Computer for Apollo

Amazing stuff. Computer system for in flight course correction during Apollo mission. Computer system includes memory which is programmed by weaving copper wires.

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Hawking warns about alien contact

Stephen Hawking says although life almost certainly exists elsewhere, we should not attempt to actively initiate contact with extra–terrestrial life forms. As Jared Diamond has pointed out before, historical evidence of encounters between humans, and biological evidence of contacts of different groups of animals, shows it always goes badly for the native population, often resulting in extinction of species, or subjugation and slavery amongst humans.

Unfortunately for us, at least one group is scientists have taken it up on themselves to try to make earth orders of magnitude more visible in the galaxy. Their rational is that all advanced lifeforms (capable of inter-stellar travel) would be altruistic.

A nice discussion of this topic can be read here:
http://lifeboat.com/ex/shouting.at.the.cosmos

And an editorial in Nature discussed this in 2006:
http://www.setileague.org/iaaseti/nature06.pdf

PowerPoint for Rocket Science

There is an interesting discussion of the role that PowerPoint had in the Columbia discussion. In summary as information is passed up through the organisation at NASA more and more detail is lost until the point you wouldn’t know there is a problem anymore. Either go and read the story at the link above or just read the short summary below.

• Don’t use PowerPoint
– PowerPoint makes you stupid
– Technical Reports are better for technical information
– PowerPoint is bad, mm’kay
› Your conclusions here

I’ve also prepared some slides to summarise the results: Don’t Use PowerPoint

Thanks to Richard Kemp for pointing me to this story.