Tag Archives: NASA

Stuff You May Have Missed – August 2012

31 Aug

I make it a point each month to write at least one post in each of the six categories here at my blog: photography, social media, PR, technology, music and writing. It’s my way of keeping myself accountable for having a productive blog, and these are topics I’m interested in on a personal level. Most months I’m able to do this without thinking, since the posts are topics I’m into anyway, but sometimes I’ll go more into one than the other. I’m happy to report that this month has been happily well-rounded, with several posts covering all of the categories we favor at rsmithing.com. In case you missed them, here’s a review:

Single Image Sundays & More

In photography, the Single Image Sundays theme dominated, with posts about a wasp, a restaurant, Mars, and my first-ever re-blog. The WordPress platform has this one-click feature that lets you easily include another WordPress post into your own blog, which worked perfectly this month as The Savoia (which happens to be done in WordPress) featured my artwork this month, which was quite an honor.

I constructed this image for my post about Twitter with the results of a Google image search for “Twitter Logo” and “Wrench.” Then I used Pixlr to edit the two together.

Social media-wise, we started off this month strong with a post about 5 Really Useful, Really Easy Twitter Tools. What’s even better is that I’ve since discovered more, and will likely be doing an update. Some Twitter developers even reached out to me because of the post, including setting me up with a premium account (full disclosure in the case of JustUnfollow), which was very kind and a pleasantly unexpected surprise. More to come on Twitter tools, for sure.

In the public relations realm, I covered recent activity of Foursquare, wondering if its time has passed, and considered whether their recent PR efforts can get the buzz going again. Since writing that post, I’ve gotten interesting feedback from some like-minded users of the app, but overall, the jury is still out.

For technology this month, I wrote about the Mars Curiosity rover in anticipation of its landing on the Red Planet. Several weeks prior, I’d discovered this excellent video, “Seven Minutes of Terror,” which naturally got my space-geek senses tingling. I even chatted it up on Twitter with some people at NASA, which was totally fun, and further demonstrates the immediacy at our fingertips thanks to social media:

 

Actual people at NASA interact with a random blogger on Twitter via shared excitement over sending a laser-shootin’ robot to Mars. I don’t care what anyone says; that’s cool.

Melodysheep Autotune Magic

Music was a highlight this month, as I interviewed John Boswell, the man behind MelodySheep and responsible for the excellent remixes of Bob Ross, Bruce Lee, Mr. Rogers and Julia Child that have been going viral lately. This was my favorite post by far of the whole month. A few weeks prior, I’d discovered his amazing musical montages, so I thought I’d see what happened if I emailed him some questions – he graciously answered and is a cool dude. Look for great things from this guy in the future. In the time it took to answer my questions and get back to me, Boswell produced this outstanding tribute to one of my personal heroes, Bruce Lee:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ud-AUboZl3A%5D

 

Finally, writing this month was a quick blurb and graphic I constructed for an inspirational phrase that appeared in my brain one day: It’s better to be ambitious than ambivalent. It was a fun way to incorporate text into a visual creation, something I used to do quite a bit but have backed off of lately. Also, I really believe that statement, so I’m glad to be sharing it with others.

There you have it, the month in review. Any of these stand out to you? Any comments to add to any of these? Do you keep an editorial schedule? What is your system for posts? Let us hear from you in the comments!
Image

MARS: Well Lookee Here – Single Image Sundays

6 Aug

Mars: It’s On!

20120806-053011.jpg

This is one Sunday where whatever I typically share would not be nearly as compelling as this single image right here, fresh from Mars. Absolutely amazing.

And although it technically disqualifies this post as a Single Image Sunday, perhaps even more amazing is this:

Human beings send a robot to Mars, and take a picture as it lands with a satellite already there. This also happened in 2008, but this photo is even more clear, and still mindblowing. Via redorbit.com

What do you think? Have you been following this story? Were you witness to any other major space exploration milestones? Do you think humans will set foot on Mars in your lifetime? Let us hear from you in the comments!

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday… MARS!

2 Aug

I have a fascination with aeronautics, aerospace and aviation. I don’t claim to technically understand much about them, but I think aspects of these fields are fascinating and important. That’s why I’m excited for Sunday, when NASA will be living through a very real seven minutes of terror vividly portrayed in this video about landing the Curiosity rover on Mars.

 

This video is just over five minutes long, and it’s exciting – but not as exciting as the seven minutes of burning anticipation a team of dedicated people are going to have to endure Sunday night (10:31 PST), wondering if their baby has made it to its destination, safe and sound as planned. Props to the NASA PR / Outreach / Education teams for bringing this story to us with dramatic flair.

Mars: Our Generation’s Moon Landing

Since I wasn’t around for the work leading up to the moon landing, this is my guess at what that must have been like. In all the years leading up to Americans walking on the moon, there were many missions like these just getting the logistics figured out. And wow – there are plenty of logistics.

Just think about it: we can see the moon from Earth, even observing features of its surface with our unaided eyes. With Mars, there’s a 14-minute delay from the time signals are sent until the they’re even received here. Thank goodness Curiosity is on Twitter:

NASA Peeps on Twitter

Here are some more cool NASA folk on Twitter – check them out for updates on Curiosity’s mission, and keep following for more news about space, science and exploration:

  • Adam Steltzner – head of NASA JPL’s Mars landing team
  • Lauren Worley – Press office at NASA
  • Stephanie Schierholz – NASA Social Media Manager
  • NASA JPL – NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages many of NASA’s robotic missions
  • NASA Social – Announcements on social media & for info about upcoming NASA Socials
  • NASA – the News from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, themselves

Go, Science!

That we’ve ever been able to set anything on Mars’ surface, successfully navigate its terrain, take pictures from multiple angles then transmit them back them before our eyes on Earth is nothing less than astounding. And this Sunday, it can happen again. Unless something goes horribly awry – which is always a distinct possibility… but if it were easy, anyone could do it. My great respect goes to the entire Curiosity team and everyone at NASA for their work on this project.

Let’s hope all goes well for the Curiosity team this weekend.

What do you think? Will humans ever make it to Mars? Or Pandora? Did you ever fantasize about space travel? Are there aliens out there? Let us hear from you in the comments!

Contrasts Make Connections

7 Feb

It’s contrast that makes art interesting. Chiaroscuro, juxtaposition, or as Charles Atlas might call it, “Dynamic Tension,” whether in visual art, writing, or music. I noticed this recently in a superb story in The AtlanticEarth Station: The Afterlife of Technology at the End of the World, by Alexis Madrigal.

Click for full story by Alex Madrigal. © The Atlantic

Mr. Madrigal’s story has plenty of contrast, metaphorically and literally.

Contrast is the basis of nearly all humor. We love it. Subversion, exaggeration, things that should not be but for some wacky reason are — it all works thanks to contrast. Three Stooges? Ridiculous. Grown, yet idiotic men slapping each other around? Pure genius.

It’s this kind of juxtaposition that establishes scale in our minds’ eyes, and it’s a very efficient way to deliver a punch. Why is it so dramatic when a rock band takes things down for a minute? It makes the heavy parts heavier. Just ask Black Sabbath. They weren’t known for being fast, but no one wielded mightier riffs for that time (and not much since). And when they did it slow, it had maximum impact.

Many times, Madrigal works contrast into the text: describing how small he is in the photograph he has his fiancé take of him outside the station (“at its base, I was almost too small to see”); showing some genuinely human yet long forgotten documents emerge from a backpack then go back again, across the creek with a couple of scavengers — or rather, heroes.

The contrasts in this story drive home the underlying theme, as Madrigal himself states:

That story is about how jagged technological advancement is. People received images from the moon feet from a saloon locals rode horses to.
-Alexis Madrigal

From the moon to a saloon. There you go: contrast. (Also my favorite dive bar).

Yet in this contrast Madrigal shows a real connection, bound by geography. I would add to his description above that the story is also about connections: past-present, Chinese-American, lunar-saloonar… and as Madrigal elegantly phrases it, society and technology:

No technology stands outside society, and no society exists without the people who build it.

This point about connections is illustrated with the example of a utopian space colony described alongside the boring tedium required to make it possible:

Space Colony

Beautiful, yes. Now just imagine the meetings and spreadsheets behind making this happen.

Again: contrast, making connection happen as we take in the details.

It really hit me when I laid eyes on this photograph:

The whole article is worth reading for just this photo. See the story for full effect. © The Atlantic

As I state in the article’s comments:

My jaw dropped upon scrolling to the image of the Chinese visiting. With the scene painted so vividly by the preceding text, I fully appreciate the enormity of what those files revealed, as I can imagine Mr. Madrigal also did, seeing through his lens what another photographer captured four decades ago. The contrasts between then and now are astounding, as are the connections.
-Wow, did I say that? Huh.

This is a fascinating read and I highly recommend taking a moment to enjoy it, noticing the contrasts and connections as you go. It’s great writing and an inspiring story. It certainly got me appreciating how far we’ve come with technology and how human we will always be.

See also: Slideshow from New York Times. Outstanding photography from Annie Tritt (annietritt.com, @trittscamera)

Jamesburg Earth Station

Old communications equipment at the station. The Operational Room was where Jack Ramey, a retired technical supervisor at the station, said that he had listened to astronauts on a mission. © New York Times

In closing, just let me say… Ladies and Gentlemen, Black Sabbath:

What do you think? Do you notice contrast making things interesting? What are other examples? Could you live in a former Earth Station? Do you have designs on this piece of real estate to set up your evil lair? Let us hear from you in the comments!
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