More Engine Trouble


Just hours after I wrote of Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket explosion, Virgin Galactica has suffered a similar fate. But this one has claimed at least one human life so far — the pilot — and the co-pilot is in bad shape. SpaceShipTwo apparently suffered an engine explosion moments after ignition, and after it was dropped from the WhiteKnightTwo mothership. This was the first in-flight explosion for the system, but there is a history here. [...]

Rocket Science


(In a conversation elsewhere, I responded to complaints about the “NASA rocket” exploding — and to suggestions that this stuff was not new technology and should be easy by now.) It was not, exactly, a NASA rocket. And it was indeed new technology. This was a launch contracted from NASA by Orbital Sciences, who have been having some trouble with their systems. Enough trouble to cause them to change the name of the rocket (from Taurus to Antares, kind of “anti-Taurus”) to avoid bad vibes/publicity/luck. SpaceX is doing rather better, so far. [...]

Old hands


I am older than most folks. I got into computers relatively early, and was making my living from computers full-time by the mid-1970s. While I am not big on social media per se, I did get involved with LiveJournal early on, and was one of its first lifetime paid users as it was rocketing into popularity (before MySpace and FaceBook and Twitter). So this recent XKCD strip was a bit poignant: [...]

Now Scoping Americans


We are relaxing to the idea of every communication between us being monitored by a government that considers the other political party to be “enemies.” (Isn’t it odd that President Obama will talk about compromises with Iranian jihadists, but not with Republicans?) As has been revealed recently, NSA has off-shore sites making their gathering of email lists from Americans technically legal. So, despite recent court activity and supposed “executive actions,” this would not be affected: [...]

Bad Outlook on Privacy

To avoid government snooping into the contents of emails, many people use encryption. But if you use Microsoft Outlook, there’s a problem with this: Microsoft helpfully saves the unencrypted version of the email for the NSA before doing the encryption for you, according to this UK article: [...]



IN SPACE, no one can hear you’re green. It’s a pity. Caesar turned slowly, arms outstretched to catch the sun. In the middle distance, I could see Hamlet doing the same thing. A moment later, Fortinbras began to turn. Yes, they’re all named for dead people — they’re all shades. [...]

The Death of Music

Or at least, the death of the music industry is fort0ld in this article. While the author perhaps overstates the case in some respects, the concerns certainly seem valid to me. And it doesn’t take the usual angle of “the kids’ music is terrible” — he comes at this from a different direction.

A good [...]

Another Day Made of Glass

This is Corning’s new video on their future technologies. The previous one was nicely done, and I wrote about it some time back.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

The Cats Trying to Kill Curiosity

I was delighted, as were millions, by the successful touchdown of the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars. It was a monumental achievement, of equipment working right (thanks to tremendous engineering and science) despite nearly a year’s exposure to extraordinary conditions and extremes in rapid succession. But as Sam Rayburn (48th, 50th, and 52nd Speaker of the House) notes, “Any jackass can kick down a barn. It takes a real carpenter to build one.” We’ve seen NASA in the role of “real carpenters” here. Who’s the “jackass”? [...]

Mars the Record of Nuclear Power

Tonight — 10:31 Pacific Time Sunday, or 1:31 AM Eastern on Monday — the Curiosity rover will hopefully touch down safely on the surface of Mars. The events actually take place about 14 minutes in advance, but we cannot know the results until the radio communications get from Mars to Earth. The vehicle is big. While the two famous rovers Opportunity and Spirit were roughly grocery-cart sized, this one is more like an automobile. It has tremendously greater science capability — and it is too big, and needs too much power, to operate from solar panels. So it does not: Curiosity is nuclear-powered. [...]