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Magnetospheric Reflections

March 13, 2015 / 0 comments

After they were launched into space tonight, four Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft are in Earth’s orbit preparing to study how the protective magnetic fields around the Earth sometimes disconnect and then reconnect. When this “magnetic reconnection” happens, the reconfiguration is explosive and releases as much energy as billions of megatons of TNT. These bursts of…

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Exploring Extraterrestrial Oceans Here on Earth

March 12, 2015 / 4 comments

NASA has announced that observations from the Hubble telescope suggest there is a vast underground ocean on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, which is also the largest moon in our solar system: “Scientists estimate the ocean is 60 miles (100 kilometers) thick – 10 times deeper than Earth’s oceans – and is buried under a 95-mile (150-kilometer)…

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Path to Mars: Building an Island of the Future

March 7, 2015 / 21 comments

What does Newfoundland have in common with the challenges of building a human settlement on Mars? They are both isolated places with harsh landscapes facing challenges in the areas of energy, transportation, and food security. But what if the technologies needed for Mars settlement could be tested by transforming Newfoundland into an Island of the…

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Installations of Meaning: Sculptural Discourses in Site/Scale Suspensions

February 2, 2015 / 2 comments

This post is the seed of a paper I am writing about a way to think with meaning across sites and scales. My thinking here is influenced by encounters of many kinds with great thinkers such as Avital Ronell, Judith Butler, Diane Davis, and Jacques Derrida. Derrida opens Aporias with this sentence: “In advance, I thank…

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The Huygens DISR: An Astonishing & Musical Data Visualization

January 22, 2015 / 3 comments

From the title of the video you would never know this is one of the most visually captivating and melodious presentations of space probe data you may ever see. The video (from Erich Karkoschka, University of Arizona, the DISR team, NASA, and ESA) is titled “The Descent Imager / Spectral Radiometer During the Descent of…

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Image of a beach covered in people with a whale floating above

Neal Stephenson signs on as Magic Leap’s Chief Futurist

January 22, 2015 / 0 comments

Neal Stephenson has signed on as Magic Leap’s Chief Futurist. He describes why in a post on their blog. In this excerpt he describes the technology in a way that sounds like there is no device worn by the user suggesting it may be something quite different from the HoloLens: “In a teeming, overcrowded hardware…

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tweet from Curiosity Rover "new tech OnSight lets my team join me on Mars without leaving Earth"

Telexploration, OnSight, and HoloLens “on” Mars

January 22, 2015 / 1 comment

With the announcement of the Microsoft HoloLens project, it’s become clear that NASA is working with Microsoft on developing this technology for use in “telexploration.” Jeff Norris, who works for NASA, tweeted today: “I have spent a long time not talking about holograms. Now I’m not going to shut up about them!” At Visualized in…

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The words "Open MIND"

Open MIND: 39 papers on mind, consciousness, and cognition

January 22, 2015 / 0 comments

I came across this collection of papers and responses on the mind, edited by Thomas Metzinger and Jennifer M. Windt, via a twitter post by Andreas Roepstorff, Professor at Aarhus University. From the introduction: “This is an edited collection of 39 original papers and as many commentaries and replies. The target papers and replies were…

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Drawing of imagined space settlement, a ring of green residence in a space station.

Obama and Space Settlement: 2015 SOTU

January 21, 2015 / 1 comment

I wonder if this is the first mention of space settlement in a US president’s State of the Union address? “I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs — converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can…

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graphical Image of Low Earth Orbit orbital debris around the earth

Two Approaches to ‘Space Junk': “Cultural Heritage of Space Exploration” & “Orbital Wake of the Anthropocene”

January 17, 2015 / 1 comment

NASA has an Orbital Debris Program Office dedicated to the question of space debris. The featured image for this post comes from this office, and is an image of debris in LEO. LEO “stands for low Earth orbit and is the region of space within 2,000 km of the Earth’s surface. It is the most…

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Image of radio telescope with starry night sky behind it.

Xenolinguistics, SETI, and Pre-Colonial Anthropology

January 15, 2015 / 2 comments

I just finished re-reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Word for World Is Forest (1976) in an old well-read family copy with the same cover illustration as this edition pictured here. The book is part of what Le Guin does not call a “Hainish Cycle,” though some readers do. The Hainish books tell a series…

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The Goldilocks Theory

September 13, 2014 / 2 comments

“It’s a world not too big, not too small. It’s just right.” -Stu Spath, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company I frequently come across the ‘Goldilocks’ analogy in popular reporting on space science. It’s used to describe the kind of planet where scientists expect to find life – not a planet that is “too hot” or…

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Word of the Year “Because X”

January 4, 2014 / 1 comment

The American Dialect Society voted yesterday on their latest word of the year. It is: Because X, as in “Why? Because Linguistics.” 20 years ago the  word(s) of the year (a tie) were: cyber and morph. 1994 Word of the Year: (tie) cyber, pertaining to computers and electronic communication, and morph, to change form. Most…

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Image of plant sprout on the International Space Station, with seed attached. Growing out of container.

The Social Life of Plants, In Space

December 23, 2013 / 4 comments

With almost 39,000 followers, NASA Astronaut Mike Hopkins has an active social community on Twitter. He posts photos from the International Space Station, where he currently lives. The images in his tweets share his unique view from space looking over deserts, city lights at night, the thin layer of atmosphere; events like spacewalks; and other…

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Cyber-Techniques of the Body & the “Looq”

November 24, 2013 / 8 comments

At the American Anthropological Association (AAA) meeting in Chicago, I presented a paper in the panel “Bridging Digital and Physical Publics: Digital Anthropologist’s current engagements with 21st Century Publics.” I spoke about my fieldwork with the online Occupy movement in Indonesia – and about how, as anthropologists working online, we are especially well positioned to…

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