Aerodynamics and Rocket Turbopumps, a Washington, DC Vacation


Yufang and I jaunted to Washington, DC for a few days this past week for some much needed R & R.  While we were there, we visited the National Air and Space Museum (NASM), the NASM Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, walked the Mall at night, and dropped in at the Smithsonian Zoo, albeit when most of the critters were on break.  Also, we enjoyed ginormous fried shrimp with my cousin, Angie, in Mechanicsville, Maryland, and the next day, Yufang and I trekked to Bob’s Noodle 66 at the end of the red metro line for some delicious Taiwanese food.  It was a great trip, and Yufang was a real trooper, enduring countless aircraft (e.g., SR-71 Blackbird, B-29 Enola Gay, Concorde, F-86 Sabre Jet) and equally numerous spacecraft and rockets (e.g., Space Shuttle Enterprise, V-2 Rocket, SpaceShipOne, and Apollo 11 Command Module) as well as my meticulous explanations about how they work and why they are important.  She clearly has the patience of Job!

One curious thing I found at the Udvar-Hazy Center’s McDonnell Space Hangar was Willy Ley’s 1956 Hugo Award.  See it here.

I’ve posted about 200 of our 400 photos on Flickr here.

Cyberspace and the New Mind

Neil Easterbrook recently sent an email to the SFRA listserve regarding The Atlantic article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” by Nicholas Carr, which is available here.  Neil was using this article as a prompt for his inquiry for SF works that address the neurology of reading and how the act of reading changes the way people think.  I suggested Richard Powers’ Galatea 2.2 as a possible text, because the AI, Helen, evolves over time as she learns the literary canon from the fictional “Richard Powers.”

I argree with Carr that Google and the Internet are changing the way we think.  As are cell phones and other digital necessities such as the iPod.  What I’m concern about is how something like Google can be employed to shape the way we think.  This is an idea that comes from thinking about Chomsky’s work on the self-censorship in the media, because of such effects as the increasing usage of government press releases in place of real reporting (which costs money and cuts into the bottom line).  In the case of Google, companies can sponsor links so that they appear higher in search results.  Also, as Carr’s article states, Google eventually wants to give users of its service just what they’re looking for.  Combining these two things together may not be exactly what a user is looking for, but an approximation based on the shaping of results toward capitalistic ends.  I fear the future won’t be about a Google AI supplanting our way of thinking, but rather about the buying and selling of our way of thinking.  I believe that capitalism already shapes our thinking, our consciousness, but in the Google model, where users don’t pay for services, but are given a service in exchange for the implicit agreement that advertising in some way pays for their access to Google’s services, users can’t pay to opt out of this new form of consciousness shaping.  They don’t want users to engage in the system in this way, because the system’s thought shaping serves corporate interests, including their own, which are diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive with an empowered user/individual/consumer.

Huddled Around the iPhone at Christmas

My Dad, Bud, surprised me with an iPhone for Christmas.  I knew that it would have an unparalleled power over me.  It bridges the trifecta of digital media, Internet connectivity, and voice communication in a sleek, streamlined package housing a sleek, cyberpunk gestural user interface.  Okay, maybe I’m embellishing the last point, but it’s safe to say that the iPhone is badass!

Expect more updates to Dynamic Subspace via on-the-spot correspondence.  I fear this will detract from my ability to read and socialize at coffee shops.  Oh well, I’m sinking deeper into the integrated circuit, and it feels fine.

Facebook and Wikipedia Troubles

First, 02138 released an article complete with court documentation slamming Mark Zuckerberg as a no-good cheat, and now, the higher echelon editors of Wikipedia are reportedly maintaining a secret email list to kibosh communist, er, infiltrating contributors set on destroying the encyclopedia from within–unfortunately, the accounts they’ve banned are more than likely legit editors.

I, like many of you, rely on these sites for social networking on the former, and quick and dirty research on the latter. The case against Zuckerberg sounds air tight, and the group think paranoia going on with Wikipedia editors challenges the supposed level playing field contributors are supposed to occupy. These sites are useful and becoming increasingly integral to the online experience. When this all shakes out, I wonder where we’ll all be in a year?

Pirates (Sort Of) Beware

As reported on BoingBoing, the developer of Display Eater for Mac OS X apparently configured the app to delete the user’s home directory if a pirated serial number were entered. However, it appears to have been a scare campaign instead of a genuine threat to the serial trading community. I sent in an email to BoingBoing letting them know about the developer’s public letter regarding the fiasco as well as telling them about a real instance of a program doing this back in 2004.

Microsoft has already done as much or more than this by locking users out of their computers if they don’t activate Windows. I wonder if we’re beginning to enter an era of Cold War application development. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to see if an app is packing heat under compiled code.

Photo above: Ardy berates the warez kiddies.