This is the Silicon Valley archive | Back to Main
This is the Silicon Valley archive | Back to Main
After exactly 6 years (first post) its time to archive this blog. I've had a great time keeping a trail of my online journeys over these past 6 years and it served me well in my worldly travels, but its time for a new itinerary. I will keep the content up for the Google but I won't be posting here anymore. If you're interested in staying connected, follow me on Twitter @tobedetermined until I find a new home to share my current and future travels.
Thanks to my colleagues, and continuing my new found blogging paradigm 'write-until-you-publish' of 2 weeks ago, I am back at writing an ephemeral post to bring online some thoughts I see passing through my conciousness these last few days. No word smithing here, just off the bat words on paper. Like, there is so much conversation and noise about NASA and its future, I don't have much to add, except that I like what I read so far.
I'm having mexican in an obscure taqueria in South San Francisco on my way back up to the city from NASA Ames where I stayed over to watch the SOTU (State Of The Union). And watching it made me realise its very different watching these types of speeches as an outsider, because it makes you realise the 'tribal' nature of these events.
Satellites as social objects? Its a conversation I had at work earlier this week. If youtube can build a platform around video as social objects, Flickr can build a platform around photos as social objects, and Linkedin can do the same around resumes, what would be NASA's most interesting objects to build a platform around?
This week's link, also as a reminder to self: Edge question 2010: How Has The Internet Changed The Way You Think?
I'm curious if any of you ever asks that question? And if so, what comes to mind first? For me, its media. Call it New Media, call it Old Media, call it Media2.0, or call it Medea (which actually is an excellent movie by Pier Paolo Pasolini). We might not all get a chance to get up there, but using 21st century technology, we can get pretty close (take that, Hollywood yawn inspiring Star Trek remake).
Here at NASA Ames, in the heart of Silicon Valley (aka New Media Valley), we're surrounded by the New Media vibe. Media evolve with technology, and with Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and alike only a stone throw away, the merger of outer space and cyberspace (sic) seems to be an obvious one.
Yes, there are slow days in the Valley, but there are also these days (and weeks) when everything seems to come together. The Future of Space Exploration? Well, its Low Earth Orbit still, but the ability to personally experience the STS125 mission to Hubble is quite impressive. Its the first time I actually witnessed a mediated launch of a Space Shuttle while being in the US. Standing in the NASA Ames Exploration Center, physically experiencing the low vibrations of the wind blowing at KSC just before launch with the voice over of Mission Control made it a memorable moment.
Last year I worked with a group of people here at NASA Ames to develop a simulation of the STS125 spacewalks (yes, windows only for now). Looking at the real thing today, the feeling of having been there before, in person, is quite profound. If only NASATV would allow me to subscribe to a pinging service that would alert me when the astronauts come out of the airlock for another spacewalk, I wouldn't have to miss any of it.
Also this week (well, last week really), NASA released a new set of Photosynths. Of the International Space Station (ISS) this time. Try it for yourself and dive into the high res images and get a feel of what its like to be onboard and circling the ISS. Its New Media research avant la lettre: how to leverage New Media to get you up there. And as our CIO here at Ames Chris C Kemp says: There seems to be a healty appetite for more innovation in this space.
On top of all that, today we are celebrating three fantastic years of Pete Worden's leadership at Ames! Looking forward for an additional 3+ years of his leadership of NASA's research center at the heart of the New Media (r)evolution.
It has been a long while since I last posted anything on this blog. Its not that I have been on holiday or anything, but given the pace of the web these days, blogging seems so...20th century...Twitter is definitely the new blogging. But anyway, lots of good stuff has happened over the last few weeks. Our NASA Ames CIO Chris C. Kemp launched a blog with a pretty inspiring message, Kepler is doing fine, Ames is getting its awards, and frankly, the web is still leading the way towards the stars. NASA is still without a new administrator, but given the dire circumstances here in the US, i can't blame him. And to be honest, NASA does need a bit of a rethink, so the fact that no one has been named so far (I hear its imminent) doesn't strike me as too uncomfortable. So where are we with bringing outer space onto the web? Interesting developments are cooking here at Ames, of which I can't tell much at the moment, but once they are ready to go, i'll be sure to post them here. ps. At least its comforting to see Obama's portrait in building 200 (aka center management building)...
On my way to Amsterdam I ran into the excellent exhibition "Out Of This World" at the San Francisco Airport (SFO):
Few people today can recall how fantastic the dreams of outer space were prior to its exploration. The knowledge gained from repeated trips into space has largely eclipsed the wild conjecture about the strange planets existing beyond our atmosphere, the beings we would encounter, and the spacecraft that would take us there. But before space was explored, it had to be imagined. The inspired ideas of space exploration and future technologies are vividly reflected in the related toys and household products that permeated American popular culture in the early to mid-twentieth century.
(((btw, the 3 ((( thingie I stole from Bruce Sterling's Beyond the Beyond blog. Its like meta discussing your own blogpost...)))
There are different takes on this, and not having had the time to think things completely through sofar (and suspicious whether I'll have it in the near term), i'll just post some thoughts here and plan to come back to it at a later stage and possibly in a different shape and form. (((FYI, I find my twitter updates these days greatly outnumber the number of blogposts I manage to write and am happy about actually going live (there is an increasing number of unfinished blog posts in my movabletype blog webapp), so for all you ~50 readers of this blog, if you're really interested in my irregular updates and ramblings, why don't you take the red pill and subscribe to my twitter feeds on tobedetermined and NASA_Ames_Web because that's where you'll find an up-to-date and engaged research record of implementing the ideas that have been floating around on this blog since 2006, i.e. moving towards a merger of outer space and cyberspace...because make no mistake: its happening, and its happening right here, at NASA Ames Research Center.)))
Part I: eating your own dogfood is a term commonly used in the sofware business when employees of a company use their own tools and thereby create a feedback loop wherein the builders of tools also get to be the users of those same tools, leading to a much faster iterative usability loop and a very efficient way to speed up the evolution of a tool. From what I heard, Google even uses the term 'dogfood' for their internal products. In the case of NASA, one tool in case that would greatly benefit from people eating their own dogfood is its web publishing and communication tool, commonly known as The CMS.
Part II: Following a talk on synthetic biology a month or so ago at the Long Now series, I finally managed to get a tour of the labs here at Ames where scientists work on the future of space exploration. In particular, John Cumbers, Graduate student synthetic biology from Brown University, showed me and Delia Santiago around at his office and labs where he works on cultivating and studying organisms for potential application in space exploration (think: biological fuel generation, etc). The underlying objective here is that space exploration will not get anywhere if we stay stuck in the paradigm of carrying everything we need from the Earth. Launch costs are prohibitively expensive if we need to prepare for a trip by taking every bit of consumable with us upon embarking on the trip (((the Columbus metaphor comes to mind but I am going to skilfully navigate around this outdated metaphor))).
John is particularly interested in applying synthetic biology in realising Biological In Situ Resource Utilization (BISRU), something that has the potential to get us to places where we can build on our own consumables "off the land". One example he gave was testing it out on a comet 2 years away from Earth, with a 2 year return cycle. The labs here at Ames are fascinating, GATTACA comes to mind but in a different context.
The field of synthetic biology is still so new there are no good text books on the subject (((here's a good primer))). They do have conferences about it though.
Below are some images I made while following John around (more at Flickr). Most interesting, the book with the yellow dots is actually a real-life catalogue of genetic building blocks, called the 'Registry of Standard Biological Parts'. Whoever is building genetically engineered organisms can use a piece of pre-fab genetic code from this catalogue by dipping a pipet on the yellow spot, thereby subtracting some specific DNA sample. Its like LEGO, but the biological version of it. Welcome to the future...
75 sweet minutes of Michael T Jones (Chief Technology Advocate @ Google) at the AGU earlier this month.
Did I mention Silicon Valley is alive? Its true! When you hang around the bay area (the South Bay that is...), you'll see the airplanes lining up for the landing in SFO or OAK every night of the day. Its one of those views I originally shared with Chris Kemp, CIO of NASA Ames, back in 2006, which made me want to come to the Valley. With the San Mateo Bridge on your left, you'll see a night sky filled with airplanes ligning up to land. Its like living in the future. Its like survival. Its like the human condition in all its splendor: humankind will evolve, whether you like it or not!