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Friday, September 17, 2021

Sir Clive Sinclair, 1940–2021, R.I.P.

Among the many amazing innovations of this prolific inventor, who dedicated most of his work to bringing high technology to everybody at a price they could afford, was the breakthrough 1974 Sinclair Scientific calculator, the first single chip scientific calculator, which offered, in addition to the four arithmetic operators, sine, cosine, tangent, arcsine, arccos, arctan, log, and exponentiation. Through cleverness and hackery which rose to epic levels of heroism, this was squeezed into a read-only memory which held just three hundred and twenty instructions. How did they do it? See Ken Shirriff's brilliant reverse engineering of the Sinclair Scientific design and programming. The calculator was sold in the U.S. in kit form for just US$99.95 and assembled for US$139.95, a fraction of the price of scientific calculators from Hewlett-Packard and Texas Instruments.

Clive Sinclair went on to design the ZX80 home computer, introduced in 1980 as a £79.95 kit or £99.95 assembled, which was an immediate hit. It, and its successors, were the introduction to computing for a generation of British and European programmers, and its successors were marketed in the U.S. by Timex Sinclair.

In his later years, Sinclair said that he did not use the Internet, as having “technical or mechanical things around me” distracted from the process of invention.

Posted at 13:45 Permalink

Sputnik 1—Satellite, Scare, and Space Race

Posted at 11:35 Permalink

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Strange Orbit of “Earth's Second Moon”

The asteroid 3753 Cruithne is in an Earth-crossing orbit (thus classified as an “Aten asteroid”) with an orbital period identical to that of Earth. Its elliptical orbit takes it as far as 1.51 astronomical units (AU) (the mean distance between the Earth and Sun) from the Sun and as close as 0.5145 AU. This means that its position traces out a closed path around the Earth and, in the Earth's reference frame, appears to orbit Earth in a D-shaped “kidney bean” orbit, although it is not gravitationally bound to the Earth and thus not a true satellite. Although subject to perturbations by other planets over the very long term, this orbit is believed to be stable for millions of years into the future.

Posted at 11:26 Permalink

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Stop Digging—You're Headed for the Indian Ocean!

Posted at 11:10 Permalink

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

CONTINUITY: Tour of the International Space Station Kibō Module

This tour, presented in 360° immersive video (hold down your mouse button within the image and move the pointer to pan and tilt your viewpoint), is conducted by European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet. The audio is in French, with English subtitles. The Kibō (きぼう) or Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) was launched to the International Space Station by three space shuttle missions in 2008 and 2009, and is the largest single module of the space station. It includes a pressurised laboratory section and an external pallet with an airlock for moving payloads back and forth to the laboratory, with a robot arm to manipulate them. There is also an “attic”, which provides much-needed storage space on the crowded station.

Posted at 12:04 Permalink

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Revealed! “Algorithmic Abstraction and the Racial Neoliberal Rhetorics of 23andMe”

Here is the article, “Algorithmic Abstraction and the Racial Neoliberal Rhetorics of 23andMe”, published in the journal Rhetoric Review, vol. 40, no. 3, September 2021. The link, of course, only gives the abstract, which is as follows.

Western mathematics functions as a technology of violence when it enlists computational algorithms to underwrite racial neoliberalism. Theorizing algorithmic abstraction as a racial neoliberal technique, this article dramatizes the concept’s methodological affordances through a case study of 23andMe, which deploys algorithmic abstraction to affectively secure and sell Whiteness.

If you want to read the full text (and why wouldn't you, since who knows more about algorithmic abstraction and genetic sequencing and analysis than three English professors?), it'll cost you US$45 to download a PDF, or (bargain!), just US$159 for the whole journal issue.

Actually, I wonder if the postmodern title of the article is how you say, “I'll bet these DNA testing outfits eventually end up ratting out their customers' genomes to the Man” in Woke.

Posted at 13:27 Permalink

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Thallium—Colour, Compounds, and Murder

Posted at 11:12 Permalink

Friday, September 10, 2021

Ailerons Connected Backwards! The Wild Flight of Air Astana 1388

Here is more about the Air Astana flight 1388 incident.

Posted at 12:13 Permalink

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Moonfall—Do It Yourself Guide

There is a teaser trailer out for a movie scheduled for release in February 2022, Moonfall, which looks to be a particularly cheesy and absurd techno-disaster-thriller flick, even by the standards of the genre. See for yourself.

The premise is that the Moon has, for some reason, fallen out of its orbit and is closely approaching the Earth—in 2022. (I guess it really takes something to beat 2020 and 2021.) Anyway, as opposed to tidal disruption of the Moon when it crosses the Roche limit (which, for the Earth, is 6378 km), ocean tides scrubbing clean all the continents, etc., what seems to happen involves crashing cars, explosions, and for some screwball reason, the NASA space shuttle coming back from museums to fly again. How bad can it be? Well, the credits include Donald Sutherland.

Just how did the Moon lose enough orbital velocity to come close to the Earth? I'm not saying it's aliens, but from the trailer, that's the way to bet. And why would aliens expend enough energy to de-orbit the Moon to wreak havoc on the Earth rather than the more economical approach I used in Trek's End? I guess we'll have to wait and see which, for me, means until it comes around on Netflix.

Here, Scott Manley does the math on bringing the Moon down to Earth, and simulates the event in Universe Sandbox. For aspiring cosmic supervillains, he explains how, if you're patient, you can do it with half the delta-v by using a bi-elliptic transfer.

Posted at 12:20 Permalink

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Alvy Ray Smith, Computer Graphics Pioneer, and A Biography of the Pixel

Alvy's book, A Biography of the Pixel, was published in August, 2021.

Posted at 12:42 Permalink

The Area of a Super-Circle: Elliptic Integrals and Lemniscate Biscuits

Posted at 10:42 Permalink

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

How Do We Know if a Meteorite Came From Mars?

Posted at 11:11 Permalink

Monday, September 6, 2021

International Space Station Transits Mars

Posted at 12:34 Permalink

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Brian Keating on Life in the Universe, UFOs, and GalileAIo

Posted at 12:23 Permalink

Reaver Destroys Firefly

Posted at 10:53 Permalink

Friday, September 3, 2021

Age of Stupid, Part MMXCCLI

This is “selling” as a non-fungible token (NFT) for ETH 100, which at the current market price for Ether (the cryptocurrency of the Ethereum blockchain system) is valued at US$ 396,098. An “auction” is underway at a site called “PartyBid” which has, at this moment, commitments of ETH 54.96 (US$ 217,699) toward “purchasing” this work of “art”.

Posted at 13:14 Permalink

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Litigation vs. Innovation: SpaceX Responds to Amazon Anti-Starlink Filing

With Blue Origin falling far behind SpaceX and failing to deliver the engines it contracted to furnish for United Launch Alliance's next generation Vulcan rocket, and Amazon's Kuiper satellite Internet service yet to launch its first satellite while SpaceX's Starlink is approaching full operational status, Jeff Bezos seems to be adopting a strategy of suing his way to the stars, with litigation underway against NASA to block their selection of SpaceX for the human lunar lander and regulatory filings against SpaceX's plans to expand their Starlink constellation.

SpaceX just responded to the Amazon anti-Starlink filing with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission with this response [PDF], which begins with:

This letter is in response to the latest familiar tactics by Kuiper Systems LLC (“Amazon”) to delay a competitor, this time by claiming that Space Exploration Holdings, LLC (“SpaceX”) provided the Commission too much information about its next-generation constellation. Amazon’s recent missive is unfortunately only the latest in its continuing efforts to slow down competition, while neglecting to resolve the Commission’s concerns about Amazon’s own non-geostationary orbit (“NGSO”) satellite system. The Commission should see through these efforts and quickly put SpaceX’s application out for public comment where any issues can be fully vetted.

and concludes:

SpaceX has submitted complete information on its proposed next-generation constellation, satisfying every information requirement in the Commission’s rules. Amazon would clearly prefer to use procedural maneuvers to delay consideration of that application rather than allow it to proceed to consideration on the merits. As Amazon’s former Chief Executive has said in the past, procedural maneuvers—like the ones Amazon now deploys—have “become the bigger bottleneck than the technology.” The Commission should recognize this gambit for the obstructionist tactic that it is, reject Amazon’s request, and quickly put the amendment out for public comment.

Posted at 14:31 Permalink

Virgin Galactic's First Passenger Mission Flew off Course

“…a yellow light should 'scare the sh-- out of you, because when it turns red it's gonna be too late.”

Posted at 13:05 Permalink

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Giant Viruses and Their Predators

Posted at 13:09 Permalink

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Boeing 737 vs. Brick Wall

Posted at 14:30 Permalink