athelind: (explore)
"It's a bad week for NASA," someone said.

To those we've lost as we reached for the stars:



Apollo 1: 27 January 1967
Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom • Edward H. White II • Roger B. Chaffee

Space Shuttle Challenger: 28 January 1986
Francis R. Scobee • Michael J. Smith
Ronald McNair • Ellison Onizuka • Judith Resnik
Greg Jarvis • Christa McAuliffe

Space Shuttle Columbia: 01 February 2003
Rick D. Husband • William C. McCool
Michael P. Anderson • Kalpana Chawla • David M. Brown
Laurel Clark • Ilan Ramon








Though a nation watched them falling, yet a world could only cry
As they passed from us to glory, riding fire in the sky


athelind: (cue howard)
Last year, I posted an LJ entry that said that the defining moment for our generation wasn't when man set foot on the Moon, but when we turned away.

Most of my commentators, bless their literal souls, thought I was just talking about the space program, and at that stage in my recovery, I wasn't quite up to clarifying the symbolic and metaphorical dimensions of the statement.

I picked up a copy of Fight Club last week, and [livejournal.com profile] thoughtsdriftby and I plugged it in on Friday night. This is the quintessential movie of my generation.

It comes closer than anything else to explaining exactly what I meant.

Preach it, Tyler:
I see all this potential, and I see it squandered. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables — slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won't. We're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.


You are keeping tabs on the Occupy Wall Street protests, aren't you? If not, check out http://boingboing.net, and, as the Good Book said, consult your pineal gland.

Fnord.



EDIT: The first comment on the post has forced an addendum, hopefully early enough in the morning to catch most my Loyal Audience on their first read-through:

I really do appear to only be able to communicate half of what's going on in my brain at any one point.

I said Fight Club was "the quintessential movie of my generation". I didn't say "Tyler Durden is a Divine Prophet."

[livejournal.com profile] notthebuddha was close -- Tyler's rant is HALF the truth. Pahulnik, in this speech, succinctly describes the malaise afflicting Generation X. We came into a world of progress and potential—we were literally promised the Moon—only to have it ripped away from us.

"Ah, never mind that. Here, have a crappy job and an apartment full of cheap furniture. Oh, wait. We're shipping the crappy jobs overseas. Why aren't you paying for your cheap furniture anymore?"

Fight Club is, in many ways, a cautionary tale. Sometimes, we all find ourselves in Tyler Durden's headspace, entertaining fantasies of just randomly beating the crap out of someone, or blackmailing your pissant boss, or taking your hands off the wheel as you ram the accelerator into the floorboards just to see what happens.

You can deny that and repress it and end up like the Narrator, or you can face it head on and channel it.

When you subtract the explosives, the beating the crap out of each other in basements, and the long-term goal of hunting moose in the vine-covered towers of the city, Tyler's idea of "zeroing out the credit system" sounds a hell of a lot more rational and productive than bailing out the banks for using fraud and doubletalk to rope thousands of people into mortgages they couldn't afford. The banks wound up with the houses and the money; if the bailouts had gone to the swamped homeowners themselves, the banks would have still gotten their money, and we'd still have an economy instead of a shattered, broken population.

At some point, you've got to take a stand. You've got to get angry.

You don't have to go mad and tear everything down. I brought Occupy Wall Street into the end of the post to say, "this is Project: Mayhem done right." It's not a riot. It's not terrorism. It's taking a stand. It's an ever-increasing circle of people gathering together and saying, "We've had enough. No more."

Take a look at the icon I used for this post. I know exactly how things ended for that guy, too. But sometimes, things reach a point where you've got to listen to all the Mad Prophets, all the Tyler Durdens and the Howard Beales, so you can see what drove them mad and make it stop.

You don't have to go mad to say you're not gonna take it anymore.

Fnord.


athelind: (far call)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

If you won a free trip to the moon, would you go? Why or why not?

Yes.

Why?

So many reasons, but let's go with the one in today's xkcd:


The universe is probably littered with the one-planet graves of cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there's no good reason to go into space--each discovered, studied, and remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision.



athelind: (green hills of earth)
Last night, I dreamed that I was getting ready to board a starship.

Not a gleaming Enterprise-style military vessel, and not a Millennium Serenity tramp freighter: this was a vessel the size of a city, with hundreds of thousands of crew and passengers.

It wasn't a "colony ship", per se; there was no sense of a set destination. It might have been a generation ship, and I simply wasn't going to see the end of the journey in my lifetime. Whatever the case, the ship was going to be home, and my role there (archivist, journalist, and documentation expert) was going to be my career, unless I decided to apprentice into something more technical.

In fact, if I were going to try to interpolate backstory from the general feel and attitude and thoughts in my dream-self's head, I'd say it was a seed ship, heading out to find likely planets and establish the foothold for settlement. Maybe we'd be dropping off colonists; maybe we'd be putting FTL gates in place; maybe we'd be terraforming; maybe all of the above.

On the other claw, it might have been the Diaspora. Everyone seemed to be going. even though there wasn't much sense of urgency, there was very much a sense that if you weren't on board, you'd Have The Place To Yourself; Please Put Up the Chairs And Turn Out The Lights.

Some hints of longevity there, too, since there didn't seem to be any issue with a gent pushing 50 contemplating a whole new career; there'd be plenty of time. It felt like "I may do this for a while, and then do that for a while, and then do something else", with the impression that "a while" was a period measured in decades.

A lot of this came out in a conversation with a young lady I'd just met—someone who, despite her youth, had been elected "Mayor", head of the civilian administration of the ship on sheer dint of competence.

Note that my ship's billet is pretty much what I'm doing now at my day job, combined with my family's heritage in newspapers. My PoV persona was most definitely me; often, when I have dreams this detailed, coherent, and story-related, I'm Someone Else. Even when it's not something as obvious as being an anthropomorphic dolphin-woman, my dream-selves in these internal movies often have different memories, different skills, and know different people. Dreams starring me tend to be both less coherent and less memorable.

It was surprisingly consistent, and surprisingly ... casual, for lack of a better term. Yes, this was a great adventure, this was a new experience—but it's what we're doing, and Things Need To Get Done. Right now ... nothing's urgent, we're ahead of schedule, don't kill yourself or freak out—Just Get The Job Done. Once everything's aboard, once things settle down after launch, then you can cluster by the portholes and ooh and ahh over The Big Night.

The source material for this one isn't hard to pin down. I just spent two weeks on a job assignment in San Diego (travel for the first time in too long, thanks to the new job!), documenting the decontamination procedure for a company that was closing up shop, and I spent a lot of time by myself in largely-abandoned buildings (Please Turn Out The Lights). On the plane back, I read Heinlein's novella, Methuselah's Children (longevity, obviously, and a gigantic starship with a hundred thousand people aboard. I think the dream even mentioned cold sleep, which I was turning down because I didn't want to miss anything and there was always Something That Needed Doing).

For the record, if you offered me absolutely any job, any life in the annals of in history and fiction—yeah. This. This is what I'd do, more than anything else. Give me a chance to head into the Deep on a giant city-ship, to search and explore and study and build and create, and I will head up that boarding ramp without looking back.






Don't be afraid, the stars are only mirrors/Reflecting all the mornings yet to come ... )

Yes, I know it's '70s Disco Cheese and a deliberate parody of the prog-rock Concept Album.
I'll still be singing it as I head up the ramp.




athelind: (far call)
I remember where I was when I heard, of course. I was sweeping the mess deck on the USCGC Rush. I was only a few short weeks out of Boot Camp at that point.

Several people have quoted President Reagan's speech of that tragic day, when he spoke of how Challenger's crew had ... slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.. Reagan, in turn, was alluding to the first and last lines of a pre-space flight poem written by a World War II aviator:



High Flight
John Gillespie Magee, Jr


Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew—
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.



athelind: (Parallel Worlds)

Evidence Emerges That Laws of Physics Are Not Fine-Tuned For Life



I admit it: even the weak versions of the Anthropic Principle make me twitch. Yes, if we're observing the universe, its physical conditions must allow us to exist; fine, that's kind of a "duh". Stronger versions get increasingly ... problematic ... as their proponents start dwelling on what a "fortunate coincidence" it is that all of these underlying physical constants line up just right for the perfect bowl of porridge rise of Life As We Know It ...

... and then they start talking about how the Universe must have arisen in such a way ...

... and then they just lapse into "GLAARGLE BARGLE PROOF OF GOD" and start speaking in tongues.

Yes, there are more sophisticated and defensible versions of the Anthropic Principle out there, but nevertheless, the concept has turned into something of a buzzword for those who want to dress up "intelligent design" in a costume that will get them into big science conferences as well as Kansas school board meetings.1

These are the people most likely to start harping on how amazing it is that the value of little terms buried deep in complex equations like the cosmological constant are exactly perfectly optimally perfectly wonderfully exact to promote the development of blah blah blah blah blah.

This is why Your Obedient Serpent uttered a joyous and most undraconic "squee" when Futurismic pointed out this article that indicates, hey, you know what, Doctor Pangloss? This may not be the Best of All Possible Worlds, after all!

Of course, as a militant agnostic, I'm just going to sit back and make popcorn as this news prompts a stampede of would-be Oolon Colluphids to get themselves run over at the next zebra crossing.


1A similar fate has befallen James Lovelock's "Gaia hypothesis", which has been Flanderized by both detractors and some proponents into "WOO GODDESS". The elegant systems mechanics behind the Gaia principle play an important part in my own weird version of pantheism, but that just makes it that much worse when Princess Priestess Raven Shadowscroft in beads and sequins spouts the words in the middle of some pompous Aquarian rant.
athelind: (green hills of earth)
When I mentioned him in yesterday's Writer's Block, I was entirely unaware of the fact that today would have been Unca Carl's 76th birthday.

I've linked to this before, but it's always worth revisiting:




...That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.



athelind: (green hills of earth)
It's late, and we're in the hotel bar. Maybe it's the starport hotel, or maybe it's just this year's convention. It doesn't matter. It's late, and maybe we've been drinking a bit too much, but someone starts singing, and, by the last three verses, we're all singing along.

All of us who know the lyrics, anyway, and what philistine doesn't know at least the chorus of "The Green Hills of Earth", by Rhysling, Blind Singer of the Spaceways?

The arching sky is calling
Spacemen back to their trade.
"ALL HANDS! STAND BY! FREE FALLING!"
And the lights below us fade.

Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet ---

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.


[Poll #1625842]


... can anyone think of something a little more hard rock that uses the Common Meter?


And here's the X Minus 1 radio adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein's biography of Rhysling.
athelind: (Eye of the Sky God)
In a moment of magnificent serendipity, I just turned on the TV to catch the very beginning of the very first episode of COSMOS, which I have not seen since it originally aired.

Preach it, Unca Carl.


athelind: (far call)
Last week was the 41st anniversary of the Apollo 11 flight, widely viewed as the "defining moment" of my generation.

Really, though, the defining moment of my generation was not when Humanity reached out to stride upon the Moon.

It was when we turned away.


Potpourri

Jul. 9th, 2010 01:24 pm
athelind: (Eye of the Sky God)

Snappy Answers To Cryptic Questions



[livejournal.com profile] athelind: HAVE YOU SEEN THE YELLOW SIGN?
[livejournal.com profile] jdarkwulf: Yield?


Yeah, I know, "Yield" signs aren't yellow anymore, but I still laughed.


The Spirit of Radio



I've been having increasing trouble keeping my little stereo tuned to my preferred radio station of late. It's an analogue-dial physical tuner rather than a nice digital gizmo, and, of course, I have the perennial dilemma that my own body acts as an antenna. I can get it crystal-clear, so long as I keep my hand on it; as soon as I move away, it devolves into static.

Note that it was fine up until a few weeks ago. There was a bit of channel drift, and I would sometimes have to tweak it from morning to evening, but I could get it steady on the station with no problem.

Last night, I was driving a co-worker home, so I flipped my car radio over to the classical station, since that's better background for conversation than my usual Classic Rock.

Nothin' but static.

What the hell, thought Your Obedient Serpent. Is there something about summer that screws up radio reception?

Dot. Dot. Dot.

Right. We're pointing at the Sun. Auroras. That sort of thing.

Oddly, the Sun seems kind of quiet right now, near as I can tell from spaceweather.com. We're at a Sunspot Minimum right now. There's an active region that's been pointing away from Earth, though it's swinging in our general direction.

Anyone else having radio issues? I know most of you don't even listen to radios in the car anymore, much less while sitting at your computavational intertube omnitainment terminals, but I'm interested in hearing if the tuned-in minority are having static and channel drift like I am.


athelind: (far call)

Something is consuming hydrogen and methane on Saturn's moon, Titan.



This isn't as obvious, exciting, or definitive a "yes" as, say, an ancient city atop Olympus Mons, or giant tentacles pulling a space probe beneath the ice, and most people are going to react by saying, "aw, that could be anything".

And yes, it could be a lot of things.

But it's an anomaly. The concentrations of at least two chemicals are far from what we'd predict if only simple physical and chemical processes are involved. James Lovelock, before he got famous for his controversial Gaea Hypothesis, postulated that the best way to search for life would be to look for exactly that: "anomalous" concentrations of compounds, far from chemical equilibrium, that are nonetheless stable.

NASA scientists have been saying for years that Titan and a few other gas giant moons have "all the requirements" for methane-based life, if such a thing is possible. I've largely smiled, nodded, and moved on, because, up until now, it looked like the "perfect conditions" on the Outer Moons were at chemical equilibrium.

But now: missing hydrogen and acetylene.

As someone whose entire college curriculum was built around the application of systems theory to biology, that makes me sit up and take notice.


athelind: (far call)
I just watched President Obama's speech at Kennedy Space Center.

My distillation:

He wants to move beyond the "Business As Usual" stagnation of the Shuttle era, but he doesn't want to go back to the days of token high-profile publicity stunt-flights. He wants to set up a long-term program of expanding and extending the human presence in space, and improving the technology to get us out there and let us stay out there. He wants to establish a space infrastructure, and not just one in LEO: one geared for long-range, deep-space exploration.

I don't think he ever said the "C-word", but I might have heard it there, between the lines.

Neil doesn't like it, but Buzz does—and, frankly, between the two, I trust Buzz's opinion more. The guy who advocated the Mars Cycler is not the type to say "we should keep doing it this way because we've always done it this way".


athelind: (big ideas)
Mostly for my own reference:


Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design




While Dr. Akin is an aerospace engineer, most if not all of these Laws apply to systems design in general.

[livejournal.com profile] normanrafferty should take particular note of the following:


14. (Edison's Law) "Better" is the enemy of "good".



Snagged from [livejournal.com profile] theweaselking, whom I forgot to credit when I first posted this.

.
athelind: (Default)
Mostly for my own reference:


Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design




While Dr. Akin is an aerospace engineer, most if not all of these Laws apply to systems design in general.

[livejournal.com profile] normanrafferty should take particular note of the following:


14. (Edison's Law) "Better" is the enemy of "good".



Snagged from [livejournal.com profile] theweaselking, whom I forgot to credit when I first posted this.

.
athelind: (far call)
In the wake of columnist and Nixon speechwriter William Safire's death, here is the speech that he wrote for the President to read in the event that the Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the Moon.

It's surreal to read this today; earlier this morning, I found the lyrics to "The Green Hills of Earth" running through my head:

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.


Strange to think what might have been, and, thankfully, was not.


Does anyone know where to find MP3 or video of a decent filksinger performing "Green Hills of Earth"? The only ones I could find today were, frankly, terrible.
athelind: (Default)
In the wake of columnist and Nixon speechwriter William Safire's death, here is the speech that he wrote for the President to read in the event that the Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the Moon.

It's surreal to read this today; earlier this morning, I found the lyrics to "The Green Hills of Earth" running through my head:

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.


Strange to think what might have been, and, thankfully, was not.


Does anyone know where to find MP3 or video of a decent filksinger performing "Green Hills of Earth"? The only ones I could find today were, frankly, terrible.
athelind: (Eye of the Sky God)
This is making the rounds of my Friends List; for those who haven't seen it yet, it's my turn to share.







I always said that Unca Carl was a poet.


athelind: (Eye of the Sky God)
This is making the rounds of my Friends List; for those who haven't seen it yet, it's my turn to share.







I always said that Unca Carl was a poet.


athelind: (Eye of the Sky God)
From a significant fraction of my f-list, including [livejournal.com profile] the_gneech, [livejournal.com profile] pyat, and [livejournal.com profile] leonard_arlotte:

  • If you like, post this meme and your current wallpaper.
  • Explain in no more than five sentences why you're using that wallpaper!
  • Don't change your wallpaper before doing this! The point is to see what you had on!




This is an image from NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day site, which I read every evening.

I regret to say that I can't remember just what this image is. I know that it's a false-color image of... something. I do remember that I chose it because a) it's wide enough to extend across two wide-screen monitors (which I am not currently using), and b) because it's orange and purple, and vaguely, sinuously dragon-like in the way that clouds and fractals can be.


(If anyone recognizes this image, or has better search-fu on APOD than Your Obedient Serpent, please let me know and put a link to the appropriate APOD page in the comments!)
athelind: (Eye of the Sky God)
From a significant fraction of my f-list, including [livejournal.com profile] the_gneech, [livejournal.com profile] pyat, and [livejournal.com profile] leonard_arlotte:

  • If you like, post this meme and your current wallpaper.
  • Explain in no more than five sentences why you're using that wallpaper!
  • Don't change your wallpaper before doing this! The point is to see what you had on!




This is an image from NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day site, which I read every evening.

I regret to say that I can't remember just what this image is. I know that it's a false-color image of... something. I do remember that I chose it because a) it's wide enough to extend across two wide-screen monitors (which I am not currently using), and b) because it's orange and purple, and vaguely, sinuously dragon-like in the way that clouds and fractals can be.


(If anyone recognizes this image, or has better search-fu on APOD than Your Obedient Serpent, please let me know and put a link to the appropriate APOD page in the comments!)
athelind: (far call)
I just spoke to my mother on the phone, and she had her own memories of the landing.

"We all sat up and watched every minute of the landing. People asked me later, 'how could you let your children stay up until all hours like that?' And I'd answer, 'how could I not?'"

November 2016

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