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October 20, 2014

Klaatu-Barada-Nikto, The Original Ctrl-Alt-Del

by robert hashemian @ 2:58 pm
Filed under: computers,microsoft,space

The Day the Earth Stood StillI was watching the classic 1951 movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and found it amusing that the command Klaatu-Barada-Nikto given to the robot Gort by actress Patricia Neal, almost had the same effect as Ctrl-Alt-Del has on many computers today.

In that scene, the robot was on the verge of rampaging and destroying Earth when the actress was able to reset it by giving it the voice command, Klaatu-Barada-Nikto.

Wonder if Microsoft guys had seen that movie when they came up with the Ctrl-Alt-Del keyboard combination to reboot a computer.

Strangely, I had never heard of this movie nor the voice command which seems to have a high degree of cult fame, nor the actress Patricia Neal whom I found to be particularly beautiful.

 

December 5, 2011

Voyager 1 and Earth-like Planet

by robert hashemian @ 11:13 pm
Filed under: space,star trek — Tags: , ,

A pair of interesting space stories today.

Voyager1 launched in 1977 is now 11 billion miles away from earth. It's in an area thought to be the final barrier between the solar system and the inner-stellar space which is outside the sun's sphere of influence. Who knows what sorts of stuff lie beyond the barrier or if the spacecraft will be able to transmit anything once the barrier is crossed.

Also discovery of a new planet was confirmed orbiting its sun in the so-called Goldilocks zone where liquid water and therefore life become possibilities. It's about 600 light-years away which means if we're being observed from there right now, they see the Forbidden City being completed in China and the Ottoman empire in its infancy.

Now just imagine if Voyager ever makes it to this planet and the aliens scratch their heads (if they have fingers or even heads) trying to figure it out. It'll be their version of a UFO I suppose. We'll never know of course. Even if Voyager was headed towards the planet, it'll be some 300,000 years before it'll arrive. By then, humans are either gone as a race or perhaps morphed into different beings.

As a kid I marveled at these types of news, imagining myself aboard a spaceship visiting far-flung worlds. Now that I'm an adult, well, I still imagine myself aboard that spaceship.

Blame it on Star Trek 🙂

 

May 11, 2010

Time Travel

by robert hashemian @ 10:57 pm
Filed under: science,space — Tags: , ,

People may find Stephen Hawking's ideas of alien encounters humorous, but it'll be silly not to give it any possibility that intelligent life exists outside our boundaries. There's a chance, even if a small one.

But what recently captured my attention was Hawking's latest musings about time travel, wormholes, and speed of light. I think I finally understand how one can travel to the future on a time machine. But first a couple of axioms:

  • The faster you travel, the slower the time passes for you. If one could reach the speed of light, time would stop, but no one can reach that speed.
  • Travelling to the past is not possible because of the potential paradox. For example if one travels to the past and kills an ancestor, then the person would not have existed to travel to the past and kill the ancestor, and so on.

With those basic rules in mind, here's how one can travel to the future. If the person gets onboard a train that travels really fast, time will slow down for that person, but the rest of the world will be on normal time. Now if the train reaches near-light speeds, each second for that person could be the equivalent of years on the outside. If the train returns to the station after 10 minutes (as measured by the person onboard), the world would be centuries beyond the time when the person had left.

The person is only 10 minutes older but centuries have passed on the outside and that's how the person finds himself in the future. There's just one problem. Since travelling to the past isn't possible, the person is now stuck in the future and can not return to the original time to tell the tale. In other words time travel to the future is a one-way ticket. Something to think about if you ever get the chance to jump aboard that train 🙂

May 8, 2010

Voyager Spacecrafts

by robert hashemian @ 2:32 pm
Filed under: space — Tags: , , ,

Heliosphere and Voyager Locations

It's astonishing to think how far from home both Voyager crafts have travelled, nearly 10.5 billion miles. Equally amazing is the fact that both crafts are still working and in communication with Earth. Of course at that distance, it takes messages over a half a day to reach them and another half a day for their responses to reach Earth.

Recently Voyager 2 has been sending back garbled messages, prompting some to think that the problem is related to the age of the spacecraft. But the issue could also be the result of proximity to the Heliopause, a theoretical boundary at the edge of the Solar System that may have a turbulent nature.

Whatever the case, I think it'll be hundreds, if not thousands of years before humans can unravel some of these mysteries and uncover some of these unknowns. Too bad we won't be around to witness these great discoveries. But I must say the specter of what discoveries lie ahead, makes today's world issues seem so petty and insignificant. Meanwhile check out Voyager 2 tweets.

December 15, 2009

Super-Earth Discoveries

by robert hashemian @ 12:02 am
Filed under: space

The reported discoveries of super-earths (extra-solar planets larger than earth), can certainly do a number of one's imagination. At least it did to mine.

Imagine for a moment, if you will, that some 100 light-years from our planet, a rocky planet is orbiting its sun. What would that planet look like? Would there be any life there? If so what would its inhabitants look like? Would they even qualify as life form to us?

I know, a bunch of what's and no real answers. Sorry, but I must take a religious detour here. Creationists will have us believe that other than earth no other planet harbors life because there's no mention of this in any Abrahamic books. Then again some still believe that earth is flat and the center of the universe.

But, let's assume that god exists. Then couldn't he have created other worlds and simply not mentioned them in the books. It's possible, right? Are people that arrogant that they assume god must share all his knowledge with them? Who’s the master here? Maybe god didn't think these people deserve to know everything. I know I wouldn't share everything if I created them.

Anyways, if we apply mere probability, then there is a chance that there are other worlds with some kinds of life forms, maybe primitive, maybe advanced, or maybe totally incomprehensible to us. Would be a mind-numbing discovery for sure.

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May 24, 2008

Phoenix's Mars Landing

by robert hashemian @ 11:04 pm
Filed under: science,space

MarsI bet the team in charge of the Phoenix spacecraft is not going to enjoy a restful night as they prepare to land this hunk of metal near Mars's north pole tomorrow. I'll probably sleep fine, but I'm hoping for good news tomorrow.

This landing is specially poignant, since the last craft (Mars Polar Lander) that attempted a powered landing using retro rockets went MIA on Mars over 8 years ago. The rovers sent up since then have all utilized successful airbag landings, but Phoenix is going for the traditional soft landing and that means edgy nerves while awaiting a successful touchdown signal nearly 9 ½ months after its launch.

Unlike the rovers, Phoenix is a stationary craft, designed to survey the area for water and primordial matter. Depending on its discoveries, it could pave the way for future missions, culminating in manned exploration of the red planet.

For me this is an incredible triumph of science and engineering, specially since I'm still amazed at seeing 500-ton airplanes getting airborne and traveling vast distances. The fact that a tiny craft can be controlled from 35 million miles away is nothing short of miraculous.

Here is the Phoenix blogs updating the events surrounding this mission. Good luck, guys.

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Phoenix's Mars Landing

by robert hashemian @ 11:04 pm
Filed under: science,space

MarsI bet the team in charge of the Phoenix spacecraft is not going to enjoy a restful night as they prepare to land this hunk of metal near Mars's north pole tomorrow. I'll probably sleep fine, but I'm hoping for good news tomorrow.

This landing is specially poignant, since the last craft (Mars Polar Lander) that attempted a powered landing using retro rockets went MIA on Mars over 8 years ago. The rovers sent up since then have all utilized successful airbag landings, but Phoenix is going for the traditional soft landing and that means edgy nerves while awaiting a successful touchdown signal nearly 9 ½ months after its launch.

Unlike the rovers, Phoenix is a stationary craft, designed to survey the area for water and primordial matter. Depending on its discoveries, it could pave the way for future missions, culminating in manned exploration of the red planet.

For me this is an incredible triumph of science and engineering, specially since I'm still amazed at seeing 500-ton airplanes getting airborne and traveling vast distances. The fact that a tiny craft can be controlled from 35 million miles away is nothing short of miraculous.

Here is the Phoenix blogs updating the events surrounding this mission. Good luck, guys.

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September 23, 2007

Keeping Humans in Space

by robert hashemian @ 11:33 pm
Filed under: space

NASA Image from Apollo 11Being a space exploration fan (hard not to be when you're a trekkie), I try to keep up with the news and commentaries on the subject. I was disappointed with this recent article in which an respected scientist criticizes manned space missions.

In his view, many of NASA's projects that revolve around putting men in space should be scrapped or at least robots should be used instead. He reasons that the cost of such projects do not justify the returns as the public is no longer dazzled or intrigued by seeing humans in space.

The argument does have some merit. Astronauts are no longer the hero celebrities they once were and their news are generally drowned out in the ocean of other headlines. To a scientist such as Steven Weinberg, only the tangible and the measurable can have any value. What he misses is that capturing people's imagination is just as important if we are to continue with the business of exploring the space.

Look at how much fanfare comes out of China every time they send a man up. There's national pride, a feeling of involvement and accomplishment, albeit by proxy, and international recognition.

There is yet the private side of space exploration to consider. Manned space flights have paved the way for private industries to ratchet up their plans to make space flight a possibility for average citizens. As more money pours into the private sector, more research and more exploration could ensue. That's positive news for the space industry as a whole.

People who are bored with humans in space would be bored even faster with machines in space. And they would be completely disinterested in some esoteric contraption carrying out some incomprehensible experiment in space whose champions would be a handful of babbling and over-excited scientists. Cutting the humans out to save money for other space projects may end up killing even more of those projects as those budgets shrivel up due to lack of public interest and support.

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March 14, 2007

YouTube Copyright Trouble

by robert hashemian @ 12:19 am
Filed under: google,law,music,space

When Google bought the fledging, but popular video sharing site, YouTube, for $1.6 billion in early October of 2006, it created a firestorm of controversy surrounding the transaction. It seemed like we were back again in 1999, the height of the Internet bubble.

Google itself had actually launched its own video sharing site months prior to the acquisition. I had actually never visited the YouTube site, but had begun to check out some of the Google videos, mostly motorcycle stunt and race clips. Some praised Google for its quick action in grabbing a popular site instead of pouring cash and resources in its own service. But many were convinced that Google had overpaid. The acquisition translated to instant wealth for the YouTube executives and employees. Even the administrative assistant there became an over-night millionaire. Then began the task of integrating YouTube into the Google roster of products, the way it had been done a few years earlier with Blogger.

But it wasn't too long before the copyright monster started to rear its ugly head. Only a few days after the buyout announcement, YouTube acceded to the Japanese media's complaints by removing some 30,000 of their clips from its site. Obviously media companies weren't sanguine about having their work pirated and put on display on YouTube to begin with, but YouTube was a startup with little money. There was little to be gained by dragging a cash-poor company to court. But this was a different matter, Google was a titan, flushed with money and a rich valuation and the media was smelling blood.

The next big copyright news came on early February 2007 when Viacom demanded the removal of 100,000 clips from YouTube that it claimed to have had copyrights to. Finally the hammer fell today as Viacom came out swinging with a $1 billion lawsuit claiming that YouTube and its parent, Google, had failed to protect Viacom's copyright interests in regards to 160,000 videos on its site. There is speculation that the lawsuit is sour grapes, stemming from the fact that the two companies had failed to reach a licensing pact. It's difficult to predict the outcome of this litigation, but for its part YouTube maintains that it has and continues to make all reasonable efforts in protecting owners' rights on its site.

All this has some people questioning Google's initial decision to acquire YouTube and therefore find itself mired in the legal mess. But if Google had succeeded with its own video sharing site, it would have found itself in the same situation today, albeit at a lesser cost than the YouTube's purchase price. What I wonder is what effect all this distraction will have on nurturing and growing YouTube.

I, as a user, have been on YouTube a few times now. The user-generated clips of practical jokes and humorous situations were amusing at first, but the novelty quickly wore off. What I have generally been viewing consists of bits and pieces of news, educational material (mostly technology related), music videos, and nostalgic clips of old Persian TV. I assume most of these videos are copyrighted, and if complaints and subsequent removals continue, YouTube would soon have nothing for me to watch. I admit, some user-created material there have redeeming quality. I found this one very thought provoking, for example. But I even wonder if at some point this video will be axed as it plays a Pink Floyd tune in its introductory portion.

I have to admit that there was one genre of videos on YouTube I would watch for which I was labeled (deservedly) immature and childish by my family. These were clips of a popular 80's televangelist, Robert Tilton, embellished with audible flatulence perfectly synchronized with his contorted facial expressions. Guess what, those clips have also been removed, replaced by the following note: "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Reverend Robert Tilton." If the good Pastor succeeded in having YouTube delete these comedic but otherwise useless clips, I wonder if YouTube is on the proverbial slippery slope of losing the majority of its assets and thus its audience.

YouTube Copyright
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November 12, 2006

Mars Blue Sunset

by robert hashemian @ 10:32 pm
Filed under: science,space

Of all the images sent from various orbiters, telescopes, and satellites gathering information on mars, this one has captured my imagination the most. I think It was captured by the Opportunity rover and it shows the Sun setting on Mars.

It's a surreal image, inviting the viewer to look at every detail of the terrain on our sister planet. The Sun almost looks like a distant moon. Hard to believe that even at that distance, mars is still a slave to the Sun's gravitational forces. Notice how much smaller the disk of the Sun is compared to what we see on Earth. How could a star so far away from this planet still exert its forces on it? How could Mars still experience day time and night time from an object so distant?

Wouldn't it be something to actually be there and experience this image first hand? As much progress as we have made in space exploration, I suppose landing humans on Mars is still a distant reality, possibly way beyond my life time. Still, looking at this image tells me that we have no choice but to continue our efforts to learn more about the universe that we are a part of. Clearing the haze of scientific and mathematical complexities that are part of exploring the space, there is the essence of old-fashioned human curiosity that keeps driving us out into the unknown. It's as old as humanity itself, and it's a quest driven by a never-quenching and inexplicable thirst to explore, discover, and experience – a simple desire to know more.
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