Category Archives: Science

How we discover our future.

Dream Jobs You’ve Never Heard Of: Parabolic Flight Crew

In Douglas Adam’s book Life, The Universe, and Everything, he shares the secret of flying: it’s the art of learning how to “throw yourself at the ground and miss.” Tim Bailey  teaches people how to do just that:  throw themselves at the ground (in an airplane) and miss in order to fly.

Tim Bailey — Parabolic Expert

Tim Bailey — Parabolic Expert

Professionally speaking, Tim wears a lot of hats. Although his LinkedIn profile gives his job title as simply “Catalyst”, it  then lists 10 separate jobs under “Current”. To name just a few, he works on SpaceVidcast, Space Task Force, Yuri’s Night (The World Space Party), and is the co-founder and Chief Operating Office of Sky Fire Lab—an independent organization promoting space travel in the media. See a theme yet?  But if you scroll down to the bottom of his lengthy list of job titles, you will see that he is also a member of the Parabolic Flight Crew for the ZERO-G Corporation. What’s that you ask? parabolic what?

Tim’s job is the closest thing there is to being an astronaut without actually going into space. He spends his days assisting and training people in aircraft flights that simulate a microgravity environment—effectively he’s a flight attendant teaching people how to fly—and he is one of only nine people on the planet qualified to do this.

Tim has performed over 150 such flights, each with multiple parabolas—where the craft goes up and down at a steep angles to create a “weightless” free-fall environment inside—equating to over 24 hours of his life that Tim has spent unencumbered by the Earthly bonds of gravity. This has led to Tim’s unique ability to, as he puts it,  “execute some fairly bad-ass flips in any axis [x, y, and z].”

In addition to being an evangelist and trainer for manned space travel, though, Tim is also a husband and recent father. Judging by his recent Twitter posts, he spends a lot of time with his family going between  Kennedy Space Center and Disney World—a true geek dad’s paradise!

I recently chatted with Tim about his job, his work advocating for manned space travel, and his own future in space.

Read the full interview on GeekDad »

Catching Up With JCT: Blake’s 7

Wow, I’ve been busy the last several weeks! Besides entertaining the in-laws for Thanksgiving, a presentation on Web fonts to Refresh DC, and of course my full-time job at AOL redesigning Pixcetera and teaching classes on CSS, I’m working on and finishing a few side projects. Over the next few days to warm up for a good nights writing on my new book, I’ll blog a bit about what I’m up to. Tonight! Sci-fi!

Blake’s 7 Web Site

Blake's 7 Web Site

Blake's 7 Web Site

Last Winter I was at The LA Doctor Who convention (yes, I’m a huge Doctor Who fan) and met Andrew Mark Sewell who is rebooting another one of my favorite Brit Sci-fi shows, Blake’s 7. If you are not familiar with the story, it was a great and epic space opera that I have little doubt was part of the inspiration for the awesome FireFly series. We got to talking, and I agreed to do the site.

Eight months and a lot of work later, I’m proud to announce the launch of the new Blake’s 7 Web site! There are still some details to iron out, but it’s ready to promote both the exiting audio adventures and the planned animated and live action series.

I decided to use WordPress as the CMS, something I’m doing a lot of these days, added a great flash based slide scroller called Featurific (thanks to Rich Christianson for all of his help), and then did a lot of work laying transparent PNGs with CSS. The overall effect has a lot of overlapping images and gradients seamlessly merging together.

As always, constructive criticism is appreciated.

Astronauts and Aliens Agree: Obama Has the Right Stuff!

Whether you like your science hard or with a bit of fiction on the side, Barack Obama has the Right Stuff to take America into the future. Obama has long praised and supported NASA, recognizing that it has been crippled by eight years of underfunding and programs designed for political expediency. He knows that NASA has fallen on hard times and has detailed plans for turning it around. These forward thinking policies have won him the support of many in the aerospace industry. Obama has never waivered from his promise to increase spending at NASA and has set a clear vision for its future.

Obama can take us into the Future.

Obama has the right stuff to take us into the future.

As for John McCain, despite recent comments that NASA would not fall prey to his federal spending freeze, he is now waffling on funding. Just this week, he made confusing statements that NASA would have it’s budget frozen. Given his indecisiveness, and the fact that he has not laid out any clear vision other than the same-ol-same-ol of the Bush administration, there is little doubt that a McCain administration will be no friend to space flight.

Human space-flight is vital to this country! And Barack Obama knows that. That’s why veteran astronauts like John Glenn and Bill Nelson have long endorsed him. Now former Space Shuttle astronaut Dr. Dan Barry, founder and past president of the Association of Space Explorers Rusty Schweickart, and former Space Shuttle astronaut Dr. Kathy Thornton all signed on to be Obamanauts in order to show their support for Sen. Barack Obama’s space policies.

Other Obamanauts, like the first American woman in space Sally Ride, are speaking up for Barack Obama, because they know the stakes are just too high. We need someone in the White House who can lead us into a future of peace and prosperity in space, not drag us back into the mistakes of the past. She says in her editorial:

Obama also has impressed me with his grasp of the challenges our space program faces and his agenda for where we go from here. Obama clearly understands the importance of human spaceflight and exploration.

Even noted pointy-eared alien, actor Lenord Nemoy seems to have a fondness for Obama, talking about meeting him at an event where they exchanged the hopeful Vulcan greeting “Live Long and Prosper.”

There are a lot of reasons to vote for Barack Obama, and even reasons not to vote for him. However, If you simply do not trust Barack Obama, if you are paranoid that he is not what he seems to be,  then there is little I can say to you. But I can at least ask you to open your mind for a moment and know that Obama’s vision of the future is one of hope, exploration, inclusivity, and, yes, adventure, the same vision that Gene Rodenbery had for our future in Star Trek. In Star Trek, Rodenberry asked us to believe that humanity would boldly go into space to make our own world better.

Isn’t it time we elected a president with the right stuff to get us back on the right track?

I’m an Obamanaut (And So Can You!)

Join Us!

Join Us!

A few weeks ago, my friend Tim Baily was looking for a logo to use for a new group supporting Barack Obama’s Space Exploration Policies called the Obamanauts; I immediately volunteered. We took the standard Obama “O”, then added a star field in the background and a swooshing space-ship (inspired by the old Loony Tunes cartoons with Ralph Phillips saving the earth from alien invasion.) I matched the fonts as closely as I could and then created a bumper sticker to be given out at an upcoming Obamanauts rally in Florida. It was a big hit.

If you are a US citizen, you need to consider a lot of important issues when deciding who to cast your vote for in the upcoming US Presidential Election. The economy, energy, education, health-care, and the security of this country from attack are all crucial.  Yet everyone has issues that are more important to them than others, which will often help tip your vote in favor of one or the other candidates. For myself and many others, one of the most vital issues facing the US is its place in space exploration.

Why Space Exploration? Aren’t there more pressing issues? When you think about it, America’s role in space exploration touches on the most pressing issues that are being discussed:

  • Security: We increasingly rely on satellite technology to allow us to know what is going on in the world without the need to put people into harm’s way.
  • Health-care: New medicines are being developed in zero-g laboratories that cannot be mimicked on earth.
  • Education: Space Exploration relies on an educated population, one that understands science and its role in our lives.
  • Energy: Space Exploration has always pushed the boundaries of our energy sources. In fact many of the “alternative” fuel sources today were initially developed by NASA for use in space.
  • Economy: What makes our economy strong is a secure, healthy, and well educated population that is not dependent on foreign governments for the energy that powers that economy (see above).

Compare Obama’s and McCain’s plans side by side, and I believe that you will find on all of these issues Barack Obama has the best, most forward thinking, plan.  Whereas McCain gives the same lip service to NASA that previous presidents have always given (while also ominously stressing its military importance), Obama talks about the need to fundamentally restructure an institution for the 21st century.

When I was growing up, NASA united Americans to a common purpose and inspired the world with accomplishments we are still proud of.  Today, NASA is an organization that impacts many facets of American life.  I believe NASA needs an inspirational vision for the 21st Century.  My vision will build on the great goals set forth in recent years, to maintain a robust program of human space exploration and ensure the fulfillment of NASA’s mission.  Together, we can ensure that NASA again reflects all that is best about our country and continue our nation’s preeminence in space.

Barack Obama

When I was growing up, NASA was the pride of this country. The National Air and Space Administration had taken the US and the World  to the moon and was poised for yet greater missions. Then a series of mostly Republican Administrations scaled NASA back, first removing the luster and then the pride from this important organization. Over the years, what once represented the future and greatness of the US  has increasingly become the butt of jokes.

Although we are facing difficult financial times, Obama still talks with pride about NASA and what he will do to put it back on track. This is why I am proud to tbe an Obamanaut.

If you want to be an Obamanaut, you can get bumper stickers, buttons, and T-shirts from Zazzle.

Sarah Palin: “The Flintstones was a Great Documentary!”

Flintstones: Fact ot Fiction

The Flintstones: Fact or Fiction?

Does Sarah Palin believe that human beings and dinosaurs lived side-by-side a few thousand years ago? Palin is not answering that question now; of course, right now she’s not really answering any questions without John McCain by her side to moderate. However, she is on record as wanting Creationism to be taught in American science classes. Creationism puts forward a “theory” that the universe is much younger than the figure of 12-14 billion years widely accepted by scientists and then has to do a lot of fancy foot-work to make the physical evidence fit their theory.

However, if Palin is being tight lipped on the issue, where can we go to find out about what she believes about Creationism? The Creation “Museum” was set up as an alternative to the secular museums to give fundamentalists a place to go and learn the truth about the history of the Universe. Through its exhibits, this museum puts forth the pretense that it uses the same data as secular scientists, but comes to a different conclusion:

Everyone has the same facts, but we don’t all have the same starting points. Using the Bible as your starting point, prepare to travel back 6,000 years to the dawn of creation as you enjoy the Six Days Theater. Witness the true time line of the universe unfold through the 7 C’s of History [Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, Cross, Consummation].
Creation Museum Web Site, Plan Your Visit

If the Republicans had put forward a candidate that did not accept that the Sun revolves around the Earth we would assume that she was a quack. Yet the same science that tells us that the Sun is only one star amongst  70 sextillion stars in the Universe also tells us that the Universe must be billions–not thousands–of years old to explain how we can see stars that are billions of light-years away.

Why do Christian Fundamentalists have to believe in a 6,000 year old Universe? They believe that their Bible is the literal truth (and I will not point out here all the inherent problems with that line of thought), therefore everything that has happened since the beginning of the Universe is in that Bible. The Young Earth Creationists (as they are known) take this one step further, claiming they can compute the age of the Universe by using that Bible as a time-line.

So, why does our best (secular) science tell us that the Universe is billions of years old? According to the Young Earth Creationists, God just made it look that way. Think about it: they are saying that the God they believe in is intentionally trying to trick us by creating a Universe that looks much older than it actually is simply to test our faith.

This is what Sarah Palin believes too, whether she will now publicly admit it or not. If she believes in the literal truth of her Bible, then she believes in a 6,000 year old Universe, she believes that dinosaurs and humans lived side-by-side, and she believes in a Universe run by a God who would deceive its creation just to prove a point.

And John McCain believes in Sarah Palin.