felt opinions could turn out to be wrong.

Oh wow, I agree. Unfortunately, the author falls into the same trap most liberal mouth-pieces do; they forget to turn this mirror on themselves.


Disgusted by the right's lust for absolutes, many of us retreated from talk of objective truth and embraced the philosopher Richard Rorty's call for an "ironic" stance toward our own liberal sympathies. We stopped caring about whether we were "right" and thought more about what makes the world go round.

Remember, the point he's working towards is that liberal thought needs to now search for absolutes. But when the right does this, it's lust. Kids, this is lesson number one in how to hold dual, and opposing, positions on the same subject. And, what critcism of the right would be complete without a reference to 1984


What [O'Brien, the sinister representative of Big Brother] cares about is getting rid of Winston's idea of truth. He is well aware of the point I've just been making. Eliminate the very idea of right and wrong independent of what the government says, and you eliminate not just dissent -- you eliminate the very possibility of dissent.

Very true. Orwell understood well that silencing criticsism isn't enough for absolute control. Absolute power involves intellectual control at such a fundamental level, the individual ceases to be meaningful. The world of 1984 also flexed a muscle currently missing from our political body: children. An entire generation of Winston's life was completely enslaved by the government, escewing even the family unit. Parents vanished based on children's accusations and it was simply a fact of life, something Winston saw coming long before running into his neighbor at the Ministry of Truth. Wonder if strengthening the family unit seems a fairly worthwhile endeavor now?



Link (via Arts & Letters Daily)

Space Capsule Heading Back to Earth

As mentioned before, the Genesis project is scheculed to return to Earth today. Good luck to the team; I hope they catch better than Bill Buckner.
Yahoo! News - Space Capsule Heading Back to Earth

07 September 2004

Guardian Unlimited Books | Review | Beyond dentistry

I think I have to read this.

"The danger of American foreign policy," [John Gray] writes, "is not that it is obsessed with evil but that it is based on the belief that evil can be abolished." Such foolishness, he points out, is far removed from the wisdom of America's founding fathers, for whom "the purpose of government was not to conduct us to the Promised Land but to stave off the recurrent evils to which human life is naturally prone".


Link (via Arts & Letters Daily)

01 September 2004

HHGTG Text Game Redux

A computer game written by Douglas Adams is being revived to coincide with a new BBC Radio 4 series of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.
The text adventure will appear on the station's website and was described by the late Adams as "the first game to move beyond being 'user friendly'".



Link; Link to Radio 4 website for series