All posts by Rand Simberg

Lunar Science Workshop

Light posting because I decided at the last minute to fly up to San Jose for the workshop at NASA Ames. Been listening to lunar stuff all day. Highlight: a talk by Jack Schmitt, the only geologist to walk on the moon, and the second to last to walk on it, a little over 45 years ago. And with the death of John Young a few days ago, only one of five remaining moon walkers. He’s looking pretty good at 82, and I think he stands a good chance of seeing the next person walk on the moon.

Running Scared

France and Germany are studying reusability in rockets. I found this amusing:

The idea for Callisto did come in part as a response to SpaceX, which has now landed 20 boosters and flown five customers on used rockets, but both Astorg and Dittus describe the project as very different.

“It’s not a copy of what SpaceX is doing,” Dittus said. “In some aspects we are also skeptical [about reusability as] the right path, but we will see what is best and then we can come up with ideas of how we proceed.”

Riiiiiiiight.

Meanwhile, Orbital ATK is taking USAF money to try to resurrect Liberty.

When all you have is a hammer…

Linux Issue

Patricia’s HP printer, which I used to use to scan, has died (don’t know if it’s a bad power supply, or it’s just bricked). My Brother DCP-L2540DW laser, which is a great printer, refuses to scan. I can see it with Simple Scan, but I get a message that it cannot connect to the scanner. I went to the Brother web site, and installed their own drivers from rpm (actually from a bash script), and still no joy. A Google search indicates that others have had similar issues, but none exactly like mine (for instance, they can’t print, either, whereas the printer works fine). Any suggestions for trouble shooting?

The Webb Telescope

We had dinner with Leonard and Barbara David when we were in Colorado over the holidays. He told me that he’d been working on this piece about whether it’s too big to fail.

I’ve been concerned about the risk for years. I hope it works, but it’s not the approach I’d have taken. The next big telescope will be assembled in space, not launch origami.

The Dead Letter Of Education

David Solway, with a depressing tale of why he quit teaching:

…when I briefly tried to introduce my students to a portion of the paronomastic, multi-lingual Wake for the sheer fun of language at its most exuberant, I was rewarded with blank incomprehension. It is, admittedly, a formidable text, but I felt that with some tutorial guidance students might be intrigued by the multiplex resources of the language, its potential to “maximize modularity,” to use an aeronautical phrase. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I did appreciate the following cartoon from a graphically talented student for its cheeky insouciance. Still, it was a sign that students are far more comfortable performing in a visual milieu than in a textual environment, as this student, like the majority of his congeners, experienced significant hardship organizing his thoughts and perceptions both in his verbal presentations and written projects.

I’m still a little rankled by the fact that, with all of the writing I’ve done on the topic, the only journalism award I’ve won from the kids is for animations of space-policy discussion.

Oh, and here’s an example of what a mess things are at my own alma mater in Ann Arbor. And they wonder why I don’t donate to the alumni fund.

Virtual Assistants

Why you’ll fire Siri and do the job yourself:

I spoke to ObEN co-founder and CEO Nikhil Jain this week. He told me ObEN’s technology generates a 3D, computer-generated representation of the user’s face with a single selfie.

ObEN also learns to copy your voice. Once it’s got your voice down, it can do things with your voice that you cannot — speak Chinese, for example, or sing.

That “personality” is based not only on how you speak, but on what you know as well. It’s even possible to add knowledge manually.

Hard to imagine anything going wrong with that.