Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Inspired Perspiration

     I was watching an old biography of Thomas Edison on TCM channel.   It was fascinating to watch him just travel to a big city  (New York), and talk his way into a good job.   Of course, it also helped that he repaired an early stock ticker  (or “indicator’ as it was called).    That set me to thinking, how would someone like that do in this day and age.

     Of course, a modern analogue might be Steven Jobs.    Tinkerer, inventor, highly driven.    A young Tom Edison might hitchhike out to Sunnyvale, California, and talk his way into some company or other.  I have no doubt he would get himself hired, and then rapidly move up.   At least if the tales of the past are any indication.  

     He might observe someone writing a C++ program, and suggest a better algorithm.   Or at the very least, suggest a more efficient way of burning in new EEPROMS.     Whatever, the driven young man would establish himself, and prove his worth by working long hours, doing whatever it takes to get to a good result.   He would probably be well on his way to a Billion in net worth by age 30. 

      The commonalities between the 1870’s and the present day are multiple.   Willingness to put in long hours.  Willingness to call on a high manager, and not take no for an answer.   Willingness to offer someone a solution to their problem, and then work night and day to make it a reality.   99 percent perspiration and one percent inspiration, and both are crucial.    A man like Edison can create a lot of careers underneath all of his efforts.   Here is hoping someone like him will stop in Des Moines someday, and hang his hat up here for good.   That old movie about him even inspired me to write about it.  Thanks for reading. 



Monday, March 25, 2013

Cannot colonize on ideas alone

We can’t colonize the Solar System on ideas alone


     Space colonization is on more and more peoples’ minds these days.   There have been two companies started recently for the purposes of mining asteroids alone.    Planetary Resources, Inc. and  Deep Space Industries, Inc.  are hoping to launch probes to first survey, and then mine, heavenly bodies near and far.  Other companies have plans for private stations, like Bigelow Aerospace.    One Dutch group named Mars One has plans to establish a colony on the Red Planet by 2023.  So there is a lot of interest in the subject.  Many people look outward, and see exciting possibilities.


     [ Before proceeding any further, I hereby state up front that this is an opinion piece, and may contain some errors.   If you want cold, hard facts, there are plenty of textbooks or web sources out there.  This is simply a reflection on the state of space exploration in 2013, and what it will take to keep it going.    The principal sources of my information are space.com, spacedaily.com, and associated press articles that come out announcing one or another space milestone.     For further inquiry after this article, see the sources listed below.]

      In Earlier Times

      During the time of the wave of exploration in Europe, many expeditions set out to find, at first an easier route to the west indies, and later, trips to the “new world”.     All of these early missions required funding sources.   Columbus and others trudged across Europe, trying to raise money for their trips.   Spanish, Portuguese and eventually, English governments of the day funded such missions.    Once word was brought back, along with samples of things like tobacco, cocoa and other items, the funding and interest really picked up.   But these early missions required big money for the day.  A simple commoner, no matter how bright, could not just go it alone.

      The British sea expeditions, notably the Beagle carrying Charles Darwin, made significant discoveries, excited public imaginations, and pushed back the boundaries of human knowledge.   Other countries also contributed.  Humanity found out what lay beyond the known edges of the world.   Imaginary dragons gave way to real tales of the north and south poles, the strange peoples and creatures that lived there.   At some point, ever more accurate navigation techniques were developed and employed.     One person, or even a local group of “fans of the sea” or some such, could not have done this alone. 

      Present-Day Efforts

       It is the same today.   For all the talk about students learning STEM  (science, technology, and Math) skills, they still require government or other large-scale funding to carry off space missions.   And these missions themselves generate the excitement, the dreaming and visioning that propagate other kinds of economic growth.    Governments and large corporations have to stand behind long-duration space exploration and colonization skills, in order to bring them off, and help move humanity outward. 

       Now, many people recognize the importance of exploring, developing and colonizing our Solar System.   The expanded living room offered.  The knowledge of our local space environment, especially the dangers that exist, is crucial.   Being aware of comets and their potential for destroying Earth regions seems pretty important.    Learning how to operate out there, to eventually deflect the interplanetary troublemakers  would be of great benefit.   The spate of private companies popping up is indicative of the interest out there.  Some businesspeople are putting their fortunes on the line to turn some of these space ideas into reality. 

       But it will still require governments to stay with it, to keep promoting and encouraging this progress.   Eventually things will reach a critical mass, and the space industries will support themselves.   But not for a good while, perhaps even hundreds of years.    So much energy is required to propel an object out of Earth’s gravity well, to make orbit, and then to escape orbit.   This in turn requires huge rockets, which require governmental funding, or at the very least, major corporate funding.   Advances are being made here, but space is still a costly, risky business.  Of course, there could be a game-changing technology that arises - one never knows.

      Why Space Exploration Matters to Us

      While there are of course many pressing needs here on Earth, it is still vitally important that we maintain a presence in outer space, preferably an expanding one.    It gives people a distant goal to look towards, something other than the humdrum, day-to-day grind.   It provides a wholesome alternative to our governmental science and engineering labs - space exploration is preferable to warfare.   It gives the young something to look forward to, something to dream on, to fire their imaginations.    Not to mention the mountains of valuable resources that ply stately orbits around the sun.    But to get there, we need the help of governments, and will for a long time to come.

      Today, NASA funding is giving companies like Orbital Sciences,  SpaceX and Deep Space Industries, Inc. the support to pursue some novel technologies for continuing the quest.    This in an important example of governmental underpinning, that will be needed for the foreseeable future.   Thanks for reading.

For further inquiry, see these websites:










Sunday, March 17, 2013

New Collection soon available.

Pre-order your copy of this new collection, featuring a story by yours truly.


Hope that one and all had a happy St. Patty's day.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Close Call

Woman with coffee in a hurry to cross


She eyed me coming in my red car, stopped
as I slowed and considered stopping.

I changed my mind and sped up and on,
just as she walked into my car, continuing to cross.
As if she had a death wish, and I a kill wish.

I passed through the moment and wondered
what had come over us both.

What happened to courtesy, why could I not stop?
What happened to common sense, why didn’t she?

No, we were both stubborn,
we both went, and risked a collision
that never happened.

Never checked if she spit or listened for a curse;
I just had to get away so I could re-assess it all.
I can still see her eyes, and feel the situation.

 - whew

Sunday, March 03, 2013

To celebrate MoMath

In honor of the Mathematics Museum opening in NYC...

Their days are numbered 

     Sitting in his easy chair, Three ran through the probabilities for his evening.  He said to himself,  “It’s time to blow this buffer and transmit myself elsewhere!”   He made himself presentable, and then translated out to the main bus.  He glided along that,  and got off near the Downtown area.   He sensed One coming from the opposite direction, and they fell into synch.

Three greeted one genially.

     “How are things in the numberverse?”

     “Just digi-riffic,” replied One.  “Been scaling up vectors all week.”

     “Good.  Our bosses will be pleased.  Say, want to have a drink?”

     “Sure, why not?  Let’s go to that new place on First street, “ said One.

     “You mean the Irrational Cat?  Been meaning to check it out,” said Three.

     “I talked to Four, and he said he would be out tonight.  He is after  a new One.”

     “Him and his hot Ones,” said Three.

     So Three and One wandered downtown and soon located the Irrational Cat, located on First and Main.   They tried to enter, and almost collided with Nine. 

     “Hey, how are you guys doing?  Long time, no calculate.”  Nine slurred his words a bit.

     “Oh, just been marking time, I guess.  We’re going in for a drink - care to join us?”  said Three.

     One looked at him, perhaps thinking that Nine was already pretty sloshed.  But he stayed silent.

     “Sure, why not?  Lead the way, gents.”  

     The three numbers made their way through the portal into a dimly lit room.  A long bar ran down most of the length of it.  To their left, the bar curved around, and the room opened up into an area with pool tables, and beyond, a small dance floor.

     Three, One and Nine approached the bar.  Four was seated there already, sipping on a quantum fizz.

     “Hey, Four!  Good to sense you here,” called Three.  Four turned and waved a few digits.

     “Hi, guys.    Wondered if you would show.  Just waiting for my Hot One to get out of the restroom.”

      Three, One and Nine plopped down on barstools on either side of Four.   They ordered Higgs Lights, with Stringshot  chasers.  It was going to be a festive evening, Three could tell that already.    He felt glad he had ventured out of core tonight.

     Four spotted his hottie making her way around the bar, exiting the restrooms.   He motioned to Three and One, and said,  “There she is.  Fellows, could you make room for my sweetie?”

     “Sure,” they chorused.   They shifted positions, and Three ended up contending with the Hot One’s purse wedged between the stools like a painful punctuation point.   Meanwhile, Five,  Nine’s racetrack buddy, had just walked in.  He wanted to chat with Nine about the results of the last race.    But Nine was gracious enough to move down a stool, so that Four wouldn’t have to subtract his place.   

     The Bartender took Five’s order, a Gamma Gulper.   Finally getting all of them served, he stood a moment, smiling, listening to their idle chatter traffic.  Then he came out from the other side of the bar, and made his way around the front, checking on a sticky door hinge, his flash memory racks, and other Nano clutter.  At one point he looked at the digital dudes iterating along the barstrip.

   He thought to himself, 

“Jeez.  With Three, the Hot one (with jutting purse between her and Three), Four, One, Five and Nine here, this is going to be one irrational place.  Who else could possibly show to make it worse?”

      Just then the door opened, practically right behind him, and he heard more Euclidian gibbering.   ‘Oh no.  It was Two and Six...’ he thought glumly.  There goes the neighborhood!

Pi end