Archive for the Technology Category

Musical minds

Posted in Music, Technology, Video on 2009/07/22 by iyokobat

Brain scan

Apparently our brains, or at least the one that belongs to Oliver Sacks, can distinguish subtle differences in music, even when the conscious mind cannot. In an MRI, Oliver’s brain showed more activity when listening to Bach (his favorite composer) than when listening to Beethoven. This occurred even when Oliver was unable to tell which piece was Bach and which was Beethoven. Sorry Ludwig.

I’d be interested to see what this experiment would reveal with additional test subjects and varied composer preferences. Check out the ~4 minute Nova video.

Image credit:


SpaceX successfully launches its first satellite

Posted in Science, Technology on 2009/07/22 by iyokobat


Kinda old news here, but still worth posting:

The Malaysian satellite RasakSAT was launched on July 14th on a SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket. This was the first successful satellite launch for the SpaceX company and also the deployment of the world’s first remote sensing satellite to operate in Near Equatorial Orbit (NEqO). The satellite will be used by Malaysia and other countries to monitor fires, illegal logging, and for mapping geographical information.

The Falcon 1 rocket is also contracted by NASA to haul cargo to the International Space Station. I think this is a good shot in the arm for the private space industry and I wish SpaceX and other companies like it, (e.g. Scaled Composites) more successes in the future. On a side note, the CEO for SpaceX is PayPal co-founder Elon Musk.

New Scientist: SpaceX launches first commercial satellite to orbit

Image credit:

First light from Herschel Space Observatory

Posted in Astronomy, Technology on 2009/07/13 by iyokobat


Launched earlier this year, the Herschel Space Observatory has successfully conducted the initial tests for three of its instruments, (HIFI, PACS and SPIRE). If all goes as planned, the first scientific results are expected before the end of 2009.

Less than two months after a flawless launch on 14 May, the Herschel Space Observatory has passed a number of key milestones. Amongst these are the ‘first light’ observations obtained by each of the three instruments. The images and spectra clearly demonstrate that the main scientific objectives of the mission – photometric surveys of the galactic and extragalactic sky; detailed studies of the physical and chemical composition of gas, dust and the interstellar medium; spectroscopic and photometric studies of Solar System objects – are on track.

European Space Agency – Herschel’s ‘first light’ promises superb science

Robot explorers in space

Posted in Space Exploration, Technology, The Future on 2009/06/02 by iyokobat

This is the kind of story that could either get you real excited about space science, or instead cause alarm to Luddites and Butlerian Jihadists (a concept from the Dune books). Autonomous robotic exploration has great potential for space programs and especially for planetary geology. It might provide a means to conduct complex searching and sample collection on another planet, say Mars, without requiring human guidance or intervention.

I think some form of this or at least the idea is already part of the hazard avoidance system on the Mars Exploration Rovers.

Intelligent Robots Will Explore Milky Way by 2020

Star charts for mobile phones

Posted in Astronomy, Technology on 2009/05/30 by iyokobat


Google has announced development of a handy tool for stargazers, navigators, and anyone with an interest in the night sky. Using the phone’s GPS and the camera view finder, the new service would essentially turn your phone into a star chart for your current location and time.

Graham Bryant, chairman of the Hampshire Astronomical Group, told the newspaper: “If children are studying geology they are often happy to go out and examine rocks, but not many children seem to be able to navigate their way round the night sky.”

The application could reignite interest in planets and constellations that has been dampened by light pollution from street lamps that make the night sky hard to observe.

Google plans space exploration gadget to help mobile phone users study night skies

Also check out Seeing the light. This is a good article about light pollution.

Where’s my hovercraft?

Posted in Technology, The Future on 2009/05/30 by iyokobat


When you were a kid, thinking about the future, did you have visions of flying cars, robot maids, and transporter devices?  What happened to THAT future?

CNN writer John Blake has an article that explains some of the reasons why we haven’t fully adopted some of the futuristic technology ideas that seemed inevitable

People’s fascination with technology’s imprint on the future didn’t start, however, in the mid-20th century with shows like “The Jetsons” or “Star Trek.”

Joseph Corn, co-author of “Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future,” found an inflated optimism about technology’s impact on the future as far back as the 19th century, when writers like Jules Verne (“Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”) were creating wondrous versions of the future.

Blake shows examples of technology, such as jet-packs, “Smell-o-vision”, and human washing machines, that are technically feasible, but not very practical to the society of today.

Why our ‘amazing’ science fiction future fizzled

Last mission to Hubble

Posted in Astronomy, Space Exploration, Technology on 2009/05/12 by iyokobat


The Hubble Space Telescope will be getting some much needed maintenance from the shuttle Atlantis and its crew. Equipped with over 100 specialized tools, the crew will be doing extensive work on Hubble, which includes replacing the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 with the new Wide Field Camera 3. They will also be adding a new instrument called the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS). In order to make room for this device, they will be removing the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR) and returning COSTAR to Earth. COSTAR was installed to correct design problems with Hubble’s primary mirror, but is now obsolete due to previous Hubble upgrades.

Hubble was launched in 1990 and has been providing some of the best photographs of the universe as well as groundbreaking science and astronomy. This mission is scheduled to be the last shuttle mission to the Hubble and considered very risky. Hopefully the repairs will be successful and will give Hubble many more years of operation or at least until the next space telescope, the James Webb Telescope, is launched. The JWT is scheduled to launch in 2014, but has already had numerous delays.

I have the utmost respect for the courageous astronauts of Atlantis who are conducting this mission. I wish them success and a safe journey home.

For more on this ongoing story, check out NASA’s web site for the Hubble servicing mission.