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Scott “marsroverdriver” Maxwell has been at 4 events

HostFollowersTitleDateGuestsLinks
Hubble Space Telescope8,063,213As the Dawn Spacecraft approaches the dwarf planet Ceres in a matter of months, it's difficult to forget the amount of teamwork and collaboration that took place in order for amazing feats like this to be accomplished.  As of right now, the @104933578966497599647 has the highest resolution image of Ceres, but that's all about to change as Dawn arrives and gives us all a completely new perspective of the largest object in the asteroid belt. In fact, the images taken by Hubble have been highly instrumental in the planning phases of getting Dawn to Ceres, as well as Vesta. To continue in the spirit of collaboration, this week's #HubbleHangout  will be with those involved in imaging Ceres with Hubble as well as members of the @114633249213698877766 team! Please join @111723545767173542935 Dr @108702399358372466505 and @109479143173251353583, who will be on location at @113315419190905475766 with @116038520278283994894 as we discuss the long journey Dawn has made to get to Ceres. Joining them as well is @103847012358973381717 and @117488895129265120574 who worked on getting the gorgeous view from Hubble.  Bring your questions and comments and we'll read them on air throughout the hangout! Read more here: _Hubble Images of Asteroids Help Astronomers Prepare for Spacecraft Visit_ http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2007/27/ _Dawn Snaps Its Best-Yet Image of Dwarf Planet Ceres_ http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2014-414 *Special Note* Our own Dr. @102121416925306649659 has been nominated for a Listener Choice Award for an audio segment on Exploring Exoplanets released last July. Please show your support for the #JWST mission by listening to his segment here http://academicminute.org/2014/07/jason-kalirai-johns-hopkins-university-exploring-exoplanets/ and voting here:  http://academicminute.org/2014/11/listener_choice_award/ #Space   #Astronomy   #Hubble   #Ceres   #Dawn  Hubble And Dawn Collaborate To See Ceres2014-12-11 19:00:00241  
Pamela L. Gay87,351Join us to talk with Moon pioneers @100178094478432687792 and @101857647439433066235  and find out how they're engaging students -- and heading to the Moon! Overview A global team of scientists and engineers are all working toward constructing missions to land on, travel across, and send video back from the Moon. With this new Google Hangout on Air series, we will introduce you to the men and women behind each of these planned missions and bring you all the latest developments from the +Google Lunar XPRIZE .Google Lunar XPRIZE Team Hangout 005: Rockets and Students ENGAGE!2014-05-28 03:00:4826  
CosmoQuest42,432YouTube link Part 8 http://youtu.be/Qe9WqjEwAFU *TL;DR. +Pamela Gay & +Nicole Gugliucci will bring you a whole slew of guests, science, and fun during this 24-hour long fundraiser for CosmoQuest! http://cosmoquest.org/blog/donate/?title=donate Event links for... Part 1: https://plus.google.com/events/c8hipsag07ngda5h3r06bqbprv8 Part 2: https://plus.google.com/events/cglasd846s15n0n7sqdvs9nol3o Part 3: https://plus.google.com/events/c7ntqnrh01rejv3smtq9dmmub4o Part 4: https://plus.google.com/events/cagts10npsub757psnh1e4mbj0g Part 5: https://plus.google.com/events/cchro36b2mlth0nv27ftgm1elqo Part 6: https://plus.google.com/events/c3lu15j2t9p2o3tc0hv11ubjuu0 Faced with governmental funding cuts to science education and research, the CosmoQuest Virtual Research Facility (CosmoQuest.org) at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has decided to go old school with a twist: On June 15-16, +Pamela Gay & +Nicole Gugliucci  are hosting a telethon using Google Hangout on Air – A Hangout-a-thon – to raise money to support public engagement in science.   The Hangout-a-thon will start on June 15 at noon Eastern (GMT – 5).  Over the weekend, they will host numerous guests, ranging from scientists who will do science demos, creatives who can unite science and art/music, and researchers who will discuss citizen science and address science education from the perspective of research and metrics. Each segment will be released after the event as a stand-alone YouTube video on the AstrosphereVids channel, thus creating a library of content while raising money for future programs.  Planning for this Hangout-a-thon was triggered by the cuts created by sequestration, and by the current White House plans to transition education out of NASA. If the President's current budget is passed, all the funding programs CosmoQuest relies on for will be zeroed (see http://bit.ly/11m5XYg) and the project will be defunded. Rather than accept that fate, CosmoQuest is working to raise the funds needed to keep their programs going, to build new citizen science programs for researchers that don't otherwise have the means to accomplish their projects, and to contract, as they are able, extraordinary people laid off by these cuts at other institutions to keep doing great things through CosmoQuest. (Links to essays on these cuts are listed below).   CosmoQuest wants to make sure astronomy education survives and remains strong. While one team, and one telethon can't fix everything, they hope this event can raise awareness, while protected one small corner of astronomy research and education. #hangoutathon  The CosmoQuest 24 Hour Hangout-A-Thon - Main Event Page2013-06-15 18:00:00315  
Fraser Cain987,835To celebrate the landing of NASA's Curiosity Rover - the Mars Science Laboratory - we'll be running a special live hangout.  In conjunction with @106911959181067745693. We'll have all your favorite space/astronomy journalists on hand to discuss the mission in depth, and celebrate the landing live, when it happens. Join Fraser Cain, @109036978092446954908, @108952536790629690817 and @102887292457967781591 for this special event. Over the course of this 4-hour Google+ Hangout on Air, we'll interview members of the Curiosity team live in the hangout, as well as other special guests from the @111419948721791453320 and the @108759765804984663877. @109479143173251353583 and @107051665537162034944 will be on location at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to interview members of the engineering team, and show you what it's like to be at NASA during this amazing moment. We'll update this event as we lock down more of the guests and participants. See you there! You can follow the hashtag #marshangout   (this will replace our regular Sunday night @100902337165997768522)Google+ Hangout - Curiosity Landing Coverage2012-08-06 05:00:004832  

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Most comments: 7

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2017-01-11 19:03:57 (7 comments; 2 reshares; 25 +1s; )Open 

[I'm not sure it's possible to spoil Hidden Figures in the normal sense, based as it is on historical events. But, whatever, spoilers.]

I was so hoping this movie would be good. So hoping. As it turns out, well, if anyone tells you this movie is delightful, wonderful, inspiring, triumphant ... they're underselling it badly. It's way better than that.

As you surely know already, it tells the intertwined stories of three African-American women, all employed as mathematicians at NASA Langley during the early days of the space race. These women faced all the burdens any mathematician, scientist, or engineer did at the time -- and a whole lot more, for interrelating reasons of sex, class, and race.

Race is, of course, never far from the consciousness of this movie. Police dogs snarl at anti-segregation protesters just across the street from one of our main... more »

Most reshares: 8

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2017-01-24 23:51:23 (2 comments; 8 reshares; 19 +1s; )Open 

Today's the 13th anniversary of Opportunity's landing on Mars (for a 90-day mission!). I was in the room for the landing and will never forget the moment. Happy bot mitzvah, and much love, to my younger girl.

Oh, and here are my personal notes from Opportunity's landing day: http://marsandme.blogspot.com/2009/01/spirit-sol-22.html

Most plusones: 27

2017-01-21 03:15:49 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 27 +1s; )Open 

The other day, I grabbed Starbucks with a Tiananmen Square survivor, then got my hair cut by an Iranian revolution refugee. Whatever else happens, we must preserve this country as the place people flee to, not let it become a place they fly from.

Latest 50 posts

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2017-02-28 00:56:53 (6 comments; 1 reshares; 8 +1s; )Open 

Just to squelch the rumors, Scarlett Johansson and I will not, repeat not, be the two astronauts in question.

(I'm sick, humor me.)

Just to squelch the rumors, Scarlett Johansson and I will not, repeat not, be the two astronauts in question.

(I'm sick, humor me.)___

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2017-02-22 19:19:34 (4 comments; 0 reshares; 11 +1s; )Open 

Seven -- seven -- Earth-sized, possibly life-capable planets orbit a single star just 39 light years away. SEVEN.

Who wants to go there with me?

The NASA announcement of seven earth-sized planets orbiting a nearby red star, five of them within that star's Continuously Habitable Zone (CHZ) or Goldilocks (just right) zone is wondrously thought provoking in several ways:

1) Just the awe and wonder of it. And how amazing it is that the transit method has found so many systems, when it can only catch 5% of what's out there.

2) Note the scale of this system. The star puts out 0.05% as much light and heat as our sun. All of the planets orbit within the same distance range as Jupiter's outer moons.

3) Ponder what science fiction foretold. This is essentially the mini solar system that Arthur C. Clarke envisioned surrounding an ignited Jupiter, in his novel 2010. (This is Arthur's Centennial year.)

4) With that in mind, ponder Goldfinger's Rule. One planet in a Goldilocks Zone is happenstance. Two might be coincidence. Three....? Five...? I'm not "sayin'"... just hinting.

5) Before you get excited, remember these planets are likely to be tidal locked, with one face permanently starward. And tiny red stars tend to be Flare Stars, intermittently burping radiation. So any life would face challenges.

6) This system would seem an excellent target for some kinds of exoplanet direct viewing missions. Advantages: Well-understood orbits and a very dim star, allowing better contrast. Disadvantages: planets are very close to their star and hard to separate... only the system is close to us, so that's partly offset.

7) Should we aim SETI scopes in that direction? Yep! Should we send "messages" before thoroughly talking it over? Nope. A sure sign of immaturity and unscientific cultism.

___Seven -- seven -- Earth-sized, possibly life-capable planets orbit a single star just 39 light years away. SEVEN.

Who wants to go there with me?

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2017-02-22 07:23:55 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 10 +1s; )Open 

Cool-looking interactive tour of NASA concept Mars base to be released later this week. <drools>

Cool-looking interactive tour of NASA concept Mars base to be released later this week. <drools>___

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2017-02-21 19:18:36 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 7 +1s; )Open 

It took a long time to get to Pluto -- including a long wait even before New Horizons launched, decades of patiently building the case for that destination. As Alan Stern describes in his talk to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, it was worth the wait.

It's a fascinating place, and I certainly hope we don't wait so long to go back the next time!

It took a long time to get to Pluto -- including a long wait even before New Horizons launched, decades of patiently building the case for that destination. As Alan Stern describes in his talk to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, it was worth the wait.

It's a fascinating place, and I certainly hope we don't wait so long to go back the next time!___

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2017-02-18 00:34:58 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 9 +1s; )Open 

How exciting -- Ceres has organics! Next step, IMHO: sample the surface to find out which organics.

It's hard to imagine poor cold Ceres as harboring life (and, to be clear, none was found there) -- but this still fills in the story about the abundance of organic molecules in the solar system. Looks like we're just lousy with the stuff, and of course with water, which makes it more and more likely that life was more or less inevitable.

How exciting -- Ceres has organics! Next step, IMHO: sample the surface to find out which organics.

It's hard to imagine poor cold Ceres as harboring life (and, to be clear, none was found there) -- but this still fills in the story about the abundance of organic molecules in the solar system. Looks like we're just lousy with the stuff, and of course with water, which makes it more and more likely that life was more or less inevitable.___

2017-02-14 22:00:10 (2 comments; 2 reshares; 8 +1s; )Open 

I cannot express how embarrassed and ashamed I am that articles like this are necessary.

I cannot express how embarrassed and ashamed I am that articles like this are necessary.___

2017-02-13 20:27:04 (1 comments; 2 reshares; 12 +1s; )Open 

Hot on the heels of Hidden Figures, here's an infographic (that G+ is treating weirdly; sorry about the raw link) introducing six black pioneers in Computer Science.

From which infographic I learn, incidentally, that the first black CS Ph.D. got that degree from my own alma mater, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Neat!

Via +Adafruit Industries​.

https://blog.newrelic.com/2017/02/01/black-history-month-computer-science-infographic/

Hot on the heels of Hidden Figures, here's an infographic (that G+ is treating weirdly; sorry about the raw link) introducing six black pioneers in Computer Science.

From which infographic I learn, incidentally, that the first black CS Ph.D. got that degree from my own alma mater, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Neat!

Via +Adafruit Industries​.

https://blog.newrelic.com/2017/02/01/black-history-month-computer-science-infographic/___

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2017-02-13 20:16:16 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 11 +1s; )Open 

Math never ceases to amaze me.

Math never ceases to amaze me.___

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2017-02-13 18:00:24 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

"When you are called to account for your life, how will you have spent it?"

The political analysis continues: What might the next six months of the Trump administration bring?

This is both a dig into some recent items in the news, and a discussion of how it relates to our recent history, our not-so-recent history, and what it could mean for each of us individually.

Also, I have included plenty of pictures of cute animals.___"When you are called to account for your life, how will you have spent it?"

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2017-02-11 23:05:51 (4 comments; 0 reshares; 14 +1s; )Open 

Landing site selection for the 2020 rover (Hindsight? Vision?) is getting real. The top choice from a Friday science team meeting in Monrovia was Jezero Crater, an ancient delta.

Jezero's a great candidate site, to be sure. But for obvious reasons, I'm rooting for the dark horse: the Columbia Hills, where Spirit explored. Sure, it's going back to a place we've been -- but for a mission like this, a mission that's gathering samples for later return to Earth, that's perfect. Spirit gave us strong reasons to believe that the samples will contain the hoped-for signs of life if anything on Mars will.

And even if it's a return to a known site, going there with new instruments still gives us a chance to learn more about what we knew already. That's no bad thing.

And, oh, man, the inevitable 2020 rover selfie with Spirit in the view -- I'm getting... more »

Landing site selection for the 2020 rover (Hindsight? Vision?) is getting real. The top choice from a Friday science team meeting in Monrovia was Jezero Crater, an ancient delta.

Jezero's a great candidate site, to be sure. But for obvious reasons, I'm rooting for the dark horse: the Columbia Hills, where Spirit explored. Sure, it's going back to a place we've been -- but for a mission like this, a mission that's gathering samples for later return to Earth, that's perfect. Spirit gave us strong reasons to believe that the samples will contain the hoped-for signs of life if anything on Mars will.

And even if it's a return to a known site, going there with new instruments still gives us a chance to learn more about what we knew already. That's no bad thing.

And, oh, man, the inevitable 2020 rover selfie with Spirit in the view -- I'm getting all teary-eyed just thinking about it.

Jezero's fine, Jezero's great. If Jezero gets selected, I won't lose sleep -- well, not too much sleep. But for me, it's the Columbia Hills or bust!___

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2017-02-07 21:20:40 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

Sending a spacecraft to a star four light-years away is ... well, it's hard. It requires materials that haven't been invented yet, highly robust electronics, super-smart software (you thought light-time delays to Mars were bad), and possibly space lasers (no, not mounted on sharks) to accelerate the solar sail. It's hard.

But sending humans to the moon was hard, and we did that. Sending still-functioning spacecraft outside of our solar system was hard, and we did that. This is next.

Sending a spacecraft to a star four light-years away is ... well, it's hard. It requires materials that haven't been invented yet, highly robust electronics, super-smart software (you thought light-time delays to Mars were bad), and possibly space lasers (no, not mounted on sharks) to accelerate the solar sail. It's hard.

But sending humans to the moon was hard, and we did that. Sending still-functioning spacecraft outside of our solar system was hard, and we did that. This is next.___

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2017-02-04 14:38:32 (2 comments; 1 reshares; 1 +1s; )Open 

If cars advanced at the pace of computers -- or vice versa.

If cars advanced at the pace of computers -- or vice versa.___

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2017-02-01 21:53:01 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

Pardoning men convicted in the UK for being gay: it's not just for Alan Turing any more. At last!

Via +Andres Soolo​.

What started for Alan Turing now covers others similarly prosecuted. "Thousands of gay and bisexual men found guilty of decades-old sexual offences in England and Wales have been posthumously pardoned.

The enactment by the government of the so-called Alan Turing law means about 49,000 men will be cleared of crimes of which they would be innocent today.

Wartime code-breaker Mr Turing was pardoned in 2013 for gross indecency.

Statutory pardons will also be granted to people still living who apply to have their convictions removed.

The pardons were first announced last year and have now been officially rubber-stamped after the Policing and Crime Bill received Royal Assent." ___Pardoning men convicted in the UK for being gay: it's not just for Alan Turing any more. At last!

Via +Andres Soolo​.

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2017-02-01 08:36:43 (3 comments; 1 reshares; 8 +1s; )Open 

"Be sand, not oil, in the machinery of the world." -- Günter Eich

How can the civil service resist? Here's how I did it.¹

I ran the campus-wide (non-departmental) email and login system for UNC Chapel Hill in the mid-to-late nineties. At one point, to settle a lawsuit, the governor's office (not a court) ordered us to release the list of all 21K+ email addresses to an entity that I won't name, but will just say was well-known for mass harassment of individuals on the early Internet.

I knew I had to comply, but I also knew I didn't want to just hand over those email addresses to be spammed and harassed. (Anti-spam technology at the time was very primitive and fairly ineffective.)

So i read the order carefully: it said I had to provide all the email addresses on our system, in a "single document", with all email addresses "in the same format". It also specified that I had to have a "consistent delimiter" between the addresses (preventing me from, for example, giving them a dump of all the usernames without spaces between them, leaving them to figure out what to do with alexjanehhardy8frigglejreed3htreysfeinstein...)

If I'd wanted to be coöperative, I'd have just pulled the list, put it in a plain text file, one email address per line, and emailed the plaintiffs the file. But I did not want to be coöperative. Yet, I did have to follow the law and my orders. So, what to do?

Some background on the data: our addresses were in the form of <username>@email.unc.edu, where <username> could be up to 8 characters; the mean username length was ~6 characters. So a file containing all those 21K addresses plus a delimiter would be around 441,000 characters, or about 430 kilobytes. That was a reasonably large file to send in an email attachment back then, but not an absurdly large one. We weren't using floppies anymore (and that file would even have fit on a 3.5 inch floppy with space to spare).

But my machines were in the old central-computing machine room, containing the machines where statisticians from almost every department at the university had, for decades, run statistical analyses and other batch jobs on datasets on the mainframe. Back then, most "time-sharing" multi-user systems weren't interactive for the bulk-computing portion of jobs; people would login to the system via hard-wired or networked remote terminals, input their data and programs, submit the "job" (a command to run their program on the dataset), and logout. The jobs would then be run—mostly overnight when the interactive users weren't taking up computing cycles—in "batch", hence "batch jobs".

When you submitted a job, you could specify how you wanted the output: in a new dataset, in a report, in a plain file, as an email, etc. But there was another option, too: you could get your output as a printout. This was leftover from the days when there wasn't a campus internet, and most people had no access to a computer screen they could use to spend many minutes or hours reading output from the mainframe. It was a less and less-frequently used option, but some of the older professors still used it because they were used to it or liked to markup the output with pencil.

If a print job was requested, the printers that would handle the job weren't laser printers, or even ink jets. They were either daisy wheel (meaning, essentially, a very fast computer-controlled typewriter, which would press typewriter-like stamps against ribbon onto the page to print out text) or dot-matrix (similar, but instead of a typewriter-like set of characters, a printhead with an array of plungers that could be quickly reconfigured would press dots of ribbon onto the page). Usually, daisy wheel was used for text-only output (because it was faster and prettier), dot-matrix for output that included graphics (which daisy wheel was mostly incapable of handling).

Both printers were huge, noisy things, working on paper that was about 15 inches wide. This paper was "fanfold" (meaning, a continuous sheet of paper, printed on only one side, that had been perforated every 11 inches for tearing into pages) "tractor feed" (meaning the paper had, on either side, holes along the entire length the printer could use to pull the paper along; the strips with the holes were perforated too so they could be removed for aesthetic reasons), "green bar" (meaning that every 1/2 inch alternated green or white; three lines of daisy wheel text fit in each bar. This was to help readers keep their place given the very wide paper that allowed 132 columns per line).

Once the job had been output, a bell would ring and a light would flash and the machine room operators (who worked 24×7) would (literally!) rip the last page of paper out of the printer. They'd then see who the job was for, put a cover page on it (that another printer—by the time I was there it was a laser printer—had printed at the same time), and put the entire stack (still fan-folded, meaning it was a continuous strip of paper not torn into pages) onto a shelf in the machine room that was accessible to the public hallway via rows of cabinets in the corridor wall, each marked with the first digit of job numbers or letter of usernames so the person requesting the print job could retrieve it themselves.

The point is: with 11 inch long pages at six lines per inch (three lines per 1/2 inch bar), or 66 lines per page, we had printers that would quickly and inexpensively print out a document that was, say, about 21,000 lines long. That would be about 320 pages, which was well under what came in a box, so it would even be a single continuous sheet (a "document"!).

That seemed perfectly responsive to my order, but it would be difficult for the plaintiff to use to create a database of email addresses to harass. Still... OCR (optical character recognition) scanners existed even then, and they were pretty good at recognizing daisy-wheel output. There were even tractor-feed scanners available—while I didn't expect the plaintiff to have one, it might be worth it to them to send the paper to a service bureau that would scan it for a fee. So I thought about how to make it more difficult.

First, I'd use the dot-matrix printer, even though the output was all text. OCR wasn't as good with dot-matrix output. The green-bar paper was designed so that 66 or 88 lines would nicely align with the bars—but by using the dot-matrix, I could use whatever type size I liked. I found a number of lines (I think it was 65 or 67) that meant every green-white transition would have a line going right across it. Better, and what's more, using an unusual type size like that meant that most lines were printed between two passes of the printhead, and they never perfectly lined up. (But they were still readable by a human being, which was all that mattered.)

At 132×66, the paper could hold up to 8,712 characters. If instead of printing the addresses one to a line, or "newline-delimited" I printed them continuously with a single space between them ("space-delimited"), I could fit on average 415 addresses per page. That would bring the total number of pages way down from ~350 to just around 50 pages, but on the plus side "a 50 page document" didn't sound at all ridiculous as a response. So I did that—and I didn't word-wrap; if the 132nd column was reached in the middle of an email address, it would just immediately continue on the next line. (The fact that every address ended with "@email.unc.edu" meant there'd be no ambiguity to a human reader.)

Then I just added a few little touches. Changing the space delimiter to a comma (with no space after) made the entire page a mass of ink. Shuffling the alphabetized list before printing it made it impossible to use to find specific addresses and would increase the chances that a data-entry typist would get first characters wrong.

The final touch: I went into the old-ribbon bin and printed the 50 pages out with a previously-used ribbon, which made the characters grey and faint—so long as I could read the addresses on the last page myself, it was still "responsive" as far as I was concerned.

I took the fifty pages, tore off the tractor feed strips (just to make OCR'ing a little harder), stuck them in a big pouch envelope, and mailed them off, reporting up that I'd complied as ordered. No one ever mentioned the matter again, and the entity I'd sent the "document" to never spammed my users en-masse.

I bring this up today because I hope if you're a civil servant reading this, it might inspire you to think up your own creative ways of "complying" with immoral or illegal orders. Resistance takes many forms—even, sometimes, the form of a mass of faint text on fifty pages of green bar paper.


¹ Note: I'm eliding some detail here and taking full responsibility even though others may have known what I was doing, because I don't want to rope them into criticism, particularly since many are still on the government payroll. Still, I don't want to take credit for actions of others either, so if you worked with me back then and you'd like me to credit you, just send me a direct message or reply here.___"Be sand, not oil, in the machinery of the world." -- Günter Eich

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2017-02-01 08:08:10 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 7 +1s; )Open 

Nails it, once again. Nails. It.

"While it can be hard to keep up with the number of internet outlets posting Islamic extremist propaganda, ultimately sites like whitehouse.gov are the greatest resource ISIS has to incite terrorism against the U.S."___Nails it, once again. Nails. It.

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2017-02-01 03:27:43 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 5 +1s; )Open 

badnewsbadnewsbadnews Hey, Saturn's rings hide millions of tiny moonlets! badnewsbadnewsbadnews

badnewsbadnewsbadnews Hey, Saturn's rings hide millions of tiny moonlets! badnewsbadnewsbadnews___

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2017-02-01 03:14:12 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

A deep space mission is necessarily in a race against time: either you're ready to lift off when the planets are lined up, or you're not and you have to wait until they line up again. (The needed Earth-Mars alignments happen about every 26 months.)

The OIG is expressing doubt about whether Mars 2020 will be ready when its launch window arrives. NASA says it will, but the OIG isn't so sure -- and it's worth remembering that MSL (Curiosity) missed its 2009 launch window, slipping to late 2011. Launch slips bring increased cost, chaos, and shame, so let's hope 2020 is more successful than its most recent sibling.

A deep space mission is necessarily in a race against time: either you're ready to lift off when the planets are lined up, or you're not and you have to wait until they line up again. (The needed Earth-Mars alignments happen about every 26 months.)

The OIG is expressing doubt about whether Mars 2020 will be ready when its launch window arrives. NASA says it will, but the OIG isn't so sure -- and it's worth remembering that MSL (Curiosity) missed its 2009 launch window, slipping to late 2011. Launch slips bring increased cost, chaos, and shame, so let's hope 2020 is more successful than its most recent sibling.___

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2017-02-01 00:28:23 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 1 +1s; )Open 

Computers have been better at chess than humans for years. Just recently, they became better at Go. Now, poker.

Computers have been better at chess than humans for years. Just recently, they became better at Go. Now, poker.___

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2017-01-30 22:56:55 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 12 +1s; )Open 

Google's doodle today is of Fred Korematsu, whose case opposing the US's WWII Japanese internment reached the Supreme Court. Sadly, and shamefully (for the US, I mean), Korematsu lost his case, meaning that in the US, it's lawful to round people up into internment camps on the basis of their nationality/ethnicity.

Google's doodle today is of Fred Korematsu, whose case opposing the US's WWII Japanese internment reached the Supreme Court. Sadly, and shamefully (for the US, I mean), Korematsu lost his case, meaning that in the US, it's lawful to round people up into internment camps on the basis of their nationality/ethnicity.___

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2017-01-30 21:35:04 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

Playing off of the hit movie Hidden Figures, +NASA now has this great "Modern Figures" YouTube playlist. It includes testimonials and advice from minority STEM women engineers, astronauts, and others who work for NASA.

Hell. Yes.

Via +Adafruit Industries.

Playing off of the hit movie Hidden Figures, +NASA now has this great "Modern Figures" YouTube playlist. It includes testimonials and advice from minority STEM women engineers, astronauts, and others who work for NASA.

Hell. Yes.

Via +Adafruit Industries.___

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2017-01-29 19:31:47 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 8 +1s; )Open 

Today, Donald Trump marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with an order against refugees, and a statement that pointedly didn't mention Jews. It talks about horror inflicted on "innocent people;" it makes no reference to how those people were chosen, or why.

And given the executive order of the day, that omission seems far clearer of a message. Among other things, it bans all refugees for the next 90 days (at which point it may be renewed); bans all Syrian refugees indefinitely; and most significantly, bars all nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States, regardless of their visa status, for the next 90 days – the time required for the DHS to make a longer-term decision about this.

To clarify what this means, it means that anyone from one of those countries who is living in the US legally, even as a permanent resident, whowa... more »

Today, Donald Trump marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with an order against refugees, and a statement that pointedly didn't mention Jews. It talks about horror inflicted on "innocent people;" it makes no reference to how those people were chosen, or why.

And given the executive order of the day, that omission seems far clearer of a message. Among other things, it bans all refugees for the next 90 days (at which point it may be renewed); bans all Syrian refugees indefinitely; and most significantly, bars all nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States, regardless of their visa status, for the next 90 days – the time required for the DHS to make a longer-term decision about this.

To clarify what this means, it means that anyone from one of those countries who is living in the US legally, even as a permanent resident, who was outside the country today cannot return for an as-yet indefinite period. (It may also apply to dual citizens, or to US citizens who were born in those countries; the text of the order is very unclear) I am personally aware of a few hundred people who are directly affected by this, at this stage: people who were out of town for one reason or another and are now separated from their homes and families. From some back-of-the-envelope guessing, I would say that there are at least 5,000 people who were affected today, possibly much more.

Rather impressively, even Dick Cheney described this as "[going] against everything we stand for and believe in."

On the radio today, they were talking about how Muslim communities are concerned about possible "civil rights issues" going forward, but they were rather limited in the concerns they raised. Korematsu is still the law of the land; never overturned, it held that the Japanese internment camps of the 1940's were legitimate exercises of executive power. Those won't happen tomorrow, because there's no extra PR vim in it, and it's still too soon; many people would remember and object. But two years from now, or three, when elections are starting to come up? Internment of nationals of various countries doesn't seem so far-fetched.

After all, Wednesday's orders around building a wall between us and Mexico included provisions to build and staff large detention centers next to them.

And both today's order and Wednesday's instruct the DHS to publish regular reports of crimes committed by immigrants, to remind us all of what we're being protected from. If you haven't read a report like this before, and your German is OK, look up back issues of "Der Jude Kriminell;" I added a scan of one below, although it's grainy.


Oh, the other picture? Those are eyeglasses. You can still see some of that pile at Auschwitz-Birkenau; they didn't keep all of it, they didn't have room. It's next to the giant pile of human hair, and the giant pile of baby shoes.

I just want you to remember what this day remembers.
___

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2017-01-29 19:23:10 (1 comments; 2 reshares; 9 +1s; )Open 

Here's a great way you can contribute to space exploration in your spare time!

___Here's a great way you can contribute to space exploration in your spare time!

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2017-01-25 18:30:10 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

badnewsbadnewsbadnewsVERYBADnews Hey, look at this awesome new picture of Saturn's moon Tethys!

badnewsbadnewsbadnewsVERYBADnews Hey, look at this awesome new picture of Saturn's moon Tethys!___

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2017-01-24 23:51:23 (2 comments; 8 reshares; 19 +1s; )Open 

Today's the 13th anniversary of Opportunity's landing on Mars (for a 90-day mission!). I was in the room for the landing and will never forget the moment. Happy bot mitzvah, and much love, to my younger girl.

Oh, and here are my personal notes from Opportunity's landing day: http://marsandme.blogspot.com/2009/01/spirit-sol-22.html

Today's the 13th anniversary of Opportunity's landing on Mars (for a 90-day mission!). I was in the room for the landing and will never forget the moment. Happy bot mitzvah, and much love, to my younger girl.

Oh, and here are my personal notes from Opportunity's landing day: http://marsandme.blogspot.com/2009/01/spirit-sol-22.html___

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2017-01-24 20:19:54 (3 comments; 0 reshares; 5 +1s; )Open 

Your roof might contain stardust.

Your roof might contain stardust.___

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2017-01-22 14:13:45 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 16 +1s; )Open 

As always, +The Onion​ makes me chortle.

Well, to be fair, sometimes they make me guffaw.

As always, +The Onion​ makes me chortle.

Well, to be fair, sometimes they make me guffaw.___

2017-01-21 03:15:49 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 27 +1s; )Open 

The other day, I grabbed Starbucks with a Tiananmen Square survivor, then got my hair cut by an Iranian revolution refugee. Whatever else happens, we must preserve this country as the place people flee to, not let it become a place they fly from.

The other day, I grabbed Starbucks with a Tiananmen Square survivor, then got my hair cut by an Iranian revolution refugee. Whatever else happens, we must preserve this country as the place people flee to, not let it become a place they fly from.___

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2017-01-20 20:48:58 (3 comments; 2 reshares; 8 +1s; )Open 

Gigantic, bow-shaped wave appears in Venus’ atmosphere, lasting days and challenging our understanding of how our neighbor planet's sky works. How cool!

Gigantic, bow-shaped wave appears in Venus’ atmosphere, lasting days and challenging our understanding of how our neighbor planet's sky works. How cool!___

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2017-01-17 20:36:30 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 13 +1s; )Open 

I love how the stars of Hidden Figures aren't just promoting their movie, they're promoting STEM careers to girls. And they brought along Diana Trujillo, whom I worked with on Curiosity operations, to help them do it. Hell. Yes.

Via +Adafruit Industries​.

I love how the stars of Hidden Figures aren't just promoting their movie, they're promoting STEM careers to girls. And they brought along Diana Trujillo, whom I worked with on Curiosity operations, to help them do it. Hell. Yes.

Via +Adafruit Industries​.___

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2017-01-17 06:50:20 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 12 +1s; )Open 

Gene Cernan was the last human to walk on the moon -- so far. He died today. The best way to remember him will be to send more humans to the moon: let him not be the last ever.

Godspeed to the last man on the moon, Gene Cernan. #RIPGeneCernan http://go.nasa.gov/2j2xmg1___Gene Cernan was the last human to walk on the moon -- so far. He died today. The best way to remember him will be to send more humans to the moon: let him not be the last ever.

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2017-01-14 02:07:52 (0 comments; 4 reshares; 15 +1s; )Open 


This is a real place, a moon in our solar system. Here's what it looks like to land there.

This absolutely gorgeous video shows a lander's-eye view of the descent to Saturn's moon Titan. It's rendered from the Huygens probe's 2005 descent imagery, and boy, is it just spectacular.

Via +Betsy McCall​.


This is a real place, a moon in our solar system. Here's what it looks like to land there.

This absolutely gorgeous video shows a lander's-eye view of the descent to Saturn's moon Titan. It's rendered from the Huygens probe's 2005 descent imagery, and boy, is it just spectacular.

Via +Betsy McCall​.___

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2017-01-14 01:42:36 (0 comments; 4 reshares; 16 +1s; )Open 

Moon Express is fully funded and has cleared all regulatory hurdles between it and the moon. There's still a lot of risk -- they're relying on a rocket design that's never even flown, for one thing -- and I frankly don't expect it to work out for them. But damn, I'm enjoying watching the race.

Moon Express is fully funded and has cleared all regulatory hurdles between it and the moon. There's still a lot of risk -- they're relying on a rocket design that's never even flown, for one thing -- and I frankly don't expect it to work out for them. But damn, I'm enjoying watching the race.___

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2017-01-11 19:03:57 (7 comments; 2 reshares; 25 +1s; )Open 

[I'm not sure it's possible to spoil Hidden Figures in the normal sense, based as it is on historical events. But, whatever, spoilers.]

I was so hoping this movie would be good. So hoping. As it turns out, well, if anyone tells you this movie is delightful, wonderful, inspiring, triumphant ... they're underselling it badly. It's way better than that.

As you surely know already, it tells the intertwined stories of three African-American women, all employed as mathematicians at NASA Langley during the early days of the space race. These women faced all the burdens any mathematician, scientist, or engineer did at the time -- and a whole lot more, for interrelating reasons of sex, class, and race.

Race is, of course, never far from the consciousness of this movie. Police dogs snarl at anti-segregation protesters just across the street from one of our main... more »

[I'm not sure it's possible to spoil Hidden Figures in the normal sense, based as it is on historical events. But, whatever, spoilers.]

I was so hoping this movie would be good. So hoping. As it turns out, well, if anyone tells you this movie is delightful, wonderful, inspiring, triumphant ... they're underselling it badly. It's way better than that.

As you surely know already, it tells the intertwined stories of three African-American women, all employed as mathematicians at NASA Langley during the early days of the space race. These women faced all the burdens any mathematician, scientist, or engineer did at the time -- and a whole lot more, for interrelating reasons of sex, class, and race.

Race is, of course, never far from the consciousness of this movie. Police dogs snarl at anti-segregation protesters just across the street from one of our main characters, Dorothy, who's just smuggled a precious computer programming book out of a whites-only library. Another main character, Katherine, must run half a mile back and forth across Langley's campus every time she needs to use the facility's only colored ladies' room -- in high heels, too!

One of the most emotionally affecting moments for me came when our third viewpoint character has to talk a judge (he's white, of course) into letting her attend engineering night classes at a local segregated school. I was torn between my wordless fury that she'd have to beg anyone for her rights -- and my enormous admiration for how masterfully, how coolly, how confidently she does it.

And yet Hidden Figures is not just a movie about race -- it's also a movie about the space race, with all that that entails. As they're struggling with issues of race, these women -- and the white men and women they work with -- are struggling to succeed against the Russians, too, to put satellites and then men into orbit. You feel the stakes keenly, and when the triumphs come, you can glimpse the pride they must have all felt knowing it was their work, their brains that underlay that success. That's John Glenn in space, and he's there because of my math, damn it!

The movie is just filled with little touches that I adored. On the day of Friendship 7's launch -- the craft that was to make John Glenn the first American in orbit -- the new IBM mainframe spits out an incompatible set of numbers. The Langley boss is urgently discussing this with Glenn by phone, and Glenn asks for the numbers to be cross-checked by Katherine, our heroine mathematician, whose intellectual prowess Glenn had earlier admired in a meeting. Telling the Langley boss which person he means, Glenn says, "You know, the smart one."

Not "the Negro one," as so many at the time might have said. The smart one. If the movie has a quietly defining moment, it might be that. Space is hard, and it doesn't care about irrelevancies like race or sex. Just brains, and persistence. Our heroines have that in spades, and it's why they succeed.

It's also why the movie succeeds -- the brains and persistence, and the undeniable humanity, of its main characters are uplifting. Genuinely -- and I often distrust this word -- but genuinely inspirational.

In case you couldn't tell, I loved, loved, loved this movie. And even having said all this, I still feel like I'm underselling it badly. Go see it.___

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2017-01-10 20:20:37 (1 comments; 2 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

It's unfortunate that neither of the recently selected Discovery missions target Venus, even though two such missions were among the six finalists. (As my friend +Doug Ellison​​ has pointed out, all of the missions were worth doing; the only thing holding us back from doing all of them is money.)

But there's clearly interest among NASA's reviewers in revisiting Venus, or you wouldn't have seen those two Venus missions among the finalists. I'd be willing to bet that we'll return to Venus soon, maybe in a New Frontiers mission. Earth's other sister should expect a little love.

It's unfortunate that neither of the recently selected Discovery missions target Venus, even though two such missions were among the six finalists. (As my friend +Doug Ellison​​ has pointed out, all of the missions were worth doing; the only thing holding us back from doing all of them is money.)

But there's clearly interest among NASA's reviewers in revisiting Venus, or you wouldn't have seen those two Venus missions among the finalists. I'd be willing to bet that we'll return to Venus soon, maybe in a New Frontiers mission. Earth's other sister should expect a little love.___

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2017-01-08 07:56:51 (3 comments; 0 reshares; 9 +1s; )Open 

Not actually by the great John Cleese, but I sure wish it were. Read it anyway, immediately (pronounced "im-ME-jit-ly").

Best news in days!

Via +Daphne Sylk​___Not actually by the great John Cleese, but I sure wish it were. Read it anyway, immediately (pronounced "im-ME-jit-ly").

2017-01-06 22:15:52 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

SpaceX is cleared to return to flight -- obviously good news for their crewed flight ambitions -- although in true El Reg style, the headline on this story seems a little harsh. :-) Ad astra, y'all!

SpaceX is cleared to return to flight -- obviously good news for their crewed flight ambitions -- although in true El Reg style, the headline on this story seems a little harsh. :-) Ad astra, y'all!___

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2017-01-04 19:45:28 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 1 +1s; )Open 

NASA's next two Discovery-class missions, Lucy and Psyche (neither name is an acronym), were announced today: both will explore asteroids. Lucy will visit Jupiter's "Trojan" asteroids, the ones that keep it company in its orbit, while Psyche will visit a metal asteroid -- with an eye toward mining, I speculate.

NASA's next two Discovery-class missions, Lucy and Psyche (neither name is an acronym), were announced today: both will explore asteroids. Lucy will visit Jupiter's "Trojan" asteroids, the ones that keep it company in its orbit, while Psyche will visit a metal asteroid -- with an eye toward mining, I speculate.___

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2017-01-04 18:42:05 (3 comments; 2 reshares; 12 +1s; )Open 

Today is the Mars rover Spirit's 13th birthday -- the 13th anniversary of the day she landed on Mars. She would be a teenager today.

She no longer communicates with us. She is gone. But her work lives on: she's still providing fodder for Ph.D. dissertations and other scientific work, including a recent tantalizing hint of biosignatures, and she will for years to come.

Gone, yes. But never, never forgotten. I love you, Spirit, and I miss you. #freespirit

Today is the Mars rover Spirit's 13th birthday -- the 13th anniversary of the day she landed on Mars. She would be a teenager today.

She no longer communicates with us. She is gone. But her work lives on: she's still providing fodder for Ph.D. dissertations and other scientific work, including a recent tantalizing hint of biosignatures, and she will for years to come.

Gone, yes. But never, never forgotten. I love you, Spirit, and I miss you. #freespirit___

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2017-01-03 18:21:59 (4 comments; 0 reshares; 7 +1s; )Open 

We're backing up climate databases before Trump takes office -- you know, just in case. We have a Kickstarter to fund hosting. You can contribute here. Thanks!

Give the Earth a present: help us save climate data

We've been busy backing up climate data before Trump becomes President. Now you can help too, with some money to pay for servers and storage space.   Please give what you can at our Kickstarter campaign here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/592742410/azimuth-climate-data-backup-project

If we get $5000 by the end of January, we can save this data until we convince bigger organizations to take over.   If we don't get that much, we get nothing.  That's how Kickstarter works.   Also, if you donate now, you won't be billed until January 31st.

So, please help!   It's urgent.

I will make public how we spend this money.  And if we get more than $5000, I'll make sure it's put to good use.  There's a lot of work we could do to make sure the data is authenticated, made easily accessible, and so on.

The idea

The safety of US government climate data is at risk. Trump plans to have climate change deniers running every agency concerned with climate change.  So, scientists are rushing to back up the many climate databases held by US government agencies before he takes office.

We hope he won't be rash enough to delete these precious records. But: better safe than sorry!

The Azimuth Climate Data Backup Project is part of this effort. So far our volunteers have backed up nearly 1 terabyte of climate data from NASA and other agencies. We'll do a lot more!  We just need some funds to pay for storage space and a server until larger institutions take over this task.

The team

• +Jan Galkowski is a statistician with a strong interest in climate science. He works at Akamai Technologies, a company responsible for serving at least 15% of all web traffic. He began downloading climate data on the 11th of December.

• Shortly thereafter +John Baez, a mathematician and science blogger at U. C. Riverside, joined in to publicize the project. He’d already founded an organization called the Azimuth Project, which helps scientists and engineers cooperate on environmental issues.

• When Jan started running out of storage space, +Scott Maxwell  jumped in. He used to work for NASA — driving a Mars rover among other things — and now he works for Google. He set up a 10-terabyte account on Google Drive and started backing up data himself.

• A couple of days later +Sakari Maaranen joined the team. He’s a systems architect at Ubisecure, a Finnish firm, with access to a high-bandwidth connection. He set up a server, he's downloading lots of data, he showed us how to authenticate it with SHA-256 hashes, and he's managing many other technical aspects of this project.

There are other people involved too.  You can watch the nitty-gritty details of our progress here:

Azimuth Backup Project - Issue Tracker:
https://bitbucket.org/azimuth-backup/azimuth-inventory/issues

and you can learn more here:

Azimuth Climate Data Backup Project.
http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/azimuth_backup_project/

#climateaction  ___We're backing up climate databases before Trump takes office -- you know, just in case. We have a Kickstarter to fund hosting. You can contribute here. Thanks!

2017-01-03 17:57:44 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

+NASA New Horizons​ is less than two years from its next goal, a relatively newly discovered, dark, trans-Neptunian rock called MU69. When New Horizons flies by it on New Year's Day of 2019, MU69 will become the most distant world ever explored.

After that, the spacecraft's fate is uncertain: its plutonium power source will keep it going until the 2030s, but it'll be short on maneuvering fuel. What's certain is that it's on an escape trajectory from the solar system, meaning that it'll become one of the small handful of human-made objects that forever breaks its gravitational bonds with our star.

+NASA New Horizons​ is less than two years from its next goal, a relatively newly discovered, dark, trans-Neptunian rock called MU69. When New Horizons flies by it on New Year's Day of 2019, MU69 will become the most distant world ever explored.

After that, the spacecraft's fate is uncertain: its plutonium power source will keep it going until the 2030s, but it'll be short on maneuvering fuel. What's certain is that it's on an escape trajectory from the solar system, meaning that it'll become one of the small handful of human-made objects that forever breaks its gravitational bonds with our star.___

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2016-12-31 02:06:21 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

Need a bit of eye candy to round out 2016? Here are 14 great space pictures from this year.

Need a bit of eye candy to round out 2016? Here are 14 great space pictures from this year.___

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2016-12-31 00:31:29 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

Yeah, I needed that.

Yeah, I needed that.___

2016-12-25 23:36:10 (0 comments; 5 reshares; 7 +1s; )Open 

(SPOILERS INSIDE.) Star Wars: Rogue One considered as a story of engineering ethics.

(SPOILERS INSIDE.) Star Wars: Rogue One considered as a story of engineering ethics.___

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2016-12-25 05:48:18 (2 comments; 1 reshares; 16 +1s; )Open 

In the 1910s, badass British suffragettes taught themselves jiu-jitsu to defend against police and male harassers.

In the 1910s, badass British suffragettes taught themselves jiu-jitsu to defend against police and male harassers.___

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2016-12-24 19:46:45 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 10 +1s; )Open 

The Tesla Model X now offers a navigation overlay that makes it look like you're driving on the surface of Mars. So now I need one of those cars.

The Tesla Model X now offers a navigation overlay that makes it look like you're driving on the surface of Mars. So now I need one of those cars.___

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2016-12-23 09:37:45 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 10 +1s; )Open 

If you face similar choices in years to come, be as brave as she was, and history will remember you the same way.

Via +Yonatan Zunger​.

Read this account of a stone-cold Dutch badass on the side of all that's good and right.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/marion-pritchard-dutch-rescuer-of-jewish-children-during-the-holocaust-dies-at-96/2016/12/20/d5ca50e0-c61b-11e6-bf4b-2c064d32a4bf_story.html?utm_term=.c1d74c4a8a6b___If you face similar choices in years to come, be as brave as she was, and history will remember you the same way.

Via +Yonatan Zunger​.

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2016-12-23 09:24:14 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

Can we just start calling them "Nazis" yet?

A local school district cancelled their annual production of A Christmas Carol, citing a lack of time and resources. But FOX and Brietbart ran stories blaming a local Jewish family instead, and that family has had to flee the county for their own safety. "There’s no way we’re going to take a chance after the pizza incident," they told reporters.

Neither site published their address, but commenters were already calling for that address to be found and published; as we've seen in previous incident, it doesn't take long for that to happen, once people are calling for it (and 4chan seems always happy to help).

Why am I sharing this story, rather than any number of other stories? Because perhaps the way that this story fits traditional molds of violence will help you see the danger. This sort of threat has been used as a weapon against people by the far right for years – from GamerGate (from which several people are still living in hiding) to Muslim communities which are receiving constant, credible threats. It's the same as what forced Salman Rushdie into hiding.

The rise of fascism in the US has given tremendous political cover to these people: behavior which would once have been criminal is now acceptable, the "really passionate" behavior (in Trump's description) of people whose fears about their futures we are supposed to see as legitimate.

There is nothing legitimate here; there is no possible fear about one's economic future, about one's loss of standing in the community, which justifies this.

Edited to add: There have been contradictory reports in the press about the veracity of the story. There's a good resume of all of them at http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/what-s-the-story . The upshot appears to be that the originally story is essentially correct, and the ADL rebuttal is correct as well, and the apparent contradiction goes away when you dig in to the actual quotes.___Can we just start calling them "Nazis" yet?

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2016-12-23 02:17:10 (2 comments; 1 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

"[A human mission to Mars]" is an excellent and proven way to keep the space community pacified by selecting a goal that is so far into the future that no one will be held accountable for its continuing non-achievement."

Yep. In a nutshell. Yep.

"[A human mission to Mars]" is an excellent and proven way to keep the space community pacified by selecting a goal that is so far into the future that no one will be held accountable for its continuing non-achievement."

Yep. In a nutshell. Yep.___

2016-12-22 18:45:08 (6 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

I think at last I understand why so many Americans can be OK with, even support, torture. Here's a sketch, and an idea of what to do about it.

Seemingly, many people -- maybe a third or a half of people, maybe even more -- divide humanity into Good People™ and Bad People™. This categorization is seen as fixed, unchanging; you're intrinsically either a Good or a Bad Person.

If you see the world in this way, then if someone's being tortured -- well, they're probably a Bad Person, and they deserve anything bad that might happen to them, even that. They deserve to be tortured.

And, just as important, the torturer is a Good Person. (Assuming they're on my side, that is; for example, a soldier in the US Army is presumptively a Good Person.) That's true even if they're committing an act of torture. They're a Good Person, and that's intrinsic;it ... more »

I think at last I understand why so many Americans can be OK with, even support, torture. Here's a sketch, and an idea of what to do about it.

Seemingly, many people -- maybe a third or a half of people, maybe even more -- divide humanity into Good People™ and Bad People™. This categorization is seen as fixed, unchanging; you're intrinsically either a Good or a Bad Person.

If you see the world in this way, then if someone's being tortured -- well, they're probably a Bad Person, and they deserve anything bad that might happen to them, even that. They deserve to be tortured.

And, just as important, the torturer is a Good Person. (Assuming they're on my side, that is; for example, a soldier in the US Army is presumptively a Good Person.) That's true even if they're committing an act of torture. They're a Good Person, and that's intrinsic; it can't be changed by what they do. So the Good Person can punish the Bad Person that way; and the Good Person will continue to be good and the Bad Person will deserve it.

This makes me wonder if debating whether torture is OK [1] is doomed to miss the point. The way to convince torture supporters that torture is not OK is to first dislodge the Intrinsic Good/Bad Person worldview -- to replace it with a worldview in which you are a Good or Bad Person based not on some intrinsic property, but based on what you do.[2]

When torture comes up, don't debate torture, debate that.

Only then can we hope to establish that torture is a bad act, such that engaging in it can transform a formerly Good Person into a Bad Person. Only then can we hope to establish (in the minds of such people) that torture is, you know, a bad thing to do.

(Can you tell I'm about to visit family in more conservative areas of the country? I'm strategizing out loud.)

--
[1] I genuinely never even thought I'd have to have this argument in America. I always just took it for granted that deliberately, cruelly harming a helpless person was a beyond-the-pale bad thing to do, one that should never be considered acceptable, ever. Even though I still can't really believe it at some level, I do see that I'm wrong about that. Some people do need convincing. OK. Time to convince them.

[2] Even that, I think, is wrongheaded. There are not Good/Bad People, there are only good or bad acts. At best, Good/Bad Person is a shorthand for "primarily commits good/bad acts." But I think it's possible to meet these folks halfway, to explain in terms that are not too different from their existing worldview why torture is unacceptable. In short, we keep the Good/Bad Person dichotomy but attack the intrinsic part. This, at least, is my hope.___

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2016-12-22 18:15:03 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 0 +1s; )Open 

Should prospective civil servants serve in a Trump administration? Or is it so obviously a horrorshow in the making that you should not even board the train? That's the subject of this debate.

This format, the Chess Clock Debates, has been interesting all along -- it's a podcast in which two people debate, but there's no moderator, just a chess clock. The format was invented by my friend Emily Messner, a researcher at a D.C. think tank and a debate coach.

Should prospective civil servants serve in a Trump administration? Or is it so obviously a horrorshow in the making that you should not even board the train? That's the subject of this debate.

This format, the Chess Clock Debates, has been interesting all along -- it's a podcast in which two people debate, but there's no moderator, just a chess clock. The format was invented by my friend Emily Messner, a researcher at a D.C. think tank and a debate coach.___

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Scott “marsroverdriver” MaxwellTwitterCircloscope