The future of live events

Around 8 million people tuned in last night on YouTube to watch Felix Baumgartner’s amazing space jump from the Red Bull Stratos balloon. This record beats the last record by a factor of 16, being the London 2012 Olympic Games.

This is the future of live events. When something is allowed to broadcast free of geographic restrictions and artificial tape delays, the audience goes global. When traditional media is allowed to converge with social networks, anything can become a shared moment.

Fantastic job by YouTube, being able to handle such a huge amount of bandwidth seamlessly.



I’m being tormented by a heavenly body.

Not cool, moon.

I’m being tormented by a heavenly body. I wish I could say that Jessica Alba has been tickling me constantly, but no such luck. It’s just the moon. Yep, Luna has been finding ways to make my life miserable.

We recently upgraded from Hillbilly style newspaper window coverings to ultra deluxe roller blinds. They were cheap and a snap to install, what with my mad handyman skills and awesome power drill.

But, as with any recessed curtain that doesn’t conform to micrometer tolerances, there’s a small gap on either side in between the fabric and the window frame. This gap, small though it may be, is like a red rag to a bull for the moon. It’s able to reflect sunlight over a distance of about 385000 km into a 2-3mm gap right onto my pillow, which is where I usually put my head when I’m trying desperately to sleep. 2mm over that distance is mind-bogglingly accurate.

Also, we have a wide but short window above our bed. Between the eves and the house next door there’s a tiny gap where if you put your head in just the right spot you can see the sky. That spot, again, happens to be my pillow, and I’m sure that the moon has been changing orbit so that it parks itself directly in front of that gap. It’s like being woken up by high-powered spotlights.

But the other night the moon found a third way to exploit the law of maximum inconvenience. We have a spare fridge in the garage, and I’m always wailing on Suzanne and the kids to “shut the freakin’ door” when you’ve finished getting drinks out. The other night, as we’re about to go to bed, Suzanne orders me into the darkened garage and says “Look at that. LOOK!” There was a thin sliver of light shining onto the garage door, perfectly placed so that it seemed to be coming from the fridge. “You left the door open!”

“No way,” I thought. I’m never that tardy. I’m the one who closes doors and turns off lights. I’m the only one who can be relied upon to maintain order in this chaotic household. I couldn’t have left the fridge door open, it’s such a rookie mistake.

Sure enough the door was closed. But where was the light coming from? Sure enough I looked back out through the darkened house and saw the laughing, taunting face of the full moon on the horizon. It had found the tiniest gap through the rear houses, clear through three doors inside the house and onto the garage door. It had conspired against me again and taken advantage of Suzanne’s desire to catch me out at my own game.

Curse you, moon!

My thoughts on the last Space Shuttle mission

STS-135, the last in a long ling of Space Shuttle missions, takes off in less than 12 hours time. I have mixed emotions.

On one hand, it’s sad to accept that NASA will, at least for a time, have no manned space capability. They simply won’t be able to launch their own astronauts into space and will be completely reliant on Soyuz. It’s also sad that Obama overturned the one good thing George W Bush did in office when he scrapped NASAs future manned missions. America has different priorities, I suppose. For example, The US spends more on air conditioners for their troops in the Middle East than they do on NASAs entire budget.

On the other hand, I’m kinda happy that the Shuttle is being retired. Coming out of the Apollo programs of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s a need was identified for a reusable manned orbiter that could shuttle astronauts, experiments and equipment into low earth orbit.  The premise for this need was to reduce the exorbitant cost of the “one and done” space capsules of earlier NASA programs. But at $500 Million per launch, it was anything but cheap. And the turnaround time was designed to send dozens of missions into orbit yearly, but that schedule was certainly never delivered. The money spent to maintain the Shuttle program has cost many other unmanned and scientifically significant missions their own chance at success.

So we’re left with an fairly impotent Space Administration with no real goal to aim for, and no foreseeable future perhaps until changes are made to US foreign policy which might free up some cash.

All the Space Shuttles, except Enterprise

What’s the time in Boston?

You know, as much as I’ve derided Twitter over the last couple years, it really isn’t all that bad now that I’ve started using it.

Granted, since Twitter is the world’s largest intellectual toilet bowl, you do get a lot of shit. But you occasionally get gems like these:

Yep, that’s Mike Finke who, like any regular traveler at an airport, whipped out his device and Tweeted that he’d arrived (I can’t believe I just used that word…. “Tweeted”). Only this wasn’t from gate 17 after a 14 hour flight across the Pacific… it was from the Kennedy Space Center after a two week mission on the Space Shuttle! Astronauts are just like everyone else, I guess.

And this is Ron Garan, part of Expedition 27/28 on the International Space Station which STS134 was visiting. He watched the landing From Spaaaaaace!

Also, I’ve been retweeted twice in a row. Here’s my latest after watching the Canucks get humiliated in Boston:

Retweets certainly get around fast.

Too bad for Luongo, one of the heroes of Team Canada in the Vancouver Olympics. Series is now tied at 2-2 (at the time of writing this) as they head back to Vancouver. I hope they win. I need a new Vancouver jersey to replace my old one to commemorate. It’s the only current Canadian team I don’t have.

The Earth is blue. How wonderful. It is amazing.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of of the first manned space flight by Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, Soviet pilot, cosmonaut and hero.

This article is a good biography on Gagarin, giving some insight into his childhood, his upbringing and his motivations.

During the course of training, Gagarin had shown that he was the most flexible and adaptable to command — and to surrounding circumstances. He knew how to fit in – yet stand out. He had a chameleon-like ability to adapt physically and mentally to every situation – and to maintain lines of communication with the parallel structures. He was quick on the uptake, capable of improvising the proper response and meeting people’s expectations.

Israel third on the moon

This article from Forbes says that all going well, by December 2012 a bunch of Israeli scientists will have landed a probe on the Lunar surface thereby making “the Jewish State the third nation (after the U.S. and Russia) to land a probe on the moon.” The story may confuse some people or lead them astray due to some subtle American linguistic imperialism. Israel may in fact be the third, but only after the Soviet Union and the US, not the other way around. The Soviets landed first, with Luna 2 in 1959. It wasn’t until Ranger 4 in April 1962 that the US reached the moon.

Funny thing is that after July of this year, the US will be incapable of launching their own astronauts into orbit. Only Russia’s Soyuz will remain.

Sputnik to ISS: you’ve come a long way, baby

Today is the 53rd Anniversary of the launch of Sputnik 1. It was a spherical satellite of modest size and weight, yet the seemingly innocent beeping it emitted was enough to invoke mass hysteria in the West.

Let’s compare Sputnik to the current state of the art in Space Exploration, the International Space Station.

Sputnik 1


Built by: Soviet Union Involved partners: USA, Russia, Canada, Japan and 11 participating ESA Countries
Mass: 84 kg Current mass: almost 400 tons
Dimensions: 39cm radius sphere with four 2.5m antennae Current dimesions: 50m x 110m x 20m
Total orbits: 1440 Current orbits completed: more than 68000
Crew members: 0 As of October 4, 2010, 195 individuals have visited ISS, including the three current Expedition 25 crew members. NASA astronaut Frederick W. Sturckow has visited four times while 15 people have visited three times, and 66 people have visited twice.
Total cost: nobody really knows, since it was a military mission. Estimated cost: ranges between 35 and 160 Billion dollars, making it the most expensive object ever created
Payload:instruments capable of measuring the thickness and temperature of the high upper atmosphere and the composition of the ionosphere. Also, a radio transmitter than went “beep, beep, beep” Facilities for research and experimentation in Human Research, Biology, Biotechnology, Physical and Materials Sciences, Earth and Environmental Science, Education

In between these two marvels, we’ve seen craft carry dogs, monkeys, and men into orbit. We’ve seen them land on the moon, Mars, and Venus. They’ve intercepted asteroids and comets, and have scurried through Lunar and Martian dust. Telescopes like Hubble and Chandra have gazed into the far reaches of the universe. Next year, a Russian/Chinese mission will be launched to return samples from Phobos. It’s inspiring and breathtaking living is these times of discovery and wonder.